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Epic OU victory no longer an excuse for KU's current struggles

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Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a rebound from Oklahoma forward Dante Buford (21) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00).

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a rebound from Oklahoma forward Dante Buford (21) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00). by Nick Krug

Surely you've heard the chatter by now.

For a couple of weeks, one of the most common excuses tossed out to help explain why the Kansas University men's basketball team has struggled during the past six games dates back to KU's triple-overtime thriller over Oklahoma and how that victory took so much out of the Jayhawks that they've had trouble moving on.

It should be noted that none of the KU coaches or players themselves have said this — except maybe as a concern for the very next game, which they won — but it definitely has been one of the theories most used by frustrated fans.

Hogwash.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the first half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A look at what the Sooners have accomplished since that night should tell you that. And, remember, Oklahoma LOST that game. So if either team should have had trouble moving on from that classic contest at Allen Fieldhouse, it's OU.

The Sooners were ranked second in the nation that night and had just one loss heading into the showdown with No. 1 Kansas.

Since then, OU has climbed into the No. 1 spot in the polls by winning five of six games, two on the road (at Oklahoma State and at Baylor), a tough home win over West Virginia and the only loss coming by five points at Iowa State.

Kansas, meanwhile, is 3-3 since the OU victory, with three consecutive losses on the road and lackluster wins over Texas Tech and TCU sprinkled in.

There may have been parts of other halves that looked good, but the only two complete halves of good basketball that KU has played since the OU win came in the second half against Texas last Saturday and the first half against Iowa State on Monday night.

For a team that looked so solid for nearly three halves against Oklahoma, that certainly has been a surprise.

That victory, back on Jan. 4, should have been a springboard for the Jayhawks, who looked so solid that night in just about every aspect. They shot well, played with confidence, were tough as nails, responded to adversity and closed.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is held back by Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after he was whistled for a foul on Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) with seconds remain during the first half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is held back by Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after he was whistled for a foul on Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) with seconds remain during the first half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

I know this might be an unpopular opinion, but given the way things have gone since that night, it's quite possible to conclude that the OU game could go down as the peak of KU's 2015-16 season.

And maybe that's the issue here. Maybe this team knows that. Maybe it's not fatigue and trouble moving on — emotionally, physically, whatever — from that game that's causing the problem. Maybe it's the fact that they're facing the unreasonable expectation — from fans and themselves — of trying to recreate how they played in that game.

Instead of just focusing on playing hard and winning games at whatever cost, they've got that gem bouncing around in their minds and anything less than the performance they put forth that night against OU seems like a miss.

It's not, of course. This team has plenty of talent and the coaching to win games in a number of different ways and still can accomplish big things this season. Remember, no one says victory has to be pretty. You just have to have more points than the opponent on the scoreboard when the clock shows :00.

I'm not exactly saying that KU is struggling right now because it is trying to be perfect. Heck, there have been times lately when the Jayhawks have not even appeared to know the definition of perfectly average. And, like it or not, these other teams that are gunning for Kansas and smelling blood, have had more than a little to do with that 3-3 record since KU knocked off the Sooners in that showdown at Allen Fieldhouse in early January.

But here we are more than three weeks later and there are still people out there trying to justify KU's poor play of late by talking about how the OU game took so much out of this team that it just can't get right. I'm not buying that.

The only way that incredible OU victory might still be impacting this Kansas team is inside the heads of the players, some of whom might be striving a little too much to be the heroes they were in that game instead of the tough-as-nails, fundamentally sound, completely confident and strong-willed players that KU coach Bill Self is known for having.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) strips a ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) strips a ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Comments

Aaron Paisley 3 years, 9 months ago

Texas Tech is the only game that tge OU one should've impacted from fatigue.

Phil Leister 3 years, 9 months ago

I try and avoid the boards on here as much as I can after KU loses. So, is this actually a theory that people have? I can't believe it necessitated an entire article to say that the guys surely can't still be fatigued from a game three weeks ago.

But, asinine theories like that are precisely why I try to avoid reading the comments after a loss.

Matt Tait 3 years, 9 months ago

Can't say it was necessary, but any time KU loses three in a row on the road, I think people start looking for answers wherever they can. This was one area I continued to hear as a reason and I'm not buying it. So I blogged about it.

Gregor Southard 3 years, 9 months ago

Will someone in the media please ask Self why he benched Mickleson? They were undefeated when he was starting, and now he isn't even playing. And by the way, the team isn't winning. I personally believe blowing up the rotation that was working is killing team chemistry.

Brett McCabe 3 years, 9 months ago

There were quite a few posts, for quite awhile blaming that game for our struggles while, as Matt points out, OU continued to rock and roll.

Layne Pierce 3 years, 9 months ago

Matt

To put that game in perspective, we are just a missed free throw away from being 4-4. And it is not just that we are losing, it is how we are losing, and how we are giving up.

Do you not see that this team does not really play well together when it faces adversity. It simply turns into a bunch of one on one selfish plays and players.

