What’s the Matter With Kansas? Some Historical Perspective

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 11th, 2013

Kansas appears to be in a bit of a funk. After falling for a third time in four games at Florida on Tuesday night, it feels like the sky in Lawrence is falling for some KU fans. The point guard situation is a serious cause for concern; the offense is flat-out stymied by any type of zone defense; and any trace of veteran leadership looks as if it’s gone with the wind. Bill Self’s squad can’t defend; they turn the ball over at an incredibly high rate; and they constantly get beaten to every 50-50 ball out there.

Did I miss anything?

Good deal. Because as crazy as this may sound, we’ve seen this episode before in Self’s tenure at Kansas. Just 10 months ago, to be exact, Kansas was in the midst of a similar lackluster stretch after dropping three straight games to anything but the league’s elite. Elijah Johnson was sputtering at point guard for the Jayhawks; they couldn’t seem to score more than 65 points a game; and at the time, many KU fans were certain that last year’s team would be the one that failed to continue the conference title streak.

A lackluster performance at Florida leaves Bill Self searching for answers (Photo: KUSports.com).

A lackluster performance at Florida leaves Bill Self searching for answers (Photo: KUSports.com).

Two years ago included much of the same. On December 19 of that season, KU fell to Davidson at the Sprint Center, dropping its record to 7-3 after a pair of early losses to Kentucky and Duke. Tyshawn Taylor was the whipping boy for a team struggling with what appeared to be a lack of veteran leadership. Many felt that after a frustrating three-plus seasons, Taylor would never rise to the occasion. But we all know how that season ended – Taylor flipped a switch after Christmas break as he and Thomas Robinson led Kansas to the national title game before falling to that insanely talented Kentucky team.

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Previewing Saturday’s Kansas/Colorado Battle

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend in advance of finals coming up in the next few weeks. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Kansas at Colorado, Saturday 1:15 PM MST on ESPN2.

Kansas will win if… it gets its offense back in order. After beating Wake Forest last week, the Jayhawks turned in underwhelming performances against Villanova and UTEP, shooting less than 40 percent from the field in both games. The reasons behind Kansas’ struggles have gravitated from the odd setting of the Battle 4 Atlantis, to KU’s inexperience, to the fact that Andrew Wiggins played through illness. Bill Self weighed in earlier this week and felt as though last month’s win over Duke “spoiled them a little,” perhaps leading to a more passive attitude than what we’re used to seeing out of Self’s teams. Regardless of what you want to point to as the biggest factor, the Jayhawks need to get their scorers out of their recent funks, and the best way for them to do that is to go inside and test Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon early. If Perry Ellis, Wiggins and Joel Embiid establish inside dominance in the first half, it will go a long way toward opening cleaner looks behind the three-point line, an area where the Jayhawks are much better than what they showed in three games in the Bahamas.

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend's Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend’s Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Kansas will lose if… its backcourt struggles. We haven’t hit winter break yet, but Bill Self is already shaking up his lineup, opting to start freshman Frank Mason over junior Naadir Tharpe, per KUSports.com. Normally, going with potential over experience would be more of a shock, but on this team, in this season, what’s one more freshman being elevated into a more prominent role? Mason has opened eyes in the early going with his fearlessness despite standing just 5’11”, and while he isn’t a pass-first point guard (at least not yet), he can find the open man when defenses collapse on him. The point guard spot hasn’t been a gaping liability for the Jayhawks, but history suggests that Kansas’ best teams have featured floor generals with more of a bulldog mentality in the mold of Sherron Collins or Tyshawn Taylor, and that’s what Mason can provide. Will he embrace that role from the get-go, or will the minutes still shake out to more of a committee setup? While the Jayhawks have talented creators up and down their roster, they’ll be reliant on passers to deliver the ball in high-percentage spots until those playmakers gain the confidence and aggression necessary for Kansas to reach its potential. That’s where Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie can cause problems against a less-experienced guard like Mason. Mix in the altitude and the knowledge that a young Kansas team will be playing its first true road game of the season and we could have a surprise on our hands.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: The #2 Kansas Jayhawks have played as well as fans could have expected through four games this season. They have beaten three cupcakes by 22.3 PPG and knocked off then-#4 Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago. The inside-out combination of sophomore forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Andrew Wiggins is averaging 16.8 PPG, freshman center Joel Embiid showed flashes of greatness in his 16-point, 13-rebound performance against Iona, and the Jayhawks lead the country in field goal shooting at 56.8 percent. The one major concern heading into the season — point guard play — has been anything but a problem early. Junior Naadir Tharpe is averaging 6.7 APG with a 3.3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and freshman backup Frank Mason has been nearly as impressive, playing 18 MPG and averaging 8.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, and just 0.5 turnovers per game. Bill Self has about 87 different lineups he can throw out at anytime — he can go big, small, fast or slow and there isn’t much of a dropoff between each combination. The Jayhawks are deeper than any team Self has had; they have three potential one-and-done freshmen in the starting lineup in Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid; and, they have veterans like Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis to guide the youngsters. It’s not too early to say Final Four or Bust with this team.

