Skip to content

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

Nov 14, 2012, 4:02 PM EST

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. Bill Self on the loss of Kansas-Missouri rivalry: ‘It hasn’t been great’

    Jan 30, 2015, 7:45 PM EST

    AP AP

    That rivalry ended when Mizzou left the Big 12 in favor of the SEC.

  2. UMass guard Trey Davis ‘OK’ after being leveled by screen, expected to play Saturday

    Jan 30, 2015, 6:30 PM EST

    AP AP

    Trey Davis left the court with only seconds remaining after colliding into a Kendall Pollard screen.

  3. Oklahoma State to honor 1994-95 Final Four team during February 7 game against Kansas

    Jan 30, 2015, 5:09 PM EST

    Oklahoma State Athletics Getty Images

    “Big Country,” Randy Rutherford and the rest of the squad is expected back for the team’s game against Kansas to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their trip to the Final Four.

  4. Bruce Pearl prepares for his first visit to Knoxville as Auburn head coach

    Jan 30, 2015, 4:04 PM EST

    Bruce Pearl Bruce Pearl

    Bruce Pearl expressed remorse over how his tenure at Tennessee ended and also remains thankful for former Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton.

  5. Pregame Shootaround: No. 6 Arizona looks to avenge lone conference loss, ‘Ivy League Friday’

    Jan 30, 2015, 2:47 PM EST

    Siyani Chambers, Anthony Thompson Siyani Chambers, Anthony Thompson

    Having already lost one game in Ivy League play, Harvard looks to bounce back with a win at Princeton.

  6. Iowa front court dealing with injuries ahead of Saturday’s game against No. 5 Wisconsin

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:50 PM EST

    AP Photo AP

    Aaron White suffered a stinger in Iowa’s loss to Purdue, and Gabe Olaseni is dealing with a sprained ankle suffered Monday.

  7. Michigan State receives $3 million gift for men’s basketball program

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:43 AM EST

    Tom Izzo AP

    The donation will be used to improve the basketball offices and practice facility, with leftover funds being used for any improvements that may need to be made down the line.

  8. Resume boost: Kansas claims final No. 1 seed

    Jan 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Bill Self AP

    Kansas’ incredibly rigorous schedule moves them to the top line in the latest update.

  9. Sluggish performance, Norman Powell drop No. 11 Utah out of Pac-12’s top spot

    Jan 30, 2015, 10:35 AM EST

    Delon Wright, Isaac Hamilton Delon Wright, Isaac Hamilton

    Thursday’s loss was a reminder of the fact that these current Utah players are still getting used to being the “hunted.”

  10. D’Angelo Russell wasn’t the only freshman to step forward for Ohio State Thursday night

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:50 AM EST

    Morehead State v Ohio State Getty Images

    While D’Angelo Russell gets most of the attention (and rightfully so), another freshman has stepped forward in the last two games for the Buckeyes.

  11. Weekend Preview: Duke-Virginia, an MVC showdown and UNC-Louisville

    Jan 30, 2015, 9:02 AM EST

    Justin Anderson AP

    The Super Bowl isn’t the only high-octane action we’ll see this weekend.

  12. Former Oregon signee JaQuan Lyle verbally commits to Ohio State

    Jan 30, 2015, 12:19 AM EST

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    With Shannon Scott being a senior and D’Angelo Russell considered to be a possible lottery pick if he goes pro, JaQuan Lyle’s commitment is a nice insurance policy moving forward.

  13. POSTERIZED: Ike Nwamu’s emphatic dunk was originally called a charge (VIDEO)

    Jan 29, 2015, 10:57 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwvjyjbiodlizwnmy2q0oge3yzm2zwrmyjq1zti2ndiw AP

    Ike Nwamu scored 20 points in the Bears’ 75-72 overtime win over Chattanooga, but should he have two (or three) more points to his credit?

  14. Thursday’s Snacks: Ohio State rolls past No. 16 Maryland

    Jan 29, 2015, 9:38 PM EST

    D'Angelo Russell, Dez Wells AP

    Providence’s Kris Dunn posted the program’s first triple-double since 2006, and UMass held off Dayton in Amherst.

  15. Big 12/SEC Challenge to be a one-day affair next season

    Jan 29, 2015, 8:44 PM EST

    Champions Classic: Kansas v. Kentucky Getty Images

    The third year of the event means an improved schedule, with all ten games being played on one day.

  16. Bradley’s leading scorer one of three players facing disciplinary action following incident Thursday morning

    Jan 29, 2015, 6:57 PM EST

    Bradley v Memphis Bradley v Memphis

    Warren Jones is averaging a team-best 13.8 points per game for Bradley, which has lost six of its last seven games.

  17. Brown’s leading scorer and rebounder decides to leave program

    Jan 29, 2015, 5:46 PM EST

    Brown v American Brown v American

    Leland King led Brown in scoring and was also tied for the team lead in rebounds per game.

  18. Duke dismisses reserve shooting guard from program

    Jan 29, 2015, 4:42 PM EST

    Duke v Louisville Getty Images

    Rasheed Sulaimon played 12 minutes in the Blue Devils’ loss at No. 8 Notre Dame Wednesday night.

  19. Chase for 180: Already a good shooter, Tyler Harvey’s been even better in 2014-15

    Jan 29, 2015, 4:15 PM EST

    Troy Williams, Tyler Harvey AP

    The Eastern Washington guard has received more attention nationally in recent weeks, and it’s well-deserved.