Despite having more than a week of unlimited practice time, the Kansas Jayhawks (9-4) did not appear to have improved as a whole has they suffered their first non conference home loss in more than 7 years Sunday afternoon, losing to the San Diego State Aztecs (13-1), 61-57.
Make no mistake about it – the Kansas Jayhawks are in trouble. In the next fourteen days, they face five teams that are as good or better than the teams that have already beaten the Jayhawks. This brutal stretch of games that begins the Big 12 game portion of the season includes at Oklahoma (12-2) Wednesday night, Kansas State (11-3), at Iowa State (13-0), Oklahoma State (12-2), and Baylor (12-1).
Very little from Sunday’s loss indicates the Jayhawks are ready for conference play. Their half court offense was terrible, they got embarrassed on the backboards, and they didn’t play with any defensive intensity until there was about 13 minutes left in the game.
Kansas connected on just 6 of 29 field goal attempts in the first half for 20.7 %. For the game, they were 17 for 57, or 29.8%. According to Gary Bedore of the Lawrence Journal World, it was the worst shooting day for the Jayhawks in Allen Fieldhouse since Roy Williams’ first season, 1988-989, the first season the stat was officially kept by the NCAA.
“I thought, of course, our offense was totally inept, in large part because they really guard,” Self said of the No. 21-ranked (12-1) Aztecs. “There was definitely a lid (on basket), the biggest lid was they really guard. We made five shots outside of six inches — four threes (in 16 tries) and Frank (Mason) made a long two. Those are the only shots we made that were not layups. It’s hard to win if can’t make the defense pay for sagging.”
The Jayhawks are not going to win many games shooting that poorly.
They also won’t win many games being as soft and weak on the backboards as they were Sunday, especially in the second half. The Aztecs outrebounded Kansas 51-39. The Jayhawks pulled in just 23 defensive caroms in the game but San Diego State pulled in 19 offensive boards. In a nutshell, for every misfired shot by the Aztecs, it was almost 50/50 proposition that Kansas would reel in the rebound.
In the second half, as Kansas was fighting and scratching their way back into the game, the Aztecs hit the offensive boards hard, grabbed the misses, and put the ball in the hole. The Aztecs finished the game with three players with 9 or more rebounds, topped by Josh Davis who corralled 14.
Joel Embiid pulled in 12 but no other Jayhawk had more than 5.
A couple of things Kansas did do well was reduce their turnovers. San Diego State had forced 190 turnovers so far this season but the Jayhawks only committed 10 Sunday. Naadir Tharpe, who led the team with 5, did not turn the ball over.
Kansas also blocked a lot of shots. The Jayhawks rejected 13 shots, led by Embiid’s 5. Of course, Kansas had 8 of their own blocked as well.
Freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Frank Mason led the team with 14 points, and Embiid added another 12, as these three scored 40 of the Jayhawks 57 total points. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, and the KU bench, with the exception on Mason, barely showed up for the game. In fact, Ellis was a total non factor in the game until he missed a free throw to tie the game with 46 seconds left, then bobbled the diving save by Embiid right out of bounds seconds later.
For whatever reason, Wayne Selden has been given a pass for his poor play so far this season. He has made very little improvement and seems to do more negative than positive things most games. Why Selden continues to start in front of Frank Mason remains a mystery. Mason is a better player at this point in their careers than Selden is in every aspect of the game but maybe rebounding.
At some point, Selden is going to finally take a step forward but until he does, there is no reason to start him in front of Mason.
Naadir Tharpe continues to be one of the poorer defensive players that Self has had at Kansas. He loses his man constantly by turning his back as a defender, or leaving his man open. He is too slow to prevent guys from blowing by him, and he can’t close on shooters quickly enough to bother their shots. The fact that Self doesn’t have better guards on this team than Selden and Tharpe is a worrisome issue.
The Jayhawks streak of 9 straight Big 12 Conference regular season titles is going to end this season. There are too many good teams, and Kansas has too many issues in which they can’t seem to fix. Kansas may not even finish in the top 3 in the conference, and double figure losses on the season is a very real possibility.