Kansas Basketball 2010 Retrospective: Exhibition Season Victory over Pittsburg State
KU versus Pittsburg State--November 10, 2009
On Tuesday evening, the KU Men’s Basketball team concluded the exhibition portion of their schedule with a 103-45 victory over Pittsburg State. Bill Self is 21-0 in exhibition games and Kansas improved to 53-7 while winning its 35th straight, dating back to the 1995-96 season. Coach Gene Iba’s overmatched Pittsburg State roster was almost completely filled with new players, so the outcome was predictable. Sportsmanship was maintained throughout, with no chest-thumping, primal screams, fists pumping or other showboating after good plays. Thomas Robinson was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim, but if this was a case of hot-dogging it didn’t seem overt. The Gorilla’s kept their poise also, and never resulted to cheap shots or frustration fouls. There was no reason to expect anything would get ugly, of course, but it was still nice to see a well-played game.
In the television broadcast for both exhibition games, announcer Greg Gurley briefly mentioned that he preferred watching KU play in-state teams to so-called all-star teams boasting overweight former college players well past their prime. I agree completely. It sometimes gets boring watching KU pound smaller opponents, but I was never a fan of matchups against High Five America, Marathon AAU, or the Converse, California, or EA All-Stars. I enjoyed watching games in the ‘80s and ‘90s against USSR, Yugoslavia, and other international teams, but those days appear over. Small college Kansas teams are here to stay, however, and I am fine with that—at least for exhibition games. Please, KU, never schedule a regular season game again against a Division II or NAIA opponent!
Scoring for KU: Sherron Collins 10; Tyshawn Taylor 12; Xavier Henry 10; Cole Aldrich 10; Markieff Morris 12; Marcus Morris 14; Elijah Johnson 3; Tyrel Reed 3; Thomas Robinson 17; Jordan Juenemann 1; Chase Buford 1; Conner Teahan 7.
KU shot 37-for-67 from the floor (55 percent), 8-for-21 from three (38 percent) and 21-for-29 from the free-throw line (72 percent).
Pittsburg State shot 18-for-50 from the floor (36 percent), 5-for-11 from three (46 percent) and 4-for-8 from the free-throw line (50 percent).
KU out-rebounded Pittsburg State, 42-26. Pittsburg State had 33 turnovers.
It was still undecided whether Travis Releford and Mario Little would red-shirt or not, and they were once again held out of the game. Connor Teahan played, which means the other two will likely sit out this season. Still conspicuous in his absence was C.J. Henry, who didn’t suit up for the second straight game due to a knee injury. Missing so much practice time early in the season seems a bad omen for the “elder” Henry brother—will he miss too much practice to mesh with his teammates?
The freshmen played great for the second game in a row and while it’s still early, one starts to wonder if this class can be compared with recruiting classes featuring Collins/Arthur, Rush/Chalmers/Wright or Collison/Gooden/Hinrich. Thomas Robinson dominated inside and again looked like the best of KU’s freshman class.
Mike's post-game analysis
The Good: 1.) Every player that saw action for KU scored, and almost every player had an assist. 2.) KU’s freshmen looked good, and appear more athletic than last year’s freshman class of Tyshawn Taylor, Travis Releford, the Morris twins, or the departed Quintrell Thomas. 3.) Taylor made a bad pass or two early on but finished with a very good game. It is nice to see him shake off a bad play and not let it morph into a bad game. 4.) KU had 21 steals and 8 blocks while forcing 33 turnovers. Those are decent numbers no matter who you’re playing. 5.) KU’s bench outscored Pittsburg State, 46-45. This KU team should be incredibly balanced, with most of the roster scoring between 7 and 14 a night.
The Bad: 1.) Evaluating a game like this one is tricky. Was the blowout victory a result of KU’s improvement since last week, or was Pittsburg State significantly inferior to Fort Hays State? 2.) It still seemed Cole Aldrich didn’t get the ball on offense, despite the broadcast team’s assertions to the contrary. In defense of KU’s guards, there were so many steals and fast-break layups, KU didn’t run a half-court offense very often. However, the guards seemed to find the Morris twins and Robinson inside—why not Aldrich? I hope it isn’t because Aldrich isn’t fast or mobile enough… 3.) Tyrel Reed played but didn’t look particularly effective, presumably the result of a severe ankle sprain suffered in practice. Ankle sprains turned Reed into a practice player after a promising beginning to his freshman season. 4.) Two exhibition games into the season and I’m already tired of hearing about Thomas Robinson’s “motor”. Frankly, I want to hear about every player’s motor. Is Robinson’s hustle on both ends of the floor such an aberration it must be constantly referenced? 5.) KU’s first regular season game will be against Hofstra, with Central Arkansas, Oakland, Radford, Belmont and Cornell also on the schedule. Can any of these teams rise up and compete with the Jayhawks, as Oral Roberts and DePaul did three years ago?
