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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Stealth weapons have a way of resurfacing in March

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets fired up as the Jayhawks close in on the West Virginia lead during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets fired up as the Jayhawks close in on the West Virginia lead during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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The NCAA tournament has a way of bringing on flashbacks of regular-season moments that stood out as different, went back under the radar, and resurface in March to enable a team to survive and advance.

Dwight Coleby’s standout performance against Michigan State became the first such moment for Kansas, which has the easiest third of its goal behind it, and enters Phase II on Thursday night against Purdue at Sprint Center.

Michigan State held a 16-3 bench-scoring advantage when Coleby entered the game in the second half because Landen Lucas was in foul trouble and Carlton Bragg was having one of those incompetent nights he has every now and then.

Coleby put his hands up on defense, stole two offensive rebounds, totaled three points and four rebounds and basically had a mini-version of his one big game in a Kansas uniform, which came in Austin. He had 12 points and four rebounds in 13 minutes in that one. Then in the next four games combined he played just 18 minutes and totaled five points and four rebounds.

Other potential flashbacks that could help Kansas on its road to Phoenix include:

The full-court pressure that enabled KU to storm back from a 14-point deficit with 2:43 left in regulation in an 84-80, overtime victory against West Virginia in Allen Fieldhouse.

KU coach Bill Self rarely employs the press, but if he needs to roll it out in the tournament, he won’t hesitate and the memory of how successful it was can only embolden an already confident bunch.

Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson bring so much quickness and Lucas, who asked to guard the ball under the hoop, looked anything but slow when he darted to the corner and used his wide wingspan to trap the receiver of the inbounds pass.

And/or:

Zone defense, employed against Georgia and Kentucky, gives Self a way to deal with foul trouble that Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas might encounter and, if needed, a way to give a team having its way a different look, a way to give rest to guards playing close to 40 minutes. The zone threw water on a hot Kentucky team in a game Kansas came from behind to win in Lexington.

“There won’t be any educational tapes on that zone tonight,” Self said after the Kentucky game. “But we would not have won the game unless we switched up.”

And/or:

A big game from Bragg. (I’m ducking. Let me know when you stop throwing things at your computer, so that I can stand back up and continue typing.)

It will be interesting to see whether Self goes with Bragg as his first big man off the bench against Purdue, per usual, or instead turns to Coleby first.

Bragg’s 10 points and six boards played a huge part in Kansas defeating Iowa State in Ames, and as recently as the regular-season finale at Oklahoma State, Bragg had a big game, scoring 11 points.

His ability to shoot from the perimeter could come in handy in drawing a Purdue big man away from the hoop.

More than most players with as much basketball experience as he has, Bragg seems to gain confidence from hitting his first shot. He has a lower chance of competing in competent fashion than does Coleby, but has a higher ceiling in that he has more ways to score and is a more explosive athlete.

Comments

Suzi Marshall 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You got that right about the reaction to bringing up Bragg the Dragg. Personally, I think Dragg has checked out for KU. It's useless for Self to put him in unless there is some kind of an emergency. Lucky for us that Coleby looks like he's recovered and can now compete. IMO, Self should go to Coleby early in the game, perhaps after Lucas' first foul, if it comes in the first half. It would be great to have a foul free Lucas for the entire second half.

This team has shown an amazing ability and need to shorten the game because of lack of depth. Get to half-time or even inside the final 10 minutes, hopefully not in could trouble and reserve energy, then pour it on to cross the tape.

Mike Greer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm going to guess that if Coach thought Bragg has checked out, his shoe soles wouldn't touch the hardwood. With that said, his play has been erattic at best and Coleby seems to be the better option. Perhaps with Coleby's better health and play, Bragg will get an opportunity to play the 4 and his performance will improve.

Michael Leiker 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I don't get the hating on Bragg. He had a really tough obstacle thrown in his way earlier this year, and another that was self inflicted, but he's been key in some very important situations for KU. At KSU, at ISU, at OSU, to name 3. His upside in any given game is higher than Coleby but absolutely correct that Coleby seems to be the better option right now. Given that, you have to give Bragg a few minutes before going to Dwight to see what he's got that night.

Generally I think what might be perceived as being checked out is really just a struggle to get his confidence back.

Word seems to be he's leaving, I would hate to see that. His biggest problem is that he was way too highly touted coming in, so he seems to be a disappointment. We used to give kids a sophomore slump, almost assume it was going to happen. I would recommend that for Carlton.

