Kansas’ Bill Self expects his team to better defensively in 2014-15

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While the Kansas Jayhawks did manage to win 25 games and the Big 12 regular season title, the tenth consecutive season in which the program won at least a share of the regular season crown, the prevailing feeling at the end of the 2013-14 campaign was that Bill Self’s team left some things on the table. The Jayhawks lost ten games, and their season ended in the round of 32 with a loss to Stanford.

Of course Kansas didn’t have freshman center Joel Embiid down the stretch due to a stress fracture in his lower back, and his absence certainly impacted the way in which they did things on both ends of the floor. The biggest concern regarding Embiid’s absence was on the defensive end, as Kansas was without the player most capable of erasing mistakes made by the other four defenders.

However during Kansas’ annual basketball media day (the full video is above), Self noted that Kansas did not defend at the level he expects of them even when Embiid was on the floor.

“I hope so, because we stunk,” Self said when asked whether or not this year’s team would be better defensively. “Last year defensively we didn’t put pressure on the ball, we never cut the head off, teams got comfortable. When I say ‘we stunk’ we were still the best or second-best defensive team in our league, but that’s not who we’ve been for years.

“We don’t have a shot-blocker behind us…if it weren’t for Jo [Embiid] last year there’s no telling how bad we’d looked at times defensively, because people got the ball where they wanted to get it and he covered up mistakes.”

The numbers back up Self’s assertion as well, with the Jayhawks ranking 31st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency per kenpom.com. Also of note was the fact that Kansas ranked fourth in the Big 12 in field goal percentage defense and dead last in three-point percentage defense. For many programs the efficiency numbers wouldn’t be bad at all, but that isn’t the case at Kansas.

Under Self only one other team ranked outside of the Top 20 in that statistical category with that occurring in 2004-05. That team, led by Wayne Simien and Keith Langford, fell to Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

As Self noted Kansas won’t have an eraser on the back line, meaning that the combination of talented returnees (led by Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden) and newcomers (Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre leading the way there) will need to be better with regards to both execution and effort in 2014-15.