Thursday, November 14, 2013


Opinion: Young Jayhawks handle big stage like vets


— I expected the word tentative to pop into my brain during the nightcap to Tuesday night’s fascinating doubleheader in United Center, but it never did.

From the moment the locker room door flew open to when the celebratory basketball was tossed skyward, the young Kansas University basketball team stayed in confident attack mode, keeping seriously skilled Duke from taking control and then burying the Blue Devils with a flurry at the end.

Impressive. And so was the lack of silly mistakes. Sure, it wasn’t the right time for Joel Embiid to unload a three-pointer that he nearly made.

Wayne Selden should have kissed a ball off the glass that he tried to dunk with one hand. Other than that, he played with the mind of a senior and the body of a middle linebacker. Andrew Wiggins has a lot of growing to do physically, but his game certainly is mature enough for the big moment, stage and opponent.

Brannen Greene threw two careless passes, but he probably doesn’t have much experience. With a shot like that, his high school coach must have been tempted to bench him every time he gave it up.

Fearless Frank Mason has a wicked shimmy move and a relentless passion for driving to the hoop. His jersey number, 0, represents his turnover goal heading into each game and so far he’s 2 for 2. He has not turned it over in 41 minutes. In his second college game, he scored 15 points against Duke. How many can say the same, other than Wiggins (22 points) and Selden (15)? Conner Frankamp wasn’t needed in this one, played just one minute and didn’t take a shot. There will be spots for him and when he comes on the floor, his long range will occupy the defense’s attention. Think of the talented scorers mentioned here already. And we haven’t gotten to anyone who has more than two games of college experience.

Sophomore Perry Ellis is the program’s best low-post scorer since Marcus Morris, and he’ll pass him at some point. Naadir Tharpe has a knack for gathering the team at high-pressure moments. Tarik Black and ever-improving Jamari Traylor infuse the team with energy and bodyguard protection.

After the victory against the Blue Devils, 11th-year KU coach Bill Self lamented his team’s defensive performance and with good reason. There is not a Cole Aldrich/Jeff Withey-caliber shot-blocker and the new rules make defending the perimeter tougher than ever. But highly competitive, quick, long-armed athletes tend to figure it out, and this team is loaded with them. Plus, it has the firepower to win shootouts and the depth to withstand foul trouble.

So far, Self has expanded his rotation and it’s working. I can’t imagine anyone walking out of the home court of the Chicago Bulls less bullish on KU than when walking into the arena.


Phil Leister 2 years ago

Has Self really expanded his rotation though? Only 7 guys played more than 8 minutes. We're deep but Self has never, ever played more than 7 or 8 guys deep when the season really ramps up. It sucks, cause I'm excited to see him play, but I don't see Frankamp seeing a meaningful minute this year, even if Mason and Tharpe get into foul trouble. I imagine White OR Green will see 8-10 minutes a night. Black will surely average more than the 6 minutes he played last night, but who does he take minutes from? Traylor or Embiid?

Michael Sillman 2 years ago

My guess would be with this many freshman that there will be nights when some of them just don't bring their "A" game. On those nights, Self will need to go farther down the bench. So I do think that Frankamp and Lucas will get their opportunities.

Jonathan Allison 2 years ago

You have to figure in future games that Black will play more than 6 minutes, and AWIII will also. Foul trouble will drive Bill Self farther down the bench this season than it ever has before.

Suzi Marshall 2 years ago

I've watched this game a couple of times now. One of the really big plays was early with Selden's 3 when we were down 8-2. Kansas was playing really nervous and Duke had a chance to put us in a big hole, i.e. 11 or 13 - 2. Selden shot that 3 with alot of poise and confidence. From that point onward, Kansas had a different look. Shortly thereafter, Wiggins had two dunks which sandwiched a great block by Traylor.

Jack Wilson 2 years ago

First, so Keegan sees it .. I'm not giving him anymore grief about predicting that Mason would start. He deserves to start. So does Tharpe. Point well taken.

