Bill Self’s Coaching Plus Elite Talent is a Scary Proposition

Posted by BHayes on October 9th, 2013

Bennet Hayes (@HoopsTraveleris a national columnist.

Tweets that end with a hashtag of “#RockChalk” are not hard to find in the Twitterverse, but one in particular had to bring a smile to the face of Bill Self and Kansas fans everywhere on Tuesday. Kelly Oubre, one of the top prospects in the prep class of 2014, announced his commitment to Self and KU yesterday morning via social media.

The Findlay Prep (NV) wing, who now looms as the natural replacement on the wing for presumptive one-and-done Jayhawk freshman Andrew Wiggins, is another huge get for several reasons. Oubre (#10 in RSCI’s summer rankings for the class of 2014) is a significant coup for Self, a coach whose recruiting efforts – at least in terms of the star power at the top of the rankings – haven’t always matched up with the prodigious success his teams have enjoyed on the court. This isn’t to say the Jayhawks have been winning multiple Big 12 titles and making Final Fours with two-star recruits from western Kansas, but with the Wiggins/Wayne Selden/Joel Embiid class now on campus and this commitment from Oubre for next season also in the books, Self and Kansas should be taken more seriously than ever as major players in the recruitment of the nation’s top prospects.

Kelly Oubre, A Consensus Top-15 Prospect In The Class Of 2014, Is The Latest Highly Regarded Prep Star To Commit To Bill Self And Kansas

Kelly Oubre, A Consensus Top-15 Prospect In The Class Of 2014, Is The Latest Highly Regarded Prep Star To Commit To Bill Self And Kansas

According to RSCI Hoops, prior to this year’s incoming class, Kansas had landed just two consensus top-20 recruits (Xavier Henry and Josh Selby) since 2007. Of course, that number may as well have been one, as class of 2010 guard Selby never realized the potential he flashed during his high school days, averaging only 7.9 PPG in one disappointing season in Lawrence. For an interesting frame of reference, intrastate rival Kansas State — a program with nowhere near the hardwood history as KU — has recruited just as many top-20 players in that span. For (mostly) better or worse, Self simply hasn’t chosen to draw from that group of elite talents as often as the other national programs — granted, part of the reason for that may be some light reluctance on the side of the blue-chippers — but he has seemed pretty comfortable building winning teams without so many prep superstars dotting his roster.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

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We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

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Why it’s a Travesty OU’s Sam Grooms Isn’t Seeing More Time

Posted by dnspewak on January 7th, 2013

When the Big 12 released its 2011-12 All-Conference teams last March, it included a who’s who of elite, nationally-recognized point guards. Tyshawn Taylor of the national runner-up Kansas Jayhawks made the first team. The dynamic Pierre Jackson of Baylor made the second team. Missouri’s Phil Pressey, the league’s leader in assists, made the third team, star Texas freshman Myck Kabongo earned an honorable mention, and the voters even named MU’s Michael Dixon the Sixth Man of the Year.

Why Has Grooms' Time Decreased This Season?

Why Has Grooms’ Time Decreased This Season?

Sam Grooms did not make that list. At all. Not even an honorable mention for the Oklahoma point guard. And when the 2012-13 preseason awards came out this fall, he didn’t make that list, either. Jackson and Kabongo did, but the Big 12’s returning leader in assists was nowhere to be found. Entering this season, it seemed perplexing how much people ignored Grooms and discarded him as a second-rate point guard in this league. Other than Pressey, who moved on to the SEC and was named that league’s preseason Player of the Year, no player in the Big 12 averaged more assists than Grooms a year ago when he dropped six dimes per game. His assist-to-turnover ratio was a stunning 3:1. When Big 12 play heated up, the junior college transfer emerged as a true floor general in spite of his team’s inability to win a basketball game. The statistics tell the entire story. In a five-game stretch last February against the likes of Kansas, Iowa State, Missouri, Texas Tech and Texas, he dished out 43 assists against 11 turnovers and even notched a career-high 17 points against the Tigers. Lon Kruger told a local newspaper Grooms was doing a “terrific job.” Even though Oklahoma’s season ended with a thud with a loss in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament, it was clear Grooms had nothing to do with the Sooners’ slide. On the contrary: He was the bright spot on a 15-16 team. His command for the point guard position and feel for the game was all so promising as Kruger attempted to build for the future. Nobody knew much about Grooms, but we did. I even named him the eighth-best player in the entire conference as he entered his senior year.

