An "Insider's" Look at the Jayhawks

rdubs's picture
December 19, 2012 at 10:24p

Last year I put together a preview of the KU-OSU tournament game since I am a huge KU fan and follow both teams pretty close.  It’s a bit early for a full-fledged preview since I don’t have enough time to watch all the games, but I figured I would give some thoughts on the Kansas team this year. 

I see both teams as being fairly similar this year.  They are both replacing a big man who carried their teams and provided most of the offense.  They are both figuring out who can be their second scorer, with coaches trying to iron out a rotation that works best.


Elijah Johnson:  He has taken over the full time PG role from Tyshawn Taylor this year.  He isn’t nearly as fast, but is a bit more consistent and doesn’t turn the ball over as often making better decisions with the ball.  It will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure that Craft and Scott can put on him.  While he isn’t quite as quick as Tyshawn, he is still extremely athletic and can jump out of the gym so they will have to keep their eye on him, especially in the open court because Kansas loves to run.

Ben McLemore:  He will be the best player on the court for either team.  He is a shorter, but much more athletic Deshaun Thomas.  He is a scorer, he can shoot and he can drive to the basket.  Lenzelle will likely be guarding him and will have his hands full, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to disrupt him with Craft or Scott at times (especially since they seem to be on the court at the same time).  Stopping him will be the key to disrupting KU’s offense because they lack the High-Low threat from previous years.  He was a partial qualifier last year so he was able to practice but not play, and that time in the system is evident because he hasn’t missed a beat as a first year starter (also having him on the scout team last year had to help KU’s game prep).

Travis Releford:  Bill Self has stockpiled tall, athletic wing players during his time at KU and Releford is another in a long line.  Releford has always been a great defender, but finally, in his senior year, he has become a score shooting 57% despite taking more than two more shots per game and is the third leading scorer.  His emergence has bolstered KU this year, helping fill the scoring void left by Taylor and Robinson.  I assume Sam Thompson will start on him, but Deshaun may have to guard him some too if KU goes to a smaller lineup.

Kevin Young:  If you need any evidence that this KU team is not the same one that lost to MSU in the second game of the season it is the fact that Kevin Young went from playing only 3 minutes in that game to starting the last 7 games.  Because of his relentless motor but awkward basketball skills he reminds me of a shorter (less ugly) version of Joakim Noah.  He will harass OSU on the offensive glass and annoy Thomas on the other end of the court.  He still averages under 20 minutes per game, because Self rotates in freshmen Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor quite a bit.  I expect a lot of rotation at this spot to keep up with Thomas and to better match up with OSU’s one big lineup.

Jeff Withey:  While Withey is a couple inches taller, he is what all Buckeye fans can hope that Amir turns into someday.  Withey averages nearly half a block per game more than anyone else in the country this year.  He might be a speed bump in Ravenel’s offensive emergence because he is good at providing stronger players some room and then going up and getting the block when they put up the shot.  He has been a much better scorer this year, but if Ravenel is physical enough with him I think he will struggle on the offensive end.

The Bench

Perry Ellis:  By far the most talented bench player on KU’s team and if he can improve over the course of the season he will probably be starting again and KU will be a tough team to beat.  He just hasn’t transitioned well and seems a bit lost at times.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays a lot because I think he matches up better against the Buckeyes 4 guard/wing line up.

Naadir Tharpe:  Another talented player that just doesn’t seem quite ready for high level college ball, even as a sophomore.  He should be a more pure PG than Elijah and will be the first guard off the bench, but I think OSU’s PGs will disrupt him a lot with their defensive pressure so I don’t anticipate a lot of minutes from him.  But this could also be a chance for him to break out against a better team, so we’ll see how he handles the spotlight.

Jamari Traylor:  He is in the same boat as McLemore as a redshirt freshman, but is not nearly as talented.  He reminds me a bit of Ravenel, a strong big man who plays hard.  His offense is still very raw, but provides good energy off the bench if Withey or another big has foul trouble.

Andrew White III:  I almost didn’t include him because he doesn’t play much.  However he is probably the best pure shooter on the team, so if he comes in and gets hot, he could provide a huge spark off the bench.  Also if KU needs a 3 down the stretch it wouldn’t surprise me if he finds himself in at crunch time.


