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What if Andrew Wiggins never came to Kansas?

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins hangs his head while heading to the bench after a string of Jayhawk turnovers against Villanova during the first half on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins hangs his head while heading to the bench after a string of Jayhawk turnovers against Villanova during the first half on Friday, Nov. 29, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas. by Nick Krug

By now, it seems as if most Kansas University basketball fans have given up the stance — if they ever took it — that KU freshman Andrew Wiggins has been underwhelming.

At this point, Wiggins has produced enough, both offensively and defensively, and on a consistent enough basis to be classified as this team's best player.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound phenom leads the team with a 16.3 points-per-game average, is first in minutes played (904) by more than two full games, ranks third with 5.8 rebounds per game, third in assists (45), second in blocks (25), first in steals (29) and has attempted the most shots (145-of-324), most free throws (132-of-174) and second most three-pointers (35-of-98) while also owning the unofficial title of the team's best defensive player.

So forget whether he's disappeared for 10-minute spurts here and there or that he doesn't dunk it enough or finish consistently when he attacks the basket. None of that matters. What Wiggins has delivered has been nothing short of amazing, especially when taking into account the insane expectations that followed him to Lawrence and how well he has done at both handling those and inserting himself into the locker room as just another one of the guys.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins gets up for a dunk over Kansas State guard Marcus Foster during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins gets up for a dunk over Kansas State guard Marcus Foster during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It's genuine, too, by the way. There is no ego here. Wiggins is not all about Wiggins. In fact, he seems most comfortable during interviews when he's being asked about teammates or something other than himself.

All of this got me thinking.... What if Wiggins never came to Kansas? What if he picked Florida State or Kentucky or North Carolina last May and left the Jayhawks to fend for themselves with the roster they already had? First of all, KU would have been just fine, even without the steady dose of highlight-reel dunks, long arms on defense and lightning fast strides in transition.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins drives to the bucket against New Mexico guard Deshawn Delaney during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins drives to the bucket against New Mexico guard Deshawn Delaney during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

But would Bill Self's bottom line have remained the same? Would the players who absorbed Wiggins' minutes — and it likely would have been several of them — have been able to produce the same results?

It's not likely. But here's a look.

(Note: I realize it's fully possible that Self might have scrambled to add another rotation guy had Wiggins chosen to go to school somewhere else, but, for the sake of this blog, we're going to say that Self would've had to move on with the roster he had.)

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some direction to Andrew Wiggins during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some direction to Andrew Wiggins during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For this exercise, I've divvied up Wiggins' minutes to the five most likely Jayhawks who would have seen an uptick in playing time if the Canadian never came to town.

Here's how the numbers translated.

• G BRANNEN GREENE •
Increase in minutes: 40% or 362 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.38
Projected additional points: 138

• PG FRANK MASON •
Increase in minutes: 30% or 272 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.36
Projected additional points: 98

• G CONNER FRANKAMP •
Increase in minutes: 10% or 90 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.29
Projected additional points: 26

• PF JAMARI TRAYLOR •
Increase in minutes: 10% or 90 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.29
Projected additional points: 26

• G ANDREW WHITE III •
Increase in minutes: 10% or 90 minutes
Current points per minute average: 0.43
Projected additional points: 38

As you can see, the difference between the total points produced by these five players in Wiggins' absence (326) and the number of points Wiggins has tallied in those same minutes (457) would have dropped KU's overall total by 131 points and lowered its per-game average from 79.8 points per game (with Wiggins) to 75.1 points per game (without Wiggins).

Given that KU has won three games by fewer than five points this season — 67-63 over UTEP in the Bahamas; 80-78 over Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse; and 64-63 over Texas Tech in Lubbock — you could make a case that Wiggins picking another school would have cost the Jayhawks at least three victories.

If that were true, not only would a 10th straight Big 12 regular season title still be up in the air, the Jayhawks, at 19-9 instead of 22-6, would be staring more at a seed in the 3-5 range in the upcoming NCAA Tournament instead of sitting in their current position where they appear to be close to a lock as a 2 and still alive for a 1.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins delivers on a lob dunk against TCU during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins delivers on a lob dunk against TCU during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

All of this is purely speculative, of course, and there's no telling how things would have played out had Wiggins not worn crimson and blue this season. Maybe Brannen Greene would've been an instant star. Maybe another prospect would have taken the spot and filled the role admirably. Of course, this does not take into account all of the ways Wiggins' defense has impacted KU's win-loss record or the fact that, when playing more minutes, the points-per-minute number of the five guys mentioned above might actually have gone down or up.

