Friday, November 2, 2012

Coming around: Panelists have high praise for Jayhawks

By GARY BEDORE, The Lawrence Journal-World

The panelists at Thursday night’s inaugural “Courtside View” at Crown Toyota Pavilion prepped for their roundtable discussion with Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self by attending the Jayhawks’ afternoon hoops practice.

The consensus?

KU will have a heck of a team again this season.

“We picked you 12th (in preseason poll). I’d say it’s our first error of the season. You will be better than that,” Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News told a crowd of more than 400 at the Assists Foundation fundraiser.

“A lot of guys can score,” DeCourcy added. “I think Ben McLemore missed two shots today. He took a few.”

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said: “It’s a very young team. I’m impressed with the way they related to each other and the coaches.

“If you told any of us at this time last year Kansas would play for a national championship, we’d say, ‘Really? Can we have some of what you are smoking?’” Bilas added to laughs from the crowd. “I think by the middle of the season, we will not see more than a handful of teams where we’d say they are better (than KU).”

ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, who replaces Bob Knight on Big 12’s ESPN Big Monday telecasts this season, said: “It may not be the deepest Kansas team he (Self) has had. The great recruiting class is on the way (for next season). Some of the best players are young players, and they have not gotten the full effect of Bill’s coaching yet.

“They’ll likely be 9-0 at home. If you go 6-3 on the road, which is do-able, that’s 15-3 and likely a ninth consecutive conference championship. Every home game except one or two will be a test for you (in league) and every road game for sure. They (Jayhawks) will play hard. They are always prepared,” Fraschilla added.

KU coach Self took the kind words in stride.

“I think the guys definitely over-evaluated my team right now, but I guess you expect them to do that if they are your guests,” Self said. “I don’t think we’re that good. I really don’t. I think we have a chance. We’re a little deeper than last year. We were six deep.

“We are athletic. The key will be our anchor and point guard. If Jeff Withey plays like the third-best center in the country and Elijah (Johnson) can run a team, those would be keys. One thing I’m proud of is our guys expect to do it. That’s half of it. They think they are good.

“It should be a great league race,” Self added. “Losing Missouri ... I think our league needed personality. Huggs (Bob Huggins, West Virginia) brings personality, and TCU brings recruiting in the Dallas area.

“On the national level, Indiana may be better than everybody from a roster standpoint,” Self continued, “but I don’t think there’s a clear-cut team. Last year there were definitely two, Kentucky and North Carolina. I don’t see it. I see 15-20 teams that have a shot, and hopefully we will be one in the mix.”

The panelists tackled questions presented by host/former KU player Greg Gurley. One particularly interesting moment came when Bilas, in response to a question about tougher academic standards for incoming players, indicated there should be no standards. He said schools should be able to admit any student-athletes they wish.

“Kansas knows how to educate their students. Duke does. St. John’s does. We don’t need this,” Bilas said. “A lot of schools say, ‘We wouldn’t take these kids (academic risks).’ My response is, ‘You don’t have to.’

“Kansas is perfectly capable of saying, ‘We deem this student appropriate for admission. We’ll educate them.’ I don’t think the NCAA should be in that business.”

Self is concerned that a student who earns a 2.3 grade-point average in coming years will need a 1080 on the SAT to qualify for admission. In the past, a 2.3 GPA was matched with a 900 SAT.

“The difference between 900 and 1080 is, what, 18 percent?” Self said. “That is pretty significant.”

He likes Bilas’ suggestion.

“You do have standards,” Self said. “The NCAA put restrictions on schools with the APR (academic progress rating). If you are meeting that standard and a school wants to accept a kid, then why would that be a problem to do so? Leave it to the universities to decide if they want that student, and if they do take the student, then if he doesn’t do well, then the university is at risk. That’s the way it is already. I don’t understand why you need to have a double whammy.”

Reunion in February: It was revealed that there will be a 115th year of KU basketball celebration this year in which former players will be invited to town for a reunion, which has been the custom every five years. The reunion will be for the KU-TCU game on Feb. 23 in Allen.