Nov 14, 2012, 4:02 PM EST
ATLANTA – With 5:07 left on the clock against Michigan State on Tuesday, Kansas was firmly control of the opening game of the Champions Classic.
Travis Releford and Jeff Withey combined to score six straight points as the Jayhawks opened up a 59-54 lead, and with the momentum fully in their favor, Bill Self’s club looked like they were on the verge of handing Sparty their second loss in five days to kick off the season.
Kansas had the ball eight times in the final 5:07. One possession ended in a pair of Elijah Johnson free throws. Another ended with an and-one layup in transition by Ben McLemore off of a (foul-assisted) Keith Appling turnover. The other six possessions, which resulted in four missed jumpers and two turnovers, were just as ugly aesthetically as they were in the box score. In the end, the Jayhawks lost, 67-64.
No one wanted the ball in crunch time for Kansas. No one was ready, willing, or capable of demanding the ball and saying, ‘Clear out, I got this’. And that, more than anything, is where Kansas truly misses Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson.
“The thing about playing a game this early is somebody is going to lose,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said after the game. “If you look at it, I thought we were pretty good for about 35 minutes. I thought we played probably about as I good as I thought we were going to play.”
“But games are decided in the last five, and they were much better in the last five.”
The conundrum for Kansas lies in their roster makeup. They are one of the more experienced teams in the country. Three seniors start, two of whom are in their fifth-years. Another fifth-year senior comes off the bench. With the exception of Perry Ellis, every member of the Kansas rotation was part of the program last season when they made the national title game.
The problem is that all of those veterans are role players. Jeff Withey is arguably the most intimidating defensive force in the country, but he’s still not much of a threat on the offensive end of the role. Johnson is a nice complimentary scorer, nut he’s yet to prove he can handle being the focal point offensively. Releford is a glue guy, a defender that will hit open threes, and not too much more.
The supreme talents?
The potential first round draft picks?
They’re all freshmen.
“Our freshmen are going to be good, but they’re pretty green and naive,” Self said. “They’re not your typical heralded freshmen that have had a lot of exposure. They’ve been pretty sheltered as far as experiences.”
McLemore is the guy expected to be the star for this group, but he still has to learn about to play that role. He may have been a top 25 recruit, but he wasn’t even the go-to guy when he played at high level events in high school. In AAU ball, he deferred to Bradley Beal, last year’s No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft. There are things that McLemore, who played just his second collegiate game after redshirting last season, has to learn to be able to do to thrive in that role.
“Plugging himself in where he knows where his shots are coming from, putting himself in the game where he’s more of an impact guy,” Self said of what McLemore needs to develop. “He’s a pretty efficient player, but seven shots for him is not enough. He needs to take more shots. He’s just so talented and he’s going to learn. It’s just all new to him. He’ll get. It’s going to take a while, but he’s going to get it.”
Ellis is a finesse player at this point in his career, and while nothing has changed about his ability to put up points, finesse power forwards aren’t exactly the ideal. Traylor showed off some unbelievable athleticism, with a ridiculous put-back dunk and one of the best fast-break blocks you’ll ever see, but right now he has Thomas Robinson’s motor without his skill set.
Those guys will learn and they’ll develop and they’ll get better as the season goes along, but throwing them into the fire in a nail-biter against a Big Ten contender on national television in the Georgia Dome isn’t exactly bringing them along slowly.
Give them time.
“I thought this was a good game for us,” Self said. “I’m not leaving out of here discouraged at all. I’m not happy we lost because you’re up in that situation, you’ve gotta close, and we didn’t close. But there were some good things that happened.”
“I think this will all be a pretty good teaching tool for us.”
