Maybe it’s all these random pieces of grass I’ve been eating, but it seems like the past few days have been the busiest since Les Miles took over the Kansas football program.
OK, that’s not true.
I haven’t tried the Les Miles Diet and gnawed on vegetation from a nearby patch of sod.
But the part about the KU football offices remaining immersed in activity and the phones of coaches buzzing and ringing constantly is true.
With Miles simultaneously completing his coaching staff, and working with his assistants to sign as many targeted recruits as they could this week, whatever holiday breaks KU’s staffers are able to enjoy soon will be well deserved.
With that as a jumping off point, let’s hit today’s round of questions.
I’ll admit I was surprised by the amount of junior college prospects that were targeted and signed for KU’s 2019 class. To make sure everyone is up to speed, here’s the rundown of the six signees — right now there are 11 players total on board in what is expected to end up a class of 15 or so — from the junior college ranks.
• 3-star Mesa C.C. (Ariz.) QB Thomas MacVittie (6-5, 225)
• 3-star Iowa Central C.C. WR Ezra Naylor (6-4, 210)
• 3-star Golden West Coll. (Calif) CB Justin Ford (6-1, 180)
• 3-star Iowa Western C.C. DE Malcolm Lee (6-5, 270)
• 2-star Coahoma C.C. (Miss.) DL Caleb Sampson (6-4, 285)
• 2-star Iowa Central C.C. WR Andrew Parchment (6-2, 185)
The questions about relying too much on the juco ranks are fair, because, as alluded to, this 6 to 5 ratio of jucos to preps looks pretty similar to the 11 to 8 ratio from David Beaty’s 2018 signing class.
I think what makes this different is the situation.
Beaty was entering his fourth season at KU after Year 3 didn’t go as planned. He and his staff, though they didn’t say so publicly, knew another year of losing football would cost them their jobs. And ultimately they were right.
They tried to load up on players who were more likely to contribute immediately because they knew that would give the 2018 team a better chance of winning five or six games.
On the other hand, Miles and his staff kind of had to scramble to find talent. The first assistant hired, Chevis Jackson, still isn’t three weeks into his tenure here. Same goes for offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot hasn’t even been here two weeks.
And today was the first day of college football’s early signing period, when so many recruits now get their decisions out of the way.
This was a tough spot to walk into for Miles and his staff. You wouldn’t have to go too far out of your way to describe finding talent to sign as kind of an emergency, either, given the circumstances.
I don’t blame anyone for wanting to toss out a cup of Kool-Aid that on first sniff seems too similar to one that poisoned him or her before.
But, as just mentioned, I do think KU’s options were a bit limited. When other coaching staffs have the ability to meet and interact with high school prospects (and their families and coaches) over the course of a few years instead of a few weeks, that’s a distinct advantage.
Plus, I think part of the good news with this group of jucos is that talent evaluators seem to like them. QB Thomas MacVittie in particular.
Remember: he signed with Pitt out of high school. It didn’t work out there, but he didn’t mind going the juco route and proving himself. MacVittie ended up becoming one of the most highly regarded juco QBs available.
I think it’s also important to remember that these juco players will, for the most part, be coached by different KU assistants than some of their unsuccessful predecessors were through the years. Let’s not rule out this staff’s ability to maximize the potential out of some of these two- and three-year players before they’re even given a chance to coach them up.
And, yes, KU is banking on at least one or two of these guys proving to be “overlooked gems,” and help KU’s chances of being competitive in 2019 and 2020.
Maybe I will end up completely wrong on this, but I do think Miles and his coaches kind of had to do what they had to do in terms of the number of junior college players they signed.
I think when they fill out the class in February, we’ll see more incoming freshmen in the mix. And I think in 2020 and beyond you should see KU going almost exclusively with preps, the way most successful programs attack the recruiting trails.
Only time will tell. But I’d say if you’re a KU football fan, try to be patient with the 2019 class and trust that Miles has the right coaches in place to do things differently in the years ahead.
Perry Ellis is old enough to be Dedric Lawson’s father, I’m pretty sure.
But I get why you’d ask this.
Even though Lawson, unlike Ellis during his days with the Jayhawks, actually looks like a college-aged basketball player instead of a 40-year-old scoring machine, there’s plenty of old man in his game.
Lawson will be the first to tell you there’s not a lot of athleticism involved in what he does. He’s just sound and smart and has a great feel for the game. He’s fine banking in a layup over a defender instead of dunking on him so severely his opponent is doomed for social media meme fodder.
I enjoyed watching Ellis’ smooth offensive game when he was at KU, and Lawson is equally entertaining to observe. And, let’s be honest, Ellis could actually explode off the floor from time to time. So maybe Ellis actually is younger than Lawson? The Memphis native certainly doesn’t jump as high as most 21-year-old, 6-foot-9 aspiring All-Americans.
OK, you’ve stumped me. It’s impossible to say who’s older.
From Dirk Medema, via the comments section: Could the lack of comment on Coach Hull's status be tied to the status of the other coaches? If he comments on Coach Hull but doesn't comment on others then it could be creating a perception he doesn't want. Obviously we want to know, but we don't need to know for the coaches to do their jobs effectively. It is just a matter of convenience for us. While we have heard that Hull has been out recruiting, I don't recall hearing that it was in contrast to the others not recruiting. While not a good sign for the others, it is encouraging for keeping Coach Hull.
Obviously this question came through before this week’s news that Tony Hull will be back as KU’s running backs coach.
But the question from Dirk here hits a lot of important points.
To me it has been pretty clear for weeks now that Hull would be back. But I couldn’t report that because I didn’t have enough sources saying so.
And I do think a lot of the delay had to do with determining how the rest of Miles’ staff would be filled out. They didn’t want to announce, ‘Hey, Hull is back,’ and at the same time not be able to provide any sort of update on Bowen’s status.
Regarding other coaches not recruiting, that actually was the case. Hull was doing things on the recruiting front that most of David Beaty’s former assistants weren’t while things got sorted out. Again, I heard this from a reliable source. But I couldn’t get enough details from other sources to reach a point where it was something I could report. There’s some responsibilities involved in journalism that you just can’t take lightly.
From Phil Leister, via the comments section: Is Quentin going to be the latest in a long line of highly-regarded Bill Self recruits - Oubre, Alexander, Diallo to name a few - who comes in full of promise and disappoints relative to the hype? Is it something about Bill's system that lends itself to this? Bill called Q as complete of a guard as he's ever had, which we have not seen in any way, shape, or form.
This has been a strange freshman season for Quentin Grimes up to this point, so Phil’s question makes a lot of sense.
I think what separates Grimes from those former KU players referenced is that he’s not nearly as raw offensively.
True, Grimes is both making mistakes on offense and misfiring on his shots — 38.2% from the floor, 33.3% on 3-pointers and even 55.6% at the foul line.
But I think it’s too soon to write him off. His attitude appears to be perfect through his struggles. And the fact that he can defend means Self won’t give up on him.
If you watched Grimes at all while he played for Self on Team USA this past summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship, you saw some of that complete guard play Self has referenced.
I think there are so many new parts on this KU team that it has added to Grimes’ adjustment period. But I see him figuring things out in the weeks ahead. Good athlete. Plays hard. Head’s in the right place. All he needs is for some shots to fall and he could take off.
One quick things to address before we jump into another round of “Ask Us Anything” questions.
That KU-Villanova game. I’m not sure if it was because of the early tip or because I’ve been fighting off a cold, but it took a little while for that one to fully sink in.
Right there in front of us, in arguably the greatest venue in all of sports, were two of the best programs and coaches in college basketball, slugging it out, toe to toe, for 40 minutes.
Both teams had their good moments and both teams had a few bad. But man did they both compete. I found it wildly entertaining to watch Villanova coach Jay Wright and KU coach Bill Self give it their all, as well. We’re used to seeing this from Self, of course. He is one of the most energetic and demonstrative coaches on the sideline in the game.
But Wright was right there with him, and given the fact that it was Wright’s team that was playing in the hostile environment and having a tougher time, it was interesting to see how hard that guy worked during the game and how much he had to sweat to get his guys to (a) hear him, (b) execute what he wanted them to do and (c) stay on the refs.
Nothing groundbreaking there, but it was interesting to watch, up close, because things have gone so well for Villanova during the past five or so years and, at least in this one (and probably others), Wright showed that, as charmed as the Wildcats have been, he’s really had to work to make it all happen.
Same has been true, of course, for Self throughout his unprecedented success at Kansas and that record stretch of 14 consecutive Big 12 titles.
