After seven game-free days for finals week, the No. 2-ranked Kansas basketball team returns to the floor to face Montana on Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU enters the day averaging 90.0 points, making 52% of its field goals and hitting 46.9% from 3-point range.
Kansas coach Bll Self said he’s had some other good scoring teams, but never had a team that can go and get a shot so quickly, like this one. That’s part of what has made points come so easily for the Jayhawks thus far.
Bill Self is the first to admit that senior forward Jamari Traylor isn’t the most talented post player he can put on the floor for KU. But Self gave a little insight into why he still turns to Traylor and what the 6-foot-8 forward gives the Jayhawks:
“He's kind of at an in-between size,” Self said, “and having to play against big guys, but he always gives us great effort, and he's very, very bright, and he understands how to play, and other guys really enjoy playing with him, so he makes the game easier for others.”
Traylor started the first seven games of the season for Kansas, but even Self doesn’t know exactly what Traylor’s role will entail the rest of the season, as far as on-court contributions.
“I mean, one, he has to be a great leader to our younger guys, without question,” Self said of Traylor, adding later the senior really pulls for the young players to have success. “He's a better player than he was two years ago, but we also have more players in our program than we did a couple years ago when he was playing quite a bit of minutes off the bench. I think it still remains to be seen on a couple of the guys on what their role will be as the season moves forward.”
Then there’s this part of Traylor’s presence:
“I think if you were going to ask any of our players on the team who's the easiest guy to play with out of all our bigs, everyone would say Jamari,” Self said. “Everybody, Frank, Devonté, Wayne, they'd probably say Jamari. If that's the case, then you want to try to do what's best for your team over time, and certainly there's times where he gives us the best chance. But that's not consistent. There's sometimes where others do, as well.”
Self switched things up a little the last two games and started seldom-used senior big man Hunter Mickelson as his fifth starter, instead of Traylor.
KU’s coach said the 6-foot-9 Mickelson has provided Kansas with some good moments of late — such as hitting a couple of jumpers in the second half vs. Oregon State.
But Self thinks Mickelson can be more helpful for Kansas.
“You know, it's great that you have five guys that can all make jump shots,” Self said, “but we need to have one guy that can make a basket in tight that you can throw it to and can get fouled, too. Even though he's done some nice things, there's still some other things that he could do that could probably best benefit the team, but I like Hunter.”
Pretty surprising that Brannen Greene is starting in place of Devonté Graham. Will be interested to hear what led to that. Graham looks like himself in warm-ups — no signs of him moving awkwardly or anything like that.
This KU front-court minutes debate has lated longer than anticipated. KU only has 3 games left before Big 12 play starts vs. Baylor and no one has emerged as THE big guy inside to play alongside Perry Ellis.
Obviously Self wants somebody/anybody from KU’s contingent of big men to start playing like a reliable inside scoring threat. And the coach clearly wants Ellis to assert himself more in that capacity.
As much as Self wants to find a big man who compliments Ellis, he also wants more out of Ellis if no one else is going to step up as an inside scoring option.
“We need (Ellis) to play bigger, and I'm not being negative, but the whole thing is that Perry's strength in a lot of ways is moving away from the basket,” Self said.
So will Brannen Greene come out gunning or ease himself into the starting 5? We'll soon find out. (And I'm betting he's gunning.)