For the second time in ten days, the Kansas Jayhawks lost to an unranked opponent away from Lawrence. Saturday’s loss at Colorado ended at the buzzer and unlike the Villanova loss down in the Bahamas, this was a true road game with the crowd being 95/5 Colorado over Kansas.
I always have three levels of reaction to a close loss. The first is the passionate fan hoping for the late whistle, some miracle to wipe away what I watched transpire. My first reaction definitely thought this was a travel.
Second reaction is acceptance. Begrudgingly seeing the play as a Dwyane Wade/Manu Ginobili Eurostep.
Third reaction is the optimistic “this will be good for our guys” wannabe coach mentality. A tough loss brings adversity, adversity builds character, character builds leaders, etc. Plus a buzzer beater loss stings a lot less in December than it does in March.
But do these types of losses really help a team? Is Kansas better off having that shot go in than say bouncing off and the Jayhawks winning in Overtime?
My theory is a championship caliber team has to develop four traits over the course of a season. These four traits are more important than the win/loss record.
1. Ability to win despite everything going wrong. Withstand an opponent shooting lights out from three, going on runs.
2. Develop a last two minutes of the game lineup with no cringe-worthy players.
3. Three players who are willing to take the last shot.
4. Reliable three point shooting
Notice there is nothing about ‘ability to bounce back from a loss.’ Come NCAA Tournament time, that trait doesn’t matter. Buzzer beater goes in, season over.
Hey, Not Everyone’s Cheering for us coach…
Neutral courts are never neutral when it comes to KU. The United Center was predominately Jayhawks. Thousands of Kansas fans took advantage of a Thanksgiving trip to the Bahamas. Last year in the NCAA Regionals, Cowboys Stadium was 80/20 Kansas fans vs. everyone else.
Saturday’s game in Boulder was the first time ever that Andrew Wiggins, Frank Mason and Joel Embiid played in front of 11,000 people all cheering for the opposite team. The Canadian Wiggins heard U-S-A chants at the foul line. Embiid was only cheered on when he stepped out of bounds. Nobody was shouting out “FOUL REF!” on Mason’s drives to the basket.
The three freshmen handled the situation well. In the first half Embiid was dominant, living up to the recent Hakeem Olajuwon 2.0 hype. It is rare for someone Embiid’s size and age to already have this much footwork, decent foul shooting, few bad habits in terms of placing the ball on the ground or not having his hands ready for the pass. He wants the ball on offense and he’s developing as a shot blocker on defense. Against Colorado he even had three steals, two assists.
Mason had an off night shooting, but did what he does best, fearlessly attacking the rim and not being afraid to take big shots. My favorite play of Mason’s was on an outlet pass from Jamari Traylor. The ball looked like it was clearly heading out of bounds, Traylor even threw his hands in the air upset, but Mason sprinted it down, turned the near disaster into foul shots at the other end. He’s my favorite player on the team right now and should be here for all four years. Sherron Collins 2.0
I was most impressed with Andrew Wiggins. THIS is how he needs to play every game. We saw a little bit of this in the second half of the Duke game, the attacking attitude, crossing half court and deciding ‘I’m going to the basket and nobody’s going to stop me.’ It amazes me how far out he can take off from and get right to the rim.
I wish he would have stuck all three free throws on the Dinwiddie foul and definitely think he needs to switch the way he rests his hands on his hips, but big steps in the right direction.
So Colorado must have played great then
Not really. Colorado hit seven threes, but put up 22 attempts. The Buffaloes only shot 41 percent compared to Kansas at 53. Turnover margin only five and the Buffaloes missed 15 free throws (five less than KU attempted).
The only two “home court moments” were Spencer Dinwiddie’s end of shot clock 3-pointer that landed flat on the rim then somehow rolled in. Then of course the final shot of the game by Askia Booker.
This wasn’t Colorado playing their best game ever and catching KU on an off night. If anything, Colorado can look at this game tape and say, “We could’ve won this by 10-12 points.”
Like Villanova, Colorado will jump into the top 25 in the next poll and possibly end the season in the top 15. The win helps Colorado’s resume, will not be a Bad Loss for KU.
End of Game Lineup
The end of game lineup of Mason, Tharpe, Selden, Wiggins and Ellis passes the “no cringe-worthy” options. All five are comfortable taking the big shot and capable of delivering. Same can be said for Embiid, but I think we will see this four ball handlers and Perry Ellis option more often closing out tight games.
Tharpe and/or Selden need to be the 3-pt guy. Mason and Wiggins are both attackers. Embiid and Ellis are reliable in the post. The potential for this team is there, still a lot of room to grow.
How long before Bill Self starts Joel Embiid over Tarik Black?
Why isn’t Spencer Dinwiddie higher in the NBA Mock Drafts? The 6’6” point guard has a big opportunity to shine in a head-to-head matchup against Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart in two weeks.
How long can announcers refer to Conner Frankamp as the ‘dangerous’ ‘incredible’ outside shooter without him turning in a few Jeff Boschee type performances?
Is Frank Mason the new starting point guard?
This is part of the ‘Loss for Words’ series. Articles/rants/email chains less than 48 hours after a loss. Goal is to be part coping mechanism, part silver lining hunt. Ideally won’t be posting too many of these for KU… If you want a place to vent after your team’s loss send me a message @chris0brien on Twitter or email me firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll post on the site.