Jump with me, for a minute, into the mind of Wayne Selden to see why not getting drafted might actually wind up being the best thing that could have happened to the former Jayhawk’s chances at a pro career.
Selden, as you know, has always been the type of player who seemed to perform best when he had something to prove, someone to prove wrong or a chip of any size on either of his shoulders.
Occasionally, things got so heavy during his KU career that Selden found himself carrying rather large chips on both shoulders. Almost without fail, every time that happened, Selden performed his best.
Think about the Kentucky game at home. Think about the entire three weeks the Jayhawks spent in Korea. Think about Selden responding to a sub-par sophomore season with a solid junior year.
Although the former KU guard started 108 of the 109 games Kansas played during his three seasons as a Jayhawk, consistency often was an issue for Selden. He would take us to the mountain top and show elite-level skills, but rarely hang around long enough to enjoy the view and often found himself near the base again, climbing back to the top almost as quickly as he arrived in the first place.
Case in point: Selden responded to his stellar 33-point, 12-of-20 shooting game against Kentucky by hitting for just 10 made field goals in his next four games combined. Rarely did this hurt KU’s chances at victory — a credit to the rest of the talent Bill Self put around Selden — but it did certainly hurt Selden’s chances at becoming a true standout whom NBA teams would want, perhaps even need, to draft.
So here we are, one day after the biggest day of Selden’s life and he’s looking for a team to play for. Sixty picks came and went without Selden hearing his name called on Thursday night, and now, in order to live out his NBA dream, the former KU guard is going to have to go the free agent route, impress a team or two during summer league play and make a roster the hard way.
He must be so happy.
See, Selden has all of the physical tools necessary to play in the NBA. He’s a damn good shooter, he’s got great size, good quickness, he’s strong and he’s athletic. Put him in the right situation and he’s a ready-made rotation guy off the bench.
NBA teams might not know it yet, but, by not drafting him, they did exactly that, as the right situation for Selden is way more dependent upon what’s between his ears than it is the style of play of this team or the personnel of that one.
Today, Selden is pissed. Not just because he didn’t get drafted, but also because of some of the other players who did. Throw out the Europeans because they’re here to stay and college players are just going to have to get used to that group eating up 15-20 of the 60 available draft spots year after year. Heck, it’s already been happening for years.
But there were at least a few players taken near the end of the draft who I know Selden believes he’s better than. Think Iowa State’s Abdel Nader or even his former AAU buddy Georges Niang. Think UConn’s Daniel Hamilton, Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins, Carolina’s Marcus Paige or Maryland’s Jake Layman.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Selden respects all of those guys, but I also would bet a pretty penny that he believes he’s better than every one of them.
So to give him that kind of fuel to go along with that undrafted tag seems to be a perfect storm of sorts.
It should be fun to watch him in summer league games this month. I’m guessing we’ll see the Selden that more closely resembles the South Korea version than the one who occasionally disappeared during the other portions of his Kansas career.
With the NBA combine kicking off today, we already know that former Kansas University sharp-shooter Brannen Greene did not receive an invitation to the event, which runs today through Sunday in Chicago, and, therefore, will have to go about earning a spot in the NBA through team workouts and the old school grind.
The news came as no real surprise, and leaves Greene, who hired an agent and is not eligible to return to school, on the outside looking in when it comes to hoping for an NBA future.
Those facts got me thinking: Did Greene make the right decision in leaving Kansas?
Let’s take a look.
Invites to the combine were sent out to a little more than 70 players regardless of age. We learned Tuesday that an injury will keep Wayne Selden out of the combine, leaving former Jayhawks Perry Ellis and Cheick Diallo as the only KU players competing. And some fantastically talented college players — namely Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet and Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell — were not invited. Like Greene, those players will be hoping to catch the eye of the right team at the right time through pre-draft workouts.
What’s more, the NBA announced recently that 162 early-entry players had declared for this year’s Draft — June 23 in New York — with 117 of them being from the college ranks and 45 being international players.
That’s 162 players, not counting college seniors. And there are only 60 selections in the NBA Draft.
Needless to say, that makes the chances of landing a spot on an NBA roster a long shot for roughly 75 percent of those players hoping they’ll hear their names called in this year’s draft.
OK. So now that we’ve established all of that, let’s get back to Greene. Did he make the right choice in leaving?
The numbers above might suggest no, but the correct answer is yes. Why? Because it was simply time for him to leave.
