Sunday, March 23, 2014


Column: March can seem like November for freshmen

Kansas players Naadir Tharpe, left, Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins hang their heads in the locker room following the Jayhawks' 60-57 loss to Stanford on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Kansas players Naadir Tharpe, left, Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins hang their heads in the locker room following the Jayhawks' 60-57 loss to Stanford on Sunday, March 23, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self, Conner Frankamp and Jamari Traylor discuss KU's season-ending loss

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, freshman Conner Frankamp and sophomore Jamari Traylor discuss KU's season-ending loss to Stanford, in the round of 32, Sunday in St. Louis.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Johnny Dawkins, Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell discuss Stanford's win over KU

Coach Johnny Dawkins and players Chasson Randle and Dwight Powell discuss Stanford's win over Kansas on Sunday in St. Louis.

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Perry Ellis and Tarik Black discuss loss

Sophomore Perry Ellis and senior Tarik Black discuss the loss to Stanford in the third-round of the NCAA Tournament, Sunday, March 23, 2014, in St. Louis, MO.


Box score

— Elite freshmen dominate the November news in college basketball. Superlatives fly. So do the freshmen. Sometimes they trip and fall, too. Then they get better as league play toughens them.

And then the NCAA tournament arrives. So often, one-and-done pressure of an elimination tournament can reset the clock for teenagers experiencing something new. In some ways, it's November again.

Kansas University freshman Andrew Wiggins never looked more like a teenager than he did Sunday in a 60-57 loss to underdog Stanford in Scottrade Center.

He had as many turnovers (four) as points, made 1 of 6 shots and hung onto just four rebounds.

If that’s how anybody chooses to remember him, that’s their problem. The guy was one of the most productive freshmen in KU history, led his team in scoring and was its best perimeter defender.

It happened a year ago for Ben McLemore in his second NCAA tournament game, when he went 0 for 9 from the field and scored two points. But every other starter on that team was a senior, so Kansas didn’t need him to defeat North Carolina.

These Jayhawks, fourth-least experienced team in the nation, couldn’t afford an off day from the nation’s No. 1-ranked high school player from the Class of 2013, per, especially when playing without injured fellow basketball prodigy Joel Embiid.

Wiggins scored 19 points in KU’s tourney-opening victory against Eastern Kentucky, so the pressure didn't show until Sunday. Could the two early traveling calls have stripped him of his aggressiveness? We'll never know.

Classmate Wayne Selden, ranked No. 12 by Rivals, scored four points and made 1 of 10 shots in 47 minutes in the two tournament games.

Not surprisingly, the best performer in St. Louis for the Jayhawks (25-10) was the lone senior on the roster, center Tarik Black.

“Besides Tarik, I don’t think we did a good job finishing at the rim today,” said sophomore Jamari Traylor, who had 17 points and 14 rebounds in the opener, but made just 1 of 8 shots Sunday.

Black, who so wanted to lead his team to Memphis, his hometown and the place where he spent the first three seasons of his college basketball career, didn’t get enough help to get there. He made 6 of 8 field goals. The non-seniors shot 26 percent from the field.

Only Conner Frankamp defied his birth certificate during the tournament, setting career scoring highs with 10 and 12 points. He and fellow freshman Frank Mason will make it tough for Naadir Tharpe to keep his starting spot next season.

Frankamp cured the turnover flu in the first game and against Stanford hit two huge threes in the final few minutes of the first half, two more in the game’s final 25 seconds. He was the only one who joined Black in double figures.

Four Stanford players reached double figures, three juniors and a senior.

“It is good to have experience,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “Older players, guys who have been in these moments before, guys who know what to expect. I mean they have a lot of younger players ... and they are all very talented. And they’ve had a great year. And they were Big 12 champions. So they’re not a team that is not battled-tested, to have gone through the rigors of a great conference and coming out champions.”

That sort of pressure doesn't always cook to the same degree as the NCAA tourney heat.

