Unfinished Jayhawk Business

The birth of my firstborn son on Tuesday, a month ahead of schedule, prevented me from previewing the star-crossed Bradley game. As it turned out, that was no great loss. Or rather, it was. You get my point.

However, Aidan's arrival allows me to treat the Jayhawks' implosion with a fairly sanguine attitude. Anyone who saw the K-State and MU losses had to know this was a team that could fall apart in a hurry. The Baby Jayhawks fooled us into thinking their growing pains were behind them. We should all be saying, "Ha, you got us." Just goes to show, you can never trust babies to arrive on time.

Part of me wants to quit talking about basketball for the season. The world is acrid and bitter. My team sucks in March. KU should adopt a new slogan. "The Kansas Jayhawks: We craft Cinderella stories." "KU: A great escort to the big dance." 'Hawks: Watch us flap in the spotlight."

Life is awful, I'm weeping in my beer, etc. etc. But there are some loose ends that need to be tied up. Such as,

1) Which team do I root for now?

Instinctively, I'd default to the surviving Big 12 team(s). But in this case that team is Texas, which has somehow evolved into KU's biggest rival. I was inclined to give Texas respect, until Rick Barnes and the ‘Horns started choking on sour grapes after the Dallas defeat. "I would have loved to see if we made those free throws, with a one-possession game, see what happened in the last couple of minutes," said Barnes.

"They played pretty good defense, but I think it was more of us just bogging down on offense and not doing all of what we were supposed to have done," said Tucker. Big-time players and coaches know when to stop making excuses and give respect. Texas is not a team I can root for in good conscience.

Where do I look next? Several teams have won my respect with their hard-nosed play, but none more than George Mason. Anyone who kicks Roy Williams out of the tournament automatically earns my admiration and gratitude.

So you heard it here first. The George Mason Patriots will beat the Longhorns by 5 to win the NCAA trophy.

2) Where will Darrell Arthur end up?

Given Arthur's hurry-up-and-wait approach (never do today what you can do next season) and his flirtation with Texas, it might be hard to embrace him with open arms. However, KU will need someone to bang with Texas recruit Kevin Durant next year, and Arthur can't be blind to the fact that should he follow Durant to Texas, the two will be competing for minutes. The Jayhawks, however, have been soft in the middle all year, and I don't see Giles, Kaun and Jackson keeping Arthur from getting serious playing time.

My gut feeling is that Self will get Arthur to sign on the dotted line, and then go to work refining his inflated ego lackadaisical worth ethic. Would this be a chancy move? Maybe, but a guy who can bring in Brandon Rush and keep his self-image in check is probably qualified to deal with Arthur. With the exception of head-case Micah Downs, Self seems to be able to ‘get through' to his players.

3) What about next season?

No one wants to talk about next season, because it's such a cop-out. The ‘freaking' ‘Hawks (no more ‘frickin,'' that is so Williams-era) should still be progressing in this one. I would need a really great excuse to talk about next season when the smoke from this year's smash-up is still rising. But of course there is such an excuse, and the word is youth.

You can forgive babies almost anything.

So I'm allowing myself to derive satisfaction from the thought of an angst-filled Jayhawk weight-room. A pumped up bunch of sophs and juniors (can you picture Julian Wright with 15 more pounds of muscle?) will make the 2006-2007 squad a viable preseason top ten pick. Darrell Arthur will give them an inside scoring presence they lacked this season. Sherron Collins, yet another in-your-face guard, will deliver additional firepower.

Out of respect to deservedly bitter KU fans everywhere, that's as far as I'll go. But since I have a new baby son, I can afford to think big.

Preview: Kansas vs. Bradley

Bradley got the rawest of the several raw deals teams in the top half of the Oakland received from the Selection Committee. In drawing Kansas as their first round opponent, Bradley has a far slimmer chance of pulling an upset than inferior teams (San Diego State, Montana, Wisconsin-Mailwaukee, Pacific) with equivalent or higher seeds. From Kansas' perspective, Bradley is a far better team than they would hope to meet in a 13-seed, but still, Kansas hasthe solace of being a better team than Bradley and should win the game.

