Is this Bill Self’s best coaching job in his nine seasons at Kansas?
If the award is based on team performance vs. preseason expectations, the answer is yes.
In 2008, KU was preseason No. 4 when reaching the Final Four. His two other teams that started the season ranked worse than No. 13 — where this team started the season — fell far short.
In 2009, the Jayhawks started No. 24 and were knocked out in the Sweet 16, and the 2006 team was unranked to begin the season and lost in its first NCAA Tournament game to Bradley.
Self was asked about his performance this week, and passed on the answer directly. But the response was revealing.
“I’ll say this: This has been one of the easier coaching jobs that we’ve had,” he said, “because it’s been easy to get guys to buy in and be exactly what we want them to be.”
Surpassing expectations beats the alternative. Twice KU was ranked No. 1 entering a season, and neither team got out of the first weekend.
Bad shooting not lethal
In past NCAA Tournaments, bad three-point shooting has contributed to season-ended losses. The Jayhawks were two of 21 against VCU in last year’s Elite Eight, and six of 23 (26.1 percent) against Northern Iowa in 2010.
This season, Kansas has been shooting bricks in the postseason, but the house hasn’t crumbled.
Two of the team’s seven worst three-point shooting games have been in the tournament. The Jayhawks had their worst game of the year against North Carolina State, (one of 14) in the Sweet 16, and hit only 25 percent (six of 24) against Purdue.
“The first couple of games in the tournament, we didn’t do so well, but our defense stepped up,” center Jeff Withey said. “That gave us more confidence.”Handling diversions
The Jayhawks’ team headquarters is in the heart of New Orleans, walking distance from Bourbon Street and the French Quarter. But Self thinks his team can handle distractions.
“You have to trust your guys that they are mature enough to handle certain things,” Self said. “They should enjoy this.”
In NCAA victories over Purdue, North Carolina State and North Carolina, Kansas didn’t lead at halftime. The Jayhawks trailed the Boilermakers and Wolfpack and were tied with the Tar Heels.
But the team was upbeat on Sunday after Elijah Johnson stripped Harrison Barnes for a layup in the final few seconds of the first half.
“Little things like that give you momentum going into half because we had totally screwed up the first half being up seven,” Self said. “Guys just have a timing to make plays like that.”West outscores East
The West topped the East 106-102 at the McDonald’s All-American game at the United Center in Chicago on Wednesday. Shabazz Muhammad, who scored 21 points, was named MVP.
Perry Ellis, who played at Wichita Heights and has signed with KU, played 13 minutes and had four points and four boards.