Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Tom Keegan: Bill Self too secure to worry about freshmen minutes

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets an earful from head coach Bill Self after a quick foul during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets an earful from head coach Bill Self after a quick foul during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Bill Self, coach of a program that has finished first in the Big 12 in each of the past 11 basketball seasons, dreams the same dreams as the average Kansas University basketball fan.

He pictures talented freshmen Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg sprinting the court, throwing down lobs, swatting shots, hitting jumpers and turning Allen Fieldhouse into a wild party.

Fortunately, Self has the ability to suppress the fan in him and deal in the reality of today. He never has a problem letting his intelligence defeat his emotions when making decisions on how to coach his team.

A younger, less secure coach might cave to the temptation to force-feed minutes to talented young players at the expense of those who know how to play the game. A younger, less secure coach might worry about outside forces wanting to see McDonald’s All-Americans wow the crowd.

As is the case with all great coaches in all sports, Self is acutely aware that once something other than trying to win the game at hand drives a coach’s decisions, that coach has cheated himself, his players, his employers and his fan base. He’s not paid so handsomely to win popularity contests. He’s paid to win games.

He won another Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse, 78-53, against UC Irvine, the tallest college basketball team in the nation, as well as the one with the coolest nickname, the Anteaters.

Diallo, MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game, and Bragg, who also played in the exhibition featuring the nation’s top high school players, combined to play 17 minutes on a night that Landen Lucas played 15, Hunter Mickelson  11, Jamari Traylor eight.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self on KU's big men, Big 12 slate and more

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self takes questions from the media after the Jayhawks' 78-53 win over UC Irvine to close out 2015. Self discusses KU's front-court rotation, as well as the upcoming Big 12 schedule and more.

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Self did not apologize for that, because that’s not what coaches who win games by 25 points do.

“We’ve given everybody a chance, but there’s no question our experienced guys have looked better than our young guys,” Self said. “The team looks better. The team plays better when we’ve had experience in there, so I don’t know how it’s going to play out.”

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Ellis, Mason and Graham on KU's win over UC Irvine

Kansas Jayhawks Perry Ellis, Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham meet with the media following a 78-53 victory over UC Irvine at Allen Fieldhouse.

Download podcast

Traylor played a key role in a 13-point victory at San Diego State. Lucas (eight points, four rebounds, a steal) and Mickelson (six points, two boards, two assists, a blocked shot and three steals) had a strong games Tuesday. Diallo scored six points in eight minutes, but in general does not look anywhere near ready for significant playing time and it has nothing to do with effort, everything to do with his lack of experience and feel as a basketball player. Bragg, who has had big games, had the opposite of that vs. UCI. He does look far more advanced than DIallo and could develop into a force before the year is out.

Self made it clear Tuesday that with the Big 12 season opening Saturday at home against Baylor, he will stop auditioning big men  for the sake of seeing what he has.

“You know basketball is a weird game in that, a lot of times we’ve had big leads and end up losing momentum and it’s because of me,” he said. “It’s not because we’re playing poorly. It’s because we subbed and trying to get everybody in the game. From this point forward, there’s none of that, there’s none of that making sure everybody gets in type of deal.  We’ve got to play the guys that give us the best chance to win.”

Leading by two points at halftime, Kansas opened the second half with a 16-2 run as Bragg and Diallo watched from the bench.

“The light’s going to come on eventually,” Self said. “It just hasn’t come on yet. The thing about it is I want those guys to play. If you look at our best prospects, they may be our two best prospects at age 24 than anybody else. If you were going to advance it and say everybody’s at age 24, those two may be it. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be better at helping you win games today than the other guys. I want those guys to come around, because when they do come around and play closer to their ceilings and learn how to play with the other guys, then I think that our team will be really, really good.

“I don’t want to say that I want to sacrifice losses or put our team in more jeopardy just because of that. You’ve got to win games. These kids come to school here and they work their butts off for a number of years. We’ve got a lot riding on it, so the objective is to put your team in the best position to win.”

