Published March 29, 2011
| Associated Press
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Everywhere he looks, Kansas coach Bill Self sees nothing but question marks.
Why did his Jayhawks, with the nation's best shooting percentage, have their worst shooting day of the season in a stunning 71-61 loss on Sunday to Virginia Commonwealth?
How come his teams can hardly lose in the round of 16 of the NCAA tournament but hardly win in the Elite Eight?
Will Marcus and Markieff Morris head to the NBA? Or will the close-knit twins who can hardly stand the thought of being separated stick around for their senior season? And how about Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson and Josh Selby?
Few expect Kansas to struggle next year, but the program has now been bounced out of the NCAA tournament by a so-called mid-major two years in a row. And with all the potential roster changes, well, Self is eager for some answers, too.
It starts with the Morris twins, who led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding during a 35-3 season that included a seventh straight Big 12 championship. If the two leave, a gaping hole opens in the lineup.
Self said he hadn't yet talked to anyone about their plans.
"They need some time to unwind and I do, too," he said. "It would not surprise me if a couple of guys or even more put their name in the hat. But certainly, it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't. It's kind of up in the air. There's a lot to think about and talk about."
Ordinarily, it would seem almost automatic that the 6-8 Marcus and the 6-9 Markieff would be off to the NBA. Both the Philadelphia brothers improved dramatically this season, but since being born 7 minutes apart, they've hardly ever been away from each other. Even their tattoos are carbon copies of one another.
It's almost certain they would go to different NBA teams — an argument for staying in school and extending their time together for as long as possible.
Plus, the NBA could be facing a lockout that would delay the season and perhaps even eliminate training camp, making it tougher for rookies to find their footing. That might figure even more into the thinking of Robinson, the 6-9 sophomore who is only beginning to scratch the surface of his potential, and Taylor, a junior point guard.
Selby, a guard and the most highly sought recruit ever to sign with Self, would seem the most likely to return.
The deadline for underclassmen declaring for the draft is April 24.
Self would like to know much sooner since the Jayhawks already know they're going to lose three seniors — guards Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar and swing man Mario Little.
"It's a situation that we need to have a great spring recruiting class," he said. "I mean a great recruiting class. Not a good one. A great one. We need to sign 2, 3, 4 kids depending on whether we have departures. Hopefully, we'll be in position to do so.
Naadir Tharpe, a 6-0 point guard from Brewster Academy in Wolfeboro, N.H., has already committed. For months, the Jayhawks have battled Missouri for 6-5 shooting guard Ben McLemore of St. Louis. With coach Mike Anderson jumping from Missouri to Arkansas, Kansas would seem to be in good shape to get a commitment.
DeAndre Daniels, a 6-8 forward from Florida is also high on Self's list, as is Braeden Anderson, a 6-8, 215-pound forward from Wilbraham and Monson Academy in Massachusetts.
"We need to hit a home run," Self said.
Kansas fans, many of them still stunned and cranky, also want to know why Self's teams have so much trouble with mid-majors such as VCU and, a year ago, Northern Iowa.
To the coach, there is a larger issue.
"We're 6-1 in Sweet 16 games and 1-5 in Elite Eight games," he said.
"That's the kind of stuff I need to look at it. It's not the mid-majors. It's what happened in that 48 hours, that 40 hours, to give us a better chance in that one game. When we have plenty of days to prepare, it hasn't been an issue."
Self said he's already begun a careful review of everything his teams do on that second weekend of NCAA games.
"Too film intensive?" he wondered. "Do we get enough rest?"
He insists the Jayhawks were not too tight before playing VCU, a No. 11 seed that is rapidly becoming one of the great Cinderella stories in NCAA annals.
"This was the loosest that we've ever been going into a game," Self said. "That doesn't guarantee anything, either. We're thinking about things that don't have anything to do with the game. Maybe we don't let them watch TV. Maybe we take them to movies. Maybe we do this, maybe do that. You can start breaking everything down when things don't go well.
"But also, players have got to play. And we just didn't quite have it."