Beach's Sneak Peak - KU

The Washington Huskies travel to Kansas City, Mo. to face the Kansas Jayhawks in the semifinal round of the O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic. After two regional round wins over Cleveland State and Florida International, the Huskies appear to be ready for a step up in competition. But the defending national champions?

KU isn't expected to be quite the force they were last year, but Bill Self-coached teams will always be strong.

Five reasons Washington beats Kansas:
1) Experience – Or more importantly, KU's lack of. Kansas lost all five starters, and returns just one player who averaged double-digit minutes for last season's National Championship team – junior Sherron Collins. The Jayhawks are as inexperienced a team as they will probably ever be under Self and face a steep learning curve, not dissimilar to what Florida endured last season. Kansas will rely on a talented group of freshmen and sophomores, playing their first meaningful minutes in front of a nationally televised audience. Their two warm up blowouts did little to prepare them for their first real test against Washington. Florida Gulf Coast and the University of Missouri-Kansas City barely averaged 25 percent shooting from the field.

2) Jon Brockman - The Jayhawks' 6-foot-11, sophomore forward Cole Aldrich faces the biggest test of his young career against one of the country's strongest warriors in Brockman. Like most young post players, Aldrich's first instinct will be to try to hold his ground against Brockman's physicality and responding in kind. That often results in foul trouble for opponents who aren't accustomed to Brockman's combination of strength and tenacity. Self isn't going to let Aldrich face Brockman alone and will rely on constant double-teams to limit Brockman's offensive opportunities. Kansas could employ 'Hack-a-Shaq' and try to make Brockman earn it at the line, which wouldn't be the worst strategy in the world.

3) Kansas' lack of post depth - KU is all guards – their roster lists nine of the thirteen players as guards, and the other three besides Aldrich are all freshmen. That means the Huskies are going to have a significant defensive and rebounding advantage in the paint. Brockman's presence means lots of fouls, exacerbating their post depth concerns. This could impact the game late, as they may not have a lot of options in the post. The Jayhawks don't have a reliable post scorer either, though freshmen Markieff Morris has shown potential, which should give UW Head Coach Lorenzo Romar flexibility defensively, allowing him to focus on stopping KU's host of athletic guards and wings.

4) Physicality - The Huskies play one of the most physical, in-your-face styles in the country on both offense and defense, and Kansas' two warm-up games were against much smaller foes. The Jayhawks cough up the ball at a high clip, and that won't change if the Huskies can pressure the ball up top like they want to. Kansas' hopes rest on Collins, a gritty 5-foot-11 former McDonald's All American who can score in a variety of ways, but he can also be a turnover machine. The Huskies will probably look to 6-foot-6 sophomore defensive wizard Justin "The Fireman" Holiday to shut down the speedy Collins and try to limit his ability to penetrate the lane or fire away from outside.

5) Outside Shooting - When facing a team with such a large disadvantage in the post, 3-point shooting becomes the equalizer. Unfortunately for Kansas, they don't shoot the ball very well: In fact, they've been miserable from outside so far aside from Collins, who is 5-10 from three on the season. The rest of the team has combined for just three 3-pointers in two previous games. If Collins doesn't start out strong, Coach Romar could pack it in the paint and play to the Huskies' strengths. Washington isn't a zone team, but if there was ever a time to break out the 2-3, this is it - especially to limit the bigger Jayhawk wings' ability to penetrate.
Five Reasons Why The Huskies Lose:
1) Washington doesn't stop the drive - Washington's perimeter defenders have struggled against bigger guards who can beat them off the dribble. Part of that is by design, since Romar prefers constant defensive ball pressure while limiting passing lanes, but it opens up the Huskies to attack off the dribble. This forces the UW forwards to rotate and leave their man when the perimeter breaks down. For the Huskies to win, Brockman needs to be on the floor. He can't do that if he's picking up cheap fouls by having to collapse on the Kansas wings who have shaken their defenders. In true Big 12 fashion, the Jayhawks are loaded with big, versatile, athletic guards who are capable of matching the Huskies up-tempo pace stride for stride. They'll try to exploit that advantage by getting out on the break and spending as much time in transition as possible.

