Kansas full of good players
Thursday, February 10, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — How deep is No. 2 Kansas? So deep, injury takes out the most highly sought player Bill Self ever signed and the second-ranked Jayhawks seem only to get better.
So deep, Missouri shoots a torrid 52 percent and can’t even stay close because three guys off the Kansas bench go 14-for-17.
So deep, Self’s never had this many outstanding players on one team — not even in 2008, when an experienced and well balanced squad beat Memphis in the NCAA championship game.
“It’s as deep a team as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Self said after the Jayhawks dismantled Missouri 103-86. “It’s deeper than the ’08 team.”
As well as they’ve played in recent weeks, Kansas’ reserves look like they could probably win in the bottom half of most leagues all by themselves. When esteemed freshman Josh Selby gets back, possibly Saturday against Iowa State, the Jayhawks could go 10 deep if they wished.
“The ’08 team went eight deep,” Self said. “I think it’s going to be hard to play 10. But we could go one more for sure.”
The beating heart of the Jayhawks are the Morris twins. Intuitive, forceful and extraordinarily versatile at 6-foot-9, the Philadelphia brothers have become undisputed leaders of a team that’s lost only once in 24 games and hits an NCAA-best 52 percent from the field.
But if depth is key to deep NCAA runs, Kansas fans should probably start making plans to be in Houston next spring.
A good example is the scoring splurge the Kansas bench dropped on Missouri. Thomas Robinson, Mario Little and Travis Releford, the Jayhawks’ sixth, seventh and eighth players, combined to score 36 points on 14-for-17 shooting.
The 6-6 Little, a former national junior college player of the year, had 17 points, five rebounds and one assist in 16 minutes. The 6-9 Robinson was 3-for-3 from the floor with seven rebounds. Releford, still not entirely healed from an ankle injury, was 4-for-5 from the floor, 2-for-2 from the line and added one steal and one assist.
“They were the difference in the game,” Self said. “I don’t think there are a lot of teams that have that luxury.”
It’s no wonder the Jayhawks have had only two players foul out all year.
Marcus Morris led the Jayhawks with 22 points against Missouri and was happy to pay homage to the reserves.
“When you have guys that come off the bench and do what these guys did, that makes us one of the deepest teams in the country,” he said.
In 24 games, seven different players have led or shared the lead in scoring. Eight have led or shared the assists lead. Even the Morris twins have gotten in the act, with each having one game when they topped the squad in dimes.
But there’s no better example of Kansas bench strength than what’s happened since Selby went to the sideline with a sore foot. That’s given more minutes to Brady Morningstar, a heady 25-year-old senior.
Selby, rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 recruit last year, was coming out of a midseason shooting slump, scoring a teamhigh 17 points at Colorado, putting in 12 the next game against Kansas State, and 17 the next week at Texas Tech.
But since Selby’s been wearing a walking boot, Morningstar’s had 19 points and six assists against Nebraska and eight points and seven assists against Missouri. In the past 10 games, the son of Roger Morningstar, a starter on Kansas’ 1974 Final Four team, has dished out 38 assists while turning the ball over a grand total of five times.
“Brady’s playing the best basketball I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here,” said Marcus Morris.
So what happens when Selby comes back? How does Self distribute the minutes?
“I don’t think he’ll be anything but helpful as we move forward and he gets healthy,” Self said. “When we run bad offense, Josh is still the best we’ve got at going and getting his own shot. And every team needs somebody like that.”
And Kansas, of course, has somebody like that.
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