Entries from blogs tagged with “KU football”
For the past week, Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe has been viewed as a bit of a Twitter savior in the eyes of Kansas basketball fans.
But the Arizona State transfer who sits on the brink of playing his first game as a Jayhawk at 7 p.m. Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, has not seen any of it.
A short while before KU's recent game against his old team, Cunliffe deleted the Twitter app from his phone and, therefore, has not seen much of the hype surrounding his return to eligibility after a year away from live action.
Cunliffe said Thursday that his mom mentioned a few of the funnier posts to him and others have told him about the buzz around his much-anticipated debut. But Cunliffe, who started his career and made 10 starts at Arizona State during the first semester of last season, has been far more concerned about being ready to help Kansas and less concerned about people's hopes, hype and expectations for him.
The reason for his move was two-fold and had as much to do with eliminating the distractions from former Arizona State friends and fans as it did quieting the noise from KU fans about his debut.
“I actually deleted my Twitter app for a little bit because I was getting a lot of stuff from my previous school and from here,” Cunliffe said Thursday. “Positive mainly, from here, but I just kind of wanted to block all that out. But I've heard a lot. I think it's cool. I think I have the fans behind me and it's always good when you have that.”
Cunliffe said Thursday that even though he has experience playing Power 5 college basketball, the year away from competition cut into most of what he learned during the short time he played for the Sun Devils.
“I kind of feel like I'm still a freshman as far as playing goes,” said Cunliffe, admitting that his first couple of games at ASU left him wondering if he could cut it. “(But I learned) definitely just not getting too high, not getting too low. I just want to make sure I do keep my head level and always give my best.”
If he can do that, his chances to help the 13th-ranked Jayhawks go up considerably.
KU coach Bill Self on Thursday said Cunliffe still had a ways to go in several areas, particularly on defense, and added that he only expected the 6-foot-6 guard to play a few minutes each half.
“If he can give us 5-10 (minutes), that would be a bonus,” Self said. “If he's playing well, maybe more than that. But just to get Svi and Lagerald and Devonte's minutes down may bode well for us.”
Regardless of when his name is called that first time or how he does when he actually gets out there, Cunliffe seems to be approaching his opportunity with a terrific mindset.
His goal is to come in and help the team in whatever ways he can, not to hit the floor and be the show.
“I think we have a great team already,” he said. “I think I'm just going to add a lot to it. And I think we're going to start getting it going in the right direction.”
Beyond simply finally being able to play again, Cunliffe is most excited about the opportunity to see how much he has grown as a player, mentally and physically, and how much he has matured during the past year.
“I don't know, actually,” he admitted when asked how he thought he'd react at game time. “But I know I am super excited. Normally when we have a game, I'm like, 'All right, I'm just going to sit there and chill.' But when you play, you get this adrenaline rush. It adds a different level. So I actually don't know what I'm like in a game.
“I haven't played a game for a year. So I don't know what my body's going to be like, how much more athletic, springy and ready I'm going to be. I've done a lot of work in the weight room with (Andrea) Hudy, and just off-the-court stuff, making sure my body's right. So I'm excited to see a lot about myself and how I react when I get on the court. No necessarily mental, but just how my body feels and how much more alert I am.”
In Bill Self's 15 seasons at Kansas, the Jayhawks have lost three games in a row just twice.
Three other times the Jayhawks thwarted potential three-game losing streaks by stopping the slide at two games with convincing victories the next time out.
But while those numbers sound somewhat astonishing, it's worth pointing out that, in both of the instances when the two-game skid turned to three, Game No. 3 was on the road, which will be the case Saturday night, when the Jayhawks travel north to Lincoln, Nebraska, for a 7 p.m. showdown with the Cornhuskers.
The last time Kansas faced Nebraska on the heels of back-to-back losses was during the 2005-06 season, Self's third at KU. That game followed a home loss to Kansas State and an overtime road loss to Missouri. And the Jayhawks took out their frustrations from those two setbacks by drubbing the Huskers, 96-54 at Allen Fieldhouse.
While none of those past performances have any real bearing on this team or its current skid, the two road losses that turned losing streaks from two games to three are worth noting given the location of KU's next game.