Greene had three years to earn a regular spot in the rotation and, outside of a stretch here or a stretch there, did not do it. What’s more, he seemed to be in constant conflict with KU coach Bill Self — that’s rarely the way to go about getting more playing time — and, with the arrival of freshman phenom Josh Jackson, likely would have been, at best, the fifth man in KU’s perimeter rotation next season, behind Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Jackson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
Would there have been minutes for Greene next year? Probably. But would they have been consistent? Probably not. And would he have made the most of them? To that, too, you’d have to say probably not.
During his three-year career at Kansas, Greene recorded more suspensions than starts. In all, he played in 93 games and averaged a little more than 11 minutes per contest. That’s barely a quarter per game and anyone who watched those three seasons closely knows that he played single-digit minutes in roughly half of those 93 appearances. To think any of that was going to change next year is a reach.
I’m betting Greene knew that. Give him credit for that. A naïve player would’ve returned with the false hope and misguided belief that said, “Hey, it’s my senior year and it’s time to really make it count.” With Wayne Selden departing and the Josh Jackson commitment coming after he made his decision to bolt, Greene easily could’ve thought that way. But he’s too smart for that and clearly knew better.
He also could’ve believed that, because he would’ve been a senior, Self would’ve leaned on him for experience and that fact alone would have increased his minutes. But it’s not so much experience that gets you on the floor for Self as it is trust. And there’s no two ways about it; Self never trusted Greene.
That is merely one more factor that made leaving Kansas, regardless of what his pro basketball future becomes, the right move for Greene. He’s going to make it — or not — based on his ability to shoot the basketball at a world-class level. And nothing he would have done during one more season at Kansas was going to change that.
As stated above, Greene is one heck of a shooter and the NBA has proven that it has a place for players with that kind of specialized skill.
Nobody’s going to sign him for his defense or attitude or leadership. If Greene makes it, it’s going to be because he can square up, flick his right wrist and knock it down with the best of them.
So let’s say Greene gets picked up by an NBA team as a free agent and winds up making a roster after lighting up the summer league circuit. If that happens, he clearly made the right decision, that whole right place, right time thing, you know? From there, he begins an NBA career, that, with his skill set, could last a number of years and deliver big time bucks.
But even if that doesn’t happen and Greene is forced to give up his NBA dream and heads overseas to shoot the rock, he’s still going to be better off than he would’ve been playing 11 minutes off the bench at Kansas. He’ll be getting paid to play basketball and travel the world and he’ll actually be playing.
Greene needed a fresh start and KU needed a break from Greene.
Combine invitation or not, both the program and the player got what they needed from Greene making the decision he made and it should be interesting to see where Greene takes things from here.
While watching Villanova celebrate and cut down the nets after Monday night’s thrilling victory over North Carolina in the national title game, a topic popped up on Twitter that I felt was worth looking into a little deeper.
Seeing how Kansas was knocked out of this year’s tourney by the Wildcats, I and dozens of other people in the Twitterverse began wondering how many times that had happened to KU in the past.
The answer? Quite a lot. In fact, since 1991, KU’s tournament fate has been tied to teams playing for the national title on the last Monday of the college basketball season nearly half the time.
Breaking it down further, KU has lost to the eventual national champion 7 times since 1991. What’s more, KU has lost to the eventual runner-up 5 more times in that same stretch. And, of course, the Jayhawks themselves have been the national runner-up 3 times in that span (1991, 2003 and 2012) and, of course, won one national title themselves (2008).
Take it back a few years farther and you can add another national title (1988) and another loss to the eventual runner-up (Duke in 1986).
I know a lot has been made about KU’s early exits, both under Roy Williams and Bill Self, and these facts certainly don’t eliminate those losses. But it sure seems like the following list proves, in yet another way, just how consistently strong Kansas basketball has been in the past 30 years.
Here’s a more detailed look:
1986 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Duke in national semifinals.
1988 – KU beats Oklahoma for the national championship.
1991 - KU loses to Duke in national title game.
1993 – KU loses to eventual national champion North Carolina in national semifinals.
1996 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Syracuse in Elite Eight.
1997 – KU loses to eventual champ Arizona in Sweet 16.
2002 – KU loses to eventual champ Maryland in national semifinals.
2003 – KU loses to Syracuse in national title game.
2004 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Georgia Tech in Elite Eight.
2008 – KU beats Memphis for the national championship.
2009 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Michigan State in Sweet 16.
2012 – KU loses to Kentucky in national title game.
2013 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Michigan in Sweet 16.
2016 – KU loses to eventual champ Villanova in Elite Eight.
For those KU basketball fans who have not sworn off college hoops and crawled into a cave until October, when another season rolls around, this weekend’s Final Four offers a trio of intriguing rooting options.
