So that was ugly.
There really isn’t much else to say about the performance that No. 16 Kansas had in their 61-57 loss to No. 21 San Diego State on Sunday night.
The Jayhawks shot 29.8% from the floor, a number that didn’t work its way about 25% until late in the second half. They were 4-for-16 from three. They gave up 19 offensive rebounds, 14 of which came in the second half and led to 12 momentum-killing second-chance points.
How often do you see a Bill Self-coached team play this poorly? Last season’s debacle against TCU immediately comes to mind, but at least that game was played on the road. Kansas snapped a 68-game home court winning streak with Sunday’s monstrosity.
So what’s plaguing Kansas?
Where do I start:
- San Diego State has a big, athletic front line, so credit must be given to them. But that doesn’t change the fact that Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins got absolutely Big Boy’d by Steve Fisher’s team in the paint. That cannot happen with this team’s focus on the post offensively.
- I feel like we’ve been saying this for two years now, but Naadir Tharpe just isn’t the kind of point guard that the Jayhawks needs with this team.
- Neither Wayne Selden or Wiggins are ready to be go-to guys on the wing. Selden isn’t good enough yet and Wiggins simply isn’t that ‘I’m taking this game over, try to stop me’ guy yet.
- Kansas doesn’t have anyone with a ‘killer’ mentality. They don’t have a Marcus Smart or a Shabazz Napier or even a guy like Jabari Parker. As crazy as this sounds, I think that I would be the most comfortable with Frank Mason — a backup, freshman point guard and a former Towson commit — taking a shot in the final minute.
Those are a lot of flaws, and that’s going to be a lot to overcome.
But remember, despite all of those flaws, despite how poorly they played on Sunday, they still missed a free throw that would have tied the game in the final 20 seconds in a game against a top 25 opponent.
And now remember this: it’s January 5th, and this team is awfully young. Their best lineup probably includes four freshmen and a sophomore. They’re still learning, and with a coach like Self working with malleable minds like Embiid, Wiggins and Selden, there’s not reason to think they won’t continue to improve.
Is it a concern that the Jayhawks are still this far behind in their development as Big 12 play is getting started?
It would be foolish to say no.
But the talent on this roster is undeniable.
And I’m not ready to bet against Bill Self just yet.
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.