Campus Corner

KU Jayhawks Q&A: Vick, starters, Beaty ... and yes, Preston and De Sousa

Jayhawks guard Lagerald Vick throws down a dunk in the first half of KU’s loss to Arizona State on Sunday.
Jayhawks guard Lagerald Vick throws down a dunk in the first half of KU’s loss to Arizona State on Sunday. skeyser@kcstar.com

We’re back for another Kansas Q&A. Thanks for the questions, and please follow me on Facebook if you haven’t yet. (Seriously, go click “like” if you can. It’s one of the easiest and best ways to help get stories to you.)

These will be the biggest two topics until they’re resolved, but unfortunately for KU fans, not much has transpired since our last Q&A.

That’s especially the case with Preston, who continues to be held out while KU’s compliance department looks into the financial picture regarding his vehicle.

The hope for KU fans recently has been that some sort of ruling would come at semester break, and with finals this week, those holding to that theory would believe something might be announced this week.

Self was previously asked if he thought this Preston situation was like other KU ineligibility situations (Darnell Jackson, Josh Selby) that were resolved at semester.

“I don’t know if (the timing) was a coincidence with those two, but I don’t think it was. I think based on the penalty, that was probably something we anticipated that being the case,” Self said. “But I’m not sure that’s the case with this one (Preston) at all.”

While we don’t know for sure at this point, I’d still bet something is announced soon. You’d have to think KU’s compliance department has completed its investigation and is in the process of sharing that information with the NCAA. If Preston doesn’t have a chance to be eligible, it’d also be beneficial for him to know that as well, as he still could opt to spend the next few months pursuing other basketball options if he can’t play at KU.

For De Sousa, the latest comes from writer Kyle McFadden, who spoke with De Sousa over the weekend. De Sousa says there that he will know his SAT score by Friday, and it’s pretty simple from there. If he gets the qualifying score, he should be a Jayhawk second semester, pending his final grades. If not, he’ll remain with IMG Academy for the second semester.

I honestly don’t think so.

For one, KU already has nine games building an identity playing small-ball. Yes, the Jayhawks have struggled in their last two losses, but pushing through a midseason shift to a primary big lineup seems like it would hurt more than help.

This is also a good time to talk about realistic expectations, especially for De Sousa. If he arrives in the next week, he will have about two weeks before Big 12 season begins. He would be a freshman who doesn’t know any of KU’s plays, doesn’t understand the team’s defensive concepts and also would be trying to fit in with teammates he’s never played with before.

De Sousa certainly can help by providing another big body. He could give the Jayhawks a defensive rebounding presence while also serving as a rim protector.

But offensively? He’ll almost certainly be lost, and Self doesn’t have a history of playing guys extensive minutes who aren’t able to run the plays. It’ll be a fascinating situation to watch if De Sousa joins KU midseason, but I’m skeptical that he can step in immediately and provide a huge impact simply because he’ll be so behind.

This is something I hadn’t considered. Looking at raw stats (what most people still use), Vick is averaging 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, which as Nick pointed out, would put him in line for all-first-team honors.

There are caveats, though. His 28-point game against Washington was “fake points” as Self called it, with Huskies coach Mike Hopkins choosing not to guard him while saying after the game that he didn’t care if Vick got 50. Vick’s per-game averages also are helped by the fact that he’s played so many minutes with few options on the Jayhawks’ bench.

Still, if you’re asking whether he’s improved: The answer is absolutely yes. He’s been an efficient offensive player while increasing his scoring load, has made 45 percent of his threes and 62 percent of his twos, and he’s also nearly tripled his assist rate while decreasing his turnovers.

And yet, there’s one way he can get much better to help out his team, and that’s on the defensive end.

Vick has all the tools. He can slide, and his vertical is one of the best on the team.

His awareness, though, could definitely improve. He seems uncertain when to help or not help, and too often, he’s been caught on the perimeter with his hands down, which has led to open opponent threes.

Synergy’s logs track individual defensive numbers, and so far, Vick’s 1.043 PPP is last on the team and also in the 16th percentile nationally.

His offense has been better than expected. For him to become the type of defensive stopper that Self envisions, though, he still has work to do on the other end.

