More Jayhawk talk. And lots of it. I promise, only one or two more of these for my non-Jayhawk readers.
It’s been an odd couple of days. I still don’t feel great. Much better than I felt Monday, but my stomach is still giving me fits. So I’ve continued to kind of lay around the past couple days. Of course, I read every article about the game I can find, watch every YouTube video of the celebration in Lawrence, and just sit around staring at pictures of the game. I’ve watched bits and pieces of the game, as well. It’s like being stuck in a happy dream. I know this giddiness will pass, but I’m enjoying every moment of it. Each time I look at my phone or computer desktop and see Mario taking his shot, I smile and laugh.
Speaking of odd, how about some odds. Who will be in Lawrence next fall? These are the odds that each person will be a member of the KU basketball program when school begins in August.
Brandon Rush. 0%. Not happening. His delay in announcing is just so he doesn’t piss Bill Self off like he did last year. He’s like 29 anyway. Go make some money, young man. You were better and more valuable than any of us ever hoped you would be.
Darrell Arthur. 20%. The rumor has been his handlers have been pushing him all year for this to be it in Lawrence. He said over the weekend that his family was telling him to stay. I think he showed enough in San Antonio to justify someone spending a mid first round pick on him. The light really seemed to come on for awhile in February. You could tell Danny Manning had been teaching him some tricks. And it made me sad, because traditionally, he would return for one more year and blossom in ’08-09. Then, he flat out sucked for about four weeks, and I thought, “Who’s going to draft this stiff?” But he put it all together when it mattered against UNC and Memphis. It would be great to have him back, but I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it happens.
Mario Chalmers. 50%. I’ve heard he really wants to declare but not hire an agent and see how things go. Some people say he should capitalize on his MOP performance. Others say he still needs to prove he can be an effective ball handler before someone is going to spend a first round pick on him. Even with Sherron Collins back next year, I think Mario will have a chance to prove that, since you have to assume Sherron is going to be dinged up at least part of the season. If Mario blows up in workouts, he’s gone. Keith Smart’s senior year wasn’t so great, you know.
Sherron Collins. 70%. He’s been injury-prone and at 5’11” he’s not going to get drafted as a sophomore. He may not even get a shot in summer leagues or with lower level leagues. He’s got a family to provide for, though, which means he could be receptive to heading overseas rather than spend another year at KU.
Bill Self. 80% Ahh, saving the big tuna for last. I disagree with those who flat-out dismiss the OSU option. I think it is a legitimate opportunity, especially for a guy who just won a national title. Why not go home for boatloads of money and prove that you can build a consistent national power at OSU? The only way I think it happens, though, is if KU somehow screws up the negotiation process. He’s clearly giving KU every opportunity to step up. I think he wants to stay. As attractive as building a winner at home is, I think Bill knows that his work effort would be increased immensely trying to get the same results in Stillwater. I think he’s happy at KU, appreciative of his place in the school’s history, and eager to build on that. He has a chance to build a dynasty at KU, where he would be starting over at OSU.
Now I know some people may be saying, “Wait, you were pissed at Roy Williams for not making a call to delay things by a week five years ago, why aren’t you pissed at Bill Self for not doing the same thing?” I think the situations are completely different. Biggest of all, Self has handled everything so far in the open and honestly. He hasn’t lied about past statements. He hasn’t refused to talk about things. He’s been pretty public with what he will tell OSU if/when they call. In other words, he’s been very mature and professional about this whole process.
If he did decide to go, I would be disappointed but not as upset as I was five years ago. He won a frickin’ title, for crying out loud! I think Mark Turgeon has proven he’s ready and worthy of taking over the KU job. Danny Manning would stick around to continue to teach the big men. I’m sure, as with the Williams-Self transition, there would be some bumps in the road, but in time things would work out ok.
But there’s only a 20% chance of it happening, so enough of that talk!
OK, more assorted thoughts from the past few days.
One of the most fun things about the weekend was the chirping of my iPhone as text messages came in during each game. During the UNC game, I heard from lots of non-KU fans, impressed at the ass-kicking that was taking place. After Mario’s shot Monday, I received texts from three different people that all said the same thing, “OMG!” And then lots of fun ones after the final seconds of overtime ran off the clock. I’ll be saving a few of those for awhile. Thanks to all who thought of me.
