Posts Tagged Baylor
Editor’s Note: Following is the first post by new Jayhawk-Talk contributing writer, Nico Roesler. Nico is a former UDK Sports Editor and current sports reporter for the Santa Fe New Mexican. We’re very excited he’s joining the team. Follow him on twitter at @NicoRoesler.
Jeff Withey is more than the bloodied face staring back at you from your computer desktop or Twitter avatar.
Withey is a seven-foot distraction – in the best sense of the term. Without Withey, Thomas Robinson isn’t the double-double machine we all know him as. Without Withey, Kansas doesn’t defeat the tall, athletic Baylor Bears in Allen Fieldhouse. It’s hard, undoubtedly, to ignore a seven footer when game planning against the Jayhawks. It must be even harder, to think of him as an after-thought with the likes of Robinson standing next to him.
Withey is averaging 7.8 points per game and 6.2 rebounds per game. Defensively, Withey’s length cannot be overstated or underappreciated (56 blocks). On offense, however, his real strength is not in his numbers, it’s in his presence as it pertains to Robinson.
Robinson has proven he can take any defender in the country in a one-on-one situation. His jump shot has become reliable and his first step off the dribble is ludicrous. It’s no wonder we see Robinson in the repeated position to take advantage of both abilities.
Robinson receives the ball night after night at the top of the key and surveys the floor. Although he has proven that he can hit the long jumper, Bill Self puts him in that position to become the architect of one of the hardest plays to defend in basketball – the high-low pass. When Robinson has the ball at the top of the key, he reads what his defender is going to do. The defender has two options: a) get in Robinson’s face to take away the jumper or b) slow play it and protect the paint and the other threat simultaneously posting up – Jeff Withey.
Defenders in this scenario will almost always let Robinson have his shot, likely, because Robinson will miss the virtual three-pointer more often than Withey will miss a shot three feet from the basket. Withey is making 54 percent of his shots from the field. Give him a chance to play with his back to the basket, and there are few people in the country that can challenge his shot.
Without Withey’s presence in the post, Kansas’ offense could look a whole lot different. There is a reason Bill Self has called him the most improved player on the team. He has improved his game from his physicality to his touch, but the biggest thing Withey has done is improve the Kansas offense as a whole.
After the Baylor game, Elijah Johnson vocalized the importance of Withey. “When we get Jeff going, it really gets a lot of us going, and a lot of people don’t know that,” Johnson said. “Jeff is a key player to our team, especially with getting us started. When he is on track, it can be a long night for some teams.”
Baylor now knows that. Withey’s double-double distracted the Bears’ defense enough to allow Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor to have career-high nights.
With Withey on the floor, defenses cannot double-team Robinson on every possession. With Withey, defenses cannot solely focus on Kansas’ deep threats while they buckle down on Robinson. And when they do, Withey is open. Open for a lob dunk or a simple entry pass to the post.
So you may love the lanky big man who proudly bleeds from his nose and whose feet need barely to lift off the ground for a jam. But remember that these moments not only distract the fan from the game with funny posters and fake Twitter accounts.
They distract defenses from the weapons that truly make Kansas the dangerous team it is.
First things first, sorry I’ve gone missing over the last couple games. Kansas wrecked some fools, I have a real job, things got a little hectic. Is what it is. But when Kansas wrecks some highly ranked fools? Time to come back out of the woodwork. No more slacking.
I’m going to break this up a little bit differently than I have been, because putting stats on there for the bench guys would be completely irrelevant. So I’m going to ignore those guys – because Kansas is essentially a 5-man team anyways – and do numbers for the starters, and then some game stats that I thought were the key. Without further ado:
Thomas Robinson: 1 foul
Baylor can run out five guys with the size and ability to frustrate most posts. All of them, except maybe Quincy Acy, are stretch-fours who can get a traditional post into trouble by dragging him out to the perimeter and either drawing fouls or getting by them for a bucket. Robinson did an incredible job of staying out of foul trouble. With the Jayhawks’ lack of depth, he needed to stay on the floor for 30-plus minutes. He played 35. Oh, and he had 27 and 14. Which doesn’t suck.
Tyshawn Taylor: 10 points
I know Taylor finished with 28. The 10 I mention are the 10 that came during KU’s 13-0 run to end the first half. Taylor’s run entering the break gave the Jays all the momentum entering the second half and put his team up a dime at half. He came out and played a brilliant second half, hitting 10 of 14 shots in his most efficient night of the season.