What a game. What a classic matchup. What a wonderful thing for college basketball.
And to think we get to do it all over again next year — albeit in a different venue — in Philadelphia.
All right. Let’s dive into today’s questions. As always, keep your “Ask Us Anything” questions coming here, on Twitter with the hashtag #AskKUsports or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I like this question because it goes beyond the simple whining about Garrett not being a good shooter.
And it’s an interesting thought.
To be fair, though, Garrett has tried to be more than a 3-point shooter and is fully aware that long-range shots are not his specialty. That said, the fact that he still pulls the trigger shows that Garrett, himself, is confident in his shot — at least enough to take it — and it also shows that teams defending Garrett know what they’re doing.
One of the most underrated parts of Garrett’s game, in my opinion, is his ability to get to the basket. It might not always look the prettiest — often it does — but it is effective. He’s got good handles, is quick and strong, and has a good knack for getting the ball up to the rim when he gets in close, which almost always leads to a foul and often can lead to an and-one situation.
So, yeah, Garrett should shoot more twos. And I think he tries to do that. But we’re not talking about 10-foot jumpers here. Most defenses are not going to give you that shot. And there are enough moments when Garrett has the open 3-pointer that the best move is for him to just pull it instead of dribbling in five or six feet and then pulling up. Doing that gives the defense time to react and recover and gives away the open shot in the first place.
At this point, — and I think this is where Self and the Jayhawks are at with Garrett right now, too — Garrett’s offensive production should be viewed as gravy. He’s so good defensively, so steady on both ends and so smart all over the floor, that sometimes you just have to accept the sub-par offensive game in order to allow for those other strengths to be on the floor.
And make no mistake about, in just about every other aspect outside of offense, the Jayhawks need Garrett on the floor.
It will be really interesting when Azubuike comes back to see what happens to that starting lineup. If Grimes does not get going by the start of Big 12 play, I think you could see Garrett sliding into his starting spot. Who knows? Maybe that would relax Grimes a little and get him going, too.
You’re on to something here, although I don’t think manipulate is the right word for it.
Does Self use the media to get his message across to the team from time to time? I think so. Particularly when things are going well. Let’s say the team is winning but not playing the kind of defense Self wants to see. He’ll say it because he knows it’ll get written and he knows they’ll read it.
One thing worth pointing out there, however, is that Self’s not telling us anything he doesn’t tell those guys, over and over and over, to their faces.
But sometimes getting the message across in a different way can help it sink in. That’s why you hear Self call his teams soft on occasion or why he, more recently, explained that looking at this season as one where KU is undefeated and ranked No. 1 is not exactly the best way to do it and doesn’t tell the full story of this team.
Self is a master motivator and he knows what buttons to push and when to push them. What’s more, he knows that pushing this button with one player does not work as well as pushing that same button with another player. And he adjusts.
Speaking to the team through the media is something a lot of coaches do, but Self is among the best at doing it and knows exactly how to get across the messages he wants his players to hear. As I mentioned above, that doesn’t replace telling them in person but it does support it and add another dose to the lesson.
First off, what KU has done so far is nothing short of fantastic. They have a bunch of really good wins, they’ve played a tough schedule and they’ve found a way to come out on top even while not playing their best basketball for long stretches of time.
That can only help them when things get tough down the road or it’s do-or-die time in March.
But your question is an interesting one and one I had not yet considered.
It’s tough for Self to win coach of the year honors because of the insane expectations he has established for himself and the program. Oh, you won another Big 12 title despite losing five starters? Big deal. You’re Kansas. That’s what people expect.
I think that’s the kind of thinking a lot of people have when it comes to tabbing Self as a coach of the year candidate and that’s why you don’t hear about him in the mix all that often despite piling 30-win seasons on top of each other. There’s always some coach out there who elevated a program that people did not expect to be so good that will get a lot more attention. Fair or not, that’s just the way it is.
Self has earned his share of respect in the Big 12 coach of the year voting, but even there, overachieving coaches often walk away with the hardware.
So what does that mean for this year? Well, probably more of the same. As I mentioned, this start is insane and I thought KU would be in good shape if it got through nonconference play with two losses. But to think they’re three wins away from entering Big 12 play unbeaten is incredible. At this point, barring something catastrophic occurring, it looks like they’ll go into Big 12 play with a record of at least 11-1. And that sets Self and company up to have a pretty impressive record when the postseason rolls around.
Plenty of time to get to that, though.
The other part of your question is more relevant right now and that’s because Dedric Lawson has been so good, even while not necessarily looking that way. His numbers are insane — at or near the top of the Big 12 in so many categories, including points and rebounds — and, to me, he looks like he’s getting more comfortable with his role by the day.
If so, that’s only going to lead to more big games down the road and you could be looking at a guy who is capable of putting up some ridiculous games. We’re talking a 30 and 20 gee or two is not out of the realm of possibilities.
Unheralded coming into the season is probably a good way to describe it, but that’s on the national level. This coaching staff knew what it had and they’re dancing in their offices about the potential of this player and this team when things finally all come together and run a little smoother.
I love this question because it shows you the excitement and optimism of the KU football fan right now.
But at the risk of throwing a wet blanket on that, I’m going to go with KU volleyball.
Les Miles is a big name coach who has brought in a few solid assistants and appears to be headed in the right direction with adding some pieces in recruiting that can help immediately. But the football hole is still large and crawling out of it won’t be easy.
With volleyball, the climb is much less steep and will likely come down to staying healthy. Remember, this was a team this season that, even without All-Americans Ainise Havili and Kelsie Payne, was able to beat mighty Texas in a thrilling match at home. So the have the pieces required to remain a Top 25 program. What they need to do now is stay healthy.
They played most of the second half of the season without their top setter and also had to overcome the loss of Patricia Montero, who was finally healthy and poised to have a monster year.
Battling through one of those things is not easy, but having to endure both was simply too much and was the reason KU fell a notch this year. But the talent is in place and the hunger should be back and bigger than ever. So I’ll take KU volleyball as the team that returns to the rankings sooner than Kansas football.
There’s going to be some kind of record established here for most-asked-about topic because ever time we ask for “Ask Us Anything” questions, at least 8-10 people immediately jump in looking for an update on De Sousa.
The NCAA’s not saying anything, KU’s not saying anything and, to my knowledge, nobody knows when either side will say anything any time soon.
Self has talked about being optimistic that they’ll hear something before winter break, but finals are over and Christmas is just eight days away. I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
To get right down to your question, though, it’s important to note that the NCAA has not said it is “stopping” sanctions, merely that it won’t levy any kind of punishments until the season is over.
Coaches like Gonzaga’s Mark Few have been outspoken in their disgust of that stance, but I’m not sure that will change anything and the NCAA certainly is not going to let anybody force it into doing anything — or acting any sooner — that is different from its own timeline.
So I guess the news could be viewed as a good thing for KU in that they won’t have to worry about any ruling or punishment — if any is coming — impacting this season.
But I’m not sure that has any impact on De Sousa. I still think there’s a chance he could play, but that feeling dwindles by the day. And if he does play, it’s now looking like mid-January will be about as early as it could happen.
I’ve said and written this before and still think it could happen this way. I don’t know that the NCAA’s delay here means that the process will be delayed. Remember, if they’re looking into things, it has already started. It’s not like they’ll be starting after Christmas. So it’s possible that they could reach a conclusion in early January and then come back and say, ‘You know what, the time he has served is good enough with us, he’s eligible moving forward,’ and that would be that.
They also could not saying anything all year and De Sousa could sit for the entire season.
All of that is really just a long-winded way of saying that nothing is new, all possibilities remain in play and we will update you as soon as we hear anything at all about De Sousa’s future.
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The past several days have turned out to be quite busy for new KU football coach Les Miles on a couple of fronts.
Miles is adding to his staff on what seems like a daily basis, with defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, receivers coach Emmett Jones, defensive line coach Kwahn Drake, offensive line coach Luke Meadows, and defensive backs coach Chevis Jackson in place.
What’s more, the Jayhawks are starting to see early results on the recruiting front since Miles took over.
It didn’t happen overnight. The groundwork was set from the day Miles took over. But now we see visible evidence of how it has paid off in terms of KU’s 2019 recruiting class.
With that, let’s dive into today’s questions.
So, as Ted points out here, one way that Miles and his staffers have attacked the recruiting trails early is by identifying preferred walk-on (PWO) players around the Sunflower State and Kansas City metro area.
