The Kansas Jayhawks escaped the weekend with a 75-69 victory over the Harvard Crimson. While the Hawks got the W, it was a less than inspiring effort that was not particularly fun to watch. Here are 5 observations from this Saturday's game.
1) Kansas Leans on the backcourt, Maybe Too Much?
Frank Mason provided clutch baskets and matched his career high with 21 points on only 11 shots. Running mate Devonte Graham added 12 of his own, and filled up the stat sheet with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Wayne Selden, although relegated to the bench because of foul trouble, had an efficient 9 points and 4 assists in only 22 minutes of play. Even Svi, although missing some open 3 pointers was able to get to the rim and looked more comfortable with the ball in his hands - especially on the fast break. The only problem is, I don't think Bill Self, or any Kansas fan, wanted to see Frank Mason and Devonte Graham play 38 and 36 minutes, respectively. The college basketball season turns into a grind when the calendar turns, and any time you can give your primary ball handlers a breather, you want to take advantage of it. Frank and Devonte will both be asked to play these type of minutes in December, February and March, but they shouldn't need to play almost the full game versus that Harvard team.
2) Frontcourt Trouble
An undersized lineup and a quick 5 points from Perry had me convinced that this was going to be a game for the Kansas frontcourt to take a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, that was not the case as Head Coach Bill Self shuffled big men in and out of the lineup throughout the first half until settling on Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas down the stretch. The frontcourt combination of Traylor and Ellis was badly outrebounded in the opening minutes, as Harvard grabbed 9 of the game's first 10 rebounds. Ellis, besides the 5 quick points he scored at 0-0 and 56-56 was largely a nonfactor. Diallo looked sped up and had a hard time finishing at the rim. I didn't notice Bragg too much, but obviously Bill didn't like enough of what he saw to play him down the stretch as he did against Vanderbilt. That just leaves Landen Lucas, who played an okay game, which was enough to have a better showing than any other Kansas big. The Jayhawks have been feasting from the outside this year, which I have no problem with. However, it was a bit troubling to see our frontcourt struggle as much as they did.
3) Utilizing Team Speed
While this squad may not be Self's tallest or most outspoken, it might be his fastest team in years. With Mason, Graham, Svi or Selden, Diallo and Bragg on the floor, it gives Kansas the ability to run, even on made buckets. With a combination of that lineup on the floor, the offense pushed the pace, and clicked on all cylinders, enabling Kansas to turn a 13-12 game to a 29-16 contest in a matter of 3 minutes. The next 9 minutes only saw the Kansas offense produce 9 points as the game ground to a halt and the offense lacked flow. Kansas struggled to get out in transition in the 2nd half as well. In fact, their last fast break points came with 19:23 left on the clock. Playing at an Ivy-League pace allowed Harvard to crawl back into the game and made it much more interesting than it ever should have been.
4) Sticking Up For Landen
Landen Lucas, much to the chagrin of many of the Jayhawk fans on the message boards, received a season-high in minutes with 24. While many pointed out that Landen was not in the game when Kansas pushed the lead to 16, I think he played a better game than most are giving him credit for. Landen's offensive game isn't near as expansive as his fellow teammates, but he played to his strengths. He rebounded well, grabbing 8 in 24 minutes, he played good defense, altering many shots around the rim, and he finished at the basket, going 2-2. His game didn't look fluid at times, but he had a nice dish to Ellis for an And-1, an entry pass to Diallo that resulted in free throws, the secondary assist on a drive by Svi, and most importantly, did not force anything at the rim. I know a lot of people were calling for Diallo and Bragg to get a chance down the stretch, but you can't fault Lucas for being put on the floor and giving his best effort. He didn't put the team on his back by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think he helped the Jayhawks get a W.
5) Not A Game That Inspires
Tommy Amaker is one hell of a coach that has done one hell of a job at Harvard. Last year's team gave UNC a serious scare, losing 67-65 in the FIRST round of the NCAA tournament. If that same group of guys had taken the Hawks down to the wire, I would have been slightly more okay with this weekend's display. Problem is, only 1 contributor to last year's Harvard team played on Saturday. Fran Fraschilla said it best when he claimed the Jayhawks were "sleepwalking" through Saturday's game. I understand that not every game is going to be perfect. I understand that we are missing Brannen Greene. I understand that Perry and Landen are nursing some nagging injuries. What I don't understand is how a team that is supposed to contend for a national championship lets a team with 1 win against a Division-1 school come back from a 16 point deficit on its home floor. Maybe we are still on a Maui hangover, or distracted by finals, but the performance on Saturday was not one I'd like to remember.
Bonus Observation: Does Fran Fraschilla have a problem with Jose Calderon?
When John Sciambi asked Fran if he approved of his son Matt's beard, he responded by saying not only that he wasn't a fan of the beard but that the facial hair made his son look like Jose Calderon, the defensively challenged point guard for the New York Knicks. Jose is no Ryan Gosling or Chris Pratt, but he's not a bad looking guy. What gives Fran?
Bonus Bonus Observation:
I thought for sure that the Chiefs were going to Chief that one away after the missed PAT and lose 26-27. I am so glad I was wrong and Monday is so much sweeter after a road victory over the Raiders.