Entries from blogs tagged with “basketball”
Some people can't help but make good subjects for photos. The camera consistently brings out the best in West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, even when he doesn't get all dressed up for the occasion.
See if you can top my captions on any or all of these five Journal-World photos of Huggins, against whom most of you will be rooting Tuesday night. By the way, don't tell anybody, but he's actually one of the more likeable coaches in college basketball. But don't let that stop you from flailing away. I'll select the winners. The prize? Bragging rights.
No. 1 (By Associated Press)
No. 2 (By Mike Yoder)
No. 3 (By Associated Press)
No. 4 (By Mike Yoder)
No. 5 (By Nick Krug)
Last call for Frank Mason captions
Suzi Marshall is the leader in the clubhouse in the Frank Mason caption competition, but there still is time to overtake her. Not much time, though. In 24 hours, I'll reveal the winners.
None of Frank Mason III’s 12 Kansas basketball teammates would consider the senior point guard and leader a selfish player. Sometimes, however, the 5-foot-11 Mason just has to take over.
The Jayhawks weren’t exactly in dire straits, up eight against Texas at halftime Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, but they definitely needed a more assertive Mason down the stretch to win, 79-67.
The veteran has played too many games for KU — 128 and counting — to be unaware of when and how to pounce. It’s instinctual for Mason at this point.
Take one second-half possession as an example. Attacking off the bounce from the perimeter, toward the paint, Mason spotted sophomore big man Carlton Bragg breaking toward the rim behind the UT defense. The point guard jumped off his left foot near the free-throw line appearing poised to float a lob pass Bragg’s way for an easy alley-oop. At the last second, though, Mason opted to take a shot instead, flicking a teardrop high and through the net.
His form on the difficult runner characterized it as one of the floaters he has mastered in his fourth season with Kansas, but just to make sure, Mason was asked about the play after the Jayhawks won their 18th consecutive game, and he finished with double-digit points (17) for the 18th time this season.
The typically stoic play-maker had to laugh when reflecting on the shot that could’ve been a pass if he had altered his aim a couple feet to the right.
“It was actually a floater, but I thought about it,” Mason said, explaining how one of his 15 shot attempts and seven makes was a split-second decision. “That should’ve been a lob to Carlton. It was just a mistake on my end. I’m just happy it went in.”
That’s a charitable assessment. Mason could’ve joked he trusted his shot over Bragg’s, given that one of them is a likely All-American and the other is still trying to find out how to thrive as one of two inside options for the Jayhawks (18-1 overall, 7-0 Big 12). That’s not Frank Mason, though.
Mason — averaging 20.1 points and 5.4 assists on the season, following his 17-point, seven-assist outing versus Texas — is a team-first guy. And what Kansas required of him during the final 20 minutes was to control the game.
At intermission, Mason only had five points and three assists, and was 2-for-6 from the field. He only played 14 minutes, due to picking up his second foul midway through the first half.
So what did the cagey Petersburg, Virginia, native do to finish the game? Mason never left the floor in the second half, shot 5-for-9, scored 12 points, dished four assists and did not turn the ball over. He carried the team to its destination after backcourt teammate Devonte’ Graham bolstered the offense in the first half, with 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting.
Texas coach Shaka Smart noticed how well the two complemented each other.
“I thought Mason and Graham were awesome in just the way they controlled the game,” Smart said after his team fell to 7-12 overall and 1-6 in the Big 12. “Looking at the stat sheet, those guys — 12 assists and one turnover. That’s what veteran guards do. And then they made some really timely shots, too — six threes between the two of them.”
Mason knocked down two of his four 3-point tries in the victory, bringing his season percentage to .537 — one of the countless examples of the senior’s mammoth impact.
So what changed for the compact floor general to close out the win against Texas?
“Nothing,” Mason said. “Just think I was more aggressive the second half and my teammates found me. I made plays for them and myself. That’s it.”
He would know. No one on the floor has a better feel for what the Jayhawks need.
Finding talented players with which to work never has been an issue for Bill Self in his 14 seasons as the head coach of the Kansas basketball program. Some of Self’s teams have featured dominant big men, others dynamic guards, but every season he knows what will work for the Jayhawks and what won’t.
Often times, Self’s squads are known for their toughness and defense, and this year’s group might get closer to embodying those qualities in the weeks ahead, but there is no questioning the strength of the 2016-17 Jayhawks. It’s their offense.
Led by the high-octane backcourt of senior Frank Mason III, junior Devonte’ Graham and freshman Josh Jackson, KU is averaging 85.8 points per game and shooting 50.4% from the floor (eighth in the nation) entering Saturday’s matchup with Texas. With that trio acting as the team’s lynchpin, and Kansas lacking its typical depth in the post, Self had the savvy to long ago implement an uncharacteristic four-guard lineup and accept that the Jayhawks could maximize their impact by playing faster than his other teams.
Mason, in particular, can push the ball at a breakneck pace in the open court. But it’s not as if the veteran point guard is the only player capable of taking an outlet pass and sprinting up the floor. Any Jayhawk who secures a defensive board can look to Mason, Graham, Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk or Lagerald Vick and know each one is able to attack the retreating defense.
“What we have, we have four good players that you can pitch ahead and they can all go make plays,” Self said.
Other backcourts in the coach’s time at KU have played fast, but this specific group might end up turbocharging its way past its predecessors. Over the past several years, no Kansas team has played at a pace — defined as possessions per 40 minutes — higher than 69.8. Sports-reference.com only has statistics on pace dating back to 2009-10, but when comparing this year’s number to those the difference is distinct. Eighteen games into the season, KU’s pace is at 72.2.
That’s a great sign the Jayhawks are playing to their strengths, because the more possessions they have the more chances they get to burn opponents with their proficient scoring. KU’s offensive rating — points scored per 100 possessions — currently sits at 118.0, the 10th-best number in the nation.
|Season||W-L||Pace (rank)||ORtg (rank)||Leading scorer (PPG)|
|2009-10||33-3||69.4 (77th)||116.8 (2nd)||Sherron Collins (15.5)|
|2010-11||35-3||69.7 (50th)||116 (7th)||Marcus Morris (17.2)|
|2011-12||32-7||67.3 (118th)||108.8 (42nd)||Thomas Robinson (17.7)|
|2012-13||31-6||67.8 (97th)||109.1 (34th)||Ben McLemore (15.9)|
|2013-14||25-10||68.6 (85th)||114.3 (22nd)||Andrew Wiggins (17.1)|
|2014-15||27-9||66.7 (96th)||106.3 (92nd)||Perry Ellis (13.8)|
|2015-16||33-5||69.8 (144th)||115 (14th)||Perry Ellis (16.9)|
|2016-17||17-1||72.2 (97th)||118 (10th)||Frank Mason III (20.3)|
At times, KU even pushes the ball successfully after an opponent gets a basket, putting its perimeter play-makers in position to score early in the shot clock — bringing on more possessions — as often as possible. Self said he wouldn’t have necessarily encouraged that with previous teams.
