2014: Why KU Wins The National Title

  • Post-game analysis of Kansas basketball inevitably focuses on the negative. It’s who we are. We expect perfection. We expect a national championship. As one that engages in this discussion regularly, I can tell you that our collective hearts are in the right place. We just want our team to peak at the right time.

    But many times, it’s easy to lose sight of what we do have. This isn’t Thanksgiving … it’s the New Year’s holiday. But as we head into 2014, our focus should be on exactly what we have as Kansas basketball fans this season. We have a team that can win a national title.

    This season, our coach has constructed yet another team that can win the national title. They are players that he chose. The National Championship game is just a little over three months away. Why will we win the national championship?

    1. Joel Embiid: To begin the season, I suggested in October that he was the most important element in our assent as a team. I took Rick Pitino’s comments seriously when he said that KU could have the top two picks in the NBA draft. I also took very seriously the footwork, ball handling, shooting touch, and skill level that Embiid displayed on any video that could be observed. There is not another player in the country that can match up to him. And between now and the start of the NCAA tourney, his education on the court will improved exponentially.

    2. Andrew Wiggins: This is why we recruited him. To be our Carmelo Anthony. There have been flashes. What we have begun to see is a guy that is becoming more comfortable attacking; we see a guy that has a killer step back; we see guy that is starting to finish. The finish, much like Perry Ellis’ transformation, will define his progress. And his ship is going in the right direction. As Wiggins plays in more hostile environments, experiences more pressure, he’ll be more ready to take over. We have a guy that can take over a game. That’s a good check mark to have.

    3. Perry Ellis: We began to see the real Perry Ellis near the end of last season. As his minutes accrued, so did his confidence. He is a nice compliment to Embiid, and is pure scorer in the post. We can see him becoming confident from three point range. When the match-up is right, Ellis will punish a team like no other player on our team. He can go left and right with an array of moves. We talk about freshmen improving – so will Ellis.

    4. Frank Mason: Surprised is an understatement. Some fool started referring to him last spring as “no rank Frank.” Can you believe that? That same fool would rather have had Cat Barber, or Demetrius Jackson. Anyway, Mason has been the biggest surprise. He handles the ball spectacularly. His attitude and fearless approach to the game will pay dividends in March. He won the game against Duke. He will win us a game when we need it.

    5. Roster Depth: We see that other teams have lost big time players – Chane Behanan, Mitch McGary, Michael Cobbins. This team could lose any player on this team and still compete for a title. Perry Ellis might be the only piece that would be difficult to replace. But our roster depth is unmatched. Further, if NCAA refs want to call games tight, we’ll be ready.

    6. Upside: Our roster has more upside than any other roster in the country. Kentucky, of course, could make the same claim. But if you compare sophomore starters – Ellis vs. Cauley-Stein, Ellis is the superior player. He’s tougher, smarter, and has more heart. He didn’t coast through his high school career. But if we are in a discussion with only Kentucky as far a potential upside, that’s a pretty lofty perch. Other teams will improve, but our potential for improvement is unmatched.

    7. Flexibility: What happens come tournament time? Teams change things up. Teams play small, teams play big. We have that flexibility. Depending upon the development of our bench options, we can put together some lineups with pretty diverse skill sets that can match anything anyone would throw at us. And we can change things up as needed.

    8. Tested Under Fire: KU has played the best schedule in the country. By the time we get to the NCAA tourney, we will have played in every possible situation. Some may debate the value of a tough schedule with a young team. But the fact is, we will not be awed or surprised by anything. With a young team, that is invaluable. It will help permit our talent to show through. There is no untouchable team. We will be the most tested.

    9. Manifest Destiny: This school, this program, this coach, this fan base will win another national title very soon. It is destiny. Each year that goes by, it becomes more likely that the next season is the next title. We are arrogant, we believe we are superior, we expect win, we will win. It’s what we do. We are entitled, by birth or by acclimation, Kansas basketball fans are entitled. James Naismith, Phog Allen, et. al, made it such. And in the dead of winter, school out of session, we pack Allen Fieldhouse last night against Toledo as if it was the most important game of the season (see photo from my seats last night). Nowhere else compares.

