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Recap: March Madness strikes Kansas in round of 32
Games like this are why we love basketball, why March is mad and why our country freezes for three weeks to take note.
Eight out of 10 times, Kansas defeats Northern Iowa. The Jayhawks were faster, more talented and more athletic. KU's basketball budget topped Northern Iowa's by sixfold. But KU couldn't handle Northern Iowa's shooting touch or pace-setting defense, giving the nation another reason to watch basketball and KU fans a reason to turn the TV off for a couple weeks.
On paper, the matchup was an odd one. Northern Iowa entered the tournament clearly and egregiously under-seeded. How the NCAA Selection Committee decided on a No. 9 seed for a 28-4 team that won 15 of 18 in a good Missouri Valley Conference, no one had any idea. The Panthers stayed in or around KenPom.com's top 25 all season before settling at No. 32 before the KU game. One advantage the Jayhawks had was superior athleticism, something that became obvious when KU set up its full-court press and took over the game.
- Despite the emphasis on Northern Iowa's three-point shooting, the Panthers actually converted at a lower-than-normal rate on Saturday. Northern Iowa made 34.6 percent of its three-point attempts, compared to a season average of 35.6 percent. KU struggled in a much bigger way from deep, making 26.1 percent after converting 40.4 percent of threes during the season.
• To listen to CBS tell it, you'd think Northern Iowa's posts pushed around KU center Cole Aldrich and forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris. That didn't happen. The Jayhawks made 58 percent of their two-point attempts while the Panthers converted just 44.8 percent. KU dominated the glass, holding Northern Iowa to 31.4 percent of available offensive rebounds and just 57.6 percent of possible defensive rebounds. That meant KU grabbed a remarkable 42.4 percent of its own misses, four percent better than the Jayhawks' stellar season mark. Aldrich in particular put up strong rebounding numbers. The junior capped his season by pulling down better than 21 percent of overall missed shots while he was in the game.
• There won't be any second-guessing of KU coach Bill Self here, but KU would have benefited from using its killer press a few minutes earlier. Problem was, the Jayhawks' most important offensive player, Sherron Collins, couldn't press for more than a few minutes without yielding some effectiveness on offense because of the state of his conditioning. Watching the way Collins struggled to keep up with the Panthers during inbound situations, KU may have been better served replacing him with a quicker defender in the press and subbing him in on offense.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Mar/21/ali.jpg Northern Iowa guard Ali Farokhmanesh provided the Panthers an offensive boost — Nick Krug/LJW Photo
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
Marcus Morris once again provided a fantastic mixture of usage and efficiency. He used 25.3 percent of KU's possessions and created 1.16 points per possession. He shot the ball well enough (5-for-8) to compensate for committing three turnovers. At times during KU's frenetic comeback, he seemed the team's only viable offensive option. It should be exciting to watch Marcus Morris' ascent to the position of Big 12 Conference Player of the Year. At this point, it's a when, not an if.
http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2010/Mar/21/marcus.jpg Marcus Morris ended up unhappy, but played a solid game on Saturday — Nick Krug/LJW Photo
Room For Improvement
The pace looked frantic in the second half, but it wasn't frantic enough. KU failed to take Northern Iowa out of its standard pace of play. The Panthers limited the contest to a 62-possession affair, which put the game in their hands considering they averaged 59 trips per game to KU's standard of 70. In a more normal 68-to-70 possession game, KU would have almost certainly made up the deficit and at least taken a lead at some point in the second half. Falling behind a team like Northern Iowa is a risky proposition because you don't have much chance to claw back.
Hard Luck Line
Sherron Collins' career shouldn't have ended like it did Saturday. The Jayhawks' floor leader went 4-for-15 with five turnovers while counterpart Ali Farokhmanesh went dropped 16 points and the game's dagger three-pointer. Collins tried to put KU on his shoulders, using more possessions than any other Jayhawk. But without his shooting touch, the Chicago native mustered just 0.76 points per possession, lower than any KU player aside from Brady Morningstar (0-for-1 in eight minutes).
The Bottom Line:
It happens. Underrated nine-seeds knock off slumbering giants. One guy (Farokhmanesh) has a lights-out afternoon while another (Collins) has an ill-timed off day. This may not be the sort of Madness KU fans wanted this March, but there's no denying this sort of game is what makes the month so special.
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