KU's weaknesses exposed in first loss

By Steve Sell
December 07, 2017

I’ve been saying all along the Kansas Jayhawks are not the second-best college basketball team in the country.

If they get Billy Preston back and when Sam Cunliffe becomes eligible, then maybe we’ll talk.

But on Wednesday, the ride of the Magnificent Seven — that’s Bill Self’s main rotation except for the minutes Clay Young has to play when there’s foul trouble to one of the bigs — came to a screeching halt in a 74-65 loss to Washington.

Give credit to Washington coach Mike Hopkins and a truly brilliant game plan. It actually was the same plan that Syracuse (where he was once rumored to be Jim Boeheim’s replacement) employed last week to no avail against the Jayhawks, but the Huskies expertly flustered the Jayhawks and sent them into mass confusion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of Self’s teams look so disorganized or exasperated as they were the final 5 minutes when they basically waved the white flag.

The Huskies let the versatile Legerald Vick roam the middle and dared him to shoot. Vick scored 28 points, but often was hesitant. I don’t think he realized at times just how wide open he was and should have been playing volleyball with big man Udoka Azubuike as Washington’s plan was to suffocate the 3-point line and win the battle of the paint.

Vick was 12 of 23 from the field, but the rest of the Jayhawks were 16 of 39. 

Wednesday’s loss also exposed KU from the standpoint that for it to beat a good team, Devonte’ Graham has to have a big night. His past Sprint Center demons raised their ugly head again as he was just 1 of 8 and you knew it wasn’t his night when he clanked a pair technical free throws. He again played 40 minutes, which is why KU can’t wait for Cunliffe to get eligible as he’s a proven player who shot it well for Arizona State in his brief time there the first semester last year.

KU was just 5 of 20 on 3-balls. Svi Mykhailuk was just 3 of 12 overall, 2 of 8 on 3s. Malik Newman remains a paradox, scoring just 8 points in his 29 minutes. He’s still trying to figure it out as he hasn’t played up to his high school hype when he was one of the Top 5 recruits in the country. As of now, he seems to be a pedestrian college player, good, but not great. 

Azubuike was 5 of 6 from the field and scored 10 points, along with 9 rebounds, but too often he seemed confused where he should be on the floor. Mitch Lightfoot did contribute some good minutes in his stead with 4 points and 6 rebounds in just 8 minutes.

A loss like this doesn’t hurt Kansas. It came early enough in the season to perhaps keep the team humble. I think the season still hinges on getting the multi-talented Preston back, as his size, strength and versatility are being missed terribly. He’s an NBA talent, but you can’t impress scouts if you’re not on the court.

And how long does it take, really, to figure out his car situation? It should be cut and dry. It makes you wonder how competent these people are who are in charge of looking into this. Every game Preston misses, that’s valuable experience that he needs going into Big 12 play. The longer this goes on, it makes me wonder if he’ll ever play a game as a Jayhawk.