Thursday, January 19, 2017

KU’s strength of schedule a work in progress

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. With Friday's win, Self became the winningest coach in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. With Friday's win, Self became the winningest coach in Allen Fieldhouse.


Depending on where you look, strength of schedule can be a difficult statistic to trust, with the various rankings including everything from detailed data points to the eye test and most recent performances.

According to the average strength of schedule numbers from Ken Pomeroy (16), CBS Sports (20) and ESPN (26), the Kansas men’s basketball team, ranked No. 2 in the nation by The Associated Press and No. 1 in the USA Today coaches poll, registers a number between 20 and 21. This reveals that the Jayhawks have had the fifth toughest schedule to date among Top 10 teams.

There is something to be said for consistency, though, and outside of No. 6 Baylor, which has an average strength of schedule of 17, only one other Top 10 team has less of a gap between the three numbers than the Jayhawks.

The difference between KU’s best strength of schedule number (16) and its worst (26) is just 10 spots. Baylor’s gap is the smallest (16 to 17) and top-ranked Villanova’s is eight (11 to 19).

Beyond that, things get interesting and significantly more spread out, with third-ranked UCLA having a gap of 44 spots between its best (96) and worst (140) and fourth-ranked Gonzaga registering an even wider gap, from 56 on to 126 on

Even fifth-ranked Kentucky (7 to 32) and ninth-ranked North Carolina (11 to 24) have wider margins between their best and worst strength of schedule numbers than Kansas, even though both have a better average than the Jayhawks.

So what does it all mean? According to Kansas coach Bill Self, it’s merely one of many signs that the season remains a work in progress.

Although Kansas is used to living in the Top 10 in strength of schedule year after year, these Jayhawks (17-1 overall, 6-0 Big 12) have not made it there quite yet. Outside of back-to-back, season-opening games against then-No. 7 Indiana (now unranked) and then-No. 1 Duke (now 18th), KU’s schedule has not carried its usual pop.

“I think our team is respected nationally,” KU coach Bill Self said Thursday. “But I don't think we're thought of as highly as other teams. I think some people rank us high because our record’s good. Whereas, if you look at us, we haven’t done anything to really knock anyone's socks off since the Duke game because we haven't had a chance because of the schedule.”

That’s about to change. After facing just one team currently ranked in the Top 25 in the season’s first 19 games — KU hosts Texas at 1 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse in Game No. 19 — the Jayhawks will rip off a nine-game stretch that features five games against the current Top 7 — two against West Virginia, two against Baylor and one at Kentucky.

Self said it was that reality that likely kept Kansas out of the No. 1 spot this week and allowed Villanova to jump from third to first. But neither Self nor his players had any issue whatsoever with the way things have shaped up in the national polls.

“We’ve played good teams, but we haven't had a chance to play a Top 5 team again or Top 10 team again,” Self said. “Whereas Villanova goes and plays at Butler, and Villanova blows out Xavier, those types of things. So I'm not disappointed at all where we are. I can certainly understand it. But I do think that we'll have an opportunity here in the next two to three weeks to show whether or not we deserve to be there.”

Sophomore forward Carlton Bragg Jr. agreed and said the team was looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

“I believe we’re still trying to find out who we are and these big challenges that are coming up, we’ve just gotta prepare for it and we will see,” Bragg said.

Asked if the Jayhawks had reached their full potential yet, Bragg answered immediately.

“I don’t think so. Not at all. Not at all,” he said. “Not defensively, and I think we can play a lot faster than we’re playing now.”

Mason OK

Senior point guard Frank Mason III, who tweaked his right knee Monday night during the Jayhawks 76-72 victory in Ames, Iowa, is doing fine and is not expected to miss any time, including practice.

That message was right in line with Self’s thoughts following Monday’s victory.

“Just like what we said,” Self said Thursday. “He practiced (Wednesday), and he may be a little sore or stiff or whatnot, but structurally, he's OK.”