This is a good question, and I think it gets to the heart of what I wrote about KU’s defense following Sunday’s loss to Arizona State.

Here’s the reality of college basketball today: The three-point line is too close. And how coaching staffs choose to deal with that fact is something worth monitoring.

Last year, KU’s staff looked at its personnel and decided to go with a four-guard attack that was more three-point oriented. The result was a resounding success, with the team cruising to a Big 12 title and also posting its best offensive efficiency ranking in seven seasons.

But I agree with Mike’s point here. KU has embraced the value of threes on offense while not fully taking into account the negative effect they can have defensively.

Self has always tried to force shots as far away from the basket as possible, but the game has changed to the point where that’s not as beneficial as it once was. Teams are shooting more threes than ever (38 percent of shots are from there this year, compared to 33 percent in 2008-09), and even with those extra shots, accuracy from deep is still at 35 percent — roughly the same as in 2007-08 when the line was a foot closer.

KU has played some three-happy offenses this year (South Dakota State, Oakland, Arizona State), but still, allowing 42 percent of opponents’ shots from behind the arc is too high in today’s college basketball. We’ll see if KU adjusts moving forward.

This is a fair question, but as most know, this KU football situation is a complicated matter; Beaty and athletic director Sheahon Zenger picked up contract extensions in 2017, and chancellor Douglas Girod just started with his new role this summer.

But yes, coach David Beaty benefitted from a lot of offseason buzz when KU was getting commitments from top Louisiana players. That’s why it’s important to note that most of that was a mirage; thirty-first-ranked receiver Devonta Jason officially decommitted Sunday, and that leaves only two current KU commits from Louisiana.

As far as your question goes ... Beaty gets to keep his job because of what both Girod and Zenger believe is best for the program.

Zenger has been quoted as saying the program needed to “breathe,” which in this case, meant that KU needed to stop the cycle of hiring and firing coaches every three years. That’s part of the reason KU ended up with a scholarship mess when Beaty arrived three years ago.

Yet, it’s also a valid question to wonder whether Beaty deserves another season. After taking a step forward in 2016, KU regressed badly in 2017, which is easily seen through advanced numbers.

I explained more in this article, but this was a historically rotten year for KU football. The Jayhawks S&P+ ranking finished in the 3.3rd percentile, which made it the second-worst team in the Jayhawks’ 117-year history.

Another way to look at it: Here are the Power Five programs this decade to finish in the 5th percentile or worse:

• 2010 KU (3.9)

• 2015 KU (2.5)

• 2017 KU (3.3)

• 2017 Oregon State (3.1)

That’s not exactly the company you want to keep.

The biggest-picture concern for KU football, though, is improving Memorial Stadium, and that will have more long-reaching effects than anything that takes place on the field in 2018.

Beaty’s leash is likely short. A poor start in 2018, and KU will likely be in the market for another coach soon enough.

For now, though, the program is trying to maintain a bit of stability through at least one more offseason.

I know you guys are joking, so I will laugh at the crazy timing too. James Sosinski has yet to play in a game for KU football or basketball this year, but he’s 1-13 as part of those rosters. That’s a little crazy.

For what it’s worth, many teammates have gone out of their way to speak highly of Sosinski, who seems to have given Udoka Azubuike some resistance in practice.

He’s one of the best, if not the best. Seriously. Anyone with 13 straight conference titles or his ridiculous record in close games doesn’t get there by not making solid in-game moves.

Another stat worth considering: Synergy has KU at 1.14 points per possession after timeouts, which is seventh nationally.

Our Sam Mellinger discussed this a bit in his Minutes earlier this week, but it’s most likely a blip, right?

This team has a weird roster construction, but Self has solved trickier puzzles before. And though KU has had issues during a two-game losing streak, it’s still ranked seventh in KenPom, 11th in Sagarin and second in ESPN’s BPI. “Kansas problems” are likely ones many teams would love to have.

Self wants his team to get tougher, and adding one or two players to give guys a bit more rest should only help out a backcourt that appears to be gassed.

Everything is still in front of KU, though. A 14th straight conference title and deep run in the NCAA Tournament is well within reach, and based on Self’s history, it’s not likely in December that we’ve seen the best these Jayhawks will play.

Jesse Newell: 816-234-4759, @jessenewell

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