Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Third Game of the Seventeenth Year

Kansas 85 Nevada 52

Through three games, it would be difficult to find fault with Kansas on defensive end of the floor. Vermont, St. Joseph's, and Nevada have combined to shoot 30.4% from the floor. Only 12 of their opponent's 57 made baskets have been three-pointers.

Their defensive rebounding, however, has been mediocre. Simien has certainly gotten his share. Moody appears to do a decent job of blocking out, but hasn't translated good position into rebounds in the last two games. If Moody can't both block out and move to the ball, it will be incumbent upon Giddens, Langford, and Lee to help on the boards which will limit fast break opportunities.

Kansas fans were spoiled with a steady diet of Pollard, LaFrentz, Gooden, and Collison controlling the defensive boards and igniting the break. Simien is not in their class as a rebounder. Help may be on the way, though. The freshman big men, however confused they might be while learning the system and adjusting to college, can put forth a good effort on the glass. They combined for 14 rebounds in 30 minutes against Nevada.

On offense, the Jayhawks took too many jump shots early in the possession for my taste. A fair number went in, and a quick jumper is probably preferable to all the turnovers they committed against Vermont trying to force the ball into Simien.

Player comments and ratings (1-low, 5-average, 10-high):

Wayne Simien, 6: Missed a couple of jump hooks and forced a couple of perimeter jumpers, but the attention he drew gave the perimeter players a lot of freedom. He still carries too much of the rebounding load and is the only player consistently making free throws.

Christian Moody, 4: Moody's a non-factor on offense. His playing time seems predicated on his inability to actively hurt the team's chances of winning. Once Kansas had the game in hand, the freshmen played. Self recognizes Moody's limitations, his value as a motivational tool for the freshmen, and the freshmen's developmental needs. How he balances his use of the four players to hide their respective weaknesses will largely determine the season's outcome.

Keith Langford, 5: Keith Langford is not healthy. It's not fun watching him play with diminished capacities. He needs to start making free throws.

Aaron Miles, 9: The only blemish on Miles' line is his missed free throw. 3-6 shooting, 1-2 on threes, 10 assists, and no turnovers while harassing (in tandem with Russell Robinson) Ramon Sessions into a 6-17 night. The first three point guards to face Kansas this year have had no fun on the offensive end of the floor.

JR Giddens, 6.5: Giddens took a couple of quick shots, but shot the ball well overall. According to Mark Jones, Giddens is "a surprisingly good shooter." Actually, shooting the ball still seems to be the one skill Giddens demonstrates consistently, but then, Mark Jones had trouble recognizing which players were on the floor. Maybe he's employed to make Fran Fraschilla sound good in comparison. Kind of like Mike Jarvis makes Digger Phelps seem reasoned and coherent.

Michael Lee, 6: He looked like he did in his (good) sophomore year. He played solid defense, grabbed a couple of rebounds, moved the ball, and took advantage of good spacing to make a couple of open shots. That's all he needs to do. Perhaps we've seen the last of Lee attempting to create his own shot off the dribble.

Russell Robinson, 7: I've spent a long time wishing for a New York City guard to come play for Kansas. Robinson makes it worth the wait. He has a tendency toward carelessness with his passes and takes too many chances on defense. If he tightens up his game in those two areas, he'll take minutes away first from Michael Lee, then Langford and Giddens. Coach Self will have a lot of combinations of perimeter players at his disposal this year.

Sasha Kaun, 4.5: Kaun has a solid base when he gets position, but struggles with his footwork when he receives the ball in the post. He moves well when rebounding and running the court, so it seems to be fixable.

CJ Giles, 5.5: Five points, eight rebounds (four offensive), and a block in ten minutes. Giles hasn't played much yet until after the games have been decided. If he can maintain his level of activity in important half-court situations, he'll be useful very soon.

Darnell Jackson, 3.5: Jackson never got in the flow during his six minutes on the court, but not for a lack of effort.

Alex Galindo, 4.5: Though he may develop into what Luke Axtell should have been, Galindo may spend this season as the evolutionary advance upon TJ Whatley (sadly, minus the mustache). He shot the ball (way long) on his first touch, then took the temperature of the game and found his scoring opportunities near the basket. Three lay-ups in three minutes. Alex Galindo makes garbage time fun.

Nick Bahe, Moulaye Niang, and Jeff Hawkins, incomplete: I credit both Hakwins and Bahe for their willingness to shoot immediately upon entering the game. It demonstrates an understanding of their roles and the preciousness of their opportunities to play.

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