Evaluating the Kansas Jayhawks

By Steve Sell
December 31, 2013

The last go-around for 2013, where did the time fly...

• EVALUATING THE JAYHAWKS — We’re 12 games into the basketball season and I’m still having trouble getting a read on the uber-young Kansas Jayhawks.

Yes, they’re talented. Yes, they’re flush with McDonald’s All-Americans. Yes, they’re tall, long and deep. Yes, they have enough talent to make a run at the Final Four.

But, yes, they throw the ball all over the lot. Yes, they don’t get out and guard the shooters. Yes, they are hardly a prolific 3-point shooting team. Yes, they commit dumb fouls.

See why I’m so conflicted?

The positive is there’s no ceiling limit on the Jayhawks’ upside. Like I said, they’re oozing with talent. But when watching them, it’s like having my finger on the start-stop button.

They have stretches where they’re mind-boggling. Then they have stretches where they look like a bunch of untested freshmen. They take two steps forward, one step back — many times in the same game.

I think we’re all starting to figure out that it should have been Joel Embiid, not Andrew Wiggins, who is the potential breakout star. I love the way Embiid plays and his improvement since the first game is staggering. He could very well be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft, because in five years we could be talking about him as being one of the best 10 players in the game. 

Wiggins is a good player, don’t get me wrong. But he doesn’t play with the confidence of Kentucky’s Julius Randle and Duke’s Jabari Parker, the other freshmen phenoms. He’s easy to scout because he makes the same spin move down the lane and isn’t a prolific shooter. He’s going to be a solid player, but saying he’s going to be another LeBron James is insulting to LeBron. I haven’t liked his body language all year and I think the big stage has overwhelmed him as he's a sensitive kid. Even in scoring 20 points Monday in the 10-point win over then-undefeated Toledo, there’s a lot of things he didn’t do well.

Perry Ellis is solid. To be honest, I never thought he would be this good. Because of the passiveness he displayed at Wichita Heights during high school, I thought he would be content with just fitting in and being a 10-and-7 guy every night out.

Naadir Tharpe is still on double-secret probation with me. He had 20 points, eight assists and five turnovers (I think they need to double-check the tape, I thought it was closer to eight) on Monday. He’s still a bit too maddening for me, but scarily he may hold the key to the team.

Wayne Selden is a paradox. He’s got an NBA body, but not the game that’s ready for the show. Not much of a defender. If he comes out after this year, he’ll wind up being an NBA vagabond.

Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor are providing energy off the bench. Black finally has figured out that he can’t foul if he wants minutes. Traylor has been much better than expected.

Frank Mason is erratic as Tharpe’s backup, but he’s going to be a good one. Brannen Greene was on the court for a few minutes, but you’d never know it.

Self shortened his bench on Monday, as there were no Conner Frankamp, Landen Lucas and Andrew White sightings. Lucas had been playing well, so his absence was surprising.

Once the Jayhawks, who have played the No. 1-rated toughest schedule in the country, finish with San Diego State on Sunday, they dive into Big 12 play. The conference has far exceeded my initial expectations, as I thought it would be Oklahoma State and Kansas, followed by everybody else. Iowa State has proven to be a power, while Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma are better than anticipated. Bruce Weber seems to be getting things untracked at Kansas State after a slow start. So it looks like there’s seven pretty good teams, with West Virginia, Texas Tech and TCU straggling. KU could very well play the top five teams to begin Big 12 play. Don’t be surprised if 14-4 wins the conference this year.

• NFL COACHING MASSACRE — Five NFL coaches were fired less than 24 hours after the regular season ended on Sunday and there are six openings in all, with that number possibly edging up before the week is over.

Gary Kubiak was fired at Houston before the season was over, then other firings took place after the final games in Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Denver, Minnesota and Detroit.

As the colorful Jerry Glanville once drawled so eloquently, NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Only one of the fired coaches, Jim Schwartz of Detroit, lasted more than four years. Cleveland’s Rob Chudzinski lasted only one, which is hardly enough time to get his feet wet. This is a results-driven league and you’re a hero one year, a bum the next.

I’d be surprised if a few other changes weren’t made. Oakland is another possibility, along with Tennessee and the New York Giants, though Tom Coughlin’s success should allow him to dictate when he leaves in the Big Apple.

To me, the best opening right now is Detroit. The Lions have underachieved and played wildly undisciplined, but there’s no denying some of the monster talents on this roster. No team did more dumb things in games than them, which is a reflection of the coach.

Washington would be another good job, though it has a lot of holes on defense. Houston still has plenty of talent in place, but somehow needs to get quarterback Matt Schaub back in business. He was dreadful this year after being pretty decent for a number of years.