This article might be the pinnacle of my writing career. I’ve been waiting to write it for about a year now because I grew up as an obsessed Kansas Jayhawks fan. I didn’t even know of Marquette’s existence until the Jayhawks gouged Marquette’s throats out in the 2003 Final Four. The first time I cried over sports was when Michael Lee’s shot was blocked by Hakim Warrick in the 2003 National Championship Game and I experienced true elation when Mario Chalmers hit the game tying three pointer in the 2008 title game. I’ve owned at least one article of every type of clothing with a KU logo on it, except for a scarf. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a scarf, actually. Feel like that’s something that tall people do and I am not tall. Bearing all this in mind, I can assure you that my allegiances remain with the school I went to, but I’m over the moon that I get to write about two of my favorite teams and watch them play each other.
Name: Kansas University
Location: Lawrence, Kansas. About 45 minutes West of Kansas City. If you want to sound cool you can call it LFK.
What the hell is a Jayhawk?: Clearly you don’t know your Civil War history if you don’t know anything about Bleeding Kansas. Kansas and Missouri had some beef during that era over Union/Confederate allegiances. The fighters on the Kansas side were known as “jayhawkers” and the Missouri folks were known as “bushwhackers”. The jayhawkers were led in part by John Brown, an abolitionist who would 100% be remembered as a terrorist if he fought for anything except abolishing slavery. The name stuck around after the Civil War, partially because it sounds way better than “bushwhacker” and eventually it got roped into the Kansas mascot.
That’s weird: Yeah I know. There’s also a chant dedicated to limestone.
What? C’mon, man. You know Rock Chalk Jayhawk.
Oh yeah. How did that become a thing? I have to google the origin every time I tell someone because it’s mindnumbingly uninteresting. Originally the chant was “Rah Rah Jayhawk”, but then the KU Science Club found a bunch of limestone on the campus and started saying, “Rock Chalk”. Somehow people thought this was a viable rallying cry and not just another reason to bully the nerds. Now it’s chanted at the end of home games when the result is decided. It’s cool to experience in person.
Home Arena: Allen Fieldhouse, named after former coach Forrest “Phog” Allen. If anyone can name even a single thing about Phog Allen, I’ll give them a prize.
I bet it’d be really funny if I brought a sign to a road game that says, “You’re not in Kansas anymore!”: That has never been funny. Also, here’s a little FYI: the Chiefs and Royals play in Missouri, so the phrase doesn’t even apply to them. Only Sporting KC plays in Kansas.
Which heartbreaking Kansas tournament moment was the worst for you? 2010 Second Round. Sherron Collins was one of my favorite KU players and that was probably Bill Self’s second best Kansas team. They lost to the criminally underseeded Northern Iowa team, featuring this Ali Farokmanesh shot. My family also drove 5 hours to watch that game.
Who are your top 5 Kansas players from your lifetime? Wow, you guys are so curious about my relationship with KU and this definitely isn’t just me projecting my fandom onto you.
5. Sherron Collins. Certified Thicc Boi.
4. Mario Chalmers. Duh.
3. Wayne Simien. He ate lunch with me at a KU basketball camp and he should’ve beat out Andrew Bogut for the Naismith Award in 2005.
2. Frank Mason. He made this song. Best rebounding guard that I’ve ever seen. I also lived in Petersburg, VA for a summer, which is where he grew up. I went on a date with a woman that played basketball with his sister. She asked me what I thought about “the gays” and wore fuzzy pink slippers to said date. There were 0 warning signs to these things beforehand.
1. Thomas Robinson. His 2012 season was my favorite season by an individual. He was an absolute force. I wish I could experience it for the first time all over again.
Notable Alumni: My mom (awwww); Kevin Harlan, current CBS announcer; Don Johnson, star of Miami Vice; Rob Riggle, comedian, Gillian Flynn, the writer of Gone Girl; Scott Bakula, star of Star Trek: Enterprise [Editor’s Note: I believe you meant to say Quantum Leap there]; Trai Byers, star of Empire; Danni Boatwright, former Survivor winner; Steve Doocy, Fox News anchor; Bob Holtzman, Sportscenter guy; my friend Paul; Rob Neyer, baseball writer; Bud Adams, owner of the Tennessee Titans; a lot of NBA players.
Last Season: 31-8, winning the Big 12 for the 21505025th straight year. All things considered, it’s probably the greatest current streak in sports. They got pulverized by Villanova in the Final Four.
Kenpom Projection: 25-5, with a 14-4 Big 12 record. They’re currently second in the country on his Almighty Rating System.
Can Marquette win? Probably not.
If they were to win, how would they do it? Kansas has not looked good defensively in their first 3 games, and they haven’t looked good in a way that’s particularly advantageous to a team like Marquette. Take a look at this quote from Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (god I love that team name) forward Justin Miller on a recent article by Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star:
“(Coaches) said the bigs from Kansas really, like, hedge hard and don’t really get back to the pop man,” Miller said. “So going into the game, I was looking to get off some open looks.”