Jeff Withey: 9 offensive boards
This number just makes me laugh. Seriously? NINE? That’s insane! Here’s the best part, though. The Bears, with all their ridiculous length, combined to get eight offensive rebounds as a team. Man, if it weren’t for the fact that Thomas Robinson is the Greek God of Thunderdunking, we’d all be going nuts about how much Withey has improved. As it stands, I’m going nuts about it anyways. He’s the most improved player on the Jayhawks roster by far.
Elijah Johnson: 1 three-pointer attempted
We’re getting dangerously close to having Good Elijah and Bad Elijah nights just like we do with Tyshawn. The bad Elijah isn’t out of control or turnover prone or anything like that, he just jacks up an insane amount of threes with little regard for Bill Self’s offense. Self’s offense usually works. Let’s just stick with it. Elijah was great Monday because he played within himself, didn’t do too much and let the two best players on the team be the two best players on the team. Johnson has the talent to be the star, but so did Thomas Robinson last year. Sometimes you have to know your spot, and EJ’s is as the third option, at best. Great night all-around from him, though, as he embraced the role. 11 points, 5 boards, 3 assists, 4-of-7 shooting. Did it all well.
Travis Releford: 36 minutes
Releford had the biggest challenge of any Kansas defender last night. Not because he was guarding the Bears’ best player (that honor went to Withstar who D’d up on PJ3), but because he was outmatched by five inches and didn’t have much, if any, advantage in quickness against freshman Quincy Miller. Miller went for 17 points, but needed 12 shots to do it and only pulled down a couple boards. Releford played the most minutes on the team because he’s as good as it gets defensively for the Jayhawks right now, and he should be an all-conference defender by the time the season ends. Startling how similar Releford’s numbers (11 points, 3 boards, 4 assists, 5-of-7 shooting) were to Johnson’s.
Key Team Numbers
48-34, 39-24, 17-8: The Jayhawks worked Baylor in the paint, outscoring the Bears 48-34 in the lane and outrebounding them 39-24. Withey and Robinson deserve much of the credit. Also, the Jayhawks won 17-8 on second chance points, courtesy of Withey’s nine (seriously! NINE!) offensive boards. Love that number. Baylor has one of the best frontcourts in the country (I’d put them behind Kentucky and North Carolina only), and the Jayhawks shredded them.
114+: I wasn’t in the building, so I don’t know the exact number, but the highest I saw was somewhere over 114 decibels in the Fieldhouse Monday night. I’m going to toot our own horn here for just a minute: The best fans in college sports live in Lawrence, Kansas.
Baylor will be in town tonight for a huge Big Monday matchup. I never really get into the “must-win” scenarios this early in the season, but a victory tonight would go a long way for both teams come late February. It will be a huge game, and I expect the Fieldhouse to be rocking.
Some quick thoughts on the matchup:
We haven’t played a team like this since we played Kentucky. The same Kentucky that gave us fits. Baylor may be the only other team in the country that matches up with the Wildcats from a pure length and athleticism perspective. And Kentucky manhandled us. I know it was close in the first half, but it shouldn’t have been. The good news is that this Kansas team is a much different Kansas team than we saw on November 15. I think we’ll be more prepared for it this time around. The equalizer will be whether we are able to knock down some open shots that we will be able to create by going inside-out.
I hate the say it, but I hope Conner doesn’t get a ton of minutes off the bench tonight. He will be such a liability on the defensive end that I don’t think his 2-6 from 3-point range will be worth it. Against most teams, we can cover for Conner with additional help every time he gets blown by. Unfortunately tonight, we’ll need to preserve Thomas and Jeff from foul trouble. That all said, we’ll need to make some perimeter shots and Conner may be our best option. We’ll need Elijah, Travis, and Tyshawn to do better than 29% from three tonight. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for an Elijah coming-out-party.
Tyshawn will be the most important player tonight, as he has been most nights. He was the single reason we didn’t lose to Kentucky by 25 points. He has proven time and time again that he can get by his man at any time he wants. Hopefully tonight he’ll keep attacking. As Self alluded to in his post-game comments after Iowa State, it would be ideal if Taylor penetrates with the idea of passing when he draws help defense. I agree to some extent, but when we have difficulty scoring, he needs to be able to take over much like he did in the second half on Saturday. He can be instant offense when he’s on. We’ll need him to be on tonight.
As awesome as it was, I think we saw an aberration on Saturday when Kansas played great absent Thomas. Throughout the year, we have been better with him on the floor, and tonight we will definitely need his 18 and 12 to win. He’ll need to muscle up and play hard on defense, but be mindful of foul trouble. You have to think Baylor will take it right to him. Likewise, Withey has been a very important player the last few weeks. We’ll need him tonight, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He’ll be able to take up room and deter some penetration. I also put the over-under on his fouls at 4.5…and I’m taking the over. Just hope it’s very late in the game.
