The Kansas Jayhawks won their second exhibition game as expected, 92-75, Tuesday night against the Fort Hays State Tigers. The Tigers are a much better team than the Gorillas were last week, so a little more can be ascertained by the overall performance – mainly, that most of the youngsters looked more comfortable.
If there is one thing that stood out, it was that the young Jayhawks were not guarding the perimeter shot as closely as Bill Self coached teams have in the in the past. Kansas is always one of the most effective defenses in the country when it comes to holding opponents under 40% shooting from the field
Fort Hays State, a Division II team, nailed 49.1% of their field goals (27-55), and 42.1% of their 3-point attempts (8-19). Neither of these numbers are acceptable. The Jayhawks need to pressure the perimeter more strictly.
Kansas was whistled for just 15 fouls, which is an indication, in combination with their opponents shooting percentages, that the Jayhawks were not being aggressive enough on defense.
Because Kansas has incredible depth, the Jayhawks should be very aggressive on defense. According to Gary Bedore for the Lawrence Journal World, it doesn’t look like any of the newcomers are going to red-shirt. If that is indeed the case, Coach Self will have 12 bodies he can use with some degree of confidence.
As we all know, Self doesn’t like to play more than 9 players in any real game until it is well in hand. That leaves three players out of the rotation. The bottom three appear to be Brannen Greene, Landen Lucas, and Conner Frankamp. All three offer skills that can enhance this team.
Lucas looks to be a rapidly developing big man with a strong body. Greene and Frankamp might be the Jayhawks best two 3-point shooters. In fact, these two shooters were 4-7 from long range Tuesday, while the rest of the team went 1 for 12 from 3-point range.
If Self needs someone to stretch out defenses a bit, he probably won’t hesitate to insert either Greene or Frankamp into such a situation, regardless of what the planned rotation my be for that night.
With Naadir Tharpe serving a 1-game suspension on Friday, Frank Mason will start against Louisiana-Monroe, as he did against Fort Hays in preparation. Conner Frankamp will have to play the point in a reserve roll. If his performance running the offense against the Tigers is any indication, he may not be ready for such responsibility.
He didn’t have any turnovers in his 17 minutes but he struggled at times getting the team into its offense, and looked as if strong on-the-ball pressure may bother him. He has time to improve in this area.
As far as Frank Mason is concerned, he looked right at home as a starter. The offense didn’t run as quite as smoothly as it did under Naadir Tharpe‘s direction but he certainly played well. In his 19 minutes, he scored 4 points, had 6 assists, a block, and 3 steals, while turning the ball over just once. He looks like he will be a stellar back up to Tharpe after the latter sits out his one game.
Wayne Selden looked much better in his second outing than his first. He scored 13 points to tie Perry Ellis for the team lead in that category. He pulled in 3 rebounds, and added 2 assists and a steal to the cause. When he starts to feel 100% comfortable, he will be a tough fella to guard.
Reserve big men Joel Embiid and Jamari Traylor continue to impress. Embiid shows flashes of brilliance, like scoring two quick baskets in the first half, one on the left side using his left hand, and the other from the right side, showing a nice little jump hook with his right hand. He finished with 8 points and 7 rebounds in 15 minutes.
Traylor tallied 11 points and 7 rebounds in 17 minutes, and looks ready to make a big contribution this season.
As good as they both can look at times, they both need more polish, especially on offense, although Traylor looks much smoother than he did a year ago.
Finally, young Andrew Wiggins got his first lesson in that skill and athleticism cannot replace heart and hustle. At one point, after taking a rest on the bench, Wiggins failed to hustle down the court in the right fashion, and quickly found himself back on the bench with the coaches. The opposition isn’t going to be intimidated by either the name on the front of his jersey or the one on his back.
In fact, Wiggins and Kansas will get everyone’s best shot because their opponents will have nothing to lose. Wiggins and his young teammates will need to stay focused and driven, regardless of the opponent, because everyone will be gunning for the Jayhawks.
Until the very end of the game, Kansas looked smoother and more comfortable as a whole than they did a week ago. They still have a long way to go over the next 6 days as they prepare for Louisiana-Monroe on Friday, and the Duke Blue Devils next Tuesday.
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