Will Bill Self and Kansas play small-ball this season?

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On the surface, Kansas once again looks like a team that will be the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season title and will have to horses to make a run at a Final Four and head coach Bill Self’s second national title.

That’s what happens when you stockpile talent the way Kansas does.

Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are talented enough that few would be surprised if their time in Lawrence is limited to one season. One of the biggest reasons that Wayne Selden is back for his sophomore year is that a bum knee kept him from playing up to his potential. Perry Ellis will put up enough numbers to make a run at being the Big 12 Player of the Year, while the likes of Brannen Greene and Svi Mikhailiuk will likely be relegated to the bench despite having NBA potential in their own right.

But as has been the case every season since Sherron Collins left the program, the biggest question mark — and perhaps the determining factor for success this year — the Jayhawks will have this season is at the point guard spot.

Naadir Tharpe is gone. Sophomores Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp both return and Self brings in talented freshman Devonte’ Graham, which means that Self will have plenty of options.

“We’re probably the deepest we’ve been at point. Last year, I kind of screwed it up and didn’t play Frank there as much as I should have,” the Kansas head coach told reporters on Monday. “He played point, but I probably didn’t put enough on him to get him ready as quickly as he needed to. But certainly with Frank, and Conner can play some point, but Devonte’ Graham’s good. He’s a good player. You could see two of those three playing together a lot.”

But here is where it gets interesting: Not only does Self talk about playing two point guards at the same time, he also mentions that using a four-guard lineup with a pair of his big wings — 6-foot-8 Myhailiuk, 6-foot-7 Oubre and 6-foot-5 Selden — on the floor at the same time is a possibility.

“Your deepest position is wing, so I could see one of our wings being a 4-man and playing real small, which I think would be really hard to guard,” he said.

This isn’t the first time this summer that Self has brought up the fact that he wants to give opponents different looks this season. Back in June, he had this to say about his perimeter attack:

“I don’t want to play a point guard any more,” Self said. “[…] I want to play, ‘You play three guards, and whoever gets it, brings it.’ That’s how we’ve always had our best teams.”

[…]

“I want Wayne (Selden) to be able to play point. I want Frank (Mason), I want Conner, I want Devonte’ (Graham), I want Svi (Mykhailiuk) when he gets here … I want all these guys to be able to be a guy that can get it and bring it so we’re playing a bunch of combo guards that can all play point as opposed to just playing a point guard.”

“But up until the last 5-7 minutes, I hope we have three point guards out there playing at once,” Self said, “or at least the appearance of three.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I might be reading a bit too much into the kind of coach speak that happens during the summer, but remember this: Kansas has some talent up front, but they’re not all that big. Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis are both about 6-foot-8, and while Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson provide more bulk up front, they aren’t quite as good as Ellis or Alexander.

And keep this in mind as well: the best team in the country, Kentucky, has a massive front line. Arizona is going to be really big up front as well. Texas, the second-best team in the Big 12, will also have plenty of big bodies this season.

If the Jayhawks are already going to be at a size disadvantage against some of the best teams in the country, wouldn’t it make sense to use a four-guard attack?

NCAA tourney chair addresses non-conference strength of schedule and quadrant system

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The way the NCAA tournament selection committee picks teams for inclusion into the sport’s crowning event is always under intense scrutiny. It’s a national past time, really.

One of the easiest targets is the RPI, an obviously flawed metric. It was the topic of discussion recently in the Omaha World-Herald, most notably the non-conference strength of schedule component.

That post spurred a lengthy response from Creighton athletic director and selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, who defended the committee’s work with a metric that it acknowledges to be imperfect.

Here’s Rasmussen:

“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.

In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.

“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”

Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:

“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally.  I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”

So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25

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Michigan State is your new No. 1 team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Spartans received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes after their comeback from 27 points down to beat Northwestern on the road on Saturday.

Virginia is still sitting at No. 2 while Villanova and Xavier round out the top four. Duke climbed a few spots to No. 5.

Here is the full coaches poll:

1. Michigan State (20 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (8)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Gonzaga
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Wichita State
13. Auburn
14. Arizona
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Saint Mary’s
21. West Virginia
22. Nevada
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee State
25. Arizona State

Was Bob Huggins justified in his anger over foul shots in Kansas win over West Virginia?

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Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.

The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:

Huggs is a national treasure.

The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.

And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.

Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.

Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.

Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.

It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.

But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:

“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”

“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”

But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:

“It wasn’t their fault.”

It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.

But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?

Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.

But the whistles played some kind of a role.

Just like they always do in the Phog.

College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25

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Virginia remained in the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll while Michigan State and Villanova still sit at No. 2 and No. 3 with Xavier once again in fourth.

The biggest change in the poll was that Duke rose to No. 5 after three straight wins; they were No. 12 last week.

Kentucky is still not a part of the top 25.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Virginia (42 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
t-6. Texas Tech
t-6. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary’s
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

VIDEO: Wichita State celebrates in locker room after win over Cincinnati

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Wichita State went into Cincinnati — well, Northern Kentucky — on Sunday evening and landed their biggest win of the season.

They were fired up about it, as you might imagine.

And their locker room celebrating after the win was, as the kids say, litty:

Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.

Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.