Musings from press row: UCLA Edition

A few semi-coherent thoughts from the Kansas Jayhawks' controversial win over the visiting Bruins, in which the noise level at Allen Fieldhouse reached 107 decibels at one point, and one began to wonder if the roof actually would fly off the old barn.

This team's post defense is horrendous.

I know. Stating the obvious, right? But I don't think I was the only one seated inside the friendly confines last night, or watching from home, who was caught off guard by just how bad the interior defense is for the Jayhawks.

It's to the credit of most Kansas fans that they don't take for granted just how huge a presence Cole Aldrich was in the paint the past two years. The big fella was never a great offensive player, nor will he likely ever be one in the pros, but his condor-like wingspan and natural shot-blocking instincts covered up all manner of sins in the paint.

I'm sure the loss of Aldrich has something to do with the Jayhawks' defensive issues here in the earlygoing. Not only are they being asked to adjust to a faster, trapping style of defense much akin to what the 2007-2008 championship team played, but they're still adjusting to having their safety blanket taken away.

All that being said, this sport is notoriously unforgiving, as Kansas fans know all too well. An upstart 12 seed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament doesn't care about your adjustment period or defensive struggles. They just know you have a weakness and they're going to attack it.

The Jayhawks have to find a way to get this figured out, be it through playing physically tougher one-on-one, springing traps in the post more quickly, or whatever. Because Coach Self said it best in the post-game last night – if he were gameplanning against this team, he'd tell his players to throw it in to the post every single trip down the floor.

The controversy of the final call is a little mystifying to me.

Not that I don't understand why the entirety of the UCLA fanbase – and even a small section of the Kansas fanbase – is pissed off about it. I get being angry. What I don't understand is the outright shock that officials would deign to call a legitimate foul (and nobody seems to be arguing that point here) that happened right in front of them, regardless of how much time is left on the clock.

Did make-up calls suddenly stop happening in this sport, and I didn't get the memo? Not 11 seconds before, Tyrel Reed was absolutely clobbered by a UCLA defender. The whistle was swallowed and Tyler Honeycutt, of course, splashed a game tying three with :05 left in the contest.

The officials missed that call and they knew it. So they made up for it by calling another, less egregious foul a few seconds later. This happens during every basketball game in the country at all levels of play. Make-up calls are part of the game, and at least in this case it was the right call.

Throw into the mix that Allen Fieldhouse was out for blood and...well...the whistle is going to get blown in that situation.

Am I totally off my rocker for feeling this way?

The crowd was insane last night.

I was genuinely surprised to read some comments on Twitter during the game from people watching at home that the atmosphere seemed dull at AFH. In reality, it was anything but.

Even when quiet last night, it was a silence of confusion and not indifference. You could sense that the crowd was just waiting for the opportunity to pounce and get back in it, and whenever UCLA would make a run and capture a small lead, Allen Fieldhouse would clap and stomp and do their part to help the Jayhawks reclaim that lead.

I've been fortunate enough to see some really great games at Allen in my life, but I don't think I've ever heard the old barn as loud as it was when Tyshawn Taylor capped his personal 6-0 run to help Kansas reclaim a 2-point lead with six minutes left in the game. According to the decibel meter on the video board, the crowd came within a hair of 108 decibels at that moment. It was absolutely insane.

If all our crowds are that good this year, Kansas will have the best homecourt advantage in the country. Not that they don't most years anyway.

Tyshawn Taylor's maturation into this team's leader is almost complete.

I don't understand the position some of the KU fanbase takes toward Tyshawn. Yeah, he didn't explode as a sophomore like most people thought he would, but he's been a completely different player thus far in 2010.

He's calm, he's under control, he picks his spots offensively, he's playing great defense and as evidenced by last night, he's developing a major killer instinct. That's great news, when one considers that perhaps the biggest question heading into the season was who was going to fill Sherron Collins' size 30 shoes when the game is on the line.

He's not the team's best player – that title still goes to Marcus Morris. He may not even be the team's best guard once Josh Selby gets eligible. But he's a future NBA point guard with every tool in the world at his disposal, and he's morphing into the emotional leader of this team before our very eyes.

From a media perspective, perhaps most telling is the way the other players defer to him in post-game press conferences. Tyshawn likes to talk, yes, and some of the other guys are less comfortable in front of a microphone. But after Mario Little, Tyshawn and Tyrel Reed filed in to take questions from the media last night, every time a question without a targeted recipient was asked it was Tyshawn who answered.

Thank goodness for him in the second half, because without his efforts the nation's longest active homecourt winning streak ends at 63.

In some ways, Marcus Morris is the opposition's best ally in the post at times.

Coming off the Arizona game, I was hoping to see Marcus begin to exploit his quickness advantage in the low post by following the blueprint of Wildcats forward Derrick Williams.

In that regard, I was extremely disappointed last night. Marcus still had 16 points, but he didn't impact the game overall nearly as much as he should have. Bruins forward Josh Smith is a foul machine, but Thursday night committed just two in 28 minutes of action.

One of the primary reasons for that is because the Kansas posts bailed him out so frequently when attacking the basket, shooting fadeaways instead of going up and forcing Smith to make contact. I've never seen so many five-foot jumpers in my entire life.

Since I don't think the Morrii and Thomas Robinson are ever going to be defensive juggernauts, one of the ways to neutralize opposing bigs is by attacking them aggressively on offense and putting them in foul trouble. It's a tactic that has been used against Kansas for two weeks in a row now, to great effect.

It would be nice to see the tables turned.


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