Michael Leiker 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Looking back at my post, maybe the most logical conclusion is that he should only play against land grant universities!

Jonathan Allison 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree. I don't like all of the Bragg bashing by Keegan and some of the fans on this website.

I hope that he has learned from his mistakes off-the-court this year. He has made some bonehead moves for sure. I will give him the benefit of the doubt that he will grow and will be ready to avoid such distractions in the future.

He's had a rough year on the court. Sophomore slump. Come back next year and be an upperclassman and make it right.

Jim Williamson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Even when a fan sets aside the brain farts that Bragg committed earlier this year and judges Bragg solely as a player, I get the hate. He's no better than he was the day he walked on campus. And the biggest single span of improvement for the vast majority of players comes between their freshman and sophomore year. That certainly didn't happen. That said, I think you stick with Bragg as your first big off the bench. At this point in the season, if it's not broken, don't fix it.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Have you ever heard of Markieff Morris? While his brother Marcus made the big leap between his freshman and sophomore year it was Markieff who left Kansas as the better player. His improvement came between his sophomore and junior season.

And speaking of brain farts, reread your post. A perfect example.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I think the word "hating" should be replaced with frustration. Many of us are frustrated by his level of play given the expectations out of high school. I would like to think that any student, alumni or fan of Kansas would like to see Bragg succeed.

Michael, Bragg hasn't had tough obstacles thrown in his way. He is the sole cause of all these obstacles. Saleeha Soofi, drugs and drug paraphernalia, a possible witness in an underage sexual assault. Even though he was cleared of assaulting Soofie, this girl was bad news.

I think your last paragraph is 100% on target. He might still turn it all around. That would be a much better ending to his journey at Kansas.

Seb Carlton 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Unless a college player is actively being repugnant, it's my preference to be, um, delicate, about their performance. Bragg is still a kid. Sure, I'm as frustrated as anyone that he hasn't yet found the toughness that Self can gift, but I'll try to avoid name-calling. Sit him, let him figure it out, or not. No need for me to take a shot at a kid.

Now when a player is outperforming his expectations, katy bar the door, praise in buckets and buckets. So happy for Colebly's day (reminded me, sort of, of Cole Aldrich's 2008 UNC coming out party).

Sure hope Bragg figures it out. Seems like a good young man. And even if he never does, that's fine. Good luck, dude, and RCJH.

RJ King 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Well said Michael Leiker. Bragg has had a rough year. Snarky little nicknames aren't necessary. Neither is bashing from a journalist who gets to attack from sitting on his ass with a keyboard.

Bragg's path to the 5-star player we expected to see has been a bumpy ride and meandered way off the route he and Self envisioned. Disappointment is when expectations don't meet with reality. No one is likely more disappointed than Carlton.

But we have invested in him. I'm still optimistic there will be a payoff. And even if he never produces, it's not like he's taking up a roster spot. I still see a kid with a good attitude, who supports his teammates from the bench. I absolutely hope he returns next year.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Unfortunately, the referees have been very inconsistent in their calls so far this tournament. We need Lucas to play aggressive but intelligent basketball. We have seen him do this both last year and this year so we know he is capable of doing it again.

I hope that Bragg doesn't read some of these comments. I remember when he committed. He was the first player to commit to Kansas in his class which turned out to be a pretty good recruiting class. Vick is on his way to becoming a star and if Bragg decides to stay at Kansas, I still think he has all the tools just not the confidence.

Dale Stringer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

How people forget. At the end of last year, the talk was how Bragg was going to replace Ellis at the 4 - Braggs natural position. At the begin of the year, He was doing okay (not great) and coming along. Then Dok gets hurt. Now he's had to switch to the 5. He is not cut out for the spot and he knows it and his confidence has taken a hit for it. And really, his not much worse playing the 5 than Vick playing the 4 when Josh is out.

I want him to stay for next year. We should be able to have him get back to playing the 4 where he belongs.

Jonathan Allison 8 months, 3 weeks ago

This is a valid point. KU has committed to playing 4 guard ball since Udoka's injury, and it has worked out great for the team in general. Bragg did become the odd man out because. Jackson was a natural as the 4th guard in the 4 guard formation because he was struggling with his outside shot, yet so skilled at playing with his back to the basket and getting into the heart of the defense and making plays for his teammates. Bragg has been used primarily to keep Lucas out of foul trouble which does have Bragg matching up against the opposition's biggest player. Something that he never had to do as a Freshman or earlier in the year. Bragg always was more comfortable facing up against his man than posting up. If nothing else, hopefully this season had helped him expand his arsenal if ever so slightly.