Bradley relies heavily on two scorers (Marcus Sommerville (6-7, 225) and Patrick O'Bryant (7-0, 260)) neither of whom shoot very well from the floor or get to the free throw line often. That both Sommerville and O'Bryant are far more likely to shoot than pass further complicates matters. Kansas has generally done a fine job of suppressing the field goal percentages of their opponents' primary offensive options. Guards Tony Bennett (6-0, 175) and Daniel Ruffin (5-10, 165) are more likely to be open than Sommerville or O'Bryant but relatively unlikely to have the ball in their hands. That's not even taking into account the possessions Bradley will lose to a Kansas steal. It's a nice comfort to have the bigger, quicker guards in a matchup.

Bradley's greatest liability on offense may be defensive specialist JJ Tauai (6-3, 215). In 375 minutes this season Tauai attempted just 35 shots and 11 free throws. In the 5 games he played against the Missouri Valley's NCAA tournament teams, he attempted only 7 shots and no free throws in 86 minutes. Tauai passes the ball much better than Marcus Dove, but he doesn't provide the offensive rebounding that the taller Dove gives Oklahoma State. It will be interesting to see the extent to which the 6-3 Tauai can trouble Brandon Rush.

Bradley doesn't shoot many threes, less than 30% of their field goal attempts on the year, and they make less than a third of those they take. Kansas still leads the nation in two-point field goal percentage defense.

Forwards Zach Andrews (6-8, 225) and Lawrence Wright (6-4, 198) give Patrick O'Bryant some help on the offensive glass, but, as a team, Bradley's offensive rebounding falls off against better competition. Southern Illinois, the Valley's most athletic team, dominated Bradley on the glass in their last two meetings. Should O'Bryant get into foul trouble, the only other big men on the Bradley roster, Brandyn Heemskerk (7-1, 260) and Sam Singh (6-9, 260), have played a combined 124 minutes this year.

Bradley's defensive numbers may be deceivingly strong. There wasn't a lot of offensive talent in the Missouri Valley Conference this year. Wichita State and Missouri State were the only top-50 offenses in the league and Northern Iowa, ranked 71st, was the only other Valley team in the top-90 nationally. As a point of reference, Kansas State would have been an upper division offensive team in the MVC.

The numbers show that Bradley limits their opponents' field goal shooting (though not to the extent that Kansas does), forces a decent amount of turnovers, and (usually) controls the defensive glass. Sommerville, in particular, is a fine defensive rebounder. I assume his paltry offensive rebounding numbers are due to the volume and length of his shot attempts.

The numbers also show that Bradley's strong defensive performances have come in the slowest-paced games they've played. It's no secret that Kansas is far more effective offensively in high-possession games (unless Oklahoma State is involved). Bradley allowed 1.03 points per possession in at-risk games (road, neutral, home games against NCAA tournament teams) with at least 70 possessions per team. Kansas averages just under 70 possessions per game.

In all likelihood Bradley can't allow 1.03 points per Kansas possession. Only three teams (Nevada, St. Joseph's, and Texas) and Thomas Gardner have scored more than 1.03 points per possession in a game against Kansas this year. Bradley averages just 1.03 points per possession on the season. Looking at either at-risk games or just games against NCAA tournament teams, Bradley's offense shrinks to 0.97 points per possession. There are, as I said, some good defensive teams in the Valley. None of them are as good as Kansas.

Prediction: Kansas 71 Bradley 62

Sunday Game Time Confirmed

If KU is lucky enough to beat Bradley on Friday, they'll be playing at 11.10 central, and will be the only game in that time slot. Here's a link to all the weekend times.

12:10 p.m. (est) NCAA TOURNAMENT SECOND ROUND (Regional; HDTV) -- Auburn Hills, Mich. -- Kansas/Bradley vs. Pittsburgh/Kent State

Ken Pomeroy on the Oakland Bracket.

Friend of Phog Blog Ken Pomeroy breaks down the Bracket today, using his efficiency numbers, and I think Jayhawks will be pleased:

