Some Pre-Tourney Thoughts

    1. Cliff: This situation has to annoy coach Self to no end. But this is not an issue where we should demonize the NCAA. There are clear rules. It now appears that Cliff or his family broke the rules (“appears” ). But even if they didn’t, there is a fairly simple process for exoneration. Given the time frame now remaining, it is over. The third party documents – likely held by his parents – would have been produced if they were going to be provided. The fact that they aren’t produced tells us something, or at least implies improper conduct. But of course, they broke no laws. It’s not illegal. Just compromises eligibility.

    2. Landen Lucas: Notice how Landen looks better now, than in the first part of the season. Part of that is experience. But part of that is the fact that we’re not simply doing the post feed deal with him. Our offense is not premised at present around the post feed. Lucas’ talent/skill deficiency is not as exposed. That’s not a slam at all. He is just a sophomore and seems like he can be a reasonable back up now. And the game situations have clearly enhanced his development. Landen is doing everything asked of him. He deserves to start. I love seeing the guy on the floor. But also, he is not a guy that Self can rely upon to score in the post on the post feed in future years. That would be gambling on much more development.

    3. Chris Jones: Odd topic here … but in my Frank Mason post, I flat forgot about Chris Jones, the top Juco guy of that class. Another guy Self had pursued over Mason. He was dismissed from the Louisville team. Yet another reason why we are darn lucky to have gotten Frank Mason. But man, Louisville is different without Jones.

    4. Self’s Expectations: Did anyone see this quote from Coach Self? Self said, after the brackets were released: “If this team gets a chance to play in an Elite Eight game, it’s been a hell of a year. Let’s call it like it is.” When I read that, I really couldn’t believe it. “One hell of a year”? I’m not saying that given our position in UK’s bracket that getting to the Elite Eight might not be our reasonable season’s conclusion, I’m just curious about the message it sends. I don’t like the comment at all. Simply playing UK is one hell of a year? How about beating UK’s ass, and we can then start having that discussion.

    5. Defense: Lost a little in all of the offensive discussion is the vast improvement in our team defense. I think we would all agree that this team is better defensively than last season. Again, we lose Wiggins and Embiid, and we’re better? I point to two important things. First, no Naadir Tharpe. When we see Mason and Graham busting their butts, it further exposes how much of a liability we had in Tharpe. Self best off season move was cutting Tharpe. Bar none. Second, the vast improvement on the defensive end by Perry Ellis. It’s holding his position more than anything, but he also takes very good angles in the post based on ball position. He works hard, and he hits the glass on the defensive end. And as a side note, there is never ever any discussion on how this team is coached defensively. We might question the use of zone from time to time, but as far a man to man defensive coach, we have the best in the business.

    6. Villanova: As a #1 seed, Villanova is an absolute joke. Gonzaga is better. Arizona is much better. They just aren’t that talented. A team where the three ball has masked their deficiencies a bit. This seeding just makes no sense to me at all. I also think KU and Virginia are more deserving. A lot of this is subjective, of course. I struggle to find anything real impressive on their schedule.

    7. Gottliebism: Doug Gottlieb takes some well deserved gruff from KU fans. He’s quasi-impartial. But we all are. He was the one guy calling our 2008 team the best team in the country literally all season. Anyway, his comment from Sunday – he said Arizona was going to get to play a “virtual home game” in its first game against Texas Southern. The game is in Portland, Oregon. I felt like the Aflac duck.

    8. Field Goal Percentage At The Rim: This is one of my favorite stats. Of the top 8 seeds, the field goal percentage at the rim ranges from 62.1% - 69.3% – except Kansas, which is at 56.5%. So we’re dead last by a large margin. Had this discussion a bit on another thread. This is still concerning. Interestingly, of the top 8 seeds, we are just 6th in three point attempts.

