Thoughts from Big Monday: A Bill Self Masterpiece, Spectacular first-shot defense, Withey Nation and Taylor Deserves your Respect
What transpired Monday night in Manhattan was 94 feet of torture. For those that love Roy Williams ball, it was must-miss theater.
For Bill Self, Monday night’s 59-53 win was his idea of poetry in (disjointed) motion. Sure, Self loves the flow of his high-low offense. But he prefers, every once in awhile, to see some grit.
Self stood in the bowels of Bramlage Coliseum late Monday night, loosened his tie and reflected on the beauty he had beheld from the best seat in the building.
“I think this reminds me more of a Big 10 game,” he said. “I told them before the game, ‘Trust me, execution is not going to win this game at all. It will be who goes after the ball with two hands, who gets 70 percent of the 50-50 balls, who is able to get open one-pass away.’ That’s how you win a game like that.”
Neither team ran great offense, because neither team made it possible to run great offense.
“They did a good job of taking us out of what we wanted to do,” Self said.
Even Missouri, with the best offense in the country, could only muster 0.88 points per possession at Bramlage. The Jayhawks did a little better — 0.95 — and it had nothing to do with the fact that Kansas’ system is superior to Missouri’s. Players had to make plays, and Tyshawn Taylor made them.
KU had to resort to going flat and letting Taylor make something out of nothing in the second half. Similar to the game in Lawrence, the one chink in the Wildcats’ defense was the guards couldn’t keep their hips in front of Taylor. The Jayhawks scored 25 points from 3-pointers (four) and free throws (13). All of their other buckets, outside of one Travis Releford jumper, came in the paint.
Most of those baskets were either fast break layups/dunks or Taylor getting in the lane and feeding a big man. That wasn’t Self out-scheming Martin. That was KU had Taylorand the Wildcats had Angel Rodriguez.
On the other end, it’s easy to say that KU’s defense might not have been as good as K-State’s offense was bad. Yes, the Wildcats have struggled to score all season and it’s the reason they’re on the NCAA tourney bubble. But KU’s defense has been near perfect against K-State.
K-State’s two-lowest points per possession games (0.77 and 0.85) have both come against Kansas. KU’s first-shot defense was as good Monday night as you’ll witness in college basketball. Every shot was guarded. Every Jayhawk stayed tight with their man and didn’t fall asleep away from the ball. And unlike KU, K-State’s guards could not force help. The only way K-State scored in the paint was on putbacks.
The Wildcats made only 15 baskets on their first shot in 62 possessions. They scored 34 points on those 15 shots. That number is even more impressive when you take into account that 12 of those points came on Jamar Samuels’ four 3-pointers. Samuels came into the game shooting 22.9 percent from 3, so letting him take 3s was not the worst idea.
KU’s only fault on defense was allowing K-State to grab 43.8 percent of its misses. But that’s just what K-State does. The Wildcats are the fourth-best team in the nation at grabbing offensive rebounds and Martin is the best coach in the country at getting his team to hit the offensive boards. Sure, Kansas found a way to hold K-State to its lowest offensive rebounding percentage (27.9) of the season in Lawrence. I’m sure Martin reminded his team of that all week. It wasn’t that KU did an awful job rebounding; K-State is just that good at grabbing misses.
Withey, Withey and more Withey
I’m going to write more about Withey later this week for Basketball Prospectus. But a couple quick points…
Withey mania, ladies and gents, is taking over. Withey was named the Oscar Robertson national player of the week on Tuesday, and the national media is starting to catch the craze. For example, CBS Sports’ columnist Jeff Goodman made Withey his Avatar on Twitter.
One thing that was overlooked about Withey’s performance against K-State, he played a season-high 37 minutes. That’s amazing when you think about how taxing it is to play inside against K-State. The Cats lean on you all night, scratch, claw and push every chance they get. It’s exhausting to watch; I can’t imagine how tiring it is to play in that game.
Give Mr. Taylor some respect, please
Other than the final minutes of the last few games, Self could not be more pleased with Taylor. In fact, he’s so proud of his senior point guard that he has contacted the people who choose the Bob Cousy award and asked that Taylor be added to the list of 11 finalists.
Considering Casper Ware, Aaron Craft, Phil Pressey and Pierre Jackson are all on the list, Taylor should definitely be added. He’s outplayed all four in head-to-head matchups. And what Taylor is doing in the Big 12 season cannot be ignored. This is proof that not enough attention is paid to the conference season with a lot of these awards.
I’ve said this already on Twitter, and I’m going to keep repeating it. I’m of the belief that Taylor should not only be considered a Cousy finalist, it’s time to start considering Taylor as an All-American candidate.