Kansas struggled in their final postseason tuneup. Time to panic?
Kansas came out a lot flatter last night against Washburn than in their first exhibition against Emporia State. The guys expected to lead the team emotionally didn't really do a good job of that, a fact acknowledged by Bill Self, but there is no reason to panic. The distribution of minutes played was not how it will be once games tip off for real, and it is (understandably) a bit tougher to get excited to play against a division two school than against Michigan State. Still, there's no doubt that if the effort is anything like it was last night, this team will absolutely get waxed by Michigan State, to say nothing of how they will fare in their season opener.
Kansas flat out stunk offensively. They shot at a 50% eFG clip and scored just .85 points per possession. That is awful against anyone but against a D2 team it is disastrous. I don't think there will be many games where Justin Wesley takes two shots or Travis Releford goes 1-5 so it is no cause for alarm yet, but there is no way to describe how they played on offense without the word awful being used. It will get better, as the team has a lot of new pieces to integrate into the offense, but for now the defense is going to have to be excellent in order for them to win.
In terms of bright spots, the team shot 37.5% from three, something they will probably need to do all year long, but overall pretty much everyone looked lost on offense (you might say they were running around with their heads cut off against the Ichabods. Zing). It did not help that they shot just 59% from the line either. Free throw shooting (and getting to the line) is actually pretty unimportant compared to a lot of other things offensively, but with this year's team being so lost early on offense it will be more important than it usually is for the team to get to the line and then convert.
Defensively there were no issues in this one with Kansas holding the Ichabods to just under .7 points per possession. Jeff Withey sprang to life with 7 blocks and Ben McLemore really put on a show defensively on the perimeter and on the defensive glass, grabbing 9 defensive boards.
McLemore was the star offensively as well with 17 points, including shooting 3-5 from beyond the arc. He settled for jumpers a lot and lost some of his aggressiveness later in the game, but that is something they no doubt will be working on. Perry Ellis impressed me as well with 10 points, 5 rebounds and a pair of steals. He dribbled the ball coast to coast multiple times and looked good doing it, and he showed off a basketball IQ far too advanced for me to believe he is really a college Freshman. Pure athleticism might be an issue, but he has the skills and smarts to overcome it.
Kansas takes on Southeast Missouri State on Friday, and while there won't be any upset threat the team will have to play a lot better in order for everyone to feel confident going into the Michigan State game