To the rest of the country, this was not a good day for us. We barely snuck away with only a 10-point lead, which is only so big because of late fouls, as a 3-seed. Against a 14-seed.
To the rest of the country, I'm sure they were cheering with every three. Every time Ben Woodside drove into the lane, I'm sure there were millions across the United States jumping up-and-down. The big, bad defending National Champions, for much of the game, were playing even against a team from North Dakota who was in their first year of eligibility.
But in all reality, it wasn't anything like that. Not one bit. You see, North Dakota State is probably the best 14-seed of all time (and no, I don't even know what hyperbole is). They hit the three with the best of them, and they had 20,000 fans in the place. It was practically a road game. Oh, and you know that one kid, that 5'10" white boy with a shaved head and ridiculously big ears and high socks? Yeah, that one. Well, that dude has a future in the NBA. You see him on the street, and you guess soccer player, and that's if you're told he's a college athlete at all. Assuming he can act, he would have been a perfect cast for White Men Can't Jump, with no wardrobe necessary to hustle the opponents. In a freakin' basketball jersey, the dude doesn't look like much. I mean, if I had just happened to flip the TV on, without knowing anything about him, I would have been fairly confident I could've taken him.
But damn. He was the best guard we've played all year, bar none. He got into the lane in a moment's notice without any effort whatsoever, and once he got there that little floater of his was, literally, unstoppable. Even for Cole. But you can't Dogus Balbay him, because he shoots 44% from three-point range. An impossible matchup.
So, don't be depressed. Don't get down on the Jayhawks. We played really well, for most of the game. Just because we are a 3-seed and they were a 14-seed doesn't mean a whole helluva lot. It was a bad matchup for us, they are, as we established, history's greatest 14-seed. It was just a surprising result for everyone else.
Which, might not be all that bad. We're still well under-the-radar, yet to make a peep on anyone's national radar. The longer that stays, the better it is for us.
Player-by-players after the jump...
- Yes, one player scored 32 points. We'll get to him in a second, though, because he isn't the MVP. That would be Cole Aldrich, who dunked at will throughout the entire game. The Bison, literally, had absolutely no answer for him, despite double-teaming him at times. Whenever we so desired, we could merely toss the ball up and watch him go to work. Why we didn't do it more is beyond me. I'd imagine it was beyond Bill Self, as well, because whenever he had a role in the offense, off of out-of-bounds plays and things, it was clear where we were going. So clear, in fact, that near the end of the game, when the Bison needed a stop, we called for an alley-oop to Cole. The Bison had two players waiting underneath the rim, basically using 40% of their defense to limit that one, alley-oop. Cole jumped over them, anyways, and this time got an and-one for his troubles. Please, please, please, focus on getting Cole the ball more. Please?
- One reason why Cole didn't touch it as often was Sherron Collins. More specifically, Sherron's love of the crossover-to-pullup 19-footer. When he is visibly on fire, and ends up making the shot anyways, you can give him a one-time-only pass. When he hasn't made a shot in five tries, and Cole is getting a free dunk every time, and Sherron still comes down and does it, it's not so forgivable. But don't get me wrong, Sherron still had a really good game. In the first half, he was every bit Ben Woodside's equal. But you see, that's the problem. Whenever an opposing guard goes off, it's as if Sherron thinks it's his duty to match them, point-for-point. Luckily, he stopped the mono-a-mono tango in the second half, but still.
- After those two, the unheralded hero of the game, to me, was Marcus Morris. He's changed so much since the beginning of the year. With our two stars, we aren't exactly going to run our offense through McMorris. Everyone understands that. So, just don't make mistakes and provide some bonus plays that get everyone excited about the future. Against North Dakota State, he didn't make a mistake, and made countless little plays that were huge. Seriously. He was incredibly efficient (3-3), which is big, because we can't waste possessions with McMorris misses. He was extremely active on the glass (7 rebounds), which is big because Cole can't do anything, and most opponents will make Cole the focal point. That leaves Marcus to pick up the boards and kickstart our break. And, finally, he knows how to run the freaking high-low. I never thought I would say it, at least not this season, but dude's a really good passer. Whenever we got it to him at the free throw line, a Cole dunk was pretty much a certainty. If he can consistently hit that jumper (given his vast improvement from the line, I'd bet on yes) he could start to be incredibly dangerous.
- On the other hand, Markieff Morris and Mario Little are quickly being left in the dust by McMorris. Little's height, or lack thereof, is starting to really hurt him, and in hindsight, a redshirt might have done him some good. Next year, I imagine he'll be more comfortable on the wing, but still. Kieffer, on the other hand, has devolved into just a rebounder. It's not bad, and we still have a need for him to steal minutes and pick up rebounds, but he's not a good scorer. Really, at all. And please, don't take threes. Thanks.
Tyshawn Taylor is such a freshman. Not consistent whatsoever, but good for a couple of mind-numbing drives to the bucket. Just keep it up, T2, and you'll be the leader in just a couple of years.
- Ah. Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed. I love 'em both, but yikes. Brady came up big yesterday, with his two gigantic threes at gigantic times and his really good D on Winkelman, but Tyrel certainly didn't. Tyrel, at this point, is basically a three-point shooter. Nothing more, nothing less. He's improved on D, yes, but still not enough to hang with Brady and Sherron and even T2. Really, as T2's shooting increases and we don't have to have one-or-the-other in for long range purposes, I'd rather Travis Releford get these minutes. Particularly against athlete-heavy teams, like Dayton.
- Finally, Tyrone Appleton. He should have received more minutes than he did yesterday, as he was clearly the best defender on Woodside. In fact, I can't even recall Woodside driving on Appleton, ever. I understand that he's a rough equivalent of Dogus Balbay with a jump shot, but he can drive to the hole and his D, as mentioned, is quite excellent. If Sherron leaves, I'm alling it right now: Tyrone will be our starting PG at the beginning of the year.
That's all. And, now we're officially moving past North Dakota State. Only Dayton matters, now.
Two sets of Q&A's (hopefully) with Dayton bloggers are upcoming later on today, as well as the standard KenPom preview.
Today's going to be a helluva busy day, for me. But I'm going to enjoy it.
It's March, after all, and our Jayhawks are moving on.
Survive and Advance.