All season long, it's been clear who our two best players are. Who our leaders are.
My 7-year old little brother, who is more of a baseball kinda kid anyways (regrettably, he's a Yankees fan, but whatever), could tell you in a moment's notice who they are.
Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins.
Them leading us to victory is nothing new. It's happened dozens of times throughout the season, against good opponents and bad. But it was never quite as painfully obvious as it was on Sunday.
- Of the team's 60 points, 38 were courtesy of Cole and Sherron (63.3%)
- Of the team's 46 rebounds, 27 were by Cole and Sherron (58.7%)
- They took a combined 69% of our shots, shooting a combined 55% (rest of the team shot 27%)
You get the point?
On a day where the nerves of the situation seemed to control everyone, along with Dayton's freakish athleticism and immense length, we needed bigtime performances from our stars. And, we got it. We got all of the Star Power you could ask for, and then some. That alone (along with a pretty good performance from Mario Little, of all people, but that ruins the fun of the post, so wait til after the break...) got us a win in the NCAA Tournament. In the Second Round, mind you.
Of course, that incredible team defense didn't hurt, either, I suppose. Huh?
Player recaps after the jump...
- Not to cop out, or nothing, but we're going with the co-MVPs, here. Yes, Cole Aldrich had the first recorded triple-double (or triple-triple, according to Cole's mom) in Kansas history. He didn't allow a single half-court possession for the Flyers to end well inside five feet. Seriously, I don't think they even got a shot off within 5 feet from the bucket, save a couple (but only a couple, due to really solid transition D) fastbreak high-risers. And those 20 rebounds? Incredible. I ain't dogging his performance at all. If he comes back next year, he's an All-American. Book it. You heard it here first. Well, maybe not, but we can pretend, yes? The only thing you can complain about, and it's a biggie, is outlet passing. Just an awful, awful day in that category. Way too many terrible passes, way too many uncertain moves in double teams. If the dude can figure out how to handle a double-team, though, it's just game over.
- As incredible as all of that was for Cole, I couldn't leave Sherron Collins hanging. Just couldn't do it. Dude played, just about, a perfect game. It wasn't perfect, in the mistake-free sense, but it was as close as you'll get. He only forced a shot, two at most, but otherwise was incredibly efficient. Most importantly, he continued to trust his teammates. The rest of the team couldn't hit anything, and yet there was Sherron, continuing to drive-and-find, never losing that trust in his teammates. Over the next 4 days, or so, we'll have plenty of time to talk about what's changed since the last matchup between Kansas and Micigan State. Nothing has changed more or had a greater impact than Sherron's trust of his teammates. Don't get me wrong, for us to be successful Sherron has to score. And, to score, you've gotta shoot. Probably not 26 times, but a sizable amount, still, yes. So, keep on firing away Sherron. Just no pull-up 18-footers, please.
- Besides the big two, you can really only say that one other player played well. And, after taking a month off from production, Mario Little decided to show up in a big way. When we couldn't hit the ocean falling out of a boat, besides Sherron of course, Smash came in and calmly drilled a 17-footer. A couple of possessions later, from the same spot, just 5 feet farther back, another patented, Little swish that hits the very bottom of the net, making the sweetest sound in the world. He wasn't all that active following that, jumpshot-wise, but he was a fine rebounder and had what was probably his best defensive game of his career against Dayton's front line. We need jumpshots from somebody, anybody to fall against Michigan State. So, Mario, feel free to show up again. It'd be much appreciated.
- And, I suppose, I'll give Tyrel Reed a passing grade. He missed two absolutely wide open threes in the first half, just like everyone else, but hit a big, huge, clutch one in the second half. Relly Ice showed up in the way he always seems to, extending what was a 5-point lead to 8 and sparking a 9-0 run that all but put the game away. Also, he continues to pick up ground on Brady on the defensive end. His improvement has been quite incredible.
- After that, it gets pretty ugly. Every other player I'm about to mention did not have a good game. There's just no other way to say it. First up, Tyshawn Taylor. He had that one sick and-one that closed out the aforementioned 9-0 run and ended the game. However, he continues to give the ball away like t-shirts out of those stupid cannons, and his shot has not been on.
Brady Morningstar - ouch. The advantage he's had all season long, on the defensive side of the ball, has slowly been diminshed as Tyrel Reed and Tyshawn Taylor and Travis Releford continue to improve. I love him to death, and he's been huge to our success, and will continue to be, but dude's gotta hit his open shots. There just isn't another way to say it.
- And, finally, the Morris twins. Youch. I love him to absolute death, but Marcus Morris had his worst game in months. I don't know what it was, and he was fine defensively just like everyone else, but he was non-existent on offense. I mean, at least Markieff Morris got a bucket and rebounded. McMorris had all of zero rebounds, bricked both of his free throws, and ended up only earning 14 minutes. Please, Marcus, please show up Friday night. You too, Kieffer. Michigan State is far too talented on the frontline to hope-and-pray that Cole Aldrich can go all Rambo on them and take him by himself.
And, that wraps up the Dayton coverage. Sweet win, awesome that we're in the Sweet 16. This season is now an unmitigated success, without question.
Now, let's go out and win another one.