Is KU coach Bill Self ready to scrap the two-big approach?
Lahaina, Hawaii — After playing two big men for the first 3:41 of Monday’s 93-63 victory over Chaminade in Round 1 of the Maui Invitational, Kansas coach Bill Self went away from the larger lineup and barely went back.
Now, things might be headed that way permanently.
“I don’t know that we can stay playing two bigs much longer,” Self said after Monday’s victory. “It’s just not very good when they’re both out there.”
Monday night, for the fourth time in five games, Self went with sophomore David McCormack next to senior Udoka Azubuike to open KU’s win over Chaminade. But after a slow and sloppy start, McCormack was pulled after just 90 seconds.
Junior Silvio De Sousa, who started the lone game McCormack did not, replaced the KU starter in the lineup on Monday and he, too, was yanked after a short stint.
Fourth-ranked Kansas (4-1) played most of the next 36 minutes with a four-guard lineup that featured Marcus Garrett, Tristan Enaruna and even Christian Braun at the fourth guard spot.
That trio combined to play 65 minutes against Chaminade, compared to 46 combined minutes by Azubuike, De Sousa and McCormack.
It also helped Kansas’ offense and defense play with better activity and flow, leading Self to make a change at halftime that might be replicated in the semifinal game on Tuesday night.
Senior guard Isaiah Moss started Monday’s second half in place of McCormack, and the fourth-ranked Jayhawks appeared to have better flow and spacing as a result.
All three KU big men have extensive experience playing the 5 during their college careers. And Self further explained his thinking on the way to the team bus after Monday’s victory.
“Our guys were going, ‘Well, are you going to put Dok back in,’” Self began, referencing the final 13 minutes of the first half when Azubuike sat with two fouls. “I said, ‘Guys, we’ve got three bigs that we’re going to play all at the 5. If we’ve got to put Dok back in now (with two fouls), that means we only have one big.’”
Because of his veteran status, as well as his reliable 3-point stroke, Moss is the most likely player to join the starting lineup if Self does, in fact, go away from the two-big lineup.
“If he can make 50% of his 3s, that’s a huge bonus for us,” Self said Monday after Moss went 3-of-4 from behind the arc.
So far this season, Moss has made 10 of 18 3-point attempts (56%) in four games. As for his thoughts on becoming a starter?
“It doesn’t matter to me,” Moss said Monday. “Any time I’m out there, I’m going to give 100%, coming off the bench or starting. I’m just going to try to give it my all.”
KU’s current roster gives Self options. And versatile pieces allow for a variety of styles.
But after trying to return to a bigger lineup after a few years of playing smaller, faster guards and relying more on transition and 3-point shooting than he ever had in the past, Self appears to be on the brink of continuing to embrace the evolving trend that has shown up at all levels of basketball.