"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Kansas Preview

Kansas Jayhawks
November 21, Barclay's Center (Brooklyn, NY)

Coach: Bill Self (447-96 at Kansas, 654-201 overall)
3-Year RPI Average: 3.0
3-Year kenpom Average: 6.0
2018-19 T-Rank Projection: 1
Projected Starters: PG Charlie Moore (5'11" So), SG Quentin Grimes (6'5" Fr), SF Lagerald Vick (6'5" Sr), PF Dedric Lawson (6'9" Jr), C Udoka Azubuike (7'0" Jr)

The Jayhawks have a good chance to come into this game ranked #1. They have won 14 straight Big 12 titles & are coming off a Final Four appearance. Most experts expect them to be better this upcoming season.

Their starting lineup blends experience with newcomers. Vick & Azubuike tested the draft waters before returning to school. Moore & Lawson are highly regarded transfers. Lawson is already getting consideration as a preseason All-American & National Player of the Year candidate. Then there is Grimes, an expected one-and-done lottery pick. The bench is nearly as impressive with a mix of proven D1 competitors (Silvio De Sousa & KJ Lawson) & highly-regarded freshmen (Devon Dotson & David McCormack).

Self's mantra is that the easiest shot is a layup. For years, that led to an offense that focused on attacking the rim & a defense that was designed to contest shots & limit 2PFG%. While Kansas did focus more on threes the past 3 years, sharpshooters Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailuk, & Malik Newman are now gone. Expect Kansas' three-point shooting to come back down to earth (they were top-10 each of the past 3 years) & the focus to go back to getting angles to score points at the rim. The defense never really changed their approach, so contesting shots & limiting interior opportunities will still be the plan.

On paper, Kansas is the toughest opponent on Marquette's schedule a national championship favorite. Despite Kansas' lofty rankings, if Marquette is hot from three, a team that focuses on stopping twos plays to their advantage. Further, there are a lot of new pieces trying to fit together on this Jayhawk roster & while they will almost certainly win the Big 12, they will likely be more vulnerable in November than March. Finally, while the game is in New York, it isn't in the Marquette house of horrors that is Madison Square Garden. Marquette will be underdogs for certain, but I'm saying there's a chance. Of course, if Marquette's 2PFG% defense hasn't improved, all the chances in the world may not matter.

Marquette Connection: The last time these two teams faced off was in 2003. Marquette came into the Final Four fresh off a victory over #1 Kentucky on the back of Dwyane Wade's triple-double. The Jayhawks proceeded to absolutely decimate Marquette, walking out with a 94-61 victory that frankly wasn't as close as the final score indicated. For months, Marquette fans woke up in cold sweats seeing visions of Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich torching nets in their heads. For fans too young to remember, missing out on Quentin Grimes wasn't the first time Marquette suffered a disappointing loss to Kansas.

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