Now that about two thirds of the regular season is complete, end of the season awards are starting to be discussed on the television and interwebs. ESPN's College Basketball Nation Blog started it on Wednesday, running a list of 13 names. Somehow, and I really mean that because I have no idea how, Bill Self's name didn't come up. The names mentioned all have teams that are having great years but...the only rationale for not putting Bill Self's name in the discussion is if you're saying that Bill Self and Kansas have become such a machine that it's only news when they're not a top 5 team.
Fran Fraschilla went ahead and made his pick, selecting Rick Barnes. If that's the way it goes in the end, nobody can complain about it. Texas is having a great year and his team is playing amazing defense while still being good on the offensive end. They're running roughshod over the Big 12 at the moment, so that's a fine pick. A case also gets made for Steve Fisher and Jim Calhoun, personally I think Fisher is acceptable and Calhoun is more nostalgic than acceptable. Ignoring the fact that Calhoun and his team have been docked a scholarship and placed themselves on probation for recruiting violations, I just don't think Connecticut is going to look so hot by the end of the year. The rest of the names mentioned are here and I'm not interested in going through all of them. Some deserve to be in the discussion, others might deserve honorable mention.
Back to the point though, doesn't Bill Self at least deserve a mention?Going back to last season, Kansas had a very disappointing finish in the tournament. The #1 overall seed lost in the 2nd round to a directional school. After that game, people openly questioned Bill Self's coaching a little bit. Heading farther into the offseason, Kansas lost three starters to the NBA draft. The Jayhawks headed into this season without Sherron Collins, the team's leader for the last 3 years. The team was without Cole Aldrich, who was one of the best centers in college basketball during his time at Kansas. Throw in the most athletic player of the bunch, Xavier Henry. He wasn't a dominant force last year but his size and shooting ability wasn't going to be replaced by upping the minutes for Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar.
The season was started with the status of the top recruit in limbo. The point guard duties handed to a guy that can be described as an occasional knucklehead (though he's been great this year). Led by a guy that showed flashes in his sophomore year but had never been the alpha dog at the collegiate level. Role players like Brady Morningstar and Tyrel Reed were forced into the starting lineup and expected to do much more than shoot open threes.
How have the Jayhawks responded? Choose a ranking, any legitimate ranking and it loves the Jayhawks. Kenpom? #3. 7th in offense and 4th in defense. One of the three teams to be ranked in the top 10 of both. How about Sagarin? 2nd in ELO_CHESS and PREDICTOR. Choose a questionable rating system like RPI and you'll see the Jayhawks are ranked first. Traditional polls? Ranked 2nd. That's quite a few words to say that Kansas hasn't stumbled, slipped, or missed a beat this season after losing three players to the NBA.
All of the previous commentary has focused on the on-court production but this may really be Bill Self's best coaching job at Kansas because of the off the court stuff he has had to handle this year. Most recent is the death of Thomas Robinson's mother, when news came the night before a game. Over the next week, Kansas flew to the funeral on the east coast and then flew back to beat Colorado on the road and finish the week by beating Kansas State at home. Keeping 19-22 year olds focused and working through an ordeal such as this takes a special touch, something Bill Self has shown he possesses. Getting them to perform better than they have all year puts you in the discussion for Coach of the Year.
After all this, Bill Self still isn't mentioned when the list features at least 13 names? Anyone that says he's not in the discussion should agree the award be renamed in honor of Bill Self because he is the standard.