Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Positional breakdown of matchups between BU and Kansas

By Craig Meyer/DFP Staff

As we at Full Court Press have been doing here in the final stretch of the season for the Boston University men's basketball team, we will be analyzing BU's matchups against a given opponent that in this case happens to be the University of Kansas.

What usually happens in these write-ups is we pick a winner of every matchup, but against a team like the Jayhawks, such a method becomes an exercise in futility. Kansas and BU are simply two different programs on two different levels of the college basketball echelon, meaning it's relatively moot to try to even compare the teams' players, for Kansas will always predictably come out on top every time.

However, what we will do instead is take a look at each of the individual matchups, examining key points even if it means not picking a winner. Also of note is that against a team like Kansas, one-on-one matchups may not hold true because BU will likely try to avoid playing man-on-man defense against a far more talented team like the Jayhawks; but for the sake of comparison, it's easiest just to go position by position.

Point guard: D.J. Irving v. Tyshawn Taylor
A matchup of the respective team leaders in assists, this should be one of the more intriguing face-offs, pitting the two speediest players on the court against each other. Taylor has struggled at times trying to fill the void left by the graduation of Sherron Collins, but is averaging 9.1 points per game in addition to a team-high 4.5 assists per game. While Taylor is a fast decision-maker who rarely unnecessarily hangs on to the ball too long, he still sports an average of 2.7 turnovers per game. Some would also go so far as to say his questionable decision-making is reflected by his violation of team rules that led to a suspension on Feb. 21 that kept him out of two of KU's games. That said, his speed, quick first step and change of direction ability allows him to orchestrate a fast-paced Jayhawk attack.

Regardless of any struggles Taylor has experienced this season, he should have his way against the far less-experienced Irving. This is not a shot at D.J. whatsoever -- he's had a fantastic freshman season and should figure prominently into what looks to be a bright future for the BU program. Irving possesses great speed which helps him tremendously in America East, but it becomes far less of an advantage against faster, top-25 teams like Kansas. With that advantage gone, Irving's shortcomings and freshman tendencies should be exacerbated, much like they were even against a team like Stony Brook in the America East Championship.

Shooting guard: Darryl Partin vs. Brady Morningstar
Morningstar may not have the eye-popping stats of the Morris twins or the sheer athleticism of Taylor or freshman Josh Selby, but his importance to his Kansas team extends far beyond any stat sheet or highlight reel. The 6'4" guard is a consummate glue-guy of sorts for the Jayhawks, providing his team with a little bit of everything be it assists, steals or even rebounding. Additionally, Morningstar is a strong perimeter defender and a great shooter (49.1 percent from the field, 40.2 percent from 3-point range), helping take pressure off the Morris twins down low.

With an all-conference performer in Partin, this should be one of BU's more even matchups, even if Partin has struggled over the past few games. Partin has a full two inches on Morningstar, but such an advantage will likely be limited by Morningstar's defense. Don't expect to see Partin have much success driving the basketball, so he will likely have to have an above-average shooting day for BU to have any chance of keeping it close. On the defensive end, Partin will have to use his length to limit Morningstar's effectiveness in dishing the ball to Kansas' twin towers in the low post and will also have to work around a series of high screens so as not to give Morningstar many open looks.

Small forward: John Holland vs. Tyrel Reed
Any BU fan reading this knows about Holland's absolute importance to this BU team. Any Kansas fan knows that he's likely the one player they've been told to keep an eye on before they start looking ahead to much to a secon round matchup against Illinois or UNLV. He's been critical to the Terriers' success this season and will have to continue to play at his 19.2 points per game, AE Player of the Year clip if BU hopes to have any chance of keeping the game against Kansas within 20 points.

Trying to prevent any sort of Cinderella outburst from Holland will be Reed, perhaps one of the Jayhawks' most well-rounded players. Reed averages an even ten points a game, pulls down almost three boards a game and dishes out close to two assists per game; also, he's a persistent defender, reflected by his team-high 1.5 steals per game. Holland rarely turns the ball over, and while he may be occasionally matched up against the equally defensively-apt Morningstar, it will be necessary for Holland not to buckle under the defensive pressure and hold on to the ball. If he can do that, he can not only prevent easy fast break points for Kansas, but also make sure to keep the ball in the hands of BU's best player on the offensive end.

Power forward: Dom Morris vs. Marcus Morris
While these two are both Philly-area big men who happen to share the same last name, the similarities just about end there. Dom Morris, like Irving, has undoubtedly displayed immense promise and production in his freshman season and he will certainly be a key component of BU's future plans moving forward after this season. But perhaps even more than Irving's matchup with Taylor, expect Dom Morris to be overwhelmed by Marcus Morris. Again, this is not a shot at Dom, but he's a freshman who's still refining his game and will now be facing off against one of the country's premier big men.

Marcus Morris is Kansas' leading scorer at 17.3 points per game and he shoots an astonishing 58.7 percent from the field, making him easily one of the most efficient scorers in the nation. Dom Morris can undoubtedly stretch the floor and open up from 3-point range, especially for a man his size, but so can Marcus Morris, something that is evident in his 36.2 3-point percentage. Marcus Morris is a rare blend of size, versatility, strength and touch, and ultimately, even for a freshman as talented as Dom Morris, that will be too overwhelming in the game's trenches.

