Is Kansas basketball really in jeopardy of losing the Big 12 title for the first time in 15 straight seasons?
We’re nearing the end of the season and Kansas is sitting at 17-6 on the year and 6-4 in conference play. They currently rank 13th in the nation (likely to drop down further after the recent loss to KSU) and are tied for fourth in the conference.
It’s also no secret they’ve dealt with several roster issues.
Before game one Kansas decided to hold out Silvio De Sousa pending an NCAA investigation after his guardian received $2500 from an Adidas agent. The NCAA would later rule him ineligible for the remainder of the season and even through next season.
Not even ten games into the season and Udoka Azubuike hurt his wrist and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Before his injury Kansas was 9-0. After his injury they’re 8-6.
Marcus Garrett then injured his ankle and has sat out the last two games. The first game he missed went well for the Jayhawks as they handily beat Texas Tech. But it was clear during the KSU game they really missed his defensive presence.
And then there’s Lagerald Vick. There’s not a lot on this story and many people are split but Bill Self announced yesterday Vick will be taking a leave of absence from the team. This could be a few games or a few weeks. Or he may not even return. Although, Self recently mentioned Vick is expected to return.
Either way it hasn’t been an easy road for a team so loaded they were one of few favorites to win the national title. But it hasn’t just been the roster issues keeping them from playing to their potential, it’s also been a lack of team chemistry and toughness.
Quentin Grimes hasn’t been as advertised. In starting 23 games he’s averaged 8.0 points per game, 2.2 rebounds, 1.7 assists and is shooting 40% from the field. This isn’t a bad stat line for a freshman coming off the bench and playing no more than 15-20 minutes a game. But Grimes is taking up 25 minutes a game and was thought to be their biggest offensive threat outside of Dedric Lawson.
It hasn’t been all bad for Kansas, though.
After the injury to Azubuike Self decided to pull the red-shirt off Ochai Agbaji. In nine games, three of which he started, Agbaji has averaged 8.4 points per game, 4.7 rebounds, 0.7 assists and is shooting 52.8% from the field in 24 minutes a game. His numbers are barely better than Grimes’ numbers, but the expectations weren’t near as high.
And then there’s Devon Dotson who’s been every bit of what fans expected. He manages the game as well as you’d expect a freshman to and he’s insanely quick, especially driving to the basket.
But when combining all of this into one giant picture it’s still a bit blurry and at times appalling. With so many injuries and only a few players exceeding expectations, one of which was going to be a red-shirt, one can imagine it’s not likely Kansas makes it 15 straight.
I’m not saying they won’t do it, I’m just saying the odds are stacked up against them.
If Kansas is going to pull of 15 straight a lot will need to go their way.
Grimes will need to step up and play like the player he was expected to be. This doesn’t mean averaging 20 points per game but at least averaging 12-15 the rest of the way would help tremendously.
The defense then needs to flat out give more effort. At times they’re first shot defense can look great, but at other times the defense looks lazy and flat.
Finally, Self needs to get the ball to Dedric as much as he can. This team wasn’t a great shooting team without Vick and without him they’re atrocious. They can’t rely on shooting and will need to create their offense through the big man.
If all these things happen Kansas will have a chance, but it won’t be a guarantee. They’ll need help from other Big 12 teams. This means a few big-time upsets.
One can never count out Kansas and Bill Self, but if there’s a year they could lose it, this is that year. The pieces are all falling in the wrong direction unlike previous years.
It won’t require a miracle to capture 15 straight but it will definitely require a lot of luck.