Thoughts from Big Monday: Self’s disdain for Drew, risky dominance and one manly Withey
It has become fairly well known that Bill Self does not like Scott Drew. Drew pissed off Self two years ago when he had his team leave the court for the video intro, and Self probably pissed off Drew when Darrell Arthur changed his mind overnight and decided to attend Kansas over Baylor.
It was telling that leading up to the game and in the postgame, Self never made one reference to Drew. He complimented Baylor’s talent and several Baylor players, but he never mentioned Drew once. Is this unusual? Yes. Self usually throws some praise toward the opposing coach.
I bring this up because I think Self really enjoyed beating the crap out of Drew on Monday night on the biggest stage — a Dick Vitale-called Big Monday game — with the national press all in attendance. Self was so pleased after the game that he didn’t say one negative thing about his team. Not that his team deserved anything but praise, but he usually will find at least one area to nit-pick after a game. The closest he got on Monday night was saying his team was not very good for one five-minute stretch. He followed that up with, “We played a great 35.”
Self’s joy was shared by his players. Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson were giddy in the postgame presser. Yes, I used giddy. Robinson doesn’t exactly love talking to the media, but he was reveling in the butt-whipping his team unleashed on Baylor.
The Jayhawks put on a performance after the game and felt about as comfortable at the podium as they’ve ever been. They were especially excited when asked about Robinson’s alley oop that will forever be ingrained in everyone’s memory who witnessed the play.
Johnson: “I want to start that I pitched it ahead.”
Taylor: “All right, Elijah pitched ahead to me. And I’d seen T-Rob running.”
Thomas: “And I elevated to the top stairs.”
Taylor: “He pressed the up button.”
Taylor finished the exchange with the “SportsCenter” music. They might as well have been sitting in their dorm rooms reliving the play.
What Self really had to love — besides the fact his team played great — is that it was clear to everyone in the old building that Self undressed Drew on the sideline. Self has taken a team that even the fanbase was questioning at one point this year and molded them into what now looks like the clear cut favorite to win the Big 12. In his image, they have developed that toughness that he loves to preach. Drew, on the other hand, oozes positivity when he gets in front of media — probably one reason he’s a great recruiter — but on the sideline, he looks like a whiny little punk. From my vantage point, it looked like Drew spent most of the game whining to the refs instead of figuring out a way to stop Robinson and Taylor.
As I wrote about at Basketball Prospectus last night, the blueprint to beat the Jayhawks involves double teaming Robinson. Drew thought his lengthy frontline could handle Robinson without help. It became clear in the first few minutes that his belief was hogwash. Why didn’t Drew adjust? He was too busy looking for relief from the zebras. Robinson was busy burying Baylor’s beanpoles underneath the basket. Just like Self’s Jayhawks mirrored their coach’s mentality, so did Drew’s Bears. They played like sissies.
Dominance breeds complacency
That’s my one concern coming out of Monday’s beatdown. The first time that the Jayhawks felt really good about themselves was after they beat Ohio State. After a week of patting themselves on the back, they came out and played extremely flat against Davidson and we know what happened next.
The one other time they felt really good about themselves was after beating K-State, and it took them a half to get going against Oklahoma.
So should we expect a loss against Texas on Saturday?
If J’Covan Brown gets hot, it’s a possibility, but probably not all that likely. The bigger concern is that the Jayhawks keep their edge, believing the world doesn’t think much of them. It would probably benefit Taylor to turn it over just enough that fans keep criticizing him on Twitter. It would probably benefit Robinson if someone in the national media would come out and say Robinson is not deserving of National Player of the Year. Self is now accepting applications for someone — anyone — to be that guy.
As simple as this sounds (and Self has said it before), the Jayhawks are really good when they play with energy and really average when they don’t. Yes, you could probably say this about any good team, but some teams can slide without great energy. This isn’t one of them. So when they have that chip on their shoulder trying to prove themselves — as they’ve had since Davidson — it is for the best.
That Jeff Withey is actually pretty good
Withey probably deserves his own post again — here is what I wrote about him last time around. Withey is the guy this year that makes Self look like a genius, joining Darnell Jackson, Cole Aldrich and Brady Morningstar.
Taylor’s rise is the No. 1 reason the Jayhawks should be feared, and Robinson’s growth is incredibly impressive — for some odd reason it was expected — but Withey. Withey?! Nobody saw this coming. He is sooooo much better in every way since the beginning of the year. The numbers say he’s the best shot blocker Self has ever had — even better than Cole Aldrich — and my eyes are starting to agree. Withey’s impact was not just his three blocks against Baylor; the Bears were downright weary of even entering the paint.
Withey has also become a better finisher on the offensive end, another reason the Jayhawks are much improved from earlier in the year. It’s time to quit saying that Withey plays starter minutes because the Jayhawks don’t have any better options. Withey is a great option and the perfect compliment to Robinson.
Speaking of Robinson…
I sat next to an NBA blogger last night who had a massive man crush on Robinson. He was raving about how great an NBA player Robinson is going to be. How strong he is. How polished his footwork is. How much feel he has. That’s pretty amazing to me considering Robinson was a huge project two years ago and didn’t have any feel to his game. Feel and instincts are something most basketball players are born with, and it’s unbelievable that Robinson has developed both. That’s a compliment to Robinson, Self and of course the big man guru Danny Manning.
Anyway, the NBA blogger said he had chatted with two NBA scouts this past week who both said they would take Robinson over Jared Sullinger in the draft. Considering some thought Sullinger would have been a top pick in last year’s draft, that’s a lofty compliment.
And as every game passes it becomes increasingly evident that Robinson will become Player of the Year and his junior season might go down as one of the best in KU history.