Archive → March, 2005
I can see next season for JR Giddens going one of two ways…and I’m praying for #2:
1. JR remains one dimensional, continues to struggle with his shot, gets a big head and starts acting like the leader of the team before the team has collectively chosen him as the leader, ends up taking a “back seat” to a younger player or players who perform better on the court, and then becomes “disgruntled” and negatively impacts the team’s chemistry.
2. JR works on his game in the off-season and develops more aspects to his game so he is no longer a one-dimensional three-point shooter, learns how to dribble and create his own shot and that part of his game really develops by about mid-season, continues to joke around with players and keep the lockeroom loose, gladly accepts the role of leader AFTER the team has collectively placed that honor in his hands, continues to mature as a young man and particularly as a young man in the spotlight of Kansas basketball, becomes a solid supporter of Self and the coaching staff and what they are trying to teach, helps the younger guys get through the “sophomore slump” by sharing what he learned through his slump this season, starts to find confidence from three-point land again, starts to play with the energy and enthusiasm that he tried to unnaturally muffle, comes out and provides stronger leadership than we saw from any of the four seniors this year, comes to play EVERY night and doesn’t feel like he can turn the switch on or off whenever he feels like it (hopefully he will have learned from this year’s seniors), and start enjoying basketball again and becoming the contagious positive personality that we all know he has inside of him….and getting the opportunity to indirectly say “GO F*CK YOURSELF” to the idiot fans that boo’d him this season and to all of the radio personalities and others that beat him down this year…..and that he finally starts to trust people around him that truly care about him and his well being. And by season’s end, he’ll be leading the team back to the promised land of the NCAA Tournament….and conversations about him being a first-round pick in the NBA draft will actually be legitimate conversations.
Did I mention I’d be PRAYING hard for #2?
We don’t know what Self is, or isn’t, capable of when he has a team of “his guys” and doesn’t have to try to figure out how to coach around the “baggage” of inheriting a team of successful seniors who, by some reports, never fully bought in to what he was teaching. And if the seniors don’t follow 100%, it’s safe to assume the younger guys won’t either.
I never felt like this was Self’s team…I never really felt like the seniors brought the team together as one….unified in what their mission was and aligned with the mission of the coaching staff….
It’s an over-used cliché, but a big part of making a run in the tournament is team chemistry.
And this team’s chemistry was out of whack for pretty much the whole year. The first round loss was a culmination of a year-long struggle to find something that simply was never there.
Folks, as I read through this morning’s articles, I am convinced there are several things to be positive about as we head into the NCAA tournament:
*All of the quotes I am reading today are focused on the right mindset…..JR saying that he got back to shooting yesterday “without thinking”….Galindo saying he feels good that his teammates trust him…..quotes that the seniors have talked to the team about the NCAA tournament and what to expect and now that “it’s on”….Self saying that he feels better about this team now than he did heading into the Big 12 Tournament and that the team learned something about themselves in the Big 12 tournament…..Keith saying that he liked what he saw out of the team as he sat on the bench….EVERYONE finally talking about how they understand that the ball must go into Wayne and that they must ride his coattails.
*Something clicked with this team yesterday. I’m not sure what it is, but it clicked.
*The senior class has been playing all season long for this moment. They have unfinished business. They still have the sour taste of the loss to GT and the loss to Syracuse in their mouths. They will be ready. And they will step up their games.
*JR had his best shooting game in forever yesterday and was playing with the swagger that has been missing. Remember how important confidence is for a shooter. And I think JR has his confidence back.
*IF the NCAA selection committee puts KU at a 3 seed, the players and coaches will have extra motivation to shove it down the committee’s collective throat during tournament play.
*We are starting to get solid contributions from Robinson, Galindo, Giles and Jackson. They, too, know how important they are to this team making a run and that the stakes are higher in the tournament. All of the talk has been about the seniors wanting to finish things, but there should be a lot of talk about the freshmen making their dreams come true and playing in their first NCAA tournament.
*Langford will be back…with a vengeance….and well rested.
*Wayne Simien is playing the best basketball of his career as we enter the tournament.
*We will be playing teams that, most likely, have only seen us on tape, and not teams that have played us year after year and know what to expect. You cannot simulate Wayne Simien in practice. You cannot simulate Keith Langford driving past you in practice. You cannot simulate the sense of urgency that the four seniors will be playing with. You cannot simulate just how ready Bill Self and his staff will have this team for the tournament.