There are exceptions to every rule. Freshman-heavy Kentucky edged more experienced Wichita State in a vastly entertaining battle that felt like a toss-up from the moment the ref tossed it up. Technically, according to seeding, it was an upset, but Kentucky is loaded. ranks all 351 schools’ experience. Stanford, 34th, defeated higher seeds New Mexico and Kansas. Dayton, 42nd, beat Ohio State (53) and Syracuse (64). Stephen F. Austin (100) knocked off VCU (187). Harvard (60) bounced Cincinnati (112). Connecticut (67) drilled Villanova (236). North Dakota State (26) upset Oklahoma (305). Mercer (5) eliminated Duke (279).

Now, more than ever, the most talented teams tend to be the youngest, which makes the difference between the top and bottom so slight when the pressure cooks the hottest that it might time to assume the word "mild" precedes the word "upset" during March Madness.


Scott Yessen 7 years, 8 months ago

I, for one, hope Tharpe is not a starter next season. He is a liability on both ends of the floor.

Robert Brock 7 years, 8 months ago

A lot of Jayhawks were liabilities. Self too.

Better luck next year.

Kyle Berthusen 7 years, 8 months ago

I, for one, hope he is the starter for the reason that he improves that much over the offseason. I love the secondary options though.

Rich Hetherington 7 years, 8 months ago

I will be on the Tharpe wagon next season. If he does lose his starting job, that might be ok. I think his ability to shoot, drive and pass make him a better over-all option offensively than Frankamp or Mason. That being said, his defense was horrible this year. I didn't notice it until mid-late December, and then it became more and more obvious as the season went on. He was simply unable to stick with his man. Now I know he has the athleticism to do so, so with any luck, he'll continue to work on that and actually show an improvement from his Junior to his Senior campaign. If Frankamp and Mason show improvements as well, then all the better. We'll probably continue using sets with 2 of those 3 on the floor, but I don't want to slam Tharpe or say he's the reason we were inconsistent this year. If you watched all the games, you'd know that was the case across the board: Wiggins, Seldon, Ellis, Black, Tharpe, Mason and even Embiid were up and down for various reasons all season. The only thing I saw as constants were Wiggins' defense, and Tharpe's lack there of. What a sad way to end the season! Even Traylor, who seemed to never miss a shot, went 1 for 8. Throw in Perry's, Wiggins' and Seldon's poor shooting and it was certainly a recipe for an early exit!

Rodney Crain 7 years, 8 months ago

Agree. Tharpe should not start. If nothing else the first possessions of each half will not end with a turn over. Seriously, he is terrible and will not improve over the off season. Next year should be a great team! I am looking forward to what Hunter will add as well!

Benz Junque 7 years, 8 months ago

The freshmen for Kentucky just beat 35-0 Wichita State.This isn't a FRESHMAN problem, it's a fundamental lack of preparation and execution. Everyone on the team failed today. I'll give Frankamp a pass for his early sucking because he was the only guy with the balls enough to take a shot at the end. The rest of the team played like scared losers today.

Wiggins shrunk from the biggest moment of his basketball life today. BIG TIME.

Ian Emerson 7 years, 8 months ago

No no no no. Please take the second best player off of Kentucky and ask yourself if they beat Wichita State?

Adam Miller 7 years, 8 months ago

Well, I'm certainly sure that everyone on the KU basketball team will pay very close attention to how your rate them on a public forum.

Reggie Flenory 7 years, 8 months ago

Wiggins went 1-6 from the floor nuff said smh

Jack Jones 7 years, 8 months ago

There is no way to make a blanket statement ~ "This isn't a FRESHMAN problem." ~ or, "it is a freshman problem". Obviously, it depends entirely on a PARTICULAR freshman, and how much, or little they progress from day one thru the season's end. As for the preparation and execution issues ~ given Bill Self's track record, I would put good money on execution being the obvious problem. Just as talent rarely compensates for lack of experience, preparation depends totally on execution. This year's team had too much inexperience ~ or saying it more accurately ~ had almost zero returning experience. It revealed itself in the inconsistent play (by every single player), which was a serious flaw virtually all season. The Duke, 2nd Texas, Kansas State (home), Oklahoma State (home and tournament) and Iowa State league games showed what this team was capable of when talent and execution came together. Unfortunately, inexperience compounds pressure, particularly when it's one and out time. Today, Kentucky's freshman were better, bigger, more poised and aggressive than ours. Seriously? Benz Junque is your REAL name?