Mike Greer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Absolutely, with Dok out and Coleby still recovering and Lightfoot being new and underweight, there was only one other option for Coach. He can't play Lucas and Bragg at the same time and have them both foul out and fouls were a major issue for both of them early in the season. Coleby has been slower to recover than Coach thought, which has kept Bragg in the 5 spot. If Coleby were 100% today, Bragg would still be competing with Jackson for the 4 because up to this point Svi and Vick have done reasonably well at the 3 and that's really guys he's competing with for playing time. With Dok back next year and Coleby at 100% and Lightfoot a year more mature physically, and Jackson gone, the 4 should be more available and a better position for Bragg. I hope he stays.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm pretty sure you'll agree that if Bragg and Lucas had worked out, Josh would be the starting 3 with Svi and Vick subbing at both the 3 and the 2. In a way, Jackson playing the 4 has really helped improve his overall game.

Billy Preston will find plenty of time next year at both the 4 and the 3. The kid is a 6'10" three-point shooting phenom. Can you lose Mason and Jackson and still be another outstanding Kansas team going for 14?

I think it's possible.

Mike Greer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'll agree that as long as Dok was available to sub for Lucas, had Bragg and Lucas worked out he would be starting. As soon as Dok went out there was no one to fill in for Lucas, and even without all the early foul trouble, bigs don't play the minutes Frank and Devonte play, so who does Coach go to. Coleby wasn't healthy enough and Lightfoot was/is not physically matured enough to play the 5, which isn't really his natual position either. My opinion, the situation for Bragg changed when Dok went out for the season, before that, there was still opportunity for him at the 4. After that, Bragg really didn't have much of a chance to play other than the backup for Lucas. Unless you put Frank in the 5, he said he could guard LeBron, Coach really didn't have anyone but Bragg.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Absolutely, no argument from me. Sh** happens and Coach Self made the best of it. Coach Self went with Lucas and Bragg after Udoka went down for possibly 3 to 4 games and it was obvious that it wasn't going to work.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Excellent point although at the beginning of the year after Udoka was injured, Coach Self played Lucas and Bragg together but then switched to playing four guards as Lucas and Bragg didn't do as well as hoped. And as Mike states, both players were committing fouls at a record pace.

Last year, I thought when he played in relief of Perry Ellis that he would become a superior player. Next year, maybe he can prove me right.

Steve Corder 8 months, 3 weeks ago

The Tradition which is Kansas basketball is so special that I often miss the beauty of the season long journey, as I ponder (perhaps even obsess over) league matchups, strategies, and NCAA brackets. Like all Jayhawk basketball dreamers this one may not end with the sheer delight of a national title. But it won't matter nor diminish what is Kansas basketball.

I think I will look back on this team as one of the very best in a long line of exceptional teams in KU's storied past. Win and advance or lose and go home, this group of young men have achieved much, much more than they realize now. They have become, in the words of Stephen Ambrose, a band of brothers.

Craig Alexander 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Bragg might not be the best option tonight but if Saturday is against quick moving Oregon then he just might fit perfectly. We have a great problem with two contrasting bigs on the bench.

Laura Wilson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Yes, totally agree. Bragg plays much better against tall skinny fast power forwards (similar to himself). He doesn't do well against bulky centers. Against Purdue and their bigs I really hope Self plays Coleby first off the bench and not Bragg.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Definitely not saying you're wrong, I just hate changing the rotation at this point in the year.

Just my opinion. Maybe changing things up will benefit both Coleby and Bragg.

David Robinett 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Carlton just needs to walk around with one of those spring loaded hand exercisers. If he could just catch the ball and hold onto the ball strong that would go a long way.

Janet Olin 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Dale makes a very good point. Bragg isn't cut out to play the 5. To complain he hasn't improved since last year is unfair if you compare his play at the 4 and being forced to change and learn the 5. It's like starting over for him. He can still contribute energy, rebounds. I agree that against Purdue Coleby seems to fit the 'big body' bill better. Both of them should play.

Harlan Hobbs 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Am a little late to the "party", but totally agree with Michael, Jonathan, and others who wish nothing but the best for Carlton. Granted his tenure has been somewhat enigmatic, but I continue to believe that he is a good young man at heart.

