Bill Self Joins The Coaching Legends

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This past Friday, Bill Self was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The only surprise about his induction may have been the realization that despite all he’s accomplished, Self is “only” 54 years old. He’s already won a national title, been to two Final Fours, led three schools to a total of 19 NCAA tournament appearances, won multiple regular season & tournament championships in three different conferences, and amassed a gaudy 623-193 record in his 24 years as a head coach.

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Oh, yeah – there’s also this little streak that happens to be going on, too…

Provided that health and desire remain high, it seems entirely possible for Self to coach for another 20 years given the remarkable success he’s been able to achieve & maintain so far. Assuming he stays at Kansas that entire time and continues to win at a respectable rate (say an average of 20 games per year), it’s realistic that Self could win another national title or two, reach a handful more Final Fours, collect a dozen more conference regular season and/or tournament championships, and win another 400 games – putting him over the 1000 career win mark and among the top 10 of all-time (depending on how long a few other coaches keep at it). That’s the kind of resume that would put him up for consideration of The Mount Rushmore of College Basketball Coaches.

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If it were being carved today, these four would probably be on College Basketball’s Coaching Mount Rushmore…

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…even though most of us would agree this should be what gets carved, instead.

Despite everything that Self has accomplished however, he was reflective and humble in his acceptance speech – as a matter of fact, it was the first time I think I have ever seen him visibility nervous in front of a crowd:

One of the coolest things about Self’s induction speech however, was the number of fans he had in attendance. Although I haven’t seen an “official count,” various reports indicate that around 150 family members and friends joined coaches & players from every stop along Self’s journey. After Self asked them all to stand and be recognized, even host Ahmad Rashad quipped, “Very impressive, that group back there. Good thing I didn’t try to introduce all you guys. We would’ve been here for two days.”

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Who would have guessed that this Graduate Assistant would become a Legend…

Oftentimes, greatness isn’t recognized as being present until well after the fact – that’s what makes Coach Self’s enshrinement special, it’s a moment for us to pause and to celebrate all that he has accomplished at the University of Kansas…so far. Like I alluded to earlier, Self is still in the prime of his coaching career. 

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KU BALLS is well-stocked with memorabilia that represents and celebrates Coach Self’s greatness, and we look forward to having the first-class problem of trying to figure out just where to put everything else from his future accomplishments at KU.

Congratulations to Coach Bill Self, not just one of Kansas’ all-time coaching legends, but one of all of basketball’s all-time coaching legends.

Rock Chalk!

 

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2016-2017 NCAA Basketball Attendance: Kansas Efficient at Home and Away

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A couple of weeks ago, Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote an article about college hoops attendance during the 2016-2017 season and how regular season attendance dipped from the previous season. In his article, Norlander listed the top 20 programs by per game average attendance:

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No real surprises here – Power Five conference schools (from the Big 12, ACC, Big 10, Pac-12, and SEC) that have traditionally been good, dominate the list. But prompted by Syracuse’s #2 ranking, I couldn’t help but think that using the average attendance number for a school’s ranking was an incomplete one. Sure, Syracuse averaged over 21 thousand attendees, per game, but they play in the Carrier Dome, which seats over 34 thousand. That’s over a third of the Carrier Dome’s capacity that – again, on average – goes unfulfilled. Meanwhile, the University of Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse – only the best place to watch a basketball game in the history of basketball – averaged 16,395 fans per game when its capacity is 16,300! (More on that in a bit…)

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Brother Bilas preaching the truth, memorialized in the DeBruce Center’s Rules of College Basketball Exhibit.

Although I wouldn’t be so bold as to state that if Allen Fieldhouse’s capacity was 34 thousand it would equal or exceed that number as its average attendance (of course it would), it made me curious to know how those top 20 schools ranked as a percentage of their arena’s capacity – an Attendance Efficiency Percentage, if you will. Calculating a schools Attendance Efficiency Percentage (AEP) was simple – take the school’s average attendance divided by their primary arena’s capacity (pulled from various sources – primarily the school’s and/or arena’s websites). Here’s how the Top 20 schools in average attendance ranked after I calculated their AEP:

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Schools could improve or even exceed their capacity by playing some of their designated “home” games at alternative sites, which could have a greater capacity than their usual arenas. Kansas fit this bill with a couple of home away from home games being held at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, which has a capacity of 18,972. Allen Fieldhouse’s 16,300 was still used to determine KU’s AEP however, since the Jayhawks only played a couple of home games in KC last season.