Click the title “KU-OSU Thoughts” to see some pictures from my last couple of days at the Big 12 Tournament.
And here are my thoughts on today’s game:
*It was a helluva basketball game. Definitely had the feeling of two heavyweights going at it punch for punch.
*A great effort by KU today, without Keith. To have a shot to tie at the buzzer…and get a good look…was a tribute to the entire team. They left it all out on the floor today.
*With Keith, we are the better team out of the two. Without Keith, we are equal to OSU.
*Kemper Arena got LOUD on a few occasions. It was a great college basketball atmosphere.
*The food and bathrooms at Kemper still suck.
*Kudos to Bill Self for going with a 3-point shooting lineup, which allowed KU to climb back into the game after two threes from J.R., one from Jeff Hawkins and one from Alex Galindo. I loved this lineup.*Shame on Bill Self for abandoning that 3-point shooting lineup after it got KU, and the KU fan base, back in the game.
*Wayne Simien should be the Player of the Year. After his last three games, there is no question about that. And today he has 30 points, 7 rebounds, and only 1 foul and 1 turnover. This team can go far if they keep going to Wayne. He is ready to take this team on his shoulders for a deep tournament run. OSU had NO ANSWER for him today. He was a man among boys.
*Why did we not continue to go to JR when it was clear he had the hot hand and was feeling it? He could have really helped blow that game wide open.
*Excellent job by KU today as they had only 11 turnovers. Unfortunately, OSU only had 5, which is really remarkable when you think about it.
*I like how we shared the ball. 23 assists on 31 field goals.
*We went through a 6-7 minute lull where we forgot to get the ball to Wayne. Again, there is NO REASON he shouldn’t touch the ball on every offensive possession.
*Russell Robinson played some MAD defense today.
*CJ Giles should be starting…and get more playing time…than Christian Moody. We have ridden Moody far enough, but he has become a serious liability, particularly offensively, for this team. The right answer is definitely to start CJ Giles. He brings an energy and enthusiasm that Moody simply doesn’t have. And CJ’s upside is far more than Moody’s. Oh yeah, and CJ had THREE blocks today.
*I think it is ridiculous that KU had 10 free throw attempts to OSU’s 24. Think that makes a difference in a 3-point game? And OSU’s Joey Graham had as many made free throws (10) as KU had free throw attempts. Operators are standing by…just call 1-800-BULLSH*T. There is no question that a huge disparity like that pretty much decided the game.
*I think it is ridiculous that Joey Graham had three fouls in the first half and NONE in the second half. And it was doubly ridiculous that apparently he has carte blanche when it comes to dipping his shoulder and driving into his defender.
*I think it’s even more ridiculous that Bill Self and his staff didn’t make it a point to get that fourth foul on Joey Graham. We barely went after him.
*Kudos for Alex Galindo to have the cajones to take that last shot to go for the tie….and for Self to trust him. It was a well executed play. It just didn’t fall this time.
*Fran Fraschilla could very easily be confused with Froto.
*I saw Coach Jankovich today. He was wearing a Carolina blue tie. I yelled out, “Hey Coach Jank. That’s the wrong color blue.” To which he responded “That’s the only one I had.”. Well, get a new one, Coach. NEVER where that color of blue.
*Wayne, Miles, and Lee were WARRIORS today. They gave it everything they had.
*I do take a lot of consolation in the fact that KU has had more success in the NCAA tournament when not playing on Sunday in the forever meaningless Big 12 Conference Tournament.
*I really wish Miles would have stepped it up offensively today, though I do think he was exhausted from the tremendous defense he was playing. And he deserves major props for dishing out 11 assists.
*So much for Darnell Jackson “getting it”. He played 2 minutes.
*And Sasha Kaun must definitely not “get it” as he played ZERO minutes.
*Has JR busted out of his slump? Hopefully so…nice job going 3-of-5 from deep today.
*While I am beyond impressed by the way other players rose to the occasion in Keith’s absence, it has me wondering why they don’t consistently step up more often. Mike Lee, for example, has played AWESOME the last two games. Ditto for Jeff Hawkins. What changed? I hope we see more of this stepping up the rest of the way, regardless of who is healthy and who isn’t.
*A question: Texas Tech has this hand signal that looks like they are holding guns up. And OSU does the same. Who has a patent on it?
