Okay, maybe I've learned two things. The second is, college athletic contests are all about matchups. One team may be clearly more talented than the other, but certain matchups at certain spots suddenly turn what would appear to be a blowout into a close game.
That said, I don't like either of the two games involving two of the
surviving Big 12 teams this weekend. Sorry, but I think the rides end
this Thursday and Friday for the Jayhawks and Tigers.
I simply can't see Missouri beating Memphis. Memphis is KU – they're
long and athletic – except almost every guy on their team seems to play
pissed off all the time. Like Sherron Collins. Thing is, KU has one
Sherron; Memphis has like seven or eight.
Here's what scares me most about Memphis: unlike most teams who are
just happy to break MU's press and settle into their offense, Memphis
is going to break the press and then send three guys flying to the rim,
just waiting for the kind of alley oop that makes babies cry and the
weak of heart soil themselves.
Tyreke Evans is a genetic freak, and Memphis has a multi-player inside
presence, headlined by Robert Dozier, Shawn Taggert and that one really
fat kid with three names. And they've been here before.
Missouri has a nice inside player in Leo Lyons and a very good
all-around player in DeMarre Carroll, and yes, these two will likely
outwork and outhustle Dozier and Taggert, who a basketball man I
respect has called "one of the single laziest players I've ever seen."
But when it comes to long, lean, athletic studs, Memphis has Lyons and
They have a group of newcomers, like Kim English, Marcus Denmon and
Laurence Bowers, who do lots of nice things, and J.T. Tillers a good
role player, but this weekend will be a whole new kind of pressure for
them. And they haven't been here before. Hell, they're rarely been out
of Boone County, MO. And who knows how bad Tiller's wrist is by now? He
won't admit it, but you can tell: it hurts. A lot.
MU will scratch and claw and, well, play like Mike Anderson teams play,
but remember: Memphis doesn't just throw bodies at you; they throw
really talented bodies at you. I think MU's going to just wear out.
That's nothing to be ashamed of. It's been a really good year for the
Tigers, and with a good recruiting class coming in to help out a
promising group of young guys, the future at the Paige looks bright.
I kept waiting for someone who isn't Cole Aldrich or Sherron Collins to
have a nice game. Not even a great game; just a nice game. Say, 14
points, or if it's a big man, 14 points and six rebounds.
You'd have to go back a ways – by the time the Michigan State game
tips, it will have been almost three weeks – to see Tyshawn Taylor's
11-point performance for the Jayhawks against Texas.
KU coach Bill Self says that if Aldrich or Collins have an off-night,
he's confident someone will step up and fill the gap. Well, I'm glad he
is. I'm convinced KU is riding the Collins-Aldrich gravy train, and if
one of those cogs breaks down, the Jayhawks are SOL.
We all knew coming into postseason play that Aldrich and Collins were
KU's two lynchpins, but I'm not sure we realized how absolutely crucial
they were going to be in order for Kansas to win. And as an opposing
coach, anytime I can focus on two guys, regardless of who they are, I
like my chances.
Michigan State is the best team from a crappy conference, but this is a
terrible matchup for the Jayhawks. The Spartans play defense like a pit
bull eats a pork chop. Raymar Morgan (6-8, 225), Delvon Roe (6-8, 230)
and Goran Suton (6-10, 245) are monsters on the glass, which is not a
strong point if you wear crimson and blue and your name isn't Cole.
Now, maybe that's selling the Morris twins – especially Marcus – short.
The two of them have come light years since Late Night, there's no
doubt about that; they will, however, see in this game what they should
aspire to become as college basketball players: tough, mean city kids
who'd rather be punched in the face than lose a loose ball.
State's Kalin Lucas is quick as a hiccup (my homage to Tom Hedrick)
and, by living in the gym in East Lansing, has made himself a good
guard (14.6 ppg, 4.5 assists).
Kansas has improved dramatically since these two teams played back on
January 10th. The Spartans, not so much, but they didn't have as far to
go, either, to get good.
Michigan State's toughness, physicality, experience and commitment to
defense makes them less dependent on their offense to make them go.
Michigan State comes from the Big 10 and knows how to win a game with
40 points. Kansas, on the other hand, really struggles in that kind of
Having that edginess, that tough-mindedness and defense going into the
Sweet Sixteen is like having a sure-handed, 240-pound runningback
headed into the NFL playoffs in cold weather. Michigan State is just
better suited to win this game.
Williamson: KU and MU Both Done?
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