Perry Ellis is probably going to be Kansas’ leading scorer. Frank Mason will probably be Kansas’ best player. And Wayne Selden could probably still be Kansas’ most important player.
The previous three sentences are all (mostly) true, but if you want to haggle with the definitions of “best” and “most important,” you can reasonably argue against two of those three statements as well. OK, so why are we talking about any of this?
You might have seen the Sporting News’ preseason All-American picks, which came out earlier this week. It’s just one publication’s picks and there will be many more to come, but anyway, The Sporting News picked Selden, a junior wing, as a second-team All-American and left Ellis and Mason off all three of its preseason All-American teams.
This was interesting for a number of reasons. Ellis was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year while leading the Jayhawks in scoring. Mason was KU’s most valuable player for the first half the season. And the Big 12’s reigning player of the year — Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield — was only preseason third team by the Sporting News.
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But in general terms, it was interesting because players that average under 10 points per game and shoot worse than 40 percent from two-point range aren’t usually projected to be among the nation’s 10 best players the following season. But here we are, which makes Selden an intriguing preseason topic.
As a sophomore, Selden averaged 9.4 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 39.5 percent from inside the three-point line. Once a McDonald’s All-American and a fringe one-and-done prospect, Selden was selected honorable mention All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches, which meant the coaches believed there were at least 15 better players in the conference last season.
From a statistical standpoint, Selden regressed as a sophomore. That was pretty clear. And it was slightly disappointing for Kansas, because if you remember, Selden spent his freshman year playing alongside Andrew Wiggins, who dominated the ball at times and ate into some of Selden’s opportunities. Entering last year, it seemed like Selden was a candidate to breakout. That didn’t happen.
Selden had moments where he flashed his abilities; he had 20 points against Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament; he followed that with 25 points and four rebounds in a loss to Iowa State the next day. But take away those two performances and Selden didn’t even score in double-figures in KU’s nine other games after February 14.
But then came this summer at the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea. Selden was a revelation. Playing alongside Mason and SMU’s Nic Moore in the backcourt, Selden averaged 18.9 points and 6.5 rebounds while playing 34 minutes per game. The Jayhawks won gold. Selden ravaged the international competition with plays like this:
But more impressive than the raw stats, perhaps, was the manner in which Selden played. He attacked the basket. He got to the free-throw line. He became a rebounding threat on both ends of the floor. Here was Selden’s game log from last summer, including two exhibition games.
The next question, of course, is this: How much does that summer performance really mean? Did Selden find something in Korea? Or did he exploit some questionable international competition, which was diluted even further by the large volume of international events this summer? The answer, of course, could be both, but here are two things to keep in mind.
1. I’m not sure it’s reasonable to expect Selden to be one of the 10 best players in the country this season. That’s a high bar for any player — let alone a talented player who, just seven months ago, was still trying to figure out how to be a productive Big 12 wing.
Allow us to get sort of nerdy for a quick second:
Last season, Selden racked up 2.3 Win Shares, a stat that attempts to measure a player’s total value to a team. Here’s a comparison with the six guards and wings on the AP’s three All-American teams:
Jerian Grant (1st team)
D’Angelo Russell (1st)
Delon Wright (2nd)
Malcolm Brogdon (2nd)
Kevin Pangos (3rd)
Buddy Hield (3rd)
For Selden to play at that level, he will have to make quite the statistical leap next season. The next question then: Has Bill Self ever had a crucial rotation player — a player that’s already played a lot — make a similar jump in Win Shares? For instance, Travis Releford jumped from 1.3 Win Shares as a sophomore to 4.8 as a junior, but that was because he rarely played as a sophomore and Win Shares is a counting stat based on playing time.
A couple of examples: Tyshawn Taylor jumped from 3.3 Win Shares as a junior to 5.3 as a senior; Mario Chalmers jumped from 4.6 as freshman to 6.4 as a sophomore. Marcus Morris jumped from 2.6 as a freshman to 5.3 as a sophomore. And Markieff Morris went from 3.1 Win Shares as a sophomore to 6.0 as a junior. I could be forgetting somebody, and if I am, let me know, but I think Selden jumping from 2.3 Win Shares to something in the 5-6 range would be close to unprecedented.
But here’s the thing: I’m also not sure that Selden will even need to be that good to help Kansas become a contender in 2015-16. As a sophomore, Mason was quietly one of the best guards in the Big 12. Back to Win Shares, Mason was Kansas’ most valuable player — and his 4.7 Win Shares were the most by a KU point guard since Taylor had 5.3 in 2011-12.
Then there is Ellis, who was playing at the highest level of his career before a knee injury slowed him over the season’s final weeks. In other words: Selden may finally tap into his potential as a junior, and Kansas may be better for it. But Selden could still be the third best player on the team. And that might be OK.
Onto the mailbag …
If you haven’t looked at the MLB playoff schedule, “Late Night in the Phog,” which is set for Oct. 9, will conflict with game two of an American League Division Series at Kauffman Stadium. Of course, that’s assuming the Royals hold onto one of the top two seeds in the MLB playoffs. The Royals’ playoff run last year conflicted with Late Night as well. I think it hurt attendance a little — though there was also a car accident and a traffic mess on K-10 that may have contributed to the issue. Allen Fieldhouse was still close to full — though not quite packed like it normally is for Late Night.
Bill Self really cares about Late Night attendance. Like, really cares. It’s Kansas’ most important recruiting night of the year, and from an optics standpoint, Self wants the building full. But even if a playoff game surpresses attendance a little, I suspect it won’t make too much of a difference. The place will likely be close to full. And the environment will be about what it always is.
OK, this is going to be a slightly forced analogy, but I will say Weezer. A couple caveats: I’m kind of ignoring 80 years of KU football history here and starting with the Glen Mason era. I also really loved Weezer as a 16-year-old, so hear me out.
Weezer’s “Blue” album is Kansas’ trip to the 1992 Aloha Bowl, a great album with a classic opener and you really wanted to see where it would go from there. Next came “Pinkerton,” an arguably even better album that now holds classic status. This is Kansas’ trip to the 1995 Aloha Bowl. The Jayhawks finished ranked in the top 10 that season, and Mason seemed to have it rolling. But then Mason left — same as bassist Matt Sharp leaving Weezer — and it all started to unravel.
Rivers Cuomo had some strange quarter-life crisis. Weezer stopped making albums for a while. And the thing sort of seemed doom. Welcome to the Terry Allen era.
The “Green Album” is the Mangino era and the single “Hash Pipe” is the Orange Bowl — finally, mainstream success! Weezer was back! Then, well, I’m not quite sure what happened. Weezer has been making terrible albums for the last decade, and I have no idea what to make of them. It’s inexplicable that the same band that wrote “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here” also put out one album called “Raditude” and one album with Hurley from “Lost” as the cover art. To me, that’s the equivalent of the Turner Gill and Charlie Weis eras right there.
Some people, I guess, sort of liked Weezer’s last album, “Everything Will Be Alright in The End”, which appeared to be a conscious attempt to tap back into their early stuff. Which, I guess, is sort of like Kansas hiring David Beaty. But, yeah, we’re going to stop now.
Yes. Jefferson’s is back flinging hot wings after a fire last January. Two things: If you missed it in April, read this wild story about an old murder that happened above what is now Jefferson’s in the 1950s. If you’re in Lawrence for a football or basketball game this year, may I suggest some relatively new places: Taco Zone for something quick, Hank Charcuterie for something cool, and the new Port Fonda location on New Hampshire Street for something Kansas City.