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.


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.


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.


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?


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.

UConn adds former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from transfer portal

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STORRS, Conn. — National champion UConn added some shooting depth to its roster Friday, announcing the signing of former Rutgers guard Cam Spencer from the transfer portal.

Spencer, who graduated last month with a year of eligibility remaining, averaged 13.2 points in his only season in New Jersey. The 6-foot-4 guard, who played his first three seasons at Loyola of Maryland, shot 44.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from 3-point range.

“Cam is the perfect addition to our basketball program,” UConn Coach Dan Hurley said. “He brings a unique combination of high-level skill and feel for the game, with a fierce competitiveness that has allowed him to enjoy a terrific college basketball career thus far.”

The Huskies lost their top 3-point scoring threat, sophomore Jordan Hawkins, to the NBA draft, along with wing Andre Jackson Jr. and post Adama Sanogo.

Guard Tristen Newtown gave the Huskies a boost last month when he withdrew his name from the draft pool and returned to Storrs.

The Huskies began summer workouts this week, welcoming a top recruiting class led by 6-6 point guard Stephon Castle, a McDonald’s All-American from Georgia. The class also includes 6-7 wing Jayden Ross and 6-4 guard Solomon Ball from Virginia, 6-7 wing Jaylin Stewart from Seattle, Washington, and 7-foot center Youssouf Singare from New York.

“I think that some of my strengths will stand out in UConn’s style of play,” Spencer said. “They have a lot of great movement and they play so well together, with great chemistry. I think that I can come in and hopefully contribute to that.”

NCAA tweaks rules on block/charge calls in men’s basketball

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA is tweaking how block/charge calls are made in men’s basketball.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved rule changes on Thursday that require a defender to be in position to draw a charge at the time the offensive player plants a foot to go airborne for a shot. If the defender arrives after the player has planted a foot, officials have been instructed to call a block when there’s contact.

Defenders had to be in position to draw a charge before the offensive player went airborne under previous rules.

NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee members made the proposal after NCAA members complained that too many charges were being called on those types of plays.

The panel also approved reviews of basket interference calls during the next media timeout – if the official called it on the floor – a shot clock reset to 20 seconds on an offensive rebound that hits the rim, and players being allowed to wear any number between 0 and 99.

A timeout also will be granted to an airborne player with possession of the ball, and non-student bench personnel will be allowed to serve as peacekeepers on the floor if an altercation occurs.

Charlotte head coach Ron Sanchez resigns after winning CBI title

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ron Sanchez resigned as head coach of the Charlotte 49ers.

Sanchez took over the 49ers on March 19, 2018, inheriting a team coming off a 6-23 campaign. In five years Charlotte went 72-78 under Sanchez, highlighted by winning the College Basketball Invitational championship this past season, the Niners’ first post-season tournament title in school history.

The 22 wins this past season are the most for Charlotte since 2001.

“Ron took over a proud but struggling program and carefully rebuilt it into a 22-game winner. He has led with class, dignity and devotion to our young men,” Charlotte director of athletics Mike Hill said. “His decision to step down from Charlotte was a difficult one for him and everyone associated with our program. We wish him and his family every happiness.”

Hill said the team has already begun a national search for a replacement.

“This is a bittersweet day for me and my family as I step down to pursue other opportunities,” said Sanchez, who came the 49ers after working as an assistant coach at Virginia under Tony Bennett. “It has been a tremendous privilege to lead the 49ers basketball program over the past five years and I want to thank Niner Nation for its support. I will be forever grateful to my staff, players and the university.”

Marquette extends Shaka Smart’s contract through 2029-30 season

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MILWAUKEE — Marquette coach Shaka Smart has received a contract extension after leading the Golden Eagles to their first outright regular-season championship and tournament title in the Big East.

Smart’s contract now runs through the 2029-30 season. This is the first extension Smart has received since signing a six-year deal when he took over as Marquette’s coach in 2021.

Marquette didn’t release financial terms of Smart’s deal.

“In a very short period of time, Shaka and his staff have done a tremendous job of establishing a winning culture, both on and off the court,” athletic director Bill Scholl said in a statement. “Shaka’s vision for the program is focused on extended, sustainable success. The individuals who interact with the team on a daily basis are able to observe frequent examples of growth and the excitement around the program is contagious.”

Marquette has gone 48-20 in Smart’s two seasons and reached the NCAA Tournament each of those years.

