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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Keegan

Kansas overrated at No. 13

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As favorites, underdogs and somewhere in between, Kansas University’s basketball team has won at least a share of the Big 12 title seven seasons in a row.

The Jayhawks have done it with young teams and experienced ones, with shot-blockers and without them.

KU has entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed in four of the past five seasons, completely turning over the roster midway through that stretch.

The quick reloading jobs done by Bill Self and his coaching staff have become so automatic that the masses assume the pattern will continue forever. This much is evident from the coaches and sportswriters who voted in the preseason college basketball poll.

The Associated Press poll released Friday had Kansas in the same position as the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll, at No. 13.

I ranked KU 18th on my ballot and felt a little queasy after hitting the send button. I felt as if I had overrated a team that has just eight players who arrived at school on a basketball scholarship.

One of them is freshman Merv Lindsay, who was one of the school’s more lightly recruited players in recent years. Another freshman is a promising role player, point guard Naadir Tharpe. Another, Loyola Marymount transfer Kevin Young, is a 6-foot-8 junior. He’ll be counted on to play inside for a coach who demands extremely physical play from his post players. Young weighs 185 pounds, and although he has a lot of bounce, he never has been described as a banger.

Competing with that trio for minutes off the bench are former walk-ons Conner Teahan, a fifth-year senior, and Lamar University transfer Justin Wesley, a sophomore.

Not that a team ranked 13th in the country should stand up to a national champion in any comparison, but just for fun, consider that Sherron Collins, Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldrich came off the bench four years ago.

Last season, Thomas Robinson, Josh Selby, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey were available in reserve.

The thin bench comes in a year in which reserves could be needed more than in most. Robinson, a relentless, emotional competitor, forever is aggressive, which means playing to avoid things doesn’t come naturally to him, even it’s getting whistled for fouls he’s trying to avoid.

Withey, who projects as a starter, blocks shots, but can get himself into foul trouble as well.

Tyshawn Taylor, Johnson and Releford make a long, quick, bouncy perimeter trio, one that can compete with any group of starting guards in the nation. But Releford could have to spend some of his time in the post.

Even if Kansas can avoid long-term injuries, a ranking as high as 13th, especially this early, seems a stretch, an unfair expectation of a team that, compared to most, lacks experience, size and outside shooting.

If freshmen Ben McLemore, a super athlete and a skilled long-range shooter, and Jamari Traylor, an explosive big-bodied forward on the raw side, had been cleared academically, a No. 13 ranking might fit.

But nobody will have right to feel as if Kansas fell short of realistic expectations if the Jayhawks finish ranked worse than 13th.

Comments

Gregor Southard 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, a little high right now. However, barring catastrophic injuries, Self will have this team top 13 caliber (or higher) by NCAA time.

Cmill1221 8 years, 1 month ago

Ur damn right!! Remember Christian Moody?? Thus team will be ready!

hawk316 8 years, 1 month ago

Our "core four:" TRob, TT, EJ and Travis will be strong and should keep us competitive. However, we have to get significant contributions from some of the others to have a shot at winning another Big XII title. Withey and Young, in particular, may be key. And TRob has to stay on the court.

Daniel Kennamore 8 years, 1 month ago

I knew before I even clicked the headline that Keegan wrote this article.

I think we should file this one with his "Big East is the best fit for KU" article.

Andy Hess 8 years, 1 month ago

As much as I utterly hate to do so, I agree with Keegan here. There are FAR too many question marks and a glaring lack of true size outside of T-Rob.

manginorhO0lz 8 years, 1 month ago

How about we discuss the "pac or bust" philosophy?

manginodrh00lz 8 years, 1 month ago

Fool...do not disrespect our family. Be gone sir.

