Posts Tagged Elite 8

Why Michigan is a good matchup for Kansas

Posted on: March 27th, 2013 by jayhawktalk No Comments

(Editor’s Note: The following is brought to you by JHT Contributor, @CrimsonBlueKU. Give him a follow on twitter for more KU insight. Rock Chalk!)

The Jayhawks will be arriving in Dallas Wednesday night as it prepares for Friday’s game against the Wolverines of Michigan.

Back in January when these two teams were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the country (Michigan: 1, Kansas: 2), I thought this could be a potential Final Four matchup. Well, we’re seeing it in the Sweet 16 and I’m not complaining. We’re going to see Michigan’s potent offense against Kansas’ suffocating defense. It’s going to be fun.

I’m going to try and explain why this matchup is great for Kansas. Had this been Kansas/VCU Part Deux, I think it would have been a nightmare. VCU’s havoc defense would put a lot of pressure on KU’s guards and they’d force a lot of turnovers. Luckily, we don’t have to talk about that.

Michigan does a very good job of taking care of the basketball. It averages 9.3 turnovers a game — best in the nation. The Jayhawks don’t do a very good job turning teams over, forcing 12.7 per game (220th in the nation). Kansas on the other hand, as we all know, has a huge problem hanging on to the ball. Poor dribbling, bad passes, dumb mistakes. But Michigan forces less turnovers than Kansas. They don’t put heavy pressure on the guards, which is good for Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe.

Both Michigan and Kansas shoot relatively well from deep, 38 percent and 36 percent, respectively, but the Wolverines take 34 percent of their shots from outside. Kansas will have to key on Tim Hardaway (43 percent of his shots come from outside) and Nik Stauskas (60 percent). I have a feeling Ben McLemore and Travis Releford can give them all sorts of fits.

Michigan’s All-American point guard Trey Burke is fantastic. He does a good job at creating his own shot off the dribble and he shoots better than 40 percent. He does a good job at taking care of the ball and distributing to his teammates.

Where Michigan struggles is inside. If you look at the roster, the Wolverines have size, but I think Withey, Young and Ellis will give Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford fits inside. McGary is just a freshman and he’s never seen a big like Withey. Morgan gives up four inches to Withey and  Horford doesn’t get many touches. Kansas blocks 23 percent of shots at the rim, whereas Michigan only blocks eight percent. Also, Michigan allows opponents to shoot 62 percent from close while Kansas holds teams to 51 percent.

If Michigan is going to beat Kansas, it’s going to be from outside, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Shooting in a dome, especially Jerry World is much different than shooting in a regular arena. Shooters use the ceiling as markers and domes have higher ceilings, which throws off depth perception.

Kansas is the 12th best rebounding team in the nation, while Michigan is 141st. If the Jayhawks can clean up the glass on the offensive end and score-second chance points, it’s going to be difficult for Michigan.

Kansas, as we all know, is defensively sound. They’re the best team in the nation in opponent’s field goal (35.7 percent) and effective field goal percentage (41.1 percent). If anything is going to give, I believe it will be Michigan’s offense, ranked No. 2 by KenPom (120.9 points per 100 possessions). We saw Michigan State’s defense, ranked No. 6  by KenPom (86.1 points allowed per 100 possessions) shut them down.

We’ve seen Kansas struggle on offense at times, but it’s 25th in the country scoring 74.9 points per game.

Kansas’ offensive and defensive KenPom numbers are similar to Michigan State: No. 5 on defense (85.4 points allowed per 100 possessions) and No. 31 on offense (111.2 points per 100 possessions). Michigan State’s offense is 21st (113 points/100).

Michigan’s defense gives up 92.5 points per 100 possessions. John Beilein does slow it down, but they can get out and run and they’re fantastic on the fast break.

If Kansas can take care of the ball, force Michigan to miss from deep and play this game in the paint, it has a very good chance of advancing to play Florida or Dunk City on Sunday.

Rock Chalk!

Kansas: 74
Michigan: 67


This KU team is different

Posted on: March 20th, 2012 by jayhawktalk No Comments

Photo Credit: David Eulitt

A good team always seems to find its identity by this time of year. Some teams are flashy and smooth and get out in transition and score tons of points. Other teams rely on perimeter shooting and pesky guard play to get them through a game.

Whatever the identity, this is the time of year where you match it up, pound for pound, against another team’s identity and see what happens.

That’s one of the reasons this tournament and this format is so compelling. You have teams from the Big 10, often characterized as grinders and defensive-minded bruisers. You have teams from the Big East and ACC, battle-tested and built to score in bunches. And in the end, you find out what style begets success against another and what kind of identity wins out. This is also why “match-ups” are always more important than seeds this time of year.

Bill Self has always stressed defense and effort and rebounding — those intangibles that a team can control during a game. He wants those characteristics to make up his team’s identity because they’ll always keep you in a game, even if you can’t score. He has had some success stressing this identity, as KU teams have consistently ranked among the top in the NCAA in field goal percentage defense. But many of those same KU teams could probably win close to the same amount of games based on offensive talent alone.

This team certainly cannot. It’s a different team. And I think deep down, it’s a team Self really enjoys coaching.

KU’s identity was never more on display than in yesterday’s second half against Purdue. To come back from a double-digit deficit, you have to display some serious mental toughness. You have to know that there is not a 10-point play in the rule book and that defense weighs much more heavily on turning the game than offense.

When Kansas got down early after a barrage of three-pointers from the Boilermakers, the team tightened up for a few moments. Players looked rattled. Thomas was frustrated on offense and it led to poor defense. Our guards couldn’t buy a basket. Even Self got a little red in the face, the kind of red that usually goes away after a few seconds, but seemed to linger for three or four timeouts.

But then something happened.

It wasn’t one play, because this team knows you can’t turn it in one play. And it wasn’t one huge offensive run that so many KU teams in the past have put teams away with.

It was as if the team, as a collective, remembered that they had been there before. Against Duke, Kentucky, Iowa State, Missouri. They remembered to trust each other, to trust their identity. The defense dialed up a few notches. Thomas found his way to the free throw line. Elijah kept shooting. Travis was all over the court and the floor and the glass just like Travis has been all year long. Kevin Young attacked every offensive board.

And even though the Jayhawks still couldn’t make a shot to save their life, they fought. They grinded. And they frustrated the hell out of Purdue, almost to the point where they somehow got the momentum back without making any baskets.

It’s tough to win a basketball game shooting 33% from the field. It’s altogether more difficult to do so when the senior star on the other team plays the most efficient game he has played all season, scoring nearly as many points as the entire Jayhawk team in the first half. The only way to win that kind of game is with an identity grounded in mental toughness, defense, and effort.

Luckily, the Jayhawks remembered their identity just in time. It was a perfect game for a team that needed a reminder of what got them their 8th consecutive league title and another trip to the Sweet 16.

Hopefully the offense comes. Hopefully we make a few more than 6 of 24 three-pointers and our two superstars find a way to improve on a combined 6 of 23 shooting effort.

But if the offense doesn’t come, this team will still have a chance.

As long as it remembers its identity.