Looking Forward: Is Bill Self the right coach for a one-and-done star like Josh Jackson?

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

As we take a look at ahead at the 2016-17 season, we’re also going to take a deeper dive into what we think will end up being some of the biggest storylines next season. Today, we’re talking about Kansas and whether or not Bill Self has earned the reputation he has with one-and-done freshmen.

Last week, we looked at Duke and the potential for a 40-0 season.

The consensus among college basketball observers is that Duke and Kentucky are the two programs that, right now, are recruiting better than anyone in the sport.

They’re the teams that can lose three — or four or five or six — players to the NBA Draft and find a way to reload their roster enough to compete for league titles and Final Fours the following season. Kentucky had cornered the market on one-and-done prospects until Duke and Coach K decided to throw their hat into the mix, and on Tuesday, I wrote a column about the tension that the rivalry has created on the recruiting trail.

But nowhere in there did I mention Kansas, and I’d be willing to wager that there aren’t many hoops pundits or recruitniks that would tell you the Jayhawks are on the same level as Duke and Kentucky when it comes to bringing in elite talent.

There’s a reason for that, and it’s not Bill Self’s ability to put together strong recruiting classes. Kansas is the best in the country at gathering the leftovers once Duke and Kentucky have picked through the kids they want from each class. In the 11 recruiting classes since the one-and-done era went into effect in 2006 — the year Kevin Durant and Greg Oden were freshmen — Self has landed 15 five-star recruits, according to Rivals. (For comparison’s sake, John Calipari has landed 32 five-star recruits since he came to Kentucky in 2009 and Coach K has landed 20 since 2006, with 10 coming in the last three seasons.) Nine of those 15 kids have come in the last four recruiting classes, a stretch that has included six of the eight top ten recruits that Self has brought to Lawrence. Three times in the last seven years and twice in the last four seasons Self has landed the No. 1 recruit in the country.

The natural question to ask, then, is why so many consider Kansas to be a step below Duke and Kentucky in the current recruiting climate, but the more pressing question given the way that the 2016-17 college basketball season is taking shape is this: Can we trust Bill Self to make the most out of landing the nation’s No. 1 prospect, Josh Jackson?

The answer to the former is the reason why we even have to consider the latter.

Bill Self is one of the best coaches in all of college basketball. No one is going to argue that if they aren’t senile. The 12 straight Big 12 regular season titles that he has won, combined with the National Title that he won in 2008, are enough that he would be elected to the Hall of Fame if he were to retire today. Mark Few is the only coach to come close to putting together a streak like that, and even he hasn’t been able to win 12 straight regular season titles at Gonzaga. Say what you will about the strength of the Big 12, it’s a hell of a lot better than the WCC.

But this past season was the first time in a while — probably since the 2012 team — where it felt like Kansas had the rest of the conference outclassed, and that only happened late in league play, thanks to an 11-game winning streak to close out the regular season. In other words, you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong in saying that the Jayhawks’ reign over the Big 12 is due the impossibility of winning a road game in Phog Allen Fieldhouse as much as anything else. They’re almost assured of going 9-0 at home in league play, which means that a 5-4 record on the road in conference will just about guarantee at the very least a share of the regular season crown. With Texas Tech and TCU at the bottom of the conference, and with the state of the current Kansas State and Oklahoma State programs, going 5-4 on the road in the Big 12 isn’t exactly a daunting task.

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The fact that Kansas has struggled in the NCAA tournament relative to expectations in recent seasons hasn’t helped, either. In the last four years — the four years where Self has done what he can to embrace the one-and-done ideal — Kansas has not made a Final Four. In 2013, they lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed. In 2014 and 2015, the Jayhawks lost in the second round as a No. 2 seed. This past season, they reached the Elite 8, where they lost to No. 2 seed — and eventual champion — Villanova as the No. 1 seed.

Bill Self has only made it to the Final Four twice in his career, and neither team had anything remotely close to a one-and-done player on it. When he won the title in 2008, his roster was so deep and so veteran-laden that future All-American Sherron Collins was the seventh man and future lottery pick Cole Aldrich couldn’t get off the bench. The 2012 team that reached the national title game was nowhere near as deep, but the only player on that roster that left school with eligibility remaining was junior and National Player of the Year runner-up Thomas Robinson.

Even the team that he had this past season, the one that lost in the Elite 8, was built entirely around veterans. There may not have been a first round pick on the roster, and the two marquee freshmen that he brought into the program — Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg Jr. — were somewhere between a bust and a bigger project that some expected.