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RTC Top 25: Preseason Edition

Posted by KDoyle on November 9th, 2012

And so it begins. The time of year where we hear familiar voices on the television, faces on the floor, and our teams finally playing games that count in the standings. It is a beautiful time, indeed. With the games commencing in mere hours, we officially unveil RTC’s Preseason Top 25. In the future, you can expect our poll to come out every Monday morning. Along with the rankings will be the usual quick ‘n dirty analysis that takes a deeper dive into how the teams shake out #1-#25. To see how we did last year, check out our 2011-12 preseason poll—some right on the money (North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State), and others not so much (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M). The QnD after the jump…

 

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Oregon State Week: Breaking Down An Unreleased Schedule

Posted by Connor Pelton on August 26th, 2012

Oregon State’s schedule for next season has yet to be released, but through past contracts and other team’s schedule releases, we’ve been able to piece together most of it. There are still times and television schedules that need to get cleared up, but for the most part we now know its opponents. Below, we’ll highlight a handful of games and stretches of the season that could determine the eventual fate of the 2012-13 Beavers. For the purpose of this exercise, we won’t speculate and include games that haven’t been given a date yet.

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Early-Season Tournament: While we don’t know Oregon State’s exact opponents for the 2K Sports Classic Regional Round, they will face two of the following – Niagara, Bucknell, South Dakota State, and Hofstra. The Beavers should win both games no matter who they face, but all four opponents won’t be pushovers. Once they make the trek across the country to New York City, things become much more interesting. They’ll open the elimination portion of the tournament with a Alabama team that loses its top two scorers from a year ago before facing either Villanova or Purdue in the next game.

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Big 12 Summer Update: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by dnspewak on July 12th, 2012

In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. Next on the list– Danny’s update on Kansas. 

Kansas Jayhawks

2011-12 Record: 32-7, 16-2 (1st place)

Fresh off a Final Four appearance and an eighth-straight season with a shared or outright Big 12 title, life is good for Bill Self. In June, he watched the Sacramento Kings draft his star forward Thomas Robinson with the fourth overall pick, and he saw Tyshawn Taylor selected in the second round. It was a banner night for his program. Plus, to help reload after the loss of those two stars and others, he made a few late additions to his 2012 freshman class by signing Milton Doyle and Anrio Adams. So all is great in Lawrence, Kansas — for the most part. There is a small developing scandal right now after prosecutors claimed an alleged drug deal gave pot to some members of the 2010-11 squad. Nobody’s talking yet, but this is a story that could drag out for awhile and may not have any immediate (or significant) effects. Still, it’s probably not the kind of thing Self envisioned himself talking about in the summer months after nearly winning a National Championship.

