Even for prolific college basketball programs, sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. The AP No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks will take a tumble in the forthcoming rankings, but the panic button shouldn't be pushed just yet in Lawrence.
Bill Self's talented squad is still fully capable of winning the Big 12 conference for the ninth consecutive season despite its recent three-game losing streak.
There haven't been many encouraging signs lately, to be sure. The Jayhawks have suddenly dropped to 7-3 in the conference, one game behind in-state rival Kansas State.
But this Murphy's Law scenario is bound to turn around soon. Oklahoma State handed Kansas its first home loss in 33 contests, and the TCU debacle was mostly the result of a mind-boggling scoring drought in the first seven minutes of the game.
ESPN Stats & Info highlighted just how unprecedented that showing was:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Kansas shot 29.5 percent (18-61) in its loss at TCU. That's the lowest FG pct in 344 games under Bill Self (since 2003-04)2013-2-7 04:46:27
After those two massive disappointments, it's hard to blame the team for having their confidence shaken. Traveling to Oklahoma wasn't exactly the antidote, as the Jayhawks fell to the Sooners 72-66 on Saturday evening.
Signs of a decline could be detected when Kansas struggled to win games against unranked opponents in mid-January, and three consecutive losses to such teams seems to suggest that the Jayhawks have been vastly overrated.
As mentioned before, though, it's hard to imagine the circumstances getting much direr—and there is too much firepower on this Kansas team not to at least turn things around.
Ben McLemore is one of the premier offensive players in the nation and simply needs to get more touches on that end of the court. Jeff Withey is one of the country's elite interior defenders, and Jamari Traylor has the ability to lock down anyone on the perimeter.
That's not even to mention senior guard Travis Releford, who shoots a whopping 60 percent from the field and better than 43 percent from beyond the arc.
A big reason for Kansas' trials and tribulations is the bad form of another senior—point guard Elijah Johnson. He's shooting just under 38 percent from the field and has plagued the offense with turnovers.
Is it really out of the question that he bounces back, though?
These seniors were there for the national championship game loss to Kentucky last year, and the Jayhawks were playing the best basketball in the country as the New Year rang in.
After Saturday's game, Self expressed optimism with how his team performed—a far cry from his scathing comments after the loss to the Horned Frogs (h/t CBS Sports):
Obviously three in a row is not good, but this game to me today, I'm not leaving out of here disgusted with my team at all because we actually played better today.
We played a good team today, and they shot the heck out of the basketball.
This shocking stretch is a speed bump—a sizable one at that—but Self is a sensational coach and the Jayhawks have plenty of leaders who can rally this team to dig deep coming down the stretch.
These are the type of hardships many great teams go through, and there is no exception here with the Jayhawks. Monday's home clash with Kansas State will be a better indication of the fortitude of this team, and don't be surprised if the home team erupts in a momentous victory.
Beyond that, the schedule features just one game against a ranked foe. It will be a road matchup with Oklahoma State, and the Jayhawks will be eager to avenge their prior loss.
Kansas fans will be ready to explode in Allen Fieldhouse for the Wildcats game.
Considering that the Jayhawks are still sitting in a relatively good spot to win the conference championship—and would be right back in the driver's seat with a win over KSU—it's unwise to write them off just yet.