Friday Mornings With Bob: Freshmen, 13 Straight, and NPOY race

Hello KU fans, we’re back with another addition of “Friday Mornings with Bob.” This week, we have plenty to discuss as the Jayhawks clinched their 13th consecutive Big 12 title. Freshman Josh Jackson is playing some of his best ball right now and is only getting better, so I’m going to rank the five best freshman that Bill Self has ever had. I’ll also give you what to watch this weekend in college basketball. Lastly, I’ll going to be answering your #AskRCB questions. So without any further ado, lets go.

Is Jackson the best frosh under Self?

Josh Jackson was a huge get for Self and the Jayhawks last recruiting cycle. He was the No.2 overall recruit, and even as high as No.1 according to Rivals. With the high rankings came high expectations. Andrew Wiggins was in the same boat as Jackson, but you could argue that the expectations on Wiggins were even higher. Jackson has had a very productive season as one of the primary offensive threats for KU this season, but where does he stand on the list of all-time best freshman under Self? Let’s see.

No. 5 Joel Embiid, 2013-2014, C

Embiid would probably be higher on this list if he didn’t get hurt and was able to lead KU on some type of run in March. He has blown up nationally since joining the NBA, but KU fans knew before anyone else just how good he was. In 28 games for the Jayhawks, Embiid averaged 11.8 PPG, 8.1 RPG and 2.8 BPG. He also shot 62% from the floor. What made Embiid’s performance at KU even more impressive is that he was so new to the game of basketball. He had just started playing basketball at the age of 16. If he didn’t get hurt and would have stayed in Lawrence for another year, Embiid surely would have been one of the most dominant players in college basketball. One of Embiid’s best moments at KU had to be when he dunked all over Marcus Smart at Allen Fieldhouse.

No. 4 Xavier Henry, 2009-2010, SF

When you think of that 2009-10 team, Henry’s name is probably not the first to pop into your head. That team had the likes of Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar. It was chalk full of talent, which is one of the reasons I think Henry’s freshman campaign in Lawrence goes a bit under the radar. He averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG and shot 41% from three-point land. As we all know, his lone season at Kansas came to a screeching halt when KU lost to Northern Iowa in the round of 32.

No. 3 Brandon Rush, 2005-2006, SF

Rush, along with Mario Chalmers, helped laid the foundation for Bill Self’s run of Big 12 dominance. From the jump, it was obvious Rush was a great player. In Rush’s freshman season he averaged 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds and shot 47% from beyond the arc. He was the Big 12 Freshman Player of the Year and was also the first ever freshman to be named first team All-Big 12. The following year a guy named Kevin Durant would follow in his footsteps. Of course, Rush went on to do bigger and better things in Lawrence as he led Kansas to the 2008 National Title. Rush had his No.25 retired on Wednesday night of halftime of the TCU game.

No. 2 Josh Jackson, 2016-2017, SF

Jackson could end up being higher on this list if things shake the right way in March. Jackson has been an absolute stud this season. He’s arguably the most NBA ready freshman Self has had, if there is such a thing. This season Jackson is averaging 16.5 points, the second most for a freshman under Self.  He’s also averaging 7.1 boards while playing the four spot and going up against bigger defenders. He’s come on strong in the last month. In his last eight games Jackson is averaging 19 points, 8.3 rebounds and is shooting 66% from three. He’s vastly improved from three point land. In his first 18 games, Jackson shot 23% (9/38) from beyond the arc. Since then, he’s shot 51% (17/33) in his last 10 games. Jackson is sure to be lock for Big 12 Freshman of the Year and first team All-Big 12. He may also have an outside shot to be National Freshman of the Year.