“I think playing faster is definitely more of an emphasis,” he said of this season. “No question. I think I'm giving my guys a little bit more freedom to shoot it early, which I think sometimes is good and sometimes it's not good. But the good thing is they're playing with a freer mind.”
In the past, Self would’ve been more likely to discourage his teams from quick shots, instead insisting they swing the ball and run half-court sets regularly. As an example, the coach said when he has a talented big such as Joel Embiid, he wants that man getting touches in the post.
“You know, if we had Joel, those (quick looks) would be bad shots. If you don't have Joel, those are maybe OK shots,” Self said. “So I think our personnels dictate a little bit that we're trying to score earlier.”
Although the coach said he doesn’t ask players to run a secondary break out of transition, quicker shots mean more frequent occasions to have Jackson, Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg or anyone in position, really, to attack the offensive glass, as well. The Jayhawks average 14.7 second-chance points a game and, per sports-reference.com, gather 35.7% of available offensive boards (32nd, nationally).
This Kansas team is going to play fast, no matter which combination of five players is on the floor. But doing so when Bragg comes in as the big should be a mandate, too, in order to get the most out of the 6-foot-10 forward’s minutes off the bench. The sophomore, coming off a 10-point outing at Iowa State, identified running the floor in transition as the area where he can be the biggest problem for bigs who are guarding him.
“Just me beating my man up the court,” Bragg said of perhaps his biggest offensive strength.
There’s no guarantee KU will be able to finish the season maintaining its current pace. With 12 more Big 12 contests and the postseason ahead, odds are opponents will try to slow games down as a way to limit the Jayhawks’ effectiveness.
Then again, this group is so swift and Mason so hellbent on winning, there might not be any reliable way to slow KU down.
According to Bragg, the Jayhawks haven’t reached their potential in a number of areas — including offensively.
“I think we can play a lot faster than what we’re playing now,” he said.
The date was Nov. 8 and three games remained on the Kansas football schedule when I interviewed defensive end Damani Mosby for his thoughts on the future of the program, intending to save the material for an offseason story.
Mosby spent three years in the program, the first as a redshirt, after transferring from junior college. He never was one to exaggerate, so his upbeat words during the interview had staying power.
“I think this thing is going to catch fire and it’s going to catch fire quick,” Mosby said. “A lot of people might not see that right now from the outside looking in. but people like me, Fish (Smithson), anybody who’s here every day, can see how hard we work and how much better people are getting every day can see it.”
Kansas finished the season 1-2 with a seven-point loss to Iowa State, the school’s first victory against Texas since 1938, and a 15-point loss to Kansas State.
The Jayhawks lost to the same three schools the previous season by an average margin of 31.7 points.
The three-touchdown-per-game improvement against those three opponents from the previous season lent credibility to Mosby’s prediction. His analysis of the future, by the way, was delivered with a voice ideally suited for broadcasting, so he might want to consider that path after he’s done playing football.
“I know it’s a business, but if they’re able to keep this staff together it’s just going to compound the success that we’ve had because we have great teachers,” Mosby said. “The young guys we have I think it’s necessary to have good teachers.”
Head coach David Beaty, heading into his third season, didn’t lose any defensive assistant coaches and other than in the secondary, the majority of starters return.
Mosby and Anthony Olobia will be missed up front, but KU still projects to have a terrific pass rush. Dorance Armstrong was KU’s first unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection. Tackles Daniel Wise and DeeIsaac Davis had terrific seasons, and slender Isaiah Bean showed a quick burst that lends itself to harassing quarterbacks.
It all adds up to newcomers in the secondary having a shot to look good right off the bat.
“This is going to keep developing from here and is going to be even better,” Mosby said of the defensive front. “I’m excited for what the line is going to look like in coming years based on the guys playing now.”
Obviously, Armstrong is the source of much of the excitement.
Mosby said when he watches Armstrong he thinks about all the edge rushers he watches on Sunday.
“I call him ‘Prototype’ because he just looks like those type of guys. He plays like those type of guys, being able to bend the corner, get back there. It’s really cool being able to see how much he’s gotten better since he first came here and how much more he has to go until his senior year. I’m really, really excited to see how good he’s going to be when it’s all said and done.”
It is exciting to think that if KU makes a bowl game within the next two years, Armstrong and Wise have more games left to play than they already have played.
Mosby makes a strong case that Kansas football will catch fire soon.
ESPN college basketball analysts Dick Vitale and Seth Greenberg shared interesting takes on the impact of new rules and offered their midseason picks to win it all during a joint conference call Wednesday.
The former Div. I coaches agreed that the new emphasis on existing rules translate to offense winning championships.
“If you think about all the freedom of movement . . . you think about the five-second call, you think about you can’t bump cutters, you think about you can’t tag rollers, you think about you can’t body guys off screens, the rules are basically set up for offense.”
Vitale agreed: “I think it is definitely a scenario where the scoring has become dominant.” Vitale mentioned four schools — Villanova, UCLA, Kansas and North Carolina — on his way to singling out the one he thinks has the best shot to win it all.
Greenberg mentioned three — UCLA, Villanova and North Carolina — before zeroing in on his pick.
“We’ve got the real scrutiny and a watch on Villanova,” Vitale said. “Can they pull a Florida? Can they go back-to-back? Initially, I would have said no, but I’m not so sure saying no now.
They’ve got a bunch of winners with (Josh) Hart, (Kris) Jenkins and Brunson. Those kids know how to win. They make threes so well. They’ve got a star player (Hart).”
Vitale called UCLA’s resurgence "incredible" and then discussed the Jayhawks.
“Do they ever lose? Fifty-two in a row at home,” Vitale said. “Everybody talks about Baylor. People are talking about West Virginia now in the Big 12. You’ve still got to go through Lawrence, man. You’ve got to go through Lawrence, and Bill Self to me, nominated for the Hall of Fame, I hope he gets in because he’s so deserving for his achievements.”
And then Vitale revealed his choice to win the 2017 national title.