That’s a sign that they’re doing a good job with their overall strategy and not solely focusing on finding scholarship players. You need walk-ons to help the program at practices and if you identify the right ones, you might even get a quality game day player out of going that route. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re investing more time than usual on finding quality walk-ons now, given the 2019 signing class is expected to be small, at about 15 players or so.
But it’s not as if Miles or any of the people working for him are ignoring the need for impactful recruits. This week has proven to be a big one, with KU landing commitments from St. Thomas Aquinas defensive back Jayden Russell, 6-foot-5, 250-pound Andale athlete Mason Fairchild and Thomas MacVittie, who is a junior college quarterback whose college career began at Pittsburgh.
KU is also looking at a number of other prospects as next week’s early signing period approaches, including:
• Donte Starks, a four-star linebacker according to Rivals, from New Orleans who is verbally committed to LSU
• Valerian Agbaw, a three-star athlete from Powder Springs, Ga.
• Dontario Drummond, a three-star receiver at East Mississippi Community College
• Malcolm Lee, a three-star defensive end at Iowa Western C.C.
• Jerrod Means, a three-star receiver from Lovejoy, Ga.
• Ezra Naylor, a 6-4 receiver at Iowa Central C.C.
• Eugene Minter, a 6-4 receiver at Dodge City C.C. currently committed to Arkansas State
• Da’Jon Terry, a 6-3 defensive tackle from Meridian, Miss.
This is a great way to describe the KU basketball season up to this point.
Maybe it’s not as noticeable because he has such a laid back, good-natured personality, but I think Dedric Lawson might be the dog you’re looking for.
He’s easily this team’s best overall player and to me what has stood out about Lawson is his ability to come through late in close games — even if he hasn’t played up to his standards earlier in that same game.
Lawson delivered in overtime when Kansas beat Tennessee in New York. He completely took over in crunch time against New Mexico State, and KU would have lost if he hadn’t.
Those are just a couple of moments but I think Lawson is still getting comfortable with his role in his first season of playing at Kansas and being The Guy. I bet we’ll see plenty more dog in him in the months ahead.
Chris: Is there a 2nd legit 3 point shooter on the #KUbball roster?
I mean … Not really. Right?
Players and coaches will tell you Charlie Moore and Quentin Grimes can fill that role. But neither has proven that with any consistency yet.
Moore has been pretty dismal from 3-point range so far — 3-for-22. Maybe this is just a slump and he ends up being a reliable threat from outside.
But to me Grimes is the guy who should become KU’s second 3-point threat, behind Lagerald Vick (29-for-52). Even though we don’t think about the freshman guard as that type of marksman from behind the arc right now, he’s still not been that bad on 3-pointers (11-for-29).
Now, as you may recall, Grimes did go 6-for-10 in KU’s season-opening win over Michigan State, so he is just 5-for-19 in the seven games since. That can change and I think it will. Grimes is too talented for the rest of the season to play out without him taking off. He looks so smooth shooting from deep that an uptick in production seems inevitable to me.
If you haven’t been following KU athletic director Jeff Long on Twitter, you may not know that Horejsi Family Athletics Center, home of KU volleyball, recently was demolished.
And that’s because the Horejsi family paid $10 million to build a bigger, better venue for coach Ray Bechard’s program.
The new arena should seat roughly 1,000 more fans than did the recently leveled one, which had a 1,300-seat capacity.
Construction of Horejsi Family Volleyball Arena is expected to be completed before the Jayhawks begin their 2019 season.
I’m not sure exactly why there hasn’t been an announcement yet regarding Tony Hull, the running backs coach and associate head coach for former KU football coach David Beaty.
When Miles took over he stated his plans to interview all of Beaty’s staff members and gauge whether he would like to retain certain coaches and personnel.
Those meetings have come and gone. And Hull, unlike other members of Beaty’s staff, has been actively recruiting since Miles took over. Hull made an in-home visit with Russell before the three-star defensive back committed to KU.
I’d be shocked if Hull isn’t a member of Miles’ first staff. Perhaps at this stage they’re still shaking out specific roles for everyone. Will Hull still be the running backs coach? Maybe. Perhaps he’ll be the recruiting coordinator. Or both.
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What’s up with Lagerald Vick, how long will Dotson stick around, the Chiefs in the Super Bowl and more…
It’s been an interesting few games for the Kansas men’s basketball team that included three games where the Jayhawks were pushed hard by programs that many fans might not have expected to see that from.
Is this a sign of things to come, early growing pains or is it just a momentary blip during a long season?
We’ll probably better be able to answer that question in a couple of weeks, but, right now, the bottom line is that the Jayhawks are finding ways to win.
What’s more, they’re doing it without feeling overly thrilled about it. KU coach Bill Self talked for several minutes after Saturday’s win over New Mexico State about areas in which KU could improve and the players themselves, though happy to be winning, seem to realize clearly that they can — and, in the eyes of the coaches, should — be playing so much better in so many areas.
That’s a good thing and ranks high on the list of why this season is still full of so much potential for this young, new-look Kansas basketball team.
With that in mind, let’s get to today’s “Ask Us Anything,” which features a couple of high-quality KU hoops questions and a couple of other fun things, as well.
As always, keep the questions coming either in the comments below, by hitting us on Twitter at @KUsports and with the hashtag #AskKUsports or via email at email@example.com
Let’s get to it!
This is such an important question for this team because Vick had been so good for the first five or six games of the season.
What happened? Great question. And, in many ways, the Jayhawks may have been playing with fire a little bit. No. 1, there’s no way Vick was going to keep shooting 60-plus percent from 3-point range. No. 2, based on what we’ve seen throughout his career, it was hard to imagine him staying so positive and full of joy for the long haul. That’s not a knock on Vick, just the reality from a player who had rarely shown that side of himself through his first three seasons at Kansas.
The belief held by some was that Vick was a different player and person now and that being a senior had unlocked something in him that was a heck of a lot of fun to watch. Maybe it had. But it’s hard to see a guy changing who he is entirely in such a short time.
Vick’s still an incredibly important part of this team and will still have some big games and important days ahead. Kansas will need him to if the Jayhawks want to win at highest level and Vick will need to deliver if he hopes to build his resume for a pro career.
Before Vick’s mini-slump here, I saw some odds for national player of the year and his name was nowhere to be found. It made sense on one hand because nobody was talking about him in that light before the season began, but was also curious on the other hand because he plays at Kansas and was as hot as any player in the country.
Evidently, the oddsmakers knew something the rest of us didn’t, because Vick has cooled off, fallen into a funk and now may be fighting to get out of it.
When Vick first came back, I thought he would be on a bit of a zero-tolerance policy, with KU coach Bill Self not willing to put up with any issues of any kind. But I think that changed given the fact that Vick was so good for so long and had a great attitude, put the team first, was a good leader and, of course, started the season off in terrific fashion.
So my guess there is that all of those moments when Self talked about Vick being “a 10” built up some good will and have the KU coach more willing to work with Vick through these rough patches.
They can’t last, of course. And Vick needs to get it straightened out, both for his sake and for the sake of this team. Kansas is so much tougher to beat when he’s playing with the confidence he showed earlier this season. But the slump, should he be able to pull himself out of it, might wind up being good for KU in the long run because it serves as a reminder to the rest that they can’t just sit around and wait for Vick to take over.
It’s going to be interesting to watch what happens from here, but a big game like Villanova in a friendly environment like Allen Fieldhouse just might be what Vick needs to break out of the funk. Of course, there are a few days of practice and such before game day arrives, so it could be a trying week.
I love this question and, if you’ve been following me on Twitter or in our KU Sports Ratings after games, you know how much I love the player, too.
Dotson has been sensational for the Jayhawks in the early going and only appears to be getting better. He’s so strong with the ball, so tough when he attacks the rim, so fearless in both areas and plays with real passion and a smile. How can you not like those things?
With that said, he’s still not the jump shooter he needs to be and that could be what keeps him around Kansas longer than the rest of his talent says he might.
Coming into the season, I thought he was a 2- or 3-year player, with the outside chance of leaving after one if he tore it up this season and led KU on a monster NCAA Tournament run. We’ll see if any of that still happens and this start certainly makes it a question worth asking.
But he’s a smart kid, with a good support system and will take full advantage of everything KU has to offer while not rushing into anything at the next level. The goal is not simply to make the NBA but to stick once you get there.
And I think two seasons at KU will give Dotson the best chance of doing that. Ask me this again in February or March though and the answer could be much different.
The guy’s talent is off the charts and he’s got an incredibly high ceiling, in college and beyond.
We’ll skip the Udoka question for now given his injury and focus just on the weave.