I do not believe that he has "checked out", and I second your comment, Michael, about his desire to regain confidence.

Hope he does come back next year because he needs the mentoring, and as it stands now, we could be a little thin up front again. Obviously, we hope that Udoka can fill the shoes of Landen (a mighty task in my opinion given that he has missed much of the season and been unable to practice), but other than Udoka, our only true post player is Dwight.

Carlton's and Mitch's natural position is the 4, and the recruit Preston is the same or perhaps a little more versatile, but certainly not a post player. Hopefully, we can find a transfer or something to shore that up. Otherwise, we will look to the perimeter for most of our scoring like this year, only without the leadership of a Frank Mason, Josh Jackson, and maybe even Devonte Graham.

However, I have no doubt that Coach Self and his staff will put a team on the floor next year that will fulfill the Kansas traditions of hard work, toughness, and teamwork. Let's just hope that the planning for next year can be put on hold for another two weeks and that another National Championship can be celebrated by one of the best KU teams in history. There would be no more fitting reward for the seniors and their soon to be Hall of Fame coach.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

With some of the recent coaching changes being made in Washington, Illinois, Missouri, there is a possibility of us picking up another player.

Jeremiah Tilmon had Kansas in his final 5 before committing to Illinois. Michael Porter Jr is decommitting from Washington. And I'm sure Coach Self has his eyes on a few others.

Edward Daub 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I am Not a Bragg Hater, I want him to succeed. However, I am becoming a Bragg Realist. I watched him Live at WVU and he struggled (we lost). I drove to Kansas City and watched him Live against TCU and he struggled (we lost). I promise to stay home for the Purdue game , and I can guarantee you it will be a tough match up, I hope we advance.

Bragg seems to be one dimensional, he can pick and pop with the best of them. Or is it the Coaching? Bragg never dribbles more than 1 or 2 times with his right hand. I have never seen him handle the ball with his left hand. Can he drive and create his own shot? I don't know. Can he step out to the 3 point line, and hit the J? I don't know. The coaching staff has very little confidence in his Basketball IQ.

Coleby needs to back up Landen (Vick - #6 , Dwight - #7) and allow Carlton to be #8 off the Bench for the remainder of the NCAA Tourney.

Trey Hohman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

"and Carlton Bragg was having one of those incompetent nights he has every now and then." LOL. Understatement of the century. I like the kid on a personal level, but he's waaaay too physically and mentally soft to play the 4 or the 5, at least at KU. People on this site talking about him playing "out of position at the 5" just stop it...Please. He has a nice enough shooting touch between 10-18 feet and then everything else about his game is extremely marginal - he has the slowest feet on the team by far (how would he ever guard a 4?), at 6'11 he's constantly playing below the rim, ZERO 50/50 loose balls, he looks like he's playing on a pogo stick as much as he gets bumped out into the baseline of literally every rebound. Does he have more than 15 offensive rebounds for the entire season? I honestly don't think he does. I feel bad for him because he's such a disappointment thus far, but I certainly don't feel sorry for him because he doesn't play tough enough. At some point, it's not about playing out of position and gettting some bad breaks. Josh Jackson is playing out of posistion at the 4 and I don't see anyone making a bunch of excuses for him.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Trey, what an observant eye you have plus an outstanding sense of player development.

PLEASE talk to Coach Self and get him to put you on the staff IMMEDIATELY. It's incomprehensible that no one picked up on these flaws before offering Bragg a scholarship.

Harlan Hobbs 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Trey, Josh can play practically every damn position on the court, so quit pontificating. As for Carlton, he is not and never will be a natural "5", and I can assure you that he wasn't recruited to play the "5". Unfortunately, circumstances have forced Coach Self to adjust which many on this site claim he is too stubborn to do. So, if anyone really needs to "just stop it", it is you.

Just for once, try enjoying the ride!

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Damn Harlan, I don't think I've ever heard you get mad at someone before.

Ben Berglund 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm with Trey on this. Last year, early in the season I was telling people about Bragg and his offensive efficiency. This has evaporated, but I think he can get it back. I have seen zero evidence that Carlton will develop to the point of average for a KU player for rebounding or loose balls. I'm loving the ride, I just have no delusions that Carlton will contribute much for us this season. Sure, a lot of it is confidence and I agree that he's had a few bad breaks this year, but you gottta tough it out as Jayhawk basketball player.

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