Film Room: What’s Wrong With Kansas, and The Marcus Garrett Conundrum

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It’s been 15 years since someone other than the Kansas Jayhawks could call themselves the outright Big 12 regular season champion, a streak that is almost as impressive as the half-decade of consecutive seasons where we found ourselves asking at some point if this is finally going to be the year.

Is this when the title streak comes to an end? Or will, inevitably, the trophy end up back in Lawrence as it always does?

I do not know have that answer, but I do know this: As of today, January 30th, Bill Self’s team is as bad as I can remember seeing them be. But whether or not they are truly in danger of seeing their decade and a half of dominance come to an end is more complicated than that.

Kansas lost on Tuesday night at Texas, the fifth time in six games this season that they have lost on the road, to fall a game behind Kansas State and Baylor for first place in the league standings. Baylor is the one team Kansas has actually beaten on the road, and while Kansas State has been better in the last three weeks, this is still a team that is capable of getting smoked by the dumpster fire that is Texas A&M

Hell, at this very moment, nearly 50 percent through conference play, the team that KenPom is projecting to win the Big 12 — Iowa State — currently sits in fifth place. If Bill Self can get this team to 12-6 in the league, that might be enough to win a share of the conference title.

But it doesn’t change the fact that the Jayhawks have some major issues right now, and there does not appear to be an easy fix.

What is wrong with Kansas?

Let’s break it all down.

1. THE MARCUS GARRETT CONUNDRUM

The crux of the issue for Kansas is Marcus Garrett.

A 6-foot-5, 195 pound sophomore, Garrett is legitimately one of the best and most versatile defenders in college basketball, the perfect piece defensively as Kansas has been forced to revert back to the small-ball movement that has taken over the program the last three seasons. He can defend any position on the perimeter, and he’s tough enough that he shouldn’t get totally overrun by bigger defenders.

The rest of the KU perimeter rotation consists of freshmen and a senior that has the consistency of a freshman. Self needs Garrett out there.

The problem is that Garrett can be a non-entity on the offensive end of the floor. He had a three-game stretch where he averaged 17 points prior to Saturday’s loss at Kentucky, but those three games were the three highest-scoring games of his career. Self’s ability to scheme Garrett into dribble-handoffs that allowed him to turn a corner and get downhill was not going to last forever. In losses to Kentucky and Texas, Garrett was a combined 2-for-13 from the field.

The reason this is such a problem for Kansas is that it allows opponents to play two bigs against them without getting burned by more talented guards on the other end of the floor. Think about it like this: In 2016-17, Kansas’ perimeter attack consisted of Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Josh Jackson, with Jackson playing the four. All four of those guys are now playing in the NBA. Last season, Graham and Mykhailiuk were flanked by Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick for much of the year.

If you tried to hide a big body on any of those guys, you’d be getting burned.

That forced bigger teams to matchup with them.

That’s not the case this season.

Neither Kentucky nor Texas even pretended to be worried about Garrett on the perimeter:

This leads us to the second part of the problem.

2. QUENTIN GRIMES AND LAGERALD VICK HAVE NOT BEEN GOOD ENOUGH

I’m not exactly breaking news here, but this is becoming as big of a problem as Garrett’s offense for Bill Self.

The secret is out on Vick, and while he has a reputation for being a player that is, shall we say, moody, I do think that part of the issue he’s facing right now is that he is the only guy that opposing defenses are worried about on the perimeter. As good as he was early in the season, the truth is that he is essentially a tough-shot maker, a lob-catcher and a floor-spacer. Relying on him to go and get 30 to save Kansas on a night where the rest of the offense gets bogged down was never going to last. The only reason that we didn’t have to have this conversation about Kansas back in November was because Vick went for 33 against Vermont, 32 against Louisiana, 29 in an overtime win against Stanford and 27 against Villanova. The Jayhawks trailed in the second half in three of those four games and dug themselves a 12 point first half hole in the fourth.

Think about it like this: Last season, Kansas shot 40.1 percent from three — which was tenth nationally — which is what allowed Udoka Azubuike so much freedom in the paint. You couldn’t help off anyone.

That is decidedly not the case this year:

Dedric Lawson is the Kansas all-american this season.

And because their perimeter has been so ineffective, the result is that it is becoming easier and easier for teams to scheme Dedric Lawson right out of the game.

Which leads to the obvious question: What if Kansas just plays Ochai Agbaji in place of Marcus Garrett?

Eventually, that may be the answer, particularly if Agbaji’s performance on Tuesday night is who he will be the rest of the season.

But it’s important to remember that he disappeared for two weeks after he exploded on the scene in his first two games. Agbaji, as talented as he is, is still a freshman that has played a grand total of 147 minutes in seven games as a collegian. Grimes, another freshman, has not exactly been a modicum of consistency himself. Neither has Vick, and that’s to say nothing of the fact that we don’t know whether or not any of those three are A) Tough enough defensively to be able to guard up, or B) Going to win the matchup at the four more often than Garrett.

