- Home court advantage: It’s extremely difficult to dethrone a team that simply does not lose games at home. In the Bill Self era, KU has lost nine home games and won eleven Big 12 titles.
- Experience: The past three seasons, Kansas has relied on freshmen to lead them in conference play and down the stretch (McLemore, Wiggins, and Oubre). While Kansas still found ways to win the Big 12, this team is much more experienced than previous KU teams. This should lead to more road wins, as they should be able to handle playing in tough atmospheres better than most of their opponents. Four out of five Kansas starters are upper classmen, and the only player who isn’t an upperclassman is Graham, who has proven to be a smart guard who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.
- Coaching: The Big 12 has a lot of very good coaches, but there is no doubt that Bill Self is the top dog in the Big 12. While a few of the eleven Big 12 titles have been shared, it is remarkable for a team in any conference to win eleven straight. There have been many seasons where experts have picked Kansas to finish in the middle of the pack, but Kansas always finds a way to finish on top.
- Consistency: Obviously, in order to have the success that Kansas has had each year in conference play, you have to be consistent. While KU tends to drop a few road games each season, other Big 12 teams drop games that Kansas wins. A great example was last season, when OU had a chance to win the Big 12 title. In order to do so, they had to win in Ames. They were crushing ISU at half, but allowed the Cyclones to come all the way back and win. These are the kinds of games that other Big 12 teams have to win this year to take down Kansas.
- Guard play: The makeup of this Kansas team is different than the past two KU teams. The guards are smaller than the past few seasons, but they are much quicker and move the ball around better. Self was always talking about how the ball was “sticking” with the past few teams. This was because Self went to a system with bigger, athletic small forwards like Oubre and Wiggins, instead of smaller guards who can create offense like Mason and Graham do when they play together. Self-coached teams have had much more success with a two-guard system, and this has opened up Selden’s game as well.
- No star player: Some could look at this as a weakness, but I believe it is a strength of this team. Many experts said this about the 2008 Kansas team that won the title, and said it was a weakness of the team. Any night, there could be a new leading scorer for KU. In the past few seasons, KU did have a star player. The issue was teams keyed on the star player and if they shut him down, then KU was shut down. For example, Stanford beat KU in the tournament two seasons ago because they held Wiggins to just four points. The same could be said about Oubre against Wichita State last season. This season, if you shut down one guy, there are several other players that are capable of getting hot at the right time in Big 12 play.
- Depth: Bill Self has said that this team has a much depth from top to bottom, as any team he has ever coached before. Kansas has six big men that could start at most programs around the nation (Bragg, Mickelson, Diallo, Ellis, Traylor, and Lucus). If one big man goes down, it should not be detrimental to KU this season. Kansas also has a lot of guards who can come off the bench and provide a spark for the team. There aren’t many teams in the country that have as much depth as KU has this year.
- New Wayne Selden: As previously mentioned, having two point guards in the lineup has helped Selden tremendously. Selden came into Kansas as a big time recruit with high expectations. In his first two seasons, he was very disappointing and he disappeared in a lot of Big 12 games. This summer, when Kansas took a trip to Korea for the World University Games, Wayne Selden looked like a completely different player. He was aggressive. He attacked the rim and dunked on anyone who tried to stop him. And he showed the ability to hit three pointers and create his own shot. After he struggled in the loss against Michigan State, Self pulled him aside and told him that this was his team, and it was his job to be a scorer. Since that game, Selden has been great for the Jayhawks.
- Assist to turnover ratio: Another perk of having veteran guards starting together is the ability to create offense. This team runs in transition and plays much faster than previous teams. As of right now, the Kansas guards have a 3.3 Ast/TO ratio. Bill Self thinks his guards will only get better at creating offense as the Big 12 conference season progresses, and if that if the case, KU will have a dangerous backcourt. More than anything, not turning over the ball allows Kansas to play its’ game without beating themselves.
- Three-point shooting: Traditional Bill Self teams did not shoot the three very much and instead were more focused on scoring points in the paint. This team can shoot the lights out from three, and they showed that in the Big 12 opener against Baylor. Led by Wayne Selden shooting 5-6 from three point range, Kansas made a statement to the conference when they went 11-19 from deep (58%). Interestingly enough, Bill Self thinks Kansas will be even more efficient from behind the arc once the big men, like Ellis, start scoring more from the post.
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