Texas isn't a very good offensive team. They rank 64th in KenPom, and are currently 8th in the league in points per possession. Some of that, however, was due to getting knocked down there by Kansas's best defensive performance of the year. In a game where the Jayhawks needed to avoid a sweep, and needed a win to set up a shot at a 10th straight league title, the Jayhawks held Texas to just .86 points per possession, and held them to 35% from two. Because of the effort, Kansas now has the best defense in the Big 12, allowing 1.02 points per trip.
The offense, of course, is still great, now scoring 1.19 points per Big 12 trip after putting up 1.35 against the Longhorns on Saturday. A stark contrast to the game in Austin, Kansas was able to score early and often down low, shooting 61.5% from two. Equally important was the turnover battle, where the Jayhawks turned it over on just 11% of their possessions compared with 19% for the Longhorns.
The Jayhawks are now third in the country at 2pt% and, while I still have some concerns about them playing bigger defenses, Saturday's game definitely eased some of that. Though the numbers were blown a bit out of proportion due to Rick Barnes putting on a press in the second half (note: though I want KU to press a bit more, I definitely don't want them to press like that), Kansas was still getting some great looks early against a set defense. If Kansas can solve the "scoring against big lineups" problem, there is a pretty large combination of traits a team is going to have to have to take down a healthy Kansas. I'm not saying the Jayhawks are not going to lose again, or that they're even the title favorite, but what I am saying is that, at this point, it's alright to dream.
Wayne Selden: 8. Selden didn't do much scoring (8 points) and he missed all of his threes, but he was 4-4 from two and had 7 assists without turning the ball over. He played improved defense as well. If he can give the Jayhawks another above average perimeter defender, the gains in defense just might be real.
Naadir Tharpe: 5. Tharpe struggled a bit in this one, but fortunately it was tough to notice. He was just 1-9 from the field (0-5 from three) and he's now down to "just" 39% from three. He had 5 assists in this one, but the best thing he did was disprove the notion that he had to play great or even well for Kansas to win against a good team.
Andrew Wiggins: 9. I'm not sure what there is to say about Wiggins at this point. He's an ace perimeter defender, and his offense is really starting to catch up. He's shooting 40% from three in Big 12 play after a 3-5 effort from beyond the arc. He was 4-7 from two, made all 4 of his free throws, grabbed 6 rebounds, had 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Had I not heard so much about him before he committed I would think that Ben McLemore and Travis Releford were combined to form some sort of super perimeter playing voltron.
Joel Embiid: 9. I couldn't pick who had the better game between he and Wiggins so I am making them tie. What a difference a healthy Embiid makes. 6 blocks, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4-6 from the floor and 5-8 from the line. He's the greatest.
Perry Ellis: 5. Ellis struggled a bit in this one as well, going 2-6 from the floor. In games against teams with bigger post players, especially a combo of two of them, I like the idea of Ellis playing more outside since he's such a good shooter, but kudos to Bill Self for recognizing that Black and Traylor should be playing more against a team like Texas.
Jamari Traylor: 6. Speaking of which, Traylor provided a lot of energy, some good post defense, and 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
Tarik Black: 7.5. Black was 4-5 from two, grabbed 5 rebounds, and although he's still not a great post defender, he did a good job of providing a big body down low that at least forces opponents to shoot over.
Andrew White: 10. White made a three! #freeandrewwhite