The big man is back!
A few thoughts on the current crop of KU basketball players and how the year is shaping up.
So far, the Jayhawks have performed well and over-achieved in non-conference play. A great start to another great year. I predicted at the start of the season, one more Big 12 title, another 30+ win season, and another one seed in March.
Concerning the Dance…injuries notwithstanding, and the crap shoot nature of a single game elimination tournament…we have a strong shot at another Final Four and a fair shot at a Championship. Let’s see how we hold up in Lexington and how consistent we can play during the conference games in January and February.
In any case, this team is better than the ones which have taken the court over the last two years. We have more depth and overall talent and balance. We are a better team and more upset proof this year, even without our wonderful senior leadership at point guard over the past two years.
The biggest surprise this year is our freshman point guard, Devon Dotson. He is Tyshawn Taylor fast baseline to baseline, and a better player as a freshman than either Frank or Devonte was their first years. He is tough, very competitive and loves the game. He plays good D and all he cares about is winning. He wants the ball in his hands at crunch time, poise and decision-making. He already drives the lane fearlessly. Stud!
Q has been getting better but lacks the Josh Jackson alpha dog attitude, and the Andrew Wiggins talent. But he could end up being a better college player than either of them, especially if he stays another year. He is our wild card and could take off at any time to assert himself as an all-league talent, or he could remain hesitant and unsure of his game. His D and rebounding and passing are good and getting better. His free throw shooting is excellent (smooth stroke). He is attacking the basket more and we hope that his shot will start to fall to give him confidence. If yes, KU becomes even more elite overnight. Skill!
LaGerald at the small forward (3 position) is streaky and explosive. His play early this season is the only reason we have one loss instead of three or four. His attitude and body language are good, but his concentration and basketball IQ are not yet at the level which would allow him to be the senior leader the team needs. We would not be nearly as good without him, glad he came back for his senior year. We need him to be a solid, consistent contributor with the occasional break-out game. Athleticism!
Dedric is an all-American double-double machine. He has paid his dues and is a model of efficient play. He scores and rebounds and passes at a very high level, every game, averaging about 20/10/3. The scoring and rebounding will drop a little, but the assists will grow over the next two months in conference play. His man D is average, and his athleticism is not very impressive, but he is a poor man’s Larry Bird and a great college player. He is our rock and our best player. We love his game (he is always in the right spot on the floor), and his commitment to the team and winning. Big 12 POY!
Dok is a mountain of a player who is still a teenager! He is remarkably quick and fast and athletic for a man of his size, and he is getting better, more skilled with each passing week. Injuries aside (the big guys get hurt more in the growing phase from boys to men), he slides well and runs well and is quick off the floor with his first jump ability. He wants to do well and cares about the team first. Powerful!
Our bench is better and deeper and more complete than any time in recent memory, especially Garrett who can ball even if he cannot shoot. Tough! We can and should use the bench more this year.
As HCBS said very astutely after our last game: “Our best Offense is with Doke. Our best Defense is probably without Dok.” Dok is an asset on D as a rim protector and rebounder and lane clogger. But as we have already seen, against an opponent with five shooters (4 + 1) who knows how to play (forced switches to gain match-up advantages), two Bigs (Dok and Dedric) on the floor can be a weakness (remember Nova last year).
The team is infinitely better offensively with Dok in the game, and even playing with two Bigs when he is out of the game, playing the traditional hi-lo. To win it all and reach our potential, we must shoot and make more threes. Better to keep shooting them even if we are not a very good long ball shooting team, 22-25 per game (8-9 makes), on average. Different team, different skills, different year.
I predicted three months ago that this would be an elite defensive team by the end of the season, playing better on-the ball and team D than in recent past teams. We are not there yet, but we are improving. Very happy to see coach try some new combinations (trapping, full-court pressure, playing D further out to disrupt O and not allow open threes…). Should we take even more risks on D? Go for more steals, be disruptive and aggressive – coach calls it being ‘active’. Yes!
We have a deep bench and capable guys. Be more creative on full-court press on occasion, double teams more often, trap the post like last game, at least a couple of times every game, get into passing lanes, hard fouls (no more ‘and ones’ against us going forward!). Switch to zone from time to time. Mix it up and add more pressure D coach, this team can handle it.
Keys to success: tight M2M and Team D, with classical Hi-Lo offense playing through Bigs, kick out to open threes. We do not need to score 80 to win, 70 will do this year.
Good luck to the team and coaches as we enter conference play. It is remarkable our string of consecutive conference titles, never before and never again. The Dance is the cherry on the cake. Let’s eat the cake first and enjoy every bite.
Rock Chalk! Happy New Year to Jayhawk fans everywhere!
@jayhawk-007 Fantastic post. I think we’re a really good team with an elite upside if the pieces fall into place.
As we’ve seen, this team has a fairly thin line between success and failure. We’ve dodged a lot of bullets thus far. I think you’re right, we’ll win another league championship, but we’ll have to develop some more toughness, especially defensively to win what we all want.
Spot on about Dotson. Doubtful he will get the recognition he deserves because that usually goes to the one who fills up the stat sheet. But I can’t ever recall a freshman guard at Kansas who took such good care of the ball.
Think back to all the special point guards we have had, and none were anywhere close to this polished as freshmen. As far as protecting the ball, Dotson plays like a senior. He is our best bet player of keeping our conference streak alive for 4 more years!
I apologize to Doke. I had this thought when he got hurt that perhaps we might be better overall without him in the lineup. Wrong. This team has to play with two bigs to be at its best offensively as Self mentioned. SDS might alter that thinking. But right now, there is not doubt. Hi/Lo, bingo. Excellent thread.