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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: At this point, change is due

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His shots aren’t falling. His turnovers, both of the forced and unforced variety, are mounting. And he has been less than a defensive stopper.

Nobody knows what is at the heart of senior point guard Elijah Johnson’s slump, but theories abound: He is playing an unnatural position, and his talents are better suited to shooting guard. His knee might not be 100 percent recovered. He’s putting too much pressure on himself to assume the role of team leader. His confidence is shot. All of the above.

Whatever the cause, the solution doesn’t seem to lie in maintaining the status quo. A change of scenery just might be what’s best for Johnson, and at this point, what’s best for Johnson is best for the team.

Starting the game on the bench and watching Naadir Tharpe start in his place might be just the tonic Johnson needs to break the tension building up within him and tearing down his game.

It also would be interesting to see what, if anything, a starting assignment could do for the smaller, quicker Tharpe.

Tyshawn Taylor’s career turned for the better when he returned from an embarrassing two-game suspension in late February of his junior season at Kansas. Serving as sixth man surely beats watching games in street clothes. What’s the down side to trying it?

Fortunate scheduling makes this the right time to try such a switch, with a trip to TCU next for the Jayhawks (19-2 overall, 7-1 in the Big 12). If TCU (9-12, 0-8) isn’t the worst Big 12 team of all-time, it certainly merits a spot on the short list.

Cynics might view starting Tharpe for a while as little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

But if the move relieved Johnson of tension and gave him a chance to come off the bench and fix whatever might be broken, it could give the team a jolt.

A fresh start might revive Johnson, who in Big 12 games has shot .310 overall, .281 from three, averaged 4.3 assists and 3.9 turnovers and 8.1 points. Tharpe’s Big 12 numbers — .265 overall shooting, .231 from three, 1.9 assists, 1.5 turnovers, 5.4 points — haven’t been any better, and his size can be exploited defensively, but trying a different look is worth a shot.

Quick and blessed with good size, freshman Anrio Adams might tame his game before the year is out enough to help in certain situations, but it’s not realistic to expect he could run the team yet.

Walk-on freshman Evan Manning a couple of years from now might have the experience and the build to help, but probably not yet.

The answer lies with Johnson and Tharpe, not necessarily in that order.

Comments

Thephogminusix 1 year, 2 months ago

Maybe they should start Tharpe, Johnson, Releford, Withey, Mclemore.

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Gil Ek 1 year, 2 months ago

Think the seniors are bored and looking toward the tourny.

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kranny 1 year, 2 months ago

Unbelievable. 19-2 and people are talking about going back to formula. EJ will be fine, KU will be fine. The team is at the edge of the horse latitudes. Personally, I think TCU is going to wish they were back in the Mountain West after Wednesday night. The wind will fill the sails again. All need to be calm and Rock Chalk. Bill always gets them to figure it out.

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Kye Clark 1 year, 2 months ago

For those of you that are just all too happy to point to our record as some kind of absolute proof that everything is fine, let me ask you this: can we get better? If you think the team has peaked, plateaued, whatever, then by all means bask in it.

Even though they fell a little short last night, the 49ers are the best example of not accepting "pretty good". They went to the NFC championship game last year, were already having a really good season, Alex Smith was having statistically the best season of his career, and Jim Harbaugh had the guts to look at the back-up and say, "he could make us better." And he did.

So why can't we look at EJ, who is not having a very good season, then look at the bench at Tharpe and say the same thing?

The best news is that this is basketball, which means that if such a decision were to be made EJ would still see significant court time.

I love EJ. He's a Jayhawk and so much of what we want our players to be. And saying a change is in order doesn't mean I like him any less, or root for him any less. It's just accepting all evidence this year as proof that it's doubtful he's going to elevate his game to where we'd like it to be, and not having blind faith, or wanting to see him get minutes out of sentimentality.

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HawkKlaw 1 year, 2 months ago

I do love what Naadir Tharpe brings to the game, but no way Self sits EJ at this point in the season. We're getting close to halfway through the Big 12 conference schedule and Elijah's record as a starting PG is 19-2. That's the kind of winning you don't mess with.

I agree with the sentiments that Self should go small and have both EJ and Naadir on the court together more (not necessarily start Naadir, but have him play more minutes at the expense of Kevin Young and/or Perry Ellis). Naadir is quicker on his feet than Elijah and turns the ball over less, but Elijah is one of those clutch performers that can make big plays when games are on the line. Don't count Elijah out because of a loss at Allen Fieldhouse. Bill Self has lost, what, eight home games in ten seasons? Statistically, these kinds of losses are bound to happen and we need to look at Elijah's whole body of work, not just this loss to Okie St.

Also, going small would allow B-Mac or Travis to play the 4 spot. In that case it is much more difficult to double-team Jeff Withey because McLemore and Releford can both hit the open mid-range jumper. We'd probably lose out on rebounds more often, but I believe our offense would be able to score more.

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machinegun 1 year, 2 months ago

The wind blows, Keegan tilts leeward. Is Bill Self going to yield to Keegan and a bunch of frontrunners? And how exactly would that help Elijah's confidence? We have a top 5 team with a 19-2 record. Thank goodness Elijah Johnson is the leader of our team. Thank goodness Keegan is not Bill Self's brain.

