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Scouting title contenders: Kansas
By Eye on College Basketball staff
February 6, 2013 3:19 pm ET
By Jeff Borzello and Jeff Goodman
Watching a game, we all think we know the best way to score on Louisville or a couple of strategies to slow down Michigan. But what about the guys who get paid to figure out that stuff -- what do they think?
Over the next six weeks, CBSSports.com college basketball writers Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello will go through the national championship contenders and attempt to answer that question. For each team, we will talk to four or five coaches who played those contenders this season, and get in-depth insight into each title threat. How should you attack Duke? What's Kansas' weakness? What concerns you about Indiana? We'll find answers to that, and much more.
This week, we take a look at Kansas. (Past scouting reports – Duke | Louisville | Michigan)
Style of play
"Fast. They are so good in transition. They also have good balance on the interior and on the perimeter. But they play so fast, and they get easy buckets. They are also really good at guarding on the perimeter with guys like Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson and even Ben McLemore. With (Jeff) Withey and Kevin Young, they guard inside the arc as well as anyone."
"What jumps out is that they don't really have any weaknesses. They are so good defensively, and don't get screened. They get through screens, don't foul and Withey cleans everything up. They have four starters that are all as quick as your four guys, so it's tough to get penetration."
"Offensively, they play at an extremely fast pace. They run aggressive pick and rolls. If you turn it over, they fly it up the floor as fast as anyone. They turn turnovers into transition baskets. On the defensive end, they rely on ball pressure and contest shots. They get into your body and force you to drive it into [Jeff] Withey and he just blocks your shit."
“This year's team is more of a Big Ten style of team. He doesn't have dynamic scorers at multiple positions like he usually has, and his best player is a freshman. Bill knows if they want to make it a long way, McLemore is going to have to be the guy.”
"Balance. They have it on the interior and also on the perimeter."
"They do a great job of moving the ball side to side, softening you up and then scoring. They don't run nearly as much high-low as they used to, but they don't turn it over and really move the ball from side to side until they get something. They are also as good as anyone in the country and converting steals into baskets."
“I think the fact that their perimeter guys can all dribble, pass and shoot. [Elijah] Johnson, [Travis] Releford, [Naadir] Tharpe and [Ben] McLemore can all do that. You can't help off them. They're opportunistic in transition, they get out and run off turnovers, long rebounds and blocked shots. And when they can't do that, they execute in the half-court.”
“Getting Ben McLemore going. When he plays well, they play well. Travis Releford is the key. He shoots 60 percent from the field, which is phenomenal. He's the glue guy offensively. Elijah's stats aren't great; he's been struggling with turnovers in the league. They don't have that guy they completely trust the ball.”
"The obvious choice is McLemore, but I think it's Elijah Johnson. When he plays well, they play well."
"That's a tough call, it really is. Withey is the reason they are so good defensively, but Releford is an unbelievable role guy. McLemore is an elite guy on the offensive end. I think it's probably Elijah Johnson because he hasn't been great this season -- and they need better point guard play."
“It's McLemore. He can score 30-something, and he hits big shots. He's their go-to-guy, the guy that they're going look for in the tournament, the guy they're going to run plays for. He can score 25-plus. The rest of the guys can go 18-20 on a good night, but he can really burn you for a big number.”
“Withey is the the guy defensively. He allows them to gamble defensively. He doesn't always block shots or alter shots, but just standing there is a big part of what he does. He sits back there and makes sure you know he's in there. A lot of blocks don't even come when he jumps.”
"Point guard play. They can be casual with their turnovers."
"Elijah has been inconsistent in terms of taking care of the ball. Bill (Self) doesn't know what he's going to get from that spot and that's tough for a coach."
“Lack of depth and the fact that the power forward position is Kevin Young and Perry Ellis. They're just OK. Maybe that's why they're not as good as past years. The one thing they don't have this year is two dominant post players like Withey and [Thomas] Robinson. You can sit in and help off the second big.”
“When you beat them, you put Withey in help situations. When he's not there to show when guards come free of jump shots. Their weakness is he doesn't want to guard the ball, and they go through long periods where they can't score the ball. They usually have someone on the block that can score. Kevin Young isn't a post player, but they're quicker and faster with him on the floor.”
How to stop them
"Get back in transition. I think you have to make them make shots, especially from the perimeter."
"You need to take away their easy buckets. That's where they can kill you. You've got to disrupt them in the halfcourt, take away their ball reversal. But the key is getting back in transition because so many of their points come off turnovers."
“You have to keep them out of transition, because they're extremely effective that way. You can't give Withey angles near the rim, and you have to take away rhythm jumpers. If you do that, they can be pretty ordinary. But with the guys they have on the perimeter, it makes them extremely difficult to guard. You can't help off them.”
