The Jayhawks could not have started worse against Ohio State. Tyshawn Taylor and the squad seemed nervous and timid. KU had nine turnovers and shot 29 percent from the field. Kansas could not get in a rhythm offensively in the first half. While credit must be given to Ohio State’s stifling defense, the main problem was no being used to the atmosphere of a Final Four. At the end of the first half the score was 34-25 Ohio State. Bill Self and his team have been a second half team all tournament long. The resilience of this group of players can not be questioned after watching their road to the championship. At the start of the second half KU seemed like a completely different team. They were energetic and were executing in their half court sets. Also, the shots that were not falling in the first half began to go in.
In the second half, both Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson were taking over the game. Thomas Robinson became his old dominant self again by scoring 11 points in the second half. Elijah Johnson was attacking the basket at will, mainly through transition. Johnson scored eleven points in the second half as well. Jeff Withey was a major difference maker on the defensive end in the second half as he neutralized Ohio State’s best player in Jared Sullinger with his length and shot blocking abilities. KU finished the comeback win in the final moments of game winning 64-62. It is to hard to give a game ball out because four players stood out equally. Travis Releford, for his glove like defense on senior William Buford, Thomas Robinson for his late game surge with continues baskets, Elijah Johnson with his 11 points in the second half, and Jeff Withey for shutting down one of the best big men in the country for an entire half. The game ball should ultimately go to Travis Releford for his work on both ends of the court. Along with his always great defense, he managed to contribute with 15 points.
Tyshawn Taylor continued his drought from the three point line now being 0-21 for the NCAA tournament. However, Travis Releford was a surprise offensively because he finished with fifteen points and seemed to score at crucial times for KU. Jeff Withey may have only finished with 4 points, but had seven blocks and altered many more shots. In the first half, Thomas Robinson was trying to force things offensively, which he cannot due in the next game against Kentucky.
KU will play for the National Championship Monday against the extremely young and talented, Kentucky Wild Cats. These two teams met earlier this season with Kentucky winning 75-65. Both Kentucky and Kansas are completely different teams since the pervious matchup. Kentucky has their offense working just as well a the defense has been all year. While most people proclaim the Wild Cats as a defensive team, the offensive development has caught up. While Kansas has had many players emerge since then with Elijah Johnson, Trevor Releford, and Jeff Withey, the battle will be an extremly tough one.
This will be the most talented team Kansas has played against all year. Kentucky has six first round picks on their roster and will have the first two picks for the 2012 NBA draft in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. For the Jayhawks to win, they will need to play a near perfect game. The first key for them is to get Anthony Davis in foul trouble which is a hard feat to accomplish. He has only fouled out of one game all season. Without their shot blocking machine, Kentucky has looked like a beatable team. Kentucky suffered its first loss of the year against Indiana and Anthony Davis was in foul trouble most of the game. The second key for Kansas is to out rebound Kentucky. This is tough task because of the athleticism Kentucky has on the court. The third and final key is to shoot the ball above 50% against Kentucky. If KU can accomplish these three keys, they will celebrate their another National Championship.
KU played another tough opponent Sunday in North Carolina. This was a special game for KU because the old KU coach Roy Williams now coaches at North Carolina. Kansas caught an extremely lucky break before the game when Kendall Marshall was ruled out of the game because of his broken wrist. Kendall Marshall is the best player on North Carolina and he is what makes North Carolina such a dangerous team. Marshall is the best true point guard in the country. His skills set up the athletes for Roy Williams.
Kansas was involved in another tough sweet 16 game last against North Carolina State. KU did not have as tough of a time matching up against North Carolina State as they did with Purdue. However, North Carolina State is a much more talented and balanced team. All five starters for North Carolina State average ten points or more.
