After controlling the first 30 minutes of the game against Michigan State, Tuesday, No. 4 Kansas faltered down the stretch on both ends of the court, surrendering an 11 point lead and the game to the Spartans at the United Center in Chicago, Ill., in the night cap of the 2015 Champions Classic.
KU now falls to 1-4 all-time in the tournament, which consists of Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, and Michigan State.
The Jayhawks, which on paper appear to the be the better team, and throughout the majority of the game proved to be the better team, couldn’t make shots down the stretch, while also failing to stop MSU from scoring, particularly Denzel Valentine, who ended the night with a triple double.
The loss itself isn’t a big deal for the Jayhawks, as it’s only the second regular season game of the season, but the way in which KU gave the game away is an unfortunate trend which has been on-going for the last 3-4 seasons.
Any Kansas fan which has watched the group of players knows what that means; A lack of toughness down the stretch, the inability to close teams out, and losing games in which they were in full control of for nearly the entire 40 minutes.
Another concerning aspect to the loss is the continued frustration of Self seemingly struggling to find a consistent rotation with this group, as well as taking advantage of the depth everyone claims Kansas has, but when you look at the box score, only 7, maybe 8 players are seeing significant playing time.
The biggest beef fans have had following the loss is the lack of playing time for Kansas’ two best outside shooters–Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk–when the Jayhawks’ offense slumped and shots weren’t falling. On top of that, freshman power forward Cartlon Bragg, Jr., who has made an instant impact for Kansas, as well as Hunter Mickelson, a player which Self has said has been the most improved since the end of the last season, sat on the bench behind the likes of Landen Lucas.
The best way to describe the decision to sit those players in favor of a mediocre Lucas, and Wayne Selden, Jr., (who is overall one of KU’s better players, but an average to below average jump-shooter) is at best, perplexing.
Self obviously knows his team better than any fan or media member, but with the talk of so much depth, and a guy like Greene, who is coming off an 18-point performance against Northern Colorado in which he went 5-for-5 from three point range, sitting on the bench down the stretch when KU needs points simply doesn’t make sense.
It’s almost as if Self has his favorites, but if one thing has been proven, his favorites aren’t always the players which can go win you a game, and ultimately that’s the goal each time KU takes the court.
Prior to the game against Michigan State, Self said his team is probably a month ahead of where they normally would be, thanks to their trip to South Korea for the World University Games, but if that’s the case, a loss like Tuesday’s should have never happened.
Still, it’s the second game of the season, which means there is plenty of time to improve upon things, but if you are a KU fan watching this group which, for the most part has been together for three seasons, continue to slip up in big games that they have no business losing, you have to be somewhat concerned.
Next up for the Jayhawks is a chance to get back on track against Chaminade, the host team of the 2015 Maui Jim Maui Invitational, located at the Lahaina Civic Center.
KU has played in the Maui multiple times, its last coming in 2012 when it lost to Duke in the championship game. Kansas would eventually go on to make a National Championship game appearance in which it lost to Anthony Davis and the Kentucky Wildcats. The game is scheduled for an 8:00 tip on ESPNU.