When this whole story idea first got started up, I was set to make a rough comparison between last season's National Championship squad and this year's unit. Obviously, there would be significant gaps in many of the comparisons, with the incredible youth in this year's team as opposed to last year's largely veteran team. And honestly, even looking at it player-by-player, as I likely would have, there are few similarities. For one, it is entirely too early to begin comparing young freshman who have played all of one regular season game to National Championship-winning, currently-professional athletes. Way too early.
Of course, this doesn't mean there are some early comparisons to be made. For instance, I have taken to calling Quintrell Thomas "Darnell", because their styles of play are eerily similar. Of course, and we'll get into this later, Quintrell can't hit the freebies nearly as well as D-Block did (in fact, Darnell was, at times, the best free throw shooter on the team). I also tend to liken Travis Releford to a poor man's Brandon Rush, although that is more of just a general feeling as opposed to actually closely comparing the two respective styles.
With all of that said, here is a quick breakdown of how the rotation should work itself out. There won't be a whole lot of player analysis and all of that fun jazz, I will do that as we continue to progress through the non-conference season, but merely a general semblance of how our rotation figures to break down.
I hestiate to offer a specific definition of the qualifications required to enter into the rotation, and it is largely a subjective measure. And so, merely accept the definition of being part of the rotation as merely earning enough minutes to have an impact on a game over a consistent basis.
Vague enough for you? OK, then good, let's get down to it, then.
Actual breaking down after the jump...
Much of the fun of this season is all of the unknowns. No one really knows who will step up and emerge as crucial players down the stretch, and who will, instead, merely sit far down the bench, getting to play only in the largest blowouts of all.
Of course, some players are more likely to become a member of the final rotation than others. And so, here are all of the conceivable options at Bill Self's disposal to fill up the rotation of eight-or-nine guys, and their rough likelihood of being a final member.
You have to figure that there will be four or five perimeter players and four bigs. The bigs have pretty much already been decided, really, because of the lack of sheer numbers. Cole Aldrich is an obvious member, and the other three are all-but-guaranteed to be the three freshmen: Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Quintrell Thomas. I suppose you could try and include Mario Little as part of the big rotation, and if one of the three freshmen bust out that is our best opportunity to piece together the best players, but I still tend to think, as do most, that he is much more of a wing player.
And while the four low-post players are all but figured out, the competition for the perimeter slots are still up in arms. Here is a brief rundown of the candidates:
- Sherron Collins -- I promise that he will be one of the key members of the rotation throughout the entire season, and more-than-likely will lead the team in minutes when all is said and done. He is the starting point guard from start to finish assuming there are no injuries, and he is likely the early favorite for Team MVP.
- Tyrel Reed -- He was a top recruit coming out of high school, but he never found a niche on a team that was ridiculously stacked and simply resorted to garbage minutes. This led many members of the fan base to expect less from him, which is unfair considering he would have had to outplay an incredibly talented perimeter player (Robinson, Chalmers, Rush and Collins) just to sniff some playing time. But with three of those four departing, he was presented a tremendous opportunity to claim some playing time and he hasn't disappointed. His hot start has at least bought him the beginning of the season in the starting lineup, and he figures to remain a member of the rotation throughout the season.
- Travis Releford -- A local recruit out of Bishop Miege, his regular season career got off to a poor start as he sat out almost the entire first half. For whatever reason, in a half where Bill Self was clicking all of the buttons at his disposal trying to find something that worked, Releford never saw much court action at all. But then, in the second half, Travis entered into the lineup and never looked back. He played the majority of the second 20 minutes and looked really good doing it. That performance alone will get him into the picture for the next couple of weeks, and the continued display of the all-around package he showcased on Sunday night will get him into the starting lineup, much less the general rotation.
- Tyshawn Taylor -- The other sure-to-be-impact freshman, Taylor reminds me a lot of, well, Sherron Collins. He isn't quite as quick, but he plays similarly; balls-to-the-wall and a hundred miles an hour. His progress will be interesting throughout the season, as he likely won't start too often but, instead, will be, well, this year's version of Sherron Collins coming off the bench. A bundle of energy that will be called upon when we are struggling offensively, I am quickly falling in love with the kid. A surefire member of the rotation, from where I'm standing.
- Mario Little -- The wildcard of the rotation, if for no other reason than he hasn't been healthy yet. He figures to be a key member of the rotation once he comes back, but it will be interesting to see whether his return merely reduces minutes or causes someone to effectively be dropped from the rotation. Can't comment too much on LIttle, so we'll just live it at that. He'll be a member of the rotation, I promise, it is just how big of a role he will receive that is up in the air. And I tell you what, that answer can be provided by Tyshawn's and Travis' play as much as Little's potential.
- Brady Morningstar -- He played very well in the first exhibition game against Washburn, and then had merely an average game against Emporia State. He played pretty awful against UMKC, looking too much for his shot and not playing good D, but he bounced back against Florida Gulf Coast to have a halfway decent game, again. He looks to be on the outside looking in, but he still stands a decent chance to finagle his way into some minutes, at least early on while the freshmen are learning the ropes.
- Conner Teahan -- Ah, Conner Teahan. Conner Teahan is a crowd favorite for his hot-shooting last season, and he is a Rockhurst boy (just like my uncles and my father), meaning he is well-loved in my house. But Connor really only has one above average 'tool', to use a baseball scouting term, and that is his shot. Sure, he can shoot the hell out of the ball, but he can't do much else on a basketball court. His defensive mindset is "hey, I'm gonna punch this guy in the arm as he runs across the lane instead of running with him, hope the ref doesn't see". And, as they tend to do, the refs saw it too often in his limited action Sunday night. His chances to actually scratch the rotation are not looking too hot right now, although he will likely still get another chance-or-two in low-pressure games the next couple of weeks, and if he plays better he could still stand a chance.
- Tyrone Appleton -- A JUCO transfer, Appleton looked merely average in his limited time Sunday night. He figures to be used merely for depth purposes throughout the season, an emergency point guard in case of injury to Sherron or Tyshawn.
While there are an abundance of options for Bill Self to choose from, there seems to be a fairly obvious cut line squarely between Mario Little and Brady Morningstar. That would mean that once Little heals up, we would have a nine-man rotation, which is fine for much of the year. Eventually, there would likely be one-or-two members who fade off, giving us a more concise rotation to cycle through in the waning moments of close games. Essentially, the difference between last year's 7-man rotation and the 9-man rotation (7-man plus Cole Aldrich and Rodrick Stewart).
If I were to rank the eight perimeter players in likelihood of being a member of the rotation in, let's say the end of February, here is what I would say
- Sherron Collins
- Tyrel Reed
- Mario Little
- Tyshawn Taylor
- Tyrone Releford
- Brady Morningstar
- Travis Appleton
- Conner Teahan
Again, there is a rather large gap between numbers 5 and 6.
Other discussions regarding the whole team in general upcoming in the next couple of days. Plus, we'll try and get some Washington and Florida/Syracue preview materail up for the upcoming CBE Classic Final Four in Kansas City.