Eric TheCapn 7 years, 8 months ago

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

Jeremy Wilhelm 7 years, 8 months ago

Um, no he didn't. He clearly is taking exception to the preparation failure that BJ is asserting. It's unequivocal.

Titus Canby 7 years, 8 months ago

A team working together beats an undisciplined group of talented individuals almost every time.

Armen Kurdian 7 years, 8 months ago

One thing we all have to realize, as I sit here, upset again in March, knowing we lost a game we should have won, is that these kids are all...well kids. We as KU fans are about as demanding as they come of their basketball team. I guess that's the expectation that we all believe we have a divine right to the Final Four every year. Well, I'm one of them, freely admit it. There are 350 Div I teams, and only one ends up on top.

I really want to believe that each guy on this team really gave 100%, and also that they really also cared 100%. I think I do. I don't hate them, I really have no place to be angry with them for the loss, I'm not out there practicing under HCBS. It just really makes me sad for the school and the fans. Maybe that's selfish, but it makes me physically ill when we lose in March.

I will say that anyone on this team thinking that they are ready for the NBA should think again, because they have proved they are not. AW, JE, the rest of you guys, don't come back to KU next year just to make me happy. Do it for yourselves, you need to get better.

Hank Cross 7 years, 8 months ago

Uh, weren't Anthony Davis and Melo freshman when they led their respective teams to National Championships over KU? This has nothing to with age or being a OAD. This has everything to do about stepping up and making an impact when you're touted as an impact player. The fact is that Wiggins did not step up in this game at all. Maybe he'll change his attitude (he doesn't have a bad one - just a passive one), but my guess is that he'll earn lots of money scoring lots of points in an NBA bottom-feeder like the Raptors. Then again, I don't know how long he'll stick considering that he is going into a grown man league where they beat on each other in 82+ games and he's still built like a teenager.

Embiid seems to have a good head on his shoulders and he may stay to develop physically and in terms of BB IQ.

Joe Ross 7 years, 8 months ago

The premise of this article would collapse if this year's Kentucky team made it to the NCAA Championship game (win or lose). I don't know what the answer is. Talented freshmen won it all in 2012. Aberration? Who knows. I think the formula is still being figured out, but I would guess the best overall situation would be to have 2/3 of your team be veterans and 1/3 highly-touted OAD players. What REALLY confuses me is how teams like Wichita State, VCU, Butler under Brad Stevens, etc., get so much out of so little. No big-name recruits. I don't know...

Ethan Berger 7 years, 8 months ago

2012 team was unique for Kentucky. First 2012 was one of the worst basketball years in the past 20 years. Second AD and MKG were freaks on defense in an era where there were no dominant offense of teams. Third is the fact that they had key experience guys. Miller was the heart and soul of that team. Lamb was the key outside shooter. Jones was the attitude. It allowed AD and MKG to come in and just be themselves. If Black was a 4 year KU guy, I have no doubt he would have filled that void. But being only a 1 year guy takes away some. Add to that, only Tharpe and Ellis hand any real experience playing with each other. The Heat had the best talent in the world in 2011 and lost to a team that had been forging blood for a couple years.

Now UK this year was pre-season 1. They were called the greatest team ever before they stepped on the court. Now we celebrate them for beating Wichita State? If UK wins it all, then maybe things chance. But even if that happens, they have 3 core guys who have played with each other in college and 2 who are brothers. Chemistry was still better coming in.

Steve Corder 7 years, 8 months ago

Back & forth we all go on this.

