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Top recruit Josh Selby set to join Bill Self's lineup.
By Ken Davis
NEW YORK – There are occasions when Kansas coach Bill Self smiles during a postgame press conference and, at the same time, it seems obvious he could use an entire bottle of Tums to calm his nervous stomach.
Last Tuesday night was one of those times. Self had just watched his Jayhawks commit 22 turnovers while still pulling away for an impressive, 81-68, victory over Memphis in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.
“We’ve got a fun team, but we’re wild. We’ve got to harness some of that,” Self said.
Enter Josh Selby — super recruit to the rescue. At least that is the popular theory. Selby, a freshman combo guard who was the No. 1 ranked player in the final Rivals.com class of 2010, will make his debut Saturday when Kansas welcomes USC to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. College basketball’s next whiz kid was ordered by the NCAA to sit out the first nine games of the season for accepting improper benefits as a recruit before he signed with Kansas.
The penalty is almost over. Selby is itching to go. Jayhawk Nation gets an early Christmas present, and all eyes are going to be on No. 32.
“It will be as anticipated a home game as we’ve had in years,” Self said, admitting there is an incredible buzz surrounding the USC game. It’s clear Self and his players are excited too. Selby, 6-2 and 183 pounds, is good enough to step in and be a major contributor. The Jayhawks already lead the nation in field goal percentage (55.8), assists (20 per game) and are fifth in scoring (87.3 ppg).
Self has a good team. Tyshawn Taylor, who has been KU’s primary ball handler to this point, agrees the “dumb turnovers” need to go. If only that careless streak could be eliminated.
“Well, Josh is wild too, so he’s going to fit in great,” Self said. “But if you look at our team, who breaks down pressure? Obviously, you need a second guy that can do that. And Josh is the only guy in our program who can run really bad offense and come away with two or three points. Every team needs that.”
Self has been coy, saying he doesn’t even know if Selby will start against USC. That’s just Self’s way of trying to lower expectations, which will be ridiculous either way. The coaching staff knows Selby is a rare talent but it’s also understood he needs time to find his comfort zone during games.
“We want him to fit in, be one of five,” Self said. “He doesn’t have to be ‘the guy.’ We don’t have ‘the guy.’ “
Self says he isn’t worried about chemistry problems. Since this team has already demonstrated a desire to share the ball, that’s probably an honest answer. Self said Taylor, Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed don’t need to play as many minutes as they have been at the guard spots. Sophomore point guard Elijah Johnson, who has had some productive minutes off the bench, could be squeezed out of the rotation.
“Somebody’s going to be the odd man out,” Self said. “I think that (player) could be different, game-to-game.”
Taylor said the Jayhawks aren’t worried about any disruptions to team chemistry.
“Josh is going to be a big part of this team,” Taylor said. “It might take him a little while. It might not. He might come in and be a big impact right from the beginning. I think he’s capable of doing that. He’s been at practice, he knows our plays, and he’s been around. It’s not like he just came to our team.
“I think it’s going to be the same. He does things like we do.”
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Guard Ramone Moore averaged 18.0 minutes and 7.6 points as a sophomore at Temple last season. Those averages have increased to 31.5 minutes and 14.5 points through the first eight games for the Owls this season. The 6-4 product of Philadelphia put together a career game last Thursday as Temple shocked Georgetown, 68-65, handing the Hoyas their first loss of the season. Moore was 12-for-18 from the field and scored a career-high 30 points. Prior to that game, Moore had scored more than 20 points just once with the Owls. “I try not let the big stage faze me,” Moore told the Associated Press. “I’ve always been calm playing basketball. I’ve been doing it my whole life.” In the previous game, a 64-61 victory over Maryland, Moore scored 16 points.
FRESHMAN OF THE WEEK
Ohio State freshman forward Jared Sullinger was limited to 17 points Sunday in an 85-60 victory over Western Carolina. That’s news because three days earlier Sullinger went off for 40 points and 13 rebounds in a 75-64 victory over IUPUI. The Columbus native hit 12- of-17 shots from the field and 16-of-23 free throws. The last Buckeye to score 40 had been Dennis Hopson in 1986 when he tallied 41 against Dayton. Sullinger had missed Ohio State’s shootaround before the game in order to pay respects to one of his favorite uncles at a funeral home.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Monday, Dec. 13
Longwood at Seton Hall
Hard to find many decent games this week until Saturday. It’s time for semester exams. Longwood, an independent from Farmville, Va., continues its road tour of the country, heading to the Prudential Center with a 3-7 record. The Hall, 4-4 and still without injured Jeremy Hazell, scored 104 points in a win at UMass Saturday.
Tuesday, Dec. 14
Oakland at Tennessee
Oakland is 5-5 but gave Michigan State a 77-76 scare on Saturday. The Vols are coming off that impressive 83-76 victory over Pittsburgh of the Big East on Saturday.
Wednesday, Dec. 15
Auburn at South Florida
Wouldn’t it be fun if Cam Newton showed up in uniform for the Tigers against USF? Doesn’t seem likely does it?
Thursday, Dec. 16
Oral Roberts at Missouri
Golden Eagles coach Scott Sutton knows a thing or two about the Big 12. He should have known better than to schedule Oklahoma and Mizzou back-to-back. Oral Roberts lost to the Sooners 73-60 Saturday and will need more than a miracle to win at Mizzou Arena.
Friday, Dec. 17
Tennessee at Charlotte
Vols coach Bruce Pearl loves taking his team on the road and proving his critics wrong. Here’s another chance.
