Not that I think it's a great idea to completely explain away a loss, but in all honesty I am not terribly sad about last night. For one, we didn't need to see Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor each play 35+ minutes in another game, but more importantly it is one less game we are exposing some important players to injury. Both J'Covan Brown and Kim English had injury scares in their semifinal, and having everyone (and of course most notably Robinson and Tyshawn) healthy for the tournament is far more important than winning three games. Seed wise, while this might drop Kansas to a two seed (assuming North Carolina or Duke and Michigan State or Ohio State win their respective tourneys), it likely won't pit them in the same bracket as Kentucky or Syracuse, and they'll likely be in St. Louis or Phoenix. So no harm done there.
But that doesn't mean it wasn't frustrating to watch as it happened. They obviously weren't too into the game defensively (which, again, objectively is fine but it does kind of suck to watch), allowing Baylor to score 1.19 points per trip. The good news there however is that the Bears mostly got it done via the lottery of the three point line, going 9-19 from behind the arc while shooting only 36.5% from two. Kansas is pretty great defensively, but it's going to be tough to win if a team shoots almost 50% from three. It just is.
Offensively, Kansas shot the opposite from three, going just 2-13 from behind the arc. It's not as troubling because Kansas isn't very reliant on the three to score, but those points obviously help and if nothing else if the defense has to close out harder it opens things up inside. There are a couple positives to take away offensively: for once, Kansas took care of the ball well against a team that forces quite a few turnovers, and they rebounded on the offensive glass well. Because Kansas isn't a team that gets a ton of good looks in half court sets, those two things are going to be huge in the tournament.
So now we sit and wait for a couple of days until we find out our fate. I've made these points many times, but a PSA: the important thing isn't the seed, but the location (I'd be surprised if it's not Omaha and then either St. Louis or Phoenix) and the matchups.
- Thomas Robinson needs a rest. He had 15 points and 9 rebounds, but he needed 14 attempts from the field to do so. He also had some lazy efforts on defense and walked up and down the floor a lot. I'm not mentioning this to shame him by any means, just to show that he needs a bit of a break, and there's no shame in that.
- Tyshawn Taylor had a decent game, scoring 20 points, going 7-11 from two and 1-4 from three. He turned it over the same number of times he assisted on a basket, but all in all I thought he played pretty well.
- Withey didn't have his usual effort against Baylor, but had 11 points 7 rebounds and 5 blocks.
- I think Travis Releford may have had the best game. He only had 6 points, but made 3 of his 4 twos and also had 7 rebounds (4 offensive) and made a lot of hustle plays as well. He definitely seemed to be the only Jayhawk fully engaged at times. His play will be huge in the tournament, but I'm pretty confident in his ability to play smart, steady basketball from here on in.
- Another potential X factor is Elijah Johnson. Unlike Releford, he is more boom or bust, with the ability to take over any game but probably give one away as well. Last night he took on more of a scoring role, scoring 15 points shooting 5-10 from two but only making 1 of his 6 threes (but they all looked good and two of them were almost all the way down before popping out, so I do think he's finding his shot a bit).
- THARPE WATCH: Tharpe played, but somehow didn't make the Statsheet boxscore. Sounds about right.