Some things to focus on going into conference play

  • With the start of conference season around the country, the beginning of competition with conference foes is the time that separates the men from the boys, the contenders from the pretenders. This proved to be true yesterday with Indiana losing at home to Nebraska, Villanova barely holding on at home to a lowly DePaul (sub 200 rpi, IIRC), Virginia systematically dismantling Louisville on the road and UCLA losing its first game of the season.

    As we all know, a team’s conference opponents know them the best. Every set, player and coaching tendency and road game rims are all quite familiar. Our first road game is at TCU, a team that is definitely better under Jamie Dixon and has terrific balance. However, they do not have the talent that KU does, so there is nothing wrong about expecting a W. What I really want to see is defensive improvement. After watching games from around the country over the past month and a half, it is evident that the strongest defensive that can compliment their game with a bit of offense will have the most success this year, just like every year. UCLA, for example, relies on offense. Jay Williams mentioned this on the halftime show of the UCLA-Oregon game - even described it as horrific. Sooner or later, they will have to develop a defensive identity to win games when they aren’t shooting their average.

    So far, except for the Davidson game, I haven’t really seen that from our guys. I feel as though commitment to individual defense is not where it needs to be, which makes team defense difficult to improve. I said on another thread that our players really need to sit down and watch teams that play with 110% effort on the defensive end of the floor. Virginia and some of Self’s past teams would be great examples. Our offense will be fine (still waiting for Carlton to commit to a role which is really the missing piece) - it is the other end that needs attention. Simple things like calling ICE, hedging, not falling asleep watching the ball (Devonte has done this numerous times) and not over helping on drives need improvement.

    To me, there isn’t any reason that we can’t be one of the premier defensive teams in the country like Virginia and Villanova. This team has a great combo of talent and experience and if they focus on making improvements and maintain the same focus every defensive possession, then the conference schedule won’t stand in the way of a one seed. I saw some predicting 14-4 and 13-5 - sorry but that will not get a one seed in any way, shape or form. There is simply way too much competition to have five or six losses and expect a top seed - Villanova, UNC, UCLA, Duke , Baylor, Gonzaga, Kentucky and Virginia are all very good. Even when the top teams in the conferences beat each other up, the best thing to do is stand out among the crowd by only having three or four losses total. I don’t care if some say Morgantown is hard to win at or that Ames is tough. Sorry, but we have the talent and experience to get those wins. Like slayer’s slogan says - NO EXCUSES!

  • 9-0 at home

    7-2 0n the road.

    “I can’t stand losses,” fake Bill Self quote.

  • @HawkChamp

    “What I really want to see is defensive improvement.”

    It’s our only real shot at bringing home a National Championship, and even taking home another conference championship.

    The idea that our offense can just outscore opponents every night is a fantasy. Pure “fool’s gold” as Bill would say.

    The second half of the Davidson game really set the bar for our guys. We now know they are at least capable enough to play defense like they did in that second half. That alone should be enough effort to win 99.9% of all possible games moving forward… maybe 100%.

    That second half was pure joy for me to watch. Our guys fought through screens like they weren’t even there and they did a solid job of cutting off driving lanes, giving quick weak side help. We know our guys understand the game well enough, too, because they provided more than just hustle. They played smart and had good spacing and hedging.

    That second half gave me the first real enthusiasm for this team winning a National Championship. I know they are capable of doing it. They just need to maintain their character and poise. All that experience on this team should pay off in March.

  • @HawkChamp

    I am not sure I agree. Most other teams will also have losses as it it almost unheard to go unbeaten, unless you have overwhelming talent like UK or play in a crappy conference like WSU.

    The Big 12 is the #1 ranked conference and 3 or 4 losses will not be a big deal like it would be in a lesser conference.

  • FT shooting is the single biggest weakness this team has. The defense will be just fine. Graham, Lucas, and Mason are a year older and understand more when they can slack a little to conserve energy. You simply can’t play with the intensity KU did in the second half against Davidson for 40 minutes a game for 40 games and make it through the season without wearing down and/or incurring injuries. KU even without UA is a better defensive team than last year’s team. This team can flip the switch when necessary on defense and we’ve seen them do that several times this year.

    KU’s FT shooting is the key to KU winning a national title this year.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10 flipping a switch often turns into a flippin’ loss in the tournament. There you start having to overcome inconsistency in refereeing too.

  • @Bwag You ever notice how in the NBA, teams ratchet up the defense a few levels when the playoffs start? You also ever notice how Bill Self tends to dig into his bag of tricks in the tournament by actually playing different defenses that we almost never see in the regualr season? I would say that in Self’s tournament losses, maybe 3 of them were because the defense was subpar and not the offense. This year, KU’s two biggest weaknesses will be FT shooting and rebounding because that 4 guard line up will be vulnerable to elite rebounding opponents.

    Nobody should have any concerns about the defense come tournament time.

  • @Texas-Hawk-10 You know actually I’m not as concerned as I was in the beginning with our 4 guard line up and rebounding I thought we would get killed, but hell were averaging 41 rebounds a game 2nd in the Conference and in the top 20 Nationally - -BUT ya Free throw shooting is HUGE CONCERN - -BUT yet why do I get this feeling our free throw average is going to turn around now conference is here - -something just tells me we gonna ratchet it up a few notches - - -ROCK CHALK ALL DAY LONG BABY

  • @Texas-Hawk-10 I can only hope so. Heard once:

    Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent.

    Flipping a switch as a strategy is an iffy strategy. I should say counting on it is. I’d agree that sustaining effort to 100%, 100% of the time isn’t feasible in most circumstances.

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