Andrew Wiggins Leads Kansas To The Bahamas This Week.

Andrew Wiggins Leads Kansas To The Bahamas This Week.

First Round Preview Wake Forest is 5-0 but the competition has been less than stellar in that record. Wins over Colgate, VMI, Presbyterian, Jacksonville, and The Citadel aren’t proper warm-ups for a Top 25 team, much less a team as talented as Kansas. Defensively, the Jayhawks will need to slow down sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who leads the Demon Deacons with 18.6 PPG and 4.8 APG. He opened the season with four straight 20-point games and is the focal point for the Deacons’ offense. Rebounding will be key in this first round match-up. Wake Forest is currently second in the nation with 49.2 RPG, but Kansas is grabbing 83 percent of its opponents’ misses, fifth best in the country. The Demon Deacons aren’t far behind themselves at 81 percent.

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Rushed Reactions: Jabari Parker Makes His Case To Be #1 But So Does Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2013

Coming into this season we found it strange that nearly every media outlet was ignoring Jabari Parker, who was a Sports Illustrated cover boy and the #1 player in the class of 2013 for much of his time in high school. We figured it was the explosiveness of Andrew Wiggins, the raw power of Julius Randle, or the rustiness that Parker showed recovering from a foot injury to explain his absence from much of the discourse. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. Regardless of what led the media to forget about Parker, his play tonight should remind everybody that the race for the #1 spot in the 2014 NBA Draft is still a three-player race.

Jabari Played Great In His Homecoming, But Was Overshadowed

Wiggins is an obvious choice given his unmatched athleticism. Randle makes a strong case with his ability to dominate around the basket. The case for Parker is a little more complex in that he is a more complete player right now than the other two. He does not have one skill that will take your breath away, but he does nearly everything well. Whether it is driving to the basket, finishing a dunk that reminds you of Grant Hill in the 1991 National Championship game, hitting almost every kind of jumper imaginable, or defending a potential NBA center in Joel Embiid despite being nearly half a foot shorter, Parker exhibits everything you would expect from a future NBA star. And for much of tonight it appeared that he was going to make Chicago his city as he had done for his four years at Simeon. Unfortunately for the Duke freshman and the locals who came out to support him, Bill Self and the Jayhawks had a very different narrative to write tonight.

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After Just One Game, the Andrew Wiggins Backlash Has Begun

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 12th, 2013

The power of the Internet can be a wonderful thing, providing someone with virtually unlimited information at the click of a button. But let’s be honest, it can also be quite an inconvenience at times, too (like when your Facebook picture from a party in college may have kept you from that job you really wanted). With the technology we have today, the web serves as an open book of history for anything that’s been said or written if the one speaking or writing is significant enough to have his or her voice published.

So you’re probably sitting here thinking “OK, I get it, but I came to read about college basketball, so please carry on.”

Is there a limit to how many jaw-droppers Andrew Wiggins will give us this season?

Is Andrew Wiggins Still the Best Player in His Class?

Fair enough, as I’d probably be thinking the same thing, so here’s where I’m going with this. In the last month or so, there seems to be a momentum shift in how some media in college basketball are viewing Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. As I’m sure you’ve heard over, and over, and over again, Wiggins was built up over the better part of the last year as a guy who could be one of the better recruits we’ve seen in the last 10-plus years in college basketball. His name was thrown out there with the likes of Michael Beasley, and Kevin Durant, and even, gulp, LeBron James. Somewhere along the line, someone called him “the best recruit since LeBron” and boy did that sound bite take off like wildfire. Whether those comparisons are accurate is something we can’t all come to an agreement on, but we can all agree that when Wiggins reclassified his graduation year last October, there was no doubt that he was considered the top prep prospect in the nation. Many cited his performance in the Peach Jam in July 2012 as evidence, where Wiggins went head-to-head with fellow top Kentucky recruit Julius Randle in what is the considered the highest profile AAU event in the country. The unanimous belief after the Peach Jam was that Wiggins was the superior talent to Randle, leading to quotes like this one from former CBS writer and current ESPN staffer, Jeff Goodman.

