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Friday, December 13, 2013

Keegan

Column: Loaded schedule should help young Jayhawks prepare for March

Kansas guard Brannen Greene reacts after losing the ball out-of-bounds late in the game against Florida on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene reacts after losing the ball out-of-bounds late in the game against Florida on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 at O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida.

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The blueprint most college basketball coaches like to follow calls for packing the early portion of the schedule with what are known as “buy games,” one-and-done competitions that don’t require the big school committing to return to the small school’s court to complete the series. The visitor flies back home with money to help fund its athletic department.

Typically, such games are played against multi-directional schools that start with a “Northwest” or a “Southeast” and end with a “State.”

Kansas University’s preseason schedule is tougher than most, particularly this season. In fact, kenpom.com ranks it the 10th most difficult schedule in the nation so far, the toughest of any team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

Just six other schools in the Top 25 have schedules ranked in the top 100: Baylor (13th strength of schedule), UMass (27th), North Carolina (44th), Wisconsin (45th), San Diego State (66th).

The soft early schedule most teams prefer not only boosts their win-loss record, it gives young players time to adjust to the college game before entering conference play. Kansas, which started four freshmen against a Florida team that started four seniors, has no such luxury.

Kansas (6-3), which next takes on a big New Mexico squad that features three players averaging 18.6 points per game or more, has played just two teams outside the top 100 in kenpom.com’s power rankings: Louisiana-Monroe and Towson. After New Mexico (27th) in the Sprint Center, KU wraps up its nonconference season in Allen Fieldhouse vs. Georgetown (ranked 25th by kenpom.com), Toledo (83rd) and San Diego State, ranked 25th by the AP.

Then KU enters Big 12 play and the only teams not ranked in the top 100 by kenpom.com are Texas Tech (124th) and TCU (197th).

“I think over time playing a hard schedule will be good for us,” KU coach Bill Self said.

It’s a riskier approach than easing into the season, but based on a philosophy put forth by Friedrich Nietzsche, who strangely enough was a philosopher, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

Normally, a team so young is at a risk of losing its aggressiveness and confidence by slipping into retreat mode, which happened in the first half Tuesday night in Gainesville, Fla. But this team has enough talent to end up on the right side of the risky schedule, enough manpower to get stronger, not weaker.

Self cited an Illinois team he had that started five newcomers, including three freshmen. The Illini’s nonconference schedule was a soft one.

“They started believing they were good, even though they weren’t playing great, they were just winning games,” Self said. “We elected to go a different path this year.”

The book is out early on the Jayhawks early. Zone them and try to make them beat you with three-pointers. Trap their primary ballhandlers. Even that can work to KU’s advantage come March because it will gain more experience against zone defenses during the season and will become better at attacking them through trial and error. The same for the pressure applied to ballhandlers.

Some will find the growing pains difficult to watch, but if they bear March fruit, nobody will complain.

“Sure, we wish we were 7-2 or 8-1, but the fact is these guys have got to grow up,” Self said.

Watching them grow will be fascinating because with so much talent and so little experience, the highs will be higher than most years, the lows lower, which makes predicting outcomes more difficult and watching games more suspenseful.

Comments

Brett McCabe 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Coach Self is clearly walking a tightrope with this schedule but I believe that the team will come together and get stronger by developing a bit of a bunker mentality. The team meeting might be a good step in that direction.

In the preseason, I think that most felt that we had zone-busters in Greene, Frankamp and AWIII - not to mention Wiggins and Selden. As their confidence grows, I think that they will start dropping 3's. And as their defense improves, the transition baskets and stops will boost their confidence.

I think that the UNM game could serve as a turning point. There are times in life where you just get sick of losing, I think that's where these guys are now.

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Mike Riches 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If/when Kansas wins a tenth straight Big 12 title, Bill Self will deserve to be voted Coach of the Year.

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Billy Smith 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Wouldn't be shocked if we lose tomorrow. There is nobody that wants to lead. Sucks that they wait till they are down 15 points to start hitting shots. I think the schedule will pay off in the long run.