Second, Keegan says: "So far, Self has expanded his rotation and it’s working."

As Phil said above, this is not an expanded rotation.

Five guys combined for 19 minutes - White, Frankamp, Lucas, Black, and Greene. None of that would qualify as rotation.

Six guys played big minutes, and the 7th, Traylor, just barely played rotation level minutes (13). That's a seven man rotation .. barely.

This is actually par for the course. It's how Self handles playing time. It is an insight into how Self will handle conference play. We have competent players if needed, but his rotation will be tight as a drum come January and some of the big games here very soon. Iona, Towson? Guys may get more minutes.

If Black's minutes go up, as one would assume, my guess is Embiid and Traylor might decrease, and Ellis might not play 35 minutes as he did. Embiid should start and play 30 minutes, but that's another discussion.

In real games, not walkovers, just expect Self to have the same sort of minutes distribution as Tuesday evening. May be different names from time to time based on matchups -- for example, he might play a Greene or White more than a Mason or Tharpe. Or foul trouble may change it a bit.

But no reason to think Self will change what he's always done.

Mick Allen 2 years ago

I agree Jack.Against top flight competition, barring big time foul trouble, it is hard for me to imagine he will go much deeper than 8, starters plus Mason. Embiid and Traylor. We certainly appear dominating enough to blow several teams out which will allow more time for Greene, White, Frankamp and Lucas.

Benz Junque 2 years ago

You cannot look at the minutes for an individual GAME to see that Self has expanded his rotation. It will only show up over the course of the season. Self HAS expanded his rotation because there will be more than 7 guys that over the course of the season will average more than 10 minutes a game.

Look at the 08 title team, one of Self's deepest. EIGHT players averaged more than 11 minutes a game and a 9th that averaged 8 minutes a game, but I can guarantee that the only games where eight players got at least 11 minutes in a game were in blowouts against terrible teams.

The point is that Self has a LOT of different guys that he will use based on match ups. Black wasn't going to see double digit minutes against Duke because Duke has a ton of little fast guys. Against a team with a big center, Black may play 20+ minutes. It all balances out. After two games, KU has NINE guys averaging over 11 minutes a game and a 10th at 9 minutes a game.

Self will count on a larger number of players to be overall contributors to the season. Hence he has EXPANDED his rotation.

Benz Junque 2 years ago

In previous years, Self rolled with the same 8 guys no matter what the situation and opponent. That number will expand this year and already has.

Rich Hetherington 2 years ago

I agree... I know Self likes to tighten the rotation, especially in conference play and that will likely still be the case, but I think he will also use match-ups to determine who gets in there. I think White will see a lot of minutes despite hardly playing against Duke. You might see other games where Greene doesn't come in at all, and some where he plays 10-12 minutes. I'm confident in saying we'll see Black, Tharpe, Traylor, Mason, Wiggons, Seldon, Embiid, Ellis and White regularly. That's already 9, and I think we'll still see Greene some too. Frankamp and Lucas may be more mop-up or extreme foul trouble duty types, but that's ok. Frankamp will have plenty of time to shine here at KU and we may need him to come in and knock down a 3 or two at some point this year. One thing I know for sure is that it will be interesting and fun to watch!

Benz Junque 2 years ago

I really think that the changes in calling fouls will have a lot to do with it as well. A lot of guys are going to get into early foul trouble as the year goes along. One game it may be Tharpe, giving more minutes to Frankamp. The next it may be Selden or Wiggins, giving more minutes to Greene or White. The next it may be Black giving more minutes to Embiid or even Lucas.

The greatest thing about this year's team is that I really don't see a huge drop off if any of these things happen. All of these guys off the bench seem to be trusted by Self to do what would be asked of them. I don't think Self has had that to this level before.

Tony Bandle 2 years ago


1] Amid all the hue and cry for Andrew, Perry, Frank, etc. [all of it justified, of course], the true hero Wednesday night was Wayne Selden. His steady presence and play belied his youth and experience. Of all the Fab Frosh out there, his OVERALL game may be the most advanced.

