Bill Self

What Went Wrong?

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Kansas’ 62-55 loss to TCU last night was one of the biggest upsets in Jayhawk history.  After easy wins, such as their 74 to 66 win over Ohio State, Kansas’ performance was not the way it has been since the start of the season.  For the first time since 2006, the Kansas Jayhawks have lost back-to-back games. The big question is, “What is going on with KU?”

KU can not score 13 points in the first half and shoot 13.6% from the field, both stats at their lowest since 1988, and expect to win.  Wide open jump shots and seemingly easy lay-ups were missed, which is inexcusable for coach Bill Self’s team.  The fundamentals were not there for the Jayhawks.

AP Photo / Sharon Ellman
AP Photo / Sharon Ellman

In the game as a whole, the Jayhawks shot 29.6% from the field on 61 attempted shots, along with 13.6% from three point range.  Although KU was able to beat TCU on the glass, winning the rebound battle 44-34, the second-chance points would not fall.

Ben McLemore played decently, although below his average in scoring 15 points, but grabbed nine rebounds for the Hawks.  Elijah Johnson’s play was horribly ineffective.  Although he scored eight points, they all came off desperation shots in the final three minutes.  His leadership was nonexistent, a major role in Kansas’ loss.

Defensively, Kansas played very well in the first half.  TCU was held to 22 first half points, proving great defensive play by Kansas.  However, the Kansas defensive effort vanished late in the game.  KU had multiple opportunities to cut the lead on defensive stops, but TCU kept scoring.  It was as if Kansas was only giving effort on the offensive side down the stretch.

The most disappointing aspect in Kansas’ loss was knowing how easily they could have won.  TCU missed a hefty amount of free throws in the final minutes, giving Kansas multiple opportunities to score and tie, or even win, the game.

For those Jayhawks’ fans who believe this year’s team is better than last year, Bill Self begs to differ.  “It was the worst team that Kansas ever put on the floor, since Dr. Naismith was there,” coach Bill Self said after Monday night’s loss, “I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA and things like that in the first couple years.  But for the first half, there hasn’t been team play worse than that offensively.”

This Kansas team has a long way to go.  They have the potential to be a championship-caliber team, but changes have to be made.  KU has been not utilizing their big men, which has left them vulnerable when not shooting well from the field. Kansas travels to Oklahoma for a tough road game on Saturday, looking to rebound from an embarrassing game that gave TCU its first Big XII win.

Drew Agnello

Rock Chalk Success

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At the beginning of the season, the Kansas Jayhawks were a team not a lot of people thought could have as much success as they have had.  After a loss in the third game of the season to Michigan State, this season seemed like it would be a drag.  The team seems to have turned it around, though of late.  Stats are on the rise, as are the Jayhawks.  With a new poll coming out tomorrow, Kansas is expected to be the sixth best team in the country after winning in their first true away game at Ohio State.  Yesterday’s game in Columbus showed a lot about Coach Bill Self’s team, and the team played like they could go to Atlanta in April for the Final 4.

Going into Columbus, almost every scout and analyst projected an easy win for the Ohio State Buckeyes.  At home versus a young team in a revenge game?  There was no way the Buckeyes would fall once again to the Jayhawks.  Unfortunately for Ohio State, that was not the case.  Ben McLemore led the team to a solid 74 to 66 win in Ohio.  However, the score does not describe the beat down the Jayhawks put on Ohio State.  Kansas shot 51 percent from the field, and held Ohio State to just over 30 percent.  Once again, the Jayhawks shot lights out from three point range, dropping 46 percent of their threes compared to the Buckeyes 26 percent on 31 attempted three pointers.  Kansas out-rebounded Ohio State 41 to 37.  The only low point for KU yesterday was turnovers.  19 turnovers is way too many for this team.  On the bright side, giving up 19 turnovers but still winning on the road proves that Kansas does not have a hard time overcoming the negatives. The turnover ratio will have to change if they want to be a lock for the Final 4.