Jonathan Briles 8 years, 1 month ago

I really thought that this team was overrated too.... at first. The more I have thought about it the more I think this team has potential to be better than some of our teams in the past. We have always been a team with so much depth it was hard to spread the minutes. It always seemed we had some players who were not always playing as a team and trying to showcase what they could do in the small amount of minutes they were given. This year we will have players getting great experience and ample minutes. We will finally have players solidify themselves into definitive roles. I think with time this team could develop into a very good group who may even be underrated at the end of the year.

chezlog 8 years, 1 month ago

I believe "depth of the bench" tends to be over-rated. I came to this conclusion in 1991 when I watched the Fab Five make it to the finals two years in a row, with no bench. We have enough great players to rise to the occasion. I believe KU is in the idea position to make it to the final four in 2012!

kusports1 8 years, 1 month ago

You cannot compare our starting five with the Fab Five. depth of the bench was less important because of the great talent of the Fab Five. Hardly a good example.

pgittemeier09 8 years, 1 month ago

2 years ago ohio state played with only 6 and made it to elite 8 last year they played with 7

AZHawk72 8 years, 1 month ago

I, too, feel this team is vastly overrated. On any given night this entire team is capable of not being able to make a jump shot. Then, Robinson could replicate hack-a-shaq and grow tired from shooting 20 free throws a night, making only 6-7. Honestly, the best things about this team are the "Kansas" on their jerseys and a guy named Self on their bench. However, I don't think that will be enough on a number of given nights.

This team is ripe for falling to any number of mediocre mid-level teams such as Northern Iowa, Bucknell, Bradley or Virginia Commonwealth. Wait a minute--that's already happened.

Never mind.

xclusive85 8 years, 1 month ago

Really?! An Arizona troll here too? I thought you might go hide in your holes for a while after losing to a D-II team. Guess not though.

nuleafjhawk 8 years, 1 month ago

Awesome! I'm now elevated into that elite group of KU fans who actually start complaining AFTER we stink.

Which, by the way, is pretty rare in basketball.

Mo Golany 8 years, 1 month ago

I think the depth has helped us in the past but has hurt us come tourney time. If you look back to our losses Self made quick subs to counter the poor play by the starters and the subs screwed up even worse. I think a 7 man rotation is more than enough and. I would take our 5 starters by year end vs anyone!

yates33333 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't know where KU should rank, but Keegan is correct in worrying about the bench strength of this team. Referees like to call phantom fouls on KU.

Steve Gantz 8 years, 1 month ago

"Referees like to call phantom fouls on KU"

Really? Can you name examples?

Joe Ross 8 years, 1 month ago

Keegan's article is true. Every word of it. Every one of us knows that the Jayhawks probably got ranked where they did because of a combination of factors: brand name, great coaching, our recent run of titles in the Big 12, and because every year the pundits count us out we have always performed beyond predictions. But the facts are exactly as Keegan describes. We are deficient in height as a team, experience, depth, and skill at certain positions, so I can not impune his logic. However, I am starting to scratch my head about Tom Keegan. Why is he the one that serves up these articles as opposed to any one else? Setting aside the question of whether or not his analysis is good (and I believe mostly it is), I am nevertheless baffled that he more than others serves up fare of this variety. Compared to other writers, there is no question that he is disproportionately negative. Now if my argument holds that his analysis is good, I still have to settle the difficult question of what the source of my own tension is; that is to say is Keegan unfair or am I being unrealistic? I admit that I may be. I mean after all, there are a lot of negatives at KU right now and things have been going downhill since the magical year of 07-08 when Kansas won both an Orange Bowl and the National Championship. The fiasco over exercise equipment, the ticket scandal, player's personal troubles, Mangino's firing, disappointing tournament exits, the Gill fiasco, the specter of conference realignment, and on and on. We as a fanbase have endured a lot lately, and I think the visceral reaction to Keegan is not so much that his analysis is wrong, it's just that we get tired of emphasis being placed on the negatives over a wide range of issues. My head tells me that I may yet have some bias to hear the positives, but my heart says that Keegs is obsessed with the negatives (or at least more so than other writers on this site). I don't know. Decide for yourself.

