Travis Releford, Bill Self

Bill Self, redshirts, and the Power of Andrew Wiggins


I’m not sure there is a coach in the country that is better at developing players in his program than Bill Self at Kansas.

Over the years, the best players that have come through Lawrence during his tenure have been moderately recruited — i.e. somewhere around the top 40 or top 50 of most lists — and have spent two or three years on campus, slowly-but-surely getting better before heading off to the NBA Draft’s first round.

Think Thomas Robinson and the Morris twins, Cole Aldrich and Jeff Withey. Sherron Collins was a five-star recruit, but it took him a few years to be more than a bench player. Even Ben McLemore belongs in that conversation, as Kansas and McLemore used his redshirt season turned him from another top 50 kid into a top three pick in the NBA Draft.

In fact, Self does more with redshirts than just about anyone.

And that is what may end up being one of the most important aspects of Andrew Wiggins’ decision to attend Kansas.

Obviously, bringing in a talent like Wiggins — not to mention a transfer like Tarik Black — to bolster an already rock-solid recruiting class is enough to make the Jayhawks a national title contender. But look down the road here. Wiggins is going to be on campus for a year, just like Black. Five-star recruits Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid may not make it that much longer. So while Wiggins’ presence makes a young-but-talented Kansas roster that much more crowded, it also creates a situation where a couple of kids aren’t needed this season.

Take, for example, sophomore Andrew White and incoming freshman Brannen Greene. Those two are talented wings, but they are also the third and fourth wings on the Kansas roster this season. How much playing time are they going to get with Wiggins and Selden starting? Is it worth to have one — or both? — of them take a redshirt to develop the rest of their game?

What about Jamari Traylor? He’s a freak of an athlete, but he’s, at best, the fourth big man on the Jayhawk roster, behind Embiid, Black and Perry Ellis. He could use an extra year of development.

Remember, Travis Releford redshirted after his freshman season, and look how his career ended up panning out. I don’t think Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga is complaining about taking a redshirt in the middle of his career. Neither did Notre Dame’s Tim Abromaitis.

It’s weird how quickly things can change for college basketball coaches.

Earlier this month, Self was wondering whether or not he would have a real chance at extending his Big 12 title streak. Now, he’s has to figure out a way to plan for the future while Kansas makes another run at a national title.

The Power of the Wiggins.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.