Kansas has played 19 games this season and if we do as we normally do which is expect a deep run in the Big XII and NCAA Tournaments (Sweet 16 or better), then KU has 17 or more games left on the schedule. It’s a perfect time to break out the midseason grades for the players.
Perry Ellis: B
Perry hasn’t been the leader that Bill Self wanted and he probably never will be, but the old adage of "As Perry goes, so go the Jayhawks" seems to be consistently true. Perry leads the team in points per game at 12.6 and is the team’s leading rebounder (although I suspect that Cliff will usurp him rather quickly as his minutes rise). Ellis still has the best post moves of any Kansas big, and from the eye test, his defense is markedly better than it has been in previous years. Currently, his stock in these ratings is on the rise. Let’s hope that brief period where Perry couldn’t hold onto anything thrown his direction is gone for good.
Jamari Traylor: B
This guy does everything that Bill Self loves from a hustle point of view and that’s why this grade is so high. From an offensive perspective, you’d expect Jamari to be more polished, but from a motor standpoint, well, it’s just off the chart. The sequence in the Texas game where Traylor dove head first at center court after flying into the stands on the offensive end will go down as one of the highlights of the season. Forget Jerod Haase and his book Floor Burns, at the end of his tenure at KU, Jamari Traylor should write a book only about that sequence that we just saw in Austin.
Frank Mason: A
Mason has been nothing short of a revelation this season. After getting some minutes backing up Naadir Tharpe, Mason is getting to shine after Tharpe left and Conner Frankamp transferred. Mason has been the Kansas MVP, barreling through the lane and making the big shot when needed. I’ll be the first to admit that I was worried that the "Frank Mason Experiment" might not go as planned this season, and I’ll admit that I was wrong. Having a reliable point guard is awesome.
Wayne Selden: C-
This grade is so low because I expected way more from Selden this season. I thought he’d pick up the torch left by Andrew Wiggins (wasn’t Selden the star of the 2013-14 recruiting class before Wiggins signed?) and go on to have a huge sophomore campaign. The talent is obviously there and Wayne has shown that he can get to the rim and be an attacking offensive presence, but it hasn’t been consistent enough. Plus, this guy has missed more dunks than I ever recalling anyone missing. It’s time for Wayne to step it up and finish the season strong.
Kelly Oubre: B+
The sky is the limit for this kid. He gets a B in these rankings because he is not yet the finished product, but if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, this grade will continue to rise as the season progresses. He started to get his first "real" minutes in the Georgetown game and he has never looked back. He has had massive games in almost all of the conference games, but the stones and poise he showed at the end of the Oklahoma game is what many will remember about Oubre so far this season. I feel confident when the ball is in Kelly’s hands, and there is definitely more greatness to come from the freshman from New Orleans.
Devonte’ Graham: B+
I really don’t think you can put a grade on just how important Devonte’ Graham has become for KU. Having two high quality point guards is essential and Kansas has been playing great basketball since Graham came back from his toe injury. The kid may look like he’s 13 years old, but he plays with the poise of a much older player. It’s going to be exciting times for the Kansas back court with Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham over the next few years.
Cliff Alexander: B+
It looks like Cliff has found a nice little niche- come off the bench and dominate. After being accused on playing with a low motor on January 17 against Iowa State, Cliff has produced two monster games in a row, averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds in KU’s last two wins. If Kansas can get 14 and 10 from Cliff, watch out. And as his minutes continue to rise, I fully expect him to do just that. The grade from the freshman from Chicago is bound to rise. Oh and this.
Brannen Greene: B
Offensively, Brannen Greene could conceivably get an A. Defensively, not so much. We saw just how effective he can be from behind the arc in the Georgetown and Texas games, and his free throw shooting has been outstanding. His game is pretty one dimensional, and while he has shown some occasions where he’ll curl around a defender to pop a shot, his best attribute has been the set three point shot. He’s KU’s best three-point marksman (48% so far) and will be a key piece of the offensive puzzle moving forward.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk: C
Svi hasn’t been getting much playing time recently, but was a key cog at beginning of the season, starting many games. Now that Kelly Oubre has established himself at the three, Svi’s minutes have been really lacking. He still has a great (maybe the most polished on the team) skillset and is only 17. Expect great things from the Ukrainian in the next few years, but he has been and might continue to be marginalized by Bill Self this season as the rotation includes Brannen Greene and not Svi.
Landen Lucas: C-
Some might think I’m being a little harsh on Landen with this grade, but he has no offensive game. For a guy who redshirted a season, you’d think his offensive game would be further along. Right now, if you asked me who I’d rather see getting minutes if two of Cliff, Perry, or Jamari were out with foul trouble, I’d go with Hunter Mickelson.
Hunter Mickelson: N/A
He’s only played 60 minutes during the entire season, but he has more blocks (six) than Landen Lucas has (five) in almost three times as many minutes, so there’s that.
Bill Self: A-
It’s hard to knock a guy that has won 10 straight conference titles and has a National Championship on his résumé, and again, Bill Self is doing a fine job leading this group of young Jayhawks. His handling of Kelly Oubre at the beginning of the season has turned out to be a masterstroke of genius, and the benching of Cliff at ISU appears to be paying similar dividends as well (although I still think KU might have won that game if Alexander even got three to five more minutes). The Temple loss is the most mystifying, and for that Bill Self drops down to an A-. Overall, if KU wins the Big XII (still a long way to go), Bill Self should be considered for the National Coach of the Year, it’s as simple as that.