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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Keegan

Opinion: KU not perfect but still deserving of No. 1 spot

Kansas guard Travis Releford raises up the fieldhouse during a Jayhawk run against Oklahoma in the second half on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013.

Kansas guard Travis Releford raises up the fieldhouse during a Jayhawk run against Oklahoma in the second half on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self talks after win over Oklahoma

Kansas coach Bill Self talks after his team's 67-54 win over Oklahoma on Jan. 26, 2013.

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Box score

KU-OU

Generally, the chant “We’re No. 1! We’re No. 1!” starts loud, grows louder and ultimately shakes the building.

Not now. Not in college basketball. Not anywhere in the country.

After his team again defended like a champion, Kansas coach Bill Self was asked if it is ready for a No. 1 ranking.

“No,” Self said. “Nor are we deserving.”

Then the mental Rolodex of other highly ranked schools swiftly spun and he took his answer in another direction.

“You know, somebody’s got to be it though,” he said.

Bingo. The weekly Associated Press college basketball poll measures today’s teams against each other, not against top-ranked juggernauts from years past.

Michigan, should it win at Illinois — the Big 10 school where Self and the two coaches he defeated this past week used to coach — likely will remain one spot ahead of Kansas and top the AP poll and Kansas would probably rank No. 1 in the far less prestigious coaches’ poll. (Can’t tell I’m a voter in the AP version, can you?)

“If they’re (No.) 1 in both of them, that wouldn’t bother me much at all,” Self said of the Wolverines. “But you know, somebody’s got to do it, and if it’s us, that would be great.”

Kansas (18-1 overall, 6-0 in the Big 12) pushed its winning streak to 17 games with Saturday’s 67-54 victory against Oklahoma.

“You know I never would have thought before the season that this team could be No. 1 at any point in time,” Self said. “That’s great for our kids and everything, but I think after today our guys know our success winning will be short-lived if in fact we don’t come in with better focus than we did today.”

Unlike a year ago, when Kentucky had a band of stars now making nice livings in the NBA even though some aren’t old enough to drink, this could be one of those years in which age and experience could trump pure talent. Why? It’s a shallow talent pool across the country, much less on any one particular team.

“We’ve had a lot of teams in here that didn’t have their ‘A’ game focus-wise but they were so talented they could still get by. This team’s not like that. This team has less margin for error. So that’s why it disappoints me,” Self said.

At a school that draws No. 1 seeds on a near-annual basis, it’s tough not to compare today to yesterday. The best recent standard is the 2008 national-championship team.

“We had seven NBA players on one team,” Self said. “If those guys didn’t have their ‘A’ game, their ‘B’ game or ‘C’ game focus-wise we would still be OK because their talent was so high. We’re not like that now.”

Shaky point-guard play — Elijah Johnson watched half the first half with two fouls and had his pocket picked twice late — kept Kansas from running away with this one and was a particular point of dismay for the coach.

“We can’t afford to make mental mistakes and not play with the same energy and things like that,” Self said. “It doesn’t mean we’re awful by any stretch. It doesn’t mean they’re trying not to be focused or anything, but we didn’t have that. We weren’t razor-sharp today by any stretch. And then I think you get real average real fast.”

Kansas plays extraordinary defense and finishes exceptionally well on the fast break, but it’s far from a perfect team, especially when trying to score from its half-court offense. Perfection is not a prerequisite of a No. 1 ranking.

I’ll put Kansas at the top of my ballot because it won on Ohio State’s home court, the site of Michigan’s lone loss. But if Michigan defeats Illinois, the argument that the Wolverines deserve the top spot because it’s easier to win in the Big 12 than the Big Ten certainly has merit as well.

Put on the spot after Saturday’s game, Kruger endorsed the Jayhawks after being asked: Does Kansas look like a typical No. 1 team?

“Yeah, I think they’re great,” he said. “They’ve got terrific athletes on the perimeter, big shot-blocker inside. They’ve got guys who are very unselfish. Bill does a terrific job. They play the game. They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. They move the ball and they’re great defensively. Yeah, they’re deserving. I hope they are No. 1.”

