Dear Kansas fans: Do not start freaking out just yet.
I know what happened on Saturday. I saw Colorado’s Askia Booker hit that buzzer-beating, euro-stepping three to beat the No. 6 Jayhawks, 75-72. I saw the bench mob him at half court and Jimmy Dykes ask him questions on ESPN in the postgame that made little-to-no sense. I watched it all happen.
And I’m still telling you that Saturday was a good thing for your team.
Because Andrew Wiggins finally started to look like the Andrew Wiggins that we’ve been telling you all about.
The bottom-line for this Kansas team is that they won’t be any better than normal without Wiggins playing like a go-to guy. He needs to command defensive attention and demand the ball on the offensive end of the floor. He needs to be a freight train with busted brakes running downhill in transition. He needs to attack the glass and be a night mare on the defensive end of the floor.
Remember, as good as the likes of Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis are, before Wiggins made the decision to play his collegiate ball in Lawrence, this group was a borderline top 25 team. They were thought to be right there with Baylor as a distant second in the Big 12 race, trailing Oklahoma State. They were a talented group that had just a little bit too much youth and not quite enough point guard play.
The reason they jumped into everyone’s top five or top ten was Wiggins.
And the reason that they haven’t played like a top five or a top ten team to date is … well, Wiggins.
It’s not that he has played poorly. In fact, he’s been pretty good, averaging 14.3 points, 5.6 boards and shooting 49.3% from the floor entering Saturday. But pretty good isn’t enough for Kansas, especially when Wiggins defers far too often in critical moments. Thus far this season, the guys that Kansas has gone to in those big moments have been Frank Mason and Naadir Tharpe, with a sprinkling of Perry Ellis in there as well. And with all due respect to those three, that’s not a group that will strike fear in the hearts of national title contenders.
On Saturday, it was Wiggins taking over in the second half. He finished with 17 of his 22 points after the break, attacking the rim in transition, remaining active on the offensive glass and helping to slow down Colorado’s offense in the second half at the top of the Jayhawk’s 1-2-2 zone. It was his best game at the collegiate level, and the first time that he looked like he was starting to figure out just how unstoppable he can be.
Colorado noticed as well. Down 72-70 with 11 seconds left, Bill Self even designed a sidelines out-of-bounds play built entirely around using Wiggins as a decoy to get Ellis a driving look at the rim.
Here’s the scarier part: Wiggins didn’t even play his best basketball. He made some dumb passes and he committed some silly fouls. He’s still got room to improve.
He’ll get there, but it’s a learning process.
So while this loss will hurt for a while — it should, losing like that stinks — at the end of the day, Kansas just lost to a top four team in the Pac-12 on the road at the buzzer. Colorado’s a good team.
Kansas is, too.
And they’re only going to get better if Saturday was truly Wiggins getting ready to take that next step.
Because if Wiggins doesn’t, Kansas will not live up to expectations.