Bill Self

Who is to thank for the success of Kansas?  Jeff Withey is second in the country in blocks, averaging 5 a game.  His size and inside presence in the post makes him a nightmare to any team the Jayhawks face.  He is an experienced senior who knows how to play the game at a level that few people in college do.  There is also Ben McLemore.  This is a freshman whose play has made him a potential All-American.  The guy is on crash course to success.  He averages almost 17 points a game.  He grabs almost seven boards a game and dishes out over two assists per game.  Some people are probably saying, “Yeah.  So what?  Those aren’t outstanding.”  First of all, he is a redshirt freshman.  No other freshman has figures like those.  Shabazz Muhammad was hyped to be the best player in the country, but now he plays on a struggling team and he is struggling as well.  Nerlens Noel of Kentucky is not putting up stats like McLemore is, and he was the top ranked freshman coming in to this year.  Ben’s dynamic dunks and clutch threes make him both the leader and X-Factor of this Jayhawk team.  However, no credit should go to just one player.  The Kansas Jayhawks’ reason for success this year is because of Bill Self.  The man is simply a winner.  He did it last year with a Jayhawk team that was dubbed as “The Least Talented Team to Come Through Kansas in However Many Years.”  Jayhawk fans should never feel discouraged because as long as Bill Self is there, Kansas will be a winning program.

After the Ohio State game, this season could be a great year for the Jayhawks.  With an easy schedule the rest of the way, and virtually no one in the Big XII who can beat them, KU has absolutely no reason to not be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.  This year would be a failure if they were not a three seed or better.  Between now and April, anything can happen, and only Kansas can control their own destiny.  After 11 games, Kansas has established themselves as a dynamic team who can win ball games at ease.

Drew Agnello

The Freshman B.M.O.C. Part II

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If it was unknown before, I’ll say it now- I am a big fan of the Kansas freshman sensation Ben McLemore.  I believe he is a player with special talents that no other freshman in the NCAA has.  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an article on Ben being “The Freshman B.M.O.C.”.  I admire McLemore for what he has accomplished this season.  Despite only playing in eleven games, Ben has been raising eyebrows across the country with his play, especially after a big win at Ohio State.  As I was doing my daily routine of reading blogs about the Kansas guard, one caught my eye.  It was an article from comparing Ben McLemore to Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade. Right now, one is an NBA All Star and the other is a redshirt freshman in college.  However, as freshmen, their stats nearly mirror one another’s.  Ben could very well be a player like Dwayne Wade was at Marquette, and here is why.

Ben McLemore...
I compared McLemore and Wade in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, their floor percentage, and three point field goal percentage.  In 32 games played as a freshman, Dwayne Wade scored 17.8 points per game.  Through 11 games, McLemore is averaging 16.5 points per game.  In rebounds, Wade edges out McLemore with 6.6 boards compared to Ben’s 5.7.  Dwayne is also beating Ben in assists with 3.4 compared to 2.3.  Ben has a barely better field goal percentage with 48.8 and Wade with 48.7.  However, Ben’s three point percentage is much better than Dwayne Wade’s.  McLemore has hit 40.8 percent of his threes this year, but Wade only knocked down 34.6 percent.  Currently, Ben’s floor percentage is 54.1.  Wade’s was 54.4 as a freshman.  Floor percentage is the chances of a team scoring when the ball is in a certain player’s hands.  It is a very important stat that often goes unnoticed.  In other stats, Ben McLemore is much better right now than Dwayne Wade was.  McLemore shoots 85 percent at the free throw line, but Wade only shot 69 percent.  Overall, Ben’s offensive rating is 119.1.  Wade’s was 108.3.  If none of these numbers make sense, here is a graph comparing the two.

The blog I read acknowledged the odds of Ben McLemore becoming the next Dwayne Wade— a two-time NBA Championship winner, Gold Medal winner, etc.  Those are some big accomplishments that McLemore is being called “destined to be”.  The odds of any player having this sort of status are slim to none.  But would it be unfair to say McLemore has better chances than others?  His stats would say differently.