I usually pick against my teams so that I am not as disappointed if they lose, but this time I have two teams in the fight so I have to choose a side.  Clearly if OSU plays like they did against Winthrop they will lose and might get blown out.  They’ll get up for this one though and the crowd will be as good as it gets at OSU.  I just have a hard time believing that OSU has enough proven offensive weapons to keep up with KU for 40 minutes.  They both play strong defense, but KU seems to have filled their offensive void more quickly than OSU has, so although I hate picking against the home team in college basketball I just don’t think OSU can score enough points to win this one.  Regardless, I am excited to see this one in person, my first OSU basketball game in a very long time.

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Maestro's picture

Nice write up. KU is playing very well but will have their hands full with the depth of the Bucks. They are ahead of schedule in their improvement this season and should win their 9th straight Big XII regular season championship. 
Withey is a monster, but if he gets in foul trouble KU doesn't have any depth behind him. Justin Wesley is simply 5 fouls and Young isn't a post player.  It should be a great barometer for both teams.
Would love to see Sam Thompson and McLemore in a pre game dunk off.

vacuuming sucks

rdubs's picture

It is true that there isn't a lot of big man depth for KU, but I am not convinced that OSU's is really much better.  Traylor matches up well with Rav and can push Amir around.  Wesley may not even see the court, he is playing less this year than he did last year.  Also Withey has an amazing ability to block shots without getting fouls so he is rarely in foul trouble.
Also I wouldn't sell Elijah short in a dunk contest, this was high school.

RC's picture

I agree that IF Withey gets in foul trouble that KU doesn't have any depth behind him and would be in trouble.  However, Withey has 11 total fouls in 10 games this year, so odds are he will not be in any sort of foul trouble (of course, now that I said that, he will probably pick up 2 fouls in the first 90 seconds of the game Saturday).

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

Much appreciated RDubs. Should be a great game. Good test for both teams.

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

Bucks43201's picture

good piece...should be a good game.
gotta control Withey...thankfully there is not a Robinson on their team this year - that guy was a beast.
I think the Buckeyes pull out the W.
OSU - 73
Kansas - 68

"You win with people." - Woody Hayes

tennbuckeye19's picture

RDUBS - Thanks for doing this, man. I have seen KU play once this year and was pretty impressed. I was thinking they would take a step back with losing Robinson and Taylor, but I was wrong. I honestly don't know how this game is gonna go, but I really just hope it's a good solid game. I am hoping OSU will play them tough, like they did most of the game against Duke. Sadly though, I do think KU will win this game. 

bhartman13's picture

Very nice write up and as a fellow Buckeye who also loves KU basketball I am pumped for the Saturday showdown!!  I have only seen bits of this years Kansas team so I am unsure what to expect but have read quite a bit about how great McLemore is and how well Johnson has controlled the team at PG.  Withey is a beast at protecting the rim and will cause fits for tOSU when they try to attack the rim.  Rav and Amir better show up angry and ready to battle!
I am a big fan of the Jayhawks but as a true Buckeye homer I feel Craft and Deshaun will have the team fired up and ready to go this weekend.  After the poor performance against Winthrop I feel it was somewhat of a wake up call for the team.  I like tOSU to take advantage of home court and I look for the vets like Craft, DT, and Lenzelle to all have big games in route to a victory!
Buckeyes 77-71

Maestro's picture

RDUBS, my kids attended their first KU at Allen this past weekend against Belmont.  They are 4 and 7 and they predictably had a blast.  Good fans those little people are.

vacuuming sucks

rdubs's picture

Awesome, I love that place.  Right up there with a Saturday at the Shoe in terms of gameday experience.  My grandpa lives about 2.5 hours from Lawrence but had season tickets up until he was about 75 when he decided that driving 2.5 hours at midnight in winter wasn't the best idea for an old guy like him.  
I am actually flying to my parents' house in Columbus for the game and then driving out with them to Kansas right after the game since everyone in my family lives out there.  I have to come back for work early, but I am pretty sure my parents are sticking around Kansas long enough to go to a game on the other side of Christmas.  We take our Jayhawk basketball seriously.  Despite not growing up in Kansas, I was hooked from an early age.  I won 80 bucks when I was 4 because I was the only one dumb enough to pick Kansas in my dad's work pool when they were a 6 seed with Danny and the Miracles.

