Kansas basketball coach Bill Self says it's time to 'stir it up;' but what might that mean?
On Saturday afternoon, shortly after Oklahoma handed No. 9 Kansas its third consecutive loss in Big 12 play, KU coach Bill Self said he might explore making some lineup changes before the Jayhawks’ next game on Thursday against TCU.
But don’t let the talk of a new lineup fool you into thinking it’s a guarantee that we’ll see a couple of new faces in KU’s starting five in the near future.
We might. Self said that much.
“I think we need a new boost of energy,” he said. “(We) may need to shake things up a little bit lineup-wise.”
But we also might not see any changes because the most powerful thing that Self said in the wake of KU’s latest loss had to do with how he would determine whether lineup changes were necessary.
“I think it's time to go back to the practice floor determines who plays,” Self said.
If that’s the way they proceed, it’s entirely possible that the five starters who have started 14 of the 15 games for the Jayhawks so far this season will rise to the challenge and prove that they deserve those spots with their performances during KU’s upcoming practices.
If they don’t, they risk being replaced. But if they do, it could do wonders for this team moving forward.
Call it a clean slate. Or a do-over. Stats to this point do not matter. Junior guard Ochai Agbaji may lead this team in scoring at 14.5 points per game right now. And Jalen Wilson’s season scoring average still may be in the low teens (13.1) on the strength of his strong play during the nonconference portion of KU’s schedule. But those numbers today don’t mean any more or any less than Dajuan Harris’ 1.9 points-per-game average or the 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds Mitch Lightfoot is averaging this season.
It’s all about opportunity at this point. And all nine players who currently make up KU’s rotation, from Marcus Garrett, Christian Braun and David McCormack to Tristan Enaruna and Tyon Grant-Foster, all have the same opportunity in the week ahead.
Play hard and play well in practice and you’ll play in the game.
“You know, you go into a season and you want there to be five starters,” Self said Saturday. “You want there to be a little separation between your starters and your bench. And there has been for the most part this year. But (the play from the starters has) been too inconsistent of late. So I think we just need something to stir it up. That’s not being negative. It's just something to stir it up and try something different. And I don't know what that will be yet.”
It might be that the willingness to even talk about doing is the change that KU needs.
After all, Self said Saturday that his team’s confidence was shaken a little right now. But instead of them continuing to worry about wins and losses, Self wants them to get back to focusing on playing winning basketball.
That means a lot of things and can mean different things to different people. But for those around Self it primarily means elite execution in four key areas — defense, effort, attitude and toughness.
“Yeah, our psyche’s probably a little fragile right now,” Self said Saturday. “But good gosh, doesn't everybody’s psyche get fragile over the course of a marathon? I'm not going to use that as an excuse. We need to get some guys’ heads right. And I don't mean from a bad-attitude standpoint. But where we're thinking the right things more. That's obviously a concern, but you know that's the way it is everywhere. We just haven't had to deal with it much here.”
This team still has time to put it all together. Plenty of teams — even KU teams — have hit rough patches in January and February and still found a way to turn things around to the point where they’re peaking in March.
As Self put it Saturday, “it’s not lost by any stretch.”
But it is time for this group to find it again. To find their confidence. To find a rhythm. To find whatever helped the Jayhawks roll through non-con play with tough wins over ranked teams that carried the kind of swagger that Kansas is known to have.
Maybe that will mean new faces in the starting lineup. Maybe that will mean newfound commitment from the five starters who have been out there. Maybe that will mean more zone defense, better ball movement on offense and more of an attacking mentality on both ends.
Whatever it means and whatever it leads to all starts during the next few practices.
These Jayhawks will be this season what they decide to be this week.