Jeff Withey Is Prepared To Wow People During His Senior Year

Summer Orientation: Self’s freshman class grew in numbers this summer after the signing of Doyle, a 6’4″ combo guard out of Chicago, and Adams, a 6’3″ guard from Seattle, Washington. They’re both solid additions to this six-man class, but everybody’s waiting to see how five-star stud Perry Ellis fares as a freshman. Ellis arrived in Lawrence in early June, and he’s already acclimating himself on campus by attending children’s camps and rooming with walk-on Evan Manning (Danny’s son, of course). Power forward Zach Peters is also getting used to life as a Jayhawk. He and Elijah Johnson attended a camp at nearby Washburn, and he was quoted as saying he’s already indoctrinated into the culture of Kansas basketball. The other guy in this class to keep an eye on is Andrew White, a big-time wing from Virginia. He accompanied teammates, too, at a camp for kids. If you haven’t noticed, camps are a theme for KU this summer. The fullest summer scouting report available belongs to another player in this freshman class– big man Landen Lucas. According to Jeff Withey, Lucas has already impressed him in workouts with his ability to run the floor and rebound. Also, stuck in that gray area between “newcomer” and “returnee” are two players: Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore, who both sat out last year because of eligibility issues. McLemore has already made an impression on Bill Self this summer, whereas one writer says it’s “conceivable Traylor could have the biggest impact” of any KU newcomer. As he points out, though, closed practices haven’t allowed us to get a great glimpse just yet.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Tyshawn Taylor

Posted by dnspewak on May 18th, 2012

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards, so for the next week or two we’ll present you with players who are projected near the end of the first round, and we’ll work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Tyshawn Taylor

School: Kansas

Height/Weight: 6’3”, 185 pounds

NBA Position: Point guard

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round/Early Second Round

Tyshawn Taylor Enjoyed a Redemptive Senior Season at KU

Overview: After three years of inconsistent play, off-the-court issues, and a general lack of maturity, Tyshawn Taylor finally grew up as a senior. Racking up All-America and All-Big 12 accolades in the process, Taylor emerged as the unquestioned veteran leader of Kansas last season and helped a team with little depth reach the Final Four in New Orleans. Prior to his senior season, though, Taylor defined the word “enigma” in college basketball. Nobody ever doubted his physical talent or his playmaking abilities, but his attitude seemed questionable. He made headlines as a sophomore for his role in a fight with the football team, and Bill Self suspended him as a junior for unspecified violations of team rules. But Taylor left all of that negative press behind him as a senior. By the time the Jayhawks faced off with Kentucky in the title game, Taylor had cemented himself as one of the top point guards in college basketball. Fans could laugh at his alarming turnover rate all they wanted, but there was no denying this guy had a gift for taking games over and finding ways to get Thomas Robinson and the rest of the crew involved. Taylor left Lawrence with four outright Big 12 titles, three trips to the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend, and a Final Four appearance. Not bad for a guy who once dislocated his thumb punching players on the football team.

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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Top Half

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2012

Yesterday we gave you our season grades for the bottom half of the Big 12. Today we bring you the top half.

5. Kansas State (22-11, 10-8)

McGruder Led a Surprising K-State Team This Season

FINAL GRADE: B+

Despite all of the personnel question marks and the graduation of star Jacob Pullen, you had the sense Frank Martin would figure something out. He certainly did, as his team weathered a mid-season swoon to finish strong and reach another NCAA Tournament. Martin may have left for South Carolina after the season, but his final Kansas State team fought hard in 2011-12 despite a load of adversity. A December championship at the Diamond Head Classic helped the Wildcats enter the Top 25 before Big 12 play, but poor offensive execution and a lack of consistency on the defensive end doomed the Wildcats during the winter. They weren’t playing like Martin’s teams usually did. They weren’t tough, and it showed, starting 1-3 in Big 12 play and dropping four home games in Manhattan. Oklahoma swept them. Things were getting ugly, and they hit rock bottom after a home loss to Kansas on Big Monday on February 13. That’s when Martin turned this thing around and solidified an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats got back to the basics: defense, rebounding and delivering a knockout punch to opponents. Rodney McGruder stepped up his play as the team’s star, helping it win four of five games to close the season, including road wins at Baylor and Missouri. The controversial suspension of Jamar Samuels left Kansas State without its best forward in an NCAA Third Round game against Syracuse, but it’s impressive that this team even reached that point. With McGruder presumably returning next year, first-year coach Bruce Weber will have a lot to work with. Angel Rodriguez should be even better as a sophomore, and Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez should grow, too.

