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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Simply put, KU needs a sweep in gut-check week

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets fouled by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) on his way to the bucket during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets fouled by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) on his way to the bucket during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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A pair of successful purple tuneups in Lawrence and Fort Worth checked off the schedule, gut-check week has arrived for a Kansas University basketball team that like most top 10 squads doesn’t always play like it or feel like it.

Kansas heads into the week with a 19-4 overall record and a 7-3 conference record, good for a second-place tie with Oklahoma and Texas, one game behind West Virginia, one game ahead of Baylor and Iowa State. That’s right, one hole into the back nine, six schools remain in the hunt for the Big 12 title.

Nationally, the scramble for No. 1 is no less crowded, no easier to try to project.

The Jayhawks could move up a spot from their No. 7 ranking when the new Associated Press poll is released early this afternoon.

Despite the lofty ranking, only a sweep this week can sustain the positive mojo generated from lopsided victories against the Horned Frogs and Wildcats.

The answer to the question regarding these bouncing around so many minds — was that 1-3 road start to the conference season just a bump in the road toward a 12th consecutive Big 12 title, or is this team not quite championship-caliber? — awaits.

West Virginia, a pest of an opponent because of relentless offensive rebounding and defensive pressure, visits Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Four days and 333 miles later, Kansas visits Oklahoma for a rematch of the 109-106, triple-overtime blast won by KU in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas coach Bill Self talked about his team in a way many coaches talk about theirs. Great? No. Able to beat anybody when playing smart, driven, unselfish basketball? Sure, why not?

“I love our roster,” Self said, perhaps embellishing a touch. “I don’t know that there is a team in America that can say they’ve got everything. Last year’s Kentucky team could say they had everything. They had shooting. They had depth. They had shot-blockers, big bodies. They could probably try to fit whatever the other teams were trying to do against them. We’re not like that, but we do have bodies, and we do have good players.”

This week will reveal so much about how badly the Jayhawks want it and how capable they are of withstanding pressure and physical play, which West Virginia brings, and how well they can defend a team blessed with quick athletes who can shoot, of which Oklahoma has many.

West Virginia (19-4) ranks No. 1 in the nation in steals and offensive rebounds, both reflections of their quickness and relentless aggressiveness. The Sooners (19-3) lead the nation with a .453 three-point shooting percentage.

“To me, when we play the right way, I think that we’re really good,” Self said. “I do. I love watching our team play when we play the right way. When we don’t share and we’re not aggressive and things like that, we can get average, and talent doesn’t prevail with us. That’s why I think it’s so important, the habits of energy and things like that.”

If the urgency of this week’s schedule doesn’t bring out the best in the Jayhawks in those areas, you have to wonder what will.

Comments

Joe Joseph 6 years, 3 months ago

Kansas has to beat WVU this week. A win in Norman would be huge, but not absolutely necessary for winning the conference.

Nobody in this league is finishing with less than four losses. Probably five.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Last week the Chicken Littles were 100% certain that OU was running the table and that the conference title was completely out of reach.

Anything is possible but four losses won't likely be too many.

Rick Glover 6 years, 3 months ago

Kansas needs to look at this week as an early tuner for the second or third round of the NCAA tourney, come march they'll two big wins to advance to the next round. They might as well practice this mind set to prepare for the end of the season.

Robert Brock 6 years, 3 months ago

This time, KU needs to stop playing the victim and score against the press. In Morgantown, we coughed up the ball eighteen times - otherwise, we would have won that game. WVU is a poor-shooting team (they shot 33 percent in that game) and one of the least skilled teams in the Big 12. Rebound and take care of the ball. W...

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 3 months ago

I hope our guys are practicing and taking plenty of FTs. Besides great energy on the court, we will need every point. Don't waste any from the line guys.

Harlan Hobbs 6 years, 3 months ago

I wouldn't bet on five losses tying for the championship. Sure, it could happen, but it always seems that one team seems to separate itself a little in the end. West Virginia is in the best shape right now, even if we manage to beat them tomorrow night. They have played at OU, and they beat ISU and OSU on the road which we didn't. Their stumble at home against Texas is the only think keeping them from clearly being in the driver's seat.

We have road games left at Oklahoma, Baylor, Texas, and K-State. I had high hopes for winning at Manhattan at one time, but they played us pretty well in Lawrence, plus their win against OU was huge. That was a big bump in the road for OU. However, if OU holds serve at home, they are going to be tough to beat. They and us are the only teams that don't have a home loss.