Sure, the two Oklahoma teams that handed Kansas a third consecutive loss — both in Norman, one in 2005 and another in 2013 — were better than the current Nebraska team. But the one major difference that makes this week's game such a challenge is the fact that Saturday will mark KU's first true road game of the 2017-18 season. By the time those past KU teams faced and lost to OU, they had played plenty of road games.
For what it's worth, KU endured eight two-game losing streaks in the 15-year Roy Williams era that preceded Self, and two of those also turned into three-game skids, with the 1993-94 team dropping three in a row to Oklahoma State, Missouri and Nebraska, and the 1988-89 team (Williams' first at Kansas) losing eight in a row from Jan. 28 through Feb. 24 of 1989.
With that in mind, here's a quick look back at the five previous two-game losing streaks under Self.
• 2013-14 •
Two true road games and a team full of freshmen — even if Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were two of them — makes this the least surprising of the two-game losing streaks. But don't let that New Mexico score fool you. That was a tougher game than the final score indicates.
L — 75-72 loss at Colorado on Dec. 7, 2013
L — 67-61 loss at Florida on Dec. 10, 2013
W — 80-63 win over New Mexico on Dec. 14, 2013 at Sprint Center
• 2012-13 •
This stretch featured the Marcus Smart back flip at Allen Fieldhouse and Self dropping the now famous Topeka YMCA line after a miserable performance in Fort Worth, Texas. KU snapped the skid with a 21-point home whipping of Bruce Weber's K-State Wildcats, two days after falling in Norman, Oklahoma.
L — 85-80 loss vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 2, 2013
L — 62-55 loss at TCU on Feb. 6, 2013
L — 72-66 loss at Oklahoma on Feb. 9, 2013
• 2005-06 •
Another freshman-heavy Kansas squad — which featured a bunch of future national champions — struggled in two games in three nights against its top two rivals but stopped the skid at two games with a thrashing of Big Red. The KSU loss snapped a 31-game KU winning streak over the Wildcats and the Mizzou game was the one where Christian Moody missed two free throws with four-tenths of a second to play in a tie game. That's how close KU is to having just five two-game skids in Self's 15 seasons.
L — 59-55 loss vs. Kansas State on Jan. 14, 2006
L — 89-86 overtime loss at Missouri on Jan. 16, 2006
W — 96-54 win over Nebraska on Jan. 21, 2006
• 2004-05 •
Game winners in the final seconds by Tech's Darryl Dora and ISU's Curtis Stinson delivered two emotionally draining losses and KU responded by scoring just 22 first-half points in a loss in Norman. The Jayhawks dropped four of their final six Big 12 games during this season yet still won a share of the Big 12 title. KU barely avoided dropping a fourth straight game with a two-point home win over Oklahoma State, six nights after the OU loss.
L — 80-79 double-overtime loss at Texas Tech on Feb. 14, 2005
L — 63-61 overtime loss vs. Iowa State on Feb. 19 2005
L — 71-63 loss at Oklahoma on Feb. 21, 2005
• 2003-04 •
This mini-streak started with Self's 12th-ranked squad falling to No. 10 OSU in his first trip to Oklahoma State as the leader of the Jayhawks and ended with a KU win in the first game in which Kansas wore red uniforms at Allen Fieldhouse.
L — 80-60 loss at Oklahoma State on Feb. 9, 2004
L — 74-55 loss at Nebraska on Feb. 15, 2004
W — 74-54 win over Baylor on Feb. 18, 2004
The anticipated KU debut of Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe — which is expected to come Saturday night at Nebraska — is off the charts and is a direct result of the Jayhawks' back-to-back losses, limited depth and recent struggles.
And it's clear that Cunliffe himself also is more than ready to get back on the floor after sitting out an entire year while waiting to suit up for KU.
But it's important to remember one thing about the addition of Cunliffe to the Kansas lineup — While he will add to this team's depth, the 6-foot-6, 200-pound sophomore is not expected to play 20-plus minutes a game and fill up the stat sheet.
That does not mean, however, that Cunliffe will not have the opportunity to make a major impact on this Kansas team. And there's one incredibly easy way for him to make sure he does.
Go all out.
Treat every time he checks into the game like a line change in hockey, with Cunliffe hopping over the boards with fresh legs and fierce drive, prepared to give it hell for the full 90 seconds he's out there (or in this case four or five minutes) only to return to the bench and wait for another turn.
