Kansas Basketball: Jayhawks' 5 Keys to Winning the Big 12

Andrew DoughtyCorrespondent IIJanuary 31, 2017

Kansas Basketball: Jayhawks' 5 Keys to Winning the Big 12

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    The Jayhawks conclude a grueling nonconference slate with Toledo and San Diego State before embarking on a marathon-like full round robin 18-game Big 12 schedule.

    While three losses have revealed a host of glaring flaws in Bill Self's team, quick adjustments and occasional flawless sequences have KU fans salivating at the possibility of a 10th straight conference title.

    Here is a look at five keys to ensure that 10th title is brought back to the Phog.

Trust the Bigs

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    The Jayhawks' four main bigs (Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor) are shooting a combined 64.2 percent (124-for-193) from the floor.

    While that quartet is also committing nearly five combined turnovers per game, the offensive efficiency inside the paint is exceptional.

    Coach Self's distributors must trust these four frontcourt players during the grueling 18-game Big 12 schedule.

Naadir Tharpe

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    The road to a 10th straight conference title runs through junior point guard Naadir Tharpe.

    His performances have ranged from irresponsibly inconsistent for all 94 feet to efficient decision-making with lights-out perimeter shooting and everywhere in between.

    Tharpe's assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.5 is the highest for a Jayhawk point guard since assist machine Aaron Miles posted a 2.7 mark during Coach Self's first season (2003-04) in Lawrence.

    Tharpe has all the tools and proven, albeit unreliable, decision-making to lead a dynamic offensive roster.

Just Find a Shot

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    As a team, Kansas is shooting 50.3 percent from the floor (10th in the nation) but are 69th in the nation in scoring offense. They attempt just over 52 field goals per game. For comparison, Big 12 title contender Iowa State averages 10 more attempted field goals per contest, a number that contributes to a top-five scoring clip nationally.

    Eleven games into the season, KU has proven it can hit from anywhere on the court but has also proven that turnovers are devastating to a high-powered offense.

    These turnovers and a lack of offensive rebounds (10.5 per game—235th in the country) have limited the Jayhawks, a team that simply needs shots.

Open the Court for Wiggins

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    Andrew Wiggins is the most dangerous open-space player in the country. With a Goliath-like stride and pinpoint accuracy with his footwork, the freshman is unstoppable in transition or when the Jayhawks have numbers.

    While Self's high-low pass-heavy rotational offense is a proven commodity, the system occasionally limits Wiggin's potential.

    The Jayhawks must responsibly push the rock and allow Andrew Wiggins to stretch those legs against undersized or overwhelmed Big 12 defenders.

Continue Defensive Communication

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    Kansas boasted one of the best defensive teams in school history last season with lockdown perimeter defender Travis Releford and shot-blocking machine Jeff Withey suffocating the opposition. With the departure of those two, a steep drop-off was anticipated, if not expected.

    Surprisingly, Coach Self has dramatically shortened the defensive communication learning curve for one of the youngest teams in the nation.

    While the occasional breakdown occurs, typically inside the perimeter, backside help and overall communication has been impressive. With two Big 12 teams (Iowa State and Oklahoma) among the nation's highest scoring teams, this continued development in the defensive zone will make KU a dangerous team.