Monday, February 25, 2008

Heading in the Wrong Direction

What is happening to my Jayhawks? At this time of the season, you should be on your way to reaching your peak. Your offense should be crisp, your defense should be in full form, and you should have an identity. Kansas right now has none of these things figured out.

Bill Self's veteran club is 4-3 in their last seven games, including the pathetic effort Saturday in the one point loss to a far inferior Oklahoma State team. I know, it sounds like I am ready to jump off the ledge here, but consider the following:

1. PG Russell Robinson, supposedly the teams best perimeter defender, has been consistantly torched by the guy he is guarding of late. Saturday was no different when Byron Eaton blew by him all game long for 26 points. Baylor's Curtis Jerrells dropped 30 on him two weeks earlier. K-State's Jacob Pullen had a career high 20 on him in the loss in Manhattan. It's a disturbing trend seeing as though his turnovers are up and assists are down this year while he continues to jack up threes as a 31% shooter from deep.

2. Not having a full strength Sherron Collins is killing this team. As the LJW's Tom Keegan put it, there is nobody on this team that can break his man off the dribble and get to the hole better than Collins. The bevy of injuries to his foot and knee have robbed him of his Sophomore campaign and it's hurting not only himself, but the team. His legs aren't there for his three and his quickness, which is where his whole game comes from, is half speed.

3. Darrell Arthur cannot stay out of foul trouble. This is beating a dead horse, but Shady is the best offensive player KU has. When he is on the floor and the ball is being pounded to him in the post, the Hawks can be unstoppable. The problem is, that seems like a rarity these days. In losses to both K-State and Oklahoma State, he has played 17 minutes each. Against Baylor when he played 33 minutes, he scored 23 points. In 28 minutes against Texas, he had 22. The offense must run inside out to be successful.

4. Brandon Rush needs to play for a full 40 minutes. How many more times can one guy dip in and out of a ballgame and a season for that matter? In the first half of the Oklahoma State game, Rush was completely invisible during his 12 minutes of play, scoring zero points. He was passive and lazy. For a Junior who is supposed to be uber-talented, these lapses in are just inexcusable at this point. Self had to light a fire under him earlier in the season by ripping him in the press. It worked for a good four-five games, but now he is back to his old self. He thinks he is going pro? Please. I wouldn't draft this guy in the first round if you paid me right now. If he can't get motivated with all of this pressure, what makes you think he'll be motivated when he has millions in his pockets?

5. It's time for Bill Self to step up his in game coaching. It's been suggested that he is too stubborn sometimes when it comes to playing zone. Well Bill, sometimes when your guys are in foul trouble (i.e. Shady every night it seems), you have to protect them. Sometimes your guards are getting beaten off the dribble badly allowing shooters to be wide open on the perimeter. Wouldn't a zone help you there a little? I'm not saying they should zone all the time, but when your dribble penetration is killing your guys, like it was with Byron Eaton on Saturday, try a zone! It wouldn't kill you. I won't even get into the fact that Self called a time out up one with a minute to play to seemingly run a set to get a key bucket, yet ended up being a Robinson wild drive and turnover whcih on the other end led to a Marcus Dove three that gave OSU the lead.

6. Good teams finish out their close games. We all know KU didn't have it mentally in Stillwater Saturday. Whether it was a lack of focus due to the deaths of Darnell Jackson's cousin and Rodrick Stewart's brother or just a collective bad day, the Hawks were playing like garbage for a good 32 minutes. Somehow, they managed a comeback behind Rush, Darnell Jackson, and Mario Chalmers to take a four point lead with less than three minutes left. At this point, the good teams finish the deal. The Hawks far too many times have squandered lead late only to be bailed out in the end by the clock. This time, poor defense and turnovers killed them down the stretch. You cannot let a one man team, and that is what Ok State was that day, beat you after you have clawed your way back; especially with the Big 12 title and a possible #1 seed in the tournament at stake.

We will look back on Saturday's loss as the one that ruined what could have been a magical season if things don't change soon. For KU to now win the Big 12, they must win out (4 games) and hope Texas loses twice. The Longhorns go to K-State tonight and to Texas Tech Saturday before finishing at home with Nebraska and Oklahoma State. We just don't see it happening.

It's not too late to turn it around. Remember, last February, Florida lost two straight and everyone thought the sky was falling. Well that team rounded into shape and won it all again. Can Kansas do the same? On this date, February 25th, we just don't see it happening.


Hiphopopotamus said...

I keep remembering Florida's stumble as well. But that team had already won a national championship, so confidence was never going to be an issue. Kansas, on the other hand, has to be wondering if they have what it takes.

Warning Track Power said...

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Warning Track Power