Thursday, February 7, 2013


Opinion: Could KU be too nice?


You don’t pull the strings on an outrageous streak of 264 games without losing two in a row if you don’t know how to use that loss to administer a one-sided beating in the next outing.

Bill Self, a masterful brainwasher who year-in-and-year out has shown he knows how to put his players in the right frame of mind to maximize their abilities, is as good at getting his team to bounce back as any coach in any sport.

Until, that is, Wednesday night in Fort Worth, Texas, where the same collection of players who defeated Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 22 scored two points in the first 13:53 of the first half and lost to last-place TCU. It came on the heels of KU’s rare home loss to a good Oklahoma State team.

What is it about this team that makes it so different from Self’s others, which all rebounded so well from tough losses? I racked my brain — dug through dead cells, piles of regret and the indestructible sweet tooth running around up there — in search of an answer. A basketball explanation would not suffice. It’s more than this team’s sub-standard point-guard play, more than the broken string of exceptional power forwards (Thomas Robinson, Marcus Morris, Darrell Arthur, a veteran Darnell Jackson, Julian Wright, Wayne Simien, Nick Collison/Drew Gooden).

Basketball reasons can explain Oklahoma State, not TCU. More is at play.

All I could come up with was that this is without question the nicest group of young men I have covered in eight seasons following Kansas basketball. The other rosters included some players who were rough around the edges, a few more than just the edges. You challenge the manhood of guys like that, tell them and the world they’re soft, and they’ll prove you wrong. Tell kinder men — that, by the way, is a compliment — they are soft, and they might just take it personally in the wrong way, withdraw into themselves and unwittingly prove you right.

That was one shell-shocked basketball team that tripped all over its own frightening shadow Wednesday.

Self has coached in seven more Elite Eights, won two more national semifinals and one more national championship than I have, you say. I say you’re right. Not only that, he has forgotten in the last five minutes more about not just basketball but motivating and leading men than I’ll learn in a lifetime. But even the smartest guy in the room isn’t always right.

If that’s it, if Self’s typical approach isn’t the right fit, that would qualify as good news because he’ll realize it and try a path that does work.

If that’s not the case, then it’s one of two things: He either simply didn’t recruit as talented a team as the early-season success fooled us into thinking, or it’s just another case of a modern sports team peaking two or three times during a season, each time climbing a ladder of sound fundamentals to get out of the valley.


Eric TheCapn 1 year, 2 months ago

We're just soooo predictable, and that's up to coaching. Here's just one of a hundred examples: When Kevin Young has the ball at the top of the key, he stares at the guard he's going to pass to and doesn't look anywhere else until he's made the pass, even if the guard is being blanketed by a defender.

We were playing well until teams figured us out, but we still do the same things all game, every game, expecting a different result. It's the definition of insanity, or maybe stupidity.

EJ shouldn't be playing point guard at all, and shouldn't start until something drastically changes. I love the guy, but he's been a detriment to the team for months. There is no question he costs us more points than he gives us.

Oh, and start setting up Releford!!!!! McLemore didn't shoot great last game, but he's one of the guys who SHOULD be taking 16 shots. Why the heck are Tharpe and Johnson shooting as much? They can't shoot, neither or 'em, not this year. EJ is shooting 38%, 33% from downtown. Tharpe shoots 33% no matter where he is. Combined they were 5-for-27 the other day. What?! WHAT?! 27 shots?! They're (arguably) point guards! Withey took 6 shots; Releford took 1. Those stats are enough to make a fan puke.


Eric TheCapn 1 year, 2 months ago

Opinion: Opinion headlines should be statements of opinion, not questions.... ?

Or were you just being too nice? :p


ironhead80 1 year, 2 months ago

Godzilla's son, One day on monster island Godzilla was trying to make his son blow out fire from his mouth. Well, Godzilla's son could not do it, he would rub his tummy and just a puff of fire would come out of his mouth, each time Godzilla would get frustrated and eventuallyGodzilla got angry enough he stomped on his son's tail, at which time a big ball of fire would come out. I believe coach Self is Godzilla trying to make his13 basketball son's to blow fire from there mouth's. Godzilla knew his son had it in him and coach Self know's his players have it in them or he would not have reqruited them.


