4. Kansas’ defense stinks
Kansas head coach Bill Self is known to pride himself on his team’s defense, but the Jayhawks have struggled to live up to his expectations this season. Kansas currently ranks 46th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom, which isn’t bad overall, but is poor relative to expectations for a Self coached team. Self hasn’t had a defense rank outside the top 25 in the stat in his prior 14 seasons at the helm in Lawrence.
The Jayhawks’ struggles on the defensive end are primarily related to their personnel. The team’s defenders at the forward spots, Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick, are average to below average both on the ball and off it. They can struggle to contain penetration, are often targeted by opposing point guards on switches and frequently get lost once the offensive team gets the ball moving around.
Unlike Josh Jackson last season, both Mykhailiuk and Vick also struggle on the defensive boards. Combine that with poor rebounding — at least for his size — from Azubuike and you get opponents frequently earning second chance opportunities. Kansas ranks 298th nationally in defensive rebounding rate. Only five teams in the NCAA Tournament field are worse. They’re all seeded 9th or lower.
Having a poor defense doesn’t in itself rule out the possibility of another national title for the Jayhawks, but it does make things harder. The Kansas offense will have to be on point for six straight games over the course of March. Anything else could lead to an early exit.