After losing three key players from last year’s team to the NBA, Kansas came into this season as a team unsure of what they had. In fact, this year’s squad looked like it was going to be one of the worst teams of the Bill Self era. However, all season long Kansas has been able to defy the odds, they have played to a level that not too many expected them to play to, they earned a number two seed in the NCAA Tournament, and have surprised nearly everyone with their run to the Final Four this season. This weekend they will look to continue their magical season. The Jayhawks will play Ohio State for the second time this season for a right to play for college basketball’s National Championship, something that looked incredibly improbable before the season started.
Danny Manning joined WHB in Kansas City with the Border Patrol to talk about how good the Kansas bigs were against the North Carolina front-line on Sunday, if he thinks this year’s Kansas team has played to its ceiling more than others before it, how much stock they can put in the first meeting against Ohio State, and how tough it will be to avoid distractions in New Orleans.
On the Kansas bigs over the weekend against North Carolina’s front-line:
“I think Thomas (Robinson) and Jeff (Withey) have done a fantastic job all season long. Last night was no exception. They battled and both teams battled. You go back and look at the stat line and like you said we got the best of the rebounding total but there were some balls that were coming off the rim that those guys were chasing down like men, with a purpose, and that’s on both ends. It was just a good game to be a part of and it was fun to watch as well if you’re a basketball fan.”
Whether he thinks this year’s Kansas team has played to its ceiling more than others before it:
“I think this team has played closer to its ceiling more so than most of the other teams that we have had here just in terms of the roles that individuals have on our team and how they have to fulfill them for us to have success. They’ve done a tremendous job of meeting expectations head on and buying into what Coach Self wants them to do, locking into scouting reports, and maintaining our defensive principles but also making sure we do the intangibles. Going after loose balls, making sure we play defense, shot goes up we put a body on somebody and we go chase the ball down, all these little small things have added up and put us in a great position.”
How much stock they can put in the first meeting against Ohio State:
“I think for us and for our players we have a chance to really go back, watch tape, and see what the other players did in terms of how good they are in their roles. Aaron Craft is a terrific point guard and in four games you can talk about how well someone does this or does this but not until after you play him do guys realize he is the best on-ball defender in the country and you kind of get a grasp for it. So the biggest thing for us is knowing how talented that team is and then we have to get ready for (Jared) Sullinger because he didn’t play. He’s a first team All-American, he’s a load, and we will have our hands full but it’s a challenge that we gladly accept and we’re looking forward to it.”
How tough it will be to avoid distractions in New Orleans:
“The first thing coach talks to the guys about is making sure we eliminate as many possible distractions as we can. We’d like for our guys to get the ticket lists done and make sure they get with our academic people and take care of any concerns there. Once we get there we’re going to do a very good job of making sure our guys are focused. We’re going to get locked into the hotel. Now we will get out to go to practice, have our team meals, and do what we normally do but it will be at a high level of security, that’s for sure.”