Kansas may have won its two exhibition games by a combined 65 points, but they earned a “C-” grade thanks to sloppy ball handling and mediocre defense.
In No. 1 KU’s two exhibition victories over Emporia State and Washburn, the final score was never in doubt. However, there were plenty of things that showed that the Jayhawks are far from a polished team.
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With a loaded roster filled with scholarship players, Bill Self has his work cutout for him in his 15th year as the head coach at Kansas. If KU’s two exhibition games against Emporia State and Washburn were any indication, finding the right lineup to maximize chemistry will be a bit of a challenge.
Lagerald Vick shined in the second match, while Dedric Lawson showed off why many expect him to win Big 12 Player of the Year in both contests. Other than that? Few things were consistent throughout the 80 minutes of exhibition play the Jayhawks put forth. Quentin Grimes, Udoka Azubuike, Marcus Garrett, and Devon Dotson all had their moments, but who can we expect the Jayhawks to start on Tuesday night against Michigan State?
For Udoka Azubuike, it’s quite clear that he needs to stop thinking and start playing. He’s the most efficient scorer in college basketball when he catches the ball in the post and goes straight up. Against Emporia State, he looked timid and hesitant to go up, but that changed against Washburn, when Azubuike scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds. Getting Azubuike going is critical, because with so many inexperienced players around him in the frontcourt, stability is a very important component for the 2018-19 Jayhawks.
Kansas needs to continue to filter through lineups in order to find the right group of five to maximize output in any given situation. While that will likely take several weeks of regular season action, the purpose of these exhibition games was for Bill Self to have time to figure some of it out, and while the scoring margins of the victories were impressive, I’m not sure that he took any steps towards figuring out his puzzle.
I expect Azubuike, Lawson, Dotson, Grimes, and Vick to get the nod on Tuesday night, but it will only be minutes before substitutions occur. From there, it will be up to Self to find out which lineups work and which don’t, because at this point in time, nobody has any idea what KU’s best lineup is.