Joseph Bullock 1 year, 2 months ago

People are idiots for wanting Coach Self fired. But he and is Staff do need to make better adjustments, and he needs to get other players more experience, and also let them play through their mistakes. They will have growing pains, but it will serve us very, very, well, when it matters most. Of course I want another Big XII Conference Championship, but that is not the main Goal of any K.U. Team! And I hate "Fair weather fans", who are always so rah rah, when K.U. is winning, but always so critical and negative when K.U. loses. Those people are losers, and are probably the same way in their personal lives. I hate losing, but I have common sense and logic, and I know losing happens. Am I spoiled by K.U.'s success? Absolutely, and I am not ashamed of it. But I am a realist, and know there will be bumps in the road. But at the same time, I am very Confident that we will get the ship back in order, and to be honest, I really don't think I would want to be Oklahoma right now. I guarantee you that Lon Kruger is preaching to his team, to not pa any attention to the K.U. is dead articles they have been reading, because if they do, it will be a long, long, day for them, tomorrow. The next 2 games are crucial, I I truly believe we will win both of them. Our players will show, from now on, that they are not soft, and how focused they can be. The deadliest creature, are most deadly, when they are cornered, and their backs are against the wall. Look out World.


CHEEZIT 1 year, 2 months ago

Indiana turned the ball over on their last possesion and Cody Zeller let his man free on an under the basket inbounds play to help Illinois win.

Phil Pressey turned the ball over 7 times including at the end of Missouri's game and they lost to A&M. Yea!!!

The wonderful Duke fans yelled "How's your Grandma?" to a player on NC state at the free throw line. She had died last week! Really!


Kevin Huffman 1 year, 2 months ago

Just have a hard time envisioning us winning this conference now.

People can say the conference is down but I would argue against that. It Iowa State wins at Kansas State on Saturday I think that we would FOR SURE have 4 ranked Big XII teams the first time this season. KU, K-State, Okla. State & Iowa State. Right about now, I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up in 4th or even 5th.

I mean as is K-State's already tied with us & OSU & ISU are just a game back w/ ISU getting us in Ames down the road.


Woody Cragg 1 year, 2 months ago

I finally just read today's other thread & HEM's posts on Rele & our offensively offensive funk. You hit it right the knoggin' again HEM, excuse me for not expecting that you'd be the one to do it.


Woody Cragg 1 year, 2 months ago

Can we send a letter to Tulsa?

Just a thought or two on this offensive debacle...Have they even tried to run offensive set plays with Rele at the 4 on a hi lo? I know he's only 6'5" or so but Young can't hit the backboard from 15 feet so is useless to play with him there. I mean, why can't these kids get the ball to Jeff? Why, because defenses collapse on him without a 3 or 4 that can get to the rack & he's not moving enough to get good angles to take a pass. And he's displaying the same old bad habits of trying to dribble the ball for position in the paint & is turning it over when he gets doubled. And Young putting the ball on the floor? Please! We are really, and I mean REALLY screwed without Danny Manning to get the bigs playing at the level of past years. When Jeff gets the ball in the blocks where are the cutters filling the passing lanes? They're standing around waiting to see what he does & trying (somewhat) to figure out who to block out. Maybe Tharpe will pick up on that, ya think? Personally I think Jeff may have even regressed from earlier this season.When was the last time any of these 4's or 5's used a drop step? I dunno. You're right Oak, we are weaker without football tough Zack, & Lucas took the shirt, but Manning likely would have had Perry tuned up enough to be a consistent starter that CAN score with a footer on the floor.Danny would be polishing this kid like a diamond.That, in a nutshell is my take on the difference in this team & all others I've watched since HCBS own recruits have filled the roster. Yeah, it's possible at times some of these guys are too nice, but face it, Norm Roberts is not the big man coach Danny is, IMO not even close. And I also believe EJ is taking far too much krap for the offensive woes with the exception of TO's. He is trying his butt off to get his teamates open looks, but when they can't score, he gets flack for not being a better passer. Guys will have nights when they can't hit, & we've always been able to compensate with players in the paint, at least for the most part till the dance. But glaringly obvious is this teams inability to convert when they absolutely have to without hitting a desparation, bank is open, 3 to send it to OT. Those are only going in about 25% of the time, maybe less, so we all better get used to this type of play because it's not likely to change very quickly. Hope I'm wrong as all daylights, but I really don't think I am. JMO........Danny please come home?! Please?!

Great hustle guy, nice kid, hell like TK says, they're all probably too nice.


AQM37 1 year, 2 months ago

When we were down by 16 during the game, Releford appeared to be jovial. Saw one of players in Lawrence last night and he appeared to be in a pretty good mood too. I've been scowling since Wednesday night and they should be too. I think Keegan might be right about this one.

