Entries from blogs tagged with “Jayhawks”
Omaha, Neb. — After an 80-76 victory against Clemson on Friday to advance to the Elite Eight, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said he considers it a great season for the Jayhawks. But he’s hopeful that the season can continue with a trip to San Antonio next week.
“It’s been great, but it would be nice to make it special,” Self said. “I think in order to do that, at Kansas, you have to go to the Final Four. I honestly believe that, I’ve always thought that, but we should play free and loose on Sunday, though.”
Despite the Jayhawks’ three wins in the NCAA Tournament, Self believes the Jayhawks haven’t played “great” yet.
“I don’t know what we’ll do different, but I know one thing: I’m going to tell my guys to let it fly,” Self said. “Whoever we are playing (Duke or Syracuse), you know we’re going to have to shoot 30 3s.”
OMAHA, Neb. — Malik Newman noticed a change in the Jayhawks after they took a 20-point lead over Clemson.
“We kind of relaxed,” Newman said after KU’s 80-76 win. “We stopped being as aggressive.”
While the Jayhawks allowed the deficit to slowly get cut down to four, they managed to outlast the Tigers, thanks in part to a key play by Devonte’ Graham.
While the senior didn’t have his best game, shooting just 4 for 12 and committing three turnovers, Newman noted there were other things he did in the win.
“He’s a winner. He’s a winner,” Newman said. “At the end of the day, that’s what’s in his DNA.”
OMAHA, Neb. — Svi Mykhailiuk isn’t sure the Jayhawks are playing their best basketball at the moment.
At the same time...
“It doesn’t matter how we play,” Mykhailiuk said. “We’ve just got to win.”
The senior was held to just nine points and four rebounds in KU’s 80-76 win. While it wasn’t the smoothest performance for the team — at one point, KU led by 20 — Mykhailiuk was quick to note that KU is more than ready for another chance to play for a Final Four.
“Nobody knows what’s going to happen,” Mykhailiuk said. “We’ve just got to come prepared and be ready to guard and compete.”
Omaha, Neb. — Returning to the Elite Eight for the third straight season, Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham said it’s a special achievement. But it would mean more if the Jayhawks can advance to the Final Four.
“I came to this mountain two times in a row and fell short,” Graham said. “This year, I just want to make it over.”
Kansas advanced to the Elite Eight with an 80-76 victory over Clemson at the CenturyLink Center. Graham was limited with foul trouble in the second half but he tried to encourage his teammates from the sideline.
“I had to be the biggest cheerleader,” Graham said.
OMAHA, Neb. — After playing 25 minutes in KU’s 80-76 win over Clemson, Udoka Azubuike was asked about his injured left knee, which had hindered him in postseason play.
“I feel good,” Azubuike said. “Like I said, it’s a gradual process. I’m feeling better, day by day. I’m getting better.”
The big man from Delta, Nigeria scored 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 25 minutes. He blocked two shots and rounded out his line with an assist.
After the game, Azubuike spoke in a quiet tone as he addressed reporters. Asked about his mood, though, the sophomore perked up.
“We’re in the Elite Eight,” Azubuike said. “I’m happy.”
Omaha, Neb. – Their teams only squared off once this season in the ACC, but Duke’s players left their lone encounter with Clemson impressed by the Tigers.
Ahead of Clemson’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kansas, a pair of potential Blue Devils lottery picks shared their thoughts about one of the ACC’s lesser-known basketball commodities.
A 6-foot-10 freshman forward from Atlanta, Wendell Carter Jr. only made 4 of 14 shots while finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds in Duke’s 66-57 win at Littlejohn Coliseum, in February. Some people might not have expected to see No. 5 seed Clemson still alive in the NCAA Tournament’s second weekend, but Carter said the Tigers possess winning traits.
“They’re a very physical team and they play together as a team. I think that’s the reason that they’re here and in the Sweet 16,” Carter said. “They just go out and play hard as a team.”
Clemson big Elijah Thomas hit 5 of 13 shots, scored 13 points and came away with 15 rebounds and 3 blocks versus Duke, in a loss.
“He’s a great competitor and that means he does great on the offensive end and defensive end,” Carter said of Thomas, a 6-9 junior who will try and limit Kansas 7-footer Udoka Azubuike. “He goes hard for the whole game.”
