Jayhawks' loss to Davidson shows shortcomings
By DAVE SKRETTA
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) Bill Self stared at the box score with a grim look on his face.
It was all there in black and white, every turnover, missed shot and missed opportunity.
No. 12 Kansas had just lost to Davidson, 80-74 on Monday night. The Wildcats kept running fresh players onto the court, they kept making wide-open baskets and the Jayhawks couldn't figure out a way to match them as the second half wore on.
Perhaps the biggest thing that stood out in that box score was the final column: Davidson had 10 players log at least 5 minutes each, and eight played at least 17 minutes. The Jayhawks had just five guys on the floor that long.
Self knows that his team has a long way to go to reach its potential. Perhaps it never will quite stack up to the level of some Kansas teams of years past.
But he also knows the Jayhawks won't come close unless they find some help.
"The reality of it is depth is such a great thing, but depth isn't great because of injuries and depth isn't great because of foul problems," Self said. "Depth is great when guys aren't playing well other guys can play. ... We just don't have guys yet that can come in and we don't skip a beat."
Self thought he might have found one in Kevin Young, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, who came off the bench to score 14 points in 20 minutes in a 78-67 win over No. 2 Ohio State. But the lanky Young missed his only shot and managed only two rebounds in 10 minutes against Davidson. Fellow transfer Justin Wesley also missed his only shot and had three rebounds in 8 minutes.
It's not entirely Self's fault that there is a depth problem.
Highly touted freshman Ben McLemore was deemed a partial qualifier just before the start of the season, so under NCAA and Big 12 rules, he isn't able to practice with the team until after the fall semester, and he won't be able to suit up for the Jayhawks until next season.
Similar fates befell 6-foot-8 forward Braeden Anderson and freshman forward Jamari Traylor.
So the Jayhawks are left to make do with a legitimate star in Thomas Robinson, a point guard in Tyshawn Taylor who can be dazzling one minute and frustrating the next and a bunch of other guys who are trying to figure out to best handle their roles for one of college basketball's storied programs.
"We can't have one person that's 90 percent in. We have to have everybody 100 percent focused, tuned in, ready to go," said junior guard Elijah Johnson, perhaps the team's best outside shooter, who was just 3 for 10 from beyond the 3-point line against Davidson.
When Johnson can't get his shot to fall, Self would love nothing more than be able to look down his bench and see someone who could provide an immediate lift.
Ten games into the season and nobody has emerged.
Depth is one of the reasons that Self tempered expectations this season, even though anything short of a deep NCAA tournament run is considered a failure on Naismith Drive.
The Jayhawks are still co-favorites to win their eighth consecutive Big 12 championship along with Texas A&M, despite losing Marcus and Markieff Morris to the NBA draft after their junior seasons, Josh Selby after his freshman year, and key role players in Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little to graduation from a team that went 35-3 last season.
All told, Kansas lost nearly three-quarters of its scoring and two-thirds of its rebounding.
Robinson has emerged as the team's biggest star, his big game against the Buckeyes lifting the Jayhawks to a resume-boosting win. The forward's 21-point, 18-rebound effort against Davidson was a rare bright spot on an otherwise bleak night in Kansas City.
But he certainly can't carry the team by himself.
Against the Buckeyes, Johnson went 5 of 7 from 3-point range, Travis Releford played stingy defense and Taylor had a career-high 13 assists. When the Jayhawks are getting that kind of production across the board, they can still hang with anybody in the country.
"We have to come out and be ready every game," Releford said, because when they aren't, their perilous lack of depth begins to rear its head.
"We have to be sharp every night we play," Self said. "There's not as much margin for error."
Updated December 21, 2011