With that in mind, I checked in with a dozen of the most die-hard KU fans I know to find out who they’re pulling for to take home the national title now that their beloved Jayhawks are no longer in the running.
• Roy Williams and North Carolina — Old habits die hard and if KU can’t win it, why not pull for the man who won 418 games in 15 seasons and led Kansas to four Final Fours. Enough time has passed between Ol’ Roy’s departure and today that going this route has become easier for most.
• Buddy Hield and Oklahoma — Big 12 pride runs deep around here these days and it seems safe to say that many KU fans would pull for just about any Big 12 team in the Final Four. Add to that the fact that OU star Buddy Hield has the utmost respect from the KU fan base and is as good of a guy as there ever has been in college basketball and this option becomes even more appealing. Besides, the Big 12 winning it all only further validates KU’s 12th consecutive Big 12 title and postseason tourney triumph.
• Jay Wright and Villanova — Believe it or not, there are some sports fans out there — even within Jayhawk Nation — who make it a rule to root for the team that knocked their team out. This, of course, makes the season-ending loss easier to swallow even if getting over the heartbreak of losing to said team can be a major challenge.
So there are the options because, as you all know, there’s probably not a single KU fan out there who would pull for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse, even if they are a double-digit-seeded underdog and even if it has been 13 years since that tough loss to the Orange in the title game.
Let’s see what a few of these fine folks had to say.
“I’m rooting for OU over Nova because I love Buddy and really didn’t enjoy the Nova fans. And I’m rooting for UNC over ‘Cuse because I just like them better overall. If OU and UNC meet in the final, I will pull for Roy because I think it’s time for him to hang it up and go out on top. I still love him and I also don’t want to listen to OU fans throw the national championship in our face.” — 40-year-old female Lawrence resident.
“I am cheering for OU. I like Buddy and (OU coach) Lon (Kruger), plus I think it helps the Big 12 brand a little bit.” — 32-year-old male Shawnee resident.
“I think the best team is North Carolina, but that’s not the team I’m going to root for. I’m going to root for Villanova because I like the way they play better than anyone else and I think their big guys are better than I thought they were.” — 65-year-old male Lawrence resident.
“Oklahoma because I think they always give every game their all and they share the ball a lot. They are great guys and I think they are going to go all the way.” — 11-year-old female New Jersey resident.
“I have some very close connections to North Carolina and, obviously, Roy gave us 15 great years, so I love those guys and I root for them now. So there’s a part of me that wants them to win, but, boy, I like Buddy Hield, too. How do you root against that guy? I don’t think you can. Normally, I would root for UNC, but I probably want Buddy Hield to win a national championship.” — 43-year-old male Lawrence resident.
“I’m not rooting for anyone now. My heart always breaks when the season ends with anyone but Kansas on top. The tournament is over in my mind. It’s also possible I’m a sore loser.” — 31-year-old female Lawrence resident.
“I was hoping Virginia was going to beat Syracuse and then I would’ve been fine with any of the four winning it because I really like all four of those teams and coaches. But I’d like to see Carolina win it. As a KU fan, I think it’d be nice to see the best team left rewarded by winning it all.” — 36-year-old male North Carolina resident.
“Definitely OU. Lon Kruger is nothing but class and has really done an amazing job in Norman. His players reflect his demeanor. They play hard with respect for the game and their opponents. There is no better representative of what college basketball should be than Buddy Hield. If KU isn’t going to have its One Shining Moment then I hope OU does.” — 40-year-old male New Jersey resident.
“My heart says to pull for OU due to conference ties and the class act of the coach and players. And that's probably all that matters. But pocketbook-wise, I’ll finish in second place and win $30 in the the “investment” pool I'm in if Syracuse wins one game or Villanova wins it all.” — 59-year-old female Independence, Mo., resident.
“I’m cheering for Oklahoma because Buddy Hield is the rare non-KU player who you wish was a Jayhawk. And even though they once were at Kansas State, Lon Kruger and Steve Henson are both native Kansans and their success helps make our state look good.” — 38-year-old male Lawrence resident.
“Roy. He's family. Also, watching the Tar Heels makes me nostalgic for his era of Jayhawks. Basically, after we beat the Tar Heels in 2008, it healed all wounds with Roy ever since.” — 36-year-old female Fairway resident.
“I’m actually currently in Norman, Oklahoma, so I will be rooting for OU. However, that is partly because the Nova fans were a bit arrogant in Louisville and that made me want them to lose. If OU does win Saturday, I don’t want them to win it all because I don’t want a Big 12 school to be national champs if it isn’t Kansas.” — 41-year-old male Lawrence resident.
