Sunday, April 7, 2019

As college basketball season draws to a close, KU coach Bill Self sees hope at 2019 Final Four

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) floats to the bucket past Northeastern guard Myles Franklin (13) during the second half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) floats to the bucket past Northeastern guard Myles Franklin (13) during the second half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.


As veteran teams Texas Tech and Virginia prepare to play for college basketball’s biggest prize, Bill Self’s 2018-19 Kansas team is left to reflect on the 26-10 season that ended in the second round.

And while the end of a rocky season came with plenty of heartbreak and disappointment, Self actually found plenty of reason for hope in looking at the four teams that reached this season’s Final Four in Minneapolis.

For starters, the Jayhawks only figure to be a more mature and experienced team next season, with a core of returning underclassmen and Self and company mining the graduate transfer route in the coming weeks.

Beyond that, though, there’s enough evidence that the blueprint that worked for this year’s Final Four teams can work for the Jayhawks, too.

“You look at Michigan State, they lost in the second round last year and look what they’re doing now,” Self said during a recent interview with the Journal-World. “There’s a lot of examples out there that show this can end up being a good thing over time.”

It’s not just current examples that can work for Self as he looks back on this season and ahead at what’s to come.

On more than one occasion during his first 16 seasons at Kansas Self has fielded freshmen-heavy teams that struggled early and went on to do big things.

“We started three freshman when we lost in the first round to Bradley (in 2006) that went on to win a national championship,” Self recalled. “This year we started four freshmen that lost in the second round and actually did better than that team that won a national championship a couple years later. So I’ll look at it as a positive.”

Asked how this most recent group, which included four freshmen who started during the final third of the season — Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and David McCormack — stacked up against the likes of then-freshmen Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush and Julian Wright, Self was honest in his assessment.

“This group isn’t quite as talented,” he said. “But with the right pieces to go along with it, (they) could have similar type success. I do believe that. But we’ve got to get the right pieces to go along with them.”

Self continued: “So much of it is intangibles. There’s nothing that says that this team couldn’t have a Sasha Kaun or a Darnell Jackson or a Russell Robinson on it. Because those (freshmen – Chalmers, Rush and Wright) weren’t ready when they were young. It took them a little bit of time. So this group going through what they went through could maybe enable them to become that a little bit sooner.”

Dedric on the move?

A weekend Tweet from national basketball analyst Jeff Goodman, of Stadium, indicated that KU junior Dedric Lawson was expected to sign with an agent and declare for the NBA draft.

Lawson, who averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds while recording 22 double-doubles for the Jayhawks during his first year of eligibility in Lawrence, has long been considered to be gone following the 2018-19 season.

Many close to KU’s program expected Lawson to at least test his NBA status following the season, but the hiring of an agent is not quite the final straw that it used to be.

A new NCAA rule, which was passed last summer, allows for prospects to hire an agent to help them with the pre-draft process and still return to school provided the agent is certified by the NCAA and the player requests and receives an evaluation from the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.

The deadline for such a request is Thursday and it is unknown at this time whether Lawson, if Goodman’s report is accurate, will go that route.


Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

Bill peaked in the late mid-2000s. KU was posed to dominate and maybe get another title or two.

Give MSU fans credit for their patience. 20 years between titles BUT always a tough team w/hardnose

2028 isn't that far away.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 5 months ago

We need a rim protector and a 3 point shooter, along with Texas Tech style defense. That along with our current freshmen should take us a long way next year.

Craig Carson 3 years, 5 months ago

@marius..another wrong evaluation from you ..smh....guess you forgot about the 2012 and 2017 FF no, Self didn't peak in the mid 2000's

Bryce Landon 3 years, 5 months ago

Uh, the 2017 team lost in the Elite Eight to Oregon. The 2018 team was the one that reached the Final Four. Nice try, though.

