Trey Burke. Nearly a year after his barrage of late threes lifted his Michigan Wolverines to a Sweet 16 victory over the Kansas Jayhawks, the name still rings sour in the minds of Kansas fans. Their team’s inability to defend the deep shot was exploited by the sophomore guard as the Wolverines erased a 10-point deficit with under three minutes remaining to advance to the Elite Eight.
Now, at the tail-end of the 2013-14 regular season, defending the three is again a glaring weakness for this year’s Jayhawk squad. Though it appears to be on its way to a tenth-straight Big 12 regular season championship, Kansas is the conference’s weakest in terms of opponent ‘s shot percentage from behind the arc; it allows a nearly 35 percent conversion rate.
Just take a glance at the Jayhawks’ six losses this season. In those losses, they’ve allowed opponents to a 39.3 percent clip from behind the arc and have held an opponent to less than seven three-pointers only twice. Teams as susceptible to the three as Kansas is usually don’t advance far into March; it’s something coach Bill Self will need to fix.
In their 85-82 overtime loss to Kansas State, Self’s bunch allowed the Wildcats to shoot 53 percent from deep on 8-of-15 shooting. Senior guard Will Spradling and super frosh Marcus Foster hit seven of their combined ten attempts — including a crucial make by Spradling early in OT — to keep the game out of reach for the Jayhawks.
Kansas has routinely allowed strong shooters to open looks this season, proving it can’t be trusted to stop the catch-and-shoot type who possess a quicker release. Against Oklahoma State on Jan. 18, the Jayhawks allowed Phil Forte and Markel Brown to shoot a combined 12-of-19 from behind the arc; two days later against Baylor they permitted Brady Heslip and Isaiah Austin to shoot 10-of-17.
The incapacity to defend the deep ball is primed to be the downfall of yet another Jayhawk squad. A group such as the Creighton Bluejays, that possess several capable three-point shooters, will be Kansas’ worst nightmare for an early-round matchup in the NCAA tournament. The blueprint on how to beat the Jayhawks is out there and is quickly making the rounds: Hit your threes and you’ll have a chance to win.
Jayhawks’ fans still haven’t been able to shake the image of Burke’s deep three falling through the net in the final seconds of last year’s Sweet 16. You can bet that Self hasn’t either. Expect perimeter defense to be the emphasis of his gameplan in this week’s contests against Texas and Texas Tech. How things currently stand, Kansas is a prime candidate to fall to a mediocre team with a couple of great three-point shooters in the big dance.