In the hours that followed Monday’s news that Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo was throwing his name into the NBA Draft pool — though not hiring an agent just yet — I must’ve seen and heard from hundreds of KU fans who called him crazy for even thinking he’s ready for the NBA.
The thing is, though, that’s not what Diallo is saying by declaring for the NBA Draft. What he is saying is that he’s ready to start getting ready for pro basketball.
And although that could happen if he elected to return to Kansas for his sophomore season, it would happen a lot faster if he turned pro. So that’s why he’s going to. And KU fans should probably embrace that idea ASAP so they’re not disappointed in late May when Diallo stays in the draft.
Here’s the deal: Diallo, like so many other talented players before him and undoubtedly many more to come, chose to play at Kansas in large part because he believed KU coach Bill Self could get him ready for the NBA. If he stayed all four years, or even two or three, there’s no doubt that would happen. But it didn’t happen in one, so now Diallo has a choice to make.
If you really think about it, the choice is easy.
Staying at Kansas gives Diallo access to Self and strength coach Andrea Hudy for another season but also forces him to spend part of his time attending classes and comes with restrictions on just how often he can work with his coaches.
Turning pro eliminates the classes, strips away the restrictions and makes becoming a better basketball player Diallo’s full-time job. He can work on his game — and body — morning, noon and night, even if he’s the last man on an NBA bench or plays in the D League. And either of those, if you ask me, is the path to quicker development.
I don’t doubt that Diallo enjoyed his one year at Kansas, even with all the crap that came with it. He handled himself great during what can only be described as a rough season and was a good teammate, supportive of everyone in the program and, even when not playing in them, seemed to stay engaged in the games and proved to be a positive influence from the bench.
But he didn’t play much. And a big reason for that was because he never really earned Self’s trust. Although he, no doubt, would be in a better place heading into year two, there’s no guarantee that trust would ever be earned. And if it isn’t, then what? Another year on the bench? Another year wasted when it could have been spent developing the skills that might one day get him paid big bucks?
If I’m Diallo, I’m taking the path that allows me to develop my game as quickly as possible. It has nothing to do with greed or disliking Kansas or even the money, at least not today. But it has everything to do with positioning himself to set up his family for life. And the fastest way for Diallo to do that is to turn pro now.
Both ways he’d be taking a gamble. But Diallo’s a confident kid and he believes in himself. With that in mind, the gamble more worth taking is the one that, if all goes well, ends with him signing a big contract sooner rather than later.
It should be interesting to see how it all plays out for him. But don’t count on having a front row seat.
As fans of college basketball, we’ve all seen it a hundred times.
A player who has some ability but may be a little under the radar explodes during the NCAA Tournament and, just like that, finds himself listed as one of the hot draft prospects for the next NBA Draft.
Big time performances on college basketball’s biggest stage have a way of cranking up the hype machine on these types of players and, whether NBA Scouts truly put THAT much stock into an impressive tournament run, it’s impossible to argue that such a stretch does not at least catch their eyes and make them look at a player in a different light.
While the positive side of the equation is the way it goes most often, there also is something looming on the other side. Although it does not happen quite as often — because players are most often judged and evaluated on their full body of work instead of just a bad game or unlucky night — we have seen college players have their NBA draft stock suffer because of poor tourney performances.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it’s undeniable that playing well in the NCAA Tournament can have a major impact in the draft status for a college basketball player. Does a good run turn a no-name into a lottery pick? Not likely. But can a monster showing elevate a future pro from the second round into the first or from the late first into the lottery? You bet.
The Kansas basketball team’s recent 3-1 run in the NCAA Tournament that ended in heartbreak one game shy of the Final Four last weekend, featured some big time games from some of KU’s biggest names.
Naturally, now that the season has ended, it only makes sense that we start to wonder what that will mean for their draft status.
For a senior like Perry Ellis, who has no choice but to leave for the NBA, were the three 20-point games enough to validate a career made on consistency even though that career ended with a whimper?
And for a junior like Wayne Selden, who had his best year at Kansas and seems to have so many of the tools the NBA likes to see in its prospects, will the off night in the season’s final game reintroduce doubts into the minds of the scouts?
Because all 32 NBA teams have an entire army of scouts and not just one, it’s impossible to get a feel for this without talking to multiple representatives. But ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, who has dozens of NBA scouts on speed dial, recently released its Tourney Stock Watch update and both Ellis and Selden were on it, under the heading “Stock Neutral,” which basically means that neither Ellis nor Selden hurt or helped himself that much by what he did in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a quick look at Ford's blurbs on each Jayhawk:
Perry Ellis, 6-9, 225-pound senior forward
"Ellis had been on fire in the first three rounds of the tournament. He had one of the best offensive games of his career against an athletic Maryland front line, scoring 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. However, his Kansas career ended on a sour note, as he scored just four points, committed four turnovers and shot 1-for-5 from the field against Villanova.
