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Transcript of beat writer Matt Tait's afternoon chat about Kansas basketball's home opener

This chat will begin at 1:30 p.m. on November 18, 2016

Matt Tait

With the weird travel schedule now behind us, it's time to get back to our Gameday Chats with KUsports.com basketball beat writer Matt Tait. Here's the transcript of Matt's first chat following the Hawaii-to-New York road trip. More where this came from!

Moderator

Good afternoon KU basketball fans and welcome to another Gameday Chat with Matt Tait.

The Jayhawks take on Siena tonight in the home opener, fresh off of their upset of No. 1 Duke in New York City and it should be a wild night at Allen Fieldhouse.

The travel plans kind of jacked up our quest to do these before each game, but now that Matt's back from Hawaii and NYC, we're gonna get back at it. So be sure to check the day of each KU game for another KU basketball chat.

We're going to keep this one kind of short because Matt's working on tracking down the news about Billy Preston making his big announcement between 3-4 today on ESPNU. So check back then for the latest on Preston and come back often for more Gameday Chats all season long.

Let's get right to it...

Matt Tait

Sounds great. Looking forward to getting these going!

itsalwayssunnyinAFH

Always curious about opponents when it comes to scheduling. Any particular reason why Siena? Don't see any connections when looking at roster or coaching staff.

Matt Tait

Good question. And you're right; there often is some kind of cool connection that ties the game together (KU-UAB on Monday, for instance, was scheduled when Jerod Haase was still the coach at UAB).

When there's not a connection like that, though, there's still a reason behind the scheduling of a team like Siena.

For years now, the Jayhawks have had one of the top RPI ratings in college basketball and that's because associate AD Larry Keating is a master schedule maker and he knows exactly how Bill Self wants his schedule set up.

In addition to marquee games like the Champions Classic or the big time opponents like Kentucky and the like, Self and Keating try to find talented teams from conferences outside the Power 5 to play at home that both give KU a nice test and also help KU's RPI.

Siena, which finished third in the MAAC last season, fits that criteria and should provide a tougher game tonight than many are probably expecting.

In recent years, KU has played regular season home games against a bunch of teams that were either defending their conference crown or favored to win it that year.

jayhawkgopher

Curious as to the status of Landen Lucas foot.

Matt Tait

Self said he saw Lucas at lunch the other day and asked him about the foot... Lucas said he was fine.

Two things: 1. Lucas is a tough guy and a proud guy and he'd have to be hurting pretty bad to say anything other than "fine." 2. I believe Lucas' issues right now are more about the way the officials are calling games and less about the foot.

I'm sure the foot is bothering him some, but it does not appear to be bothering him enough to (a) sit him out or (b) cause him any visible pain. I've been watching closely and have not seen him wincing one time. That's good news because nobody wants a foot injury to one of the team's most important players to linger.

At this point, I think we have to take Lucas and Self at their word and assume the foot is fine. How he performs tonight should help give us some indication of exactly where he's at, but, remember, if Lucas is dealing with a sore foot, it would benefit him and the Jayhawks to limit his minutes in these types of games so he can get as much rest as possible.

That could be especially true tonight given that KU has 4 games in 8 days coming up...

KoolKeithFreeze

This deal with Devonte's cramps is crazy. I've seen players cramp up once or twice in a season, usually in overly humid/hot gyms or something, but through the first four games of a season? What is the story here? Is it Devonte not listening to the trainers or are the trainers incompetent???

Matt Tait

There's no doubt that Graham is getting the best medical attention possible. Self has even thrown out the word "experts" (are their cramping experts?) when talking about the way Graham's cramping issues have been handled.

The good news is this... After cramping up with more than 10 minutes to go in the Indiana game, Graham's cramping issues were limited to the final 5 minutes against Duke. So maybe things are trending in the right direction.

Everything I've learned about this deal since following Graham go through it is that treating the cramps once they've started is not always an overnight fix. Sometimes it takes a few days for the body to accept and use the treatment and that certainly appears to be the case with Graham.

After fouling out of that Indiana game and staying down on the floor for several minutes, Graham was treated right in front of me. I heard him telling the KU trainers that it felt "like glass" in his legs, so you can be sure that the issues he's dealing with are serious and severe.

You also can be sure that KU is treating it very seriously and doing everything and then some to help Graham move past the issue. I think they're getting there. And getting through a full game cramp-free tonight would be a terrific sign.

VictoriaGreen

acwc

Matt Tait

Fair question. And I think the only answer to that is: zxdx

300milestoGoodland

I think not having Cheick really shows how much Bill Self counted on him coming back. thoughts?

