Front Court Crisis

  • The past two seasons have made it obvious that Bill’s defensive and offensive brands of basketball only excel with the presence of a “footer” or “near-footer” with NBA skills and athleticism.

    It’s possible to win at an elite level without a true center. But I’m not sure it’s possible for Bill Self. He flirted with the outside-in style of play this past season, but ultimately stuck with his old reliable way of ball. Which, unfortunately, just doesn’t work well without the presence of a legitimate NBA-potential forward/center.

    In fact, a lot has been made in recent years about how basketball has become a guard’s game. I disagree. In college ball, no position is more important than the center position. Or, at least, when the center position is being occupied by a highly-skilled big man, who will some day make millions in the NBA. All of Bill Self’s great teams at Kansas have been anchored by NBA-skilled big men. Kentucky, Duke, and Wisconsin all have lottery talent at center this year.

    Here’s my concern:

    Bill Self is on the verge of having a front-court crisis.

    In a little more than a year (hopefully more than a year…) KU and Bill Self could be facing the very real prospect of returning only ONE scholarship front-court player – Landon Lucas. At best, KU is probably looking at two returning big men (Bragg + Landon).

    For some strange reason, Self has struggled to land expected OAD big men, and there’s a very real chance he will whiff on all of the remaining 2015 prospects as well. To my knowledge, there aren’t even any top-150 forward/center recruits left that Bill Self is recruiting in the class of 2015. (and very few left at all)

    I think you can see where this is heading.

    Bill Self is on the verge of either having to rely on OAD players in the front-court, or risk some potentially brutal seasons while some talent develops.

    And maybe both.

    Freshmen typically struggle in Self’s system. Especially big men. Even big men who are currently making a lot of money in the NBA struggled as freshmen under Self. Self’s lack of pursuit of a mid-tier recruit in the class of 2015 (20-50 ranked) has made me question his end-game. Is he putting all of his eggs in one basket? (Next season) And if so, why? Is he planning on bolting to the NBA? Is he just trying to make one last, great stand? Or is he on the verge of going all-in with the OAD approach? Or can it simply be chalked up to a lack of recruiting the position?

    I know plenty of things can and will happen between now and April, 2016. But never has the cupboard seemed so bare for Bill Self at this position.

  • @stupidmichael - nothing stupid about this post.

    Your question about Self bolting to the NBA made me think. I look at his statistics on paper and it seems insane. Rarely, in the history of college basketball have guys put up numbers like his. But the reality of it is, when he loses - a lot in March. At all the wrong times. Against all the wrong teams.

    OK - I’ll come out and say it. If Self left for the pros tomorrow, I’d be over it by Wednesday. Obviously, he’s not a bad coach, but I just would prefer watching a different style of game. Maybe one that’s fun to watch and not agonizing. One where after we win our bazillionth Conference Championship in a row, we can win the stupid Conference Tournament Championship (if we really have to continue playing the stupid thing) and then win a few games in March.

  • @stupidmichael

    You make some valid points. After Next year we will be thin if we don’t plan accordingly. That’s why I’ve been lobbying that we sign as many kids as we have scholarships available this year.

    Right now I don’t see anyway that Bragg will play enough or be dominate enough to leave after a year. Just has 2-3 yr talent written all over him and he could end up being a better Markieff Morris by Jr. season. Lucas if he follows his rate of development could be a key member Sr. year. We will know after next year what we might be looking at with him.

    Right now Self has been after Horne Jr. (1yr remaining), Zimmerman & Maker (projected OAD’s) & Diallo ( projected 2-3 yr player). Of that group for the future Diallo would be the best long term prospect.

    Transfers are just now starting to pop up and the next month should really give us an idea who might be available. I’d say Self should definitely be after a transfer who can sit out and play in 2016-2017. Just as it would be wise to find an under the radar guard or transfer as well who can basically red-shirt. Assuming 2 guys leave (Cliff & Kelly) we have 3 spots to give. The 2016 class is very top heavy, is very good but as far as PF/C its not nearly as strong as this years class.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 lol - i didn’t say i was calling for his head, just that IF he left - que sera sera.

  • @nuleafjhawk I know, understood.

  • @nuleafjhawk Boo!!

  • @joeloveshawks I figured that would be the general consensus, but at least I’m honest. I’m tired of us playing boring ball, scoring in the 60’s and 70’s and getting 9 or 10 losses per season. My saying it doesn’t change anything, it just makes me someone who speaks the truth (as I see it) and wears my heart on my sleeve. ❤

  • I’m always in shock at Kansas recruiting.

    We spend more money in recruiting than any other D1 school. We are a blue blood program. We’ve sent a bunch of players to the league. Yet… we seem to either get the 1 and 3 pick in the draft in one year… or we go almost without a thing. We seem to always count on getting a last second guy from somewhere. Why do we struggle so much at recruiting? I’m pretty sure ALL our assistant coaches were picked because they had recruiting capabilities.

    I didn’t understand last year and why we left a scholarship unused? Why didn’t we throw it on a footer somewhere? Seems like half the schools in D1 have a footer. In the least we get a footer for guys to practice scoring on. In the most, he has some developmental potential and helps us out. But…at least we are no longer caught without anything. Sometimes… just having a footer picking his nose in the lane is enough to deter some offenses. Obviously… we should be able to land a guy better than that!