After going through this exercise, I wanted to use the NCAA’s attendance data for all schools and Wikipedia’s list of Division I basketball arenas & their capacity to rank every Division I schools’ AEP, but unfortunately there was enough incorrect seating capacity data in the Wikipedia list of arenas and double-checking each school against other sources was simply too time-consuming for the subscription fee that you, Dear Reader, are paying. I did, however, verify enough schools that below is what I believe to be Division I’s top 20 programs measured by AEP:

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Ranking schools by their AEP saw Dayton, Duke, Gonzaga, San Diego State, SMU, VCU, Wichita State and Xavier leap into the top 20, with Arkansas, BYU, Marquette, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Syracuse and Tennessee dropping out of it.

As you can see, the state of Kansas is well represented, claiming the top two spots in AEP. Obviously I’m bummed that the Jayhawks ended up being #2 in AEP because of how WSU sold out the one home game they played at the INTRUST Bank Arena, which seats 5000 more than their normal home court (Charles Koch Arena). Oh, well…

After doing this, I then wondered about the (true) away games that KU played in 2016-2017: The Jayhawks are obviously a top draw, but what was the impact on their opponent’s attendance compared to the average?

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As you can see, when Kansas comes to town the impact is noticeable as every opponent saw an increase in their attendance, with the overall AEP increasing by over 21%.

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Rupp Arena had a high Attendance Efficiency Percentage in Kentucky’s loss to Kansas…

Even Kentucky saw an increase, going above capacity, when they played Kansas in 2017. As an aside, KU’s average attendance in the 2015-2016 season was 16,436 and the attendance for the KU-UK game in Lawrence was 16,300. Let the record show that UK is a lesser draw than KU…

Now, taking attendance a step further, for a really detailed view of measuring home court advantages and determining how they impact games, check out the absurd level of data and thought that went into the two posts (Part I and Part II) at KenPom.com, or a summary of the KU perspective at kuhoops.com. Crazy amount of research, there.

In summary, no matter what metric you want to look at regarding attendance, KU is a perennial leader and top draw. Rock Chalk!

Dear Lawsons: Don’t Copy Ball To Be The Balls, Just Ball. Sincerely, KU BALLS

C9FojYGUIAAUuz1Let me address this first: Yes, the purpose of this post is primarily just to validate the title. Now that that is out of the way…

Earlier this week, Dedric and K.J. Lawson announced that they would be transferring to Kansas, where they would be eligible to play beginning the 2018-2019 season. As they played for a Memphis team in its first year under Tubby Smith that finished 19-13 and 5th in the less-than-mighty AAC Conference, it’s understandable that many casual fans don’t know who they are. I watch a ton of college basketball and I don’t think I ever watched any of Memphis’ games this past year. But I know who the Lawsons are, and their transferring to KU is a big get for Coach Self. Pardon me, Hall of Fame Coach Self…

The Lawson brothers started nearly all of Memphis’ 32 contests (K.J. only missed starting a single one) and combined for over 31 points and 18 rebounds a game, so they will bring valuable experience to the Jayhawks when they begin their campaigns in Lawrence. You could point to Memphis’ overall record and ask if the Lawsons are really all that good, since it seems like two players of that high caliber should be able to have more of a postive impact on their team, and that would be a fair point. My counter would be that the turmoil of a coaching change inevitably results in what a team can realistically aspire to achieve, as well as that their supporting cast was a bit…light.

Talent-wise, both players were ranked in the top 40 out of high school, with Dedric being selected to play in the McDonald’s All-American Game. In addition, they each won the AAC Rookie of the Year Award – Dedric in 2016 and K.J. in 2017. Coach Self’s “big get” doesn’t stop there, though…

As much as we hear about the Ball family, one could argue that the Lawson family may be better. Lonzo Ball is brilliant, but incoming freshman LiAngelo is considered a fringe top 200 recruit, most likely signed by UCLA in an attempt to help secure the youngest, LaMelo, who is currently ranked #14 for the 2019 class.

Dedric and K.J. are older brothers to 2019’s #20 ranked Chandler Lawson and 2021’s #6 recruit Johnathan Lawson, as well as cousins to 2019’s #6 ranked D.J. Jeffries. Obviously a lot can happen in a couple of years and there is no guarantee those three will ultimately attend KU, but at the very least with Dedric and K.J. being Jayhawks, you know Coach Self will be heard & seriously considered. If the remaining Lawsons & D.J. Jeffries maintain their rankings through their development and level of play, Self could be looking at the possibility of having the inside track for three future McDonald’s All-Americans in addition to Dedric. Not too shabby, particularly when you consider they’re all from the same family…

What we don’t need more of however, are any more distractions. This past year saw an unusually high number of bad decisions, potentially criminal behavior, and just plain stupidity by KU players, and we don’t need any more of these kind of issues. I’m perfectly fine with players having a bit of an edge to be able to play with an edge, know that kids 18-22 are going to do dumb things, and am incredibly thankful that I’m not growing up with the multitude of social media platforms and pervasive cameras to document every aspect of my life. And I’m sure it was stressful to have a new coach come in that you didn’t choose to play for, who not only changed the team’s style of play, but also demoted your father. But still, there was no need for K.J. to curse at Tubby Smith on his way out – you won. You’re on your way to a better school, a better basketball program, a better coach, better basketball opportunities in the future – no need to run your mouth like dad LaVar Ball and say anything stupid (like this, or this, or this, or this – hell, just check here for a top 10 ranking).