KU yet again started off slow, with North Carolina State beginning on a 13-3 run. C.J Leslie, the best player for North Carolina State, scored five of the thirteen points. KU stormed back with a balanced attack with points from Jeff Withey, Kevin Young, Travis Releford, and Thomas Robinson. Kansas and North Carolina State for the rest of half were trading baskets and the halftime score was 33-32 in favor of North Carolina State. To begin the second half, KU stormed out to a 44-35 lead with points from Jeff Withey, Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, and Tyshawn Taylor – all five starters. KU from that point on controlled the game until the last couple minutes of the game. However, they could not hit a single shot after scoring two points following the three minute marker. KU ended winning the game 60-57 after North Carolina State offense fell apart in the final possession of the game.
KU yet again had a horrible game offensively, shooting 37 percent from the field and going one for twelve from the three point line. However, KU had their best defensive performance of the tournament thus far. Jeff Withey had a career high 10 blocks and Thomas Robinson was dominant when getting rebounds finishing up the 15. Also, Tyshawn Taylor finished the game up with a surprising 10 rebounds. KU defense frustrated North Carolina State the whole night. North Carolina State only shot 28 percent from the field. Thomas Robinson yet again showed he was the best player on the floor finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Thomas Robinson played with a Dennis Rodman mentality last night and will need to continue with mind-tricks for KU to win in the future.
On Sunday, KU will face its toughest test so far in the tournament in North Carolina. North Carolina could be missing its most important player, Kendall Marshall, to a broken hand. If Kendall Marshall does not play or plays ineffectively, KU will win the game. North Carolina has a history of losing without having its point guard playing well. They lost when Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson were hurt and have also lost to lesser opponents. Last season, North Carolina was horrible until they put Kendall Marshall into the starting line up. The key for KU this game is their ability to pressure the point guard into making mistakes. Also, KU will be able to match up against the impressive front line of North Carolina which includes three future possible lottery picks – Tyler Zeller, John Henson, and James Michael McAdoo. KU will also need to rebound the ball effectively because North Carolina is the best rebounding team in the nation, averaging 45 rebounds per game. The game will come down to whether Kendall Marshall plays for North Carolina. If he plays and does it well, North Carolina will be going to the final four.
KU faced another tough opponent in Purdue on Sunday Night. Purdue, a lower ranked team, had given many top Big 10 teams a good game throughout the year. Purdue also plays great defense and makes very few mistakes. This Purdue team showed up last night. They had a great defensive game plan for Thomas Robinson and the defense frustrated KU’s offense causing them to shoot only 30 percent from the field.
The game couldn’t have started out any worse for KU with Purdue starting out the game on an 11-2 run as forward Robbie Hummel scored 9 out of their first 11 points. KU couldn’t generate any offense during the first half. Purdue made Thomas Robinson a non-factor offensively for most of the first half. Purdue would triple team Thomas and force Thomas to either take a bad shot or he would pass the ball out to a wide open shooter. KU had trouble defensively as well in the first half trying to guard Robbie Hummel. KU originally had Thomas Robinson on Robbie Hummel, but with Robbie Hummel being able to hit the three, Thomas was no match. KU then had Kevin Young guard Robbie Hummel, but Kevin picked up 2 quick fouls and went back to the bench. Robbie Hummel finished the first half with 22 points. KU trailed at the half 36-30.
The start of the second half didn’t look promising for Kansas as well with Purdue starting the half on a 10-2 run. Bill Self switched up his defense to match-up zone which slowed down Purdue’s offense. Robbie Hummel only scored 4 points for the rest of the game .With this change in defense, KU started to make some shots offensively. Elijah Johnson, a junior shooting guard, led the charge offensively, making a three pointer and completing a three point play (the old fashion way). With a perimeter player stepping his game up this allowed the middle of the defense to open and allowed Thomas Robinson to face less double and triple teams. Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson carried the team offensively for the rest of the game. KU won the close game 63-60 and will advance to North Carolina State in the sweet 16. Elijah Johnson played the best game of his career finishing with 18 points 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Thomas Robinson finished the game with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
KU played the worst game of the year against Purdue. Purdue should have won the game and dominated KU for 35 minutes of the game. However, I think this game will be a wake call for KU and show them can’t start sluggish and expect to win games. I thought KU was exposed against Purdue. Purdue showed that you can eliminate Jeff Withey from the game by having a more guard oriented line up on the floor. Jeff Withey only had 4 points in 15 minutes of playing time. However, KU will not shoot 30 percent from the floor for the rest of the tournament. This was by far their worst game of the year offensively.
