Round Table Discussion – Kansas vs. Maryland
The national championship-caliber semifinal between Kansas and Maryland figures to be a high scoring game, as it features the nation’s top scoring team in the Jayhawks and another in the top ten in scoring in the Terrapins. Both are also veteran teams with two of the best coaches around, and both are capable of playing up-tempo or half-court basketball.
The Jayhawks are quicker up front and deeper in the backcourt, while the Terrapins are stronger and deeper up front and have Final Four experience from last season. Both teams can play a physical style as well, so this game should feature periods with all kinds of play. It may start out up and down, then become a half-court game, or vice versa, and physical play might be the order of the game. This Kansas team is composed differently than past Jayhawk teams, which never had as much quickness and could not run with other squads like this one can. The Jayhawks got here most recently with a win over another high-powered offense, that of the Oregon Ducks, so going up against a good offensive team is nothing new, though Maryland is certainly a better team than Oregon.
Drew Gooden and Juan Dixon, both first-team All-Americans, are the go-to guys. They have been the primary catalysts for their respective teams all season long and will be counted on once again, and it will be a big challenge for each in this game. Dixon will likely be guarded by more than one Jayhawk during the course of the game in their deep backcourt, while Gooden will be up against a deep frontcourt with physical, more powerful players than he is.
Hoopville’s staff writers recently met to break down Saturday’s game. Here is the transcript of their discussion:
Keys to the Game – Kansas
Adam Shandler: The Jayhawks need to do exactly what they did against Oregon – make the game a forty-minute wind sprint. Oregon was only able to stay in that game because of hot shooting but ran out of legs in the home stretch because they weren’t as conditioned as Kansas. KU’s depth will allow a constant conveyor belt of action.
Adam Reich: I’ll agree to some extent there. Kansas has to play better perimeter defense against Maryland than they have thus far in the tournament. Stanford’s Casey Jacobsen hit the Jayhawks up for 25 points in the second round, while Oregon’s Freddie Jones tallied 32 in their elite eight matchup. Juan Dixon is capable of a big game,
especially with Kansas doubling down on Baxter and Wilcox in the post.
David Mosse: Ah, Juan Dixon. The Jayhawks must prevent Dixon from catching fire. Dixon, who became the Terps all-time leading scorer in the second round victory over Wisconsin, is capable of carrying a team to victory.
Brian Seymour: I concur – the Jayhawks must contain Juan Dixon. Actually this one is so important I’ll yell it – “CONTAIN JUAN DIXON!”. Kansas’ strong suit isn’t team defense, so if Dixon gets hot, he could hang 30 or more on the Jayhawks. If that happens…well, it’ll be a long flight back to Lawrence.
Michael Ermitage: Kansas needs to ensure that they’re taking care of the ball and keeping their big men out of foul trouble. It is their biggest advantage.
Keys to the Game – Maryland
Seymour: Maryland needs to maintain their composure. The Terrapins have built their entire season around facing Duke in the Final Four, so Kansas is actually quite a change from the Blue Devils. The Jayhawks are capable of scoring in bunches (as is Duke), but Maryland needs to be ready for a different game than what it was expecting. Kansas is faster than Duke, but also more prone to meltdown.
Ermitage: The Terps have to stay even on the boards and not allow second shot opportunities.
Mosse: Right. Maryland must contain the Jayhawks on the boards and prevent them from doing what they did to Oregon, which is completely overpower them inside. You want a stat? Kansas out rebounded 33 opponents this year by an average of 9 rebounds a game.
Reich: Maryland will need to pound the ball inside with big men Lonnie Baxter
and Chris Wilcox. They have a definite physical edge over the Kansas
frontcourt. In reserves Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle, Maryland has two more
forwards who can body up with Nick Collison and Drew Gooden on the interior.
Shandler: Definitely. The Terps must pitch their flag in the interior. If they get beat inside, the game is over. Collison and Gooden are going to try to move Baxter and Wilcox off the blocks, but Baxter and Wilcox are experienced enough underneath to stand pat. Maryland runs well but not as well as Kansas, however, they do play good defense. They’ll need great defense against Kansas and keeping the turnovers under 15 should be a goal.
Phil Kasiecki: There are really two key individual matchups in this game. One is in the backcourt with Kirk Hinrich and Steve Blake. Both players are very similar; they are capable playmakers, they shoot the ball well, and make big plays. Hinrich is a tougher player and does some things you don’t expect a guard to do, and he might have a slight edge.
The other is up front between Drew Gooden and Chris Wilcox, two very similar players. Gooden is more experienced and proven, but Wilcox has emerged in the latter part of the season and the tournament, and at 6’10” with quick post moves he is a rarity – someone quick enough to compete with Gooden. This should be an intriguing individual matchup.
