A contentious round one is in the books, and we've narrowed it down to 16 players in the voting for the best Kansas basketball player in Bill Self's time with the Jayhawks. Round one went almost entirely to chalk, with two 5 seeds (Julian Wright and Keith Langford) taking out 4 seeds (Xavier Henry and Aaron Miles, respectively). I look for more upset potential in today's voting, which features some interesting matchups. Below is the bracket after round one, followed by a breakdown of the second round matchups.
(1) Mario Chalmers vs (5) Julian Wright
Chalmers swept Kevin Young in the voting, while Wright was one of two upsets, gathering 77% of the votes over Xavier Henry's 23%. Julian Wright was a fun-loving player and fan favorite, but never quite took off the way fans had hoped, and disappeared from the basketball landscape after leaving KU following his sophomore season. Chalmers was a ballhawking defender, dynamic offensive player, and of course made the most famous shot in Kansas basketball history.
(3) Marcus Morris vs (2) Cole Aldrich
Marcus Morris got all but one vote (97%) against Darnell Jackson in the first round, while Cole Aldrich swept Frank Mason. Marcus was incredibly fun to watch in three years at Kansas, able to rebound well and find high-percentage scoring opportunities, while also developing a sweet shooting stroke and strong perimeter game. Cole Aldrich was a completely different type of big man, dominating on the boards and blocking shots left and right. Each was a force in his own right, but in very different ways.
(1) Andrew Wiggins vs (4) Wayne Simien
Wiggins swept first round voting over Naadir Tharpe, while Simien won with a strong 83% to Travis Releford's 17%. Wiggins is perhaps the greatest athlete to dawn a Kansas uniform, and despite some complaints about a lack of assertiveness in his year as a Jayhawk, he put together a season of strong numbers, highlight reel plays, and lockdown perimeter defense. Wayne Simien was an oft-injured but popular player from the beginning of the Self years, known for dominant rebounding performances as well as a fantastic scoring touch around the basket.
(3) Jeff Withey vs (2) Joel Embiid
This is one of the most interesting matchups of the second round for me. Jeff Withey handled Perry Ellis in the first round by a 93%-7% margin, while Joel Embiid swept the embattled Cliff Alexander. Jeff Withey took a few years, but eventually developed into a respectable rebounder and post scorer, as well as an elite rim protector who changed the way opponents approached the Jayhawks. Embiid had only one year at Kansas, but developed much more rapidly. While Withey used fantastic footwork to his advantage, Embiid showed jaw-dropping athleticism for a 7-footer, quickly putting together an arsenal of post moves while owning the boards on both ends of the floor, and putting up the 3rd highest block rate of anyone on this list.
(1) Thomas Robinson vs (5) Keith Langford
Robinson, who earned 100% of the vote over Tyrel Reed, faces Keith Langford who surprised me by easily taking out Aaron Miles (73% to 27%). Thomas Robinson finally harnessed his reckless athleticism and talent in his junior year, ending up a Wooden Award finalist after posting a 30.5% defensive rebounding rate, the most dominant number of anyone in the contest. He also developed a solid jump shot and better assist numbers than most seem to remember, all while turning the ball over at a low rate for a big man. He had the athleticism to step away from the basket, with the size and strength to be physically dominant in the post. Keith Langford is 7th on the all-time scoring list at Kansas. He was a slashing wing with a good handle and court vision to go with his keen sense for finding the bottom of the net.
(3) Ben McLemore vs (2) Tyshawn Taylor
McLemore took 86% of the vote over the prophet Elijah Johnson, While Tyshawn grabbed 95% to Sasha Kaun's 5%. Ben McLemore had stunning athleticism and a sweet shooting shooting stroke, both of which helped earn him the 7th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. For a jump shooter, BMac was a hyperefficient scorer and solid defender. Tyshawn Taylor was one of the most criticized players on this list prior to his senior year, when he took over the point guard position and led the team to the National Title game. Taylor had some issues with turnovers, but made up for it with incredible passing and court vision, combined with the ability to get to the rim at will, and a respectable three point stroke.
(1) Sherron Collins vs (4) Darrell Arthur
Sherron Collins picked up every vote over Brady Morningstar, while Darrell Arthur won over Russell Robinson in a more competitive contest, 68% to 32%. Sherron Collins was another fan favorite in his time in Lawrence, repeatedly putting the team on his shoulders late in games and guiding the team to victory (though these performances are sometimes overshadowed by his struggles in the final game of his career). Bill Self has said several times that Collins was the best player he ever coached, and Collins earned that title by simultaneously posting big time scoring and assist numbers. Darrell Arthur, teammate of Sherron's and fellow member of the National Championship team, was a potential one-and-done who ended up staying for two productive years. Arthur was a multifaceted scorer at the power forward spot, and a very strong offensive rebounder. While not a dominant defender, he was able to body up well in the post and block a respectable number of shots.
(3) Brandon Rush vs (2) Markieff Morris
Our final matchup of the second round is also perhaps the most intriguing. Rush took 95% of the vote over Kelly Oubre, while MkMorris took every vote over the controversial JR Giddens. I got more pushback on Brandon Rush's seed than any other player at a 3. Rush was yet another integral piece of the '08 team, a solid scorer, excellent shooter, patient ball handler and dominant perimeter defender. His numbers don't overwhelm, but his defensive contributions were often the kind that don't appear in the box score. Markieff Morris wasn't a lockdown defender, but showed up in the box score in a big way. Kieff's shot selection and ever-improving three point stroke resulted in a 62.6%(!) eFG his junior year, while also posting fantastic rebounding numbers (even while playing alongside Thomas Robinson. He also put up a very respectable 5% block rate to go with his ridiculous 117.6 oRtg.
Voting for the second round will work the same way as the first. Put your votes in the comments section, and all votes coming in by 11:59 tomorrow night (Tuesday the 21st) will be tallied. Look for the results and quarterfinal voting to go up Wednesday morning!
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