Halfway through the season and this edition of the Kansas Jayhawks mirrors a reflection of what Bill Self basketball is all about than any of his teams to wear the Crimson and Blue. This team grinds its way to victories. Look back through the Self era at the number of games his teams won when they scored less than 70 and it stands at a mere handful. Even with Self's love of good defense his teams won when they scored. This team can win even when it doesn't score.
The Jayhawks have won again and again in the month of January despite a sluggish offense. I think this bodes well for a team that actually has a lot of offensive weapons. Kansas will make a major step forward when Self realizes that his team is better with Perry Ellis is on the floor. Ellis played like a freshman early on in the season. The slightest bump, push in the back and it was a missed shot or rebound slipping away. That's not happening much now.
Kevin Young's play has been the surprise of the season. His hustle and spirit is infectious. But he can't shoot to save his life and if you watch closely on defense, while he's scrappy, he gets lost, a lot. His atrocious play against Kansas State nearly cost the Jayhawks the game. I suspect by March, Ellis will be back in the starting lineup.
Much to my surprise the Achilles heel of this squad is guard play. Nadir Tharpe is a back up worthy of a mere five minutes a game. Obviously neither of the freshman, Adams or White, has shown enough in practice to persuade Self that they deserve more minutes. Elijah Johnson has to stay on the floor for Kansas to be a truly great basketball team.
Make no mistake, Withey and McLemore are every bit as important as Johnson to a deep tournament run in March, but a team with four seniors and the best "freshman" in the country should be a title contender. I wouldn't have said that last fall with Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor off to the NBA, but it just goes to show what a great recruiter and coach Bill Self is. He's always looks two to three years down the road to fill the holes, blending great talent with great role players. Another trip to the Final 4 certainly won't come as a surprise, but wouldn't it be nice just the same.