Maestro's picture

Safe travels and Merry Christmas.

vacuuming sucks

ShowThemOhiosHere's picture

I like OSU 67-64.  This is the game the players were thinking ahead to Tuesday night, and I believe they'll be ready to go.

Class of 2010.

RC's picture

Great write-up!  I was going to do something similar but you beat me to it.  I am also a huge fan of both teams as I am an OSU Alum and I lived in Kansas during the Manning years which is when I first got into college hoops.  I have been a Jayhawk fan ever since.  So, I am also neutral in this game.  I will be attending and can't wait for an exciting game!  Last year I thought Ohio State was the more talented team but I thought Kansas would win in Lawrence (even if Sully played).  I predicted a close OSU victory in the Final 4 and obviously we know how that ended.  I do remember telling a friend during the second half of the Final 4 game that if Kansas ever got a lead it was over.  
As for your player assessments, I agree pretty much with everything about the starters.  As for Perry Ellis, I would be surprised if he played a lot and it would spell trouble for Kansas if he has to.  Unless this is the game where he starts to "get it", he is just lost at this point.  By the end of the year I think he will be ready for this type of game but right now he isn't.  I agree with you on the other bench players.  Traylor is a tremendous athlete but is raw and Tharpe is not consistent.  White III can shoot and if he comes in and gets hot he could get some PT and help.
Anyway, it should be a great game and I do not have a prediction at this point.  I believe at this point I would favor Kansas in a neutral court matchup and definitely if it were in Lawrence.  But, this game is in the Schott and I believe the Buckeyes will be fired up and ready for this game and might win a close one.  (Ok, so I guess that is kind of a prediction.) I think that Kansas is a more consistent offensive team and the two teams are both very good on D.  Ohio State's defense is better in the back court but Kansas is better defensively down low and Withey can cover up a lot of mistakes.  
And now I have to get back to getting some work done!

d5k's picture

Great write-up, but while McLemore is likely the consensus better pro, I would rather have 3rd year seasoned Thomas right now than the stud RS Fr. 

RC's picture

You could be right about that.  I'm just glad I will get to see both of them on the court in person.  Should be a blast.  

rdubs's picture

Maybe we could collaborate on the next one if they play in the tourney.  
You might be right about Perry Ellis, I just think he matches up well against Deshaun and his defense has been a lot better than his offense.  Especially if he isn't matched up against someone who can push him around.

William's picture

Feel like a lot of people are selling OSU short offensively. I mean according to Ken Pomeroy, OSU has the 7th best offense and Kansas has the 13th best offense in the country. 

rdubs's picture

I think the issue is the number offensive weapons.  OSU's second best offensive weapon won't even be on the floor for large chunks of the game because he is such a defensive liability.  Whereas KU's second and third best offensive players are also their top two defenders.  We'll see, the role players that fill in the scoring often play better at home, but I think against a tougher defense OSU will have hard time finding points to stay with KU.  They might jump out early like in the tournament last year, but I think over 40 minutes they just won't be able to sustain that.

d5k's picture

We don't take bad shots and we don't turn the ball over.  That leads to good offensive efficiency even if you don't have superb scorers.  Look at Wisconsin over the years.  They have been consistently efficient just executing the above formula.  We also are exceptionally efficient in transition this year.  We were better a couple years ago when we had the best outside-inside combo in Sullinger-Diebler but if you just don't make mistakes and take advantage of what the defense gives you, good things tend to happen.

rdubs's picture

Just got back from visiting the fam out in Kansas.  I have to say, my prediction was pretty accurate.  OSU rode a big run early but didn't have enough weapons to keep up for 40 minutes.  A couple things I didn't see coming were how well Amir played and how awful Perry Ellis is at defense.  Amir disrupted Withey inside pretty well.  If he picks up his offense and rebounding (mainly by improving his hands) he will be a extremely helpful in conference play.
Also the guy that said he wanted Thomas over McLemore, I love Deshaun, but McLemore is much more versatile as a scorer.  They play different positions, but McLemore is unreal.  I am still in disbelief about that dunk at the end of the first half.