Bill Self waited three days to analyze the game film from Kansas’ 77-52 loss to Temple. He probably could have waited longer.
In the days after the head-scratching performance in Philadelphia, Self and his family retreated home to Oklahoma for a Christmas holiday with extended family. There was no real reason, Self figured, to poison the short break with visions of his team’s defensive breakdowns or offensive ineptitude.
The tape would be there on Thursday, when the Jayhawks, 9-2, returned to Lawrence for their first post-holiday practice — their first workout since the 25-point debacle at Wells Fargo Center.
And it was.
“We watched the tape as a group the first night we got back,” Self said. “That way, we can put it behind us, and not talk about it again.”
For Self, there is little value in pressing rewind on a lifeless night in Philly. But the tape did reveal truths about his basketball team, realities that have crystallized over much of a long nonconference season.
“We’re just not very good defensively or offensively right now,” Self said.
Indeed. Kansas’ defensive performance at Temple — in which the Owls shot 58 percent from the floor — dropped the Jayhawks to 39th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to statistical site KenPom.com. Kansas is allowing opposing teams to average 92.6 points per 100 possessions, which is a slight improvement over last season (96.3) but would still rank in the bottom three among Self’s teams at Kansas.
As Self and his staff evaluated film from the Temple game, they found that the Owls scored just “six or eight points” off offensive actions, such as a pick-and-rolls or set plays. The other points, Self says, simply came when Temple’s guards exposed KU’s perimeter defenders off the dribble.
“We played with no enthusiasm and no energy and no passion,” Self said. “And we looked a little slow.”
On Sunday, as Self prepared for his annual children’s holiday clinic at Allen Fieldhouse, he said that only one Kansas player has consistently played with the right amount of energy on the defensive end. That player, Self said, was junior forward Jamari Traylor, who has scuffled this season on offense but has ingratiated himself with Self by simply playing hard.
“You can make mental mistakes, and you can not guard actions right…” Self began, “You can not do a lot of things right, if you make up for it by being active and aggressive and that kind of stuff. And we’re not sound enough yet, to not be active and aggressive, because we were very exposed against Temple.”
The exposure came as the Jayhawks were set to scatter for a three-day Christmas break. On Saturday, Self said he didn’t want to make excuses for his team. But in hindsight, he said, he regretted playing a home game on Saturday afternoon and then playing a nonconference road game two days later.
“We don’t talk like that,” Self said of the travel excuse. “But (it was) not very smart to play Lafayette on Saturday and then not practice and play on Monday.
“We added to the lack of energy by also being a tired team.”
As the Big 12 season beckons, the Jayhawks should have time to recharge and regroup in the next week. On Tuesday, Kansas will face Kent State at 7 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse before concluding the nonconference season against UNLV on Sunday afternoon. In all, the Jayhawks will have played just two games in a 15-day span before beginning the Big 12 schedule at Baylor on Jan. 7.
That gives Self time to look inward and figure out where his team is at the moment. But on Sunday, after his team’s fourth practice in the last three days, Self was already focusing on a list of priorities.
“We need to play faster,” Self said. “We need to create scoring opportunities off our defense and in transition…
“And we obviously need to tighten up our defense. But it’s not guarding actions that’s hurting us. It’s guarding players.”
▪ Self and Kansas’ players played host to about 500 campers during the program’s annual holiday clinic on Sunday.
“I’m an energy guy, so this is not hard for me,” Traylor said. “It’s good to come out here and interact with little kids and give them something during their holiday time. These kids are out here to have a good time, and I’m here to do the same.”