Well, what else would you expect a gentleman’s gentleman possibly on his way to coaching a fifth different school into the NCAA Tournament to say?

Besides, as Self said, somebody has to be No. 1. It’s not Duke, which lost by 27 points to Miami earlier in the week.

Or Louisville, which has lost three games in a row. Or Syracuse, upset in overtime Saturday at Villanova.

And it’s sure not Northern Illinois, which in Saturday’s 42-25 loss to Eastern Michigan made 1 of 31 field-goal attempts on the way to four first-half points. Definitely not Northern Illinois.

Comments

Kent Richardson 1 year, 2 months ago

The way I see it is being ranked highly is an ego stoke for us. Validation that we are right when we scold/screech (whatever a Jayhawk does). It feels good , we are proud, we are right, we care. When we are not ranked #1 I can understand and justify that. When we are ranked #1 I like it but it makes CS and myself nervous. You're right, there are more important times in the season but it sure feels good in the moment. I think it helps recruiting in the same vein that an early round loss hurts recruiting. This is the best thread in the country.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 2 months ago

At the end of the regular season, there will be four #1 seeds. The highest of those will play closest to home. The last #1 seed might play quite some distance from home. Should a #2 or #3 seed be playing much closer to home than the #1 seed, any advantage of being a #1 seed will quickly disappear.

I attended the 2007 elite eight game played between #1 Kansas and #2 UCLA. The game was played in San Jose. It was a virtual home game for the Bruins as their crown far outnumbered our crowd. They beat us soundly. Had we been a stronger #1 seed, we could have played our games in St. Louis instead of California. (All four of UCLA's games leading up to the Final Four were played in California while the team coming out of St. Louis, Florida, went on to be champs.) I'd hate to be a #1 seed placed in Indianapolis if Indiana winds up being a #2 seed. That fate might fall to the lowest of the #1 seeds. So, yes, being #1 overall does matter.

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BPSkelly 1 year, 2 months ago

To me the polls are largely irrelevant. As far as KU folks are concerned rankings should only matter as it concerns to seeding. Getting a #1 seed at this point seems possible. Lets just keep it at that and not worry about the opinion brigade at this point. Polls do play a part in that of course. But odds are it wont a whole lot to the committee in the room that picks.

This team seems less talented than most the KU teams the past 5 years. It's hard to argue otherwise really. It also speaks to the dearth of talent in the NCAA right now. We're fortunate in big sense though. We have 4 Seniors, whom have all improved appreciably from where they were when they showed up here. They've also all gone through the battles all the way to last years Final Four. When you thrown in an uber talented guy like McLemore it makes it even better.

One of my favorite quotes ive seen from Self this year is the fact that Ben benefits from playing with the 4 seniors as much as the 4 seniors benefit from playing with him. And its true to the Nth degree. It also explains why we are where we are nationally. It doesnt make sense to me when I watch it with my own eyes. But when you see other supposed 'good' teams go down constantly, it does tell you how things are out there.

Survive and advance.

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Sam Constance 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree that being #1 essentially doesn't matter, but I stop short of saying that I don't care if Michigan is #1 instead of us. And at that point, it's more a matter of respect than anything else.

If there's one thing we know about the polls, they tend to operate on a set process--teams advance in the polls as teams in front of them lose and drop in the polls. To suggest that the polls are any kind of "who is the best overall team right now" barometer is simply incorrect, because if that was the case, you would see the order of the polls fluctuate from week to week, as teams had impressive wins and weeks to demonstrate their overall worthiness. So we have a strange sort of queue, where getting to the #1 spot is more a factor of where you start and when you lose than anything else.

And given that understanding, it's a slight to Kansas to sit behind Michigan, because the Wolverines have lost MUCH MUCH MUCH more recently than us, and it just so happens that the team they lost to was the same team KU controlled, start to finish--Ohio State.

Kansas deserves the #1 ranking in the context of how the rankings are traditionally assigned and modified. Even though they still have plenty of flaws to work on--for example, I am extremely worried that the end of this team will be on the back of two things: leaving shooters open from the perimeter and passes that are either ill-advised, or aren't crisp enough--this team has the resume that deserves the top spot at this point in the season and given the losses of the other top teams over the past few weeks.