Either way, it's a pretty compelling case for something I'm guessing we all know anyway — Wiggins has had a fantastic season and he is, without question, the MVP of the Big 12 this season.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins celebrates after delivering on a breakaway dunk against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins celebrates after delivering on a breakaway dunk against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Comments

Jack Jones 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Seriously?? This is the best topic for an article you can come up with? ~ a fantasy "what if" question. A first rank basketball program and University deserves better ~ much better.

Brady Swenson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Come on, that was a creative way to approach a summary of Wiggins' value to the team and his success this season, a topic very much worthy of this basketball program. Take your "get off my lawn" attitude elsewhere, a first rate basketball program and University deserve much better.

Ryan Sullivan 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I thought it was a pretty clever article.

Glen Miller 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I actually enjoyed this piece. Nothing wrong with a "what if" that would have obviously changed the type of team we had. I think sometimes you people are a little harsh on these writers. Sometimes it's good just to write a piece for fun, to get a reaction.... obviously this is unacceptable to you. Chill a bit!!

Tony Bandle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Seriously?? This is the best post for an article you can come up with? ~ a complaint about a fantasy "what if'" question. A first rank basketball program and University posting site deserves better ~ much better.

Bryan Mohr 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I kind of agree with Jack. Hypotheticals that involve excluding a team's best player seems to be one of those questions that you just don't ask. Kind of like... What if Matt Tait's parents never met each other? Why even think about it?

Taylor Burton 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Why dont you stop being a hater. Internet tough guy. Keep up the good work Matt

Andy Hess 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I love how any type of criticism at all makes someone a "hater" now. Is he not allowed to post anything if he doesn't share the majority view? I personally don't share his view at all, as I enjoyed the article. But I also support his right to post what he wants, so long as it is not grossly offensive or something like that.

Jeremy Wilhelm 9 months, 3 weeks ago

You can post whatever you like, but he's being called a hater for his tone, not for his sentiments.

John Randall 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The use of "hater" isn't warranted, but he does have a nasty tone and no responsibility to control it. Typical immature attitude with a keyboard and access to someone's ISP.

Glen Miller 9 months, 3 weeks ago

His opinion wasn't the problem, it's the way he expressed his discontent that rubbed some of us wrong. He had kind of an elitist attitude that came of as too good. I'm not sure that's the way I would want to portray myself or how I would want to go after someone who a majority of the time gives us insight and stories that nobody else can. If this had been directed at Keegan, then I wouldn't have probably been as offended, but Matt is one of us and does an excellent job.

Michael Leiker 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I think your analysis would have been more effective if you would have found a way to take into account how many points per minute these players would be scoring if they weren't in the game at the same time as Wiggins and factor those additional points into your numbers. Also, it might be beneficial to factor in these guys assists per minute and how many more points the team would score as a whole due to losing Wiggins complete inability to make any kind of pass.

Matt Tait 9 months, 3 weeks ago

There's no question that there would've been a few other ways to make this examination even more effective, but short of rewatching every game and keeping stats for when Wiggins was on the bench and how these guys did without him in there, I think this method is at least interesting enough.

As for his "inability to make any kind of pass," he's third on the team in assists, which seems pretty good for a guy who is told to attack 90% of the time.

Raymond Wright 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Come on Matt. What else do you have to do but sit around and watch every KU game again.

Jacob Pool 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I think without Wiggins on our team KU would not only have lost the Big 12 but they would have been headed to the NIT. There has been 3 games that came down to the wire we have been fortunate enough to win but also there has been games in which he has taken over games and scored 20+ points. Without that output we would have lost at least another 3-5 games.

Either way I am very glad he chose the Right team in KU we have benefited drastically from him.

Raymond Wright 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Let me introduce you to Coach Self sometime. He can't even spell NIT.

Glen Miller 9 months, 3 weeks ago

^^^^ This was maybe one of my favorite responses ever!!

Aaron Paisley 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I think he's been there before with Tulsa and Oral Roberts. Of course making the NIT at those schools is considered a good season worth celebrating.

Raymond Wright 9 months, 3 weeks ago

He was in the NIT once, with oral roberts in 96-97. He apparently vowed to never return.

Paul Laskowski 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm just glad we were able to spend the year watching him. And we don't have to have the discussion about why Bill can't land the big recruit. I think of the top guys this year we got the most level headed two in Wigs and Ebiid. These guys really are selfless for all the talent they posses. I look forward to seeing them progress the rest of the season and hopefully we can get a couple more all stars in the league. Pierce is looking real lonely out there by himself.

John Randall 9 months, 3 weeks ago

As regards HCBS' landing of big recruits, not many of the great talents have an attitude about being part of a team that Andrew has. Truth be known, KU recruiting brings many fewer 'cancers' into the program than most elite teams have.