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Gregor Southard 1 year, 2 months ago

19-2 hardly rates a "Titanic" analogy.

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NebraskaJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Wow, settle down people. Self will challenge their manhood and all will be well. Get over the loss and move on. EJ is in a slump, but he is not going to get benched nor lose his position at point. Come on, man!

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Chris Shaw 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, I am going to disagree with about 95 percent of you on this board about EJ and his Point Guard Role and really EJ's role in general. I do agree with Keegan that a "Change" is in order, but it's not the change he discussed in his article.

Look, I've been extremely hard on EJ all year, but I've never believed in him at the "PG" spot. However, I think EJ is essential to this squad over the next half of the season, just not at the point guard spot.

Even back when KU was destroying the likes of Colorado, Ohio State, Oregon State, Belmont, and American, I knew something was not right with EJ. I got blasted for it, but I don't take anything back because EJ simply doesn't have the mental makeup to be a PG. Sure, he has the tools, talent, and physcial charactersitics to do it, but he doesn't have the basketball IQ or PG IQ to do it propely. Some players have it, some players don't. No knock on EJ, he's just better suited to be a SG.

With all that said, this is my solution and this is a good week to try it out to start the second half of the season. You are on the road @TCU and on the road @Oklahoma, which doesn't have as good a backcourt as Okie State, but they are long, athletic, young, and very good.

As much as I don't want to do this scenario I think as a Coach you have to talk with Travis Releford and discuss with him about coming off the bench and take on a role like Darius Miller did last year for Kentucky. Look, I don't like this option because Relly has earned his starting role, but I think this is a better option going forward. It allows Relly to be the star of the second unit with his defensive ability and it allows him more opportunities for shots since he is the most efficient offensive player Kansas has. You may limit Relly's minutes by 5 or 7 minutes a game, but I think Kansas will be better for it.

Because of that scenario I think you start Tharpe, EJ, B-Mac, KY or Perry, and Withey. EJ is in a very fragile state right now and I think you have to show him confidence by making a move that will allow him to thrive and that is at the SG spot. I also believe that B-Mac will take on more responsibility defensively and offensively with Relly coming in as the "Enforcer" off the bench. I do think B-MAC relies on Relly a little too much. This would also allow EJ, B-MAC, and Relly not figiting and counterfeiting each other on the shot chart, while in the game together.

At this point, it doesn't matter if you are 19-2 or 20-1, or 15-5. A Change is necessary and IMO getting EJ at SG and spelling Tharpe at PG is essential over the final 16-19 games and bringing Relly "The Enforcer" off the bench. That scenario creates more confidence for EJ, more shots for B-Mac, More efficiency opportunities for Relly.

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championhawks 1 year, 2 months ago

Young is not an offensive player and therefore will not all of a sudden begin hitting the foul line jumper. His game is hustle points and put backs. Until Ellis can come in and be productive for more minutes than he is getting, no one is going to hit that shot to open things up for Withey under the basket.

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Jack Jones 1 year, 2 months ago

Random thoughts > 19 and 2, not bad. Lose a game in AFH - only fifth under Coach Self > to a team that couldn't miss first half > that scores 85 points > with two players scoring 25 and 28 apiece > down by 14 - up by 6 and closes a 6 point gap, to 1 in less than 45 seconds > wind up losing primarily due to giving up 2 offensive rebound baskets off opp. free throws + an unfortunate turnover by a player trying to make a play > and a TEAM that played the worst game of the 21 games we played >> and we only lose by 3 >> yeah, I know > I don't count that last 'bunny'.

No question, this year's team does not match up well, when compared to recent former teams in terms of over-all talent or depth. However, to their enormous credit, they are playing above their "on paper" ability through sheer toughness, grit and will to win. The sky is still intact.

19-2 > "you gotta go with those that brung you !!!" Coach will take care of the details.

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scott8013 1 year, 2 months ago

"Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic"? Wow, you'd never know this was a top-5 team that is first in conference with one conference loss and two losses total.

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ABeesus 1 year, 2 months ago

Jumping doesn't cause the same strains or pains as moving laterally. I've known many players who could still dunk, but their lateral movement was impaired from injuries.

Pain problems in a knee or ankle throw off passing, limit defense, and really wreck shooting.

I think EJ has serious joint issues.

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REHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Rest, refocus, recovery, rejuvenation are in EJ's best interest right now. No more than 20 minutes at TCU.

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Blake Brown 1 year, 2 months ago

I had these same thoughts after the OK State game. Start Tharpe, bench Johnson and do it for the TCU game.

I`d add a few hours of running stairs for across the court passes for all and kick Ellis in the ass to wake him up to the big leagues. Young has got to be a threat from the free throw line to open up the inside- practice, practice, practice Kevin.

With no point guard, no bench and poor ball protection/ handling, we`ve been fortunate to win many games and now we lose one and need to learn many lessons to get better and be a factor in March.