“The team that I think, if they just make a (defensive) commitment, which I think they’re going to do, I really do, and they’ve got enough bodies, they’ve got enough talent, they’ve got enough coaching, I’m going with the team in Chapel Hill. I’m going North Carolina. ... I’m going Tar Heels all the way. Chapel Hill.”
Greenberg interjected: “You’re looking for a rematch, coach, like the football game.”
Greenberg then said that although it's difficult to pick against defending national champion Villanova and runner-up North Carolina, he likes another team even better.
“I just think the way the rules are right now, UCLA is poised to be that type of team," Greenberg said. "They have a dynamic leader, obviously, in (Lonzo) Ball. They’ve got great shot-makers. They’ve got depth up front. They’ve got six starters.”
The Bruins, who play some of their games when most of America sleeps, have six scorers in double figures, led by coach Steve Alford’s son Bryce (17.8 points per game) and two players close to averaging a double-double: T.J. Leaf (16.8 points, 8.9 rebounds) and Ball (14.6 points, eight assists).
Even the greatest players on the planet have their flaws. That’s what makes debating one man’s on-the-court value versus another’s a fundamental element of basketball discussions. For star Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, his strengths are numerous and his imperfections, while scarce, are obvious.
Jackson, who turns 20 in February, is a 6-foot-8 perimeter player with a 6-9.75 wingspan, who can handle the ball, attack the glass, see the floor like a point guard and play — both offensively and defensively — in the stratosphere above the rim. Throw in a competitive streak coaches love and you’re looking at a Jayhawk bound to be taken near the top of the 2017 NBA Draft.
In fact, Jackson might be considered a lock for the No. 1 spot after one season at KU if it wasn’t for his glaring deficiency: shooting.
As the game of basketball keeps evolving, NBA franchises are placing increasing value in the power of the 3-pointer. In his 18 appearances in a Kansas uniform, shooting from behind a 3-point arc that stretches out 20 feet and 9 inches from the basket — closer than The Association’s, semi-circle, which stretches out to 22 feet in the corners and 23-9 up top — Jackson has connected on only 23.7% of his attempts.
KU coach Bill Self didn’t recruit Jackson for his shooting, so it’s not an emphasis for his stud freshman. Plus, the Detroit native is in a bit of a 3-point funk. Jackson very well could start connecting in KU’s upcoming games against Texas and West Virginia and see his season percentage begin building toward a more respectable number, but he has only made four 3’s in the previous 11 games — a stretch in which the freshman is shooting 19% from deep. He’s 2-for-12 (16.7%) in his past five outings.
It’s at the free-throw line where Jackson’s shooting struggles have been more problematic. Often, Jackson is too long and powerful for a defender trying to stay in front of him or compete for a rebound, so he draws a lot of fouls. But he has only capitalized on 57% of his free-throw tries.
Jackson’s inconsistencies as a shooter at the college level likely are making a moderate impact on his NBA draft stock — though because he’s so talented and shooting is a skill that can be refined, it’s borderline unfeasible to see him dropping out of the top five. So when we say Jackson’s stock is taking a hit, it’s all relative to the top few spots in the draft.
Back in October, before Jackson made his Kansas debut, in mock drafts posted by Draft Express, Bleacher Report, NBADraft.net, Hoops Hype and Fan Sided, his average position was 2nd overall. Two-and-a-half months later, Jackson’s position has slipped in each site’s projections and he averages out as the 4th pick.
If you’re looking for potential reasons for the slight dip, Jackson’s 9-for-38 3-point shooting (23.7%) and 53-for-93 success rate (57%) at the free-throw line stand out.
In a draft that will heavily feature freshmen and perimeter prospects at the very top, Jackson’s shooting numbers lag behind those being posted by some of his competition, such as Washington’s Markelle Fultz, UCLA’s Lonzo Ball and North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr. — all point guards.
||3 pt. made-att. (pct.)||FT made-att. (pct.)|
|Josh Jackson||SG/SF||6-8||Kansas||18||9-for-38 (23.7%)||53-for-93 (57%)|
|Markelle Fultz||PG||6-4||Washington||17||31-for-75 (41.3%)||73-for-109 (67%)|
|Lonzo Ball||PG||6-6||UCLA||19||46-for-107 (43%)||40-for-59 (67.8%)|
|Dennis Smith Jr.||PG||6-3||N.C. State||19||34-for-92 (37%)||94-for-127 (74%)|
|Jayson Tatum||SF||6-8||Duke||10||11-for-36 (30.6%)||47-for-55 (85.5%)|
|De'Aaron Fox||PG||6-4||Kentucky||18||5-for-37 (13.5%)||74-for-105 (70.5%)|
|Malik Monk||PG/SG||6-4||Kentucky||18||54-for-133 (40.6%)||55-for-66 (83.3%)|
Questions about Jackson’s shot and form have existed since he emerged as a star recruit in the prep ranks, so this isn’t necessarily unexpected. What’s more, Jackson still remains in great standing in the minds of scouts and executives in the NBA.
How many college basketball players would love to be in Jackson’s position right now? He’s got two-plus more months of games and plenty of pre-draft workouts and interviews to go through before the draft in June. And we won’t even know until after the regular season which teams will be making the picks at the top.
Jackson could very well end up going No. 1, just like former Kansas standouts Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Danny Manning (1988). An improved stroke on that jumper could get him there.
Nearly every time Kansas basketball coach Bill Self fields questions from the media, someone will bring up Jayhawks senior point guard Frank Mason III and the impact he has made this season.
“How good has Frank been?”
“What has Mason meant to your team?”
“Did you think when you were recruiting him Frank would turn out this good?”
Without hesitation, Self will highlight Mason’s toughness, driving, shooting, passing, rebounding, etc., and share his opinion that his senior point guard has been as good as any player in the country at this juncture.
Self isn’t the type to campaign for his players to win national awards, but such statements are his way of doing so in a low-key fashion. When Self talks, people around the college basketball world listen.
Anyone who has watched No. 2 Kansas (17-1 overall, 6-0 Big 12) play this year knows where the team would be without Mason, who is averaging a team-best 20.3 points per game, while also contributing 5.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds. The 5-foot-11 senior from Petersburg, Virginia, is even shooting 52.4% from the field and connecting more often from 3-point range, where he is 42-for-78 (53.8%).
As KU keeps on winning and Mason continues to carry the team, it boosts his case for national player of the year honors. At CBSSports.com, Gary Parrish ranked the top 25 candidates for the ultimate individual award gave Mason No. 1 billing, edging out the heart and soul of defending national champion Villanova, senior guard Josh Hart.
