FanPost

Could KU's second team win the Big 12?

No other entrants for today in the Front Page Fanpost contest so KC looks to be the winner by default.  Great topic though.  Personally I think KU is a tourney team under this scenario but Texas, K-State, Missouri and probably others could knock off the Jayhawks due to lack of experience.  I'd put them finishing somewhere in the 10-6 to 12-4 range which I don't think wins the Big 12.  Coach Self does work some magic but there is some talent in the Big 12 this year.  Thanks for picking up my slack KC.  

- Denver

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It's not a totally ridiculous question to ask, ya know. I know the question has been rhetorically floated out there during Open Game Threads, on KU message boards and probably even by television announcers during the early season blowouts.  One way to look at it, is "leveling the playing field" and showing Kansas fans what it would be like to be an "ordinary" college basketball program.  Take away the best five players on the team, or more simply, the starting five.  So, let's say that Sherron and Cole both went to the NBA last summer, T2 got suspended for the season for the fights, Calipari was banned from coaching in the NCAA (we could only wish) so Xavier chose to go somewhere not named Kansas and a delayed bullet wound from a BB gun was discovered by the girl outside the Towers from last year.  What does that leave Kansas with?

Sherron Collins
Tyshawn Taylor
Xavier Henry
Marcus Morris
Cole Aldrich
C.J. Henry
Elijah Johnson
Tyrel Reed
Brady Morningstar
Conner Teahan
Travis Releford
Mario Little
Markieff Morris
Thomas Robinson
Jeff Withey

Doesn't seem so bad, right?  Why do all of you other programs struggle to make the tournament on a yearly basis, Kansas State?  Missouri?  I would venture to bet that upwards of 85% of Division coaches (beyond their generic coaching lip service of "I wouldn't take any twelve players over these ones") would take that ten man rotation over what they currently have.  Sure, it lacks a bit of size, but really, what team doesn't?  Obviously, the real Kansas team doesn't, North Carolina has some big man depth, Texas isn't hurting, Kentucky has some big bodies to run in and out and Connecticut always recruits a couple behemoths ever year.

What do these teams all have in common?  They're (for the most part) perennial top ten to fifteen teams every year.  It's as simple as this - there are far fewer male human being over 6'8" than there are under 6'3".  They're going to go to the top programs where they can be coached up by the best and brightest minds, because since there are so few of these "big men," there are simply few that know what they are talking about when it comes to coaching the bigs.  All I'm trying to say is that three legitimate big men (MK. Morris, Robinson and Withey) with a hybrid fourth (Little - the name kinda kills my argument here, eh?) is about the national average.  In fact, most teams probably don't even have that.

Anyway, that would be a good team.  But, how good?  Top 25 good?  They would basically be as good as last year's team, in my opinion, so yes, a fringe top 25 team.  Good enough to make the tournament?  I think yes, easily.  Good enough to win the Big 12?  That's the big one.  The Big 12 is good this year.  Really good.  And, deep. The seventh best team in the Big 12 would probably be the third or fourth best team in the Pac 10 and the fourth or fifth best team in the SEC this year.  We should easily get seven, maybe eight teams in the tournament this year.  But, could we be the best of those teams over sixteen games?

The quick and thoughtless response would be, "well, if we are as good as last year's team, then sure, we could."  Unfortunately, that wouldn't make that great of a post if I just ended it right there, though.  So, let's take it deep.

In the meaningful games played to this point this year (Memphis, @UCLA, Michigan, Cal, @Temple), the average number of minutes played by the five starters are as follows: Sherron Collins - 32.6, Tyshawn Taylor - 27, Xavier Henry - 31.6, Marcus Morris - 28.6, Cole Aldrich - 27.4.  That is 147.2 (73.6%) of the available 200 minutes doled out in a basketball game.  Given the per starter percentage of available minutes (14.7%), that leaves room for only two more players to play the roughly same amount, accounting for all 200 minutes. Break those two roles in half and call it seven percent for four different players.  Still with me?  That just means that in the "highly contested" (if you will) games this year, Coach Self is only going eight or nine players deep for significant minutes.  Now, without working the same numbers for all thirteen games, I would guess that that 73.6% is marginally higher than the other eight games, which were not deemed meaningful.  So, that says to me that Coach Self trusts his first five guys greatly and will likely lean on them heavily come conference play.  This is good for all riders of the Operation 40-0 Train (Bensa, you've earned season-long linking royalties at any mention of an undefeated season with that post), which left the station long ago and picked up maybe a few more passengers Saturday.