No. 1 Andrew Wiggins, 2013-2014, SF

I had a hard time deciding Rush, Jackson and Wiggins. You could make a case for either one of them, but I ultimately went with Wiggins. He is arguably the most hyped recruit ever to come to Kansas. He was the No.1 overall recruit and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated before he ever played a game. The expectations were extremely high, and he did a good job of living up to them. In his lone season in the crimson and blue, Wiggins averaged 17.1 PPG (third most under Self), 5.9 RPG and set a freshman record for total points scored with 596. Aside from the numbers, Wiggins was a freak athlete. He could some things on a basketball court that not many others could do. He had an incredible first step and an even more incredible second jump. It would have been interesting to see if Wiggins was in the situation Jackson is in now, where he wouldn’t have to be the go-to guy. Wiggins was counted on to do a lot in 2013-14, if he had another guy like Frank Mason has been this season he probably would have been even more incredible.

Honorable Mention: Mario Chalmers (2005-06), Kelly Oubre Jr. (2014-15), Darrell Arthur (2007-2008), Sherron Collins (2007-2008), Wayne Selden Jr. (2013-2014), J.R. Giddens (2003-2004)

**I left Ben McLemore off this list because he was technically a sophomore in his lone season**

13 Straight for the Jayhawks

Kansas clinched its 13th consecutive Big 12 title on Wednesday night with a win over TCU. The Jayhawks are now tied with the UCLA Bruins who won 13 straight from 1967-79. The streak is truly remarkable and it speaks to the job and culture Bill Self has built in Lawrence.

Most, if not all, of the elite programs go through at least one year where they have a drop off in results, but not Kansas. There have been multiple years during the streak where Kansas wasn’t supposed to be the top dog, but yet they always find a way to win games.

I had the chance to speak to Jesse Newell of The Kansas City Star via email and he put Kansas’ Big 12 dominance like this: “Let’s say KU had a 50 percent chance to win the league every year. It’s probably lower than that (it’s tough to win a conference…that’s why Coach K’s longest streak is five and Dean Smith’s was four), but let’s be generous and say 50 percent each season. So, the odds of KU winning each year would be like flipping heads 13 times in a row. The odds of that happening? One in 8,192. So even if KU has had a good team each year, a feat like this is extremely unlikely. It’s the reason no one will come close to this streak again in a major conference.”

What’s the advantage to being the No. 1 overall seed?

After Kansas won and Villanova lost on Wednesday night, KU moved into the No.1 overall spot in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology. You think with being the No. 1 overall seed, the Jayhawks would have a easier bracket, but not so much. The current projection has the likes of Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Notre Dame and Arizona in KU’s bracket. That is a stark contrast to North Carolina’s projected bracket, whose top teams include SMU, UCLA, Butler, St. Mary’s and Baylor. Even though Kansas will most assuredly get to play in the Kansas City region, they will certainly have one of the toughest regions if the projections shake out the way they currently are.

Games to watch this weekend

  • No. 3 Kansas @ Texas: Kansas can claim the Big 12 outright with a win in Austin. KU finally played like a dominant team against TCU, as they ran away and hid in the second half. I like that to carry over in this one, similar to last year’s game in Austin.
  • No. 13 Florida @ No. 11 Kentucky: The Gators and Wildcats are tied atop the SEC standings. Florida won the initial matchup in Gainesville. Give me Cal and the ‘Cats in a close one in Rupp.
  • No. 23 Creighton @ No. 2 Villanova: ‘Nova is without a doubt one of the best teams in the country, but they are coming off a tough loss to Butler on Wednesday. They are still two games up on the field in the Big East, but a loss to Creighton would see that lead shrink. Give me ‘Nova at home. There is no way they lose two in a row at home.
  • No. 4 UCLA @ No. 5 Arizona: Arizona is still clinging on to a one game lead over Oregon in the race for the Pac-12 championship. UCLA still has an outside shot of winning the crown, but a lot will have to fall their way for that to happen. Give me Arizona is a close game at home. College Gameday will be there for this one.
  • No. 9 Baylor @ Iowa State: This game has implications on the race for second place in the Big 12. I’m going with Baylor on the road. I think their length will bother the Cyclones.

