Kansas opened its first two games of the new season 1-1, falling to the best team in the country in Gonzaga and topping St. Joseph’s the next day. This KU squad looks a lot different than previous Bill Self teams, so I wanted to discuss the winners and losers based off of the first two games.
KU might’ve dropped their season opener to Gonzaga, but there was a lot to be excited about offensively. Losing Udoka Azubuike in the post is huge loss for Kansas, but KU as an abundance of talented wings this season–wings that appear to be a lot more consistent with jumpers and three-point shooting than last year. KU put up 90 and 94 in their two games respectively, something I’m not sure I’ve seen in my time watching Kansas (excluding the cupcake home games against the Monmouths and Alcorn States). It seems like just about every player appears to be somewhat comfortable in Self’s offense. KU needs to clean up its transition offense a bit, though.
The defense in the first two games was, well, unprecedentedly bad. KU allowed Gonzaga to shoot 64.5% from the floor and gave up the highest 2-pt percentage ever under Self. Granted, Gonzaga is just that good, but the lack of Udoka was obvious, as McCormack under center never really worked, forcing Self to run a five guard lineup for a large portion of both games. There were also lapses in communication on ball screens and getting back in transition. KU must get better defensively–and I believe they will–if they want to be national title contenders.
Winner: Jalen Wilson
After a season ending ankle injury last year, Wilson appears to have taken a big step forward. He added some muscle, and appears to look totally confident in Self’s system. I was pleasantly surprised with how well he played the 5 when KU ran with five guards, and he was aggressive in getting second chance points against St. Joseph’s.
Loser: David McCormack
This doesn’t really need much explanation. McCormack was not good defensively away from the ball particularly, and he wasn’t too great on the ball either. He still looked a little sped up offensively as well. This creates a glaring hole in KU’s team that Gonzaga took full advantage of. With a lack of true centers, McCormack needs to improve fast. He did make a few jump shots which was nice to see.
Winner: Ochai Agbaji
The reason Ochai gets the nod over Christian Braun is because I didn’t expect him to be this sharp offensively. He stroke looks a lot better than it did last year. He added some muscle (seriously, this dude is jacked) and is KU’s most athletic player by far. Along with Garrett, he is one of KU’s best defenders. He made a lot threes and jump shots, and I expect that to continue. It appears he is finally playing to his potential.
Loser: Tyon Grant-Foster
I’m putting TGF here simply because he underperformed in my opinion. From my understanding, he was one of the best JUCO players last year, but it just didn’t look like that translated to these first two games. He hit a few shots, but he appeared to be a little slow defensively and offensively. Self has noted how he can take over games though, so we’ll see if he can improve.
Honorable Mention: Dajuan Harris
Harris only played against St. Joe’s, but he was brilliant during that time. KU played way better once he entered the game in the second half. He appeared confident and in control as a ball handler along Garrett, and made some really nice assists. He reminds me of Russell Robinson. Excited to see him more.