Colorado v Kansas

Wish List: Boards and wing defense top KU’s letter to Santa

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Kansas plays Belmont at 7:00 PM eastern. Will any of these needs be addressed by then? Or is Saint Nick still on the hook?

Gotta have it list-topper: Perimeter defense 

Thanks to Jeff Withey and his friends, Jayhawk opponents are finding it nearly impossible to score inside. According to Kenpom, only 36.4% of shots inside the arc fall in for teams unlucky enough to face KU. Since everyone’s going to be bombing from outside, the numbers might skew a bit, but it’s currently a fact that Kansas has a very average three-point defense, ranking 190th in the nation. Bill Self’s teams tend to get better at defense as the year goes on, and this season’s version of the ‘Hawks is long on backcourt youth. If Johnson, McLemore et al can tighten up a notch or two, this team will be even more dangerous come March.

Stocking stuffer: Rebounds 

Jeff Withey has a pretty mild personality, but he is the center of this team’s approach. As Luke Winn pointed out this week, not only is Withey blocking an insane amount of shots, but nearly all of his blocks land in a teammate’s hands. Given that Withey is most effective on defense with his back to the basket, watching for low-hanging fruit to swat, his frontcourt mates must be the ones to watch the ball, box out and grab any altered shots that fall short. Slender Kevin Young has been KU’s clean-up guy so far this year, and performed admirably in that role against Colorado last week, but Self would no doubt love to see 220-lb. freshman Jamari Traylor fill the enforcer role this team is currently lacking. Right now, Traylor simply fouls too much to stay on the floor and perfect his craft.

Planning on re-gifting: Three-point shooting

Right now, Kansas isn’t taking many three-pointers. A very low 21.4% of KU’s points come from deep, and that’s fine for now, because the Jayhawks don’t need to bomb away when they’re dominating inside and scoring on breakaway transition opportunities. They don’t want a volume shooter, that’s for sure, but a team mark of 31.4% from behind the arc is a significant weakness to take into conference play, let alone the postseason. Elijah Johnson (38%) is the only starter who’s worthy of the green light right now, but 6’6″ freshman Andrew White III (4-10 on the season) has shown some potential as a spot-up shooter off the bench.

In a general sense, predictable roles must be established for KU’s bench players, who are largely raw and untested players, not quite ready for prime time.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: