Community Quick Hits [originally posted on 11/24/13]

Random basketball thoughts from last week:

1) Indiana’s Paul George must have been inspired by Larry “Legend” the other night against the Knicks. Certain players know how to really dial it up whenever they are playing Madison Square Garden. Anytime Jordan played there you knew he was going for 30 points (at least). Kobe was the same way. If Kevin Durant or Steph Curry go to MSG to play, I’m going to at least look and see if the game is televised. It may be time to add Paul George to the list.

What he did down the stretch of the 4th quarter and in OT against the Knicks was reminiscent of the way superstars take over the game. He played D on Carmelo Anthony and still managed to make tough shots down the stretch. It was pretty hype. I’m all in on the Pacers if they get more bench help. Injuries aside, I’m saying it’s going to be a Pacers-Spurs finals.

2) Most blowouts are boring to watch, but a KU blowout is still pretty fun. Friday night’s game against Towson was exactly the kind of game you want to see if you are a Jayhawks fan. They didn’t play down to the competition. They came out aggressive and when the opportunity arrived they went for the jugular and put the game out of reach.

I don’t expect many teams to lay down for the Jayhawks. In fact, with all the scouts and hoopla surrounding the team, they will probably get teams’ best shot. If I were a junior or senior, I would want to ball out and leave something for the NBA scouts to remember about me. I don’t expect many more blowouts like the one they had against Towson where the game was over 10 minutes in. On a video game you can hit reset or turn the game off. In real life you just have to take the ass whupping. Scouts take note of how well players respond when getting blown out like that–whether a player crumpled up like a folding chair and mailed it in, or if they left it all on the court.

John Wooden used to say that when you are playing basketball, you are not playing against an opponent. You are playing against your best self. I like the way the Jayhawks went into that game aggressive and never let off the gas. That’s the way championship teams approach things every night.

Towson didn’t play particularly well. Everyone seemed to be looking for their own shot instead of moving the ball and moving without the the ball. Towson started out like 1 for 7 in the first half and for every miss, the Jayhawks took the long rebound and pushed it for a fast break. I was hoping that they would hit a 100, but I knew that Towson would probably score more than 16 in the second half.

3) Joel Embiid probably won’t be around for long if he keeps playing like he has been. His numbers have been nice, but you have to watch him play to get the full gist of how good he can be. He flashed some serious signs of basketball brilliance in both games this week.

Against Iona he showed how athletic and graceful he is, impressing me with how fluid his movements were. Against Towson, he made me squeal with a couple of beautiful Duncan-esque outlet passes. Right now on some mock drafts, he is listed as high as #7.

4) Andrew Wiggins made an excellent decision in coming here to Lawrence. Had he gone to FSU, he’d be in the ACC with Jabari Parker. Though this sounds titillating to have that matchup twice in one year (assuming KU and Duke don’t face each other again in the tourney), he’d be playing on a mid-tier team in a stacked ACC.

Could you imagine Wiggins playing for Kenutcky? The Wildcats already have spacing issues with their difficulties hitting the deep shot. Wiggins would have just added to that. Randle commands a lot of space in the paint and there would be little left for Wiggins to work with. How would they have found enough shots for everybody?

Without Wiggins, this would be a pretty memorable team. With Wiggins, this team has a chance to be one of the all time greats. I’m not just talking about KU history either. I think that (injuries withstanding) people will reflect on this team like they talk about 1990 UNLV, the Fab Five Michigan squads, ’91 Duke, and ’06-07 Florida teams with Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer and Al Horford.

It is a long season which makes this talk sound a little crazy. The question becomes will this be one of the best NCAA teams of all time, or will they be one of the best NCAA teams to not win it all? I would hate to one day write a “lovable losers” essay about this team.

Bring on the Demon Deacons!

A Pretty Good Start [originally posted on 1/21/14]

Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin followed former teammate Tim Hardaway’s lead and flew into town to see what the hype was about.

Wayne Selden made one of those trademark “Kansas basketball” hustle plays that he is becoming known for (which leads me to ask if he is the emotional leader of the team).

Corey Jefferson and Isaiah Austin played about as well as I expected them to; each chipping in 16 points. Brady Heslip went “Phil Forte” on the Jayhawks, shooting 6 for 10; all but one of them 3 pointers.

The game itself was uglier than Baylor’s Highlighter yellow jerseys. The second half barely had any flow whatsoever, and both teams had a combined 32 turnovers (although Tharpe himself had none) . Truth be told, I was a little bored. I spent most of the game wondering how many teams are capable of beating KU, and looking for ways that it could happen.

It would be easy to throw the teams that already beat KU into the discussion, Florida, Colorado, Villanova, and San Diego State. I think that would be lazy though. Kansas is better than all four of these teams, and if they played again, the only team I could see getting away with another W would be san Diego State with their physical front court and solid guard play.

I went through the top 25 (which means nothing really let’s be honest. Villanova just let Creighton put up 96 on them. This means that Creighton will jump up higher than they should be, and Villanova will drop to a ranking more suitable for them. I’m not sure if any of the top ten teams that KU beat are really top ten teams. Villanova was a #4) and only found four teams that the Jayhawks should be scared to play:

#1 Arizona- possibly the most complete team out there.

#2 Syracuse-deadly zone scheme, great coaching and long bodies

#3 Michigan State- any Izzo coached team will be a dogfight.

#5 Wichita State- a team that I think can beat ANYBODY in the country.

If the Jayhawks do lose a game in the NCAA’s it will be because of turnovers not talent. They lead the Big 12 in turnovers; which may or may not have something to do with being the 4th youngest team in the nation.A lot of games left in conference play. Its clear that KU is on track to dominate “the best basketball conference in the land” (ACC?). If I were a betting man, I’d say this team shouldn’t lose more than 2 conference games this year. You never know about these things though, I was so sure it would be a Patriots-Niners Super Bowl. Now its the Seahawks and Broncos in the Stupor Bowl. Of course this is why they play the games. The gap in talent and depth between Kansas and the rest of the conference is immense, and the gauntlet they just went through proves it. I hope Self has been teaching them in practice how to cut down the nets.