Saturday, March 18, 2006

Keegan: Kansas reverted vs. BU


— The curtain came up on the NCAA Tournament for Kansas University's basketball team Friday night, and the clock rolled back. All the way back to November. All the way back to Maui. All the way back to the stage-fright days.

The Jayhawks were young and unsure of themselves again. They were reacting again, not attacking. They were way too uptight and way too loose with the ball.

In short, they were not ready to play, and who would have thought that of this team at this point, one game after drilling Texas in the title game of the Big 12 tourney?

Freshman guard Mario Chalmers, the team's best player over the last half of the season, was not afraid to acknowledge as much after Bradley drove the Jayhawks into their second consecutive one-and-done tournament failure, 77-73.

"It was nerves," Chalmers said. "For the freshmen, it's a big stage, and we really haven't been on this big stage before, and it took us awhile to adjust to it."

Chalmers' night went pretty much the way of his season: He was scoreless in the first half and rallied the Jayhawks with 15 second-half points.

"I feel kind of mad because I think we should have come out better prepared and done a better job for the seniors," Chalmers said. "All year, everything we've done has been for the seniors. I feel bad for the seniors."

Whenever a college basketball team loses a big game, I feel for the coach, unless that coach happens to be a jerk, in which case I delight in his misery. Bill Self doesn't happen to be a jerk, but he is a college basketball coach, which means the wrath of a segment of the understandably disappointed fan base will be sent in his direction.

Such sentiments can be summed up in one word: nonsense.

Two consecutive shocking first-round meltdowns does not mean Self has forgotten how to coach in the postseason.

He's the same guy who led three different schools - Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas - to the Elite Eight and coached this season's young team to 15 victories in 16 games coming into Friday night's unthinkable outcome.

Along the way, he compared coaching this team to a box of chocolates, as in you never know what you're going to get when you reach into it. This time, there was a mousetrap in there.

This team was a coachable bunch, a group of players who improved, but never knew how to overcome its lack of experience in this sense: They were better at doing things the second time around. The first games against chief conference rivals Kansas State and Missouri were losses, the rematches paybacks. The first game against Texas was a disaster, the second a memorable display of smart, tough, winning basketball.

In the tournament, the only second chance is a second year. It's neither what they wanted nor what they expected.

In the first half, athletic Bradley turned the tables on KU, winning the points-off-turnovers battle 17-0. The Braves finished the first 20 minutes with an 11-0 blitz that gave them a 10-point lead in a half in which KU turned the ball over 11 times, forced just six turnovers and didn't make a three-pointer.

"We're going to learn from this and come out playing hard from the start next year," Chalmers said.

Next year arrived way too soon.


super_jayhawk 13 years, 8 months ago

Bottom line, the Jayhawks lost the game on Friday night because they were nervous, timid, and unfocused. Bradley had a team that was fired up, had a lot of luck going their way (the halftime shot, for example) and was not afraid of Kansas or anyone.

A coach is one of the most powerful motivators that can inspire, comfort or strike confidence in the hearts of their players. This is called leadership, and it's the reason why many NCAA Div I coaches tend to get paid nearly a million bucks while the assistant coaches get pocket change and the players play for tuition. The coach is a major, major factor in the game, and more than just for strategy. Players come and go every four years or less, but coaches create dynasties. Allen. Rupp. D. Smith. Olson. Even that nutball at Texas Tech.

Collegiate basketball dynasties, and their records, are not accidental.

A relatively new KU Basketball coach once on Hawk Talk in 1990 once said "So much of basketball is mental... the difference between the team that wins and the team that loses is often just a few points, and the difference is which team truly believes in themselves to win the game". I watched it play out many times in the next decade and change, and it's true. The team draws more than dry plays and strategies from the coach, they draw inspiration (and sometimes fear, when the coach is pissed.. like benching all five starters, taking off a coat, doing YMCA speeches at halftime, etc.). A team is a boatload of players that have their own dreams, fears, and abilities, it is the captain of the ship that is able to draw them all together and make them more than individuals. Just ask any sergeant or captain.

Having said all this, I don't think that we need to bother debating Bill Self's job security. Just like the players, the coach also should spend time during the next year to work on things that will help the team, and find out how to inspire, motivate and instill confidence in his players.

I think there were games that he was able to do that, and games that he didn't. There was a breakdown across the board during the Bradley game and the team fundamentally didn't play anything that looked like Kansas Basketball. It ultimately is up to the coach to identify the problems, discuss them with the team, make the changes that are necessary, and kick some ass if necessary if players are not doing what's expected.

The season's over, like it or not. The breakdowns exposed in the Bradley game are something that the Jayhawks should use as motivation on what to work on and how to improve for next year, and that includes both coaches and players, to make this a team that can make a run in the 2007 NCAA Tournament.

I truly believe this team will get better, but I agree, the coach is not perfect, and neither are the players.