    9. 2012: Coach Self cited 2012 as comparison to this season. He cited that Tyshawn Taylor did not hit a three point basket until the final game in the tourney, and that we didn’t hit a shot outside 3 feet against NC State (a little exaggeration). But in looking at the 2012 team, we averaged 15 three pointers per game in the NCAA tourney and average 16.48 for the season. Compare to the 11.5 per game in our bad ball stretch. Three pointers aren’t a cure all, as I’ve said all year, but with this particular team, they appear to be a necessity.

    10. Breakout: Sometimes slumps are broken gradually. Sometimes it happens in a rush, and the floodgates open. That’s all I’ll say. Or, as I posted on another thread, maybe the boys need a good old fashioned Slump Buster. Or, maybe the slump is better than the cure. Let’s just hit some threes.

    11. Excuses: Ah, I hear them coming already. We lost Cliff. We got a bad draw. We had foul trouble. Anybody can beat anybody in a one game draw. We’re hurt. The tournament is all about luck. It’s all match-ups. Self can’t put the ball in the hole. We missed bunnies. The other team took away (insert name or aspect of our offensive game). This team really isn’t that good. We had a short turn around. We have tired legs. I’ll tell you, the “missing bunnies” thing from the Stanford game last season was perhaps the single most shortsighted and shallow excuse ever related to Kansas hoops. I ask all of you prone to making excuses – watch the entirety of the games. Not just in length, but in depth. I’ll contrast it a bit to 2013. When we lost to Michigan, there were no real issues with Self’s handling of that game, short of a few late game and OT decisions that are up for fair debate. But the loss to Stanford was a plain and obvious failure of our coaching staff to properly game plan and then adjust during the game. Big difference. That’s what to watch for. We need coach Self and his staff to have their “A” games.

    12. Our Expectations: To begin the year, my expectations were a national title. When you look at other teams, Kansas is not an overall talent deficit to any team, except UK. Duke is arguable. A national title was a reasonable expectation. The reality is that this team is Self’s baby. He recruited it, he developed it, he cultivated it, he molded it, he puts it out on the floor – every aspect is controlled by coach Self. And it was all geared for this moment. The best possible teams we have to beat to get to the Elite Eight (chalk) are WSU and ND. That’s it. And a 15 seed. Kansas should be better than all of those teams. I expect an Elite Eight. That’s my reasonable expectation right now. I don’t think it’s a “hell of a season” if we get there, though. It’s chalk. 2012 was a hell of a season. 2008 was the mountain top. While I will not be satisfied, I will be relieved if we just beat WSU, to be honest.

    13. NCAA Tournament Is Beautiful: The next 11 days, Thursday, March 19 - Sunday, March 29, is beautiful. Nothing better. After 11 days we’ll be down to four teams. The promised land. And if we play to our capabilities, we can be there. Yes, we can. We simply cannot beat UK playing the style that we are playing now. But we can beat UK. And we all know what style will be required to beat UK. Let’s get there and find out.

    I’m off early Friday for the drive to Omaha. Hope we get rollin’. We can win 6 games in a row. Damn right we can.

  • Great post as always.

    1. With Landen I’m been pleasantly surprised by the baby hook he’s displayed a few times lately. I think that move can be deadly for him going forward. I also wonder if his body wasn’t so beat up as said by Self that he could seal for position even better than he is. Honestly in the middle of the season I was ready for him to be packed off to a D2 school but I’m delighted at his progress since he’s been given the starting spot.

    2.  Defense has been great. No complaints other than maybe defensive rebounding which is still an Achilles heal from time to time.
    3. I happen to think Nova is as good as anyone not named UK but I'm on the east coast and have seen a hanful of their games. They have versatility and don't rely on one guy to do everything. Experienced bunch usually prevails in March.
    4. Yikes!!! Can that be reversed for 6 games??

    The NCAA is tourney is amazing, I just hope we get some of the luck thrown our way.

  • In all fairness in relation to item 4, here is the entire quote from Coach Self:

    "You know what, if this team gets a chance to play in the Elite 8 game, then it’s been a hell of a year – let’s just call it like it is. And regardless of who you play, it would be a great opportunity, for a one-shot deal, to go to the Final Four."