Of course, Clemson’s offensive strength lies in its backcourt, with the scoring punch of juniors Shelton Mitchell (12.3 points) and Marcquise Reed (15.9 points), as well as senior Gabe DeVoe (13.7 points).
“I definitely think they’re not viewed upon as the best guards,” Carter said of the trio getting overlooked, “but they’re definitely very strong guards, and they get the job done.”
A knee injury sidelined 6-11 star freshman Marvin Bagley III at Clemson, but he observed from the bench what makes the Tigers (25-9) so solid.
“They’re very athletic and they can block shots. They’re able to get off the ground,” Bagley said. “The whole team was a tough team and it was a physical game to the end. That was something I paid attention to.”
Clemson may lack the basketball name brand recognition of KU (29-7), Duke and Syracuse, but Bagley described coach Brad Brownell’s bunch as great.
“They’re another ACC team that’s made it this far. That goes to show the strength of our conference,” Bagley said, “and the teams that are able to be NCAA teams and go this far.”
Though some experts might not have expected Clemson to be one victory away from an Elite Eight appearance, Bagley said he wasn’t surprised to see the Tigers reach Omaha.
“Me personally, I knew from how they played against us and what they were able to do in our conference,” Bagley said, referring to Clemson tying for third place, “they were a team that was able to get this far.”
Of all the talented players who will run up and down the CenturyLink Center basketball court tonight, Duke’s Marvin Bagley III projects to have the brightest financial future.
That much was obvious at a very young age, according to a Kansas basketball player assigned to guard him three years ago when Bagley was a freshman in high school. (Bagley graduated high school in three years). James Sosinski, a walk-on football and basketball player at Kansas, was a senior at Hamilton High in Chandler, Ariz., when he faced Bagley.
In the video below, Bagley wore No. 35 in an orange jersey for Corona del Sol High of Tempe. Sosinksi is No. 33 in the white jersey.
Blink and you’ll miss that at one point Sosinski had Bagley boxed out.
Did he know his opponent, who led his team to a lopsided victory that day, would become a great player?
“For sure, no question about it,” said Sosinski, who guarded and was guarded by Bagley. He’s big, quick, he’s a smart player, knows what he’s doing with the ball. He just kept elevating, kept growing as a player. He was a dominant player when he was a freshman in high school and he still is as a freshman in college.”
Sosinski’s most significant contribution to the KU basketball team comes in practice, when he uses his football strength to lean on Udoka Azubuike.
“Udoka’s big, real big, real strong, real good touch around the rim. They’re two different type players. Bagley has more speed, Dok has more strength to his game, bigger body. Guarding Dok’s a huge challenge every day. It’s something I enjoy doing.”
An all-state quarterback at Hamilton, Sosinksi led the Huskies to a state championship his senior year and went to UMass on a football scholarship. He suffered an injury there and didn’t play.
Sosinski transferred to South Mountain Community College in Phoenix and averaged 19.1 points and 12.6 rebounds for the basketball team.
Still uncertain whether he wanted to play football or basketball, Sosinski rejected basketball scholarship offers from Washington State and Oregon State.
He ultimately decided to enroll at Kansas as a walk-on football player and became a reserve tight end who never made his way onto the football field this past fall. The Kansas basketball roster became thin up front because of Billy Preston’s situation, so Sosinski joined the basketball team in late November.
Sosinski has totaled four points, four rebounds in eight minutes of action spread out over six games.
If Kansas makes it to the Final Four, Sosinski will miss the first spring football practice. He said he intends to join the football team as soon as basketball season ends.
He declined to answer which season he has enjoyed more at Kansas.
“They’ve both been great,” Sosinski said.
Omaha, Neb. — As top-seeded Kansas enters its Sweet 16 matchup with Clemson, a board on a wall inside the Jayhawks’ locker room back home feels more relevant than ever.
Sometimes it is referenced, other times just thought of but unmentioned. Either way, it has been on the minds of KU’s players this week.
The essence of the board inside Allen Fieldhouse traveled easily to CenturyLink Center. KU coach Bill Self mentioned its message on the eve of his players’ next NCAA Tournament game: the Jayhawks could have one day left in their season, or they could keep playing for 11 more.
