Four Takeaways From Kansas’ Loss to San Diego StatePosted by Brian Goodman on January 6th, 2014
The Jayhawks were handed a rare home non-conference loss by Steve Fisher’s Aztecs on Sunday afternoon. Here are the top four things we learned about Bill Self’s team in the surprising defeat.
- Interior toughness leaves a lot to be desired. One look at Joel Embiid’s line – 12 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks – would suggest otherwise, but this was a night for Kansas to forget when it came to interior defense. San Diego State won despite taking only eight three-pointers and shooting just 37 percent from the field, meaning they got it done with rebounding and putbacks. The Jayhawks deeply miss Jeff Withey, who excelled at swatting shots in a way that allowed his team to take over possession. On Sunday, Kansas blocked 13 shots, but most of those went right back to the Aztecs, and on some instances, SDSU laid the ball right back into the basket within a few seconds. Given the final score of 61-57, a couple of bounces may have been the difference between Kansas winning and losing this game, but while the analytical take is to say that it was just bad luck, this isn’t the first time the Jayhawks have been beaten on the interior. That’s somewhat disconcerting for Bill Self’s team going forward.
- The Jayhawks need more consistent outside shooting. Kansas came into Sunday’s match-up shooting over 40 percent from long range in its last four games, but the Jayhawks shot just 25 percent against the Aztecs and have played five other games with a sub-30 percent mark. Self’s best teams have ranked among the top 100 nationally in three-point percentage, but this season, the Jayhawks are shooting the ball at just 33.3 percent, good for 202nd in the country. Their chilly shooting isn’t for a lack of threats from outside, however. Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, Naadir Tharpe, Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene and seldom-used Andrew White are all capable of getting hot, but their shooting consistency — and in some cases, playing time –just hasn’t been there.
- Point guard issues continue to hold Kansas back. It wasn’t just San Diego State’s frontcourt that gave Kansas problems. We’re two months into the season now and Tharpe and Frank Mason still haven’t instilled sufficient confidence in Jayhawks fans (or, or more importantly, Bill Self). In fairness, Self revealed after the game that Tharpe had turned an ankle in practice last week and wasn’t 100 percent on Sunday, while Mason provided a spark for the lethargic Jayhawks with 14 points but he also committed a costly turnover in the final minutes right after Kansas had scored a key stop. This is a young team, but Self will be the first to tell you that he pictured his troops being further along by now.
- After all that, it’s a great time to buy low on the Jayhawks. Kansas shot 29.8 percent from the floor, got beasted on the interior, bricked nine of its 28 free throws, missed plenty of threes… and still had a chance to win the game in the final seconds. Most teams saddled by that kind of poor play all afternoon would have been out of the game long beforehand. As with their loss against Florida, Kansas just ran out of time when its comeback attempt came up short. The Jayhawks still have three first-round picks in the lineup and a coach who hasn’t lost the Big 12’s regular season race since the Bush administration. Right now, they look rough around the edges, and Dan Wolken of USA Today went so far as to entertain the idea of the Jayhawks eventually dropping to a #7-seed in the NCAA Tournament, but as has been the case all along, betting against Bill Self remains a suspect proposition.