With games like this it's tough not to make it more than what it is or build a narrative around it. Is this Kansas team bad? Do they lack some sort of killer instinct? Or is it just the case of a group of young kids building a big lead over an overmatched opponent and then doing the natural thing and letting off the gas a bit? (sidenote: I say the natural thing because when I played sports it always seemed like when a team would get a big lead they'd let up a bit, the other team would catchup and then it was tough to flip that switch again. In reality I am no closer to being a Big 12 caliber athlete than I am to being an astronaut and I hate when people try to equate their own sports experiences to an elite level. It seemed like that was the case last night, but just going off perception can be dangerous.)
Further, it's important to remember that with a team like this, progression isn't going to be a smooth curve. Kansas looked like a #1 seed last week in winning the CBE Classic, and then looked, well, not as good last night. But there are going to be blips like this where the team looks like they can't run the offense, and then there will be ones where they look like they can win the title. Not that this is a lecture, but I think the sooner fans accept that the less stress they'll suffer. One thing is for sure though: we have Bill Self, and I wouldn't want anyone other than him molding this team into shape.
But did Kansas play all that poorly? The short answer is no. The long answer is that a lot of the problems on offense (.98 PPP) can be summed up by Kansas shooting just 4-18 from three. It wasn't that they took too many of them (they had 60 total field goal attempts), they just shot poorly. 52% from two isn't great, especially against San Jose State, but the bottom line is this team is going to have to make threes to make a tournament run. They probably won't need to shoot 40% or something outrageous, but they'll need to make a third of them.
Other than that though, Kansas didn't play that. They only turned it over on 18% of their possessions, and defensively they held San Jose State to .8 points per possession and only allowed them to shoot 29% from two. The rebounding was ugly (28.9% offensive rebound rate for KU, 37.5% for SJSU) but I think (and hope) that had a bit to do with Kansas taking their foot off the gas and not being able to put it back down.
- I've buried the lead a bit, but Jeff Withey had the second triple double in KU double history, and he also set a school record with 12 blocks. He also was 7-11 from the floor for his 16 points and had 12 rebounds. He's been a lot better offensively than I thought (though much of it is due to Bill Self's system) and he is the biggest defensive weapon in the country and I am an idiot for not having him a preseason 1st team All American.
- Elijah was 3-6 from three, but that's about where the positives stop. 5 assists and 4 turnovers is not good, and he didn't look good defensively either. Bill Self says he's been battling a sore knee, so hopefully that's part of it. Hopefully finals and a couple cupcakes will let him get some rest.
- Travis Releford had a lot more of what I call a Travis Releford game: 4-4 from two, 1-2 from three, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks. Not to mention the perimeter defense. He's awesome.
- Ben McLemore was 5-9 from two, had 6 rebounds, 3 assists (but 3 TOs) 2 steals, a block and the best dunk I have ever seen in person. But he was 0-7 from three, and unlike when Elijah misses they didn't look particularly close. He looks so smooth on two point jumpers so hopefully it's something that is easily fixable. He's the best driver on the team so it's not as important, but him with a three point shot is unstoppable.
- Last but not least, Justin Wesley had 2 fouls in 4 minutes played. After a couple games of not much fouling, it's good to know we have that one constant in our basketball lives.