Seed Team         Round 2 Round 3 Regionals Semis  Finals Champion
  4  Kansas        78.93%  54.37%   38.45%  25.92% 14.72%   9.01%
  2  UCLA          95.39%  70.86%   53.75%  29.49% 14.80%   8.09%
  5  Pitt          81.35%  34.47%   19.87%  10.81%  4.64%   2.19%
  1  Memphis       86.40%  52.89%   22.30%  11.60%  4.70%   2.10%
  8  Arkansas      72.27%  36.08%   13.45%   6.32%  2.26%   0.90%
 11  San Diego St. 55.81%  34.29%   12.35%   4.17%  1.25%   0.42%
  7  Marquette     62.35%  19.94%   11.30%   3.88%  1.18%   0.40%
  6  Indiana       44.19%  24.66%    7.68%   2.23%  0.57%   0.16%
  3  Gonzaga       56.26%  24.58%    7.06%   1.88%  0.44%   0.11%
 13  Bradley       21.07%   8.23%    3.31%   1.25%  0.34%   0.10%
 10  Alabama       37.65%   8.61%    3.81%   0.93%  0.20%   0.05%
 14  Xavier        43.74%  16.47%    3.97%   0.88%  0.17%   0.04%
  9  Bucknell      27.73%   8.15%    1.58%   0.42%  0.08%   0.02%
 12  Kent State    18.65%   2.93%    0.73%   0.17%  0.03%   0.00%
 16  Oral Roberts  13.60%   2.88%    0.32%   0.05%  0.01%   0.00%
 15  Belmont        4.61%   0.58%    0.08%   0.00%  0.00%   0.00%

The most interesting thing about these numbers to me is that we're not the most likely Final Four team in this bracket, but that we are the most likely Champion. That says a lot about the difficultly of our draw.

However, the good thing about our draw is that - to wax Physics 102 - it's big on amplitude, but not on frequency. By this I mean that our draw is steadily difficult, that it doesn't contain a single shrill note of window cracking difficulty. According to Ken, we should be favored all the way to the Final Four. And that's not such a bad thing.

Still plenty of time to throw down your picks at the Phog Blog Pickem

Reminder on how to win that bracket...

Once again, I repeat: You could go on gut instinct, and lose, or spend hours and hours poring over endless statistics.

Or if you're smart, you could spend a few bucks to have access to the same proprietary tools that Vegas uses to pick games. I know I'll be using the BracketBrains tool this year, and I recommend you do the same. Click on the banner below to check it out, but I'm pretty sure you'll be as impressed as I am, and if you end up signing up, a little bit of dough will go to keeping the Phog Blog's server's running.

Liveblogging the brackets

Minneapolis Bracket 1 'Nova 2 Ohio State 3 Florida - a UF/OSU game could be fun 4 Boston College - a little underseeded. 5 Nevada 6 Oklahoma 7 Georgetown 8 Arizona 9 Wisconsin 10 Northern Iowa (4th MVC team) 11 UW-Milwaukee 12 Montana 13 Pacific 14 South Alabama 15 Davidson - This is a tough 15 seed. 16

5:29

Washington Bracket

1 UConn 2 Tennessee - Worst seeding error yet. 3 UNC - About where I thought. 4 Illinois - about right. 5 Washington - They're pretty hot, or maybe they play in the Pac 10 6 Michigan State - a tough 6 seed. 7 Wichita State - Congrats Turg. 8 Kentucky 9 UAB - Another matchup here? Iwonder if UAB can repeat? 10 Seton Hall - they made it 11 George Mason - could be a good upset pickup 12 Utah State 13 Air Force 14 Murray State 15 Winthrop 16 Albany

5:18

Oakland

1 Memphis 2 UCLA 3 Gonzaga 4 Kansas (Yah. We got a 4 seed, but Pitt will be tough) 5 Pittsburgh (lower than I would have thought) 6 Indiana (What in the heck?) 7 Marquette 8 Arkansas 9 Bucknell 10 Alabama 11 San Diego State 12 Kent sTate 13 Bradley (This is a pretty tough first round matchup, at least according to the RPI 14 Xavier 15 Belmont 16 Oral Roberts

Thoughts: Good to know we got a 4, but bad to know it's against Pittsburgh. Seth Davis is an idiot. I wish it weren't true, but the guy spouts nonsense half the time, and the rest is lies.

5:10

Atlanta Bracket

1 Duke 2 Texas 3 Iowa (I guess they watch the championship) 4 LSU 5 Syracuse (What the heck?) 6 West Virginia 7 California (higher than I would have thought 8 George Washington (wow, the 6th ranked tem gets an 8 seed) 9 UNC-Wilmington 10 NC State (this is low) 11 So. Illinois 12 Texas A&M (Syracuse goes down) 13 Iona 14 Northwestern State 15 Penn 16 Southern

Thoughts

GW got punked here. I thought they'd be a 5-6. Syracuse is overseeded. The 7-10 will be a good one.

5:03:

1 Seeds:

Memphis, Duke, UConn, Villanova - No surprises there. I don't think Duke will make the Final Four. They just depend on JJ too heavily. So all this talk of number 1 overall seed is moot.

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