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Kansas Rides Defense and Rebounding to Win Over Baylor

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Kansas allowed .79 points per trip against Baylor, which is the Jayhawks' best defensive effort of the year. Maybe we should question their defense more often. In the game, the Jayhawks allowed Baylor to shoot just 28% from two, so even though Kansas had a pedestrian offensive game (1.04 PPP) they still cruised to victory. After last night, Kansas leads the Big 12 in 2 point defense, and is just barely second in PPP allowed and eFG allowed. Not bad for a defense we have been describing as abysmal.

The Jayhawks also pounded the glass defensively, allowing the league's third best offensive rebounding team to grab only 22.2% of its misses, 17% below its Big 12 average.

The lone blemish on this game was some of the offensive output. Although Kansas got a lot of shots at the rim, they struggled to convert there, making just 43% of their twos. That's not going to get it done against the better teams in the country, obviously. And the Jayhawks only attempted 10 threes on the night (and made 6). With the outside shooting talent on this team, as well as the ability to get into the lane, I am surprised Kansas doesn't try to launch more threes game in and game out.

Either way, Kansas is now outscoring the league by .15 points per possession, nearly double the next best mark. The Jayhawks also have their easiest four game stretch of the conference season coming up, facing West Virginia, Kansas State, TCU and Texas Tech. The Mountaineers actually have the league's second best offense, scoring 1.1 points per trip in league play, but because of their defense, they are, on average, getting outscored per each trip down the floor. Point guard Juwan Staten, a possible Big 12 POY, will be a great test for Naadir Tharpe and Frank Mason defensively.

Naadir Tharpe: 9. It's tough to give Tharpe anything less in this one. He was amazing. He shot 5-7 from two, 4-6 from three, grabbed 5 rebounds, and had 4 assists to only 2 turnovers. One of his turnovers came when he stepped out of bounds while getting fouled as well. He needs to work on his flop game.

Andrew Wiggins: 8. Here's the thing with Wiggins. He didn't shoot it well in the first half. He was just 2-10 from two on the game. But he got to the line more than any other Jayhawk despite a couple fouls against him not getting called, he went 2-3 from three (really 1-2 when you consider this), he had 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks, 3 steals, and he didn't commit a turnover. He could stand to get better finishing around the rim (currently 61%) but he's impacting the game in more ways than even I thought he would, he's shown maybe the highest basketball IQ on the team, and he still has a month of regular season basketball to grow even more.

Wayne Selden: 7. For the ragging I do on Selden's defense, it's only fair to highlight when he does well. Bill Self switched to him on Brady Heslip late in the first half, and much like when Andrew Wiggins was on him in the first meeting, that pretty much ended any effectiveness Heslip had. Selden didn't shoot often, but he also had 5 assists to just 1 turnover.

Perry Ellis: 8. Another quiet double double for Perry, who went 5-10 from two and grabbed 10 rebounds. I also thought he played pretty well defensively. (at some point I'll continue the defensive scoresheet stuff. Promise). The only qualm with his game is he seems to be taking, and missing, his running hook a lot more often. I don't know if he's worried about getting hit, or some of his layup misses are getting in his head, but I think he needs to get back to attacking the rim a bit more.

Joel Embiid: 4. Embiid struggled on offense and defense (he did grab 7 rebounds though) and what's more, he struggled with his explosiveness. I am not sure if his knee is bothering him or what the deal is, but maybe he can get some bench time in these next couple games to rest up. Or, alternatively, maybe he just needs to put the goggles back on.

Tarik Black: 7. Black has grown into one of my favorite players on the team. It's easy to see how much more comfortable he looks now, he has grown some rapport with Jamari Traylor, and he's showing why he was a weapon for Memphis when he played. Black is up to 64% from two on the year, is having the best rebounding season of his career, and has improved his shot blocking. I even think that of his three fouls last night, two of them were reputation calls more than anything else.

No one else did much else, but does anyone else get worried at the fact that when Kansas is winning they basically do so with 6 players? On one hand, Kansas has shown they can win when their big guns don't play very well, and I think a foul laden game in the NCAA tournament helps Kansas because of their depth, but on the other hand I think I'd rather take my chances with Wiggins, Embiid and Ellis on the floor 80% of the time.