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Champions Classic Provides Kansas With an Early Opportunity To Improve

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2013

It’s very early in the college basketball season. Before you continue reading the rest of the preview for tonight’s showdown between Duke and Kansas, read that sentence again. Now read it again one more time, just for good for measure. I’ll wait here.

Now that we have that important housekeeping item out of the way, it’s now acceptable for everyone to lick their chops in anticipation of the nightcap of tonight’s Champions Classic in Chicago. It’s everything we could want in an early-season match-up: Two of the nation’s best programs, coaches and freshmen on a neutral court, with their biggest recruiting target in the house to take it all in. While both teams won their season openers Friday night, Kansas needs to change a couple of things if it wants to leave the United Center with arguably its biggest non-conference win since topping the defending champion Florida Gators in 2008:


Andrew Wiggins Needs to Work to Get Open More Often

  • Work To Get Andrew Wiggins Open: In Friday’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Jayhawks struggled at times to get their freshman sensation open looks. Wiggins eventually finished with 16 points on nine shot attempts, and while that was hardly a bad game for someone criticized as passive, it won’t fly against better competition. Naadir Tharpe, who will make his season debut after being suspended for Friday’s opener, isn’t an elite passer – at least not yet. For Kansas to avenge a 2011 loss to the Blue Devils, Wiggins has to either meet his floor general halfway and work harder to get open, or his big-bodied teammates need to free him up — ideally, some combination of the two would occur. While Wiggins has the athleticism to create his own shot off the bounce, odds are he’ll fare better if he makes his defender (likely Rodney Hood) keep up with him from one possession to the next.

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Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.


Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

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Big 12 Team Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 8th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas.

Where We Left Off: With seven minutes left in its Sweet Sixteen match-up with Michigan, Kansas led by 14 points. With 21 seconds left, the lead had dwindled but the Jayhawks still held a controlling five-point lead. Not long after that, Michigan guard Trey Burke’s last-second three-pointer sent the game to overtime, and the Wolverines held on to win the game, 87-85. That game was a microcosm of Kansas’ season, with senior point guard Elijah Johnson committing five turnovers without tallying a single assist. All five starters either graduated or, in freshman guard Ben McLemore’s case, declared for the NBA Draft. At the time, the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class – led by five-star recruit Wayne Selden – softened the blow of another tough March loss for Bill Self. But a little less than two months later, everything changed when No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins committed to Kansas and transformed this year’s team from a top-25 squad into national title contenders.

Andrew Wiggins Has A Lot Of Reasons To Be Smiling These Days.

Andrew Wiggins Has A Lot Of Reasons To Be Smiling These Days.

PositivesThe Jayhawks have more talent and balance than almost any team in the country. Andrew Wiggins is the CBSSports.com Preseason Player of the Year, an AP First-Team All-American, and the projected No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. He’ll be joined on the perimeter by the No. 12 overall player in the 2013 class, Wayne Selden, forming one of the best backcourts in the country. Freshman center Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for a few seasons but skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings during his senior year, ending up at 25th overall and a projected lottery pick next summer. He’s unlikely to even start at the beginning of the season. That looks to be Memphis transfer Tarik Black, who graduated early and is able to play immediately at Kansas. Even with three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup, Bill Self has said that sophomore forward Perry Ellis could lead the team in scoring. I wouldn’t bet on that, but Ellis did come on strong late last season, leading the team with 14.3 PPG in the Big 12 Tournament. There isn’t a big dropoff when Self looks to his bench, either. Three freshmen – Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, and Frank Mason – were four-star recruits and will be fighting for playing time this season on the perimeter behind Selden and Wiggins.

