Saturday, December 7, 2013


Column: KU will get better, but it will take time


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self after 75-72 loss at Colorado

Bill Self after 75-72 loss at Colorado

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Colorado 75, Kansas 72

Box score

— The ever-present battle within the battle that churns every time Kansas University’s very talented and frighteningly inexperienced basketball team plays a game resulted in buzzer-beaters breaking ties at the end of both halves. The guy who made them, junior guard Askia Booker, plays for Colorado, so Kansas University lost to the Buffaloes, 75-72, in the Coors Event Center.

The battle within the battle that pits talent on one side, youth on the other, could result in many more close games than Kansas usually plays. It weighs in KU’s favor in the long run, but not always in the short term.

The inexperience will decrease with every game, enabling the talent to take over for longer stretches. What you see now is not what you get in January, when conference play starts, or mid-March, when the NCAA tournament gets underway.

Two freshmen best illustrated the battle within the battle for a talented team that checks in at 348th out of 351 Div. I basketball schools in experience, according to

In the first half, center Joel Embiid looked like the best player on the floor, posting up and using fancy footwork to free himself for a couple of left-handed hooks, a layup and a short lane jumper, all in heavy traffic, on his way to 10 first-half points. In the second half, he went scoreless, committed four of his five fouls and fell for fakes he won’t bite on as often when more experienced.

Andrew Wiggins played just eight first-half minutes, thanks to two quick fouls, and without him KU had trouble scoring in any other way but feeding Embiid against the Colorado 2-3 zone. In the second half, with his team in desperate need of someone bringing the Jayhawks back, Wiggins answered the call and scored 17 of his game-high 22 points.

Embiid and Wiggins supplied the most obvious examples of freshmen, for various reasons, having a difficult time putting their positive imprints on games from the moment they step on the floor until the final buzzer sounds.

Point guard Frank Mason struggled to figure out Colorado’s zone in the first half and attacked it more aggressively in the final 20 minutes, during which he scored 10 of his 11 points.

Starting shooting guard Wayne Selden scored five points in the opening 3:20, leading KU to a 12-7 advantage, and he scored two points the rest of the way. Wiggins picked up his second foul in the minute after Selden’s three-pointer, and without him, Kansas became easier to defend.

“We weren’t very good against the zone because we were nervous about getting in there and making a play,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They were letting two guys guard four guys, so we didn’t make them pay. Then it got late and we had to go make plays. That’s how you should be attacking it the whole time.”

A year ago at this time, sophomore Perry Ellis was the inexperienced one. Now, he and Naadir Tharpe are the players with the most exposure to how Self wants his team to go about scoring.

“We really haven’t seen the ball moving,” Ellis said of KU’s struggles. “We just have to really work on getting the ball moving fast. Quit holding the ball. I feel like we’ll get better at that.”

When it didn’t move well, Kansas settled for jumpers and made just five of 20 three-pointers. Kansas made 71 percent of its two-point field-goal attempts but took just 31 of them. Kansas has better shooters than the .298 three-point shooting percentage indicates. Better ball movement will result in more open looks, and the nice thing about those is that players don’t have to worry about whether they should be shooting them. They’ll fire them with confidence.

With every loss, there is a gain, and Wiggins surely gained knowledge of just how much he can influence a game when he drives against slower defenders who are fearing the whistle that comes much more frequently now than it did in the past.

“But it works both ways,” Wiggins said.

It worked against him in the first half, for him in the second. He’ll figure out how to make it work to his advantage more often than not.

Kansas will get better, but not in the way a meal gets hotter by sticking it in the microwave. It’s going to be more of a slow, bumpy road with stops and starts, on the way to hotter performances.


Layne Pierce 7 years, 2 months ago

It drives me crazy whenever KU loses, but let's not underestimate Colorado. Tad Boyle has been putting a good program together, and now they are tough. We still should have beaten them, but they are not a bad team at all.

Second, this thing about outside shooting is about ball movement for open shots, and a willingness to go get rebounds. We are way too talented not to at least 50-50 loose balls and rebounds.

Selden nearly got us into overtime, when he dove at the first ball thrown in.