Matt Tait

I don't think Self has ever counted on having a guy back who was deemed to be even a possible one-and-done player, as Diallo was. He knows how the system works and handles it as well as anybody out there. Getting caught expecting a guy to return is not something he wants to have happen nor has it happened that often.

People will point to him losing Joel Embiid earlier than he expected and it's definitely true that when they signed him they thought Embiid would be a two-year guy... But early on in that season, Self saw the writing on the wall and realized that Embiid was likely going to be gone. It hurt them a little in recruiting at that position the next couple of years but it was not because Self overlooked it because no one saw Embiid being a one-and-done guy while he was being recruited.

Diallo, though raw, always had that potential and I think Self was very supportive of Diallo going pro and also did not get blindsided by expecting him to return.

Could they use him? You bet. But I don't know that they were ever counting on having him back once he was finally eligible and the season played out...

ryangoodwin

How concerned is Coach Self with the early foul trouble in both games?

Matt Tait

I think very concerned is the easy answer.

1. Because Landen Lucas (the team's only proven big man) has been at the heart of it.

2. Because so many of the fouls KU has committed have been "silly" fouls.

I asked Self on Thursday if he had put any extra emphasis on eliminating those silly fouls and he said it's a must. Because this team is going to play hard on both ends of the floor and really get after teams defensively, Self said he knows (and his guys do too) that the fouls are going to happen. But aggressive fouls he can live with and that rarely kills a team.

What kills a team are those silly fouls 90 feet away from the basket, reaching when there's no need to reach or being undisciplined and getting a cheap one at a bad time. Those can be eliminated and Self seems to be hammering home that point to his players.

Moderator

It's already 2:00 and the show's coming up in about an hour. Let's take a couple more and call it a day...

Matt Tait

Sounds good to me. For the record, I think KU fans will like what they hear on ESPNU between 3-4 p.m. Central.

I obviously don't know for sure that Preston is picking Kansas but I think there's enough chatter out there to make that sound very likely.

I know the guy loved his visit and I know he's had KU high on his list ever since attending Late Night. I kind of always thought Preston was bound for Kentucky, but it sounds as if KU has done a great job with him and I think this is the day the 2017 drought finally ends.

Preston is ranked No. 8 overall by Rivals.com in the 2017 Class and, at 6-9, 220 pounds, he possesses a physical build that will make him capable of playing a bunch of different roles for the Jayhawks. Think of him as a little bit of a Jamari Traylor with better guard skills.

He'll be a nice pick-up if the Jayhawks do in fact get him.

Be sure to check out the site between 3-4 for the news on Preston.

ryangoodwin

Any chance Azubuike will replace Lucas in the starting lineup?

Moderator

We went with this one since Matt just posted a blog about this very topic this morning...

Matt Tait

That I did and I think the answer is no. I suppose it's possible way down the road, but if it happens it won't be any time soon unless there's more to Lucas' foot injury than they're letting on or anyone realizes.

Azubuike, as a freshman who is still pretty raw, is the perfect guy to come off the bench to spell Lucas. He can still play 25-30 minutes a game if he really gets it cranking and he gives the Jayhawks the opportunity to bring some serious size off the bench, a guy even bigger than Lucas.

I was re-watching film of the Duke game the other night and even though Lucas did not play that well, he did several things that Azubuike just is not capable of yet. Most of that came on defense, especially with guarding ball screens and help defense, but some of it came on moving the ball, rebounding position and things of that nature.

Lucas is a pro. He's solid and he offers much more to this team than the stat sheet will show.

Moderator

Let's end it there. Go check out Matt's Azubuike blog from earlier today and be sure to stay right here for the news from Billy Preston as it happens.

Thanks for all the questions and, as always, if we didn't get to yours today, come back next game and fire off some more.

We'll be back Monday for another Gameday Chat.

nwwright

Have we seen improvement on the boards yet with our rebounding margin coming from a duke team missing 3 star front court players who's leading rebounder was Kennard?

Moderator

One more... I saw it came in right before I posted the let's end it message, so here it goes.

Matt Tait

Out-rebounding Duke by a significant amount was a good thing because it showed that the Jayhawks were listening to their head coach. (Always a good idea, right?)

It doesn't matter that the Blue Devils were missing a few bigs or that both teams played through foul trouble as much as it mattered that the Jayhawks showed that they had the mental capacity to address and fix an issue.

There are still a few guys who are not even close to rebounding at the level they're capable of yet, so this will continue to be a concern until they all get there (if they do). But now that KU is taking a step back in terms of competition, I think you'll start to see these sorts of things become habit for those guys who have been MIA. That will develop confidence and they'll then be able (and expected) to deliver against tougher teams.

Thanks again for all the questions. Gonna go track the Billy Preston news now.

Stay tuned...