Marcus Garrett's jump shot, Bill Self as a motivator and coach of the year candidate and more...
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.