Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Grow-up game: Jayhawks ‘played like men’ against MSU

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) and forward Landen Lucas (33) salute the Jayhawk fans following their victory over Michigan State on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) and forward Landen Lucas (33) salute the Jayhawk fans following their victory over Michigan State on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.


The championship game of the Orlando Classic was not considered a “must win” for Kansas University’s basketball team since it’s so early in the 2014-15 season.

It was pretty important, though.

“I’d never admit to it beforehand, but we needed something good to happen to us against a quality opponent after what happened a couple weeks ago. We needed that for our confidence,” KU coach Bill Self said on Monday’s “Hawk Talk” radio show. He was referring to the No. 11 Jayhawks downing No. 20 Michigan State on Sunday, just 12 days after a 32-point loss to No. 1 Kentucky.

“We needed to play a quality team in a game without a lot of rhythm,” Self said. “It was a toughness-type game. It was kind of a fist-fight-type game. It was a typical Big Ten game. The guys played like men for the most part.”

Honors: KU junior Perry Ellis on Monday was named Big 12 Player of the Week and’s national player of the week after averaging 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in four games. Ellis, who was so honored by the league twice last season, was MVP of the Orlando Classic.

“I thought Perry was far and away the best player in the field,” Self said. Ellis had 17 points and nine rebounds in the title game; 24 points and 13 boards vs. Tennessee; and 17 points and five boards vs. Rhode Island.

“What he did better than anything was go after the ball. That’s all he has to do to play well is just be aggressive. He scored on the block, scored facing (the basket). The only thing he didn’t do well was shoot free throws. One game he’s 11-for-12 (Tennessee), then he struggled against Michigan State (3-of-7). We know he’ll make them. I was real pleased with Perry. I thought he played great,” Self added.

Lucas opens well: Sophomore forward Landen Lucas has started four of six games this year, with freshman Cliff Alexander coming off the bench.

“Landen’s been really good because early in the game officials usually want to set the tone on how the game will be called. Landen makes other people have contact with him. They are going to call a foul on Landen or call a foul on the other guy, but they are going to call something usually. That’s not all bad because we do have some bodies we can throw out there,” Self said.

“Our team has gotten off to a better start with Landen starting than anybody else. Cliff is coming. Cliff will be really good, but I’m not ready to say Cliff is starting above Landen,” Self added. “Cliff will probably play more minutes than Landen. It’s OK for a young guy to sit and watch a little bit so when he gets in the game maybe he’s not quite as uptight, anxious or nervous. I don’t want Cliff to get out there and pick up two fouls the first two minutes and be wasted for the half for the most part. I’m impressed with Landen. He’s done a nice job.”

Shoulder update: KU freshman Devonté Graham played five minutes in the title game after playing seven in the semifinals against Tennessee and 15 in the opener vs. Rhode Island.

“He’s sore. We anticipate him being sore,” Self said of Graham, who has a shoulder sprain. “He’ll be a guy who hopefully gives us 10 to 12 minutes a game. That’ll gradually go up to 15, 20 or whatever depending on his health because he’s too good when healthy to not have out there.”

Minutes calculated: ESPN’s Jeff Goodman has figured out that KU’s Kelly Oubre Jr. has netted the fewest minutes of any top 10 recruit (through six games) since 2005. Oubre has played 50 minutes. North Carolina’s John Henson totaled 62 minutes in his first six games; UNC’s Tyler Zeller 72; Kentucky’s Dakari Johnson 73 (this season); Duke’s Mason Plumlee 81; UNC’s Theo Pinson 94 (this year); and Texas’ Jordan Hamilton 99.

“We’ve got some guys not starting now who will end up playing in the league,” Self said on “Hawk Talk,” not specifically referring to Goodman’s ESPN blog, but minutes in general. “They’ve got to work and stay focused and understand it’s a process. There’s so much negativity sometimes if a guy is highly recruited and he doesn’t play a lot or produce a lot immediately: ‘Hey, what’s wrong?’ Well, the other guys try hard, too. The other guys are good players. Sometimes it just takes kids a little longer to figure it out.

“The purpose is to develop and be as close to your ceiling as you possibly can when the time is right,” Self added. “It’s such a negative vibe that sometimes people put out there and other recruiters put out there: ‘Well, he was really good in high school, and he’s not even playing that much.’ That happens sometimes everywhere. It takes some a little bit longer, but it doesn’t mean they are not great players and won’t be great prospects. There will be a lot of changes in minutes in our program as kids continue to develop and get better.”