“Keep them out of the lane. When we played them, we didn't let them run any of their shit. When they let Elijah and Naadir go, and spread you out, they're tough to deal with. When they get into the dribble-handoff stuff, it's tough.”
Best way to score on them
"That's a good one since we weren't able to do it. Oklahoma State was able to offensive rebound, but it's going to take having a couple guys that have career performances because they are so good on the defensive end. They have perimeter defenders and Withey is tough down low."
"You need to have a big guy that can step out and shoot 3's, someone who can take Withey away from the basket. Let's face it: You're not going to get much at the rim, so you need to penetrate and kick -- and make shots from the perimeter."
“Try to find a way to get Withey away from the basket so he can't protect the rim. When he's near the rim and the guards are pressuring the ball on the perimeter, it's a tough recipe to beat. They're perimeter guys do a great job guarding the bounce, but you have to make Withey uncomfortable.”
“Best way to score on them is in transition, and ball-screens. Withey plays 30 minutes, but you have to push him into a ball-screen situation, and make Young guard Withey's man. Make Young guard the five in transition. Make your big rim-run. You want to make Withey help uphill. Make him come up and block it, so you can dump it off around him.”
"Can you score inside the arc? You have to rely on jump shots -- and you have to make sure they don't get out and run. There are plenty of concerns."
"You've gotta score. You can't take bad shots or turn it over, because they'll hurt you with points off turnovers -- and then it snowballs so fast."
“The one thing I keep going back to is they turn turnovers and long rebounds into easy baskets. You can't take quick shots and give them easy opportunities in transition. They bank on getting 20 points a night in transition; eliminate those.”
“I think you want to make them play faster with Withey. In the first five minutes at their place, deal with the Rock Chalk Jayhawk shit. You can't let them get on those big runs.”
On Bill Self
"One of the best coaches in the game of basketball. His teams guard the arc as well as anyone -- and they make 2's as well. They have a plan on both ends."
"People said they were going to be down last year and look what happened. He went to the title game. They said it again this year and look at what they're doing. His teams are so good defensively and they run their stuff every year. He makes adjustments that fit his personnel and one of his biggest strengths is grooming guys from role players into elite players. Look at guys like Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey."
“I don't know another accomplishment in college basketball in the last 15 years that compares to what he's done in the Big 12. He's proven he can blend a lot of different guys with different backgrounds every year.”
“Last year was maybe his best job. Bill can not only manage talent, he can coach talent. He can manage egos and superstar talent, and is also able to coach that same talent. He doesn't take it easy on them; he calls them out. Some guys can't do that. Bill does a great job of that.”
On Ben McLemore
"He's incredibly talented and smooth. He's athletic and can also shoot it -- and can also offensive rebound. He also tries to buy into defending -- and he works hard at it. He can finish at the rim, hits big shots and I love his demeanor."
"He shoots it better than most people realized. The difficult thing is that because he shoots it well, guys play him close -- and he's quick and athletic enough to get by you. He's a matchup nightmare because you can't put a 6-foot-3 guy on him or a 6-foot-8 four-man. He's got good size and is really athletic."
“At 6-foot-5, with the way he can shoot the basketball and how complete he is and the way he rebounds the basketball. He gives them a go-to-guy. He was always a humble and coachable guy, and you can combine that with natural ability. It's just his daily approach to work and being coached.”
“I thought he was going to be really good. But he's special and could be a pro. He's at the point where he's extremely polished as an offensive player. And in his behavior, how he acts. For a guy who is going to be a lottery pick, his stock is going up because he's not acting a fool. He's a good teammate. But he's going to need those other guys, those three seniors. It depends on them. If those dudes struggles, Kansas is going to struggle. They have to help him get over the hump and get ready to play on a quick turnaround.”
“I don't think point guard is Elijah Johnson's most natural position, and Tharpe isn't ready.”
"Perry Ellis will be a first-team all-league guy next year. He's struggling and has had his ups and downs this year, but you watch. He'll be one of the best players in the Big 12 next year."
"Naadir Tharpe has come a long way. He couldn't play last season, but now he's playing a lot of point at the end of the game and Elijah moves to the two. He's really improved."
"I think it's going to take a gritty, dirty team to beat them in the NCAA tournament. I don't think a flashy team is beating them. Look at the teams who have beaten them so far -- Michigan State and an Oklahoma State team with one of the grittiest players in the country in Marcus Smart."
“They're confident about winning. No matter what the score is, they think they're going to win. In big spots, they've all already done that. They expect to win.”