    10. Coach Self: Winning is what KU does, but it is what coach Self demands. He’s done it all. He knows how to get a national title. If you could pick one college coach, the total package, who would it be? Right, coach Self. We love to dissect his rationale, analyze his recruiting, suggest tweaks and strategy, and second guess his decisions. But if we had to have one guy making the decisions, we’d choose him. So we are quite lucky in that regard. Coach Self will put this team in a position to win a title. We will trust in Self, once more.


  • @HighEliteMajor GREAT POST HEM!!! I’m fired up now. #9 is my favorite and I LOVE that pic!!! Do you go to many games?

  • @HighEliteMajor a great note to end the year on. Thanks for the dead on inspiring prose. It gave me the warm fuzzies.

  • @approxinfinity I’d like to add F.O.E. This team has great chemistry!

  • This is the kind of resoned, gutty forecasting I love to get on board with, but…

    It is December 31st and this team:

    a) cannot guard;

    b) cannot protect; and

    c) lacks a point guard that can be a threat against a draft choice point guard.

  • I’ll be plain. They need to play defense and stop turning the ball over.

    Kansas ranks 260th in turnovers per game (i.e. there are 259 teams that turn the ball over less).

    Kansas ranks 116th in scoring defense and 80th in opponent field goal percentage. Kansas has been in the top 10 in opponent field goal percentage every year since Bill Self arrived.

    And I don’t blame that on the new rule interpretation because the rules are the same for everyone. I will however, blame these gaudy rankings partially on two things. One, Kansas has played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country so their team statistics are going to look bad next to, let’s say, an Ohio St team who has been playing directional schools at home. And two, because they are extremely young. I think I heard somewhere that they are the 3rd youngest team in the country? I’m not entirely sure on that.

    If they take care of the ball and start guarding they can certainly make a run at a national title. Kansas as a team is shooting the ball at 50.9%, which ranks 4th in the country. It could be even better if KU starts playing defense, forcing turnovers and getting easy buckets in transition. They have the athletes to do it.

  • “We love to dissect his rationale, analyze his recruiting, suggest tweaks and strategy, and second guess his decisions. But if we had to have one guy making the decisions, we’d choose him.” You are different from Jaybate in that you write things that make other bloggers focus to find the words to defend themselves. Your words tend to make everyone as passionate about this thing called basketball as you are. Allen Field House really is a sacred magical place and I won’t tell anyone that you are really HEM the Homer.

  • @jaybate 1.0 I have to agree with Jaybate on this one. I look at Kenpom fairly regularly and KU currently has the top 25th Defensive Efficiency. 25th! ntil They haven’t been that porous on D according to Kenpom since 05. Which was a good team, young and inexperienced though. Took them awhile to get good enough at Self Defense, until 07. Don’t get me wrong HEM, I really am on board with why KU can win a ring this year, I just don’t want to hold my breath for it. That 05 team got bounced in the first round to one of those killer B teams. I don’t want it to happen this year anymore than any of you all but man, if they cant start locking down on defense, they wont make it. No team since Kenpom started keeping track has one a title without top 10 offense and defensive efficiency. Maybe there has been one time, but still. Its rare. All that being said, I have great hope that KU will figure it out soon and be the toughest team to beat come march. I even think Naa can get better.

  • @jaybate 1.0 One more thing. Kenpom also says that KU’s offense hasn’t been this potent since 2010. That is saying something.

  • @wrwlumpy, @VailHawk, and @approxinfinity: Thanks for the kind comments above.

    And @jaybate, @KirkIsMyHinrich, and @lulufulu85 I do see a lot of barriers to winning the title – but this was “positivity” looking toward 2014.

  • You knocked another one out of the park, Coach HEM!

    I’ve been hunched over, choking in my spit bucket feeling paralyzed on what to think next of this team. I had all but written off this team and proclaimed them the worst defensive team in the Self era.

    I didn’t change my underwear since the Toledo game… and I wasn’t even wearing a pair of those high-tech undies from Jaybate.

    I was frozen in a state of self-loathing.

    I was frozen in a state of ice and snow.

    I couldn’t even reach for one of my tasty Belgian craft beers.

    Someone had to break the ice. Someone had to kick start the propane jet space heaters.

    That someone was you!

    The next time I give Perry a tongue-lashing for falling asleep on defense, please remind me that everything is going to be alright. Perry, the designer, will redesign his defense before March.

    Wiggins will figure out something besides a spin move and will create the first slamdunk performed with his feet.

    Tharpe will gain some confidence and start locking down on defense and protect the rock on offense while maintaining his new 20-pt scoring average.

