Across the Court: Kansas

By Elika on December 7, 2011 at 3:42p

Greetings, sports fans! If you were oblivious before November 29, I'm sure you've since been reminded that sports other than football do exist at Ohio State. The basketball team is off to a great start, with an 8-0 record, including big wins over #12 Florida and #5 Duke. This season, in place of Across the Field, I'll be bringing you a weekly inside look at an upcoming basketball opponent with Across the Court, a Q & A with an opposing blogger or writer.

The #2 Buckeyes take on #13 Kansas this Saturday, the Buckeyes coming off of a Sully-less win over the Texas-Pan American Broncs, and the Jayhawks a narrow win over Long Beach State (Go Beach! Class of '07 here). Looking forward to this weekend's game, Steve Fetch of Rock Chalk Talk graciously gives us his valuable insights on the Kansas Jayhawks, star forward Thomas Robinson, and Saturday's matchup.


The Jayhawks' two losses so far this year were to undefeated Kentucky and one loss Duke, which is not too shabby. What are the biggest strengths of this Kansas team, based on what you've seen so far?

The biggest strengths for this year's team are on the defensive end. They have struggled a bit at defending the three, but I think that's because they are so focused on not letting teams score from inside the arc and not letting teams grab offensive rebounds. In fact if the season ended today this year would be Bill Self's second best defense at Kansas in terms of allowing two pointers. They are also, as of now, the 9th best team in the country at blocking shots, but I don't expect any Jared Sullinger shots to get swatted into the fourth row.


Thomas Robinson had a breakout season last year as the Kansas sixth man and was a finalist for the V Foundation Comeback Award. For Ohio State fans who are just now turning their focus over to basketball, can you tell us a little bit about Robinson and what makes him so special as a player?

The big thing that stands out about Robinson is his physique. If you could build a basketball player from scratch you would probably build a 6'9" 240 pound big man who can run the floor, catch the ball in traffic, shoot a pull up jumper and dunk through or over nearly anyone.

The next big thing is his desire to be great. I don't normally break out those kind of cliches, but with Robinson, it's true. For those unfamiliar with his story Robinson lost two grandparents and his mom within a month last year, and is now trying to be a lottery pick so he can take care of his little sister. It's worked out so far as he has turned into one of the best rebounders in the country and is on his way to being potentially a top 5 pick next summer.

The most recent update has Jared Sullinger (back spasms) playing on Saturday. After participating in a couple camps together during the offseason, rumor has it Sullinger and Robinson are looking forward to meeting up on the court again, and I'm hearing that Robinson has had this game circled on his calendar for quite some time. How do you think he and the team will respond to the attention and the pressure? What are your thoughts on the matchup of these two players?

I think based on how the team came out against Duke and Kentucky they'll come out ready to play, plus they'll have the Allen Fieldhouse crowd to help get them fired up.

I think the individual matchup between Sullinger and Robinson is really interesting. Robinson is definitely the better athlete, but Sullinger the more complete basketball player. A big key will be whether Robinson can guard in space, which I think he can, and avoid committing fouls, which I am much less sure about. I'm also interested to see how they rebound against each other given that they are both so dominant on the glass.


What are some weaknesses you've seen in this Kansas team that either have been, or you fear may get, exposed on the court this year?

Definitely the biggest weakness, to me, is how often they turn it over. They're committing turnovers on 21.4% of their possessions, which in and of itself isn't the biggest problem, but unlike last year when they also turned it over  quite a bit, they don't have the efficient scorers they did last year to make up for it.

They're allowing teams to shoot very well from beyond the arc as well, but I think it's a combo of playing some good three point shooting teams and guards doubling down on opposing post players and drivers to protect Robinson and Jeff Withey from foul trouble, which leads to a lot more open threes.

Bill Self and President Obama met before the Long Beach State game Tuesday night, and apparently joked about the Jawhawks coming up short in the last two tournaments, despite Obama picking them to win it all. How far do you think this year's team has the potential to go, and what do they need to do to get there?

Potentially I think this team has a Final Four ceiling, but more realistic is a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 appearance, due to their lack of offense. Defensively they're good enough to get there, but every team ratchets up their defense a bit in the tournament and Kansas struggles scoring in the half court as it is, so I can't imagine the problems they'll have in a  situation where they need a stop. So I think they'll make it to the Sweet 16 and then from there on it will be based on matchups.

Based on the way these two teams matchup, what makes you nervous and what makes you confident for Saturday?

The two big things that make me nervous are obviously Sullinger and Craft. Our guards turn the ball over a lot as it is, but with Aaron Craft guarding them it could potentially be ugly. Sullinger inside could potentially both score a lot from the field as well as draw fouls and score from the line. Robinson or Jeff Withey guarding him already makes me nervous, but if they have to turn to Justin Wesley or somebody else, Sullinger could end up eating us alive.

The one thing that does make me confident is Ohio State's relative inability to shoot the three. Given how good Kansas is at defending inside the arc it could either lead to Ohio State shooting some generally low percentage two point shots or shooting a lot of threes which they aren't as good at.

Do you have any final thoughts on the game, and can you share a score prediction?

I really am not sure how to take this game to be honest. Ohio State is obviously the better team (and right now maybe the best team in the country) but Kansas has played to its competition for the last couple years and especially this year, so they should be at their best in this one.

They also have the Allen Fieldhouse crowd behind them, and it's one of the best home court advantages in sports, so the upset wouldn't surprise me. If Sullinger plays I think it will end up being something like 72-64 Ohio State, and if he doesn't (and I really hope he does by the way) I think Kansas will pull out a narrow win.

