Kansas Jayhawks: Can They Win Without a True Rim Protector


Feb 16, 2015; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers forward Devin Williams (5) shoots between Kansas Jayhawks forward Landen Lucas (left) and forward Jamari Traylor (31) during the first half at the WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Do you think Juwan Staten makes that game-winning layup if Joel Embiid is on the floor?

The short answer is no. But, he also wouldn’t make that shot with Jeff Withey, Cole Aldrich, or even Darnell Jackson on the court for the Kansas Jayhawks.

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Staten’s spinning layup with 3.9 seconds left gave the Mountaineers a 62-61 win Monday night at home.

The Jayhawks shot 49 percent, held West Virginia to 37.5 percent, and hit six 3-pointers, but still failed to pull out the victory against the Mountaineers.

The main reason could easily be contributed to rebounding — or lack thereof.

It started early as the Jayhawks, who yield around 15 offensive rebounds per game, gave up eight in the first eight minutes, and 22 total.

Second-chance points have killed the Jayhawks, and it comes from not having a true center under the basket.

Head coach Bill Self’s high-low offense usually relies on having a rim protector underneath.

The 2008 championship team had three — and the sophomore Aldrich was the last off the bench.

Withey, Kansas’ all-time leading shot blocker was a huge security blanket for the team when any guard got to the rim, and losing Embiid to injury last year was most likely the reason the Jayhawks failed to advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

This Jayhawks’ team has some solid big men in Jamari Traylor, Cliff Alexander, Perry Ellis, and even Landen Lucas, but none have proven to be a player Self can trust to swat, or even alter, shots at any kind of consistent rate.

Lucas and Alexander may get there one day, but that day has not yet arrived.

So, is not having that type of player going to be the demise of this team?

To be fair to Self and his assistants, at this time last year it wasn’t certain that Embiid would be going pro. Before the the start of last season, it was all but a lock for him to stay at least two years.

None of that matters now though, as this team will need to find a way to win without a true big man.

One way could be to keep shooting threes at a 40 percent clip, which is first in the conference. If they can keep up that pace, it could make up for not having a center.

Most likely, Kansas will have trouble competing with a team like Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament.

Fellow Big 12 opponents West Virginia (16.9) and Baylor (15.4), rank first and fourth respectively in the country in offensive rebounds per game, and despite beating the Bears twice, the Jayhawks struggled in all three games against those two.

If they could have landed Kansas native Willie Cauley-Stein, who is arguabley the best defensive player in the country, it might be a different story right now.

What he does defensivly at the rim, reminds me of what Self has had in the past with his big man recruits.

Alas, they missed out on Cauley-Stein, and at this point they are going to have to play their own style to win, which is out-scoring their opponents from the perimeter — no matter what Self thinks.