One of Wojo’s favorite plays is to bring Sam Hauser up from the block to set a pick for the point guard and pop out on the wing for an open three. He will likely be guarded by Dedric Lawson, a big man. That’s an easily exploitable matchup because Lawson has not impressed me at all on defense. If Kansas continues to aggressively hedge, expect a lot of pick and rolls by Marquette.
Justin Miller and Vermont’s Anthony Lamb were able to take advantage of Kansas’ focus on keeping guys out of the paint. Lamb in particular caught fire in the first half of that game because Kansas didn’t respect his outside shot and were backing off of him. So far this year Kansas is more than willing to let teams take chances behind the arc, as they are 318th in the country in 3PA/FGA. The reason that they didn’t lose to Vermont or Louisiana is because those teams didn’t have the offensive talent to keep up with the Jayhawks in a shootout. Marquette does.
The Golden Eagles will need to make a lot of threes. As in just an absurd amount. Bill Self needs to know that the wings will make those shots consistently. If the Golden Eagles want to win, they might have to score 100 points and have some luck with the whistles. Udoka Azubuike in particular has foul issues and Dedric Lawson was all but invisible against Vermont because of foul trouble. Those two absolutely cannot be factors if Marquette wants to hang in the game, because they are both elite scorers on the low block and Azubuike will swat away any attempts at the basket. The arbitrary cutoff I am going to used is 20 shots. If Udoka and Dedric combine for fewer shots than that, Marquette has a chance.
Here’s why they won’t win: Let’s say Markus Howard and Sam Hauser go nuts from three and are within a possession or two at half. Self isn’t an idiot. He knows that Udoka Azubuike is one of the best post defenders if he’s not fouling. If at any point during the game he adjusts his defense to become more aggressive, that’s an issue for the Marquette offense. The subtraction of Andrew Rowsey means one less shot creator on offense. While Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson are having some freshman moments on defense, they both have an absurd amount of length that can match up well against the Marquette wings to stop penetration.
I haven’t even begun to talk about the bloodbath that will happen when Kansas has the ball. This is the roster that Self has dreamed of having since the Morris twins left campus. His favorite offensive scheme is working through two forwards. If that doesn’t sound like recent Kansas teams, it’s because he’s had guard-heavy rosters for the last few years. It took a few years of squirming, but he finally realized that letting players like Devonte’ “The Apostrophe” Graham take unlimited threes isn’t a bad thing.
This year he finally has that fully developed forward that he’s craved since Danny Manning left for Wake Forest, and his name is Dedric Lawson. The 6’9” (nice) Memphis transfer is quick enough to get around smaller forwards and has tremendous footwork to create easy shots around the basket. Oh, and he can shoot threes, so you can’t just body him up. He can’t get doubled either if he gets post positioning, because he’s an elite passer as well. Ideally, Ed Morrow is a great matchup for him on that end, but I’m not sure if he’s ready for that massive undertaking yet.
Alright, let’s say that Lawson is having an off night. Now you get to deal with Doke. Hooray. My hot take is that he is our generation’s Shaq. He’s massive. His only job is to get on the block, catch the ball and dunk it. When Kansas needs a basket, literally just throwing it to him within the first 10 seconds of a possession is a go to play of theirs. Theo John is a certified Big Boy, but Azubuike has 3 inches and 30 pounds on him. He’s not the greatest passer in the world and will cough the ball up sometimes so Marquette could feasibly double him, but I don’t even know if that would work. Once he and Lawson get the ball, it’s over. Vermont did a good job initially of denying those post entries, so Joseph Chartouny especially needs to be able to pressure Dotson or Charlie Moore the minute they cross half court.
I didn’t think I’d need to talk about Lagerald Vick, but here I am. He has two 30 point games this year. Kansas has played 3 games. Vick has been lights out from three and has been one of the three focal points of the offense. He’s on a hot streak that I don’t think any of us expected and I don’t think he’s stopping anytime soon. He also is my prediction for the guy who gets an alley oop for a Bill Self Out Of Bounds Play. Self is incredible at drawing those up.
Remember Quentin Grimes? He had Marquette in his top 4 choices, but ultimately chose Kansas. Against Michigan State in the Champions Classic he caught fire and is poised to be an incredible defender. Marquette should try and take advantage of his youth by drawing up complicated plays for the wings, because it’s not 100% there yet for him. He would be a perfect guy for Greg Elliott to defend with Grimes’ quickness when he has the ball, but alas.
Don’t get your hopes up about this game. If KU wins by less than 10 points, I’ll be excited. A ton of things would have to go right for Marquette to win. If they can at least limit the amount of post touches Azubuike and Lawson get, I’ll consider that major defensive progress.