Seymour: The guard matchup – Maryland’s Juan Dixon and Steve Blake vs. Kansas’ Kirk Hinrich and Jeff Boschee. For my money, Maryland’s backcourt is the best in the country, but the Jayhawk duo is close. The question is whether Hinrich and Boschee will be able to adequately defend Dixon and Blake and whether the Terrapin backcourt will be able to prevent too many easy baskets for the Jayhawks.
Mosse: The real matchup is Nick Collison vs. Lonnie Baxter.
Ermitage: Totally. Collison crashes the boards like no other college player and has a variety of moves in the paint. Baxter, however, is very physical and could potentially put the foul-prone Collison on the bench.
Shandler: Not so much. It comes down to the point guard. Period. Blake vs. Hinrich. For Maryland, it’s all about getting across half-court and setting up quickly. For KU, it’s about receiving the inbounds and blazing down court for an easy dish. I think you might see more of Dixon at the point for Maryland. He’s a little quicker and craftier. Ditto for Boschee or Langford at Kansas. Keep in mind that Blake is Maryland’s leading rebounder in the tournament.
Reich: Well, actually the key matchup in this game is Kirk Hinrich vs. Juan Dixon. At 6-3, Hinrich will likely cover Dixon, instead of the 6-1 Boschee. Hinrich, who is
still feeling the effects of his injured ankle, will have his hands full
with Dixon. Maryland runs him off numerous screens and Dixon spots up on the
wing when the defense doubles the post. Also, Dixon is an all-conference
defender who will make life miserable for Hinrich with his quick hands and
Player to Watch – Kansas
Ermitage: Nick Collison – He’s got to stay out of foul trouble to give Kansas the much-needed inside advantage. It’s as simple as that.
Mosse: No it’s not. It’s Drew Gooden.
Shandler: Whenever it’s in doubt for Kansas, they call Gooden’s number. He’s an incredible leaper with great long arms who can shoot over most defenders, so that give him an advantage from long range. He is also, in my opinion the best overall athlete in this foursome.
Seymour: If the game turns physical, will Gooden be able to bang with the stronger Terps and stay out of foul trouble in the process? Gooden is the one guy Kansas can’t do without for long stretches at a time.
Kasiecki: But keep an eye on Keith Langford. The freshman swingman has turned it up of late with 35 points in the last two games on 12 of 14 shooting from the field. Could he be the upstart freshman who makes a difference alongside the veterans in this game?
Reich: Langford will have a big game. Everyone knows
Hinrich and Boschee can stroke the three if left alone on the perimeter.
However, when Langford is in the game the Terps will be more likely to double
Baxter and Wilcox on the inside. Open shots will be available for Langford,
and if he hits his first one he could get hot.
Player to Watch – Maryland
Seymour: Steven Blake. If the game is close down the stretch, Blake’s performance will be critical. He’s an excellent free throw shooter and will need to keep the ball in his and Juan Dixon’s hands. The pair will likely be money from the free-throw line.
Ermitage: Well, you mentioned the right player – Juan Dixon. He can take over a game at any point, he’s that good. If he’s on and decides to take over, it may not matter what Kansas does.
Shandler: Normally I would say Juan Dixon is the guy to watch, but I really feel that the Terps’ interior game, both offense and defense, is going to be the focus. Keep an eye on Lonnie Baxter and see if he can neutralize KU’s big men, who doubled Oregon’s rebounding total last Sunday.
Kasiecki: Baxter, a senior, has had some big games the last two seasons in the NCAA Tournament, and is fresh off that 29-point game in the regional final against the Huskies. He has proven himself to be a money player for the Terrapins and wants to win.
Reich: True, Baxter went to town on Connecticut in the elite eight, and Kansas will look to double him when he touches the ball. Because of this, Chris Wilcox should collect a number of weak-side rebounds and convert them into easy scores. Expect Wilcox to have a big game for the Terps.
Players on the Rise
Reich: Juan Dixon can dominate a game on both offense and defense. He will knock down most open looks and will create turnovers in the Maryland press.
Seymour: I think this is going to be the kind of game that makes a kid millions of dollars in the pros. Dixon has the potential to tear the Jayhawks up.
Shandler: I like Byron Mouton for Maryland. He can play the small forward or off-guard with equal ability but I think you’ll see him in more of an “under-the-rim” role. He’ll help out Wilcox and Baxter and offensively, he’ll help to move another forward away from the basket.
Ermitage: Chris Wilcox. So much talent ready to burst on a big stage. In an open game like this one, he may have some career numbers for the Terps.
Kasiecki: And we were saying how deep the Jayhawks are? Drew Nicholas is likely to be a key for the Terrapins. One of the better reserve guards in the country, he is the only real backup at either guard on this team, a potential problem given the backcourt depth the Jayhawks have. He’ll need to do a good job spelling Blake and Dixon for a few minutes here and there, especially if one of them gets in foul trouble.
