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Jayhawks enter postseason still looking for some 'oomph'

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Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with the Jayhawks during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with the Jayhawks during a timeout in the first half, Saturday, March 9, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If the only objective on the last day of the regular season was to pick up another victory, Bill Self would have been thrilled with the play of his Kansas basketball team on Saturday.

The truth is he was looking for more.

Self had no complaints about the way the Jayhawks handled Baylor’s zone defense in a 78-70 win at Allen Fieldhouse. In fact, the coach thought his players executed solidly for the most part.

With Devon Dotson attacking off the dribble and Dedric Lawson and David McCormack knowing exactly where to locate the Bears’ weak spots, the Jayhawks had few issues finding high-percentage shots.

On a couple of occasions, the Big 12’s third-place team even achieved near perfection in the half court, staging in unison the actions, screening and precise passing that allowed Quentin Grimes to lob alley-oop assists to freshman skywalker Ochai Agbaji.

Still, KU’s 16th-year head coach didn’t think the Jayhawks were “anything exceptional,” he would say afterward.

“We executed OK. It was just that the game didn’t have any oomph,” Self bemoaned of the performance. “Which obviously is a little disappointing, being our last game this year (at home).”

The Jayhawks (23-8 overall, 12-6 Big 12) needed a springboard of a finale to launch them into the postseason on a high note. Instead, they got a ho-hum home victory that didn’t exactly inspire confidence in the idea that they’re about to take off and finally play to their ceiling.

At least during the immediate aftermath of the win, Self was tepid on the state of the Jayhawks’ play following the 31-game regular season.

“I don’t really think I’m in love with how we’re playing, but I also don’t think that I’m ultra-concerned with how we’re playing,” he said. “You’re gonna be concerned this time of year, because from this point forward it’s one-and-done, so to speak, if you lose in both tournaments.”

KU’s most recent three-game winning streak came in mid-January, when the Jayhawks bookended an overtime road win over TCU with home victories against Oklahoma State and West Virginia. You many recognize those three opponents as the Big 12’s eighth-, ninth- and 10th-place teams in 2019.

The Jayhawks also won three in a row in January, beating TCU at home, Baylor on the road and Texas in Lawrence.

Even though Sprint Center often turns into a de facto home game for Kansas during the Big 12 tournament, it’s hard to talk yourself into believing there’s a scenario in which these Jayhawks win three games in three days.

“It’s gonna be hard to do,” Self admitted. “We know that, with playing guys as many minutes as we play them. But we’ve done it before and we’ve done it last year, and certainly we’re capable of going over there and putting together a nice run. I think it’ll be good for us to kind of get our batteries recharged.”

Maybe the Jayhawks didn’t win emphatically versus Baylor because they were still experiencing the hangover of disappointment that accompanied them coming up short in the Big 12 title race.

A first-team all-conference performer as well as the league’s top newcomer, redshirt junior Lawson reiterated Saturday that Self never put pressure on this team to extend KU’s title streak.

“I just wanted to win a Big 12 title just for myself and things like that. Plus, you want to keep the legacy going,” Lawson said. “At the end of the day we fell short and it’s not the end of the world”

The current Jayhawks may not have dominated their peers like their predecessors so often did. But they should at least be able to put all of that behind them now.

“Going forward we’re just trying to be the best team that we can be, have the best year we can have,” Lawson said, “going into the Big 12 tournament and finishing strong, and March Madness from there.”

KU still has close to four full days to prepare for Texas and its postseason debut. We’ll find out Thursday night in Kansas City, Mo., whether the Jayhawks have found the “oomph” needed to outperform their irregular season.

Comments

Dane Pratt 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I have no expectations. If they get out of the first weekend I will be thrilled. And there is no reason why they can't unless they get one of those horrible match ups the tournament always produces. Granted a lot has happened since the season started but we played well on neutral courts.

Tony Bandle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Not being Debbie downer but just being realistic, Hawks beat Texas then lose to Texas Tech in Big 12 Tourney. Get the last three or the first four seed then win opener in NCAA but lose on the second night and end up 25 - 10.

A banner year to most schools but a definite disappointment for Kansas. Injuries, ineligibles, inconsistencies and intrigue pretty much derailed this season which started out as a team ranked #1 to a team in transition.

Certainly, one of the most interesting and frustrating teams in a long time but next year we will be so much better....unless we get screwed by the NCAA!!

Dane Pratt 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It has been the perfect storm, everything that could have gone wrong pretty much has. But the competition has been good and I'm hoping that will prepare us for the tournament. One thing that won't happen is KU entering tournament play with a sense of entitlement.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Coach is the master motivator. The team shows glimpses of being excellent, but then really not at other times. It is good to see McCormick stepping up his game, and could make a huge difference in not having that whole in the team. Same for Q. There's still so much more, but he seems to be finding how he fits into the whole without the team revolving around him. Loved that he and Ochai stepped up with 9 A's on a day when Devon gets a goose.

There are always teams in March that go off from 3, which unfortunately is our weakness. It was encouraging though that Baylor; the top 3 pt team in conference, stunk up the place from outside. It would be interesting to see what Coach has been doing with them in this regard lately. He knows it's a wild card in 1-n-done tourneys.

Edward Daub 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I can envision the witty Fraschilla stating "McCormack (proper spelling) is improving with additional McCormick seasoning"!

Bill Self has earned my former nickname of "Youth Yeller"!

Baylor shot 6 for 31 from 3-point range, they were throwing up bricks. They must have watched KU at OU when we shot 7 for 31 from 3-point range.

Len Shaffer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The conference tournament has never meant anything (except for teams on the bubble) and it doesn't this year either. Regardless of whether we stink up the joint and lose to Texas, or play brilliantly and win the whole thing, March Madness will be an entirely different ballgame.

As for the Madness, we've all seen plenty of teams have a mediocre regular season and then play phenomenal ball in the tournament, and vice versa. Let's just hope that the continued maturation of McCormack and improvement of Q will be enough to help them play more consistently in the NCAA tournament than they have during the season.

Robert Brock 2 months, 2 weeks ago

It will be interesting to see if Mack can handle Texas’ Hayes. Roach gets out of the doghouse, so KU has to figure out how to shut down the PG tandem. Could be a tough game.

Chad Smith 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not overly concerned or have expectations for KU in either tournament. But the Big 12 Tournament needs to be a continuation of the mantra this team has had for awhile which is "Getting Better." McCormack will keep getting one on one post opportunities, he needs to take advantage. Grimes needs to keep letting it fly with confidence and attack the rim for some easy buckets. These two players are crucial for KU in March. They can beat Texas, and while I understand how good tech has been playing lately, if KU faces them in KC, Ku will have home court advantage and last I checked, we beat tech by almost 20 point at home. So that I think would be a hell of a game. It's all hypothetical, but a healthier Garrett defending Culver could be extremely entertaining.

Jay Scott 2 months, 2 weeks ago

A committee of the Chicken Littles should be immediately hired to coach. Bill Self is obviously out of his depth and the looming NCAA dissolution of KU basketball is just making everything worse.

A committee of 5-6 of the most knowledgeable Chicken Littles could finally use the correct lineups and unlock the potential of Kansas players. The NCAA might even gran Silvio immediate eligibility if HCBS and his staff were replaced.

Let's make if happen. The Chicken Little Miracles!!!

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