The other night, someone, I suppose Selden broke off a set play to take an uncontested 3, why? Also, we can win 42-40, it is ok with me.

Frankly our 3 losses have been embarassing not because we lost, but because of how we crumbled. Unless the players redevote themselves to their fellow players and the team concept on offense and defense, this team is going to go down as one of the biggest disappointments in KU basketball history. We are going to give up our string with hardly a whimper.

Joe Joseph 3 years, 9 months ago

"So if either team should have had trouble moving on from that classic contest at Allen Fieldhouse, it's OU."

I disagree with this notion.

Kansas and Oklahoma both played at very high levels in that game. Despite losing, Oklahoma saw that they could and probably should have beaten Kansas in a setting where Kansas rarely loses. This was a game that OU didn't have to have. The OU players, coaches, and fans all knew going into the game - going into the season - that a win at AFH was unlikely and unnecessary.

And yet Oklahoma was right there and probably should have won. Buddy Hield's decision to return for his senior season - with the intent of winning the Big XII - was validated. Hield - and the rest of the OU roster - had become believers. They could take down the mighty Jayhawks.

Buddy Hield's attitude and dispositions after the game said it all. He was smiling, signing autographs, and upbeat in interviews. In that moment, despite coming off of a loss, he knew the conference belonged to him.

It's possible that some Kansas players felt this as a result as well; the conference belongs to Oklahoma.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 9 months ago

"A look at what the Sooners have accomplished since that night should tell you that. And, remember, Oklahoma LOST that game"

Let's get one thing straight. In the OU-KU game, it ENDED IN A TIE in the ALLOTED REGULATION TIME that all games are played to! YES! The game went THREE TIES!!!!!! Then someone missed a shot or made a shot after the game was played to a tie for the required regulation time......... FOR THREE MORE TIMES!!.

In case you do not realize it, I have been a dedicated fan of forgetting this overtime crap. This stuff was started, I believe, some many years ago in the baseball world. Play nine innings and have a tie?? Well, now, we just cannot have that, might foul up the standings or the ratings or the World Series for God's sake!! Lets play another 4 innings past midnight to untie the score.

Now this deceit has invaded both the football and basketball world. So far, the world of soccer has not caved in to this misrepresentation of play during the regulation time allotted for the game. Oh, you know I am an OU fan and have sour grapes. You bet. We played the regulation time to a tie. KU won the added extra time so the sports writers and pollsters did not have to consider that the game was a tie, both teams played the game equally, and "for God's sake, someone just HAS TO WIN, no matter the deceit and fraud that this crazy "extra inning/overtime" garbage brings to the games.

I know nothing will ever change, because we just have to have winners and losers in athletic events. The sports writers and editors would want it no other way.

I wonder how much longer the soccer world will manage to hold out against hits fraud and deceit in the other major sports??

Robert Brock 3 years, 9 months ago

This KU team is working hard and trying to play up to their capabilities. Unfortunately, it is the same roster that was pounded last March by Wichita State.

C'mon, Cheick - learn the system!

Dustin Peterson 3 years, 9 months ago

Matt, I posted that excuse to your Day After blog after the OSU game. A week ago. Two games ago. I'm not aware of just how many times it has come up since, but I want you to know I agree with your article, here...to an extent. You said something that is not true. You said none of the coaches or players said anything about it, but in the article "Bill Self Sees No Reason to Panic," Self is quoted as saying--

“I think your bodies can be fresh sometimes but sometimes you are stressed for whatever reason,” Self said. “There could be different things going on with you to maybe create a situation where you do not quite feel as rested. I really feel the last 10 days or so we’ve looked like a team that was fatigued a little bit. That’s not an excuse by any stretch. It’s reality everybody goes through these things at different times during the season."

Now, admittedly, he does not blame the OU game specifically, but that was never the point. The point was the team was exhausted, and the OU game was my guess, as good as anyone's guess who doesn't have access to inside information. I based that guess on Oklahoma's own performances following January 4, and they just were not dominant, Matt. But fatigue is fatigue, no matter what is causing it. Now, as I said before, I agree with you that since the end of the OSU game, that excuse is no longer valid. That isn't to say that said excuse was NEVER valid; I believe it was. But you realize this is purely a speculative correlation/causation argument. My guess versus your...I don't know...rejection of my guess (since I don't believe you have offered you own). So is my argument poppycock? Maybe. Codswallop? Likely. But, hogwash??? Those are fighting words, Sir! ;-)

Bj Cassady 3 years, 9 months ago

I will start off with Free Hunter! Have we forgotten how well he played in Korea, in the early part of the season. I guess bench him, lose our road games finish 50-50 in conference play, probably lose a game or 2 at home and finish 5th in the big 12, make an 8 seed in march madness, maybe win one, or not. Coaching, Mason's erratic play, Seldon's lack of ball-handling and aggressiveness, Free Bragg! Need help for Perry Ellis inside. Other than that we are in great shape.

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