One day after No. 5 Kansas suffered its third Big 12 loss, The Bonus returns with three takeaways from the Jayhawks’ 72-65 setback at Oklahoma State.
1. Here’s one way to look at the loss in Stillwater:
Kansas’ junior point guard went two for eight from the field and committed six turnovers — and the Jayhawks still had a 10-point lead with less than 11 minutes left.
Naadir Tharpe was not very sharp on Saturday. Maybe it’s something about Oklahoma State. Tharpe also had six turnovers (his season high) in KU’s victory over the Cowboys at Allen Fieldhouse — although he did manage to score 21 points.
It’s easy to state the obvious: Kansas probably won’t be able to afford an off night from Tharpe in the late stages of the NCAA Tournament. But it’s not quite so simple. Tharpe was a no-show against Texas at Allen Fieldhouse and the Jayhawks still won by 31. He had 13 points and 10 assists in 38 minutes at Kansas State — and KU still managed to lose.
The bigger question: Can Kansas win if it has an off night on offense in the NCAA Tournament? In the past few weeks, Kansas coach Bill Self has continually referenced the Jayhawks’ 2012 run to the NCAA title game. During those weeks, KU won a Sweet 16 game against North Carolina State while shooting 37.5 percent and hitting one of 14 from the three-point line.
The Jayhawks’ offense was horrendous, but NC State shot 28 percent, Jeff Withey had 10 blocks, and Kansas escaped.
So could this KU team — which ranks 28th nationally in defensive efficiency — pull off such a victory?
Here are KU’s shooting percentages in its seven losses this season — and their numbers from three-point range.
Villanova: 39.3 percent (two for 11)
Colorado: 52.9 percent (five of 20)
Florida: 43.2 percent (eight of 19)
San Diego State: 29.8 percent (four of 16)
Texas: 38.5 percent (six of 14)
K-State: 41.8 percent (three of 17)
Oklahoma State: 40.4 percent (five of 19)
For the season, Kansas is shooting 49 percent from the floor. Its effective field-goal percentage, which takes into account the added value of threes, is 54.8 percent, the 15th highest in the country. To make a long tourney run, the Kansas offense may need to be clicking at full capacity.
2. Is Kansas still in play for a No. 1 seed?
Here’s a stat: Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 (and now 68 teams), only three teams have earned No. 1 seeds with seven losses. Kansas dropped to 22-7 on Saturday and they still have to play at West Virginia on Saturday and face a rugged three-day Big 12 Tournament. The Jayhawks have an impressive RPI and computer profile — ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi kept KU on the one-line after Saturday’s loss. But it could be close. For now, Florida and Arizona appear to be locks for No. 1 seeds. Wichita State will definitely be a No. 1 if it stays unbeaten and wins the Missouri Valley Tournament — and maybe even if it doesn’t. That leaves one spot and Syracuse, Virginia and Villanova could all have compelling cases.
3. Looking ahead:
Kansas will play host to Texas Tech on Wednesday before traveling to West Virginia on Saturday. If the Mountaineers, 16-13 and 8-8 in the Big 12, had an outside chance at an at-large bit … that door could be closing. West Virginia has lost three of four and plays at Oklahoma on Wednesday.
Kansas will then open the Big 12 Tournament at 2 p.m. on March 13 at Sprint Center against the winner of the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. Texas Tech is pretty much locked in as the No. 9 seed while West Virginia, Baylor or Oklahoma State could all end up as the No. 8 seed.