Like everything Self does, it has a million options and is a strategic plan to incorporate base principles of offense into what the Jayhawks do on just about every possesion.
Those base principles include three key things:
A - Motion. Teams are so much easier to defend when they’re standing still and the weave forces motion from side to side and gets the defense moving, as well, which can put them in a vulnerable position when trying to switch, help, recover and keep up.
B – Spacing. Spreading the defense out like that opens up driving and attacking angles for KU’s perimeter players, who can turn the corner and attack out of the weave at almost any point and generally have the freedom to do so.
C – Options. If you watch the weave closely, you’ll see that even with all of that action up top and the goal being to turn the corner and attack, the Jayhawks do not give up any of their options. Even during the weave, shooters fan to the corners and spread the floor while becoming options to score. A post player generally stays on the block, where he can catch a lob or slip pass for an easy bucket off the drive. And, most often, someone from the weave — usually off of the third pass — is able to turn the corner and get to the rim.
It obviously looks like a pretty basic set but is kind of college basketball’s version of the old college football option run to perfection by teams like Nebraska. Everyone knew what was coming, but stopping it was such a tougher challenge because of (a) all of the wrinkles Nebraska could run based off of reads and (b) the Cornhuskers’ superior execution.
Nice! A little fun before we dive back into the more relevant stuff.
The instant answer for Part 1 here was “ELF” but I know that’s not a classic. Still, I freakin’ love that movie and laugh my face off from start to finish.
As for the classics, I love It’s A Wonderful Life and the Grinch Who Stole Christmas (cartoon version). But I’ll watch any of them, including Home Alone, Christmas Vacation, Rudolph and any version of A Christmas Story.
It’s such a great time of year. Happy Holidays to you and all of our loyal and entertaining KUsports.com readers. We appreciate you guys more than you could ever know and enjoy the day-to-day interactions we have with all of you.
Yes, all of you.
As for the Lawson part of the question, if his numbers keep coming like they have, he’ll definitely be in the conversation, particularly if KU keeps winning.
These awards are so numbers-driven that I don’t think Lawson will be penalized for the way he gets his stats. Right now he’s on pace for roughly 25 double-doubles this season. If he delivers that, his averages will be insane and he’ll be right there when the voting goes down.
There’s still a long way to go but he can still get so much better, too.
As for the Chiefs... Anyone who knows me or even has just been paying a little attention knows that I’m a Denver fan so this has been a hard season for me. Ha!
Mahomes and company are incredible to watch and that Rams-Chiefs game (not to mention yesterday’s wild win over Baltimore) was so enjoyable.
In the interest of full disclosure, four or five weeks ago I told a good buddy of mine, who’s an enormous Chiefs fan, that Baltimore would be the team that ends KC’s season. Yesterday made that prediction look pretty good but the Chiefs still got it done. For now.
I’m a big believer in the fact that defense wins Super Bowls and the fact that KC’s defense has been so shaky all season is what keeps me from having nightmares about a Kansas City Super Bowl win. It’s sort of like that Peyton Manning Broncos team that set all of those records in the regular season and then got rocked by Seattle in the Super Bowl.
But can the Chiefs get there? You bet. The AFC will be no easy ride, though, with Pittsburgh, Baltimore and, of course, New England all more than capable of winning any game anywhere. And don’t sleep on the Chargers either. Scary team flying very much under the radar.
The AFC and NFC are both wide open in my opinion and it’s going to be a fun postseason. Enjoy the ride, no matter what happens!
I haven’t caught up with Stanley’s family in a while but I plan to soon. The whole season starting and KU playing close games every week kind of got in the way of some of our recruiting coverage.
Happens every year.
With that said, I know Stanley very much enjoyed his visit to KU and I know both he and his father are big Bill Self fans. It’s easy for them to see how much Stanley could improve in Self’s hands at a program like Kansas.
Many say getting him off the West Coast will be tough, but I don’t know if that’s the biggest factor here. I think it’s all about opportunity and playing time. If Stanley believes he can come here and make an immediate impact, I think KU has a great shot at landing him.
And with Lagerald Vick on his way out, it’s easy to see how the young man could slide right in, regardless of what Dotson or Quentin Grimes end up doing after this season. Beyond that, who wouldn’t want to come play with Dotson if the KU freshman does return for a second season?
I think KU’s chances of landing Stanley are strong and I think he continues to be a player they prioritize more and more as his recruitment goes on. At this point, he’d be a huge get and easily would be one of the prized pieces of the 2019 class.
Submit your questions for Ask Us Anything!
It is December, and people still care so much about Kansas football.
This latest edition of “Ask us Anything” illustrates how huge KU landing Les Miles really was. A majority of these questions are football-related, and I can’t recall the last time there was this much attention on the football program at this point in the offseason.
It is worth noting, of course, that all these questions came before freshman running back Pooka Williams was arrested on the suspicion of domestic battery and was ultimately suspended from the team. Continue to check our website as more details become available.
Yet the interest and optimism regarding the football program, which has won just 18 games this decade, has been especially apparent to me this week and I mentioned that on the most recent podcast. Part of that comes with the new coaching staff, though, this one just feels different to me.
With that being said, let’s dive into the football-heavy version of today’s questions. And remember, you can hit us up anytime on Twitter by using the hashtag, #AskKUsports.
This will start to become more clear when we get closer to April, but I like this question.
Both players had the option to go pro last year, as Daniel Wise was considered a mid-round pick and Joe Dineen was rated as a seventh-round selection or undrafted rookie. Both defensive players, of course, chose to come back to improve their respective draft stock.
Dineen leads the nation in solo tackles with 109, while the player in second has just 87 stops. According to WalterFootball.com, Dineen is rated as the 20th-best inside linebacker in the 2019 class and is likely anywhere from the sixth-round pick to undrafted.
Based on his numbers, I’m sure fans are wondering how Dineen couldn’t go higher. Again, that could happen following workouts in the offseason. Dineen is tremendous at filling the gaps, and stopping the run. However, NFL linebackers need to be able to cover tight ends/linebackers in the passing game from sideline to sideline.
An NFL team can develop Dineen in that area, and I’m sure a team will select him with that mindset. But that is why Dineen will likely still be a Day 3 selection, despite his impressive numbers at KU.
Wise, meanwhile, is the 16th-best defensive tackle and projected as a third or fourth rounder via Walter Football. Wise will need to improve his run defense for the next level, but he’s displayed a number of promising traits that will help land with an NFL team.
Could you see Miles going away from his old school offensive strategy and using more of a traditional Big 12 air raid offense? — From Sam Bruning via email
This has been talked about at length already via podcasts and articles on our site. In fact, Benton Smith wrote about how Les Miles thought about modernizing his offensive scheme during his time off.
I believe the hiring of Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey backs up Miles’ claim that he wants to adapt on the offensive end. Lindsey gave fans a sneak peak of his offensive philosophy during a one-on-one interview with KU director of broadcasting and play-by-play voice of the Jayhawks Brian Hanni.
“We want to create an exciting brand of football,” Lindsey said, “exciting brand of offense, try to create explosive plays and make us an offense that’s fun and exciting to watch — one that recruits want to come play for — and really put our identity in this league and on this university.”
Lindsey, who is known to run an offense with air raid concepts, is clearly here to help Miles go away from his old-school strategy.
During his two years at Southern Miss, Lindsey ran the ball less than 49 percent of the time in each season. Arizona State ran the ball 52.7 percent of the time in 2016 when Lindsey was the offensive coordinator. With Auburn, Lindsey ran the ball 62.8 percent of the time in 2017 and 56.1 percent of the time in 2018.
To put that in comparison, Miles ran the ball over 60 percent of the time in five of his last six years at LSU. It is clear that Lindsey was brought in to bring more balance to an offensive system that became all-too predictable during Miles’ final years at LSU.
This question came before Grimes’ most recent outing, which was actually quite good. In the win over Wofford, Grimes played 32 minutes and notched 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Yet it is no secret that highly-touted players have struggled out of the gate in their rookie campaigns. Kelly Oubre didn’t score in double figures until his 10th game during the 2014-15 season. After sitting out for the early part of the season, Cheick Diallo had just two double-digit scoring efforts in 27 games with the Jayhawks.
KU has had other notable early slumps by freshman standouts, and that should be expected on some level. After all, these players are making a tough transition and having to figure out their role on a contending team.
But Grimes displayed his talent on the national stage in his debut during the win over Michigan State, and was a non-factor over the next five games. Self even pulled him in the second half of a pair of games, because KU was better without the lottery-level talent.