    Embiid will still just keep being Embiid, improving exponentially by the second.

    Selden will become confident and earn his nickname “John Wayne.” He’ll earn a star on the boardwalk for his heroic performances in March.

    Greene will become white hot… burn the nets and melt the backboard. He’ll have to shoot wearing oven mitts.

    AW3 will complete his Houdini trick and will reappear by March, showing us another trick or two by attaching an invisible string to the ball and pass it through the rim repeatedly… racking up points like a pinball machine.

    Mason will start wearing rubber protective wear and will bounce off opponents into the nets while singing “Rubber Band Man.”

    I’m now restored to positivity again!

  • @HighEliteMajor I’m very sorry, sir. Please forgive me.

  • @KirkIsMyHinrich you are exactly right, we have the athletes to play much better D! Hopefully they are getting enough experience they will cut those lazy–assed passes and all unforced to’s. Can’t wait to see Sundays game, I’m assuming they are doing a few defensive drills this week!

  • I reviewed and thought about each of HEM’s points. I tried to deconstruct them all. I had a hard time. If you address jaybate’s pg issue and Kirk’s defensive concerns, you do have some challenges. However, HEM is looking to 2014 and I’d simply refer each challenge to #s 6,7,8…respectively. I want to get totally wrapped up in #9, but I do have to stay objective too. But any further arguments please read #6,7, and 8.
    I see a trend every year with all teams. Here is my theory in a nutshell: teams that peak early, typically fail in the end to some degree. The teams that are “late bloomers” (ie. KU) tend to peak at the right time. It doesn’t guarantee the results we all want, but I do like the possibility of another NC.

  • Great posts. I agree with HEM on a number of his reasons why we will win it and I agree with a number of other posts including Jaybate about how we don’t play defense and that is a huge issue. My gut reaction is that this has to be “the year” we have all been waiting for since 2008. I doubt we will ever have this much talent on one team again…ever. Wiggins has been hyped as the 2nd coming of Lebron and now he may not even be the best future NBA star on our roster. Think about that. Wiggins and Embiid are being discussed as possible #1 and #2 picks in the draft. That formula worked out pretty well for Kentucky 2 years ago. Wiggins and Embiid are amazing enough, not to mention Selden, Ellis and a couple other guys who will probably be in the NBA in the near future.

    Other than are high level talent the other reason that I feel this is our year to cut down the nets is that we are incredibly deep. We may not have the 3 point shooting we have had in 2010…or the incredible defense we had in 2008…or the Senior leadership we had last year…but we have never been this deep. We have great guys coming off of the bench. My main hope is that the trio of Greene/AW3/CF contributes a bit more. We have all beat that to death so I won’t get into it but I do feel that those guys add greatly to our depth. Deep teams tend to make deep runs in March and I am confident we will be one of those teams this year.

  • I watched some 2013 games replayed on cox22 yesterday. One thing I think these guys have that is special, is team chemistry. Cox had a special on the 1988 season. Wow, I had forgotten a lot of things that happened that year. That team had so much heart, something that can’t be measured in HEM’s points. I miss Danny, so much class and humbleness. His teammates all stepped up that final game, it was a very special year for Jayhawk bb.

  • As has been previously posted, defense is this team’s weakness. The good thing about it, defense is an attitude. It takes absolutely no talent to be able to do well. Once the guys realize how important defense is to making it to Dallas, I guarantee things will change. Unfortunately, it might take a blowout to Iowa State or Baylor to understand this. However, there is still plenty of time for them to understand the concept of not only individual defense, but also team defense. I am sure that HCBS is really drilling it into them at practice about how bad their defense is.

    For sure, this team may have more defensive potential than the 08 team. I am by no means saying that they will get to that level, but they have all the speed, athleticism, and height to be better. It is just a matter of them realizing that they MUST defend and disrupt in order to get to the Final Four and bring home some hardware.

  • Defense is certainly the area of focus for the hawks for the foreseeable future.

    I’m no expert in this area, but my opinion is that Wiggins has made the most strides in this department… His improvement and impact is significant --especially since the trip to the Bahamas.

    As evident as Embiid’s growth on offense is, so too is Wiggins’ improvement on D. He’s doing the little things-- playing with his feet, anticipating… not fouling… And he’s doing some big things that are uniquely possible because of his athleticism: blocks and steals. He also shuts guys down and alters a lot of shots.

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