Monday, December 13, 2004

The Fifth and Sixth Games of the Seventeenth Year

First off, I've reached the age where it takes an entire weekend to recover from a trip to Athens. I know that as I younger man, I didn't sleep this much, went longer periods without sleep, and did not need time to recover. Maybe it wasn't so much fatigue as too much rocking.

Neither the TCU nor the Louisiana-Lafayette games deserve even the pretense of the official recap my subjective player ratings imply. Thus, random notes...

1) I'm going to stop being so hard on Christian Moody (for a while). Some of his play in the second half against TCU could accurately be described as "aggressive." After the first four games, "self-defense" would have been a step up. (And, no, that's not a lame Bill Self pun. Please America's Sports Media restrain yourselves. It was kind of desperate at first and gets only more annoying with time.)

2) The freshman big men are still not coming around. CJ Giles has provided Sasha Kaun with company in hitting the side of the backboard with a field goal attempt which began as a low-post move. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, perhaps the least competent Division I team I've seen, the freshmen combined for 10 points (3-9 from the floor, 4-9 from the line) and 5 rebounds in thirty-two minutes of play. Moody is the best option alongside Simien right now.

3) Though a freshly healthy Alex Galindo might be an option in the "high" portion of the high-low offense. Galindo played the four some against the Ragin' Cajuns. I don't know if this was to get him some much needed minutes or if Coach Self is fully exploring his options. Either way, Galindo was 3-4 from the floor with all the makes three-pointers, two rebounds, an assist, and a steal, numbers which, were they to be maintained against better competition, might free us from the sight of Michael Lee on the court.

4) Michael Lee had a very nice sophomore year that met an unfortunate end at the outstretched hand of Hakim Warrick. (I will take that loss, the nature of that loss, and the sight of a jubilant Mike Tirico celebrating directly in front of me to my grave.) Lee had the prototypical role player season. He played decent defense, made half of his (unguarded for obvious reasons) threes, and didn't turn the ball over. Last year, he missed time with injury, pressed when on the court, and showed no understanding of his role or his limitations. By all accounts, he's a nice young man and I hope he follows through on his interest to play football for the Jayhawks next fall. That being said, he's playing even worse this year than he did last year. His assist-to-turnover ratio is lopsided in the wrong direction and his other offensive stats are buoyed only by a nice performance against St. Joseph's. More disturbingly, I'm not sure he could guard me coming off a screen. He was a good three steps behind Louisiana-Lafayette's wings as they came off of baseline picks. Against a team that can make shots, he could be a real liability.

5) Keith Langford is starting to look healthier though he still has yet to dunk on an unwitting defender. His assist-to-turnover ratio stands at 4:1 and he made two-thirds of his free throws against TCU and Louisiana-Lafayette.

6) JR Giddens has been playing better defense the last three games. He's managed eight steals and three blocks in the wins over Pacific, TCU, and Louisiana-Lafayette largely due to making better use of his long arms. His technique lags behind, but his improved effort speaks well of the coaching staff. Should they conspire to make Giddens interested in rebounding the ball, Kansas could take a step forward.

7) Kansas still can't rebound the ball effectively. TCU had 10 offensive boards, Louisiana-Lafayette 15. Self called a timeout a half-minute into the second-half against the Ragin' Cajuns despite the thirty point lead because (in rough order of culpability) Simien, Giles, Langford, Giddens, and Miles had allowed four shots to go up on one possession. Good teams will exploit this flaw before all others.

8) Aaron Miles is good, but I doubt he can continue to post career high rates in scoring, assists, turnovers, steals, blocks, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage. Should he maintain his current rates, he'll break the fifth-place tie with Jacque Vaughn on the list of the best post-Larry Brown Kansas guards. (1-Kirk Hinrich, 2-Kevin Pritchard, 3 (tie)-Adonis Jordan and Rex Walters, 5 (tie)- Jacque Vaughn and Aaron Miles, Honorable Mention: Keith Langford, Jeff Boschee, Steve Woodberry)

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