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The Day After: A UK embarrassment

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Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) give the ball a hard bounce in frustration after a string of Jayhawk fouls during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) give the ball a hard bounce in frustration after a string of Jayhawk fouls during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

By now, if you've even taken the time to read, listen or pay attention to any of the aftermath of Tuesday night's bloodbath in Indy, you know that KU's 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky was an historically bad outing for a Bill Self-coached Kansas team.

So there's really no need to rehash that. The Jayhawks were overmatched, looked ill prepared and overall rattled and rocked by the bigger, deeper, more talented Kentucky squad that started strong and never let up at the fourth annual Champions Classic showcase.

An outcome such as the one the Jayhawks suffered Tuesday night certainly is not what anyone on the team was hoping for, but it also was not all that surprising. During its three games leading up to the clash with Kentucky, Kansas showed plenty of signs that it was still very much a work in progress and KU coach Bill Self warned all along that the bigger Wildcats would be a handful for his Jayhawks. They were. And then some.

These Champions Classic events are great when you've got a veteran team or some guys ready for the bright lights. But they can be a nightmare when you don't and KU found that out — again — last night.

Duke is now the leader in the four-year history of the event, at 3-1, while Kentucky and Michigan State are both 2-2 and the Jayhawks 1-3.

Quick takeaway

It's cliché, but it's also true. Getting rocked like that in front of the entire world could be the best thing to happen to this team. The young Jayhawks surely now realize that they need to listen to anything and everything Self has to say, and coaches always say it's easier to teach and coach after a loss than a victory, so this week's practices should be, well, interesting. KU will be fine. They'll regroup, learn from this and start to come together in the very near future. The people screaming doomsday or freaking out about Self or his players are overreacting a bit, as easy and understandable as that is to do after watching your team play like that.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk leans down for a talk with head coach Bill Self during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk leans down for a talk with head coach Bill Self during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – It's college basketball and not college football. Had this happened to a top-ranked team on the gridiron, it would've been devastating to their title hopes and haunted them the entire season. Not in hoops. Sure, this one might have been devastating for KU's title hopes — in the sense that everyone not named Kentucky appears to be playing for second place this season — but the Jayhawks can move past this and still have a heck of a season. That's exactly what happened in 2011-12, when Kentucky rocked KU in NYC and the two met for the national championship in New Orleans a few months later. The Jayhawks are too talented and too proud to not regroup and move on from this setback.

2 – Several freshmen showed up to compete, they just didn't play that well. It would've been easy — and completely understandable — for those young guys to be overwhelmed by the big stage and scary opponent. But that did not appear to be the case. Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, particularly, seemed fairly comfortable out there, the Jayhawks were just in too big of a hole too quickly for it to truly matter. It's tough to ask or expect a group of freshmen to lead the way when experienced veterans like Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis aren't clicking around them, and I think there's less concern about the young guys today than those vets.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pushes the ball up the court against Kentucky during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pushes the ball up the court against Kentucky during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

3 – It probably can't get any worse than that. It figures to be a long, long time before the Jayhawks play another game where they look quite as overmatched and out of sync. We're talking 10 years or more. Most teams cant' say that, so at least KU fans can hold onto that as they mourn Tuesday night's embarrassment.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – This team is lacking leadership on the floor. Wayne Selden, though competitive, has yet to fully step into that role. And neither point guard — Frank Mason or Devonte' Graham — seems to own the leadership vibe that this team is missing. It's not that the Jayhawks need someone out there who will scream and shout and rant and rave, but they do need a guy they can look to for encouragement in tough times and a guy who can pull the group together and get them going when needed. That can't and shouldn't always come from the guy in the suit on the bench. It's just not the same thing as when it comes from someone on the floor.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) watches as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) rejects his floater during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) watches as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) rejects his floater during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

2 – The start of the second half was awful. Obviously, the entire second half was pretty terrible, too, but after cutting UK's 18-point, first-half lead down to nine at one point and 10 at the break, the Jayhawks put themselves in position to come out fast and get back into the game. Instead, they scored just 12 points the entire second half and shot 13 percent (3-of-23) during the final 20 minutes.

