Friend of Pipeline Brent S. in Kansas City has come in with the first report for the Pipeline NCAA Project, and it’s a good one about the University of Kansas. Brent, take it away…
It’s as good a time as any to write a little bit about the Kansas Jayhawks. They are fresh off a win over the defending national champion, #1 ranked Florida Gators over the weekend in Las Vegas. This Kansas team is one of the two or three most athletic teams in the country as their win over Florida demonstrates. They are talented (four McDonald’s All-Americans) and young (two frosh and three sophomores among their top seven). The key for the Jayhawks is that they must play hard on the defensive end. Good defense generates turnovers and defensive rebounds, allowing them to play in the open court where they excel. However, when the other team puts the ball in the net and gets their defense set, the Jayhawks can struggle in the halfcourt game.
Bill Self’s offense revolves around two big guys playing a high-low post game. The offense seems to run smoothest when Julian Wright (6’8″ sophomore) and Darrell “Shady” Arthur (6’9″ frosh) are on the court together. Arthur is a Dick Vitale “Diaper Dandy”, and it isn’t all just hype as he is leading the Jayhawks in scoring (16 points/game) early in the season. Both forwards can create off the dribble and fill the wing in transition, and Wright is a truly gifted passer (3 assists/game). Depth is a concern up front. C.J. Giles was dismissed from the team in the preseason, and the less Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson play, the better. Both are adequate defenders, but struggle mightily on the offensive end.
In the backcourt Brandon Rush (6’6″ sophomore) gets all the hype. Rush is the preseason Big 12 player of the year, but he’s probably not even the MVP of the team. He finishes strong from the right hand side, but he has no left hand. Rush’s strengths are his on-ball defense and his defensive rebounding (6 rebounds/game) from the guard spot. Mario Chalmers (6’1″ sophomore) is a key for the Jayhawks because of his defense. Chalmers isn’t the strongest on-ball defender on the team, but he overplays the passing lanes and generates a lot of turnovers (> 2 steals/game) with his long arms. Russell Robinson (6’1″ junior) plays the point and is the only upper-classman that starts. Sherron Collins, a first-year out of Chicago, also sees significant playing time at the point guard position.
This team has as much talent as any team that has ever worn the Kansas jersey. What remains to be seen is if Bill Self can get his players to come out and play hard and play together every night. Until Saturday night’s win over Florida the Jayhawks had been shaky on and off the court. Two weeks ago the Jayhawks lost at home to an unheralded Oral Roberts team, and they struggled Friday night in a sluggish win over Ball State. Self had this to say about his team just 24 hours before they took the court against Florida: “We’re playing like we’ve got one guy on an island and another guy on another island, and the islands are too far away to do anything with each other.”