There is no rest for the weary and the Jayhawks continue their monster schedule by heading to Florida to take on the No. 19 Gators. Here are some things to keep an eye on:
1. Another Duke? Aside from Villanova and Duke, Florida is probably the best team the Jayhawks play in the nonconference schdeule. The ‘Hawks were unable to get up for the Nova contest, but had their best performance of the year against Duke. Can the high stakes bring out the team we once knew? Or will the stage prove to big for the young team? Self always states the importance of not letting one loss turn into two. The Jayhawks didn’t seem to take that the heart following their loss to Nova as they escaped the UTEP game and likely would have lost to almost anyone else in the field that night. Hopefully for Bill Self, the message has sunk in.
2. Does Embiid start? I said in my recap from the Colorado game that Black has basically disappeared for this team. He is simply not a factor and I think his putrid showing in Boulder warrants a change. Embiid would be the guy and he should start unless Self still tries to protect him from the chance of early foul trouble. If that is the plan, perhaps he drops down to Traylor for the starting gig. I think it’s very unlikely.
3. Can KU turn the corner? KU is better than Florida both this season, despite their recent play, and as a basketball program. KU is averaging more points, a better field goal percentage, more free throws made, more rebounds, more steals, more assists, and more blocks than their opponent. They are superior, but as we have seen, that doesn’t always mean much with this team. The Colorado loss was tough not because there is any shame in losing to a top 25 team on the road, but because it is the second time this young squad has missed out on an opportunity to come together and do something as a team. The road trip to the islands was their first chance, and a tough road environment in Boulder the second. Now they go into an even tougher situation. Can they find their identity and get a win?
BONUS: Zone offense. If I were William Self, I would have spent all of this quick practice week on one thing and one thing only: how to attack the zone. Until KU can find a way to break out of this terrible outside shooting slump, everyone they face is going to zone them. The foundation was laid by UTEP and reinforced by Colorado. KU needs to get used to it. Fortunately, they have the perfect kind of athletes at the right positions to be an incredibly effective zone offense. They just need to work on it.