Uncharacteristic home losses have opened up the Big 12 Championship race.
Kansas has been defeated three times in Allen Fieldhouse this season. For other programs, that’s relatively insignificant. For a team that boasts one of the best home court advantages in sport, that stat is noteworthy. The last time KU lost three home games was in the 1998-1999 season. The Jayhawk crowd, which holds the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an indoor sports event, has been noticeably less intense. While quieter as a result of lacking play, the crowd is only a marginal part of the problem.
Trailing for the entire contest after the opening three, KU never seemed to wake up for the early Saturday game. The Jayhawks were destroyed by Oklahoma State on the boards by a margin of 41-28. The Cowboys had 26 second-chance points to KU’s seven. The Jayhawks have been outrebounded 118-93 in their three home losses. While it’s certainly no secret that Kansas lacks size and depth in the interior, intensity and effort play a significant role in rebounding on both ends of the floor.
Defensive rebounding has been less of an issue, with Kansas securing 73.9% of defensive rebounds at home. However on the offensive boards, KU is only rebounding 27.2% of their missed shots. For comparison, the Cincinnati Bearcats lead the NCAA in home offensive rebounding percentage at 42.8%.
As KU has struggled in the frontcourt, they have also been outplayed from behind the arc in losses to Arizona State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. In each contest, Kansas has been less efficient from three, with the Sun Devils making 50% of their threes to KU’s 36.3%. The blueprint for stealing one in Lawrence is fairly transparent. When the Jayhawks fail to make outside shots and forfeit the rebound battle, no amount of Phog can distract the opponent from victory.
Now tied for first place in the conference with Texas Tech, that home loss to the Red Raiders holds extra weight. KU will look to rebound both metaphorically and literally against a TCU team that is 2-3 on the road in conference play. This losing record is deceptive, given that the Horned Frogs forced overtime in two of the three losses and has lost by an average margin of only 3.7 points.
Bill Self has elected to shake up the starting lineup against TCU, replacing the sluggish Lagerald Vick with Mitch Lightfoot. Lightfoot has made his mark, not as the most talented or physically imposing athlete, but as player who is willing to hustle, leading the team in blocked shots and charges taken. Hopefully his playing style will inspire his teammates to the bring the grit and grind needed to prevent another poor performance at Allen Fieldhouse.