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Basketball

WILLIAMS: Bill Self should be the Big 12’s Coach of the Year

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Twelve Big 12 championships in a row.

Sure, there are some “shares” in there but Kansas’ decade-plus stranglehold on the Big 12 is insane. I don’t care how much you guys hate the rock chalkers, you’ve got to respect them.

I’m of the belief that what we have seen this year just might be Bill Self’s best coaching job during his time at Kansas though. Let me explain… 

It starts with the guards. 

Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are what I would consider to be flashy and capable, but not anywhere close to being elite.

Denzel Valentine is elite. Buddy Hield is elite.

Selden will maybe be a second round draft pick (if he elects to go pro) and Mason along with Devonte’ Graham are what I would consider to be upper-tier high-major guards.

There isn’t an Andrew Wiggins or Ben McLemore on this team.

In fact, I would take a former Jayhawk like Elijah Johnson (who was behind McLemore and Travis Releford in Self’s guard pecking order in 2012-13) over any of the Mason, Selden and Graham combo without having to give it much thought.

Give me Monte Morris over any of these guys. 

The only elite player that Self has this year is college basketball’s Tim Duncan, Perry Ellis and he MIGHT get drafted in the second round this summer (DraftExpress.com currently has him going 60th).

The big preseason storyline with this team was how Cheick Diallo would develop (assuming that he was cleared eligible by the NCAA). The blue-chip big man is averaging a modest 2.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game while playing only 7.9 minutes per. 

Relying on the freshman rim protector hasn’t exactly been a home run.

That’s not to mention a guy like Jamari Traylor who has all but disappeared during his senior season.

This is a solid team, but significant contributions from guys like Diallo and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (5.7 points and 1.3 rebounds) were supposed to put Kansas over the top and make them great. 

They haven’t.

It’s been Self molding the old guard into a team that has won 10 straight in what I would consider to be the deepest Big 12 since the league went to its current 10 team format. 

There have been a lot of great coaching jobs in the league this year: How can a guy deny what Bob Huggins has done? In year one, Shaka Smart getting Texas into the NCAA Tournament without Cam Ridley is notable. Tubby Smith getting Texas Tech into the Dance will have him in many national coach of the year conversations (and rightfully so). 

But as we enter the final week of the regular season, Self’s team is ranked No. 1 in every major poll. The Jayhawks are ranked seventh and fifth in offensive and defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com

By any metric out there, the Big 12 is the deepest conference in college basketball, but I’m not convinced that this is an upper-half team (talent wise) that Self has had during his 12-year streak of dominating the conference.

This Kansas team would have been at best a two-seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. There isn’t anything elite about it. 

This team isn’t great. It’s tough though, which means tells me it is incredibly well coached.

If you look at where they were compared (this team once lost to Oklahoma State by 19 in January) to where they are now, I think it’s a no-brainer that Bill Self deserves to be the Big 12’s Coach of the Year.

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