Before the season began, I was on board with Naadir Tharpe having a great season, at least assist/turnover wise. Last year he was already fine, with a 28.3% assist rate and a 21.4% turnover rate, and that was with him having to handle the ball a lot and not having a lot of great individual offensive talent around him. This year, Tharpe has a 37.3% assist rate and a 25.1% turnover rate, partially proving my theory that his numbers would improve with the offensive talent around him.
I was much less certain about the backup point guards. But Frank Mason, while he's struggled to shoot and defend at times, has a 29.7% assist rate and just a 6.4% turnover rate. Even among the most staunch Mason supporters I would doubt if anyone predicted how good he would be at taking care of the ball, especially since his offensive game seems to be putting his head down and going full speed to the hoop. We'll see if it continues into Big 12 play, but Mason didn't turn it over against Duke, at least providing hope that he'll be able to keep this up.
For the second game in a row Kansas played much better defensively, allowing just .84 points per trip. They were helped no doubt by Towson shooting just 5-22 from three, but they also shot under 45% from two, which might end up being a good number given these new rules. I'll refrain from going on referee rants after every game here, but I think some are getting the emphasis on less contact confused with blowing the whistle whenever anything happens ever. It wasn't bad last night, but too many times these year post defenders have been called for fouls when they are standing straight up and get run into by a dribbler. Defenders still have the right to hold their ground (and even jump straight up) but referees seem to be taking this emphasis on fouls a bit too far, at least based on the games I've watched early this year.
Back to Kansas, the Jayhawks excelled on the defensive glass again, grabbing 75% of the available defensive rebounds. It was their lowest mark of the year, a testament to the rebounding juggernaut they might be developing. They still can't force turnovers, however, forcing them on just under 16% of Towson's possessions, and they currently rank 264th nationally in that metric. Some of it might be because they are worried about fouling, which is understandable, but I think part of it might be the fact that they know they can usually limit offenses to just one shot and they don't need turnovers to score.
Kansas shot 44% from three, which is nice, but made two-thirds of their twos, which is a nice little fall back for when the threes don't fall. The Jayhawks now lead the country in shooting from inside the arc, with the worst 2 point shooter being a 5'11" (and that's generous) guard who still manages to shoot almost 50% from two.
Andrew Wiggins: 9. Wiggins shot 5-7 from two, made his only three, and was 3-4 from the line. I'd still like to see him go to the line a bit more, but he was aggressive going to the hoop in this one so it's tough to blame him for the refs not calling it. Wiggins led the team with 4 offensive rebounds and had 7 total, and in the second half he switched onto Jerrelle Benimon, who had been scoring at will in the second half (and outweighs Wiggins by close to 50 pounds I might add) and totally shut him down for a couple possessions. And that was that. Obviously we are biased as Kansas fans, but I don't see how a GM could pass on taking him 1st overall.
Joel Embiid: 7.5. Unless they take Embiid. I know he's not mentioned in the 1st overall conversation but here's a big man who can handle the ball, score with either hand (and with a variety of post moves) and his defensive impact has already gotten so much bigger it's hard to fathom just how good he could be on that end. I mention the refs blowing the whistle on defenders standing straight up to point out the fact that if Embiid does that, and just jumps straight up without looking for blocked shots, he'll be nearly impossible to score on assuming the refs know the rules. And he will certainly be impactful defensively in the NBA. With the other guys at the top of the draft being more of a sure thing I probably wouldn't take Embiid, but I still say he has the highest ceiling and it will take huge numbers from Wiggins to make me think otherwise.
Perry Ellis: 7.5. Kansas didn't need much from Perry in this one, who had just 10 points, going 4-6 from two. He had 3 rebounds, an assist and a block as well. He, like usual, showed that he's close to automatic when he gets the ball down low, and he's already one of the best in the country at getting position. His 4-6 from two actually lowered his 2 pt percentage on the season.
Naadir Tharpe: 6. 5 assists, 2 turnovers isn't a bad night for Tharpe. He took 6 shots, which I'm not a huge fan of, but his three threes were all open looks, which I don't hate him taking. He also grabbed 3 rebounds somehow.
Wayne Selden: 6.5. Selden was 3-4 from two, 1-2 from three, and 3-3 from the line. He didn't add much else on the scoresheet, with just 1 rebound and 2 turnovers, so this is probably the wrong game to make the argument that I think he might be the next Travis Releford in terms of cramming the box score, but I think he might be.
Tarik Black: 10. OK not really, but Black played in 15 whole minutes and while he had 4 fouls, foul trouble wasn't really an issue for him in this one. He played good post defense, had a block, went 3-5 and also had 4 rebounds. It's amazing to think how good Kansas has been this year and realize how much better they'd look if Black could keep from fouling.
Frank Mason: 9. I won't repeat what I said above, but it's tough to not be impressed by Mason having 6 assists and just 1 turnover, and he made both his shots from the field and was 2-4 from the line. Pretty much as good as you can get from your backup point guard.
Andrew White: 9. Mr. Instant Offense himself, White had 13 points in 14 minutes. He was 3-4 from three and is now shooting 58% from three on the season (and has an eFG of 84.4% so no matter how poorly the coaching staff thinks he defends, which I think is way overblown, he probably should get some more playing time).
Jamari Traylor: 6.5, Traylor didn't play much in this one, but he impacted the game defensively, and added an assist. I don't think he'll ever be a go to scorer in the Perry Ellis mold, but I do think he will be a guy who gets to play a lot all four years, which is more than I thought last year.
Conner Frankamp: 6.5. Frankamp went 1-2 from two and 1-2 from three and hasn't really found his stroke from deep yet. He did play pretty good defense in this one again (at least to the naked eye watching in real time) and he'd probably be getting quite a bit of playing time if Mason hadn't proven to be an assist/turnover wizard so far. I wish he would have redshirted to give him an extra year of eligibility because I think he will have a monster career here.
I'm not going to grade him because he didn't play enough, but I want to make a point that I love Landen Lucas's game. His skills are unfortunately a bit redundant because the biggest thing he offers is rebounding, and Kansas is pretty awash in that right now. If he can develop his post defense a bit more, though, I think he's a guy who could end up being a very good player his last couple years in Lawrence.