Mike Riches 5 years, 10 months ago

"There will be a lot of changes in minutes in our program as kids continue to develop and get better.” Self knows he wants KO to eventually play more minutes (I still think those are primarily Greene's minutes he'll be taking) but when will that happen? With our schedule he's going to play the guys who give his team the best chance to win. I just think there will be a lot of very close games this year, which doesn't bode well for guys trying to learn. Self didn't lie to Oubre, by the way, when he told him Wiggins' minutes would be available....KO just has to earn them.

Todd Simpson 5 years, 10 months ago

I noticed KO's PT went down after Self had the issue with someone not showing up or showing up late for Tutoring.

Allison Steen 5 years, 10 months ago

I had the inclination it was Cliff. Self had mentioned a week before something along the lines of "Cliff just needs to get places on time" for why he didn't play him until about halfway into the 1st half of one of our first few games. Could be Oubre, but his issue seems to be more on the court.

Joseph Bullock 5 years, 10 months ago

The game simply needs to slow down for KO. He also needs to figure out that this is not high school basketball. Like fouling a shooter on a 3 point attempt, two games in a row, I think, from virtually the same spot. He could block those shots against high school players. But he has shown flashes of what he will become. Patience is a virtue!

Tom Jones 5 years, 10 months ago

But...but....I thought Oubre was transferring?!?!?!?!

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 10 months ago

Oubre will be great down the stretch this year. He's going to terrorize Big 12 guards.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 10 months ago

Nice observation, Tom. Let's face it. We fans are fickle. I guess that is why we are fans and not coaches!

Jack Wilson 5 years, 10 months ago

It's interesting that some mock the conversations on transfers. But over the past two seasons, each transfer has been predicted and discussed. We knew that Peters, Lucas, and Traylor could not survive together on this roster. One would leave. We discussed that there was a competition for a roster spot between Adams and Tharpe. The loser of that battle could leave. Adams did. We knew that either Greene or White would get squeezed out because of playing time the minute Wiggins signed, and the loser would be very unhappy. One left. When we saw our roster of 7 perimeter guys heading into this season, it was easy to see that at least two would see the bench, making a transfer likely. CF left even before the season.

Heck, I recall reading a few predicting Tharpe would leave after the season, though that wasn't one I thought would happen.

Now we're down to 6 perimeter guys. All highly skilled. All wanting playing time.

One will leave for sure. We won't have all 6 back. Maybe one turns pro and alleviates the pressure. But at least one won't return. Take it to the bank.

Could Oubre turn pro? Sure. Could Selden? Yep. Could Greene get squeezed and leave like White did? Sure. Could Svi leave for money in Europe? Yes. Could Oubre transfer because Selden and Svi return, he had a season on the bench, and wants a fresh start? Of course. Could Graham or Mason win the PG job, and the other think they'll always be second fiddle and thus want to leave? Could be.

Are any of these individual scenarios likely? No. But when a number of low percentage items are grouped together, the chances of one happening is pretty good.

One will leave. We won't have all six back. And part of those scenarios is a transfer.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 10 months ago

Just a wrinkle to add to your excellent speculative point, with no commits so far in the 2015 class and mostly big men left , the likelyhood that we add a quality SG guard to the 2015 class is almost zero. What if the worse case happens instead? Too many of the 6 leave for a multiple of reasons and we have no where to go to replace them?

I do not think we will get shut out in 2015 but what if we get only 1 big man, or just 1 PF/SF? We lose 2-3 and get just 1 big for 2015.

PG's we are ok for the next 3 years. Self plays two a lot with Moonlight and Frank I think they are ok. Other than that if Self is not careful and a little bit lucky we could be in a very rough place in 2015. We will just not have the caliber of players we are used to.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 10 months ago

Excellent writing... I have been posting my concerns about this too, but not with your elegance.

What is strange is how we got to this point. How can an elite program with seemly everything to offer a college basketball player not attrack top talent early in the recruiting process, each and every year? I get losing a player to KY or Duke. I even get losing players to the Sean Millers, Scott Drews, and Josh Pastners of the world, great recruiters who cannot really coach. This year just seems different, like we have "jumped the shark" with regards to recruiting. Something appears amiss, no matter how many "Self is God" chants we hear from the peanut gallery.