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Woody Cragg 1 year, 2 months ago

Someone, anyone, has to get to the line more & knock em down. Late in the game it's not KY. Slashers & bangers can beat shooters 9 out of 10 times at the line. OSU was hot, damn hot Roosevelt, so slow down the pace & make teams play your game & not theirs. Remember the Purdue game in the dance last year? And could we please have more substantially hard screens in the paint, not like KY's soft movers on the perimeter, from the 3, 4, & 5 spots, to get great looks & backdoors when cutters are overplayed, and Bmac & others can finish at the rack with the "and 1?" IMO these guys are just standing around too much waiting for the defenders to go to sleep. The off ball movement is not there like it was a month ago. The great news is the coaches should fix this attitude in time so the peak will be there in March. I do expect maybe 2 more losses on the road, but will still be in line for the conf title if that holds true. But am not feeling that great about a #1 seed as I was earlier. The way HCBS publicly challenged their manhood may be just the trick to get them to play more physical. Certainly that was a calculated move & not a sporadic meltdown. OSU just had some superior athletes on the floor Sat and consequently we got out-hustled more than I've seen in a long, long while. Look for that adjustment immediately if not sooner.

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Robert Murphy 1 year, 2 months ago

A college design class has calculated that if all the deck chairs on the Titanic plus other wooden objects had been lashed together it would have made a raft big enough to save all the people who wouldn't fit into life boats and further that they had time to do it. Sometimes, with reconsideration, rearrangements are effective.

Speculation regarding putting Johnson on the bench to start games can be tried but without his playing better the team will have problems going forward regardless. He is a team leader. His health has been a concern throughout the season. I have said for some time that Nadir's improvement has helped a lot in resting Johnson. Without the younger players improving more this team will struggle. I think we can all see that Perry, Traylor, White and Adams are not showing enough improvement. If these guys were playing better our chance of wearing down other teams would be greatly enhanced. We are about half way in, it could still happen as White demonstrated.

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mejayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ is the same kid who hit clutch shot after clutch shot a year ago, throughout the tourny and in our team's most recent NatChamp game. He took care of the ball and played great defense. He can do those things again and I believe he will.

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Phoghorn 1 year, 2 months ago

Doug Gottlieb might have had his shorts on backwards, but we simply got caught with our pants down.

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Reuben_J_Cogburn 1 year, 2 months ago

That's actually a reasonable prediction.

This loss was inevitable and necessary. Self's teams in the past have always rallied. Let's see what this team is made of.

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Justin Carlson 1 year, 2 months ago

Looking ahead! A lot of the "Experts" are saying that the game @ TCU will not be a good guage to see if we are back on the right track. I dont agree TCU is bad but a 0 win team at home needing something positive vs. a limping "diaper filled baby team" who knows we might be prime to give TCU their first win of the the Big 12 season! If that does happen my teenager daughter and I will be kicked out of the house and be moving into my office!

So as I look ahead after about the midpoint of the conference season lets look ahead at the remaining schedule and our record going on the the B12 tourney.

@ TCU Win 20 - 2 8 - 1 (12 point win with a little roster shuffling and more mins from Rio/White III still sloppy guard play nothing fixed)

@ OU loss 20 - 3 8 - 2 (4 point loss Kusports boards go crazy calling for EJ and Self to leave town)

KSU WIN 21 - 3 9 - 2 (The game that changed the season! Seniors and Self right the ship our offensive flow and defense mirror the Dec 8 CU game put up 82 points in a 20+ rout of the kitties!)

Texas WIN 22 - 3 10 - 2 (Mario's jersey up in the rafters and gameday nothing else needs to motivate a team! BIG WIN 20+)

@ OSU Win 23 - 3 11 - 2 (Self will not lose to any team twice in the same season not going to happen esp. to the pokes 2 point game BMAC wins game at the line!)

TCU Win 24 - 3 12 - 2 (Labored ugly 15+ win setting up a look ahead to the clones)

@ Iowa ST Loss 24 - 4 12 - 3 (ISU goes nuts makes 14 3's and we struggle again to get to shooters and PG play exposed again mirror game of the first meeting except we are not and home and lose late by 3!

WVU Win 25 - 4 13 - 3 (Muscle game ugly foul fest at least 2 "T's" from WVU and pull out a 8 point win!)

Texas Tech Win 26 - 4 14 - 3 (Senior night!! Nothing else needs to be said! Self and Manning get 5+ minutes 25+ win)

@Baylor Win 27 - 4 15 - 3 (We own Waco and Withey has another monster game! We win by 10+)

27 - 4 15 - 3 another Big 12 regular season championship 1 seed in B12 tourney!

LATER JC

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Sam Constance 1 year, 2 months ago

After reading a lot of the comments here, I have to wonder how the complexion of this game changes if you take away 5-6 of Johnson's shots (so he ends up shooting 8 or 9 instead of 14) and give them to Releford and White.

We were a timely bucket away from having the Cowboys at enough of an arm's length to hold them off.

If I could talk to EJ, I would say to him--if you're struggling, take fewer shots and focus more on getting your teammates the ball in situations where they can shoot it right away. Show us those leadership qualities by getting in Releford's ear and telling him that we need him to shoot 100% from three on more than two shots. If you haven't missed from three, and shoot 40%+ on the season, then you haven't shot enough threes.

I don't think benching Johnson does anything except make the fans and Monday morning coaches FEEL like something is being done. Making a change just to do SOMETHING is a terrible reason to make a change. If Self is going to bench EJ, there needs to be a specific goal and reasonable expectation that the goal is a plausible outcome from the action taken.