Azubuike progressing

Freshman big man Udoka Azubuike, who broke his wrist in late December and will be sidelined for the remainder of the season, recently had his stitches from surgery removed and is wearing a regular cast.

That’s good news, according to Self, who said that was the first step in Azubuike’s long road to a full recovery.

“He's able to do cardio and stuff now,” Self said. “And he needs to. So he's back on the mend as far as working out and things, but he's still gonna have the cast on for another two months, I believe.”

Vick a pro?

After a strong summer and good start to his sophomore season, Lagerald Vick has leveled off a bit and settled into a role as one of KU’s primary bench players.

Asked Thursday to assess where Vick was in his development, Self paid the Memphis native a strong compliment.

“Oh, I think he could be a pro,” Self said. “I think Lagerald Vick could play in the NBA. I think he's got the length, he's got the ball handling, he's got the body, he's a natural athlete, all of these things. I think that he was a little bit further along than what we anticipated early in the season, and I think now he's probably where we anticipated him being at this point in time. So I think he's right where we had hoped he would be. But after seeing how well he played early in the season, I think that there's something in there that he will get that back. He's on an uptick now, and I think he'll get that back, playing at that very high level.”


Sophia Thomas 4 years, 9 months ago

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

Ben Kane 4 years, 9 months ago

with all the "changes" this site has made in the name of improvement, you'd think they could do something about every article being spammed in the comment section.

Matt Tait 4 years, 9 months ago

It's a constant battle, Ben, and I can assure you that we continually look for ways to eliminate that stuff and minimize the distraction. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Edward Daub 4 years, 9 months ago

Indiana has certainly suffered a "fall from grace", it surprises me they have dropped out of the Top 25.

Duke has also suffered what I call a "fall from Grayson" which includes his short suspension and a medical leave for Coach K.

Matt Tait is correct, if you scan the current Top 25 we have only played (and defeated) Duke.

KU cannot afford to look past Texas! Look what just happened to WVU at home versus the Sooners!

KU will next play three Top 25 Teams, at WVU, at KY, and Baylor. These games will provide a benchmark as to where KU stands.

Joe Joseph 4 years, 9 months ago

KU caught a break when it played OU in Norman. Woodard's contributions were limited after missing some time and students were still on break (I'm assuming). OU will undoubtedly continue to improve and will upset some people this year. But yeah... That game was awesome!

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 9 months ago

From here on, you have to be prepared for every game, that is for sure. Perhaps if Indiana hadn't fallen so much, our stock would be a little higher. However, the key is to keep getting better and for the bench to have an impact like they did at Ames.

Would really like to see some progress from Mitch and Dwight to give some relief in the middle. Ultimately, I think that improving our interior defense is crucial to reaching the pinnacle of success.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 9 months ago

Coleby's lack of minutes has been surprising to me. He played 2 years at MSU and even though he wasn't able to practice during the year he sat as a transfer, I was expecting a more polished player. I wonder if Self should have played him more in the nonconference games but Self has been pretty consistent in awarding minutes.

Mike Greer 4 years, 9 months ago

We have had several transfers that ended up sitting a fair amount, why do these guys transfer to Kansas, and why do we take transfers that don't have much time to learn the system and improve, only to let them languish on the bench? I know, we need back up players with experience just in case, but they are giving up playing time where they were and not getting much if any at KU. Mickelson was the other recent one that comes to mind.

Jay Scott 4 years, 9 months ago

If a player can't crack the Jayhawk lineup they aren't going to the NBA anyway. In that case, what's wrong with being a smaller part of something bigger instead a bigger part of something insignificant...

Brian D. Steward 4 years, 9 months ago

Honestly, SOS and RPI factor into Tourney rating, but above all else is one thing... wins. And KU is doing that. So as long as KU keeps winning I couldn't care less about either stat. 17 straight and counting, with a HUGE week coming up @WVU and @UK. Let's get it done 'Hawks.

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