This isn’t the same kind of Baylor team we’ve seen before. It is loaded with as much talent as a non-Kansas team has been since I can remember. And they’re not freshman. They’re veteran players that have been around the block. Allen won’t intimidate them at the beginning of the game. It will, however, intimidate them if things don’t start off well. The key for Kansas will be to get off to a good start. I want to see the K-State game, not the Iowa State game. If we give them momentum early, the crowd won’t be quite as stiff and they’ll be able to continue playing their game. If we come out strong, our guys will feed off the crowd and the building. That’s when Baylor could be distracted and see what so many other great teams have seen inside the Fieldhouse — the PHOG.
It has long been said that Baylor Coach Scott Drew is a fantastic recruiter and a very average basketball coach. I don’t necessarily buy into it, because the same has been said before about Bill Self, and John Calipari, and many other great Xs & Os coaches. That all being said, Kansas certainly has the advantage from the bench. I tend to think Drew has stepped away and let his guys play more loose this year. Baylor, like Kentucky, could probably beat 95% of the teams they face without a coach at all. When a team is loaded with talent, the key for a coach is to get his guys to play with the same intensity on defense as they do on offense. Self and Calipari are great at that. We’ll see how good Drew is tonight.
I think it will be a close game throughout. It would not shock me if Kansas lost the game in the end. Baylor is that good. As long as we can make a few open shots and bother Baylor’s guards on the defensive end, I will take KU. Something like KU 71 Baylor 68 sounds about right.
I’ll be in the house. Hope you will be too. Rock Chalk!
The following post comes from @Pay_Heed, a guest blogger to Jayhawk-Talk:
For those of you fortunate enough to have attended a game in Allen Fieldhouse, this post will be nothing groundbreaking. It is a magical place, a place where the Jayhawks have won 86% of their games since the building opened in 1955. Bill Self has an astounding 95% win percentage in the hallowed halls. The numbers are just silly.
I wanted to provide a bit of an unscientific statistical illustration of just how good Kansas is on its home court. To start, I tried to rack my brain to remember a time during my life when Kansas wasn’t a Vegas favorite to win at home. My interest in this bit of trivia was piqued when #2 Ohio State woke up the morning of the December 10 game against Kansas as 1½-point favorites to win. So what were my findings?
Like a casino, the house always has the edge.
My research basically indicated that there aren’t any Internet archives with betting lines old enough to find the last time that KU was a home underdog. Let me preface my next few statements by saying I was not able to find every line. And since betting has only become less taboo in the new millennium, it was much easier to find lines from more recent years.
A review of archived box scores, game previews and betting lines revealed Kansas to be favored in every home matchup since 1994 (I couldn’t find much older than that). That means that there are freshmen on campus today that have not been alive since Kansas was last a home underdog. I’ll let that marinate for a minute…
Funny thing is, that statement is still true today. When the news of Jared Sullinger’s back issue spread through the betting world, the line moved considerably. Kansas went from being a 1½-point underdog to a 3-point favorite in a few short hours.
The foregoing numbers are astounding. They also help to provide some statistical support to back up what we already knew about the Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks have an advantage that outpaces any home court in the country. I believe this is attributable to several factors:
- Players – There is no denying that there has been a plethora of elite talent in both the Roy Williams and Bill Self eras. You can’t win 95% of your home games without great players. If you have better players you’re going to win most of your games.
- Coaching – Whether it’s great in-game adjustments, great scouting and game planning or great use of timeouts, coaching certainly factors into the great advantage of AFH.
- AMAZING fans – Without a doubt the loudest venue in the nation couldn’t be so without unbelievable fans. That was on display in spades Saturday against Iowa State.
While the Bears will show up with the higher ranking tomorrow, I predict that Kansas will open at -1.5 or -2.0. The line could move throughout the day, but I’d be shocked if Kansas ends up an underdog at tip-off.
The one thing that worries me about the matchup itself is 3-point shooting, on both sides. Baylor is a great 3-point shooting team at 41.5% (6th in the nation). Meanwhile, we have seen KU struggle to defend the 3-point line this season, although statistically the Hawks only allow 33.8% from three (167th). The Hawks have only shot 34.8% from three this season (149th), and against Baylor’s 2-3 zone that could be problematic. The Bears are giving up 32.2% (98th).
All that taken into account, I think that our home court advantage will be the deciding factor in the game, as it has so many times over the last two decades. I think KU will pull out a close victory.
Remember, if you’re planning on attending, be loud. You make the difference.