At least one Big 12 coach not surprised at Kansas improvement

Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard gets fired up during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard gets fired up during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard’s team had just finished defeating Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse, 85-73, on the second day of January when Beard mentioned the possibility of the Jayhawks playing in the national-title game.

It seemed out of place given that it was KU’s third loss in a seven-game stretch, two of them by double digits in Allen Fieldhouse.

Beard didn’t deliver that opinion in robotic coach-speak fashion. He said it like he meant it. Beard was fresh off dissecting video of KU’s 92-86 victory in Austin in which the Jayhawks made 17 of 35 3-point field goals.

“It’s impossible to stop them,” Beard said. “You just try to contain them. And then you try to contest shots. The way they shot the ball in Austin, they’re not going to get beat. They’ll play on the final Monday because Texas did a good job of contesting them. You have to be fortunate. Tonight we were. They got some good looks and we made some mistakes on some switches, so you have to be fortunate.”

Defended well on the perimeter by the Red Raiders for most of the night, Kansas made just 6 of 26 3-pointers.

This team, more than any other Bill Self, relies on 3-point shots, so an off shooting night could bounce Kansas from the tournament prematurely, but the tougher defense KU has played of late gives it a better shot of surviving bad shooting night. The Final Four doesn’t sound like the reach it once did.

“You didn’t believe me?” Beard said on Thursday’s Big 12 conference call when I asked him about his postgame quote from his team’s big victory.

Not then I didn’t. What made him believe the Jayhawks had “final Monday,” potential?

“They have two or three NBA players,” Beard said. “They have a Hall of Fame coach. They’ve got the best home court in college basketball and they’re playing in the best conference in the country, the Big 12.”

KU can’t play on that home court in March, but the Big 12 battles against schools with contrasting styles help make every member of the conference prepare for the ultimate stage.

And so far this season, Kansas has even tougher on the road than at home.

Beard still thinks Kansas has a chance to play on the final Monday. And what about his Red Raiders, tied with Oklahoma in second place, one game behind KU?

“I think that’s the beauty of college basketball’s single-elimination tournament,” Beard said.

“That’s what makes March Madness March Madness. I’ve coached in one-bid leagues where you had to win your tournament to get in. In the Big 12, you have to survive and win enough games to get in the tournament.”

Once the NCAA tournament arrives, the conference standings don’t matter. As recently as two seasons ago, Beard pointed out, Oklahoma advanced to the Final Four. “If I didn’t think we had a chance to play deep into March I shouldn’t be coaching here,” Beard said.

Tubby Smith left the program in good shape and in just his second season, Beard has elevated it. He'll have his Red Raiders confident and ready for Kansas on Feb. 24.

Plus, he’s pretty good at looking beyond that night’s game and projecting an opponent’s improvement.

Comments

Kent Richardson

There were 3 players who didn't freeze in last years elite 8 game and was aggressive until the final horn. Only one is on this years team and is still fleshing out his game. Reducing turnovers, improving defense and passing and getting more rebounds, assists and shooting better.

This team has made comebacks a habit and has a knack for winning close games. But we also can't hold a big lead very well. Time after time they get up by 12 and then DeVonte or Svi takes an off balance shot or two and the lead is 6 or 7. I think, to myself, when we get those leads Self should call a time out and say okay dudes be smart and in rhythm.

I also like the zone as a disrupting force and keeping them off the offensive boards.

We look good on paper for next year but will lose games early to good teams until they jell and acclimate. I hope Udoka and especially Malik and Garrett stick around. Garrett can be a lock down defender with more PT.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Len Shaffer

You're spot on, Kent. As much as I love Davonte, I can't stand it when he goes into his mode of dribbling at the top of the key as if it's for the last shot of the game and then hoisting a contested 25-footer. I don't understand why once in a while he decides to completely abandon the offense, and why Self puts up with it.

In fact, I've never even understood why most teams consistently do that type of thing at the ends of games. It's like they decide, "Okay, we're in for a tight finish; let's completely give up on everything we've planned for and go into total isolation mode." It makes absolutely no sense, yet virtually every team does it. Someone please explain to me why that makes any sense. Wouldn't it be MUCH better if they worked to find an open shooter for a good shot (like they usually do) rather than relying on one person who everybody in the building knows is going to take the last shot?

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jim Stauffer

I say stuff like this all the time, Kent. And yet when you say it, my first reaction is, don't you think Self has had every thought you and I could possibly have many times over.
Obviously what you say is true. But we all know even just from watching, it isn't easy to do it in real time situations.
Emotions play a big part in sports. Those poor shot selections are generally made by a player such as Devonte when he is "feeling it" because he has made such shots before.
Coach has to give freedom to his guys after he has trained them to think like he does.
I believe that is why we are seeing an improvement in defense and rebounding at this juncture. They are gradually all getting on the same page.
I seriously doubt we have the athleticism at needed positions to go deep into the tourney, but this team is fun, pure fun, to watch.
Give it a go, guys. We will be cheering you on,

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Tony Bandle

When is the last time a four guard offense with a seven man rotation got to the Final Four.......ever? I'm just asking the question.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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Jim Stauffer

One time for sure was the '66 Final when Texas Western defeated Kentucky. Both teams used a short bench and Kentucky had a point guard who was 6'6" tall and a center who was 6'5" tall. Shooting guard 6' and SF 6'3" and PF 6'3".
I know many on here despise Kentucky, but that team played a very similar game to ours. I have been reminded of that team many times this season watching these kids. Great passing and shooting are still some of the most beautiful things in the game.
We can do both of those things. Question is can we defend these much larger and more athletic teams.

6 months, 2 weeks ago

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