KU’s next opponent in the sweet sixteen will be North Carolina State. While I don’t think KU will have a hard time matching up with North Carolina State, I think this could end up being a much harder game for KU. First they have a two power forwards that I feel can both guard Thomas Robinson in C.J Leslie and Richard Howell. C.J Leslie is there best player who leads them in scoring with 14 points a game and is second in the team with 7 rebounds a game. Also they have a good back court with a great point Lorenzo Brown who averages 13 points 5 rebounds and 7 assists a game. The key for this game is Jeff Withey. Withey will need to be tenacious on the defensive end because most of their points are in the paint from C.J Leslie and Richard Howell. He will also need to rebound well in this game because North Carolina State can give a lot of team trouble in rebounds. In the end I think this will be a very close game, but I feel that KU is more talented and experienced so KU should be playing in the Elite 8 this weekend.
Going into the 2011-2012 basketball season the expectations were not as high in past years. This year’s team had 4 new starters and all of them were essentially role players at best on last year’s team. With the expectations not as high people wondered how good KU would be this year. Everyone had heard that Thomas Robinson was going to be a great player for KU this year, but how good was he really going to be. Tyshawn Taylor was going to assume a leadership role with the team this year, but after uneven play and suspension the previous three year many wondered whether he was going to become the leader Bill Self wanted him to be. Lastly, many people wondered about Jeff Withey and how good he would be with KU. Last season in limited action Jeff Withey looked average at best and often looked lost on the court. In the end many people thought KU would compete for a Big 12 regular season title, but fall short and end up being a 3 or 4 seed at best in the NCAA Tournament.
The Big 12 regular season ended Sunday night for KU with a win against Texas on Senior Night. With the regular season finished, awards must be given to the deserving candidate. The Conference player of the year was a no brainer; it was Thomas Robinson. Robinson was the best player on KU for the entire season. He averaged 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 assists a game at the power forward position. The big man from Kansas is also a major contender for James Naismith National Player of the Year Award. Although he is a junior, he is expected to declare for the 2012 NBA draft and should be a top ten selection. The Defensive player of the year in the Big 12 conference is also from KU, which is center Jeff Withey. In Withey’s first year of major contribution at Kansas, he managed to become a defensive force at center. Withey, only a junior, led the conference with 100 blocks and averaged 6 rebounds a game for KU and was Third Team All Conference due to his defensive contributions for the Jayhawks.
To add to all these awards, the Kansas Jayhawks had two players make First Team All Conference: Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Robinson and Taylor were KU’s two best players all season, both players in different instances throughout the season put KU on its back and lead them to victory. Taylor, a senior guard from New Jersey, averaged 17 points and 5 assist for the Jayhawks this season. Although Taylor seemed incapalbe of throwing the ball to the right team for the first half of the season, he caught on during conference play and was vital as the season progressed. Bill Self yet again proved he was the best coach in the conference by winning coach of the year and coaching the Jayhawks to an unheard of 8 straight conference championships in a row. This was Bill Self’s best year of coaching at Kansas, this team is arguably the least talented he has had.
The expectations for the KU basketball team this year were not as high as it had been in previous years. In the preseason AP Top 25 Kansas was ranked thirteenth with Baylor a team from their own conference ahead of them. With the regular season over, the Jayhawks finished third in the AP Top 25 and the USA Today Coaches Pull, which puts Kansas in contention for a number one seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Coach Self looks to continue his success of dominating the Big 12 in the Conference Championship.