Neither Mason nor Hart are going to be NBA lottery picks the way past Wooden Award winners such as Buddy Hield, Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin were, but both are integral parts of two of the nation’s best teams, so Parrish ranks them ahead of UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball, who many expect to have a long, successful NBA career.
As can be found on sports-reference.com, Hart’s player efficiency rating of 29.5 is one of the best in the country, ranking sixth overall. But Mason isn’t too far behind, with a PER of 26.1 (27th nationally).
Likewise, the debate between Hart and Mason, Parrish wrote, is close:
“I’ve had Josh Hart atop these Player of the Year rankings, and it's reasonable to keep the Villanova senior there. He's still fabulous and leading a team ranked No. 1 in the Top 25 (and one). But Frank Mason has never been far behind. And he's playing better than Hart lately. So now the Kansas senior is the headliner.”
The top 10 players in the running, according to Parrish, also includes one of Mason’s teammates, freshman Josh Jackson.
No. 1: Frank Mason III, Kansas
No. 2: Josh Hart, Villanova
No. 3: Lonzo Ball, UCLA
No. 4: Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
No. 5: De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky
No. 6: Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga
No. 7: Johnathan Motley, Baylor
No. 8: TJ Leaf, UCLA
No. 9: Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
No. 10: Josh Jackson, Kansas
— See the complete list: KU’s Frank Mason moves to No. 1
After Saturday’s 1 p.m. tipoff vs. Texas ends, Kansas will have played 19 games, just one of them against a team ranked in the current Associated Press top 25 poll.
Indiana was ranked at the time Kansas opened the season against the Hoosiers but has fallen out. Duke is the lone KU opponent thus far in the top 25.
That’s another way of saying that KU will play five times as many current top 25 teams in an eight-game stretch than it played in its first 19 games.
And it’s not as if the other three games during that stretch (Iowa State at home, at Kansas State, at Texas Tech) are easy ones.
It’s not a stretch to maintain that KU’s bid for a 13th consecutive Big 12 title will be won or lost during the eight-game stretch that follows Saturday’s visit from Texas, although the visit to Kentucky doesn't count in the conference standings.
The five games vs. ranked foes (all times Central, statistics per kenpom.com):
Tuesday, 6 p.m., at No. 7 West Virginia, 6 p.m.: The Mountaineers rank first in the nation in forcing turnovers (32.7 percent of opponents’ possessions), steals (17 percent) and fourth in offensive rebounds (40.5 percent).
The Mountaineers have won the last three Morgantown meetings between the schools and are led by a trio of experienced guards in juniors Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles and senior Tarik Phillip. The trio combines for 6.4 steals per game and Carter leads the conference with 3.1 per game.
No other team plays quite like West Virginia, which crashes the offensive boards relentlessly and even after misses applies full-court pressure.
Saturday, Jan. 28, 5 p.m., at No. 5 Kentucky: The Wildcats rank 347th among 351 Div. I basketball programs, but they don’t play like a young team, ranking seventh in the nation in terms of ball security. Freshman point guard De’Aaron Fox (16.7 points, five rebounds, 6.3 assists) plays like a senior and is projected by draftexpress.com to go fourth in the NBA draft. Shooting guard Malik Monk (21.4 points) is projected to go seventh.
Wednesday, Feb. 1, 8 p.m., No. 6 Baylor, Allen Fieldhouse: Do the math: This will be the third game against a team ranked in the top seven in the nation in a nine-day span. The home crowd should infuse Kansas with energy, but it won’t be an easy game.
Junior forward Johnathan Motley ranks seventh in the conference in scoring (15.8) and second in rebounding (9.7) and junior point guard Manu Lecomte is terrific.
Monday, Feb. 13, 8 p.m., vs. No. 7 West Virginia, Allen Fieldhouse: The shock value to KU newcomers of playing against such an unorthodox style should be lessened in the rematch, but this is not an easy team to play anywhere, any time.
Saturday, Feb. 18, noon, at No. 6 Baylor: Kansas will have all week to prepare for the Bears, who have a size advantage.
The plot is on the verge of thickening, which promises to make what already has been a fascinating season that much more interesting.
All sorts of interesting Kansas basketball tidbits are tracked in the pregame notes distributed to the media.
Josh Jackson has scored the team’s first points in half of the 18 games, including Monday night in Ames. Frank Mason, the team’s leading scorer, had not drawn first blood until doing so from the free-throw line in the 17th game. Others to score team’s first point or points: Devonte’ Graham four, Udoka Azubuike two, Landen Lucas and Lagerald Vick one apiece.
How KU scored first points: Jumper (five), layup (five), dunk (four), free throw (two), follow (one), 3-pointer (one).
First player off bench: Vick 13, Carlton Bragg eight, Sviastoslav Mykhailiuk five, Lucas four, Azubuike two, Mitch Lightfoot one.
Double-figure scoring: Mason (17), Jackson and Graham (15), Mykhailiuk (12), Lucas (six), Vick (four), Bragg (three), Azubuike (one).
Double-doubles: Jackson (four), Lucas (three), Bragg (one).
Twenty-point games: Mason (10), Jackson (four), Mykhailiuk and Vick (one).
Charges drawn: Graham (three), Lucas (two), Bragg (one).
Dunks: Jackson (24), Lucas (17), Azubuike (14, would have had career night vs. Iowa State), Vick (eight), Bragg (six), Mykhailiuk (four), Graham (two), Coleby (one), Lightfoot (one), Mason (one).
No one will confuse this year’s Iowa State team with a college basketball juggernaut. The Cyclones’ lack of size ultimately undermined their chances of keeping up with Kansas on the glass or stopping the Jayhawks inside Monday night in a 76-72 KU victory at ISU.
Kansas made the most of its obvious advantages to out-rebound the home team 41-24 and out-score Iowa State in the paint, 52-28. Those qualified as the most impressive numbers of the Jayhawks’ latest win in a streak of 17. But another set of digits rank right up there: 34:09. That’s how many minutes and seconds Kansas led to close its fourth road win of the season.
As coach Bill Self referenced after his No. 2-ranked team remained unblemished in Big 12 play (17-1 overall, 6-0 conference), he expected the Jayhawks’ trip to Hilton Coliseum to be their most taxing road date yet and for the game to be one of the most difficult outside of Allen Fieldhouse this season.
