Kansas hopes to slow Michigan’s guards


DSC_1424It sounds funny to hear players from Kansas, a team that averages three possessions more per game than Michigan, say they’ll be looking to slow the game down against the Wolverines on Friday.

But the Jayhawks have read their scouting reports and recognize that slowing Michigan’s transition offense will be critical for a Kansas victory.

“One thing about them is that they’re really a transition team from what I watched in their games,” Kansas sophomore Naadir Tharpe said. “They like to shoot the three in transition and they like to shoot it in the corner.”

Senior four-man Kevin Young echoed that sentiment.

“They’re a very fast team,” Young said. “They’re all very good in the open court. Just being able to control the pace is big.”

What Kansas is referencing is not so much Michigan’s overall pace, which is below Division I average, but its efficiency when it gets into the open court. The Wolverines might not run as often as others but when they do, the result is generally easy points: dunks, layups or open threes.

Michigan will naturally be looking to get out and run, but it will take some doing. It will mean stopping Kansas’s offense, which relies mostly on two-pointers and getting to the free-throw line — over 76 percent of the Jayhawks’ scoring this season has come from twos and free throws. Unlike a team that runs all the time like Indiana, Michigan’s fast-break attack has been proven to be effectively nullified if the Wolverines can’t force misses and can’t get defensive rebounds.

While stopping the Michigan fast break will be key for Kansas, the players know who the true priority is: Trey Burke. Tharpe, for one, is excited for the prospect of playing the much-hyped point guard.

“Being able to play against Trey Burke – his name is out there a lot, everybody talks about him. He is a great point guard,” Tharpe said. “For him to play in his second year and the improvement he’s made, that’s great. We just have to make sure we play with the same type of intensity as him.”

Burke’s point production will likely rely little on what Kansas does defensively — Burke has proven his ability to score on the best defenses in the country time and time again this season. However, Burke’s overall impact offensively will be muted if he isn’t able to get in the paint.

“Just not letting their guards get comfortable and not letting them get into the paint,” Kansas senior Travis Releford said. “Their whole offense is based on point guards getting into the paint and pitching it out to guys on the perimeter.”

Pretty accurate. Young agrees:

“Just try to keep them (Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke) out of the paint. The less paint touches they have, the less we have to help.”

It will be interesting to see how much Kansas is willing to help against Michigan. The Wolverines would likely prefer it, considering the opportunities that open up for Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas when their defenders help on drives. But if Kansas decides to stay at home, they have a nice option at the rim in Jeff Withey, shot-blocking extraordinaire.

Withey, for his part, is confident in the match-up.

“I think they’re really similar to North Carolina. They play small, they like to spread the floor and shoot a lot of threes,” Withey said. “I’ll probably feel really confident in the game.”

  • mikey_mac

    This matchup for UM will be very difficult. It reminds me of how over-matched IU looked last night against a bigger, similarly athletic team in Syracuse. Of course, we don’t suffer the “Crean effect” coaching disadvantage that IU does, but UM has struggled all year with larger, athletic teams.

    • Chazer

      Agree, very tough match up for UM, but Kansas plays a faster pace than the typical big ten team. UM has a great transition game, will be interesting to see if Kansas can slow down the tempo. Again it will come down to defense, if UM gets stops they can run.

      Syracuse made Indiana look average last night….would love to see UM vs Syracuse. That would be quite a game in the final four…..we have the three ball and can run with the orange. I think UM is built better for a tournament run than the B1G title.

      Go Blue!

  • Derek Anguilm

    we are out of the country in the Caribbean – and they don’t have TBS! Any idea a good place to go for a live stream for tonight’s game? GOBLUE!

    • Ryan

      Download the NCAA March Madness app and watch the game live on your phone

      • Derek Anguilm

        The app doesn’t work outside of the US or US territories. Already tried last night for the Ohio game to test it. We are in St Lucia and for whatever reason they have 2 different channels that both show the CBS feed. One is ESPN – which is weird but they must have rights outside of the US, and the other is the CBS affiliate. Funny that they both show the same basketball game! Plenty of channels of soccer and cricket though! GOBLUE

    • You can watch the games online.


  • Mattski

    Thanks again for all the great stuff this week, Dylan and co.; I am mighty psyched–biggest game in 19 years. Wojo says our starters have a collective eight years’ experience, theirs seventeen, so I won’t be terribly upset if we don’t pull this one out. Just big fun to get here. Meanwhile, I think the resemblances to North Carolina are somewhat skin-deep, but don’t tell Withey that. (Do you think Beilein has been downplaying Morgan but plans to unleash him on KS?)

    A thought about Indiana: it seemed like they were at their best when they were absolutely crashing down on you at either end–sometimes their collective gyre around the basket on offense was almost mind-boggling. But that sometimes also seemed to push them right out of alignment. Some sort of perpetuum mobile that, once untracked, was hard to place back in orbit. . . A fascinating but also, in the end, somewhat vulnerable assemblage.

    I cringed at Crean’s comment that his team had never seen a D like Syracuse’s. You had a week to figure it out, dude.

    • rlcBlue

      I expect Morgan to play important minutes – hopefully at the discretion of the coach, not because McGary picks up two fouls just lacing up his shoes.

      I (and most everyone else) was really unimpressed by Indiana’s execution of their offense against Syracuse. It’s hard not to blame it on lack of preparation, which falls at the feet of the coach. Let’s face it, he’s ruined their program.

      While I’ve tried to ignore the studio talking heads as much as possible, one thing Kenny Smith said last weekend did ring true: the better teams in the tournament will try to take away your first option and force you to beat them with your second or third option. As you point out, IU’s first option – transition offense – was better than everyone else’s (though ours is pretty damn good); their second option (throwing the ball to Zeller in the low post) could be very effective; but all season long their third option seemed to be confusion and one-on-one basketball. Syracuse’s transition defense was great, the front line zone defense eliminated Zeller in the low post, and IU’s attempts at running the high post offense Kryptonite were not good. Maybe it was the players’ fault, but it doesn’t look that way…