Jack Wilson 5 years, 10 months ago

Thanks .. all of that coming together is a stretch, but in the OAD era, who knows.

Why don't you sign up over at Great group of guys over there, lots of good basketball discussions.

Ian Emerson 5 years, 10 months ago

I feel that it stems from the fact that a portion of the KU fan base finds it hard to rationalize why any player would ever want to leave KU and play elsewhere.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 10 months ago

Jack, I've got 1 answer to keep players happy: platoon. We are 10-deep also. You will recall all those old discussions about "Brady plays while 5star EJ (more ceiling) rode pine...". Well, if you platoon them, especially since KY has set the precedent, could keep guys here. They can see their draft stock and return or not (if they think they are OADs). To their credit, the Harrison Twins at KY came back for Yr2.

This suggestion will disgust some KU people, for me to even bring up Calipari-tactics...but Self is going head-to-head against him and other top recruiters. The magic of having a top20 recruit, but then getting him back for Yr2 with-experience, is simply called domination. That's this year's KY.

The other applicability of the platoon, is that KU is a young team, except for Ellis. Even Lucas' minutes are relatively a new development. So these guys are in it together. Basically it would be Ellis & Co. (platoon 1), and Company B (platoon 2).

And, he's got 10 guys, and now you see Self experimenting with presses and traps. Self, that old OkieSt Cowboy, just got more bullets than Sutton ever gave him. Now he's got to figure a way to use them, and keep em all happy. Platoons.

Asad Zoberi 5 years, 10 months ago

This is a good point. I have thought about it as well. It does not have to be a full platoon like UK is running. It could be a semi-platoon, 3-4 guys coming in waves.

However knowing Bill Self, it aint happening. His rotation will come down to 8 guys by conference play.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 10 months ago

Erich it might keep the players happy but we will lose a lot more games. The starters plus Cliff for Lucas, would build a lead the subs would come in and give it away with poor possessions, lousy defense and turn overs.

KY gets away with it because there is very little drop off between their Blue and White teams. We might think we have are 10 deep but the performance of the subs do not bear that out. Add to that Selden and Svi are up and down as starters and you do not even have a solid starting 5 you can count on every game.

KU playing platoons to appease the players about PT would result in losses, and nobody would be happy with that, regardless how many minutes they would be playing.

Even Cal discards the platoon strategy, if he needs to shake up the team when it is not responding, see Buffalo game.

Luca Rossi 5 years, 10 months ago

Is that the real Jaybate that replied to your post?

Asad Zoberi 5 years, 10 months ago

Jack/HEM, Excellent comments and some very valid concerns

Asad Zoberi 5 years, 10 months ago

Its great to see KU win the tournament against good teams but at the same time let us all be realistic and manage the expectations.

Lets remind ourselves that over the last year KU has constantly struggled against teams with length, teams that have solid rim protectors, recall games against SDSU, TX, Stanford and UK.

As such I want to see improvement and wins against teams with length before increasing my expectation.

Erich Hartmann 5 years, 10 months ago

Movement to the rim when you dont have the ball is how to get baskets against length. That is a staple of Self's offense, and he even publicly said that is exactly what Cliff has to learn to take his game to the next level. Watch how Lucas seals/drives his guy way out of position, making it easier to throw a lob to him for an easier finish for himself. Lucas gets it. He has been taught how to use his 6'10 length, weight, and how to gain position (& he has limited athleticism, not being a Arthur or TRob).

Kentucky (this season) simply may represent a very unique and rare matchup nightmare as they have 4 guys taller than 6'11, and 5 guys with a wingspan > 7feet. And they all are real athletic, so can cover ground like no other team in recent memory, although KY'12NChamps comes closest.

I wouldnt lose a lot of sleep over KY. We need to become more competent at executing all the myriad ways Self has of scoring in his offensive sets--we need to keep adding well-drilled plays to the toolkit....

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 10 months ago

Guess we don't have to post anymore, Jack, since you are such a "know it all". Predictions are like throwing mud at a wall. Some are bound to stick.

Rodney Crain 5 years, 10 months ago

You contributions will be missed Mr. Hobbs.

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