Eliott Reeder 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't think it is that he is 'obsessed' with negativity, but I do believe that he thinks it is a journalist's job to stir the pot a little, create some tension and controversy, and fire up the fanbase one way or another. And he is succesful. His articles tend to have the most visceral reader response. Either nods of approval or vehement disregard for his pieces soon follow. Keegan just loves the attention either way...

K_Easthouse 8 years, 1 month ago

Would you want your beat writer - who has to talk to Coach every day - to be the one writing anything negative? Because then you risk less access to the coaches, team, etc.

Being the editor means having to write the downer pieces every now and then, so your writers can focus on covering the team and developing that rapport with everyone.

Jack Wilson 8 years, 1 month ago

How about this .. KU's 13 spot is "tenuous." That is, we can be that good. We could be better. But we are one injury away from being out of the top 25. (See TRob's hyperextension scare).

We need one .. Young, Wesley, Teahan .. to be a surprise big contributor.

Dyrk Dugan 8 years, 1 month ago

no way. You can't pressure up the non schollie kids like Teahan or Wesley to step and be a major contributor.....i mean c'mon.

this is big time college basketball that we play, and despite the fact that the whole league is down this year, doesn't mean this team automatically should rise to the top.

we have 8 recruited guys on the roster, that were specifically targeted to play basketball at KU....the limit is 13. we're 40% short of that. has anyone ever heard of a major program being so short handed? i know it hasn't happened at Kansas.

this is Bill Self's program, so he gets the credit...and the blame. Yes, he's a great coach, and he can coach here as long as he wants....but i'm telling you right now, we're looking at a tough season.

anything north of 10-8 or 11-7 in the league is a masterful coaching job....if we actually win the league, Self is the Coach of the Universe. and it means we were blessed....because SOMEONE, will get hurt. yes, TRob had the knee this week....big scare...he'll be OK. but a lot of things could await.

Releford needs to breakout....Johnson needs to break out....Withey needs to break out....and TRob, who has strictly been a role player on this team...needs to break out. a lot of unknowns with this team.....it can be a special year. i also think it could be a disaster. and then will everyone stay onboad then?

REHawk 8 years, 1 month ago

HEM, I don't look to see one of those 3 players being a surprise big contributor game after game. But if each of them can raise his play to spectacular level and share the occasional big contribution, the Jayhawks can go a long way to verify their preseason ranking. Barring a long major injury of a starter, or even a temporary injury during key league matchups, I think it is within the reasonable grasp of this squad to pull down a Big 12 title, then be in position to make a dramatic showing at the big dance. The #13 ranking would seem to reflect highly on KU's current coaches and trainers, as well as the prospect that we are starting a group of seasoned quality veterans. With Ben and Jamari eligible, I would rank this squad as a preseason Top 10 unit. Without them, there is little leeway for injury or foul troubles...or miserable freethrow shooting. It is ironic that those two players might have been eligible in other leagues, perhaps the Big East or SEC. Their Big 12 exclusion makes for a very thin Jayhawk bench this season; albeit, their potential development behind the curtain this season should bolster our experience considerably in a rebuilding 2012-13 season.

Robert Brock 8 years, 1 month ago

The Big XII is not particularly any good this year so KU may be at or near the top of the conference. KU has a sketchy starting five and nothing for depth so, nationally, I doubt that the Hawks are Top 25 material. Still, it will be an interesting and fun year. Better start recruiting a little better or things will get worse. Much worse.

KGphoto 8 years, 1 month ago

This team has a chance to be very special to KU fans, if for nothing else but that they are such a small group of players who will be sharing the burden, and glory, of representing the KU tradition for one very unusual season. We are going to get to know each and every one of these players' little nuances by March. Then, we'll learn even more.

