Monday, February 11, 2013

NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE: What's happening to the Jayhawks?

Johnny J

The Kansas Jayhawks lost their third straight game on Saturday: all to unranked opponents. Falling to the Oklahoma Sooners 72-66, it was their second straight loss on the road. Just last week, the then ranked number two Jayhawks were on the verge of being number one when the then, number one Michigan Wolverines fell to the Indiana Hoosiers. Now after three straight loses in conference play, the Jayhawks find themselves now in third place in the conference after starting out 7-0 in the Big 12.

The Jayhawks had won 18 straight games before hitting this three game slide. Now they find themselves in dangerous waters. In the next four games, they play two of the teams whom have already handed them a loss.
"Obviously three in a row is not good, but this game to me today [against Oklahoma], I'm not leaving out of here disgusted with my team at all because we actually played better today," said Kansas coach Bill Self, who was highly critical of his team after a loss at last-place TCU on Wednesday.
No rest for the weary as the Jayhawks welcome the 10th ranked Kansas State Wildcats on Monday night. The Jayhawks slid past the Wildcats in their last game by four, but the Wildcats will be looking for a little revenge after winning four straight heading in to this game.

The Jayhawks will be leaning on freshman guard Ben McLemore to help them get out of these muddy waters. McLemore, who had jumped from #3 to #1 on the NBA 2013 Mock Draft has to show why he should be selected with the top pick. A 6-5 shooting guard from St. Louis, he has the size and the durability to become a good pick for an NBA team in desperate need of scoring. McLemore averages 16.3 PPG and 5.4 RPG. McLemore has infinite shooting range shooting 42% from behind the arc. I know this is asking a lot for a Freshman, but he has to step up even more to guide the Jayhawks to a championship this year.

(All stats are as of Monday, February 11, 2013 before tonight's game between the in-state rivals from Kansas--Ed)

As I was watching the game against the Sooners, I watched McLemore use his talents to help create off the dribble. He stood behind the arc and gave a quick pump fake to get the opponent off his feet. He then drove to the hole and drew the foul. He is NBA ready. Anytime you can keep opponents guessing, you will always have the advantage.  So at least he can rest assure that he will be a very high lottery pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. But first, he needs to take over and dominate for Kansas this year.

This was just a bad week in college hoops for ranked teams, as the top five ranked teams all lost (see my "Hot Potato" simile from last week). With the conference tournament a month away. I really don't see an established team to run through the big tournament. Nobody wants the trophy as I think its up for grabs! I wouldn't be surprised if an unranked team wins the whole thing. None of these so-called "good teams" can win away from home: THEY GET HOME SICK!

Kansas is the team I'm most worried about; anytime you are a ranked team and you lose three straight to unranked opponents, red flags just pop up all over the place. That tells me no one is helping McLemore at all. Other players have to help step up and play to the potential, in which they had before winning 18 games in a row.  But the biggest concern about the the Jayhawks is that this is basically a team that is run by upper classmen.  For example, 6 Kansas players played in double-digit minutes against the Sooners.  Two of those players were under classmen.  The other 4 players were all upper classmen.  You're supposed to be a better team!  How is a team led by battle-tested players drop games against unranked opponents?  It just doesn't make sense (so much for staying in school--Ed).  The Jayhawks haven't dropped three straight since 2005.

The last Freshman that comes to mind to take over games...Carmelo Anthony's Syracuse Orangemen, as he pretty much carried that team to a championship in 2003. That team had only one senior, but they had a phenomenal Freshman who averaged 22.2 PPG and 10 RPG.  Can McLemore be that phenomenal Freshman?  Absolutely, but first he needs to show that he can actually dominate and take over this team.  Add the fact that this team, unlike 'Melo's Syracuse team, actually has Senior leadership on the squad and Kansas makes for a great recipe for success in this year's tournament.  However, Kansas needs to step up and step up quick, because Kansas State, I can assure you, will show no mercy.

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