In today’s Q&A, we discuss this year’s Kansas team (and a few other things) with Andy Mitts of Rock Chalk Talk. Thanks for stopping by, Andy!
Jack: On the surface, this team seems to have the same balance of veteran leadership and young talent that you often see from a Bill Self-coached squad. Is this team built to win another Big 12 title and make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament?
Andy: This definitely isn’t your typical Bill Self team. The frontcourt is much thinner than we are used to seeing, and the defense overall just isn’t there, especially on the inside. The loss of Udoka Azubuike is pretty big in terms of being able to play the high low and have any sort of depth in the frontcourt, and a deep run is going to require Carlton Bragg and/or Mitch Lightfoot to develop pretty quickly this year.
I still think that the combination of Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson is more than enough to compete with pretty much any team in the nation, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Svi) and Legerald Vick add a lot to that backcourt rotation. It’s not going to be easy, but the team definitely has the talent.
Jack: Where were you during the classic game between these two schools last January? Was it the greatest game you’ve ever watched?
Andy: I was borrowing wifi from the school that was right behind my house because mine went down earlier in the day and I didn’t have cable at the time. I let the kids stay up super late (I’m on the east coast so the games were on later) and we enjoyed every minute of the thrilling game. I remember telling my kids at the very end “now that is what we call an instant classic.”
But that definitely wasn’t the greatest game I’ve ever watched. I’d still have to put the 2008 Title game above that, simply because of the stakes and the incredible comeback.
Jack: Outside of Baylor, who do you think poses the most realistic threat to Kansas’ streak of Big 12 titles?
Andy: I think West Virginia, but that game against Texas Tech gave me pause since it really was just bad play by the Red Raiders that gave them a chance to get back into it. But part of that is just how difficult the Big 12 is going to be in general this year, either home or away. There are only two teams right now that you probably wouldn’t expect to be able to pull off a huge upset every night, and even Texas and Oklahoma are capable of pulling off an upset at home.
Jack: Who do you think is the favorite to win Big 12 POY? Also, who’s your way-too-early pick to win the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City?
Andy: Big 12 POY depends heavily on in conference performances, and there are usually one or two guys that come out of nowhere. Handicapping at this point though is kind of difficult, and it seems kind of like a homer pick to say Frank Mason and/or Josh Jackson are the favorites at this point. It’s likely they will split the vote somewhat, but Johnathan Motley from Baylor might have some competition from his own team as well. I could see Jawun Evans from Oklahoma State sneaking in and eeking out the vote in a crowded field.
As for the Big 12 tourney, I think we are probably going to see a rematch of last year’s final, where Kansas beat West Virginia to take the crown. I think Kansas gels with their 4-guard lineup that never looks right but somehow keeps working, and Press Virginia is built to shut down teams in back to back to back games, which should help them get there.
Jack: KU is currently favored by 12.5 over the Sooners tonight in Norman. Do you think the Jayhawks cover? Why or why not?
Andy: I do think they probably cover, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if they only won by 8 or 9. The FT shooting is trending upwards, but it still has been a problem most of the year. I could see the lead being about 15 or 16 going into the final 3 minutes or so that shrinks due to poor shooting.
Ultimately, Kansas has enough outside shooting to get hot
Jack: Who would win in a fight – Larry Brown (76) or Bill Snyder (77)?
Andy: I think I have to go with Brown, but mainly just because he is a KU guy. Is it really winning if they both get tired 10 seconds in and decide to just go get a beer instead?
Jack: Does the absence of a hoops rivalry with Missouri leave a void in your life?
Andy: It does, but only in the way that getting your wisdom teeth out as a teenager leave a void in the back of your mouth. Sure, it was fun to root against Missouri and to play big games against them and holding those results over their heads, but the rivalry was very toxic. I don’t think we could ever replicate it with a non-conference yearly game, and I really doubt that Missouri ever finds their way back into the same conference again.
Jack: When Bill Self eventually rides off into the sunset, who would you like to see as his replacement? Will Danny Manning be in the running?
Andy: This is constantly a source of debate among all of us over at RCT. The problem is that there is no clear sense of who will be a good candidate, mainly because there is no clear sense of when we will be looking for a new coach. I could personally see Self staying for another 15+ years and then we look to a younger coach who either hasn’t started coaching yet or is just now cutting his teeth in Div 1. I could also see him deciding that he wants to try the NBA (although I’ll admit it seems extremely unlikely at this point) and we have to find someone in the next year or so. We have an awesome breakdown of the debate here: http://www.rockchalktalk.com/2016/11/4/13517032/7-days-until-kansas-basketball-who-will-replace-bill-self
And I do agree that I don’t think Manning will be in the running at all at that point. Either he will be too old when it comes time to look, or he won’t have enough of a resume.
Jack: Since we last communicated, Texas lost to Kansas in football. This isn’t actually a question. I just thought it was worth mentioning.