Yes, this team looks a lot like the beginning of the national championship team, in some ways they look better at this point in there careers. They are seven points or so from being undefeated.

One thing affecting the team is the chemistry of players helping other players by getting them the ball in right places. That is a factor you cannot underestimate.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk

Doug Cramer 7 years, 2 months ago

Dude I'm just glad Mizzcrap lost. Huge weight was lifted off my shoulders this evening. whew

Dirk Medema 7 years, 2 months ago

FB but BB avenged the "Tyus Edney" game - except for the fact that was for a FF, and this was a meaningless home game in December.

Don Johnson 7 years, 2 months ago

Why should it be any different for MEW in the SEC? They couldn't win a championship game in the BIG 12 either.

Brianna Zaleski 7 years, 2 months ago

When are our 3pt role players going to start paying dividends? CF, AW3 and Greene are out there, at this point, to MAKE 3'S!!!
It's funny how we were all saying this year how we were going to kill teams who try to zone us... Not if we can't hit an quit side shot!
Until we prove otherwise, teams will strategically zone us to death. Props to Wiggins. Thought he really asserted himself well the 2nd half

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

I think it's more important that our STARTERS start to pay dividends than our bench guys.

Rodney Crain 7 years, 2 months ago

When I first read the headline, I saw - Kansas column will get better, but it will take time.

Sorry cheap shot, so is saying that they are freshman, that they are young and saying that is the only issue here. True we are playing down to our age, but we are also making NON freshman mistakes too. These guys play way to much basketball to be making fundamental mistakes, to not be playing with energy (soft), to not box out to get a rebound, to not play in front of the man, not to the side when there is only 3 seconds to drive half the court to make a game winning shot.

I do not mind these early losses as much I do how they looked getting them. I have not seen many stops, like today with poor defensive rebounding, nor that many starts like we saw against Towson. If we are learning as we go, we should see something getting a little better. At least one weakness being addressed. Heck I have no idea why anyone would not just play zone against us, till we show we can beat it. CO has not played zone at all this year, till today. It turned the game around for them. This is not the first team to do this to us this year, but we sure acted like it was.

Colorado played well in front of a huge home crowd, we played poorly and tied it late. They did not shoot lights out just 41%, 32% from 3, 60% from the line. 7 steals to our 3. 15 Offensive rebounds mercy. We had to make one shooter go around us, for just 3 seconds to get to OT. Would have been one of those starts you mentioned. We could have built off that.

Oh well there is always the next game to start to get it.

We looked like the slower, shorter, softer team today. We also looked young too.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 2 months ago

Most of the issues KU has right now are directly related to their inexperience. The freshmen are still learning how to play defense at the college level, this team doesn't communicate very well which causes a lot of the problems on defense. 3 point shooting and FT shooting are the only two issues going forward that will be major concerns because the defense will get better as the year goes along.

Allin Herring 7 years, 2 months ago

Well the next game is against Florida there and if we do not get allot better real fast they will kill us. Kinda tired of hearing about their "potential" and they are freshman ect. It time now to buck up and get ready for the big 12 season. At the rate we are playing now just think what Oklahoma State will do to us? It I time for results not excuses!

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

Kansas will lose at least two more games before conference season starts. They were definitely not the best team out there last night. Frustrating...

Kansas and Kentucky look like the exact same team right now. Both have a ton of youth. Both cannot shoot consistently from outside or at the line. Both have struggled to score against the zone. Both have been out hustled and out worked for rebounds and loose balls. Both have been beat up physically by teams that aren't stronger than them. It remains to be seen if either of these teams will develop to their potential or not.

Robert Brock 7 years, 2 months ago

Our biggest problem is figuring out how to defend without fouling.

Tom Wilson 7 years, 2 months ago

The Jayhawks are supposedly loaded this year with future NBA players; a few could be "one and dones", though I haven't seen one on the team that is ready for the NBA. That said, "how long" will it take this team to jell? At this rate, KU's entire season will focus on KU at OSU...lose that game and all the players and hype will have been for naught; the deciding factor of a good year or a so-so year.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 2 months ago

KU is far beyond the point of a regular season game determining whether or not the season is a success or failure. How KU does in the NCAA tournament will ALWAYS be the determining factor in how KU's season is viewed.

