Zach Hayes is an editor, contributor and bracketologist at Rush the Court.
Self's next challenge: incorporating Josh Selby
– I’ve been taken aback by the number of analysts that believe Josh Selby is going to hurt Kansas, at least in the short term. While I understand that the college game is much more predicated on ball movement, teamwork and on-court chemistry than the next level, anyone that believes Selby throws a wrench into the Rock Chalk juggernaut is underestimating Bill Self’s coaching acumen, ignoring that the Jayhawks haven’t played like a well-oiled machine during all ten of their wins and are forgetting just how special Josh Selby is on a basketball court. Kansas doesn’t have a truly threatening foe on their slate until a month from now, January 17 at Baylor. This is plenty of time for the coaching genius of Self to integrate his star-studded freshman into the offensive flow. Every quote I’ve read from Selby shows he’s more than willing to play within Self’s halfcourt style- perimeter ball movement, high-low passing with their bigs and drive-and-kick action to their plethora of capable outside shooters, including Marcus Morris, whom Self insists the offense will still revolve around. Selby provides the Jayhawks with the type of player– a “pro” in scouting circles– that they need, someone who can rekindle a lost possession with seven seconds on the shot clock and find his own shot or draw a foul. Plus, Kansas has beaten Arizona by eight, UCLA by one, Memphis by 13 and USC by two in their stiffest tests to date. It’s not like Selby, the number one recruit in America per Rivals.com, is joining the 1990 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
– Re-watching the Syracuse-Michigan State game from the Jimmy V Classic, I was surprised at how the Spartans elected to defend a poor perimeter shooting team like the Orange. Kalin Lucas, Korie Lucious, Keith Appling and Durrell Summers often employed an aggressive defense against the Syracuse guards rather than electing to play softer and dare the Orange into shooting deep jumpers. The Orange are currently ranked a dismal 249th in the nation in three-point percentage at 31.2% with their biggest offenders being Scoop Jardine at 30%, Kris Joseph at 27% and Brandon Triche at 27%. Luckily for Jim Boeheim, and the main reason why his Orange boast an undefeated record heading into Christmas, is that their length and athleticism allows for a plethora of offensive rebounds on those misses and that 2-3 zone continues to be lethal. But there does appear to be a blueprint for dethroning the Orange: sag off their perimeter players like Jardine and Triche and defy them to jack up long threes rather than allow dribble penetration. This could turn into a fatal flaw come Big East play in a similar fashion to how Kentucky was defended for most of last season.
– All throughout the summer and into the preseason, I couldn’t escape the hype surrounding the SEC East. Florida returned all five starters from an NCAA Tournament team. Kentucky was reloading with another powerful John Calipari recruiting class. Georgia was the sleeper extraordinaire with two all-SEC caliber players. Tennessee and Vanderbilt returned enough talent to be formidable foes for the entire season. Some experts even had the SEC in the discussion with the Big 12 and Big East as the second best conference in the nation after the Big Ten, especially if Mississippi State incorporated Renardo Sidney and Dee Bost and another SEC West squad surprised the masses. As we sit here five days before Christmas, I can’t help but label the SEC as a major disappointment thus far in the 2010-11 campaign. In fact, I’d go as far as to say Vanderbilt may be the class of the lot. Tennessee has continued their bipolar ways of overachieving as a plucky underdog and folding their tent when expectations begin the mount, plainly evident by quality wins over Villanova and Pittsburgh followed by back-to-back losses to sneaky mid-major Oakland and a middling Atlantic 10 team in Charlotte. Kentucky has collected wins over Washington and Notre Dame, but obvious flaws at the point (Brandon Knight is more of a scoring off-guard) and a gaping hole at center leave the Wildcats young and vulnerable. Florida and Georgia are glaring examples of a lesson we should all learn: just because a team returns a large chunk of their talent, it doesn’t mean they’re going to dramatically improve. Finally, the SEC West has proven to be nothing short of a disaster site, with their six representatives already having suffered defeats at the hands of Iowa, Rutgers, South Florida, UAB, Dayton, East Tennessee State, Florida Atlantic, Coastal Carolina, Nicholls State, Saint Peter’s, UNC-Asheville, Samford, Jacksonville, Campbell and Presbyterian (to be fair, Auburn represents a healthy chunk of those truly embarrassing losses).
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