Kansas is now a 6-1 team after holding off UTEP Saturday 67-63.
The Miners, who knocked off Tennessee on Thanksgiving and then got whooped by 36 to Iowa on Friday, are 4-4. It's unlikely UTEP will be in the NCAA tournament. The way this team was able to make a run on Kansas will probably cause some Jayhawks fans to scratch their heads. Ideally, Bill Self's team should have won this game by at least 15 points.
So, with Kansas' less-than-magnificent showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis, some questions have cropped up about this crew and its most promising player, Andrew Wiggins.
How'd Wiggins fare in three games in the Bahamas? He averaged 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 2 turnovers against Wake Forest, Villanova and UTEP. We're in the thick of the college football push to the bowl season, and the NFL's final quadrant of regular-season games are ready to begin, so the indictments against Wiggins, thankfully, will be more understated than if the aforementioned three-game stretch happened in mid-February.
This showing by Wiggins was inevitable, just as a down streak for Jabari Parker and Julius Randle will come. Every freshman has a lull, even two or three within a season. And it's not as if Wiggins isn't performing well or really holding up his end of the deal on defense, which arguably always has been his forte. But he did sort of disappear while playing in the The Bahamas, and given his status, of course that's worth pointing out.
The question for Kansas is bigger than Wiggins right now, though. And let me be clear: I'm not saying anyone should be pushing a panic button. I think KU is a fascinating team; I'm not sure where it falls in the hierarchy right now. Is this one of the 10 best groups in the country right now? Didn't look it over this past week.
Even though Kansas looks less lethal than we anticipated, the pieces are still there and promising. Perry Ellis, who had a game-high 19 Saturday, looks to be every bit the leading scorer for this team (and won't that make for a good Wiggins-related trivia question down the road) many thought he'd be. Joel Embiid's impact shows in so many ways. He had seven swats Saturday. I'm wondering how long it will take him to pass Jeff Withey's block total from a year ago.
And it's still a team with only one loss. Do style points matter in the first month? No. But they help, fair or not, mold expectations. Self said Saturday his team played five "crappy" halves of basketball of the six available to them at Atlantis.
"We have a long ways to go to become a good basketball team," Self said via the AP on Saturday night. "And that's not all bad, either. We rarely have great teams in November. But we're not as good as we were 17, 18 days ago. So that's a little frustrating that we've gone backwards. We didn't play well at all over here."
Self offered that up because Kansas blew double-digit leads on consecutive nights against inferior competition. Fair critique. The point guard situation with Naadir Tharpe is going to take a little more time, and Frank Mason, as fun as he is, can be prone to some don't-do-that decisions.
Kansas has a week to rest and reflect, and then comes an away game at Colorado. That will most definitely be a test. It should be interesting. One month into the season, we're not sure how good this group can be. Same goes for Wiggins.