Though many fans were panicked about KU’s overtime loss to Indiana, those same fans will be relieved to know that KU has a relatively easy stretch of non-conference games coming up. In fact, the Jayhawks probably won’t be contested a ton until the Oklahoma game – all the way on January 10. In the meantime, KU still hasn’t quite found the rhythm they need to get completely going, so here are some things that it should work on in order to make this next stretch of games painless and easy.
In four games this year, Frank Mason has had at least 15 points in every contest, averaging over five assists per game. He started the season off with a strong 30 points against Indiana, and he has regressed very little, if at all. He’s been a key veteran presence pairing with guys like Josh Jackson, and he has even had a few highlight-reel plays this early in the season. Making sure Frank Mason is able to get the ball along the perimeter will be key when the Jayhawks struggle to close out the half.
Fix Foul Trouble
It’s difficult to look around and not see a KU player in foul trouble. Josh Jackson, KU’s super freshman, has had four or five fouls in each of the first three games. Last night against UAB, he finally played a full game without getting into foul trouble, and he made a huge impact. His ability to take over a game hinges on the fact that, you know, he’s actually in there to make a difference. Landen Lucas has also been in some foul trouble this season, as he’s racked up fifteen fouls already. Frank Mason also tallied four and five fouls against Indiana and Duke. Most of these fouls are defensible, as a majority of them are the product of clean, hard basketball. Others, like avoiding unnecessary technicals (looking at you, Josh Jackson) would go a long way to helping the longevity of each player in every match.
Jackson Needs to Learn
Josh Jackson has more talent in his left pinky than most of us have in our entire body. That being said, sometimes, he just doesn’t make very good decisions. Yes, he has some top 10-worthy dunks, and he can score on fast breaks with the best of them in the NCAA. All-too-often, though, “Why the heck did you do that, Josh?” is a thought that crosses the minds of many during a basketball game. He’s a freshman, so the experience will come as the season progresses, but right now, he’s got a lot to learn under the upperclassmen before he can truly lead this team.
Lean on Lucas
Though some have questioned Landen Lucas’ ability to lead the team as the starting big man, he’s been a real bright spot in a season with so much young talent. He doesn’t have the points adding up on his score sheet like some of the other players, but his hustle, strength, and physicality are a real asset to have on a team that is clearly speed-oriented. Last year, most people thought he was “soft” and just not very good. He had limited playing time behind Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, but once he ultimately took over the starting center job, he anchored it to a huge win streak. Lucas is in a great position to lead the team down low, as he’s reporting into the season in the best shape of his career, as Fran Fraschilla so kindly pointed out on Monday night.
Svi Mykhailiuk has not met a three that he hasn’t wanted to shoot. Luckily for him, he usually makes them. It seems that he’s made a significant improvement in every aspect of the game so far this season, and has been getting quite a bit of playing time. Last night against UAB, he tallied up 15 points, his second game this season with double-digit scoring. He went 4-for-5 from three-point range in that game. One thing that hasn’t gone unnoticed is the way he passes the ball. If there is one player on that Jayhawk team that would be labeled as an “unselfish player,” it would be him. If Kansas wants to continue to trend upwards with three-pointers, it needs to get Mykhailiuk the ball more, because he’s its best long-range shooter right now.
Overall, none of these things are really something that the Jayhawks struggle with, aside from fouls. Josh Jackson is expected to have some growing pains, it was known at the beginning of the season that Mykhailiuk would fight for playing time, and who saw Landen Lucas coming? Right now is a good time to iron out these things that could be improved upon. Come January, there will be little room for error.