Kansas City, MO- Last year Kansas struggled defensively more than they ever have under coach Self, allowing opponents to shoot nearly 40% from the field. On Tuesday morning at Big 12 media day, Self announced that KU will likely start junior guard, Devonte’ Graham. Self mentioned that he liked playing with two combo-guards in his lineup, and playing bigger the last few seasons has not worked as well for his teams.
Coach Self is usually very hesitant to release any information on who he plans on starting or what his rotation will look like, so it was surprising to hear that basically four of his five starters have been named. As of today, the starting five would be Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Selden (if his ankle is healed), Perry Ellis, and there is a battle for the last post between Landen Lucus, Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo (if he is eligible), and Hunter Mickelson. Playing big like Kansas has for the past few seasons does not work well for the system that Self runs. When Kansas has made deep runs in the NCAA tournament under Self, it has come when he has played with two combo guards in the starting lineup. From Chalmers pairing with Robinson, to Taylor pairing with Johnson, this is a formula for success at Kansas.
With the new rules in college basketball that support at fast-paced style of play, this starting lineup makes even more sense. Using two explosive guards like Mason and Graham will not only help out with defense, but it will greatly improve Kansas’ play making ability. The high-low offense at Kansas has been very successful over the years, but with bigger scoring-minded wings, the system has not worked as well these past few seasons. Look for Kansas to get back to playing fast and to be among leaders in the country in assists, like they were in the past with combo guards starting.
- Self on Seldens’ performance in South Korea: “He emerged as not a good college player, as a great college player. He was terrific.” As Self noted in his presser, if he can get his ankle healthy, he could end up being a great player for Kansas. It will be his first season playing the three at Kansas, and with Mason and Graham, they could be a very dangerous backcourt.
- Self on Masons’ role for the upcoming season “I think what Frank is, he’s not a true point guard. People think he’s a point guard because he’s not very tall. But Devonte’ and him together, I think you’ll see Frank playing a lot off the ball. Devonte’ in a lot of ways is more of a true point than Frank, and I think that will free Frank up to even score more.” This was surprising to me. I will be interested to see how this situation plays out, because I thought Mason was great with the ball in his hands and creating offense on his own last season and this summer in Korea.
- Self on rule changes “I think the emphasis on how the game will be officiated will play a much bigger factor in the look of our game rather than the shot clock.” This will be interesting to watch this season. If the officials continue to call small fouls and slow the game down, the rule changes will be meaningless in speeding up the game. However, if officials allow the game to be more physical, it could really speed things up and allow the new 30-second shot clock to run more efficiently.
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