2) The Huskies outside shooting woes continue - Justin Dentmon finally broke his outside shooting slump Thursday night, going 3-4 from 3-point range, but the other Husky shooters are still ice cold. Washington needs the 3-point shot to eliminate Kansas' transition game, as well as limit the Jayhawks ability to collapse on Brockman in the middle. By hitting some outside buckets, that should open driving lanes for Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter to attack the basket. If the Dawgs stay cold from outside, Kansas will jam the middle, effectively taking Brockman out of the game.

3) The Jayhawks' home court advantage - Despite the fact that Washington will be wearing home jerseys Monday night, it's still a home game for the Jayhawks, who possesses one of the most passionate fan bases in all of college sports. The Sprint center in Kansas City presents an intimidating home court advantage for KU, and will likely sell out for the Jayhawks' first real game of the season. Coach Romar scheduled the Huskies opener on the road for this very game. It'll be interesting to see if the six-point loss to Portland was worth the cost.

4) National TV - With a marquee opponent comes the national TV spotlight, and it remains to be seen how the Huskies will handle the glare. Media from coast to coast have been critical of Pondexter, and Thomas is no doubt eager to show that he is one of the top freshmen in the country. Still, you have to question how the attention will affect their respective games. Thomas is as flashy as they come, and if he turns this game into his own personal circus - especially at the expense of playing smart basketball - the Huskies lose. Pondexter, on the other hand, is the only Washington player with a significant athletic advantage over the Kansas players, and they badly need the aggressive Quincy to show up early Monday night, not the passive Pondexter we've seen too many times in the past.

5) Chemistry - If the Huskies play like they did the first half of the FIU game or the second half of the Cleveland State game, they will get crushed. It's that simple. The Jayhawks will try and put Washington on their heels from the opening tip, and if the Huskies don't hold their ground it could get ugly. Washington has not shown an ability to shoot themselves back into games with this group yet, so they must control the pace of the game on their terms or risk getting run out of the building. To do that, they'll have to limit their big play attempts, while beating Kansas down the court during transition defense. The Huskies found their gear during spurts of the last two games - especially their last half of play - but they've got to maintain it for the entire 40 minutes if the want to be in it at the end. It's something Romar has preached since camp broke at St. Martin's.
Outlook: The Huskies couldn't have picked a better time to meet one of the top programs in the country. Kansas is essentially a two-man team on offense right now, and outside of Collins they don't have the array of shooters to attack Washington's defensive flaws on the perimeter. The Jayhawks will attack Brockman with everything they've got and try to force someone else to beat them, which means Dentmon and Thomas could be in for big nights. Simply put, they need to knock down shots and build on their performance of last Thursday, where they combined for only three turnovers. Kansas, meanwhile, will try to defend Brockman from every angle, often double and triple-teaming him, and he must hit his free throws in order for UW to win.

Holiday and Darnell Gant need to play clean up and raise their level of play accordingly. They are on the big stage now. The Jayhawks are all about guards and they will be attacking Washington from the outset, trying to chip away at UW from inside-out and trying to expose Brockman to foul trouble as he is forced to defend the smaller, quicker KU wings. Given Kansas' deficiencies from outside, the Husky guards must find a way to stay in front of their opponents and force them to try and beat them from outside. The Huskies are a pressure team, meaning Washington plays tight man-to-man defense. In this game, that could be more of a hindrance than a benefit. It exposes Washington's defenders to getting beat off the dribble and Kansas does much of their scoring off dribble penetration. Loosening up the defense is contrary to Coach Romar's defensive philosophy, but it might be the best plan of attack against such a team that has shown itself to date as being one-dimensional.

If the Huskies can avoid being overwhelmed early by the grandeur of playing Kansas on a national stage and maintain their composure, they can win - and win big. If they don't show up mentally prepared, they could get run out of the building.

Prediction: UW 83-69


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