Don't worry about scoring. Don't worry about fouling. Don't worry about anything other than playing with as much energy, intensity and passion as possible, a move that, if Cunliffe delivers, surely would rub off on his Jayhawk teammates.
Here's the thing about the luxury that Cunliffe represents for Bill Self's lineup. Recent losses notwithstanding, the Jayhawks have been just fine without Cunliffe on the floor when it comes to foul trouble. In fact, just two Jayhawks have fouled out of a game all year — Svi Mykhailiuk against Washington and Mitch Lightfoot against South Dakota State.
And while foul trouble has been a concern from time to time, it has not crippled the Kansas lineup to the point of not being able to function the way Self and company want to.
So Cunliffe's five fouls are essentially bonus fouls. And that's why he can go wild when he's out there and not worry about the whistle.
Does that mean he should foul 90 feet from the basket or bump his man every time he brings the ball across mid-court? Of course not. You still have to play smart for Self or else you're not going to play and this whole concept becomes moot.
But when it comes to hitting the offensive glass, trying to take charges or doing all of those little things that steal extra possessions and change momentum, Cunliffe should feel free to function as if he has unlimited fouls to give. Because even if he picks up four in the first half — which will never happen, by the way — it's not as if that will put the Jayhawks in any kind of foul trouble they have not experienced already.
In fact, if Cunliffe somehow were to get four fouls in the first half, it probably would mean that one or two of the seven other Jayhawks who have been playing all the minutes so far this season does not have a foul or two. And that, in a weird way, would actually help KU's rotation.
Cunliffe's a good player and a great athlete and he has skills that could help, provided his head is in the right place and he's willing to play team basketball and do the dirty work that Self and company love to see from their bench guys.
That's all he needs to be for his addition to make a difference for the 2017-18 Jayhawks — a hard-working, high-energy spark.
Points, clutch baskets, key reads... Whether they come or not is irrelevant. Some nights they might and other nights they won't. But whether they do or don't, Cunliffe can bring incredible energy every time he's in the game.
The KU defense — and its reputation — took a beating over the last week.
Some fans have gone as far as to long for the days of last season, lest we all forget that team was, at times, so poor on that end it prompted several rants from coach Bill Self.
After a game against TCU last season, Self proclaimed, “We don’t guard,” three times within the same answer. After a game against K-State, in which KU allowed 88 points and nearly gave up a game-winner on a blown switch, Self took it a step further.
“We’ve had stretches where we didn’t guard very well other times during our tenure here over 13 years, but we’ve never had a team this poor on that end,” Self said. “I mean this is without question probably — not probably — it is the poorest defensive team that we’ve ever had.
“It took us a while to get this poor. You just don’t get this bad overnight, defensively,”
So assuming KU’s defense right now is somewhere in between “the poorest defensive team” KU has had and actually fairly OK given it held its first eight opponents to 74 or fewer points and is only playing with seven scholarship players at the moment, it probably isn’t the worst idea to look all over the box score to find out why the last two games went the way they did.
One number jumps out in that regard.
Points off turnovers:
- Dec. 6, 2017: Washington 16, KU 8
- Dec. 10, 2017: Arizona State 25, KU 9
Compared with some of KU’s other wins, those margins are cause for concern.
In the gut-it-out win over Kentucky, 65-61, KU tabbed 17 points off 18 Kentucky turnovers. In the game against Syracuse, where Devonte’ Graham’s 35 points and seven 3-pointers led KU to a 16-point win, KU forced 17 turnovers and tabbed 16 points.
Doing some quick math, you can put KU down for about one point off each turnover per game. That makes sense, considering some turnovers result in easy runouts and others, like charges or passes that fall out-of-bounds, let the defense reset and are harder to score after.
In trying to separate those out, one category that helps is “fastbreak points.” I’d caution against gleaning too much from that statistic by itself, considering the definition of what is and isn’t a fastbreak is entirely arbitrary. But in context, it’s a pretty solid way to break things down.
Against Washington, KU forced 12 turnovers. Off those 12 turnovers, KU scored eight points. Only three of those were on fastbreaks. Let's dive a little deeper.
