The Kansas Jayhawks fell short of a win Tuesday night in Atlanta against the Michigan State Spartans. The Jayhawks came into this game expecting an easy win, but that was not the case. The game was anything but a win for the Jayhawks. Play was very sloppy for Kansas on both sides of the floor. The youth of the team was exposed, but Coach Bill Self believes that is no excuse. It is not an excuse. It is something Kansas is going to need to take care of if they want to go back to Atlanta for the Final Four.
Tuesday night’s loss was an ugly one for KU. The team statistically looked good, but the little things proved to hurt Kansas. For example, center Jeff Withey failed to attack the rim strong while posting up throughout the game. Instead of going towards the basket, he would consistently fall away trying to draw a foul. Another concern for the Jayhawks was their defense. The shots KU gave up were practically pre-game warm up shots for Michigan State. Kansas even had a major advantage in the fact that Michigan State had returned from Germany two days earlier. A tired team beat the Jayhawks. That is not acceptable for KU basketball. Another thing the Jayhawks showed was their lack of execution. KU had a five point lead with five minutes left in the game. Michigan State ended the game on a 13-5 run, handing Kansas an early first loss on the season.
The main concern for the Kansas Jayhawks is the fact that there is no true leader on this squad. Is it Jeff Withey? Elijah Johnson? Johnson had the ball for the last shot, but dished it to Travis Releford. If KU wants to win, a leader needs to step out from behind the curtains. Kansas is not a potential threat to anyone if there is not a forerunner. However, Elijah Johnson seems to be wanting the control. He is a senior this year, and it may be his time to lead one of the most historic programs. Johnson later blamed himself on the loss.
At the beginning of the season, many thought Kansas could go very deep into the season before recording their first loss. This is not the case for Kansas, so certain questions need to be answered. How will the big men down low play better? That starts with Jeff Withey. He is the heart of this team and if he is not producing, neither is the team. What about the defense? What needs to be done to fix their game plan? The only solution is Coach Self. He has proven to have the wits to turn struggling teams into winners. Jayhawk fans should feel confident because Bill Self is the best at what he does. He does not get recruits like John Calipari does, but he can mesh any sort of talent and make them winners. Hopefully Self can do this, and KU is confident he can. However, the biggest question remains unanswered: Who is this team’s leader? That is up to the players. Jeff Withey may control the game down low, but Elijah Johnson is a threat from all over the floor. It is up to those two to choose who is going to step up when it is needed. Maybe both could end up as leaders like Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson last year.
This should still be a good season for the Jayhawks. They will benefit from an easy schedule, and the youth on this team will mature as the season goes on. Kansas just needs to stick to the fundamentals, and focus on what is next for them. Ultimately, Bill Self will be able to coach this team to where they need to be, and that is an opportunity to win Kansas their sixth championship in school history.