Beau Woolsey 7 years, 2 months ago

If KU didn't foul as much in that game it would have been a blow out, by fouling we let them get close and build their confidence.

Bob Harvey 7 years, 2 months ago

The college game this year is getting too frustrating to watch most days. If I counted correctly (not always the case) there were 50 some odd fouls shots in yesterday's game and yes most of those shots were by the Buffs. The game has gone soft. Most will say for the better but at least this fan is almost getting bored.

Rich Hetherington 7 years, 2 months ago

I agree Bob... It's happening in games all over the place. I also don't like how inconsistent it is. Wiggins drove down and scored between 2 defenders and was clearly fouled (should have been an And-1) and immediately afterwards, Selden was called for a foul in which he had his arms up and the ball handler ran into him. Watching the replay there was basically NO contact. That short stretch really got me upset as the officiating seemed mediocre all game as their defenders kept bumping us but were not held to the scrutiny our players were at all!

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

People said that the refs were ruinging the game last year and the year before and the year before. This isn't a new complaint due solely to the new focus on the handchecking rules. Refs are inconsistent. They always have been and they always will be. Get used to it.

Jack Jones 7 years, 2 months ago

Read and understand the article. These players will start "paying dividends"?? ~ making three point shots, not fouling as much, not holding the ball too long when, and not until, they make the transition from the high school BB court to the peak D-1 level. Regardless of their arbitrary 'prep rankings', this is a difficult at best, and not possible for others, to make the adjustment. This is a hugely talented group of individual players, who my money says will become a highly successful team eventually. However, talent does not trump inexperience when it comes to making a TEAM ~ and this years team is the most inexperienced I can recall in many, many years. Not one single returning player with significant playing time. The good news continues to be that we have the absolute best coach, with a track record of building GREAT teams out of very talented players. Patience ~ as hard as that may be for many of us.

Ian Emerson 7 years, 2 months ago

Seriously are we the most spoiled and whiny fan base in all of college basketball? Do you have any idea how big of a jump AAU and highschool basketball is too D1 basketball? We are indeed one of the youngest teams and we also have the toughest schedule in the whole country. Everyone was saying we were going to lose some early and now that it's happening everyone is whining like toddlers. Winning games a birthright for Kansas, it takes endless ours of practice, studying and competition at the highest level. I can't believe some of you say it's "wearing thin" that this team loses games. Oh so these 18 year old kids are just gonna know how to compete off the bat? It takes time and learning experiences(losses).

Mick Allen 7 years, 2 months ago

I believe Keegan said there are 331 division 1 basketball teams and with regard to minutes played by non freshmen we rank 328th in the country or only 3 teams have less minutes played by upperclassmen. We are unbelievably young. Kentucky is in the same boat and they have also dropped 2. Lastly I think the conference is stronger than anticipated. OSU, Baylor, ISU. OU and UT are all playing well. I agree Ian that as Ole ROY said we have wine[whine] and cheese fans. In Self I trust.

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

And don't forget that we typically have at least five cream puff games under our belt at this point to bolster the confidence and bench minutes. There is a negative backlash of playing so many tough games...

Glen Miller 7 years, 2 months ago

Wiggins seems to play one good half and one meh half every game. He needs to just stay aggressive all game long. He disappears for stretches and with his ability and talent, I don't like that and I can't imagine HCBS does either. Selden seems to defer to other teammates at times. Embiid needs to be starting from here out. Black is not better and does nothing when he's on the floor. Our biggest problem is the point. We do not have that true floor general that we are used to and we haven't had that since TT left. Johnson was not the answer last year and I don't think Tharpe or Mason are the answers either. Mason is more of a 6th man, spark plug than a floor general. Tharpe is too inconsistent and turns the ball over too much on stupid passes. I think we look through rose colored glasses at our boys sometimes, but I am not one of those fans. We have some deficiencies on our team and though some will fix themselves, the point guard problem to me is one that is going to be around all season. When we aren't getting out in transition and have to play a half court game, we just have a hard time scoring. The talent is there for sure and I will wait to pass judgement until January and Conference play before I worry too much.... but I'm concerned a little.