KU tabbed six steals against Washington, likely the best chances for easy fastbreak buckets. The first was with just a few seconds left in the first half when Marcus Garrett single handedly blew up the Huskies’ play.
That play shouldn’t have produced any KU points so we can remove it.
The second-to-last steal was actually a jump ball and the last came in a 14-point game with less than a minute left, so those probably aren’t ones to dwell on. The remaining three, however, showcase a bit of a problem.
First, with 18:55 to play in the first half, Graham deflected a pass to start a fastbreak. Malik Newman came up with the ball and had Graham open for a split second, but instead held onto it and drove.
Graham, with nowhere to go, backtracked to the 3-point line. Newman put up a shot in traffic and was swatted at the rim.
“I think if (Newman) would just worry about things that have an impact on us winning or not, I think he’d be better off,” Self said after that game. “Missed Devonte’ a couple times wide open in transition.”
The next instance was the opposite case of that, by all accounts.
With 12-and-a-half minutes left in the second half, Mykhailiuk knocked a ball away and Graham dove on the floor to get it. He bounced it back to Mykhailiuk, who pushed it up the floor.
Multiple Washington players stared at the ball on the play and made no attempt to get back on defense. That left Lagerald Vick running wide open to the hoop, but Mykhailiuk’s pass was off the mark and flew into the stands.
Vick took the blame for the play, patting his chest, but it wasn’t at all his fault.
As for steal No. 3, it came with just over two minutes to play and the Jayhawks desperately trying to make the comeback.
Garrett poked the ball away into the hands of Vick, who tried to pitch it ahead to Newman.
Vick's pass traveled too far down the court. Garrett was actually credited for the turnover on the play, likely due to an error by the scorekeepers, but it was another opportunity KU couldn’t afford to waste.
Now the Arizona State game was somewhat different. KU actually made the right play a few times early on.
The first instance was in fact so well executed that it’s worth watching the entire sequence.
KU’s defense — yes, that defense — first did an impeccable job swarming to the ball and helping and switching when necessary. Arizona State couldn't get anything going and the result was a turnover, as Graham easily intercepted a pass along the baseline.
Graham started the break, taking three dribbles and firing the ball up the court to Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk dropped it backward for Newman, who drilled the 3-pointer in rhythm.
KU took a 10-2 lead. Arizona State called timeout.
Every opportunity didn’t go that smoothly.
With 14-and-a-half minutes to play in the first and the Sun Devils on an 8-0 run, Newman poked a ball away and Graham recovered it to start a break. KU didn’t have numbers, so a basket was no guarantee, but Vick and Mykhailiuk essentially ended the opportunity by running to the exact same spot on the floor.
Graham passed the ball up the court, but Vick had to slow down to keep from colliding with Mykhailiuk. The KU offense had to reset.
Instead of an easy bucket, KU settled for a Vick floater in traffic on the possession. The shot was swatted away, marking the fourth of six straight scoreless KU possessions.
That was a theme of the day.
The next steal came at the rim, so KU didn’t really have numbers. Even if they did, Graham was slow getting down the floor so KU couldn’t capitalize on a quick 5-on-4 break to create a mismatch somewhere.
That was less true on the next chance, as Newman poked a ball away and Mykhailiuk recovered it and dribbled into the frontcourt.
Udoka Azubuike put his hand up for the ball in the paint. Mykhailiuk didn’t pass and instead spun around at the top of the key.
On the wing, Arizona State’s Remy Martin saw Mykhailiuk dribbling and abandoned Graham, his original assignment. Mykhailiuk could’ve passed Graham the ball, only Martin was quick enough to poke it away.
KU should’ve ended up with an easy layup or 3-pointer. Instead it went down as a turnover.
“They said every time Svi has the ball to crowd him, try to take his ball,” Self said. “His ball handling was very, very weak today.”
Perhaps the worst mishap of either game, though, wasn’t off a steal. It may have been a player trying to atone for a mistake the game before.
With less than five minutes left, Newman grabbed a rebound off an Arizona State miss. He dribbled up the court and tried a 50-foot pass to Graham, but there was no real lane to do so.
After the game, Graham said the idea for the pass was OK, the execution was just lacking. Self’s description, coming in an unrelated answer, was a little less forgiving.
