I think it’s officially time for us to start worrying about Kansas.
Losing at home to Oklahoma State is one thing. Getting drubbed by TCU is a totally different story. Because on Wednesday night, the Jayhawks went into Fort Worth and got drubbed, 62-55, by a Horned Frog team whose best performance in Big 12 play was a nine point loss to fellow bottom-feeder Texas Tech.
It’s the first time that Kansas has lost back-to-back games in 264 contests. That happened in 2005-2006.
But there is so much more at play here than the simple fact that the Jayhawks have lost two straight games, one of which came to a team that has a lower RPI than five teams from the Ivy League.
All those offensive issues that we’ve been talking about this season have finally come to a head.
With a little more than six minutes left in the first half, Kansas was down 12-2 to TCU. At halftime, the Jayhawks had managed all of 13 points on 3-22 shooting. That’s the lowest scoring output that the Jayhawks have had in any Big 12 half. Ever.
The Jayhawks finished the game shooting 29.5% from the field and 3-22 from three. Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe, the two guys that Bill Self criticized over the weekend when he said he “didn’t have a point guard“, were 5-27 from the floor and 3-14 from three with three assists and four turnovers.
And it’s not like these were bad shots, either. Kansas missed a lot of layups and a lot of open threes.
We’ve reached the point where this is more than simple offensive issues for the Jayhawks. This is a confidence problem. This is a leadership issue. They simply did not have any of it tonight. At this point, Johnson seems to be a mess mentally. His 3-12 performance was bolstered by a layup and a pair of threes that came when Kansas was down 51-40 with less than two minutes left. I’m not going to pretend to know what’s going on between his ears, but anyone that watched that game would agree that he looked completely out of it. Not in the sense that he didn’t care or that he didn’t want to play, because I genuinely believe that he wants to succeed and he wants to win.
Think about it like this: imagine if the nerd from that Super Bowl commercial actually went up and hit on Gisele in real life. He would have more confidence than Johnson currently does in his basketball ability right now. Tharpe, to his credit, tried to take over in the second half and lead the team back, but he’s just not at a point where he’s capable of doing that. Neither is Ben McLemore, who is far and away the most talented player on the Kansas roster.
And that is where the biggest issue for this team lies.
They need someone to rely on to get them a bucket at the end of a clock. They need someone who can be isolated and counted on for points when Kansas is trying to stop a run. They need a player that’s willing and able to take over a game and do so as more than just a jump-shooter.
One day, McLemore will be that guy.
But that’s not him right now, and that’s not an insult, either. He’s an introvert, a shy kid that is currently more comfortable playing a supporting role. In the NBA, that will be a quality that behooves him, that can make him a valuable piece on a talented roster.
At this level, it hurts him. And it hurts Kansas. And until he realizes that playing a supporting role in the Johnson and Tharpe show is hurting the Jayhawks, Kansas will never reach their full potential.
Does it mean they are as bad as this performance? Of course not. And it certainly doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance of winning the national title.
But the issues that have come to light in recent weeks could end up costing them in March.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.