Drew Agnello

The Freshman B.M.O.C.

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For Jayhawk fans, it is hard to find positives after losing in the National Championship.  Kansas had a remarkable run to the NCAA Championship last April, somewhere no one thought they would be.  The team prevailed in tight games throughout the tournament, but their run ended against Kentucky.  The heart of the Kansas basketball team, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson left for the NBA.  Gloom seemed to rein over Lawrence, but a freshman sensation emerged.  Ben McLemore was suspended all of last season for eligibility reasons and was forced to watch his team from the bench.  But now, McLemore is leading the Kansas Jayhawks to a hot start on the season.  Ben’s absence last year has helped him mature as a basketball player and has made him a dangerous threat this season.

McLemore has taken the reins of this team.  At the beginning of the season, it was unknown who would be the leader of this Kansas team.  Jeff Withey is the threshold as the only true center, and he has tacked on 40 blocks already this season.  However, Ben is making the most noise.  He is not running his mouth with arrogance, but Ben is performing at a level like no other freshman.  UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad was the talk of the freshmen coming into the season.  His team has three losses in just eight games.  Kentucky’s star freshman Nerlens Noel and the Wildcats are already unranked.  Ben McLemore’s play has made the Kansas Jayhawks the ninth ranked team in the country.

Ben McLemore

Although he could not play in games, McLemore was still able to practice with the team last season.  He learned the offense and defense, which gave him a serious advantage over other freshmen.  Ben became comfortable with the team which has turned out to be key for the Jayhawks.  The biggest factor McLemore brings is the fact that teams are familiar with his style of play.  Teams throughout the country did not see him play last year, making him a  well-kept secret.  The high-power skillset McLemore brings to the table makes him an elite all-around player.

Ben McLemore’s contribution on both sides of the floor has made him the leader of this team.  On the offensive side, McLemore averages almost 15 points a game and dishes over two assists.  Defensively, he averages close to six rebounds per game.  Ben McLemore is not huge, though.  Most people would expect a 6’5” freshman with a 195 pound frame to not be nearly as active as McLemore has been.  However, he has a leaping ability like no other.  His awareness and timing for put-back dunks is simply jaw-dropping.  When McLemore is running full speed at the rim, the only thing that can stop him is the path of the ball.  Ben’s posterizing dunks have made him a fan favorite.  Here is an example of what Ben McLemore is able to do.

Not only is his jersey number 23, but Ben McLemore flies through the air very similarly to Michael Jordan.  His skills are not nearly there, but he is certainly on course to be a remembered player.  Ben’s humbleness shapes his already great character.  After games he will give high fives, sign autographs and pose for pictures.  All Jayhawks need to be appreciative of Ben McLemore.  Coach Bill Self has taught a numerous amount of great freshman.  From Deron Williams to Mario Chalmers, Bill Self has coached some of the most talented players in the NBA today.  Out of all those freshman, Self says Ben McLemore is the most talented freshman he has ever coached.  Although it is evident that a player with talent like his would leave early for the NBA Draft, the decision still lies in his hands.  In the meantime, everyone can sit back and watch the freshman lead Kansas this season.

Drew Agnello

KU’s First Loss

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The Kansas Jayhawks fell short of a win Tuesday night in Atlanta against the Michigan State Spartans.  The Jayhawks came into this game expecting an easy win, but that was not the case.  The game was anything but a win for the Jayhawks.  Play was very sloppy for Kansas on both sides of the floor.  The youth of the team was exposed, but Coach Bill Self believes that is no excuse.  It is not an excuse.  It is something Kansas is going to need to take care of if they want to go back to Atlanta for the Final Four.

