Saturday, February 9, 2013


Opinion: Don’t count out KU if losses mount


— What a shame, so many no doubt thought 25 years ago. Danny Manning and Chris Piper, the Lawrence High star big men, deserved a better senior season at the local university.

Loss No. 5 came at Notre Dame, the first of four in a row in late January/early February. Kansas lost at Nebraska four days later. At least they were headed to Allen Fieldhouse, where Manning and Piper had 53-0 records. Then came the back-to-back setbacks in the Phog, to Kansas State and Oklahoma.

None of those came close to matching KU’s surreal Wednesday sleepwalk in Fort Worth to a TCU team that had come within nine points of just one of eight Big 12 opponents it had faced.

Still, this might be a nice time to remember that a quarter-century ago the only title a Kansas team with a 12-8 record had a shot at winning had an ugly spelling. NIT.

Sometimes major underdogs do win it all. And even if this team seems like a long shot, even if the losing streak grows to three today and four on Monday, the list of 30 or so teams that could win the national title in this wide-open season still includes the Jayhawks. It’s too early to count them out.

It’s also too early to proclaim Elijah Johnson’s senior year a bust. For all we know, Johnson could wake up today and decide to play the way he played when he became, according to what his father Marcus Johnson told me a year ago, the first kindergartner to play for a fifth-grade team in the history of the state of Indiana. By that I don’t just mean he’ll play with the wide-eyed enthusiasm of a child. I mean he might reach the conclusion that the correct path to make this team awaken is to pretend he’s the young guy again whose main job is to set up the older players and pretend that Ben McLemore’s the veteran who needs to get the most shots.

Enjoy today’s mystery production featuring Kansas and Oklahoma in the Noble Center, where the curtain comes up at 3 p.m., and don’t even pretend you have the slightest clue as to its outcome.


Kent Wells 7 years, 8 months ago

I was at the Zero U game in Norman in 1988. I listened to the chant "Danny Manning Sucks" and saw my team blown out. But April offered a sweet redemption. In 2013, oh how the Sooner faithful must be looking forward to this game. I think the players meeting serves the purpose and the streak is stopped.

jhox 7 years, 8 months ago

I remember that game in Norman but I remember being encouraged because we hung with them pretty tough. I think we ended up losing by 8 or so points but it was tight most of the game. Going into the championship game I recall feeling good about our chances because we had hung tough with them at their place.

I think my favorite memory of that year is Billy Tubbs smirk late in the championship game when OU made a run, and he appeared confident they were going to pull it out, and how that smirk was gone moments later.

Lance Hobson 7 years, 8 months ago

Yep, we lost twice to OU that year by 8 points prior to the title game. Piper stopped the late OU run in the title game with a jumper.

mjhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Well, I wish this team had a Danny Manning.

nuleafjhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

If B-Mac would hang around 2 or 3 more, he could possibly fill those shoes.

But we'll never know

pepper_bar 7 years, 8 months ago

I sense Keegan is starting to realize KU hasn't already won the Big XII title after all.

"Don't even pretend you have the slightest clue as to its outcome." Et tu, Tommy?

Doug Merrill 7 years, 8 months ago

Please provide the column and quote where TK announced the Jayhawks have won it. I missed it but would like to see that.

Jim Johnson 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes Tom did predict it as you can see and others, myself included, predicted this wasn't true if they continued their showboating instead of playing good basketball. I can't believe that coach Self liked that picture of Releford dunking with his hand behind his head. When players do that they lose like the twins did.

hawk316 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes, pepper, Keegan may have spoken too soon, carried away by some early season enthusiasm, but here he provides a great reminder that much can change over the last half of a season. Let's hope it changes for the better for both the team and for Elijah Johnson. I keep remembering how EJ seemed to come alive in the run to the championship game last year. I would love to see him dig down deep and rechannel that same "magic" to close out his senior season.

KansasComet 7 years, 8 months ago

Looking forward to the game today. Time to get the intensity back. Lets go Jayhawks! Elijah is still my guy!! I believe!

Michael Johnson 7 years, 8 months ago

i still believe too, however we need a win to get our confidence back. the pressure will be intense today. a win might just blow the roof off of lloyd noble arena.

hotrodm 7 years, 8 months ago

The KU Team will be ready today and play well. I predict an 80 to 72 win over OU. Go Jayhawks!

Robert Brock 7 years, 8 months ago

I would be pleased if the Hawks could just make a few bunnies. They couldn't even do that in Fort Worth.

Boouk 7 years, 8 months ago

Shooting better than 1-19 from three in the first 38 minutes of the game wouldn't hurt either.

KansasComet 7 years, 8 months ago

I compare the TCU Game to the Super Bowl Commercial where the supermodel actually kisses the geek. "This can't be real?" Oh well, it happened even though we still can't believe it. Time to move on to the next game. Go Jayhawks!

