Monday, January 4, 2010


Starters above the rest


In the wake of his team’s most impressive performance, Saturday’s 84-52 victory at Temple, Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self lauded the play of the bench, saying that for the first time all year it didn’t matter what players were in the game. Temple coach Fran Dunphy also made KU’s depth of talent a recurring theme during his postgame session.

The roster is so deep that Self, who usually likes to pare his rotation to eight players, will have a difficult time keeping it to nine. Elijah Johnson, such an extraordinarily quick and scrappy presence, usually is the ninth man in, but in Philadelphia, C.J. Henry, too skilled a long-range shooter to ignore completely, played before him.

Self will sort out the bench minutes in time — the guys who bring the most effort in practice and make the most strides defensively and in understanding the offense will play the most — and opposing coaches will continue to marvel at the KU bench. As all that goes on, one undeniable truth will not get much attention: It’s clear which five players are the team’s best. The starting five has established itself and clearly separated itself from the pack.

The potential for selfish grumbling on the bench exists because of the abundance of talent, but there is no way anybody can grouse about not starting. Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris and Cole Aldrich will finish most close contests.

As the two preseason All-Americans showed Saturday, it still all starts with Collins and Aldrich. One second-half play exhibited that better than any other. Aldrich came down with a rebound, instantly fired an outlet pass to Collins near midcourt and a blink or two after that, Collins hit Xavier Henry with a perfect pass for a dunk that ignited the huge contingent of Kansas fans, many of whom made the trip from New York City.

The starting five is better than a year ago because of the addition of Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris’ vast improvement and Taylor’s recent leap. Taylor has gone from the team’s third-leading scorer last season to the No. 5 scorer, but with help from reserve Brady Morningstar, is embracing the role of checking the opponent’s top perimeter scorer and has totaled just five turnovers in the past six games.

Defense also is Morris’ greatest asset, although his scoring average has improved from 7.4 points to 11.7 per game. Self recently pointed out that the long, quick-afoot Morris’ versatility as a defender enables him to switch onto anybody on the floor, which increases KU’s defensive options.

Henry looks so polished when scoring from the perimeter and filling a lane on the break that at first blush his game looks more sophisticated than most freshmen, but in many ways it really isn’t. He still lacks the nuances of gaining positioning advantage to rebound and still hasn’t learned how to translate his length and strength into scoring near the bucket. The answer to the question: “What does he contribute when he isn’t holding the ball or guarding the guy who has it?” is similar to that for most freshmen: not much. But Henry has greater talent and better instruction than most freshmen, so it’s reasonable to think he’ll get there more quickly than most. Once he does, this team becomes even better.


Don Everett 10 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Dirk Medema 10 years, 1 month ago

Good article. A starting 5 and about 7 sixth man's.

Jonathan Briles 10 years, 1 month ago

Jayhawkdon get a life, you are pathetic person to make a comment like that. I enjoyed this article and while I do not always agree with Keegan and his opinions I also do not agree with even one person in this world 100% of the time. You need to gain respect for Keegan and I'm guessing if your going to make a public comment like this to someone you do not truly know you need to gain more respect for more people in your own life too. You are a classless idiot who should not burden others with what you call your thoughts.

John Randall 10 years, 1 month ago

KanFan27 (anonymous) says... """Jayhawkdon get a life, you are pathetic person to make a comment like that.... """

Well, the pecking order (a fowl characteristic) seems set: he pulls out Tom's feathers, you get after his. Now if we find someone to climb your @$$, we could have a whole line dance going.

Pardon me if I spend my time looking for round ball news, opinions, insights and comments.


ParisHawk 10 years, 1 month ago

Waiting to see Keegan's ballot for the AP poll. Looking at Texas's schedule, their only real away game was at Rice. UNC was at Dallas and Michigan State at home. Now their RPI is behind ours (their 12 to our 8).

Looking at the schedules of the unbeaten teams, KU has by far the best true road win.

By the way, UNC had a killer non-conference schedule: Syracuse, Kentucky and Texas, none of them at home. Amazing, even if all three were losses...

Mike Kendall 10 years, 1 month ago

I wouldn't express it like "Jayhawkdon," but it would appear that Keegan's concussion (like Adam James) is getting better. The depth for the Jayhawks (like they say at Sports Center) is utterly ridiculous! It will ultimately determine whether the Jayhawks go undefeated or not during the regular season, not that it doesn't matter if they lose one or two. As long as, they don't lose when the stakes are high!

UmbertoConforti 10 years, 1 month ago

When Keegan writes a good column, and he does at least once a week, why not acknowledge it.

