This statistical category has never loomed larger for the Jayhawks than in this tough road tilt.
The Wildcats are outrebounding opponents by nearly 10 rebounds a game and the glass has been an area of concern all year long for this Kansas team. This appears to be an area that can be attacked.
“Even though we’ve rebounded the ball very well of late, I still think that’s a potential Achilles Heel for us and we’re going to have to do a great job on the glass and steal some extra possessions,” said Self referring to the offensive and defensive boards.
Overall KU outrebounds opponents by seven boards per game – in conference play that number jumps up to over 10 rebounds a game. KU increased its fervor for wiping the glass since Big 12 play began but….one sidebar I’d like to note – opposing teams haven’t been sending more than two or three players to the boards in an effort to stop the run out and the vaunted Kansas transition game. This probably helped pad those stats a bit and I don’t think K-State will lay off the offensive glass.
“The thing that concerns me as much as anything is offensive board play by them so you gotta put yourself in position to be your best rebounding hope,” Self noted.
This goal needs to be accomplished by committee. It will take more than 10 boards from Darnell Jackson. There can be no zeros next to names like Kaun, Arthur, or Aldrich on the stat page from this one, or else there will no longer be a zero next to KU’s record.
Poise and Toughness
It will be mayhem. It will be madness. There will likely be obscenities yelled and maybe even chickens thrown. But Kansas hasn’t won 11 straight road contests without exerting its will and showing toughness in hostile environments.
This is the type of game where a team can find out a lot about itself. Arguably this will be the most serious challenge these Jayhawks have faced all season. Sure there were games at Boston College, at USC (who is really playing well of late), and at Georgia Tech, but none of those games packed an arena full of passionate fans who have 25 years of pent up frustration built up. The crowd is always intense at Bramlage but this year they’re backing a super talented Wildcat squad. It’s time for KU to take its experience into the most hostile environment of the season and perform under the bright lights and the pressure.
“This will certainly be the toughest test we’ve had to date without question and could be as hard a test as we’ll have all year,” Self said.
“I do think the atmosphere will be the best that we play in all year. They’ll be ready for us and excited about it – our guys will hopefully be prepared and ready but it is different. We’ll find out a lot more about ourselves from a toughness standpoint and a poise standpoint on Wednesday night.”
Self mentioned poise and at times KU over the last two seasons has lacked it on the road. The Jayhawks tend to get a bit sped up and turnovers are more prominent away from Phog Allen. Taking care of the ball must be the priority in this one, you can’t afford to give K-State easy baskets out of transition.
After enjoying a +5.2 turnover margin in the early season, in Big 12 play the stat is dead even – Kansas 60 turnovers – KU opponents 60 turnovers. If Kansas can get the turnover game to swing in its direction in this one and keep K-State off balance it will go a long way in minimizing the home crowd effect.
Doesn’t it always come down to this for Kansas?
“I don’t think there’s a better defensive team in the country. That’s my opinion but that’s what I think,” said K-State first year coach Frank Martin.
It would be silly not to mention rebounding AND defense as keys to a game when talking about a Bill Self coached team. Kansas has made it extremely difficult on opponents only allowing three of its last 94 opponents to shoot over 50 percent from the field. In five Big 12 games, Kansas allows its opposition to shoot a stingy 34 percent from the field.
Limiting possessions, not allowing extra possessions, and not letting the Wildcats operate in their comfort zone are all part of the plan.
“To me the biggest key defensively would be allowing easy baskets - just allowing 2nd possessions. If they have to go against our team defense then of course their offense isn’t going to look as good,” according to Self. “Also we’ve gotta be able to create some havoc defensively.”
The guards will play a key role making it difficult on K-State’s backcourt while trying to make entry passes to Beasley and Walker. Russell Robinson, Brandon Rush, and Mario Chalmers will need to be more fundamentally sound yet still cause havoc in this one.
“Chalmers and Rush are as good a two perimeter defenders as you’re going to play against,” Martin told reporters on Monday.
Kansas produced quality road wins at Georgia Tech, at USC, and at Boston College but Self knows this one will take an even better performance for his Jayhawks to walk out of Bramlage with win number 21.
“I would say Boston College we did a good job defensively. I would say Georgia Tech was average at best. USC - pretty good defensively. Historically teams probably don’t create as much havoc on the road as they do at home.”
Kansas will have to feed off a fired up crow and create its own defensive intensity.
Just another night on the road in the Big 12. Or is it?