4. Iowa State (23-11, 12-6) 

FINAL GRADE: A

The Transfer Effect worked to Iowa State’s benefit this year. In December, we wrote a piece questioning Fred Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics, as he’d brought in four Division I transfers this season. It took a while for everybody to get acclimated, resulting in a couple of losses to Drake and Northern Iowa during an inconsistent non-conference stretch. But once league play began, this team took off. Royce White took the nation by storm with his wild hair and versatile play, showing an ability to run the Cyclones’ offense as a sort of point-forward. He emerged as one of the most fascinating and entertaining players to watch in college basketball, but the team around him helped add to the fun. These guys shot lights-out from beyond the arc, including senior Scott Christopherson, who finished with the highest three-point percentage in the Big 12 (45.5%) for players with more than four attempts per game. Hoiberg added a fresh energy to this program, leading ISU to a victory over Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. His team even briefly competed against Kentucky before falling apart late in that matchup. There was no fairy-tale March run for The Mayor, but given time, his program may eventually reach those heights. The 2011-12 season marked a major turning point for the Cyclones.

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Rushed Reaction (Extended): #1 Kentucky 67, #2 Kansas 59

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2012

Five Key Takeaways.

  1. Calipari Wins the Big One, Justifies One-and-Done Strategy. Sometimes it’s a very simple game — the team that has the best players wins. But to put it in those stark terms seems to minimize the role that coaching has on the game, especially at the collegiate level. In knockout scenarios like the NCAA Tournament, the best team (or the team having the best players) doesn’t guarantee a win, but John Calipari was able to mold a group of three star freshmen with two sophomores and a senior to put together one of the most dominant seasons in college basketball history (38-2). There’s been a lot of talk during the one-and-done era as to whether a team centered on young but spectacular talent could win it all in the crucible of March — Calipari’s 2011-12 group both justifies his recruiting strategy in targeting those players as well as elevates his own status as a great recruiter/good coach to one that has greatness on both sides of that equation.
  2. Anthony Davis Controlled the Game Defensively. The NPOY had one of the weirdest stat lines you’ll ever see, shooting only 1-10 from the field and scoring six points, but grabbing 16 boards, blocking six shots, dishing five assists, and ripping three steals. He also stayed out of foul trouble to play 36 total minutes. It’s a broken record that we’ve said this so much, but not only does Davis challenge a big number of shots for which he doesn’t get an official block, but he also gets into other teams’ heads because they’re thinking about him every single time they enter the paint. His effect on the game in that way is unquestionable and unquantifiable, yet it causes teams to make plays that they normally wouldn’t make if he wasn’t patrolling around the area. Kansas shot a meager 36% from the field, with really only Tyshawn Taylor having a decent offensive game (if you can excuse his five turnovers, including a killer with just under a minute left).
  3. The Quiet… Lamb Headlines Will Be Out of Control. We were wrong about how this game would go, thinking it would be much closer throughout, but we were right about one thing — that one of the lesser-known players on Kentucky would step up if they were to win the game. It turned out to be Doron Lamb, perhaps along with Darius Miller one of the most overlooked players on the Wildcats. His back-to-back threes when KU had crept back to within 10 points with just over 10 minutes remaining held the Jayhawks at bay and allowed UK sufficient buffer to make some mistakes and still keep a comfortable lead down the stretch. Lamb ended up with a huge 22-point, three-assist evening that helped make up for the vacuum created by Davis’ six-point night.
  4. Kansas Couldn’t Come Back Against This Team. Bill Self’s team did it against Purdue and did it against Ohio State, but Kentucky wasn’t going to be the third act in the KU Comeback Tour. They were valiant in making the game interesting down the stretch, but they’d just built themselves too big of a hole to make the comeback against a Kentucky team that doesn’t have long scoring droughts. One of the major keys to this game was that Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford combined to shoot an awful 6-for-19, and for KU to have had any realistic chance of winning this game, they were going to need production beyond Taylor (19 points) and Robinson (18 points).
  5. Jeff Withey Made Himself Some Money Tonight. Withey will probably be back in Lawrence for his senior season, but we imagine that while Anthony Davis is off next year winning NBA Rookie of the Year, analysts will repeatedly cite how Withey frustrated Davis into a 1-10 shooting night using his long arms and body to bump him froim his favorite spots in the post. Withey himself only shot 2-8 and grabbed seven boards, but his offensive game is a work in progress and he’ll have another year to fine tune it at Kansas.

