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In F Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA has a player who few in the nation can match up with. At 6'8'', he is a very smooth and very versatile wing, capable of knocking down threes and being an influential offensive rebounder. Though Honeycutt must tighten his handle, he has a quick first step and length to make up for his relatively sloppy skills in that area. He averages 14.6 points and eight rebounds per game in 2010, though he's been very turnover-prone, posting an astonishing 4.8 per contest.
Defensively, Honeycutt can wreak havoc. With his length and quickness, he is an outstanding rebounder and very disruptive blocking shots and deflecting passes. To put it bluntly, there just aren't many players in the country like him playing the wing, and not even the deep and talented Jayhawks have one.
Sophomore F Reeves Nelson is in many ways the antithesis of Honeycutt. He's undersized for the 4 at 6'7'', though is very burly and has relentless energy. He was awesome against Kansas in a reserve role last year and has carried that over to this season as he's emerged as the Bruins' best player. Nelson is one of the few players in the country averaging a double-double this year at 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds, and is shooting an exceptional 62 percent from the field. Though his skill level hasn't quite caught up to his energy and enthusiasm, Nelson is clearly a candidate for postseason All-League honors.
Freshman C Josh Smith is a 5-star recruit and one of the biggest players in college basketball, standing 6'10'' and weighing 305 pounds. Though conditioning is obviously an issue for him, Smith has better touch and feel in the paint than one might imagine. He's playing just over 16 minutes per game this season but is still getting 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds a contest. Smith's mere presence is effective on defense, though he's been very, very foul-prone, having amassed four fouls in every game this season.
Marcus Morris is coming off his most successful week as a Jayhawk, one that saw him lead his team to a tournament title, win all-tournament honors and be named Big 12 player of the week. At 6'8'', he's fluid, strong and multifaceted on both ends of the floor. He's had a fantastic start to 2010, averaging 19 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting a scintillating 67.7 percent from the floor. Morris is capable of beating you with his back to the basket, from deep or driving and converting at the rim. Quite simply, he's one of the nation's best players, and soon will be recognized universally as so.
KU's other twin, Markieff Morris, is certainly no slouch himself. A shade taller and heavier than Marcus, Morris is much closer to a traditional big man than his brother. He blocks shots, rebounds at a very high clip and scores easily with deft touch and strong finishes around the basket. Still, he too is very comfortable shooting from the outside. While Markieff doesn't receive the attention his brother does, he is easily one of the best big men in the Big 12 and is arguably the Jayhawks' second-best player.
The matchups here are truly fascinating.
Obviously, Honeycutt presents a mismatch at both ends of the floor for Kansas. Morningstar is just too small to guard him, and he has the defensive ability to bother KU's starting wings while playing defense.
Marcus Morris is capable of guarding Honeycutt, though it remains to be seen just how comfortable Coach Self is with playing him on the perimeter offensively. In all likelihood, he'll stay in the post and defend Nelson and his peers in the paint.
Defending Honeycutt is where KU's deep bench will come into play.
Watching Nelson and the Morris Brothers battle all night in the paint will be great, as all three players play with unbridled energy and somewhat of a chip on their shoulder. Don't be surprised if there are more than a few elbows and shoves among them.
Smith is clearly an advantage for the Bruins on offense but is perhaps an even bigger hindrance at the other end. He just doesn't have the foot speed to contain Markieff offensively and doesn't want to leave the paint on either end of the floor. Even if he somehow manages to stay foul-free, his minutes could be limited.