Posts Tagged Final Four

Ode to the 2012-2013 Jayhawks

Posted on: April 2nd, 2013 by jayhawktalk 6 Comments

A disappointing end to an otherwise fantastic season.

It’s a tough life being a college basketball fan of a high major program. Every year, only one team goes home satisfied. 68 enter and 1 leaves with the ‘ship. It’s almost mean if you think about it.

Football has all those bowl games. A great season can end in an Orange Bowl victory. Hell, a great season can end in an Insight Bowl victory. Neither one of those is a national championship, but it’s still pretty cool.

But not basketball. Not at Kansas.

Success is unfortunately judged in terms of banners — and not just any banners. Sweet 16 banners aren’t interesting to us. Neither are Elite 8 banners, while we’re at it. Final Four or bust seems to be gauge of a successful season, which, if you think about it, just isn’t very fair.

31-6. Regular Season Conference Title. Conference Tournament Title. Those are absolutely incredible feats, especially when you couple them with the story line of nine straight (the most impressive streak in college basketball).

Yet, here we are. Moping about and telling ourselves it should be Kansas in the Final Four. Playing the sequences over and over again in our heads. Arriving at the same result every time… “How did it happen?” 

I don’t want to talk too much about the game because I’m sure you’ve talked about and read about and heard about it enough. There is plenty of blame to go around for the loss, and Bill Self is certainly not immune to it.

That’s not the point of this piece.

The point is that Kansas had another incredible season. A season that will be remembered for Ben McLemore’s dunks. A season that will be remembered for Kevin Young’s fro. A season that will be remembered for Travis’ defense and Perry’s growth and the Harlem Shake. A season that will be remembered for the “McLemore” dance and Elijah’s heroics in Ames. A season that will be remembered for Tharpe’s emergence as a point guard and Rio’s tweets and Self’s 500th. A season that will be remembered for the Withey Block Party and all the coaches’ sons. A season that will be remembered because we lost to TCU. A season that will be remembered because we beat K-State…thrice. A season that will be remembered for a team that started four seniors in the modern age of college basketball.

And, unfortunately, it will be remembered for the “nut tap” game — the head-scratching collapse in the Sweet 16 against an overmatched Michigan team that woke up and grossly outplayed Kansas the last few minutes. It will be remembered for Elijah’s turnovers and lack of killer instinct at the end of the game. It will also be remembered as another far-too-early-exit from the tournament.

But hopefully we remember those other things too. Because this group of guys deserves that much.

Rock Chalk and a fond farewell, 2012-2013 Jayhawks. You’ll forever be remembered by this Jayhawk fan.



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


The Jayhawks that wouldn’t die

Posted on: April 3rd, 2012 by jayhawktalk No Comments

Editor’s Note: The following is submitted by @HailToOldKU, a guest blogger to Jayhawk-Talk. Follow him on Twitter at @HailToOldKU.

These were the Jayhawks that wouldn’t die.

Detroit led, for a brief moment there, and the Titans couldn’t be shrugged off after the wild events of that day. Then Purdue had Kansas on the ropes and trailing for 39 minutes and 15 seconds, but Elijah Johnson made the plays to get the Jayhawks onward. Then NC State threw a haymaker, and the Jayhawks took it off the jaw and kept punching.

And in the Final Four, Carolina ran a lineup of four (at least) future pros, all of them heading for the NBA this year, if the rumors of McAdoo’s departure are true. But they couldn’t do it. And Ohio State, too, landed a mighty blow early, doubling up the Jayhawks in the middle of the first half. But Jeff Withey’s stuff and the outlet to Tyshawn Taylor and Travis Releford’s lay-in made it nine at the break, and everybody started breathing easier, because these were the Jayhawks that wouldn’t die.

But they couldn’t afford that early lapse against Kentucky. They couldn’t go down early because Kentucky was too long and too quick and too flat-out good for Kansas to play anything shy of its A-game and expect to keep it close. So when Kentucky took a 10-point lead, and then an 18-point lead, and when it was 16 in the second half after a pair of Doron Lamb dagger threes, Kansas was done. It was over.

