Should the Kansas Jayhawks Make a Move at Starting Point Guard?
The loss meant many things to the Jayhawk program. First, it cost Kansas a chance at the No. 1 ranking. Second, it snapped their 18-game winning streak. Third, it broke their home winning streak at 33-games. Last, it gave them their first conference loss of the season.
For Kansas Head Coach Bill Self, the loss meant he can now get his team’s attention and make some adjustments that may help Kansas hoist another Big 12 and NCAA Championship in March.
One thing that Self and his coaching staff must consider is what to do with the starting point guard position.
Senior, Elijah Johnson, has been a mainstay for Self the past two seasons and has started all 21 games for self this year. Johnson is averaging 9.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists while shooting 38.5% from the field in over 30.7 minutes of play per game.
On the other hand, backup sophomore point guard, Naadir Tharpe, is averaging 5.2 points, 1.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists while shooting 35.6% from the field in over 17.9 minutes of play per game.
Clearly the numbers presented above by Johnson are better than Tharpe’s. Plus, Johnson has legitimate Final Four experience and is capable of a bigger offensive game if called upon.
However, what was clear after yesterday is that Johnson,who shot 3-14 from the field, including 1-7 from 3-point range, was not himself. Johnson was very loose with the ball and had four turnovers in 34 minutes of play, including one on Kansas’ final possession with a chance to tie the game at 83 apiece. Johnson also missed a critical free throw with 1:03 to play.
More importantly than the actual number of turnovers was how out of rhythm the Kansas offense looked when Johnson was in the game, especially in several stretches of the game. Worse off, this has been the case for Kansas for most of conference play this season.
On the other hand, yesterday Tharpe ran the Jayhawks offense smoother than Johnson and gave it a much needed energy boost.
The number that Self and his staff will be looking at closely is the assist-to-turnover ratio. Johnson’s is 1.52, while Tharpe’s is 2.16. Tharpe also averages just one turnover every 15 minutes, while Johnson averages a turnover once every 9.6 minutes.
What do the numbers mean for Kansas? Not too much really.
Johnson has helped Kansas to their 19-2 record and as a senior, taking him out of the starting lineup now would be seen as a panic move and a slap in the face to his senior. Yes, Tharpe’s numbers are better, but Johnson has earned the right to start and has shown he can perform the way Self wants him to.
Maybe the coaching adjustment to make is to give Tharpe some more minutes and explain to Johnson that his playing time will be decreased until he can gather himself, be more efficient from the field and lower his turnovers.
Once the Jayhawks limit their turnovers they will begin to get their offense back on track. In turn, their defense will improve as opponents will not get easy transition scores against them because their half-court defense will be set.
Clearly if the Jayahwks can solve the turnover issue they will regain their on-court chemistry on both ends of the floor and will once again be one of the favorites to win it all come March.
Follow Bert DeSalvo on Twitter @CoachDeSalvo