Kansas blew Baylor out of the Ferrell Center in the first half of last night’s game. Everything went right for Jayhawks through the first twenty minutes. It was the first complete half that this wildly talented, and talentedly wild team has played all season. The Jayhawks left the third of the crowd composed of NBA scouts and GM’s drooling, and possibly wondering if these Jayhawks might give their respective pro teams a run for their money on the court- by my count, a third of the crowd was cheering for Baylor, the other third for the Jayhawks.
It was an unusual night for the Jayhawks. Tyshawn Taylor played defense, and did it well, holding the Big 12’s leading scorer to only 13 points. Josh Selby committed only 3 turnovers all game. Brady only missed one shot. Tyrell was predictably solid, and the Morrii were incredible. The Jayhawks outscored the Bears by 21 in the first half.
It is hard to find fault with last night’s game, or at least the first half, anyway. Baylor outscored the Jayhawks 33-32 in the second half, with their normal 6 man rotation. Surely a team as deep as Kansas should have run them into the ground in the second half. Baylor’s second-leading scorer, Quincy Acy, who averages around 35 minutes per game, was limited to only 25, due to foul trouble, pressing J’mison Morgan into extra playing time. How did Baylor manage to hang in the game?
Since his first season at Kansas, I have not often questioned Bill Self. I, like so many Kansas’ faithful was a bit apprehensive when he took over the reigns from our beloved Coach Roy. Kansas has a very rich coaching tradition, and Self was only our eighth different coach in over a hundred years, since the very inception of the game. Most of us don’t even remember a time when Coach K wasn’t Duke’s head coach, but as a comparison, Coach K is Duke’s 18th head coach. John Calipari is Kentucky’s 26th head coach, and even after decades of John Wooden’s leadership, Ben Howland was UCLA’s 12th head coach. Self had never coached at the level expected at Kansas, and we were… well, concerned.
Coach Self won us over his first two years, with an elite eight showing in his first year, and a 20-0 start in his second. Despite a disappointing end to the second year, we became confident in Self. He was our coach now, and his would be the man to lead our team for years to come, which is obviously an expectation at Kansas. Where is he going to go? Coaching at Kansas is the pinnacle of college basketball… unless you’re from North Carolina, or something. Roy Williams is UNC’s 18th head coach, by the way.
With the history lessons out of the way, and the respect he has earned granted, what was Bill Self thinking last night? Why only a six man rotation?
I understand Jeff Withey only playing only 2 minutes. He only has one job: fill the lane and block shots, but in his two minutes on the floor, the only time Withey’s raised his arms above his waist was to contest a Thomas Robinson rebound, and knock him off balance, so thar TRob landed on the floor… hard. I don’t understand, however, why TRob only played 8 minutes, unless he hurt himself more than it appeared on that landing. Since he stayed in the game, I can only assume that is not the case. Sure, he turned the ball over 4 times in those 8 minutes…Okay, Bill… I’ll give you the two big men. I guess I understand why you pulled them, and I can probably concede that EJ’s 4 fouls limited him to 9 minutes of floor time. So, I guess it comes down to Little and Morningstar, and I think that this is a legitimate area to question.
I haven’t joined the ever-rising chorus of Brady’s detractor’s, in fact I wrote a piece just the other day defending his place on the team by pointing out that he was the team’s second best ball protector, behind Tyrell. I understand the position that Brady brings experience to the floor with a young team, and doesn’t turn the ball over. I hope he will get out of his shooting slump, and I was pleased to see that he stopped shooting after clanking that three pointer. What I don’t understand is why he played more than twice as many minutes as Mario Little.
Rio provided the spark when the Jayhawks needed it. Baylor had shown some signs of life in the second half, and Little came in and extinguished it. He attacked the zone like no other player could, certainly not Brady. Little had no turnovers, so the ball protector argument is moot. He committed no fouls, scored 10 points on 4 of 6, and made both of his free throws. Mario was also the only Jayhawk who had more points than minutes in Waco. It just doesn’t make any sense to me why he didn’t earn more time on the floor at Ferrell Center. This decision obviously wasn’t based on his performance.
So, while I’m not in the habit of questioning coaching decisions, I have to ask:
Is Rio still in the doghouse?