But we all know how this is going to work: KU won't leapfrog Michigan in the AP poll, so come Monday, we will likely have a split #1 team: Michigan in the AP and Kansas in the Coaches' Poll.

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TexasRockChalk 1 year, 2 months ago

Let Michigan have #1. I don't like WVU needing any more ammunition for Big Monday than necessary. We seem to play to the level of our competition (see Ohio State, Baylor & the Kitty Cats) as of late. We're spoiled. How many coaches would give an arm and a leg to be 18-1 and winning 16-17 in a row, and "complaining" about how we're vastly underperforming (on offense)? :)

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Steve Swaggerty 1 year, 2 months ago

Don't care about being #1 until the First Monday in April!!

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akgjenkintown 1 year, 2 months ago

Use the eye test. There is not one person that can claim that this team is good at all facets of the game and is the best team in the country; at least as of today. Defense, Self's staple has KU surviving and winning. There are still too many glaring weaknesses that the opposing teams continue to exploit. And after each game, opposing coaches continue to modify their game plans, which will now include pressuring the ball to half court, to go with double teaming Withey and making McLemore work for his shots. In the OU game, Ben created his own shots and we as KU fans are lucky to have such an elite player capably of scoring when blanketed. There will be a game, and potentially soon when the defense cannot overcome the costly turnovers and sporadic outside shooting.

I want KU to be #1 when it counts and that is on April 8 in Atlanta. This season's team has more depth than last year but lacks good ball handling (not just Elijah) leading to more costly turnovers and transition points by the opposing team than I can remember in a long time. KU's turnovers are not deadball, but lead to fastbreaks the other way. That is normally a KU staple - transition points. That is something that stands out and is a huge concern even though this team continues to do just enough to win against good but not great teams (best wins OSU and KSU on the road and ISU at home). Since Big XII play other teams have focused on sticking close to our guards to slow transition and overplaying the passing lanes and KU has obliged by throwing the ball careless. Matchups will be the key going forward. Although OU kept it close I never thought they had the three point shooters to challenge KU. But if you look at the basketball landscape outside of ISU in the Big XII, there are many teams that shoot the three well enough on a given evening and could pull an early round upset if KU continues to play loose with the ball and keep the opposing teams close.

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Mark Lindrud 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't care about being #1, it's almost like an albatross midway through the season, ill take #2 and improved play by us as the season progresses. Will we end up #1 eventually? Probably, but the season is a journey and that's my focus, because we've still got a ways to go to get where we want to be, but Coach Self is keeping the boys focused on the task at hand. Bring in West Virginia Monday and lets get that Big 12 Title so we can say Nine is Fine.

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fansincewilt 1 year, 2 months ago

In 2008, there were three or four teams that stood out from the rest. Last year, there was one team and then four or five after that. This year is different from those kinds of years. There really isn't a team that stands out as the best team in the country. I do think Michigan has the most big wins with wins over KSU and NC State at home, and wins over Minnesota and Bradley on the road. Their loss at Ohio State is significant since KS won there. KS has wins over Ohio State and KS State on the road and a loss to Michigan State on a neutral court. I think the Ohio State resume is a little more impressive unless they lose tonight. At this point I think they should be #1 and #2. There is a lot of basketball left and KS has much to work on but they just might be the two best teams in the country. Michigan has a tougher road than the Jayhawks to ending up the #1 team in the nation. Because of that, I think KS ends #1. They could probably lose another game or maybe even two and still end #1. I think the #1 team will probably have at least three loses at the end of the season. The article is very good.

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Jim Roth 1 year, 2 months ago

We had seven NBA players on the 2008 team. How many are on this team? Two are obvious; any others? Not just next year, but eventually...

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Jay Dogger 1 year, 2 months ago

I can see how a team can get to #1 and then become distracted and play poorly. We did that a couple years ago on V-Day at K-State. But this team knows they're not that great.

With as few points we're scoring--especially at the PG and PF position--there's no reason to get cocky or complacement. That being said, I love this team and our defense will keep us in any game. Let's just hope we don't get a team in March/April that shoots lights out from three.