Andy Godwin 3 years, 5 months ago

There is appears to be another sheriff in town (Chris Beard) and Self has his work cut out for him to again dominate the Big 12. In the three seasons under Beard (who originally accepted a job at UNLV and backed out when Tubby Smith was fired at TTU), TTU has gone to the elite eight and is now playing for a National Championship with a new cast of players from the previous year (and no McDonalds All Americans). He is getting praised nationally for the way he runs his practices and TTUs smothering defense. Not sure how the Jayhawks will look like next season, given the roster is not yet set, but Self may no longer be the only coach in the Big 12 with a National Championship (first to 50 points might win).

Jeff Kallmeyer 3 years, 5 months ago

It's all about defense... is Self too soft with his players?

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

Self went from being known for his tough defense to no longer being sure if he even plays defense.

Jim Stauffer 3 years, 5 months ago

Wow! Someone else in the league has a bit of success and we are doomed according to guys on here. So, you think Beard will win another 13 titles in a row? You think he will begin to win 82% of his games playing a schedule similar to that of KU (which, by the way plays one of the toughest each year)? Beard is an excellent coach. The league needs more than one good team and one good coach. The way you guys think Coach K should have just mailed it in and resigned when Roy came to the ACC and won his titles. The competition between Self and Beard will be a great thing to observe over the years is Beard stays at Tech. I hope he does. I love the Big 12 and I think Lubbock, for all the jokes folks like to make about it, has the potential to really support a great BB program, whereas if he were to go to UT, he would be an afterthought. We are on the precipice of some truly great times in the league if Chris Beard and Bill Self head it up. We can indeed match UNC and Duke who both have guys coaching who are ready for the boneyard.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 5 months ago

Random Thoughts:

1] Not that I disagree with anything that Jim Stauffer has said, it's just that there are so many more prominent programs than TT out there that will grab Beard, I can't see him staying in the Big 12 long at all.

2] Maybe I am in the micro minority, but I think that this season was Bill's best coaching job at Kansas...EVER, including the Final Four years. Given that KU had the toughest schedule in the nation, eventually lost 30% of the rotation including our top two big men, started four freshmen and had the NCAA down our necks and still made it to the Sweet Sixteen.

3] I won't be surprised if Grimes stays...I won't be surprised if Grimes leaves....I will be surprised if, however, at this point, I really care!

4] Maybe the other shoe is about to drop on Nike, Zion and Duke after all!!! We can only hope.

5] Maybe we weren't as bad as people think, especially if you see that we beat two Final Four teams and maybe the National Champion, although after Saturday night's finish, I think the ghosts of Ralph Sampson's failures will be banished and Virginia will claim their first title!!

6] No matter, it has been and will continue to be a pleasure to interact with all you Jayhawks out there including my buddies, Jay, Bryce, Suzi, Marius, Dirk and Brett. [An everyone else who loves the Hawks].

Bryce Landon 3 years, 5 months ago

Regarding [2], you really think this was Self's best coaching job? Dude, a team that was #1 to start the season, poised to win the Big 12 for a 15th year in a row, and was a trendy Final Four pick lost 10 games, finished in third place in the Big 12, lost twice to Iowa State by double digits, and didn't get past the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The injuries to Udoka and Marcus, the Silvio suspension, and LaGerald's family issues were not his fault. But he didn't develop the players he had very well, he fell down on the job in recruiting, and his team was completely unprepared for must-win games (at Texas Tech, at Oklahoma, vs. Auburn). That's not a great coaching job. That is the textbook definition of underachievement.

His best coaching jobs, in my opinion, were the 2006 team (from a 10-6 start and talk of being relegated to the NIT to Big 12 co-champs and Big 12 Tournament champs - the loss to Bradley notwithstanding) and the 2012 team (two players ruled ineligible, not much depth, but still won 30 games, the Big 12 title, and reached the NCAA finals against Kentucky). And of course, his coaching in the last 2:12 of regulation and the overtime period against Memphis in the 2008 NCAA finals.

