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Summer Series Installment #3: Kansas

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Former Head Coach Turner Gill thought Bill Self was joking when he told him his basketball program brings in 10x the cash his football team does.

Football: If there's one thing we all learned from the last two summers of Realignment, it was Football that mattered. It's no surprise then that someone as quaint as Bernadette Gray-Little, could see that in two years, Turner Gill was essentially buying the lot, digging the hole and writing the epitaph for the University of Kansas as a BCS associate. How bad were the last two years, you ask?

From the day of the hire of Coach Gill, I had one of those proud moments with the in-laws in which I tried to tell my brother-in-law via a classy facebook fight that there was no way Gill could do better than Mark Mangino (who keep in mind finished 50-48 at KU). So sure, while I wish I could take that public record back, I can't say I was wrong. I told him it was a poor hire, following Gill's 5-7 last season at Buffalo. I said he was trending downward. No sooner than the September 4th, 2010 home opener was Turner helping my cause. In his first ever BCS-AQ game as a coach, Turner Gill lead KU to a 3-6 Loss vs Division 1AA North Dakota State. Feeling high on myself, Coach Gill totally redeemed himself by defeating the then ranked #15 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at home 28-25. But folks from there it was all down "The Hill". KU finished 2010 3-9, where the average score in the 9 losses was essentially 36-9. Apparently MAC style defensive schemes don't slow Big 12 offenses very well. But as you see offense was anemic as well. Of the 179 total points scored on the year, 35 of those came from the 4th quarter of the freakiest of freak shows to come out of Lawrence against the Colorado Buffalos in comeback fashion. This was perhaps the only time all season the 'Hawks re-wrote the history books in a good way.

Sometimes when a train wreck such as a 2010 season occurs like it did for the Jayhawks, it's easy to think you can only go up, right? WRONG. Turner Gill molded enthusiasm and positivity into a regression of success going 2-10 in 2011. Part of the difference in records came from the fact that Georgia Tech realized how crappy they must have played to lose to a team like that. So in 2011 when the 'Hawks played the return visit, Georgia Tech got back at the 'Hawks by simply rolling up 604 yards rushing, and an additional 164 yards passing for a total of 768 total yards of offense in a 66-24 whipping that started as a 24-17 halftime GT lead. Perhaps that was rock bottom, but Oklahoma State had another story to tell, as they hung 70 to the Jayhawks 28...and in-state Rivals your Kansas State Wildcats put up 59 for the second year in a row in Lawrence...and the departing Texas A&M Aggies throttled KU 61-7 helping the 2011 season unfold statistically something like this: in the 10 losses, the average score was 46-18. I will say that this year brought two of the closest occasions I've ever had to cheer for KU in anything, and in football I would have liked to have seen the last installment of the "Border War" end up in the W column of the ledger for KU. Would have been a nice way for the Missouri Tigers to be sent packing. But alas Turner made sure Mizzou took the record books with them on the way out the door losing once again.

Needless to say a 5-19 (21% winning percentage) 2-year span would not hold up through another round of realignment, forcing the administration to find a third head football coach to pay concurrently. Their choice? A man of theater, who's more concerned about the acting than the playing of football itself. No, there's no denying that HC Charlie Weis was an improvement. I certainly see a absolute ceiling of 6 wins for 2012, but I would see that as best case scenario. For Weis, duplicating the success of a guy like Paul Rhoads should be the goal. One thing's for sure, Weis can mold quarterbacks. Can he mold them like Art Briles? Most likely not. But with good qb play comes potential to succeed in college football. We'll see how the year progresses and what future projections for Charlie might be.

Men's Basketball: For as fun as it was for me to poke fun at the dire state of KU football, transversely by not ignoring the facts in pains me to have to break down their basketball success of which I am most certainly jealous of (to what degree, hard for me to judge). So when Coach Bill Self isn't representing the face of the University for all things public in the off-season, he wins games during the season.

The 2010-11 season brought the return of the Morris dorkous twins. Equipped with their bad attitudes (actually one of them, and I don't remember which was halfway bearable) and their tattoos, the Morris twins helped lead KU to a 35-3 record overall. Within the season included the usual go up by 25 in the first half vs KSU at Allen Fieldhouse drubbing of your Wildcats 90-66 but your Wildcats found a way to pull out of a mid-season slump by accounting for 33% of KU's losses on the year with a single 84-68 victory behind a little sandstorm and Jacob Pullen who had battle scars to prove it. Nonetheless, when you go 35-3 and don't win the National Championship that means every other championship was won prior to what became loss #3 on the year. And hence the Jayhawks did indeed win both the regular season at 14-2 and the conference tournament title.