Steve Brown 10 years, 1 month ago

"" The potential for selfish grumbling on the bench exists because of the abundance of talent, but there is no way anybody can grouse about not starting. Sherron Collins, Tyshawn Taylor, Xavier Henry, Marcus Morris and Cole Aldrich will finish most close contests. ""

TT last 5/6 games have been MUCH improved, granted. However, don't say "no way anybody" cause I'm not a nobody, almost a nobody, but a fan with a different view, so say "no way anyone knowledgeable" how's that.

Depending on the opponent I could see TT in the game or not. If we are tied with 3 minutes left, could see Keif or Brady, and could envision the other 2 frosh, or Conner/ Reed if 30 seconds left and playing against tight zone, where we had to have a 3 ptr.

By the time we have a 'close' contest and as TT continues to improve then you may be correct, yet if by chance Cornell or Tenn is close contest I'm just not sold on TT as of today to not go into a brain funk.

Steve Brown 10 years, 1 month ago

Hope TT continues to prove me wrong. He is on right track of late. Seems HCBS has finally gotten Jaymie Summer League Dixon just go freestyle and ball out of his head.

JHawk74 10 years, 1 month ago

I think TT is improving and deserves to be the starter. But Brady might finish some games due to his defense on the other teams best perimeter player. If CJ continues to improve I could see him playing more and less minutes to Reed or Johnson. If Self can keep the bench happy we have all kinds of options if the starters are not preforming on any given night. This conference season is going to be fun to watch! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

David Leathers 10 years, 1 month ago

"One second-half play exhibited that better than any other. Aldrich came down with a rebound, instantly fired an outlet pass to Collins near midcourt and a blink or two after that, Collins hit Xavier Henry with a perfect pass for a dunk that ignited the huge contingent of Kansas fans"

Keegan, This play happened in the first half while we started pulling away early in the game... Right before they came back and took the lead.

Clif Roark 10 years, 1 month ago

sounds as if our "fair-weather" friend, Mr. Keegan, is changing his vote back to the Jayhawks!

Steve Brown 10 years, 1 month ago

Yes, Keeg wear the black, take one for the team.

Marcia Parsons 10 years, 1 month ago

lighthawk: I don't believe Keegan was saying YOU didn't have any reason to grouse. I think he was referring to the other team members.I'm sure he realizes that we fans are always going to grouse about something.

jaybate 10 years, 1 month ago

Monday Morning Staff Meeting:

Old Business...

} For future reference, here are the emoticons for Fran Dunphy.

Happy :-{)
Sad: :-{(
Neutral: :-{| Neutral with Van Dyke: :-{|>

New Business...

} C.J.'s gotta gun and it ain't the kind they have in Knoxville.

} Someone (Mother Henry, are you reading?) needs to tell C.J. the current facial hair scheme (called a Chin Curtain in beard parlance) is not what his mug needs. He has apparently always been a stylin' dude and so some sort of cilia is probably inevitable, but the Chin Curtain has got to go, because it over accentuates an already very round baby-faced cabeza. Here is a link for other beard types for C.J. Henry to consider. Please post the beard type you think C.J. ought to wear.

} Roger Morningstar announced today that he is backing a business venture for a new product by Brady called "No-Stick Passing Lotion." It is a hand lotion scientifically formulated wonder emullient that is sticky on reception and reduces adhesion on release. It is designed both for glue guys and impact players. It helps keep the ball moving. Roger says if the venture works, Brady will pay his own way, thus releasing his scholie for a more needy player. Roger's grand plan is to develop business ventures for about two scholarship players each year, so that their scholies can be given to new players, thus allowing Coach Self to keep the talent cupboard continuously overstocked and give KU the unfair advantage in talent each year. (Note: this is of course all made up, right?)

} If the L doesn't take Quantum T Taylor, make a three month appointment for Q2T with Andrea next summer. Ty is Superman against guys his own size and weight, but Jimmy Olson vs. anyone taller weighing an ounce more. Recipe: Tyshawn plus 20 pounds of muscle equals Overwhelming Defender and Get-to-the-Rim Beast.

} Hudyizing Tyshawn will also extend his comfortable shooting range five feet and probably increase his trey shooting percentage from a career mid 30s to nearly 40 percent, where it needs to be for him to reach his full potential as a guard and be a first round NBA pick, which he should be if he ever gets over his fading away from tough guys tendancy.

jaybate 10 years, 1 month ago

} Don't be fooled by Ty's currently paltry 28.6 percent trifectation accuracy. Note the elastic on his shooting arm--a wrap similar to what Sherron wore last year. Tyshawn's been laboring awhile now with what appears an unconfessed hyper-extended elbow that is apparently lowering his accuracy to 28.6 percent from his usual 36 percent. I can't recall if the wrap is on Ty's shooting arm, but elbow problems on either arm can hamper jump shooting accuracy. Note that Sherron without the wrap this season is at 42 percent from trey (and was as high as 45 percent); that's up about four or more from last season with the wrap. The large increment of decline in Tyshawn's trey shooting accuracy implies a very painful elbow.

