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February 6, 2013

No. 5/5 Kansas looks to bounce back

Last week wasn't a good one for No. 5/5 Kansas (19-2, 7-1) after falling to Oklahoma State at home. Bill Self's team will hit the road to take on TCU (9-12, 0-8) and look to rebound after a tough loss.

The Jayhawks, in a sense, can start from scratch and focus on the backend of their season after dropping a home game to Oklahoma State on Saturday.

Their 33-game home winning streak was snapped, as was their national best 18-game winning streak this season.

Kansas was humbled, and Self wasn't afraid to add on to such a humbling experience with some very forthright comments in his postgame press conference.

Self called out his team for being soft, playing like babies, and being dominated by OSU's Marcus Smart, who Self said was a man amongst boys on the court.

Taking the brunt of the loss was senior Elijah Johnson, who Self called out personally before telling reporters on Monday that Johnson is his guy and will ride him until the end. There is no denying Johnson is struggling mightily, and Johnson himself said he has been bad in practice and has been losing focus.

Still, Kansas needs him, and won't make a run in March with him struggling or sitting on the bench. The best thing for the Jayhawks is to come out with more of a killer instinct, and for Johnson to get back on track.

TCU, at 0-8 in the conference, awaits the Jayhawks for what will be their biggest home game in recent memory, but will be facing one of the elite teams in the country who will be hungry for a big win to fully erase the memory of its last game.

The Horned Frogs are extremely outmatched against the Jayhawks, but would record the biggest win in its history if they are able to pull off an upset over Kansas.

Tip is set for 8 p.m. (CST) at the Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Tex.

Kansas

After the game, Self spoke about changes coming to his team following what was a bad loss against Oklahoma State in Allen Fieldhouse.

The immediate reaction was that Elijah Johnson may either come off the bench, or move over to the off-guard slot and stick sophomore Naadir Tharpe at the point, which would then move Kevin Young to the first off the bench (which Self would prefer anyway), and slide Travis Releford to the power forward position, which he has proven he can defend.

Much of what Self said was likely due to the immediate emotional reaction to his teams' performance, but without a doubt, he will make changes likely with his rotation throughout the game, dispersal of minutes, and schematically likely make some changes.

At 19-2, it's difficult to complain about the Jayhawks. There are handfuls of programs which would give almost anything in the world to be 19-2, some of those programs are fellow Big 12 programs, so as a whole, KU is sitting pretty but without a doubt, its play must improve if they are to bring home another conference title and make a run in March.

It's not that Kansas has all of a sudden become a bad team, they just appear to lose interest after opening up leads early in the first half.

It was evident in both a win over West Virginia, where Kansas went up 15 early but then hit the coast button and allowed the Mountaineers back in the game and turned it into a slug-fest the rest of the way, as well as in the loss to Oklahoma State where Kansas played well early but allowed the Cowboys to control the pace the rest of the way beginning midway through the first half where Markel Brown knocked down three-pointer after three-pointer before freshman guard Marcus Smart took over in the second half.

The effort level is the most concerning thing for Kansas. It's evident that the Jayhawks are so confident, that you could argue they are overconfident, playing relaxed and without any sense of urgency.

Being confident in your ability to win games, even when you aren't playing well is important, but it's a thin line before you teeter on the edge of being overconfident and losing a game because you didn't bring your full, all-out effort.

Kansas has teetered on that thin line for the past several weeks and it finally came back to bite them. Kevin Young admitted after the game that, in the words of his coach, he and his teammates have been playing on borrowed time, so it isn't like the Jayhawks were unaware of their poor effort.

Wednesday, the Jayhawks will need to refocus their energy on taking down a lesser team and finishing the game to the final buzzer. What Self needs to see is his team pushing the entire 40 minutes and playing with a sense of urgency and energy.

Kansas should have no problem controlling the pace of the game against TCU and should make a statement that the OSU loss was merely an off day and nothing to be concerned about.

