Before Kansas’ 71-65 victory over Florida on Friday, you didn’t need advanced metrics to know that Wayne Selden had been a legitimate liability on the offensive end for the 11th-ranked Jayhawks.
In six games, Selden was shooting just 26.5 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three, disappointing numbers for a sophomore shooting guard who was expected to be one of Bill Self’s leaders.
So what was up with Selden? Some of it could perhaps be chalked up to decision-making. In his first five games, Selden had settled for two-point jumpers on 44 percent of his shot attempts, and he wasn’t particularly successful, making just 23.5 percent of them. Then came a zero-for-10 performance in a victory over Michigan State at the Orlando Classic last weekend, and it was clear: Something was off.
Selden’s long cold streak came to an end against Florida. He finished with a team-high 21 points and finally found some productivity in the midrange game. Selden was seven of 10 inside the three-point line, and he drilled three straight long jumpers during a decisive 17-0 run in the second half.
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It would be easy to focus on the long jumpers, but The Chalkboard went back and broke down all of Selden’s scoring plays from the Florida game. The simple takeaway: While Selden was due for some threes and jumpers to go down, his big night began with some added aggressiveness.
Here’s a look at how Selden did his damage against the Gators.
1. It started in the opening minutes. On their second possession, the Jayhawks ran an inbounds play with an option to get Perry Ellis isolated on the block. But Selden’s defender overcommitted on the help side, and Selden attacked the lane before the defender could recover.
2. Two minutes later, Selden found himself open for a three-pointer. Four minutes into the game, Selden had driven for a layup and drilled a three, a perfect start for somebody struggling on the offensive end.
3. Perhaps buoyed by his early drive, Selden attacked the basket twice more during a shaky first half. He missed the first layup, but this play was key, cutting Florida’s to 35-20 after a 9-0 Florida run.
4. This is where Selden really starts to find his groove. Early in the second half, he kept attacking. Here’s Kansas running its secondary break offense, and Selden looking to score early in the shot clock. This layup cut Florida’s lead to 45-35 with 15 minutes left.
5. And now, here’s Selden on a broken play, after Frank Mason dribbles into the corner and attracts two defenders. It’s probably not advised to dribble into the corner like that, of course, but if you can dribble out of a double team, like Mason can, it works well enough.
6. OK. At this point, Selden has 15 of Kansas’ 43 points, and he’s scored on four layups, two threes and a free throw. The Jayhawks have cut an 18-point deficit to 49-43 with 8:57 left, and here’s where Selden starts to go off. Selden has hurt Florida on a bevy of controlled drives into the paint, and perhaps the defense figures it needs to give a bit more room. Maybe the Gators were worn down. Maybe they just wanted to make sure Selden hurt them from the outside. Well, here’s what happened.
Here’s jumper No. 1.
Here’s jumper No. 2, where Selden found himself guarded by Florida walk-on Jacob Kurtz, not a good matchup for Billy Donovan.
And here’s jumper No. 3, which gave Kansas a 54-52 lead with 5:43 to play, the Jayhawks’ first lead since the 12:29 mark of the first half. The defender gives Selden a little too much room, having to respect the drive, and Selden, of course, was feeling it.
7. As a freshman, Selden averaged 9.7 points while shooting close to 44 percent from the floor and 33 percent from three (42 of 128). At 6 feet 5 and 230 pounds, Selden won’t blow past many opponents with pure quickness, but his athleticism and strength allow him to do some work in the paint. And if he can avoid falling in love with the jumper, he could grow into a reliable second or third scorer for Kansas.
While Selden was Kansas’ best player against Florida, freshman forward Cliff Alexander continued to make his case for more minutes. Alexander finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and was eight of eight from the free throw line. In seven games, the 6-foot-8 Alexander leads Kansas in offensive rating (121.4) among players that use at least 24 percent of possessions while on the floor. Alexander also ranks 41st in the country in offensive rebounding percentage (15.7) and eighth in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.7).
Alexander, of course, is also playing 18.7 minutes per game, including 19.8 minutes during a five-game winning streak.
Kansas coach Bill Self has said, for now, that he prefers starting sophomore Landen Lucas instead of Alexander because it keeps Alexander out of early foul trouble. There’s value in that. Starter or reserve, it won’t affect Alexander’s overall minutes. But just for comparison’s sake, The Chalkboard went back and looked at how many minutes Joel Embiid averaged during his first seven college games.
The answer: 17.6 minutes per game.
So while Alexander will likely play more minutes going forward, he’s actually played slightly more than Embiid had at this point.
It could have been forgotten, but even Self brought it up during his postgame news conference. Trailing by 17 points in the final seconds before halftime, sophomore guard Frank Mason took the inbounds pass and finished the half with an acrobatic layup. It cut Florida’s halftime lead to 39-24.
Kansas outrebounded Florida 24-9 during the second half.