“It’s pretty simple,” sophomore Mitch Lightfoot related. “We go out here and compete and we can win and keep this team together. I think that’s what we all want. It’s a pretty close, tight-knit team. We’re looking to go out there and play for each other.”
The board displays various other significant countdowns, too, for easy referral as the Jayhawks grind their way through the season.
“It shows how many days left ’til the Final Four, how many days left ’til this, left ’til that,” Lightfoot shared on Thursday. “Everything else is erased. There’s no days left ’til the Big 12 tournament, there’s no days left ’til the NCAA Tournament. It’s here. The Final Four’s up there, and I think we all understand that it’s either one day left of 11 days left with this team, and we all take that to heart. I think we go out there and play that much harder for each other.”
While Self has brought up the dwindling number of days left on the college basketball calendar, Lightfoot said it hasn’t necessarily become a talking point from KU’s seniors, Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk and Clay Young.
If he were in their adidas, Lightfoot probably wouldn’t want to make it a constant topic of discussion either.
“I just think they love this place so much. Svi, Clay, D’tae, they’ve given so much to this organization, and I think it’s gonna be hard for them to leave,” Lightfoot said. “I think we’re going to go out there and play for them and send them out right.”
Mykhailiuk said the seniors are keenly aware of both how close they are to their ultimate goal of cutting down nets in San Antonio and just how quickly their careers could come to an abrupt, undesired conclusion.
“It’s one or 11, so we’ve just got to leave it on the court and on the practice court,” Mykhailiuk said. “It might be one day we could be with each other or it might be 11 left. We don’t know. We’ve got to take it as a last practice or last game. We’ve got to leave it on the court and compete as hard as we can.”
Because Mykhailiuk and Graham have played on the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight stages each of the past two seasons, they know better than any of their teammates what type of efforts the Jayhawks will need to get past Clemson. But the senior from Ukraine wasn’t worried those of his teammates who will be asked to perform on this stage for the first time. He trusts they grasp the gravity of the situation.
“I think everybody knows. Coach has been talking about this to us and I think everybody realizes how important it is,” Mykhailiuk said, “and how important it is to come prepared and know what you’re doing and compete as hard as we can to get a win.”
One day before Clemson is set to play Kansas in the Sweet 16 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the Tigers conducted a practice Thursday morning.
OMAHA, Neb. — Malik Newman's recent uptick has him looking like a player many haven't seen in quite some time.
All the way back to AAU, one reporter inquired?
"I wouldn't say that," Newman said with a smile. "but we are seeing a different Malik Newman."
Part of what's led to Newman's uptick, the sophomore said, has been an increased focus on the defensive end. That came from coach Bill Self, who Newman said has reminded him about the importance of being good on both ends of the floor.
"You won't be a complete player until you can defend," Newman recalled Self saying. "That's something he always tells me."
OMAHA, Neb. — Devonte' Graham didn't have his most efficient games in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. Still, the KU guard wasn't worried about having to shake off his combined 10-for-31 shooting performance against Penn and Seton Hall.
"I'm fine. That game (against Seton Hall) didn't bother me," Graham said. "At the end of the day it's all about winning. Stats don't really matter at this time of the year."
Speaking off winning, Graham was asked about the success of the Big 12, which has four teams in the Sweet 16. Graham said he was happy for all the Big 12 teams, a statement that piqued the interest of one nearby reporter.
"Even K-State?" the reporter asked.
"Even K-State," Graham repeated.
OMAHA, Neb. — Udoka Azubuike's knee brace served as a reminder he's not completely healed from a left knee injury he suffered before the Big 12 tournament.
However, the 7-foot, 280-pound Delta, Nigeria-native gave a relatively positive outlook when asked how he was feeling.
"It's feeling better, way better than I was last week," Azubuike said. "Yeah, I'm ready."
Azubuike said he couldn't put a percentage on how healthy he felt, but he did note things are moving in the right direction.
"Obviously not 100 percent," he said, "but I'm getting there."
Omaha, Neb. — During the NCAA Tournament it’s common for coaches and players to compare an upcoming opponent to a team they faced earlier in the season.
Asked Thursday at CenturyLink Center whether Clemson reminded him of any team Kansas took on this year, head coach Bill Self explained the No. 5 seed Tigers actually look similar to the Jayhawks.
