Overreaction Wednesday [originally posted 12/11/13 on sportsblog.com]

Before last night’s game, I couldn’t tell you a single player on the Florida Gators roster besides Patric Young.

But oh did I learn. I learned today.

Florida is a legit squad. I can’t wait to see them play Kentucky this year.

Time to talk KU fans off the ledge last night. Expectations here in Lawrence are way too high for where the team is.

This is still a very young team that hasn’t quite found its identity yet. They haven’t made their bones off being a stellar defensive team like that 2011-2012 Final Four team. There aren’t established vets who know their roles and can help coach on the floor like last year’s squad. This is a very young team that is still learning how to play together. The majority of the non-conference games will comprise mostly of seeing where all the pieces fit. There was a lot to take away from last night’s game so let’s get into it:

In the words of Chief Keef; here’s some S&%t I don’t LIKE:

Turnovers. 16 of them in the first half. This put the Jayhawks in an 18 point hole going into the locker room. I knew they still had a big run in them, but I knew this was going to take some effort to knock back down into a 2 possession ball game.

Awful possessions (did I mention that KU turned the ball over 16 times in the first half? Yea thought so.) People at the bar watched in disbelief as the Jayhawks had bad possession after bad possession.

There was very little passing, and too many 1 on 5 attacks to the rim. That will not work against a Billy Donovan squad. The Gators have a very solid backcourt in Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II. Besides Patric Young, they have very little front court length. Florida countered this advantage by going small and just bum rushing Kansas out the gate, forcing the inexperienced guards to get the ball out of their hands quickly.

KU looked out of sync the whole night, and was not able to get the ball consistently into the paint to their bigs, Perry Ellis or Joel Embiid. Ellis only had 3 shot attempts and Embiid 6. Meanwhile KU settled for way too many jump shots and didn’t work enough to break the zone defense by making the extra passes (or cuts for that matter–lots of standing around). There was way too much hero ball going on, dudes trying to hit 8 point shots and beat 3 dudes on the dribble during transition.

The Gators shot lights out for sure. But when they did miss, there were too many times a rebounder for KU didn’t squeeze the ball hard enough, knocked the ball out of their own teammates hands or just not get to a 50-50 ball. Florida would retain possession and sure enough would score. This happened time and time again, last night.

There was a horrible no call at the end of the game after Wiggins put on his best Danny Granger impersonation and willed the Jayhawks to within 6 ( including hitting a deep 3 from well beyond NBA range). They stole the ball, and Wiggins appeared to be fouled on his way up for a dunk, and the refs somehow missed the foul. That wasn’t the reason the Jayhawks lost, but it was certainly a momentum killer, and viewers were robbed of what could have been a fantastic finish. Who knows what happens if the Jayhawks cut the lead to 4.

Going against a senior laden team on the road, it was very obvious that the Jayhawks are just too young right now. It is going to be a learning curve and a process, and frankly Kansas fans will need to learn patience. If you were to look into Bill Self’s smirking face, you would see his confidence in the process. Billy Donovan himself said that out of any team in the country, the Jayhawks has the highest ceiling. In the this one-and-done age, there just isn’t enough patience to watch a team develop for 3 years and take baby steps. Expectations are SKY HIGH right now, and people just need to realize that it may not even be until halfway into conference play before this team figures it out.

Passing seems to be an issue with the team only getting 11 assists for the second game in a row. Tharpe just isn’t ready to lead the team yet it seems, starting the game out with the second unit (Bill Self lit into him after one particularly dreadful run).

Frank Mason is a quick guard and can get to the rim anytime he wants, but he hasn’t been very good at setting up other players.

I was joking last night that they miss Julian Wright. Or a player like him. Wright was awesome at busting up zones by finding a hole in the middle and hitting a mid-range jumper, making an incredible pass to a cutting big, or taking two dribbles and dunking the basketball.

We don’t really have a zone buster right now. Wiggins could develop into that, and Mason can drive and kick, but there isn’t enough passing, or movement without the ball.

Maybe Self needs to go small ball when teams bust out that 2-3 zone. Go with Ellis or Embiid at Center, Wiggins at Power Forward, Selden at the Small Forward, with Greene and Mason in the backcourt. That could possibly stretch the defense and make them honest. This Jayhawks team is forcing too many 3 pointers, and ignoring the bigs. I said at the beginning that this team will only go as far as Tharpe and Ellis can take them. I don’t think there is an accident that in the games where they have not produced, that Kansas has lost. Ellis needs more touches, he should never shoot the ball 3 times in one half, let alone a whole game.

Florida is legit though. They have four seniors in the starting lineup. They can hit the 3 poointer. Patric Young is a man beast. We joked at the bar that he looked like a Mandingo fighter from “Django Unchained”. I could see him playing John Henry in a Broadway musical, until Tyler Perry discovers him and makes him a movie star (That is if basketball doesn’t work out for him).

No need to Worry Jayhawks fans. Saturday is pretty much a home game against New Mexico. Everything is going to be alright. Wiggins just needs help, and guys just need to learn their roles so they can do their individual jobs correctly. The team will be fine come March. I think this is the coming out party we have been expecting from Wiggins, now he just needs everyone else to step up. I’m certain that if they play the Gators again at a neutral site, the story line will have a different ending.

**** I got a chance to watch the Golden State game tonight against the Mavericks and was not disappointed one bit. Golden State was down by as many as 17 and Steph Curry had 17 going into the 4th quarter. He ended the game with 33, including the game winner with 1.2 seconds left. That means he had a 16 point 4th quarter, and some nice assists along the way (Dramond Green played clutch down the stretch). Between them, The Jayhawks, the Spurs, the Pacers, the Trailblazers, and the Thunder, I may not leave the house much until next June. It’s a terrifying and exciting thought. I’m battling a full blown case of hoops fever right now.

There a couple other teams I find myself peeping on the box scores and soon I may catch myself watching more of are the Mavericks, the Phoenix Suns, and the Sacramento Kings.

I like the combination of Monta-ball and Rick Carlisle’s basketball genius (Carlisle is 2nd best coach in the NBA in my opinion behind Gregg Popovich). I even like watching Dirk all of a sudden. Two of the better games I have watched this season (and the past week) involved them. Both games coming down to last second shots.

I fell asleep watching the Suns-Lakers game last night, but I was impressed with their team. I’d heard they were better this year and to quote Lily Von Shtupp from Blazing Saddles, “It’s twue. It’s twue!”

The Suns are balling. I love the uptempo game they play with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. I like the Morris twins now more than I did when they were in college. They look like they both shed some pounds, and I like that they both were hitting jumpers. I won’t be opposed to watching them in the future.

I’m curious about how well Rudy Gay will fit on this Kings team. Maybe B-MacLemore will pick up some pointers from Rudy, and maybe MacLemore will force Rudy to play more inside. I’m not sure how the lineup of Isiah Thomas, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore, Derrick Williams, and Boogie Cousins will play out. I will say that it’d be a fun lineup to trot out on NBA2K14. This may be worth checking into. I feel very fortunate as an NBA fan right now. This draft class for 2014 will make an already exciting league that much more intriguing. I can’t wait. Some good games this weekend. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s Blazers-Rockets game tomorrow. Lakers-Thunder play Friday night. Saturday is UNC-Kentucky, and of course I get to see the Jayhawks in person out in Kansas City.

Somewhere in between that time I have to get my grad school application turned in to KU. Basketball never stops–even while I nap. Which I’m going to need tomorrow if I want to stay up and watch the Trailblazers game.

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