Ellis's fundamentals and steadiness will get him a good look in the second round. However, that performance against the Wildcats left scouts with a pretty bad taste in their mouths." — Chad Ford
Wayne Selden, 6-5, 230-pound junior guard
"When Selden is aggressive, he can really look the part of an NBA player -- especially when his 3-point shot is falling. He was aggressive against Villanova, but shot 0-for-6 from the field, including missing two wide open 3s in the final minutes that would've put Kansas on top.
I hear he is seriously pushing to declare for and stay in the draft. He's had a solid junior season and may warrant a second-round selection. But for all the talk about him being a lottery pick, I don't think so." — Chad Ford
From my perspective, I think both Ellis and Selden are guys that, in the right situation with the right teams, could enjoy long NBA careers.
Selden probably has a better shot to make a true impact because he has the size and skills you can plug into an actual NBA position. Ellis, though more talented overall than Selden, is not quite suited to play either the 3 or the 4 at the NBA level and, therefore, is going to have to catch a break by landing with the perfect team, of which there might only be 3 or 4 out there.
Picture Ellis on a team like the San Antonio Spurs, for example. His skill set, focus, versatility and appreciation for the finer points of the game could land him a spot on that roster very easily.
Regardless of where they end up or when they're picked, it seems clear that both will get all that any college player can ask for — a chance.
And it should be fun and interesting to watch how things play out for both players, whether Selden leaves this year or not.
Just like that, another wildly successful Kansas basketball season ended in disappointment for the players and fans in Louisville and around the world on Saturday night.
Villanova 64, Kansas 59.
In a game that featured two veteran teams that could score in such a wide variety of ways, the low-scoring nature of this one showed just how much of a battle it was and how things can get wacky when a trip to the Final Four is on the line.
From the sound of things, it was Villanova’s goal to make it that way and, boy, did the Wildcats succeed.
“We wanted to make it a street fight, make it an ugly game,” said Nova guard Ryan Arcidiacono. "I think we did that.”
There’s no question. And it cost a Kansas team that was on one heck of a roll and appeared to be a real contender to win a national title a great shot at bringing some more meaningful hardware back to Lawrence.
The Twitter world certainly did not seem to want to hear it, but I think reasonable people can agree that Kansas lost to a damn good team on Saturday night at KFC Yum! Center. Were there bad calls? Sure. Did the Jayhawks miss shots they normally might have — perhaps even would have — made? You bet. But it’s not as if things went perfectly for Villanova either. And the Wildcats deserve credit for finding a way to make a couple more plays in a game that wound up being exactly what Nova coach Jay Wright predicted it would be a day earlier — a heavyweight battle. The Kansas team we saw in this one was not the same free and loose team that won 17 straight heading into it. And they were still almost good enough to beat a very talented, tough and experienced team. And, oh by the way, Wright is one heck of a coach. Possibly the most underrated in college basketball. So as much as I’m sure this loss stings for KU fans like all the other NCAA Tournament losses before it, that should not be the way this team and this season are remembered. 33-5 and one step shy of another Final Four. That’s a very good year any way you slice it.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The Devonte’ Graham bounce-back effort from a sub-par Sweet 16 game was impressive and crucial to keeping Kansas in the game. The sophomore guard who struggled through illness two days earlier hit 5 of 9 three-pointers and led the Jayhawks with 17 points. So many of his triples were absolutely critical and kept Kansas in the game. It may not mean a lot today, but just the thought of this guy being around — and continuing to improve at a rapid rate — for two more seasons should bring smiles to KU fans’ somber faces.
2 – I know people will want to talk about how many open three-pointers he missed, but I think Wayne Selden deserves a ton of credit for finding a way to get 16 points on a night he didn’t have it. Selden never stopped attacking, kept shooting and gave all he had to the effort on a night when it would have been very easy to pout about things not going well for him personally. In a related area, Selden also handled the postgame media barrage admirably. He obviously was not thrilled, but he did not project that. In fact, none of the players did. And that says a lot about their growth and maturity.
