Sunday, January 5, 2014


Column: Better team won Sunday’s Top 25 showdown at Allen Fieldhouse

Kansas center Joel Embiid wrestles the ball away from San Diego State forward JJ O'Brien during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid wrestles the ball away from San Diego State forward JJ O'Brien during the first half on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.


It looked so much like countless other games played in Allen Fieldhouse during the Bill Self era.

The players from the better team defended the paint as if their lives depended on it. Their long, springy bodies trapped the post with such conviction.

They made easy shots for the opponent so difficult to come by that when they arrived, the minds of the shooters weren’t ready for them, so they hurried.

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Joel Embiid, Frank Mason, Andrew Wiggins discuss KU's 61-57 loss to San Diego State

Joel Embiid, Frank Mason, Andrew Wiggins discuss KU's 61-57 loss to San Diego State

Download podcast

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self discusses his team's 61-57 loss to No. 21 San Diego State

KU coach Bill Self discusses his team's 61-57 loss to No. 21 San Diego State

Download podcast

KU-SDSU box score, Jan. 5, 2014

Box Score

The Keegan Ratings - San Diego State

Keegan Ratings

At the other end, the better team executed a not-always-pretty inside-out job longer on substance than style.

The better team won the battle of the boards and had clutch responses to runs from the guys trying to catch up.

The better squad banked on an experienced, savvy, talented guard to make big plays.

What set this one apart from so many others, of course, was that the guys wearing enemy colors formed the better team.

An argument could be made that come March, Kansas will have improved at a faster pace than San Diego State, but the Aztecs left no question as to which team is playing better basketball in January.

The rankings and the oddsmakers’ lines suggest that San Diego State’s 61-57 Sunday afternoon victory against Kansas counts as an upset. Nothing about it felt that way.

KU’s three leading scorers on the afternoon — Frank Mason and Andrew Wiggins with 14 apiece, Joel Embiid with 12 — were freshmen and 115 minutes were played by frosh, compared to nine minutes for the Aztecs (12-1), whose only loss came at the hands of No. 1 Arizona.

KU’s abysmal shooting numbers (.298) were more a product of San Diego State’s defense, and to a smaller extent poor shot selection, than the Jayhawks seemed to realize afterward.

“We all missed shots that we usually make, and that can happen from time to time with a young team,” Wiggins said.

And it happens just about all the time to San Diego State opponents.

Josh Davis, a 6-foot-8, a fifth-year senior who used the same rule to transfer from Tulane that Tarik Black used to come to Kansas, did a nice job of guarding Wiggins and contributed 10 points and 14 rebounds to the winning effort.

Wiggins made 4 of 14 shots.

“He didn’t really affect me,” Wiggins said. “I just think I missed shots that I usually make.”

Defensive juggernauts such as San Diego State tend to leave opposing players thinking that way, but it was no coincidence that each KU player, except Embiid and Mason, missed more shots than he made.

Self faces a different challenge with this bunch than most because of its inexperience, coupled with a basketball slate that’s the equivalent of an academic schedule packed with a variety of calculus classes taught in Chinese one day, Russian the next.

Will it make or break the young Jayhawks, who haven’t yet mastered the art of winning close ones?

The last easy foe Kansas faced was Towson on Nov. 22 in Allen Fieldhouse.

This week’s challenge, at Oklahoma on Wednesday and at home Saturday against Kansas State, is followed by three consecutive games against Big 12 schools ranked in the top 13 in the nation.

The Sooners (12-2) aren’t ranked, but are coming off a road victory against Texas and have the most improved player in the Big 12, senior Cameron Clark.

In 2006, Self won a share of the Big 12 regular-season title and won the conference tournament, starting three freshmen. If he does it again, it will be a tremendous achievement. It’s a realistic goal, yet far from a sure thing.


Doug Cramer 7 years, 1 month ago

Big 12 schedule will be a meat grinder.

We got to block out when rebounding. That killed us today.

Joe Ross 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm all but decided that the entire slate of freshmen could benefit from an extra year in college. Statement of opinion and not of fact. Just sayin'...

Doug Cramer 7 years, 1 month ago

Have been saying that all year Joe. Hope everyone of these guys comes back.

Also - Connor and AWIII should have red-shirted. If everyone comes back...they will have the opportunity to so so next season.

Want to see those two torch the bets some day with a lot of playing time.

Bryce Landon 7 years, 1 month ago

Not happening. They want to make the big bucks in the NBA, and Wiggins made up his mind before the season started.

Allin Herring 7 years, 1 month ago

I think at this point we will not miss all of Wiggins "potential". Let him play in the NBA with only the ability to do a lay up, He is pretty bad shooting farther out than a lay up. I am done with all these number one rated players. They all have been busts! All our one and dones have shown more "potential" than results! It is time to show us that their potential is real and get some results!

Rodney Crain 7 years, 1 month ago

There is no way at all that a B12 title is a realistic goal. Tom K. this team has so many issues, there is no way they will contend for a tittle. B12 or otherwise. The players were flat out beat tonight. 19 OR (poor rebounding), turnovers, soft defense, poor outside shooting, on and on and on. They find ways to lose. The usual Holiday break is having no effect on the young players, what makes you think the B12 schedule is going to make them any better when the losses start piling up? I know you got to pipe out the hope, heck what else can you write about but every B12 team smells, heck sees blood and this team is going to have to fight every night home and away for each win.

Frankly TK, this team does not have that kind of fight in them. They are just biding time till the NBA draft, at least that is what it looks like. A few of them deserve to wear a Kansas Uni, but most of them, I hope they do leave this year. Tharpe is starting to understand it, said it tonight. Too bad it is probably to late.

