This week has flown by, and we now stand (or sit) only 14 (or so) hours away from the beginning of the Madness. Right at the forefront at the Madness are our Kansas Jayhawks, who battle the Portland State Vikings bright and early tomorrow afternoon, 12:20 ET. Here are breakdowns of almost all of their players, all of the ones who will be playing significant minutes, and how we should defend them. Because, a little-known fact is that I am Bill Self's top advisor. Not really, though.
PG Jeremiah Dominguez :: Dominguez' game is one filled with speed and quickness, traits he has to use to make up for his less-than-average height. Standing at only 5'6", he has always been overshadowed by bigger and taller players, despite his obvious talent. While in high school in Oregon, he was a favorite for Oregon High School Player for the Year, as he and current Oregon Duck Maarty Luenen dominated the Oregon high basketball stratosphere that year. However, despite the fact that Dominguez' team won despite having less overall talent (this article attributes it to "[Dominguez] seemingly willing his team and inspiring them with his spirit"), Luenen went to Oregon as a heralded recruit and Dominguez was forced to go the less-heralded, local University of Portland. While with the Pilots, Dominguez started only 4 games and his lack of playing time seemed to prove the college recruiters right about his size. However, after transferring to the Vikings following the 2005-06 season, he has emerged as a star at Portland State, averaging 14.3 points and 4.1 assists a game. Those numbers even jump up to 16 and 4.8 in conference play, against mostly weaker competition.
After spending a paragraph talking about he proved that he could still play despite his lack of size, there is one clear solution on how to guard him. Use his lack of size against him. Whoever is guarding him, I am assuming Sherron Collins when he is in there, either Mario or Russell otherwise, should use their extra height and bulk to bully around the smaller Dominguez. While a 5'6" frame might be able to dominate Big Sky basketball, the Big 12 is a completely different level of physicality, and we should at least test to see whether Dominguez can handle that or not.
On the flip side of that, Jeremiah is just as fast, if not faster, as the fastest we have seen this season. We need to take extra good care of the ball, and whoever is being guarded by Dominguez can ill-afford to become complacent. Turnovers can keep the Viks in this game, and there is no one better on the Viks roster at forcing turnovers than Dominguez.
SG Andre Murray :: Murray is also a transfer, although he is from a JUCO. He is fairly inconsistent, having scored anywhere from 0 (against UCLA in 20 minutes) to 20 (against Northern Colorado in 40) points this season, and is mostly just a complimentary player to the two more talented perimeter players, Dominguez and Huff. He is a tremendous on-ball defender and will likely draw Mario Chalmers as his assignment, not an easy task following Chalmers' 30 point explosion Sunday afternoon. However, he does nothing particularly well on the offensive side of things, shooting only 36% from the three-point line, dishing out only 2 assists and putting up a mediocre 1.2:1 A:T ratio. If I am forming a gameplan, I am doing everything I can to make role players like Murray to beat us, and not stars like Dominguez or Deonte Huff.
SF Deonte Huff :: Huff is a senior. He is second on the team in putting the ball in the basket (13.9 a contest), and is a decent rebounder. According to Ian, the Portland State blogger, he is a slasher/cutter type who has vastly improved his shot during his time in Portland. Just like Murray, Deonte is a JUCO transfer, although that is where the comparison ends. While Dominguez bases his game off of quickness and speed, Huff is a guard who doesn't mind the paint, even at 6'4", and muscles his away past smaller and weaker guards. Because of that, I envision Brandon Rush drawing that assignment, and with the way Rush has been shutting down the opposition (save D.J. Augustin Sunday in the first half, of course I don't think anybody could have done that considering how 'on fire' he was), I'll take that matchup. Despite his improved outside shooting, Huff still only shoots 31% from beyond the three-point line and obviously prefers to drive to the hole, so look for Brandon to give him the shot most of the time down the court. If he proves he can knock it down, we'll talk, but until then I say do whatever it takes to keep him out of the lane.
PF Kyle Coston :: Hey, lookee there. The Viks do have a player on their team that isn't a transfer. Coston, despite his position of power forward, is the long-range bomber on the squad, shooting almost 42% from three. However, he isn't a key member of their offense, scoring only 6 points a game. He also is a very poor rebounder for his size, corralling only 3 per game. Of course, much of that can be attributed to the fact that his low-post buddy, Scott Morrison, is quite the best on the glass, but still. He is an European-style big man, preferring to play on the perimeter than down low. He will likely guard Darnell Jackson, making D-Block a candidate to explode tomorrow afternoon. Coston hasn't seen a player as physically dominant as Jackson all year, at least since early December against Wazzu, so let's see if he can handle Darnell. With Huff's propensity to play down low, and Coston's vice versa approach to the game, you could make a reasonable argument that Coston is really the 3 and Huff is the 4. Still, because of the height differentials and the likely defensive assignments, I'll keep it like I have it now.
C Scott Morrison :: Morrison is a rarity on this squad, a fourth year senior having played all four years in a dark green Vikings uniform. He is Canadian, stands 6'11" and the low-post leader of this team. Him and Dominguez and Huff form the core of the Vikings squad, and with both Dominguez and Huff playing mostly on the perimeter, he is the leader of the bigs. His averages have actually decreased since last year, most likely because of the welcomed arrival of Jeremiah Dominguez, but he is still averaging 11 and 6. He is an incredibly important facet of their offense, no post presence makes their team incredibly one-dimensional and, save 6'4" Deonte Huff's low-post game, if we shut him down, the game isn't close. And call me crazy, but I feel more confident about shutting down Morrison than anyone else in the NCAAs. We haven't allowed traditional post men to do much of anything all season long (Aleks Maric anyone?), and I will be hard pressed to believe that a Big Sky post player can change that. Sasha Kaun is a premier post defender in all of NCAA, and DA and D-Block are pretty good defenders, all of whom should have more trouble keeping up with the outside-friendly Kyle Coston than the low-post Scott Morrison. That is just how our bigs work.
The Bench :: Dupree Lucas, a junior guard from Wichita, is their top perimeter player off the bench. He was the starting point guard last season before losing the slot to Jeremiah Dominguez, and now gives them 20 solid minutes off the bench. He is a pretty horrible outside shooter, > 30% from the three-point line, and all of his numbers have obviously substantially decreased from last season. Still, not a bad guy to come in and bag some minutes for you. Their top post player off the bench, if you want to call him a post player, is Tyrell Mara. The 6'6" combo forward plays both outside (64 attempted three pointers; 41%) and inside (3.4 rebounds a game in only 19 minutes) and is a standard bench player for mid-majors. Julius Thomas, despite being only 6'5", is the top low-post player off the bench. He outworks and out-positions his way to more than 3 boards a game, despite his limited minutes, and can hold down the fort while Morrison or Coston is resting.
Overall, this Portland State team is a really solid one, mostly because of their feisty and dangerous 5'6" point guard. I am legitimately scared of going up against Jeremiah Dominguez, scared of being lit up long enough to draw national attention to a possible 16-over-1 upset. Deonte Huff piques my interest as well, and I am very excited to watch both of those players in action tomorrow afternoon. However, on the flip side I am extremely confident that we will be able to shut down Scott Morrison, unless we focus all of our attention on Dominguez and/or Huff, so we will eventually, and comfortably, pull away.