Lorena Ben G Solis 7 years, 8 months ago

Hopefully the focus is back today I don't think I can handle another game like the last one especially being at the game. But what ever happens me and 11 friends will be screaming RCJH the whole time

VaJay 7 years, 8 months ago

Great article Keegs. I've been thinking that same thing for days. It could be a team that folds its tent, but I'm thinking they have too much pride & we'll see quite a dogfight. We'll find out what the boys are made of today. If I were a betting man, I'd bet on us to win. It would be extra sweet to beat OU (and shades of KSU represented by Kruger).

Doug Cramer 7 years, 8 months ago

Two items in combination of one another will make this team DANGEROUS again:

1: They feel as though their backs are against the wall 2: The fear of playing bad goes away...and they become loose again

I think this will happen...and we'll be back.

We have a great opportunity to get ourselves back over the next few days. A good OU team today...and a good K-State team Monday !


NotTait 7 years, 8 months ago

In case you havent' noticed, there is no 'Danny' on this team...not even close...

VaJay 7 years, 8 months ago

Respectfully disagree. This is a topic that is on every caring Jayhawk mind today. No one knows how we will be feeling tonight afterwards.

Half of me is hoping we win just so the doomsayers will not rear their UGLY heads again and blast our coach and our players (who are KIDS by the way - cut 'em a little slack please).

Gary Wirsig 7 years, 8 months ago

I think njjay was just blowing off a little steam with a bit of sarcasm...I hope we all agree this is a pretty huge topic. Hoping for a different outcome today.

VaJay 7 years, 8 months ago

You're reading waaaay too much into that. Yes, its an ugly term for any Jayhawk fan, but possibly, yes - there are some teams who think the NIT is a respectable goal. There's a little too much false bravado in your post...

KGphoto 7 years, 8 months ago

Yeah but, it's the losers bracket. Some good programs have dotted the NIT title landscape over the years, but I doubt North Carolina is hanging their NIT runner up banner. (chuckle)

I think he's speaking for KU on this one, not Wichita St.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 8 months ago

Bill Self in today's KC Star -- "If you should put it on anybody, you should put it on the head coach."

My guess is that coach Self is projecting this a bit more to the team. He's going to plan B. This is exactly what he should be doing. That is, his prior tact was that this team was not that good, players not do what they should, and some very harsh criticism. Pretty much his plan A motivation. It's worked in the past. But that was not increasing the level of play with this team, and there is an argument that the post-game OSU blowup could have had a little to do with Wednesday at TCU.

However, that does not mean that it is actually the head coach's fault. That's not the point. It's about taking the arrows, helping take the pressure off the team, helping them to avoid feeling the full weight of Jayhawk expectations -- plan B is perfect now.

Three days. Saturday, Sunday, Monday. Everything can be different. Wake up on Tuesday morning after we handle OU and hammer KSU, and everything is back on track. The "feeling" around this team can change very quickly.

Keegan states above that we should not "even pretend (we) have the slightest clue as to (the) outcome" today.


We do have a clue. It's a win. Why?

I mentioned after the game that all Jayhawks, and our arrogance and sense of entitlement, had been humbled, and that it was a good thing for all .. for players, coaches, and fans. A time to re-examine. The players meeting is a tremendous sign of this. Each player should have, and I'm quite sure has, examined their individual contributions and approach to the game. This team (players and coaches) has found humility.

We win today because we are Kansas. A humbled, re-focused Kansas. The best team in the Big 12. A national title contender. Being humbled can be that extra ingredient that helps create chemistry .. the chemistry that this team has been so obviously lacking. And it can forge the character necessary to be successful in March/April.

KU wins, 71-61. Bank on it.

Janella Williams 7 years, 8 months ago

Great post, thanks HighEliteMajor.

Rock Chalk!

planojayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago


Well said!

I kind of sense that you are coming around in your past unrealistic expectation (entitlement) mindset that the Jayhawlks have to win the National Championship every year to be considered a successful and elite college basketball program.

I, just like all devoted KU fans, would be ultra disappointed when we lost any tournament game, especially the earlier round one, but I always reflected back on the whole season, especially on how each young man has grown, both as basketball player and as a human being. I always come away with fond memories and getting even more proud of the Jayhawks.

Let's hope the Hawks turn it around in today's game! RCJH.

mikehawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Opinion: The story Keegs wrote the day before the Big 12 race started that the other 9 teams were playing for second place seemed silly then from a veteran sports writer who should know better, and I's sure it feels a bit embarrassing to him now. Well, Keegs, the race for a 9th Big 12 title starts today. Game on. This is as tough as it gets for us spoiled KU fans. The team is at a crossroads, and will either limp into a the close of a forgettable year, or they will dig deep and find a way. I continue to believe Coach needs to find a way to get more minutes to AWIII and Rio, and to avoid giving the hook to Perry Ellis too quickly. We are going to have to play through some tough times but we need those younger players to step up and make some growing pain mistakes. My wife and I will be at the game today in Norman. My OU co-workers are talking about another court storm if they beat us today. They are licking their chops. While they have deep respect for the KU program, they want us bad because they know you have to get us when you can, and that time may be right now.