Forward: Patrick Hazel vs. Markieff Morris
For much of the season, especially in the latter half, Hazel has been a reliable low post presence for the Terriers, emerging as the team's top rebounder at 5.9 a game and providing excellent defense to the tune of a team-high 1.9 blocks per game and a spot on the AE All-Defensive team. The Marquette University transfer has performed admirably over the last few weeks and has developed into a strong frontcourt player that the Terriers will certainly rely upon for the rest of this season and next season as well.

However, like Dom Morris, he will be going against a caliber of player in Markieff Morris who he has not faced all season. Not only does Markieff Morris have a full four inches on Hazel (Hazel is 6'6", Morris is 6'10"), but he is also a more efficient scorer and rebounder (averaging 13.6 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds per game) who is simply more athletic and possessed a much more vertical, above-the-rim game than a player like Hazel who has just now started to put home dunks down low for the Terriers. Hazel struggled to stay out of foul trouble and produce on the offensive end against a player like Stony Brook's Dallis Joyner, meaning that Markieff Morris could prove to be a nightmare to contain down low.

Sixth man: Matt Griffin vs. Josh Selby
It's a fact that has been thrown out throughout the week, but it merits repeating in this conversation -- Griffin's brother was on the 2005 Bucknell University team that as a No. 14 seed upset KU in the first round of the tournament. Undoubtedly, it's a nice piece of trivia, but this isn't 2005 and this isn't the same Kansas team, with Selby emblematic of that difference. The freshman guard and Baltimore native was one of the most highly-touted freshman of the 2010 class, but was forced to sit out of the Jayhawks' first nine games by the NCAA for his relationship with a business manager. While he hasn't starred for his team in the way that other freshmen like Jared Sullinger, Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones have, Selby has been a valuable force off the bench, displaying incredible athleticism and a great slashing ability that has somewhat made up for his shooting struggles this season. The fact that he is coming off the bench is a testament to the depth of talent that this Kansas team possesses.

Meanwhile, Griffin has been a terrific team leader and a great source of energy, intensity and focus for a BU team that has needed it throughout the season. The team tri-captain has displayed a great defensive prowess and has proven to be a consistently reliable 3-point shooter, having gone 46.1 percent from beyond the arc this season. While there is absolutely no way the Terriers would have won a conference title and made the Big Dance without Griffin, he simply does not match up with Selby's speed, athleticism and dynamic play-making ability.

Bench comparisons
To continue with the discussion of Kansas' depth, the Jayhawks have the advantage of a bench full of willingly-competant performers who provide help and relief in various facets of the game. Forward Thomas Robinson provides scoring with eight points per game, as well as length and size down low, standing at 6'9" and averaging 6.5 rebounds per game. If either of the Morris twins get in foul trouble, Robinson is a more than adequate substitute. Mario Little is a versatile player who can play both the shooting guard and small forward positions, and is a good 3-point shooter at 39.3 percent. Guard Elijah Johnson is a promising sophomore who is a well-rounded statistical player who can come in to relieve Taylor, Reed or Morningstar if necessary.

In addition to Griffin for the Terrier bench are three players who have provided small, but occasionally important contributions for BU throughout the season -- junior center Jeff Pelage, freshman guard Mike Terry, Jr. and freshman guard Travis Robinson. Pelage possesses a more refined game than he did his freshman season, but is still very limited by his speed and agility on the offensive and defensive ends. If Pat Hazel and Dom Morris are likely to be over-whelmed by the Morris twins, Pelage is another matter entirely. Terry has played a limited role for BU, but has proven to be a great defender and rebounder. He will likely see a few minutes against Kansas, but it may not extend far beyond that. Robinson came in as the highest-rated freshman by ESPN, but his immense flashes of promise and progress have been stunted by a series of broken noses throughout the season (hence the Rip Hamilton mask he's been wearing). He has been used in the final minute of the first half in the past couple of games, so fans shouldn't expect much more from Robinson -- barring any unexpected injuries to starters -- beyond that.

Coaches: Patrick Chambers vs. Bill Self
Over the past week or so, Chambers has emerged as the most revered figure on the BU campus, even if it's only taken most of the BU student body almost a full two years to realize what incomparable enthusiasm, energy and charm the man possesses and brings to the table for this program. In his first two years at the helm, Chambers has led BU to two 20-win seasons, two AE Tournament championship games and now, an AE title and NCAA Tournament appearance. Much of anything is an understatement when talking about what kind of an impact Chambers has had on this BU program and he truly deserves almost any accolade he receives for the job he has done.

Even with all Chambers has accomplished in such a short period of time, Chambers can simply not match up to Self who stands one of the most decorated coaches in college basketball today. He has the hardware in the form of a 2008 National Championship ring and he is one of the only coaches in the history of the game to have led three different programs -- KU, the University of Illinois and the University of Tulsa -- as far as the Elite Eight. Where Chambers has posted an impressive 42-27 in his two seasons at BU, Self has gone 441-150 in almost 20 years as a head coach. It's not so much a slight at Chambers or any over-praise of Self, this is just simply a judgment that there's no comparison between the two at this stage in their respective careers.

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