Depth is certainly plaguing the Jayhawks, but the team’s mental fragility is contributing more to their struggles.
The Jayhawks have transformed in their last two games. Unfortunately, they have gone from a dominant force to a team struggling for an identity. While a short bench may soon receive reinforcements, Kansas will need to address several mental aspects to get back on track.
Against Washington and Arizona State, the Jayhawks lacked the preparation and proper focus to execute. While it is common for these end-of-semester matchups to become trap games, the coaching staff needs to create a stronger narrative to keep players dialed in. KU cannot expect to beat teams relying solely on talent. Kansas, on paper, has some of the best guards in the country and were significantly outmatched by Arizona State’s guards, leaving fans wondering how meticulously the Jayhawks had scouted their opponent.
When the team struggled offensively, particularly from behind the three-point line, they were unable to adjust to find other avenues of offense. Against ASU’s small lineup, Udoka Azubuike should have imposed a greater interior presence. Instead, Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, and Svi Mykhailiuk tried too many times to rely on a shot that was not falling. Once Graham is out of rhythm, he cannot collect himself to make a positive impact on the court.
Bill Self was simply outcoached in both contests, as he did little to alter his game plan and even failed to use timeouts in a strategic fashion. Self waited far too long after the initial momentum shift to gather his players on Sunday.
The Jayhawks failed to match their opponents’ intensity. Players displayed dejected body language and were beaten badly in transition, continuously failing to get stops on the other end once they fell behind. As the team with superior physical gifts, KU let inferiors opponents dictate the pace of the game and never hustled enough to turn the momentum back in their favor.
All of these elements combined have led coach Self to accurately describe this team as the softest he has seen. The players and personnel displayed a true disconnect from the tenants that make the program historically great. Lacking poise, grit and desire, the Jayhawks are searching for a leader to emerge and bring the season back into focus.