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 1 month ago

I would argue that they WERE better at on-ball D & even help D to a degree.

But it's like BECAUSE they were so focused on that many other things went by the wayside like boxing out and taking contested shots vs. wide open shots that were passed up & not getting Off. Rebs. as well.

Titus Canby 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm right with you Rodney. I'm just not seeing much team play.

Does anyone else wonder why Wiggins has all the hype? If you hadn't read his high school press clippings, would you even expect him to go to the NBA, much less a #1 or #2 pick?

Allin Herring 7 years, 1 month ago

I agree Titus. I think we all drank the "Wiggins is a superstar and the next coming of Lebron" cool aid. If Wiggins is the next NBA superstar then I do not need to buy and more NBA tickets.

Robert Rauktis 7 years, 1 month ago

Rebounding reflects desire, not press clippings; probably doesn't even reflect talent. If you're getting hammered on the glass, and you aren't dwarfs, you don't want to be in the game. Rebounding neutralizes a lot of press clippings.

Scott Burkhart 7 years, 1 month ago

I think this is what you wind up with chasing the one and dones. We have a team full of one year players, no veteran leadership and no way to sit the freshmen because you have to have bodies on the floor. Lucky to make the (N)ot (I)nvited (T)ournament this year.

Len Shaffer 7 years, 1 month ago

Lucky that someone as stupid as you is allowed to post. I wish we could bet on it.

KU will make the NCAA, as a 3 or 4 seed.

Code_2008 7 years, 1 month ago

We'll make the tournament fine. Jeez, it's just a game.

Glen Miller 7 years, 1 month ago

We are weak. There is no defensive intensity or killer instinct in ANY of these players. I have watched KU basketball for many many years and this is one of the most frustrating teams of all time. All the talent in the world, but we can't guard, shoot, rebound or win 50/50 balls. ALL staples of a Bill Self coached KU squad. We are young, I get that.... but we should have an idea by now that defense and toughness are what it's going to take to win. There is absolutely 0 leadership out there right now. It's frustrating to watch. I keep waiting for the light to come on, but it never happens. Maybe this year the light bulb is just burnt out. I really don't like this one and done crap either. I wish they'd just let these kids go to the NBA or tell them they have to stay 3 years. Henry, Selby, McLemore, and now Wiggins....... every single one of them had parts of their game that could have benefited them had they stuck around. Wiggins is a freak athlete..... but #1 pick he is not, not to this point. He's not even the best player on his team in my opinion. Joel Embiid is our best player. I'm about as frustrated as I have been about our Jayhawks and I just don't see how we're going to win the Big 12 without these kids opening their eyes and realizing what it takes to win TOGETHER.

Allin Herring 7 years, 1 month ago

Why would all our one and dones show any killer instinct or defensive intensity. They all believe they have a free ticket to the NBA so why would they want to play any harder than they are. I agree with you the Number one rated players need to go they all have been busts. If Wiggins is the best recruit then what does the 10th rated player play like??

Kevin Huffman 7 years, 1 month ago

Ok, I'm somewhere in the middle.

There's those of you who say we're goint to the NIT and then there's those of you who say, eh, we'll lose 2 game in the conference and be a 1 or 2-seed.

More realistically we'll lose about 5 or 6 games in the conference and have the potential to still win the Big XII Tournament and be on a hot streak and a dangerous team going in, but even then we'd probably be like a 5-seed is all.

Something like (23-10) & a 4 or 5. In years that we've been a 4 or so we've usually made it to the Sweet 16 but then lost to the 1-seed - I can remember instances agaisnst Illinois in one of Self's years there for example.

Ok, UConn back in '10/'11 was (26-9) & a 3. I looked and in that season if we were (23-10) yeah, we probably would've been a 4 or 5 like I said particularly if we won the conference tournament.

I don't think we're 8 or 9-seed bad like in the early Collison / Hinrich years nor do I think that this teams going to suddenly emerge as the overwhelming favorite in the conference and hardly lose at all.

My main hope is that we're just trending in the right direction at the end of the season much like UConn did a few years back when they won it all as a non-top 2-seed.

Clarence Haynes 7 years, 1 month ago

What befuddles me is the ability of the team to close in on opponents (e.g. Florida, Villanova, Colorado, and SDSU) toward the end of the game. Why can't they perform at that level much earlier in the game! if so, we'd be 11-2 or even 12-1.

Preston Dwiggins 7 years, 1 month ago

I traveled 5 hours in a blizzard yesterday to see our Jayhawks play and want to say this...

Remember how we played against Duke, that was no fluke. It's the same roster, just a different day. We'll be fine. I have faith in Bill and staff.

Ian Legler 7 years, 1 month ago

So we've lost 4 games by a combined 17 points. And every loss has come at the hands of a team currently in the Top 25.

Guys the sky isn't falling, the Hawks will be fine. Stop acting like the world is ending.

Len Shaffer 7 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Preston and Ian for being voices of sanity. The only thing as predictable as death and taxes is that if KU has a few tough losses, there will be idiots giving up on the team in droves.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 1 month ago

It may not be falling, but the inability to win close games is concerning entering conference play where 90% of the games are going to be reasonably close.

Ian Legler 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm inclined to agree. But the fact that we've been able to hang in these games while playing as poorly as we have definitely bodes well for us.

They are a young team, a very, very young team. Bill knew what he was doing when he put together this schedule. The boys will be ready.

Looking forward to the opportunity to see them live on Wednesday. Living in Tulsa now makes it difficult to catch games.

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