Projected Starters

G - Elijah Johnson (Senior, 6-foot-4, 195 pounds)

G - Ben McLemore (Freshman, 6-foot-5, 195 pounds)

G - Travis Releford (Senior, 6-foot-5, 207 pounds)

F - Kevin Young (Senior, 6-foot-8, 190 pounds)

C - Jeff Withey (Senior, 7-foot, 235 pounds)

Bench: Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe, Jamari Traylor, Andrew White III

Texas Christian Horned Frogs

It's been a rough first year in the Big 12 for Head Coach Trent Johnson and his TCU team. At 0-8 in the conference standings, they are just looking for a win regardless of how they get it and who it's against.

Johnson has been around the block and has coached at several high-major programs, so facing a team like Kansas is nothing new to him, but for his players and the fans in attendance, Wednesday night will be a chance to go up against and see first-hand what an elite level, title contending team looks like.

Johnson knows playing Kansas off a disappointing loss at home isn't exactly the greatest situation for his team, but it's a game which can be a valuable teaching tool for his players moving forward. You never want to just concede a game before you have the chance to play it, but any realist knows TCU has a virtual Mount Everest to climb against the Jayhawks.

The one really positive stat for TCU heading into Wednesday's matchup is their scoring defense, which allows just 58.5 points per game, which ranks second in the Big 12.

As that relates to Kansas, despite its play-makers, the Jayhawks haven't been great offensively and are fairly conservative on the road, using more of the shot clocks and almost not looking to get out in transition. Credit defenses which have made it tough on KU to get out and run, but the Horned Frogs have a defense to rely on to at least slow the Jayhawks down on the offensive end.

Sophomore guard Kyan Anderson leads the team in scoring at 11.2 points per game, as well as the leader in assists, and steals. Anderson is a quick guard who will look to push the ball and pressure the KU guards on the defensive end.

TCU would be wise to value possessions and try to slow the game down against KU, which they have struggles with at times. Anderson will need to be a leader on the floor for his team and not let Kansas get easy steals and get out in transition.

TCU is 0-4 against Kansas dating back to 1952 when KU defeated them in a Midwest Regional game on their way to the national title.

Trent Johnson, however, is 1-0 against KU, beating Bill Self and the Jayhawks in Self's first year while Johnson was the coach at Stanford.

Once again, because of the discrepancy in talent, TCU will need to try and outwork Kansas for loose balls and try to control the rebounding edge against the Jayhawks to limit their offensive possessions.

Pressuring point guard Elijah Johnson on the defensive end of the floor will also be a key, as Johnson has struggled recently with turnovers and his game management.

Projected Starters

G - Kyan Anderson (Sophomore, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds)

G - Nate Butler Lind (Junior, 6-foot-6, 200 pounds)

F - Connell Crossland (Senior, 6-foot-7, 190 pounds)

F - Garlon Green (Senior, 6-foot-7, 210 pounds)

F - Adrick McKinney (Senior, 6-foot-8, 250 pounds)

Bench: Devonta Abron, Chris Zurcher, Charles Hill Jr.

The Edge: Kansas

The Jayhawks are looking to get a big win after a disappointing loss which they realize was in many ways their own doing. Kansas is a much more skilled team with size and athleticism and should be able to control TCU from the opening tip.

While the Horned Frogs are outmatched, they are playing in their biggest home game of the season and will try to prove they belong in the same conference as a perennial winner like Kansas. Bill Self's team should expect a well prepared effort from Trent Johnson and his squad and should Kansas let TCU get open looks and allow them to gain confidence, it could be more of a struggle than it should for KU.

Still, this particular game couldn't have come at a better time for Kansas and they should be able to get a big win and put the Oklahoma State loss behind them and move forward in their quest for a ninth consecutive conference title.

Expect the seniors to step up and put on a show and prove to their coach that they can play with toughness, passion, and energy like their coach expects of them.

Final Score

KU - 84

TCU - 60



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