Rare trouble for Self's KU Jayhawks

By Steve Sell
December 12, 2017

Tuesday’s thoughts...

• KU SLUMPING — They may be first in the Big 12, but they’re last in the Pac 12.

Back-to-back losses to Pac-12 teams Washington and Arizona State have the Kansas Jayhawks reeling after they had opened the season with seven straight wins, including a victory over fellow blue blood Kentucky.

But as I have maintained all along, this is the most flawed team in Bill Self’s tenure. It is short on depth and size, not to mention experience.

Udoka Azubuike, the lone true center, is basically a freshman as his initial season ended last year after just a handful of games. Malik Newman is still knocking off the rust after sitting out last year and has only one year of actual college basketball under his belt. Mitch Lightfoot is a sophomore and Marcus Garrett is a freshman.

Sam Cunliffe, who’s about to become eligible, also played just a smattering of games as a freshman at Arizona State before sitting out when he transferred to KU. And Billy Preston, the jewel of the recruiting class and most likely NBA prospect on the team, has yet to play and may never play because of some shady circumstances surrounding a car that he wrecked.

That leaves Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailuk and Legerald Vick as the upperclassmen that have to lead the Jayhawks.

Self has been caught short because he has three transfers sitting out, then a transfer, 6-9 Jack Whitman who was supposed to provide backup to Azubuike, decided not to play.

Self is doing his best to mask KU’s deficiencies, most of which come on the defensive end. The performance on Sunday against Arizona State was a clinic on matador defense as ASU’s quickness made KU look like it had cement in its shoes.

The Jayhawks are kind of like the Chiefs, they need a big performance to regain their swag. A loss to now fifth-ranked Arizona State is hardly a cause for shame, but it did come at home where victories are supposed to be automatic.

KU may very well win Big 12 title No. 14 in a row, but it will be pushed like it’s never been pushed before given its shortcomings.

• CHIEFS FINALLY RESPOND — After three straight losses to teams from the New York area where they barely showed a pulse, the Chiefs finally played like, well, the 5-0 Chiefs that had everybody in the NFL talking Super Bowl.

The Chiefs had their backs against the wall on Sunday against the Raiders and came out swinging. They jumped all over their bitter division rival, piling up a 26-0 lead in the fourth quarter before giving up a couple of cosmetic touchdowns.

It started with the defensive line. Those guys had been invisible for 6 weeks, but finally got the necessary push. Oakland was able to run the ball only 11 times and Derek Carr, who very seldom plays well against KC, was forced to air it out 41 times. Even without the troubled-and-suspended Marcus Peters, the Chiefs’ secondary played well — the way it needs to play every game.

The Chiefs can take a huge step toward clinching the AFC West in a rare Saturday night game at Arrowhead when the Chargers come to town. They have won seven of their last nine and their defense has been lights-out. But there’s something about the Chiefs playing a night game at home that causes their motor to rev. If they can knock off the Chargers, they would be 4-1 in the division, which is an all-important tiebreaker.