    I am a big Landen Lucas fan. He has improved every year and it is always hard not to like a kid who puts a lot of effort into fundamentals. But… but… he needs strength. He’s been with us a couple of years now and I haven’t seen him build his base much. Maybe it will come. He can never be a big authority big man unless he puts on some muscle. Imagine what a guy like Towns would do to Landen? He should take on the same attitude the twins took on when they hated losing in the spring so went right to Hudy and got serious about getting stronger.

    Yes… there is a good chance we get in real trouble in the post in two years… more trouble than we have now. Big Man U without a big. What also seems strange… we put so much into recruiting and we play the hi/lo that puts the spotlight on interior players. Yet… we can’t recruit one? Maybe the reality is that there are not many big men left that want to play “back to the basket” ball… at least… not for 40 consecutive minutes. Take Frank and Wisconsin. He’ll go down low in the post. Then, he’ll go out to the top of the key. Can our 5 do that often? Wouldn’t it be better to stick our 4 out high, especially is he can bomb the 3?

  • @nuleafjhawk I know. I’m just busting your balls.

  • @nuleafjhawk

    When a coach is never challenged for his job, many will go soft. I’m always glad when some people speak up loud enough to question if we have the right coach. It seems natural, and the best way to push coaches to find a better way. Clearly… we need to find a better way.

    I’m like a lot of people in here… often butting heads with Self. But I look at his strengths and there is so much to like about him and what he has done for Jayhawk basketball. Then I get frustrated because I want more! I just hope he becomes a bit more open minded to trying other things. He did some of that in recruiting and landed some top prospects. Maybe he can take the next step which is carefully picking top recruits and find ways where we actually get a benefit by signing them.

    Kelly Oubre is major talent. But he has no business going to the league this summer. No business. I bet he leaves. I think that is a reflection of our coaching more than anything else. Kelly is a pretty bright kid. I believe if he thought he could advance his game considerably by staying, he would.

    If we spent half the energy we spend on recruiting and used it on development… these kids would stay an extra year and would become monster players. I’m trying to think how good Kelly could be next year if he really received development help from now until next season.

  • @drgnslayr The following are excerpted from

    "Student-athletes may engage in only 4 hours per day and 20 hours per week of countable athletically related activities. A countable athletically related activity is any activity with an athletics purpose involving student-athletes that occurs at the direction of or supervised by one or more institutional coaching staff members (including strength and conditioning coaches).

    Outside the Playing Season - Academic Year In sports other than football:

    Student-athletes may be required to participate in up to 8 hours per week of required strength and conditioning activities and individualized skill instruction. No more than 2 hours of the permissible 8 can consist of individualized skill instruction. No more than four student-athletes may be involved in skill instruction at all sites combined at any one time. Student-athletes must be given 2 days off from required activities per week."

    Note the 2 hours per week outside the season and the total of no more than 4 players at any one time. This seems also to apply to film study since that is explicitly called out for footbal players to be limited to 2 hours per week in the off season.

    These are limits that no one had back in the day. If John Wooden had to live under these restrictions I very much doubt that he would have taken the time to teach people how to correctly tie their shoes. On course organized weight training was minimal back then so he wouldn’t have had to account for times with Hudy.

    While the time limits aren’t the only reason players don’t box out or throw a decent bounce pass, we seem to forget about the restrictions. If a coach says “shoot free throws until you hit 10 in a row” and that takes 2 hours that is 2 hours out of 20 during the season. I’m sure that it still happens some but all you need is 1 disgruntled player complaining to his buds back home and all of a sudden we have a problem.

  • @nuleafjhawk I can tell from your posts that you are a passionate fan. I feel your pain on the early exits in the tournament. But Self has won 80% of his games, 11 straight conference championships, 1 NC and one runner-up. It will take more than 3 straight tournament disappointments (although at least Michigan was good) before I take the attitude you are taking…but you certainly have the right to feel the way you do. If I ever start thinking like that, my next thought will be…be careful what you wish for…you never know if the next person will even do as well.

  • @stupidmichael you do realize we are leading with Cheick Diallo? Self snatched him from isu and we are 3-4% behind UK on Maker…doubt we get both Diallo and Maker but Self is still recruiting.

  • @drgnslayr oubre Alex and possibility selden are gone…whether they are ready or not…gone. If selden returns his junior year, he better be SuperMan.

  • @truehawk93 I’d be surprised if Selden is gone…I don’t see how he or his family would think that he is a sure 1st rounder. I realize guys leave when they shouldn’t all the time…it just doesn’t seem like Wayne is that desperate.

  • @stupidmichael When has Self NOT been recruiting top-flite bigmen? You are missing Julius Randle had it down to UK and KU, and he went to KY. Self found 7ft Embiid. Self was recruiting Okafor as well, but Duke got him. Finally, did we forget that 2yrs before, Self was pushing hard for 7ft McDAA Kaleb Tarczewski, who had it down to KU and AZ, and he picked AZ. Self DID get McDAA Cliff Alexander, and he also has incoming 6’9 McDAA Bragg coming in already.