“(A) terrible, bone-head, full court pass that went out of bounds,” Self said.
By themselves, those opportunities weren’t what caused the two losses.
While KU only scored 65 against Washington, the offense was far more free flowing against a team that played exclusively man-to-man defense in Allen Fieldhouse
“You score 85 at home,” Self said. “You expect to win.”
And that’s certainly true. But KU can still do more a lot on that end.
Against Washington, the easiest way for KU to score against the adjusted zone would’ve been to avoid it all together — simply running down the floor before it could set up.
And against Arizona State, even if both teams wanted to run, the Jayhawks still could’ve done more of it on their own terms to break through dry spells and make things more difficult for the competition.
“It just unbelievable,” Self said. “Whenever you control tempo and control pace, the basket grows, and it shrinks on the other end.”
In the last two games, that’s one thing KU certainly hasn’t done. You can't forget about the other side of it, either.
The Jayhawks have allowed 41 points off 29 turnovers in the last two games, a rate (1.41 points per possession) far higher than the clip they've scored at. They've also been outscored in transition, 24-13, despite being a team that should be built to get out and run, even off misses and long rebounds.
Again it was Self, speaking to a different topic, who said it best.
"There's not that dog or competitive juice," Self said, "that guys need to have when the game's on the line."
If his latest comments are accurate, Friday could be a monster day in the Kansas basketball program's pursuit of Class of 2018 signee Silvio De Sousa.
Speaking with Kyle McFadden of marylandsportsaccess.com following a recent IMG Academy victory, De Sousa said he believed he would know the results of his latest SAT test on Friday. And, as many KU fans speculated recently about a generic Tweet sent out by De Sousa that read, “Imma be there sooner than u thought,” the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Angolan is optimistic about his chances of receiving good news.
“I feel great about it,” De Sousa told McFadden of the SAT score. “At least, that’s what I think. I’m just waiting now. … I’m still trying to figure it out.”
At this point, this whole situation really has become crystal clear. If Friday is the date that De Sousa receives his score, he will know then one of two things: Either he passed and he'll be in Lawrence in time for Big 12 Conference play this season. Or he didn't and he'll stay at IMG Academy for the remainder of the current season and will report to KU this summer.
De Sousa told McFadden that he wanted to come to KU for the second semester, “really, really bad,” and added that he thought he could make an immediate impact.
IMG coach Sean McAloon recently told 247 Sports that he thought it was a 50-50 proposition and that De Sousa would leave if he got the score and would stay if he didn't.
That has been De Sousa's goal since August, when he first told the Journal-World that he had committed to Kansas. The minute he made the call to Bill Self and his coaching staff, De Sousa had an early arrival in mind and it now appears as if he is on the brink of finding out whether that goal can become a reality or not.
There's no question that the Jayhawks would benefit from De Sousa's arrival. Regardless of whether he suited up completely prepared for big time college basketball, adding a player of his physical size, with the motor and skill set that De Sousa possesses, would be a huge lift for an undermanned KU front court.
Would De Sousa be a 20-plus minutes a game guy who would flirt with a double-double night in and night out? Probably not. But would he offer more, in terms of a physical presence and brute strength than what KU is currently getting from reserve forward Mitch Lightfoot? Probably.
That's not to say Lightfoot would all of a sudden disappear. He certainly would still play an important role on this team. But instead of having to use his 6-foot-8, 215-pound frame to battle inside, Lightfoot could slide into more of a role both he and Self envisioned for him when he signed with Kansas.
So Friday's the day. Unless, of course, it isn't. But, at least for now, we've heard from the horse's mouth that that is the date that is circled on his calendar.
So you now can circle it on your calendars, as well.
A few random thoughts about the Kansas men's basketball team as it navigates its way through finals week and a two-game losing streak.
• A lot of the talk during the past couple of days has been about how miserable practice might be for this Kansas team this week. And while that might be true in many ways, it's not exactly as if KU coach Bill Self can run these guys ragged.
Remember, they're still just seven deep — six while Malik Newman recovers from the concussion he suffered during Sunday's loss — and Self twice on Sunday mentioned second-half fatigue as a potential reason for the Jayhawks' defensive struggles.
The intensity will be up. Expectations will be elevated. And Self will almost certainly be more demanding of the Jayhawks in practice this week. But the idea that he's just going to run them until they drop does not seem entirely possible.
