Kansas 81 Pacific 70
It's difficult to put Kansas basketball into perspective. I don't have a platonic ideal of how Illinois or Oklahoma State should play basketball. I watch them play and they look good, bad, or indifferent. A mediocre performance by the Jayhawks, however, inspires hours of reflection and worry.
Four games into the season Kansas is a poor free throw shooting team, a decent team in transition offense, an average team in the half-court offense, a mediocre rebounding team, and an average defensive team.
The rest of 2004 should offer little danger. I have no idea if Kansas will be ready to face Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and the Big 12 schedule in 2005.
Player comments and ratings (1-low, 5-average, 10-high):
Wayne Simien, 6.5: Simien's rebound numbers are impressive, but he should not be mistaken for Gooden, LaFrentz, Collison, or even Scot Pollard on the boards. Simien works hard and is an adequate rebounder, but gathers several defensive rebounds each game by default. Is Christian Moody going to get them instead? Pacific won't be the last team to collapse on Simien in the post. Until another big man establishes himself as an offensive presence, Simien must strike a balance between drawing multiple defenders, thus freeing Langford (and theoretically Giddens), and stepping out to shoot face up jumpers in order to remain an active offensive factor.
Christian Moody, 4: Again, Moody didn't do anything actively detrimental to the team, but his passivity, though less ostentatious, will be just as damaging against better opposition. To be fair, he did earn three points in the second half by outrunning Pacific's big men. An aggressive Christian Moody, should such a creature be lying dormant might be useful in certain situations though not as useful as a Darnell Jackson who knew the plays, a stronger CJ Giles, or a Sasha Kaun who had more than three years of experience playing basketball.
Keith Langford, 6.5: The praise for Keith Langford's return to prominence shows how little attention people pay to defense. Yes, Langford was much improved on the offensive end and his 7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio a credit to his effort rounding out his offensive game. On the other end of the court, Langford struggled to fight through screens and got burned a couple of times by taking a chance at creating a turnover after losing his man. I hesitate to place the blame for the poor defensive performance solely on Langford, Giddens, and Lee because good defense depends on teamwork and there may have been larger communication problems, but the none of those three guarded much of anybody Saturday afternoon.
Aaron Miles, 9: 19 points, 8 assists, 6 steals, 2 turnovers. Six-of-eight from the floor, three-of-three on three-pointers, four-of-four from the line. Another excellent game from Miles and a much-needed one at that. His on-the-ball pressure is the only consistently positive element on the defensive end of the court.
JR Giddens, 3.5: Giddens looks as one-dimensional as a young Billy Thomas this year. Towards the end of last season, Giddens began to offer an occasional pump fake to defenders, put the ball on the floor, penetrate past his man and shoot a fifteen foot jumper. Through four games, he's reverted to catching the ball and either shooting it immediately or taking one dribble then struggling to find an open teammate. The less said about his defense the better.
Russell Robinson, 4.5: An average game overall, but I can't think of an average or even a routine play that Robinson made. His impact on the game was alternately terrific and terrible. Undeniably passionate, Robinson is not yet composed on the court. He's a talented freshman, fully embracing the implications of both those words.
Michael Lee, 1: The boxscore credits Lee with an assist, a rebound, a steal, and a block in fifteen minutes of play. I can't say that I recall any of those plays. I do remember Lee fouling Webb on his attempt at a fall-away three-pointer. I remember Lee attempting to create his own shot off the dribble with predictable results. I remember Lee futilely attempting to fight through screens and mark Pacific's guards. These are not good memories.
Darnell Jackson, 4: Six points and five boards in eight minutes versus seven points and three boards in twenty-five minutes: Jackson versus Moody, December 4, 2004. It's clear that Jackson is more talented. It's also clear that his teammates have to give him instruction mid-possession, but, hey, Drew Gooden had trouble figuring out who he was guarding almost his entire freshman year. His rebound numbers are inflated because he took three chances to lay the ball in from the front of the rim on a single possession. Jackson appears most likely to relieve Christian Moody of his burden.
Sasha Kaun, 2: Sasha Kaun's potential is clear. He's a big guy, fairly athletic and a hard worker. Barring an epiphany he's going to be at Kansas for four years. On Saturday, he hit the side of the backboard attempting a six-footer. For the second time this season. Project.
CJ Giles, incomplete: Comcast had a little trouble getting the Full Court package to work properly on Saturday. I missed the first six minutes of the game. During that time CJ Giles apparently took four shots in three minutes. As Giles did not reappear in the game, I'm assuming they weren't well-chosen attempts on goal.