The Jayhawks earn their ranking by locking down on opponents
By Andrew Curtis
You’ve all heard it by now. If you haven’t, I’d like to extend an invitation your way to the Withey Block Party.
In a season where scoring is down in college basketball, Kansas sets the standard for playing tough, hard nosed, fundamental defense every single possession.
It all starts with the big man in the middle, senior 7-footer Jeff Withey.
Withey is just eight blocks shy of tying Greg Ostertag for the Kansas’ all-time lead in blocks and leads the nation in blocks per foul by a wide margin, with 2.97, according to espn.com.
For a guy that came to KU as an awkward skinny Californian kid transferring from Arizona, Withey has improved more than any player I can remember during his four years.
For a big man, it doesn’t get any better than Withey at the defensive end. I thought Cole Aldrich set the standard for blocking shots, but I was wrong.
Withey hardly ever leaves his feet, because he doesn’t have to. He simply stays straight up and just extends his arms with perfect execution and timing. That’s why he avoids the fouls.
This can be attributed for the most part to Lawrence legend Danny Manning’s brilliant big man coaching ability in which he perfects the footwork of tall, sometimes uncoordinated men on the court.
However, Manning has moved on to take the head coaching job at Tulsa.
This proves further more that Bill Self is a defensive mastermind and his longtime assistants, Kurtis Townsend, Joe Dooley and Norm Roberts, as well as former Nebraska head coach Doc Sadler, are the best in the business at what they do.
This KU team is offensively challenged compared to Jayhawk teams of the past. Sure, they have a player who can score at will if he wants to in Ben McLemore, but this team has found a different way to be elite.
Kansas gets its offense from its defense. Often times, Withey’s shot blocking ability or Releford’s ability to lock down on the other team’s best scorer with his quick hands lead to easy transition buckets.
Some of the other guys on the team are undervalued defensively. Kevin Young has relentless energy. So does Jamari Traylor, with leaping ability to boot.
Elijah Johnson is known for his quickness, and McLemore for his athleticism.
In his press conference this week, Self re-iterated that he never thought this team would be great at scoring the basketball. He also said that this team has a chance to be better statistically than the 2008 national championship team, but that he believes the 2008 team was much better.
This means that this team still has some work to do and can improve. That’s a good sign for Kansas fans. Self also stressed that he hopes the team can continue learning lessons by winning.
With Withey leading the charge, this experienced basketball team can get to the Final Four in Atlanta by going out and playing Kansas basketball.
The definition of Kansas basketball, at least in the Bill Self era, is holding the opposing team to under 40 percent from the field. Results from previous seasons prove that if KU scores 70 or more points, the Jayhawks are nearly impossible to beat.
Defense is the name of the game. Defense wins championships. And Kansas, already with a two game lead, is well on its way to a 9th straight Big 12 regular season championship thanks significantly to its elite defense.