Thanks again to Steve Fetch, of Rock Chalk Talk for sharing his Kansas Basketball insights with us. To read more from Steve, and the rest of his crew, on the Jayhawks check out the following links:

Rock Chalk Talk:

Twitter: @rockchalktalk

Twitter: @fetch9


Comments Show All Comments

Scott's picture

Glad to see you're continuing this for the basketball season. The only thing on my wish list is for away game Across the Fields/Courts to include something about the campus we're visiting. A cool place to see on campus, historic spot in town, a great bar or restaurant that shouldn't be missed. 11Zagats, basically.

Class of 2008

Elika's picture

Good point, Scott. I tried to remember to do that for football season, but for some reason it didn't occur to me that Buckeye fans may be traveling for bball games as well. I'll actually ask Steve via twitter if he has any recommendations... will post as a comment here if he has any suggestions.

How firm thy friendship... OH-I-O!

Scott's picture

Perfect. Thanks!

Class of 2008

ATXbucknut's picture

We used to live close to Lawrence. Lawrence's version of High Street is Massachusetts St. There is a very tasty Arab restaurant on that street if you like Arab food.  The basketball museum they have on campus (I think it's connected to the basketball arena) is not to be missed. Great insight on Naismith and the invention of basketball.

fetch's picture

Probably your best bet for bars would be to just go to Massachusetts Street and walk up and down and just go in any place that looks cool. Kind of a cop out answer but that's generally what I would do. My favorite place is the Sandbar, which is on 8th street right off Massachusetts, and you also probably want to hit up the Wheel, as that's probably the most famous bar in Lawrence (Scott Van Pelt is a pretty big fan).

Food wise my favorite place is the Burger Stand, which is right on the corner of 8th and Mass. and Rudy's pizza, which is on the corner of 7th and Mass. 

btalbert25's picture

What's the Burger joint where they put the dollars on the wall?  Jefferson's?  I ate there it was pretty good and a neat place to stop in. 

Nappy's picture

I don't know why but I've always hated Kansas basketball.  This was cemented when I drove through Lawrence when I was moving to Denver.  I'd rather hang out in Detroit.

I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face

Northbrook's picture

I've always wondered about the Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk saying. What does it mean? Is it a softness progression? Football would indicate yes.

Anyway, first rate as always Elika.

Elika's picture

Steve will be stopping in, to comment on that... and places to hit up on/around campus.

How firm thy friendship... OH-I-O!

fetch's picture

it actually has a pretty nerdy beginning. a chemistry professor came up with rah rah jayhawk when they were on their way back from a conference (this was in the 1800s so i'm assuming they had no iPods to pass the time) and rah rah turned into rock chalk because of chalk rock which is found on mount oread (which is what a big part of our campus is on) and in western kansas and i think it's the only place in the world where it's found (though i'm not a kansas native so don't quote me). 

it was then used in the spanish american war and ww2 and teddy roosevelt was a big fan which is kind of when it gained a lot of its popularity.


for a lot better explanation (and the chant itself) you can go here

ThirdLegLouie's picture

Good write up, Elika!

I think one of the biggest advantages OSU has is going to be Craft on the defensive end. Kansas G Tyshawn Taylor had 10 or 11 TO's against Duke when they played in Maui due to poor decision making and general sloppy play.  Craft is the perfect type of guard to expose these flaws in Taylor with his quick hands and non-stop defensive effort. 

This could be a sub-par game for Sully given his recent back issues (is he 100%?) combined with the fact that he is guarded by Robinson, who is a physical beast & tough defender. Since this game is at Kansas, I could see Robinson being able to be more physical with Sully without getting whistled for constantly bodying him up. 

We'll see how it plays out but absolutely looking forward to a good game. 

If you ain't a Silver Bullet, you're a target

btalbert25's picture

I saw someone mention the basketball museum and I got to thinking, what program can claim more tradition than Kansas basketball?  I'm not talking about total championships or number of NBA players, per say.  Just history of successful basketball, because they've won a ton of games, and history. 

I love when UK and UNC fans go back and forth about whose program is more significant or has more tradition.  They always scoff at Kansas because Kansas doesn't have as many titles.  I want to say for the love of God, if it weren't for Kansas basketball your programs may have never been built into what they are today!!!!! Naismith and Phog Allen coached there.  Dean Smith played and was an assitant there.  He said something along the lines of, everything I know about basketball I learned at Kansas.  Adolph Rupp played there and his head coach was Phog Allen and the assitant was Naismith. 

The 2 men who built Kentucky and North Carolina's programs into what they are today, both had their beginnings in Kansas B-Ball.  That's pretty incredible really how one school had such an impact on the game overall.

Maestro's picture

KU has no chance.  Taylor is a human turnover machine and Elijah Johnson isn't ready to take over the team.  Withey and Robinson are a solid front court, but beyond them there is nobody down low.  I think the Bucks win by double-figures.  Allen Fieldhouse is a great venue though. It will be loud and electric.

vacuuming sucks

RC's picture

I wouldn't say KU has no chance.  OSU is better and I think they will win, but Kansas is talented enough and Phog Allen Fieldhouse is electric enough to allow the Jayhawks to win this.  My feeling is OSU wins by single digits, say 75-70 or so.  I guess we will see.  I will be rooting for both.

Kansas City Buckeye's picture

I am a KU grad and season ticket holder (I would have been a Buckeye grad had the Air Force sent me to Wright Patterson AFB).  However, I am and will always be a Buckeye fan first.  I will probably shock those who sit near me at Allen Fieldhouse when I show up in my Buckeye gear on Saturday.

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Anyone know the point spread? I'll be watchign this game at the sports book on saturday.


Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

DJ Byrnes's picture

I couldn't find any lines that far in advance. With one ankle-break being able to swing the ENTIRE forcast of a game, they probably won't be up until later this week.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.