3 – Reeling after a rough first half, KU came out of the locker room with a purpose and completely erased a seven-point deficit — and actually built a couple of five-point leads — in the first nine minutes of the second half. The way Nova was playing, it looked as if it would take more of a slow and steady effort to chip into that lead. But Kansas turned up its defense — Nova shot just 40 percent from the floor for the game — and found a way to get some easy points on offense to momentarily claim control of the game. It didn’t last, of course, but that response to the halftime adjustments was impressive.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Villanova’s ability to grab 13 offensive rebounds absolutely killed Kansas. In a game as low-scoring and tightly contested as this one was, giving up any free possessions can be devastating. And it was for Kansas. On at least a couple of occasions late, the Wildcats were able to pad their lead from two to four because of offensive rebounds, the biggest coming on a wild rebound and put-back of a missed three-pointer by Mikal Bridges that put Nova up 56-52 with 4:28 to play.
2 – Villanova deserves a ton of the credit for it, but there’s no two ways about it, Perry Ellis’ final game as a Jayhawk was a dud. The senior forward, who finished eighth all-time on KU’s scoring list, scored just four points and made just one basket, the unexpected and tough-to-swallow end to one of the best scoring stretches in recent KU memory. Ellis entered the game having scored 20 or more points in seven of his last eight games, but, on this night, he struggled to get the four points he got and KU did not get enough from those around him to save the season.
3 – One shot, one miss, one assist, three fouls, two turnovers and a steal. That, in all its glory, is all Kansas got from a three-man bench that played just 18 minutes combined and looked incapable of impacting the game on either end of the floor. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk missed his only shot of the night, a three from the corner that he aimed instead of shot and Jamari Traylor and Carlton Bragg could not handle Nova’s physical play. In a sense, Kansas getting nothing from its bench in the final game of the season was a fitting end because this team rode its starting five so heavily for most of the year.
One for the road
KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova in Louisville...
• Dropped Kansas coach Bill Self to 2-6 all-time in Elite Eight games, his losses at Kansas coming to Georgia Tech, UCLA, VCU and now Villanova.
• Snapped a 17-game winning streak which was the nation's longest active winning streak. That winning streak was the longest of the season and the longest since 2010-11, when Kansas opened the season 18-0.
• Made Kansas 14-7 all-time in Elite Eight games.
• Evened the series against Villanova is tied 3-3.
• Bumped Kansas to 100-44 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Now it’s time to take inventory, see who stays, who leaves, which top-tier recruits will pick Kansas and what the Jayhawks will do to retool a team that returns a lot of experience and talent but also will need to fill a few key spots to make another run next season. Stay tuned...
— See what people were saying about KU's Elite Eight loss during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova
- Frustrating finish: Jayhawks baffled by Villanova
- Keegan: Brutal first-half stretch doomed KU
- Villanova game-planned to stop Ellis
- Seniors likely not only players KU will lose
- Graham addresses controversial fifth foul
- Self: Elite Eight loss hard for everybody
- Prep bigs Maker and Ayton to play for World Team
- Villanova ends KU’s season, reaches Final Four
- Keegan Ratings: Graham’s big night not enough vs. Villanova
Villanova’s Jay Wright once pointed to 2 talented KU freshmen as a prime examples of the importance of coaching
Villanova coach Jay Wright is one of the best in the business when it comes to taking and answering questions from the media.
And the man in charge of finding a way to knock out top-seeded Kansas on Saturday night was at it again on Friday, filling the room with thoughtful answers and interesting anecdotes.
Many of them had to do with his team or this specific match-up, but others focused more on philosophy and the bigger picture of the game of basketball.
One such story that illustrated that second aspect to perfection was born out of Villanova’s upset victory of second-ranked Kansas in the Bahamas early in the 2013-14 season.
Villanova defeated a young Kansas team that featured freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and a handful of players on this year’s team on a late shot by then-sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
The three-pointer was Arcidiacono’s only make of that game, but was far from the only thing Wright remembered about the contest.
Here is that story, in Wright’s words...
"The other really unique thing about that game, I think I told Bill this, Wiggins had played, I don't know, maybe one or two games before that, and we were pressing him a little bit. He had five turnovers. I think he was sick that day too.
We, in the scouting report, pumped him up to our guys, how good he was. In the game, he had like five turnovers, didn't play that well. I said to our guys, I said, All right, watch this team. I said, You think they turned the ball over and we just beat them? You don't think they're that good? This is why players need coaching. Wiggins had five turnovers. I guarantee you by the end of this season, this kid will be one of the top picks in the draft. The kid, Embiid, got in foul trouble in that game. I said, When he gets coached by Bill Self for a year, I guarantee you this kid is going to be a great player by the end of the year and this team will be a great team. They didn't look good then, guys were sick.