Except it wasn’t.

Because, down nine with less than four minutes remaining, the Jayhawks were still smiling.

”No one could tell us that we were going to lose except for the scoreboard,” Elijah Johnson told’s Jason King. “That was our mindset. We smiled and realized that hey, we only have four minutes left to play with each other. We said, ‘If they’re going to beat us, they’re going to remember us. They’re going to feel the last of us.’”

Thomas Robinson’s free throws made it seven. Kentucky answered with a three. Johnson answered right back. Robinson went back to the line and made it five with a minute-and-a-half to play.

The only people who didn’t think Kansas had a shot were those that had already turned off their televisions.

Kansas was making a run that mirrored so many of its games in this tournament, that mirrored also the last time Bill Self and John Calipari faced off in a national title game, when Self’s Jayhawks overcame a nine-point deficit with 2:12 to go.

But Kentucky was too good, as they have been all season. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made the play of the season with an incredible block of a Taylor lay-in that would have made it a four point game with a little more than a minute to play

Then Marquis Teague went to the free throw line and did what another more highly touted freshman point guard of Calipari’s once failed to do. He hit two free throws. The lead was eight inside a minute. The fight didn’t leave the Jayhawks, but the game was over.

“The fight never stops with us guys,” Taylor said. “We just were fighting the whole game. We were right there. We were right there.”

“But they’re a great team.”

Too great on Monday. And the Jayhawks that wouldn’t die were finally finished.

KU can handle Sullinger

Posted on: March 30th, 2012 by jayhawktalk No Comments

The following is submitted by @HailToOldKU, a KU graduate and contributor to Jayhawk-Talk. He presents a different viewpoint on how Kansas will handle Ohio State’s front court than I did in my game preview here. Enjoy the read and debate on twitter which point is more accurate. Rock Chalk!

Almost two weeks ago, Robbie Hummel lit up Thomas Robinson. Hummel buried seven of his first eight shots en route to a 22-point first half that had Purdue up on the Jayhawks for all but 45 seconds of their second round game. Robinson, who was pulled off Hummel in the first half because he was getting so thoroughly thrashed, even admitted his weakness in guarding the perimeter, saying that Hummel could have gone for 40 on him, no sweat.

Obviously, Hummel didn’t, Kansas came back, and the Jayhawks are now in the Final Four. But there’s still plenty of reason for concern. Ohio State’s DeShaun Thomas plays a more inside-out game than Hummel – who essentially lives on the perimeter unless he’s got a favorable size matchup inside – but Thomas is still versatile enough to provide a serious matchup problem for Robinson.

This means a couple things. First, Jeff Withey, just like in the first game against Ohio State (which was, of course, sans Sullinger that day) will play only 20-25 minutes. Because of Robinson’s perimeter struggles, he’ll be forced to take Sullinger on the inside. Obviously Withey isn’t a perimeter defender either, which leaves him as the odd man out. Kevin Young played 24 minutes to Withey’s 21 in December. Expect them to play similar minutes again if Robinson doesn’t show early on that he can hold Thomas defensively.

Of course, if that’s the case, then we get to watch Robinson and Sullinger go head-to-head. I had been thinking for a few days that this wouldn’t happen because of Withey’s recent presence defensively. He’s pretty clearly going to be the guy on Sullinger every possession he’s on the floor, barring Self rolling out that triangle-and-two that was so effective in the second half against both Purdue and North Carolina.*

*This might be a great idea. It lets Withey and Robinson stay on the floor and, if it’s effectiveness against Hummel and Purdue is any indicator, it could nullify to some extent the inside-out dynamic that Thomas lends to the Buckeyes offense. One issue though: All five of Ohio State’s starters hit better than a third of their threes. If that’s not an effective zone breaker than I don’t know what is.

But for the sake of this argument, let’s assume the Jayhawks play man-to-man defense, like they have for 90 percent of the season. And let’s assume that Robinson struggles again to defend the perimeter, forcing him inside to guard Sullinger.

