Kansas’ Bill Self looking for team to display missing ‘youthful exuberance’

Leave a comment

No. 20 Kansas opened Big 12 play with a 90-83 win at Oklahoma on Wednesday night, with Wayne Selden scoring 24 points and Perry Ellis adding 22 and 11 rebounds to lead the way. The game represented a “new beginning” of sorts for Bill Self’s young team, with their non-conference schedule now complete and the goal of winning a tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title ahead of them.

But even with the move forward into conference play the Jayhawks aren’t where Self wanted them to be at this point in time, and their youth has a lot to do with that.

Not lacking for talent, with players such as the aforementioned Ellis and Selden, as well as Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid (just to name part of the rotation) having key roles, the intangibles that elite teams possess have been an issue for the Jayhawks. And whether it’s the expectations or the mere fact that they aren’t the most experienced group, the Jayhawks haven’t played with the energy Self hoped for with the head coach saying as much in a story written by Eric Prisbell of USA Today.

“It has been a little frustrating,” Self told USA TODAY Sports near the locker room after the game. “Not because I have not enjoyed coaching them, but because I don’t think they play with the zest and the energy and the youthful exuberance that I think 18 year olds should play with … That has been frustrating for me, but they are great kids.”

While a number of the players on the roster dealt with high expectations as high school players, in most cases the amount of attention received then is nowhere near what it is now that they’re in college. The obvious exception to this would be Wiggins, who more than a few pundits wrote in as the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft before he’d practiced at Kansas.

And there’s also the question of who will grab the reins and lead the way, with point guard Naadir Tharpe being a clear option. But the process of finding leaders can be a difficult one for young teams, with some players looking to avoid stepping on toes and upsetting their friends. That can lead to the maturation process taking longer than expected, because at a certain point the strongest leader on the court has to be someone other than the head coach; he can’t check into the game and play.

Self may have lamented the fact that his team isn’t playing with the energy he expected, but he also noted in the story that he’s confident they’ll figure things out in the rugged Big 12. And if that turns out to be the case, there’s little doubt that the Jayhawks can make a run at their first national title since 2008.

Michigan State’s Tum Tum Nairn battling foot injury

Lourawls Nairn Jr.
Leave a comment

Michigan State has climbed on the back of star senior wing Denzel Valentine early in the season but they’ll undoubtedly need more help as the season goes on if they want to sustain their current top-5 ranking. One of the keys to the Spartans could be the on-going health of sophomore point guard Lourawls ‘Tum Tum’ Nairn, who is battling a foot injury.

According to a report from Kyle Austin of, Nairn has been putting on a protective boot the last few months to help battle plantar fasciitis as the guard has been playing in practices and hasn’t had his minutes reduced in games.

The injury looked like it was hurting Nairn’s early-season play, but he’s been very good in two games at the Wooden Legacy in California this week, so it could be that he’s getting more used to playing through the pain of the injury.

If Nairn is healthy and capable of contributing, he’s a huge boost to Michigan State because he’s one of the fastest players in college basketball and an additional ball handler on the floor. Through six games so far this season, Nairn is averaging 5.3 points and 4.7 assists per game as he’s been one of the team’s best distributors.

Plantar fasciitis can be a tough injury to fight through, so we’ll have to see if this affects Nairn as the season goes along.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: A few tournaments are still going on

Justin Jenifer, Charles Jackson
Leave a comment

GAME OF THE DAY: George Washington vs. No. 24 Cincinnati, 1:30 p.m.

Two 6-0 teams clash at the Barclays Center in what could be an important game for NCAA tournament resumes of both teams. The Bearcats picked up their most legitimate win over Nebraska, but the Colonials pose as a more real threat after they beat Virginia at home earlier this season. Cincinnati hasn’t shot the ball well in recent wins, but they’re beating up opponents on the glass and the defense has been solid. George Washington is coming off of a win over Tennessee in which they held off the Volunteers in the second half. The Colonials have lost 20 of their last 23 against ranked opponents, but another win over a top team would look great for them going forward.

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: No. 4 Iowa State vs. Illinois, 6:00 p.m. (CBSSN)

This game is apart of the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Florida as the Illini could desperately use a win after a 3-3 start. Illinois head coach John Groce and his team are feeling the pressure for a big win on a neutral site after falling to North Florida, Providence and Chattanooga earlier in the season. The No. 4 Cyclones easily dispatched Virginia Tech earlier in the event and have found a nice balance on offense with the emergence of senior big man Jameel McKay inside.


  • N0. 2 Maryland has struggled to put away teams early at times this season and they’ll try to change that behavior when they host Cleveland State.
  • Staying in the Big Ten, No. 16 Purdue hosts Lehigh. With a game at Pitt and against New Mexico looming, could this be a trap game for the Boilers?
  • Nebraska and Tennessee take the floor in consolation action at the Barclays Center. The Huskers need someone besides Shavon Shields and Andrew White to step up in the scoring column while Tennessee is getting huge numbers from senior guard Kevin Punter.
  • Two 4-0 teams will meet in Brooklyn as Louisville takes on Saint Louis (7:00 p.m., ESPN3). Neither team has faced a significant test this season and this is the Cardinals’ first game away from home.
  • An intriguing night game to keep an eye on is Belmont traveling to BYU (8:00 p.m.). The Bruins are as well-coached as any team in the country and forward Evan Bradds has been playing great ball to start the season. The Cougars don’t have a high scorer like they did in the past, but Kyle Collinsworth is a triple-double threat every time he steps on the floor and BYU has a lot of weapons around him.
  • UAB and Virginia Tech battle in one of the more intriguing consolation games of the Emerald Coast Classic. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses but have a shot to make things better on the trip with a solid win on Saturday.


  • Bryant at Georgetown, 11:00 a.m. (FS2)
  • Bucknell at Penn State , 12:00 p.m.
  • Tennessee-Martin vs. Mississippi State, 12:00 p.m. (SEC Network)
  • Ole Miss at Bradley, 1:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • Old Dominion at VCU, 3:00 p.m.
  • Hawaii at Texas Tech, 3:00 p.m.
  • Kent State at Pitt, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • SIU-Edwardsville at Butler, 4:00 p.m.
  • Georgia at Seton Hall, 6:30 p.m.
  • Western Illinois at Creigton, 7:00 p.m.
  • Colorado State vs UTEP, 7:30 p.m.