Kansas Jayhawk basketball reminds me a lot of McPherson High basketball.
Expectations are over the top going into every season. For McPherson High, anything less than playing on the final Saturday in March in Salina is unfairly considered by some to be an unsuccessful season, probably because the Bullpups play in the state Final Four far more often than the average team.
It’s the same way with Kansas basketball fans. Anything less than making the Final Four is considered by the zealots as a failure. In this day and age of college basketball parity, it’s getting harder and harder to reach the final weekend of the season.
Kansas’ basketball fans are bemoaning the loss on Saturday to Villanova, some decrying it was Bill Self’s fault. For all his accomplishments, Self has struggled in Elite Eight games, winning only two in his career.
How many schools have even been to one or two Elite Eights, much less won a national championship?
Self didn’t coach this game any differently than any other game. While he didn’t substitute as much as normal — the game seemed a little too big to entrust Carlton Bragg and Svi Mykhailiuk with too many valuable minutes — there was little difference in his game planning.
Self didn’t miss those open 3-point shots. They were shots that had gone in for most of the year. It wasn’t his fault that Wayne Selden was apparently too amped up and shot the ball way long. Or that Perry Ellis couldn’t escape the dragnet around him. Ellis was trying, it just wasn’t there for him on this night. Fans ripping him need to chill, he put this team on his back for much of the last three years.
Villanova is a great basketball team. It probably was far more deserving of a No. 1 seed than Oregon, which put up little resistance in its Elite Eight championship game against Oklahoma. It is Philly-tough, smart and executes its stuff. There’s no shame going home with a loss to the Wildcats, who some believe can win it all if they continue on their current path.
KU won the Big 12 for a staggering 12th straight year, won the Big 12 Tournament, not to mention the World University Games this past summer. It didn’t lose a game at home and played a pair of historic games with Final Four Oklahoma. It won three games in the NCAA Tournament and was 10 minutes away from making the Final Four. I’d say that’s a pretty good year.
Kansas will be a Top 10 team again next year because it’s Kansas. The losses of Ellis and Jamari Traylor will be felt and I’m guessing Selden will head to the NBA as his game probably won’t get a whole lot better. He’s a fringe pro at best, with an NBA body but too wildly inconsistent with his shot.
I wouldn’t be surprised if KU loses some others. Cheick Diallo showed that he’s woefully unprepared to play at the NBA level despite what all the “experts” say, but could take his chances even though he'd become an CBA drifter. Svi could very well head back to Europe and play professionally. He’s a great shooter, but struggles on the defensive end because of his slow footwork.
And what does Self do with Brannen Greene? The two have locked horns for three years and if Greene doesn't get it by now with all the knucklhead stuff that he does, you have to wonder if the light will go on in his final year.
I look for Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham and Landen Lucas all to be back, as well as Carlton Bragg, who doesn't have the physicality yet to play in the NBA. I really hope Svi comes back and LeGerald Vick has some promise. I'm guessing Greene will be back, but under a strict set of rules. Dwight Colebly, a 6-9 and 240-pound redshirt transfer from Ole Miss who tore up his knee, should be 100 percent by next year and will provide some inside bulk. He reportedly is a top rebounder.
The Jayhawks have signed a pair of players so far, both of whom are in the 6-8 to 6-10 range. And they're in on the No. 1 recruit in the country.
So KU fans, once you get over the sting of the loss to Villanova, it will be time to gear up those expecations again, even if they're unrealistic.