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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Keegan

Names change, but Kansas doesn’t

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 82-70 victory over Oklahoma on Feb. 26, 2011.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU players Tyrel Reed and Marcus Morris

KU players Tyrel Reed and Marcus Morris talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 82-70 victory over Oklahoma on Feb. 26, 2011.

Download podcast

— Start with a 33-3 college basketball team. Subtract two NBA lottery picks, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, plus the team’s leading scorer, Sherron Collins, who also made his way onto an NBA roster for a few months.

Now subtract Josh Selby, the highest-rated recruit of coach Bill Self’s career, for nine games at the start of the season because of an NCAA-imposed suspension. Another guard, Elijah Johnson, joined him in street clothes for the first two games, serving a suspension for violating an unspecified team rule.

Next, Mario Little’s status with the team became uncertain after his arrest in the middle of the night, which led to a six-game suspension.

Then, in rapid succession, Thomas Robinson, the team’s energizer, buried two grandparents and his mother, leaving him worried about his 7-year-old sister back in Washington, D.C. Between trips back home and arthroscopic surgery on his right knee for a torn meniscus, he missed five games.

Swing man Travis Releford developed into a valuable reserve and was playing easily the best basketball of his career when he went down because of an ankle injury. He missed five games and hasn’t performed to pre-injury level since.

Selby appeared on the verge of improvement when he suffered a foot injury that cost him three games and caused his game and confidence to regress.

The latest roster hit came when Tyshawn Taylor violated an unspecified team rule that earned him an indefinite suspension that likely is on the verge of ending after two games.

A musical-chairs roster normally equates to uneven team chemistry and choppy on-court performances, an underachieving season.

Not so for this Kansas basketball team. Saturday’s visit to the Noble Center to take on talent-short Oklahoma started with Johnson handling the point, but he was unavailable for the final 14:55 after suffering a neck injury his coach said won’t keep him out of the lineup again. Lose a body, gain a victory, leave the opposing coach raving about the team’s remarkable offensive efficiency. Typical day.

At Saturday’s end, the Jayhawks had an 82-70 victory, a 27-2 record and a two-year record of 60-5. How in the world have they done that with constantly changing player availability?

Marcus Morris, the team’s best player and therefore the last guy who has to worry about buttering up the coach, fielded the question and then did what he always does. He spoke from the heart. He’s as honest an interview as you’ll find in today’s careful world.

“It’s got to be the coaches,” Morris said. “We had three NBA players leave us last year, and nobody really gave us much of a chance. Kansas State was No. 1 in the conference because of all our (personnel) losses.”

That’s the way the Big 12 coaches saw it, ranking the Wildcats No. 1 in the preseason poll. K-State’s playing much better now and still has a chance to finish fourth. Kansas moved into a tie with Texas for first in the Big 12 with two games remaining.

“It all comes down to coaching,” Marcus continued. “Coach Self is just a great coach. The coaching staff is one in a million to me. Having D. (Danny) Manning coaching us every practice, giving you insight on what move you should make and what move you should get to, you definitely have to cherish that because it isn’t going to happen all the time.”

He’s right about the coaching staff playing a huge role in the remarkable run of success. If KU can hold onto its share of first in the Big 12, that would make seven in succession. Self is the constant presence. He has kept Kansas at the top with rotating stars, ranging from Wayne Simien, Keith Langford and Aaron Miles to Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright to Darrell Arthur, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, to this year’s juggernaut.

To some extent, a coach is only as good as the coachability of his players. The four players who haven’t missed a game because of injury or suspension this season rank extremely high in that area. Two role players from Kansas. Two stars from Philadelphia. Two seniors. Two juniors. Four players blessed with terrific instincts for what to do with the basketball when it’s in their hands.

Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed never struggle with illusions about the best place for the basketball to end up, which of course is in the hands of either Marcus or Markieff Morris. Nearly as important, both guards have no hesitation about shooting when the defense makes that possible. All four players have an innate understanding that when passed as soon as it’s caught, the basketball travels faster than humans, which leaves the defense forever trying to catch up. Kansas spaces the floor so well and passes it so quickly it gets high-percentage shots from confident scorers. Opposing coaches marvel.

Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel became just the latest in a string of Big 12 coaches coming off a loss calling Kansas, “incredibly efficient on the offensive end.” They say without saying it what everybody knows. KU isn’t as good defensively, either on the perimeter or in the post, as offensively. Every team is different. Self has had better defensive teams than this one. He’s never had one that moved the ball any better than it did in Saturday’s first half.

It’s a tough call as to whether this team can get enough defensive stops at crucial times to make it to the Final Four. Oklahoma, for example, scored on eight consecutive possessions in the last half of the second half Saturday.