Underdog is a role we haven't played in some time. We've played against the underdogs, and their back-against-the-wall, fearless approach, that often has them doing things they couldn't/wouldn't normally do. We play them all the time, and they always play above their scouting report or stat lines. Hence the phrase "taking their best shot". I'm excited to see what happens when we face that first team we aren't supposed to beat, see what kind of new fire emerges and what players take the opportunity to rise and surprise. I'm excited to see what our "best shot" looks like.

I didn't really expect #13, and actually part of me is just a little disappointed we won't be even more of an underdog to begin the season against that elite schedule, so we would have the opportunity to relish the role a little more. It won't happen very often as long as Self is here.

John Strayer 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't know...I have a feeling there will be some early season struggles, especially with schedule...but I look to see this team getting much better as the season progresses. Maybe it's a chance for the team to be greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe it's time to actually play basketball rather than showcase a star player or two each night.

Outside shooting seems like a problem all year if teams collapse on T-Rob...hopefully Releford can come into his own.

ahpersecoachingexperience 8 years, 1 month ago

Wait, didn't you just tell us to not overlook the hawks a week ago? So which one is it? Are we overrated or not to be overlooked?

Andy Tweedy 8 years, 1 month ago

You're not supposed to remember that! Give him two more weeks, a couple more opinions and then he'll have all his angles covered.

KGphoto 8 years, 1 month ago

I remember him saying they were "thin but fun" and thinking we had recruited Lindsay Lohan, Tara Reid and the Olsen Twins, but I don't remember him saying anything about being overlooked.

justinryman 8 years, 1 month ago

If any other team in the nation had the combination of a senior pg and a real beast in the paint, they would be top 5. Even by Keegs standards.

But since it's KU Tom thinks he has to bash them.

I'll take the Taylor/Robinson combo anytime.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stephan123 8 years, 1 month ago

A team that loses talent like the Morris twins and does not have adequate replacements will look pale in comparison. Let us hope this new team will find its legs and evolves into something special.

dylans 8 years, 1 month ago

Keegan,

Fix this line, please.

Robinson, a relentless, emotional competitor, forever is aggressive, which means playing to avoid things doesn’t come naturally to him, even it’s getting whistled for fouls he’s trying to avoid.

Steve Gantz 8 years, 1 month ago

It will definitely be Self's biggest challenge as a coach.

About Teahen, my memory of him was he was a novelty off the bench for when we were winning by a bunch. Does he really have any type of skills to be a contributer on a Kansas type team?

ajhk 8 years, 1 month ago

Exactly Perses Our talent pool is much better than the Butler or VCU team.
If our guys play with heart and believe, good things will happen. It'll be fun to watch them play! Bring on the season

Jeff Coffman 8 years, 1 month ago

Everytimg I hear that our team needs to "believe" and have "hear" I think of the "Replacements"...so stupid.

I've seen a lot of teams lose with heart and belief.

If they get in there and work and learn what the coaches dictate, we will have a good season.

If we "Believe" we will end up 2-10 and won't win a game in the Big XII...oh wait that is the wrong sport.

kcmostwanted 8 years, 1 month ago

Not a great comparison but take a look at Kentucky's roster last year. They were also a team that people questioned their depth. There players were:

(PG)Brandon Knight - A fast, streaky pg and top 10 pick (PG/SG) Doron Lamb - solid frosh season (SF)Darius Miller - solid contributor (SF)Deandre Liggins - Solid contributor and good defensive player (SF/PF)Terrance Jones - Very good frosh year..could've been a lottery pick (PF/C)Josh Harrleson - Came out of nowhere and had a very solid senior season...ended up being a 2nd round draft pick

This was their main rotation... other players like Stacey Poole, Eloy Vargas and John Hood had very limited minutes.

Most of the 6 starters played close to 30 minutes + a game and developed very good chemistry as the season went on...Eventually making it to the Final 4.

All I'm saying is that depth is great but sometimes it stunts the growth of our players because HCBS doesn't allow them to play through their mistakes. I'm actually very excited to see guys like E.J, Travis and Whithey get plenty of playing time, and finally show us what they can do.