} Cole is a roaming beast on defense, when an opponent lacks a center requiring his close attention. But when he has to guard a very active one, he has had a tendency to help a lot less. Great defensive centers can guard active centers and keep helping. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberain were the greatest at containing active centers and helping, and Walton and Shaq, each in his prime was probably their near equal. Of the non super centers, Kevin McHale comes closest to having been a big able guard a post and help, because of his wacky long leg, short trunk, long arm morphology. Cole plays with some of McHale's Mad Stork game. Unless Pearl reinstates the UTenn Four, Iowa State offers the first chance of the season to see if Cole's ability to guard an active post and help has improved. Brackins is a challenge at 6'10" that Self could lay off on the twins this year, so as to give ten fouls on Brackins. But it would be great to see Cole given the challenge of Brackins, see him respond, and still see him swat some other players' shots, plus get his usual allotment of glassvacs. This would do more to ice him as the number one pick in the draft than about anything else he could do all season.

kvskubball 10 years, 1 month ago


I agree...I rewatched the first half of the game, and the play he is referring to happened in the first half...great outlet by Cole to Sherron on the right wing, super bounce pass to X, racing down middle left, and bingo, nice bunny.

kvskubball 10 years, 1 month ago


WHAT??? Fans, grouse, in the same sentence???

kvskubball 10 years, 1 month ago

Since you mentioned...

Let me, a fan, do a little grousing...

Over on CBSSports, since the game was completed, they have not had a link to the game in their main page basketball pull-down menu...

1 team in the country, playing against the #18 team, on the road, and unless you go to the college basketball page, you'd never know the game happened...

I think that is something to grouse about!

Oh, the game was played on ESPN, so maybe they don't want to advertise it, over games that were played on CBS????

kvskubball 10 years, 1 month ago

Or maybe the people on the main page don't know it happened??? Or maybe they're UK fans still salivating over the donnybrook at Rupp?

hawk316 10 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Keegan, what a good article! Great analysis, knowledgeable insight, well-written. I applaud you. And don't let the "nit-pickers" on this site get you down. Most of them probably haven't earned a penny writing a single article; you do it professionally. Although we may not always agree, I enjoy your work. Thank you.

Robin Smith 10 years, 1 month ago

it would be even better with a concluding paragraph.

wrwlumpy 10 years, 1 month ago

Like most Jayhawk fans who get the KC Star, I prefer to read Keegan over anyone here. Great article.

Wow, Cole is feeling better.

Does anyone know if the team watches film as they travel? I saw overhead video screens on their bus during a broadcast.

jaybate 10 years, 1 month ago


I kind of thought that would catch someone's eye. :-)

chriz 10 years, 1 month ago

Nah. I say the Balbo or the Anchor.

jaybate 10 years, 1 month ago

I waited a day to comment directly on this story to see if I felt differently.

I don't.

What I like so much about this story by the Keegs is that its headline and content are possible triggers for the one thing that could ruin this team. Saying those on the starting five are way better than any of the back-ups is a catalyst for dissension.

Thanks, Tom.

Self endlessly reiterates that it doesn't make any difference who starts to him. Self says what matters most to him is who is on the floor at the end, at crunch time.

But nooooooooooooooooooo.

You have to plant the seed that the first five are way better. And then you have to show your mug courtside and interview players, who know this is what you think. Frequent reinforcement of a salt in proud flesh.

Probably unintentional on your part, Tom, but, still, not a great contribution to the special season, Tom.

Further, I am not at all sure I agree with you. Cole and Sherron seem to separate from the pack. Tyshawn is only better at some things and not others than his back ups. Xavier is way better offensively, but not as good on defense, as his back up, though by season's end he might be. Marcus is better at some things than Kieff, but worse at others.

Frankly, I don't see how you can say a guy who plays 20, or even 17 minutes a game, but does not start, is inferior to one who starts and plays 20, or 23.

Now, how about following this story up with a story hinting at rivalries between Cole and Sherron, or between Sherron and Xavier, or between TRob and the Morri?

By gosh, that is just what this team needs to get better.


justify4me 10 years, 1 month ago

IS Self's trying to put the "right" 5 on the court the same as Todd Haley's philosophy of the right 52 making up the Chiefs?

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