Kansas’ woes seemed to start with the trip to the Bahamas for the Battle for Atlantis, where they suffered their first loss to eventual champions Villanova and had a close win against a mediocre UTEP team. Since returning back to the United States, they have lost road games at Colorado and Florida.
Three losses in four games isn’t a big deal to most programs, but it doesn’t happen to Kansas often. What are some the causes of this subpar stretch of games?
- Point guard play has been uninspired. Junior Naadir Tharpe waited his turn behind Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson to assume the starting role, but he lasted only six games before being replaced by freshman Frank Mason in the starting lineup. Mason hasn’t fared any better as the starting point guard, including an awful 0 assists, 5 turnover game against Florida. The problem hasn’t been solely on offense. Opposing point guards are having very little trouble getting into the lane and making plays against the combo.
- Three-point shooting for the Jayhawks has been awful, at just below 32% so far on the season. Little-used Andrew White III has hit as many threes (7) as highly regarded freshman Wayne Selden. Andrew Wiggins showed NBA three-point range at the end of the Florida game when he hit in three in a row in the final minutes, but he still below 37% on the season. In nine games, the Jayhawks have hit only 42 three-point shots and their 31.7 percentage is 238th in the country right now.
- As a component of the lack of defensive pressure put on by the point guard position, the Jayhawks as a whole aren’t doing a very good job pressuring the ball. Kansas is only forcing 11 turnovers per game, and with players such as Selden and Wiggins who flourish in the open court, this leads to lost scoring opportunities.
Wiggins is starting to emerge ton be the player that many have expected, though he needs to start asserting his way earlier in games and not waiting for when Kansas is looking to come back. Perry Ellis has showed a lot of improvement as a sophomore, but the Jayhawks need to find ways to get him more touches around the basket. Joel Embiid does a very good job as a rim protector, but he is only playing 20 minutes a game, dies in some part to foul issues. Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Tarik Black has done very little through 9 games, and the Jayhawks are going to need his toughness against New Mexico and Georgetown.
A 6 and 3 record is certainly not bad enough to panic, especially with the losses being Villanova, Colorado and Florida, but with a lot of young players playing prominent roles, growing pains can continue for a bit longer.