Ultimately, I think the first 1/2 of the season is going to be a roller coaster but during winter break is always where HCBS performs his magic...and that will be the fun part.

Lets sit back and enjoy this. We've been shouting for years for guys to get P.T...this is their chance...let's hope they make the most of their opportunity.

Taylor - Should finally be un-confused about his role...maybe one of the fastest and most athletic guards in the country

Robinson - finally gets a chance to be a leader and show the country that he's one of the premier big men in the country...no doubt, one of the best motors in college bball

Whithey - is finally healthy (crossing fingers) and has gained more than 5 lbs...+ he had a good summer playing international ball. He may be one of the longest players in the country

Travis - Finally healthy (crossing fingers) and has been working hard on knocking down the 3. Combine his 3 w/ his defense and his slashing skills, and we have a very solid player. Hopefully he's worked on his ball handling...maybe Trevor can help him

Ej - finally gets to display his skills and athleticism. He's a beast that's been held back....coming out of High school everyone compared him to Baron Davis (scary that they look alike too...minus the weight) so let's hope that those comparisons were accurate.

jaybate 8 years, 1 month ago

"Fred and Ginger Meet Bill and Tom"

I figure that sports writers and coaches sometimes scratch each other's backs.

They gotta live together, ya know.

Self works at serving good quotes. Sometimes they are nonsensical, but they are just right bites for fitting in a story on a slow news day. My favorites like this are the ones where Self says, "This guy will be in the rotation" or "this guy will impact for us," or "I like these guys.By the end of the season we could be dangerous." These are harmless quotes, sort of the coaching-eses equivalents of puffery in advertising. They are something reportable, but won't come back to bite Self.

By giving out these quotes on a fairly regular basis, Self builds up an accounts receivable with the sports writer, in this case Tom Keegan.

Once in awhile, then, Self expects to collect.

To keep things dignified, it is kind all unspoken. It is like dancing with a partner. You don't tell the partner exactly where you are going next, but if your partner knows you, then he/she knows where you need following, if you are leading.

Self has lead with quite a few reportable quotes of little consequence the last two weeks.

Then his team got picked to win the conference and be ranked No. 13.

Self needed Tom to follow with a story tempering fan expectations before they got too big.

Keegs followed.

Sports writing can easily turn adversarial, when a young coach gets flustered and ceases leading with usable quotes. Just ask Turner Gill.

But if a coach can keep a scribe's story file effortless enough to write fast, thus enabling a longer happy hour, well then sports writing and coaching can stay a more collaborative process.

Bill and Tom may not be Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They may not win a ball room dancing contest. But they sure can cut a rug before the reflector ball and lights of the regular season switch on and start flashing in our eyes.

Sparko 8 years, 1 month ago

Keegan: this is the easiest way out of a column. Cripes. Given Kansas' brutal early schedule, really out there on a limb, eh? Rankings are mostly about not making journalists look stupid. I don't like the schedule for a team that needs to gel. Kansas will obviously be a much better team later than early.

kukuku 8 years, 1 month ago

I agree with Keegan here. If I were submitting a ballot, I'd probably rank KU about 20th at the moment. Seasons without injuries are extremely rare, and we simply cannot afford to have an injury this year.

I think that if we manage to have a completely injury-free season, we could end up as high as 10th in the polls and snag a 3 seed in the big dance. But if any of our starters get injured or simply don't perform well, we could very well be out of the rankings completely.

TwistedFish31 8 years, 1 month ago

Keegan reminds me of a shock jock. It doesn't matter if he believes anything he says, as long as people are talking about him, he feels important. He's not a Kansas fan, that's apparent and doesn't really matter. It's just funny that someone who dislikes a school as much as he does, gets paid to write stories about them. It would be like me working for the Mizzourah Inbred Telegraph and telling their fans why they should be down on their team every other day.