2] Interesting interpretations of the word "rotation" by you posters. Is it based on a minimum number of minutes? Is it based on some pattern of substitution? Is it based on a consistent order of repitition? Is it situational or motivational? I would say Bill will have a Primary Rotation of eight players with a Secondary Rotation, based on circumstance, of twelve everybody is right!!

3] I'm not quite 100% set on Jo Jo going but I think Wayne punched his ticket to the NBA Wednesday night.

4] Wouldn't it have been amazing to see Randle, Wiggins, Parker, Selden, Embiid, et al as Seniors.....ah, what might have been!!

5] Signing Day tomorrow. Please give me your best gut feeling predicitons. I think we have a great shot at Cliff and, when it's over, we will still have our hat on the table for Jahlil and Tyus.

Suzi Marshall 2 years ago

Oakville....totally agree with your Selden remarks. If you get a chance to re-watch the game it seems clear that Selden and Ellis provide a lift to Wiggins. It seems there is a synergy amongst these trio. They feed off each other's emotions and performances.

Benz Junque 2 years ago

I truly have zero clue what to expect tomorrow. I thought we had virtually no shot at getting Wiggins and had Randle wrapped up so I don't trust my gut at all but I'll give my honest evaluation.

Okafor/Jones - I think we have a great shot at the dynamic duo. Duke really doesn't have a consistent system that features low post players. With so many three point chuckers, low post guys tend to take a while to find their groove for Duke. At Kansas, they would walk into a system that is specifically designed for their exact skill set from Day One. I would not be shocked at all if they chose Duke simply because there is less competition at their position. But if I try hard to remove my KU bias, I really think that Kansas is the better option for them from a pure system perspective.

Cliff Alexander - I have NO CLUE where he is going to school. If Okafor and Jones anounce for Kansas, would he choose Illinois or Memphis just to avoid the logjam? Or would he want to pair up with them? It is a significant drop in prestige to choose Illinois or Memphis over Kansas but that doesn't matter to some kids. But again, from a pure system perspective, I think Kansas is his best available option.

2013-14: Tharpe-Selden-Wiggins-Ellis-Black 2014-15: Jones-Oubre-Alexander-Ellis-Okafor?

YIKES. That's a beastly group of bigs to roll out there together. Jones would probably average 12 assists a game feeding those three in the post.

Greg Lux 2 years ago

The up side of this team is unbelievable. We have barely scratched the surface of our teams top. The keys to our success by Conference are 1) to keep Embiid's feet on the ground until the offensive player leaves his and I believe he will get better and better. 2) To get Embiid to stop putting his arms down over the offensive player ( we need him to watch a lot of Withey film. 3) To get all our guards to drive the ball more ( this will come ). 4) To Block out on the boards. We are still ball watching way to much. 5) To get more motion in the offense and set better screens. Watch the Duke team they set great screens. 6) Practice Free-throws everyday no mater what else you do. They are going to be the difference between winning and losing ( just ask Duke ) I know there are more but you get the idea.We will be a much better team by Conference expecially with the schedule we are going to play the rest of the year.

This team is very good now and with effort has the potential to be awesome before the March Madness.

Rock Chalk

Erich Hartmann 2 years ago

Prediction: Selden will be a better "glue" guy than Brady, who was the ultimate glue guy not named RussRob or DJackson...Selden comes with MickeyD-level hops and talent, and the disposition of a cool veteran. All wrapped up in the physique of a senior. Man, he was everywhere on the court vs. Duke. That tip-in late in the game was the exclamation point on all the hustle and footwork and instinct to get to that spot in the post, at just the right time. Just as important as Wiggy's jab-step-back-pull-up-J. True "PTPers".

Best of all--> We ALREADY know who on this team is able to play under the big lights, on the biggest stage (Wiggins, Selden, Ellis, Mason, Tharpe, Traylor, Greene).

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