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Bill Self: “Your foundation is always your upperclassmen.”

Bill Self (Vicky Graff Photo)

Q. You’ve had one-and-dones before, but we’re looking at a Final Four without a one-and-done. And the trend since 2015 is diminishing at those at this level. Is that an accident or do you think even the best coaches, like Cal and like Coach K, are finding it very difficult to start over again every year?

KANSAS COACH BILL SELF: I can’t speak to what they think or everything. But I know personally, with me, I think the best teams are the ones that your most talented kids are your youngest kid but your foundation is always your upperclassmen. Even when we won it in ’08, we had some unbelievable seniors that have been there and done it and gone through some stuff and then our two most talented kids were sophomores.

But Wigs and Joel, Josh Jackson and Kelly Oubre, we’ve had some really nice players come through there, but there’s so many good players in college basketball, when you think about an 18-, 19-year-old competing against a 22-, 23-year-old that knows how to play, even though there might be a little discrepancy in talent, a lot of times strength and experience offsets that.

I think what happened with Kentucky, which we lost to them in the final game, they still had Miller and they still had some guys that were a little bit older that probably were a foundation for them. But Duke winning it and with primarily young guys, it will happen again where somebody will do that. But I really think the percentage play is having a balance of both.


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  1. I agree with Self.

  2. Absolutely. I would say that 7 or 8 times out of 10, experienced players with talent wins over talent with limited experience. When you can have a talented, experienced player, that’s when it really shows. I may be wrong, but I think the 96 team would beat anything Cal has put on the floor, because they were both talented and experienced at many positions. They didn’t really even have a close game in the tournament. They were just too good.

  3. Not a huge Bill Self fan here, but I agree with his conclusion about the need for experience on teams that will win majority of championships. This is why I believe the recruiting goal each year is to bring in a mix of players, some who are super stars on their way straight to the NBA, perhaps 1 or 2, and 2 or more players who are solid basketball players who will be around for 3 to 4 years and be the experienced anchors on future teams.

    I also believe this recruiting approach is more sustainable over the long term than completely replacing the team every year like Calipari has been trying to do.

    This approach must be honest as well so players like Charles Matthews, Kyle Wiltjer, and others that we have seen come in and then leave for “greener” pastures understand that their day will come, and they will be given all the opportunities they need and deserve in their interests and the program’s interest. The losses of Wiltjer and Matthews has cost this program enormously, and I suggest that there have been other player losses with similar impact over the last 9 seasons.

  4. I really think Cal is losing his magic in recruiting. Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and now Vanderbilt are getting the guys KY used to get. Cal is just not good enough at the X’s and O’s to take top 20 talent and compete with top 5 talent.

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