A lot of people smarter than me have written about how predictive 2-point offense and 2-point defense are in terms of how well a team’s offense and defense will play going forward. If that’s the case, Kansas may be in some trouble. The Jayhawks somehow won despite shooting just 36 percent inside the arc and allowing Creighton to shoot 62 percent from two. For the season, Kansas is below average in both 2-point offense (44 percent) and 2-point defense (53.2 percent). If those numbers don’t improve, Kansas has no shot of winning the Big 12 or going anywhere in March.
The good news is Kansas figures to improve in both for a couple reasons. The first obvious one is they have Bill Self as their head coach, and with the lack of preseason practice time due to Covid, improvement is all but guaranteed.
The second reason is that Marcus Garrett has been sick with a bit of a bug that, watching the team play, has almost certainly infiltrated the entire team. Not so much last night, but during the Kentucky and NDSU games Kansas looked lethargic and not very explosive. Once they get healthy, they should improve quite a bit.
Third, Bryce Thompson looks to be rounding into form, and as he gets more and more playing time I think KU’s numbers will improve. That of course ties into the general improvement point, but I have been repeatedly impressed with Thompson’s defensive instincts.
Lastly, David McCormack (who is taking almost 30 percent of the team’s shots while he’s on the floor and shooting 32 percent) is either going to get a lot better or Self is going to staple him to the bench. McCormack’s possessions going to literally anyone else on the floor and him not getting abused repeatedly defensively is going to have a big impact on the numbers.
As for the game yesterday, Kansas dodged a bit of a bullet in that Creighton, one of the best shooting teams in the entire country last year, has been pretty cold to start the season and was just 9-27 from deep yesterday. It’s easy to respond to that by saying Creighton lucked out in that Ochai Agbaji didn’t have a good offensive game, but the difference is Agbaji didn’t miss a ton of wide open shots, whereas Creighton did, especially down the stretch.
Probably KU’s most encouraging area yesterday was in the turnover department, as they forced the Blue Jays to turn it over on 19 percent of their possessions, almost double the rate at which they had been turning it over coming into the game.
People have also mentioned KU’s prowess on the glass yesterday because the Jayhawks outrebounded the Blue Jays, but our readers are smart enough to know that rebounding margin is meaningless. Percentage wise, the Jayhawks did well as well, limiting Creighton to just a 9.7 offensive rebounding rate, but a lot of that has to do with Creighton’s lack of attempts at offensive rebounding in general. (That’s not to say Kansas isn’t a good rebounding team, because they are, but yesterday isn’t the game to illustrate that.)
In any event, that’s two wins now where Kansas has been abysmal at scoring inside the arc, and three wins where you’d have to say Kansas didn’t play very well but still won. Bill Self must love the toughness, but the team needs to get a lot better or else they’re going to be in trouble.
- Christian Braun started pulling the trigger more from deep, going 4-9 from three, and as long as he keeps doing that he’s going to be a huge help spacing-wise. A three from him is also KU’s best offense, so keep doing it. He added 6 assists and 3 steals.
- Marcus Garrett was just 3-10 from the field, but had 4 assists and 2 steals. He probably should look to pass off his drives more, but he’s good at getting into the lane and collapsing the defense, and he’s so smart that I think it’s just a matter of reps with him.
- Jalen Wilson had another awesome day, going 4-6 both from two and three, including the game winner. He also had 10 rebounds and just 2 turnovers despite having the ball a ton in a ton of different situations. He has been KU’s best player so far this season.
- David McCormack had a nice first half, but ended an inefficient 5-12 from the floor. He also had 3 turnovers. He did have a nice pass to Wilson for the game winner, but too many of his possessions end with him trying to score and not even looking to pass. He can be an effective player if he looks to pass out of the post, but I haven’t seen anything to suggest he has that in him yet.
- Ochai Agbaji was 0-6 from the field, and Creighton did a good job forcing him to put the ball on the floor or to pass the ball, which are two things he’s not great at. In games like this, I’d like to see him pull the trigger from three a bit more rather than driving into the lane, but maybe he wasn’t comfortable doing so. He did have a nice game defensively.
- Bryce Thompson was 2-4 from two and 1-2 from three and as he keeps getting more comfortable offensively I think KU’s offensive ceiling is going to go up a notch or two.
- Tristan Enaruna made his only shot from the field and had 2 rebounds and a steal in 9 minutes.
- Dajuan Harris had a bit of a crash back to earth offensively, as he had a turnover and no assists. He did play well defensively, though, and probably should have gotten more than 8 minutes.
- Tyon Grant-Foster played 4 minutes and had 2 blocks.
- Mitch Lightfoot came in and provided some energy in 6 minutes, but struggled in pick and roll coverage so that probably contributed to the lack of minutes.