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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Tom Keegan: Will seven be enough for Kansas in the NCAA tournament?

Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa gets up for a pre-game dunk at Texas Tech, on Feb. 24, 2018.

Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa gets up for a pre-game dunk at Texas Tech, on Feb. 24, 2018.

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Just two of the 351 Division I schools in college basketball assign fewer minutes to their benches than Kansas.

Syracuse’s bench accounts for 17.2 percent of the minutes, Boston College’s 17.5 percent and Kansas 20.1 percent, according to kenpom.com.

It’s not necessarily such a bad thing.

Thus far, the lack of depth doesn’t seem to have hurt the Jayhawks, who clinched the school’s 14th consecutive Big 12 title and remain in the hunt for a No. 1 seed.

The Jayhawks are finishing the season better than they started it, so the shallow depth doesn’t seem to be wearing them down.

And then, there is the bright side of having a short bench. It means the starters spend more time together on the court and become more familiar with teammates' tendencies.

Kansas is at its best in transition. In the half court, the Jayhawks look best when the ball moves rapidly, as it did in the first half of the Texas Tech game.

So far, having a seven-man rotation featuring Mitch Lightfoot and Marcus Garrett coming off the bench probably has helped KU more than it has hurt, but that doesn’t mean an eighth man won’t be needed in a big spot in the NCAA tournament.

Talented but inexperienced Silvio De Sousa is the most likely to be pressed into duty in a big spot.

He made his debut Jan. 13 against Kansas State and has reached double figures in minutes in just 1 of 11 appearances. That came at home against defensively challenged Oklahoma. De Sousa produced 10 points and six rebounds in the 104-74 rout.

He did not play at Texas Tech and totaled three points and two rebounds, both offensive, in an 80-70 victory vs. Texas.

Overall, De Sousa has played 39 minutes and posted big numbers in many statistical categories, good and bad. He has 18 points and 15 rebounds (10 offensive), made 6 of 9 field goals and 6 of 7 free throws. He also has 10 personal fouls and seven turnovers.

Numbers only hint at a player’s impact and generally the more experience a college player attains, the better he will be at making the four players with him on the court better.

Going from playing in high school games the first semester to Big 12 second semester has its challenges.

Kansas coach Bill Self shared one example of where playing De Sousa could cause a chain reaction that wouldn’t show up in the box score.

“Do you want to switch four (on defense) like we do every day in practice?” Self said. “Whenever Silvio’s having to guard Keenan Evans or (Jevonte) Carter (on a switch), the answer would probably be no. So how do you work it with everybody else, knowing that we’re going to play different just for the small amount of time that he’s in the game? And is it worth practicing all that time just to get to the point where you may do something in the game or you may not do it?”

Self said he also reduces the number of plays and in half-court sets and out-of-bounds plays for De Sousa to learn, and said he has done well in that area.

“I don't think that he's had a fair chance having the feel to play with others like those others do through the summer, through pick-up games, through the fall,” Self said.

Lightfoot, the first option off the bench when Udoka Azubuike needs a breather or gets into foul trouble, does what he can to help De Sousa catch up for lost time.

“He did great against Oklahoma,” Lightfoot said. “It’s just a getting-comfortable thing. You have to realize he was playing high school games not too long ago and there’s a big difference between high school and high-major, Division I college basketball. He’s doing a great job. He did great in practice yesterday. He’s just working his tail off and getting better, and we’re all here supporting him.”

Most of the time, seven is enough. But it doesn't hurt to have an eighth prepared player, just in case.

Comments

Pius Waldman 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The Big 12 tournament 3 days in a row (of course you have to win) will be a challenge. Maybe I'm the only Sam the man fan but he hasn't had a chance tp show his ability. I'm hoping he get that opportunity soon.

Joe Ross 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Lack of depth ensures that you're constantly worried about fatigue and foul trouble. Not simply just fouling out, mind you; but the lack of aggressive defense especially when 3 or 4 fouls are reached. An overtime game would take an undue toll on a team with a shorter roster, putting them both at a disadvantage in a game that plays more players, and against future teams if they still manage a win (fatigue factor). Suppose a team presses you like West Virginia, or you play a taller team and have to work extra hard for 50/50 balls. Depth is an issue.

An extra reliable post player and one extra spark plug in the backcourt certainly could not hurt anything. Silvio and Cuncliffe could have been those guys. It's hard to know. Possibly Kansas loses the 14 consecutive championships yet peaks in March instead of February due to fresher bodies and developed play.

Doug Stahler 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Seriously back to Coach Self doesn't know his personnel better than people on a message board? Silvio - Of his alley-oop dunk, he said he was just thankful to finish it off, as that hasn’t been a sure thing at practices.

Joe Joseph 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Agreed. Sam, especially, as had enough time with the program to prove himself competent.

Silvio just simply has not had the time. I agree with Self's approach that wins are more valuable than trying to squeeze a few more minutes of PT out of Sil.

Joe Ross 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Coach himself has admitted to making mistakes. Who doesn't? If you were to ask him himself, he'd say he has. This is a message board where we offer opinions and perspectives. No point in lamenting that.

Joe Joseph 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I think the fatigue factor that a short bench plays is largely overrated. These guys are well conditioned and, unless injured, should be able to recover just fine with two day's recovery time. Luckily - and fingers crossed, knock on wood - this team seems to be healthier heading into the postseason than maybe in any KU team in recent history.