Jeremy Wilhelm 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I expect other guys would have stepped up well enough. The biggest difference would be that AWIII would have seen much more time to allow him to prove himself. My guess is Brannen would have played a lot more, and it may just be that his consistent 3 ball would have actually increased our scoring a bit, though it hard to say how defenses would have played him. With Wiggin's teams have, to their demise often times, dared him to shoot so they can sag in on the post. With a consistent outside shooter at the 3, that would be harder to do. Either the 3 ball would work for us, or the post would be even more dominant. My biggest question is, in a year where our D has been just very good rather than outstanding, what would taking our best perimeter defender away do to us. That would probably account for far more trouble than the loss in scoring. Wigs get's not nearly enough credit on these silly Freshman Tracker blogs for his D.

Tony Bandle 9 months, 3 weeks ago

OTHER GREAT WHAT IFS:

1] What if Stonewall Jackson wasn't fatally wounded before the Battle of Gettysburg. Would NASCAR be the national pastime in lieu of baseball [some say it is already]?

2] What if General George Custer had decided that it was too hot to go to the Little Big Horn that day. Would he have been eventually elected President and the favorite dessert treat of many would be called " Frozen Custer?".

3] What if Buddy Holly had decided to take the train that wintry night. Would all rock stars be wearing black horned-rimmed glasses?

4] What if Christopher Columbus decided the seas were too rough and turned back. Would there be a Columbus, Ohio?

5] What if Matt Tait had never written this clever article about Andrew Wiggins not coming to Kansas. Would posters find something else to bitch about?

Put me down as Kansas would just fine but, because Andrew did come, KU and Kansas Nation is better for it Having this fine young man asociated with KU for the rest of his life will be a boon to our tradition. it goes beyond wins and losses. It shows OADs can thrive here and that KU still does it the right way.

Oh yes, and one more thing.

6] What if I had not posted this post today. You all would have been just fine and probably even better!!

Ross Hartley 9 months, 3 weeks ago

"Put me down as Kansas would [be] just fine but, because Andrew did come, KU and Kansas Nation is better for it Having this fine young man asociated with KU for the rest of his life will be a boon to our tradition. it goes beyond wins and losses. It shows OADs can thrive here and that KU still does it the right way.". +1

Also I would have never gotten to know that smile.

Titus Canby 9 months, 3 weeks ago

5 - Thanks Oak. Second time today a post on this site made me laugh out loud. Yeah, I'm working hard today.

Titus Canby 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Sorry about the bold. Forgot about the pound sign/hashtag thing.

Kent Richardson 9 months, 3 weeks ago

1) What if Reggie Jackson had been fatally wounded by Thurman Munson would he have been known as the Bat of the Bronx Borough?

2) What if Custer, not his horse, Commanche, I think, was the only survivor of the battle, would the NALL (Native American Lacross League) be receiving complaints about the Big Horn Blonde Guys, nickname?

3) What if Gary Bussey starred in the Buddy Hackett story?

4) Or a Columbus, Kansas?

Aaron Paisley 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I would guess that Wayne Selden may actually be the person this hypothetical would've had the biggest impact on. I think Selden would've been the starting 4 with Tharpe and Mason joining him in the starting back court. It definitely would be interesting to see if Bill Self would've brought in a Mervyn Lindsay type or if Justin Wesley or Christian Garrett would've been awarded that scholarship.

As for the season results, this was still a top 25 prior to Wiggins committing. I think this team still would be in the mix for the Big 12, but I think they would've been in the 4-5 seed range instead of the 1-2 that they are now. Basically I think without Wiggins, this team pretty closely resembles the 2008-09 team.

John Randall 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Nice comments – insightful without being overbearing, We need to read more of these.

Matt Tait 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I thought about Selden but the reality of it is, he's already starting and he's already a high-minute guy as it is...

Selden has played 816 minutes (compared with 904 for Wiggins) so it's not likely that he would have played that many more minutes even without Wiggins here. Maybe a few, but not as much of an increase as those other guys.

Aaron Paisley 9 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree that Selden's minutes wouldn't change much, but I do think his scoring and rebounding numbers would be higher. 13 or 14 ppg and 4 or 5 rpg I don't think would be unrealistic numbers for him because he would very likely be more of a focal point of the offense than he is now.

Mike Riches 9 months, 3 weeks ago

It's also hard to know what kind of impact the additional attention and subsequent pressure would have had on Selden, if Wiggins hadn't come. I still maintain that one of the biggest (and immeasurable) advantages of having Wiggins is he has taken A LOT of pressure off of other players, especially early in the year, when this team was trying to find its identity.

Matt Tait 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Another very solid point. With no Wiggins, the numbers of some of these guys might actually have gone down because the pressure to deliver would have gone up...

