Game day Breakdown: No. 10 KU basketball at No. 16 TCU

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) floats to the bucket against TCU forward JD Miller (15) during the first half, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas

No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks (11-3 overall, 1-1 Big 12) vs. No. 16 TCU Horned Frogs (13-1 overall, 1-1 Big 12)

Time: 8:15 p.m. | Location: Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth, Texas

TV: ESPN2 | Radio: IMG Jayhawk Radio Network

Log on to KUsports.com for our live game blog coverage and follow the KUsports.com staff on Twitter: @KUSports @mctait @TomKeeganLJW @bentonasmith @nightengalejr @chasenscott & @nickkrug

Keys for Kansas

1. Better rebounding

One of the biggest storylines from the Jayhawks’ double-digit home loss to Texas Tech on Tuesday night was the Red Raiders’ 44-29 rebounding advantage, which included an 18-8 edge on the offensive glass.

Said KU coach Bill Self of that gap following the team’s second loss at Allen Fieldhouse this season: “I don’t care how small you are, tough teams and competitive guys don’t allow that to happen.”

So answering their coach’s challenge will be the goal for the Jayhawks in this one. And it won’t be easy. TCU is yet another KU opponent with a big front line and the Horned Frogs are outrebounding their opponents by an average of eight a game so far this season.

While that puts the onus on defensive rebounding, Self said improved offensive rebounding would help both the team’s rebounding issues and its offense as a whole.

“We’re not doing it,” Self said. “The offensive rebounders have to make an effort to get there and, certainly, you have to make an effort to check your man every time the ball is shot. We have not done that very well.”

Added senior point guard Devonté Graham: “We just have to be tougher down there. We know we're small and we just have to play scrappier and do a way better job of rebounding.”

2. Better defense

Speaking of being better, the Jayhawks must improve their overall defensive effort if they want to transform into the team Self believes they can become.

That starts with the most simple defensive principle of all and has to be an emphasis at all five positions on the floor.

“We let guys drive it with their dominant hand, get where they want to go. We have to be able to guard the ball better,” Self said. “When you can’t guard the ball, it forces rotation, which forces rotation rebounding, all this stuff. Keep your man in front of you.”

Too many times in their home loss to Texas Tech the Jayhawks saw a decent first 25 seconds of defense completely wasted when a TTU guard simply blew by his man to the rim late in the shot clock and scored an easy basket.

While that not only produced easy points, it also did a number on KU’s psyche, leaving the Jayhawks with plenty of frustration and even a question of whether they even could get stops when they needed them.

Self has emphasized for years — but particularly this season — that a missed shot by the opponent does not equal good defense by Kansas. He wants to see his guys muck things up and force opponents to have the kind of difficulty offensively that the Jayhawks themselves already have had more times than expected so far this season.

3. Better effort and intensity

After Graham said following the Texas Tech loss that the Jayhawks simply have to “want it” more, he went on to explain that he and his teammates do have the kind of drive necessary to be the team they believe they can be, but that the intensity does not always show up on the court.

“It's definitely a surprise,” Graham said of that being an issue. “I feel like everybody wants it, but we just have to come out from the jump and jump on teams like (Texas Tech) jumped on us.”

There’s little doubt that TCU will have any issue with its intensity in this one. Not only are the Frogs just 2-14 all-time against KU, including a 1-5 mark in Fort Worth, but they also are in the middle of an impressive season that has the buzz around the program at an all-time high.

After ripping off 12 consecutive victories to start the season, TCU, like most in the conference, has already experienced epic highs and excruciating lows in Big 12 play. The one-point loss to Oklahoma last weekend to open conference play was one of the better games of the young season. And they followed that up with an impressive 81-78 overtime victory at Baylor.

Bringing KU to town only figures to make the frenzy grow, and Graham said he was well aware of that and would make sure that his teammates understood it, too.

“You've got to have guys who want to go out there and compete and know that everyone's going to shoot for us and (we) have a huge target on our chests,” he said. “It's just basically an effort thing.”

Mega Matchup

KU junior Lagerald Vick vs. TCU senior Kenrich Williams

After a complete no-show during the Jayhawks’ home loss to Texas Tech, junior guard Lagerald Vick figures to be motivated to bounce back against TCU.

Doing so, however, will not be easy and Vick will have his hands full on both ends of the floor throughout tonight’s showdown.

Williams enters this one as TCU’s leading scorer (14.8 ppg), rebounder (9.2 rpg) and defender (35 steals leads the team). Beyond that, he’s second on the team in assists (51, 3.6 per game) and plays, with the kind of athleticism and confidence that makes him tough to handle on both ends of the floor.

Williams shoots 50 percent from the floor, 47 percent from 3-point range and also gets to the free throw line more than any player in purple and white.

Playing at home will only add to Williams’ confidence and desire, so Vick is going to have to show up ready to match that effort and intensity — like the rest of his teammates — or it could be another long, frustrating night for KU’s second-leading scorer.

Remember, the last time these two teams were on the same floor together, TCU walked away with an early-round upset of Kansas in the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo. In that one, Williams finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Jayhawk Pulse

Finding an identity beyond being terrific shooters continues to be the theme of this Kansas basketball season. And it will remain that way until a.) one develops or b.) the season ends.