This much we do know: Posting a .923 winning percentage the past two seasons with such a revolving personnel door blows the mind.

Comments

huggybearhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

This article is very well written. KUDOS. My man-crush on HCBS lives ever-strong. RCJH!

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Vittorio1224 3 years, 1 month ago

Hey-- we need guys like 12steps... Just reminds us why we went to KU in the first place :)

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Tony Bandle 3 years, 1 month ago

There is no Self in the word selfish.

12steps..please try to be positive about something rather than negative, because Karma can be a blessing or it can be a bitch.

Next season will be most interesting if, either, everybody returns [NBA Lockout] or the roster opens up six or seven spots.

I get to see Allen Fieldhouse and the Hawks once a year, but both are in my heart the other 364 days.

Ben McLemore has lost his way. He needs to come to Kansas to find it again.

We are going to be loaded in 2012...sure hope the world doesn't end.

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William Blake 3 years, 1 month ago

Brady and Tyrel = the gas

Coach Self = the driver

The Twins = the motor

That's the basic formula, then add in a supporting cast.

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12steps 3 years, 1 month ago

My favorite assistant is that good looking dude, ol' "FU" Dooley.

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actorman 3 years, 1 month ago

"60-5 the last 2 seasons! That's just ridiculous!!! And we cant get national respect...whatever!"

Ralster, your point is well taken. And there's no doubt that East Coast bias will always play a part. But I think if Self wins another title this year -- and especially if he can win one more after that at some point, the level of respect we get will increase significantly. The fact remains that as great as Self has been in his time at KU, he's only gotten us to one Final Four. That's not to denigrate the incredible amount that he's accomplished, but for us to get the respect from the national media that we all want, we have to come through when it counts the most, in the tournament.

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Ralster Jayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

I'll quote Roy Williams right after he left for UNC: "You (ku) got a good coach in Bill Self".

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Ralster Jayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Nice comments, all. Really, what else can be said about Self? His sideline red-faced episodes speak a 1000 words about his competetiveness and what he expects out of the players he has tried to teach so much to. He is rarely, if ever satisfied. I only think he was truly satisfied only after the nets in SanAntonio were being cut down on April 7, 2008.

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Justin Lindsley 3 years, 1 month ago

Self and Staff are the best in the country, which means world, at getting these guys to play. Think about 08 and how much talent there was. Yet, they played as a team. Same today. Coach Self is a genius. He contines to get players to buy in to the system. Lets just hope Selby stays around and puts his chips all in. He and the twins come back next year and we are just sick. Think about it. 60-5 in two years. Next year that becomes something like 95-8 in three years. There are many teams that take a decade or more to get that many wins. ROCK CHALK!

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REHawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Gotta hope that Self and staff stay with the Jayhawk program for as long as possible. Come on, Tyshawn. Make the most of the best learning/playing situation available to you in this, your remaining time in a Kansas uniform. Life as a hoopster will never be much better for you than these years in Lawrence. Just ask Julian, Sherron, Aaron, Keith...a host of Jayhawk heros whose playing time hit the pinnacle here in the Kansas program, playing in AFH. You've still time to resurrect your career to help lead the Jayhawks to memorable national prominence.

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Vittorio1224 3 years, 1 month ago

Is there a better Asst. Head Ball Coach out there than Danny Manning?

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KU_FanSince75 3 years, 1 month ago

Tom, another fine article---really great read. Self is one of the best. I love listening to him during a press conference.

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Scott Morgan 3 years, 1 month ago

I am not a natural KU hoops fan. I do follow coaches, and Self maybe the best ever. I grew up with Al McGuire as a local favorite and UCLA teaching the world a new style of basketball. Self is at least in the same small car with the best.

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RockiesJayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Very well said, Tom, and thanks for putting this out there for all KU fans to embrace. What HCBS and his coaches have done is totally unprecedented in this era of parity. None of the "elite" coaches...not Ben Howland, Coach K, Jim Calhoun, Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo (this year), and, even Roy, have consistently maintained the highest level of excellence year to year with a constanty rotating cast of characters. It's so true...at KU with our outstanding coaching staff, we don't rebuild, we reload!

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Ralster Jayhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Its way more than recruiting: SelfBall is complete basketball starting with getting the best athletes and skilled players you can find, then going the extra 5miles and requiring(!) those athletes to play D, and learn unselfishness and play as a team.
Team balance, depth, half-court O, transition-O, defense (usually).


Name any other coach and any other program, and they may also have superlatives in an area, but when compared to Self's total system, we have a bigger sum total than any program...period. Just think for a moment about Duke, UNC, UCLA, KY...