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Tony Bandle 8 months, 3 weeks ago

OAKVILLE ODDITIES;

1] Gee..I thought that .."kill us make us stronger" quote came from Kelly Clarkson!!

2] As I posted yesterday, the current accumulative win/loss record of KU's non-conference schedule is 88-22 for an ASTOUNDING .880 winning percentage!! If there are nine other teams with tougher schedules, I'd like to see them.

3] Don't be surprised if the Hawks win these next four games with the lessons learned on the road backed by tremendous home support in KC and Lawrence.

4] With this schedule, Drill,Sergeant Bill is going Semper Fi on these young Hawks, tearing down their high school pretty boy facades and building up cold stone killers...just wait and watch.

5] The potential performance range for this team is anywhere between blowing the 10th conference title to blowing away everyone on the way to the tenth conference title!!

6] Keegs, I blast you when I think you've mailed it in but I also send props your way when you hit the mark.....this article is a BULLSEYE, my friend.

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Dirk Medema 8 months, 3 weeks ago

2] 88/(88+22) = 80%

The 9 tougher sched's at this point in the year are the teams "selling" games. The avg ranking is 263.

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Suzi Marshall 8 months, 3 weeks ago

That is a keeper for the generic school Multi-Directional State (MDSU henceforth).

Our guys have been beaten up pretty good on the road. We all need to show up for these next games with an extra dose of "loud and proud".

We can't let many more of our "quality wins" get away from us. I don't think the NCAA puts much credit on "quality losses." Our guys show a lot of fight and agree that by the end of March Self will have them playing up to par with the best in the country. However, we could be 22-10 at that point with 10 "quality losses." If that gets us in the tournament, we'll be a mid-seed meaning in order to win the NC we would have to win six games against really tough competition something like: ND, WSU...KY, MSU ....,Louisville Syracuse. There won't be any MDSU tournament games for us this year. , Self.reminds me of the combat general hell bent on leading his army into the teeth of Harms Way. Pull your seat belts tight and have faith

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Dirk Medema 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You are absolutely correct in 10 loss teams from major conferences are likely to be 8 to 10 seed teams, but haven't been paying attention much if you are not aware of the discussion of good vs. bad losses during the tourney selection process.

Personally, I don't see us finishing with more than 8 or 9 L's, and even that seems to be a bit of a stretch IMO (possibly another non-con 4, 3-5 in Big12 season & tourney).

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Benz Junque 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If Kansas loses 10 games on the season then they aren't good enough to play for the national title. So why would you be worried about it?

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Kevin Huffman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1987%E2%80%9388_Kansas_Jayhawks_men's_basketball_team

***It seemed that team did JUST FINE as a 6-seed w/ 11 losses! :)

Who ever said that Wiggins couldn't play the role of Danny Manning. Heck, repeating it 25 years later only have the opponent as OSU instead of OU!!!! :) lol

Heck...even the ALMOST same Final Four could happen (AGAIN, replace OU w/ OSU).

OSU vs. Arizona & KU vs. Duke.

Was OU vs. Arizona & KU vs. Duke in '88.

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Suzi Marshall 8 months, 3 weeks ago

That would be a trip to the twilight zone. Loved that team with Danny, Kevin Prichard, Milt Newman, Mark Randall, Scooter Barry, and of course Pipe and Archie.

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Tony Bandle 8 months, 3 weeks ago

C'mon Suzi, it's the Christmas season.....let's project the Hawks at 31 - 3 with a Big 12 Title, a Big 12 Tourney Title and a Number One Seed in the Midwest!! HO, HO, HO :)

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Mike Riches 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Right now I'd be happy with 7-3! :)

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Suzi Marshall 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You're my kind of guy Oak! 31-3 works for me also!

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Benz Junque 8 months, 2 weeks ago

Just a different angle to view the non-con schedule for KU:

Seeding in last year's ncaa tourney for KU non-con opponents:

2 Duke

2 Georgetown

3 Florida

3 New Mexico

7 San Diego State

9 Villanova

10 Colorado

15 Iona

Eight of our 13 games are against teams that were in the tourney last year, including 4 that were Top 3 seeds. That's mind boggling.

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