Markel Brown, Perry Ellis

Should we be concerned No. 2 Kansas losing to Oklahoma State?


If I’m a Kansas fan, I’m not all that concerned about their 85-80 loss to Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon.

An 18-game winning streak and a No. 2 ranking (N0. 1 if you believe the coaches poll) aside, Kansas is not a perfect basketball team. No one in the country is a perfect basketball team this year. Right now, there is a lot of very good across the country, but there is no great.

Kansas falls under that title.

The Jayhawks have one of the best defenses in the country, anchored by a center that can effect a game on that side of the ball as much as any. But there are issues on the offensive side of the ball, ones that have been discussed ad nauseum this season.

Outside of Ben McLemore, there really isn’t anyone that is a major threat in half-court sets, and even McLemore is still battling with inconsistency in his aggressiveness. He’s the kind of player that lets the game come to him, and that can be a problem when you’re on a team that is relying on you to be the No. 1 option offensively.

The Jayhawks also have major question marks at the point guard spot. Elijah Johnson simply is not a player that can be trusted to run a team. He’s talented, he’s got the size that makes him a quality defender and he can create off the dribble, but he’s simply not an elite point guard. It’s fitting, really, that Kansas lost because Johnson was ripped by Smart with less that five seconds left down three.

But he is the Jayhawk’s best option right now at the point. Naadir Tharpe is more of a true point guard, but he’s also not ready to run a team on his own.

The irony here is that the question marks that were raised about Kansas over their last six games were on the offensive end of the floor. They were winning, but they were winning ugly, struggling to break 60 points against teams they should be blowing out because their defense was just that good.

On Saturday, that defense disappeared, as Markel Brown and Marcus Smart combined for 53 points, but the Jayhawks still managed to put up 80 points. Ben McLemore still finished with 23 points and took over for a stretch in the second half. And while I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Kansas played well on that end of the floor — the bad turnovers they had against West Virginia showed up again — but I think it’s actually a good sign that the Kansas offense actually kicked into a high-gear for a stretch on Saturday.

Rare is the day that their defense is so porous.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.