Is a OAD better off in "college" for 1 year or go straight to NBA or NBA D-League? Until we get a rule like baseball or even football, it doesn't matter. McLemore, Wiggins...the list grows, and I am tired of constantly be reminded (from October to March) of high school rankings and OAD references.

I am relishing the next 3 years with Frankamp, 2 with Ellis, 3 with Mason, 3 with Selden(?), 3 with Greene, Tharp and the others who complete their eligibility and graduate as Jayhawks and have their memories of Senior Night! Heck, even Embiid may be different and not get goo goo-eyed at the money and stick around to make this group special in the next year or two!

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 8 months ago

There's been so much talk about OADs on these boards, and so many people stating that Self should not recruit presumed OADs to play at Kansas and then so many people making the counterpoints that KU would have fared much worse this season without Wiggins and Embiid.

But hopefully, and probably likely in the next couple of years this will all be a moot point because the NBA will adopt a new rule regarding entry into the draft and players will not be able to go from true freshman in college into the NBA draft.

I for one am a proponent of the baseball system, but the NBA will not adopt this system because the original rule that they instituted was for the purpose of preventing players from going straight from HS to the NBA. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said during All-Star weekend that he wanted to limit draft entry to players who have been out of HS for 2 years or propose an age limit of 20 YOA for entry to the draft. Basically just making the OAD rule into a two-and-done rule.

It would be better for the universities but still not an ideal system. At least if students complete two years of college on a degree path, then they'll be more likely to eventually complete their degree, even if they leave college early for the NBA. And consider Julian Wright, who was on the fence about returning to college for a junior year because he was on pace to finish his degree in his third year. He chose to leave, and was selected in the draft lottery, but some students may be swayed to stay in school if they are close to finishing their degree, especially if they are projected in the bottom half of the first round or in the second round.

Joe Joseph 7 years, 8 months ago

The baseball system is clearly the best. If a kid is ready to play, let 'em play. If not, they should commit to their chosen University for at least 3 years.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 8 months ago

Problem with applying the baseball system to college basketball is LeBron James. LeBron is the ONLY player to come out of HS immediately and perform at or near an All-NBA level. Kevin Garnett was not an immediate star, Kobe Bryant was not an immediate star, Dwight Howard was not an immediate star and these are the names that always get brought up as to why a kid should be able go straight to the NBA, but those all took 2-3 years to really blossom into the star players they are today. Honestly, Jermaine O'Neal is the only other HS kid I can think of that's even been an all-star caliber player in the NBA. We're talking 5 out of 50 or 60 kids that went to the NBA straight from HS that ever eventually lived up to their expectations and only LeBron was a true immediate impact player. Rules like this should not be made for the exceptions, they need to be put in place for the majority otherwise the NBA will be watered down with even more kids not ready for the NBA and it'll be because of the hype ESPN gives to kids who are not ready for that level yet.

Ethan Berger 7 years, 8 months ago

But with the Baseball system, the rooks going into the minors. Very few play in the pros within 3 years. Basketball they go strait to the pros.

Jonathan Allison 7 years, 8 months ago

Yes, until the NBA has an effective feeder system with the DLeague (which may never happen) then they shouldn't allow the HS players to go straight to NBA.

Chris Bohling 7 years, 8 months ago

If we're going to say they need to go 3 years, why not say they just need to graduate? IMHO it should be this: you can jump to the NBA straight from High School, or you stay until you have a degree in your hand.

Obviously the NBA doesn't care about colleges so it won't change, but that's the ideal...

Justin Carlson 7 years, 8 months ago


It has been over a year since I posted on this site, maybe because we has posters have to deal with all the ads and opinion polls etc. But after this season I have to speak my peace because as a Jayhawk lifer and the wife is thankful that basketball season is over and she can now return to normal TV watching and not listen to the kids and I screaming at Self and the players these past 35 games!

