Kansas basketball: Johnny Furphy was the missing ingredient to the Jayhawks starting lineup

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self proved his genius once again by moving Johnny Furphy into the starting lineup. It has made a huge difference for the Jayhawks.

Oklahoma State Cowboys guard John-Michael Wright (51) defends Kansas Jayhawks guard Johnny Furphy
Oklahoma State Cowboys guard John-Michael Wright (51) defends Kansas Jayhawks guard Johnny Furphy / BRYAN TERRY/THE OKLAHOMAN / USA TODAY
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The Kansas basketball team did not start off Big 12 play very well. They barely squeaked by in the conference opener at home, and were fortunately helped along by a flailing forearm that connected with Hunter Dickonson's face in the waning moments of that contest.

They then dropped a road game to UCF after leading by 16 late in the first half. In both of these games, the Jayhawks committed an unsightly 18 turnovers, stifling their offensive effectiveness.

Bill Self made the decision to insert one freshman into his starting lineup for another. He replaced Elmarko Jackson with Johnny Furphy. So far, it's been just the thing the Jayhawks needed.

For most of the season, Kansas has relied on three veteran players for scoring. Both Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr. are scoring over 19 points a game, and K.J. Adams Jr. adds nearly 13 per contest.

That's 51 points of the 79 the team averages, or 65 percent of the team's scoring. That imbalance was causing the offense to stagnate at times as defenses focused on trying to stop one or more of those three. This issue was only going to intensify the deeper into the Big 12 schedule they went.

Self knew he had to provide another scoring option. Dajuan Harris Jr. has a lot of positive qualities as a player for Kansas, but offensive aggressiveness isn't one of them. Jackson hadn't been playing with much confidence of late, performing with a stiff tension much of the time.

The head coach made the move, placing Furphy in the starting five and bringing Jackson off the bench. So far, the move has worked brilliantly.

Johnny Furphy has played extremely well as a starter

Furphy has scored 22 points over the last two games since joining the starting five, including 15 first half points against Oklahoma State. He was also instrumental in the strong start versus the Sooners in the previous game, providing hustle and energy right from the opening tip.

Jackson, by comparison, scored zero points in the two games prior to the lineup change. Jackson's lack of production wasn't the only reason the team struggled in those games because he only had three of the 36 turnovers the team committed, but his lack offense placed more pressure on the other players.

Just the threat of Furphy's shooting ability has been enough to keep defenses a little bit more honest, forcing him to be accounted for on the offensive end. That, in turn, pulls focus away from the Big Three.

Jackson is just 8-for-29 from three-point land while Furphy is 19-for-50 from beyond the arc. In the last two games, Furphy has shown he is comfortable launching threes, hitting four of his eight attempts.

Furphy has also shown a lot of athleticism in running the court on fast breaks, often getting down court and attacking the rim with fervor. As a whole Kansas's offense has looked better and more efficient with he's been on the floor.

This is not a knock on Jackson. If he stays patient with himself, and Self still has confidence enough to play him, which seems to be the case, the young guard will gain his footing. He has a lot of upside and this staff has proven over and over again they can develop players when they stay in the program. Jackson's time will come!

For now, Self once again shows why he is a Hall of Fame coach, making a key move mid-season in which the early returns look it was a terrific decision.

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