I do think the four-guard lineup, which Kansas will defer to without Udoka Azubuike, is better suited for someone like Grimes. With the space, Grimes can be more aggressive and attack the rim off high-ball screens. It is also possible that Grimes was more passive due to how hot senior Lagerald Vick was for that five-game stretch.
In the end, I think better days are ahead for Grimes. And he will be an important part of the team’s tournament run.
As of now, KU has not revealed any plans to add more parking.
I personally haven’t had to worry about parking, so I’m not sure how bad it really is. The perks of covering these games is that I get to park in the garage, which seems fairly open when I arrive. Prior to this year, I lived nearby and just walked to KU games.
Quick aside: Seeing people sell parking spots at nearby houses is one of my favorite things about driving to the stadium. I like to compare prices, but most of the time it seems like prices are very similar. Why would someone pay the same price to park off ninth street, as they would to park one block from the stadium? I’d be selling a spot for less if I lived farther away from the stadium, but that's just my opinion.
That being said, if KU parking is as bad as you say it is, it is certainly something the program should address. If not, based on the recent buzz, I’d suspect parking will be even tougher during Miles’ first year at the helm.
This doesn’t seem likely, seeing as she just tweeted about a new job last week.
When Les Miles was introduced as the new head coach, I had the opportunity to talk to Smacker Miles after the press conference. She told me then that she was passionate about sharing stories of student-athletes, which appears to be her role with this new gig.
Smacker Miles certainly knows a lot about football, which was evident in our conversation and on her podcast with her dad. But she seems to prefer being involved in a media-related role rather than working directly with a football program.
Also of note, Smacker Miles recently tweeted out a photo of a Raising Cane’s Christmas ornament. As an avid fan of Raising Cane’s, the only question I have is if Smacker Miles goes no slaw and extra sauce.
Already more than two weeks removed from the day Les Miles was introduced as the Kansas football program’s new head coach, there seems to be no stopping the buzz surrounding the program.
This past weekend Miles invigorated the Allen Fieldhouse crowd at halftime of the basketball game versus Stanford by simply strolling onto the court, saying a few words, eating some grass and giving away some Yeezys.
The KU fan base seems to love its new football coach and the hope his presence provides for a program that has fallen flat since a previous administration forced Mark Mangino out.
And the offseason fervor figures to continue in the days and weeks ahead, as Miles continues to fill out his staff and he and his coaches carry out a critical step in the rebuilding process: recruiting.
With that, let’s get to today’s questions. And remember, you can hit us up anytime on Twitter by using the hashtag, #AskKUsports.
While I haven’t yet got the chance to speak with Lindsey directly — plans from KU staff to make Miles’ hires available for interviews remain in the works — the more I read about him and listen to what he has to say the more I’m intrigued about what his addition will mean for the program.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if Lindsey ends up being KU’s quarterbacks coach, as well. And QB has been a position of need for the program since Todd Reesing graduated.
It’s not realistic to think Lindsey will be able to make a quality Big 12-level QB appear out of thin air in time for the 2019 season. But the man already has extended an offer to a Class of 2020 four-star prep by the name of Robby Ashford.
That doesn’t mean Ashford will actually end up at KU and become the offense’s savior. It does give you a sense though that Lindsey will be aggressive in finding an effective QB to fit into his system.
Lindsey plans on building the offense around KU’s play-makers, and while it may take time to identify which Jayhawks can fit that bill other than Pooka Williams and Khalil Herbert — I happen to think Daylon Charlot will, too — I think fans should be excited about the hire.
Because this one was asked during basketball season and most KU football outcomes have been foregone conclusions for years now, I’m going to assume this health-related inquiry is about KU basketball’s recent run of close games.
It really did look at various points that KU was going to lose to Marquette, Tennessee and Stanford.
I honestly was impressed that the Jayhawks didn’t drop any of those, because this is a team that’s still finding its way.
There’s no calming influence or unflappable veteran on this roster such as Frank Mason III or Devonte’ Graham to carry the Jayhawks to a victory when the odds are against them. And yet this team still is unbeaten.
The deeper we get into the season, the more it looks as though Dedric Lawson and Devon Dotson will be the players who lead game-changing runs when Lagerald Vick isn’t dominating offensively.
So that should be encouraging for the KU die-hards out there who don’t handle losing or tight games well. This team has room to grow and it’s already in a pretty good spot. Plus, the offense might not look as out of sorts in coming weeks, as Udoka Azubuike’s ankle injury forces Bill Self to go back to the four-guard lineup that has worked so well the past couple of years.
From Matt Roesner via email: Coach Miles will have ~15 available slots for recruits this coming year. In looking at the KU football team in 2019, what are your thoughts on key positions of needs, and how the graduating class (and any other losses of eligibility) are going to influence Coach Miles and KU?
As I detailed in a recent story, the football team is losing half of its 2018 starters.
There’s no way to replace Daniel Wise and Joe Dineen on defense. But defensive linemen and linebackers will be positions of need in this recruiting class.
Lindsey needs to find a QB for the Class of 2019, too. Whether that’s a high school senior who can be a longterm solution or a transfer who can step in more ready to compete — or both — don’t be surprised to see Kansas bring in a player to compete with Carter Stanley and Miles Kendrick.
It will be tricky, because there are positions where KU needs help immediately and a lot of times, particularly with true freshmen, first-year players are not ready for those types of roles. Developing returning players who haven’t been heavy contributors previously will be critical.
Hull is no pushover. He’s a big, tough dude. But the running backs like playing for him and respect him. There’s value in that.
But, as I’m sure everyone knows by now, Hull’s been a prized member of KU’s staff because of his recruiting prowess back in and around his home city of New Orleans.
If Hull wasn’t at KU, there’s no way Pooka Williams, Mike Lee or Corione Harris ever would have signed with the program. And those three players will be pivotal in 2019.
Having the foresight to bring Hull aboard was one of the better moves David Beaty made in his four years on the job.
It seems Miles will keep Hull around, too, so that’s good news for the program in this early stage of a massive rebuild.
From Steven McKillip via email: Is there any information on the "blueshirts" that count towards the 2019 recruiting class? Since they are taken up spots in the 2019 class, will they ever play for Kansas?
While it’s difficult to distinguish in many cases which players from the past few recruiting classes were straight-up scholarship athletes and which ones with which Beaty and his staff decided to take the blueshirt route, I don’t think KU fans should be overly worried about how useful those blueshirt players will be for the new coaching regime.
I wouldn’t be surprised, in fact, if many scholarship and blueshirt players benefit from having new coaches around. A new assistant may see something in a player that a previous position coach didn’t or may be better suited for developing certain strengths within a player.
Plus, a lot of these guys who didn’t contribute much in 2018 will be a year older, with more coaching and lifting and preparation behind them, so, theoretically, they should be more capable of playing a role in 2019.
Now, this line of thinking might not hold up if a number of blueshirt and scholarship players end up transferring for some reason between now and next season. Then you have an even bigger problem just in terms of available bodies. But I don’t think there’s any indication at this point that Miles and his staff plan on running people off or that players wouldn’t want to stick around and play for the new coaching staff.
Sleeping on Vick, KU football commitments and is it time for Marcus Garrett to join the starting lineup?
Just when I thought this whole Les Miles to Kansas hysteria had calmed down a little and we could move on to talking more about the basketball season that’s under way or what’s next for the football program as a whole, The Mad Hatter himself came flying out of the Allen Fieldhouse student section and onto the floor for a halftime introduction during last Saturday’s victory over Stanford.
OK, fine. Let the hysteria continue.
Miles is clearly going all-in on his time at Kansas and his confidence, in himself and the team, is boiling over nearly every time we hear from him.
That’s a good thing for the program and the university and can only help bring some momentum back to Kansas football.
Wild to think that just a handful of days after Kansas hires a man of Miles’ caliber, Kansas State officially said goodbye to legendary head coach Bill Snyder.
That news, if you haven’t heard yet, became official on Sunday and it could have a huge impact on Kansas football.
For starters, the Jayhawks have always been better off — from the 1980s to present day — when Snyder has been somewhere else during the Sunflower Showdown.
Beyond that, though, Snyder’s retirement and the changing of the guard in Manhattan opens the door for Miles and Kansas to make up some ground when it comes to in-state recruiting.
That, as much as anywhere, is where you win these annual KU-K-State battles and Miles already has made it clear that he understands the importance of winning the state, both on game day and in the recruiting wars.
I have little doubt that K-State will hire a terrific replacement for Snyder, but the next couple of weeks and the transition as a whole gives KU a real opportunity to make up some ground on their rival to the west.
All right, let’s get right to this week’s batch of questions.