• Early on, freshman Marcus Garrett looked poised beyond his years and got his freshman season off to a terrific start. However, in the past three contests — all against more talented, Power 5 opponents — Garrett has looked like a different player and his confidence seems to be down considerably.
In three games against Syracuse, Washington and Arizona State, Garrett played his three lowest minute totals of the season (8, 15 and 15) and made just one shot in that time while recording just eight rebounds.
The Dallas freshman had more rebounds than that combined total in two single games earlier this season. What's more, he committed three fouls in each of those games, a statistic that suggests the game might be speeding up a little for him right now.
• On Monday night, KU assistant coach Norm Roberts suggested that newly eligible guard Sam Cunliffe — 6-foot-6, 200 pounds — might most be able to help the Jayhawks on the offensive glass. That would be a much welcomed contribution considering Kansas has not done much in that area during the past three games.
In fact, just 22 percent of KU's total rebounds during its three most recent games have come on the offensive end, with big men Udoka Azubuike (6) and Mitch Lightfoot (4) leading the team in that category during this recent stretch.
Considering KU pretty much plays just one of those guys at a time, the performance of the KU guards on the offensive glass has been somewhat of a let down and needs to improve. Cunliffe, an outstanding athlete with terrific leaping ability, could help in that department, but only if he logs enough minutes.
The easiest fix for this issue continues to rest with Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk doing a better job of hitting the offensive glass. In the past three games, the two veteran wings have just eight combined offensive rebounds.
• Speaking of Vick, he seems to be on the cusp of really taking that next step. Granted, the entire Washington game plan was designed to give Vick easy buckets, but in his past three games alone the KU junior is averaging 24.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists while shooting 56.4 percent from the floor and topping 20 points each time out.
Vick is now leading the Jayhawks in scoring, at 18.7 points per game, shooting 45 percent from 3-point range and 56 percent overall and also ranks second on the team in rebounds, just six behind Azubuike.
It's not just the numbers that look impressive. Vick really appears to be more confident than ever out there, and, offensively, seems to be in constant attack mode, looking for any way possible to put pressure on opposing defenses.
If he can translate that approach to offensive rebounding and defense, Vick, no doubt, will be one of the best players in the Big 12.
• Roberts on Monday night brought up one other key area that he thought the Jayhawks had fallen short in during recent outings — intangibles.
“Right now we've got guys out there that kind of score, score, score, score,” Roberts said while filling in for Bill Self on Hawk Talk. “And no one's doing the intangibles. We've got to do more of the intangible things, so (we) may have to get guys out of their comfort zone.”
While Garrett seems to be the best option to become this team's Mr. Intangible — given the fact that his role in the offense is not nearly the same as others — Roberts pointed out that positive contributions in the area of intangibles can come from anyone and should come from everyone.
A hustle play here, a blocked shot there, a charge taken one moment and stealing an extra possession the next. Those are all examples of the types of plays Roberts says this team needs more of, and he pointed to past Jayhawks Josh Jackson, Travis Releford and Jamari Traylor as some of the best intangible guys this program has had in recent years.
• Finally, in case you missed it, here's a quote from Josh Jackson, who was asked back in Phoenix this week about Arizona State walking into Allen Fieldhouse and knocking off his Jayhawks.
After telling AZ Central, "Good for Arizona State. They got a good win. But it'll never happen again," Jackson said he would bet that KU goes farther than the Sun Devils in this year's NCAA Tournament and added, "I'm putting myself out there. I think I'm safe on that one."
All confidence aside, Jackson admitted that he was perplexed by what his former teammates have done — or not done — during the past two outings.
"I don't know what's going on with my team right now," Jackson said. "One thing I do know is I'd hate to be them right now. I definitely don't want to be playing for Kansas basketball right now because I know Bill (Self) is not happy."
Filling in for KU coach Bill Self on Hawk Talk on Monday night, Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts provided a brief update on the injury status of sophomore guard Malik Newman.
Newman left Sunday's 95-85 loss to Arizona State late in the game after taking a knee to the head and winding up down on the floor for several minutes.
Self said after the loss that he was told Newman had suffered a concussion and Roberts indicated that Newman's condition had improved in the 24 hours since KU's loss.