“I think if I was going to compare them to anybody I’d compare them to us,” Self said, noting how KU almost always has starting guards Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick on the floor. “You could say the same thing about their threesome.”
Clemson relies on starting guards Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Gabe DeVoe for the much of its offense.
“They have three. But all three of those guys are like Malik — they can go out and get 30. Or they could be like Devonte’ and go get 35 or they could be like Svi and get 30,” Self said. “These guys can really score the ball and they’re good with the ball, and the other thing that they probably do better than us in that regard is they can go get their own shot when the offense breaks down.”
OMAHA, Neb. — Ahead of a Sweet 16 showdown against No. 1 seed Kansas, Clemson forward Elijah Thomas wanted to be clear that the Tigers weren't necessarily selling out to try and find a way to thwart Kansas' style of play.
"We focus on ourselves," said Thomas. "We don't necessarily key in on players and what not. We just, you know, do us."
Several Clemson players had praise for their Thursday opponent, but at the same time they were careful to note the stage wouldn't be too big.
"They're a good team," said guard Marcquise Reed. "The ACC definitely prepared us for the NCAA tournament, going against top tier teams every night. Had the No. 1 team in conference. So it was just a lot of competition."
More than 24 hours ahead of Friday's Sweet 16 matchup against Clemson in Omaha, the Kansas basketball team held its first practice at the CenturyLink Center on Thursday afternoon. The practice was closed to the public.
Omaha, Neb. — Kansas won’t be the only team with an abundance of talented guards on the floor in Friday’s Midwest Regional semifinal.
Asked for a scouting report on his three starting guards, Clemson coach Brad Brownell obliged.
“We have three really good players,” Brownell said. “Gabe DeVoe -- outstanding shooter, big, strong wing, can put it on the floor and score and just having a terrific senior season. Marcquise Reed is just one of those combo-type guards that can really score, has a knack for scoring, can make 3s, but also quick, a lot of shot-making ability. Some stuff you don't coach that he just has in terms of making runners and floaters and things of that nature. And then Shelton Mitchell is just a very good point guard with good size, speed, makes 3s. Handles it well.”
Then Brownell broke down KU’s guards.
“Certainly the Kansas guards are all really good,” Brownell said. “Malik Newman is playing maybe as well as he's played. Right now looks like that, at least shooting the ball. We obviously haven't followed him all year, but he's at another level. Devonte' Graham, we know very well and is an outstanding player, 17 points, eight assists a game. Great pace. Can score in the paint, make 3s, puts pressure on your defense. Svi (Mykhailiuk) is dynamic on the wing, big, 6'8", long, athletic, shoots 3s, drives, closeouts, gets in the paint, scores over the top of you. Vick, another unbelievable athlete. Makes 3s.”
Omaha, Neb. — Shortly after his Kansas basketball team arrived at its hotel Wednesday night, coach Bill Self said his top-seeded Jayhawks are as healthy as they have been all season, ahead of their Sweet 16 matchup with Clemson.
What’s more, Self said 7-foot KU center Udoka Azubuike has been participating at full speed.
“Now, his timing may not be great,” Self warned of Azubuike, who recently sprained the MCL in his left knee, “but his health is good. If we take him out it’ll probably be because he picks up two silly fouls early, not because of any type of problems.”
The Jayhawks (29-7) take on the Tigers (25-9) at 6:07 p.m. Friday, at CenturyLink Center.
The Kansas basketball team arrived to its team hotel in Omaha on Wednesday night, a couple of days ahead of its Sweet 16 matchup against Clemson at the CenturyLink Center.
All you need is a basement with power and a computer linked to the internet to start your own mock draft. They're all over the internet, but ESPN.com's has the most credibility.
NBA draft prospects are easy to find in the Sweet 16. All five Duke starters appear in the top 52. Kansas point guard Devonte' Graham is ranked 28th, teammate Svi Mykhailiuk 51st. Billy Preston, who never played in a game that counted for Kansas, is ranked 83rd.
A look at those on Sweet 16 schools who made ESPN's top 100 NBA draft prospects:
|4||Marvin Bagley III
|52||Gary Trent Jr.
|93||Isaac Hayes (injured)
|97||Donte Grantham (injured)