Arizona State at Nevada
Nevada is 2-7. Arizona State just snapped a three-game losing streak by beating Gardner-Webb. Hey, it’s Friday night!
Saturday, Dec. 18
USC at Kansas
Allen Fieldhouse will be full to welcome Josh Selby to the Kansas lineup. But USC will be hyped to welcome transfer Jio Fontan too.
Texas vs. North Carolina
The Tar Heels have losses to Minnesota, Vanderbilt, and Illinois already this season. Roy’s boys could use a win over Texas. But the Longhorns could use this to build their resume as well.
Kansas State vs. Florida
This game is one of the highlights of the week, since both teams are ranked. Thank the Orange Bowl Classic for this matchup.
South Carolina at Ohio State
The Gamecoks are 7-1 with six consecutive wins since losing to Michigan State. But beating the Buckeyes at Value City Arena is a tall order.
Sunday, Dec. 12
Stony Brook at Notre Dame
Steve Pikiell’s Seawolves are struggling offensively, but gaining valuable experience through a demanding schedule. Notre Dame has sharing the ball well. The Irish rank 15th nationally in assists (17.4 per game).
THEY SAID IT
“We’ve played one of the hardest schedules in the nation this year. I’m pretty sure if other teams played the same schedule, they’d be in the same situation probably right now. ... We’ve got to keep fighting.” — Gonzaga’s Elias Harris, after an 83-79 loss at Notre Dame dropped the Bulldogs to 4-5 overall.
“The aggressive team usually gets the advantage, but we were taking it like a sissy and they took it up like men.” — Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, after Syracuse crushed the Spartans, 72-58, in the Jimmy V Classic.
“The future can be this year.” –— Louisville coach Rick Pitino, after his Cardinals improved to 8-0 with a 77-69 victory over UNLV.
“When you come to Duke and play for Coach K, it’s always in the back of your mind — what’s coach about to pass next? He’s always about to pass something.” — Duke’s Nolan Smith, after Mike Krzyzewski posted career victory No. 878 and moved within one of North Carolina’s Dean Smith on the all-time list.
“My assistant said we had four freshmen in and a walk-on. That’s not a good mix to come into this situation.” — Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus, after an 84-47 loss to Duke in Durham, N.C.
Duke’s Kyrie Irving has suddenly gone from the most exciting freshman in college basketball to the most watched injury of the season. With his foot in a cast and Duke saying Irving is out indefinitely, we are left with two big questions. First, have we seen the last of Irving in a Duke uniform? He has logged just eight games, but that might be it. If he can’t play again this season, there’s nothing holding him back from entering the NBA Draft after the season is over. Irving has already proven himself as a lottery pick. There would be plenty of time in the spring for Irving to hold individual workouts for teams. The second question is how does Duke react? The Blue Devils had shown the ability to attack any defense with Irving in the lineup. Irving gave Duke a dimension few teams have with his ability to break down defenses. Don’t feel too bad for Duke. Mike Krzyzewski is still loaded with talent. The Devils may have to resort back to the way they operated last year. That wasn’t a bad formula.
Victory of the week: Fordham improved to 5-4 with an 84-81 victory over St. John’s Saturday night. It was a good win for the Rams, made better by the fact they rallied from 21 down in the second half. Brenton Butler led the way with 22 points and Marvin Dominique hit the big free throws with 1:31 left. On the flip side, that’s not a good result for coach Steve Lavin, who has a senior-laden team in his first season at St. John’s.
It was a strange week for Memphis. The Tigers played aggressive defense against Kansas and hung with the Jayhawks until halftime of the Jimmy V Classic. Later in the week came the news that leading scorer Wesley Witherspoon will miss five weeks after surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. Then on Sunday junior forward Angel Garcia announced he is leaving Memphis at the end of the semester to play professionally in Spain.
There are a lot of November tournaments we could do without, but thumbs up to the new Champions Classic that will feature Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and Michigan State from 2011-13. Those four prominent programs will play each other at different neutral sites during the agreement on ESPN. The event begins at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 15, 2011 with Duke vs. Michigan State and Kentucky vs. Kansas. Atlanta will host in 2012 at the Georgia Dome. The next season the doubleheader moves to the United Center in Chicago.
Syracuse doesn’t have a true star on its 10-0 team but give a lot of credit to senior forward Rick Jackson, who is averaging 14.0 points and 12.5 rebounds in 34.0 minutes per game. Jackson’s averages are up from 9.7 points and 7.0 rebounds last season. “Rick has been good from day one this year,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He is as good as any inside guy you can ask for. He has been a good rebounder. He doesn’t have help out there and he is taking it upon himself to do a better job.”
Tie Talk: Self and Boeheim brought out the big ties from their closet in for the Jimmy V Classic. Self wore a red-and-blue stripped tie against Memphis. Turned out it was the same one he wore when Kansas defeated the Tigers in the 2008 national championship game. “Yeah, it is,” Self said, “but I didn’t know that when I picked it out.” Boeheim was wearing a Jimmy V brand tie for cancer research, designed by Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun. “Rick Pitino paid $10,000 (at the Jimmy V auction) if I would wear this tie,” Boeheim said. “We won, so I’ll probably have to wear it again.”
Ken Davis is the author of Basketball Vault books covering the history of the University of Kansas and the University of Connecticut. Both are available through the publisher
(http://www.whitmanvaultbooks.com/) and autographed copies are available at Ken’s web page (http://kendavis55.wordpress.com/).