Five questions that need to be addressed following last night’s K-State win over Kansas:
1) Is this the beginning of a Kansas State winning streak?
Could be. But don’t get your hopes too high. Jacob Pullen was tremendous against KU. He has not been tremendous in many games this season. In fact, Pullen has been one of the disappointing players in the country based on his preseason All-America status. Neither Curtis Kelly nor Jamar Samuels did a whole lot against KU, although give them credit for holding down the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff. Pullen wasn’t a one-man show, but his 38 points stole the night. But K-State still has some interesting games left on its schedule, including road games at Nebraska and Texas and a home game against Missouri. To get to 9-7 in the Big 12, the Wildcats have to win two of those three. The win over KU doesn’t erase all the disappointment from K-State’s season, but it erases some of it.
2) Can 7-footer Jordan Henriquez-Roberts grow from here?
I hope not, he’s tall enough. However, as a player he may have tapped into something with his 10-point, five-rebound performance against the Jayhawks. HR was a huge part of the K-State offense. In the half-court set, he established himself on the high post and made good decisions all night. And when he played low in the blocks, he was able to score. It was a major change from K-State’s game against Kansas in Lawrence on Jan. 29, when HR looked overmatched by the Kansas big guys, the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson. Impressive. But now expectations will be higher.
3) How concerned should Bill Self be with his team?
Hey, KU is still 24-2, still a top five team, still a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. But Monday night was a disaster. If KU had flaws, they were all exposed by Kansas State, starting with junior point guard Tyshawn Taylor. He should be better by now. He’s good in some games and there are some games when he doesn’t look like he could lead a high school team. If Taylor irritates the Jayhawks’ fan base, imagine how Self must feel. The worst part is that KU hasn’t been able to develop an adequate back-up for Taylor. Sophomore Elijah Johnson continues to receive opportunities, but so far hasn’t cashed in. And freshman Josh Selby looks more like a two-guard, although he hasn’t looked like much of anything lately while nursing an injury. Selby did get back on the floor against K-State, but didn’t make much of a contribution.
4) What can K-State do in the NCAA Tournament?
Hard to say, but I wouldn’t want to play the Wildcats. They can still be stifling defensively. That’s their trademark. There have been too many letdowns in that area this season. We rarely saw K-State relent defensively last season, but that’s partially because the Wildcats were also very good defensively. It’s harder to lock down people defensively when offense is such a struggle. Attempting to score and failing time after time can wear a team down. But if Kansas State can get to the tournament, it will represent a fresh beginning. We saw Monday night what K-State is capable of. I could see a Sweet 16 in the Wildcats’ future.
5) What can KU do in the NCAA Tournament?
The sky is not falling. But the sky has a few more clouds than it had Monday afternoon. Kansas is still an elite team. But it’s imperative that Selby get back on the floor and start to play like the one-and-done phenom he was professed to be. So far, Selby has been a huge disappointment, but there’s time for that to change. And the Jayhawks need Robinson to be healthy. Without him, Self is either forced to use under-sized Mario Little on the front line or to go with Jeff Withey, who just isn’t ready to play at this level. Robinson will likely be out at least another 10 days, and perhaps more. With a healthy Robinson and an as-advertised Selby, Kansas is a threat to win it all.