#AskRCB

We’ll start off this week’s #AskRCB with a pressing topic. Interesting question you pose there Mr. Rick. I’m going to go with that the dog’s name is Bingo. Only because that part comes right after referring to the dog, but its definitely something that is up for debate.

Great question, Matthew. This is something that will be fiercely debated for the rest of the season. As of right now Mason is the favorite according to Vegas.

There is a great case for Caleb Swanigan of Purdue. Some of his numbers are absolutely ridiculous. Swanigan is putting up number’s we haven’t seen since Blake Griffin. He averages a double-double of 18.6 PPG, 12.9 RPG and 2.9 APG. The last guy to average 18/13/3 was Tim Duncan. This season Swanigan has had more 25/15 games than anyone else in the Big Ten in the last 25 years. He’s also second on the Boilermakers in three-point percentage at 46%. He has single handily made Purdue the team they are.

The case against Swanigan is really no fault of his own, but it still needs to be considered. He just hasn’t played against the competition like Frank Mason has. He has got to beat up on a weak Big Ten this season. The best teams Purdue has played were Villanova and Notre Dame, but other than that there really isn’t anyone else. He just hasn’t had his so called “Heisman moment” yet.

Mason not only has the numbers overall, but he has shown up when the lights were the brightest. In five games against top 10 opponents this season, Mason is averaging 21.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.2 RPG and has shot 44% from the field and 90% from the charity stripe. Oh and Kansas is 5-0 in those games. Mason also has a shot to be the first player in Big 12 history to average 20 points and 5 assists.

As for Lonzo Ball, he’s having a great season, but I think him being on the west coast will hurt him. In fact, since 1990 there have been only three players from west coast programs win the NPOY — Larry Johnson (UNLV) in 1991 Andrew Bogut (Utah) in 2005, Jimmer Ferdette (BYU) in 2011.

I’m going with Mason because his numbers and his spotlight performances add up, but I defintely understand the case for Swanigan.

It depends on what your idea of resting is. Sure, it would be good to have Frank Mason play 25-30 minutes instead of his usual 37-40, but I don’t agree with the notion of totally benching players just to get them some rest. Self was asked about this the other day, and he stated that at this time of year practices are shorter and they have more days off, so resting them during games isn’t needed.

Easy question. Self.

If Devonte’ Graham decides to return to KU then he’ll be the point guard. If not, Malik Newman, who is sitting out after transferring from Mississippi State, could see time at the point, but realistically he is a more of a two guard. KU is still recruiting five-star PG Trevon Duval. He visited for the Baylor game about a month ago and it was reported he enjoyed his visit. He would be a huge get for the Jayhawks, but as of right now 247Sports’ crystal ball projection has it at a 75% he ends up at Duke. Make sure to keep your eye on this one.

Yes the Final Four will happen, unless for some reason the NCAA just decides to cancel it… Ha, I kid. The upsets and Cinderellas are great and all, but the one thing I dislike about the NCAA Tournament is that we rarely see the four best teams in the Final Four. It is incredibly hard to choose what four teams will be there in the end. Anything can happen in a single elimination tournament.

As for Kansas, with this years team I get the same feeling I had with the 2012 team that went to the Final Four. They aren’t the most talented team Self has had, but they just find ways to win and they are incredibly good when the game is on the line. They also have one helluva leader in Frank Mason, similar to what the 2012 team had with Thomas Robinson. With KU expected to be in the Kansas City region, I will say it will be one heckuva disappointment if they don’t find their way to Phoenix.

All right, thats it for this week’s edition for Friday Mornings with Bob. Let us know your comments or suggestions to make this feature the best it can be. Also keep sending in your #AskRCB questions and we’ll answer them here and on the Inside the Paint podcast. Also keep up with us here at Rock Chalk Blog and on Twitter. We’ll have a preview, prediction and recap of KU’s matchup with Texas on Saturday. See ya next week.

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 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.