I figured I would crawl out of the Hole of Despair that is MSU basketball (blown out by IOWA?!? IOWA...REALLY!?! COME ON) and offer a few thoughts about something slightly more positive...and yes, I mean there were positives for BOTH Kansas and Mizzou.
I was actually looking forward to this game mostly because I haven't gotten a chance to see Missouri at all, thanks to most of their games being on ESPNU (I know, I know, I need to upgrade my cable.). It was hard to see them really winning at Allen Fieldhouse, but after watching the first half I really thought they had a fighting chance.
Mizzou crashed the boards hard from the opening tip (which was crucial) and showed a lot of patience on the offensive end--moving the ball, running their sets and taking good shots. Kansas made a couple of good runs throughout the half and you could see Mizzou panic a few times and start to force the ball, take quick shots and turn it over--and of course, KU ate that up. Each time though, the Tigers re-grouped, took a deep breath and came right back. They were able to make mistakes, shake them off and get back to doing what worked. It also helped that Kansas makes a LOT of stupid fouls. They do a lot of little chippy backcourt reach-ins or body bumps after a shot and one reason Mizzou kept it close because they got to the free throw line (they shot 81% for the game. 81%!!! Sigh. I miss the days when MSU shot that way). It's hard to see many weaknesses in this Jayhawk team, but that one may come back and bite them later.
The second half was a bit different. Kansas came out of the gate and made a huge run (with the help of the Morris brothers asserting themselves down low) and all of a sudden, the game was theirs. It was one of those "blink and they're up 10" situations. That was kind of bummer because Mizzou still shot really well and did a lot of great things...just not defensively.
This is stating the obvious, but KU is GOOD. They have that other gear that really good teams have where the other team is hanging around, hanging around and then all of a sudden, KU turns it on and goes up 15 within a couple of minutes and you're sitting there going, "Wait...how did that just happen?" They have a lot of weapons on both ends of the floor and the Morris brothers are pretty awesome (ugh, it kills me to say that...). Last year's team was supposed to win it all and it seems to me that this team might actually be better than last year.
That said, Mizzou impressed me. They play really hard, which of course, is to be expected of a Mike Anderson team. Additionally, they have a good mix of veteran and young talent, they have passion and they seem to really listen to their coaches. I only see good things for them in this last month before the tourney.
Which brings me to....PHIL PRESSEY! I think he might be my new favorite. The kid played hard, controlled the ball really well, hit 3s from the parking lot, and was TICKED when Mike Anderson took him out of the game. He wasn't disrespectful about it, but the look on his face was priceless. I have to say I love that passion--the "I don't need to rest, I will play all game because my being on the floor makes a difference" attitude. I like what I see and I'm hoping he sticks around to give me a few more years of joy and doesn't pull a Willie Warren where he makes a big splash his freshman year then falls off the radar (Oh, Willie, what happened to you...).
In other news, as amazing as KU fans are, it came to my attention that the "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" chant is kind of haunting...and by "haunting" I mean creepy. Really, really creepy.
Rivalry Week continues! Enjoy!