Playing time doesn’t determine when the light comes on. The light coming on determines playing time. Here’s guessing it will come on for Bragg before this season is over. Diallo? That might take a little longer.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. UC Irvine

— See what people were saying about the game during's live coverage

By the Numbers: Kansas 78, UC Irvine 53

By the Numbers: Kansas 78, UC Irvine 53


Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Are you sure about this Tom? I have it on authority from some of the Chicken Little Contingent the Self scours these comment forums for ideas on how to manage these issues and that Zenger uses these forums to determine whether or not to fire Self over these issues. It's been clearly explained right in this forum.

Say it ain't so Tom. The Chicken Littles can't be wrong about this, can they?

Dirk Medema 5 years, 11 months ago

I remember Cole being rather clueless for most of his freshman campaign, but still providing a really nice semi-final performance, and Perry certainly came on much stronger at the end of his freshman year.

It would seem that practice amongst this group of bigs could have tremendous benefit to the development of both the freshmen, but the point is still valid. This team is still quite capable of a deep run in March and April with the best front court players being upperclassmen.

Maybe it means they stay around for year 2, prompting Maker to go elsewhere, and we still have a deep team when we tie UCLA at 13.

Joseph Bullock 5 years, 11 months ago

Ron, I disagree that Coach Self never has a problem letting his intelligence defeat his emotions. Think, EJ vs Michigan!!! Also, sometimes trusting a player, even when they are playing really bad, can cloud judgement! As much as I love Coach Self, he is human! Don't make it seem like he isn't!

Joseph Bullock 5 years, 11 months ago

I meant 'Tom'! And how I typed 'Ron', we will never know! But make no mistake-I can spell! Sometimes! LOL

Jim Stauffer 5 years, 11 months ago

Yeah, I agree, Coach uses his head and not his heart. Having said that, don't think for a minute he isn't working hard to get Diallo and Bragg ready for late season contributions.

Of course he won't advance them ahead of guys who out perform them, but he is trying his best to get them ready knowing the upside of this team is greater with them contributing than without.

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't think Coach has ever changed on this issue. I think the fan base emotion is what magnifies the issue. We follow the hype of these freshmen who get tons of ink as we have to compete with other schools to get them. We worry about other freshmen looking at the situation and wondering if they should come to a school where it is so hard to get on the floor. We watch what Calipari does with freshmen and we wonder why we can do that with young players. We have had a series of OAD, and one was named Embiid and one Wiggins. Our fan base expectations and hype hypnosis have altered our expectations over the years. Oubre was on the bench quite a bit this time last year. Timing has a lot to do with it. At this point in time we have a wealth of experienced players right who have had tons of practice and butt time who have had to learn what it takes to play his way and be able to stay on the court. We want to be wowed and Coach wants to win games. Tension is inevitable.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 11 months ago

Couldn't have been said any better Humpy, very sweet. Hard to argue with a Coach who has the record Coach has. 196-9 at Allen since being here, 98-4 non con at allen, 363-79 overall since being hired at KU 11 straight conference championships, and National title, hard to go against that train of thought not here to please fans, here to win, if you win, you please fans and WIN he has done

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Did you submit your name when Self was hired?

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Adam. Showing you to be a fool is neither challenging nor rewarding.

I noticed that you didn't bother to respond to the simple facts that contradicted your absurd opinions as "useless". Better to avoid that?

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

December games are completed. Graham and Mason are both averaging about 30 per game for the season and averaged 31 in December. Less than top guards on other contenders.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 11 months ago

I hear you, and I'd like Bragg and Diallo in there as much as anyone, but I think Coach is saying that the games coming up are going to be pretty close contests and he does not want to risk those games being too close while the two freshman make mistakes etc. That's my guess anyway.

Gavin Fritton 5 years, 11 months ago

I have two observations. First, I would say that this pretty much apples to Svi Mykhailiuk as much as it applies to either of the freshmen. We'd all love too see him get more minutes, but the light hasn't quite clicked on yet for him, either, although I expect it will anytime now.

Second, what the heck do you mean that UCI is the "one with the coolest nickname"? By my count, they are no better than second place AT BEST. I am partial to "Jayhawks" as the coolest and I will fight anyone who says differently. 😀

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

My guess is that Svi will still get minutes. Someone to guard 6'8-6'9 wings will be needed in March.

