We’re a month into the season, which means it’s a good time to take a step back and review what’s happened so far.
The second-ranked Jayhawks are coming off their sixth straight holiday tournament win after beating Dayton in the Maui Invitational championship game. They beat No. 20 Colorado over the weekend, making them 7-1 one month into this young season.
Let’s look at some takeaways from what this Kansas team has done so far and how it might translate going forward.
KU is dominant down low
Self’s preferred playing style hasn’t changed much since he came to Kansas; he wants to get the ball inside and go from there. This year looks no different, and how could you blame him? Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack went 37 for 48 from the field during their three games in Maui. Azubuike has been especially good all year when he gets the ball in the paint, posting a nation-leading 79 percent on field goals. Even when those scoring opportunities get tougher later-on, Kansas should continue to force the ball inside on offense, opening-up outside shooters and driving lanes for Marcus Garrett and Devon Dotson.
Bench production is severely lacking
KU’s bench has gotten off to a slow start in 2019. The group scored only 10 points against BYU in Maui and even worse, only two against Dayton. Tristan Enaruna only took seven shots over the last two games, and Isaiah Moss, KU’s best shooter, only had one shot attempt against Dayton. Silvio De Sousa and Christian Braun looked worse in limited playing time. The issue isn’t the talent of the guys coming off the bench, it looks to be more about opportunity and aggression. Enaruna is a good freshman and Moss is the best shooter on the team. Both of those guys must be confident in their strokes and play with purpose if KU wants to make a deep postseason run.
KU can win high-level games without making threes
Kansas showed that it is possible to win a big game without making threes in their win over Dayton. However, that strategy looks to be more matchup dependent if anything. Dayton was a much smaller team, allowing Kansas to pound the ball inside and convert drives that might not be there against other opponents. While the most logical game plan for this team is probably to shoot somewhere around 22 threes per game, it’s evident that Self still isn’t totally comfortable with that volume. It is reassuring to see the Jayhawks win a game against a good opponent when Self sticks to his stubborn ways.
Kansas can be elite defensively
This team looks like one Self’s best defensive units seven games in. Azubuike and McCormack are stalwarts in the paint and provide back up for each other incase of foul trouble. Dotson can bother any opposing point guard and Garrett, Enaruna, Moss, and Ochai Agbaji are all versatile enough to switch defensively on any wing. The advanced stats tell the same story. KU has the sixth best defensive rating while playing the toughest schedule in the country. Even when they have nights when they struggle on offense, this team’s defense is good enough to keep them in any game they’ll play.