The Golden Eagles went 29-7 and won the Big East’s regular-season and tournament championships last season after the league’s coaches had picked them to finish ninth out of 11 teams. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

Purdue’s Edey returning to school at NBA draft deadline; Kentucky’s Tshiebwe stays in

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Purdue’s Zach Edey decided it was the right call to go back to school instead of staying in the NBA draft. His predecessor as national player of the year, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe, is sticking with his pro pursuit.

And Connecticut’s reign as NCAA champion will begin with multiple starters having left for the NBA draft and one returning after flirting with doing the same.

The 7-foot-4 Edey and UConn guard Tristen Newton were among the notable names to announce that they were withdrawing from the draft, the NCAA’s deadline for players who declared as early entrants to pull out and retain their college eligibility.

Edey’s decision came in social media posts from both the center and the Boilermakers program that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament behind Edey, The Associated Press men’s national player of the year.

But Tshiebwe announced late in the afternoon that he would remain in the draft after a college career that included being named the AP national player of the year in 2022.

For the current champions, Newton (10.1 points, 4.7 assists, 4.5 rebounds) is returning after being one of four Huskies to declare for the draft after a run to UConn’s fifth national championship in early April. He scored a game-high 19 points to go with 10 rebounds in the victory over San Diego State in the title game.

The others were Final Four Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo, wing Jordan Hawkins and versatile guard Andre Jackson Jr. Sanogo (17.8 points) and Hawkins (16.3) have made it clear they have closed the door on their college careers, while team spokesman Phil Chardis said that Jackson (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists) would remain in the draft.

The Huskies have 247sports’ No. 3-ranked recruiting class for next year to restock the roster, led by McDonald’s All-American point guard Stephon Castle.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline is June 12, but is moot when it comes to college players returning to school due to the NCAA’s earlier timeline to retain playing eligibility.


TREY ALEXANDER: Creighton gets back a 6-4 guard who averaged 13.6 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in his first full season as a starter.

ADEM BONA: The 6-foot-10 forward and Pac-12 freshman of the year is returning to UCLA after starting 32 games as a rookie and averaging 7.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 blocks – with coach Mick Cronin praising his toughness for “competing through multiple injuries for as long as he could” in a statement Wednesday.

EDEY: He averaged 22.3 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.5 assists while shooting 60.7% from the field. His presence alone helps Purdue be a factor in the Big Ten race.

JOSIAH-JORDAN JAMES: The 6-6 guard went through the NBA G League Combine and had workouts with multiple teams before opting to return to Tennessee for a fifth season alongside teammate Santiago Vescovi.

JUDAH MINTZ: The 6-3 freshman averaged 16.3 points and 4.6 assists for Syracuse, ranking third among Division I freshmen in scoring behind only Alabama’s Brandon Miller and Lamar’s Nate Calmese.

OWLS’ RETURNEES: Florida Atlantic got good news after its surprise Final Four run with the return leading scorers Johnell Davis (13.8) and Alijah Martin (13.4). ESPN first reported their decisions, while Martin later posted a social media statement.

TERRENCE SHANNON JR.: Illinois got a big boost with Shannon announcing his night in a social media post. The 6-6 guard is returning for a fifth college season after averaging 17.2 points.

SPARTANS’ RETURNEES: Michigan State announced that guards Jaden Akins and A.J. Hoggard have withdrawn from the NBA draft. Standout guard Tyson Walker had previously withdrawn in April, setting up Tom Izzo to have five of his top scorers back.


KOBE BROWN: Missouri’s 6-8 swingman opted against returning for a fifth college season after being an AP first-team all-Southeastern Conference pick averaging 15.8 points last season.

JAYLEN CLARK: The third-year UCLA guard averaged 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds while leading the Pac-12 with 2.6 steals en route to being named Naismith national defensive player of the year. Cronin called him a winner with strong intangibles who made UCLA “a better program because he chose to be a Bruin.”

BRICE SENSABAUGH: The Ohio State freshman averaged 16.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31 games before missing his final two in the Big Ten Tournament due to a knee injury. He’s a potential first-round prospect.

TSHIEBWE: The 6-9, 260-pound forward is a tough interior presence who led the country in rebounds for two straight seasons (15.1 in 2022, 13.7 in 2023) while racking up 48 double-doubles. But he faces an uncertain next stop and is projected at best as a second-round prospect.