It's a fine line, though. The VCU example already mentioned is a good one. Also remember remember how much heat Coach Self took when KU decided to bury TTU in AFH a few years ago.


dw3c 1 year, 2 months ago

Another 18 game winning streak starting tomorrow & KU will win the B12, B12 Tourney, and National Championship. Think positive everyone!


William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

Yes, Oak... when we lost Zach we lost our muscle. We lost our only man that could take up space on the court. If our entire team turned sideways in a shower someone would say "who dropped the comb?!"

Jamari had potential to be an enforcer when he arrived in Lawrence. He's now looking like a super model instead. That's great for the cover of GQ... but for college basketball... not so good.

I'm starting to think we need to address this with Hudy. It seems she's found a specific profile for shape and size of what an "optimal player" should be. That approach does not work for the design of an entire team.

Teams need a diversity of players... size and shape, too. I'm already noticing how thin Lucas has become since arriving in Lawrence. He was recruited as a possible enforcer... well... mark another one off the list!

Let me guess... we have a team full of vegans. No offense to vegans, but this team needs protein! Meat is the diet for aggression!

Feed these kids some beef! Lots and lots of meat! Pork chops and bacon for breakfast; hamburgers and cheeseburgers for lunch; ribs and steak for dinner!

Go, Veghawks!

; )


Robbk1066 1 year, 2 months ago

I saw no emotion out of them, no one was yelling, no one was upset. I saw ej turnover the ball and jog back on def. no fight. Not until late in the 2nd did they finally get it, they were about to get beat. then I saw them really try, but it was to late. No leader on this team, and yes they are to nice, kind. We are weak when things do not go our way. What concerns me right now is how shell shocked they look, like this was fate, beyond their control. That is dangerous. As said there is no leader to step up and right this. The part that is self/coaches fault is lack of a pg/leader not on this team. Lets hope we can play with confidence going forward, if not going to a short long fall...


Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

We lost our true "enforcer" when Zach Peters was forced to quit basketball because of the concussions.

The "Zack Attack" would have set a tone that that I think Jamari, Jeff and even Kevin would have bought into and we probably would not be talking about this issue today.

Also, when Zack left, we lost a guy who could hit that 10' jumper that is constantly open for this team. I am surprised more of you aren't mentioning that rather significant loss.


Robert Brock 1 year, 2 months ago

I was at the game and my take was that the Hawks looked mentally stumped. Maybe the loss to OSU wigged them out a little. Whatever the case, the kids couldn't do anything right. I've never seen a KU team do that.


theend 1 year, 2 months ago

"Nice" has nothing to do with it.......they just don't have enough talent. And besides.......being "mean" didn't work out too well a few years ago when KU played VCU. Remember? One of the Morris twins decided it would be a really good idea to mouth off to VCU players before the game........oops.


Clarence Haynes 1 year, 2 months ago

Characterization as "thugs" two years ago to now being "nice guys"! Interesting! All clichés and characterizations aside, we have to put our money on Bill Self to have these men realize their potential as demonstrated earlier this season.


Kent Noble 1 year, 2 months ago

This team is definitely not the aggressive team, as teams in the past. It would really be nice if we had the Jarod Hasse type of players on the floor. Maybe coach self needs to break out the old Roy Williams tapes when Jarod Hasse played and show them to this team. Nobody gets on the floor and gets after it. They all bend over and try to pick up a loose ball instead of diving on the floor after it. As of lately we stand there and look at it. That's just not KU basketball. It's really kind of sad when Jeff Withey gets the ball on the post and nobody comes over and tries to double team him. What does that tell you! He really needs to learn how to learn how to keep the ball up instead of bring it down where everybody ties the ball up. But after 4 years of D-1 ball you think he would have learned that by now. When Kevin Young gets the ball at the free throw, if he learn how to postion himself better before he shoots it he would start knocking that down. Nobody even comes out to gaurd him at the free throw line how pathetic is that. I really don't see this team making anykind of a run through March Madness. I hope I'm wrong!!!


Michael Leiker 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't think this whole situation is mental or physical at all.

There was a play in the OSU game where Withey caught the ball on the right shoulder from Tharpe at the point, Tharpe then moved to the left side wing and Withey passed the ball cross court in his direction a play we've seen over and over for years. Smart jumped in, stole this cross court pass and went down for a dunk. It's always amazed me how they've gotten away with this over and over. The league has finally found a way to start defending KUs monotonous offensive sets.