They've proven to be well conditioned so far, but your concerns are very valid.

In my opinion, foul trouble is the biggest depth concern for this team. So far, DG has been nothing short of incredible at staying out of foul trouble. If he picks up 2 quick fouls though?? Or a 3rd early in the second? YIKES

Marius Rowlanski 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I agree. In most years, Self usually only plays an 8 player rotation although he usually had the luxury of going deeper into the bench if necessary. There aren't many options this year. I see foul trouble in the frontcourt being more problematic then conditioning.

Steve Zimmerman 3 months, 2 weeks ago

We'll see more and more zone D throughout the tourney. It will help us a lot, especially with 4 guards. Their quickness will really help solidifying our D.

One concern I have is our defensive rebounds. Guys tend to just watch the ball fall instead of boxing out. They should try a barricade strategy: 3 guys, with Dok/Mitch in the middle, quickly forming a solid half-circle under the basket to keep defenders away. I'm pretty sure we can limit their OR #s. Just my 2cents.

Mallory Briggans 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Off topic:.......The NCAA continues to amaze me. Sean Miller gets to coach Ayton got to play ..we all know the reason they shouldn't have .......But they never couldcome to a decision on Preston......frickin amazing

Kerby Rice 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Couldn't agree more, Miles Bridges was cleared by the NCAA overnight last weekend to play Saturday. Watched Arizona last night against Standford, as things stand now Lunardi has them as the 4 in the West region. They have the 2 bigs, Ayton and Nastic, that could cause great matchup problems for us. Would be interesting to see Dok matchup with Ayton and have to score over someone who can match him physically. Also Allonzo Trier's suspension was rescinded as well after appeal. Would hate for us to drop a game to a team that in 5 years from now has to vacate all wins from 2017-2018

Robert Brock 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Was KU Compliance and Preston’s mama totally forthcoming about the source of the car loan? We’ll never know.

Marius Rowlanski 3 months, 2 weeks ago

College athletes are subjected to far stricter rules and regs that the rest of the student body. I understand the reasoning but the application isn't consistent.

Mallory Briggans 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Brock thats not the point...the point of emphasis is They were quick to make a decision on a multiple number of players and programs......how could you really do a thorough investigation.........you know why it would affect the tournament.......It's about money ........These are serious allegations that you just dismiss....You wiretap Sean Miller for Christ sake with a pay for play scheme.......Mo Bamba was quickly cleared before the season......They have no credibility what so ever.....The Preston case who knows.....we won without him.....but again its about money and having the top teams in it.

Mike Greer 3 months, 2 weeks ago

You guys are thinking what I've been thinking, the NCAA is worse than worthless.

Lance Hobson 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Out of all of the 1 seeds we’ve had under Self this team has the least chance of making it to the Final 4. I’ll cheer faithfully though and be happy if we survive the first weekend.

Ross Hartley 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm glad to read this as it is the same that was written about not being capable of reaching 14 straight. Great juju!

Harlan Hobbs 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The handling of several different NCAA cases has indeed been puzzling. UNC gets a slap on the wrist for proven academic fraud. Louisville gets the hammer (deservedly so).

Bridges is cleared overnight. Miller and Trier get reprieves (perhaps U of A figures that they have nothing to lose by using them).

Not saying that the Preston case deserved a different outcome, but the NCAA is clearly an organization in turmoil in my opinion. When you lose your credibility, you essentially have nothing left.

As for KU's chances in the post season, who knows. We've been surprised both ways over the years. However, I don't think that fatigue will be a factor. More likely, we get a particularly bad matchup or significant foul trouble. If not, KU could go a lot further than we think.

Armen Kurdian 3 months, 2 weeks ago

I hope De Souza and Cunliffe get more minutes this weekend, nothing to lose. I don't think getting beaten this weekend will hurt us, assuming Coach takes the greater risk by spreading some minutes around.

David Howell 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Agreed ............ I'd rather lose in the B12 tourney and have a little more rest, yet be more hungry for the big dance.

A timely loss can carry them further towards the final four, but it all comes down to the NCAA bracket committee. If we are a 1 we most likely get the toughest two seed ........... Wait and pray !

Mallory Briggans 3 months, 2 weeks ago

With teams in years past we had high expectations...Last year Oregon before that Villanova...Wichita State ...We were favorites to win in those years .....but lost.....Lower expectations will soften the blow when we do lose ...Self did more with less with this team ...Without a doubt his best coaching job

Marius Rowlanski 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Damn... Why is everybody so sure that we are going to lose? There isn't a clear dominating team this year. Teams have been working their way up and down in the polls all season.

Rock Chalk

Titus Canby 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Does anyone care about the Big 12 tournament? Similar to what David Howell mentioned above, I generally see it as an impediment to getting rested up for the NCAA tournament.

Mallory Briggans 3 months, 2 weeks ago

Tap the brakes Marius.......I'm saying we have the capability to win it all.....all you need are 6 straight This is not Selfs best team......so its house money because the expectations by many are that we won't......but don't tell those guys who lace them up they can't......earlier this years some questioned this teams pride and heart when we lost a couple at home .....well big 12 champs aint bad. As far as winning the big 12 tournament......losing to get rested should never be an option......

Marcia Parsons 3 months, 2 weeks ago

The importance of the tournament depends on how important it is to you to earn a #1 seed. I don't think we'll get one without winning the tournament.

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