Jeff Kallmeyer 3 years, 5 months ago

Agree with you! Not one of Self's better coaching seasons, I think he's getting too soft. He needs to adopt the TTU model for defense.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 3 years, 5 months ago

I for one am very happy for TT and Chris Beard. It's great to see the league have success - which outside of Kansas - has been lacking for a long time. Baylor won the women's title and TT has a chance to claim the men's. Now that would be something for the entire Big 12 conference to be very proud of.
The league has been claiming it's the best men's basketball conference - now we have a chance to prove it. It will be a tough game as Virginia is a great team, but TT has shown it's a great team too.
I choose to believe a rising tide lifts all boats, so having more league success will help KU in the long run (see ACC basketball).

Ken Stclair 3 years, 5 months ago

Meh-I can't get excited about any other team other than KU......Never have.....Never will. Just the way it is.

Brad Farha 3 years, 5 months ago

+1 Karen -- I'm hoping T Tech plays well and wins for themselves (and the Big 12 of course).

Jeff Kallmeyer 3 years, 5 months ago

TTU in the final doesn't make the Big 12 a strong conference. In fact, based on the early NCAA exits and only getting six schools in the tourney, this year was a very poor showing.

Brian Leslie 3 years, 5 months ago

OU and KU were JUST in the Final 4, and now Texas Tech has made the championship game. The Big 12 has also had an amazing amount of NPOY type players come through: Trae Young, Buddy Hield, Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley, Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford. I understand it's all about the NCAA tournament, but the Big 12 has had a Final 4 participant 3 of the last 4 seasons. We had 3 in the Elite 8 last year. If Tech wins tonight with a team that had 0.3% the ESPN coverage of Duke, it completely changes the narrative on the Big 12.

Blake McFarland 3 years, 5 months ago

Didn't dedric already test once so if he declares again he's gone?

Matt Tait 3 years, 5 months ago

They changed the rules. You can test multiple times now and still return as long as you take care of the things that need to be taken care of and meet the deadlines that need to be met.

Pius Waldman 3 years, 5 months ago

Matt: Someone needs to find out why the hearing for DeSousa is not happening. He really needs to know if he will be eligible next year. Maybe you can help get an answer.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

Maybe it's because his name is consistently spelled wrong. The "De" is a prefix.

Stuart Corder 3 years, 5 months ago

In regards to Dedric Lawson, even when I take off my KU tinted glasses, I think he’s choosing between a senior year on an improved KU team and the NBA developmental league/international career.

The man has NBA skill/technique, but doesn’t appear to play with power in the post. In his NCAA play, Lawson’s tendency to “let the game come to him” is a luxury he will not have in the NBA against physically dominant “bigs”.

It appears as though KU is destined for more 4G line ups, unless Silvio De Sousa gets his penalty successfully appealed - but I doubt that as the NCAA has an adidas/Nike problem that will blow up in the coming months.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 5 months ago

I really feel like Dedric was forced to play out of his natural position due to the Udoka injury, the Silvio suspension, and David McCormack not being ready for prime time. He strikes me as someone who would be better suited playing small forward than power forward or center.

Robert Brock 3 years, 5 months ago

The conference has had a wee bit of success recently other than KU. Oklahoma made the Final Four in 2017.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 5 months ago

Uh, no. The Sooners were in the 2016 Final Four. You fail.

Dane Pratt 3 years, 5 months ago

The thing about KU basketball is we have won so much (games, conference titles, tournament appearances, final fours, etc.) that the only thing left to prove is a national title. However, I in no way believe that anything short of one is a failed season but that’s pretty much the only thing left to achieve. By my standards Bill has yet to have an unsuccessful season.

Jeff Coffman 3 years, 5 months ago

Let's see Bill Self at KU:

14 of 16 Big XII titles

1 week ranked outside of the Top 25

3 Final Fours (2 National Title Appearances)

1 National Title

16 NCAA Tournament Appearances

Yes, I wish that Embiid hadn't gotten hurt, yes I wish that Dok wouldn't have gotten hurt this year or three years ago. However, Bill Self has been solid at KU. This year he went undefeated at home and lost three neutral games. The road was where this team struggled and with freshmen being the key players, this shouldn't have been surprising.