Bragg was in a tough spot. He was never really thought of as a one-and-done caliber player and was stuck playing behind Perry Ellis, who may be the most under-appreciated player in the history of the Big 12 Conference. Diallo will look like a bust on paper, but his shortcomings were something that we probably should have seen coming. He doesn’t have a great feel for the game or a high basketball IQ — even I could pick out when he would forget what play Kansas was running or when he missed a defensive rotation. His success in high school came because he had a terrific motor and was bigger and more athletic than most of the kids he was playing against. As a slender, 6-foot-8 power forward with no discernible offensive skill set and a habit of forgetting what he was supposed to be doing, should we really be surprised that he struggled to get minutes?

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In and of itself, that’s not a big deal. The problem is that this year just added to the perception that Self doesn’t know how to coach one-and-done kids. Cliff Alexander was a top five recruit that turned out to be a massive bust. He finished the season ineligible and can currently be seen in street clothes behind the Portland Trailblazer bench during playoff games. Kelly Oubre, Xavier Henry and Andrew Wiggins — and, to a point, Wayne Selden — all had solid-to-really good careers at Kansas, even if they didn’t play out quite like many Jayhawk fans were hoping. Wiggins, in particular, was a victim of his hype and a guy whose legacy in college will forever be tarnished by the fact that Joel Embiid couldn’t stay healthy.

And who can forget about Josh Selby, who was Rivals’ No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2010 that missed the first nine games of his college career, averaging 7.9 points as a freshman and, after declaring for the draft, managed a whopping 38 games in the NBA before he was forced to find work overseas. He’s now a 25-year-old playing in Turkey while guys he was ranked in front of — Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, Enes Kanter — are playing critical roles on teams that have a shot to win the NBA title.

That’s why Self has the reputation that he does. That’s why there are people in recruiting circles that will tell you that Kansas doesn’t pick the kids that they want as much as they chase the highest-ranked and most talented players that Duke and Kentucky pass on.

And that’s why we have to ask the question: Is Bill Self the right man to coach Josh Jackson?

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)
Josh Jackson. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

And to me, the answer is yes.

The player that Jackson is inevitably going to get compared to is Wiggins. They’re both Jayhawks. They were both ranked No. 1 in their class. They’re both big, athletic wings with otherworldly physical tools and a skill-set that is both very-much developing while still being advanced enough to allow them to play as a natural wing.

But here’s the thing that you may not realize: They’ll both play with Frank Mason as their point guard, and it’s Mason that will ultimately be the difference.

The team that Wiggins played on was an example of why relying on a new youth movement every season is risky. That team’s starting lineup included three highly-touted freshmen (Wiggins, Embiid and Selden), a talented-but-promising sophomore in Ellis and a junior point guard named Naadir Tharpe, who was no where near the veteran leader or steadying point guard presence that a roster like that needed in order to succeed. In other words, that Kansas team needed Wiggins to step in and be “The Guy” and, if his career has proven anything to this point, it’s that he’s not exactly wired to be “The Guy”.

Jackson is. He’s competitive as hell, he relishes the big moment, he wants the ball in his hands. He has all of those intangibles that coaches always rave about. There are many that believe that he can be a leader at the college level in his one-and-done season, but the reason we are so bullish on Kansas is that he’s not going to have to be.

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This is going to be Frank Mason’s team. He’s the senior point guard. He’s the bulldog. He’s the guy that sets the tone for that locker room. And if he doesn’t, than Landen Lucas or Devonte’ Graham will. Svi Mykhailiuk is back. Bragg is back. Hell, even Diallo may end up coming back.

In other words, Jackson may be the best player that Kansas has on their roster. He may better Wiggins’ 17.1 points and he may be a better perimeter defender as well. Hell, he’s probably going to end up being named to a number of Preseason All-American teams, and it’s not a stretch to think he could be the Preseason Player of the Year in the Big 12.

The expectation is going to be there.

But not only is Jackson more prepared to handle those kind of expectations, the burden that comes with them is nowhere near as heavy when you’re not being asked to lead the team, the be the alpha dog, from day one as well.

And in the end, that is what is going to be the difference for Jackson.

Duke edges North Carolina 63-57 behind Roach, Lively

Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

DURHAM, N.C. — Jeremy Roach scored 20 points, Dereck Lively II had career highs of eight blocks and 14 rebounds and Duke defeated North Carolina 63-57 on Saturday night.

