At the beginning of the season, the Kansas Jayhawks were a team not a lot of people thought could have as much success as they have had. After a loss in the third game of the season to Michigan State, this season seemed like it would be a drag. The team seems to have turned it around, though of late. Stats are on the rise, as are the Jayhawks. With a new poll coming out tomorrow, Kansas is expected to be the sixth best team in the country after winning in their first true away game at Ohio State. Yesterday’s game in Columbus showed a lot about Coach Bill Self’s team, and the team played like they could go to Atlanta in April for the Final 4.
Going into Columbus, almost every scout and analyst projected an easy win for the Ohio State Buckeyes. At home versus a young team in a revenge game? There was no way the Buckeyes would fall once again to the Jayhawks. Unfortunately for Ohio State, that was not the case. Ben McLemore led the team to a solid 74 to 66 win in Ohio. However, the score does not describe the beat down the Jayhawks put on Ohio State. Kansas shot 51 percent from the field, and held Ohio State to just over 30 percent. Once again, the Jayhawks shot lights out from three point range, dropping 46 percent of their threes compared to the Buckeyes 26 percent on 31 attempted three pointers. Kansas out-rebounded Ohio State 41 to 37. The only low point for KU yesterday was turnovers. 19 turnovers is way too many for this team. On the bright side, giving up 19 turnovers but still winning on the road proves that Kansas does not have a hard time overcoming the negatives. The turnover ratio will have to change if they want to be a lock for the Final 4.
Who is to thank for the success of Kansas? Jeff Withey is second in the country in blocks, averaging 5 a game. His size and inside presence in the post makes him a nightmare to any team the Jayhawks face. He is an experienced senior who knows how to play the game at a level that few people in college do. There is also Ben McLemore. This is a freshman whose play has made him a potential All-American. The guy is on crash course to success. He averages almost 17 points a game. He grabs almost seven boards a game and dishes out over two assists per game. Some people are probably saying, “Yeah. So what? Those aren’t outstanding.” First of all, he is a redshirt freshman. No other freshman has figures like those. Shabazz Muhammad was hyped to be the best player in the country, but now he plays on a struggling team and he is struggling as well. Nerlens Noel of Kentucky is not putting up stats like McLemore is, and he was the top ranked freshman coming in to this year. Ben’s dynamic dunks and clutch threes make him both the leader and X-Factor of this Jayhawk team. However, no credit should go to just one player. The Kansas Jayhawks’ reason for success this year is because of Bill Self. The man is simply a winner. He did it last year with a Jayhawk team that was dubbed as “The Least Talented Team to Come Through Kansas in However Many Years.” Jayhawk fans should never feel discouraged because as long as Bill Self is there, Kansas will be a winning program.
After the Ohio State game, this season could be a great year for the Jayhawks. With an easy schedule the rest of the way, and virtually no one in the Big XII who can beat them, KU has absolutely no reason to not be a high seed in the NCAA Tournament. This year would be a failure if they were not a three seed or better. Between now and April, anything can happen, and only Kansas can control their own destiny. After 11 games, Kansas has established themselves as a dynamic team who can win ball games at ease.