Kansas gets upset in paradise

Kansas started the game up 11-2 and Villanova scored their first field goal almost seven minutes into the first half. However, it wasn’t enough as the Jayhawks got upset by the Wildcats, 63-59.

It’s hard to say you aren’t playing that well when you’re up 11-2, but Kansas didn’t exactly set a dominant tone and the seasoned Wildcats weren’t going to back down from a young, inexperienced Jayhawk squad. I think Bill Self would agree that Kansas didn’t play well in that opening stretch, mainly because of foul trouble to two of his top three big men: Joel Embiid and Tarik Black.

There are a lot of cliches about losing early on in the season and many of them are true. November losses aren’t going to break a team. First off, no one is going undefeated in a basketball season anymore. Secondly, a loss to a team that will contend for the Big East title isn’t exactly something to be worried about. And lastly and most important of all, a loss in November is much better than losing in March or April.

This team is young and no one should have expected Kansas to go undefeated in the non-conference. There are only _ teams with a top 50 strength of schedule that are undefeated: No. 4 Wisconsin, No. 5 UMass, No. 20 UConn, No. 38 Syracuse, and No. 47 Michigan State. Oh, and Kansas’ strength of schedule is currently No. 2 in the country.

Kansas’ SOS actually takes a hit on Saturday by playing UTEP instead of Iowa. Iowa is currently ranked No. 23 in the country, but Kenpom has them No. 7, right behind Kansas. Losing to Iowa is better than losing to Villanova.

I said last night there were some positives shown in the loss to Villanova and there were also some negatives. After giving them some more thought, here’s just an example of a few of the positives and negatives:

Positives:

1) Frank Mason – Mason was the man last night. A lot of people apparently took to Twitter to bash the young man as he had a little Twitter outburst fighting back, but Mason was great. Unfortunately, he’s going to get a lot of flack for taking that last shot of the game. But a) he was wide open for the three and b) Bill Self didn’t call timeout when he should have. That’s not on Mason. He did what he had to do. Yes, I would have liked to see him drive it to the basket to see what would have happened but he was wide open. I’d much rather have Mason take that shot than Naadir Tharpe.

My only “beef” with Mason last night is that he maybe took too many shots compared to everyone else (11, a team high) but that’s mainly on Wiggins, Embiid and Selden not getting enough shots. I would have to rewatch the game to see Mason’s misses but none of them were bad misses. Naadir Tharpe definitely took some shots that left myself (and the people I follow on Twitter) dumbfounded.

2) Joel Embiid – Embiid again once showed why he is the second most talented player on Kansas, if not the most talented Jayhawk on the roster. Unfortunately, Embiid fouled out in 12 minutes. Fortunately (and unfortunately, actually), at least two of the fouls weren’t really fouls. I specifically recall a “moving pick” call on Embiid because he had too wide of a stance. Uh, he’s 7-feet tall. Of course he’ll have a wide stance. His fifth foul was also really on Perry Ellis. Ellis fouled the Nova player first and then Embiid didn’t even touch him. Very bad call. We’ll get to refs in a bit…

Embiid was 4-for-6 from the floor and had five boards. Great stats for just 12 minutes of play. He needs to work on free throws, though… but he’s not the only one.

3) The Jayhawks fought back – Kansas was up 11-2 early and then gave up their lead. Villanova went on a big run and almost buried the Jayhawks for good. But Kansas kept fighting back and I was very impressed. They reminded me of the 2011-12 Jayhawks in that sense that no deficit was too large. Embiid and Mason had a lot to do with that, as well as Perry Ellis.

4) The last 10 minute stretch – This goes hand in hand with No. 3 but Kansas was down 50-40 with 10:51 remaining. Kansas outscored Villanova 19 to 13 to finish the game. The only field goal Villanova made in the last 7:17 of the game was the Ryan Arcidiacono 3-point dagger with 10 seconds left. It was 57-46 with 7:17 remaining and Kansas went up 59-58 before giving up five points in the final 10 seconds. That’s really really encouraging. What makes it even more impressive is No. 5…

5) Andrew Wiggins’ defense – Wiggins’ defense was stellar down the stretch. With Embiid out, Wiggins was the only guy who could get a defensive stop, it felt like. I can’t remember when it was, but Wiggins came up with a huge block late in the game that led to a Kansas fast-break. Wiggins also forced a Villanova turnover in the final possession, but led to a jump ball, which unfortunately went back to Villanova. If Kansas gets the ball on that jump ball (which they most certainly deserved), then Kansas wins and Wiggins is the hero. Instead, Wiggins becomes the goat.