    The second part of the sentence puts the first part in context and does not sound as bad as the first part take in isolation. Getting to the Elite eight and having a one-shot dealt to go the Final Four and ruining Kentucky’s best scenario in the last 50 years would be priceless…and would place KU in great position for the Title. Possible? Hell yes, probable? Maybe not so much. Just my opinion.

  • Watching the Manhattan/Hampton game last night scared me. There is some spectacular ball being played by the play-in teams. Last year, one of them made it to the Sweet 16. One of the things that has seemed to happen in the last 5 years is that there are rarely any blow outs in the Tourney. I remember first hearing the phrase, “Win and Advance” from Jim Valvano. There should be no bitching on this site about “We should have beat them by much more.” Style points don’t count, a win does, however it came about. The 2012 team had the best attitude going into the tourney, I’d love to bottle it and give to every new Jayhawk team.

  • @HighEliteMajor said:

    1. Our Expectations: … I will be relieved if we just beat WSU, to be honest.

    Isn’t that sort of this season’s theme: relief?

    • We kept our Conference streak alive: whew!

    • Perry isn’t out with an injury: ouf!

    • Another ugly game pulled out: where’s the AlkaSeltzer?

    I think we have a few more seasons of “relief seeking” as Self tries to pass Wooden. If that happens, I personally will cut him some slack: he may be the only coach in our lifetimes with a chance at one of Wooden’s records.

  • @HighEliteMajor

    The improved defense certainly was noticed by me. And then in one horrible half against ISU it was gone. We’d have been the two seed somewhere else and with that a better possibility of the FF.

  • @JayHawkFanToo

    Some additional quotes from Coach Self to add further context:

    **COACH SELF: You may not agree with how I assess our team, but we have had a really good season. **

    But in order to say, ‘Hey, it was a great season,’ you’ve got to do well in the NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 tournament counts, but it doesn’t really count. If you win like Wisconsin, they got a chance to celebrate the Big Ten championship for five minutes and then forget about that, they go onto the next deal.

    Iowa State got a chance to celebrate until about 2 p.m., today and then they will focus in and do everything else. We got a chance to feel sorry for ourselves until about 2 p.m., today and then that’s over. Our energy is totally refocused. It’s the shortest time frame that you can either be sad or you can celebrate anything.

    It was disappointing, obviously, to lose (the Big 12 title game to Iowa State). But if we had have won, I’d feel the same way today as I did, because the other thing is fresh and new and that kind of stuff. So that was disappointing, but there’s not a long hangover with it.

    **But in order to make it a great season, we have to do well in the (NCAA) Tournament. To me, I think how we do in Omaha, at this tournament, will determine whether or not it’s a really good season or whether or not it’s a great season, to be real candid with you. **

    I would love to be able to go to the Sweet 16 and play maybe the hottest team in the ACC potentially and then play the best team in the country. And if you’re able to do those things; if it happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I do think these first two games are definitely what I would evaluate this particular team’s success on as far as to make it 'great.'

  • @HighEliteMajor HEM, I am in a rush to leave this iron beast for a few hours, so had time to read only Item #1. Skeptic that I am, I hope that the Cliff Thing does in no way bite our program in the butt. KU silence regarding the eligibility matter seems more than somewhat ominous. Or maybe BIll Self has actually said all that need be said, and the Problem does not affect us…other than the loss of a top-rated freshman player/recruit…

  • @wrwlumpy

    Did you notice in the game last night Derrick Chievous’ son playing? I looked him up, had a sad upbringing as his dad was largely absent. He kind of miraculously ended up at Notre Dame HS in Chicago’s suburbs and thrived. Went to Tennessee, graduated in three years, but only played two and will have a 2nd year of eligibility as a grad student next year.

  • @wissoxfan83 Then he sprained his ankle and probably won’t get to play against UK.