Be sure to keep the questions coming in the comments below, in response to our Twitter requests, on Twitter via the hashtag #AskKUsports or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I like the question and I see why you’re asking, but I’m definitely not sleeping on Vick.
The dude’s crazy talented, more confident than ever and is the only one on this roster who can legitimately carry himself with that, “I’ve seen it all, man” mentality. That’s so valuable to a team.
The reason I had Garrett pencilled in over Vick as a starter all offseason was twofold. First, it was based on a few conversations I had with a few people after Vick was welcomed back. I wasn’t sure if he would be given the opportunity to start so I played the odds. Clearly, his attitude, effort and performance trumped that and he’s been a starter since Day 1.
Second, it’s not as if I was putting a walk-on out there in his spot. Garrett’s a stud and does so many things that Bill Self absolutely loves. Again, I played the odds there, as well.
If you listened to our most recent KU Sports Hour podcast, you heard that I picked Vick as my choice for team MVP through the first half of nonconference play.
(If you haven’t listened yet, go check it out to see who Benton and Shane picked)
I realize that’s not a huge surprise nor is it something different than what thousands and thousands of KU fans would have picked, but it is an indication that I’m not sleeping on the guy.
He’s been sensational and KU is still unbeaten largely because of him. He’s also been a blast to watch and much more fun to cover, as well. KU coach Bill Self has said it, but Vick looks like he’s having fun out there and is playing with a ton of joy.
As for the Dotson part of your question, that has nothing to do with Vick and everything to do with my thoughts on Devon Dotson. The kid is off to a sensational start and has flashed some serious game while being asked to carry a pretty large load.
Oh, and he’s only going to get better.
Vick’s a star and he’s been spectacular so far. But Dotson has been the most consistently impressive player on both ends in my opinion, simply because he’s doing all of this as an 18-year-old freshman and delivering.
The chemistry between Vick and Dotson is pretty cool to watch right now and neither player would be quite as good without the other.
From Ron Rutkowski via email
Marcus Garrett….He has a ton of talent, but cannot shoot. Awesome on Defense, but a bit of liability on Offense. He can slash, cut, dunk, but weak on the outside shot and always seems to be short. Has anyone ever had him tested for “Depth Of Perception”---easily fixable— glasses and/or vitamins.
This is so interesting to me, Ron, but I have not heard one thing about Garrett’s vision as being a part of his problem.
I talked for over an hour with his uncle — and AAU coach — about Garrett’s shot heading into the offseason and his eyes never came up. It was all about form, technique and repetition.
I hear what you’re saying, though, and, at least somewhat, can speak from experience. I wear glasses to correct nearsightedness — mostly for driving and at night but pretty much wear them all the time since the prescription is so mild — and I’ve always wondered if I wore them when I played ball if it would help my game.
I still play 2-3 times a week with a group of dudes ranging in age from 24 to 50 and we all have pretty good basketball backgrounds and get after it. But I never wear glasses or goggles or contacts when I play.
It hasn’t really hurt my shot — I’m much more of a passer, defender and screener to begin with — but I do notice a difference when I take my glasses off when I get into the gym.
I’ll poke around on Garrett’s situation and try to find out if there’s anything there. But I would doubt it. For one, I think his shooting woes are just a comfort thing and getting that fixed is a work in progress. For two, I’m not sure that I’ve noticed him being short on his shots like you have. So I’ll keep an eye on that, too.
Interesting question, though.
Speaking of Garrett, let’s jump in on him a little more here. I actually was going to write a blog about this today anyway, so we might as well just handle it here.
I definitely think a case could be made for him sliding into the starting lineup, but here’s why it might — MIGHT — not happen.
If Self goes to Garrett and is relying on Grimes off the bench, it could put the team in an even tougher spot. Right now, Grimes starts and hits the floor with the confidence that comes from that and then shows that he either has it or doesn’t. Most days so far, it’s been the latter, but at least Self has had somewhere to turn, with both Garrett and Charlie Moore sitting on the bench.
If Self benches Grimes and goes with Garrett, he could find himself in a tough spot if Garrett were to get into foul trouble or have an off night himself. Then, he’d be asking a player like Grimes, confidence potentially shaken by the benching, to go out there and play through it after the benching. That probably wouldn’t do much in the way of helping him snap out of his funk.
I think a strong case can be made for either decision — to continue starting Grimes or benching him — but based on the way Self continues to pump his confidence that Grimes will be fine, my guess is he’s going to ride it out for a little while longer before making any major changes.
After all, giving Grimes a chance to show he’s engaged and then going with someone else if he isn’t hasn’t hurt Kansas yet.
I’m mildly surprised that no one has — in fact, I would’ve put money on Jayden Russell committing on Sunday after a visit this weekend and taking in that KU basketball game — but I don’t think it’s panic time yet.
Miles is a big name and a nice draw for Kansas, but it’s not as if these kids he’s contacting are going to jump all in at the first phone call. They still have others recruiting them and need to take a real look at Kansas before signing up to play for the Jayhawks simply because the new head coach won a national championship a dozen years ago.
I think what’s been most impressive about Miles’ efforts so far is the fact that he’s hitting the state hard like he said he would. I’ve seen all kinds of kids from the state of Kansas post to Twitter that they’ve been offered Preferred Walk-On spots by Kansas (PWOs) and that, as much as any commitment, is a sign that Miles is really trying to build this thing through an emphasis on the Sunflower State.
Many KU coaches have talked about it, but few have done it. If Miles can get that done, the commits will come and the wins and better days just might follow.
This is such a fascinating question to me because I keep thinking back to last year and what I might have said at the midway point of the season if someone had asked me about De Sousa’s potential impact later in the season.
After those first few games, where he couldn’t play more than a minute or two and looked so out of sorts out there on the floor, it would’ve been hard to predict that he’d do what he did in the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments for the Jayhawks.
But he did.
Now De Sousa’s in a much different situation and the question with him is whether he’ll even be given the opportunity to contribute.
Nothing’s new on that front — at least not that we’re aware of — so the question comes down to this: Which is more likely, Grimes snapping out of his funk or De Sousa playing at all?
I’m not really sure where I stand these days on whether De Sousa has a chance to play. (I’m probably leaning more toward no than ever before) But I do know that plenty of people at KU are still of the belief that it can happen.
That said, I think the odds are much greater that Grimes will snap out of his funk and start to figure out how to play at this level.
Right now he’s thinking way too much and is in his own head. Self called it a mental block. That’ll go away with more time, more reps and some success. So my money’s on Grimes here and that’s probably the case even if De Sousa is cleared to play.
Grimes is too talented and too full of potential at a position where KU could really use him to not figure it out at some point.
That Michigan State game was something to watch but it might actually have been a bit of a temporary detriment to Grimes, who has not played with the same free mind and confidence since that night. Could it be because his own expectations were too high after that and now anything other than hitting 6 of his first 7 3-pointers seems like a disappointment?
Could be. Or it could simply be a case of a freshman needing time to adjust.
No. 2 Kansas has a perfect 5-0 record to date, but it has been anything but flawless.
KU needed overtime to finish off Tennessee in a battle between a pair of top-five teams. Kansas held off a second-half surge by Michigan State in the season opener to claim a victory in the Champions Classic. Senior Lagerald Vick went bonkers during the team's only two home games to fend off Vermont and Louisiana in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansas has a pair of home games and a contest in the Sprint Center remaining before its much-anticipated rematch with Villanova. The Wildcats downed the Jayhawks in the Final Four last year before eventually winning the national title.
That leads us into the first question of the latest edition of Ask Us Anything.
Well, based on recent reports, it looks like Kliff Kingsbury is going to be finding employment elsewhere. As a result, I will dive into the question about Kansas slipping up against anyone before Villanova.
If I were a betting man, and I certainly am, I wouldn’t bank on KU dropping a game before the rematch of last year’s Final Four. According to KenPom, Kansas has at least a 95 percent chance of winning in each of its next three games that lead up to the showdown with Villanova.
The Jayhawks play two of those three games in the friendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse, while facing New Mexico State in the Sprint Center. That game is the most likely loss for Kansas, though even that seems far fetched.
No. 2 KU has yet to really put all together during this 5-0 start to the season. The first half against Michigan State was the closest Kansas has looked to being worthy of its No. 1 preseason ranking.
At some point, you would think the Jayhawks demonstrated that dominance again, and I’d bet fans see a version of that during this three-game stretch. As a result, it just doesn’t seem likely that KU will have a loss on its resume ahead of the home meeting with the defending champs.
