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Kansas Making A Habit Out Of The Late Game Collapse

Kansas has now let a lead slip late in three games over the last month. Fortunately the Jayhawks have held on to two of those, but the pattern is a cause for concern.

February 22, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson (0) attempts to drive the ball in the second half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE
February 22, 2012; College Station, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks forward Thomas Robinson (0) attempts to drive the ball in the second half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Reed Arena. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE

When you look to the NCAA tournament and start evaluating a teams potential to do well you start looking at the weaknesses as much as the strengths. It's one thing to look at the ideal and see a teams ceiling, it's another to honestly assess what could happen in a worst case scenario.

For the Kansas Jayhawks that ceiling is high, but the downside is looking just as possible and the latest trend and inability to close out games late seems to be a pattern for Kansas.

When things are going well the Jayhawks are a great story. A team that is probably the least talented Jayhawk team in the last 10 to 12 years is competing for an eighth straight conference title and vying for a no. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That in itself is a pretty big accomplishment considering where many thought Kansas would be sitting at this stage in the game. However since losing an eight point lead to Missouri late, it's the pattern of late game collapses that seems to be a bit concerning.

Against the Tigers it was a series of miscues, turnovers and missed free throws that allowed Missouri to squeak out a home win over the Jayhawks after it looked like the Jayhawks had things in hand. Winning that game means that the Big 12 title it all but secured, but because Kansas lost they still have some business to take care of.

A few games later Kansas went to Manhattan where they handled Kansas State for most of the contest before falling into the same routine. The Jayhawks get a bit of a deer in headlights look, the offense grinds to a halt and the mental errors seem to rise to another level. Fortunately Kansas was still able to get the win.

Now throw in a third example in last nights game against Texas A&M. At one point Kansas led A&M by 21 points and any fan might have thought it was safe to turn off the television. Kansas wasn't playing their best basketball, but they were more than handling the Aggies and appeared to be cruising.

A few short minutes later A&M pulled within four points. The comeback was fueled by a 16-2 run in just under four minutes and Kansas had once again turned into the late game team that can't seem to finish off an opponent. Is it leadership on the court, conservative coaching off the court or just bad luck?

One time is a fluke, two times is cause for concern and three times means you're starting to develop a pattern. Had Kansas caught a K-State team on a better night or if A&M was a better team, it's very possible that the Jayhawks could have lost both of those games. Obviously a win is a win, but come tournament time this is exactly the type of pattern that is a major cause for concern and will have many calling for an upset when looking at Kansas in the bracket.