Let’s start the root of the problem > SELF

Bill Self is the most stubborn coach I have ever seen coach a sport in my life. Is he on the short list that 350 teams would trade the farm to get for their program? Answer yes! But would KU fans be willing to give up 3 or 4 of the 10 straight league titles to develop some talent in the regular season? I want tournament success! Has Self been to “married” to his “elite” players in the tournament. Should Andrew have been playing in a game when he clearly wasn’t a factor? Did Self feel and think “I really can’t sit my star in our final game can I?” Don’t blame Wigs, Na, Selden, and Ellis for playing terrible! It is not like they were going to look at the bench and say, “coach I am sucking, not focused, can’t stay with my man, and Oh my lord coach I can’t make a wide open shot, please take me out!” This is on Self!!! I may be full of crap but I clearly remember games Wigs was clearly not a factor and Self benched him during the regular season! Why in all things that are holy can’t he bench his “elite” players when the season is on the line?

Self’s defensive approach? All of us on this board have in some fashion coached something! You take things you yourself have played and steal things from others who are successful and you mold it into what fits your team. When things aren’t working do we has coaches completely change the whole approach no, but at least you could make some tweaks. Good grief he finally pressed and wow “light on” it flipping worked. Why not on a team that you have the ability to develop a bench and run at least 10+ players out there and press before you are fighting for your season. In a game that clearly Stanford was focused on getting the ball inside why not show a zone to see if we could get a chunked couple 3’s and protect Black with foul problems. I just don’t get it! Self you are fighting for you season you need to throw you whole kitchen sink on the floor to save your season!! You sir did not! All of you that are clamoring defense was not the issue I have a rant about that in the next paragraph!! cont!

Justin Carlson 7 years, 8 months ago

Self’s offense approach? The high low offense (against man) is awesome when you have superior post players and in the Stanford game we did not! Ellis will always struggle to score over strength and length. Ellis needs to get “HUDYED” and learn how to dribble and defend guards because he is not a 4! Will not play the 4 in the NBA he is a 3 period. Self’s offense is so limited it is awful! Don’t get me wrong I am an inside 1st type of guy but passing the ball to Ellis, Embiid and others it is almost a “black hole!” Is it written in the Self play book that we can’t kick it back out in a game we clearly couldn’t score over their size. What is wrong with kicking it back out of a triple team to an unguarded 3?” ZONE? My freshman daughter is a basketball geek and she can see holes in every zone as all of us can!! Why does it take 20+ games against a zone and 25 minutes in the final game to get traylor to attack from the foul line?? I would love to hear a reporter ask Self why do always struggle to adjust against a zone? Why can’t you coach against a zone. Why is flipping Scott Drew and Baylor still playing? (oops that slipped in there!!)

Self’s transition approach? How many times have we heard in pressers “that was an old man’s big 10 game” game in the 50’s “muddying the game up” You can’t offensively and defensively muddy the game up with players that thrive on transition! Speed the game up Self more possessions! Create more opportunities for you athletes to score in the open court! Take chances! Create a secondary break! This team could have and should have scored 100+ on many different occasions. We scored 100 once in the last 2 seasons and that was in OT against Iowa ST last season! He has recruited athletes that thrive in the open court yet we are getting beat by teams that slow the game down and zone us!! SPEED THE GAME UP!! Turn these athletes loose!!

Self’s recruiting approach and player development? I want to ask Self, “Is your offense the reason you can’t recruit an elite PG?” Self why can’t you man up and bench a Tyshawn, an EJ, a Na, a Wigs, an Ellis when they are clearly not helping your team! We all think next year without Wigs and I see Embiid gone (comes back with more back problems his stock will fall gets healthy impresses scouts this year still a top five pick.)

Justin Carlson 7 years, 8 months ago

Next year will be the same problems as this year. Oubre and Alexander, we can’t predict.

