Kansas leaves the Bahamas with its first loss of the season and not the Battle 4 Atlantis title.
The first month of the season is in the books, and the Jayhawks, like other contenders around the country, will look to improve in multiple areas. One takeaway from KU’s trip to the Bahamas was the play of Joel Embidd, especially in the second half of Kansas’ 67-63 win over UTEP. The freshman center rejected seven shots, breaking the school record held by Nick Collison, in 21 minutes of action.
Kansas head coach Bill Self said following the game that the 7-footer from Cameroon will see a bump in minutes moving forward.
“I’m speaking honestly about how things have gone, but that’s one guy that’s on a big uptick. There’s no question that he’s got to play more minutes … without fouling,” Self said.
Embiid fouled out the previous game against Villanova and committed four more in the win against the Miners. His play won’t help the Jayhawks 3-point shooting, but his emergence will be important for Kansas, not just in the Big 12, but also for the remainder of a difficult non-conference schedule, which still features matchups against Colorado, Florida, New Mexico, Georgetown and San Diego State before kicking off conference play at Oklahoma
Embiid is averaging 9.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.3 blockers and 1.1 assists per games through seven games this season.
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
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.