From now until Christmas, Beyond the Arc will detail what some teams need. Hey, we’re in a giving mood.
Monday’s loss to Davidson might have felt like a massive lump of coal in Kansas’ stocking, but the Jayhawks can hardly be too disappointed in their season. The other losses were to Top 10 teams (Kentucky and Duke) and they’ve also knocked off Ohio State, Georgetown and UCLA. For a team that lost six rotation players – four of whom started – and had two freshmen denied eligibility by the NCAA, that’s hardly a bummer season.
Still, coach Bill Self has a couple things he’d want from Santa.
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Must have: No frontcourt injuries.
This obviously applies to junior forward Thomas Robinson, who gobbles up rebounds at a rate most of us gobble peanut M&Ms and also leads Kansas in scoring and does a fair job carrying Kansas o his broad shoulder. To say he’s indispensable would be an understatement.
But it also applies to center Jeff Withey, who before this season could’ve been confused with any stationary 7-foot object. Yet he’s somehow blossomed into a shot-blocking stud who also grabs any rebound Robinson doesn’t (yes, there are some) and even manages to score a few points. Without Withey’s development, Robinson would be hindered by guarding bigger guys and probably be in foul trouble.
And without these two, Kansas would be toast.
Stocking stuffer: A chance at that eighth straight Big 12 title. The last time KU failed to win at least a share of the league was 2004, Self’s first season. Since then, they’ve managed to treat the Big 12 as their own personal trophy shop.
But with Missouri stomping opponents and Baylor overwhelming teams, the Jayhawks will be decidedly behind the curve when conference play begins. Not to mention Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State all perfectly capable of making title runs of their own.
Still, if Kansas pulls off a few unexpected wins and gets the gift of others stumbling, another title isn’t impossible.
Planning to re-gift: Most KU fans (and probably Self) would like to send back anything from the NCAA’s Clearinghouse. Not having Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor put a crimp in Kansas’ depth and overall talent, but there’s nothing to do now but wait until they can play next season.
That leaves Tyshawn Taylor’s decision-making skills.
I’m not referring to his off-court choices, but his tendency to make lamentable passes or simply make confounding moves. He’s hardly the only Jayhawks guard to turn the ball over too much (Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford also have issues) but he’s negating nearly all his good work (29.2 ARate) with turnovers (26.8 TORate). Anytime your point guard – and a four-year starter, no less – is sitting at a 1-1 assist-to-turnover ratio, your offense will never be consistently good.
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