Responding To A Stunner
Wow. Probably the first and the last words uttered by almost everyone while watching Kansas go down in defeat 62-55, against TCU. last night. Kansas head coach Bill Self didn't mince words when he attempted to describe the shocking performance against the conference's only winless squad. "It was the worst team that Kansas has ever put on the floor since Dr. Naismith was there," said a dejected Self. "I think he had some bad teams when he lost to Topeka YMCA and things like that in the first couple of years. But for the first half there hasn't been a team that's played worse than that offensively that hasn't happened. Anywhere. "Maybe Northern Illinois earlier in the year. I think they made one basket in a half." KU did two better than that making just 3 first half field goals that had Self sarcastically bragging that KU did in fact have 3 assists on those three field goals so his team must've been sharing the ball. 13 first half points on 3-22 shooting and those are just a few of the ugly numbers associated with this one. "What's the right word for the first half? Futility...would that be a word?" Self asked. While some like Self searched for words, today, everyone will be writing about the aforementioned numbers. Across the twitter world Jerry Palm's statement has caught on like wild fire. Palm says that this is the worst upset in college basketball over the last 20 years based on RPI differential. But this game wasn't about RPI differential or a 7-point deficit on the scoreboard or even 3-22 shooting. Kansas lacked offense there's no doubt. But what was most alarming are the numbers that don't show up in the stats. Body language can't be measured in numbers but if you had to rank it last night with a number 1 thru 10 with one being the worst, the Jayhawks would've been in the negative. It began early with an offensive drought lasting over 7 minutes. "Offensively that's as bad as you can play," assessed Self. "We actually got some decent looks I think, I'd have to watch the tape but we obviously felt pressure and didn't make any of them. We got off to such a bad start. We got some open looks early and couldn't make them. Got off to a bad start and obviously it got worse from there." From that point on KU looked nothing like a top 5 team. They failed to respond looking battered, lacking swagger and confidence. There were collisions with teammates and the Jayhawks looked dazed and flat-footed and quite frankly, just as stunned as the rest of the college basketball world about what was transpiring in Fort Worth. If you wanted to point to a number point to 264. That was the number of games which spanned nearly 7 years where Kansas had never lost back-to-back games. Self coached teams always bounced back. But for some reason so far in the last week, this one has been unable to respond. Maybe "getting away" with wins vs. teams like Iowa State and Texas delayed the inevitable. Sure we saw flaws during those games but the best quality coming out of those was the confidence and the mindset when it became "winning time". I thought that after a home loss to Oklahoma State nothing would've gotten the attention of this team more than a loss at the fieldhouse. The players and the staff take pride in an amazing record in the confines of Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Nobody wants to lose but hey, a loss at a place you're usually invincible that should refocus you pretty quickly. After a 3-hour team meeting on Sunday, most believed Kansas was headed in the right direction. "We were actually very competitive Monday and Tuesday and had a great shoot around today," Self continued. "Even the coaches said, that's the best we've looked all year. No, I didn't anticipate this at all." A turnaround for this group is going to come when they get back to playing together, when they get more loose balls, gain confidence, and yes, when they get tougher. Yesterday they were confronted with a difficult situation and failed to punch back. "We're not very tough so when things don't go well we kind of doubt or quit being aggressive and certainly there's a lot of that going on with this team," said Self. It starts with the point guard. Elijah Johnson knows it. Unfortunately the critics quickly forget this is the player that helped KU get to the national championship a year ago. He feels the pressure, but it's not from fans or coaches, it's from himself. Right now it's working against him. Everyone knows he's a better player than he's showing. Elijah needs support and belief. I'm not positive he's totally healthy and he'd never make excuses but his confidence is clearly low right now. It's been almost a month since he scored in double-figures and he's 6-26 over the last three games. There's no doubt he can turn it around and he has to for this team to be successful. "We could have a great team but we're not individually a ton of great players. We have one guy that's talented - super talented but we just got a bunch of nice players that when they play well together they're pretty good and right now we're not playing well together. "Individually we're not playing well and I think that we can certainly evaluate ourselves differently than we could have maybe a week ago and hopefully that will help fix some things." KU has been invincible in the Big 12 under Self but the Jayhawks have now brought a lot of other teams back into this Big 12 race and they have really given the rest of the league hope and confidence that someone else might just hang a league championship banner this season. "Everybody is going to think they can beat us," said Self. "They should. We've opened up that floodgate. Now everybody thinks this is the time and in large part because of the way we played this last week so it's going to be a real real challenge one that I hope we embrace to figure out a way to be tough enough to go win home or away when we know that not only will we get the opponent's best shot we will get a confident shot. Where in the past maybe we haven't gotten a confident shot." Things certainly have gotten interesting. Kansas has made its road to another league title tougher but it just might be that much sweeter when they do get this turned around and claim yet another Big 12 crown.