KU will look good again next year, and we will have a solid core with the experience that some of these guys gained.

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 5 months ago

Have you forgotten the 33s? 3 dominant players that can shoot 3s last year? We've got seniors. How about the previous year? we also have 33s + JJ (the only dominant freshman)? I think I should stop here.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

You just keep hitting the bullseye, Steve. Self does better when he stays away from the top 15 recruits. Duke had the most talent on any one team in memory but still came up short w/Coach K.

I'm not saying we stop recruiting the top players but how much time is taken away from top 50 players who might want to come to KU. But how many more wasted picks that contribute nothing but take space on the bench and leave at first opportunity.

Edward Daub 3 years, 5 months ago

Dubious Dubs!

A) Bruce Pearl looks like Boris Badenov.

B) Tony Bennett sings "I Believe in Miracles" x2.

C) Tom Izzo is much Cuter than Coach K.

D) Chris Beard is Clean Shaven.

E) Matt Mooney played like Chip Hilton.

F) KU's "Fab 4" should all be back!

G) Duke's "Fab 4" should all be gone!

H) Kyle Guy, Mr. Clutch, is getting married soon.

I) Jarrod Culver wants a butter burger and milk shake.

J) Charles Barkley swallowed a "Slim Fast".

Tony Bandle 3 years, 5 months ago

K) Two Chip Hilton references in one season....maybe I'm not the oldest Hawk on the planet!

L) Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but he's not going to give the title to you.

M) Anyone who says Bill Self sucks, sucks.

N) Maybe it should be KU's "Pretty Good 4".

P) Everybody not named Mitch or Big Mac, take 500 three pointers a day till next October.

Chad Smith 3 years, 5 months ago

One mediocre season and people lose their minds. People are down about people leaving, but that also frees up spots for 5 star freshman and talented transfers. You don't think dedric leaving affects matt hurt and precious's college decision. They want to be able to play right away. At KU, there will be a spot for you and probably a good chance to start and play meaningful minutes. Try to find the positives about this offseason.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 5 months ago

This is starting to be a regular occurrence. Might take some research but how much other Division I coaches have had so many problems getting their players eligible.

Do you pay any attention to recruiting Chad? The 2019/20 class is pretty much gone already with a few decent recruits waiting to see where they can get the most playing time. I hope we aren't looking at another class filled with transfers.

We do have some (2) guards who have signed. Both well below a 100 ranking.

Bj Cassady 3 years, 5 months ago

The Team peaked early then went flat. We defeated MSU, Villanova, Tennessee for goodness sakes then, in my opinion it all went south when we lost to a bad West Virginia team. Our players did not develop. Grimes never got better. Garrett never shot the ball well, Lightfoot the same C Moore the same. I remember seeing Garrett, Lightfoot, Grimes and Moore on the floor at the same time and wondering who is going to score, well nobody did. We were much softer on defense than we have been for whatever reason. We did not play as a team that much and we lacked a vocal leader. The things we had in previous years, the mystique was missing from this year's team. Getting run out of a gym is unacceptable.

Roger Ortega 3 years, 5 months ago

I disagree. No way we peaked early. That team that started was not the team that ended.

Steven Haag 3 years, 5 months ago

We had 14 good years. No other coach, EVER, in any conference has had that type of success. We were long overdue for a mediocre year. The 4 freshmen didn’t start playing together as starters until halfway through the season, or later. Most of us got WAY too spoiled with our 14 years of dominance. Notice that QG was the only one “forecasted” as a lottery. The rest were at least 2-3 year eligibility issues, no Adidas smell coming from their corners. The current commits, not OAD players. Maybe Bill is onto something

Corey Sparks 3 years, 5 months ago

Competition is good, that's what this sports all about. I'm glad Beard and Tech are here. I see a good rivalry forming between us as long as he stays.

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