I'm stepping in to fill PocketChange's shoes today in getting our Know Thine Enemy entry up for round 3 with the Kansas Jayhawks. As always, PC answered questions from our side for the KU blog, Rock Chalk Talk's Andy Mitts aka misterbrain, who was also kind enough to answer questions for us. Let's get right to it.
PC: How have the absences of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander affected KU’s play? They’ve had a couple of very close games, and TCU hung around a lot longer than you might expect.
AM: It's actually been a lot better than I expected. We've come to realize that Hunter Mickelson, a previously little-used transfer from Arkansas that we thought was going to be a waste of a scholarship, is actually a fairly productive player given the chance. And the development of Landen Lucas from streaky bench option to consistent producer has been refreshing. Obviously Perry Ellis is missed, as he is by far the most talented player on this team, and the sooner we get him back the better. But Cliff Alexander really hasn't been doing so well, other than brief flashes of brilliance, so his presence has really only been missed on the defensive end.
Personally, I've loved the last few games. This has been somewhat of a return to the style of play and the philosophy of the game that I'm used to, where you mix in a couple outstanding freshmen guards(Kelly Oubre and Devonte Graham in this case) with some 2-3 year guys down low, and the high-low eats opponents up. The emergence of Mickelson and Lucas speaks back to the development of players that our coaching staff does so well, and so I sometimes wax a little nostalgic when watching these lineups. And of course it doesn't hurt to get these guys some experience together since the NCAA tournament is a rough place to start building chemistry.
PC: What player is primed to step up this post season? Frank Mason? Kelly Oubre? Dare I say, Wayne Selden?
AM: Those three players are all good candidates, and I've already talked about Lucas and Mickelson, but I'm actually going to go with Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (try saying that three times fast). He's actually gotten an opportunity these last couple games, and he had a beautiful spin move into a layup in yesterday's game against TCU. Unless Brannen Greene starts getting hot again from 3 before Ellis gets back, I think Svi is going to start taking minutes away, and he still has tons of room for improvement. The fact that he has already played in international tournaments is a good plus for him as well.
PC: Do you expect Alexander to play another game in a Jayhawks jersey, either this season or next? Given how few minutes Self was giving him, do you think his suspension is going to have a big impact on KU’s NCAA run?
AM: Honestly, I don't. The fact that the NCAA is dragging its feet on the investigation is not a promising sign, and even though he hasn't performed very well recently, he has such a physical potential that I think he bolts for the NBA and still gets picked in the first round. The latest I've heard is that the NCAA is asking for documents that don't exist or that Cliff doesn't actually have legal access too. Either way, this is going to drag on at least through the end of the month I would have to think, and I doubt he comes back if the season ends with this hanging over his head.
Even though he was starting to see increased minutes, he really didn't seem to be utilizing them very well. He obviously has all the physical tools that you want to see at his position, but the replacements are performing admirably under the circumstances, and the increased playing time they've received will be invaluable for a deep Kansas run.
PC: What’s your expectation for this game? Does KU have enough to shooting to make up for the missing pieces inside?
AM: I honestly think this game is going down to the wire, similar to the game in Waco this year. Kansas is missing pieces down low, but they haven't seen the gigantic dropoff in production I was expecting. The abilities of Mason and Graham at the point give Kansas a good chance to compensate for the lack of Ellis on the inside. Ultimately, Rico Gathers will feast inside, but Kansas should be able to use feed off the crowd and put this one away. I'm going Kansas 72, Baylor 71.
As always, thanks to Andy for helping us out, and if you want to read more from the KU side, visit Rock Chalk Talk.