KSAL Staff - January 26, 2015 8:00 am
MAC STEVENSON LIVES IN SALINA, AND WRITES A WEEKLY COLUMN FOR OVER TEN NEWSPAPERS IN KANSAS
Opposing basketball teams are better off playing Kansas before—rather than after—the semester break. When Coach Bill Self has three uninterrupted weeks of practice, the improvement in the Jayhawks is always noteworthy. This season is no exception.
KU played superb basketball in the 75-62 win over Texas at Austin; the Jayhawks’ fundamental play was stellar. Self’s team made just three turnovers for the game and none in the second half. TOs have been KU’s Achilles’ heel for most of Self’s tenure at Kansas, but this team is becoming better and better at avoiding those costly mistakes.
Self said, “That’s the best game . . . that’s the best road game we’ve played in a long time. I mean maybe years, in large part because we took care of the ball.”
The starters and reserves all played well against Texas and it’s difficult to single out individuals; nevertheless, center Cliff Alexander and shooting guard Brannen Greene deserve special mention. Alexander scored 15 points and had nine rebounds in 27 minutes and Greene hit four of five three-pointers on the way to 14 points and four rebounds in 20 minutes.
Guards Frank Mason and Devontʹe Graham are effective playing together or individually; they have become dependable and poised at either point guard or off guard.
After Saturday’s games, Kansas was all alone in first place in the Big 12 with a 5-1 record. Kansas State, Iowa State, and West Virginia were in second with two losses; and Baylor and Texas had three defeats and Oklahoma had four.
KU plays at TCU this Wednesday and then faces K-State in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, January 31. Before the KU game, K-State plays at home against West Virginia on Tuesday.
Kansas State improved to 5-2 (Big 12) with their decisive 63-53 win over Oklahoma State last Saturday. Coach Weber’s Wildcats were sharp and competitive against the Cowboys; like KU, K-State has made great team progress since the semester break.
Size in the pivot remains an issue for the Wildcats; Thomas Gipson (6-7, 255) plays hard and well at center, but he’s just not tall enough for that position. But Gipson produces all he can considering his ability and height disadvantage. Center Stephen Hurt (6-11, 270) hasn’t come along as quickly as Weber and his staff had hoped he would.
K-State’s biggest dilemma has been the lack of offensive production from their two sophomore point guards: Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson. Neither is a skilled three-point shooter and both can be erratic with their ball handling.
KU will be favored in Saturday’s game in Lawrence, but K-State has been the surprise team during Big 12 league play. But the Jayhawks are coming on strong and it’s doubtful that the Wildcats can keep it close in Lawrence.
The college football letter-of-intent day is approaching fast, Wednesday, February 4. Kansas is in a precarious position because former coach Charlie Weis recruited too many JUCO players and ran off numerous players on scholarship.
Every Football Bowl Subdivision school is limited to 85 scholarship players and can give no more than 25 scholarships for each recruiting class. KU’s roster for spring practice will have just 54 returning scholarship players. Consequently, if the Jayhawks sign 25 new players, their roster this fall will be 79; that’s six short of the 85 limit. And that doesn’t allow for the attrition that’s sure to occur between spring practice and fall drills.
Depth is the prime factor for big-time college football teams; without two-deep depth at every position, teams are dead in the water. Coach David Beaty and his staff need a quality class of 25 and eight to ten walk-ons to raise their roster to the needed number. And that’s just a start.
Kansas State doesn’t have a numbers problem. Coach Bill Snyder has a well-established system that includes solid recruiting classes and a number of quality walk-ons that become established players.
Snyder’s recruiting system has been refined during his long tenure as Kansas State’s head coach and it has stood the test of time. Coach Snyder has been justifiably lauded for many things during his great career with the Wildcats, but his consistency in recruiting quality players has been his most valuable asset.
Last week, Rivals.com ranked KU’s recruiting class number 51 in the nation and K-State at 62. The Jayhawks had 21 commitments with a star average of 2.57 (five stars is best) and K-State had 15 commits with a 2.87 average.
Kansas State has proved over the years that these team rankings are close to meaningless, but they do provide some indication of overall incoming talent. Both schools need to improve their level of recruits; K-State to stay nationally prominent and KU to make their team competitive.