Mark Lindrud 8 years, 1 month ago

There was a team last year that went to the Elite 8 with a 32-8 record. They won their conference with a 14-4 record and only had one legitimate big man, good quality guards and no depth inside. They used their undersized wing players as depth and attacked the boards with fierce passion to overcompensate for their lack of size.

Their starting pg was Momo Jones who controlled the game well, SG Nate Fogg who was a good shooter and their best big man was Derrick Williams. Major members of the University of Arizona. Why not us this year? We look a lot like them!

jimmyjms 8 years, 1 month ago

Tom Keegan: hugely overrated, as evidenced by the LJW continuing to allow him to have a column. Ugh.

SCHNBALL 8 years, 1 month ago

kcmostwanted- you beat me to the UK comparison, but I will take it a step further. If any of you watched any UK games last year, Calipari coached the entire game, from time out to time out, even taking time outs when his players migh have been on a run, I believe he learned this from the last 2 minutes of the Memphis- KU game in which KUplayers knew exactly what to do at each moment. As I stated in earlier posts, this year will be the most interesting from a coachinst standpoint for KU than in years past. This team does like size, should be an fun year to watch the adjustments. I do find it strange that Self is talking up this squad alot more than years past, could be the first of many changes.

pgittemeier09 8 years, 1 month ago

agreed to where depth is over rated...not in the regular season but come tourney time where there are 2 extra tv timeouts and are longer you really only need 6 players...hence ohio state kentucky

mikehawk 8 years, 1 month ago

I can't believe I am saying this, but most, if not all commments on this blog are worthy of consideration. Any of all wild and diverse possibilities spelled out are justifiable, and as crazy as it sounds, reasonable. Anything could happen this year. With that said, I will go with the ultimate direction of this team clearly hinges on health. Foul trouble is rewarded with 5 more available next game. Losses early breed character and experience late in season. Coaching factor is constant. Injuries can spell doom and speculation about "next year." For the hard core KU basketball fan (that would be all of us on this blog), it will be either singing HCBS praises or turning on him via blog. It should be interesting. I can't wait for the fun to begin.

tonyjayhawk35 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't agree Tom the coaches voted them 13th I just don't see anyone that would be higher I mean you wanna trade an orange for an orange.

tonyjayhawk35 8 years, 1 month ago

I don't agree Tom the coaches voted them 13th I just don't see anyone that would be higher I mean you wanna trade an orange for an orange.

Hail_To_Thee 8 years, 1 month ago

Kansas enters the tournament a #1 seed with EJ leading the way. Mark my words.

Kenny Nall 8 years, 1 month ago

Yeah it might be easy to emphasize the players we've lost and fashionable to write an obstinate article about this team but you forgot one thing Keegan; we have Bill Self.

pepper_bar 8 years, 1 month ago

Keegan overrated as Sports Editor of Lawrence Journal-World.

AZHawk72 8 years, 1 month ago

Wow, what a wonderful bunch of goober posters who shoot the messenger for daring to speak the truth. I guess it would be much better for some of you if you went to sleep at night with someone saying "I love you" when she really wished you'd drop dead so that she could get on with her life in peace.

I'd rather be a "troll" than someone who can't deal with the reality of recent bad recruiting, a thin team with inexperienced starters, and a slide into mediocrity, which in our case might be 25-10 and a third place finish.

Personally, I'd rather read a columnist speak the truth from his gut than have no guts to speak what he feels needs to be read.

"Honey, I love you."

Oh, really. What do you want?

xclusive85 8 years, 1 month ago

I didn't call you a troll because of what you said, really more because of the way you said it. If you would have said we haven't had very good recruiting and some inexperience in our starting five so we should be ranked so high, then I wouldn't have called you a troll. Instead you resorted to this:

"This team is ripe for falling to any number of mediocre mid-level teams such as Northern Iowa, Bucknell, Bradley or Virginia Commonwealth. Wait a minute--that's already happened."

That is a troll move sir!

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