When teams win a game, they think they're better. Then they watched them. At the end of the year, I said, You see that team now? Is that the same team that played us? They're all like, No. I said, That's why players need coaching. You need to be coached.
It was helpful for our guys, who heard a lot about Embiid and Wiggins, to say, well, those one-and-done guys are getting coached. I better listen and be coached. It really helped our team."
Maryland was bigger, they said. Kansas out-rebounded them. By a lot.
Maryland may have more overall talent, they said. Kansas had the three best players in the game.
Maryland would be a real test, unlike anything KU saw in Des Moines, they said. And yet Kansas still won by 16 points, 79-63 on Thursday night at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
There may have been more than a few signs pointing to the Sweet 16 match-up with Maryland being a serious challenge for the top-seeded Kansas basketball team, but the Jayhawks did not let any of those change anything about the way they do business.
This team is so focused and on such a mission that, at this point, it seems like it’s going to take a truly special performance by an opponent to derail the train the Jayhawks are rolling on right now.
I could not help but keep thinking after this one how it was pretty much the polar opposite of the UConn game. Instead of overwhelming the Terrapins in the first half, the way they did the Huskies last week in Round 2, KU survived a rough first half — with a two-point lead, no less — and then unleashed a second-half barrage that produced seven more points for the Jayhawks and five fewer points for the Terps than what each team had recorded in the opening half. In short, when it mattered most, KU rose to the occasion. And if you hope to keep advancing at this time of year, that’s exactly what you have to do. KU did that, in yet another impressive manner, and the Jayhawks are back in the Elite Eight for the first time in four seasons.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Perry Ellis was good. We all know that by now. But the thing that impressed me most about Ellis’ big night was how well and how willing the Jayhawks were to ride him. For a stretch there in the second half, KU went through Ellis on every single possession and just dared Maryland to stop him. They couldn’t, of course, and that’s just good coaching, good chemistry and the latest crystal-clear sign that this group of guys (a) really plays well together (b) really likes each other and (c) will do anything it takes to win. Thursday night, that was feeding Ellis the rock and they did that over and over.
2 – Give Kansas credit for not panicking early on when things weren’t going well. In year’s past — perhaps even earlier this year — KU might have just forced up a bunch of three-pointers on a night when an opponent frustrated their offensive flow. Not Thursday. Not only did KU stay tough and continue fighting to find something that worked, they only took nine three-pointers all night, another sign of how well they understood how dominant Ellis was.
3 – It sure is fun to watch Wayne Selden play locked-in, intense basketball. And, boy, what a clutch player he has become. You can tell this run means something to Selden. It shows up in just about everything he does out there. And his numbers and production are matching his mindset. Selden was great again Thursday night (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and there’s no reason to believe he’ll be anything but that on Saturday as well.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – There were quite a few silly fouls by Kansas in this game, a couple coming from Jamari Traylor and at least one more coming from Frank Mason. Fouls that come from effort and energy and intensity you can live with. But fouls that come from momentarily losing your focus or laziness with your feet aren’t good. And they really won’t be good if they show up Saturday night against a Villanova team with a veteran backcourt and a roster that made 18 of 19 free throws in its Sweet 16 win on Thursday night.
2 – It didn’t end up hurting them, but it could down the road. There were a handful of empty possessions in the second half that ended with careless, unforced Kansas turnovers, most of them coming with KU up five and in position to go up seven or eight or up nine and in position to make the lead double digits. On at least a few occasions, that kept the door cracked for Maryland, who never seriously threatened after the first few minutes of the second half. Still, the fact that those moments were the result of self-inflicted wounds is something to sigh about.
3 – Devonte’ Graham gets a pass because he was playing through injury and illness, but losing Brannen Greene to injury altogether is not the kind of news you want this time of year. Greene sat out the game because of back spasms and does not appear to be likely to play on Saturday. Although it’s been 10 games since he played more than 11 minutes — and in those 10 games he has made just three shots total — Greene’s still a little bit of a veteran and, even if he’s not hitting or even taking deep threes, he’s a threat to do so. Plus, he’s a terrific free throw shooter. KU can overcome his absence. But it’s definitely not something Jayhawk fans wanted to hear about.
One for the road
Here’s how KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland in Louisville impacted the program...
• WINNING STREAK: Kansas extends its winning streak to 17 games... It is KU's longest of the season and the longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I... KU features 14 winning streaks of 10 games or better during the Bill Self era.
• AWAY FROM HOME: KU is now 18-4 away from Allen Fieldhouse this season... The Jayhawks have won eight-straight neutral-site games, not including the Dec. 12 win over Oregon State at Sprint Center in Kansas City, which was deemed a home game by the NCAA.