This could actually be a good thing for the Jayhawks.

For one, Kevin Young has developed from an occasionally solid spark off the bench to consistently the Jayhawks’ best bench option (arguably). His best performance of the year came against these same Buckeyes in the first mmeting, when he notched 14 points on eight shots, grabbed four boards and played serviceable defense in 24 minutes. It also gives Kansas a cushion should Sullinger bait Robinson into foul trouble. If Withey’s relegated to the bench, it would mean 40 minutes against either Robinson, whose ferocity on the offensive end negates any deficiencies defensively, or Withey, whose defense keeps opponents up at night. With Ohio State facing the same lack of depth as Kansas – they only go eight deep at most – Sullinger won’t be offered much rest on the floor.

The Jayhawks have already shown they can beat Ohio State without Sullinger on the floor. If they can effectively nullify him, it’s the best chance they have to earn a trip to the national title game.

KU, Ohio State preview

Posted on: March 30th, 2012 by jayhawktalk 1 Comment

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America

Date, Time, TV:

Saturday, March 31st, 7:49 PM, CBS


While these two teams have met previously, you can throw that game out the window. It was played in Allen Fieldhouse without Jared Sullinger and with a hurt Tyshawn Taylor. Not to mention both teams look radically different now than they did back in December. This is an entirely different matchup with so much more on the line.

On paper, the two teams match up nearly equally. It’s kind of eerie.

Both teams have an All-American post player – Robinson (17.7 PPG and Sullinger 17.6 PPG). Kansas is averaging 74.2 points to Ohio State’s 75.0. Kansas allows 61.6 points to Ohio State’s 59.7. Kansas averages 40.3 rebounds per game, and Ohio State gathers 39.6. Kansas dishes 15.2 assists per game to Ohio State’s 14.7. The teams have nearly identical FG%, 3-point FG%, and Free Throw % as well.

Ohio State will be seeking its second national championship (1960), while the Jayhawks will be looking for their fourth (1952, 1988, 2008).

Matchup of the game: Aaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor

The marquee matchup everyone wants to talk about is Jared Sullinger vs. Thomas Robinson. While those two All-Americans may see some time battling against each other, I think it will be very limited unless fouls become an issue. Withey will get the first shot at Sullinger, which will allow Robinson to chase around the smaller DeShaun Thomas, who will play an inside-out game.

Meanwhile, Craft is a fiery defender and will most likely be facing Taylor all game. In the first matchup, Tyshawn was able to dish 13 assists, but he did have 7 turnovers. Six of those turnovers occurred while Craft was guarding him. While Craft is a very talented defensive player, he tends to gamble quite a bit. Sometimes that gamble turns into 4 or 5 steals. Sometimes it gets him in trouble.

Everyone says Craft is the best on-ball defender in the country. He hasn’t faced a point guard like Tyshawn very many times though. If Taylor plays under control and is able to knock down a jumper or two early to keep Craft honest, I really like him in this matchup.

Keys to the game for Kansas:

(1) Stay out of foul trouble. Sullinger is one of the best in the nation at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. As we have seen all year, this team is not deep and it will desperately need the services of both Withey and Robinson to win this game. Those two must stay out of foul trouble.

(2) KU can’t be satisfied. The Jayhawks proved a lot of doubters wrong with their Final Four run this year. It’s a huge relief for the coaches too, because getting to a Final Four validates your year so much more than a league championship and an Elite 8 (which is idiotic, but in some eyes, it is accurate). Now that they have made it, the attitude must remain the same. If you think about it, the hard part (getting here) is already out of the way. Now it’s time to finish it off.

(3) Maintain the same toughness that has carried this team all year. Be aggressive in the paint and get to the foul line. Similar to Kansas, the Buckeyes don’t have a very deep bench. Forcing a couple early fouls would be a great way to make some space in the paint. On defense, dial up the pressure without fouling. Throw some hip checks on rebounds, elbow up down low. Show Ohio State what you showed UNC that second half and see if they respond the same way the Tar Heels did.

