Coming in, most of us thought we were going to win. At least, I think so.
But few, if any, actually expected such a demolition. Sure, maybe we get off to a fast start, but then a run was inevitable. I mean, they are just way too good to let an entire 20 minutes go by withour a run, right?
Well, they didn't show it Sunday. The entire first half was jam-packed with missed layups and turnovers and mental errors by the Tigers. And, while we didn't play awesome, we certainly were the much, much better team.
In fact, we were so much better, I didn't even get to see the final 8 minutes. Due to my location way out here on the west coast, I wasn't in the local market. And while it was the national game, there was no need for the fine people of America to witness such an ass-whooping. So, they switched it.
Now, obviously, I was initially quite perturbed. I'll never, ever get to see what transpired those final 8 minutes. However, when they switched away, it was just like those Final Four-contender years. It was another Big 12 team simply paying their dues in the Phog, trudging in expecting little besides a demolition, and receiving exactly that. Not saying that Missouri didn't think they could win; they certainly thought they could, and for good reason. And they are a good team (we won't get into any contender/pretender nonsense right now, though) who is talented enough to make some noise in March. Major noise. While the Tigers' certainly played well below average on Sunday, particularly in that torturous first half, the 25-point margin had more to do with us.
We had that look; that look of a Final Four team. Even when things didn't click our way, on those rare occassions, we'd pick up and keep on keepin' on. Nothing fazed us, nothing changed anything we had in mind. We just kept playing. And, we played well. Damn well. Really, really damn well.
Now, whether we really can make the Final Four or not is a topic for a different day. But, at the very least, we gave off that apperance for one glorious Sunday with the hated Tigers in Allen Field House. Considering where we started the year, that's just ridiculous. Final Four-good? Nah.
But, it's true. Believe.
Player reviews after the jump...
- Game MVP? Easy. Sherron Collins. If I were to fill in an All-American ballot tomorrow morning, SC would be on there. How could he not? He had that one, elbow-induced slump, highlighted by his big-time struggles in the first Missouri-Kansas game. Since then, the dude's been ridiculous. Just absolutely out-of-this-world. He continued his torrid pace Sunday, scoring another 25 points. However, this is the key to his line; he scored 'em all on 8-14 shooting. 4-6 from three, 5-6 from the free throw line. While he was scoring big early in the season, it was on 20+ shot games. Now, he's doing it on significantly less shots, becoming incredibly more efficient. And, with this new, incredibly efficient Sherron, we really can make the Final Four. He is almost turning into a Stephen Curry-type scorer that can single-handedly carry a team deep. The difference is that he won't have to.
- Why? Oh, that one really large white guy down in the post. Cole Aldrich. Sure, opponents seem to think he fouls at least 89 times a game, and he does get away with a call from time-to-time. However, he gets so many rebounds and appears to commit so many fouls because he's so incredibly fundamentally sound. He leans against his guy, ever-so-subtly, not allowing his opponent to jump completely in the air. He, on the other hand, nearly always has the height advantage, and combining that with leverage, he pulls down damn near every rebound on his side of the lane. He was on his game again on Sunday, pulling down board-after-board-after-board. 14 of 'em, in the end. Holy hell. He could have had a bunch more, too, but other Jayhawks almost pulled them away from him. He still hasn't capped out offensively, yet, which is encouraging. Hopefully, he chooses to come back and max out, but I have a nasty little feeling that he's gone after this year. Oh, and finally, he's a really good dunker. Like, incredible.
- Again, after the first two dominating performances from the two people you'd most expect, there really wasn't another awesome game played by anyone. But, just like against Oklahoma, I'll give the nod to Tyshawn Taylor. His season has been quite a roller-coaster; he started out the year incredible, then tailed off for a month-or-so. Well, now he's back. And with him emerging as a legitimate third scorer, we are playing our best ball of the season. Most importantly, he had a 3:1 assist:TO ratio, and played solid D all day long. With T2 playing as well as he has, we can go places.
- Maybe they don't belong this high up, but I need to give props to Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris. Both played absolutely outstanding D on Demarre Carroll, forcing him to take the outside shots. He can knock down the perimeter J, but that's the shot you want him taking. He's dangerous as hell inside ten-feet, so the key is just keep him on the perimeter. Mission accomplished, as both Morris twins kept Carroll on the perimeter for the entire game. Neither were all that impactful on offense, but both were efficient (2-3 shooting), and limited the stupid plays (3 combined turnovers, 6 combined fouls). Both also were factors on the glass, with Kieffer snatching 7 and McMorris 5. Both still have plenty of room to go, but if we can just get performances like Sunday's the rest of the way out, that's all you can ask for. We'll be fine.
- While he still wasn't his Texas A&M self, I started to see flashes of Mario Little breaking out on Sunday. His shot still isn't nearly as consistent as it was at the beginning, but he was more active offensively and was a factor on the boards. And, he's learning how to play more effective post D with the height differential. I can't wait to see him next year, with an offseason of healing in between, but he can still be a useful player for us the rest of the year.
- Whenever Tyrel Reed is hitting threes like that, we're tough as hell to beat. We hit threes, we win games. It's sometimes as simple as that. And Relly Ice was smoking on Sunday, nailing everything in sight. He missed the one, where he couldn't get his feet set in time, but he was damn near perfect other than that. He was awesome, basically. I'm souring on Brady Morningstar, though. I still love him to death, and he still has a monstrous role on this team as the defensive stopper and three-point shooter. But his shot is fading, fast, and his minutes are falling with it. Remember just a couple of weeks ago, when he played 40 minutes against Baylor? Since then, T2 has emerged as the third-best player on the team, and Relly Ice is starting to play better. If Tyrel's shooting the three like he was Sunday, I want to see his minutes go up (and they did, as he saw 18 minutes). Bradystar's minutes will be interesting to wtach, though, as they seem to be in decline. And unless he catches fire from the perimeter, it might not stop.
That's all, for now. Plenty of others played, but not significant minutes. I'm still on the Travis Releford-for-more-minutes bandwagon, just so y'all know.
Hopefully we don't blow all of this goodwill on Wednesday night; a win in Lubbock, and we're officially Conference Champions.