We have to pick a starting five for this second team.  For argument's sake, I'll take CJ at the point, Elijah at the off-guard, Brady the swingman, Thomas Robinson the four and Withey in the middle.  Tyrel was a close call at the two, with Elijah playing the point, but I would feel more comfortable with a non-true freshman running the team - not that it can't be done - just my preference.  Also, Brady gets the nod due to sheer awesomeness of making us wonder "Sleeves or No Sleeves" every game.  Oh, and his ability to feed the ball inside; with guys new to the system down low, this will be vital.

Points per game averages for starters are as follows: Sherron Collins - 13.8, Tyshawn Taylor - 7.4, Xavier Henry - 16.3, Marcus Morris - 11.7, Cole Aldrich - 11.1.

Points per game for replacement starters if numbers were extrapolated to the amount of minutes played by the player they are replacing, based on current points per game rate this year (ppg/mpg x mpg starter): CJ Henry - 20.5*, Elijah Johnson - 9.5, Brady Morningstar - 5.6, Thomas Robinson - 9.8, Jeff Withey - 6.5.

*Now, obviously these numbers would fluctuate a bit and work themselves out based on factors of style of play, opportunity to play given, foul trouble due to playing younger guys more, playing against starters rather than against reserves, etc.  But, let's make note of one player in particular.  CJ Henry is averaging two-thirds of a point per minute played.  Nobody else on the team is anywhere near that.  He is doing more with the minutes given to him than anybody else on the team.  For those that questioned or even doubted his role and impact on this team, just let that soak in.

In said circumstances the starting five would give 51.9 points per game.  Another 20-25 points a game would be neeeded from the bench.  Luckily, they would still have the talent riding the pine to give it.  At this point, if you're not marvelling at the depth and thinking Bill Self is a genius, while also wondering just how this all worked out somehow for us to have this many players that are so good, you're thankless.  It's really not fair.

Let's run through this year's Big 12 schedule quickly and tally up the wins and losses and try to decide whether this team could really pull it off.  @Nebraska - W, Texas Tech - W, Baylor - W, @ Iowa State - W, Missouri - W, @Kansas State - L, @Colorado - W, Nebraska - W, @Texas - L, Iowa State - W, @Texas A&M - W, Colorado - W, Oklahoma - W, @Oklahoma State - W, Kansas State - W, @Missouri - L.  That's 13-3 with a loss to Texas.  (Home winning streak still intact, by the way.)  So, Texas would have to drop four conference games for Kansas to pull it off.  @Kansas State, @Oklahoma State, @Oklahoma and @Missouri could be those four.  Not likely, though.  Texas is too deep (and not down their five best players, either), so Kansas would likely lose the Big 12 regular season title for the first time in six years.  What a good run it was.  We'll start a new one next year, you better believe it.  Wait, what's that you say?  You mean that we do get to use those starting five players this year and accomplish multiple unprecedented feats?  I'm just not sure that I can handle celebrating another National Championship.  But, if somebody has to do it, I can't think of anyone better to take the responsibility than Jayhawk Nation.

Verdict:  It is safe to say that this "second team" wouldn't finish the season 40-0, cutting down the nets in Indianapolis and going down as the all-time greatest and winningest single season team in college basketball history - as the real life team is destined to accomplish.  This would also just be a tough year to win the Big 12, with Texas being so good and all.  But, give 95% of Division 1 programs the option to go to the Sweet 16 on a yearly basis as this squad would, and I'll bet you your Snak-Pak they would take it!!

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