Keys to the game for Ohio State:

(1) William Buford will have to wake up and make some shots. While he has been the most consistent three-point threat on the team this year (the Buckeyes only shoot 33% from three as a team), he has disappeared in the tournament so far. He will need to make shots to keep Kansas honest. Part of that honesty will also keep Kansas from using the “triangle-and-two” zone defense it has used the last two games with some success. Craft and DeShaun Thomas command a man on them at all times. If Buford is a threat, the Jayhawks won’t be able to make the switch.

(2) Take the ball right at Withey and Robinson. Don’t even think about offensive fouls. You have to go right at both of these guys if you’re Ohio State. That goes for the guards and the bigs. You can’t settle for jump shots against KU, especially since Ohio State has not been a dynamic shooting team from outside the paint all year. Force help from Withey or Robinson as often as you can, because that is usually when fouls occur. Also, if Robinson gets 1 or 2 fouls in the first half, take it at him even more. He’ll more than likely get out of your way in an attempt to avoid more foul trouble.

(3) Sullinger will need a Sullinger type game of 17 and 10 to match Robinson’s similar output. The difference will be in the supporting cast. DeShaun Thomas will need to keep his run of good games going. Craft will have to create extra possessions and will need to keep finding his teammates in a position to score. And the entire team will have to match the toughness the Jayhawks will likely throw at them.


Ohio State -2.5; O/U 137


I think the game will be close throughout, but it will come down to who can make big shots late in the game. Somehow, some way, the Jayhawks have made it this far in the tournament. It hasn’t been pretty, but they have demonstrated an ability to win games in a variety of ways. Whether it was matching UNC’s 47 point first half output when they seemingly couldn’t miss, or grinding it out when nothing went right against Purdue, they have shown a ton of fight. They have also had a knack for getting shots to fall at the most opportune times.

I am not going to bet against them in this matchup either.

KU 71 OSU 67


A bunch of words on #KUboobs

Posted on: March 27th, 2012 by jayhawktalk 2 Comments

For a team to make it to the Final Four of this tournament, it has to have some degree of luck along the way.  Whether that luck is in the form of an injury to the opposing team’s most important player, or a last second three-pointer to tie clanking off the back of the rim, you have to appease the basketball gods to make it this far.

Even extraordinarily talented teams like Kentucky have been blessed with a relatively injury-free season (and a temporary reprieve from NCAA investigators who will no doubt vacate this season in the future).

This degree of luck is what makes fans do odd things in the name of superstition.  By this time of the season, everyone has a game day ritual or custom.

For instance, my fiancée wanted nothing to do with going out to watch the game yesterday because our new television is “lucky.” I know people that change shoes, play musical chairs, and wear a specific ensemble because to do otherwise would obviously curse the team.

I can’t really judge. I’ll never watch a KU tournament game inside four Lawrence-area bars ever again (I won’t name them, just in case they’re your lucky places).

This superstitious behavior has spilled over to the KU twitterverse in a way that I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined.

It all started with a single tweet from @MommyLovesWine, a Kansas City based KU alum and fan. The day of the KU vs. MU game in Lawrence, she posted a “twitpic” of herself (from the neck down) in a KU shirt with a message that KU needed a little boob for luck.

That day KU came back from a 19-point deficit to win.

Kansas fans always talk about the “PHOG” inside Allen Fieldhouse that cosmically dooms opposing teams before the ball is even tipped. Of course, the PHOG doesn’t always travel to neutral courts and games played in domes.

But #kuboobs apparently does.

During the Purdue game last Sunday, Kansas needed every bit of luck, voodoo, and sorcery it could come up with to stop the Boilermakers from making every shot they took. Once again, #kuboobs made an appearance.

Except this time, the twitter hashtag began to take a life of its own. More KU women (and even some men) began tweeting their own pictures from the neck down. After the Jayhawks narrowly escaped in Omaha, many on Twitter began asking themselves if the #kuboobs tweets gave KU the extra “lift” it needed on the court?

