Tuesday, February 8, 2011
A moment of appreciation for KU's offense
By Eamonn Brennan
This isn't the most timely recap I've ever written; by now, if you're like me, you've probably seen the Kansas-Missouri highlights four or five times. Not to mention, you know, watching the actual game.
Travis Releford picks and chooses his spots for KU.
It's not just that the Jayhawks scored 103 points in a 40-minute game. That's crazy enough on its own. What's remarkable is the way the Jayhawks scored those points. First there was the shooting accuracy: Kansas was 37-of-61 (60.7 percent) from the field and 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) from beyond the arc. Their effective field goal percentage was 69.7. They scored 1.45 points per trip. In other words, if you felt surprised every time KU missed a shot, your instincts were correct. They made far more than they missed last night.
Nor did Kansas get those buckets on layups and open jumpers in transition. According to the Kansas City Star's Brady McCollough, only four -- four! -- of the Jayhawks' 103 points came on the fast break. Instead, Kansas got almost all of its open looks out of its half-court offense, which moved the ball from side-to-side and from elbow-to-block as well as any team we've seen this season. It was a thing of beauty. And Missouri got a front-row seat.
Speaking of Missouri, the Tigers deserve plenty of the blame for Kansas's crazy shooting night, too. Yes, the Jayhawks had to make those shots. But Missouri was so often out of position in the second half, and so often scrambling frantically to close out on wide-open shooters, that Kansas was able to get almost any shot it wanted on the perimeter. And with all those offensive rebounds -- Kansas grabbed 48.3 percent of its available misses last night -- the Jayhawks had plenty of second and third chances, too.
This is an ongoing issue that Missouri has to solve if it plans on a) winning a few Big 12 games on the road and b) making a deep NCAA tournament run. The Tigers are essentially a one-dimensional defense. Thanks to that pressing style, Mike Anderson's team forces opponents to turn the ball over at a high rate. But if those opponents can limit their turnovers -- as Kansas did last night -- and get Missouri into the half court, the Tigers struggle to challenge shooters, lock down the glass, and free throw opportunities for other teams. This is nothing new, and it appears to just be who this team is. But some better defense in the half court would do wonders toward improving Missouri's record down the stretch.
Perhaps most impressive -- or at least most intriguing -- is that Kansas barnstormed the Tigers without touted freshman Josh Selby. Whether that's coincidence or not is up for debate. Selby is, after all, the least experienced and least efficient offensive player the Jayhawks have. Which is a lot like calling "Let It Be" the worst Beatles album. But maybe, just maybe, the Jayhawks are more cohesive on offense without their star freshman?
Whether that's true or not, it's a rather excellent problem to have. "Gee, we're awfully good, but I'm just not sure if our top-five NBA prospect recruit is holding our offense back a little bit." Life is good in Lawrence, huh?