With so much turnover each year, college coaches have had to shift gears early in each season from teaching X’s and O’s to identifying and nurturing team chemistry. Having so many teams with three, four, even five or six new freshman each season means the coaches who can figure out who plays well with who and which lineups are their best crunchtime lineups will excel early in the season and put themselves in a great spot for the conference season and postseason.
Bill Self is excellent at recruiting more pieces and putting those pieces together as a cohesive unit. However, this 2014-15 season is puzzling in that regard, as Self seems to be struggling to distinguish which lineups play best together and which lineups may need tweaking. What is certain is that Bill Self has a clear idea of his top three players: Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, and Perry Ellis all feature in Self’s top eight most used lineups this season, each getting 75% or more of possible minutes. But of those eight lineups, only two have been used at least 10% of the available minutes this season, with neither even approaching 15% of available minutes. Compare that to last year’s team’s (sadly, lineup data only started being tracked on Kenpom.com last year) top lineup that received 24% of available minutes.
The sticking point here seems to be a lack of trust in a second big man and a third guard for Self. Five players have started at some point this season alongside Mason, Selden, and Ellis, with Landen Lucas most often starting up front alongside Ellis and Svi Mykhailiuk getting the nod most often at the wing. These starting stats, though, are misleading, as Mykhailiuk splits time with Brannen Greene pretty evenly, with Kelly Oubre getting any remaining minutes on the wing. In addition, though Lucas starts often, his minutes are nearly doubled by his sub Cliff Alexander.
Meanwhile, the Big 12 look to be putting up the toughest conference test for KU since they lost the conference last in 2004 to Oklahoma State. The quicker Self can figure out what lineups work best for the Jayhawks, the better, because the road has been bumpy so far, and there does not seem to be a smooth path for a while.
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