All three of these are great questions, so I’m going to go ahead and make this a questions No. 2 through No. 4 for this edition of Ask Us Anything, and you can’t stop me.
No. 2: The first and most important step for the Les Miles regime is ___ ???
I suppose the easy answer would be filling out his staff, seeing as he can’t coach the 2019 season all by himself on the sideline. Wouldn’t that be fun to see though?
However, I’m going to go a different route with my answer. I think the first and most important step for Les Miles is recruiting. KU Athletic Director Jeff Long said he made the move when he did because he knew how important recruiting was, particularly with the early signing period inching closer.
Miles is not only starting late in the game, but he’s also dealing with a limited number of available scholarships. That’s what makes this so important, because Miles really has to hit on a good majority of his recruits in order to turn this thing around sooner rather than later.
Of course, the real answer is making sure Pooka Williams stays at KU. Yet I don’t think he’s likely to leave, so focusing on putting talent around Pooka should be the most important thing Miles does in the next month.
No. 3: More of a concern for KU hoops — Dok’s inability to stay on the floor or 3-point FG defense?
My first thought was to go with Udoka, because he is arguably the team’s most important player. After all, 10.4 plays per game for Kansas end with a post-up by Azubuike. The Jayhawks lead the country in post-up usage with a rate of 19.7 percent, according to Synergy.
That being said, I’m more concerned with the team’s inability to defend the perimeter. Per KenPom, opposing teams are shooting 37.8 percent from deep against Kansas. That mark ranks 285th in the nation.
More than that, though, teams are going into the game against KU with an emphasis on shooting the long ball. Louisiana forward Justin Miller admitted that after he recorded a career-high 22 points against KU. Marquette drilled 11 triples on 21 attempts in the first half alone against KU’s defense.
Azubuike, meanwhile, is averaging just two minutes less per game than he did last year. For me, the answer to this question is pretty simple. The Jayhawks need to fix their perimeter defense if they hope to cut down the nets in April.
No. 4: What do the offense efficiency numbers look like going 2 bigs and 3 guards vs. 1 Big and 4 Guards?
This is a tough question to answer, because it is impossible to find lineup-based efficiency numbers on Synergy or KenPom.
I do think it is easy to tell that KU’s offense looks more comfortable in a four-guard lineup, which is probably because that’s what this team has done the last two years.
In fact, KU averaged 1.015 points per possession while using mostly a one-big lineup last year. That mark ranked 16th in the nation. This season, the Jayhawks have used more two-big lineups and are averaging 0.984 points per possession through five games. It is the 61st-best clip in all of college basketball.
So, it’s safe to say that KU should try to incorporate more four-guard lineups.
At first glance, I thought it was surprising when watching the game, but K.J. Lawson did very well in his 19 minutes of action.
To put that in comparison, Lawson had a total of 17 minutes in his previous four games. This goes back to what I was saying in the previous question, but I would like to see KU use more four-guard lineups, which could include Dedric Lawson at the 5 and K.J. Lawson at the 4.
Of course, that’s not to say K.J. Lawson should and will play 19 minutes again, but he did well and even collected six rebounds. More importantly, it allowed KU to create some space and let Dedric Lawson go to work as the lone big man inside.
Mitch Lightfoot, who is still the first player off the bench, will get his opportunity to make an impact late in the game at some point this season.
The past few days inside Anderson Family Football Complex, according to those who would know, new Kansas football coach Les Miles has stayed busy by assessing various aspects of the Kansas football program he just took over.
Think: meetings, phone calls and more meetings and calls, mixed in with whatever the new man in charge can do to settle in and get comfortable.
Miles has spoken with assistant coaches from his predecessor David Beaty’s staff and met with players, as well.
While no hires have been announced as of Wednesday afternoon that could change quickly.
And that leads us right into our first question for today’s post.
I asked Miles during his introductory press conference how long he thought it would take to get his staff in place. And while he didn’t give a definitive timeline for the process, his answer showed that finding the best coordinators he can will be his priority.
Miles doesn’t have to rush these hires and he made it clear from the day he took this job that he had been having conversations with potential assistants and coordinators already and would continue to do so.
This week has been the first time Miles could really speak with potential coordinators, too, because last week many candidates were busy preparing for the last game of the regular season.
As Miles speaks with potential coordinators this week it is also likely he will act quickly if it becomes clear someone he wants to bring on board is interested. He told the Journal-World recently that having coordinators in place would be one of the most important steps for him as he fully attacks the recruiting trail for 2019.
Michael Hinton: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sports' Wally Hall wrote a column that referenced the Razorbacks' losing football season(s) and Jeff Long's contributions. What are your thoughts? Things obviously ended poorly for Jeff Long at Arkansas, his previous stop as an athletic director. Long was fired in November of 2017 after close to 10 years heading the athletic department at the SEC school.
Though Long’s hiring of Bobby Petrino brought the Razorbacks victories and appearances in both the Sugar and Cotton bowls, that relationship ended in an ugly fashion when Long had to fire Petrino in 2012, in the aftermath of the coach’s motorcycle accident. The whole ordeal eventually revealed Petrino had hired his mistress to work for the football program and the coach misled members of the athletic department.
Long had interim coach John Smith handle the football team in 2012, and the Razorbacks went 4-8.
When Long hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin, Arkansas finished 3-9 in 2013 before Bielema posted a 22-17 combined mark for the next three seasons. But Arkansas fell off again in 2017, going 4-8. Long was fired shortly before the season’s conclusion and soon after Bielema was done, too.
Even before Arkansas finished 2018 at 2-10 — with its .167 winning percentage going down as the worst in program history — the school’s football fan base didn’t mind blaming Long for its current state. I had a few Razorbacks supporters email me this past summer just airing their grievances about his time there.
Does that mean Long’s hiring of Miles will go so poorly? Of course not. But it’s also important for everyone to step back every once in a while and realize it is way too early to tell how the next few years will play out for KU football.
KU football attendance really began falling off a cliff near the end of the Charlie Weis era. But it officially went kersplat in 2018, with announced crowds in the 15,000 range at each of the Jayhawks’ final three home games of the season.
That’s what makes 40,000 such an ambitious figure for Miles’ KU debut — slated for Aug. 31 against Indiana State.
Even so, the KU fan base seems genuinely fired up about the program’s latest reboot. And between the intrigue surrounding Miles and having a chance to watch Pooka Williams perform his unique form of on-field voodoo, I think KU can get there.
Nine months out, I will take the slightest of overs.
Though nothing is official yet, it sure seems likely that Miles will keep Tony Hull, KU’s Louisiana recruiting guru, in place.
And, with Miles having spent more than a decade living and working in Louisiana, I think that pipeline will only grow stronger in the months and years ahead.
Both Miles and Hull have strong connections down in the New Orleans area, and while the very best players from down in “The Boot” will likely continue to pick SEC programs, Hull has proven he can get coveted prospects to KU.
With Miles in place, the number of talented Louisiana players KU is able to sign should only increase — even though the new coach has made clear his plan to recruit heavily near his new home, too.
Oh, yeah. And, no, I don’t think fans need to worry about Pooka Williams leaving. Just my gut feeling.
I’ll begin by saying this: KU has done a good job thus far of keeping Miles’ search for his coordinators under wraps.
I’m guessing a lot of that credit goes to Mike Vollmar, KU’s senior associate AD for football administration, who, like Long and Miles, has great connections throughout the college football universe.
Fans obviously can’t wait to find out if Miles can bring in some more big-name coaches for his first staff. But I get the sense most of the people around the KU football program — except for Miles, obviously, and probably Vollmar — don’t yet know how this will all play out.
It’s probably worth monitoring the status of recently fired UNC coach Larry Fedora, as well as various members of his staff. One of Miles’ sons, Manny, was a backup QB at UNC, so Miles has to know those coaches fairly well.
John Papuchis was Fedora’s defensive coordinator at UNC, and he was a graduate assistant at KU from 2001-03. Papuchis also worked for Miles during the new Kansas coaches first three years in Baton Rouge, La.
Before Fedora became a head coach at Southern Miss, he was an offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State from 2005-07 (after Miles left that program to go to LSU).
I’m sure the pool of candidates will be large and I think it’s a safe bet whomever Miles hires to lead the offense and defense will have plenty of experience.
It’s hard to believe that just a week ago we were all digesting the news that Les Miles was the new Kansas football coach.
Now, after the season football finale against Texas and an impressive week of basketball in the Big Apple, the whole idea that Miles is KU’s football coach seems to be commonly accepted and embraced both here in Lawrence and across the country.
Crazy how fast things can change.
