December college basketball games between Top 20 teams are made for television events. Fans love them and the pollsters use them to juggle questionable early season ratings. College coaches take a different perspective. They use the games to determine how they can improve their teams before the start of conference play.
For Kansas, Tuesday night’s 67-61 road loss to a veteran Florida team revealed that they simply aren’t an elite team – yet. The Jayhawks have now lost two in a row and three out of their last four games. That’s the bad news.
The good news is freshmen sensation Andrew Wiggins showed why he was the nation’s #1 recruit. Wiggins stamped out a career high 26 points and added 11 rebounds for his first double-double and produced all of those stats in front of twenty NBA scouts. His breakout performance may also have provided some insights for Bill Self as t0 how the coach can improve this Kansas squad.
Tuesday’s loss can be explained in one word, turnovers. Kansas had 24 of them (four from Wiggins), as compared to just eight from the Gators. The Gators ability to turn Kansas over was like watching a really athletic AAU team run a full court press on a YMCA team.
The Jayhawks loss of composure prompted head coach Bill Self to open up in the post game, “I can’t blame it all on youth. A lot of it may be youth, but I think we can still play better individually”.
Ironically the best individual performance of the night came from the man Philadunkia nation is keeping tabs on. Again, Wiggins scored a career high 26 points on 7-15 shooting and 4-9 from deep. Wiggins grabbed 11 rebounds as well to complete his first double-double. The cdownside to the Kansas star’s performance was that most of those points came in garbage time in situation where it was too little, too late. Wiggins reluctance to shoot the rock was noticeable until his late charge. Even Dick Vitale, who is old and has one eye noticed this trend, saying, “He is too unselfish”.
So is Wiggins too unselfish and not grabbing games by throat? Should he? Lets break down what Wiggins career high game last night means and see if we can find an answer.
Kansas has arguably more talent than any team in the country, yet, they’re 6-3. So what is the problem? Unselfishness on the part of their best player may be the majority of the answer. Wiggins has taken a total of 82 shots in 9 games, which is alarmingly low for the “best” player on the team. 9.11 shots per game is not going to get the job done if the Jayhawks hope to reach the Fina Four. Kansas needs Wiggins to take over games to reach their peak performance as a team. As I once said/just came up with, “If a group of lions close in on their prey but no leader steps up to initiate the kill, the prey gets away”.
The good news is Wiggins career high may have just made the solution to Self’s problems crystal clear — get #22 the ball. Kansas’s 9th game this season was a tale of two halves for Wiggins. In the first half Wiggins looked great from a rebounding perspective. However, he showed no initiative at the offensive end. This lead to countless ill advised shots from the Jayhawks that were frustrating to watch. As the half went to under a minute remaining, Vitale was fed up and starting shouting “Get the ball to Wiggins!”.
Someone must have heard the bald college hoops lunatic because in the closing seconds of the 1st half, Wiggins finally got the ball at the top of the key on an isolation play and flawlessly executed a deep step back jumper. That shot set the tone for his second half.
Who knows why Wiggins hasn’t been shooting. It could be that Self is employing a team basketball philosophy early on or that Wiggins is just trying to not step on anyone’s egos. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Whatever the reason, the fact is that something clicked during halftime and the game plan for this contest changed drastically.
The preseason All-America selection came out with a different attitude in the second half. Wiggins continued his stellar rebounding and just simply started running fast breaks by himself. It worked, and the Kansas comeback may have been fully realized had it not been for the turnover bug and a couple of questionable calls. Still, even after the run by Kansas was survived by the Gators, Wiggins continued playing like a man on a mission. A series of three deep 3-pointers in the last 2 minutes had to leave the NBA scouts wondering if he was finally turning over a new, more aggressive leaf.
Wiggins early season grade has to be a “C” in comparison to his hype (fair or not). That being said, #22 is starting to look comfortable and ready to make his mark on this college basketball season. This is just a gut feeling, but I think Self is about to give Wiggins more touches and an official green light, because he deserves it.
If the projected number one overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft steps up to the plate, it will make Kansas a much better basketball team. Offensively it will make life easier for everyone else by opening up space when opposing defenses are forced to key on Wiggins. Obviously Kansas has talent, but in the big games if Wiggins doesn’t try to takeover, the team’s other options might not able to get the job done. There are a ton of NBA players with talent, but few of them possess the ability to take over and win games. It’s a perfect time for Wiggins to start learning that trait.
Kansas has a couple of tough tests coming up against New Mexico on the 14th, and Georgetown on the 21st. Check back in to Philadunkia to see if Wiggins picks up where he left off.
Before I wrap up this post… Obviously the main purpose this series on Wiggins is to keep you updated on a potential Sixers 2014 draft pick. However, it would be a crime if I didn’t put Philadunkia on notice of the immanent arrival of another potential pick, Chris “Sky” Walker. Walker is a 6’10 power forward for the Florida gators who was the 13th ranked overall recruit last year but hasn’t made his debut yet due to academic problems. Well, Walker just became eligible and should make his first appearance in a couple of weeks. Trust me, Walker is an unbelievable talent and could play his way into the NBA lottery by the end of the year.
Alex Gorge is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @apg3000.
You can follow us on Twitter @philadunkia.