Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Bill Self: This KU Basketball Team Lacks Two Traits Previous 14 Incarnations Had

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Bill Self: This KU Basketball Team Lacks Two Traits Previous 14 Incarnations Had

Article excerpt

LAWRENCE -- In the immediate aftermath of his team's first defeat of the season, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said the poor performance was one he could see on the horizon.

Two days later, Self theorized it won't be the last slip-up for the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks.

"It's a long season and we were not going to run the table, I can guarantee you that. And it won't be the last time it happens this year," Self said Friday. "If we can learn from it and be better from it, then it'll be OK. But certainly we need to learn from it."

The Jayhawks (7-1) get their first crack at showing what they've learned in a Top 25 showdown against No. 16 Arizona State (7-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse.

While Self said he's been "really proud" of his team seven times this year -- including in grind-it-out victories against Kentucky and Syracuse -- this year's squad still lacks two elements featured prominently on each of his other 14 teams: an extra-possession mentality and flat-out toughness.

"I mean, let's just call it like it is," Self said. "You're replacing Frank (Mason) with somebody that's not near as competitive as Frank, you're replacing Josh (Jackson) with somebody that's not near as competitive as Josh and you're replacing Landen (Lucas) with somebody that doesn't know how to be competitive yet. And those aren't negatives -- those are facts."

Losing a consensus national player of the year (Mason) and the No. 4-overall pick in the NBA Draft (Jackson) was always going to be a blow from a pure talent standpoint, but Self indicated he is disappointed with the dropoff in toughness from the duo to Devonte' Graham and Lagerald Vick, and the same for Lucas' replacement, 7-foot sophomore center Udoka Azubuike.

"We had two-and-a-half dogs last year, and Landen was close to being a full one," Self said. "Bad play wasn't as big a deal because the goal every night was to make the other teams play bad. This team, right now, the mindset is a little different. We don't approach it as we need to make somebody else play bad. We approach it as we need to play better than them. Well, you're not always going to play well.

"I think our mindset can improve there. I think it will."

Asked which players could develop into "dogs" come season's end, Self said he is optimistic Vick could "without question," Graham is "close, but not quite there yet" and Svi Mykhailiuk, while not a dog, is "a lot tougher than he was last year." Self also put freshman guard Marcus Garrett in this group.

Still, this year's team has a long way to go to fill the shoes left behind by the likes of Mason and Jackson.

"You look at the personalities or whatnot, we've got some really nice young men," Self said. "I don't know that anybody ever, first thing they (said) after playing Frank or Josh was, 'Hey, those were some nice young men. …

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