Both need to work on a number of things to improve their toughness, poise, and confidence. But I think it will be a fun next few years to watch.

loudog 13 years, 8 months ago

the hawks did better than I ever expected this year. with Rush coming back, we'll be the team to beat next year.

rcaltrider 13 years, 8 months ago

No, loudog, UNC and Ohio State will be the teams to beat next year. Unlike KU's young players, UNC's young players were able to pull through and get a victory. HMMMM, I wonder if that has anything to do with the coach? And they have one of the top 2 recruiting classes coming in next year to add to that mix. OSU has the other top class and those kids probably won't get stage fright like these kids at KU did. They also will have a dominant post player and a go to guy. KU has a player with that ability to be a go to guy but he doesn't have the willingness (guts) to do so. I don't need to mention his name because we all know who it is.

Also, I'm tired of hearing the youth excuse. These kids have played enough basketball this year and in their lives that they should know what to do by now and shouldn't get scared by it. I don't remember Syracuse being too scared to win a national championship 3 years ago. I think we all remember that unfortunately. That team was lead by 3 freshmen who were not scared of anything and beat an experienced KU team in the final. So youth is no excuse.

As far as Self goes, I see a pattern of underachievement in March. Keegan mentions his 3 elite 8 appearances but one of those was with a #1 seeded Illinois team. A #1 seed underachieves if they do not make the Final 4. Another Elite 8 was with KU when he took a #4 seed to the Elite 8 but he didn't have to face the #1 seed and when KU finally played a higher seeded team, they lost. So he didn't really underachieve but he certainly didn't overachieve. And to sum up the underachievement we have the 2 first round exits in the past two years at KU with a #3 and a #4 seed respectively. So I'd say the criticisms and doubt about Self's coaching ability in March are definitely warranted. So excuse me if I don't believe he'll ever lead this school to where it should be and that is to the top. And for those who tried to rationalize the loss of Williams by saying KU got the better, younger coach (and I was one of them), we were right about the younger part but he certainly is not better or even near as good. And what's even worse is to see the coach that could have been and should have been the choice to replace Roy still in the tournament leading a less talented team to greater heights than this KU team. And that coach is Mark Turgeon at Wichita State.

pepper_bar 13 years, 8 months ago

Self is a fantastic coach and KU will be fine. the back to back BU shockers are unfortunate, but the Jayhawks will start next season a top 10 team. GO HAWKS!

dsinger 13 years, 8 months ago

rcaltrider, it must be fun to be as peppy as you are.

How can you be so unconditionally critical of Self when he has brought in two consecutive highly ranked recruiting classes (which Roy did maybe once) and likely a third for next year? And how can you criticize him for being an unconditionally worse tournament coach than Roy? HE BEAT ROY at Illinois in San Antonio. I was at the game, so I know it happened.

And perhaps your dumbest point is that Self's only had success with higher seeds. How do you think those teams got higher seeds? Because he coached them to that point...

But, since you're an emotional reactionary like every other fair weather fan here, I guess it makes sense that you'd suggest we replace Self with Turgeon...he really screams out "national prestige"

lawrenceaatesh 13 years, 8 months ago

I am tired of listening to this next year talk. After getting dumped in the first round last year, how can you not be prepared to dominate the opponent atleast in the first round. i guess, all you SELF lovers will say next year, when we lose in the early rounds of next year's tourney. Roy isnt giving the young team excuse at UNC. It would be a nice slap in the face for all this young team bullcrap when Roy makes it to the Final Four or maybe even win the championship.

rcaltrider 13 years, 8 months ago

Ok, good point dsinger. Two first round losses also scream out "national prestige". Maybe you should only hire a coach with a big name. And I wasn't aware that the name of the game was only to sign highly ranked classes. I thought you actually had to do something with those classes. I also noticed that while you pointed out the year that Self's Illinois team beat Roy's KU team, you conveniently left out the fact that Roy's team beat Self's Illinois team in 2002 to make it to the Elite 8 and eventually the Final 4. The Final 4 is something Self has never seen from the bench as a head coach. And I didn't suggest that Self be replaced with Turgeon. Rather, I suggested that Turgeon should have been hired in the first place instead of Self. But I guess anybody who criticizes a coach or anything about a program is a fair weather fan. You should just unconditionally and blindly follow everything that is said and done even if you see something you don't like.

missKU 13 years, 8 months ago

For your info lawrenceaatesh COACH HAS NOT USED THE YOUNG TEAM EXCUSE he said he wouldn't use that excuse. Also does anyone remember the beginning of the season when everyone was like how are we even going to get in the big dance? Well we didn't just get into the Big dance we were Big 12 co-champs of the regular season and champs of the tournament we hadn't done that since 1999! Now I won't lie yes I was very disappointed last night, but Bradley is a very good team. I don't want to fire coach just because one loss! Man everyone was so excited after the Texas win and when Bill was named the Big 12 coach of the year and then one loss and you want to fire him AGAIN. Last night we battled back after being down what 14 points and made it a close game although not enough to win, we made some young team mistakes, I think Bill is a very good coach and I can't wait till next year!
ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

patton6 13 years, 8 months ago

You don't have to follow it blindly, rather just accept the fact that YOU don't know what's best for Kansas and its basketball program. The people in the business have a lot of experience, A LOT more than you (which I'm guessing is none based on your immature and irrational comments). Things may not seem perfect at every second, but you have to trust that maybe they know something that you don't and that things will work out eventually. Just think about how much more it means to them than it does to you.