KU’s previous road wins came at UNLV (ranked 194th in the nation by KenPom.com), TCU (KenPom’s No. 32 team) and Oklahoma (73rd at KenPom). Based solely on those numbers, Kansas winning at Iowa State (23rd) qualifies as the team’s best victory since defeating Duke (11th) at New York’s Madison Square Garden in November.
Iowa State (11-6, 3-3) took an 8-6 lead in front of an amped-up home crowd on a layup by Naz Mitrou-Long with 15:50 left in the first half. But one of the country’s supreme guards, KU senior Frank Mason III, scored a layup to tie the game shortly after. What followed was a Cyclones team and fan base ravenous for a home win over Kansas watching in frustration as the Jayhawks never trailed again, following a Mason 3-pointer with 14:09 left in the first half.
Kansas (ranked No. 7 at KenPom) got up as many as 10 points on five occasions, and kept withstanding the Iowa State surges that reinvigorated its antagonistic supporters in the arena. In the second half, when ISU got within four with 12 minutes left, Svi Mykhailiuk drilled a 3 and Landen Lucas scored inside, while the Jayhawks got stops on the other end.
Again, with less than four minutes to go, Iowa State carved its deficit back to four. Then, in a crucial burst, Josh Jackson, Lucas and Mason each scored a basket on three straight trips down the floor.
Ever resilient, ISU still got as close as three points twice in the final 30 seconds. And Kansas got out of Ames with a win thanks to a successful press-break that set up a Lagerald Vick dunk and a much-needed Devonte’ Graham free throw with 0:12 on the clock.
The cynic in you might say the Jayhawks need to do a better job closing out games. The realist in you should remember KU didn’t allow a solid ISU team to lead on its home floor for the final 34:09 of a hotly contested game.
Give Self and his players the credit they deserve. They didn’t allow the Cyclones to regain the lead and set Hilton ablaze with energy. This is the kind of game plenty of top-25 teams could have lost. Yes, KU has its flaws (see: 18 turnovers at Iowa State, the presence of only two bigs on the roster), but there is something to be said for a team with this kind of mettle.
Game after game, Self, his staff and the players find the areas where their opponents can be exploited. And though the competition hasn’t always been taxing (KenPom ranks KU’s non-conference schedule as 87th nationally), Kansas hasn’t walked off any court with a loss since its season-opener.
The Kansas City Chiefs kept superstar receiver/return man Antonio Brown and all of his teammates out of the end zone in Sunday’s 18-16 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but didn’t do nearly stellar a job against Brown as the Kansas Jayhawks did nine years and a few months earlier.
KU defeated Brown’s Central Michigan squad, 52-7, in the 2007 season-opener, Brown's collegiate debut and Todd Reesing's first start.
Brown averaged 18 yards on four kickoff returns, carried the ball once for 13 yards and caught four passes for 23 yards, an average of 5.8 yards per catch, against KU.
He went on to finish that season, his first of three at Central Michigan, with 1,003 receiving yards. Brown must have been relieved to discover that not all college cornerbacks covered as well as first-team All-American Aqib Talib.
Brown caught six passes for 108 yards against the Chiefs and returned two punts for nine yards.
There was a return for a touchdown in the Central Michigan-Kansas game, but it wasn’t by Brown.
Raimond Pendleton returned a punt for a TD and famously executed a memorable dive into the end zone, a dive that made such an impression on KU coach Mark Mangino that it turned him into a world-class sprinter. Mangino's feedback on the dive was delivered at such close range that he cut his lip on Pendleton's face mask.
Tonight won't be the first time Kansas Josh Jackson and Iowa State point guard Monte' Morris will face each other in a packed house with plenty at stake.
"Oh, I owe him one," Jackson said of Morris at Big 12 Media Day. "I owe him one. He sent me home crying when I was a freshman in high school."
Morris scored 28 points to lead Flint Beecher to a 46-44 victory against Jackson's Detroit Consortium in a Michigan Class C quarterfinal game on March 19, 2013. Morris stole the ball from Jackson, referred to as "Joshua" in newspaper accounts, with 2.9 seconds remaining to seal the victory. Jackson scored nine points in the game and a year later led Consortium to the state title.
"Monte's a great guy," Jackson said. "For as long as he’s been in college after he left high school, I still continue to talk to him. He offered me a lot of advice when I was in high school, still supported me. We still talk. We’re still friends.”
Morris was Big 12 preseason player of the year and the lone unanimous selection on a first team that included Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham of Kansas, Johnathan Motley of Baylor and Jawun Evans of Oklahoma State.
Either Frank Mason or Devonte' Graham likely will start the game defending Morris, but if KU coach Bill Self wants to give Morris a different look, it's possible he could put Jackson on him for a stretch or two. Jackson's primary assignment likely will be 6-foot-5, 250-pound Deonte Burton, an inside-outside threat who is the Cyclones' third-leading scorer (12.4) and leading rebounder (6.9).
Villanova had a more impressive week than Kansas, which had to battle back from halftime deficits to win at Oklahoma and at home against Oklahoma State, and vaulted over Kansas to move into the No. 1 spot in the Associated Press college basketball poll.
Kansas remained No. 2 and Baylor, which had been No. 1, fell to sixth. UCLA is No. 3, Gonzaga No. 4, Kentucky No. 5.
KU received 32 first-place votes, Villanova 28, UCLA three and Gonzaga two. West Virginia is ranked No. 7. Although the Big 12 has three of the nations top seven teams, no other Big 12 school is ranked. TCU received the most votes among unranked schools.
Defending national-champion Villanova crushed Xavier by 25 points and St. John's by 13 and has won three in a row since suffering its first loss, to Butler.
The undersized, predominantly four-guard Kansas basketball lineup, as it has become so adept at doing this season, gathered enough rebounds inside and even blocked shots here and there Saturday while defeating Oklahoma State, 87-80. A plus-nine margin on the glass and five swats: the types of things the Jayhawks will have to continue doing to win while only playing two bigs — senior Landen Lucas and sophomore Carlton Bragg.
However, KU had less success stopping the Cowboys from getting to the paint for easy buckets. OSU converted eight layups and a tip-in while maintaining a first-half lead, then converted four more layups, two put-backs and a dunk in the final 20 minutes. All of those added up to give the visitors a 44-38 advantage in points in the paint.
It marked the fourth time in five Big 12 victories the Jayhawks (16-1 overall, 5-0 conference) were out-scored inside.
KU’s lack of an interior defensive enforcer — 6-foot-8 wing Josh Jackson leads the team with 24 blocks in 17 games — has been well documented, and head coach Bill Self referenced that as a concern even before freshman center Udoka Azubuike’s season-ending wrist injury. So the Jayhawks know opponents want to get to the lane via drive or post-ups for high-percentage shots. Self’s players just haven’t yet totally mastered the strategies they’ll need to employ to best defend that coveted real estate near the basket.
