Some notes from the sporting world.
First back-to-back losses in Big 12 play in eight years, first Big Monday loss in 18 games.
Neither of those are a surprise. Against both Oklahoma State and Baylor KU looked utterly overmatched early. Overmatched for sure in the athletic sense, KU looking slow and bound to the floor where their opponents raced up and down the court and flew for dunks and blocks.
What was a bigger concern was how they looked overmatched in being prepared to play. Defense was supposed to be a strength for this squad, with so many similarly-sized pieces that made switching easy. For whatever reason this team seems to start every game extremely slowly on the defensive end, struggling to communicate and cover the right spots on the court. Against OSU it took switching to gimmick defenses for the Jayhawks to find a way to guard the Cowboys. They switched briefly against Baylor Monday, but I think Baylor’s lull was as much about the Bears losing interest as KU doing anything to slow them down.
In each game KU fought back. Hell, they probably should have won the OSU game but played stupid for the final minute to blow it. I guess that’s where KU hoops is right now: finding solace in nearly erasing huge deficits to get conference road wins.
In each game KU had one or two guys play well, but they could never get more than that rolling. KU’s good players aren’t good enough to go out and score 30 and carry the team alone. They need multiple guys being effective every night to have a chance against the top half of the conference.
That said, point guard is the big, glaring weakness that just can’t be corrected. Eventually Jalen Wilson is going to get hot again. There are going to be nights when all of KU’s shooters are hitting and they look good. Against the right matchups David McCormack can be effective. But point guard is a mess with no answer. Marcus Garrett either dribbles too much on the perimeter or goes barreling into traffic to throw up a horrible shot (that usually gets blocked), toss some blind pass out to space, or flat turns the ball over. DaJuan Harris has much better instincts, but looks utterly overmatched physically right now.
For the rest of the Big 12, it’s time to get used to your new overlords in Waco. Until Bill Self can convince a legit point guard to come to Lawrence – and he has yet to do that for next fall’s incoming class – the Jayhawks have no chance to win the Big 12.
After a highly entertaining Super Wildcard weekend, the Divisional weekend was a bit of a letdown. A couple of the games – Baltimore-Buffalo and Tampa-New Orleans – were close until late, but still not super exciting. The only nail-biter of the weekend was, surprisingly, in Kansas City. Maybe Chiefs fans were nervous and Browns fans excited, but my pulse never jumped a few notches at the prospect of an upset. The Browns were still the Browns until they took the lead, and they never got close to that.
Hopefully the conference championship games will be more fun to watch.
I don’t think I’ve written about L’s winter league basketball team yet. She’s playing on a team with girls from four different schools. They were supposed to play in one local travel league, but after that league postponed games until February they jumped to a different league that plays at private facilities in one county, rather than public gyms in multiple counties, thus had more predictable Covid rules.
They first played two weeks ago and got beaten pretty handily. L told us before the game that they weren’t ready to play – they had not had all 10 players together at any one practice – and it showed. They got down big early and had to play hard in the second half to only lose by 9. It was sobering to learn that the team they played was made up of girls that play club soccer together and play basketball to stay in shape in the winter.
Week two’s game was cancelled when their opponents went into quarantine.
The league they are in currently limits fans to one per player, but the gyms all have high-level cameras so families can stream games at home. These videos are also archived for later viewing. At last Friday’s practice, L’s coaches pulled up their next opponent’s most recent game and watched to get some ideas. L came home from practice all pumped up, “Dad, their guards are not good. I’m going to try to steal it every time.” I chuckled at her confidence. I get on her for playing too upright on defense and not being aggressive in going for the ball. “We’ll see,” I thought to myself.
Saturday she went out and had six steals in the first half. She added eight points and four or five assists before the break. She and her teammates played really well. They started the game on a 16–0 run and lead 28–4 at half.
But, I have to be honest: the team they played was awful. Just brutally bad. L’s team was missing four girls, including one of their best players, and still won by 31 points. L ended up with 12 points and eight steals. She said she tried not to steal in the second half, but the other guards were so bad sometimes they would just kind of hand her the ball and she had to take it.
I liked that she was aggressive on offense. She was looking for her shot early and often. She did not shoot well – I’m guessing she went something like 6–20+ from the field – but she was unlucky on several jumpers that spun out. She is still brutal trying to make a layup on a fast break. I think she’s something like 3–30 on those this academic year. She just can’t find the right angle/speed to keep the ball from hitting the backboard way too hard.