“He's got a bit of a headache and that stuff,” Roberts said midway through the show. “But he seemed to be doing a little bit better.”
As for whether Newman will be ready in time for Saturday's 7 p.m. game at Nebraska, Roberts said the team was hopeful that Newman would be ready to go for KU's next game.
“Yeah, hopefully he will,” Roberts said. “He's got a few days here. (He'll) just take some time and everything, but I think he took a pretty good shot there when he hit his head on the guy's knee.”
Newman, who is in his first year of eligibility with Kansas after transferring from Mississippi State following his freshman season, has started eight of nine games for the Jayhawks (7-2) and is averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 29.4 minutes per game while shooting .405 from 3-point range.
If Newman is unable to play — or even if he is limited in any capacity — freshman guard Marcus Garrett, who started the one game that Newman did not, likely would receive an increase in his minutes.
An old Kansas basketball friend jumped into the limelight a little bit via social media on Sunday, as his new team, Arizona State, was in the process of knocking off his old team, KU, at Allen Fieldhouse.
Despite not even being eligible to play this season, and with a personal matter taking him away from the ASU team altogether, Bragg clearly was watching Sunday's showdown between his new team and his old squad.
And he had no problem sharing his allegiances to the Sun Devils, which, as you might expect, riled up more than a few Kansas fans on Twitter.
But to expect him to do anything else would be foolish. Even though things did not end well for him at Kansas, Bragg's departure was not viewed as a devastating blow to the KU program, nor did it come with any kind of public negativity or sour grapes on the part of Bragg or the Kansas basketball program.
So, really, it hardly seems like that big of a deal for a college kid to hop onto Twitter to have some fun at the expense of his old team while his new team was playing well. But, clearly, not every KU fan saw it that way.
The first Bragg Tweet came around halftime, when ASU had trimmed KU's early 13-point lead down to the three.
That Tweet was met with plenty of jabs from KU fans, most of them calling him out for not playing in Sunday's game or being a disappointment while he was in a KU uniform. And others could not help themselves and pointed to Bragg's off the court issues from a season ago.
Later, after Arizona State had sealed the 95-85 victory, Bragg chimed in again, this time with a simple message in support of his new team accompanied by the emoji of the head with a zipper over its mouth.
Naturally, the salt in the wound that came after their team's loss to Bragg's new bunch did not sit well with Kansas fans who chose to engage Bragg — @carltonbragg31 — on Twitter on Sunday.
But by far the most curious thing about the whole encounter, which was pointed out plenty of times in the replies to both of Bragg's Tweets, was the fact that the former KU forward from Cleveland still has two pictures of himself in a Kansas uniform as his Twitter picture.
That seems more than a little strange.
Even though Bragg has not yet played a game for the Sun Devils — and it's a legitimate question if he ever will — surely there's a regular Joe picture of him on campus or back home that would be a good replacement for the KU pics.
Hey, to each his own, I guess.
When Washington knocked of Kansas at Sprint Center last Wednesday night, the Huskies ripped off a wild celebration in the Sprint Center locker room that left head coach Mike Hopkins soaking wet and smiling.
Sunday, at Allen Fieldhouse, UW's Pac-12 brother, Arizona State, took that celebration one step farther after knocking off the second-ranked Jayhawks on their home floor.
ASU coach Bobby Hurley, like Hopkins, was greeted by a celebratory water bath when he returned to the Sun Devils' locker room, but the fun was far from finished there.
In addition to a wild trip home with lots of smiles, hugs and high fives for everyone, the 9-0 Sun Devils, who are poised for a big jump in the polls, were greeted by a big crowd when they returned to campus in Phoenix on Sunday night.
Fans first began flocking to the ASU basketball facilities a couple of hours after the game went final and they stayed until long after the players had hopped off of the bus.
Granted, it's easier to go stand outside in December in a place like Phoenix, where the weather is good year round, but the fact that they did it, on a Sunday night no less, was a clear sign of what this win meant to that program.
While those images and the memories of this game might be hard for KU fans to relive, the reason they're interesting is that they show just what it means to beat Kansas.
