Kansas finally lost a Big 12 game in the 2013-14 college basketball season.
It took the Jayhawks eight contests in arguably the deepest or second-deepest conference in the country to taste the bitterness of defeat, but that is exactly what happened at Texas on Feb. 1.
Considering Kansas already navigated trips to Oklahoma and Iowa State as well as home games against Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma State in January, it still has to be seen as the Big 12 favorite with a one-game lead over the Longhorns. There are plenty of winnable games remaining on the Kansas slate with so many difficult showdowns in the rearview mirror.
However, one thing in particular jumped out about the Texas loss.
Andrew Wiggins followed up his career-high 29 points against the Iowa State Cyclones with a seven-point performance in Austin against the Longhorns, due to an abysmal 2-of-12 shooting performance from the field. It was just another example of the inconsistent play that has left some fans scratching their collective heads as Wiggins’ freshman season enters February.
To be fair, the only reason Wiggins has received any criticism at all is because of the outlandish preseason expectations that were in place before the year even began.
Wiggins committed to Kansas as the next great Jayhawk hope, and if the hype was to be believed, he was ready to score 40 points every time he stepped on the floor.
Throughout the year, Wiggins has shown glimpses of the skills that had fans and NBA scouts drooling before he even played a college basketball game. A 26-point performance at Florida in December and finishing with 22 points in a head-to-head victory over fellow freshman Jabari Parker and Duke on Nov. 12 immediately come to mind.
However, for every great game Wiggins posts, he has an equally puzzling performance as a follow-up act.
Wiggins’ Big 12 box scores are as follows (pay close attention to the field goals and not just the points):
|Andrew Wiggins' Big 12 Box Scores|
Before we are all quick to deem Wiggins as a failure simply because he hasn’t quite lived up to the Michael-Jordan-in-his-prime expectations, don’t forget he still is posting formidable nightly averages of 16 points, six rebounds and 1.7 combined blocks and steals.
He is doing it behind shooting clips of 45 percent from the field, 37 percent from behind the three-point line and 78 percent from the free-throw stripe.
Gary Parrish, a national columnist for CBS Sports, recently poked fun at the notion that Wiggins has been “disappointing” this season:
Wiggins has been a formidable player, but the inconsistency still is there for the presumed superstar. Whether this is simply a side effect of being a freshman in one of the two deepest leagues in America or a systemic problem ultimately will determine how the Jayhawks’ season unfolds.
There is more than enough talent to reach the Final Four, but one off night from Wiggins in March could prove costly.
While Wiggins' inconsistency may or may not prove to be Kansas’ undoing in March, it will certainly not impact his NBA draft status in 2014.
College basketball fans who live and die by every whistle, ball screen and rivalry game throughout the season may not want to hear it, but NBA scouts really don’t care much about how Wiggins performs against the likes of Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU in January and February.
That’s not to say there isn’t at least some concern. However, the NBA front offices are much more smitten with the idea of a 6’8” versatile guard/forward who has athleticism in the open court, impressive ball-handling skills, a gradually improving jump shot and a ceiling that couldn’t get much higher rather than consistency at the college level.
He is a perfect example of the stretch forward that has taken the league by storm in recent years, thanks to the talents of some guys named LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Wiggins is the type of player who instantly can change around the fortunes of a struggling franchise, much like James did in Cleveland before he took his talents to South Beach.
Both Parrish and Zach Harper of CBS Sports had Wiggins going as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft in their most recent mock selections.
Parrish said the following about Wiggins:
Wiggins hasn't been an overwhelming force at the college level, at least not yet. But his ceiling is still higher than pretty much everybody else's ceiling, and the athletic wing is still the likely top pick of this draft.
This ceiling is what is so enticing to NBA scouts and general managers. How Wiggins is performing with their professional team’s jersey on in five years matters more to them than the level of consistency he had as a teenager in Lawrence, Kansas.
The only real question is which team will get to draft him in the top five.
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