Kansas coach Bill Self revealed he will insert a freshman into his starting lineup Saturday at Colorado, but it's not the one most Jayhawks fans expected.
Instead of starting blossoming future lottery pick Joel Embiid at center, Self is making a chance at point guard.
In a move that will further weaken Kansas' outside shooting but make the Jayhawks more explosive off the dribble, freshman Frank Mason will replace junior Naadir Tharpe, Self told the Lawrence Journal-World. Mason is averaging 8.9 points, 2.9 assists and 1.0 turnovers in 17 minutes per game so far this season.
The timing of Self's decision is interesting because Mason is coming off the worst stretch of his brief Kansas career. Mason committed two silly fouls in the final two minutes of the Jayhawks' closer-than-expected 67-63 victory over UTEP in the third-place game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, enabling the Miners to trim a late 14-point deficit to three in the closing seconds.
What Self's decision clearly reflects is that he's happier with Mason's overall play than Tharpe's. Mason is even less of a threat from behind the arc than Tharpe is, but his ability to attack defenders off the dribble, create for his teammates and finish through contact at the rim are all assets for the Jayhawks.
“Frank doesn’t talk, but he’s been great," Self told the Journal-World. "He had about as bad a two minutes against UTEP as a guy could possibly have to end the game ... but if you’re going to line up the games that are hard to win on who our best player has been, you can make a case it’s been Frank, whether it be Duke, Villanova, Wake. I’m really pleased with him."
The question with the move will be what it does to Tharpe, who will still be needed to spell Mason for 15-20 minutes per game.
Best-case scenario, it further motivates the 5-foot-11 junior. Worst-case scenario, it's a confidence-sapping move from which Tharpe struggles to recover.