Wayne Selden can shift KU's fortune 

January, 13, 2014
Wayne SeldenDenny Medley/USA TODAY SportsIf Wayne Selden plays like he has over the past week, the outlook for Kansas changes.
All the talk in Lawrence has centered around Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and the questions surrounding the point guard duo of Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason.

However, the key to Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks might be the play of their third freshman, Wayne Selden.

Self loves toughness. He needs toughness. He rode the duo of Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor all the way to the national championship contest a couple of years ago. That wasn’t exactly a loaded group of NBA prospects, but those two guys consistently imposed their will and it got the Jayhawks to the final game of the season.

Wiggins hasn’t displayed a ton of toughness to this point. The same can be said about Embiid -- but the skilled 6-foot-11 Cameroon native has an excuse; he’s still learning the game. Perry Ellis and Tharpe wouldn’t be described as tough kids, either. But Selden possesses that killer instinct. Self and the assistant coaches saw it throughout the preseason, when he and Ellis were the two most productive players on the floor on most days.

“He gives us a physical toughness and a great competitive spirit,” Self told me Sunday. “Guys feed off of it.”

The strong and powerful Selden came out of the gates strong, scoring 15 points in the Jayhawks' win over Duke on Nov. 12 in Chicago. But that was his highest scoring output until this past week, when he strung together his best two offensive performances of his young career.

Kansas was 9-4, with road losses at Florida, Colorado, Villanova (in the Bahamas) and then the shocker last weekend in Allen Fieldhouse against 21st-ranked San Diego State. And Selden’s play was worrisome. He had as many turnovers (four) as points in the loss to the Gators. In the four losses, he made just seven total field goals and scored 19 points. Those in Lawrence -- and not just the fans -- were worrying about Selden and KU overall. Would this be the year the Big 12 streak ends?

It could depend on Selden, because the version we've seen over the past week can be the difference-maker for the Jayhawks. Selden can take pressure off Wiggins and can bring much-needed toughness to the table. Selden can shoot it, he can finish around the basket and he’s a capable passer who is able to set up guys such as Wiggins and Embiid for easy baskets.

Selden showed it all the past two games. He made 16 of 27 shots from the field, drilled 8 of 15 shots from behind the arc and was the key to a pair of critical wins over Oklahoma and Kansas State.

“We’re a different team when he plays like that,” Self said.

Final Four contenders.

Best of the non-Power Seven

Most of you know all about the big boys who are on display each and every night, but we give you a quick rundown of the top 10 teams outside the Power Seven (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, American) that you need to keep your eye on come March.

1. Wichita State: The Shockers remain undefeated after a come-from-behind, overtime road win against Missouri State. Gregg Marshall can coach, these guys have the experience of playing in the Final Four a year ago and have a couple of studs in Cleanthony Early and Ron Baker.

[+] EnlargeKenyatta Smith
Joe Murphy/Getty ImagesA healthy Kenyatta Smith will provide a big boost for the Crimson.