Why do they always do that? Not that it means an ultimate destiny of failure this year, but it is incredibly frustrating to watch this team - the team that college basketball experts everywhere say is the best team in the country - sleepwalk their way through games against far inferior opponents. They have the tendency to stand around on offense, leave their feet when the ball when they shouldn't, make careless passes when they leave their feet, pass up open shots and throw the ball away, loaf on defense and leave shooters open, etc., etc. It drives me absolutely insane. I can't imagine they enjoy being ripped to shreads by head coach Bill Self on the sidelines and in the locker room everytime they play a lesser opponent. Maybe they do. They did come out in the second half and play like the real Kansas, so I'll ease up a bit. The silver lining to it, though, is that against top competition they don't do this. Hopefully they realize that Northern Iowa should be considered "top competition" on Saturday.
The Panthers await. Basically, everything I said about Northern Iowa on Wednesday was disproved by the Panthers on Thursday against UNLV. They played more up-pace than they would prefer, yet were still able to win thanks to thanks to a near 50 percent (9-19) three point performance where they hit clutch shot after clutch shot in trading threes with the Runnin' Rebels. I haven't got much to add about them as of right now, but Warden will be providing the Scouting Report for UNI tomorrow, along with his Plus-Minus numbers and thoughts for tonight's victory over Lehigh.
Player of the Game - Marcus Morris - It's really hard to argue against 26 points and 11 rebounds. Forget the fact that it was done on 12-15 shooting and 6 rebounds were of the offensive variety. He's becoming a beast. More about that to come...
What Went Right
The backbone of this Bill Self-coached team, and every other one, will always be defense. As Danny Satan said early on in the first half while the team was struggling to get shots to fall or even hold onto the ball, "can always hang our hat on the defense, i love it." Nothing could be more true. A Bill Self-coached team may struggle offensively, but you will rarely ever see them completely out of a game because they will always keep themselves alive thanks to their play on the defensive end. This was most definitely the case on Thursday when Kansas struggled in every facet offensively to get anything going. The Jayhawks turned the ball over repeatedly, missed open shots and missed tough shots, but the Mountain Hawks couldn't capitalize on it because they were allowed even worse shots by the Kansas defense. Coach Self, don't ever change your philosophy.
When he stays on the court, few teams have an answer for Marcus Morris. Throughout the tradition rich history of Kansas basketball, there have been many talented big men. There have been big men bigger than Marcus, stronger, better shot blockers, better in the post and faster. However, there have been few that were as versatile as Marcus. He can step away from the basket and take a bigger defender off the dribble, post up and shoot a sweet turnaround, drain a three or get an offensive rebound and stick it back - even if he has to do so three or four times to make it. As I said, he'll never be the leading rebounder in Kansas history or block the most shots. But, what he will do is a little bit of all of those things and is learning to do so in larger doses. Not that we weren't already aware of the player he is, but Thursday served as a great reminder.
En fuego shooting. You wouldn't know it from the choppy pace of the game and the Jayhawks' slow start, but they shot well above their season averages against Lehigh. 43 percent from three and 55 percent overall. Overcoming a slow start to shoot that well means that they shot even better than the total percentage for the game once they got going. This team can score dangerously quick and often. You already knew that.
Thomas Robinson starting to 'figure it out'? It may be a small consolation in the grand scheme of things this year, but whenever he plays extended minutes, especially early in the game, and plays steadily decent, I can't help but get excited about him. You'll be hard pressed to find someone that works harder than Thomas. While you can see that, as far as coach Self's complex system goes, he doesn't quite fully 'get it' between the ears, at times he can more than make up for it with his raw athleticism and tenacity. I'll be the millionth person to say it for the billionth time now - he's going to be a good one in a hurry. As in, next year.
What Could Have Gone Better
Just trim the damn bushes; I hate "hedges" anyway. We have all expressed our disdain for the Morris twins and Cole's uncanny knack for finding fouls on the perimeter when switching on a ball screen. Well, Marcus was up to his usual ways again early in the second half on Thursday. With eighteen minutes left in the game, he proceded to pick up back to back fouls within 30 seconds of each other doing: none other than not getting out of the way of a guard on the perimeter. Just give it up, big fellas. You don't have quick enough feet for playing guards on the perimeter.