Kansas Basketball: Ranking Bill Self's Biggest Worries This Season
Kansas head coach Bill Self is not shy in hiding his blunt criticism toward his diverse rosters each year, with this season being no exception.
The 10th-ranked Jayhawks defeated San Jose State earlier in the season but Self was not impressed with anyone aside from Jeff Withey, saying, "He was the only guy who played worth a flip. He did a good job covering up for a lot of mistakes, because we made a ton of them tonight."
Furthermore, following a December 2011 loss to Davidson, he questioned KU's chances of even reaching the NCAA Tournament, let alone winning their eighth straight Big 12 title.
Self does have the most dynamic freshman scorer in the country in Ben McLemore along with four senior starters, one of which is the country's best interior defender in Withey, but continues to stress improvement in a few key areas.
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Four senior starters is a rarity in major college basketball, especially on a national title contending team.
The No. 3 ranked Jayhawks are led by those four senior starters, three of which are fifth-year players but, unfortunately for Bill Self, his team is still looking for an emotional floor leader.
Many questioned Tyshawn Taylor's ability to lead Kansas to an eight consecutive Big 12 title last season following a career filled with turmoil and suspension. However, the point guard quickly transformed into one of the best floor leaders under Bill Self.
Specifically, Taylor's point guard replacement Elijah Johnson and fifth-year small forward Travis Releford must give Self a reliable leader during the stretch run.
4. Perimeter Shooting
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The Jayhawks rely primarily on four players—Ben McLemore, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Naadir Tharpe—to provide perimeter shooting. Andrew White III has occasionally provided three-point shooting sparks off the bench as well.
With the exception of McLemore (44.4 percent), the other four have failed to shoot over 40 percent from the arc on the season, contributing to their team clip of 36.5 percent.
No other Jayhawk has attempted more than four three-point shots for the season, and they have been relatively selective on the season, attempting 16 shots per game.
Elijah Johnson (34.7 percent) and Naadir Tharpe (37.0) must improve their long-range consistency when teams double or triple-team Jeff Withey inside.
3. Streaks of Turnovers
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A streak of five straight possessions resulting in turnovers allowed Texas to increase their lead in the Jayhawks' 64-59 comeback win on Saturday.
Kansas averages a non-catastrophic 13.1 turnovers per game, 128th in the nation, but despite superior defense they are not creating enough turnovers to offset poor offensive decision-making.
They have only forced five more turnovers than they have committed, good enough for 182nd in the nation.
Elijah Johnson leads the team with .09 turnovers per minute played, followed surprisingly by Jamari Traylor (.08). Greater consistency on each possession must be improved, not only from the Kansas point guards.
2. Offensive Rebounds Surrendered
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Kansas boasts one of the top rebounders and shot-blockers in the country in All-American candidate Jeff Withey, yet they surrender nearly 10 offensive rebounds per game, 181st in the nation.
Fortunately for Self and the Jayhawks, there are only two Big 12 (Iowa State and Kansas State) are currently ranked in the nation's top 50 for rebounding margin. Kansas travels to Manhattan to face the Wildcats Tuesday night (January 22nd).
Improved defensive rebounding on loose balls from the Kansas guards would dramatically increase transition opportunities as well as preventing opponents' second-chance points.
1. Offensive Efficiency
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Kansas has scored 185 points in their last three games following a 97-point showing in their conference opening overtime win over Iowa State. The 61.7 per game average is easily their worst offensive stretch of the 2012-13 season and well below their 76.0 season average.
"That's as miserable as an offensive team can play, "We had to decide whether or not we wanted to be here or not", Bill Self said following the Jayhawks' offensively challenged 60-46 win over Texas Tech last week.
The veteran coach once again voiced his displeasure with their offensive efficiency on Saturday, "It looked to me that as experienced as we are, we looked like a bunch of inexperienced kids off the playground playing during that bad stretch. We were trying to catch up too fast, had no poise, their pressure bothered us. We turned the ball over just by kicking it to them."
Elijah Johnson's transition to point guard has been uncomfortable at best, leaving Self to question his future role in his high-low offense. Naadir Tharpe was even given the ball-handling duties in the waning minutes of Saturday's win in Austin.