Much like Nebraska, TCU, Kansas State and Oklahoma, the other teams to put up more points in the paint than KU head-to-head this season, Oklahoma State (10-7, 0-5) did so without the help of a go-to post player. Kansas keeps winning, but it has issues containing both penetration and pick-and-roll actions initiated by opposing guards.
Junior KU guard Devonte’ Graham acknowledged giving up so many interior baskets was an issue.
“The offense that they run was kind of tough to guard with the back cuts and having to guard the shooters out there,” Graham said, referencing the 3-point abilities of Phil Forte and Jeffrey Carroll when dynamic play-maker Jawun Evans had the ball in his hands. “So the bigs was kind of getting open on the back-screen ball screen, because it was hard to guard a back screen from the big and then come up and hedge the ball screen. So that’s where they was getting us a lot on.”
Big 12 Opponents’ Points in Paint vs. KU Points in Paint
TCU 38, KU 32
K-State 46, KU 44
Texas Tech 18, KU 30
Oklahoma 38, KU 28
Okla. St. 44, KU 38
Of late, Graham added, the Jayhawks see more teams finding ways to effectively attack their guards from the perimeter.
“There’s a lot of teams since TCU really killed us and exploited us with it, they’ve been trying to run a lot of side ball screens and have their big guys just roll,” Graham noted of ways opposing guards make things easier for their post players, too.
Six-foot-nine OSU junior forward Mitchell Solomon entered Allen Fieldhouse averaging just 4.2 points a game this season. During one second-half stretch against KU, though, Solomon scored five straight baskets for the Cowboys, all in the paint. Before he fouled out late, Solomon went 6-for-6 from the floor and put up 16 points.
“I thought he killed us on the glass,” Self said, “but he only got four rebounds and three were offensive, and two of them were back-to-back putbacks.”
It didn’t take Self long to figure out how the OSU reserve easily topped his previous career-high for points (10, versus Rogers State): “Now granted he played very well, but Evans forced help, and then our rotations were slow. So even though he benefited from some plays, I think Evans deserves half the credit on those plays.”
Evans wasn’t the first guard hellbent on attacking KU and he won’t be the last. So when Solomon talks about his teammate’s expertise, picture other KU opponents to come mimicking the sentiment and replacing the name Evans with Monte’ Morris or Jevon Carter or whomever serves as that team’s ball-dominant guard.
“If Jawun’s aggressive, there’s really not anybody, I believe, who can stop him. So if he’s doing downhill he’s gonna attract a lot of attention,” Solomon said when asked if the Cowboys thought their ability to score inside versus Kansas would be a factor. “That leaves room for offensive rebounds if he doesn’t finish, which he does often.”
First-year Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood game-planned for KU expecting the Cowboys’ 3-point shooting and the actions they run offensively to give them their best looks.
“We thought we could take them away from the rim. We felt like in our offense, there’s a lot of cutters, there’s a lot of movement, there’s a lot of weak-side opportunities,” Underwood said. “You put Landen in ball screens, force him to guard, that opens things up in the paint.”
The opposition has taken note of one of KU’s weaknesses, so the Jayhawks should expect more of the same in the weeks ahead, around the Big 12 and at Kentucky (Jan. 28).
Self identified quicker defensive rotations and recognition from his guard-heavy lineup as one way to better defend the paint.
“Whenever there’s a ball screen, or pinch-post action or handoff that occurs, everybody’s gotta jump to it. And if you go back and watch the tape, Evans made some great plays to get the ball to Solomon. But our rotations were slow,” Self said.
“Whenever you go help somebody, the natural tendency is throw the ball in the direction that the help came from,” the coach continued. “So if you’re an alert defensive player, the tendency is that, ‘Well, if I know that they’re gonna throw it here, I should be able to put myself in a position not to allow that to happen.’ And we were slow doing that.”
Kansas will be better at quarterback, deeper at receiver, more experienced on the offensive line and armed with a dedicated offensive coordinator who does not have to spread himself think by handling head-coaching responsibilities.
It all should add up to the most high-scoring KU football team since Mark Mangino was the head coach and Todd Reesing was the quarterback.
A look at five individuals who bring the Jayhawks a different look on offense than they had during a 2-10 2016 season in which KU too often wasted strong defensive performance:1 - Daylon Charlot: The Alabama transfer gives Kansas three receivers with big-play potential, joining Steven Sims and LaQuvionte Gonzalez. Not only that, with Charlot fielding punts and kick returns, the defense will have company in giving the offense good field position. Kansas had negative punt-return yardage last season, so going from the worst in the nation to above average, a realistic expectation, indirectly will lead to many more points. His work ethic and humble attitude made him a favorite of the coaching staff during his red-shirt season. 2 - Peyton Bender: Head coach David Beaty takes great care to avoid hyping newcomers so as not to clash with his earn-it philosophy, but it's difficult for him when discussing Bender. His Air Raid history dating back to high school and ultra-quick release rank high among the traits that most excite Beaty. I'll be shocked if he doesn't win the starting job. 3 - Doug Meacham: He'll be calling the plays, which takes that responsibility off of Beaty's too-full plate. When the head coach runs one side of the ball, nobody with authority oversees him, not an ideal situation. Now Beaty will oversee Meacham, a big factor in TCU having its two best offensive seasons (2014 and 2015) under vastly improved quarterback Trevone Boykin. New quarterbacks coach Garrett Riley will play a big role in the offense as well. 4 - Charles Baldwin: Highly ranked juco prospect didn't do his repuation any favors in his one (spring) semester at Alabama and was tossed from the team. So the burden of proof is on him. If he brings a better attitude to spring football and summer conditioning he could become the biggest faster in an improved offensive line. 5 - Kenyon Tabor: At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Tabor gives the KU quarterbacks a big target and he's not just big, he's physical and blessed with outstanding hands. No reason the Derby High standout can't make a big contribution from the start of his career.
Woodland off to strong start in Hawaii
Former Alabama golfer Justin Thomas, 23, became the youngest golfer to break 60 in a PGA tour event when he fired an 11-under 59 in Thursday's first round of the Sony Open. Fresh off his victory in the Tournament of Champions, Thomas is being pursued by, among others, former Kansas golfer Gary Woodland, who shot a 6-under 64 to put himself in an eight-way tie for fourth heading into today's second round.
