My first chance to catch the young Jayhawks in person: 1. Stick with me if you can only make it to select games. My last three visits to Lawrence have been Mizzou (13-3), NU (40-15), and yesterday. And last year? K-state in football and College Dame Day with UT in basketball.
2. The first time the band played We're Not Gonna Take It," at about the 8 minute mark, it received the feeblest response imaginable. The general mood of the crowd was, "Oh, yeah. Why not? We've taken it so far." Nothing had happened to that point to suggest that we could make up a 15 point deficit. Being down to OU by 15 is like being down 25 to most teams. We had been averaging 1.2 points per minute. Why would we average almost 3 points per minute the rest of the game while holding their Behemoths of the Boards to .6? I said to my son, a December KU grad, "They are just a lot better than we are. In fact, they might be the best team in the league. They are as good as anyone inside, and their guards are beating ours-which is where I thought we would have the edge." I did add, "The one good thing about this is that IF we come back and win, we will be hell on wheels from now on. But that's not likely." And they were a lot better than the team we had put on the ocurt to that point.
3. After Case missed two straight makeable shots, my son said, "So much for the Case experiment." I responded, "It was worth trying. Nothing else has worked."
4. Then Self made either the most brilliant or the luckiest coaching move I have seen in years. He went skinny. The only way he could have gone skinnier is if we still had Downs and had put him in for Rush. Who would have imagined that a bunch of beefless guys could make up a 15 point deficit against the Sooner Meat Market before OU scored again?
5. THE player of the game was C.J. Giles. Although a number of others had to make plays for it to matter, they would not have had the chance if not for C.J.'s sudden impact in the lane. OU's guards had been beating our guards off the dribble and penetrating into the lane consistently, where they would either convert themselves for two points or dish it off to their big men to finish the job. All of a sudden, their shots stopped falling, as did the layups and follow shots by OU's big men. It wasn't a coincidence. And it mean that our guards could stop worrying about getting beat-they could, even afford to take chances. C.J. became the Jayhawk version of Wilt's arch-nemesis: Bill Russell. Or, for the younger crowd, Emeka Okafor. I have stated before that we can beat UT if C.J. shows up big on defense. I retract that statement: We can beat ANYONE if C.J. becomes a consistent human eraser on defense. No one will be able to dominate us offensively inside, allowing Dr. JW and the Outsiders to take us as far as their young legs and guts can take us--especially with enough competent depth to wear opponents down.
6. The beautiful thing about the kind of depth we have is that Self has the luxury of experimenting with players who have different strengths, so he can experiment with a Case or a C.J. when nothing else is working. Maybe necessity really is the mother of invention. What a concept: Let everyone else worry about matching up against us. Instead of us trying to match our muscle with superior muscle, make them worry about matching our superior quickness and depth. We can wear down a lot of teams with a constant supply of fresh legs. UT needs to be rooting for NU and Okie St to take us down before March 25.
7. The final time the band blared out "We're Not Gonna Take It," the crowd joined in as robustly as when it was the unofficial anthem of the 2002 team. The last four minutes, the joint was as boisterous and as loud as I can recall at AFH. Why, it was as wild as a KU football game.
8. I commented earlier in the year that Rush was not a gamer. He was a good basketball player, but not a competitor. Not someone who would do anything to win a game. He has developed into a competitor. And we are so much more dangerous beause of it.
9. My guess is that everyone who wants the Hawks to go into the post-season "under the radar" is bound to be disappointed. I understand we didn't make the Top 25 this week, but the only way for this team to remain unnoticed is to start losing. By March-if not sooner-we will be a trendy pick by those who take a second look at our talent and want to be able to say later, if we make a nice tourney run, that they predicted it.
10. I'm not putting anything past this team.
11. We play A&Min Lawrence on October 7. I'm planning on being there for a KU win-guaranteed!