I would be wary of Texas. They play at OU tonight, and they beat WVU at Morgantown. If they were to knock off OU in Norman (not likely), they will definitely have momentum.

Should be an exciting next few weeks. Go Hawks!

Dirk Medema 6 years, 3 months ago

WVU has 6 top team (KU, OU, UT, BU, ISU, WVU) game left with 3 on the road. That's the toughest finish along with BU (also 3 at home, 3 on the road).

OU has it easiest with 2 @ home & 2 on the road.

KU & UT are in between with 3 away & 2 home vs. 2 away and 4 home.

ISU is on the outside looking in with too many L's.

Defend the home court. Beat the bottom here and there. Steal a road game or 2. That's how championships are won.

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

I honestly don't care one bit about another Big 12 title. I don't understand this league. How can teams look so good for most of the season and lay an egg in the tournament? I want tournament wins. The title streak is cool but are we really building towards March or just trying to win conference titles? I wonder if it weighs on the players to not be the group to end the streak or if it weighs on Bill Self's mind that he can basically be immortalized if he catches Jon Wooden for conference streaks. I am not saying I know the answers but it has to have crossed their minds at least.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm pretty sure that Coach Self just prepares his team to try to win each and every game.

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

I'm sure he does but if you honestly think they aren't aware of it and it carries no weight, you are kidding yourself. Lots of flops in March recently. Plenty of success but we have had many very good teams who should have made elite 8's of final 4's and get bounced the first weekend. You have to wonder if they aren't somewhat relieved when they win the league and burnt out for March.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Obviously there's some pressure to win the B12 but that's done by NCAA time. I don't begin to believe that players "burn out" trying to win their conference and therefore can't get going 3-4 weeks later.

Every decent program has had early losses.

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

How may programs have had the losses we've had while being a top 3 seed in the NCAA's? Why is a let down common following a big game (Oklahoma win)? I think the rigors of the conference season take a major toll on these kids who are also managing their lives as college students. I don't think it's as black and white as you are looking at it. What is your explanation for the lack of March success? The consistency of our regular season in a very good conference and lack thereof in the tournament has to at least be acknowledged.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Pretty much all of them actually. Duke..3 times in the first round in the Self era. UK three times in the 32 and once in the first round. UCoon, a first and two second round losses in Self era (only 8 tournaments. MSU three first and a second round. UNC two second and two third round losses and an NIT.

What's past is past. What rationale is there to analyzing how teams with entirely different rosters did? Did Self teach The Morrii to take stupid early fouls? Did he teach Morningstar and Reed to miss all their threes?

You're a Chicken Little. That's what's black and white.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 3 months ago

And UK once in the 1st round of the NIT to boot.

Brad Farha 6 years, 3 months ago

Except for the chicken little comment, I agree with what Jay is saying here. To add to that, Coach Self didn't tell Reed and Morningstar to leave 3 point shooters alone and drop down for help defense. At least one of them, if not both, admitted after the game that they didn't follow the scouting report. That plus the missed 3s is on them.

Another factor in the perception that we have more early tournament losses than others is that we are always in the tournament. You are going to have more early losses if you are there more often. Consider that UConn, Kentucky and UNC have all missed the tournament in the Self era. Heck, UK even lost in the first round of the NIT. While I don't think Duke has missed the tournament recently, they have lost more times in the 1st round than we have....and one of those was as a 2 seed.

Don't get me wrong. We are certainly not the best in the tournament. That title probably goes to UConn over the last 16 or so years, and to Kentucky for the past 8 or so. But we have had some great tournament success, and we are all wanting more.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 3 months ago

"Lots of flops in March recently."

But also to be comprehensive and fair, we've also had Lots of injuries and ineligibilities in March that any objective analysis easily concludes has had a negative impact on the teams performance. For as nice as it was to have Black as insurance, we're going a couple games further - minimum, if JoJo is playing. Cliff, not so much, but then Perry was also banged up. That's hard.

If they play more like the 1st half Saturday (and some how can figure out a way to rest Frank), this team has plenty of games to play in March and April.

Kent Richardson 6 years, 3 months ago

The week of the "purple tuneups" is over. Nice Keegan.

This will be a tough week for sure and I would not be surprised if we lose both or split.

The things that work against the "eers" we do not display as a matter of course.

Get a hold of the ball after a made basket and quickly get it in bounds before the press is completely set up. Not gonna happen unless we change our ways.

