NCAA Tournament

Not always good sign when Jayhawks go small

Two of Kansas’ biggest struggles this season came against teams where one of the post players can venture beyond the three-point stripe and knock down the deep jumper.

Hello, Ohio State.

The Buckeyes start Deshaun Thomas, a 6-7 forward, and he’s effective inside and outside — and it’s the outside part that should concern Kansas.

Think Robbie Hummel and Kim English.

Hummel, the 6-8 Purdue swingman, gave the Jayhawks fits in the third round of the NCAA Tournament, scoring 22 of his 28 points in the first half.

In two games against KU, Missouri’s English went for a combined 29 points. But his biggest accomplishment, as well as Purdue’s, was making the Jayhawks play with a different lineup.

Kansas prefers to use center Jeff Withey on the opponent’s best post scorer, and Thomas Robinson defends the other post player.

But if Robinson’s man — he likely will match up against Thomas — forces Robinson to guard him around the three-point line, Ohio State has effectively removed the nation’s top defensive rebounder from the basket.

Self believes the Jayhawks can win with any combination on the floor as long as Kansas plays like it matters.

“The common denominator with our teams is energy,” Self said. “You should be consistent with your energy, rebounding and on defense.”

Nothing saps Kansas’ energy quicker than an opponent getting the better of the matchup early. It’s why the Jayhawks quickly fell behind Purdue 8-0. It’s how Missouri got a 19-point lead at Lawrence, a game Kansas eventually won in overtime.

Withey usually comes off the floor in these situations. He played only 15 minutes against the Boilermakers. An injury kept him out of the second half of the Missouri game and he logged 9 minutes.

When the Jayhawks were preparing to meet North Carolina State in the Sweet 16, the team was fired up because it was preparing for a team that primarily used two post players around the basket. The result? Withey played 33 minutes and tied a school record with 10 blocked shots.

The minutes Withey doesn’t get mostly go to 6-8 junior Kevin Young, and he has had some of his best games of the season in the NCAA Tournament. Young collected a season-best nine rebounds against North Carolina on Sunday, and he had nine points in the tournament-opening victory over Detroit.

Young’s best regular-season game came against Ohio State, with 14 points and four rebounds. He played extensively that game, even though the Buckeyes’ Jared Sullinger missed the game because of back spasms. Self just stayed with the hot hand.

Young moves quicker than Withey and is a better option guarding an active forward. But the Jayhawks surrender Withey’s shot-blocking and 9.2 points per game in the switch.

Look for Young to top his season average of 11.4 minutes per game and spend several possessions guarding Thomas.

“Hopefully I can just lock down on defense,” Young said. “If I’m concerned about my defense, my offense will come.”