Interior Defense A Problem For Kansas

LAWRENCE KS - DECEMBER 02: Marcus Morris #22 of the Kansas Jayhawks blocks a shot by Lazeric Jones #11 of the UCLA Bruins during the game on December 2 2010 at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence Kansas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Against two quality Pac 10 opponents the Kansas bigs have struggled to compete on the interior from a defensive perspective.  Whether it's a big body like Josh Smith out-muscling Kansas underneath or an athletic player like Derek Williams putting it on the floor, Kansas hasn't done particularly well in any respect.  

The whole world knows it, Bill Self knows it and it's going to present a serious obstacle to winning a seventh straight Big 12 conference title.

If I was coaching against us, I would attack our post players every possession. I'm going to put it out there because everybody can see it. It doesn't take a guy who studies a ton of tape to realize that, it's that our big guys don't guard very well. We have to get a lot better at that."

Why is this a concern?  Well beyond the fact that winning six straight in March requires consistent defense, the Big 12 landscape is such that the contenders are well positioned to attack this weakness.

Kansas State

The Wildcats are physical underneath.  Curtis Kelly can at times be an explosive scorer but even if he's not, both he and Jamar Samuels will create contact.  Wally Judge fits the athletic type, although he's still growing into his role.  The wild card of the bunch is a Freddy Asprilla.  On paper he doesn't provide a lot of production, but he's a big body and will have that physical advantage that Kansas has struggled with.

Baylor

The Bears are likely the most athletic team Kansas will face all year. Quincy Acy and Perry Jones both have tremendous length at 6'10" each and both have the ability to attack the rim. Throw in another 6'10" player in Anthony Jones and the advantage is there for Baylor.

Mizzou

For the Tigers of Mizzou the potential might not be as apparent, but the addition of Ricardo Ratliffe is an upgrade.  Ratliffe has the ability to be a more traditional post scorer and take the ball to the Kansas bigs underneath.  Laurence Bowers seems more comfortable working face up rather than mixing it up underneath, but he can put it on the floor and create contact.

Texas

The Longhorns are currently 8th in the nation in terms of rebounding and surprisingly they do that without a ton of size.  Jordan Hamilton and Triston Thompson are two athletic bigs that are leading the team in both scoring and rebounding.  The two "bigs" have the ability to put it on the floor, pull up or score underneath.  Based on the Jayhawks tendency to provide one player an out of his mind type night, Jordan Hamilton might be licking his chops.

* * *

The point is this.  Kansas has at times looked quicker and more athletic offensively this year, a point which has caused some happiness as it relates to the early departure of Cole Aldrich.  What we're learning now that the competition has ticked up a notch is that sometimes you need to be careful what you wish for.  Great interior defense is a luxury that can change games.  Aldrich did that.  Jeff Withey, the one on the roster most capable of causing that level of disruption has a long way to go.  Through seven games, it's a concerning trend.

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