Bill Self: Coach of the year
Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks are 16-3 and 6-0 in Big 12 conference play. With big question marks coming into the season, no coach in the country has done more with less.
Off of last seasons team, Self lost twins Markieff and Marcus Morris to the first round of the NBA draft, guard Josh Selby to the second round, and Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, and Mario Little to graduation.
New recruits top 40 Ben McLemore and forward Jamari Traylor were supposed to get major minutes this season but were declared academically ineligible. This killed the Jayhawks depth before the season even started.
Self was left with three starters who had never even played a big role at the college level in Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford. All three got no more than mop up minutes last season and were thrust into a starting role this year.
Self has all three players, all question marks, playing up to their potential in the starting five. Johnson and Releford are both getting around ten points per game and are playing excellent team basketball and defense. 7-0 center Withey has exceeded every expectation with eights points, six rebounds, and three blocks per game. Assistant coach Danny Manning is probably the best in the country at getting the most out of post players and should get the credit for Withey’s breakthrough into the major college basketball landscape.
Thomas Robinson has turned into the most dominant force in college basketball. Robinson had the makings of a star but wasn’t a sure thing as he only logged 14 minutes per game last season. He’s beat every expectation with 18 points and 12 rebounds per game and is the main reason that Kansas could be in the championship conversation.
Four year starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor was the only returning starter that Self had coming back this season. Taylor has been inconsistent with his turnovers and erratic off the court behavior in his four years at Kansas but is very talented. Earlier in the season, he took a lot of heat for turning the ball over. Self now has Taylor playing the best basketball of his career and has turned him into a true leader instead of a liability.
The bench doesn’t offer Self much and is filled with mostly walk-ons. He’s turned forwards Justin Wesley, transfer from Lamar, and Kevin Young, transfer from Loyola Marymount into solid depth. Former walk-on 6-6 sharp shooter Connor Teahan, who didn’t even play last year, is also logging major minutes off the bench.
Self won the award in ’09 after having similar success with a team that was coming off of losing everyone to the draft after winning the ’08 national championship. It’s always hard for me to argue against Calipari for coach of the year because he does it with true freshman every year but it’s odd to me that Cal has never won the award.
Self deserves it this season because I suspect that no other coach in the country would have this team competing at the highest level. The Jayhawks are 6-0 and in sole first place of the Big 12, one of the toughest conferences in the country, and keep getting better. This coaching job resembles the one’s that he did at Oral Robert and Tulsa earlier in his career, where he took teams with no expectations to the big dance.
The Jayhawks lost to Duke, Kentucky, and Davidson and have won nine straight games since it’s last loss. Kansas and Self have won seven straight regular season Big 12 titles and have their aim set on an eighth.