It's the Defense, Stupid

Although it's fun to talk about KU's offensive weapons, it's the Jayhawk defense that has landed KU atop the field heading into the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

   Although it is not a quality that observers usually want to spend much time addressing, defense is a key reason why Kansas obtained the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
   The Jayhawks held opponents to 63.8 points, the best average in the Big 12 -- a league it dominated with a 15-1 record before claiming the conference tournament championship for the seventh time. With the No. 1 seed, Kansas opens against Lehigh (22-10)
   Sure, Kansas is potent offensively and loaded with a variety of weapons. Opponents must play the Jayhawks honest, even though help is often needed to prevent penetration by senior point guard Sherron Collins or extra muscle to keep center Cole Aldrich from dominating the glass.
   Other threats can hurt opponents just as easily, including forward Marcus Morris along the baseline, guard Xavier Henry from 3-point range and guard Tyshawn Taylor with his quickness off the dribble. Backups Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar can also shoot daggers from 3-point range.
   But credit goes to Kansas coach Bill Self for getting his team to buy into the toughness needed on the defensive end. As much as their offensive versatility, defense influences the 18-point scoring margin the Jayhawks averaged while going 32-2.
   "That's what makes Bill Self as good as anyone in this country," said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, "because he takes big-time talented players and he gets them to play unselfishly and as hard as anyone in the country defensively."
   Martin knows best. Of the seven defeats his team suffered, three were against Kansas. The last came in the finals of the Big 12 Tournament when the Jayhawks answered every comeback bid the Wildcats mounted before winning a 72-64 standoff. Kansas triumphed by allowing just 35 percent shooting, and did so cleanly, permitting Kansas State just 14 free throws even though the Wildcats came in leading the nation in attempts from the line.
   Although Aldrich has had a so-so year offensively, the All-Big 12 center is a big key on defense because he rejects and redirects shots. He averages 9.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. In last year's NCAA Tournament he posted a triple-double in the second round.
   As frustrating as the Kansas attack has been at times, waiting for brief spurts to step on the gas and put teams away, solid defense is a constant in most games. The only Big 12 defeat came at Oklahoma State, when the hot-shooting Cowboys made 60 percent of their shot attempts.

   --The 32-win season is the seventh for Kansas, though the Jayhawks reached that total three of the past four seasons. It won 15 league games for the fourth time since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, claimed its 10th Big 12 title and seventh Big 12 Tournament crown.
   --With its 3-0 run through the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas became just the third program in the country to net 2,000 wins in its history. The others are Kentucky and North Carolina. The achievement was celebrated with special shirts that were made for the Jayhawks following their first-round win against Texas Tech.
   COACH:  Bill Self, seven years at Kansas, seven at NCAA Tournament.
   KEYS TO VICTORY: Kansas experiences inexplicable fits offensively when it seems to play to the level of its opponents. Turnovers, bad shots and lapses in execution are common. The key is to remain patient and then capitalize on decisive runs. Defense not only helps the Jayhawks withstand offensive funks, but also influences breakaways. The leadership of the team's lone senior, G Sherron Collins, is huge, not only because he can carry the team on his back but because he demands the full attention of his teammates. Do not underestimate the ability of Bill Self and his staff at scouting opponents and preparing for all tendencies. It's a reason why Kansas is so good defensively.
   QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just need to keep doing what we're doing and just continue to get a little bit better and stay away from distractions and have fun, and be confident. If we do those things, I'm confident that we'll play well." -- Kansas coach Bill Self.

   SCOUTING REPORT: Attempting to concentrate on a specific Kansas threat is a foolish game plan. The Jayhawks' balanced scoring reflects the offensive value of everyone in their primary rotation. Limiting G Sherron Collins is a nice start, though the senior is content distributing the ball and allowing others to contribute as much as he wants to influence games with his scoring. Along the interior, C Cole Aldrich has not looked for his shot as much as he needs to, but remains an incredible force on defense and the boards. Do not overlook the 3-point arc, where Collins, G Xavier Henry and G Tyrel Reed all help the Jayhawks gain quick momentum.
   Kansas 80, Texas Tech 68 (Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals).
   Kansas 79, Texas A&M 66 (Big 12 Tournament semifinals).
   Kansas 72, Kansas State 64 (Big 12 Tournament final).
   vs. Lehigh, Thursday, March 18, NCAA Tournament, first round.
   --G Tyrel Reed connected on two crucial 3-pointers and contributed a career-high 15 points in the Big 12 Tournament championship win against Kansas State.
   --F Marcus Morris led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding for the fifth time with 18 points and eight rebounds against Kansas State.
   --G Sherron Collins distributed a game-high seven assists against Kansas State. He averages 4.4 assists and also leads the 15.6-point average. Top Stories