For just the second time in the Bill Self era, Kansas has started 0-1. As is usually the case with losses, there are plenty of negatives to focus on, but also some positives.
The biggest negative for most people, understandably, is the turnovers. In an 80 possession game, the Jayhawks turned it over 28 times, also known as 35 percent of their possessions. In the preview, I noted taking care of the ball would be a key to the game. In a way it was, given Kansas lost in large part due to an inability to take care of the ball. But in some ways it wasn’t. Kansas would have won had they turned it over on as many as 25 percent of its possessions, which is a huge number. But whether it was the game plan, inexperience, or an inability to pass, the turnovers were a huge issue and probably warrant a longer post.
The other big problem was, paradoxically, rebounding. If you’re going to play two bigs, there are going to be times where it’s tough to get a shot off because of spacing, tough to take care of the ball due to one fewer ballhandler, etc. One way to mitigate that is to pound the offensive glass and put up extra shots. The Jayhawks, though, rebounded fewer than 35 percent of their misses. Sure, Duke played more big men than Kansas might normally face, but it is still a worrying trend.
Finally, Kansas took just nine threes, and that includes the final possession when the game was no longer in doubt. It’s fair to say Udoka Azubuike, David McCormack, and Silvio De Sousa aren’t going to take any threes. Nor should they. But Ochai Agbaji has the ability to shoot in the high 30s, Devon Dotson does as well, and I think Marcus Garrett can get to 33 percent. Add in the three freshmen, and I don’t buy the argument there aren’t enough shooters.
But it does take putting up with some nights where they aren’t exactly lighting it up because they don’t have Devonte Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, etc. If Kansas is going to build its offense around Udoka Azubuike inside, they need to punish teams for packing it in on defense against them, and the way to do that is to take open threes when they present themselves. Not only is shooting 33 percent from three (which isn’t very good) like shooting 50 percent from two, the ability and willingness to take those threes will open things up inside for the big men, and lead to more dunks and higher percentage shots. It also will open things up for Devon Dotson to drive.
Because it’s Bill Self, I expect him to adjust, and he’d better because taking 18 percent of your shots from behind the arc is a recipe for disaster.
Now for the positives: Kansas lessened a lot of concerns about how they would cover stretch fours. While Matthew Hurt was 3-7 from three, he struggled when he wasn’t able to catch and shoot, and was forced into some tough looks inside the arc. As a whole, Duke scored just .85 points per possession and shot 37 percent inside the arc.
If you’re projecting ahead, I think Kansas has the makings of a borderline elite defense and is just a few tweaks away from being very good on offense as well. The turnover issues are going to be the last thing to resolve themselves because they rely on plenty of in game reps and Kansas has a lot of new pieces to integrate. It’s frustrating to think about last night’s game, but I think they’ll be fine.
- This should get a longer post too, but Devon Dotson had a poor decision making game. Too many times he was able to get himself into a good spot but made a bad final pass, tried to draw a foul when he could have scored, etc. He finished 4-5 on twos and 6-8 from the line, but the 6 turnovers were a huge issue.
- Ochai Agbaji had a night emblematic of the night as a whole, with a lot of good moments punctuated by some horrific headscratchers. He was 4-7 from two and 2-3 from three with 4 steals. Yay. But also had 5 turnovers and played some rough defense at times. Boo. There were plenty of possessions he got open and didn’t get the pass he needed, however. I still think he’s in for a huge season.
- Marcus Garrett was 5-13 from two and had a team high 5 assists. He also played great defense all night. Like Dotson, he was consistently able to beat his man and get into the lane. My biggest problem with him however wasn't the number of shots he took but the fact he didn’t take a three. There were plenty of times he had an open three available and turned it down to pass it away or dribble into traffic. Frankly, even if he’s only going to shoot 30 percent, he needs to take those threes.
- Udoka Azubuike had just 8 points, but added 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Frankly, I think he got a bad whistle both in terms of a couple of fouls he was called for and in terms of being called for a couple early travels which weren’t travels. It’s disappointing he wasn’t able to assert his will a bit more, but it was his first game after coming back from injury.
- David McCormack had a team high 13 rebounds, but was 2-7 from two and had the essentially game ending turnover (although I think it’s fair to equally blame that on Dotson and Bill Self). I’m a little more worried about him going 2-7 on twos. Unless he has an open dunk or putback opportunity, he’s probably not a guy who should be shooting.
- Tristan Enaruna made his only three of the game, and looked pretty good handling the ball. The issue was once he was able to penetrate into the teeth of the defense, he didn’t have much of an idea of where to go with the ball. I think he’s a guy who probably needs some more reps because his shooting could be a huge help.
- Silvio De Sousa struggled in 8 minutes, committing 3 turnovers. He also missed a couple easy putbacks.
- Christian Braun committed 2 fouls in four minutes and was otherwise pretty unnoticeable. He will need to play more going forward due to his shooting.
- Jalen Wilson was pretty bad in his 2 minutes, but I think probably should have gotten some more playing time, especially once Self started ditching the two bigs look.