What to Watch For: Villanova

Kansas relied on its bench and some tough, grind-it-out possessions late to topple a Wake Forest team that just wouldn’t go away. Admittedly I haven’t been able to watch the game in full (AXS?), so rather than doing my traditional wrap-up I will press on to the next game like the Jayhawks themselves will have to. Once I have the chance to review all of the games, I will post a tournament wrap-up including my players of the game and a player of the tournament. With that, let’s look ahead to Kansas; 8:30 p.m. matchup with Villanova.

Rebounding from a tough game. Today’s victory did not come easy and now Kansas faces a quick turnaround. VIllanova may be the next best team in this tournament, and they play a tough brand of defense. It will be important for Kansas to shake off their Thanksgiving dinner and come ready to play. As many of you know, stringing together three victories in a row is never easy. It is even more difficult when your previous game was challenging. Typically teams that had overly physical, or emotional (think overtime buzzer beater) wins have trouble bouncing back for the next contest. The Wake Forest game wasn’t overly physical or emotional, but it wasn’t a walk in the park either. On the other hand, the Wildcats coasted to victory against USC. These are all good learning experiences for this young team.

The three ball. Kansas shot a season low 20 percent from beyond the arc against Wake Forest. It actually dropped Kansas’ season average to under 34 percent. Given all of the guys KU has that can hit that shot reliably, many of whom are getting regular minutes, I think this team should be able to hit a much higher percentage for the year. Maybe as much a 3-to-4 percent higher. That said, I bring this topic up because of the volume of threes Kansas took. Fifteen is too many. Yes, they were throwing some weird zone defenses at the Jayhawks, but I think if this team shoots more than eight threes in a game, they were probably settling for shots (editor’s note: especially Tharpe). Again, I haven’t seen the film, but that is my assumption. I look for KU to take fewer threes and instead drive the ball more often. That will open up the good perimeter looks anyway, and Kansas’ percentage should improve as a byproduct.

Starters with a chip. Self can say he wasn’t trying to send a message to his starters, but I don’t buy it. They blew a double digit lead through poor defensive play and low energy level. Self went to his more than capable bench, and all of a sudden the fire was back. I am just going to say it, KU’s starting lineup is too quiet. Tharpe, Perry, and Wiggins all have trouble being vocal leaders. Selden is probably just a laid back. Black may have more spunk but gets himself into early foul trouble too often to contribute in that way. Mason has been the most consistent at bringing some “nasty” into the game, although Jamari and, to a certain extent, even AWIII also contribute in that way as well. This is an issue for this team going forward, in my mind. Your starters have to be able to come out ready to play and emotional from the tip. KU doesn’t have that killer instinct yet and unfortunately I think it is less about age and more about personality. After being benched, let’s see if the starters can come out and prove that they can get after it early, even in a small gym. Kansas can’t afford to wait on Mason to come off the bench every time they need an emotional lift.