Tuesday night’s loss was an ugly one for KU.  The team statistically looked good, but the little things proved to hurt Kansas.  For example, center Jeff Withey failed to attack the rim strong while posting up throughout the game.  Instead of going towards the basket, he would consistently fall away trying to draw a foul.  Another concern for the Jayhawks was their defense.  The shots KU gave up were practically pre-game warm up shots for Michigan State.  Kansas even had a major advantage in the fact that Michigan State had returned from Germany two days earlier.  A tired team beat the Jayhawks.  That is not acceptable for KU basketball.  Another thing the Jayhawks showed was their lack of execution.  KU had a five point lead with five minutes left in the game.  Michigan State ended the game on a 13-5 run, handing Kansas an early first loss on the season.

The main concern for the Kansas Jayhawks is the fact that there is no true leader on this squad.  Is it Jeff Withey? Elijah Johnson?  Johnson had the ball for the last shot, but dished it to Travis Releford.  If KU wants to win, a leader needs to step out from behind the curtains.  Kansas is not a potential threat to anyone if there is not a forerunner.  However, Elijah Johnson seems to be wanting the control.  He is a senior this year, and it may be his time to lead one of the most historic programs.  Johnson later blamed himself on the loss.

At the beginning of the season, many thought Kansas could go very deep into the season before recording their first loss.  This is not the case for Kansas, so certain questions need to be answered.  How will the big men down low play better?  That starts with Jeff Withey.  He is the heart of this team and if he is not producing, neither is the team.  What about the defense? What needs to be done to fix their game plan?  The only solution is Coach Self.  He has proven to have the wits to turn struggling teams into winners.  Jayhawk fans should feel confident because Bill Self is the best at what he does.  He does not get recruits like John Calipari does, but he can mesh any sort of talent and make them winners.  Hopefully Self can do this, and KU is confident he can.  However, the biggest question remains unanswered: Who is this team’s leader?  That is up to the players.  Jeff Withey may control the game down low, but Elijah Johnson is a threat from all over the floor.  It is up to those two to choose who is going to step up when it is needed.  Maybe both could end up as leaders like Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson last year.

This should still be a good season for the Jayhawks.  They will benefit from an easy schedule, and the youth on this team will mature as the season goes on.  Kansas just needs to stick to the fundamentals, and focus on what is next for them.  Ultimately, Bill Self will be able to coach this team to where they need to be, and that is an opportunity to win Kansas their sixth championship in school history.

Drew Agnello

Upcoming Season for the Kansas Jayhawks

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A new basketball season is right around the corner, and Jayhawk fans should expect a few new things from this year’s team.  Coming off of a devastating National Championship loss to Kentucky last year, coach Bill Self’s squad is hungrier than ever for not only another National Championship appearance, but a title.  After winning the title in 2008, Kansas wants to win their second championship in five years, and with Bill Self coaching, their is a great chance KU could earn another title.  Self has won 476 games in his career.  He is also only 49 years old.  Bill has won an average of 84 percent of games he has coached at Kansas, putting him on track to achieve the most wins of all time in NCAA history.  The 2012 Kansas basketball team has the right coaching and attitude, but lacks the needed experience.

This is a relatively young team.  Led by only four seniors, this team may struggle.  The Jayhawks will be centered around Elijah Johnson, a three point specialist, Jeff Withey, a possible All-American center, and Travis Releford, who can control the momentum of any game.  Kansas basketball will be a small team height wise.  There is one true center on the team in Jeff Withey, and he can not play the entire game.  However,

Kansas is stacked in the guard position, and has plenty of talent.  Freshmen Jamari Traylor and Ben McLemore, who were both suspended by the NCAA last season for eligibility reasons, are dynamic players who can play both ends of the floor with ease.  What Jamari Traylor lacks in height, he makes up for in his 220 pound frame.  Ben McLemore is one of the most athletic players to come to Kansas.  He can leap in the air for rebounds like a forward, and drive to the basket and finish like the guard he is.

There are no major injuries on this Kansas squad. Forward Kevin Young broke his hand a few weeks ago, but is expected to be fully recovered by the start of the season.  Other than Young’s minor injury, the team will be ready to go versus Southeast Missouri State on November 9th.