To be clear, just looking at K.J.’s comments in a vacuum, I am solidly in the “Who cares, it’s not a big deal” camp. What makes this a bit different to me however, is the steady drip of bad publicity surrounding the team that has popped up over the past six months, and now any slightly questionable behavior is going to be magnified on the national stage. I’m glad K.J. apologized for it and hope he learned that – particularly at a high-profile school like Kansas – he should keep his trash talk on the court.

There’s no need to channel Papa Ball – the Lawson clan could be set up to out-ball the Balls on the court and with their lasting impact at KU.

Rock Chalk!

KU BALLS Digital Experience

 

With the unplanned & unexpected pause to the Jayhawk’s postseason (grumble) and the resulting lack of desire to watch other conference tournaments, KU BALLS management took the opportunity of the break in action to update the inventory list and make sure security-tracking sensors on each of the items were installed with the latest software downloads. KU BALLS also made some minor changes to the items currently on display and you can see the refreshed look, above.

Inspired by the detailed listing of items from the popular “Slumbering Jayhawk” portrait, KU BALLS also decided to do something similar with its current attractions (after removing most of the duplicate items from display, of course). Although thousands visit KU BALLS each month, we recognize that not everyone is able to work such a pilgrimage into their busy lives and are pleased to offer a digital experience of the museum:

KU BALLS may also provide the audio tour for download (for only a nominal fee) in the future, but obviously the full experience can only truly be enjoyed by visiting the museum in-person. The memorabilia serves as a touch point for the rich history of Kansas basketball, and our knowledgeable staff is world-renowned for their ability to seemingly transport visitors back in time, as if sharing the hardwood with the Jayhawk legends of yesterday.

Until you are able to make your arrangements for such a visit however, please enjoy the KU BALLS Digital Experience. Rock Chalk!

Celebrating Black History Month: University of Kansas Firsts

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As you know, February is Black History Month, and ESPN had a nice feature story a couple of nights ago about Baylor guard Ishmail Wainright, whose grandfather Maurice King was the first African-American starter in Kansas basketball history during the 1954 season. Wainright debuted a custom jersey honoring his grandfather when Baylor visited Lawrence the first of the month, and if you haven’t seen ESPN’s piece, it’s worth checking out:

KU BALLS is proud to honor Maurice King along with other African-Americans and their notable firsts at Kansas:

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LaVannes Squires was the first African-American to play at the University of Kansas.

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Maurice King, whose signature is in the upper right of the program, was the first African-American starter at KU and played with some guy named Wilt Chamberlain on the 1957 national runner-up team.

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Al Correll was the first African-American captain at the University of Kansas.

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Lafayette Norwood was the first African-American assistant coach at Kansas.

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John McLendon, although not allowed to play basketball while he went to school at KU, studied under James Naismith before going on to become the first African-American basketball coach at a predominantly white university as well as the first African-American head coach in any professional sport.

To these and all the other African-American pioneers who helped blaze a trail at Kansas for everyone that came after them, a truly respectful Rock Chalk!

C+C+C+C=13th C (And maybe a 4th C, too?)

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The Alpha and the Omega of the past 13 Big 12 titles.

Now that KU has secured the outright Big 12 title with yesterday’s win over Texas, I started thinking about the characteristics of this year’s team and the unique qualities that have been on display on the march towards our 13th conference championship in a row. Years from now when I think back to what defined this year’s team, these are the hallmarks I believe I will remember:

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CAMARADERIE

I don’t want to dwell on this for too long, but this has definitely been a challenging season when you consider the number of off-the-court issues this team has faced. Carlton Bragg, Devonte’ Graham, Josh Jackson and Lagerald Vick have, either fairly or unfairly – and let’s be honest, some of the news has been troubling – all been been thrust into the national spotlight for actions & situations that no one wishes would have occurred. In addition, the shadow of an alleged rape investigation still hasn’t been (at least publicly) addressed. Despite the distractions and suspensions however, the team has remained focused enough to stay a top ranked team for the entire season. I don’t want to speculate that the team has become closer as protection against the swirl of events outside the locker room, but it wouldn’t be difficult to see them rallying into a more cohesive & tight-knit team and adopting a bunker-like “us against the world” mentality. When you also think back to the number of times Coach Self commented how well this team gets along and how fun of a group it is to coach, you can’t help but believe this closeness has played a significant part of the team’s success.

