LAWRENCE — With a little more than a quarter of Kansas basketball’s regular season in the books, Bill Self is pleased with where his No. 2-ranked Jayhawks are at on multiple fronts.

The Hall of Fame head coach says his team is “pretty sound” defensively, and that may be putting it lightly — KU ranks 12th nationally in opponent shooting percentage (36.7) and 19th in steals per game (9.4). Self also believes his group is “above average” in rebounding (38.6 per game) and, riding a seven-game winning streak, has shown a “pretty good” ability to win the most important possessions.

There is, however, one very noteworthy fly in the ointment when it comes to KU's start.

“You eliminate passing, which is actually a pretty vital part of the game, I think that we’ve actually been pretty good on both ends,” Self said. “Not great, but pretty good.”

The Jayhawks (7-1) commit 14.9 turnovers per game, the 247th-ranked mark nationally. That number is admittedly skewed by a 28-turnover performance in the team’s season-opening defeat to Duke, but it’s a problem that also hasn’t dissipated as the year has progressed — KU committed 21 turnovers in its most recent contest, a 72-58 home victory over No. 20 Colorado last Saturday.

KU committed a handful of those turnovers in transition opportunities, and after the game, Self lamented what he believes to be one of the most glaring deficiencies to this point in the season — “It just drives me nuts that we don’t score better in transition,” Self said.

He expanded on that thought Monday ahead of his team’s next game, a 7 p.m. Tuesday clash with Milwaukee (5-4) at Allen Fieldhouse.

“I’ve never seen anybody that’s as athletic and talented as our guys are screw up more two-on-ones and three-on-ones. It’s unbelievable,” Self said. “We’d be scoring six more points a game if we were just pretty good at converting, let alone being really good.”

In sophomore point guard Devon Dotson, the Jayhawks have one of the fastest players in the country. In junior guard Marcus Garrett, the team has one of college basketball’s best defenders. Both Dotson and Garrett average 2.13 steals per game, tied for 57th nationally among eligible players.

Throw in sophomore guard Ochai Agbaji, a player with prolific athleticism, and an imposing frontcourt anchored by 7-foot senior center and Big 12 preseason player of the year Udoka Azubuike? Well, Self sees no reason why the Jayhawks shouldn’t be not just good in transition opportunities, but great.

“I think there’s a lot of (keys),” Self said. “I think Dot has to become a better lob passer. That’s what we play to, and we don’t throw it. I think Ochai needs to attack the rim more and not be so much a passer in transition and be a finisher. And then I think obviously ... how many times do we throw it to our bigs in bad situations that hang them out to dry? I just think we’ve got to understand the game better.”

Luckily, there may be a silver lining.

“Those are all correctable,” Self continued, “but certainly early in the season, that would be something I think we would be better at than what we would be.”

Self isn’t alone in that opinion.

“I feel like we just have to do a lot better in transition,” said junior forward Silvio De Sousa. “Sometimes we just get out of control and just throw the ball all over the place. Like I say, it’s kind of early for the season, but we’re going to figure it out and Coach is trying to help us (learn) how to control in those moments. ...

“We have a team with a lot of athletic guys. Transition should be one thing we should be a lot more excited about. Like I said again, we’re going to figure it out, how to play.”


De Sousa showing patience

De Sousa played 11 minutes against the Buffaloes and is averaging just 8.8 minutes this season, a campaign the Luanda, Angola, native is only a participant in because of a successful appeal of an ineligibility ruling this past offseason.

Despite the slow start to his junior season, De Sousa indicated he’s remaining upbeat.

“You know, personally, I think being patient is one thing that I just have natural,” De Sousa said. “I know how to deal with struggle, with frustration, and I know how to control myself whenever I’m going through some hard times. I think not being able to play as much as I wanted to play is not really affecting me, the way I should play.

“Just like I say, you know, being patient in the key. That’s the one thing I can control.”

Self, who said he saw good things from De Sousa against Colorado, thinks the forward’s best is yet to come.

“I never think that any good players are patient. I’ve always thought all the best players are always impatient because they want it to happen yesterday, let alone tomorrow,” Self said. “I think he’s been patient with all the crap he’s had to go through, but I don’t think he’s unbelievably patient just waiting his time, because he’s not happy where he is right now. If he was happy then we wouldn’t be very happy.”