It’s part of being a fan of a Midwestern team to complain about east coast media bias. Whether you’re a Rams, Tigers, Royals, Jayhawks, Wildcats, or Cyclones fan, when your team is good, you’re going to spend some time complaining about how they don’t get any respect from the east coast media elites. So I was amused if not surprised by the media shock at how KU manhandled UNC. It’s as if people hadn’t seen KU play all year and didn’t understand that their guards were actually faster than UNC’s, and that their big men were bigger, stronger, and could jump higher than Tyler Hansbrough. Make no mistake, the way KU laid the wood in the first 15 and final five minutes should have been a surprise. But it should not have been a surprise to anyone who watches enough basketball that KU was just as talented, if not more so, than UNC. But people who sit around and watch nothing but the ACC, or worse didn’t watch any basketball until March, and thus didn’t realize the ACC kind of sucked this year, are surprised when some team from the Midwest comes in and messes with their expectations.
So far all the east coast experts, when Tyler Hansbrough’s only struggles all season came when he faced bigger frontlines, it’s not a huge upset when four bigger guys than him contain him.
Oh, and as for Psycho-T sweeping the POY awards, KU shut him down (Yeah, yeah, 17 & 9. He looked scared and confused after they sat him on his ass for the second time). Michael Beasley scored 25 and 39 against KU.
My favorite question of the weekend was from an unnamed reporter who asked Cole Aldrich what it was like to play against a guy who had “the biggest will in the history of the game.” It’s always nice to get some sarcasm in the interview room. I’m guessing that writer was from the Midwest or west coast.
And how about Cole Aldrich? I’ll admit, when I heard a 6’11” high school junior from Minnesota committed to KU two years ago, I wasn’t terribly excited. Forgive me for doubting Bill Self, but the words “gigantic stiff,” and “Eric Chenowith” certainly entered my mind. But I remember thinking there was hope last fall when I read an article about Aldrich playing against Greg Oden a year earlier and being the only guy who could block Oden’s shot. He said something like, “I figured I’m big too, why not. He dunked on me a few times but I blocked a few of his shots and made him work.” I liked his attitude. Kid has been a pleasant surprise and played crazy good Saturday. He has a bright future.
And Roy’s tie. WTF?!?! Seriously. I was expecting his ugly ass Carolina blue blazer.
I was surprised I never heard the names Dana Kirk or Vincent Askew between Saturday and Monday. KU and Memphis (State) have a little off-the-court history. Look it up if you don’t know.
Jesse Jackson was Memphis’ spiritual advisor? Again, WTF? I remember when he used to do meaningful things like try to broker peace in foreign lands or break down the final walls of racism in this country. But one of the most important civil rights leaders in this country’s history has been reduced to hanging out with college basketball teams? Calipari tries every motivational angle, doesn’t he?
My second favorite part of the Sports Illustrated cover? Julian Wright, sitting under the basket, leaning in to get a good look at Mario’s shot.
Seriously, man, Mario Fucking Chalmers! Bill Simmons has the five year rule after your team wins a title. That shot might satisfy my for 20 years.
There’s a part in <i>Fever Pitch</i> where Nick Hornby is discussing what the best soccer win is. I believe he says it’s a 3-2 win when your team was down both 1-0 and 2-1 and scored the winner late. So I’ve been thinking what the best basketball win is. Is it when you kill someone and even your scrubs are lighting it up, as KU did against Texas Tech? Is it a great game in which your team is just a little bit better in crunch time, like the Big 12 championship game? Is it like the ’88 championship game, where your team is the underdog but they hang in the entire game, fall behind, take a lead, and then close it out? Or is it like Monday’s game, where the game seems lost until two miraculous plays occur, a little more luck comes your way, and the final minute passes with no doubt of the outcome? I’m partial to Monday’s result right now.
I think that element of nearly losing then coming back dramatically makes a huge difference. If we hadn’t blown our lead when it looked like we were taking control, and held it for a 10 point lead, I think we would all have been thrilled and happy. But even today I’m getting e-mails from friends who can’t believe what happened. That little extra bit of drama makes the experience, and the memories, all the more sweet.
I’ve got lots more thoughts, but I’ll spare you from them for now. Coming later this week, one more post about this year’s team. It will be clearly labeled so you can move on if you wish.