Star of the Game. Doron Lamb, Kentucky. Lamb’s 22-point, three-assist night provided the necessary offensive support to both help the Wildcats run out to a comfortable 14-point lead at the half, but also to keep the Jayhawks at bay when they made a mini-run in the second half. You could give Anthony Davis the award just about every game for his defense, but we’ll go with the talented sophomore here tonight.

Quotable. “I said this a couple of years ago and everybody got crazy when we had five guys drafted in the first round. This is one of the biggest moments, if not the biggest, in Kentucky history. The reason was, I knew now other kids would look and say, You got to go there.” — John Calipari, justifying his remarks about his 2010 draft class, in that the seeds of this year’s championship were sown on that night. Can’t argue with that (although clearly nights like tonight mean a lot more to UK fans).

Sights & Sounds. Terrence Jones was kind enough to give us a great shot holding the trophy.

Terrence Jones Is Definitely Enjoying This One

What’s Next? Kentucky takes their nets home and celebrates with what we’re hearing is a burning Lexington right now. Presumably many if not all of the five underclassmen who play minutes for this team will enter the NBA Draft in June. But Calipari mentioned that he’s going recruiting later this week, and if he manages to pull a Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad out of his hat, he’ll be back in the Final Four with the Wildcats again soon enough. Kansas, on the other hand, will assuredly lose Thomas Robinson along with seniors Taylor and Connor Teahan, but Bill Self has a solid core to build around with Withey and we’re never doubting his coaching abilities again after what he did with this group.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: The National Championship Game

Posted by Brian Otskey on April 2nd, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him on Twitter @botskey.

College basketball fans, this is it. A champion will be crowned tonight in front of 70,000+ people packed into the Superdome. Savor it because this beautiful sport of ours won’t be seen again for seven long and painful months. Between tonight and early November, many things will happen. Baseball and football will begin new seasons. The NBA will end one season and begin another. A long, hot summer will come and go. A presidential election will be held. All of this before we see another college basketball game that matters, after tonight’s phenomenal finale of course.

#1 Kentucky vs. #2 Kansas – National Championship (at New Orleans, LA) – 9:23 PM ET on CBS

It’s not often when the consensus top two players meet in the final game of the season, but that’s exactly what we have as Anthony Davis and Kentucky face Thomas Robinson and Kansas. You could make an argument that Bill Self and John Calipari are the best coaches in the sport as well, matched up in a battle between the two winningest programs in NCAA history. This has the makings of a special night, one that might trump them all in terms of the pregame storylines. Kentucky enters the game as a solid favorite (six points in Las Vegas) and won the first meeting by 10 points on November 15 at Madison Square Garden. Who had that as the national championship preview after watching it? Maybe you had the Kentucky half, but you certainly did not have the Kansas half of the equation. Plenty has changed since then, but there are a few things we can glean from that game. Kansas jumped out to an early lead before Kentucky rallied to tie it at the half and took control after the break. The Wildcats shot 51% but committed 19 turnovers (25.6% of possessions, their fifth highest total of the season). There were 45 fouls called in the game and Kansas point guard Tyshawn Taylor went to the line 17 times as a result. Kentucky’s defense was outstanding, limiting Kansas to 34% shooting and 4-15 from deep. The Wildcats blocked 13 shots (seven courtesy of Davis) and won the game in comfortable fashion.