What reason do we have to believe that benching EJ will help anything? The only reason I can imagine that being the case is if EJ is being lackadaisical or not trying. To me, it clearly seems like the opposite is his problem--trying too hard and pressing. Benching him is more likely to exacerbate that problem than alleviate it, unless Self can somehow spin a web of golden BS to get Johnson to believe his benching is about allowing him to regroup and rest, and not about punishing his poor play.

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William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

"There is no better motivator than struggle." I'm not sure who said that... but I've heard it most of my life.

Last year we had Thomas' struggle and we became "men on a mission" and we over-achieved through that situation.

We needed something to happen this year to give these guys something to fight for.

I'm not worried if we lose again in B12 play.... realistically, without a leap forward it is hard to imagine us winning out. It is pretty easy to see the potential of losing 3 to 4 league games. Look what is ahead...

I'm hoping we can do what so many NC winners have done in the past (including KU)... we bring it all together at the end and become the hot team in March, when the big chips are on the table! Of course we want another league championship, too. We never stop the fight!

We need to embrace our struggles and grow through them. That's what life is all about.

Stay positive and fight harder! We are supposed to be the best fans in college basketball... let's prove we deserve that tag!

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Stephen Johnson 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ needs to spent some time looking at the game from the bench. His guard play has been totally unacceptable and he would be the first to say he's not happy with his recent play. I do not see us being a final 4 team with the current PG play. I hate to say it, but I agree with Keegan.

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justanotherfan 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ hasn't looked healthy to me all year. He makes plays in short spurts, then looks completely flat for long stretches. I'm no doctor and I don't have any insider knowledge, but he doesn't look like he is playing healthy right now. Maybe he is and just doesn't have confidence in his knee, so he can't go all out on it like he needs to.

However, I don't think making the change makes KU any better. It's not like Naadir is playing leaps and bounds better than EJ right now. It's not like Rio has been lighting it up in his limited time. There just hasn't been anyone that has emerged right now to take EJ out of the lineup.

Is EJ struggling - Yes. Has anyone stepped up in his place - No. We need a Yes to both questions to justify a change.

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jgkojak 1 year, 2 months ago

Recipe for a 2004-05 type late-season meltdown

1 - @TCU = W 2 - @Oklahoma = L 3 - KSU = L 4 - Texas = W 5 - @OSU = L 6 - TCU = W 7 - @ISU = L 8 - TTU = W 9 - @Baylor = W

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Very subtle meaning in the title of the article although I doubt seriously Keegan consciously did it.

Let's look at the rest of the schedule:

1] @TCU - If the margin of victory for Kansas is less than 10 points, it will be the upset of the century.

2] @Oklahoma - Much tougher challenge, Hawks better bring their A-Game.

3] Kansas State - Rough game but the Hawk Magic continues..no way will Bill let Bruce beat him in his own house..no friggin' way.

4] Texas - Julius, this one's for you, bud!!

5] @ Okie State - Payback Time...but it won't be easy!!

6] TCU - See item #1.

7] @ Iowa State - Sirens, red flags, warning shots, alarms, etc. going off for this one: Hilton Magic vs The Road Phog!!

8] Texas Tech - See items #1 and # 6.

9] @Baylor - Our Ace in the Hole...Scottie on their bench!!

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KU 1 year, 2 months ago

Nine games at the end of last season are the reason people expect so much from Elijah Johnson. Nine games. Granted, those were nine very important games--including 2 in the Big 12 tourney and 6 in the NCAAs. In those games, he averaged 14.4 ppg; 50.5% FG; 46.8% 3FG; 2.33 APG; 1.55TO.

If you take those games out of his season averages from last year, really the only year he played enough to get a good sample size, he averaged 8.9 ppg; 40.1% FG; 29.9% 3FG; 3.05 APG; 1.50 TO.

That's really in line with his current production, with the exception of his assists and turnovers. He is averaging 9.3 ppg; 38.5% FG; 33.3% 3FG; 4.9 APG; 3.19 TO.

My point is that Elijah is playing to form. The end of last year was the anomoly. This January was not the anomoly.

Self has 2 choices--stick with the status quo, which has been good enough to win a lot of games ugly and hope our defense is good enough to carry us through the post-season, OR play Naadir/Anrio more in hopes that their inexperience and/or defensive deficiency is more than compensated for by an improved offense.

Knowing the Bill Self/Doc Sadler defensive braintrust, I would bet the house that they stick with the status quo.

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Robert Brown 1 year, 2 months ago

I think what is good is that it is the beginning of February and there are time for adjustments to be made and at the end of the day, a couple of conference losses are not that big of a deal and could be a good thing if part of the problem is complacency.

While loyal to his players, Bill Self has proven that if something is not working, he will make adjustments.

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Scut Farkus 1 year, 2 months ago

I disagree as well. EJ isn't the only player not living up to expectations. (McLemore and Withey had 8 TO's between them.) You work these things out on the practice floor, not mess with starting fives, especially when there are no obvious solutions on the bench. One of the commentators Saturday mentioned that EJ needs to focus on ball distribution, getting his teammates involved, defense and running the point and let the offense take a back seat for awhile.