Shandler: Kansas has an interesting player in freshman forward Wayne Simien. A big guy with a nice touch, Simien gets overlooked a lot because he only averages about 15 minutes a game. But look for more of him against Maryland because he shoots well from the line (74%) and is very, very physical.
Kasiecki: The real X-factor for the Jayhawks could be veteran Jeff Boschee. On this team of stars, he almost gets lost in the shuffle, but he’s a solid shooter who isn’t afraid to take a big shot and he’s also one of just two seniors on this team that plays significant minutes. He has made half of his three-point attempts thus far in the NCAA Tournament and shoots 46.5% from downtown on the season.
Ermitage: And, Boschee’s outside shooting was often the difference in close KU games this year (see the Texas victory).
Players on the Decline
Mosse: Maryland’s Steve Blake is definitely on the schnide.
Ermitage: He has had two tough tourney games in a row, if he has a third ending in a loss, it will be on his shoulders.
Kasiecki: If one player can make a difference in a negative way on Kansas’ deep team, it would have to be Hinrich, given his recent ankle injury. He looked fine last weekend and has always been someone who can play hurt, but the results last weekend were a little mixed: 6 of 13 shooting in the two games is not bad, but 3 assists and 7 turnovers is not what one has come to expect from him.
Reich: And Hinrich could have a tough day trying to get free with Dixon in his jock. He hasn’t shot the ball well in the tournament, and I don’t expect this trend
to change against Maryland.
Seymour: I like Drew Gooden a lot, but I don’t think he’s going to be able to get it done against the Terps’ frontcourt.
Reich: A key decision in this game could be whether Gary Williams chooses to
continually press the Jayhawks. By pressing the Terps he could wear down Hinrich and Boschee, as well as put added pressure on freshman guards Keith Langford and Aaron Miles.
Ermitage: It seems like a good strategy against a team that lacks a super ball handler outside of Aaron Miles. The problem is that Miles thrives in that situation.
Mosse: I think Gary Williams will likely employ a zone defense preventing the Jayhawks from getting the ball inside. He will gladly place the onus on Jeff Boschee and Kirk Hinrich to beat them from the perimeter. The pair can be very erratic from the outside.
Kasiecki: Along those lines, look for Maryland to try to pound the Jayhawks into submission on the low post with their deep frontcourt, especially with the emergence of Wilcox, and Baxter having proven to be a money player in the tournament. The Jayhawks should look to exploit their quickness and backcourt depth, especially since the Terrapins also don’t have a real backup for Byron Mouton at small forward and Langford has played very well of late.
Seymour: Generally speaking, Kansas does a lot deeper down the bench than Maryland, but I look for Gary Williams to substitute sparingly and give Dixon, Lonny Baxter and Chris Wilcox about 35-38 minutes apiece (unless there’s foul trouble or it’s a blowout). If they can stand the extra work, it’ll give the Terps a chance to exploit their physical advantage.
What to Watch For
Reich: Maryland is trying to win the first National Championship in the school’s
history, while Kansas’ Roy Williams is searching for his first National Championship in 14 years of coaching. This game has all the makings of a shoot-out. Maryland is scoring 85 points per game in the tournament while Kansas is averaging 92.
Mosse: Look for a fast-paced transition game with the possibility of both teams cracking the 90-point plateau. While Duke received all the press clippings, these were the two most rock-solid teams throughout the regular season. With both teams on a mission since the start of the season, this promises to be a classic.
Ermitage: This will be a track meet. And in every way it will be much the same way Duke-Maryland games have been in the recent past. The only problem for Maryland is that Kansas defends the paint much better than Duke does. This will be the key of the game.
Kasiecki: Well, during the sprints, there will be some switches on individual matchups over the course of the game. The Jayhawks will likely try more than one player on Dixon, while the Terrapins will probably switch around with who guards Gooden and Nick Collison since they have several options there.
Seymour: Deserved or not, neither of these two coaches have the best big-game reputation. This game will tell which one is ready for the spotlight. I agree, we’ll see key substitutions, especially late in the game and how each coach reacts if either team goes on a run. This should be one of the more entertaining games of the season, a true semifinal classic. If Maryland is nursing a lead at the end of the game, the Jayhawks are in trouble.
Michael Ermitage: Kansas 94, Maryland 86. Maryland’s mid-season defensive problems rear their ugly head.
Phil Kasiecki: Kansas will have just enough to outlast the Terrapins in an electric atmosphere. Kansas 97, Maryland 92.
David Mosse: Kansas 94, Maryland 90.
Adam Reich: Maryland 88, Kansas 84
Brian Seymour: Maryland 87, Kansas 84. Dixon’s and Blake’s free throw shooting down the stretch will be the difference.
Adam Shandler:Kansas does not “fear the turtle.” The Jayhawks win it with their high-octane offense. Kansas 88, Maryland 75.