Take this to the bank: the Kansas Jayhawks won’t win the Big 12 Basketball Tournament.
Not that it’s really going to matter. The Jayhawks are going to be a No. 2 or 3 NCAA seed regardless of how they perform today and maybe Saturday if they get that far.
The Jayhawks played Thursday like a team that knows its future doesn’t depend on this weekend’s outcome. Sure, it would like to be a No. 2 seed, but it’s no skin off their nose if they’re a 3.
The Jayhawks were listless and lethargic against a TCU team that was coming off a game 24 hours earlier. It should have been the Horned Frogs the team that looked tired, instead it was KU that walked around like zombies.
Without Perry Ellis (injured) and Cliff Alexander (sitting for possible NCAA violations), the Jayhawks’ inside game has been severely damaged. Landen Lucas is trying mightily and Jamari Traylor is a high-energy guy, but both are limited with what they can do. Hunter Mickelson has seen his minutes go up by default, but he can’t seem to play without fouling.
The Jayhawks would be spectators today if not for the sensational play of up-and-down freshman Kelly Oubre, who had one of his “up” days with a career-high 25 points. Oubre is an enigma to me, as he keeps being mentioned as a lottery pick despite the fact he is deficient in strength, and picks and chooses when he wants to play hard. Thursday’s game depended on him carrying the Jayhawks and he chose to give max effort.
Frank Mason is practically worn down to nothing. For the first half of the season he had to put this team on his back while Ellis was trying to emerge from his passive shell. Once he did that, and with the improvement of Oubre, the Jayhawks went as far as their Big 3 would carry them.
Wayne Selden has lost his way and Devonte’ Graham, after a stretch of nice games, looks like the freshman he’s supposed to be. Brannan Greene can’t make shots outside of Allen Field House and may be among the worst defenders in college basketball. If he’s not scoring, he’s virtually of no use to the Jayhawks.
Somehow, some way, Bill Self has coaxed 25 wins out of this team, even in a year the Big 12 was its most balanced. I still don’t believe the conference is the best in the country in terms of talent, but it is the best at providing close games since there’s not a lot of separation in the talent level. To win an 11th straight Big 12 title with a team with so many flaws (0 of 23 from 3-point in the West Virginia and TCU games) is a testament to Self.
KU will probably win a first-round NCAA game, but then be ousted. Self must shore up his team’s lack of size, especially if Ellis goes pro. He seems to be a four-year guy to me given his attention to academics, but somebody might get inside his head and convince him to go. Alexander probably won’t be back as I have a feeling the NCAA is going to rule against him, while Oubre could make a mistake and turn pro. He’s not physically ready for the NBA, but if he’s the lottery pick everyone says he is, he’ll go.