Kansas needs Vick to click in postseason

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) celebrates a three during the first half, Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

For the first couple of weeks of the season, Oklahoma’s Trae Young was college basketball’s best player and an argument could be made that Lagerald Vick was Kansas’ top performer.

Yet, Devonte’ Graham is player of the year in the Big 12 and it was and easy decision for coaches. He won by unanimous vote.

The five-month season tests the experience and mental strength of student-athletes and few can rank with Graham in both areas.

Young hit the freshman wall and Vick wasn’t able to maintain a November in which he matched Graham’s 15.8 points per game and shot .519 from 3-point range, compared to Graham’s .361.

Kansas lost five games in the 18-game Big 12 schedule and in each one of the losses Vick had a particularly poor performance.

Every tendency tends to bring more credibility when using data from Big 12 games only because statistics based on all games can be skewed by dominating weaker competition. The gap between Vick’s performance in victories vs. losses is the biggest on the team and grows considerably larger when considering exclusively Big 12 games.

In the 13 victories, Vick shot .385 from 3-point range and averaged 10.3 points per game, solid if unspectacular numbers. In the five losses, Vick averaged 5.6 points and 3-point accuracy rate of slightly under 9 percent (2 for 23).

It’s not as much that Kansas couldn’t win without Vick playing well as it is the Jayhawks didn’t lose in Big 12 play when he was aggressive and shot well. Vick scored in double figures in seven Big 12 games, all victories. KU went 6-5 when he produced single-digit points. When he shot 33 percent or worse on 3-point attempts, KU went 7-5, 6-0 when he shot better than that.

More than Vick’s lack of scoring has been noticeable in losses. He’s not a big assist man under any circumstances, but he’s almost non-existent in that area when he shoots poorly.

In Big 12 play, Vick averaged 1.6 assists in victories, 0.8 in losses. Kansas coach Bill Self recently called him the team’s X-factor.

“When he’s really good he gives us a whole different element as a team, because he can drive it, he can force help, he can shoot it, he could be as good a perimeter defender as we have,” Self said a few days before KU’s 82-64 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, in which Vick made 1 of 5 3-pointers. “I don’t think he’s played poorly (of late). I just don’t think he’s played consistently well as he was earlier in the season. But hopefully he’ll get that back here at the end.”

If he can, the end won’t arrive prematurely.