A quick look at Overreaction Wednesday and what it means for Kansas basketball
Well that sure was wild.
For 40 minutes inside one of the greatest basketball venues on the planet, two of the shiniest college programs ran up and down the floor begging each other to take control of the game.
And while both Kansas and Duke did just that after different junctures in the game, only the Blue Devils did it when it mattered most, coming away with a sloppy and somewhat spectacular 68-66 victory over the Jayhawks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game that he thought his team earned the victory. In the same breath, Coach K said he thought Kansas would have earned it, as well, had the Jayhawks came out on top.
Sometimes earning it simply means surviving an off night and grinding like mad when you’re not at your best. Both teams did that throughout Tuesday’s affair, but only one walked away victorious.
Luckily for Duke, that meant that the majority of the national media and the Blue Devils’ fan base could spend Wednesday overlooking the areas of the game that didn’t sparkle for the Blue Devils.
Field goal percentage, turnovers and shot selection were all issues for Coach K’s crew. But 68 is more than 66 so those issues were less glaring than the ones being talked about in Kansas circles today.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look at the four biggest overreactions to KU’s two-point loss to No. 4 Duke that I saw in the world today, some of them warranted but all of them completely over the top.
• KU’s turnover problem is a major issue
You’ll have to excuse me on this one, but I just don’t see that being the case. There’s no doubt that it was a major issue last night, but I think that showing will go down as more of an outlier than anything else when the season gets rolling.
A year ago, a very different looking KU squad averaged a shade over 13 turnovers per game, with season highs of 24 in a loss at Iowa State and 23 in a loss at Kansas State.
Although this is a different squad, one that does not have Dedric Lawson as the anchor of its front court, it returns nearly all of its backcourt and those players are plenty good enough to correct the issues that cost them the Duke game on Tuesday night in New York.
I have to admit, I was surprised to see Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji struggle so much with the ball against the Blue Devils. But I’m willing to chalk up their combined 11 turnovers to the idea that both wanted so badly to make a big splash in the season opener that they pressed too hard and were just wound too tight to get it under control.
That won’t be an issue going forward. For one, because I think both are too talented to play too many games like that. And, for two, because, if nothing else, you can bet giving the ball away at the alarming rate they did against Duke got their attention like nothing ever has before.
Mistakes happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if both players are turnover free on Friday night against UNC Greensboro.
• Devon Dotson is not a true point guard
There might be some merit to this claim, but a huge chunk of how you see it depends on what you value from the position and how you define it.
If by true point guard you’re talking about a Jacque Vaughn/Aaron Miles type who would prefer to set up his teammates a million times over before looking for his own shots and points, then you might be right here. Dotson is an attacking point guard who likes to force the action, put pressure on opposing defenses and make opponents uncomfortable. Finding the open man or dishing to spots and zones isn’t always at the top of his list.
However, if by true point guard you’re talking about a player who can handle the ball, run the show and dictate the way the game is played, Dotson is that guy.
There’s no doubt that Bill Self and company — no to mention the NBA types who are paying attention — would love to see Dotson distribute as well as he scores. Setting up Udoka Azubuike for an easy deuce after drawing the defense is worth the same amount of points as racing full speed to the basket, colliding with a defender and getting the shot to fall through some nifty english and pure toughness.
Dotson’s smart enough to know that and sane enough to know that the less his body gets beat up the better off both he and the team as a whole will be.
There’s not a soul on the planet who would tell Dotson to attack less. But there might be a few out there who tell him to keep an eye out for teammates who might be in position to make an easier play.
Still, if you’re talking about a lead guard who can put your team in position to win each possession, there aren’t many in the country who are better equipped than Dotson.
• Isaiah Moss fixes everything
Had he been fully healthy — or, more to the point, had Tuesday’s game actually meant something — Moss probably would’ve both played and helped last night.
But to say that the Iowa grad transfer’s return to the lineup will suddenly take care of all of KU’s issues is a little extreme considering you’re talking about a player who has yet to play a single meaningful minute for Bill Self.
Based only on last night’s efforts, it does appear that the presence of a knockdown shooter on the floor and a four-guard lineup would be KU’s best strategy as of today.
You put Dotson and Ochai Agbaji out there in the backcourt with Moss at the 3, Marcus Garrett at the 4 and Azubuike at the 5 and let the Jayhawks spread the court, attack driving lanes and kick to shooters.
But, again, Moss is brand new here. Yes, he’s played a lot of college basketball during the past three years, but it’s not as if he was an all-Big Ten, All-American type talent. He was solid. And he’ll help the Jayhawks a lot whenever he’s healthy.
But his presence will not automatically erase KU’s other issues or make it any easier for the Jayhawks to figure out how to play Silvio De Sousa or David McCormack with Azubuike at the same time.
• KU can’t play two bigs at the same time
Speaking of that last part, I can see why Jayhawk fans are willing to abandon the two-big approach already. It looked awful last night. And there’s no doubt that KU does not have a center and two power forwards on its roster; it has three centers.
When you think of the ideal 4 in the modern day Bill Self offense, who comes to mind? Perry Ellis? Marcus Morris? Josh Jackson?
If any of those three were your answer, you hit it on the head. And what did all three of those players have in common? They all could make plays off the dribble, with the pass or by creating their own shot.
McCormack and De Sousa can’t do that yet. And Azubuike’s not even close.
But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon the idea altogether. At least not yet.
Those three players are big time talents who, if given the opportunity to play to their strengths and in their natural positions, could give the Jayhawks a big time advantage down low against just about every team in the country.
Why give up on that idea without at least toying around with some ways to make it work.
Yeah, the game has gotten smaller and the 3-point shot is more important today than ever. But Self and his staff have been at this for a long time and you can bet they have some ideas and some tweaks they'd like to explore before giving up on the idea altogether and taking three of their most talented players and limiting them to less than 20 minute per game apiece on average.
If we’re still having this debate/conversation after Christmas, you can probably punt the idea of playing two bigs and expect to see a bunch of four-guard lineups throughout Big 12 play.
But for now there’s still time to see if something can be cobbled together. Besides, being patient has two possible advantages — 1: They might coach their way into something that works. 2: Even if they don’t, they’ll give guys like Tristan Enaruna, Jalen Wilson, Christian Braun and Moss time to get more comfortable before taking on bigger roles.