And that leads me to the single biggest problem facing this Kansas team.

3. IT IS HARD TO WIN WHEN YOUR ROSTER ISN’T LOADED WITH NBA TALENT

Who on this Kansas roster is going to play in the NBA, let alone be a first round pick or a potential star at the next level?

Seriously.

Let’s talk through it:

  • Grimes probably will. At the very least, he’ll get drafted. But he’s been such a mess this season that he’s gone from being a guy thought of as a potential top ten pick to a player that might end up returning to school for his sophomore season.
  • Lawson is going to get a shot at the next level because of his size and skill level, but he’s a slow-footed, below-the-rim forward that is shooting 28.2 percent from three this season after shooting 27 percent from three his last season in Memphis. That’s pretty much the opposite of pace and space.
  • Vick was run out of the Kansas program during the offseason, but he had to beg his way back onto the roster because his pro prospects were so limited.
  • Dotson has been a pest defensively and has shown all the toughness in the world, but at this point in his development, he’s a defender and a player that can do some damage when he gets going down hill. He’s not yet a point guard that makes the players around him better.
  • Should we even bother mentioning the other KU big men? The reason that Self has been forced to play small this year is because David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot can’t replicate the interior presence of Azubuike, who himself is a relic of the NBA’s past.
  • Frankly, Agbaji is probably the best longterm prospect on the roster, and he has a long way to go to get to where he needs to be to seriously consider the NBA.

At the end of the day, talent is going to win, and Kansas just doesn’t have enough of it.

That’s why they are in a bad spot, but the saving grace for this group is that no one else in the Big 12 looks like they are much better.

Texas Tech can guard but they can’t score. Kansas State is basically a poor-man’s version of Texas Tech. Baylor lost Tristan Clark, who was their best player this season, and Jake Lindsay. I’m not sure Texas has the goods to get it done.

Iowa State is the team that would scare me, but they’ve already played Kansas twice, they’re heavily reliant on youth and trusting them means trusting that Cam Lard and Lindell Wigginton figure things out. There’s not guarantee that happens.

For my money, this Kansas team is as bad as any in recent memory. The only year that contends was the 2015, better known as the Cliff Alexander Experience, but even then, the Jayhawks had Wayne Selden and Kelly Oubre playing alongside breakout star Frank Mason.

Then again, Kansas seems to find a way to win the Big 12 even when they aren’t the best team. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if Texas Tech’s Keenan Evans hadn’t broken his toe last February.

But he did.

And here we are.

Once again wondering what rabbit Bill Self is going to pull out of his hat to save the streak this time.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.

No. 12 Iowa State holds on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76

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AMES, Iowa – Jaren Holmes matched his season high with 23 points as No. 12 Iowa State held on to beat No. 5 Kansas State 80-76 on Tuesday night.

The Cyclones (15-4, 6-2 Big 12) moved into a three-way tie atop the conference standings with the Wildcats and Texas.

Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points for Iowa State. Osun Osunniyi finished with 16.

Markquis Nowell led Kansas State (17-3, 6-2) with 23 points.

A 3-pointer from Holmes gave Iowa State a 59-49 advantage with 8:12 remaining. Kansas State responded with a 10-1 run to trim the margin to 60-59.

Caleb Grill’s 3-pointer steadied the Cyclones and pushed the lead back to 63-59 with five minutes left.

Free throws by Osunniyi, Grill and Holmes sealed the victory in the final 24 seconds.

The first half featured eight lead changes and ended with Kansas State up 33-31.

A 3-pointer by Kalscheur ignited an early 9-0 run for the Cyclones and helped them build a 19-14 lead. Iowa State made just one of nine 3-point tries in the first 20 minutes.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State was trying to extend its best start to a season since 1961-62.

Iowa State improved to 11-0 at home. The Cyclones have not lost back-to-back games this season.

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Florida on Saturday as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge.

Iowa State travels to Missouri on Saturday.

Georgetown snaps 29-game conference losing streak

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WASHINGTON – Primo Spears scored 21 points and Georgetown snapped a 29-game conference losing streak with an 81-76 victory over DePaul on Tuesday night.

Georgetown (6-15, 1-9) won its first Big East game since March 13, 2021, ending the longest skid in the history of the conference. The Hoyas also ended a 10-game losing streak this season.

Spears also contributed six assists for the Hoyas. Akok Akok scored 12 points and added six rebounds and four blocks and Brandon Murray recorded 12 points.

Umoja Gibson led the Blue Demons (9-12, 3-7) in scoring, finishing with 24 points, four assists and three steals. Javan Johnson added 13 points.

Spears scored nine points in the first half and Georgetown went into the break trailing 37-36. Georgetown used a 10-0 run in the second half to build a 12-point lead at 75-63 with 1:39 remaining.