Woodland tees off at 4:10 p.m. Central time and Golf Channel will cover the event from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Woodland ranks 50th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
A check of the play-by-play detailed on pgatour.com reveals that the three longest putts Woodland made in the opening round came on back-to-back-to-back holes, all of which he birdied. Woodland teed off on No. 10 and hit putts of 36 feet, 11 inches, 20 feet, four inches and 9 feet, 7 inches on holes 12 through 14.
Ideally, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self says, he would like to implement an eight-man rotation this season — something Self was able to do before freshman center Udoka Azubuike suffered a season-ending wrist injury.
On the perimeter, the coach has all the help he needs in Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick. But down low, Self would love to trust either Mitch Lightfoot or Dwight Coleby enough to have them support Landen Lucas and Carlton Bragg. The coach just is not there yet.
“I would like nothing more than for those guys, for another big, to give us seven to 10 minutes a game — I think that would be very good for our team,” Self said. “Neither one of them are quite ready to do that.”
On the year, Lightfoot, a freshman forward from Gilbert, Arizona, is averaging just 4.1 minutes, 1.2 points and 1.2 rebounds. Through four Big 12 games for Kansas (15-1 overall, 4-0 conference), though, the 6-foot-8 backup has only got off the bench in two games and played four combined minutes.
Earlier this week at Oklahoma — after Bragg picked up two first-half fouls and Self wanted to protect Lucas from picking up a second foul before halftime — Lightfoot entered the game, missed a shot, and committed one foul and one turnover in one minute before Self took him out of the game and decided against putting him in again.
At that point, Self gave Coleby, who had yet to play a minute of Big 12 basketball, a shot. The 6-foot-9 junior, who transferred to Kansas from Ole Miss, grabbed a defensive rebound, got whistled for setting an illegal screen and returned to the bench for good after playing two minutes.
The coach wanted to see, on the road with his team struggling at the time, if either Lightfoot or Coleby could give the Jayhawks what they needed.
“And in that little stretch there, it was a really bad stretch,” Self said. “And it wasn't all on them, but coincidentally (the Sooners) were in the game, so they didn't get a chance to play as much.”
So what would Self like to see from either Lightfoot or Coleby (averaging 1.2 points and 2.0 rebounds in 5.6 minutes — and just 10 appearances — this season) that would inspire him to utilize one of them more?
“I would say just being able to carry out defensive assignments and play smarter. There are some things, like Mitch — I want to play Mitch — and he got in the game the other day. It's not that it's that complicated, but we're ball screen defense, in what we call 32. And, you know, he forgot to hedge a ball screen,” Self explained. “The guy just went and made a layup. And you can't have that. It's an easy play. And I think it's not that he can't do it. It's just that he gets excited right now and he's trying too hard.”
KU’s veteran big man, Lucas, knows exactly what his coach is talking about when Self references Lightfoot’s enthusiasm. The senior can’t help but laugh when he thinks about how the freshman’s exuberance manifests itself at practices, where Lightfoot is most involved on the court.
“An example of this is he says everything he’s doing. We’ll be at practice and we’ll joke with him, ‘You don’t have to say, OK, breathe now. Blink.’ Something like that,” Lucas shared. “He says ‘ball fake,’ just everything. It just shows how much he’s trying, which is good. You want guys to try.”
It appears Lightfoot is more likely than Coleby to become the eighth man Self wants, because of his activity and athleticism. Coleby, the coach says, still hasn’t fully recovered to the form he showed at Ole Miss, prior to tearing his ACL in late 2015.
“I do think that Mitch has a chance to be a really good player,” Self said. “He’s an athlete, he’s tough. But right now, he’s got to be able to take the practice and do the things that the team needs him to do in the short minutes that he’s in there. And he’s just been a little bit inconsistent with that.”
Lucas, who sees the work Lightfoot and Coleby put in behind closed doors, thinks both have the ability to make a positive impact for KU this season.
“Mitch and Dwight are great bigs. (At) most schools they’re playing a lot. I have a ton of faith in them. They’ve just gotta understand what they can come in and do well for our team during those short periods of time. It took me a while, too. It’s not easy,” said Lucas, who played just 4.9 minutes a game as a redshirt freshman during the 2013-14 season. “You kind of get out there and expect, you start thinking, ‘OK, maybe I’ve gotta make a couple shots to stay in the game for longer or prolong my time,’ but that’s not how it works, you know. If you want to go out there and stay out there, everybody else around you has to be better — the team has to be better — and you have to extend the lead or come back, whatever the case is.”
Self thinks Lightfoot will perform better once the coach can put the freshman in a game and keep him in for extended minutes — a scenario that could play out the next time Kansas builds a significant second-half lead.
Lucas envisions his young teammate improving, too, by making the best use of his feistiness.
“But the next step is, all right now, concentrate that on the right things, don’t overthink things,” Lucas said. “It’s better, I’m sure, as a coach, to pull a player’s excitement and stuff back than try to do it the other way. So he has the right mindset when he goes out there, he has the right energy. Now it’s just kind of making sure that he’s understanding and focusing in on what he needs to do and channel all that energy in the right places.”
Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III has put himself on the shortlist of candidates for national player of the year.
He's playing in one of the best stretches of his career, averaging 22.8 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds through his first four Big 12 games. He's shooting 12-of-15 from behind the 3-point line in the past three games.
But there was a time when Mason wasn't considered to be one of the top players in the country. Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn wrote about Mason and Devonte' Graham this week, and one part of his story includes KU head coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend discussing Mason's recruitment.
Self: “When Frank came out, was that the same year we were recruiting Cat Barber and Chris Jones?”
Townsend: “And Demetrius Jackson. Frank was kind of our fourth option.”
Self: “That left us really kind of—”
Townsend: “Scrambling. Then we were recruiting Jordan McLaughlin [for the following class], who ended up canceling our visit and committing to USC. But I went to see him [at the Adidas Fab 48] in Vegas; Frank was playing against him, and Frank kicked his ass.... I knew Frank’s AAU coach, Ty White, so I called him and asked, ‘Does that little dude with the braids play like that all the time?’ He said, ‘Every day, Coach. He don’t know no better.’ ... I went and saw him twice more, and each time he was good.”
Of course, back then, not many people predicted Mason would potentially outplay all of the players that spurned the Jayhawks during recruiting. Mason, a former Towson commit, was ranked much lower than the others.
Cat Barber averaged 23.5 points per game at North Carolina State last season before declaring for the NBA draft. Demetrius Jackson posted averages of 15.8 points and 4.7 assists at Notre Dame last year, also declaring for the draft.
