Bill Self was not happy about the way that his Kansas team lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday afternoon. The Jayhawks erased a 14 point deficit in the first half and took the lead for a stretch in the second half, but the Cowboys were able to close in the final four minutes thanks to a terrific performance from Marcus Smart. And Self? He let loose with some vicious verbal barbs in the post game press conference:
“We have been getting unbelievably poor play from some individuals and we have got to do a better job teaching them.”
“I wish we could play without guards to be honest with you, but that would be kind of an ugly game if you have five big guys playing out there at all times.”
“It’s a joke what we did today.”
“We are mentally tough in some ways, but physically this is our softest group of all time. We have never had a team like this.”
It’s atypical to hear a coach avoid the standard sporting cliches after a game and really unleash on his team like this, but Self has a right to be frustrated. The Jayhawks have not played well, especially on the offensive end of the floor, in Big 12 play. We’ve all seen the horrid turnovers that are starting to pop up, especially over the course of the last two games, but there’s more to it than that.
Kansas hasn’t been executing their sets well offensively, but that tends to happen in league play. There’s a familiarity in the league. Everyone knows what Self wants to run at this point in the season. Defenses are going to be more prepared and offenses are going to run into situations where they need to rely on individual creativity to score their points.
And that’s the crux of the problem for the Jayhawks.
“We don’t have a point guard,” Self told the Topeka Capital-Journal after the game. “It’s sad. […] We were definitely a better team with (Johnson) sitting down next to us and putting somebody else in the game.”
This isn’t a surprise. We knew heading into the season that Johnson would be making a transition to the point guard spot and that he would be doing so because Naadir Tharpe is not ready to run the show. But it is a concern to hear about it at this stage of the season, because at this point in the year, the problem isn’t getting fixed easily. If they haven’t come up with an answer by now, they aren’t going to.
That issue is exacerbated by the fact that the guy that’s supposed to be the Jayhawk’s go-to scorer is at his most effective in transition, coming off of screens, and when he’s spotting up and taking catch-and-shoot threes. According to Synergy, 58% of his offense comes out of those situation.
Only 16% comes in situations where McLemore has to create for himself — 11% in the pick-and-roll and just 5% in isolations. That totals 62 possessions for McLemore, and he’s scoring just 0.774 PPP in those 62 possessions. When you “don’t have a point guard” and your most talented offensive player can’t create for himself, your offensive is going to bog down at times.
The good news?
Those offensive struggles aren’t why the Jayhawks lost on Saturday.
They lost because they couldn’t stop Markel Brown in the first half and because Marcus Smart got two offensive rebounds and putbacks in the final four minutes. Those are issues that won’t rear their head too often for Kansas.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.