Kurt Eskilson 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree that "Jayhawks" is best, but how about the Santa Cruz "Banana Slugs!" Gotta admit that's unique …

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

Self will always be secure as long as KU fans bow down and kiss his feet. The fact remains that the players Self plays can not and will not make it to the Final Four. They can however win the Big 12 again and preserve Self's "impressive" streak, but will once again get beat before the Final Four and maybe before the Sweet 16. At the highest level of competition, Graham gets exposed, and the frontcourt does as well. Brannen Greene, Diallo and Bragg need to be on the floor. Why does he recruit one and done type players when he only values experience? Why spend over $100,000 to "free Diallo" just to lock him up again on the bench? Did he tell Bragg and Diallo during the recruiting process that if they came to KU he would sink their draft status and force them to come back for a 2nd year and thereby cover up his failed recruiting this year? Those 2 players would start at any other team in the country, UK, UNC and Duke included. #FireBillSelf

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

It's intended to be funny/sarcastic, isn't it?

Tom Jones 5 years, 11 months ago

Don't think so.

Which makes it funnier.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 11 months ago

Just love this article. It is totally on the mark. Bill Self is a genius at coaching and developing players. He supports the team concept and expects his players to do so as well. He has been remarkably successful at it.

I especially like that he takes responsibility for things when he blames himself for their loss of leads on occasions. Of course, now that the conference season is starting, there aren't likely going to be many blowouts, so the guys who get the job done will play. That is the way it should be.

Robert Brock 5 years, 11 months ago

We are waiting for Diallo's "light to switch on," meaning that we are waiting for him to understand how to play basic, fundamental basketball. Hasn't happened yet, meaning that there must be a problem with the circuit breakers.

Maybe Diallo will get "it" after playing in Coach Self's system for four consecutive years a la Jamari Traylor.

Glen Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

Diallo missed practice time and the games freshman use to get acclimated early in the season..... I'm not overly shocked he is struggling a bit. He's young to the sport, has much fundamental work to learn and the game has yet to slow down for him in college. While his ceiling is unlimited, we have to be patient with him right now because he IS so far behind the other freshman in experience. Bragg went to China and played against grown men and was able to get about 14 extra practices in. Bragg was able to practice from the moment he stepped foot on Campus. Bragg has played ball for many more years than Diallo. I'm not surprised he sometimes looks light years ahead of Diallo in development. The good news is that we do have so much experience on our team, that we do not HAVE to have these kids producing at a high clip, like we did with Wiggins, Embiid and Oubre. I suspect Diallo will be coming into his own for the tournament and will provide a spark in the post defensively that we have lacked in years past and that Bragg will be a match up nightmare, once he learns the system a bit better. I like this team and I think we have a legitimate chance to win it all this year, in lieu of just assuming because we are Kansas that we should make the Final Four like in the last couple years. I'm not worried about these guys, they've shown flashes that they belong. We just have to be patient. It's not an awful thing that these kids might not be ready to make the jump after 1 year...... I'm totally OK with Bragg and Diallo roaming the paint as Jayhawks next year!

Bill Kackley 5 years, 11 months ago

Jaston Archie, go back to MU or KSU or where ever your from and fantasize that you could be a loyal KU fan.

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

If your definition of a "loyal KU fan" is someone who goes along to get along and never questions a single thing the coach does, then count me out. Do you also thinks it's un-American to disagree with the government? I happen to believe that Bill Self is a stubborn coach who favors mediocre talent that he can control over elite talent that won't conform to his pathetic system, which is why no highly talented player wants to come here.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

You're being sarcastic, right? Pretty funny.

Andy Tweedy 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't know why I'm responding to this...but "no highly talented player wants to come here"...except Xavier Henry, Josh Selby, Cliff Alexander, Andrew Wiggins, on and on, all guys in the top 5 of their classes. They clearly do. And in your earlier post you completely disregard two national championship games. I just don't understand how you can be so negative towards Self. You're not being critical when you use phrases like "pathetic system" you're just hating.

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm talking about now, have you checked the recruiting lately? One and done players are starting to see that Self's system/philosophy is detrimental to them. Ok, 2 national championship games, but how many early round exits to no name schools? And any system that favors lesser talented players over elite talent is pathetic

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

You are serious! That's hilarious!

Keep it coming. Keep that tin foil covered hard hat on so the sky doesn't hit you when it falls.......

