As it turned out, this Kansas basketball team was indeed “the one.”
“The one” that didn’t keep the legacy alive of winning the Big 12 championship.
The streak ended at 14 on Tuesday when the Jayhawks turned in a dead-team-walking performance at Oklahoma where they showed little fight after being punched in the mouth by Larry Bird clone Brady Manek, who looked like he was playing H-O-R-S-E against the non-existent closeout defense.
Heck, the OU fans didn’t even rush the court after the game like most teams have done in the past, as the Jayhawks’ abysmal road record has made them a welcomed opponent.
Sure, the streak had to end at some point and we all need to marvel at what KU accomplished over these 14 glorious years, eclipsing UCLA’s seemingly untouchable record. There were times where it was in peril in recent years, but Bill Self’s teams always found a way. But given this was a down year by Big 12 standards, I thought the Jayhawks would keep the streak going simply by default. Maybe that’s what the players thought, too. Just because it said “Kansas” on the front of the jersey, that didn’t mean teams would bow at their feet.
But this wasn’t a typical Self team. Like many Big 12 teams, it encountered injury adversity and then add in the mysterious departure of Lagerald Vick, whose name is almost never uttered anymore, and it was a jumble. It had battles with the NCAA over Silvio DeSousa, whose career is likely over, and in general it was a team that needed extra time in Chemistry 101.
The loss of potential Big 12 Player of the Year Udoka Azubuike was no question a killer. KU did not lose any of the nine games he played as he was a rim protector and inside scorer. Had he stayed healthy, Dedric Lawson most likely would not have put up the numbers he did. The two sometimes got clogged up as there’s only so much room in the lane.
I don’t think Self expected to be starting four freshmen, a la Coach K or John Calipari. The problem was his four freshmen weren’t on par with those of Duke and Kentucky. Devon Dotson for the most part has been solid, but Quentin Grimes look lost and bewildered much of the season. Ochai Agbagi wasn’t even supposed to be playing, while David McCormack was an entanglement of arms and legs that I think will be a good player in time, but needs a lot of work on his footwork and gathering himself.
Marcus Garrett was never the same after his ankle sprain as he lost his lateral movement on defense and his time off only dulled his line-drive shot.
Vick played well early, but then retreated into his moody ways, lost his 3-point shot and headed home. Transfers K.J. Lawson and Charlie Moore weren’t nearly as good as advertised. Lawson was a poor man’s Dedric, lacking strength and not as skilled, while Moore could only play if he made shots, which he didn’t, because he was overmatched on the defensive end.
Mitch Lightfoot has never gained Self’s complete trust and you know it’s a bad night for KU when he doesn’t bring energy, which was the case on Tuesday.
I know there’s a belief that KU might find itself and make a surprising postseason run. But I don’t see it. The season is going to end with a whimper, not a bang.