Gary McCullough 7 years, 8 months ago

First you predict KU runs the conference table on The Drive, and then you predict two more losses? Come on Keegan. You're like a weather vane turning with every shifting wind.

Jeff Coffman 7 years, 8 months ago

Win the next two (which are two teams we have already beat this year), and we have a 2 game lead with 7 to play...most teams would love that.

Halfway through conference play and we are in first place.

I know a lot of people think we are falling apart, which I won't say we are playing like we did against OSU (Ohio) and CU, and a few others, but teams have bad games and teams have really good games. OSU (Okie) had a couldn't miss game, TCU we had a couldn't make game. All in all we'll look pretty good at the end of the season.

I still think the biggest problem we have had this year, is historically we have had three ball handlers on a rebound or a turnover that could push the ball, as someone pointed out even Mario played the two. This year, we don't have that, in fact, Ben that is his weakness, and releford can lead breaks if he is out in front, but isn't as good at kicking off the fast breaks. This has put extra pressure on EJ at the point. When NT and EJ are in at the same time, we give up size, but we have that transition ability; however, with EJ in a shooting slump we even lose one of the key options. Remember even the morris twins would push the ball down the court (we would all yell at the TV for them to pass it to a guard), but they all still do it. Another issue is when Withey gets a rebound he isn't looking for it to be pushed up the court, but he looks for the guard to walk it up the court. We play a really good half court offense, but our defense could lead to more transition buckets.

Just some ramblings.

Kye Clark 7 years, 8 months ago

I'm going to be very interested to see how the team reacts if we go the first 2-4 possessions without a bucket. Is the anxiety going to set and make them play tight? First handful of possessions are critical today.

Jack Wilson 7 years, 8 months ago

Your 3 part post the other day was excellent, by the way .. how about a 10-0 run to start the game to set the tone? A couple of set plays right off the bat?

Kye Clark 7 years, 8 months ago

Thanks, glad you liked it.

I too thought about the idea of having a couple of set plays. I think we usually have one drawn up in the event we win the tip, but yeah I think having a few would be good. My only concern would be if it made them think too much, possibly made them tight, etc.

Steve Brown 7 years, 8 months ago

25 years ago in AFH after the KState game I turned to my pal and said, "at this rate we won't get a NIT invite, we're toast!"

Few weeks later in the rafters of Kemper, in a Duke section scalper seat, I started to smile with 7 seconds left......sweet revenge.

Yes, Billy Tubbs rip, the world is round indeed.

Celebrate the past, yet create the future.

hawkmoon2020 7 years, 8 months ago

I remember the court-side analysts for the '88 NC game saying prior to tip-off, that Coach Brown told his team, "Don't be afraid to WIN!" I hope our Jayhawks come out today, and play to win!

Don Whiteley 7 years, 8 months ago

After the loss to Okla. State, I would have agreed. However, the loss at TCU was mind-boggling. Maybe it was one of those once every fifty year games, but seeing how the team handles that loss will determine whehter this year's team are Jayhawks or Jaybirds.

Robbk1066 7 years, 8 months ago

keeg keeg keeg - there is no danny or chris on this team, no one even close. no leadership no pg. I was at KU in 88 saw them play many times, they had the pieces but were not playing together. this team has no fire, no one who gets the team fired up when things are not going well. Self said it to win they need to play as a team, they do not have the tangibles to overcome adversity. 88 had some studs and the team with some momentum were able to ride Danny all the way. these guys have no one to ride. NO exlaination for what happend at TCU can compare them to any other team in our history. They proved it themselves by being in the history books. They were not beat as much as they beat themselves. they are nothing more than what we think they are, and if they do not play that way, then TCU will be replicated over and over.. Self said it, we have ripped down the door of mystrery... we are just another team when we do not come to play, cant make our shots, and turn the ball over. certainly nothing like 88.

wildjayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Game day personel says that Jayhawks are headed down and it will get worse, and if they lose today then they are in the dumper.

Barney Kruse 7 years, 8 months ago

You know, I'm not a coach or a player or even anybody important. But I love my KU basketball!
I have 2 observations.
First, where the H?!@# is the bench?!!! When Morningstar and Brady and all the other Walk Ons (or non-starters) {I'm talking to Self, Manning, and all the other stars-in-high-school-want-to-be-stars-at-KU} were sitting on the bench, they were the best cheerleaders in the country... where is the bench at? Second, who did we replace Danny with? We need some NBA big man experience. Scott POLLARD is NOW! What about Paul Pierce in a year or two? When we lose a game or two, how do we get it back? Nothing can replace EXPERIENCE. We have to have an NBA existance. Is it just me, or am I bleeding blue alone?!!!!! Huahhh!!!!

kugrad93 7 years, 8 months ago

The thing that turned the 1988 team's season around was Larry Brown making Kevin Pritchard the starting point guard about 20 games into the season. Too bad Self doesn't have similar options.

wildjayhawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Self isn't the coach Brown is. He is like Gill, can't make adjustments and doesn't have the knowledge. Pretty poor coach, isn't he.

dumbarton 7 years, 8 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.