Self's wakeup call rings loud and clear
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Thank goodness for the Blizzard of 2005.
If Kansas didn't get snowed in last Saturday in Philadelphia, then the Jayhawks might have taken a lot longer to recover from the 21-point thrashing Villanova levied on them at the Wachovia Center.
You see, the Jayhawks' plan was to fly home after the game and then, as senior Aaron Miles said, "go our separate ways."
There wouldn't have been any breakdown tape session with "plenty of yelling," according to senior Wayne Simien.
There needed to be at least a stern lecture after senior Keith Langford described the Jayhawks' effort in the second half as, "[We] got to the point where we had one foot on the bus already. Before we got there, we were already being told that we were snowed in and weren't getting back."
The Jayhawks went back to a downtown Philadelphia hotel and hunkered down to wait out the storm. Kansas coach Bill Self took advantage of the sudden team love-in and decided to go John and Yoko on them.
He wanted to give peace a chance and air out the concerns of this team, rather than let the anger and the disappointment simmer into some sort of unrest.
"It was a bad day, and I felt we might as well make it a miserable day and once morning comes it would be over," Self said. "We broke down every possession, the guys saw the body language and we had a chance to talk and redefine things. We talked about the things the players needed to hear."
They were obviously listening.
A week later, the Jayhawks are smoking. Kansas turned around two days after the Philly failure to beat Baylor in Waco by 20. Saturday night, Kansas blitzed Texas 90-65 to take control of the Big 12.
Oklahoma helped the case by losing earlier in the day at Iowa State. Oklahoma State already has two losses. Texas has three. Kansas has none, meaning the Big 12 title will go through Lawrence.
The Jayhawks get Oklahoma State at home without a return (they don't return to Texas, either) and still have to go to Oklahoma. But if Kansas plays the rest of the season the way it did Saturday night, then the Big 12 title isn't the only championship back within reach.
"The team you saw [Saturday] is hopefully the one you'll see the rest of the year," said Simien, who scored 14 of his 27 points in the first half.
"Right now, [the Big 12] goes through Lawrence," Simien said. "We're sitting on top with OU, Oklahoma State and Texas."
Texas never had a chance. The Longhorns are playing without P.J. Tucker for the rest of the season and possibly down LaMarcus Aldridge, too. Texas was overrun by the Jayhawks and the raucous "Phog" Allen crowd. Kansas had 24 assists on 36 baskets and moved the ball fluidly on the break and in the halfcourt.
Kansas wasn't whole, either, down freshman C.J. Giles (bruised foot) and Alex Galindo (groin). That didn't seem to be an issue as long as Simien was back to being his dominant self. Simien is back in the player of the year race after missing four games with an injured thumb.
Simien was averaging 16.2 points and 9.6 boards since his return. He nearly had the points in the first half.
Which Simien is better, the one before he was injured or the one after?
"Both of them are a beast," Miles said. "He's getting better looks, too."
When the Jayhawks were slumbering through a two-point victory against Nebraska (the Huskers had a chance to win the game on the last possession), they weren't working as hard. Those are Self's words. He said they were assuming Simien's return meant he would gobble up the boards and come up with the defensive stops. Overall, he said the Jayhawks had been playing like a tired team and were just waiting for Simien to get going again.
Well, Simien has and that's why the Jayhawks are ready to get on a roll. Sure, this is the same team that beat Georgia Tech and won at Kentucky without Simien to prove its toughness, but it's also the team that got toasted at Villanova.
That's why Saturday's punishment of Texas was so telling. Self said this is the real Kansas team. If that's the case, then Missouri likely will get the same treatment as Texas when the Tigers stumble into Lawrence on Monday.
And that's only the beginning with the final six weeks in the conference on tap.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
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