As we embark on another Big 12 basketball season, things seem rather familiar. Every year the talk seems to be about who might be able to unseat KU atop the Big 12 standings, yet every year the Jayhawks manage to push aside any and all competition, while continuing to dominate the league. This year doesn’t seem to be any different, especially with the rest of the league looking to be a little down compared to previous years. But even with that being said, it wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibility to think KU might take a step back with the loss of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor.
Only the Jayhawks never seem to take a step back.
And lately they haven’t been maintaining their consistency with the kind of recruiting classes Kentucky is becoming known for. Perusing the men’s basketball roster for the Jayhawks probably isn’t going to give anyone chills, or leave you with a sense of awe. Oh, there are some good players – Elijah Johnson, Ben McLemore, and Jeff Withey come to mind – but at the same time they aren’t bringing in multiple five star recruits each year either. Yet somehow they always seem to be right in the thick of things at the end of the year. How does this continually happen?
The answer would seem to be Bill Self.
Self’s coaching acumen has never really been doubted, but in my opinion it’s a step above many of his peers. Certainly he won a national championship with a collection of great players, but how can we explain the past couple of years when he directed the Jayhawks to the Elite Eight and Championship Game with rosters no one was talking about at the beginning of those seasons? Those were also the years they were supposed to be dethroned as the Big 12 champs, which never happened. Sure there have been some stinkers in the NCAA Tournament – Northern Iowa, Bucknell, and Bradley come to mind – but the past couple of years have shown us how Bill Self can take a group of players, get every ounce of talent out of them, and mold them into a team.
Although there was no NCAA hardware to hoist the past couple of seasons, I think those were likely the two best seasons of coaching we’ve seen from Bill Self. I’m thinking we’ll see more of the same from Self and KU this year, and hopefully, for Jayhawk fans, for years to come.
If you haven’t had a chance to read it, check out Bill Self’s book, “At Home in the Phog”, available here at TSCPL.