  • @HighEliteMajor Great post. Some additional thoughts re your pre-tourney thoughts:

    1. Spot on analysis of the Cliff situation - no risk to KU - family is just running out the clock at this point.

    2. No question Landon has improved and he is a solid contributor - but, as you note, as a back-up. While he is the most fundamentally solid of our 5s and gives it his all, he is just too limited physically to be a significant contributor going forward - he’s not close to 6’10’’, doesn’t have long arms, has no verticality, isn’t quick, and has really weak hands. Just not sure that his ceiling is much higher, but I trust he’ll work his butt off trying to get better.

    3. Team defense certainly improved in the latter part of the season, but until then it was statistically one of the worst of the Self era - still near the bottom. Last year was worse, due to poor defense of both Tharpe and Ellis. This year, Ellis has improved and either Mason or Graham are huge defensive upgrades over Tharpe. But, no rim protector like last year, effort waxes and wanes, and too many of our guys are just not fundamentally sound defensively, e.g., Greene and Traylor. The biggest problem has been our inability consistently to get stops in crunch time - and that stems in part from an inability to consistently stop penetration. All our guys routinely get beat off the dribble - we need to do a better job with help defense. And, occasionally switch to a zone both to deal with mismatches and just to switch things up.

    4. Agree with @BeddieKU23 re Villanova. I’m on the East Coast and have seen them play a few times. Very solid, veteran, balanced team. Can beat anyone, including UK if they are hot, but they are too reliant not the 3 to win 6 games IMO. Should the have been a #1 - not sure about that. Went 16-2 in the BE, which does have several solid teams. However, they didn’t play anyone of consequence in the non-cont (VCU? Michigan?). Maybe not a 1# seed resume, but definitely not a joke.

    5. Great stat - appreciate your contributions on the FG% at the rim front.

    6. Agree - enough with the excuses.

    7. I also had much higher expectations for this team at the beginning of the year - FF if not NC. I certainly expected more out of Alexander and Oubre (with KO, I do think he is our best two way player, but is still improving and needs to be more consistent). I expected a lot more out of Selden - more like what we saw the past two games. I expected Hunter to have been a contributor from the get go and I expected more out of BG. Notwithstanding, we do when #11 against a very difficult schedule and are a #2 seed. Unfortunately, my expectations aren’t high at this point. While I certainly think they are capable of getting to the Elite 8 - and I would love to see how they deal with UK the second time, i would not be shocked if we lost to NMSU and would probably be mildly surprised if we beat WSU (assuming they win).

    8. Amen to that…

  • @HighEliteMajor Great Post HEM. When you’re positive and encouraging, there’s no better poster out there. I love your enthusiasm for this weekend and beyond. I waffle between being supremely confident and feeling helipless w this team. But you have me, currently, in the confident camp. Thank you! Safe travels to Omaha, and bring some good fate to our beloved Jayhawks.

  • If this team makes it to the elite eight, I can sleep at night knowing we did pretty well. This team will not be burned in my memory forever unless we beat UK or lose to WSU.

    @jayhawkfantoo that quote makes me feel better and Self puts the season into perspective. I am personally more worried about the New Mexico State match up than the WSU one. I believe we match up very well with WSU.

    Van Vleet hasn’t faced someone who can match his quickness like Mason and Baker hasn’t faced a big wing like Selden. The Harrison twins aren’t physical defenders like Selden is. Maybe put Oubre on him as well to keep fresh legs running through their plays?

    I know we must get through NMSU first of course, but I am very excited to give the Shockers exactly what they have been begging for.

  • @HighEliteMajor Yes great post indeed… Great points

    Interestingly, just looked at SI’ s 4 "expert picks " … all have Wichita State beating KU Of, CBS sports 9 “experts”, just 3 have KU over Wichita, and only ONE have KU beating Notre Dame to get to the Eight

  • @Bosthawk I think they think we are to beat up. No Cliff, so on.

  • Who else is making the trip? I’ll be there

  • @cragarhawk rub it in!!

  • @Crimsonorblue22 oh I thought you were coming with…didn’t ya get your tix yet??? 🙂

  • One game at a time, that’s all.

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