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jhawkrulz 1 year, 2 months ago

Bring on the #1 ranking...It is awesome to be the best.

I was waiting for Tom to explain why Duke should be #1. Personally, I think they didn't drop enough after their first lost, and I think they won't drop much even after one of the biggest beatdowns I've seen by a "good" team. Personally, that loss alone should drop them out of the top 10, but it won't happen, because people like Keegan who vote in the "prestigious" AP poll wouldn't want to vote what they really saw against the Miami game, a team that is one dimensional on offense and doesn't have an inside defensive presence. They were down by 32 when Miami put in their scrubs.

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hotrodm 1 year, 2 months ago

Forget about the polls. Win the regular season Big 12 championship and make a 6 game run in the NCAA tourney. Anything less would be a disapointment.

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David Leathers 1 year, 2 months ago

There are 3 types of coaches and teams:

The first of which are the teams that make it to the top of the polls every once in a while -- your Villanovas, USCs, and Georgetowns. (Probably bad examples, I'm too tired to do any research)

The second (and the group that I would place KU and HCBS in) is the group that has the yearly potential to be in the number one spot, but once (and if) they do get there, play pretty poorly. This group, however, is one of the most dangerous groups in the Tournament because they've been there. They know what to expect. Also, these types of teams spend a great majority of the season improving from game to game, and tend to peak at the right time.

The last and rarest of them all is the group of teams that spend nearly all year at the top. These teams do one of two things in the NCAAs: they either win it all as the favorite, or they flop and mess up a lot of people's brackets. Last year's Kentucky team fits into this group, as does the Joakim Noah-led team looking for the repeat a few years back.

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Jack Jones 1 year, 2 months ago

It's way, way, way to early to be getting excited about being #1, or #2, or # anything. Yes, it makes for excitable conversation > and that's why it will continue ad infinitum. Being a Jayhawk for 60+ years > history reminds me that rarely, rarely does a team maintain a top 1,2,3,4 ranking this early in a season throughout the balance of the schedule. That's exactly why the #1, Golden Mantra of the coaching profession is > ONE GAME AT A TIME!!

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KatnissHawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Let Michigan have the 1, and we should be happy with anything between 1 and 5. Need the 1 seed in March.

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bville_hawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Wow, a dozen or so posts up already and not one bitching about Keegan's Northern Illinois comments in the last couple sentences. The Keegan Bashers on this board are slipping.

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Boouk 1 year, 2 months ago

By the way, Michigan plays at Illinois tomorrow on the Big 10 network at 5.

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tathagata 1 year, 2 months ago

Elijah's not gonna get back.

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tathagata 1 year, 2 months ago

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

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Boouk 1 year, 2 months ago

If Elijah gets back to playing like he was at the end of last season, this is clearly the best team in the country. If he continues to struggle, we're probably in the 2-5 range.

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Hank Cross 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree with the 'someone's got to be No.1' attitude. All that matters is getting a good seed in the tourney and barring some completely unforseen blow up, KU is on track for that. Being No. 1 during the season means nothing unless you're Mizzou who would hang a banner or K-State who would make a commerative dvd.

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actorman 1 year, 2 months ago

It seems logical to me: #1 in FG percentage defense = #1 at the polls.

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Lifelong_Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Meanwhile, gasp, Texas finally won a conference game!

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William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

CS doesn't like to be #1 because it is harder to develop while sitting at the top. Too many distractions, or guys thinking they are #1 and not giving the game everything in their tank. I do like that it jacks up teams that play us because we need everyone's best game if we want a solid chance in March.

Our defense has locked down a bit and defense wins championships. For that reason alone, I like our chances in March!

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ironhead80 1 year, 2 months ago

Yes, KU deserves the #1 spot considering how the other top bball schools get more PUB than KU. That has always been the case even though this year I believe KU is in the top 5 of the bball top programs. To be a dominate #1 we need more of scorer at the 4 position.

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Andrew Dunlap 1 year, 2 months ago

we may be the best team this week, but we are not the best that we can be, it's not about AP rankings, it only matters in April.

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