Kansas players Devonte Graham, left, Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis watch during the final seconds of the Jayhawks' 72-40 loss to Kentucky during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas players Devonte Graham, left, Wayne Selden, Frank Mason and Perry Ellis watch during the final seconds of the Jayhawks' 72-40 loss to Kentucky during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

3 – There were so many other bad statistics and numbers that it was easy to overlook KU's sub-par performance at the free throw line, but the Jayhawks struggled there, too. Kansas made just 15 of 27 free throws in this one (56 percent) and too often came away with empty trips that should have been points and could have helped keep the game close – at least closer. Poor free throw shooting is often something coaches just gloss over and expect the players to fix by practicing on their own and focusing in a little more. That's probably what will happen here, but the Jayhawks need to get on the right side of the free-throw stat sooner rather than later before it becomes a real problem, both on the scoreboard and in their heads.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' 32-point loss at Kentucky in Indianapolis:

·         Moved KU to a 1-1 record to start the season for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.

·         Expanded Kentucky’s lead for all-time wins in NCAA Division I history to 16 games. Kansas now has 2,127 wins in its history, while Kentucky has 2,143.

·         Added to Kentucky’s lead on the series, which stands at 22-6 in favor of the Wildcats, including three-straight wins.

·         Made Kansas’ record against ranked teams 53-29 in the Self era.

·         Made KU 7-16 all-time against the Associated Press No. 1 ranked teams, including 2-2 under Self.

·         Changed Self’s record to 3-4 against Kentucky, 326-70 at Kansas and 533-175 overall.

·         Made KU’s all-time record 2,127-823.

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison (5) gets to the bucket between Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) and forward Perry Ellis (34) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kentucky guard Andrew Harrison (5) gets to the bucket between Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) and forward Perry Ellis (34) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

Next up:

The Jayhawks return to action at 7 p.m. Monday, when Rider, which does not feature nine All-Americans or any kind of platoon system that we're aware of, comes to Allen Fieldhouse for Game 3 of the 2014-15 season.

By the numbers: Kansas vs. Kentucky

By the numbers: Kansas vs. Kentucky by KUsports.com graphic

Comments

Scott Smetana 8 years ago

I thought Traylor was abysmal on both ends of the court. However, it's not his fault he's not bigger. I think it would help to start Alexander.

I was surprised to see our coaches still pushing the drive and shoot last night. Same thing happened against Standford. We need to shoot more when we're oversized (a lot this year)

That said, I thought Mason showed good leadership skills and that our guards and wings overall played well. They handled the ball well and played good half court defense. We're just super hurting for bigs this year. I hope we can still make a run for the Big 12 this year and then return everyone for next year.

Steve Zimmerman 8 years ago

amen, bro. I watched a replay of Bulls vs UK, instead. those newyorkers have some balls. they hit some jumpers. heck, they even managed to get a dunk or two. good ball handling. came short. but this is Buffalo. playing in UK's hq. even smaller players than ours. no McDonald AA.

i'd like to see us play the Bulls first before even thinking playing UK next time.

Kevin Crook 8 years ago

Kentucky was better everywhere and in every way, but what is most disheartening is that basketball at all levels has become a guard-oriented game. KU is mediocre at the guard position. Mason has a lot to learn about penetrating and distributing and penetrating to try to get to the basket. He seems like he rarely looks to distribute. He's not adept at setting up team mates like other really good guards are. Graham has the instincts to be much better in that way, but he lacks experience and confidence. Selden is not a ball handler, and looks like he should work to develop an intermediate game like Paul Pearce was so good at. Our guard play will haunt us all season. Ellis, Alexander, and Traylor won't be made to look small again any time soon, but when they do, we need to be able to space the floor to let them work facing the basket. This goes back to better ball handling and shooting on the perimeter to set that up. By the way, with free throws, shooting them well is one reason why Wichita State is so tough to beat at the end of games. They shoot them really well.

Don Burgundy 8 years ago

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Perry Finesse Ellis got beaten like a drum by Towns and Lee last night. He has no business playing in games like last night. He never tries to slam down someone's throat a la T-Rob or even Embiid for that matter. Those soft baby layups that got blocked over and over made me cringe.

Dirk Medema 8 years ago

The '08 NC team improved their FT% by 10% from non-con to conf play, and then another 10% at the Madness. Darnell did the same thing the year he had to sit-out the first games of the season. It is very doable if each player commits himself to the extra practice.