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Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 2 months ago

5) Saturday's loss was a group effort, as KY put it. Yeah, EJ turning the ball over at the end of each half probably cost us the game more than anything, but after rallying from a 14 point deficit to a 4 point lead, all that we needed to do to win was take care of the basics. OSU is talented, but we're more talented. The difference was in want. How many times did Smart get the board off a missed free throw? How do guys not block out? Ben, KY, and Withey all contributed to the awful TO situation, often at the most inopportune times. It's easier to let others off the hook when EJ is the leader and when they manage to contribute more, but EJ also isn't the one solely responsible for the poor play of the last month.

6) Recruiting differently wouldn't have solved this problem. You can argue that we don't have as much talent as we usually do at the 4, and you'd be right, but our guard rotation is as good or better than it's been on any of the teams we've had since winning it all in 2008. A guy like Marcus Smart wasn't going to come to KU to play back up to a veteran like EJ (not that that would be a problem today, but hindsight and all). Tharpe and Adams are the type of recruits you get when you're offering backup minutes. Other guards we targeted in the class probably wouldn't make much of a difference either. Archie Goodwin is a TO machine at UK. How much does LJ Rose get to play at Baylor? Are we really missing out by not having Ricardo Ledo?

7) This is one loss, not the end of the world. I'm as shocked as anyone that it was a home loss, but I'm not at all shocked that it was OSU that beat us. If it came at Iba, I don't think anyone would be making as much of the loss as we are. If we lose at OU or at ISU, I won't be surprised. We also aren't the first team to get bit by the upset bug this year, nor the first final four contender this year to lose at home. It happens. It's upsetting. It's not the end of the world, though.

That's the way I see it right now. This loss was a long time coming after a full month of poor play. It's not the loss that matters. It's how our guys respond. This could be the turning point of the season. I'm hoping that's how it plays out for the better.

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Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 2 months ago

Here's my 2 cents on EJ and our PG situation:

1) EJ is a point guard. Whether or not he is/was more comfortable off ball, EJ is more than capable of being the primary ball handler. It's what he did out of high school. It's where he played in his limited minutes as a soph. It's where he played when TT was out of the game last year. No body wanted to see him replaced in that role during the month of December when we were playing really, really well. EJ has the necessary skills to lead this team from the 1. His inability to do it well lately is not proof of his inability to do it at all.

2) EJ's knees aren't about to explode. They may not be 100%. I agree with Jaybate that you don't put that much different exotic hardware on your knees if they feel great to you, but that doesn't mean that they've got nothing left. As ralster has pointed out, EJ still gets up or tries to for jams. The first play they tried on Saturday was an oop to EJ. You don't do those kinds of things if you're in extreme pain with nothing left to give.

3) EJ's problem is between his ears, not his thighs and calves. You don't throw lazy passes because of physical ailments or a lack of ball handling skills. You throw lazy passes because you're not mentally focused. You don't throw the ball to guys who aren't there for reasons either. It's because you don't communicate or pay attention to what's happening on the floor. Taking bad shots, letting the ball get stuck on O, losing your man on D... it comes from being in your head too much, trying too hard to make something happen, or losing focus. It's in his head.

4) More than anything, I think EJ's problem is that he's not being EJ. EJ's play lately reminds me of Tyshawn. Even during December when things were going well, Self wanted EJ and Tharpe to attack the rim more. EJ is definitely doing this, just with little success. The main criticism at the time was that EJ was seldom getting fouled. He had maybe 8 points from the stripe 10 games into the season. The problem is that EJ isn't hitting those layups nor is he getting fouled. He's not TT. TT was, if not the quickest guard in D1, in the top 3. EJ is a lot slower than TT. He's bigger, stronger, and more athletic in a number of ways, but quickness isn't one of them. TT missed plently of layups too, but he could get fouled doing it because he was so explosive. That's not EJ's game. When EJ was playing better and turning the ball over less, it was because he wasn't trying to get to the rim every time down the court. I will say that he does a fine job of getting to the paint, it's what he does at that point that's the problem. He never jump stops and he often goes wide for the layup which both avoids contact and makes the shot harder because the angle you have to catch off the board is really, really obtuse. I don't know if you put it on Self or EJ, but whoever is holding him back, EJ needs to be allowed to be EJ.

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championhawks 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm not sure if a lineup change is what is needed, but changes in play are needed, IMO. EJ can't take 14 shots and 7 from behind the arc, especially when he is struggling like he is. BMac is the only perimeter player who should have numbers like those.

The high-low has been important to KU the past few years and has worked great. How many times did Marcus or Markieff throw a pass down low to theother from the elbow? It doesn't happen this year because neither of our big guys can hit the elbow jumper consistently. Young is not an offensive player, so I really don't expect him to improve on that. Teams have sagged off him and basically double Withey so there is no way to get a pass to him from the elbow. I would love to see Ellis get more minutes and get in the flow of things because I feel like he has the ability to hit that shot. He is progressing and getting better, but unfortunately I'm not sure if he has shown enough to be a starter. As others suggested this, I would love to see it happen as well and bring Young with his energy as our 6th man.

Lastly, our end of the half possessions are pathetic. If there is a play that is supposed to be ran, they better work on it because they must not be executing it. Whether it is the chop play or something else they draw up, they need to get something going into the half. IMO, I've seen too much of EJ standing at mid-court until 7 seconds left and then they put up a forced 3 or turn the ball over. EJ is not TT or Collins and isn't going to make a play 1v1 most of the time.

