Skip to content

Bill Self: ‘This will all be a pretty good teaching tool for us.’

Nov 14, 2012, 4:02 PM EDT

350x-14

ATLANTA – With 5:07 left on the clock against Michigan State on Tuesday, Kansas was firmly control of the opening game of the Champions Classic.

Travis Releford and Jeff Withey combined to score six straight points as the Jayhawks opened up a 59-54 lead, and with the momentum fully in their favor, Bill Self’s club looked like they were on the verge of handing Sparty their second loss in five days to kick off the season.

Kansas had the ball eight times in the final 5:07. One possession ended in a pair of Elijah Johnson free throws. Another ended with an and-one layup in transition by Ben McLemore off of a (foul-assisted) Keith Appling turnover. The other six possessions, which resulted in four missed jumpers and two turnovers, were just as ugly aesthetically as they were in the box score. In the end, the Jayhawks lost, 67-64.

No one wanted the ball in crunch time for Kansas. No one was ready, willing, or capable of demanding the ball and saying, ‘Clear out, I got this’. And that, more than anything, is where Kansas truly misses Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson.

“The thing about playing a game this early is somebody is going to lose,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said after the game. “If you look at it, I thought we were pretty good for about 35 minutes. I thought we played probably about as I good as I thought we were going to play.”

“But games are decided in the last five, and they were much better in the last five.”

The conundrum for Kansas lies in their roster makeup. They are one of the more experienced teams in the country. Three seniors start, two of whom are in their fifth-years. Another fifth-year senior comes off the bench. With the exception of Perry Ellis, every member of the Kansas rotation was part of the program last season when they made the national title game.

The problem is that all of those veterans are role players. Jeff Withey is arguably the most intimidating defensive force in the country, but he’s still not much of a threat on the offensive end of the role. Johnson is a nice complimentary scorer, nut he’s yet to prove he can handle being the focal point offensively. Releford is a glue guy, a defender that will hit open threes, and not too much more.

The stars?

The supreme talents?

The potential first round draft picks?

They’re all freshmen.

“Our freshmen are going to be good, but they’re pretty green and naive,” Self said. “They’re not your typical heralded freshmen that have had a lot of exposure. They’ve been pretty sheltered as far as experiences.”

McLemore is the guy expected to be the star for this group, but he still has to learn about to play that role. He may have been a top 25 recruit, but he wasn’t even the go-to guy when he played at high level events in high school. In AAU ball, he deferred to Bradley Beal, last year’s No. 3 pick in the NBA Draft. There are things that McLemore, who played just his second collegiate game after redshirting last season, has to learn to be able to do to thrive in that role.

“Plugging himself in where he knows where his shots are coming from, putting himself in the game where he’s more of an impact guy,” Self said of what McLemore needs to develop. “He’s a pretty efficient player, but seven shots for him is not enough. He needs to take more shots. He’s just so talented and he’s going to learn. It’s just all new to him. He’ll get. It’s going to take a while, but he’s going to get it.”

Ellis is a finesse player at this point in his career, and while nothing has changed about his ability to put up points, finesse power forwards aren’t exactly the ideal. Traylor showed off some unbelievable athleticism, with a ridiculous put-back dunk and one of the best fast-break blocks you’ll ever see, but right now he has Thomas Robinson’s motor without his skill set.

Those guys will learn and they’ll develop and they’ll get better as the season goes along, but throwing them into the fire in a nail-biter against a Big Ten contender on national television in the Georgia Dome isn’t exactly bringing them along slowly.

Give them time.

“I thought this was a good game for us,” Self said. “I’m not leaving out of here discouraged at all. I’m not happy we lost because you’re up in that situation, you’ve gotta close, and we didn’t close. But there were some good things that happened.”

“I think this will all be a pretty good teaching tool for us.”

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Oregon State begins practice with just nine available players

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:57 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptk4mju5ownlmzu0ngrlyznkzjy2nwjhmdvhm2mwymey AP

    Oregon State has to replace its top five scorers from last season, so being shorthanded doesn’t help matters at all.

  2. Three Dayton players dealing with health issues as practices approach

    Oct 1, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT

    Gary Bell, Dyshawn Pierre AP

    Chemistry was a key component in Dayton’s run to the Elite Eight. They’ll begin the 2014-15 season looking to rebuild that without three expected contributors.

  3. UConn’s tallest Husky wins annual preseason race

    Oct 1, 2014, 8:59 PM EDT

    Amida Brimah AP

    Amida Brimah averaged 4.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game as a freshman, and he’s fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.

  4. Big Ten sends recommendations to NCAA regarding student-athlete welfare

    Oct 1, 2014, 7:14 PM EDT

    Jim Delany AP

    The Big Ten is the first of the five conferences granted autonomy to send recommendations to the NCAA.

  5. Missouri’s most productive returnee dealing with minor knee issue

    Oct 1, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    Johnathan Williams III, Tavario Miller AP

    With Missouri’s top three scorers from last season having moved on, Johnathan Williams III will be a key figure in 2014-15.

  6. Long Beach State loses starting guard to torn ACL

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    A.J. Spencer, Michael Williams, Josh Gentry AP

    Spencer averaged 9.1 points and 3.2 rebounds per game last season.

  7. Two Iowa State guards suspended for the season’s first two games

    Oct 1, 2014, 4:07 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Both with charged with drunk driving offenses during the offseason.

  8. Frank Haith lands first commitment as head coach at Tulsa

    Oct 1, 2014, 1:39 PM EDT

    Frank Haith AP

    Haith earned a commitment from a three-star point guard from Western New York.

  9. Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet on giving back to community: ‘Kids only listen to what they see now’

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT

    Fred VanVleet, Ka'Darryl Bell AP

    Van Vleet has been attending speaking engagements this offseason, trying to give back to the youth.

  10. Oklahoma State lands commitment from elite point guard in 2015

    Oct 1, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armor Kelly Kline/Under Armor

    Jawun Evans is one of the top three point guards in the class.

  11. NCAA twitter account effortlessly trolls MLB during playoff opener

    Oct 1, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

    Harvard v Arizona Getty Images

    Do you think the MLB needs some ice for that burn?

  12. Former Baylor commit suing former high school for alleged grade manipulation

    Sep 30, 2014, 11:00 PM EDT

    Scott Drew AP

    A former Baylor commit is suing his former high school for allegedly altering his grades.

  13. Five-star 2015 guard to visit SEC school this weekend

    Sep 30, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    FIBA U17 World Championships - Dubai Getty Images

    Can an SEC program reel in a top-5 player in the 2015 class during a weekend visit?

  14. IUPUI unveils new court design (PHOTO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 6:20 PM EDT

    IUPUI athletics IUPUI athletics

    IUPUI unveiled a new court design this week.

  15. Western Kentucky fans pick new uniform design (PHOTO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Western Kentucky mascot Big Red AP

    Western Kentucky fans were given three options and selected one for the upcoming season.

  16. John Calipari hiring an analytics director is smart, necessary, strictly for his players

    Sep 30, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    NBA teams know all about efficiency stats and advanced analytics. College freshmen and sophomores may not.

  17. Mixtape for elite 2015 PG Jawun Evans (VIDEO)

    Sep 30, 2014, 1:56 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armor Kelly Kline/Under Armor

    Evans may be the best point guard in the Class of 2015, but it’s up for debate.