After the latest loss to San Diego State on Sunday. KU ended the non-conference stretch going 9-4, while playing the toughest schedule of recent memory in the Self era. A few losses coming into the non-conference slate was bound to happen and much likely predicted by many of us this season. But 4? And yes, 2 of those losses to Villanova in Atlantis and Colorado were to practically buzzer beaters. And the loss to Florida was by just 6, in which coming back from 18 points down. But, this one San Diego State seems to the most painful. Not only was it at home, but it snapped a 68 straight home win streak against non-con opponents at the Ol'Barn. This streak dated back to mid November of 2007 when they lost to Oral Roberts.
The way they lost was inexplicable and rather inexcusable. Shooting 18-57, just breaking even of 30% from the field at home isn't a promising way to head into Big 12 play. When it seems like, the Big 12 is the best in the country right now. And frankly at this point, does this team really have an identity if any at this point? We have seen them give up 83 points against Toledo and shoot 56% to then 6 days later give up 61 and shoot a frigid 29.8%. Tharpe really hasnt hatched into the role of being a true point guard and becoming a game manager on a consistent basis. He can score 20 points while dishing out 9 assists one night, then he can go 3-15 from the field and score 5 points sandwiched between 6 turnovers. Without any true point guard, this team will not make it far in the tournament. The common theme last year evidently was no guard play. In which all of us know was behind the element of Elijah Johnson last year. But most of us thought that would be the strength of this team. Tharpe is a junior and even Frank Mason a freshman as shown glimpses of fluency of adequate guard play. The next thing this team doesn't have is a leader. Andrew Wiggins, with all due respect has been playing decent in my opinion. He has been attacking the basket more and we now he will continued to grow on the defensive end. But no leader has emerged for us. Ellis, a more of a quiet player is not the answer. Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason should have taken the reigns of this team from a leadership role, awhile ago.
Offensively, this team has the potential of being a great offensive team. It has the pieces with a dominant backcourt, behind Perry Ellis and and a high ceiling type of player with Joel Emiid. We all now this team is not a great shooting team even before last game's disaster (if you can call it that). But it has to improve in order for Kansas to win the conference for the 10th straight year.
All in all, this season can still be a success. Bill Self teams usually seem to get their feet under them around January into February. Yet, maybe these group of guys are just late bloomers like in 2006. Self's first really hard to coach team. They seemed to turn out fine. By winning the Big 12 regular season and tournament championships. This season is somewhat still young. A lot of improvement left, but no real case of identity can be pointed at right now.