One of the underrated problems with having a team full of 18 and 19 year old kids is when something new or unfamiliar comes along, no one knows how to react. So it went on Saturday when Kansas, accustomed to towering over opponents, came up against a similarly sized team and struggled mightily inside. The Jayhawks ended up just shooting 37% inside the arc.
Defensively was even worse, as the Jayhawks allowed 1.17 points per trip, allowed the Horns to shoot 46% from two, and allowed them to grab 48% of their misses. Kansas did well for themselves on the offensive glass as well, but it was completely undone on the defensive end, as Texas got into the lane at will and the number of one and done possessions were few and far between.
But perhaps the worst feature of Saturday's game was the gameplan. Although Texas gives up more threes than any team in the conference, Kansas took just 14 threes, and they shot 43% there. Somehow, although Kansas kept getting hammered inside with no foul call (Kansas had a free throw rate of just 29.2% compared to Texas's 80.4%) Kansas thought it was a good idea to keep attacking the rim rather than shooting more jumpers. The zone defense with Andrew Wiggins up top took away a lot of the Longhorns' dribble penetration, but it was back to man to man shortly. Finally, it took until about 5 minutes left in the game to put Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor, the best post combo against a team like Texas, in the game together. Black's ankle was reportedly still bothering him, which explains some of it, but I wish they would have gone to that combo in the first half.
And yet, it's still just a one game sample. I made a more flippant remark about it during the game, but when a game is 40 minutes long, features inconsistent reffing (note: no way should this be taken as ref blaming. Just saying when there are only 5 fouls to go around and refs are not good either way it has a huge impact on a game), a short three point line, and a bunch of kids who are 20 years old and younger pretty much anything can happen in any game. So far this team has learned from its mistakes really well, and I think that tradition will continue. Obviously Baylor has the type of talent to disrupt what Kansas wants to do, but in Waco is a decent place to get back on track. I predicted Kansas to go 7-2 in their first 9 games, so they're either going to be right on schedule or 1 game above. All is not lost.
Wayne Selden: 8.5 Selden gets docked for some horrible defense, but gets some bonus points for being one of the only Jayhawks to consistently get to the rim and score at the rim. He was 6-10 from two and 2-6 from three. A pretty good day, considering.
Andrew Wiggins: 5. Grading Wiggins is tough in this one. He took some bad shots (the stepback jumpers) and missed some good ones (open threes, layups) and he was KU's best defender. But 2-12 is still 2-12. He's responded to his bad games very well so far, so look out, Baylor.
Perry Ellis: 5.5. 4-9 from Perry isn't terrible considering what I expected coming into the game, but he only had 2 rebounds and struggled defensively
Naadir Tharpe: 2. That number is only because I love you, Naadir. But he was 0-3 from two, only took 1 three, had 3 assists and 2 turnovers. One of my favorite things about Tharpe this year was he knew when to take his spots in terms of shooting the ball. When the team needed it he shot, but otherwise he has stayed out of the way. In this one, however, the team needed him to shoot and he didn't. And that doesn't even tough his abysmal defending. With the rim protection being as good as it has been this year, and with how good Kansas has been as a whole the last couple years, I am forced to ask: was Elijah Johnson that good of a defender?
Joel Embiid: 5. Embiid shot just 3-9 and struggled against some size, getting pushed around a bit. He did, however, grab 10 rebounds and had a couple blocks so it's tough to kill him too much.
Frank Mason: 6. Mason played a bit better than his stats suggested, I think. He was 1-2 from two and three, and as a whole has turned it around from three a bit.
Jamari Traylor: 6.5. Traylor grabbed 5 offensive rebounds in 14 minutes.
No more ratings, but of note: Brannen Greene always makes his first three, and then usually misses his second.