Toto, I don’t think this is Kansas basketball anymore.
The fire alarms are going off in Lawrence, and no wonder. What’s happened to the Jayhawks is almost Halley’s Comet kind of stuff.
Kansas beaten twice in Allen Fieldhouse in the same season . . . for the first time in 11 years?
Not just beaten, but humbled both times by double digits . . . for the first time in 34 years?
The 85-73 loss to Texas Tech Tuesday the worst home defeat . . . since 2003? And the worst at home in the Big 12 . . . in 29 seasons?
The Jayhawks never led one second, the first time that’s happened at home in the Bill Self era since . . . well, it’s never happened? Just like they had never lost to Texas Tech in Allen Fieldhouse, not in 17 games?
And now they’re 11-3, and 1-1 in the Big 12 for the first time in . . . 12 years, when this year’s freshmen were in the second grade?
Yes, to all the above. Yes, to Kansas getting wiped out in points off turnovers 67-25 in its three defeats. And 70-25 in bench points, with no depth inside. (Plus 27-6 in the narrow escape at Nebraska, but we digress). This while Devonte’ Graham has to go 36 minutes a game, 40 against Texas Tech.
Yes, to the fact that the Jayhawks offense, which relies so heavily on 3-pointers, doesn’t seem to force defenses to foul very often. Kansas is 337th in the nation in free throws taken.
Most of all, yes, to the idea that the remarkable 13-year hold on the Big 12 regular season title looks as fragile as a carton of eggs. The Jayhawks have problems, and the league is loaded. The last time Kansas didn’t win at least a share of the championship, Twitter did not exist. Oklahoma do-it-all Trae Young, one of the league’s young guns taking aim at the Jayhawks’ reign, was five years old.
How to describe all those yesses? “It’s terrible,” Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk told reporters after the Texas Tech loss. “We’ve got to start playing way tougher on the court.”
And in the next three weeks, Kansas must go to TCU, and West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Combined record: 37-3.
Sounds like a good time for the head coach to let off a little steam. So let’s give Bill Self the floor, and listen to his words from his post-Texas Tech press conference. It’s not hard to sense his discomfort.
“They were better coached, they were more prepared, they were tougher, they were faster. It was a beat down.”
“They were so tough and aggressive, it reminds me of teams we have had in the past. We were so passive, we got what we deserved.”
Ouch, that hurt. And?
“We have allowed our guys to be finesse guys and that is a formula for disaster. This could happen a couple or several more times without question, even at home, because we have shown everybody we have a chink in the armor.”
About those 26 points off turnovers and 15 second-chance points for Tech?
“It is unbelievable, 41 points out of our softness or lack of ball handling ability. We turn it over 15 times . . . and they get 26 which is unheard of, and then they turn it over 10 times and we get eight. The second chance points was a joke. We did not have anybody who fights for the ball.”
Let it all out.
“I have done such a crap job of getting these guys to understand how athletes who are hungry play.”
Kansas is anxious to get Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston on the court to help a roster that is thinner than an envelope. In other words, the Jayhawks are counting on a boost from one player who is barely out of a prep academy, and another whose eligibility has been on hold.
Meanwhile, the Jayhawks in uniform shoulder on, fervently wishing to avoid being the Kansas team that gets kicked out of the Big 12 penthouse. They’ll have to regroup on the fly against a pack of talented teams, all eager to bring down the empire. “It’s not normal. It’s not something that I’m used to, that we are used to,” Graham said of the situation.
Still, this is the first week of January. It’s early. But it could get late quickly in this season’s Big 12.