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

This isn't JUST about being more aggressive, folks. Andrew Wiggins came out looking dead set on being "more aggressive" against Colorado. He knocked down a three and had an amazing block all withing the first minute of the game. He was moving fast and looking aggressive. Unfortunately, he was too aggressive at the other end and picked up two fouls in the first five minutes and rode the bench for the bilk of the rest of the first half. OOPS.

Like it or not, but it takes experience to learn how to be productively aggressive. You can't just charge around full speed. You'll get fouled out almost immediately. These guys are learning how aggressive they can be without fouling. They'll get there. They have the talent and skills needed to learn to adjust and to be able to move their feet well enough to guard without fouling. They just need the experience to learn how to do it. Heck, I'd settle for just not leaving wide open shooters on the perimeter as often as an improvement.

Sitting on our butts in the stands, we all think "I'd give my left arm to be out there and if I was I'd be running through the walls every second I was on the floor". I am guilty of such fan delusions. The problem is that players cannot play that way, especially with how they are calling the game this year. It's not as simple as "just give 110% every second". You have to LEARN through experience not only how fast to play but when to play at what speed.

Let's not be the crazy fanbase that blasts their players for not being awesome at all times. We'd actually like other elite players to want to come to KU. Yes it is frustrating to see a team play at the high level they did against Duke and Towson go out there and ever NOT play at that level. We all want KU to be an F1 racecar out there all shiny and lightning fast. Even the greatest F1 drivers in the world crash into the wall sometimes or just don't find a way though less talented traffic. It doesn't make them less great.

KU has a great team that is in process of learning how to be a great team. They will drop a few more games here in the next few weeks is my guess, but it means nothing down the road. Just so long as they get it together in time to compete for the Big 12 title and a top tier seeding in the tourney and are ready to realize their full potential by tourney time.

Mick Allen 7 years, 2 months ago

We haven't had a true floor general since Tyshawn Taylor left? For 3 years Ty was the most criticized player on the roster by the fans for being out of control, forcing things and turning it over. Letting him play through his mistakes is certainly one of the reasons he had a banner last two thirds of his senior year. Mason is much farther advanced than Ty as a freshman. Tharpe hit a big 3 and a pull up jumper 2 late in the game that kept us in it and he did not turn it over. Other than inconsistency from the 3 point line, our point guard play is not my biggest concern. However, what is a concern to me is the number of minutes both Frank and Nadiir are on the court together and my concern is not on the offensive end as much as the defensive end. Mason and Tharpe were guarding 6'3' and 6'6" guards and unable to contest the jump shot and are subject to being posted up, which generally requires a big to slide over and help on the bigger guards. Selden provides the size to cover the bigger guards at the 2 position but to date he still gets lost on defense sometimes. If Frankamp plays we still have the same match up problems when he is on the court with Mason or Tharpe, although so far I have been pleased with his ability to keep his man in front of him on defense. White and Greene are obviously threes and not twos. Having both Mason and Tharpe in together would seem appropriate when we have a lead in the last 5 minutes and need to handle the ball and make free throws. After hitting 11 0f 12 against Duke Mason has fallen off a bit at the line, but his mechanics look good and I believe he wii be an 80% free thrower before all is said and done. Tharpe has always been a good free thrower.

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 2 months ago

So what do you think we should do? Self needs to get some shooting on the floor. Do you think Self will give the ball to Selden the point, move Wiggins to 2 and White at 3? Looks like Selden might be a Smart type of PG.

I always feel foolish trying to be a backseat Self adviser since he constantly does things that surprise me with great results.

Benz Junque 7 years, 2 months ago

What Self needs to do is have more confidence in his players than the vast majority of people on here have. You stick with the players with the most talent and by the end of the year that will be Mason, Selden, Wiggins, Ellis and Embiid with Tharpe, White and Black seeing the first roles off the bench at guard, wind and big respectively.

You don't coach teams to 300 wins in 10 years by being Chicken Little. The sky is not falling and you don't bail on your most talented players 8 games into a season because they are not playing at a consistently elite level. Good grief, people. Aren't we Kansas fans? Haven't we actually watched and followed good teams before? Why has everyone lost their minds?

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