Kyle Filipowski added 14 points and Tyrese Proctor 11 for the Blue Devils (17-6, 8-4 ACC), who won their third straight and beat the Tar Heels (15-8, 7-5) for the first time in three meetings, including in last year’s Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

North Carolina’s Armando Bacot had 14 points and 10 rebounds for his 63rd career double-double, extending his own program record, Leaky Black had 13 points and 10 rebounds, Caleb Love added 12 points and RJ Davis 11.

Roach scored eight of Duke’s final 10 points, including the last four after Lively’s tiebreaking dunk with 1:35 to go. North Carolina missed its last five shots, including a trio of 3-point tries in the final minute.

The Blue Devils’ six-point winning margin matched their largest lead.

Neither team reached 40% shooting but Duke outscored North Carolina 20-2 off fast breaks and was 11 of 15 at the free-throw line to only 2 of 3 for the Tar Heels.

The stat sheet was fairly even at halftime when Duke led 33-32 except for one telling stat, a 16-0 advantage for the Blue Devils on fast-break points as they scored repeatedly off transition.

A 14-5 run erased a seven-point North Carolina lead — the Tar Heels’ largest — and put Duke in front 26-24 with just under four minutes left in the half. A Proctor 3-pointer broke the fourth tie before Bacot cut it to the one-point margin at the break. Bacot had 12 points in the first half. Roach had 10.

The game matched two men who played in this rivalry and are now leading the programs they played for: first-year Duke coach Jon Scheyer and Hubert Davis, in his second year for North Carolina.

The teams will meet again in their regular-season finale at Chapel Hill on March 4. Duke plays at No. 23 Miami on Monday. North Carolina is at Wake Forest on Tuesday.

No. 13 Iowa State rolls past eighth-ranked Kansas 68-53

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes scored all 15 of his points in the second half as No. 13 Iowa State rolled past No. 8 Kansas 68-53 on Saturday.

Osun Osunniyi added 13 for the Cyclones (16-6, 7-3 Big 12), who stayed within at least a game of front-running Texas in the conference standings. Tamin Lipsey added eight rebounds and 10 assists.

“Today, we came out and played desperate,” Holmes said.

Jalen Wilson led the Jayhawks (18-5, 6-4) with 26 points for his sixth straight game with at least 20. No other Kansas player had more than 8 points.

“It’s not a formula for success for us,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We need balance from our starting five. If one guy feels like he’s got to go do it all on his own, it crashes the offense.”

The Cyclones led for all but 1:14 of the game, building a 34-16 scoring edge in the paint. Kansas struggled early, making just two of their first 10 shots and committing 11 turnovers in the first 20 minutes.

Iowa State shot 46% for the game.

“From the beginning, we gave them some easy buckets,” Wilson said. “That’s something we’ve struggled with (defensively) … the easiest way to get comfortable is easy buckets, layups, stuff like that.”

Iowa State was up 33-21 at the break.

Holmes missed all four shots in the first half, but after getting sick at halftime, he helped the Cyclones stretched the lead to 42-31 early in the second half with a 3-pointer and layup.

“I felt a little nauseous the whole day,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with some sickness over the past week and a half.”


Kansas: The Jayhawks dropped to 3-4 during a stretch in which six of its seven opponents were ranked. The lone unranked foe was Kentucky. … Kansas committed a season-high 20 turnovers Saturday. … The loss to Iowa State was Self’s first in five meetings with second-year Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger.

Iowa State: Improved to 12-0 at home this season and 5-0 in the Big 12. It was also the Cyclones’ fifth win over a top-10 opponent in the past two seasons.


Kansas: Hosts No. 10 Texas on Monday.

Iowa State: Travels to West Virginia on Wednesday.

Bishop helps No. 10 Texas rally past No. 7 K-State, 69-66

Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Christian Bishop was as frustrated as anyone in a Texas jersey in the first half Saturday. He’d been held without a point by Kansas State and, not surprisingly, the No. 10 Longhorns were facing a double-digit deficit on the road.

Maybe that’s why he punctuated every bucket in the second half with a fist pump.

Bishop poured in 14 points after the break to lead the Longhorns’ comeback, including the go-ahead lay-in with 37 seconds to go, and the new Big 12 leaders held on for a 69-66 victory over the No. 7 Wildcats on Saturday.

“Christian’s been working really hard over the last couple of games to get him back to the level he was playing four or five games ago,” interim Texas coach Rodney Terry said. “He really came out and rebounded and gave our team an incredible lift the way he played the second half.”

Red-hot guard Sir’Jabari Rice also had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Longhorns, and it was his two free throws with nine seconds left that forced the Wildcats into needing a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.