Chris Jones ended up at Louisville, averaging 13.7 points and 3.6 assists during his senior season in 2014-15, while Jordan McLaughlin is averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 assists this year at USC.
Actually, in our KUsports.com archives, Mason's commitment wasn't met with a lot of joy. One commenter compared him to Royce Woolridge, who transferred after one season. Others preferred Karviar Shepherd, who committed to TCU and averages 5.9 points in his senior season, or Roddy Peters (played one season at Maryland and one season at South Florida).
When Self was asked last week how much improvement he's seen in Mason over the years, he responded: “He’s grown from being a guy who we thought could impact our program and be a good player for us in time to, in my opinion, a guy who has an unbelievable chance to be a first-team All-American, so that shows you the growth."
Seemingly almost as quick as Frank Mason himself, Nick Krug manages to get his lens in the path of the action with amazing consistency. He also gets to write the cutlines, or as we amateur photographers like to call them, captions.
Without Nick's permission, I have swiped some of his photos and wrote my very own captions. I'm sure you can do better on most of them — highly doubtful on Nos. 5 and 6 — so give one or all a shot and I will declare a winner for each photo caption. Your prize? Bragging rights.
In what is sure to go down as the least surprising development of the offseason for Kansas football — even beating out the departure of former offensive coordinator Rob Likens — quarterback Ryan Willis announced Wednesday he is transferring out of the program.
The only mystery surrounding the next step of Willis’ college career was when he would reveal it and where he would go next. As it turned out, the two-year Jayhawk from nearby Bishop Miege chose Virginia Tech the week before the start of the spring semester at KU.
The notion that the QB’s days in Lawrence were numbered became clear months earlier, after head coach David Beaty decided to move on from Willis as a starter.
The first four weeks of the 2016 season, Willis bounced on and off the field, trading spots with Montell Cozart behind center. After that two-quarterback experiment failed, Beaty handed the offense over to Willis ahead of a home game against TCU. The Jayhawks nearly pulled off an upset victory in a 24-23 loss during Willis’ first start as a sophomore (he also started the final eight games of 2015 as a true freshman), and he threw for 348 yards against the Horned Frogs. However, he also threw three interceptions, lost a fumble and took six sacks in a winnable game.
The following week, at Baylor, went much worse. Again, Willis tossed three picks, and he only completed 10 of 19 passes for 89 yards. The Bears sacked him four times, and the Kansas offense didn’t score until late in what turned out be a 49-7 loss. Plus, KU’s lone touchdown came with Willis watching from the bench.
Willis never threw another pass for Kansas after that Baylor loss. Beaty went back to Cozart as the starter the following week — though that didn’t work either. By the time another switch came and redshirt freshman Carter Stanley took over at QB, it was easy to envision Willis, who still has two years of eligibility left, moving on. Once Beaty got junior college QB Peyton Bender, formerly of Washington State, on board and referenced him as a player who would push Stanley for the starting job, why would Willis even want to stay?
Beaty’s version of the Air Raid offense and Willis just didn’t fit. This isn’t to say Willis won’t play well at Virginia Tech if given the chance. He is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, has a strong arm, and is faster than one might anticipate when he runs. As evidenced by the sacks he took, Willis didn’t have the benefit of playing for a dominant offensive line and he probably held on to the ball too long at times, hoping for something other than a quick pass to the sideline to develop.
He needed a change and he got one at a university that, unlike Kansas, is known for football success.
Willis wasn’t going to become the quarterback who turned the KU program around, but he tried his best to do so while he was in Lawrence. Ultimately both sides can move on now, which is the most important aspect of it all.
Beaty and QB coach Garrett Riley can focus on developing Stanley, Bender and 2017 redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks for the coming season.
Realistically, four quarterbacks is too many, barring a series of unfortunate injuries. Willis knew that and left KU behind. Smart decision.
The next question is: will another similarly inspired Bishop Miege alum, Cozart, leave the quarterbacks room for another position for his senior season at Kansas? Spring football isn’t too far away and Cozart said a year ago he was open to switching spots if the staff needed him to. We shall see.
We’ll know the Kansas football offense has rejoined the 21st century when a quarterback throws for 300 yards on at least a semi-regular basis.
Todd Reesing was the last KU quarterback to do so and junior-college recruit Peyton Bender, enrolling for second semester and competing with Carter Stanley for the starting job in the spring, could become the next.
During Reesing’s three seasons as starting quarterback at Kansas (2007-09), the Jayhawks threw for 300 yards in 20 games. Reesing alone reached the milestone 17 times, including eight in his sophomore season, the Orange Bowl season.
Reesing had more 300-yard passing games as a sophomore than 10 different starting quarterbacks have combined for in the seven seasons since his departure.
Nobody reached the milestone in either 2010 or 2013 and no Ryan Willis is the only quarterback to have done it twice.
The six 300-club entries:
2011: Jordan Webb threw for 316 yards in 70-28 loss to Oklahoma State.
2012: Dayne Crist totaled 303 passing yards in 20-6 loss to TCU.
2014: Michael Cummings led a near-upset with 332 yards in 34-30 loss to TCU.
2015: Ryan Willis threw for 330 yards in 30-20 loss to Texas Tech.
2016: Willis threw for 348 yards in a 24-23 loss to TCU.
2016: Carter Stanley rang up 302 passing yards in 34-19 loss to Kansas State.
Playing for Itawamba Community College in Mississippi, Bender averaged 303.7 passing yards per game. He threw 21 touchdowns and four interceptions and was sacked once. Bender finished his one-year juco career by throwing for 354 yards and 466 yards in his final two games. His season-high effort of 566 passing yards came in the fourth week of the season.
Bender, whose quick trigger suits him to the Air Raid offense, spent his first year out of high school as a redshirt in Washington State coach Mike Leach’s program and was second on the depth chart as a red-shirt freshman. He grew up in Georgia but played his high school football in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Still not excited about Bender? He stayed loyal to Kansas when Georgia tried to steal him.
Caption this Frank Mason photo
Kansas point guard Frank Mason and Villanova shooting guard Josh Hart both have strong cases for national player of the year honors. The fact that Mason has a rap song in his honor, written and performed by RedHead, will neither help nor hurt his chances.
Since Mason is that famous, it’s time for a caption-writing contest for the above photo, shot by the Journal-World’s Nick Krug.
I’ll go first:
“Mitch I’m, Mitch I’m Frank Mason.”