Lesson finally learned? They couldn't help but wonder if they just had one more chance. Once in Manhattan wasn't enough. A second in Allen Fieldhouse apparently wasn't either. The Kansas State Wildcats and their fans wanted a third crack at the number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks. Well, they got their wish on Saturday in Kansas City. What they also got was their third defeat of the season at the hands of the Jayhawks. The curiosity got 'em. In their ever-lasting quest to reach the level (in their own mind, of course) in which Kansas basketball resides, they once again failed. In the most literal sense of the analogy, it was big brother (Kansas) holding little brother (K-State) at arm's length, (two to seven points) never letting them be in control (always playing from behind) and crushing any remaining sense of false hope (matching everything they did and always maintaining the lead) and still keeping little brother thinking they could just maybe, this time, finally do it. They could not.
Where do they go now? The Jayhawks will now go on to be the number one of number one seeds in next week's NCAA Tournament, play their first and second round games in Oklahoma City and Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight games in St. Louis. For the Wildcats, another good game played against the best of the best can only translate into a positive to the tournament committee. In my own opinion, if they are below a two seed, they got robbed. This is the best one-two Big 12 duo heading into the tournament since Kansas and Texas in 2003 when each team reached the Final Four. Don't bet your mortgage against these two teams being there come April.
Player of the Game - Tyrel Reed - Yes, Tyrel Reed. He had a career-high fifteen points and hit seven-of-nine free throws at key points to smolder Kansas State runs. Oh yeah, he was two-of-two from three. That accounted for the team's three point baskets. When your best pure shooter is coming off the bench, that says something about your roster depth. Just another big piece of the tournament puzzle.
What Went Right
Not making Bill Self's face run the color spectrum. In the first half and first eight minutes of the second on Friday night, Bill Self was an angry man. His team make stupid mistake after stupid mistake. Even Sherron Collins gave Cole Aldrich a 'don't you ever do that again' look after a totally inexplicable outlet pass to...Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend. They simply took the ball and gifted it back to the Aggies nineteen times - six more than their season average. They could not do that against a better Kansas State team and expect to win. So, they didn't. Eleven turnovers against a physically tough, pestering defensive team like Kansas State. I'll take that for the next six games and watch coach Self cut down another net.
Winning it whatever way you want us to. Friday night in the semifinal against Texas A&M, Kansas shot 55.6 percent (10-18) from the three point line. Saturday in the finals, they shot 25 percent, (2-8) yet still won. fetch9 pointed it out during the game with the following comment: "if we win shooting 25% from three, I’ll really think we are unbeatable." That about sums it up for me. Instead of relying on sizzling hot three point shooting like the Texas A&M game, they were more than content to throw it inside every time down the floor to a Morris or Cole to make a move and score or get fouled. Not only strategic, but ego-less.
That's not how they wanna play. Kansas State came into the game leading the nation in free throws attempted on the season. It is their bread and butter - getting to the basket and forcing you to sacrifice a foul to prevent two easy points. In the first half on Saturday, they attempted not a single one. Beyond the fact that that was a key to Kansas' 31-27 halftime lead. Beyond that, though, you can't quantify (I hate numbers, so why try) what taking the Wildcats out of what they are used to doing. Also, that meant that there were no severe foul troubles for the Jayhawks...in the first half. And, to boot, when they did finally find their way to the line in the second half, they shot nealy ten percent lower than their season average. They were only 8-14 in the entire game.
What Could Have Gone Better
"Seriously, just back up our bigs to the free throw line everytime they shoot." I actually said this during the game. While that sounds incredibly stupid based on logical basketball thinking, it would have prevented about half of Kansas State's offensive rebounds. Not to oversimplify things too much, but I think their great offensive rebounding numbers can be summed up like this: they take bad shots - they're long, challenged and off-balance - and when they miss, (which bad shots typically do) they result in long, irregular bounces off the rim. I think they realize this and position themselves accordingly. That's not a gimmick at all; that's just smart, maximum effort basketball. We've yet to catch on to it apparently, because for the third time this year they out-offensive rebounded Kansas - this time by the tally of 14-11. That's just what they do and who they are, I guess.
Bunnies. Who came up with that term, by the way? How is a shot within a couple feet of the basket similar to a furry little rodent that eats your lettuce and cabbage garden? I guess if there is any parallel, it would insinuate that this year's Jayhawks would be terrible rabbit hunters. Once we look past obvious idiocy of the term for those short shots, I begin to get frustrated. I've called for it at times this year and it appears time to work some more RCT magic and convey my own personal agenda to coach Self once again. Coach Self, please tell Marcus and Markieff to dunk the ball. Remember Darnell Jackson,and ? Remember the way they dunked everything near the basket? I want the Morris twins to do that. Thank you.
This has undoubtedly been a wild, frustrating at times, exciting, stressful, yet fun ride so far. Now, it all comes down to six games over the next three weeks. That's it. At max, we'll do this six more times. Be sure to be around tomorrow evening for the Selection Show Open Thread and Rock Chalk!