Here was the problem for Kansas against Oklahoma State: It didn't have a counterpunch.
The Cowboys' defense pressured up the floor all afternoon, denying passes on the perimeter while disrupting the Jayhawks' offense — a great way to play when things look like Saturday's 82-64 victory.
Yet, the whole thing is still inherently risky.
If Oklahoma State was playing football, its defense blitzed every play. You can get sacks. You can gamble and force turnovers.
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But there's always a fear there, too. If the other team executes well — if it hits the right person on a screen pass or finds the receiver on the outside that's single-covered — then a huge play is always a blink away.
KU, on this night, never took advantage. It didn't get behind Oklahoma State's first wave of pressure. It couldn't break through to get easy shots on the other side.
The biggest reason for that: The Jayhawks didn't run their plays well.
And nothing will drive a coach crazier than that.
"You can’t run a set against pressure if one guy doesn’t know what he’s doing," KU coach Bill Self said, "and that happened a lot today."
There's been a lot of talk this year about KU's margin for error being smaller than in the past. That's a broad concept, but one that can be simplified by saying this: The Jayhawks' two best players have to play well, because there's a significant dropoff when they're not in.
Player one is point guard Devonté Graham, who essentially doesn't have a backup. And player two is Udoka Azubuike, who fuels KU's four-guard offense thanks to his presence inside.
Azubuike was off Saturday, and two moments showed that in particular.
After Self called one play early in the second half, Azubuike went to set a ball screen for Malik Newman. In actuality, he was supposed to wait for a pass before setting a screen for Graham. Pay particular attention to Self's reaction at the top of the screen.
For reference, here's a look at Azubuike running the same play from KU's previous game against Texas.
The mess-up threw everything off. Svi Mykhailiuk improvised in the corner, trying to drive baseline before stepping out of bounds for a turnover.
"It was a bad struggle today — a bad struggle," Self said of Azubuike. "We had a hard time remembering any sets."
A similar situation played out later in the half.
Again, Self's emotion on the sideline is telling. Azubuike lines up in the incorrect spot on one of KU's sideline out-of-bounds plays.
For another look, here's KU running that call a few years back.
Self has already commented on this being one of his worst teams in regards to execution, and the two examples show how challenging it can be when even one guy is doing the wrong thing.
"(Udoka's) been on such an uptick here lately, but today obviously wasn’t one of his better games," Self said. "You could say the same thing about our whole team."
Other Jayhawks weren't always crisp either. Self talked specifically about the game-opening play when Newman didn't do enough to get open, which led to an Oklahoma State deflection and steal. In the opening seconds of the second half, Azubuike also did a good job moving defender Mitchell Solomon up the lane for a potential throw over the top, but Mykhailiuk left his pass too short as Solomon recovered for a steal.
So yes, there were plenty of sins for KU in an 18-point loss, and that included Self taking blame for not having his guys prepared to play.
But this reality remains true: Azubuike playing well isn't a luxury for KU. It's a requirement.
The Jayhawks' last five games were an example of the team's best-case scenario for the NCAA Tournament. And Saturday was a glimpse at the nightmare.
Azubuike — as much as anyone — will determine how this 2017-18 season is remembered.
And KU fans have to hope that his final bad game is behind him.