Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/26/2008 12:45:00 PM
Scouting The No. 1 Seeds: Kansas
SI.com asked an assistant coach from a former Kansas opponent to break down the Jayhawks using material from his actual scouting report. Here's what he had to say:
"The biggest issue is keeping [Kansas] out of transition. They're a team of great spurts, and early in the year their margins of victory were so large because they were going on 3-4 big spurts per game, getting out in the full-court, and it was always the deciding factor.
"They're a very balanced team, so you have to choose something to take away. They're a team that ball-screens a lot, and out of their screens they get a lot of layups for their bigs off penetration, and they get a lot of lobs. The way I think you handle the the screening action is to push up and try to contain the guards, which is easier said than done, but it means their big men are going to have a tougher time getting easy looks.
"You have to be conscious of keeping them off the offensive glass, too, since they're usually plus-8 or plus-9 in that category. Off of pick-and-roll plays, they get the ball to the rim and then always seem to have two bigs crashing the glass, and on top of that, [Brandon Rush] is a very good offensive rebounder himself. So there are a lot of block-out responsibilities there.
"We felt like Mario Chalmers was a huge key; he's the one guy who attacks the rim constantly off of ball screens and can score. Rush is more of a catch-and-shoot guy -- he's the best shooter in the Big 12, and he's 6-foot-6, but he's not great off the dribble with his mid-range game. Nor is Russell Robinson. But Chalmers is terrific; he can get to the basket, he can stop and shoot at 15 feet, he can step behind the screen and hit a three, all with a lot of effectiveness. From our view Chalmers was their best player.
"Now that Sherron Collins is healthy, you have to find a way to keep him in front of you, because he's so big and powerful. If he gets his body by you, you're not going to get back around him, and he's a very effective finisher at the rim. He's good at setting big guys up for easy little dump-off passes. So you have to keep him contained and make him shoot over the top instead.
"There are a couple of things that seem to go unnoticed with Kansas. The first is that their bigs sprint to their screens; if you watch Sasha Kaun or Darnell Jackson or Darrell Arthur, they sprint from the post to set a screen. So the big guys guarding them are at a disadvantage, because they never get in the right defensive position. They'll run some double ball-screens on the outside, too, where the first guy slips [to the basket] and that forces you to help.
"The second is that they're an unbelievable passing team. That's why they're very hard to zone. They're always in attack mode, and their guards catch the ball where they want it, close to the three-point line in triple-threat position. They'll run some high-low sets that are effective, especially with Darnell Jackson, whose shooting has expanded the floor for them. Last year they didn't have a big man who could shoot that well. Arthur is so strong and quick on offense that we wanted to make sure he didn't get deep post-ups. We tried to be physical with him before he got into the post and not allow him to get the ball. When he does have it, his main move is a fadeaway over his right shoulder, and he'll counter that with a jump-hook -- but he always needs a dribble to get that off, so you can attack him that way.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, [Kansas] is going to play man against you. Chalmers is as good a defender as you'll find anywhere in the country; he's a great anticipator, has quick hands and causes havoc in passing lanes. He and Robinson are constantly looking to create steals. Rush is a very underrated on-ball defender because of his length, and they're throwing a lot of different big guys at you. They're efficient defensively because of their quickness and their length, and the fact is that they dominate the glass, so you rarely get multiple shots.
"One thing you can do is try to take their big men away from the basket. For guys like Arthur and Jackson, and much more so Kaun and [Cole Aldrich], their comfort zone is within 7-8 feet of the basket, and once you get them away from it, they don't guard as well or rebound nearly as well. Arthur has been prone to foul trouble, too, and if a team attacks him and gets him out of that comfort zone, there's a chance he'll pick up some early fouls. Sometimes he's overly aggressive, or a half-step out of position, or just trying to make a play that sometimes he shouldn't make. If you get him out and they have to bring in Kaun or Aldrich, who aren't as athletic, then you try to lure them out to the perimeter.
"There are two intangible things that are just as important with Kansas. First, you can't lose your composure against them, because they're so well-coached that their effort never varies. You have to match the mental toughness of an experienced team. The second is the tempo of the game. You have to try to control your pace, because if you get running with them, they're going to run you out of the gym. That's what they like to do, and you have to be smart enough to avoid it."
I'm a big Kansas fan and have watched them numerous times this year. The comments made by this assistant are certainly valid, but, in their losses to K-State and Texas, Kansas' weaknesses were revealed. You must play agressive, physical defense on Kansas and pound the boards. Kansas has always (even under Roy) had difficulty with athletic teams that are strong defenders and rebounders. In other words, teams that out muscle them.In the end, though, you better shoot the ball pretty well if you want to win (see Texas and K-state, who probably played their best ballgames of the year against Kansas).
anonymous, Kansas is much more athletic than Wisconsin, they have so much more depth and team speed that I just dont see the KU Wisconsin game being very close. Flowers will need to score 30 and Butch will need to score 20 to keep this a ten point game.
The analysis is valid, but how is a team going to beat Kansas by containing both chalmers + collins? In the last few games, Collins is the driving factor in Kansas.
In any given night, the player that steps up is unexpected. Some times it's Arthur, Jackson, sometimes it's Rush, sometimes it's Collins.
The key to Kansas is Rush - Kansas can win without Rush, but Kansas DEFINITELY wins when Rush plays well (not one loss was when Rush plays well this season, not one). A team needs to contain Rush and either HOPE the rest of the team doesn't shoot well, or have to contain COllins + Chalmers (now that's difficult to do).
In the end, like another person says, Kansas beats itself, you don't beat Kansas.
A Jayhawk fan to the end..I've seen only one thing that affects Kansas' game..their mental toughness. Yes, I recall the early-round loses of years past. This team is so well-rounded and physically/mentally in tune..only one team might compare..I believe it's 'Roy's Boys' from UNC..One can only hope that this would be the championship match.
Wisconsin is very poised, controls the tempo extremely well, and while not terribly athletic, they are physically imposing, especially on defense. Focusing on how much they'll score misses the point entirely. The key is their field goal percentage. They don't turn the ball over and they allow 55 points per game. They dictated the entire game to a more athletic K State (with neither Flowers nor Butch being the highest scorer at their respective positions), and stymied a very good Texas team at crunch time in Austin. Against KU, if they hit more than 45% of their FG's, they have a better than even money chance to win.
Kansas lost three road games, under very difficult circumstances (they played in sold-out venues everywhere) by 14 points altogether. KSU played a perfect game they could never replicate, Texas was great when it counted, and OSU benefited from a very close calls that sent their point to the line 16 times. Collins' return to a form not seen since his HS days presents "challenges" to say the least. They are a Team first and foremost. This is a deep team with guards who could start for almost any other NCAA team who do not even play. And they defend.
Sorry, Wisconsin is the number one defense in the country, so Kansas' is not as good/better. Any team is beatable. The bravado of Kansas fans here won't have any effect on outcome, but it certainly makes it easier for others to discount their views.
There is not a team out there that can beat KU if they both play a perfect game, but a near perfect game from KU and a perfect game from any of the remaining teams will give me a heat attack at the end. We still win by 1.
Yes Kansas teams in the past have underachieved, but the thing that sets this team apart from those teams is that they are hungry. I haven't seen this much mental toughness and focus in a KU team for a long time.