Miles, of course, still has all kinds of work to do, from filling his staff to actually getting the program back on track, but it’s clear, just one week into his reign, that he’s all in and he came to Kansas to coach football and win games.
We got a lot of “Ask Us Anything” questions regarding Miles and his staff this week. And Benton will answer most of those on Wednesday.
Today, though (OK, OK, tonight if you’ve been paying attention), I’ll dive into a few of the basketball-related questions that we received.
Thanks for the questions and keep them coming, in the comments below, on Twitter with the hashtag #AskKUsports or via email at email@example.com.
Let’s get to it.
I love this question (and questions like it) because it allows us to have a little fun and forces you to really think a little bit instead of just sharing information or dropping knowledge.
With that in mind, I really only think one of these is possible and that’s the Quentin Grimes breakout. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Lagerald Vick becoming KU’s player of the year. That is very much in play and, believe it or not, he could easily wind up being this team’s MVP.
But given that names like Mason and Graham recently have won Big 12 player of the year honors — and then some — I’m guessing that you mean bigger awards and I just can’t see Vick challenging for those, largely because it takes a pretty complete all-around game to win awards like that. Mason and Graham both were as good as passers and rebounders as they were scorers and right now Vick’s pretty much just looking like a scorer, albeit a pretty damn good one at that.
So that one’s out. And I don’t know if I can picture a scenario in which K.J. Lawson jumps all the way into the starting lineup before his Senior Night in a couple of years.
That’s not a knock on Lawson. I like his game, I admire his cool, calm and collected playing style and I was wildly impressed by the way he played against Tennessee in New York. But the opportunity only came because Marcus Garrett was out. Had Garrett been able to play, Lawson probably would not have had the chance to play 19 minutes.
Could things happen down the road that lead to Lawson getting more opportunities like that one (his solid playing being one factor that leads to that)? Absolutely. And it’s not all that hard to see him finding a way into the rotation from time to time. But to reach the point where he’s in the starting five, I just can’t see it.
So I’ll go with Grimes. Partly because the other two aren’t as likely — at least in my eyes — and also because Grimes is so talented and it’s going to click for him at some point. It might take until after winter break for him to be fully comfortable, but when he does there’ll be no turning back.
And if it does take that long, that might actually wind up being good news for Kansas because the Jayhawks have been pretty good with him fighting through a mini-slump to start the season. Adding a player of his caliber reaching his potential halfway through the season would almost be like adding a completely new player altogether.
Grimes is going to be rock solid this year. And he’s going to have some games that make you sit back and go, “Wow.” It just might take a little while to get there.
Nothing crazy happening here. Elliott’s redshirting. Self announced that after a game early in the season in which Elliott did not suit up or play.
This seems to make plenty of sense, given the fact that Elliott came to KU a bit late and as a walk-on. The Jayhawks really aren’t losing anything by him officially sitting out the 2018-19 season and Elliott’s not missing out on anything either.
He now can fully embrace his role as a member of the red team in practice, where he can spend the season developing his game against KU’s starters and rotation guys, while doing his best to push them to become better along the way.
Elliott came to Kansas with the idea that he’d have to put in some work to earn anything resembling playing time. He certainly did not expect to come in and make an immediate impact and this decision to redshirt gives him five years to reach the point of making an impact instead of just four.
That’s one more year in the weight room, one more year against elite competition, one more year with a close-up look at how the whole Kansas basketball operation works.
That might not pan out this year or next, but you never know what could happen three or four years from now, with the right amount of effort, work and development.
I’m a huge fan of the fact that so many KU fans still remember my percentage wheel that gained traction during conference realignment and served me well during a few coaching searches, as well.
But I haven’t had as many opportunities to use it of late, despite people asking me to break it back out. Take the recent KU football coaching search, for example. Jeff Long ran a quiet search and I only received bits of information about three or four guys along the way.
Most of it was concerning guys who were not taking the job, therefore I couldn’t throw them on an percentage wheels because what I was hearing would have landed them at 0 percent and what fun is that?
The bottom line is this: Unless I’m getting good information about a handful of options, I’m not going to throw one together just to do it. I could have done that with the KU football search and probably would have had Miles at 77 percent or so most of the time. But I didn’t have any great info on any other candidates and did not want my percentage wheel to look lame or, worse yet, be a waste without providing any good information.
Why did I go into all of this to answer a question about De Sousa? Because it’s kind of the same thing here.
Nobody’s talking much about De Sousa’s chances of playing and that, to me, means it’s settling in around 50 percent. But everything’s 50 percent, isn’t it? He either will or won’t, right?
I get the question. And I understand how you could see me being able to say there’s a 20 percent chance or a 75 percent chance or whatever the case may be. But without any good information to go on, it would just be guessing.
I’ll leave it this way: I haven’t given up on the idea that De Sousa still could find his way onto the floor this season and will actually play for the Jayhawks at some point again. And I don’t think he or the KU coaching staff have given up on that either.
Expecting it to happen or be announced any time soon might be wasting time, though.
This one, to me, has the feel of one of those situations that will get sorted out sometime after the holidays, with the NCAA ruling that the X-game suspension that De Sousa already served was sufficient and KU can announce that he’s now eligible to play.
I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting on that outcome. But if he does play again, I think that’s how it could go down. There is, of course, still the very real chance that he won’t play at all this season, which would be too bad both for Silvio and the Jayhawks.
First off, shoutout for the Twitter name. I've heard there are a handful of good Les Miles parody accounts out there already, too. Always fun.
So here’s a Miles-related question for ya (I couldn’t miss out on all the fun) and I chose this one because my gut tells me things will play out from the inside out.
What does that mean?
I think Miles will soon — if he hasn’t already — determine which members of the current KU staff he wants to keep and that very well could be the first bit of coaching staff news we hear.
Makes sense, right? It’s easy to announce “so-and-so is staying,” without having to make a big fuss out of it.
I still think Clint Bowen and Tony Hull will be retained in some capacity and a handful of members of the staff and support crew also could be retained in GA or analyst roles. We already know KU is looking to expand its staff in that regard so why not keep at least a few people who already are familiar with the current roster, opponents, etc.?
I’m a little bit surprised that we haven’t heard about at least one of the two coordinators yet, but that tells me that Miles has been waiting on something, perhaps someone to be fired or a season to be completed.
Benton will have more input on the assistants later this week.
I already addressed the De Sousa question up above, so look back at that if you’re skipped down to this one.
But let’s get into the other two questions real quick.
Regarding Keegan, of course we miss him. Tom was a huge part of everything we did here at KUsports.com for the past 13 years and was an absolute blast to work with. He always embraced our coverage ideas and was excited about trying new things or doing podcasts or videos — or both — as a way to both entertain and bring good information to our readers.
He’ll be tough to replace. And we’re working on doing just that at the moment.
But I’m also excited for him and his opportunity in Boston. I think he’ll kill it there and what an amazing town and opportunity for a sports columnist, huh? The guy’s earned it and I’m not sure how long it will take me to get used to seeing him Tweet about Tom Brady and the Patriots of sending live updates from a Yale-Harvard football game. Crazy!
As for your last question, if you would have asked me this question before the season began, I’d have said there’s absolutely no way KU would reach January without a loss.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t sure they were going to win their opener because of the veteran Michigan State guards that Grimes and Devon Dotson handled so incredibly well.
But KU has already made it through three of its toughest nonconference games and five of the seven remaining non-con games are at Allen Fieldhouse. The two that aren’t? New Mexico State on Dec. 8 at Sprint Center and a true road game at Arizona State on Dec. 22.
New Mexico State is 4-1, with a loss to Saint Mary’s, and Arizona State is 5-0, with a win over No. 15 Mississippi State.
Neither of those games — along with Villanova at home — will be easy. But KU will be favored in both of them and should be plenty motivated in that Arizona State game after watching Bobby Hurley’s squad walk into Allen Fieldhouse last year and put a beating on the home team.
KU’s schedule is tough. Even the so-called no-name teams are tough opponents who are experienced and slated to finish first or second in their conferences. But one of the most impressive things about this Kansas team thus far is that the Jayhawks aren’t anywhere close to playing their best ball yet and if that comes — or they at least get closer to that — in the next few weeks, it’s not hard to see KU making it to 12-0 entering the Big 12 opener on Jan. 2 vs. Oklahoma.
I wouldn’t bet a ton on it happening because you just never know when that rare off night is going to pop up. Lord knows we’ve seen it enough over at Sprint Center throughout the years. But I think, at this point, KU’s chances of running the nonconference table are slightly better than 50-50.