Brian Skelly 8 years ago

The overwhelming, blownout nature of last nights game likely wont repeat itself this year like this -- unless we play Kentucky in the tournament. That said, I happen to agree with Kevin somewhat. Our point guard play the last several years has been problematic. Honestly, its been problematic since Collins, Taylor left. E.J. never was a PG, Tharpe was recruited to be a 'backup' and then became the starter by default. Mason, while aggressive, does not particularly make great decisions. Graham is young enough at this point to be give a bit of a pass, but considering his option coming out of H.S. (not prep school) was Appalachian State its hard to envision the ceiling on this guy is particularly high. Until Self starts getting top flight PG -- shoot first or pass first -- and developing them again (Chalmers, Collins, Taylor) this team is going to have troubles we've seen the last 2-3 years come March.

Aaron Paisley 8 years ago

The reason Graham decommitted from App State was because he started getting some offers from power conference schools. App. State refused to let him out of his LOI so Graham went to prep school instead to get out of his App. State commitment and go to a better school.

Glen Miller 8 years ago

Maybe now some of you will start listening to when I say Mason is not all that great. He's a spark plug off the bench, not a starter. When is Self going to get a point that can actually run this team?? And Perry Ellis......... he's not a 4, never was, never will be. He's soft and gets discouraged easily when things aren't going his way. If he starts off a game slow, he'll be awful the rest of the way. His "veteran leadership" is non existent. What does it tell you when your freshmen are playing better than your veterans? It's screaming that something is wrong. I'm not on board with the thoughts that we won't get blown out again this season. I think there are a few games along the way that could get ugly. Texas has size for days and made us look bad last year. I'm not as optimistic as some, I see a long season ahead. don't be surprised if we finish 3rd or 4th in the Big 12 folks. We don't have enough band aids and gauze to cover up the wounds we have exposed. Size will bother us and tougher teams will bully us. Normally I am about as opportunistic about our team as anyone, but I see a team that is completely lost and could be worse than last year. We need a POINT GUARD, not a combo guard. Until we have one of those, it won't matter.

Suzi Marshall 8 years ago

The picture that leads this article speaks volumes about Ellis....head down, shoulders slumped. The guy is extremely talented. He needs to man up and toughen up.

I had plenty of apprehension about this game with the soft core from last year's team. Our best hope is to get the freshman, including Graham, up to speed.

With our lack of size, the most important thing is to start hitting FTs. For this team to have a great year, we can't afford to give up free points. We need to hit 80s% from the line.

My bet is the Hawks rebound with a strong show .....against .....Rider!

Jack Jones 8 years ago

While Ellis can, and has had impressive performances, his demeanor on the court is Perry Ellis. A very talented basketball player who is inconsistently aggressive during games. It almost seems that he can be "taken out" of games, either by an opponent, or by his inconsistent play. Because of who he is, he doesn't appear to have the qualities that would permit him to be a team leader ~ an obvious missing piece on this team. Based on our play in only two games ~ we play just as we are ~ one of the most inexperienced KU teams in the past several years. There is no question that we have a lot of talent, but playing at the D-1 level, inexperience often trumps talent, no more so than at the beginning of the season, when experience begins to magnify talent. The term 'work in progress' has never been more applicable than to this year's team. One other observation ~ the absence of a Jeff Withey and Andrew Wiggins type player is painfully obvious.

Titus Canby 8 years ago

Perry and Jamari are the veterans on this team. They need to show some leadership. I agree, Suzi. That hangdog look is a horrible way to lead this team.

What happened to the Perry Ellis we heard so much about all summer? They were saying he was the best in the summer leagues.

Rodney Crain 8 years ago

Suzi, excellent posts on the site today, even, candid, and right on point. I agree with this post 100% too.

The only thing I would add is that we also have to hit open 3's the great equalizer in college basketball.

I would also add throwing in a zone or some type of junk defense but Self will never do that. We were so outclassed by talent and size why not at least make them have to deal with something different? Slow the game down, change the tempo, it might help. Alas our coach just sticks to the river and lakes that he knows. (TLC reference again :) )

Perry, the shadow, I do not think he can develop, nor does he have the ability, nor desire, to play tougher, to lead our team. He is just not that guy. His body language makes you think he does not care. I think he does, but he usually only shows up in the stats. I never understood over the summer why everyone was raving about him. He only has half a game.