My point is that for the last 5 years since the title, be it Sherron, the twins or Taylor, KS has had a player able to take the ball when needed and get a shot or make a shot for a teammate. We just don't have that guy this year. This team does not have time to run a 3-man weave at the top of the key for 20 seconds of the shot clock and assume they're going to find a good shot in the final 15s.

For me, Self has two choices, find a way to get these guys to start reading and reacting, or just start running set plays every time down the court. Too late for a drastic change to their normal man offense. Our guys are mindlessly running through their sets right now and they are very easy to defend. Self has to put them in a situation where they can change this.


Chris Shaw 1 year, 2 months ago

Keegan also forgot one very important piece to this article..."Leadership". There isn't one "Leader" out of this bunch. So, in essence, the team is too nice because there isn't one guy keeping everyone accountable for their play.

As much as I would love for one of the seniors to be able to step up and accept that role, their personalities don't fit the "Leadership" characteristics. I saw B-Mac for the first time this season get pissed off late in the game against TCU and take a couple drives with more anger than I've seen in the past. That is good!

I really think B-Mac needs to tell the seniors, either keep up or get out of my way and let me take over this team. IMO, that has to be his mindsight. The only other "Fight" I saw out of anyone was Tharpe.

When you have 2 or 3 seniors sitting on the bench (Traylor was the other one and there were 4 sitting next to Self) at the 12:47 mark and Kansas finally got a bucket to generate some energy, the entire team jumped off the bench clapping and encouraging their teammates except those 4 sitting next to Self. They just sat there. It was Withey, Traylor, KY, and I couldn't tell if it was EJ or Relly sitting over there. That's all I needed to know about the mental "Softness" of this squad.


jgkojak 1 year, 2 months ago

Watch this video, and tell me Elijah is the same guy this year. He has NO ELEVATION. None. That is a dude that is playing hurt.


championhawks 1 year, 2 months ago

"Travis, Ben and Kevin need to be attempting more shots. Kevin needs to work on getting his bunnies to fall"

Yes, Young needs to get his bunnies to fall, but he definitely does not need to take more shots!

Young is not an offensive player. As much as we would love for him to start knocking down the foul line jumper, it just isn't going to happen on a consistent basis. His points are going to come mostly off of hustle plays, which means he will get those easy layup type baskets that he needs to start converting more consistently.


nuleafjhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

When I first saw this article at 6:30 this morning, I didn't think too much about the title, but Keegan hit the nail on the head here.

KU has had a reputation of being "too nice" for many years now, and this would be a good time to put an end to it. Bill Self has a reputation of being a solid, tough, no-nonsense kind of guy but the teams he's fielded at KU have not always represented that.

I know it's hard to argue with his winning percentage and all the conference championships and the NC - BUT - how many times over the years have you watched us either get off to incredibly slow starts against lesser teams, or get out to huge leads and let them dwindle to nothing? We've heard (and felt) many times that these teams don't have that "killer" instinct.

I love Bill Self as our coach and I hope he stays here for another 20 years, but I also wish he would see to it that once we get an opponent down, they stay down.

Right now KU IS too nice and this would be a good time to toughen up.


Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 2 months ago

Jesse wrote on 2/6:

"..If the Jayhawks struggle in this one, it will rightfully be time for fans to panic. I don't think KU will, though. After a humbling home loss to Oklahoma State, I see the Jayhawks taking advantage of TCU mistakes to score some easy points in transition in front of a pro-KU crowd in Fort Worth..".

Did he think of our team as "too nice" then, as Keegan has posed his thoughts? I didn't see anywhere in his article that we should have been at all intimidated by TCU. For a team to score 2 points in nearly 14 minutes to start a game that Jesse thought would be a blowout, does raise some concern. Is it possible to have misjudged a poorly performing TCU or undervalued the need to "scout" them with more than cursory interest? Or, did the whole team go "nice" as Keegan would have us believe, in the matter of two games?


Mike Barnhart 1 year, 2 months ago

I'm with Trojanhawk and others who have NOTICED odd basketball recently. I think it's fear of failure. It was obvious in the TCU game: short armed passes, hesitation, stumbling on cuts, weird looking jump shots, REFUSAL to take open shots and so on.

Gotta' stop thinking and just play ball!


AirCapJay 1 year, 2 months ago

The wrong guys are taking too many shots. Travis, Ben and Kevin need to be attempting more shots. Kevin needs to work on getting his bunnies to fall. Travis needs to drive to the basket more. Ben needs to be Ben more.