Anthony Davis Will Need To Show Thomas Robinson Why He Is The National Player Of The Year

Tonight’s contest is a matchup between two elite defensive teams, tied for the national lead in defensive two-point percentage  (39.8%). The battles at the power forward and center positions are absolutely fantastic. Davis and Terrence Jones go up against Jeff Withey and Robinson, four outstanding defensive players and three who can change the game offensively as well. Robinson is the best defensive rebounder in the nation while Davis and Withey are the top two shot blockers. Jones can electrify the crowd with his athleticism and can also stretch his game to the three-point line. Kentucky is the more talented team, but Kansas has shown an incredible level of grit and toughness throughout the season, never more so than in the NCAA Tournament. Overcoming deficits against Purdue and Ohio State, plus putting away NC State and North Carolina late in the game has shown us this Kansas team is no fluke. The Jayhawks have absolutely nothing to lose in this game and are the more experienced team by a wide margin. On the other hand, Kentucky has one more game to go in order to live up to the preseason expectation of winning the program’s eighth national championship.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.31.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 31st, 2012

Kansas

  • When former Kansas coach Larry Brown watched this year’s Jayhawks practice early in the season, he was not sure if this year’s squad would win 15 games. Considering this notion, Bill Self has really done an exceptional job this season.
  • During his first three seasons at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor would be hardly allowed to play through his miscues. Now, the senior guard has the freedom and responsibility to correct errors and lead the team on the right path.
  • Even though he only played a limited role last season, many pundits still saw Thomas Robinson as a first round pick. Bill Self believes Robinson made the absolute right choice in coming back to school, as Self said, “Thomas wasn’t prepared to make a living.”
  • Most of the attention usually gets paid to Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, but it cannot be overlooked that Elijah Johnson has quietly become the Jayhawks’ top weapon in the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky 

  • John Calipari was a pretty big flop when he coached in the NBA with the New Jersey Nets. There will be rumors this offseason about Calipari returning to the NBA to coach the New York Knicks, but the question will emerge if Calipari deserves that opportunity.
  • John Calipari has made several stops in his coaching career, which has exposed him to a lot of different people. All those people do have something in common though and that is Calipari considers them part of his family.
  • Freshman phenom Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has had to deal with a lot in his life for being only 18 years old. The death of the forward’s father and uncle have helped shape who he is as a person and a player.
  • In Kentucky’s storied basketball history, it had never had an AP Player of the Year. This all changed Friday when freshman standout big man Anthony Davis was named AP Player of the Year.
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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.30.12 Edition

Posted by WCarey on March 30th, 2012

Kansas

  • Bill Self has enhanced his already strong coaching reputation by leading a Kansas team with not as much talent as Kansas teams of the past to the Final Four.
  • Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News believes the career of Tyshawn Taylor mirrors that of a Shakespeare character. DeCourcy notes that Taylor’s career has consisted of conflict, resolution, dramatic twists, and ultimate redemption.
  • Despite the fact that Danny Manning and Barry Hinson have taken head coaching jobs at Tulsa and Southern Illinois respectively, Bill Self assured the public that all of Manning and Hinson’s attention is on Kansas this weekend.
  • Kevin Young compiled a career-best 14 points when Kansas defeated Ohio State on December 10. Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, arrived at Kansas via some unusual circumstances.

Louisville

  • Assistant coach Richard Pitino noted that there has been a pretty prominent change in the way his father, Rick Pitino coaches. The younger Pitino believes his father has a much better relationship with his players than he used to.
  • News broke that Rick Pitino will not be a member of this year’s Naismith Memorial National Basketball Hall of Fame class. Considering Pitino’s resume, this is a bit shocking.
  • Rick Pitino has been through a lot in his coaching career and his life, so it would be unfair to define the man solely based on the Karen Sypher extortion scandal.
  • Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith might be the most unlikely roommates of all-time, but the two are great friends and are keys to Louisville’s success.
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