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Although it would be easy to point to Self, this refers more to the leadership of the upperclassmen – primarily Landen Lucas and Frank Mason. All season, Lucas has served as KU’s rock on the inside. Not flashy, not perfect, not the person we all originally thought would be our primary force on the inside, but Lucas has provided consistency and reliability – as well as a couple of game-winning free-throws. As for Mason…what more can you say? He has been phenomenal, being the clear front-runner for national player of the year, let alone Big 12 player of the year. It became clear this was Mason’s team with his game winner against Duke, and ever since then he has consistently willed this team to victory with a combination of timely shots, relentless attacks to the hoop, and conditioning that has allowed him to be on the court for an amazing amount of time. Plus, he already has his own theme song, which I conservatively estimate that I reference & yell out a half-dozen times each game…

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A lineup seemingly built perfect for a small-ball offense.

CHANGE

A couple of months ago when Udoka Azubuike suffered his season-ending wrist injury, I speculated that – at least offensively – the Jayhawks could end up being a better team. I believed that out of necessity, Coach Self would embrace the NBA’s concept of pace & space, and there would be a marked increase of our shooting three-pointers. Although I give myself points for seeing that the 2016-2017 team would play differently, I didn’t get it exactly right.

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As you can see by the tempo and 3-point field goal attempts as a percentage of overall field goals from kenpom.com, this year’s team isn’t significantly different than Self’s average at Kansas.

The best summary I’ve seen on our play this year is from Jonathan Tjarks, Staff Writer at The Ringer, in his article, “The Jayhawks Newly Modern Dominance“: “Kansas is playing a dramatically different style of basketball this season compared with how Self has dominated the conference in years past. A coach who made his name throwing the ball into the post is spreading the floor with shooters and running pick-and-rolls. He’s winning with small ball. One of college basketball’s blue bloods is playing NBA-style basketball, and it could be the key to its first national title in nearly a decade.” Of course a key reason for being able to do this is how Self has utilized the uber-talented Jackson as the team’s Swiss Army Knife. Instead of being a typical, perimeter-shooting wing, Jackson has been given the green light to take his defender to the basket at every man defense opportunity, serving as a type of offensive conductor & point-person when KU goes against zone defenses to take advantage of his incredible vision & passing ability, and employing his lock-down defender skills against every position on the court.

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CLUTCH

This, the final C that labels the 2016-2017 team, is probably the most significant. One might be tempted to look at how the Jayhawks have had to come from behind in multiple games this year and call the team lucky, but there’s no doubt about how tough this has ultimately made the team. “As far as a mental toughness team, I would take this team and go to the house and let it ride however it goes,” KU coach Bill Self said after the (Baylor) win. “(Late in the game, you) gotta have great possessions every time, and these guys did it.”

Although no game showcases this team’s ability to persevere like the amazing, come-from-behind victory against West Virginia when the Jayhawks were down by 14 when Mason went to the free-throw line with 2:43 remaining in regulation, there have been numerous instances when KU has had to find the will and the way to win: from the white-hot, national spotlight games against Duke and Kentucky, to the revenge-focused conference battles at K-State and Baylor. Just about every time KU takes the court we’re our opponent’s Game Of The Year, and there is an inevitable learning curve as players learn to take everyone’s best shot night in and night out. This year, KU has played one of the five-toughest schedules in college basketball and compete in what is widely renowned as the toughest conference – and we’re currently 26-3, won the conference by multiple games, and just might be ranked the #1 team in the nation on Monday. I don’t envision too many scenarios from here on out that should rattle this team. If, as the saying goes, there are no diamonds without pressure, the Jayhawks could be considered De Beers…

There definitely are some flaws with this year’s KU team, and another injury or even some ill-timed foul trouble could spell disaster – just like for everyone else. But the Jayhawks are one of college basketball’s best, and it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re able to use the strength & qualities displayed in the four Cs outlined above and win not just our 13th straight conference championship, but our fourth NCAA championship, as well.

Here’s looking forward to our march through March – Rock Chalk!

Congrats Brandon Rush, the All-Time Second-Best #25

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In case you missed it the other day, KU retired Brandon Rush’s jersey in a halftime ceremony during the game against TCU.

Rush now makes the third, #25 jersey hanging in the rafters, and I think everyone would agree that he ranks second only to Danny Manning of the twelve total players who have worn that number at KU.

KU BALLS is proud to say that Rush’s jersey has been retired in honor here for several years, and that it’s good to see KU finally catching up. 😉

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In addition to his jersey, KU BALLS is proud to display other, Rush-related memorabilia in concert with the well-deserved retirement ceremony at Allen Fieldhouse:

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Rock Chalk, Brandon Rush!