Kansas’ non-conference schedule this year is easier than in years past. Only three preseason ranked teams are on the Jayhawks’ schedule.  The first test for Kansas will be when they take on Michigan State in Atlanta, Georgia.  However, the toughest test will take place in Columbus, Ohio, where the Jayhawks will face off against Ohio State.  This will be a revenge game for the Buckeyes, as they look to avenge the losses they suffered against Kansas in both the regular season and the Final Four last season. Kansas will have a few competitors for the Big XII Championship this year. The most likely of teams to dethrone Kansas this year is Baylor. They beat Kansas in Waco, Texas, last season. These two teams, in the end, will be duking it out for the top spot in the Big XII.

This should be an exciting year for Kansas basketball.  There is a legitimate chance that the Kansas Jayhawks could end the season with their sixth national championship in school history.  The coaching is there, but is the maturity in the young players?  Maturity comes with time, so time will ultimately tell.

Drew Agnello

Kansas Advances

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The Jayhawks could not have started worse against Ohio State. Tyshawn Taylor and the squad seemed nervous and timid. KU had nine turnovers and shot 29 percent from the field. Kansas could not get in a rhythm offensively in the first half. While credit must be given to Ohio State’s stifling defense, the main problem was no being used to the atmosphere of a Final Four. At the end of the first half the score was 34-25 Ohio State. Bill Self and his team have been a second half team all tournament long. The resilience of this group of players can not be questioned after watching their road to the championship. At the start of the second half KU seemed like a completely different team. They were energetic and were executing in their half court sets. Also, the shots that were not falling in the first half began to go in.

In the second half, both Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson were taking over the game. Thomas Robinson became his old dominant self again by scoring 11 points in the second half. Elijah Johnson was attacking the basket at will, mainly through transition. Johnson scored eleven points in the second half as well. Jeff Withey was a major difference maker on the defensive end in the second half as he neutralized Ohio State’s best player in Jared Sullinger with his length and shot blocking abilities. KU finished the comeback win in the final moments of game winning 64-62. It is to hard to give a game ball out because four players stood out equally. Travis Releford, for his glove like defense on senior William Buford, Thomas Robinson for his late game surge with continues baskets, Elijah Johnson with his 11 points in the second half, and Jeff Withey for shutting down one of the best big men in the country for an entire half. The game ball should ultimately go to Travis Releford for his work on both ends of the court. Along with his always great defense, he managed to contribute with 15 points.

Tyshawn Taylor continued his drought from the three point line now being 0-21 for the NCAA tournament. However, Travis Releford was a surprise offensively because he finished with fifteen points and seemed to score at crucial times for KU. Jeff Withey may have only finished with 4 points, but had seven blocks and altered many more shots. In the first half, Thomas Robinson was trying to force things offensively, which he cannot due in the next game against Kentucky.

KU will play for the National Championship Monday against the extremely young and talented, Kentucky Wild Cats. These two teams met earlier this season with Kentucky winning 75-65. Both Kentucky and Kansas are completely different teams since the pervious matchup. Kentucky has their offense working just as well a the defense has been all year. While most people proclaim the Wild Cats as a defensive team, the offensive development has caught up. While Kansas has had many players emerge since then with Elijah Johnson, Trevor Releford, and Jeff Withey, the battle will be an extremly tough one.

This will be the most talented team Kansas has played against all year. Kentucky has six first round picks on their roster and will have the first two picks for the 2012 NBA draft in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. For the Jayhawks to win, they will need to play a near perfect game. The first key for them is to get Anthony Davis in foul trouble which is a hard feat to accomplish. He has only fouled out of one game all season. Without their shot blocking machine, Kentucky has looked like a beatable team. Kentucky suffered its first loss of the year against Indiana and Anthony Davis was in foul trouble most of the game. The second key for Kansas is to out rebound Kentucky. This is tough task because of the athleticism Kentucky has on the court. The third and final key is to shoot the ball above 50% against Kentucky. If KU can accomplish these three keys, they will celebrate their another National Championship.

Connor Willsey