CardHawkFan 1 year, 2 months ago

Granted, EJ has been playing substandard, but I think Keegan pointed out a much more glaring shortcoming. We don't have a dominant post player. We are used to having guys underneath the basket be bullies, whether it be scoring the ball or rebounding. I love Withey's presence defensively, but teams just simply don't fear him getting the ball on the low block, other than maybe to pass it out. When is the last time a Bill Self team had so few baseline alley oop dunks? It's a well known fact, if you can't score inside consistently, you aren't drawing double teams to free up guys. And, if you aren't hitting from outside, teams can also play off. Simply put, no player on this roster right now deserves a double team, so we have put ourselves in a position to be easily guarded.


jhox 1 year, 2 months ago

Different people react differently to criticism. Clearly EJ doesn't respond well to being called out for his poor play and it has affected his confidence. Self has always been good at reading people. I'm sure he'll figure this out and help him get his Mojo back.


utahjayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

This thing is bigger than EJ's knees. His knees didn't make the majority of the team appear that they were on cruise control against TCU. There was no fire from the players and HCBS until there was only a min or two left. The exception was Nadiir who ended up doing too much but at least he had fire over a stretch.


leonard 1 year, 2 months ago

"Keep believing EJ's knees are hurt if it makes YOU feel better about his current funk." -- ralster

I am and I will continue to believe EJ is not right physically...and it has little to do with the type of knee wrap he wears.

I watch his on-ball defense when guarding the opposing point guard. He's in continual retreat mode...never attacking the dribbler. I watch his off-ball defense and see him losing his man by being out-quicked. Neither of those scenarios happen to a healthy EJ.


Janet Scott 1 year, 2 months ago

Time to bring in Samantha Ryan to give a pep talk and a demonstration on how to score.


Hoosierhawkfan 1 year, 2 months ago

Something happened to make all these young men look apprehensive and afraid against TCU. Coach Self will fix it.


Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 2 months ago

Keegan, nice article. But I don't think the loses have much to do with the team personalities.


nostradavid 1 year, 2 months ago

The loss at home knocked 'em flat.


KUFan90 1 year, 2 months ago

"Today marks the start of the competition for 2nd place in the Big 12" - Tom Keegan, January 9, 2013.

Sure looked like this team were world beaters back then didn't it Tom?

I believe that article put a hex on this team, and you are to blame for last night's loss.


Ferd Magellan 1 year, 2 months ago

It's just so weird that a few weeks ago we saw a tough, gritty KU team. Now they all look scared.


741hawk 1 year, 2 months ago

“Something is Horribly Wrong.” . . . 741hawk

1) Elijah has both knees wrapped. Note: Keith Langford’s senior year production declined toward the end. It wasn’t until two or three years later that we learned of an injury that slowed him. 2) Why did we play so well early (Ohio State in Columbus, for example), and so poorly lately? Young men 16 to 22 years of age develop their physical skills at different times, at different rates. This year KU is as mature a team as can be imagined – four senior starters (three five-year seniors). It’s possible that they were as good at the beginning of the year as they were going to be the rest of the season. As the season has progressed, other teams “caught up.” It’s possible that Perry Ellis may have been almost as good a high school player as he will be a college player. Note: UConn won the nat. championship with three freshmen – but by tournament time, they were no longer “freshmen.”
3) With four senior starters, this team has seen and heard all that Bill Self has to offer. It’s possible that nothing he says or does makes a difference because these seniors have heard it before and seen it before. If that’s the case, unless highly paid Coach Self changes how he coaches, expect no change in the outcome. 4) Is it time for Coach Self to take some responsibility? After each of the last two losses, he publicly “blasted” the players. Generally, it’s not thought wise to criticize your own players publicly. Should Coach consider shouldering some of the blame? I would think so.


Kyle Sybesma 1 year, 2 months ago

Well written. Self challenged this team after the OSU lost and I felt bad for TCU leading up to that game. TCU was in for an epic beat down. What we didn't anticipate was this would be the first team not to respond to Self's toughness challenge.

We've all experienced tough KU defeats but I can't recall any loss where KU didn't put out the effort. Three scenarios for most of KU defeats: The other team is better than us, ball doesn't bounce our way or the other team is unconscious from 3. This is the first time I felt we didn't put out the effort. It's hard to coach a team that doesn't put out the effort but if anyone can fix this it's Self.


Michael Luby 1 year, 2 months ago

Ok, for some odd reason my last couple of posts have disappeared. Im fairly certain I didnt say anything bad enough to have them removed. SO, Im posting first on this one.
Good opinion post TK. I think you may have something there. I hope Coach has a chance to see this article, could be useful insight on all points.


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