The Ugly: 1.) The score was so lopsided, I started to feel sorry for Pittsburg State. Everyone talks about what an honor it is for Kansas athletes to play in Allen Field House, but I wonder how excited the Pittsburg State players really were to compete against bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic opponents. It isn’t fun and could hardly be considered an honor; although it should help the Gorillas improve. 2.) With leads as large as 60 points, Coach Bill Self couldn’t find anyone on his bench to send in to stop the slaughter. Jordan Juenemann entered the game with nearly eight minutes to go, and Chase Buford wasn’t far behind. It still took a Pittsburg State three-pointer at the buzzer to get the final margin less than 60 points. 3.) It is still too early to tell, but it doesn’t seem that Marcus Morris will be effective as a small forward, despite his skills (and good stats tonight). He has the ability to play on the wing, but his comfort zone appears to be in the lane. 4.) I hate to say it, but I’m tired of hearing Henry Iba referred to as “Mr. Iba”. Is Henry Iba more deserving of respect than Bob Knight, John Wooden, or Phog Allen? Would it be an awkward mistake to simply refer to him as Henry Iba? It has been so long since Iba coached, is anyone really clear on why “Mr. Iba” deserves so much respect? 5.) With solid broadcasting for the KU replay provided by Nick Bahe (regular color man Greg Gurley was part of the live broadcast), it was announced that Scot Pollard would be at the microphone for the replay telecast against Hofstra. Known for his eccentric behavior, what might we expect when Pollard is given a forum to say anything that pops into his head?
Play of the game: In the first half, Tyshawn Taylor led a fast break and whipped a no-look, over-the-shoulder pass to Marcus Morris for a dunk. Second place in this category goes to Thomas Robinson for his Kevin McHale imitation, executing a series of head- and pump-fakes for a layup. It appeared Robinson utilized his entire repertoire of post moves, all in one possession.
Final analysis: With injuries, suspensions and red-shirt candidates, it’s still tough to see what this team will look like when it starts to come together. One has to believe that Jeff Withey and Brady Morningstar will contribute with meaningful minutes when they are eligible to play, but C.J. Henry is now looking less likely to be in the regular rotation. Connor Teahan’s participation tonight suggests C.J. might be a minor cog in the Jayhawk machine instead of a major one.
For the second game in a row, Thomas Robinson looked to be the best of KU’s freshman class, outshining heralded recruit Xavier Henry. This is not a knock on Henry’s game—frankly, I think he looks great. Comparing freshman teammates isn’t about winners and losers, either; the more great players KU has, the better they will become.
Last year, KU was mostly a two-man team, with Aldrich and Collins bearing the burden of supplying most of the Jayhawks’ offense. This season’s squad looks to have scorers at every position, and that is great news. If everyone is a threat to score, KU won’t be stopped by double-teams. The offensive potential of this team reminds me of the 1986 Jayhawk squad—one of my favorite KU teams.
It could be a fun season.
Exhibition Games: A 2012 Update
I am happy to see KU offer exhibition games to the in-state Division II schools (and I hope they never again play a Division II school in the regular season). I disliked the "All-Star" opponents intensely and never considered it good basketball or an appropriate tune-up for the season.
I miss the games against international opponents. Those were a true test and featured excellent basketball sometimes. KU's first eleven exhibition games were against international opponents, and they played seventeen more games in Allen Field House and abroad. Most recently, the Jayhawks went 2-2 in Switzerland and France. A testament to the quality of play can be found in analyzing the Jayhawks' losses in preseason games; all nine losses were to international opponents. KU faced stars from abroad such as Vladimir Tkachenko, Arvidas Sabonis and Drazen Petrovic; these fine players offered a true test on the hardwood, as opposed to overmatched Division II players or out-of-shape-and-past-their-prime "all-stars" from California.
It has been nearly twenty years since an international team has traveled to Allen Field House to play the Jayhawks, and it is safe to assume that just isn't done anymore. Three times recently KU has traveled overseas to play international competition, but college teams are only allowed to do this once in a four year period.
The NCAA might consider allowing teams to play an exhibition game against other quality college programs. How about a KU vs. Boston College scrimmage, or perhaps Tennessee vs. Oregon? It would allow teams to play against a more evenly-matched opponent to prepare for the regular season.
I am a fan of KU supporting the smaller schools in Kansas by offering them games--I just wish something else could augment this practice to allow the Jayhawks to get more out of these preseason tune-ups.
What do you think?