*OSU did a fine job of taking care of the ball on the offensive end. That was a big key to KU’s inability to get over the hump in the second half.
On to the NCAAs…
What I find myself trying to do as a “new Bill Self” fan is understand him…why he does things the way he does….why he doesn’t do certain things….etc.
I, for one, think I got so comfortable with RW over the years that I pretty much had a good feeling for the way he ran things or the decisions he would make. I didn’t always agree, but I generally had a good understanding of why he made the decisions….or I had come to the conclusion that “that’s just the way Roy does it” and I accepted it because of his tremendous winning percentage, the way he represented the university from a national perspective, the Final Fours he took us to, the conference championships he won, etc.
With Self, we’re still in the “getting to know ya” stage, so it’s uncomfortable. Some of us want that same comfort level quickly and some of us are fine with just letting it play itself out. It’s kinda like people and relationships…some people want things to move fast….others want them to move at a slower, more “natural” pace.
It is extremely difficult for the players that were recruited by, and played for, Roy Williams to fully buy in and trust Bill Self. They, too, are in the “getting to know ya” stage and some will move faster in that trust and others will want to take things more slowly….and may not have that true trust until they are long gone and graduated. Add in to the mix a bunch of freshmen that are adapting to college, being away from home, playing at the Big 12 and college level, etc. and Bill Self has a lot on his hands in terms of trying to figure out exactly what buttons work for each player. By default, he’s going to go with what’s worked before….but if it doesn’t work with a particular player, then he has to figure out what does. So he has a lot of learning to do as well…and I believe he knows that.
This may not be a divine revelation, but I was definitely struck with a little bit more clarity on just how difficult it must be for Bill Self to be everything to everyone after following someone that had been so successful. We are indeed in a transition period. And we’re doing pretty damn well all things considered. So put me in the camp of people who will question Bill Self….but do so for understanding and not meaning to be critical…..but I think Kansas Basketball is going to be in really good hands for a long time to come.
So let’s enjoy the ride and take some time to get to know Bill Self, the man and Bill Self, the coach.
But put me down for one of the folks that strongly believes we’ve got a good one….on both fronts.
At this point in the season, I’m concerned about:
*Galindo and RussRobb: Can they consistently contribute solid minutes in the postseason even though Self has hardly played them over the last couple of months? They did a fine job today in a tough situation, but can they do it consistently now all of a sudden that we need them? SELF: “I haven’t given Russell a chance to play much lately.” Yeah, no kidding.
*Our team’s unbelievable ability to repeatedly forget that Wayne Simien is on the floor…and for Self to not be able to get them to execute getting Wayne the ball. He said in his post game comments that Wayne should touch the ball every time down the court. I agree. So why doesn’t he?
*Christian Moody’s propensity to foul and inability to score…and how clueless the team looks on offense when Christian has to sit because of fouls.
*The team’s propensity to place little value on critical possessions at key moments in a game
*The fact that our seniors lost for the first time in the regular season to MU
*That Aaron Miles said that MU was tougher and stronger than KU today
*Whether JR will ever find the deadly shooting stroke we saw last year
*Our team’s confidence level after losing to a shitty MU team who haven’t even qualified for the NIT
*That Alex Galindo said he feels like they let the seniors down today
*That OU is playing heads and shoulders above where KU is playing right now
*Whoever we play in the first game of the Big 12 tourney, whether it is KSU or A&M. If Keith is out, we’re very beatable.
*MU went 8.5 minutes without a field goal in the second half…and they still beat us
*KU had a chance to win the title outright and secure the #1 seed and they weren’t able to take care of business.
*That if you take out ONE of our starters, then our entire offense goes completely in a funk
*This team let numerous opportunities to lock up the conference title, each time letting it slip through their fingers
*That KU has played 40 minutes of Kansas Basketball maybe 3-4 times this season
*That we enter the post-season having lost 4 of our last 6
Can this team make a run in the post season? Maybe.
I’m just not very confident based on what I’ve seen in the last 5-6 weeks.
KU, predictably, beat a much improved K-State team tonight in what was an emotional Senior Night.
Aaron, Mike, Wayne, Keith: Thank you for four incredible years. You are the epitome of Kansas basketball and the four of you will forever go down as one of the best classes of all time.
Congratulations on another Big 12 title and best of luck in winning the title outright when you head to Columbia to face the KU-wannabee-MU Tiggers.