• W-L RECORDS: Bill Self improves to 385-82 (.824) while at Kansas, 592-187 (.760) all-time, and 40-16 (.714) in the NCAA Championship (30-11 while at KU)... Kansas is now 2,186-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012, when they defeated North Carolina to reach the Final Four. Top-seeded Kansas will play No. 2 seed Villanova at 7:50 p.m. on Saturday at KFC Yum! Center.
— See what people were saying about the Sweet 16 matchup between KU and Maryland during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland
- One step closer: Ellis’ career night leads KU into Elite Eight
- Keegan: Lucas uses brain and brawn inside
- Turgeon: We lost to nation’s best team
- Miles misses playing days
- Notebook: Haase possible candidate for Stanford vacancy
- Sweet victory: Jayhawks beat Maryland to stay alive
- Keegan Ratings: Ellis continues hot streak in NCAA Tournament
Now that we know which team top-seeded Kansas (32-4) will face in this year’s Sweet 16 this week in Louisville, it’s time to take a little closer look at the Maryland Terrapins.
As you all surely know by now, a terrapin is a turtle and this troop of tortoises is coached by former KU guard Mark Turgeon, who hails from Topeka and played at Kansas from 1984-87. Turgeon also served as a team captain.
Maryland, a No. 5 seed in the South region, enters Thursday’s showdown with the Jayhawks — slated for 8:40 p.m. central on CBS — with a 27-8 record and on the heels of first- and second-round victories over South Dakota State and Hawaii.
The Terrapins, who opened the season ranked No. 18 in The Associated Press’ preseason poll, spent all but two weeks after that ranked in the Top 10 before finishing the regular season right where they began the preseason — ranked No. 18.
Maryland reached as high as second in the AP poll for three different weeks — Weeks 3, 4 and 14 — and was in the Top 5 for nine weeks.
After reaching the No. 2 spot in Week 14 back on Feb. 8, Maryland lost five of eight down the stretch and watched a 22-3 mark turn into a 25-8 record heading into the Big Dance.
The losses during that stretch were: vs. Wisconsin (70-57), at Minnesota (68-63), at Purdue (83-79), at Indiana (80-62) and vs. Michigan State (64-61).
Four of those five teams made the tournament and two of them — Indiana and Wisconsin — joined Maryland in reaching the Sweet 16.
Maryland’s other losses during the 2015-16 season were at Michigan State (74-65) on Jan. 23, at Michigan (70-67) on Jan. 12 and at North Carolina (89-81) on Dec. 1.
Despite the impressive sound of those defeats, you should remember that they all were losses and kenpom.com ranked Maryland’s schedule as the 47th toughest in college basketball this season.
KenPom.com ranked KU’s schedule as the seventh toughest.
KU and Maryland had two common opponents — Michigan State and UConn — and had similar results against both, with Maryland losing twice to Michigan State in tight games and KU losing to the Spartans 79-73 in the Champions Classic in November, and both beating Connecticut, Maryland 76-66 at home in December and KU 73-61 last week in Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament.
Now for a few basic quick facts and stats (KU’s numbers are in parentheses):
Points per game: 76.1 — (82)
Field goal percentage: .488 — (.496)
Field goal percentage D: .405 — (.397)
Three-point percentage: .367 — (.423)
Free throw percentage: .771 — (.710)
Rebounds per game: 35.3 — (38)
Turnovers per game: 12.8 — (12.5)
Two players with slick names — 6-3 sophomore guard Melo Trimble and 6-11 freshman center Diamond Stone — lead the Terps in scoring at 14.8 and 12.7 points per game — and three other Maryland players enter Thursday’s game averaging in double figures in scoring.
Maryland starts two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman, including senior forward Rasheed Sulaimon, a former Duke standout who transferred to Maryland following the 2014-15 season after being kicked off the team by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski following a tumultuous couple of seasons with the Blue Devils.
KU is 0-1 all-time against Maryland in the NCAA Touranment — that loss came in the 2002 Final Four, a game many believed should’ve been the title game that season — but owns a 3-2 overall record against Maryland, with the victories coming in 1964 (63-61 at Maryland), 1965 (71-62 in Lawrence) and 1984 (58-56 in the Great Alaska Shootout). The other loss, an 86-83 setback, came in 1997 in Washington D.C. at the Franklin Bank Classic.
We’ll have much, much more on Maryland and the match-up when we get to Louisville, so be sure to check out Kusports.com throughout the week for all kinds of stories, audio, videos, insight and analysis from KU’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2013.