Ethan Jones 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Baseball has a statistic for evaluating this exact scenario. Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is a pretty useful tool for evaluating just how much above the average replacement level player a particular player is preforming. Wiggins undoubtedly has a pretty high WAR; this article suggests 3 because KU has won 3 more games with Wiggins additional scoring. And really, 3 WAR is very high because over 30 games, that is a 10% win increase. If KU has a deep March run he could very easily be the difference in another game or two, increasing his hypothetical WAR to 4 or 5, which is approaching MVP level in baseball, and that is essentially what this article is getting at, Wiggins is the team, and likely Big 12, MVP.

Andrew Dunlap 9 months, 3 weeks ago

not only would we not be a lock for 10th straight, but we wouldn't be in contention for a 1 or 2 seed. This is the best 6 loss team ever, because it still has not reached its potential for this season. If it does, it is a serious contender for the national championship.

Chris Shaw 9 months, 3 weeks ago

That's what people thought in 2009, 2012, and 2013.

Aaron Paisley 9 months, 3 weeks ago

2009? Do you mean the 2010 team that lost to UNI because that 2009 team that lost to Michigan St. I thought pretty much played to their ceiling that year.

Ethan Berger 9 months, 3 weeks ago

And also, weren't we in the title game in 2012?

Chris Shaw 9 months, 3 weeks ago

With the absence of one player creates opportunities for other players. The focus wouldn't be on Andrew Wiggins anymore, but Selden would have a more increased role on offense and Greene and AWIII would be getting the bulk of the minutes at the 3 spot.

It's amazing what happens to players when they get minutes and have the opportunity, the trust, and the ability to screw up with their coach. When that happens their overall production goes up regardless of the player and that's especially true at Kansas. Just ask Releford, Morningstar, Reed, and Withey who were all players that had question marks next to their names prior to their "Big Minute" seasons.

It would be no different for Greene or AWIII with the only difference possibly being the learning curve. Selden and other guys would pick up the scoring load as we've seen with past Kansas squads.

I agree with the poster above that Wiggins may be the difference between a Sweet 16 or second round exit and a Final 4 berth though.

Bryce Landon 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Wiggins may be the difference between a Sweet 16 or second round exit and a Final 4 berth though.

I disagree. Naadir Tharpe is the difference. If the point guard is off, the whole team is off. When EJ was off last year, it cost us dearly in the Sweet 16.

Dirk Medema 9 months, 3 weeks ago

The analysis and comments basically confirm what we saw when Wiggins committed. We were ranked 10 - 15 before Wiggins (divided by 4 = 3 - 4 seed) and obviously a 1 - 2 seed with him.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened with the learning curve of Brannen and Conner in particular. In light of how well the front line has played, it might have been interesting to see if Coach would have slid Perry outside more often, and played a big line-up. Maybe Lucas would have absorbed some of the minutes.

Philip Bowman 9 months, 3 weeks ago

If Wiggins hadn't come to KU we wouldn't have had to endure a constant barrage of comments about him being "one and done" and whether he'll be a first pic in the NBA draft and on and on. I am sick of that crap. I wish the so-called announcers would focus on the game we're watching.

Perhaps it would be better if we didn't get the phenoms and instead recruited students that are really good at basketball and who are interested in an education and will stay for ALL FOUR YEARS. If that happened we'd have some really good teams and perhaps win the NCAA again. We did it before without these superstars and can do it again. It will require good coaching and I think we have it.

I'd go further and insist that a recruit agree to play at KU and nowhere else (NBA, etc) until his class graduates. Then he'd be able to concentrate in making good passes and not phoning in layups, etc.

You may have figured out that I'm opposed to paying "student-athletes." If they want to be paid they should forgo college and go directly to the pros.

Kevin Jenkins 9 months, 3 weeks ago

What if? I think we would be Okay. We have Self and his team. And even with coach Brown, Danny's group of team mates wasn't so talented but what happened. I see our bench full of guys who would be forced to take up if Wiggins wasn't there. We do have talent on that bench, they're just lost in rotation. I enjoyed the article, even if some of you didn't. I do know without Wiggins, things would be quieter, and without so much attention KU would still be more of a surprise. No one constantly micro scoping every move. Again What if?

Don Frey 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Once the season is over, when basketball is done after March, then the fun talk about who will stay or go, who's coming in, begins. "What if" Embiid and Selden remain and even Wiggins could give it one more year? How sweet that would be! Only Black is gone and we have some big "rookies" coming here already. Everyone is on the SI cover! Just say we are 32-0 and beat Duke by 15 in the final. Just saying...but we can dream can't we?

Don Frey 9 months, 2 weeks ago

THEN Self goes to the NBA for 15m for 5 yrs, replaced by the WSU coach. The Fieldhouse name is changed to "Wiggins' Place," Matt Tait is named SI editor and the Eldridge House is the new basketball dorm featuring a 24 hour breakfast buffet open to all. "What if" is always great meaningless fun!

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