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Dyrk Dugan 1 year, 2 months ago

i disagree with the subject of this article. 19-2 and 7-1 don't warrant it. not yet. remember, same Sr. PG who took it to Ohio St. in their house.

too much history at this point.....and not enough evidence. the next three games are key though......a lapdog roadie, a tougher roadie, and then the big rival back home on Big Monday. that will be all the evidence we'll need.

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PhearThePhog 1 year, 2 months ago

Hardly the Titanic. But what brought the Titanic down was arrogance that it will NEVER sink and and a failure to pay attention to the warnings and act immediately. Our 'Titanic moment' could end up being an early exit from the tournament as a high seed if we don't correct our direction and change our mindset that we have to hit the floor with an intense desire to win and not expecting to win. HCBS and these players did hear the warnings and will act. Watch.

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Jack Wilson 1 year, 2 months ago

We saw Saturday the exact type of game that a team "winning with defense" can lose in the tournament -- the hot shooting team. And then, no major answer on offense. The good news is that we led by 4 late in the second half. We overcame.

First, I would not switch to Tharpe. I'd stick with EJ. That's my gut right now.

Second, I would make a point of working AWIII into the rotation. We saw how rusty he was Monday vs. WVU. We saw a major impact in one minute vs. OSU. He is an X-factor that can help us overcome the hot shooting team. He gives us a nice option from outside.

Third, I would not hesitate to play small for bigger chunks of the game. This would move EJ to the 2. Self did it in two stretches Saturday with Releford at the 4. I'd work White in there a bit, too. We need a guy that can hit that 15 footer "two out of three times" as Self said earlier. Releford and White are that answer.

Fourth, I would avoid playing Withey as the "high" in the high-low. We did that for quite a bit of time in the first half. As mentioned above, Releford and White can fill this spot for stretches.

Fifth, Ellis needs to put up, or we need to shut up about him playing more. He was awful Saturday. Fumbling the ball away, poor shooting. But a big chunk of PT for a few games should give him that chance to "put up", so to speak. As drgnslayr and other have pointed out, he is maybe our answer to fixing offensive stagnation.

Sixth and final point, one that is like beating a dead horse ... I am at wit's end on this. Look at Releford's line on Saturday. 2-5 shooting. 2-2 from 3, 0-3 from 2. Five freaking shots. Guys, this is our biggest problem. Literally forget everthing else. Releford is the guy that can score. He can get to the hoop. He can slash. I watch Saturday where he'd catch the ball, and all he had to do was want to drive. Instead, pass around the perimeter. His shooting percentage is excellent. We have seen him take over in stretches before. He has to be assertive for this team to peak. It's that simple. Half the responses I get when I say this are "well, he works so hard on defense he's too tired to focus on offense." That is lame. Many, many other excellent defensive players have excelled on offense. And Releford's best offensive stretches are many times late in games after he's been playing excellent defense. You want our answer, it's #24.

The fact is (in my opinio) we don't have that many problems that can really be fixed. Every team has flaws. We have the talent we have, and we're lucky to have it. Ok, point guard play has not been stellar, but we're also missing a big time player at the 4 that might make everything right in the world. Right now, we just need to capitalize on what we have.

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FearlessJayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe EJ simply isn't that good?

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Ben Kane 1 year, 2 months ago

I didn't see this game, fortunately, but i disagree as well. Putting PE in the starting lineup instead of KY will help our offense be more dynamic and thus take a little pressure off of EJ. The energy that KY would bring off the bench would be beneficial as well.

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 2 months ago

We scored 80 points and it sounds like our offense was horrendous.

At the end of the game, we play 35 seconds of defense, but failed to block out on 3 or 4 key possessions. Yes there were turnovers, but the sky isn't falling. I think anything less than 5 losses wins the Big XII, and we are a long way away from that.

Everyone knows that there were plenty of turnovers to go around, it just is disappointing that it was the last play of the game. I could see this being the push that gets EJ going. I've always liked the Tharpe to kickout to Releford or McLemore, but after seeing EJ get to the rim a few times, I think EJ could do the same thing.

Next game, EJ Hawk to Rock!

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REHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I will say it again. I would like to see many more minutes for White and Adams in the TCU contest. If Bill Self has one glaring weakness, it is the quick yank for freshman talent. The meltdown of his squad Saturday afternoon falls heavily upon his own shoulders.

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smhend 1 year, 2 months ago

Seriously, 19 and 2 is the Titanic?

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jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

Johnson isn't the biggest reason for the loss Saturday. Poor defensive rebounding, especially the last 5 minutes, is even more to blame.

I do believe the offense looks better with Tharpe on the floor though, and would not be opposed to seeing him start. I'm not sure he's really earned the right to start, but he is playing better than EJ and probably deserves to be rewarded.

I would also like to see the short leash taken off Ellis. We need his offensive skills on the floor, badly, and if we're going to make a deep run in the tournament, we will need more inside offense. He is clearly the guy capable of providing that.

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Mike Barnhart 1 year, 2 months ago

It's easier then you all are making it out to be. If coach wants to steal 7 minutes a game from EJ and give them to Nadir, he'll do it. No need to change the line up, just the substitution pattern.

The key is this: who play's in "crunch time?" Maybe it's time for Nadir to get that chance!