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

I dont have any coaching experience on the high school level or higher. That said, I have nearly 44 years of human experience, and Id like to focus it on this topic. Tom's article is timely, for sure; because it is the question as far as coaching decisions that will affect our chances of winning it all this year. Basically Coach Self is making a wager that going with experience will produce more results than developing players (with in-game minutes).

Human experience tells me that when people are familiar with something, they are slow to change from it. And let's face it: the comfort level he has in going with guys who have been coached jibes with our natural intuition. But I wonder if it's the case that the Hawks in the hand might win games in the season, while the two in the bush might push us over the hump in the tournament.

The POTENTIAL of Diallo and Bragg to help us in the post is not worth discarding. The benefits are these:

  1. Utilizing Bragg and Diallo more means that the season is not as grueling on our veterans. Fresh legs are useful in March.

  2. We all know that guys have off games. Suppose Perry and Mickelson happen to be getting owned on a particular night in late February or in March. If you have developed a repertoire of big men who you can plug in like a new fuse, you have no drop off in performance. Perry Ellis himself figured it out by February of his own freshman campaign. To just give that up seems risky.

  3. The "fresh legs" argument isn't just applicable over the course of the season. In some games more than others it will be relevant then. Suppose you have a team that settles into the halfcourt and is beating you there. You want to play up and down in transition, and that takes bodies on the bench. Suppose you are facing a height disadvantage. You want to run in that situation too to wear down their big men, making them less effective. Takes fresh people to sustain the run.

  4. It makes foul trouble less of a concern. (Bonus: when you can go to the bench and not experience a drop off in play.)

  5. You remember that next year's team is going to be short a LOT of big men, and experience in games will help that roster as well.

Now distilling this all down to "something", I'm not saying Coach is right or wrong cause I dont know. But Im not willing to say that just because he earns millions means every decision coach makes is right. Keep in mind Im not saying hes wrong either. I think if he sticks with veterans, he will safeguard wins for the season but he does not IMPROVE upon his team's ceiling in march. I think the only way to do that is to go through the growing pains with the freshmen, though games may be sacrificed in conference. Again, not putting a stake in the ground, but this is my thinking.

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

The best post I have read since I've been on this site. Finally, someone who has the courage to at least question Self's strategy, that's a true fan in my opinion! I"m more of the extreme wing that thinks Self should be fired, but I do appreciate your reasonableness

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

Mark Turgeon. He has shown a willingness to adapt his system to accommodate his best players. Just last night, Diamond Stone, a true freshman, scored 39 points. Do you think Stone is better than Diallo or Bragg?

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

And he's won what? The MVC once, 10 years ago. His best tourney showing? The 16... You think that MD would pass on a Self/Turgeon trade because in one game a player had a big night? You're hilarious. Keep it coming.

Michael Lorraine 5 years, 11 months ago

A 12th conference title would be nice but I’m perfectly okay with sacrificing the regular season if it makes the team better in March and results in a deeper run in the tournament. We have 58 conference titles. At what point does it become a dubious distinction?

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 11 months ago

Right now the most important thing for the team is to win the Big 12. Once the Big 12 is decided, we can focus on the NCAA Tournament, the gamblers delight.

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

Again, Suzi. The question on the table is whether the most important thing for the team is to win the Big 12 or developing the talent for a March run which might mean not winning the Big 12.

Let me ask it to you this way. If you could see the future and could know that our freshmen could be developed by March (a reasonable assumption given the history of freshmen), would you rather win the Big 12 and do without that talent being developed; or would you rather lose the Big 12 and have more personnel available to threaten for the National Championship?

The reality either way is that we're preparing for the NCAA Tournament during the course of the season (experience gained during the season will become the identity of the team in March, the team wont change who they are). The only question is, who will we "take with us" there?

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

Joe I disagree with the way you are framing the debate, because I absolutely do not believe that developing the freshmen talent would cost KU the Big 12 whatsoever. Bragg and Diallo and Svi for that matter are very very good right now. It might cost a loss here or there, but that's going to happen even with the experienced players. However my main concern is not only their lack of development, but Self's destruction of their confidence. I just hope they don't believe their as bad as he thinks they are

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

You're arguing with yourself. "I absolutely do not believe that developing the freshmen talent would cost KU the Big 12 whatsoever" and "It might cost a loss here or there" are the opposite sides of the same argument. I predict you lose either way. Keep the absurdity coming. It's hysterical.

