Quick Hitters: Iona

The Jayhawks recovered from a sub-par first half in the second, finally putting away a stingy Iona team by a 20 point margin. Here are my quick hitters from the game.

Embiid may have the most talent on the team. He is so raw and his game is still underdeveloped. The fact that he is able to do what he does running basically on instinct and skill alone makes his potential scary good. He posted a respectable double-double posting 16 points on 7-for-7 shooting and added 13 rebounds and 2 blocks in 26 minutes. It wasnt just the numbers, though. It was the way he did what he did, You really had to watch the game to appreciate it. People talk about his footwork and his agility for a 7-footer. Both are impressive, but there is more here. He has some intangible way about him that just screams superstar. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that he has a chance to become an NBA legend when it is all said and done. He is just that good.

Black continues to struggle. Tarik Black has quietly become the starter that doesn’t play any minutes for this team. He hardly played against Duke and he only logged 9 minutes against Iona. He had one point and three fouls in those 9 minutes. I am not sure what the deal is with him. He doesn’t play enough for me to even have a good feel for his game. I know we need him to provide leadership on this team, which he can obviously do from the bench, but it’s not the same. Maybe Self is unhappy with his rim protection. KU has given up way too many shots at the rim. Maybe he isn’t working hard enough down low to put himself in a position to score. Maybe he has some careless turnovers that stall the offense. Maybe it is a combination of all of those things and more. It is hard to tell right now, but in any case KU continues to play better with him off the floor. This may change, and it sounds like getting Black going is going to be a focus for Self in the coming weeks. Still, at the rate Embiid is progressing, the switch to him as a starter may come sooner than I expected. In fact, the only thing that seems to be keeping Black slated as a starter is his performance in practice.

What to Watch for Recap: 

1. Defensive FG Percentage. Finally KU was able to hold a team under 40% from the floor. They still have a lot of work to do in this area, but this was certainly a step in the right direction, at least in the second half. They still seem to be a little slow to the ball which is forcing help situations more than we are used to seeing. When you combine that with no real shot blocker down low, teams are getting shots at the rim. I miss the days when Jeff Withey would send guys running back out to the perimeter with their tails between their legs. I think guys are a little timid closing out because they know if they are too aggressive, they have no leverage on the defender to recover without fouling. Still, there needs to be more energy and urgency on the defensive end.

2. Tharpe bounce back. He posted 10 assists to only one TO in his 28 minutes. While he didn’t have an excellent game overall, he certainly bounced back from his poor performance against Duke. Facilitate is the name of the game for Tharpe this season, and he did that very well.

3. Wiggins in the first half. Still not seeing the kind of attacking energy in the first half of games from the star frosh. When he decides to put the ball on the floor and drive it, nobody can stop him without fouling. He has the sweet moves in the paint to slither to the rim and the athleticism to finish when he gets there. He just needs to start taking over earlier.

Beware of  the Blog’s Player of the Game: Embiid without question. This was his coming out party and gave KU fans just a glimpse of the kind of raw skill that has NBA GMs salivating right now. He will have ups and down this season, so fans should be patient when he doesn’t perform like this all the time. However, I will be shocked if the overall trend isn’t upwards at a nice click. The valleys won’t be quite as low, and the peaks stand to be much higher. It is going to be fun to watch.

Current Standings:

  • T-1. Andrew Wiggins (1)
  • T-1. Perry Ellis (1)
  • T-1. Joel Embiid (1)

You Let the Whole Team Down Award: Even with Traylor finding new and creative ways to turn the ball over each game, Tarik Black gets the call out this day.  He needs to find his place on this team. I think he should start focusing on going after rebounds like an animal and protecting the rim better without fouling. If he can contribute in that way, he can keep some minutes but there are plenty of talented guys outperforming the starter right now. Seniority only buys you time on the floor for so long.