Tracking KU’s early-season successes

KU has played a weak schedule so far, but the team has had success that should translate to tougher competition.

The Jayhawks have started the season 6-0 for the first time since the 2010-2011 season, beating up on five small-conference opponents during the first six games. The sixth game being against a very young Kentucky team in the Champions Classic.

The competition will soon ramp up, as the Jayhawks play power-five teams in five of their next six games. It would be foolish to think that the team will continue to dominate as they have once the games get tougher, but the successes in the following areas are signs of good things to come.

Avoiding foul trouble

The lack of depth has lingered over the start to the season, and with that comes the constant worry of fouling. So far, KU has been able to avoid foul trouble early in games. Udoka Azubuike always seems to be the center of the worries. However, this season, the big man has been good at staying out of foul trouble and is only averaging two fouls per game.

Free throw shooting

Free throw shooting should stay the same no matter what team you’re playing, and KU has been good from the charity stripe this season. The Jayhawks are shooting 72 percent from the line, and that number goes way up when you take out Azubuike’s low percentage. If he can improve just a little bit, free throw shooting will become a strength for this team.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick have taken a step forward

Both Svi and Vick have been better than expected through the first six games of the season and have been KU’s two best players. Svi has only turned the ball four times, a crazy-low number for someone who leads the team in scoring. Vick is putting up numbers in every facet of the game, averaging 16 points, four assists and seven rebounds. Both players seem to have taken big steps forward, and they should continue to improve as the season goes on.

Three-point shooting

Once again, the Jayhawks are letting it fly from the three-point line and it’s paying off. They currently rank seventh in three-point percentage in the country, shooting 45 percent. That marksmanship has helped KU average 95 points per game, again ranking seventh nationwide. It’s always a question of whether or not Bill Self will allow his team to shoot as many threes as they want to. It seems like this year he is committed to that strategy.

Turnovers

KU’s turnover percentage, which is an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays, is only 13 percent through the first six games, a great number for a team that has so many possessions. Turnovers can be a killer late in the season, and establishing a habit of taking care of the ball early in the year is key.

Marcus Garrett’s growing confidence

Not many expected Garrett to contribute as much as he has early this season, but the freshman has been a valuable player so far. He has provided consistent rebounding while defending larger opponents and not turning the ball over. The minutes he’s getting now against lesser teams should pay off against tougher competition later on.

Jackson Hodges

I’ve been a KU fan as long as I can remember, which I chalk up to my love of basketball and the influence of my brothers. I am a graduate of Oklahoma State, but I routinely wore my blue in Gallagher-Iba (yes, I was that guy). I grew up idolizing Wayne Simien and Christian Moody, and I think the post-entry pass is a lost art. I hope you enjoy my work.