The number one ranked Kansas Jayhawks edged Villanova on Saturday morning in a thriller inside Allen Fieldhouse with a score of 74-71. This mid-season revenge victory keeps Kansas at number one in the AP Poll, and undefeated at 9-0 for the first time since the 2010 season. It was definitely nice to see the Jayhawks get some revenge and get that bad taste out of their mouth that was left from the Final Four beat down last year in San Antonio. However, another close win leaves many questions unanswered about the state of this Kansas team. How good are they? Are they really even THAT good? Well, nobody really knows…yet.
A two headed snake:
Veteran leadership is a blessing for any team, and it was evident that Kansas had this on Saturday. LaGerald Vick and Dedric Lawson combined for 57 of KU’s 74 points, and completely dominated the game. Whenever Villanova would spark a mini run, LaGerald Vick would hit a seemingly impossible 18 foot jumpshot, or Dedric Lawson would hit one of his patented old man turn around hook shots, and would immediately shut down Villanova’s momentum. It is definitely encouraging to see that Kansas has two veteran leaders, but at the moment, Kansas essentially only has two offensive weapons. Okay, two and a half with the floor general Devon Dotson. But with a struggling Quentin Grimes and an injured Udoka Azubuike, so much of the offensive production is weighted on the shoulders of Vick and Lawson. This leads me to wonder whether it is encouraging that KU is winning tough games with only two scorers and without Azubuike, or if it is concerning that Kansas has very little offensive production other than the two upperclassmen.
Sure they’re 9-0, but what about the eye test?:
One common complaint from other fan bases across the country about Kansas remaining at number one in the AP Poll is that Kansas’ wins have not been convincing. This may be true, but at the end of the day Kansas is undefeated with two top 10 wins (Michigan State and Tennessee) and three top 25 wins total after the Villanova victory. Say what you want about this Kansas team, but you can’t deny one thing: this team gets the job done. Whether it’s Marcus Garrett playing hard nosed defense and hustling his tail off, LaGerald Vick stepping up and hitting big shots, or Kansas going 10/11 from the free throw line to close out the game, they know how to win. So, are these close games something to be concerned about, or is it a reassuring sign that this team has the important trait of all great teams which is knowing how to win.
Three point shooting blues:
One of my biggest concerns for this Kansas team is that it lacks shooters. Sure, LaGerald Vick has been sensational from behind the arc this year, and Dedric Lawson has proven that he can make shots from behind the arc, but who else has? Charlie Moore couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean right now, Quentin Grimes is struggling to find his rhythm and place in the offense, and Marcus Garrett has a jump shot that only his mother could love. And that’s not a knock against Garrett, either. I’m a huge fan of his game: his effort and defense is sensational. Without it, Kansas would not have beaten Villanova Saturday. But watching the team warm up and play in person, it became even more evident to me that three point shooting is the biggest weakness of this Kansas team right now. I still have faith the Quentin Grimes will improve throughout the season. He’s too good of a player not to. But at the moment, three point shooting is definitely a concern, and makes Kansas a very one dimensional team.
So doc, what’s the prognosis?:
Well, if I had Nostradamus like capabilities I would be happy to tell you. Unfortunately, I don’t (I could really make some money if I did) but I do think that the positives outweigh the negatives at this point of the season. First of all, Kansas is UNDEFEATED. Given how many close games Kansas has had, they could easily be 6-3 and could be in a much different position. Kansas just knows how to win close games. On top of this, Kansas just defeated Villanova without Udoka Azubuike. When this team gets their prized big man back, things will look smoother and the offense and defense should be more dominant.
You never want your team to peak too early, and I think it would be absurd if someone were to think Kansas has, or is on the cusp of peaking. The season is still very young, hell, conference play hasn’t even started yet. Given the depth that this team has, I fully believe that the team will continue to develop and have a great start to Big 12 play. And, let’s not forget: Kansas has a hall of fame coach. Kansas is always in good hands with Bill Self at the helm, and I’m excited to watch this team compete and develop throughout the season. Remember, there’s a reason they’re ranked number one.