When Kansas loses (or plays terribly) I like to get the good news out of the way first,so here goes: Kansas lost on some kid hitting a shot that he'll hit at best 5% of the time. Secondly, they held Spencer Dinwiddie to just 3-8 shooting. The other bit of good news, I guess, is Kansas basically gave that game away. They shot it a lot better, and looked good on offense (even if they struggled with the zone), but Colorado just played harder. The whole "wanted it more" thing is pretty cliche, but I think it rings true in this case. It's never good to have to teach a team to play tough, but now they know what it takes to win on the road, and they'll get there. If we see a rematch in March I fully expect Kansas to win by 10+.
Onto the bad news: Kansas really needs to learn how to defend and play tougher. On Saturday, Kansas allowed the Buffaloes to rebound 37.5% of their misses, a season high for a KU opponent. They also forced turnovers on just 12.1% of their possessions while turning it over at a 21.2% clip. Lastly, I don't know if Colorado has just figured out the new rules better or if Kansas is being stubborn about them, but Colorado took almost double the amount of free throws (37-20), and they were pretty even in shot distribution types. It has to start on the ball defensively, though. Both Tharpe and Mason were horrible, and when your point guard gets blown by every possession it puts a lot of strain on the defense. It also puts a lot of strain on the defense when the defensive rotations are as horrible as they were on Saturday (more on this later in the week).
So, is the sky falling? It's still just December, so it's not time to get worried yet, but it is frustrating to be working on the same problems now as they were a month ago, especially when a couple of them have some easy fixes.
Andrew Wiggins: 9. Wiggins shot the ball really well on Saturday, scoring 22 points on just 11 shots from the field. He grabbed 5 rebounds and played well defensively as well, showing that his play in the Bahamas was more about his health than anything else. Bonus "I don't want to tell Bill Self how to coach basketball but I'm going to tell Bill Self how to coach basketball" section: taking your best player out of the game when he has two first half fouls is crazytown. There is a bit more leeway due to the new rules where a guy could pick up a foul for doing nothing, but Kansas had a chance to put that game on ice in the first half and they couldn't do it with Wiggins off the floor.
Frank Mason: 7. Mason had 4 assists and 2 turnovers, and made some big shots down the stretch when he took the ball to the rim, but he shot 5 threes (seriously, no more threes) and again, the defense was exceptionally bad.
Perry Ellis: 9. Perry was 5-6, including the shot that, barring a miracle, should have sent the game into overtime, and had 8 rebounds. It's not Perry's fault that the team didn't give him the ball, despite him being a near automatic basket or foul.
Wayne Selden: 7.5. Selden shot well, going 2-3 from two and 1-2 from three, but he's having some trouble getting into the flow of the offense. He did have 4 rebounds, but probably should have had more, and I suspect he will show up poorly when I look at the defensive scoresheet later this week.
Joel Embiid: 7. Embiid struggled defensively, and fouled out, which overshadows his day a little bit. He was 4-7 with 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 steals, and he flashed an even more advanced post game than when we last saw him. If there's some good news to take from this stretch it's that by March I expect Embiid and Ellis to be maybe the best frontcourt in the country.
Naadir Tharpe: 8. Tharpe was 2-4 from three, and had 2 assists to no turnovers. But, while he was better than Mason defensively, he was still pretty bad. I do think he will reclaim his starting spot tomorrow night though.
Jamari Traylor: 5. Traylor had 3 blocks, but him going after blocks led to some easy buckets for Colorado, and he is just unable to do anything offensively. He also has nearly a 40% turnover rate. I know big men tend to turn it over at higher rates, but that is ridiculous, especially considering he doesn't really do anything on offense. While I think Landen Lucas is a better player than my suggested substitute in the lineup for Traylor, I think it's time we see some Justin Wesley. He's probably the third best post defender on the team and he's not going to shoot or try to do anything on offense.
White, Greene, Frankamp: "I'm not going to tell Bill Self how to coach, but here's me telling Bill Self how to coach" part 2! While Kansas had some troubles with Colorado's zone on Saturday, the fix should, in theory, be pretty easy. Two of White, Greene and Frankamp have to be on the floor to stretch defenses with their shot, then let either both Wiggins and Ellis roam the baseline/top of the free throw line area, or have one of them doing it with Embiid down low. I don't know if Self thinks that lineup won't be able to defend or what, but newsflash: none of the lineups are defending. Kansas isn't exactly a team of three point bombers right now, but White and Tharpe are at 38%, and Greene and Frankamp are both better than their numbers suggest so far. Of course, Self might be playing the long game and waiting until March to unveil this.