Friday Mornings with Bob: Weekly KU Mailbag

Hey KU fans! First off, I just wanted to introduce and tell you a little about myself. My name is Bobby Norell, and I’m new here at Rock Chalk Blog. I’m from a small town in northern Indiana, about 20 minutes east of Notre Dame. I grew up an ND fan, as many of my family members, my dad included, graduated from there. I attend every home football game, as well as my fair share of basketball games. I also write about the Irish for SB Nation.

My love of Kansas is something I brought upon myself. Around the time I was in second grade, the Jayhawks were going to back-to-back Final Fours and Kirk Hinrich was leading the way. I loved Hinrich; he was my favorite player. Ever since then, I’ve been hooked on Kansas basketball. I live and die on every possession of every game. Some of my favorite players include Hinrich, Keith Langford, Brandon Rush and Jeff Withey. Frank Mason has joined this elite category as well.

I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in sport communications. Even though my diploma says I’m a Hoosier, my passion for the Jayhawks never wavered. I’ll get some grief for this from my IU friends, but KU has always been No. 1.

Aside from the Irish and KU, I’m a Chicago sports fan, most notably the White Sox and Blackhawks. I absolutely hate the Cubs, so the last year was hard for me.

Now enough about me, lets get down to business. In this weekly column, I’m going to discuss my thoughts about KU basketball, whats going on around the Big 12 and really anything about college basketball. I’d also like to do a Q&A where you readers send me questions via Twitter. So without further ado, heres the first installment of Friday Mornings with Bob.

Where does the win over West Virginia rank?

Monday night was awesome. That was one of the best wins ever at Allen Fieldhouse, certainly within the Bill Self era. Expectedly, after the win the question arose “where does this win rank?” I’m going to rank mine, but I’m going to limit it to the last five years. When you have a home record like Kansas has under Self, a lot of wins can easily be forgotten. So by limiting it to the last five seasons, I’ll be less likely to exclude some deserving ones.

No. 1 Missouri @ Kansas – February 25th, 2012
For me this game tops the list, I still get goosebumps thinking about. It was the last game in the Border War before Mizzou jumped ship for the SEC. Kansas and Mizzou were also ranked near the top of the polls — KU No.4, Mizzou No.3. This game was pretty similar to Monday night’s game, Kansas rallied from an 19-point deficit in the second half to force overtime. We all remember T-Rob’s block, right? The Jayhawks would go on to win 87-86. The win clinched KU’s eighth straight Big 12 crown and one last victory over the hated Tigers.

No. 2 Oklahoma @ Kansas – January 4th, 2016
KU was No. 1 and OU was No. 2, and depending on which poll you looked at, it was the other way around. The Sooners had National Player of the Year Buddy Hield, as well as a plethora of complimentary pieces. The Sooners built a 10-point lead in the second half, but the Jayhawks would soon comeback to force overtime. The two teams played three overtime periods before Frank Mason made the play of the game, by stealing the inbounds pass from Hield to secure the KU victory. Hield finished with 46 points. KU’s Perry Ellis finished with 27. If it wasn’t for the national title game between UNC and Villanova, this would have been the best game of last season. One thing that seems to be in common with all these great wins at Allen Fieldhouse is that they involve a great comeback by the Jayhawks.

No. 3 West Virginia @ No.3 Kansas – February 13th, 2017
We all know the story about this one. This is truly one of the best wins in Allen Fieldhouse history.

No. 4 Kentucky @ No.4 Kansas – January 30th, 2016
The Jayhawks were in the middle of a rough patch when big bad Kentucky came to visit. KU had lost three of five, and per usual fans started wondering if this was the season the streak of Big 12 titles would come to an end. The Wildcats lead for most of the second before KU forced overtime. In OT, Kansas outscored UK by six to take home a 90-84 victory. Junior Wayne Selden Jr. played the game of his career as he poured in 33 points and will the Jayhawks to victory. The win also propelled Kansas to 17-game winning streak before bowing out in the Elite Eight against Villanova.

No. 5 Ohio State @ Kansas – December 10th, 2011
This is one game that gets lost over the years. Ohio State was ranked No.2 and one of the preseason picks to win the National Title. The Buckeyes had the likes of Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and and Deshaun Thomas, although Sullinger didn’t play. Kansas dominated from start to finish, and ended up winning by 11 points, 78-67. Thomas Robinson exploded for 21 points on 7-9 shooting and seven rebounds. Of course, this wouldn’t be the last time these two programs faced each other that season.

Undoubtedly, since there have been so many great wins over the last five season I probably missed some. Let me know yours.

No. 13 can be wrapped up Saturday

There were two big wins on Monday night for Kansas, the win over WVU and Texas Tech’s victory over Baylor. The Jayhawks are now two games up on the field in the Big 12 race, and with a win on Saturday they would be up three with four games left. Kansas would just have to completely fall apart for them to lose out on No. 13, and (knock on wood) the likelihood of that is slim.

No ifs, ands or buts about it, KU’s streak is impressive

Living in Indiana, I catch a lot of flack for cheering for Kansas over my home state team. One of the things I constantly hear about Kansas’ Big 12 title streak is that they play against no one in the Big 12 and that its a one team league. I know, and most of you know, that is complete crap. Especially this season, there hasn’t been one easy game in the Big 12 all year. It hss been an historically tough season in the Big 12.

For the last four seasons the Big 12 has been the highest rated conference on KenPom.com. Since the year Kansas’ streak began, the Big 12 has been in the top five of the RPI 11 times, the top three seven times, and has topped the list four times.

