Despite record, KU fans not that enamored

By Steve Sell
January 05, 2015

The University of Kansas basketball team may be the most discussed and cussed 11-2 team in the country.

A lot of teams would cheerily take an 11-2 nonconference record. But this latest edition has Jayhawk Nation grumbling, albeit unfairly.

The problem is that both losses against high-profile teams were absolute manure-like performances. The Jayhawks stunk to high heaven in being embarrassed by Kentucky and Temple.

The Kentucky loss is one KU fans can forgive because the Wildcats are an NBA team masquerading as a college basketball team. They literally have nine players who will be playing at the next level within the next year or two.

The sleepwalk against Temple was as putrid of an effort as KU ever has put forth in the Bill Self era.

Those losses seem to forever stick in the minds of KU fans, who forget the team won 11 games against arguably the toughest schedule in the country. There were few teams that resembled the Little Sisters of the Poor.

KU’s 76-61 victory Sunday over a good UNLV team was a microcosm of the season so far. The Jayhawks blazed the first eight minutes, couldn’t throw it in the ocean the next 12, then unfurled a terrific second half.

When you compare KU’s numbers to the rest of the teams in the Big 12, you’d think the Jayhawks would have among the worst records.

Of the 10 major categories, KU ranks in the bottom half  (sixth and lower) in eight of them. It is 7th in scoring, 9th in scoring differential (a misleading number because of the two losses), 9th in scoring average, dead-last in field goal percentage (a stunning number considering KU generally is among the best teams in the country), 8th in field goal defense, 7th in 3-point defense, 6th in rebounding and 6th in rebounds given up.

The one category that it leads in is 3-point shooting, which has been its shortcoming the last couple of years. KU also is third in free throw percentage, which is a far cry from its usual struggles.

I think what makes this team difficult for KU fans to warm up to is its lack of passion at times. The Jayhawks go through stretches where it appears they’re going through the motions. They also have players like Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene who are so passive at times on the defensive end that you don’t even realize they’re on the floor.

KU fans should be applauding Frank Mason’s toughness. He has been the glue and an ironman because of the injury to Devonte’ Graham, which has hurt the team’s rotation. Self is trying to get by with playing Wayne Selden at the point to spell Mason, but he’s a turnover waiting to happen and his inconsistency is maddening.

Inconsistent. That seems to be the perfect term to describe this team. Mason has brought it every game and Ellis has produced for the most part at least in terms of numbers. Kelly Oubre has really stepped up the last five games, though he’s another player who doesn’t display a lot of intensity. Then you have Jamari Traylor, Cliff Alexander, Greene, Svi Mykhailuk, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson, all of whom have been spotty.

KU has won or shared the last 10 Big 12 titles, but that streak could be in jeopardy. Texas looks to be the team to beat, and Iowa State and Oklahoma could edge past the Jayhawks. West Virginia will be a road trip that nobody wants to take and TCU is improved. Kansas State has easily been the biggest disappointment and will stay that way until Marcus Foster quits pouting and returns to form. Baylor and Oklahoma State have taken a step back, but should be formidable at home. Texas Tech could be the worst team in the conference.

It should be a wild race and one where four losses could be good enough to take the title.