The analogy I like the best is: Self has designed a Bill Walsh-type of "system" (recruiting, coaching, offens, defens) that allows the right personnel to be plugged in year after year. 60-5 the last 2 seasons! That's just ridiculous!!! And we cant get national respect...whatever!

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Jeff Kilgore 3 years, 1 month ago

You'd have to think that Self is as worthy of national coach of the year as any coach who ends up winning it. I really enjoyed this article, Tom. (And you didn't mention the on-the-court-scuffling that our boys have weened from their game).

After watching KU demolish OU in the first half, I asked my son, "How much longer can this continue?" Really. How much longer? KU fans aren't spoiled, just very, very fortunate. We've had three fantastic coaches in the past almost 30 years now. .925 winning percentage in the past two years? We're 4-0 against the Pac10 this year, and whatever and 0 versus every conference outside the Big XII.

I came to ask for someone in the know to give me the brief on our next recruiting classes, and to see if there's any chance that the NBA won't lock out next fall. Thank you, and I'll listen off the air.

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REHawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Almost mindblowing, this everchanging lineup of Jayhawks standing at verge of a 7th consecutive league title. Self and staff: yes, the constant presence. Marcus and Keegan offered the clear call. Bill Self amazes in his capacity to surround himself with winning people. In a different venue he might have excelled at the game of chess.

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HawkKlaw 3 years, 1 month ago

Great article! I would have to agree, KU needs to play much better defense if they want to make it deep in the tourney...and they need to shoot a little better from the free throw line.

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REHawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Tom, how do you plan to vote for tomorrow's weekly national poll? This late season certainly has become a frantic tiltawhirl for bracketologists!

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12steps 3 years, 1 month ago

It would be more inpressive if the "BIG" 12 were morte than a medicore group of football schools. The BIG EAST, it is definetely NOT !

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billhawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Nice article. I can see this team winning it all or being bounced in the second round of the tournament. Winning the title isn't so much about team depth or coaching as it is hitting shots, staying focused and making stops in disjointed four minute stretches. We can do it obviously, but not consistently.

It will be interesting next year when the cupboard looks relatively bare (assuming the twins go pro). We'll lose our four most important players without any stud recruits (as of right now). If they can pull another rabbit out of their hat and continue to challenge for titles that will prove that Self is the best coach in the nation (again) more so than winning a title.

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Clarence Haynes 3 years, 1 month ago

During one of OU's possession, I recall KU holding the Sooners for like 33 seconds and suddenly there was a lapse which led to OU scoring with about one or two seconds left. This has occured in other games as well. Focusing for 35 seconds is a challenge that the Hawks must take on as it improves its ability to shut down the opponent on defense.

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jhwkfan162515 3 years, 1 month ago

Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.

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agraves 3 years, 1 month ago

The reason we didn't win by thirty was because the second half turned into a free throw shooting contest. One of the announcers said there was a combined 48 free throws in the second half. That is a killer to our offense because our offense is about rhythm and flow...but the refs controlled the second half and Cade Davis got every and one under the sun! Not blaming the refs but when two teams shoot 48 free throws in one half there is something not right!

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fansincewilt 3 years, 1 month ago

I think Taylor comes back with some real focus. That is a key to making us a much better team. He seemed to completely loose his focus of late. I hope he is making the changes necessary and is back soon. Is there any way to keep Manning in Lawrence? He is still my all-time favorite Jayhawk. Danny and the Miracles is still the greatest story in basketball.

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Dillon Davis 3 years, 1 month ago

If we still had Cole, our defense would be set. We're really missing that big lug on the defensive side of the ball.

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REHawk 3 years, 1 month ago

Jayhawks score 45 points, shooting over 70% in the first half; outrebound the opposition 35 to 16 for the game. How in the holy heck do we not win this game by 30 points? This squad has to be keeping their own and opposing coaches in a constant state of amazement coupled with befuddlement! Almost bi-polar performances in every 40 minutes of action. Yet, what a terrific season record for a team which very few Big 12 coaches and analysts predicted to be a mainline contender for league and national championships.

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Scott MacWilliams 3 years, 1 month ago

Have to agree with the offensive flow re: great coaching For the most part it's a beautiful thing to watch. Everybody commenting on the games I've been able to see has agreed.

But.... If we don't start slamming the door in some faces heading to the hoop, we're going to be heading home a lot earlier than we'd like. A Final Four is still possible, but not as likely without some sticky D. Time to strap on the chompers, guys, the Madness is about to begin for real!!

ROCK CHALK!!

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Alex Berger 3 years, 1 month ago

Well said Keegan and something I have thought about all season. How long can this trend continue?

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