Rodney Crain 8 years ago

It's never as bad as it seems, nor good as you think it is, if that makes any sense. As historic as this loss is you have to agree that this KY team is very unique and unplanned. Cal said in a pregame interview between games he was not expecting so many players to return. It was like getting a double dip of top players, thus his blue and white teams. There has not been a team as tall, deep and as talented as what they are right now in the history of college basketball. When they play as a team, at the college level they are unbeatable. It is their defense that allows them to overcome any scoring issues and their incredible depth to overcome any foul issues.

They asked Cal after the game how do you beat KY, he said you have to hit 3's, play strong inside, defend and do it for forty minutes against a very deep talented 10 players. That is a tall order for anyone in college basketball.

We were caught in the perfect storm. We were not able to do any of those things, they were able to and the resulting loss was stunning. Today is all about accepting how far we are from competing with them. I am sure we will have a good season but today is about rubbing some dirt on this loss and getting back to work. It does change the fact that it sucks in more ways than you can count.

Aaron Paisley 8 years ago

Kentucky didn't play that well last night on offense. They shot low 40% from the field, 33% from 3, and low 60% from the stripe and had no transition game.

Rodney Crain 8 years ago

Scary what that team is capable of if they hit on all cylinders. Even with those stats within minutes we were out of that game. They still have to be considered one of the all time great teams, if they win it all with 1 or 2 losses there can be no doubt.

John Fitzgerald 8 years ago

I now hate the word "platoon." Thanks Calipari.

Elden Davis 8 years ago

Self didn't have the team ready. He's not certain of the starting five. He's not certain who should come off the bench. He didn't have them executing his game plan.

I put this one on Self. Maybe the first time I ever thought that.

They are young and will get better, but this was not 100% on the players. Maybe it's too early to know these things, but Kentucky looked better prepared.

Rodney Crain 8 years ago

I understand what you are saying, he certainly is in the team picture on who to blame, but I will never let the players off the hook when they perform like that. A few of our guys never gave up, but for the most part our team did not execute seemed defeated at the 5 mins. into the 2nd half, and just wanted for that game to end. Self did not miss block outs, or layups, or miss shots. We should have lost that game but holy smokes not by 32 due to such a no show from so many players.

Vernon Riggs 8 years ago

I think it goes deeper than just that. HCBS said in the pregame interview that the Jayhawks couldn't beat Kentucky by going side-to-side. To beat Kentucky 'we are going to have to take it north and south...' I think the game plan was to drive and attack the taller Kentucky players head on. The Kansas players were on a mission to drive in the lane. Hindsight shows that the game plan was severely flawed. We moved competely away from the Hi-Low Offense. We never went side to side. We moved away from being Kansas. Back to the basics. Back to being Kansas.

Matt Gauntt 8 years ago

I remember last year about this time after we got upset by Villanova people were screaming that the sky was falling. Go back and look at the comments. Well, same thing has happened this year. It wasn't an upset, but we weren't supposed to lose like this.

It happens. Last year, the boys got schooled early and then schooled again by Colorado and Florida. They took it to heart and actually had a pretty good year. Give the guys a chance. It's very early.

Matt - thanks for an even tempered article and the thoughtful analysis. Your articles are always a pleasure to read.

Gregor Southard 8 years ago

All KU needs is for Mason to drive to the basket more while throwing the ball up in the general area of the rim! Seriously, they'll be fine eventually. When Graham, Alexander, and Oubre (sp?) are ready to start, things will start to click.

Tom Larkin 8 years ago

10 Players 6'6" or taller. 6 players 6'8" or taller.

Kentucky and Calipari have a chance to be something nobody has ever seen before. I really hate the thought of "1 and done" players, I know that is where NCAA basketball is going and Calipari figured that out a couple years ago.

Yes that was the most overmatched I have ever seen my Jayhawks in over 20 years of following them. But I am not that worried, hopefully pride will force Self and the boys to man up and not panic.

Check back at the end of the season and we will see that this 32 point victory won't even be in the top 15 point spreads for Kentucky, they are special and as long as these "platoons" work for them most games will be in the 35-40 point wins. Kentucky is "REAL GOOD" and that is hard for me to admit.

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