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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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.