All the chatter surrounding the Kansas basketball team has centered on its incredible finishes, which hasn’t left room for much talk about who starts.
That's just fine with Kansas coach Bill Self, who is famous for saying that who finishes the game has far more importance than who starts it. That's difficult to argue, but a pride factor that makes starting important to athletes does enter the equation at some level.
Carlton Bragg started the first five games at power forward, but played his way onto the bench and Self shifted to a four-guard lineup.
Once Udoka Azubuike was lost for the season with a wrist injury shortly before the start of conference play, any suspense as to which center Self would send to the circle vanished and Landen Lucas has started every game since.
The team revolves around leading scorers and ball-handlers Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson.
That leaves just one other spot. Lagerald Vick filled it in the first five games in which Self used the four-guard lineup. Svi Mykhailiuk replaced him and has started 17 games in a row.
Self doesn’t drop hints when he makes a change in his starting lineup, and with Kansas holding onto a three-game lead with four games remaining in the Big 12 race, an argument could be made that since nothing’s broken, nothing needs fixing.
Yet, nobody should be shocked if Self wants to see what inserting Vick back into the starting lineup might do for his rising confidence.
Vick scored 14 points in Monday’s overtime victory against No. 9 West Virginia and had eight points and six rebounds in Saturday’s two-point victory at Baylor. He made 3 of 6 3-pointers in the same week that Svi made 1 of 7.
“I thought he played great,” Self said of Vick after the victory at Baylor.
Josh Jackson said after that game that Vick is, "doing some great things that don’t always show up in the stat book. Without him today, we wouldn’t have won that game.”
Vick has his focus in the right place when the game starts with him on the bench.
“I’ve been able to see what type of defenses they’re in, when I should shoot, when I should drive,” he said. “I’m looking at the other guys and see what they’re not doing and what I can do to help gain another possession, or get a big rebound.”
Vick is a more capable defender and rebounder, but not as skilled a passer as Svi, who is shooting .412 from three, compared to Vick's .377. It's worth wondering whether regaining starter status might spike Vick's confidence.