But our returners Self will give the nod to Tharpe Oubre, and Selden Ellis Alexander What has changed did we really get better at the two spots that needed the most change? Mason, Conner and Greene are screwed! Self will be married to Tharpe again for another year! I mentioned two things that needed to change to get this KANSAS program at the level it should be!! I for one am proud has hell to be a JAYHAWK fan and always will be. Do I expect undefeated seasons and back to back National Championships no! Do want to send Self packing no! Two things need to change 1. Self needs to adapt his approach in all facets of his game, not change just adjust and adapt! 2. We need a point guard bad! I don’t care if he scores less than 10 pts a game I just want a 4 year kid that is a role model to the program, the best defender on the team, 1st one to practice, the last one to leave, and his effort is always off the charts!! How can a 2014 – 2015 team rally around Tharpe when he consistently takes off possessions and pouts! That is not a leader! Can Frank or Conner do it!! The answer is yes! But here is the key………Will Self adapt his coaching and give them the chance or are we flaming out again???

Rich Hetherington 7 years, 8 months ago

I definitely think Tharpe's minutes will be cut with Mason and Frankamp both getting a few more next season. It may even keep Tharpe fresh and more motivated to step it up defensively. I like our chances next year with what is likely returning and what is coming in!

Ethan Berger 7 years, 8 months ago

Let me ask you, what makes you so sure that our point guards were that bad? I understand our eye test as fans. We see a mistake, we look to who was involved and blame them. You might not be like that, but beside watching what do we truly know. The one thing I respect about coaching is the everyday task. Bill doesn't just go to they gym and run scrimmages and who ever scores the most starts. What if post players were out of position? What if our wings held back when they should have been cutting? What if at the 18 second mark, Bill wanted Wiggins to loop around Black but instead Wiggins cut back to where he was and our PG threw it to where he was supposed to be? Whose fault is that. Defense is a little easier but not much. I can't tell you how many times I saw our guys get stoned by screens. When that happens a player is open. Then our guy over compensates and the other guy rolls to the basket. Then from there a player has a choice to drive or kick depending on the closest defender action.

Saying Self is married to Tharpe is implying that coach doesn't let other guys earn their spots. And that might very well be true, but do you know how our players practice? Do you know what Self sees on film? What makes us so sure that Tharpe wasn't the best answer for this team? Watching the team 4 hours a week? I personally feel under qualified to make rotation decisions.

Scott Yessen 7 years, 8 months ago

I agree with you Justin. Totally agree. This was the year we played pressure D and ran teams out of the gym. But, pressure doesn't HAVE to come from man to man. It could come from and extended 1-3-1. You guard your tail off, then we sub for you to get a rest and you go right back in.

Linda Peschka 7 years, 8 months ago

What happened in the one game between Stanford and KU? It is not about the rest of the season. Reasons: Some same difficulties surfaced in the Stanford game as in similar situations in games during the season. It is not a matter of whom you like or dislike of the players. It is who can be positively productive. The only two players who deserved to wear the KU uniform was Black and Connor. No one else, including the coaching staff, because Self did a poor job of adjusting to Stanford's play, did anything positive. For next year, Tharpe is not a Point Guard!!!!! He never has been and never will be. When Self plays Connor, Mason,and Tharpe together,as he did, it is a defensive nightmare for KU. At different times during the game, one or two of them were trying to guard a player 5-6inches taller. To make matters worse, Mason does not keep in front of his man, Tharpe is too slow of feet, and Connor is always chasing his man. Question: With KU lacking more than one big(Black) why did Self not switch his defense from a man-man to a 2-3 zone and then to a 1-3-1 trapping zone. Stanford had no true point guard and when KU pressed it had some success. Why not more team screens for Wiggins to get open? Ellis, Tharpe, and Traylor banged 9 shots off the board way too hard and to high. No wonder none of those shots went into the basket. There is a logical reason why the square is on the backboard and right above the basket as a soft shot with a soft ball rotation will easily make a basket. Too many wrongs or not enough rights to win the game. It happens too often in big games. There is no player on the KU roster that is going to make a big splash in the NBA next year. However, Wiggins and Embiid will be persuaded to enter the draft. That is OK. KU will then sign M. Turner as a big and with Oubre and Alexander and the rest of the remaining crew, KU will have a better season. I hope. STBP.

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