basketball kansas basketball

Big Saturday / KU-UT thoughts and predictions

Watch­ing the Long­horns repeat­ed­ly (and ulti­mate­ly suc­cess­ful­ly) dri­ve a stake into the heart of Acie Law IV last night, I got to think­ing about Saturday's show­down between the Long­horns and the Hawks. (I also pen­ciled in A&M for the Final Four. Is there any team in the nation — oth­er than UCLA, I guess — that has such a per­fect blend of March-ready qual­i­ties — go-to guy, great defense, grit, gump­tion? Total­ly g'ed up). Any­way, here's the big stuff that KU has to address:Con­tain Kevin Durant. I know, I know. Obvi­ous. Duh. Every­one tries to do this. But I think Kansas has a chance to suc­ceed. Yes, he's going to get 10–15 points no mat­ter what you do. He'll be every­where — around the bas­ket, out on the perime­ter, get­ting put-backs, rolling off picks and tak­ing jumpers. The chal­lenge for the Hawks is to make sure he doesn't get 30–35, to lim­it the num­ber of open looks he gets on the perime­ter, and to make sure that he doesn't get any­where near a rhythm like he had against Texas Tech (37 points, 23 rebounds). Durant thrives when teams don't have some­one who can get in his face when he's away from the bas­ket. At 6'9", he's going to shoot over the kind of guy who will take away the dri­ve, but he's also fast and agile enough to go around most guys his size. All of that said, I think he's going to have prob­lems with KU's long, fast, and high­ly dis­rup­tive defend­ers — Julian Wright and Bran­don Rush. I think it's total­ly pos­si­ble for them to con­tain him, as long as they stay out of foul trou­ble. Dis­rupt the sup­ply chain. DJ Augustin kept them in the game last night when Durant went into a funk. In many games this year, I've seen him slice through defens­es, get to the bas­ket, and gen­er­al­ly cre­ate the kind of chaos that leads to easy put-backs for Durant. Mario Chalmers, Rus­sell Robin­son, and Sher­ron Collins have to keep him from dri­ving, and com­pli­cate his dis­tri­b­u­tion of the ball. Run them ragged, and don't get beat by AJ Abrams. Or any­one like him. Last year, the rel­a­tive­ly qui­et Abrams explod­ed for four three-point­ers dur­ing a first half run, sin­gle­hand­ed­ly demor­al­iz­ing the Hawks. The good news is that, this year, the Long­horn weapon­ry is far from secret. Abrams, Augustin and Durant play pret­ty much all game, every game. This is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for the rel­a­tive­ly deep Hawks to be relent­less in their defense — Maybe even press a lit­tle? C'mon, Coach. Gim­mick defens­es have stunned KU twice recent­ly (A&M, OU). Why not break one out once in a while? Mak­ing free throws. The mere thought that this game will come down to free throws makes my stom­ach hurt. The last five min­utes of the Okla­homa game was excru­ci­at­ing in that it almost turned into A&M, Part II. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, it's no secret that Kansas can't shoot free throws. They're going to get fouled late in the game; with any luck, Chalmers and Robin­son will con­trol the ball and hit their freebies.Lastly, Collins and Arthur must con­tribute, and Rush has to get his shots. It's pret­ty amaz­ing that the Hawks could get by OU with­out con­tri­bu­tions from any of these guys, but there's no way that a win ver­sus Texas is pos­si­ble with­out them.