    Look at Duke last year: they get top3 recruit Jabari Parker, 6’8 240, and he doesnt help that blueblood get Mercerized 1st round exit from the Tourney. Yet Parker goes very high lotto, right after #1 Wiggins in the draft.

    Man, lets put it another way: We kinda sucked in the paint the last 2yrs, but it is not because Self “isnt recruiting the position”.

    Finally, Self won the NC in 08 without a starting center. 6’9 Arthur started alongside 6’8 Darnell Jackson. Kaun, at 6’11 was a bench guy, and Cole Aldrich 6’11 got only a bit more than mop-up mpg throughout that 07-08 season.

    More importantly, we need to simply say that some McD’s are more ready to perform than other McDs. Everybody expected Cliff to be another Julius Randle, but he wasnt. The plus side to this, is he very likely would have come back for a solid, experienced blossoming in Year2, however the whole NCAA thing has cast doubt on Cliff’s entire future…thanks to his own mom’s actions. Funny that she cannot even take out a stupid loan…she is an adult. Why that is Cliffs + KU’s fault, I dont know, as they are the ones penalized. Hey, if some business wants to make a bad loan (Cliff doesnt make the NBA), then that’s on them, just like FannieMae and FreddieMac, the banks were making bad loans.

    My point about Cliff here, is that who knows if his lightbulb goes on after another 3-5 games, like Oubre’s did in January?

  • @truehawk93 we are 3-4% behind UK on Maker…lol, how did you come up with 3-4%? That’s remarkable that you know it is that close 😉

  • @ralster Never said Self hasn’t been recruiting top-flite bigmen. Just that he has had a difficult time landing them. That surprises me considering how many forwards and centers Self has put into the League.

    I’m mostly questioning who Self is recruiting. He’s clearly invested a lot of energy in recruiting some very talented guys, but he’s whiffed on many of them. Where are the #20-50 guys, who will be around for 2-3 years? I’m not anti OAD completely, but I’m not sold on it being effective for Bill Self. And maybe I’ve just answered my own questions?? Maybe those recruits don’t see Bill Self as the OAD destination for big men either.

    My concern is that Bill Self is embarking on needing to rely on OAD players at the 4 and 5, but he’s struggled to land them.

    And to your point about the '08 team, Kaun was still a key contributor and was a very good post defender. We’re also well aware of Cole’s role in the final four.

  • @Hawk8086 I’m surprised when any of these guys jump. There are a precious few who are truly ready for the NBA. It doesn’t matter what we think. It’s what they ultimately do. They believe they’re ready. I just learned this morning that Turner is going to the NBA. Some yesterday said after my posts about him that GMs love him, he can shoot the three, and dang it, he’s 7’. All true. But it doesn’t mean he’s ready. Interestingly, if Turner isn’t ready, then most others are definitely not ready. But how many times have we all pissed and moaned about the NBA’s OAD. So, you’re absolutely right, Selden isn’t ready, Alex isn’t ready, and Oubre really isn’t ready, but hey the NBA says they are ready.

    These kids don’t understand the term “draft stock.” They don’t understand it’s earning potential. They need to learn how to invest themselves and increase their draft stock. But they won’t. They’ll jump and settle for the least amount possible. It’s sad, but true.

  • @Blown It is remarkable when all you have is the so-called recruiting analysts or experts. I have no idea what they call themselves today. But if you’re a statistician and it makes you giddy. I can provide all the links you want.

    link text

    link text

    It is remarkable, but it’s not my number. It’s something and they are usually pretty close.

    Okay, it’s 5% within UK, but I can make it more intriguing. There’s a margin of error at +/- 5 Now that’s remarkable. Basically, UK/KU are all even with Maker at this point. We get one of the two, which is a win/win for Self and Co. I don’t think Thorne has any bearing at all. The more size we have the better. I think Self gets Bragg, lands Thorne, and will get either Diallo or Maker. I think we miss on the others. I’ll be surprised if we land Newman, Brown, or Ingram at this point. We also have the other transfers too. Although, they don’t sound too high on KU at this point. We are loaded at the 1, 2, 3 positions. I think Ellis/Bragg/Mari are going to own the 4. The 5 is wide open with Lucas and Hunter.

    We have to lose Oubre, Alex, and possibly Selden. If Selden comes back with business as usual, it will be a total wasted piece of paper. He better rock the hard court as an experienced junior.

    Enjoy the numbers games.

  • @sfbahawk

    Thanks for posting the rules. Players are still free to hit the gym on their own. Perhaps it can’t be mandated by coaches. But in the end, players with the best performance get the PT (or should). Players working on their own can received guidance along the way, but it will come out of their coached minutes. At least… this is the way it has always been. You’ll never advance your college game if you don’t get away and work on your game. Coached practices are team practices.

    It is a good idea to have rules. Coaches can’t be slave drivers. But the game is competitive. I know if I was recruiting players I’d want to know who the work horses were. Who are the guys that love ball so much they’d give up their Friday night out on the town to hit the gym and go to work on a new move.

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