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KEITHMILES05 1 year, 2 months ago

This years offense IS very stagnant. Too much standing around and Releford is at the top of the list. One minute he is active and the other his head is elsewhere. He blows Self off when told to get with it and that is a very bad sign. OSU game EJ wanted to be the man and BMac hardly got any touches the first half. HUGE MISTAKE! Then, the second half they weren't feeding Withey.

EJ has problems and it wasn't just the OSU game but the past 5 games. He looks unhappy and lost and has no lift or get go. He needs to look at himself in the mirror prior to taking the court and get things right. This is a team sport and when you are doing things detremental to the team it's very wrong.

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PhearThePhog 1 year, 2 months ago

Giving EJ a little change of scenery doesn't necessarily mean he's not our guy. With him highly engaged we are 19-2 and on the top line of the BIGXII standings. But January EJ is not playing like December EJ ... which is the team we need to get back to being. His confidence is rattled and may benefit from pressure relief. Start Naadir and rotate in EJ, Rio & WIII. Work EJ back as he re-emerges and it will also give 3 very capable guys PT that could prove valuable down the stretch. As for self-esteem ... this is Kansas Basketball man! ... and we don't need Stuart Smalley as our PG that requires Daily Affirmations.

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Ashwin Rao 1 year, 2 months ago

I still believe that EJ is our ticket to the championship. So we need to handle this with care. Not starting EJ may reduce his self-esteem further, further aggravating the issues. I am sure Self knows better than us about the emotional underpinnings and will do what is best for the team. Given the situation, if I were the coach (which, I am sure many would point, am not!), I would start EJ (insurance), then would give Rio the much needed experience bringing up the ball early in the 1st, then choose between the three (Rio, EJ, Tharpe) as the game progresses.

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klineisanazi 1 year, 2 months ago

I think this would depend on how Self gauges the impact of not starting on EJ. Because to me, the object is to get EJ up to speed before March. I just don't see a deep run without him putting up numbers similar to those he did before "the Slump". They can win grinders, but will struggle to win a game against more capable offensive teams. So if sitting him more would help him, and not destroy whatever confidence he might have left, it might be considered.

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Edward Daub 1 year, 2 months ago

Bill also tried Kevin Young at Point Guard at one Practice. I doubt he will try KY there, since he is 6'8" tall, and can he dribble and pass from there? The next Magic Johnson!

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Michael Luby 1 year, 2 months ago

I actually think TK has something here. The TCU game will most likely be a tune up game for us. Why not sit EJ, take some pressure off the guy, let him come off the bench 5-8 min into the game. Perspective is everything! Let him sit and watch for a moment. Let him focus on where he can impact the game. Let him realize his great potential again. He needs positive reinforcement. The whole team does. This might just be a way to kill two birds. RCJHKUALLDAY

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J.T. Even 1 year, 2 months ago

Which is why I'm going to offer an out-of-the-box suggestion that might me get me laughed at out of the building: yoga.

I don't know if this is something that the strength and conditioning program utilizes or not. I don't know if it's suitable to throw at semi-professional athletes at this point in the season. But I know a fair amount of professional athletes do it and credit some their of success to it. Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Shaq, and Lebron all practice it. A lot of NFL teams are also incorporating it in their strength and conditioning programs.

Yoga helps strengthen and open your joints. It's like un-twistting a knot in a hose. It also helps with willpower, focus, and resolve. Some poses, while seeming easy, are pretty hard to do for an extended time. It takes mental toughness and concentration to hold a pose for a minute.

This is something I would seriously consider if I was EJ or Kansas's Strength and Conditioning program. It's a Ying to an already in place rehab Yang. Plus, yoga is a lot more challenging than most people give it credit, and if EJ saw some success with it, it could translate onto the court.

I've done a couple different practices, and it's always been said that if you do it everyday, you WILL see a change in your body and mind within a month.

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finestack 1 year, 2 months ago

Also, get serious, ..."starting Tharpe ... as little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." Talk with Old Roy or Cal if you want to be Chicken Little about the season. But don't denigrate this great Kansas team and wonderful season with histrionics

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finestack 1 year, 2 months ago

Totally disagree with Keegan on benching EJ. #nevercoached Good suggestions drgnslyr. Coaching is about reaching the individual, and connecting him with his potential and the higher purpose, and HCBS has proven he and staff can do this with any kid who is bought into the system. We all know EJ is bought in. We have all seen him excel on The biggest stage. And while he's a senior leader and starter, there is time. RocK ChalK

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J.T. Even 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ needs to stop being so lazy with his passes, but wait the whole team does as well. It makes me wonder if they are doing it out of habit in practice. Maybe that's why we aren't seeing Rio and White getting hardly any minutes, and why Self is still critical of Tharpe's defense; they aren't providing the defensive intensity in practice and as a result the whole team is suffering.

If we were just more careful with the ball, despite our woeful offense, we would've won the game.

Something else that hardly is being talked about is this is not the offense that EJ learned for three years. The high-low is hardly being utilized, and that is a cornerstone of Bill's offense. If Withey, Traylor, Ellis, and Young could all either hold their own in the paint or shoot/drive from the free throw lane, this would be a completely different offensive team. Withey is playing above expectations, but he needs more help. Furthermore, Rele isn't really providing as much help in the offense as he needs to either. So Elijah, as the team leader and point guard, is trying to take over by driving more and playing faster. That's probably what Self is asking him to do. But he's playing on two broken wheels. You can tell he's trying to will his knees to comply but he still hasn't learned to play within his semi-broken self. He still doesn't trust his knees. You can say it's all in your head dummy, but the mental aspect is usually the toughest to overcome. And his shot not falling isn't helping things either for him.

