When the Jayhawks made the trek west to Boulder, Co. back on February 3rd, it was not supposed to result in a near-disastrous, overtime escape against the Buffaloes. It was supposed to be an easy game after a highly emotional previous week with games against rivals Missouri and Kansas State. But, what the Jayhawks found from the start was that the Buffs weren't going to just lay down and play dead.
At first glance back at the boxscore from that night, it is hard to remember why Kansas struggled so much. Colorado shot terrible from the field (37.5 percent) and from three point range. (29.6 percent) Offensive rebounds were even (twelve a piece) and Kansas won the turnover battle. (eleven to twelve) So, how exactly did that near-disaster happen? Well, if memory serves me right, it was two big things: Xavier Henry was nearly a ghost, (three points on zero-of-four shooting in just seventeen minutes) and a combined nine-for-23 (39.1 percent) free throw shooting from the three bigs. Particularly, it was key free throws down the stretch that Kansas could not convert into points that gave the Buffs second, third and fourth lives. And, that is something that you just cannot do on the road. Luckily talent prevailed in overtime and the Jayhawks escaped with a 72-66 victory.
Fast forward to today and depending on who you ask, the Jayhawks are either playing a million times better or as terrible as that night in Boudler. I'm of the former opinion. Keep in mind, though, that I have taken over the role of eternal optimist around here, so it's probably somehwere in the middle, but still closer to being far better. The Jayhawks pulled out another thrilling road battle on Monday night against Texas A&M to reach 11-0 in Big 12 play and remain three games clear the rest of the conference. Since the first meeting, Colorado has gone 1-2 and dropped to tenth in the Big 12 with a 3-8 record.
However, things have to look a bit brighter for Colorado fans these days, as they have the sensational freshman Alec Burks healthy and back in the starting lineup. If you remember, Burks suffered a sprained left knee the game before Kansas and missed out on the upset bid. It's a good thing, because with as close as that game was, one can't help but think that Burks could have put them over the top and gotten the job done. It's amazing what losing one key player could do to a team. It would be the equivalent to Kansas playing without Sherron Collins for a game. Not that he is the same type of player or even as talented at this point in his career, but the best player on his team.
Apply what you learned the first time. The Buffs rely heavily upon their guards to produce points and too much to rebound. In the first matchup, lots of missed shots got past the Kansas bigs around the basket, and long rebounds usually go to the shooting team. It was great to hold them to such a low percentrage shooting, but you just have to grab those rebounds. No second chance points, please. Adding in Burks will make Colorado a completely different team from the squad the Jayhawks faced in the first meeting. While he doesn't have the best ball handling abilities and doesn't drive to the basket with great frequency, what he does best is creating space to make his own shot. Sound like something we wish a certain 6'6" freshman could do? You can almost count on the fact that one of Burks or Higgins will have a big game. What Kansas (and Bill Self specifically) teams are notorious for is making a team one dimensional and allowing one guy to try and beat them alone. It can't be done. Damion James couldn't do it this year, Richard Roby could never do it for the Buffs and Kevin Durant couldn't do it, as amazing as he was. It took a great support effort from Bill Walker for Michael Beasley to beat Kansas. One of the two will go off. The other must be limited. There lies the greatest key to the game.
Informative Colorado Links
Player rotation from their Yahoo! team page:
|Nebraska||@, 84-72 vs. W, 75-64||vs. W, 72-60|
|Baylor||vs. W, 81-75||vs. W, 78-71|
|Iowa State||@ W, 84-61 vs. W, 73-59||@ L, 63-64|
|Missouri||vs. W, 84-65||vs. L, 66-84|
|Kansas State||@ W, 81-79 (OT)||vs. L, 81-87 @ L, 51-68|
|Texas||@ W, 80-68||@ L, 86-103|
|Texas A&M||@ W, 59-54||@ L, 63-67|
Comparing the Coaches
|NCAA Tourney Champions||1||0|
|Conf Tourney Champions||4||0|
|Overall Record||399-145 (0.733)||108-102 (0.514)|
|Conference Record||175-52 (0.771)||36-54 (0.4)|
|NCAA Tourney Record||24-10 (0.706)||0-1 (0.0)|
|Close Record||62-56 (0.525)||23-31 (0.426)|
|Blowout Record||152-21 (0.879)||33-17 (0.66)|
|Overtime Record||15-10 (0.6)||2-5 (0.286)|
|Career Team Stats|
|Field Goal Pct||0.472||0.470|
|Free Throw Pct||0.693||0.729|
|3-pt Field Goal Pct||0.366||0.378|
|Points per game||76.0||64.7|
|Rebounds per game||38.3||27.4|
|Assists per game||16.7||13.6|
|Turnovers per game||15.2||12.1|
|Fouls per game||19.4||16.5|
Denver's more statistically inclined preview to come tomorrow morning...