Also, just look at the players who have rolled through this league over the last 13 seasons: Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Michael Beasley, Marcus Smart, Buddy Hield. The list goes on and on. Its been a great league. Sure some years have been better than others, but this isn’t winning 13 straight WCC titles.

The Atlanta Braves won 14 straight NL East titles. UCLA won seven straight national titles. The Boston Celtics won eight straight NBA titles. Did these teams have no competition too? I don’t think so. So, stop trying to poke holes or find something wrong with KU’s streak. Appreciate it for what its been and what it is — sheer dominance.

Bill Self: Big 12 Coach of the Year?

As weird as it sounds, when you win as much as Self has won, your success almost gets overlooked. Sure TCU’s Jamie Dixon has brought the Horned Frogs to relevancy this season and Baylor’s Scott Drew has done a great job as well, but when you look at the job Self has done this year its nothing short of remarkable.

Jesse Newell of the KC Star wrote about Self’s case for Big 12 Coach of the Year after Monday’s win and he brought up some great points. Self has done what great coaches do, which is adapting to your personnel. Self completely scrapped his patented high-low game for a four-guard lineup. He’s lost his depth in front court after Udoka Azubuike went out for the season and Carlton Bragg failed to develop the way we thought he would. Self just hasn’t had the horses down low, we’ve seen from Kansas teams of the past. He’s done all of this and still has Kansas ranked in the top five and on the brink of a 13th straight Big 12 title. Even if he doesn’t win the award, KU fans will know what kind of job Self has done this season.

Games to watch this weekend

  • Obviously Kansas/Baylor – KU can essentially wrap up the Big 12 with a win
  • North Carolina @ Virginia – UNC is in a dog fight for the ACC title. They’re a game up on Duke, Florida State and Louisville. UVA is coming off a loss to Duke on Wednesday. College Gameday will be there for this one
  • USC @ UCLA – UCLA has been a trendy team this year, but stands two games out of first in the Pac-12. USC has quietly been a good team this season. This should be a good one on Saturday night.
  • Maryland @ Wisconsin – The Terps travel to Madison on Sunday to take on the Big Ten’s best team. Wisconsin is coming off a loss at Michigan on Thursday night. It’s hard seeing them lose two in a row, especially with the second one coming at the Kohl Center.
  • Michigan State @ Purdue – MSU is not what they’ve been in the past, but still a Tom Izzo-coached team is nothing to scoff at. Purdue on the other hand has big things in mind. They have a shot to win the Big Ten after Wisconsin’s loss. If they want that to happen, they can’t drop any games at home.

#AskRCB

Good question. I’m going to say no. Remember the Graham we saw last year on the road at OU and in the Big 12 tournament? That’s his ceiling, and we really haven’t seen that this season because Josh Jackson has been called upon to be the second scoring option for KU. Graham still has the ability to be a game breaker. We saw it on Monday night vs. WVU.

Mason has been sick, so that is why you’re seeing some fatigue from him. He’s not tired just because he’s played a ton of minutes. Once he’s fully recovered from his sickness, we should see the Frank of old. By the way, for looking fatigued he still played a pretty nice game on Monday night.

For the Big 12 honors I’ll go with Mason being the Big 12 Player of the Year. Jackson as the Big 12 Freshman of the year. Mason and Jackson will be on the first team. I’ll surprise you a little bit and go with Landen Lucas as second team, he plays a huge role on this team. Lastly, I think Graham will find his way on to the second team as well.

As for the national honors, Mason will be a finalist for National Player of the Year. I don’t know if he will win it. I’d go between him and Josh Hart of Villanova. Jackson should also be a finalist for Freshman of the Year, but I think Lonzo Ball of UCLA will ultimately get that.

For me it has to be the loss to Northern Iowa, no question. That 2010 team was so good with Sharron Collins, Cole Aldrich, the Morris twins, Xavier Henry; the names go on and on. They went 33-3 and 15-1 through the Big 12 that year. That was Collins senior season, and would have meant a lot for him to carry this team through the tournament.

The following year hurt too, losing to VCU in the Elite Eight. The 2011 team was equally as good as the year before it. They went 35-3 and 14-2 through the Big 12. The Morris twins were great that season, especially Marcus. Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar were seniors and two of the winningest Jayhawks of all-time, so it would have been nice to send them out with another National Title. I would venture to say these two season eat away at a lot of KU fans.

All right, well that’s it for the first edition of Friday Mornings with Bob. I hope you all return next week, as we’ll discuss the Baylor and TCU games among other topics. Also make sure to keep asking questions on Twitter with the hashtag #AskRCB. Have a great week everyone and Rock Chalk!

Bobby Norell is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. View his archive, or follow him on Twitter.

Bobby Norell

My name is Bobby Norell. I'm from a small town in northern Indiana. I grew up a Notre Dame fan, as many of my family members graduated from there. I attend every home football game, and my fair share of basketball games. My Kansas fandom is something I brought upon myself when I was little. Around the time I was in first grade, Kirk Hinrich was leading Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours. I loved Hinrich those KU teams, and ever since they I've been hooked on Kansas basketball. I recently graduated from Indiana University with a degree in Sport Communication. Even though my diploma says I'm a Hoosier, my love for the Jayhawks has never wavered. They'll always come No.1. I'm excited for the opportunity here at Rock Chalk Blog. I hope to provide you with some thoughtful and informational analysis. Aside from my work here, you can catch some of my work at OneFootDown.com on SB Nation. There I cover Notre Dame football and basketball, as well as a little recruiting.