Returning top two players is not a cure-all for Kansas basketball in March Madness

Even if Kansas returns its two best players for the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks still have several issues they must correct if they are going to make a deep March Madness run.
Kansas v West Virginia
Kansas v West Virginia / G Fiume/GettyImages

The Kansas basketball team direly missed the contributions of star players Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar in its short-lived stint in the Big 12 Tournament. Dickinson dislocated his shoulder in the regular season finale vs. Houston, while McCullar sat out to nurse a knee injury that has bothered him for almost two months.

The good news is that both players will return in time for March Madness. The bad news? There are still many corrections the Jayhawks must make if they want to make a deep run in the tournament.

Kansas shot 3-for-20 from long range in the lone game it played in the conference tournament. Those struggles from beyond the arc are not just a recent issue for the Jayhawks. It is something that has plagued the team since the beginning of the year, even when they played more coherent basketball during the early stages of the year.

Johnny Furphy, KU's standout freshman guard, was at one point the best shooter on the team statistics-wise. But his percentage has plummeted as of late — he now sits ten points lower because he is shooting 21.1% from 3-point range over the last ten games.

Nick Timberlake, the highly touted transfer who shot over 40% from three at Towson for two consecutive years, sits at 28.4% on the season and has been one of the most disappointing role players in the Bill Self tenure. The player who was supposed to be the best shooter on the Jayhawks has a lower 3-point percentage than big man Parker Braun.

In addition to constant struggles from three, Kansas gets no production from its bench. Depth has been an issue since the season started, and Bill Self's second unit sits at No. 336 in the nation in bench points.

Bench guards like Timberlake and former McDonald's All-American Elmarko Jackson have been highly underwhelming since arriving in Lawrence. Other issues Kansas has dealt with include a lack of rebounding from KJ Adams and offensive inconsistency from Dajuan Harris.

While returning star players Dickinson and McCullar will make Kansas more competitive, it should not shield the fact that the 2023-24 Jayhawks have been a flawed and disappointing team. Furphy and Timberlake need to shoot the ball better and Dajuan Harris needs to be aggressive and make his shots to give KU a fighting chance to go far in March.