By Rustin Dodd
One year later, the Ghost of the Topeka YMCA still lingers.
On Saturday evening, No. 8 Kansas will return to TCU, the site of the Jayhawks' most shocking loss last season. On Feb. 6, 2012, No. 5 KU shot just 29.5 percent and suffered a 62-55 loss to a TCU squad that was 0-8 in the Big 12.
In the moments after the Jayhawks' setback, Kansas coach Bill Self famously said that no Kansas team had been that bad since James Naismith's squads had taken on the Topeka YMCA in the late 1890s.
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It was a classic line — only adding to one of the more bizarre nights in recent KU history.
"Bizarro," Self said on Thursday during his weekly news conference. "That was one of the strangest games we've been a part of, because I was reminded today, by one of our coaches, saying, 'Bill, I don't know if you remember, that's the most ready to play (we were) all year. Best practices, most intense warm-up, everybody focused, all that stuff, and we came out and laid an egg.
"I don't know if there's really a correlation — over time it's how you practice will be how you play, but sometimes it can jump up and shock you, and that was one of those times that shocked us."
If there's a lesson to be learned heading into Saturday, it's this: You can't take anything for granted in the Big 12, even as KU prepares to face a TCU squad that is 9-9 and dropped to 0-6 in the Big 12 after a loss at Oklahoma on Wednesday.
"They beat us," Self said of last year's game. "We had two teams whip us last year: TCU and Baylor. Everybody else was a one-possession game, of our other four losses. They handled us, so there was nothing taken away from them."
Recruiting miss was a gift
College basketball recruiting can be a crapshoot, and Self on Thursday offered an example of how luck and timing can affect a recruiting class. In 2012, Kansas was recruiting big man Karviar Shepherd, a Texas native, rather hard out of high school, offering him a scholarship. If Shepherd would have accepted, Self said, KU probably would have backed off recruiting current freshman Joel Embiid.
But Shepherd chose to play closer to home at TCU, and the rest was history.
"It's weird how things work out," Self said. "We offered Karviar a scholarship, and we only had one to give, and if he's have taken it, then we would have been out on (Joel).
"But he committed to TCU, and Karviar Shepard is going to be a good player. There's no question he's going to be a good player, and he's getting better all the time."
Shepherd is currently averaging 8.4 points and 7.6 rebounds while starting all 18 games for TCU.
"That's how recruiting works sometimes," Self said. "You recruit a couple of guys, and the timing needs to be right. But I'm really high on him. I think he's got a chance to be very, very good."
More from Wiggins?
After Kansas' victory over Baylor on Monday, Self conceded that KU freshman Andrew Wiggins — as good as he's been this season — can often leave him wanting more on the court. It was meant, Self says, as a compliment.
Wiggins is averaging 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, and yet it can feel like he is capable of much more.
On Thursday, Self added to those comments, saying he believed Wiggins was just a few plays per game from averaging closer to 20 points and 10 rebounds.
"I talked to him about it with his dad afterwards," Self said, mentioning a conversation he had with Andrew and his father, Mitchell. "He had 17 points the other night. If he's strong with the ball after he rebounds it, he scores 20 or 21 because they strip him or whatever, and that would be a foul if you are more aware and if you're stronger.
"It's not that I want him shooting it more. I just want him to have more of a presence because there's not too many guys out there that you look at and you say, 'Ok, yeah, he got 20 but it could have been 28, or he got 16 but it could have been 22, or he had eight rebounds but it could have been 14. And that's what I talk about by — I think his numbers should be in the vicinity of 20 and 10 every game.
"But that's not going to happen like that, and I know that, and sometimes you don't make shots. But I think just like the other day, he didn't put his head down and drive it at all the first half. The second half he drove it every time and got fouled like on three or four straight possessions. Well, to me those are free points, and he's got to be more aggressive doing things like that. But he's done well."