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28 Days Until Kansas Basketball: Is KU Actually Going Small This Year?

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Player and Coach of the Year Press Conference Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you cheer for a Bill Self team, you know the drill by now. He says something about going small in the preseason and then trots out a lineup with Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor, and Landen Lucas at the same time or something (although Perry was a good 3 man when he played there. Vindication.)

Anyway, we are back for another round of Bill Self talking about playing small:

While he’s correct about the game getting smaller (in that every 7 footer wants to be Kevin Durant rather than Hakeem Olajuwon), I don’t think Kansas is going to go all that small. Sure, in the past Carlton Bragg would probably do a lot more posting up a la Darrell Arthur, but Landen Lucas and Udoka Azubuike aren’t exactly stretch 5s.

If Self was ever going to go small though, it might be with this team. With Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, Josh Jackson, Lagerald Vick, and Svi Mykhailiuk, Kansas has a logjam in the backcourt. With how versatile Jackson and Svi are (each can fairly comfortably play the 1-4, at least in short bursts) and the fact that Mason and Graham can both play either backcourt spot, it is not inconceivable to see four of those guys with Carlton Bragg on the floor (or even with Landen Lucas which, while it wouldn’t be what one traditionally thinks of when they think small ball, would be the Golden State Warriors compared to what Self usually does.

However, I think Kansas going small would get rid of one of its biggest recruiting advantages under Self in that no one showcases big men quite like he does, and no one develops them like Kansas. They don’t always get the big time one and done big men like Jahlil Okafor or Karl Anthony Towns, but Kansas has turned Joel Embiid from an intriguing recruit to #3 pick, and Tarik Black from role player in college to role player in the NBA. Cole Aldrich went from a guy who could barely walk and chew gum at the same time on offense to the best overall big man of the Self era, and Jeff Withey went from gangly transfer to posting the best defensive season in modern college basketball. Recruits, especially the guys who are going to stay for 3+ years, no doubt look at this and realize that in a game that is increasingly leaving their skill set behind, Bill Self can still make them a ton of money.