Kansas basketball: Jayhawks' struggles in one aspect of the game are causing serious issues

The Kansas Jayhawks men's basketball team has been turning the ball over at an alarming rate
Kansas Jayhawks Kevin McCullar Jr.
Kansas Jayhawks Kevin McCullar Jr. / Jamie Squire/GettyImages

It was only a matter of time. The Kansas Jayhawks have been flirting with disaster with their sloppy ballhandling and passing. UCF made them pay.

The Jayhawks turned the ball over 18 times in the loss against the UCF Knights. It was the third game this season, and the second one in a row, in which they gave it away 18 times. The first, against Marquette, led to their only other defeat of the season. The second time, only a controversial (but correct) call in the waning moments against TCU, saved Kansas from being 0-3 while committing 18 turnovers.

It's been an issue for Bill Self's squad all season. Outside of three contests — against UConn, Kansas City, and Wichita State — Kansas has committed double-digit turnovers. In nine of the outings, KU has given up at least 14 possessions. That translates to an unsightly turnover total in 60 percent of their games.

As they delve deeper into the Big 12 schedule, possessions are going to become even more of a premium and KU has enough deficiencies they already must overcome without adding to them with sloppy play. Players continue to make weak, unfocused passes, allowing defenders to pick their pockets, and fail to take care of the basketball in simple situations.

Who is to blame for all of the Kansas basketball turnovers?

KU leans very heavily on their starting five, so it is no surprise they've committed the most turnovers. As a team, they have 194 this season, an average of 12.9 a game. The biggest culprits are Dajuan Harris Jr. and Kevin McCullar Jr. These two are Self's most experienced ballhandlers, yet they seem to make the most mistakes with the ball. Many of their turnovers just seem to be due to carelessness.

Harris has 41 turnovers, and McCullar Jr. has 40. After these two, Hunter Dickinson has 28, K.J. Adams Jr. with 27 (nine of which came in just two games), and Elmarko Jackson with 26. None of the reserves have more than eight.

For their careers, both McCullar Jr. and Harris Jr. average 2.0 turnovers per game. This season, both average 2.7. These veterans must do a better job protecting the ball and making better decisions when the ball is in their hands. Bad turnovers lead to quick, easy baskets for their opponents that no team can afford.

There is no need to panic if you are a Kansas fan. This team is still 13-2, and they still have two All-American candidates with McCullar Jr. and Dickinson. They still have Bill Self roaming the sideline. This team will still win plenty of games, but the Big 12 is shaping up to once again be a battle of attrition over the next two months.

Still, because of the lack of depth, and the dearth of scoring options, this team can ill afford turnovers, even more so than past KU teams. Between the level of competition in the conference and the aforementioned weaknesses, the Jayhawks have very little margin of error, as the last two games with TCU and UCF proved.