Wiggins had his worst offensive game as a Jayhawk. But no one in the national media will bring up the fact that Wiggins had the flu while in the Bahamas. Wiggins hasn’t played two college games in a row… especially with the flu. The only thing I’m really concerned about is his free throw shooting, which is an overall problem. The four turnovers could be alarming, since it matched his season total through the first five games. However, I’m not really sure Wiggins was really doing anything different on his plays. I kinda think the refs didn’t realize Wiggins’ feet could move so quick so they thought he violated a rule. Again, I’ll draw this up to Wiggins having the flu and having early-season issues. He won’t do that again, I guarantee that.

Negatives

1) Free Throw Shooting – 15-for-25 from the charity stripe… the worst of the season. Not a good time for that. Shooting 60% from the FT line in a close game against a good team isn’t going to win games. You got to make your free throws. I think it may be time for Bill Self to start getting them to practice them after their normal practice.

2) The officiating – It’s been inconsistent all season. Everyone, including the national media, commented on how the first half was so disjointed because of the foul trouble. I saw several inconsistencies in how things were called. I saw Tarik Black get his third foul by standing straight up with his arms in the air and a Villanova player barreled into his arms. Foul on Black. Meanwhile, Mason was getting mugged in the paint and no fouls were called. I’m not blaming the loss on the refs because it was bad on both sides of the ball but it honestly ruined a great game. Either let the kids play or call a bunch of fouls. Just be consistent. I also think this led to Wiggins and some of the other Jayhawks to be timid in the paint on offense and soft on defense. They just didn’t know what was going to be called.

The referees from last nights game are calling, on average, four-five more fouls per game than last season. They’re also on pace to give out more technicals than in season’s past. One of the refs, Joe DeRosa, was even suspended by the NBA for a game for chucking a ball at fans.

Just be consistent, refs.

3) Kansas in the first half –  Kansas let Villanova get back in the game after going up 11-2. Bad move. I would have liked to see Kansas try to step up their game to a new level and stomp on an opponent’s throat.

4) Rebounding –  Part of the problem was Villanova completely outrebounding Kansas, 43-to-34. The Jayhawks allowed Nova to get 13 offensive rebounds, which led to nine second-chance points. Kansas finished with 15 second-chance points but 11 of those were in the second half. Bill Self commented at halftime that their first-shot defense was pretty good. Kansas held Nova to 8-for-28 shooting in the first half. However, Kansas was 6-for-25 themselves. Not good.

5) Foul trouble – Foul trouble cost Kansas big time. Embiid fouled out in 12 minutes hurt Kansas’ chances down the stretch. Black, Traylor and Selden all had three fouls each. Many of those came in the first half.

6) Tharpe –  Naadir Tharpe tried to be the hero on several possessions, chucking up threes and jumpers. He was 2-for-7 in the game and only had four assists. He needs to be a floor general and distribute the ball to be effective. He should not have the fourth-most FGA on the team and have one less FGA than Ellis and Wiggins. Stop shooting, keep passing.

7) Wiggins and Selden’s shot attempts – Wiggins and Selden combined for 13 field goal attempts on the night. They also only made four. However, for Kansas to be effective, their FGA’s need to be double that combined.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’m sure Bill Self will use this in film study A LOT this season. This is exactly the type of game Kansas shouldn’t play. However, in the end, Kansas lost by four on a neutral court to a tournament team. Kansas also turned it over 16 times, got outrebounded by nine and one of their two best defensive players only played 12 minutes and fouled out. Let me reiterate that Kansas lost by only four.

Kansas will be fine. Like I said earlier this week, this team has to grow up. This is a team that when their best lineup on the court consists of four freshmen and one sophomore. Kansas will get a bounce back win on Saturday and then have a week to prepare for the Colorado Buffaloes.