Mar 6, 2014, 10:33 PM EST
Entering Tuesday night’s date with No. 20 Memphis, offensively-challenged No. 15 Cincinnati had scored more than 80 points in a game just five times. Their victims? Campbell, Kennesaw State, USC Upstate and Chicago State all lost to the Bearcats before Christmas. Temple, one of the bottom-feeders in the American, managed to score exactly 80 points…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:49 PM EST
When the American Athletic Conference coaches made their preseason picks back in October, the Cincinnati Bearcats received nary a sniff in regards to which team would win the league. No. 11 Louisville was the unanimous choice and rightfully so, with the Cardinals returning most of their key contributors from last season’s national champion squad. But…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:46 PM EST
There was a weird sequence just now in the UCSB-Hawaii game. Gib Arnold had just gotten a technical foul when a UCSB fan sprinted onto the court from the student section and got into his face on the sideline before backpedaling and challenging a Hawaii player to a fight. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen…
Mar 6, 2014, 8:12 PM EST
On the heels of their 73-64 loss to No. 10 San Diego State on Wednesday, UNLV announced Thursday that guard Bryce Dejean-Jones has been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team. Dejean-Jones will miss the Runnin’ Rebels game at Nevada on Saturday as a result of the suspension. Dejean-Jones had a frustrating night against the…
Mar 6, 2014, 6:50 PM EST
Maryland’s 64-47 win over Virginia Tech on Tuesday night was full of positives, with one notable exception: sophomore forward Charles Mitchell did not play in the second half after getting into a heated exchange with assistant coach Scott Spinelli. Head coach Mark Turgeon asked Mitchell to return to the locker room, with the forward returning…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:59 PM EST
In what has been a tough season for South Carolina (11-19, 4-13 SEC), the Gamecocks will conclude regular season play on Saturday without their head coach. On Thursday South Carolina announced that Frank Martin has been suspended for one game due to “inappropriate verbal communication” with a player. “The one-game suspension is a result of…
Mar 6, 2014, 4:28 PM EST
One day prior to his team beginning a run towards a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, Iona head coach Tim Cluess has been rewarded with a contract extension through the 2018-19 season. Currently in his fourth season in New Rochelle, Cluess has won 90 games and led Iona to two MAAC regular season…
Mar 6, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
During the preseason the expectation of many was that the Southern Conference race would provide suspense throughout the season, with at least five teams having realistic hopes of winning the regular season title. Ultimately this would not be the case, with perennial juggernaut Davidson winning the league title by three games. However the Wildcats, who…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:51 PM EST
WASHINGTON, D.C. – For three weeks every spring, as the country thaws out from another long, cold winter, the nation’s eyes turn towards the NCAA tournament. The attention it generates is unlike any event in sports, thanks in large part to the over-saturation of games, the one-and-done nature of the event and the fact that every…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:24 PM EST
Adidas unveiled the uniforms that nine teams with sponsorship contracts will be wearing in March. I like them, but Adidas is really married to this idea of sleeves on a uniform, aren’t they? UCLA, Baylor, Louisville and Cincinnati will all be wearing jerseys that look like a bit too much like a cheap, church league…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:06 PM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 20 Memphis at No. 15 Cincinnati, 7:00 p.m. Earlier this season, Cincinnati made a name for themselves when they went into FedEx Forum and put a whooping down on the Tigers. Might it be time for Josh Pastner’s club to exact their revenge? At this point, the only thing on…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:38 AM EST
New Hampshire has fired a basketball staff member on allegations of voyeurism. Scott Weitzell, the Director of Men’s Basketball Operations, was relieved of his duties amid allegations that he recorded the team in the locker room during their trip to play at Vermont on January 20th. Weitzell allegedly hid the cell phone in the locker…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:14 AM EST
Last night, St. Joseph’s lost a game at George Washington that could have cemented a bye in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament and made their Selection Sunday much less stressful. Instead, the Hawks lost, in large part due to the 24 free throws that the Colonials shot in the second half. Phil…
Mar 6, 2014, 11:01 AM EST
The CAA lost some of it’s charm when it got raided by bigger conference. VCU and George Mason were the league’s two Final Four programs whose battles on the court were always — Always!!!! — bested by the rivalry between Mason’s Doc Nix and the Green Machine and VCU’s Peppas. Old Dominion is also spending…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:50 AM EST
No. 4 Duke lost to Wake Forest on Wednesday night, 82-72, but the bigger concern after the game was the fact that head coach Mike Krzyzewski didn’t make it to the postgame press conference. According to Duke, Coach K was dealing with lightheadedness and dizziness throughout the game. At one point during a timeout, it…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:30 AM EST
Providence has found itself in double-overtime four times during Big East play this season. The most recent thriller came on Tuesday night against Marquette with the Friars’ NCAA tournament hopes undoubtedly on the line. In his 50th minute of action — the fourth time he’s logged every minute of a double-overtime game in the past nine…
Mar 6, 2014, 2:52 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Wake Forest 82, No. 4 Duke 72 This was the most surprising result of the night, with the Demon Deacons using multiple defenses in their win over the Blue Devils in Winston-Salem. Tyler Cavanaugh scored 20 points off the bench and Travis McKie added 19 for Wake Forest, which has beaten…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:53 AM EST
Senior guard Xavier Thames has led the way all season long for No. 10 San Diego State, as he’s been the best scorer and playmaker for a team one win away from the outright Mountain West regular season title. That was once again the case Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but he had help down…
Mar 6, 2014, 1:00 AM EST
There is no way that you can convince that this dunk from Nevada’s Deonte Burton is not the Dunk of the Year in college basketball this season. It’s just filthy. Look at this screen-grab: HE DUNKED THAT!!! This isn’t the first time we’ve dealt with Burton posterizing folks. There’s this, and this, and this. Follow…
- Senior starters once again lead the way for No. 15 Cincinnati 0
- Doug McDermott’s career still missing the most important part: His One Shining Moment 2
- Bryce Cotton, Providence’s marathon man, looking to lead the Friars on a run to the NCAA tournament 2
- Bubble Banter: Colorado, Dayton the day’s biggest winners 2
- After win at No. 18 SMU, No. 11 Louisville is once again peaking in March 0
- Wake Forest beats No. 4 Duke as Blue Devils struggle to score again 1
- The Chase for 180: Karvel Anderson leads shorthanded Robert Morris to NEC crown 0
- Undefeated regular season says all we need to know about No. 2 Wichita State (9)
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- Finally at full strength, Michigan State sleepwalks through loss to Illinois (6)
- Kentucky hits rock bottom, loses at South Carolina (6)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)