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Kansas Struggles Defensively, But Wins At Oklahoma

The Jayhawks kicked off the Big 12 slate with a win, squeaking out a 7 point win on the road

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The mantra for conference season is any win is a good win. And that goes doubly so for on the road. No longer should we be concerned about whether Kansas has it all put together, or what this result means going forward. It's all about the win-loss column. Still, Kansas has some things to shore up defensively. Oklahoma has been a very good offensive team this year, but there is little excuses for giving up 1.17 points per possession. The Sooners shot over 50% from two, negating the one decent thing Kansas had going for it defensively, and turned it over on fewer than 15% of its possessions, not allowing Kansas to pile up points in a hurry due to turnovers.

Kansas did get back to work on the defensive glass, however, allowing Oklahoma to grab just 21.9% of its misses. There were some problems on the glass in the first half, but Kansas upped its effort later in the game and came away with a win.

The other developing problem defensively is KU's habit of sending guys to the free throw line. Most of it is due to the guards not being very good defensively and having to grab their man, but I do think some of it is the refs aren't sure how to officiate verticality very well. Either way, Kansas is now 275th in terms of sending teams to the line. That type of defense will work against teams like Kansas State, but if they think they're going to beat Oklahoma State by sending them to the line rather than making Marcus Smart make a bunch of jumpers, they have another thing coming.

Offensively, things looked much prettier. Some of it is unsustainable, such as Kansas going 8-16 from three, but the Jayhawks also shot 57% inside, got to the line a lot, and grabbed 42% of their misses. In all, Kansas scored 1.27 points per possession, and are back to being a top 10 offense in terms of shooting from 2.

Next up is Kansas State, and Kansas might have the opposite problems they did in this one: the Wildcats have been poor offensively so far, but have been rather stout defensively. (one word of caution to Kansas State fans, though: I doubt teams will shoot 25% from three against you all year). It's good news and bad news: it will be a decent test for the KU offense, but if the defense can't stop Kansas State, we might have major problems on our hands.

Wayne Selden: 9.5. Selden had his best game as a Jayhawk, going 4-7 from two and 5-10 from three. He added two rebounds, an assist and a block. Keeping him from a 10 was the fact that he didn't play very good defense in this one. Still, there is now a lot of hope that after some early season struggles Selden is a legitimate three point threat, now shooting 40.5% from three on the year. Kansas doesn't need him to make 5 threes per game obviously, but having a couple guys who can make teams think twice about doubling Embiid and Ellis will be a huge help.

Perry Ellis: 9.5. Speaking of Ellis, Perry was 6-8 from two and 10-12 from the line, finally attacking the rim with abandon. He's shown time and time again that he will eat up smaller bigs, and he did so on the glass as well, grabbing 11 rebounds. I also thought he was probably Kansas's best defender last night (though that's not saying much)

Andrew Wiggins: 5.5. It was a rough one for Wiggins, who was 2-9 from the field, but he did take 7 free throws. He added 6 rebounds and 2 blocks, but had a pair of almost costly turnovers late. He also was horrible (for him) on the defensive end. It probably didn't help that he had to sit long portions of the game due to foul trouble, however. I'll save everyone my screed about how Self needs to leave guys with 2 fouls in, but that goes doubly so for a guy who is your best player, and a guy who doesn't foul a lot.

Joel Embiid: 6.5. Embiid struggled in this one as well, going just 2-4 from the field with just 6 rebounds. He consistently got outmuscled on the glass, and also struggled with fouls. Given who he is, though, I expect a big game on Saturday.

Naadir Tharpe: 8. When Kansas gets Good Tharpe, they are going to be awfully tough to beat. KU's two best players (or two of the three, depending on how you see Ellis) did basically nothing, and yet Kansas was still able to win. There are other factors at play of course, but it's partly a testament to just how good Naadir Tharpe can make Kansas look. He had just one turnover, and was 3-4 from two and 2-3 from three. He also stepped up and made 4 huge free throws down the stretch.

Jamari Traylor: 8. Traylor didn't do his turnover numbers any favors, committing 3 of them in 12 minutes, but he did exactly what Kansas wants from him:5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2-3 shooting, and providing energy and rim protection on defense. The 2 assists were a bonus.

Conner Frankamp: 8.5. Frankamp probably should be a 10 given that he actually played, but he made his only 2, went 1-2 from three, had 2 rebounds, and an assist without a turnover in 13 minutes. I don't think he's going to supplant Frank Mason as the backup, but given Kansas's lack of guys who can play steadily, maybe he should.