After the Morris Twins, Tyrell Reed, Old man Morningstar and Mario Little moved on, most everyone assumed 2011-12 would be a down year. One thing to remember in Lawrence, KS however, is that the word "down" is a relative term when it comes to basketball season. There's no question Bill Self is one of the game's greatest active coaches. Whatever it is, he has a knack for cracking what it is about keeping a team from playing as a team, and then instituting the solution. With a few bumps and bruises early in the season, including a 74-80 loss at the Sprint Center to Davidson, it appeared there was some clout to that assessment that the 'Hawks were in fact "down". However from that point forward, KU went 20-2 winning another conference regular season title along the way at 16-2 in a round robin format that over the summer radio talking heads said would never be won beyond 14-4. If you measure a year in trophies like they do at KU, then I guess 2011-12 was "down" from 2010-11 as the Baylor Bears made sure that they would be the ones in the Big 12 tournament championship game against the Missouri Tigers. However, from an outsider's perspective I would think I'd rather see the regular season championship and at least a shot at a National Championship as a more rewarding season than losing in the elite 8. The NCG this year marked the second time I came close to cheering for KU in my life, as I hate when media crowns a national champion in November like they did with Kentucky and that's all you hear. However I only came "close" to cheering for KU, and ultimately was happy with the outcome. Until KSU accumulates 6 national championships, I will never cheer for KU in a NCG. So I think it's safe to say I will never cheer for KU in my lifetime in that scenario. After losing to Kentucky the Jayhawks finished up the year 32-7.

With yet another ridiculous recruiting class coming in this year, and those that didn't qualify last year yet have a year under Self's practices, it would be hard to pick against KU for favorites for a 9th straight conference title. Please Bruce, please don't let it become 9 straight. With a 2 year total of 67-10, I don't think Bill Self has lost his touch. I would think you could average the two previous years' loss totals out to be 5 losses, and not expect the 2012-13 Jayhawks to lose any more games than that. On top of that, even if their streak of conference championships ends this year you have to think still it would be hard to imagine a year where KU doesn't win one of either the regular season or conference tournament trophy. We'll see though, we'll see.

Women's Basketball: The part of this story that looks like an anomaly goes something like this: a team that starts off conference play at 1-6 and ends with a 6-10 record (2 wins came over Colorado, and they got one more in the first round of the Big 12 tournament...methinks CU was the #12 seed that year) still makes it to the NCAA tournament without winning its conference tournament. To me that tells me one of two things: That would never happen on the Men's side (ok except maybe for a Big East), or the Big 12's conference RPI is flat out ridiculous. Regardless the 2010-11 LadyJays finished 23-15 being bounced in the second round of the NCAAs by Duquesne after beating in-state competitor Wichita State in the first round in Lawrence.

2011-12 ended up not being too much different, except the additional conference games turned into two additional wins, as they "improved" to 8-10. Overall they finished 21-13 losing to Women's basketball juggernaut Tennessee in the NCAA tournament. At 44-28 in the two years, I would only think that if success was to be maintained, it would come off of the fact that Texas A&M is no longer in the league and perhaps WVU and TCU could have poor WBB teams, but I don't know that until installments #8 and #9. If I was a betting man I say KU is on the outside looking in at 64 teams come next March.

Baseball: In 2011 the hardball 'Hawks came out of the gates snoozing at 7-10. Furthermore they helped KSU win 14 of 15 matches in the major sports by going 0-fer, dropping 3 of the 4 games on the schedule. I believe the 4th was dropped for weather reasons and never replayed due to its position late in the schedule. Regardless, even in a "what could have been" scenario KU wasn't going to polish their turd of a 26-30 season much greater.

So in 2012, in order to save face you would of thought KU could at least go .500? Instead they finish 24-34 fattening up on wins over NAIA schools like Baker University and St. Mary's (Kan.), although they find greater prosperity over the Bat 'Cats by splitting the series 2-2. Of other split series of note, KU did go 1-1 vs. Cinderella Stoney Brook, as well as 2-2 vs Mizzou who were NCAA regional qualifiers. KU also made a little hay in the Big 12 tournament by stealing a game from the Texas Longhorns.

After compiling a 50-64 record over two seasons, there's not much promise of much more from here moving forward, especially when TCU joins the league.

Volleyball: KU's volleyball team started off conference play in IMO: losing to KSU. The beakers were only able to amass a 17-14 record in 2010, but things turned worse in 2011. In 2011, KU started off 11-1, but ran into a buzzsaw named Bevo to start off conference play, to go on a 7 game losing skid. Sure the 7 game losing streak was over, but when the dust settled there were only 2 notches in the non-L column after conference play as Texas Tech proved to be the sacrificial lamb in 2011. 2011 finished looking like 14-15. With the downward trend the two year record looks like 31-29. Similar to women's basketball, improvement might rely on if TCU and WVU sucking in volleyball, but again, until installments 8 and 9, who knows?

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