Throughout his career, and not just at Kansas, Self’s teams have played a brand of basketball that is built upon toughness, defensive grit and dictating the way games are played. So far this season, the Jayhawks have not been able to do that as much as they would have liked and often have had to conform to the way their opponent likes to play or try to adjust on the fly to play catch-up.

Because of that, it’s been a frustrating few weeks for the Jayhawks. But that does not mean Self is changing his standards.

“The whole thing is, when I say, '(We’re) not very good right now,' I'm talking about to be elite, OK,” Self explained. “So there's a lot of things we got to improve on in that area. But the exciting thing is, if you don't go through some crap — and this isn't a lot of crap, but it's enough crap — you don't want to go through a lot of it. If you don't go through something tough, how are you going to develop that toughness unless you go through it? I don't look at this as anything that is bad. I look at it like, ‘Yeah, wish we didn't lose.’ But the bottom line is, to get to where we want to go, some things have to be addressed and guys have to take ownership of (them). We got to do a better job coaching them to get them to the point where we want to be at the end.”

With that as the framework for what lies ahead, and with tough home losses to Arizona State and Texas Tech still fresh in their minds — and the promise of more to come if they don’t take care of business — the Jayhawks figure to step into every challenge the rest of the way with something to prove and a clear goal.

It’s not simply good enough to go out there and be Kansas for this team. The Jayhawks have to go out and be hungrier than their opponents and grittier than their opponents. And the sooner they can figure out how to do that, the sooner the season gets back on track.

“If we go through the season just by making shots, winning games, just by that, I promise you, it will be a flameout,” Self said. “You got to have something you can really hang your hat on besides that.”

Probable Starters

No. 10 Kansas

G – Devonté Graham, 6-2, 185, Sr.

G – Marcus Garrett, 6-5, 180, Fr.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk, 6-8, 205, Sr.

G – Lagerald Vick, 6-5, 175, Jr.

C – Udoka Azubuike, 7-0, 280, Soph.

No. 16 TCU

G – Jaylen Fisher, 6-2, 200, Soph.

G – Desmond Bane, 6-5, 215, Soph.

G – Kenrich Williams, 6-7, 210, Sr.

F – JD Miller, 6-8, 235, Jr.

C – Vlad Brodziansky, 6-11, 230, Sr.

Comments

Edward Daub

The Theme for Tonight's Game is Better. We Better Match the Intensity of TCU Head Coach Jamie Dixon! Jamie is one real intense competitor, who has earned his new nickname "Texas Toast"! They call him that because he cannot sit still , and he is always "popping up and down" like a Toaster (invented by former Bucks announcer Eddie Doucette).

Don't be surprised if you see Jamie with both feet out on the playing court numerous times during the game. The Referees always seem to ignore the fact that Jamie is definitely "Out of the Coaching Box". Of course, there are numerous other Bball coaches that also come out on the floor. Evidently, it is an accepted practice ignored by the Zebras (invented by the Great Al McGuire).

I also need to retract an erroneous statement I made last week. I wrote that Oliver Luck was a "Man of Integrity"! What was I thinking? NCAA needs to Fire Oliver Luck ASAP!

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Marius Rowlanski

Oliver had a decent junior year at West Virginia. Now no one can say that I've never said anything nice about that Sh** bag Oliver Luck. He abuses his power and doesn't have the decency to pretend otherwise.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Robert Brock

KU may have to resort to playing more zone to cut off the opponent’s layup line. Even that couldn’t stop Texas Tech.

This one will probably be a nail-biter.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Kent Richardson

Until we get Billy and Silvio up and running we have a razor thin chance to win games like this.
We are not getting meaningful production from our bench as measured against our opponents bench production. At this point Malik, Garrett and Cunliffe are more likely to put up a brick from long range than provide a spark. They can and have been effective driving to the rim but sporadic in their production. Part of this is them playing out of position against forwards.

Self and DeVonte say we get maximum effort from other teams because of who we are and we need to match that. Nothing new there. Not just this year, we have bemoaned lack of effort by our guys. Prior to this year it likely meant a closer win than was warranted. The dynamics of this year's team will lead to a different result.

We aren't (cannot?) stopping teams. So hard to the hole and bombs away it is. We miss our fast break where Vick and company can excel but that takes rebounding and......

This would be a key road win. With the most anticipated game being OU at WVU today we can be one win away from the top at 2 and 1.


1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Mike Hart

Cunliffe (at this point)... is more likely to put up a brick form long range than provide a spark? Hmm... let's see he has only attempted 16 shots on the season, making 50% of them... and 4 three pointers, making 50% of them. So we have a small sample size, but he's shooting 50%.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Marius Rowlanski

He hasn't had the extended minutes on the court to even get comfortable much less in the flow of the game and you did mention the sample size but it's more than just the minutes it's at what point of the game was the majority played.

I still wouldn't put him at the point but would have no problem seeing him play more at the 2 and the 3.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Steve Corder

Rankings should be reversed in this head-line.

