In the buildup to the start of Big 12 Conference play on December 30th, the 10-1 Kansas Jayhawks are in the midst of fine-tuning their high-powered offense. This has come against a mix of top-level non-conference teams and those with a decidedly less impressive pedigree.
In those 11 games, the Jayhawks have averaged an eye-opening 88 points per contest. That output is more than six points per game higher than head coach Bill Self’s previous high-level mark with the 2009-10 Kansas squad, a unit that poured in 81.6 points per game.
While the enthusiasm is high about clicking at such a lofty level, it’s important to remember that fate of that 33-3 squad from seven years ago. They finished 15-1 in conference play, yet found themselves getting bounced from the NCAA Tournament following a second round defeat to Northern Iowa.
Despite that ominous memory, the third-ranked Jayhawks are thus far delivering a message of teamwork that very well could override concerns about history repeating itself. Four different players are averaging in double figures, led by senior guard, Petersburg, Virginia native, Frank Mason III.
While Mason’s 20.3 points per game sits atop the scoring list, he’s been more than willing to dish the ball off to his teammates by also leading the team with 5.6 assists per game.
Much the same story can be told when it comes to the duo of Josh Jackson and Devonte’ Graham, who are contributing 28.5 points per game. Between the two of them, they’re also handing out nearly eight assists per game.
Self’s decision to go with a four-guard lineup this season has paid dividends, with the team’s only loss this season coming in their November 11th opener against the Indiana Hoosiers. That 103-99 overtime loss didn’t result in any residual effect for Kansas, which bounced back with a 77-75 win over the Duke Blue Devils.
Since then, nine more wins have followed, with three of those contests resulting in scoring binges of more than 90 points for the Jayhawks. That includes the 105-62 rout of UMKC on December 6th.
Kansas narrowly missed doubling that trio of games by scoring 89 points in three of their last four victories. That includes the most recent win on December 17th, when they shook off a surprisingly competitive Davidson squad by outscoring them 47-28 in the second half to pick up an 89-71 victory.
Some critics charge that some of the weaker competition has allowed the Jayhawks to pad their numbers. That offers a little more credence than simply portraying Kansas as a team of gunslingers who are ready to launch a shot at any opportunity, with Mason’s 56 percent field goal debunking that concept.
If the Jayhawks hadn’t struggled at the foul line, their numbers would be even better. Right now, they're connecting on only 60 percent of their free throws, a number that definitely becomes more important as the season moves along and the challenges of the postseason beckon.