Exactly one month ago today I confessed my jealousy of Oklahoma State. Markel Brown and Marcus Smart were flexing, taunting, and back flipping all over Allen Fieldhouse. For that seven day stretch, beginning with Oklahoma State and ending with Oklahoma, with a TCU debacle sandwiched in between, we were broken mentally.
If our performance on the court the last few weeks hasn’t been convincing enough, there was only one image needed from Saturday’s game to signify we had fully regained our swagger.
Elijah Johnson elevated in a fashion that left any doubt as to the health of his knee, and threw down a “SportsCenter Top 10″ type alley oop… Foul… And one…
And then it happened.
Yes, Elijah went TOO STRONG. And he knew it. After the game when asked about the flex, Elijah said it happened spontaneously when he realized the dunk was in fact, “Too Strong”.
Confidence can have an amazing impact on anyone, in any situation, but most especially in sports. A confident Elijah Johnson gets to the rim at will, regularly knocks down 21 footers, and flexes after posterizing a Mountaineer. The Elijah Johnson lacking confidence a month ago couldn’t execute the Bill Self “weave” without dribbling the ball off his foot. I think I speak for everyone when I say I’ll gladly take the former. The most telling sign of the change in Elijah’s attitude is the way in which he impacted the game. It wasn’t by dropping 39, but instead by dishing out 10 assists and facilitating the offense through the best talent in the NCAA, Ben McLemore.
Ben McLemore, yeah the same guy who scored seven points at Iowa State on Monday night. He was simply unbelievable on Saturday, and you could see it coming. There was a difference about his game, an increased sense of agressiveness early. It almost felt like after his story was told in the USA Today article earlier in the week, there was a weight lifted off his shoulders. A feeling as if Ben was just out there playing ball, without a care in the world. Monday night will be without a doubt Ben McLemore’s last game in Allen Fieldhouse, and it needs to be. In his words, it’s time for a big house for his mom, where they can eat all day.
The interesting part to McLemore’s game is whether he can build on that performance away from the comforts of Allen Fieldhouse. I think that he will. I think Elijah’s confidence is going to radiate throughout the rest of this team, as it should, and it will benefit Ben as much as anyone.
Finally, during our three game skid when it felt like the sky in Lawrence was falling, the trump card KU nation had in our back pocket was Bill Self. I said it, and I heard it from different people everywhere. “It’s alright, we’ll be fine… we have the best coach in college basketball.” I believed it, or at least I thought I did, but there was always that sliver of doubt. Like what if this year is different, and we don’t live up to expectations? We’ve been on an roll for nearly a decade, winning at a clip without a down year… that just isn’t supposed to happen. What if this year is our hiccup?
My confession: Sorry Bill, it won’t happen again.
Not only has Coach Self coaxed KU fans off the ledge, but he has our team peaking at the perfect time. We’re five wins away from all but guaranteeing a number one seed in the NCAA tournament, and a date the first weekend of the tournament in Kansas City.
Confidence is the key, and this team appears to be flexing it’s muscle right at ideal moment.
TEBasketball, Ben McLemore, Bill Self, CBS, college basketball, Elijah Johnson, ESPN, Jayhawk Talk, Kansas, KU