The KU twitterverse is enormous. I have previously opined that it is the most social media savvy college fan base there is right now. The evening of the North Carolina State game only reemphasized that point.

Because #kuboobs went viral.

At one time, it was trending worldwide on twitter, just below #operationBIEBERBLAST, Kevin Love, and #ThingsIDoWhenIGetBored. There were many more photos going up and with each one, a big response from those tracking (read: stalking) it.

Twitter user, @djsoap, a local DJ and avid Jayhawk fan, used his 14,000+ twitter follower clout to get the message out. He and others have championed each new picture with a retweet and comment. It even prompted a twitter handle devoted entirely to the phenomenon, @kuboobs.

And you know what? KU found a way to beat the Wolfpack.

By now you know the rest of the story. Kansas topped North Carolina with great defense, great coaching, and, of course, the overwhelming support of #kuboobs.

Most hash tags eventually flame out pretty quickly. Especially those that arise from a particular event. There’s a chance this one might too, what with the Final Four being on Bourbon Street in New Orleans and all.

Then again, maybe it is here to stay.

@MommyLovesWine (her real name is Tiffany) told me today she has gained over 250 followers today and over 500 since the Purdue game. And while the #kuboobs response has been predominately positive – some are even using it to promote breast cancer research and awareness – there have been a few people who have called it a little racy at best and pornographic at worst.

Personally, I’m all for it. Not for the obvious reason, either. Just like I refuse to slam your game day superstitions, I won’t slam #kuboobs either.

I’m not sure that came out right.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that if twitpics of you in KU attire helps you feel like you’re doing your part to keep the Jayhawks alive in the tournament, then by all means, keep doing it.

And who knows, maybe #kuboobs will be the reason the Jayhawks bring home the cup.

Err, trophy.


A Cinderella story? Not so fast.

Posted on: March 26th, 2012 by jayhawktalk No Comments

Courtesy of

If you watch enough roundtable discussions on ESPN or listen to enough sports talk radio, you have heard it. If you read online or print analysis of this KU team from the national pundits, you have definitely seen it.

It might go something like this: “Kansas has overachieved this year en route to its 31-6 record, its 8th straight league title, and another Final Four appearance.”

Overachieved, huh? Know what I think of that analysis?

It’s a cop out. It’s lazy. And it just isn’t accurate.

Calling the 2011-2012 Jayhawks a group of overachievers undersells the season these guys have had. It implies they’re playing above their talent. It also infers illegitimacy.

And now for the truth.

This team has had a more talented starting five than its opponent in 33 of the 37 games played this season (and that is being kind and including Baylor among the teams with better raw talent).

In those same 37 games, the Jayhawks were an underdog only 3 times. Even today, matching up against one of the most talented teams in the country (even without Kendall Marshall), the Jayhawks were 2 point favorites.

This team has potential NBA talent at 4 of the 5 starting positions. It has a four year starting point guard and a finalist for the Wooden Award. On paper, it sure sounds a whole lot like a Final Four caliber team.

But the pundits don’t like to acknowledge that. They see a turnover prone boom or bust guard, a power forward that has had to sit behind NBA talent his first two years on campus, and a cast of characters that doesn’t look a whole lot like a “normal” Kansas team. They don’t pass the “eye test.”

When it comes to the Kansas bench, they do have a point.

In some years, Bill Self’s second five off the bench could be a starting 5 for many high major teams. This team is 6 or 7 deep, and that is probably generous. The lack of depth is a legitimate knock on KU’s coaching staff (or the NCAA or whoever you want to blame for partial qualifiers).

But somehow this team has overcome these depth issues. Just like it has overcome alllll of the other obstacles that have beset this poor, sad underdog of a team.

The truth is that this starting 5 talent is comparable to any starting 5 in the country not named Kentucky. And with one more win against a team we actually match up pretty well against in Ohio State, we might get to see if Kentucky can beat these overachieving “Cinderella” Jayhawks.