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Naadir Tharpe is the Key to the Kansas Offense

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 1st, 2013

Search for the lone weakness on a Kansas team loaded with NBA lottery talent and McDonald’s All-Americans and you won’t be looking for long. He stands about 5’11” and couldn’t crack the starting lineup on a team last season that was one point guard away from another Final Four. You can see why Kansas fans are everywhere from curious to anxious to worried about junior point guard Naadir Tharpe‘s play this season. It’s not that Tharpe isn’t capable of running an offense with future NBA Draft picks at the other four starting spots. It’s that if Kansas falls before the national title game, Tharpe’s play will likely be the reason.

Can Naadir Tharpe Keep The KU Offense Running Smoothly?  (USA Today)

Can Tharpe Keep The Kansas Offense Running Smoothly? (Credit: USA Today)

Last season the Jayhawks went down in flames against Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen with senior shooting guard Elijah Johnson putting the finishing touches on a mediocre season at point guard, all while Tharpe came off the bench playing 19.4 minutes per game. The sophomore averaged 5.5 points per game and shot just 34.3 percent from the floor. Watching Johnson struggle to run the offense for the first time in his college career made you wonder how little Self trusted Tharpe to do the same.

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Morning Five: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 30th, 2013


  1. Yesterday night was filled with exhibition games from many of the top teams in the country (Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, and Oklahoma State were all in action), but the most interesting news may have come from the Kansas post-game press conference where Bill Self revealed that Naadir Tharpe will not play in the team’s season opener after violating a NCAA rule by playing in a summer league game in Chicago. Tharpe played well in the team’s exhibition yesterday against Pittsburg State (yes, it is Pittsburg and it is in Kansas not Pennsylvania) putting up nine assists without committing a turnover so we know he can play well against schools that we have never heard of, but by missing their game against Louisiana-Monroe (Frank Mason will start in his place) his next game will be against Duke, a school that we have definitely heard of.
  2. With the season a little over one week away most teams are in the process of fine-tuning their line-ups for the opening tip, but UCLA finds itself scrambling to rearrange its lineup after Travis Wear was hospitalized on Monday night for appendicitis. Travis, the more productive of the Wear twins (his brother David also plays for the Bruins), averaged 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and would probably be UCLA’s top inside player this season. We have no idea how long he will be out (it depends on if he has any complications), but a prolonged absence would create a big hole in the middle for a Bruin team that only has two other serviceable interior players–David Wear and Tony Parker–available at the moment. Fortunately, the Bruins have two exhibition games to adapt before they start the regular season on November 8 and have a very manageable schedule during the month of December.
  3. We will have to wait two more weeks until North Carolina announces P.J. Hairston’s suspension, but at least we know how long Ole Miss has suspended Marshall Henderson for multiple behavior-related issues: three games, which will include the regular season opener (against Troy) and the team’s first two SEC games (against Auburn and Mississippi State). The suspension is the result of Henderson’s repeated taunting (or responding) to fans during the season including using his middle finger after Ole Miss lost in the NCAA Tournament as well as being pulled over by local police on May 4 and found to have marijuana and cocaine in his system. Although we find the split suspension a little odd it is good to see that it will have a bigger effect on the team as they are much more likely to be challenged in those SEC games than they would if he had sat the second and third games of the regular season (against Coastal Carolina and Mississippi Valley State). We hope that Henderson can find a way to control his behavior, but still keep that edge that made him such a dangerous player.
  4. We usually do not make fun of a player, often a teenager or just beyond that stage, for their indecisiveness, but we might make an exception for Michael Chandler, who committed to Oregon yesterday. The commitment by itself (a 6’10” center from Northwest Florida State, who was forced to go to junior college after failing to academically qualify in 2011) is not particularly remarkable. What is remarkable is the fact that this is at least the fourth school that Chandler has committed to as his previous commitments were to Louisville, Xavier, and UCF before he failed to qualify academically. We hope that Chandler eventually finds his way into Division I basketball, but you will have to forgive us if we hold off in writing his committment to Oregon down in pen.
  5. Tanking doesn’t relate directly to college basketball, but you will be hearing about it quite a bit throughout the year as NBA teams lose games in order to increase their chances of landing Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, or some other highly-coveted college player. So the admission by an anonymous NBA general manager that his team was tanking (known explicitly by everybody, but the players) is somewhat interesting. Obviously the story would be more interesting if it had not been anonymous, but then the GM would no longer be employed. Based on what was said in the story we can probably narrow down the list of potential GMs to a handful of individuals. As the NBA season progresses and a certain number of elite college players emerge we suspect that we will see the list of potential tanking teams grow.
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