Friday, May 24, 2024

Kansas much improved since Jan. meeting

March 24, 2009

Kansas forward Marcus Morris tries to block MSU freshman forward Draymond Green from making a shot. The Spartans won the Jan. 10 game 75-62 at Breslin Center.

It didn’t take much for MSU men’s basketball head coach Tom Izzo to put Kansas’ midseason improvement into perspective for his team.

In fact, all it took were two words: North Carolina.

Just like MSU improved after getting spanked by the Tar Heels earlier this season, Kansas improved after its 75-62 loss to the Spartans on Jan. 10.

On Friday, the Jayhawks will look to prove how far they’ve come when they take on MSU in the Sweet 16 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“Their freshmen have gotten better, I think they’ve gotten a little more consistent,” Izzo said Tuesday at his weekly press conference. “And they have two players that are as good as anybody in the tournament.”

Anyone who watched Kansas win the Big 12 regular season title would know which two players Izzo is talking about.

Guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich have emerged into one of the premier inside-outside duos in the country, as they showed last weekend by scoring 88 points and collecting 44 rebounds against North Dakota State and Dayton.

Against Dayton, Aldrich finished with 13 points, 20 rebounds and 10 blocks to record the first triple-double the NCAA Tournament has seen since Dwyane Wade in 2003.

“Those two guys I think are as good as anybody in the country at their positions right now,” Izzo said. “They make that team tick.”

Although Collins and Aldrich fuel Kansas’ offense, Izzo said the Jayhawks’ improvement has been a reflection of their role players getting better.

No individual has improved more than Tyshawn Taylor, an athletic guard who has given Kansas a reliable third scoring option.

In addition to Taylor, Izzo mentioned forward Mario Little, as well as twins Markieff and Marcus Morris, as players who have improved since the first meeting between the schools.

“(Tyshawn) is an incredible athlete,” Izzo said.

“He is better. He’s a lot more mature now. I think he and Mario Little, who just came back, have gotten better.”

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