Andy Mitts, the managing editor of SB Nation's Kansas blog Rock Chalk Talk, was kind enough to do a question and answer with Testudo Times to help preview Thursday's game between the Terrapins and Jayhawks. Be sure to give Andy a follow on Twitter. With that, let's do it:
When the season began, what were the expectations for this Jayhawks team? As the season progressed, Kansas seemed to emerge as the nation's best overall squad, but were fans expecting that back in November?
There was definitely an inkling that something like this could be possible, but most of those ideas involved Cheick Diallo getting cleared early in the year and developing quickly into a Joel Embiid-like player and making a huge impact down low. The World University Games over the summer gave us a peek into the development of some of the starters, and it really seemed to be a launching pad for Wayne Selden, bolstering the argument that he was playing out of position alongside Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Oubre the last two years.But back in November, the focus was on trying to hold on to the top spot in the Big 12, and hope to avoid injuries and make it through to the second weekend of the tournament. The development of this team, especially junior Landen Lucas, has been a pleasant surprise....
What will Kansas do to try to limit Melo Trimble's impact on Thursday's game?
Up until yesterday, there was some question as to exactly who would draw the assignment, but Bill Self made it clear that Frank Mason has drawn the assignment of guarding the Terrapins star. I saw the excellent breakdown that you guys did on why Kansas is a good matchup for Trimble, but overall I still have confidence in our guys to be able to affect his game enough. With all due respect to Melo, he probably is at best on par with Buddy Hield of Oklahoma, and while Hield still got quite a few points, the Jayhawks twice were able to disrupt his game in crunch time and come away with hard-fought victories.
If you were an opposing coach facing Kansas, what would be your game plan to try to defeat the Jayhawks?
With all the talent in the perimeter, the key has always been in the frontcourt. While there is a bit of depth down low, Landen Lucas and Jamari Traylor are really the only guys that can consistently contribute on both sides of the ball, and getting them in foul trouble severely limits how Kansas can run the high-low. Hunter Mickelson can fill in on defense in a pinch, but that causes offensive problems. Carlton Bragg and Chieck Diallo are coming along, but if they are in the game for extended periods of time, your big guys should be getting plenty of scoring opportunities.
Kansas has only lost four times this season. What did Michigan State, West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Iowa State do successfully to defeat the Jayhawks?
The one thing they all had in common was that they were able to get inside early and consistently put pressure on the Jayhawks that way. All of those wins were before Landen Lucas really took off, though, so Kansas was consistently giving something up on one end of the floor having either Lucas or Mickelson in the game. West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Iowa State were able to benefit from either the after-effects of that three-OT game against the Sooners or the frenzy of their home environment.
Prediction time. Complete this sentence: ______________ will win and advance to the Elite Eight because _________________.
Kansas will win and advance to the Elite Eight because Bill Self is awesome. No, really. It seems like a cop-out answer, but I've come to realize time and time again that Self pretty much has an answer for everything. There have been multiple times this year where we as a fanbase questioned why he was doing something the way he did it, or thought we had identified a clear weakness in this team, and then all of a sudden it was fixed.
Landen Lucas' development is one example, and silenced all the doubters about why we continued to play so much down low instead of focusing on our three-point shooting abilities. He's been able to develop a deep bench, but also has shown the ability to know who to insert in multiple situations during a game to adjust to what is happening on the floor. Ultimately, while Kansas has good players year in and year out, Bill Self is the biggest weapon that we have to push this team through the tournament and to another national championship.
Bonus: How do Kansas fans feel about facing former Jayhawk Mark "The Surgeon" Turgeon?
Honestly, I haven't really noticed any strong feelings one way or another about the matchup. It's great to see another guy from the Jayhawk family have success, but I can't even personally say I love or hate the matchup.