When the press is broken then attack the rim. No gonna happen unless we change our ways.

Be aware that WVU's defenders will come up behind you and poke the ball away when you are dribbling. Not gonna happen unless we change our ways.

Block out on the defensive boards. Not gonna happen ......

Move the ball crisply in the half court. Not ........

Hit from the outside by Wayne and Svi. Need to get them going.

I just don't see us being aggressive enough to beat WVU. Baylor was for a while but couldn't keep it up. 60/40 we implode for 6 to 8 minutes and it's hard to come back against them after that.

I think we can beat OU but we have to hit our outside shots and Perry will have to be big time again. With our on again off again effort and focus, it's 60/40 against. May need some help from them and not a good feeling that will happen.

Dirk Medema 6 years, 3 months ago

The 1st half of TCU was a tune-up for WVU. We let up in the 2nd half. Can't give em too much tape. We'll be attacking and fine Tuesday.

Saturday could be interesting. OU survived today, but they look vulnerable.

Jeremy Wilhelm 6 years, 3 months ago

Nearly perfect response to Casey Olson there Jay Scott, except you left out UK losing in round 1 of the NIT not that long ago.

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

I think that is a very objective and mature approach to call people chicken little every time someone posts a critical comment. I am not a pessimist. I hardly ever post on here because it is typically just keyboard tough guys. I am on my phone and dont have time to look up tournament seeding history per team but i doubt any of the teams you've listed above have been consistently seeded as high as KU in the Self era except maybe Duke who has 2 or 3 national titles in that span. My point is how can one team dominate a power conference for over a decade, place lottery pick after lottery pick in the NBA and not have it consistently relate to tournament success. No Self isn't playing the game but he is ultimately responsible. I'm not saying fire him. I'm not saying we have never had success but I am saying winning conference titles is 2nd, in my opinion, to tournament success. I respectfully disagree with everyone who thinks our March record is even close to fulfilling it's potential and matches our eegular season intensity

Dirk Medema 6 years, 3 months ago

"not have it consistently relate to tournament success."

The easy answer is it has. Winningest team this century or something like that.

The short answer is injuries to key frontline players the past 2 years, and still we're better than others over the years as noted above.

Remember how earlier in the season others were lamenting Coach Self not being able to keep up with Coach C & K. Ya, the coaches of those 20-somethingish teams.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Casey. Chicken Little ideas are much more than just critical. They're persistent. They're stupid.

Your comments are all three. It's nothing personal. If you don't like being a Chicken Little, don't make stupid, negative comments so persistently.

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

Again, it's just an opinion. I would say it depends on what you consider a successful season. My opinion is that while Big 12 titles and total number of wins are obviously an arguable barometer of success, national titles and deep runs in the tournament are more important. I dont think 3 national titles is acceptable given the history of players and very good, if not great, teams that have come through here.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Now it's Bill Self and the current player's fault that Wilt's team lost? That Pierce, LaFrentz etc lost? That Simien's team lost?

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

You have got to be the biggest moron on this site. You bait people into childish arguments over an opinion. You use the word chicken-little repeatedly like it's even remotely clever to describe someone who disagrees with you. Just a guess, but you are more than likely living in your mom's basement, voted for Ralph Nader and have never seen a real boob in your life. I'm sure you'll fire a super clever response along the lines of "i know you are but what am I" or "I've seen tons of boobs" Keep those rose colored glasses on and hope someday Bill Self will see you standing up for him and invite you over to dinner.

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Casey. You made negative comments that were stupid. They were countered with facts.

You whined and moaned that your stupid comments weren't well loved enough and insisted that they were justified, without attempting to tackle the counterpoints..

That's the textbook definition of a Chicken Little.

Adding infantile insults is typical of the Chicken Littles.

Here's some advice. If you don't like your ideas scrutinized and revealed as stupid, don't post them in public.

Casey Olson 6 years, 3 months ago

What facts? The teams you named have either beat us in the national title game or won 2, 3 and 3 national titles in that span with the exception of Michigan state. That list also basically makes up the champions classic in which we are 1- 4 against. In what way have I whined. You're the little pansy who took a comment as a personal attack. I didn't reply with counterpoints because my point isn't to bash KU and I have seen how incredibly stupid a conversation with you is from previous articles. Big man. You are in a childish argument in nearly every single article if someone dares question this team. You are a rube

Jay Scott 6 years, 3 months ago

Thanks Casey. You've made my point perfectly, again. Have a super day.

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