Bill Self’s Backup – Notes from Kansas vs. Kentucky Champions Classic

By: Chris O’Brien

The Kansas Jayhawks didn’t look very good in their 65 – 61 win over Kentucky in Tuesday’s Champions Classic.

Shooting – 35 percent

3-pt shooting – 28 percent

Free throws – 56 percent

Devonte’ Graham — who ESPN’s panel was predicting to have a big night, Seth Greenberg went so far as saying Graham is better, as of right now, than Miles Bridges and Marvin Bagley III  — went 3-14 from the field, 1 of 6 behind the arc.

Now, I could understand the argument, “Hey, all of that bad stuff happened and they still beat a No. 7 Kentucky team who has seven of the top 100 freshmen.”

But this isn’t your regular John Calipari championship contending Kentucky team. There’s no John Wall/Demarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, or Karl-Anthony Towns type of player. I liked Kevin Knox a lot, Hamidou Diallo looked good, but it didn’t feel like this Wildcats squad has the same sort of ceiling as last year with Fox/Monk/Bam.

Plus these are notes from Bill Self’s (self-declared) back-up. There are no silver linings here. It’s November, time to be tough on the team.

Not a fan of starting Malik Newman over Marcus Garrett

This one left me scratching my head. Garrett looked so good in that first game. 10 points, 10 rebounds. Great defensively. Comparisons were made to Travis Releford.

One game later – Garrett loses his starting spot.

Now, maybe that starting spot was always Newman’s to lose. He is the higher rated prospect after all. And, who knows, maybe Garrett had been outplaying Newman in practice, and that opening night move down to 6th man was Self’s way of lighting a fire under Malik.

I just think Garrett fits better in the starting lineup. Put him on the other team’s best guard, keep that player from getting into a rhythm. Comparing the situation to the NBA, say you had Patrick Beverly and Jamal Crawford on your squad; I would want Beverly in to start for his defense, Crawford on the second unit to provide scoring.

Then, depending on what you need at the end of the game, and depending if Newman is shooting well, you alternate between who gets the final two minutes.

No Numbers, No Numbers!

Newman had these two plays where he went 1-on-3 on a fast break, both ending in a Kentucky block. Time for some grainy screenshots! (images are from guy on couch taking photo of the ESPN telecast. All rights to ESPN and NCAA) 


The second one, spacing with Svi was terrible. Newman basically ran to the same spot. Would have liked to see him drive left and kick out to Svi for that Klay Thompson esque fast break three.

If he’s the sixth man, these plays aren’t bad at all. You want the aggression, want your Jamal Crawford type to take some risks. But as a starter, different standard. And in both situations, I feel like Garrett would have got the ball to Graham, got the ball to Svi.

I would start Garrett and play him 25 minutes a night. Newman would have an identical 25 minutes, picking up 15 minutes of backing up Garrett, 7 – 8 minutes backing up Graham, and a few minutes backing up Vick.

More often than not, I would keep him in during crunch time too as we saw last night with the big three he hit and the two important late game made free throws.

Vick kind of disappeared

The start of the game Vick had five of the first 10 points in about 3-4 minutes. I was like great, more of the same Vick from Game 1. #JoshJacksonLite

But, offensively, he disappeared. Only scored four more the rest of the way.

Defense was still really solid and some of it was same thing as Graham, just an off-shooting night. Graham was 3-14, Vick 4-13.

Weird Rebounding Night

Kansas had the rebounding edge 25-14 in the first half, then had the reverse in the second (outrebounded 25-14).

Second chance points were great in the first half (15-2) not really the same in the second.

Honestly, I think this was probably a fatigue thing, a noticeable area where lack of Preston played out.

I do like the offensive rebounds 18-10 on the game.

The Billy Preston situation is pretty concerning

A car accident where the school is checking out the finances behind Preston having that car…

Fresh off all the Adidas stuff, I was not surprised to see the punchline on Twitter being a wrecking Lamborghini covered in Adidas logos.

Everything is speculation at this point, but this legitimately is a season-defining situation. The Jayhawks can not contend for an NCAA Championship without Preston.

This analogy has some flaws, but… 

Using the 2008 team as the gold standard, it would be like starting the year with Sasha Kaun, but no Darnell Jackson or Darrell Arthur. Mitch Lightfoot playing the role of freshman Cole Aldrich, and I don’t think Lightfoot is ready to go toe-to-toe with Tyler Hansbrough.

IF Kansas can get Preston cleared, and IF they get De Sousa on the squad in December/January, there’s a totally different outlook. Like watching that Duke vs. Michigan State game, there’s no chance Kansas can keep up with those frontcourts. Udoka would likely pickup two fouls early on and then what?

Hoping for the best. Hope this was just a really weird headline and there’s nothing to see here, but got to say I’m a little worried about this one.

Kansas next games are against South Dakota State (Friday, November 17) and Texas Southern (Tuesday, November 21). I will have a new “Bill Self’s Backup” on Wednesday, November 22nd with notes from those games. Hopefully some notes on Preston’s first games… 

Catch up on past posts: 

Vick looked like Josh Jackson Lite in season opener

If you are a Kentucky fan, hey, I need a writer to do these types of posts on the Wildcats. Email me at Also have openings for every other team besides Kansas, Duke, Michigan State, North Carolina, and Missouri (we’re growing fast!) Send me a note, would love to host your show. 

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