After a quick timeout, the Wildcats’ Ismael Massoud got an open look from the wing but came up well short of the basket, allowing the Longhorns to hold on for their fifth win over a Top 25 team this season.

Tyrese Hunter and Marcus Carr added 10 points apiece for Texas (19-4, 8-2), which took over sole possession of first place in the rough-and-tumble Big 12 by avenging its overtime loss to the Wildcats (18-5, 6-4) early last month.

“Our league, we don’t have any bad teams,” Terry said. “To come in on a home court against a top-10 team and have this kind of performance, I’ll stack it up with one of the best wins I’ve been part of in 30 years of coaching.”

Keyontae Johnson struggled through foul trouble but still had 16 points to lead the Wildcats, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season. Desi Sills scored 11 points and Markquis Nowell had 10, but he also had six turnovers, including one with less than a minute to go and Kansas State down by one.

“I don’t want to wash this one. I want to live with this one for 36 hours,” Wildcats coach Jerome Tang said. “Everybody in our arena did our job except the coaches and players on the floor.”

Kansas State and Texas played one of the most entertaining games of the season in Austin, when they went bucket-for-bucket through regulation and into overtime. The Wildcats eventually escaped with a 116-103 victory.

Early on Saturday, Texas looked as if it would struggle to score half as much.

With the Wildcats clamping down on the perimeter, the Longhorns kept throwing the ball away, and at one point had seven turnovers against just five made shots. They also went a stretch of more than 7 minutes with just one field goal.

Kansas State took advantage of their offensive malaise.

Despite the sure-handed Nowell’s turnover trouble, and leading scorer Johnson picking up his third foul with 5 1/2 minutes left in the half, the Wildcats steadily built a lead. It reached as many as 14 before Texas made three free throws in the final second to get within 36-25 heading to the locker room.

It was the spark the Longhorns needed: They made their first six shots of the second half, and their run spanning the break eventually reached 17-4 while getting them within 40-39 with 15 minutes left in the game.

“There were points in the second half we did get rushed,” Nowell said, “and it led to turnovers and fast-break points.”

Rice’s 3-pointer a few minutes later gave Texas its first lead since the opening minutes. And when the Wildcats went on a nearly 5-minute scoring drought, Bishop began to assert control, the Creighton transfer scoring 11 points over a 6-minute stretch and punctuating each of them with a roar and a fist pump.

Just like their first meeting Jan. 3, though, the rematch Saturday was destined to go down to the wire.

“There’s no blowouts in our league,” Tang said.


Texas could do nothing right in the first half and nothing wrong in the second, shooting 57% from the floor over the final 20 minutes. Most of the success came in the paint; the Longhorns were just 4 of 16 from the 3-point arc.

Kansas State couldn’t overcome 19 turnovers, including six by Nowell, who had 36 points, nine assists and eight rebounds when the teams met in Austin. He had just six rebounds and three assists on Saturday.


Texas heads down Interstate 70 to face eighth-ranked Kansas on Monday night.

Kansas State wraps its homestand against No. 15 TCU on Tuesday night.

James leads No. 2 Tennessee over No. 25 Auburn, 46-43

Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Josiah-Jordan James scored 15 points and 14 rebounds to lead No. 2 Tennessee to a 46-43 victory over No. 25 Auburn on Saturday in a game in which every point was difficult and nothing flowed.

“Both teams played as hard as they could,” said Tennessee coach Rick Barnes. “Every possession was a grind.”

The Volunteers (19-4, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) shot just 27% from the field and 9.5% from the 3-point line. They were recovering from a Wednesday loss to Florida in which they shot 28%.

Tennessee had a 47-42 edge on the boards and 15-8 on the offensive glass.

“A game like this shows a lot of character,” said James. “I knew coming in (rebounding) was what I’d be called to do. I had to use the body God’s given me.”

“Both teams did a fantastic job,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “To hold Tennessee to 27% … It doesn’t get any better than that.”

“I don’t think there’s a more physical league in the country,” said Barnes.

The Tigers (17-6, 7-3) were led by Johni Broome with 11 points and nine rebounds and K.D. Johnson off the bench with 10 points. Auburn managed only 24% from the field and 11% from the 3-point line.

Jaylin Williams made two free throws with 2:47 to play cut Tennessee’s lead to 40-38. Santiago Vescovi hit his first 3-pointer of the game and got a four-point play out of it for a 44-38 lead. A 3-pointer by Wendell Green Jr. cut the advantage to 44-41 with 30 seconds left.