(continued)

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William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't think this will solve anything and will just delay us from addressing the biggest problem, which is our lack of execution on offense.

EJ is known to have esteem issues... is now forced to lead this team and is under the bright spot light as our PG (which he is clearly a 2), he either isn't 100% with his knees (or in the least isn't trusting them), he's stuck in an offense without a plan (no high-low, no dribble-drive, few effective sets), and he knows what Jayhawk fans expect!

This guy is melting down before our eyes, and the answer isn't going to be a punishment of bench time.

I'm not saying my solution will turn him all the way around, but something positive is the answer....

  1. Give him a standing ovation next time we call the starting lineup in pre-game.

  2. Start addressing some of the problems with this pathetic offense. Clearly there is more blame to go around than EJ. Get some structure in that offense... set screens and run plays. Make defenses honest so they can't easily play tight and force more TOs.

  3. Someone work with EJ to calm him down, give him some reassurance, and find ways to help him bring his game back. I never played on a stage with anywhere near the pressure at Kansas, but had a problem with nerves and focus. Someone turned me on to a copy of the Tao Te Ching and I'd read passages from it leading up to games and it did wonders for me. There is something out there for EJ to help him.

Rock Chalk, EJ! You have at least one fan backing you... I'm sure others feel the same as I do.

BTW: Naadir doesn't need to be piled on either. He is progressing nicely and how we treat EJ will stick in his mind in the future.... just as some of the negativity given to TT stuck with EJ. We need a disciplined ship, but kicking a guy at the wrong time isn't discipline.

"When you stand with your two feet on the ground, you will always keep your balance." - Tao Te Ching

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Doug Cramer 1 year, 2 months ago

EJ - we're behind you...and we know you'll be fine. These adverse situations have a way of making a person better. RCJH

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Michael Sillman 1 year, 2 months ago

I think it would be worth starting Tharpe to see if it helps the team and Johnson. I'd like to see Adams get a chance to run the team for a full 5 minute split.

I am also wondering if the end of both of the winning streaks might relax the team a bit also.

While on the subject of trying something different, I'd recommend going back to bringing Young off the bench and start Ellis. Not because Young is doing anything wrong as a starter.

I just always think that the 6th man needs to come in with a burst of energy to either revive a team when it is behind or push it over the hump when it is ahead to step on the opponent's neck. No one brings the energy like Young.

Several posters have raised the issue of Self's offense becoming predictable which has some merit. However, the players are the ones who can make it unpredictable. Instead of mechanically tossing the wing pass, fake it and throw it to the other side. Fake it and hit the wing the back door. Fake it and then drive past your man to the basket. Just don't do the same thing all of the time.

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Scott Oswalt 1 year, 2 months ago

Maybe try Releford at point guard? This is some funk Johnson is in. I witnessed my 3rd loss ever in AFH on Saturday. Not a good feeling. Coach em' up, Bill!!!

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amatxjayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I really trust HCBS to put the right guys on the floor and to get the most out of the talent at hand. One thing is certain. The last thing HCBS or the team needs is advice from Keegan. Even if it is the right thing to do it doesn't need to come form this hammerhead. In fact the very mentioning of it is potentially damaging to the team and entirely self serving on Keegan's part.

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phogphan2000 1 year, 2 months ago

Like those before me I completely disagree. KU needs EJ to be the starting senior PG. HCBS has put tons of pressure on him to be a creator this year for whatever reason. He just needs to play the same way he did last year with BMac and TRele more ready to step up the way TT did off the ball last year. TT almost never brought the ball up and drove from the point last year. He was part of the offense and made a lot happen from the wing when the ball swung his way. Same thing goes for Releford this year. When the ball swings around and you have a slight edge on your defender don't put the onus back on EJ, make something happen. Same thing goes for BMac, same thing goes for KYo in certain situations. Teams were daring him to shoot the jumper. Come on Kevin! We know you can score it, pull up and shoot, put it on the deck and get it in the middle. Don't freeze up afraid you'll miss the jumper and immediately look for someone to pass to. EJ shouldn't need to be a huge playmaker for a team with excellent offensive wings. HCBS might have gotten a little too used to TT's gutsy drives working out last year. TT, after 4 years of heaving them up, finally started getting floaters/tough layups to fall last year. To expect EJ to do the same this year is absurd, he's a different player. Work the offense, whenever the bigs get good position take advantage. Whenever a small has an opening take it and don't just send it back around the perimeter once you're on the short side of the shot clock.

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741hawk 1 year, 2 months ago

There is no question but that EJ is struggling. However, I will always remember that as a high school all-star, he wore KU sweats when he was introduced to a booing crowd in Lexington, Kentucky! He has to be trying SO hard. I just hope that Coach and he can figure out a path to improvement. All the best, Elijah!

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Ferd Magellan 1 year, 2 months ago

If we had another guard on this roster capable of adding something, I'd be all for making a change. Since we don't, I have to side with the group that routed CU, beat Ohio State in Columbus and stands atop the Big 12 standings.

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