Recap: Kansas anything but elite against Colorado
Kansas' midweek foray into Colorado probably didn't go as KU coach Bill Self had planned or as anyone who had watched these teams thought it would go. Colorado was playing without its best player, injured guard Alec Burks, at a venue not exactly renowned for providing a home court advantage. KU was (and still is) the nation's best team. But for 45 minutes, the two squads seemed evenly matched.
The main reason KU had to sneak past Colorado in overtime was the Buffs' surprising display of defensive efficiency. Colorado entered Wednesday ranked 207th in the nation and last in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency, but somehow managed to hold KU to a pedestrian 1.01 points-per-possession. The Jayhawks' offensive output was their third worst of the season. Several factors might have played roles in KU's scoring struggles:
• KU didn't dominate the offensive glass. Colorado, by far the Big 12's worst rebounding team, only allowed KU to grab 32.5 percent of available offensive rebounds, just a touch worse than average. In a game played against such an over-matched opponent, the Jayhawks should have received better offensive rebounding numbers from everyone except sophomore forward Marcus Morris (18 percent of possible offensive rebounds). But hey, maybe it's a good thing that KU didn't snare more offensive boards. After all, more offensive rebounds likely would have resulted in more free throws...
• KU was abysmal from the free throw line. Of the seven Jayhawks to attempt a free throw, only two (Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry) converted better than 50 percent. KU ended up making 47 percent of its free throw attempts, its worst mark of the season. The poor accuracy was a shame for KU, considering the Jayhawks found their way to the line so frequently. KU posted a season-best 67.9 percent Free Throw Rate, more than twice the national average. If the Jayhawks would have shot their season average of 69 percent on free throw attempts, they would have tallied eight additional points.
This chart, from StatSheet.com, would have looked a little different had KU made some free throws.
M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)
As usual, guard Sherron Collins deserves respect for a late-game surge that helped push KU to victory.
But center Cole Aldrich was KU's best player for the duration Wednesday. The junior had an average (for him) game on the boards, grabbing 39 percent of available misses. Aldrich asserted himself on offense, where he made his first six field goal attempts and finished with 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. From the beginning, Aldrich made it pretty obvious he was the most skilled big man in the game, and he showed aggressiveness to match. And he also blocked five shots.
KU center Cole Aldrich was the only Jayhawk to post an above-average Efficiency/Possession number / Nick Krug/LJW Photo
Room for improvement
I have a feeling KU's relative offensive struggles aren't a long-term issue. KU had a so-so shooting day (48.2 percent eFG%) and didn't turn the ball over often (15.5 percent of possessions). If the Jayhawks had made an average number of free throws, they would have scored 1.11 points per possession, more in line with what we've come to expect.
Nonetheless, KU's offense was its weak link Wednesday. Aside from Marcus Morris misfiring on gimme after gimme, it was tough to discern what KU was doing wrong, aside from its shots not falling. Morris and Aldrich were obviously more talented than the Buffs' marginal big men, but it was a bit troubling to see Collins and guards Tyshawn Taylor and Xavier Henry combine for 25 points on 8-for-25 field goal shooting against the not-exactly-elite Nate Tomlinson and Co.
Hard luck line
Despite playing just 17 minutes, freshman guard Xavier Henry definitely earned this dishonor. The Oklahoma City native missed all four of his field goal attempts, including three from beyond the arc, and didn't do much else to validate his presence on the court. It says volumes that Henry was essentially KU's fifth perimeter option, playing fewer minutes than Collins, Morningstar, Taylor and Tyrel Reed.
The Bottom Line:
Wednesday wasn't good for KU, which shocked fans by looking decidedly average. Average is good enough to beat Colorado in Boulder or Nebraska in Lawrence, but won't be enough to top Texas in Austin.
Are there any New York City Jayhawks out there in the land of the Interwebs? I'll be in the city early next week and need recommendations on a good place to catch the KU-Texas game. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments or @ reply me on Twitter at AFusco. Thanks!