Go Time For KU

The lights go on for the first time for real for Kansas men's basketball Friday night at home vs. Longwood. Phog.net takes a look at the biggest questions facing KU as the Hawks embark on a new season.

KU head coach Bill Self usually comes into a season with more questions than answers, and no matter how good their respective teams are, most coaches do. But this is likely a total 180 compared to last season. Last season he knew where the leadership would come from and a majority of the points. This season there are a bunch of critical  unanswered questions.

Question #1 - When will Josh Selby play his first game for KU?
There's no doubt about what the biggest question entering the season is for Self. Freshman stud Josh Selby is a difference maker. As many have pointed out, he's likely the difference between competing for 2nd or 3rd in the Big 12 vs. being a legitimate national title contender.

Self has fielded more questions about Selby's eligibility in the last few months than he has about any other topics COMBINED. Now the national spotlight will likely shift  to Selby's status even more since the NCAA determined that Kentucky recruit Enes Kanter is ineligible.

It seems a different rumor surfaces every day and though Selby is in the clear academically, there are still questions about his amateur status. There aren't many who believe Selby would ever suffer a fate as harsh as Kanter's but the question looms whether a penalty for Josh will equal 4 games, 6 games, 8 games, or even a semester. This forces Self to prepare for "life without Selby" at least for a little while.

Selby has been sequestered to quite a bit of duty with the second team in practice and Self has been left to take the mic and respond to the rumors.

"(There's) no news. Even though we think the end is coming soon. Trust me, anybody who says they know, (they) don't know because we don't have any idea yet," Self told the media Thursday.

Question #2 - Will this team be able to capitalize on its speed and athleticism?
Definitely a distant second to the Selby talk but this team's speed has been a popular topic.

Its as athletic a team as Self has ever coached but no one is quite sure how it will translate against tough competition.

In order to run you need to play stout defense and rebound the ball, and those questions are next on the list and will have a huge say in how much this Kansas team is able to show off its impressive athletic nature.

You can expect Kansas to spend more time pressuring up and making it "uncomfortable" for opponents to operate on offense. If Kansas can generate turnovers it will convert them to points at the other end.

The tools are there and Self has been touting this team's speed for months and months but now we will see how high Kansas can turn it up against some of the conference's and the country's best teams.

Question #3 - What will happen on the defensive end for this KU team?
It's a big concern - no pun intended. Cole Aldrich was the human eraser in the middle. A lot of great defensive teams are privy to a big man in the middle who swats away anyone daring to drive the lane. A 7-0 cushion allows the perimeter players to pressure up on the ball without much of a conscious because they know there's always back up waiting.
7-0 Jeff Withey's healthy return will impact that area.

"All guys think they block shots just as well or better than the guy before them; you'd be disappointed if they didn't feel that way," Self continued. "I do think that when Jeff gets back that will be a huge bonus for us in that particular area because if we do make a mistake he will be able to cover better than our other guys."

But this season through two exhibition games, Self still believes post defense is a huge concern and an area he'd like to see improve.

To earn playing time in Bill Self's lineup defense must come first and in his words that means the Jayhawks want to "give up one or less shots every possession." Sounds simple but not always easy.

Yes, Kansas will pressure more than last year with this roster and KU's crazy athleticism will give Self more options but don't expect it to change his underlying theory on what type of defense wins games.
 
"I'm not a guy that goes out and does an enormous amount of trapping or anything like that where they have numbers behind us. I don't believe that," stated Self. "I think late in the season I think that soundness wins and not saying you can't be sound the other way, but if you don't practice that way everyday its hard to be sound that way. One or less shots every possession and your soundness and your athletic ability has allowed you play so fast offensively." 

I can guarantee that Self still checks the stats at the end of the game and field goal percentage defense has always been and always will be one of the most important stats for the eighth year coach.

Question #4 - Will Kansas value the basketball?
Self admitted to Phog.net that most days at KU practices are Jekyl and Hyde.

"I just know people come in and they watch us play one day and they say, 'Bill, you guys are really good.' and then somebody will come in the next day and say, 'ooh you guys..' I had an NBA guy tell me today, 'your teams don't usually make this many mistakes - mental mistakes.' And I think its going to be like that for a little while I think we're going to be real inconsistent for awhile," Self said.

So right now Self doesn't know what he's going to get on any given day. Give him some game experience and a handler like Selby will help solve some of those problems but Self needs players like Elijah Johnson, Thomas Robinson, and especially Tyshawn Taylor to take care of the basketball.

"I think he's better," Self answered when asked about Tyshawn's ability to handle the ball, but we see some things as coaches in practice that make you wonder a little bit. When you talk about better, there's a big difference between being better at it than we were and being good at it. We still have another step to go before we're good at it."

"We must become better passers. We must be able to finish games by being sound - without making mental mistakes," Self responded after being asked what KU needed to do to win the conference. "I do think Sherron eliminated so many mistakes that we made because the ball was in his hands so much. I think we have to be a team that plays smarter and takes care of the ball better. If we do those two things I do think this team that could be really good."

Question #5 - Who will take the big shot with the game on the line?
For the last two seasons there was no doubt that #4 was #1 when it came to end-of-game situations. Sherron Collins always had the ball in his hands and always wanted it in his hands. This season it could be much like 2008 where it could be a different player on a different night. I'd expect Marcus Morris to be the player to receive the nod over all others but if Selby gets into the lineup don't be surprised to see the talented frosh with the ball in his hands in crunch time.

Self proved with Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers, and company in a national title run that there doesn't have to be just ONE guy capable of getting the ball at crunch time and making a big play. Much like the leadership, the clutch shots will likely come from multiple sources on this team. 

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