Memphis and Kansas reserves not just sitting around
By Marlen Garcia, USA TODAY
Chris Douglas-Roberts, leading scorer for Memphis' top-ranked basketball team at 16.6 points a game, barely breaks a sweat sometimes. He doesn't always get the chance because on average, he plays 27 minutes a game. Second-ranked Kansas' leading scorer, Darrell Arthur, averages fewer than 24.
Both teams, the only unbeaten Division I teams in the country, get sizable contributions from the bench. Memphis' reserves average 27.8 points a game heading into their date with visiting Gonzaga on Saturday (ESPN, noon). That's the same number Kansas' subs are contributing going into their Big 12 game against Nebraska.
Whether backup guard Andre Allen fills in for Derrick Rose at Memphis or Kansas' Sherron Collins is giving the Jayhawks a high-octane boost off the bench, both squads have high performing reserves.
"In both cases, they have players coming off the bench that are good enough to start on most top-20 teams," says ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, who coached at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico. The key is getting starters and reserves alike to check their egos at the door, Fraschilla says.
Douglas-Roberts, for instance, could be scoring more than 20 points a game with a few more minutes in the lineup, but Memphis coach John Calipari says his starters willingly give up minutes to reserves. On the flip side, Memphis reserves have learned to accept limited roles.
"I had to make a statement one day because I think guys off the bench wanted to play more," Calipari says. "I walked into our team meeting and I said, 'I want to tell Chris Douglas-Roberts, Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier and Joey Dorsey, I appreciate that you're accepting the fact of playing only 25 minutes when you probably should play 35.' I basically was making a statement like, 'Hey, guys, let's respect your position and be the best at your position in the country.' And you know what? I think they're taking that on."
Fraschilla believes Kansas' bench is slightly stronger than Memphis'.
"Kansas may have a little bit more power up front with their bench," he says. "(Center) Sasha Kaun had been a starter and Cole Aldrich, the 10th man, was a McDonalds' All-American last year. (Kansas) can withstand injury a little easier."