A turnover on the inbounds play gave Auburn the ball with 23 seconds to play. Broome got a tip-in to make it a one-point game, and Zakai Zeigler made two free throws.

Green’s last-second 3-point to tie clanked out.

“At the end, Wendell Green got the shot off and got fouled,” said Pearl. “Nothing got called.”

Auburn scored eight straight points to start the game. Tennessee followed with a six-point run and an eight-point spurt early in the second half. Those were the longest runs of the game.


Tennessee was in the No. 2 spot in the poll for two days before falling at Florida. Under Barnes, the Vols now have 25 wins over teams ranked in the Top 25. . Auburn had been clinging to the elite at No. 25 this week. The Tigers have been ranked as high as No. 11, coming in the fifth week of the season.


Since statistics started being kept in 1999-2000, Tennessee is on pace to be the all-time leader in field-goal percentage defense (.348; Stanford, 1999-2000, is second .352) and 3-point defense (.225; Norfolk State, 2004-05, is second .253). . Through 22 games, the similarities between last year’s Vols point guard Kennedy Chandler (now with the Memphis Grizzlies) and this year’s Ziegler are striking (points per game: Chandler 13.5, Ziegler 11.4; rebounds: 3.0, 3.0; assists: 4.95, 5.05).


Auburn: The Tigers will host Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Tennessee: The Vols will tackle in-state rival Vanderbilt in Nashville on Wednesday.

Pedulla’s 22 points lift Virginia Tech past No. 6 Virginia

Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

BLACKSBURG, Va. – Sean Pedulla scored 22 points and Virginia Tech beat No. 6 Virginia 74-68 on Saturday, snapping the Cavaliers’ seven-game winning streak.

Pedulla made 6 of 13 from the floor as the Hokies (14-10, 4-8 Atlantic Coast Conference) posted their biggest win of the season. He added 8 of 9 from the free-throw line. Justin Mutts added 17 points.

Virginia Tech never trailed and shot 50% from the floor for the fourth straight game.

“There was no pouting (after the Miami loss). Just back to practice the next day,” Virginia Tech coach Mike Young said of his team, which lost 92-83 to No. 23 Miami on Tuesday. “Yeah, we’ve got Virginia coming in. Yes, in-state and all of that stuff. We’ve got another opportunity to play another really good opponent. We’ve got a chance to play Virginia Tech basketball and fight and compete and adhere to the things that are important to us – and we did that by and large on both ends of the floor.”

Jayden Gardner’s 20 points led Virginia (17-4, 9-3), which saw its usually stingy defense struggle. Kihei Clark finished with 17 points for the Cavaliers, while Reece Beekman had 15. Armaan Franklin, who had scored in double figures in 10 straight games, had six.

The Cavaliers tied the game at 38 on Gardner’s basket with 15:09 remaining, but the Hokies outscored Virginia 17-7 over the next seven minutes and never looked back.

Mutts hit 7 of 11 from the floor and added eight assists and four rebounds. Grant Basile had 14 points and Hunter Cattoor scored all 10 of his points in the second half for the Hokies.

“The heart was there, but to win in this setting against a team that’s playing good basketball, and Tech is, and they’ve got the players, you’ve got to be hard and smart,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “You can’t just be all hard. We were (hard and smart) for stretches, and they made us make some adjustments that helped a little bit, but they made the big shots.”


Virginia: The Cavaliers suffered a rare poor outing on the defensive end, and it cost them. They led the ACC in scoring defense (60.2 ppg) going in, but allowed the Hokies to score 74 points and shoot 50.9% (27 of 53) from the floor. The Hokies became just the third team this season to shoot better than 50% against Virginia and scored 40 points in the paint.

“They run a lot of action, whether it’s dribble handoffs, fakes, they keep you on your toes, and it takes an incredible, and I think disciplined (effort) to keep them in front and keep them out of the paint,” Bennett said.

Virginia Tech: After losing eight of their previous 10 games, the Hokies needed a big win to help their thin NCAA Tournament resume. Registering 19 assists and turning the ball over just eight times were keys.

“Obviously, we keep up with stuff throughout the year, like `Oh, this would be a huge win on our resume,”‘ Pedulla said. “We do think about (the NCAA Tournament), and we obviously want to get there again. We know our team’s capable of it. We’re focused on it and we’re just trying to stack those wins on top of each other. I think this win definitely helps us.”


The Cavaliers were one-point underdogs going into the game, so they shouldn’t drop more than a few spots in Monday’s poll.


Virginia: Hosts N.C. State on Tuesday.

Virginia Tech: Takes on Boston College in Blacksburg on Wednesday.