In any case, how is winning in February not the best way to prepare for winning in March? It is. If players can contribute, they'll play.

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

The point, Jaston, is NOT that they aren't any good "right now". The point is that they are not as good as they need to be to be reliable and productive for the Big 12 slate facing them...right now. No one, not even you, feels that there isn't a lot of work to do to get these guys polished up for Tournament play.

Jaston Archie 5 years, 11 months ago

Joe, obviously they're not as good as they can or will be come tournament time, but I personally think that right now, Diallo and Bragg are better and more reliable than Lucas and Traylor. If they both played a lot during the Big 12, KU would not be more likely to lose the Big 12. It's not a lose now vs. win later type of thing IMO. Look at how successful Duke and UK were last year (and the year UK beat KU for the title) from start to finish bc they mixed experienced "upper" classmen with super talented freshmen. The blueprint is there, but Self just is unwilling to change his philosophy

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

There are parts of this that I agree with, I wont lie.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 11 months ago

We should put the maximum effort into winning the league game that is played on that specific game day. Once league play commences the guys are going to need to earn their PT in practice. A couple of games ago I was beginning to believe Bragg would be our 4th big, possibly a starter at the 5.

We are all probably on the same page believing Bragg needs to get quality PT for us to win the Big 12 and preform in the post season. Sadly, Diallo seems to be was behind. I watched every move he made, several time on the tape, for every game this year. The past few games have been sad to watch him.

Leon Trotter 5 years, 11 months ago

Mr. Keegan, this quote is absurd and short-sighted (and false)

"As is the case with all great coaches in all sports, Self is acutely aware that once something other than trying to win the game at hand drives a coach’s decisions, that coach has cheated himself, his players, his employers and his fan base."

A college baseball coach can do a great bit of damage to a pitcher by overusing him in the name of winning the game at hand.

Basketball coaches at all levels tinker with lineups, substitution patterns early in order to win games later.

Coaches suspend players who could help win games now in order to maintain discipline.

I understand the point of the article, but a single minded focus on winning each game is the surest way to cheat everyone you listed. Players, coaches, fan bases.

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

Is it a fair question to ask if Coach Self takes longer to develop OAD talent than Cal and Coach K?

Leon Trotter 5 years, 11 months ago

That question should probably be directed towards, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Kyle Wiltjer, Willie Cauley-Stein, Archie Goodwin, Dakari Johnson, Skal Labissiere (Has fallen from his #2 pre-season draft projection), Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee...

Cal does a great job of getting guys to campus, but he isn't really any better at helping them improve their draft stock than Self/Coach K/Roy.

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

Maybe. But there are ways to gauge readiness to play other than looking at draft stock. The question, isnt it, is how quickly they are able to contribute on the floor in the college game?

Mike Barnhart 5 years, 11 months ago

Coach Self, Coach K, Cal, Izzo, Roy... They all have their own way of developing talent. Don't let perception cloud reality, Willy Cauley-Stein played 3 years at UK and Roy has had several OAD flameouts.

And don't forget this, Darnel Jackson STARTED for a KU national champion ahead of top recruits Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldrich.

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

Aldrich was a freshman, and he was not projected to be a OAD. That DJ would start over him says almost nothing at all. Aldrich was awkward his first year. Some people, including me, were calling him "Cole Ostrich".

As far as SK, Darnell and Sasha had the same amount of time in the system, which means that if Kaun was a higher ranked recruit than Jackson, that Self's development of the Top Talent was not as good and he did better with the more raw player. So the reality with Kaun seems to suggest that developing Top Talent may not be coach's forte, which was my question in my original comment above.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

The Sky is Falling! Self can't recruit OAD players!!!

The Sky is Falling! Self doesn't play his OAD players enough!!

The Sky is Falling! Self plays his experienced players too much!!

The Sky is Falling! There aren't enough returning veteran players next year!!

Watching the Chicken Littles argue against themselves is hilarious.

Joe Ross 5 years, 11 months ago

If your comments are directed toward me you can man up and say so. You have nothing to fear from me except a debate on the issue.

James Smith 5 years, 11 months ago

Crazy Jay is on the loose again! Kind of surprised that you did not like your own post as usual.

Good summary and probably why our recruiting class is looking so good!

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