Friday, February 02, 2007

Kansas Preview

#8/#10 Texas A&M vs. #6 Kansas Preview

Saturday, February 3rd
8:00 CST – ESPN-HD
Line – Kansas by 7

Well - - This is why we watch.

Games like this are what make being a sports fan so exciting - - the thrills of watching your team go to battle against the very best - - getting too high with the highs and too low with the lows.

……as Jim McKay would so eloquently put it – The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat.

The Texas Aggies play in what is easily their biggest regular season game in the past 10 years and quite possibly the biggest regular season game in the history of the school.
Going into famed Allen Fieldhouse to face the Kansas Jayhawks is no easy task, and the Aggies will certainly be up against it on Saturday night.

The entire day should be a lot of fun for us, the fans, as ESPN’s basketball roadshow “College Gameday” will be broadcasting live from Lawrence at 10:00 am and 7:00 pm.

That evening Dick Vitale will be behind the microphone with Dan Shulman to call the action on ESPN-HD at 8:00. Love him or hate him, you can not deny the publicity that Vitale can bring for your program.

Speaking of publicity, the Aggies will be receiving TONS of coverage over the next few days as you have the circus in Lawrence all day on Saturday and then you return home 48 hours later to take on Texas on ESPN’s Big Monday (Vitale again).

OK – Let’s breakdown this matchup.

The first thing you need to know about Kansas is that they are big, tall, strong, fast and love to run.

They are stacked with McDonald’s All-Americans and are a very athletic group of guys.

They are at their best when they get out and run and Bill Self has designed this team to fit that style of play. In order to have any kind of chance on Saturday night the Aggies are going to have to get KU out of their comfort zone and disrupt their rhythm, which is easier said than done.

I would suspect to see A&M try quite a few things to slow the game down including quite a bit of full court press, a few mid-court trapping defensive schemes, and play at a slower pace on offense when A&M has the rock.

Simply put, if you can find a way to force Kansas into their half court sets, you can have a chance to steal this game.

The other thing to keep an eye on is the pace at which Kansas is putting up points. A&M is going to have to keep the KU tally in the mid-to-low 60’s to have a real shot.

I am not saying A&M must avoid getting in a shootout with these guys, I am just saying it is not their best chance of winning this game.

Backcourt Match-up

When looking at the Kansas guards, you must start with sophomore Brandon Rush. The 6’6” swingman is one of the best players in the Big 12 and is an elite athlete that can attack you from numerous spots on the floor.

Rush is averaging 14.3 points and 6 rebounds per game. Rush can knockdown his jumper from nearly anywhere on the floor (41% from behind the arc and 43% overall), but he is also electric when flying to the rim.

I am not sure what Gillispie will do in an effort to limit Rush on Saturday night.

Do you go with the bigger guy who is not quite as adept on the defensive end in Josh Carter? Do you go with the smaller guy who is an elite defender in Dominique Kirk?

My guess is that you will see DK on Rush to start the game.

While Rush is not considered a great defender, I think his size alone may give Josh Carter a few problems on the perimeter.

Primary ball handling duties for the Jayhawks rests with 6’1” junior Russell Robinson.

Robinson is an up-tempo guy who sets the frantic pace at which KU prefers to play. Robinson is averaging just over 4.5 assists per game wile also chipping in nearly 7 points. I would look for Acie to pick up Robinson in most sets.

The flipside of this matchup is where the Aggies will have the best advantage in the backcourt. Acie should be able to take advantage of his size and strength to make some good things happen against Robinson.

Rounding out the KU backcourt is 6’1” Mario Chalmers. The junior from Anchorage, Alaska is the secondary scoring threat out of the Kansas backcourt. Chalmers is only averaging 11.8 points per game, but if he gets hot he can easily put up 20+.

Whoever is not on Rush (either Carter or Kirk) will pick up Chalmers.

Advantage – Minor Edge for the Jayhawks (+1)

Frontcourt Match-up

Kansas’ frontline is somewhat similar to that of the Aggies. Both teams primarily play 3 guys on the inside. Both teams have a Euro that starts and plays meaningful minutes. Both teams have a very athletic power forward who is the team’s second leading scorer…..

The biggest difference and what is going to separate the groups is going to be the “next guy” for Kansas - Darrell Arthur, the 6’9” freshman from Dallas who comes off the bench for KU.

“DA” as they call him is a true difference maker, even as a true freshman – we’ll touch on him more in the Bench section.

Bill Self will likely start the 6’11” Sasha Kaun who originally hails from Russia. Kaun is not a true force on the offensive end, but his size on the inside allows Kansas to use him to set up plays designed to get the other guys on the floor involved.

His size also is his biggest strength on the defensive end as well.

I suspect Kaun will match up on Kavaliauskas, and I would look for Gillispie to run quite a few sets trying to draw Kaun out of the paint.

Joining Kaun on the inside for KU is 6’8” sophomore Julian Wright. Wright is much more athletic than Kaun and is a very solid power forward. He and Joe match-up very well with each other on the inside and their games are very similar. Wright is averaging over 11 points and nearly 8 boards per game.

Advantage – Push (+/- 0)

Bench Match-up

Both Gillispie and Self play a primary rotation of 7 guys in most games.

The two guys who come off the bench for Kansas are the before-mentioned Darrell Arthur and 5’11” back-up point guard Sherron Collins.

Arthur is going to be a major player for Kansas in the next couple of years, and he is a serious force coming off the bench.

“DA” has made a handful of starts this season (7 out of 22 games) and is averaging nearly 21 minutes per game. Arthur is averaging 11 points and 5 rebounds per contest.

Sherron Collins is not a major threat, but he is a very serviceable backup. He also averages over 20 minutes per game and is Kansas’ best three point shooter making 44% of his shots from downtown while averaging 9 points per game.

Gillispie will continue to rely primarily on Marlon Pompey for help on the inside and Donald Sloan to help in the backcourt.

Sloan and Collins, both of whom are freshman, are for the most part comparable.

Arthur and Pompey are not comparable. That is all I have to say about that [/Forest Gump].

Advantage – Minor Edge for the Jayhawks (+1)

Coaching Match-Up

Both Self and Gillispie are cut from the same cloth. Gillispie was an assistant under Self at both Tulsa and Illinois before he took off to be the head coach UTEP in 2002.

The two are such good friends that they still talk 3+ times per week.
What Gillispie has done at A&M is nothing short of a miracle, but Self, who cut his teeth primarily under Eddie Sutton at Oklahoma State, has a slight leg up in this department if for no other reason than the fact that he has been a head coach for 13 years and Gillispie for 5.

Advantage – Minor Edge for the Jayhawks (+1)


Going to Allen Fieldhouse to play KU is a major feat for any group of guys, let alone one that is looking for their first signature road win of the season. I am also sure that you guys have seen the few articles this week that mentioned the fact that since the league was formed in 1996-1997, the Big 12 south is 0-31 at Allen Fieldhouse. Let’s hope that trend is broken on Saturday night!

As we have mentioned here plenty of times, both of these groups have played in enough big games in their careers to not make experience much of a factor for either group.

Advantage – Minor Edge for the Jayhawks (+1)

The Aggie Hoops Report’s Game Outcome Prediction -

Texas A&M Aggies – 67
Kansas Jayhawks - 71

This should be the game of the year in the Big 12 – Enjoy it!!!!


Carry on.


Post a Comment

<< Home