rcaltrider 13 years, 8 months ago

patton6, please point out which of my comments were immature and/or irrational. Just because you do not agree with a comment does not make it irrational and I don't see a single comment that was immature. Immature would be name calling or something of that nature and I did none of that. Feel free to disagree with my comments because this is a free country but don't stoop to the level of calling them immature and irrational just because you disagree with them. And finally, who is this "them" you speak of that knows so much and who you feel I am not qualified to question?

NorthHawk 13 years, 8 months ago

I agree with rc, KU should be above programs like Bradley and Bucknell. There is a lot of parody in bball now, but come on. Also, a recruiting class is nothing if they dont win in the tourney. And there is nobody that can tell me that Bill Self is as good as Roy Williams, look at what he's doing with an equally young time at UNC. I guess the best team in the state of Kansas this year is Wichita State.

NorthHawk 13 years, 8 months ago

We also saw the better KU sport of this year and last, Football!!!!!!!jk

If there was any hope of Brandon Rush jumping to the NBA, you can forget about it, im as ready as he is

rockchalkjjjhawk 13 years, 8 months ago

Two things. One is the lack of confidence building from Coach all year. Every interview after a win or loss resulted words describing just how bad the team was playing. And I'm sure the idea is to "give them character" by not pumping them up unnecessarily. But 18-20 year olds need just that. Roy seemed like he was always on the other end of the spectrum, which is why every young talent he ever had played with confidence for the most part.

The second thing is I wonder what message the players got when their Coach said days before the game in an interview how they got such a bad draw (Bradley). Instead of presenting himself (his team) to the media as "we need to just go take care of business", it was like "what a bad draw", etc. Doesn't really exude much confidence.

dsinger 13 years, 8 months ago

You think Self is negative after games? You obviously never listened to Roy after games. Roy could win by 50 and be furious at the performance. Do you really think Self is less genial than Roy? You're nuts. And what's worse--a coach that tells it like it is or one who pretends like all is well when there are things to work on?

And northhawk, a recruiting class isn't "nothing" if they don't win as freshmen. A recruiting class isn't supposed to carry a team immediately upon arrival. You think Self didn't do a good job improving these guys? Were you watching when we were in Maui?

And what sort of "parody" are you saying there is? Like Weird Al or Saturday Night Live parody? Oh wait, you meant "parity." I should have looked to the bad.

Christopher Johnson 13 years, 8 months ago

The last comment cracks me up. You think anything Bill Self can say will prepare anybody for stepping on the basketball court to play their first big role in the Big Dance? Give me a break! Coaches can't control emotions. Coaches give strategies. Coaches give advice. Coaches do not control how a player feels or how a player performs on any given night. You guys think youth isn't an excuse huh? Sure, these guys were playing well beyond their years at the end of the season, but it was in an atmosphere they were comfortable with. Lets not forget that they came out in the new environment of college ball in Maui and stunk it up. Let's not forget that they came out in Big XII play at first and stunk it up. Ok, they played well in the Big XII tournament, but honestly about that one . . . yank yank. The best team in the Big XII hardly ever really wins that tournament. These guys know how to play basketball, yes. These guys have played better against way better talent, yes. But any one of those players (sophomores included b/c of their limited role last year) will tell you they were extremely nervous. These guys were expected to reach the Final Four by most! How do you come out with those expectations playing in the NCAA tournament for the first time and honestly not have nerves bug the crap out of you! New circumstances make true age come out. The NCAA tournament made our true age show. It takes being comfortable and confident in any situation to really do your best . . . otherwise you perform in your job, sport, music etc. scared . . . . Don't put the pressure on Self to get these guys' nerves in check. Step back and think about reality. Think about how life really goes. Stuff happens man, and stuff happened last night that none of us like. Bill Self is not the man to blame. Everybody needs to learn how to coach three teams to an Elite Eight, figure out how to coach well enough to get hired somewhere like Kansas, and then do what he did with this team this year and then tell Bill Self how to do his job/tell him he sucks. Until you know anything at all about coaching and performing at such a high and visible level, I'd keep your mouths shut. You've run the risk of looking like raging idiots . . . and you do look it. Calm down. Let people make mistakes. Let thingns fail. Deal with life in a more effective manner. This is why we have things like sports. People don't get it . . . the best and worse in people come out in sports. I feel sorry for you people (myself included at times!!!) when you let the worst, most negative, and most impulsive things come out.

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