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Kansas Moves On to the Semifinals

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I'll make it up to you sometime, maybe with some dinner and a movie, or something. Friday Night Lights, the TV show not the movie or book, has semi-controlled my daily life over the last two weeks, as I have completely caught up (1.5 seasons, 37 episodes) in that timespan. I don't have much of a life, I know, and that has decreased my time on this blog. I apologize. But I am coming back from watching the most recent episode, so I will be able to re-devote myself to this little blog. And in case you aren't watching it, which juding by its porous ratings you aren't, it is definitely worth the time. Just go to nbc.com and you can watch the episodes online, and it is one of the best shows on television. And yes, I watch Lost.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at how we played tonight.

Not all that great, is the answer, although this struggle just felt different than our most recent struggles. The entire game, even the first half filled with Nebraska drilling threes with five seconds left on the shot clock, it was as if we were merely waiting to emerge, instead of forcing the question of whether we would or not. While we didn't completely play up to our potential, the second half we began to play like we should on our worse days, and that was enough to win comfortably. Nebraska deserves major props, it was their incredible play (especially in the first 20 minutes) that allowed the game to be so close, not us laying an egg.

While there were plenty of problems with our play tonight, none were more concerning than the turnovers. We coughed up the ball a whopping 18 times tonight, and only 10 of those were actually stolen by the Huskers. That leaves eight mostly-unforced errors by our Jayhawks, and that isn't taking into account the handful of dumb-and-stupid passes trying to start the fast break. We didn't play with our head completely screwed on in the first half, and combining that with a team on fire from beyond the arc and you are going to be behind, just as we were. However, in the second half we began to tighten up the mistakes and eventually let our tremendous rebounding advantage (34 to 24) finish the job.

Looking at the game player-by-player, not a single player stood out. There was no star performance, although if there was one it would have to be, yet again, Sherron Collins. He led the team in scoring, with 13 points, and was the sparkplug we needed to fire us up in the second half. The biggest vice for this team is complacency, and that is something that isn't even SC's vocabulary. He is all-go all the time, always pushing the ball. And while that freaked me out for much of last season, afraid that he would turn the ball over too much, I now realize that this team could use a couple of turnovers off of too-fast play. I loved the fact he got in Dagunduro's face for his hard foul on SC, even though there was only a minute and change left in the game. The more attitude the better for this team, and no one brings more to the table in that category than our little firecracker off the bench. If we have our sights set on San Antonio, we just might have to hop on the chunky, oft-injured backup point guard from Chicago.

Or, of course, our bigs could remember how to ball, specifically Darrell Arthur. He picked up his first foul within the first minute of the game, on a stupid frustration foul after missing a layup, and that was all it took to throw him off his game. Speaking of a missed layup, I have never seen a single player miss so many bunnies. I counted four live, including two dunks, which is unacceptable at the junior high level. I understand there was contact and everything, but this isn't tiddlywinks. This is Big XII basketball, and he needs to be able to finish in those situations. He can't play in foul trouble efficiently, which isn't good considering how much he is in foul trouble. He only played 24 minutes tonight, and that wasn't because we wanted to give others opportunities. He needs to be out on the floor for us to be the most successful, not sitting next to Bill Self.

Darnell Jackson wasn't a whole lot better, although his line (12 and 9) looks golden next to DA's. He also struggled with some early foul trouble, but is a little smarter playing in foul trouble than DA is, so he could survive. The other difference between D-Block and DA is that, with the Huskers often employing a one big and four guard set, 6'4" Ryan Anderson and 6'2" Paul Velander were given the lucky assignment of 6'9" Darnell Jackson. So, the fact that he only scored 12 is quite a statement about how often we actually got the ball into the post.

Moving on to Sasha Kaun, he was clearly the best big tonight. And as hard as it is for me to admit, given my long campaign for Big Cole to earn some more playing time at the expense of everyone's favorite man from Tomsk, I have officially given it up. Because for the next eight games, because I am officially planning on playing eight more games this year, Sasha will be a better player. He is playing the best basketball of his career right now, which makes sense considering he only took up the game 7 years ago or so. His range has extended from five feet to a seemingly impossible seven, and his post defense is still stellar. He still should be on the bench, and I'm sick of this "seven starters" nonsense (you get only five starters; the five best players almost always start [this actually isn't the case, because SC is better than all of our guards IMO and still sits on the bench to start out games], and just because Sasha could start for other programs doesn't mean he counts as a 'starter'), but I would match him up against just about anybody's first big off the bench.

The guards, as a whole, were pretty disappointing. Maybe I am expecting too much of the veteran trio, but 24 points really isn't what I think we need to be successful in the NCAAs. I bet that one of them steps it up big time in the Tournament, and I will go out on a pretty sturdy limb and say Brandon. He knows he needs to make a statement for his future, and what better stage to do it on than the NCAA Tournament. I'm expecting an explosion at some point during the three weeks.

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There really isn't a whole lot to say about the Aggies we will be taking on Saturday afternoon. With tonight's win, they locked up their bid in the NCAA Tournament, so they are merely playing for seeding like we are tomorrow afternoon. And I still think that we are a vastly superior team, as evidenced by our demolition of the Ags on their home court just 6 days ago. They have quite the frontcourt, although a tremendously overhyped one as: a) DeAndre Jordan really isn't ready for Big 12 play, much less the NBA, and is mostly just an incredibly athletic big dude filled with athletic potential right now and b) Joseph Jones still thinks he is an outside shooter, when he never has been and likely never will.

I'm calling for a comfortable, coasting to an incredibly similar 17 point victory, by the incredibly similar score of 72-55. We recapture the form that enabled the first 17 point victory, and the Ags play the same, average ball as the first time around. And, just for fun, I'll subscribe to the "You can't beat the same team three times in one season" argument and say the surging Boomer Sooners beat the Longhorns tomorrow. If Boomer Sooner and the Jayhawks meet on Sunday, it will be a very different Oklahoma team that we demolished to the tune of a 85-55 victory way back in early January. In fact, I will be kinda scared.

ROCK CHALK!