TCU big favorite, deservedly so.

A KU lose will most likely drop them out of top 20 for first time in Bill Self's 14 year career at Kansas.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Mike Hart

Steve, do you just write things off the top of your head and just figure no one will ever be the wiser? First of all, KU is favored by 2 points on almost any service / website out there. Secondly, KU was outside the top 20 in 2003-2004 mid-February and early March going into the NCAA tourney. We won the conference. In 2005-2006 we started the season 3-4 and were outside the AP top 25 the ENTIRE SEASON until Feb 14th. We won the conference. In 2008-2009 and on this calendar date, we stood 11-4 and were outside the top 25 for 2 months of the season. Oh, and we won the conference. Do a little research instead of just guessing/speculating. You stated 3 things in your post... none of which are factual.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Yonatan Negash

I'd say it's a must-win game.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Mike Hart

"must-win"... you guys slay me.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Yonatan Negash

Mike, it is a freaking must win. We're coming off a loss, why the heck would we want to go down 1-2?

You baffle me with your outrageous comments.

Again, you do not have to reply to every comment I make. It's a little weird having you comment on everything I post.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Mike Hart

I comment because of the the end of the world predictions you make... like this after ONE loss in the Big 12:

"Hate to say it but this season is a wash. Would much rather let this season go. I think the damage is already done, it'll take a miracle to win the league this year."

I mean seriously... tanking on the season after one friggin' game. That's good comedy.

1 week, 4 days ago

Report

Marius Rowlanski

I'll give you that it is an important game for both teams. Kansas needs a win on the road against a tough team to make up for the loss at home and TCU wants to stamp their name as the conference favorite but it's still far from a must-win game.

13-5 should win the conference. I would prefer being 2-1 then 1-2 after this game but a win or a loss tonight won't decide anything.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Yonatan Negash

Exactly

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Mike Hart

Precisely, Marius...

1 week, 4 days ago

Report

Bryce Landon

Hell yes it is.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Yonatan Negash

My man Bryce get's it.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Harlan Hobbs

I think that Yonatan is speaking figuratively rather than literally. Obviously, the only "must-win" game is the one that keeps you from being eliminated. However, even though it is early in the season, this is a very big game.

We lost the advantage that we gained from winning at Texas, so now, we need to get more road wins. So be it. KU has been in this position numerous times before, and the results speak for themselves.

Even if KU loses tonight, if the effort and improvement is there, it will be something to build on until we hopefully get more relief inside. That is the key to the season.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Yonatan Negash

Thank you

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Ed Noyes

13 in a row was getting boring. The big prize is still there. HCBS always comes through when their backs are against the wall. I think it is just now getting exciting. Tonight would be a great road win to offset the home loss. Just relax and enjoy the Hall of Famer at work!!

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Dee Shaw

Win or lose , it’s all good. Just make sure you figure it out by March Madness time when the real season starts.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Aaron Paisley

Effort and intensity needs to number 1 because the other 2 will improve dramatically from that.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Marius Rowlanski

I might just tape the game tonight before deciding whether or not to watch it...

Stress reduction.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Craig Carson

If KU would have won against TTU then this wouldn't be a must win...but if they lose they drop to 1-2 with some tough games coming up..KU could very well be out of the top 25 if they have a rough January..which is possible now that teams have a proven formula to beat KU...

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Yonatan Negash

The following are games scheduled for the rest of January. Note, we have four road games.
To me, the most favorable road games on the list are at TCU and at KSU. We can not afford to lose either of those games.

So, yes I will repeat what I posted earlier today, the TCU game is a must-win game for KU.

Remaining January Schedule:

At TCU
ISU
KSU
At West Virginia
Baylor
At Oklahoma
Texas A & M
At KSU

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Andy Godwin

For those wondering Billy Preston is not able to play yet again. I guess the concept of time is relative I.e., “Final word on Billy Preston could come ‘any minute,’ KU coach Self maintains in story on Jan 3rd. So again KU is short handed in their front line. Biggest key tonight is rebound against a bigger team.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Dee Shaw

What a surprise Andy. Billy Preston won’t play. I’m shocked. At this point who cares. All the time and energy you waste worrying if Billy plays is a joke. Your that concerned on a player that will have minimal if any impact on this team. He might at best average 5 pts a game 2 rebounds and at best 8-12 min per game. Just remember one of my favorite KU bust players of all time Chieck Diaollo. “Free Diaollo”. Chieck did nothing. One reason because the kid couldn’t play defense. Trust me if Billy can’t play D his butt will be sitting.

1 week, 5 days ago

Report

Edward Daub

Who Cares about Billy Preston? The Answer is Knowledgeable KU BBall Fans! We are Lacking Front Court Depth and a 6'10" 240 Pound McDonald's All American is Sitting Waiting on the NCAA! F.B.I. - Free Billy Immediately!

As for Your KU Bust "Cheick Diallo" , He is "Free as a Bird" Perched on the New Orleans Pelicans Bench! He is averaging 3 Points and 2 Rebounds per Game! The only Silver Lining is his NBA Salary of over $1.3 Million this year!

1 week, 4 days ago

Report