Four games into the season and this KU team is off to a solid start, but a shark is lingering below the surface that could be trouble.
The Jayhawks have a 3-1 record, a fourth-place ranking in the latest AP Poll, and their only loss is to now number one ranked Duke. However, turnovers continue to be a lingering issue early on.
That problem reared its ugly head again Tuesday night in the Jayhawks’ 75-63 win over the East Tennessee State Buccaneers. Kansas committed 15 turnovers in the game, with eight of the nine Jayhawks who saw the court giving up the ball at least once.
Those turnovers were one of the leading factors allowing the Bucs to climb back into the game, which KU led by 18 points at one time during the first half. That lead was cut all the way down to five with just six minutes left before KU was able to widen the lead and escape with the win.
ETSU is good and the best lower tier team that KU will face all year, but the game should never have been that close that late in Allen Field House.
That poor performance was reminiscent of KU’s first game against the Blue Devils when the Jayhawks committed 26 turnovers. The blame for the missteps can’t go to one person and looks to be more a result of the makeup of this team.
Kansas only has one great ball handler, Devon Dotson, and one really good passer, Dotson again. Marcus Garrett ranks a distant second in both these categories. Dotson does a great job of running the show, but he can’t do it all. Garrett is solid when Dotson needs a break, but when anyone else handles the ball, it gets a bit iffy. Too many guys try to thread the needle on passes that aren’t there and can’t seem to control the ball when a help defender collapses during a drive.
Jumping to pass has also been an issue. It sounds simple, but this team seems to be making a bad habit out of jumping in the air to make a pass. When that first pass isn’t there, the player is stuck and can only try to force the ball somewhere it shouldn’t go.
Fixing the turnover issue won’t be easy for Bill Self, but it starts with changing the lineups he’s putting on the floor. When KU plays its two-big lineup, the floor gets congested and driving lanes immediately shrink. Going to more lineups with only one big will open up the paint and limit the number of help defenders inside.
Beyond that, the solution is most about guys stepping up. Ochai Agbaji and Tristan Enaruna seem to be the main culprits here. They feature the highest turnover percentages of anybody that has played meaningful minutes. Both of those young guns need to slow down on offense, as they’ve made a bad habit of barreling into the lane with nowhere to go. That’s something that should remedy itself as they get more experience.
The increased presence of Isaiah Moss should also help. The veteran transfer has the lowest turnover percentage of anyone that’s played more than 10 minutes so far and seems to be a calming presence on the court.
KU’s upcoming trip to Maui will be a good litmus test to see if the turnover issues will continue to linger throughout the season.