KU coach Bill Self says looking only at Jayhawks' record, ranking is the wrong way to evaluate current state of team


Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets the attention of his players during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas coach Bill Self has a little advice for the Jayhawk fans out there who choose to look at KU’s 8-0 start and No. 1 ranking six weeks into the season as a sign that all is well in Lawrence. In a word: Don’t.

“That’s not how you should look at it,” the Kansas coach said Tuesday night on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show. “You should look at it based on, I hate to say this, but you can leave practice a lot happier if you’re 6-2 some days than 8-0 because you see that they’re trying to do what the big picture is all about.”

That big-picture focus hasn’t always been present for Self’s 2018-19 Jayhawks, and, while it has not hurt them in the win/loss column, it has kept the nation’s top-ranked team from making the kind of weekly progress Self and his coaching staff have come to expect.

The reason? Self said youth and inexperience have played the largest role and it goes beyond their dates of birth and years in school.

“The reason we’re inconsistent so far is because of intangible things that we can control and do a better job of,” Self said. “And I think a lot of that is youth. We have one senior on our team, but the (overall) mentality (of the team) is probably younger than what the actual age is. We need to grow up in some areas and become more mature, but we’ll do that as the season progresses.”

In some ways, the Jayhawks already have. Devon Dotson, who constantly has said he still can improve a lot, has been a steady hand at point guard. Dedric Lawson has become a bona fide go-to player on the offensive end. And, when pressed to lock in against a terrific 3-point shooting team in Wofford last week, the Jayhawks did just that and held the Terriers to 5-of-26 shooting (19.2 percent) from 3-point range and 47 points for the game.

But for every sign of growth and progress there has been one or two other examples of this team being stuck in the mud, a reality that led Self to answer a “Hawk Talk” audience question seeking one word to describe the current state of the team with the word, “frustrating.”

“You’d like to push the guys to the point where, going into conference play (Jan. 2 vs. Oklahoma), you feel totally comfortable on how we’re going to play and they have confidence in how we’re going to play rather than try to tinker and change and figure out things as we go.

“We’re far enough along that we should be fairly set in our ways about what really works.”

According to KU junior Mitch Lightfoot, that type of maturation only will come when the players take it upon themselves to bring better effort, focus and intensity to everything they do. But Self was not willing to leave the burden solely on the players. He said on “Hawk Talk” that the entire KU coaching staff needed to find ways to show the Jayhawks “what really wins and what’s important.”

“To be an elite team we’ve got to improve in those areas,” Self added.


Joe Ross 6 months, 1 week ago

Re: "...looking only at Jayhawks' record, ranking is the wrong way to evaluate current state of team."

Must be an echo in here. I've been saying this for a while now:

I'll confess that I don't know where exactly Kansas or Duke should be ranked. But if someone were to ask me who I thought would win on a neutral court I'd pick Duke. In fact, I'd pick Duke if they were playing either in Cameron Indoor or AFH. All this means is that I'm not a Homer. It probably also means that realism is a greater priority for me in deciding who is number 1 than either my personal fanhood (which I assure you is intact) or a week-to-week record analysis. Look. Duke is the better team right NOW, despite the results of any poll released today. Forget the justification: Kansas beat Tennessee, Tennessee beat Gonzaga, Gonzaga beat Duke. While all of this is true, it does NOT mean Kansas would beat Duke in a heads-up game. Stop it! No, it doesn't.

Again, I've said this and it's alluded to in this article: it doesn't matter what the rankings are right now. At this point in the season they're simply a beauty contest. Nothing more. The wins against opponents weigh heavily, but the ranking doesn't. Our team still has some developing to do, and they will develop, prior to the Tournament. Relax!

--Ballot breakdown: Why one voter chose to not rank No. 1 Kansas in latest AP poll

Jay Scott 6 months, 1 week ago

That echo is a result of the emptiness of your cranium.....'s Perry Ellis progressing toward that NBA max contract you predicted for him?

Dane Pratt 6 months, 1 week ago

The rankings are for the fans entertainment and usually reflect where sportswriters think teams should be ranked in the absence of actual standings and head to head competition.

Steve Corder 6 months, 1 week ago

This is precisely why Bill Self is a Hall of Famer!

Barry Weiss 6 months, 1 week ago

Hopefully the hot Vick shows up Saturday, the driving Grimes shows up and the team shoots 70% as a team from the line. Turnovers under 10, shooting % at 50, defense holds Nova to 40% from the field. Rebounds..Jayhawk +10.

Pius Waldman 6 months, 1 week ago

Logic would share our undefeated team has been fortunate and probably is over rated. Saturday Villanova will test to see if our Jayhawks are for real. Maybe I'm wrong but I feel Coach has rattled Vick by his comments and lack of starting. Those 2 30 point games were amazing the last shot to tie and win in overtime shows ability. Moore doesn't come close to Vick in ability. Also maybe Grimes is pressured by Coach comments.

Robert Brock 6 months, 1 week ago

Movement and screening - below par.

Blocking out and rebounding - awful.

Offensive decision-making - peculiar.

Joe Ross 6 months, 1 week ago

I believe a lot of the Jayhawks' problems this year is the difficulty of the strength of schedule in the face of so many new pieces to the puzzle. The fact that we are 8-0 is a testament to the talent on this team. But when you face the grind of the number 1 ranked schedule in terms of difficulty, the new players really can't get going in a way that allows them to get into a flow, which is important in a game where confidence and rhythm are huge. As a result you lose fluidity within your offense and development of team chemistry.

This year, a diet of early cupcakes would certainly have helped game play. As of today, the teams that we've played have been 8-2 Michigan State, a very good 6-3 Vermont, 7-3 Louisiana-Lafayette, 8-2 Marquette, 7-1 Tennessee, 4-4 Stanford, and 8-3 Wofford who can sneak up on you, and 7-3 New Mexico State. Tonight we get defending National Champion Villanova. Having the benefit of hindsight, maybe an Appalachian State or Siena could have replaced Louisiana or Vermont.

The scheduling has certainly helped Kansas in terms of March seeding in prior years. It may well this year. And yet you have to ask the question why we are so consistently under-performing vs. expectation. It could be that the difficult teams we've been facing have also been a consistency on the schedule.

Something to chew on, anyway...

Layne Pierce 6 months, 1 week ago

If it comes down to a talent contest. Duke is the best in the land. What we want is a consistent team effort, especially in defense and rebounding.

Joe is 100% right on the probability, but there is plenty of time to get ready for what really matters, winning the conference, and winning the natl championship.

It's wonderful we can win against good competition without playing our best, but other teams improve as the season goes on also, and we have to begin now that process.


Steve Zimmerman 6 months, 1 week ago

If we evaluate high prized recruits performance out of high school, KU seems to hold that reputation, #1 from the bottom. I wonder why. Look at Grimes now. His talent is wasted. Compare him to Little, Bol, Cam, Langford... I meant he's the MVP of FIBA. Matt, what's your take on this? I'm sure I'm not the only KU fan that's perplexed by this. Sure we are still unbeaten, but watching Grimes a non-factor is just so disappointing.

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