It's not as if this is some low-major school that has never won much and just pulled off the upset of the century. The ASU program, though down of late, has had big moments in the past, is a Power 5 program, is coached by one of college basketball's all-time greatest players and features an alumni directory with the name James Harden in it.
So, ASU has had its share of basketball moments. But this is by far the biggest moment it has enjoyed in a while and, even though it's still just early December, the Sun Devils' fan base, which showed up in impressive numbers at Allen Fieldhouse, and the team itself took the opportunity to celebrate it to the fullest.
Doing so proved to be the ultimate tip of the cap to Kansas. After all, after knocking off Xavier by 16 a couple of weeks ago, there was no such celebration. And Xavier is a legitimate Final Four and national title contender this season.
But the Musketeers aren't Kansas.
Our own Bobby Nightengale recently wrote a nice blog about what it feels like to beat Kansas. In it, he talked to a handful of Big 12 players who have experienced the feat.
While each offered their unique insight into something that has been pretty rare during recent years, none of them talked about a celebration quite as charged up as the one the Sun Devils delivered from the moment the final buzzer sounded to the time they turned the lights out on Sunday night.
While the aftermath of their big win might seem like overkill to Kansas fans who don't really celebrate that way until NCAA Tournament time, it's worth noting because it shows not only how ASU is a team on the rise but also how fortunate the KU program has become.
It's been years, decades even, since wins like this would have sent Lawrence into a similar celebration and that speaks to the wild consistency of greatness and incredibly high bar that has been set for the Kansas program.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 95-85 loss to No. 16 Arizona State on Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor and looked much more aggressive attacking the rim and finding their offense. And they were terrific early, particularly Devonte' Graham. The problem was, ASU put so much pressure on Kansas with its offense that the shots the Jayhawks did miss came at crucial times and proved to be massive blows. Turnovers also were a big, big problem.
Outside of the first few minutes and a couple of desperation possessions late in the second half, the Jayhawks were exposed in just about every way, defensively, in this one. KU's guards could not contain the Arizona State guards on the drive and gave up good looks from 3-point range. And there was next to no inside presence. Both are problems that already have haunted this team and will continue to do so unless the Jayhawks make major improvements quickly.
Udoka Azubuike struggled most of the day. Even though he made six of his seven shot attempts, Kansas almost never was able to throw the ball to him inside and the 7-footer struggled on the glass and to be any kind of defensive presence. Mitch Lightfoot did what he could to be a factor and had a couple of good moments, but he does not bring enough to the table yet to overcome an off day from Azubuike.
Considering half of this grade is for offense and the other half is for defense, the Jayhawks had very little chance for a high grade no matter how good their offense was. And it, too, was not great. Graham did what he could to be much better than he was against Washington, which helped, but none of the KU guards did much in the second half and none of them had any kind of consistency.
Lightfoot grabbed five rebounds and blocked a couple of shots in 18 minutes. And Marcus Garrett, whose early-season confidence has disappeared of late, did next to nothing in his 15 minutes. KU definitely is missing a spark off of the bench of any kind and not only needs these two to elevate their play but also to get a notable contribution from soon-to-be-eligible guard Sam Cunliffe.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Arizona State
- More Miscues: Jayhawks struggle defensively, fall at home to Arizona State
- Tom Keegan: Jayhawks missing scoring spark off the bench
- Notebook: Malik Newman leaves game with a concussion
- The Keegan Ratings: Devonte' Graham tops ratings in home loss to Arizona State
- Devil of an afternoon: Arizona State knocks off KU in Allen Fieldhouse
Off to the program’s first 8-0 start since 1974, Arizona State has been one of the top surprises throughout college basketball. Ranked No. 16, it’s the first time ASU has entered the Associated Press poll since the 2008-09 season.
Highlighted by a high-powered offense, the Sun Devils have picked up wins against San Diego State, Kansas State and Xavier leading into Sunday’s matchup against Kansas (1 p.m., ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse.
"Just with them coming off the loss to Washington, I know they've had some really stiff, tough practices and I know coach (Bill) Self has motivated them,'' ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "And then you have Allen (Fieldhouse) and the advantage that that building is, it's going to be something for our players to experience.”
In the preseason Pac-12 poll, Arizona State was picked to finish sixth, returning three starters.
Fun fact: According to Stats Inc., Arizona State was the first Pac-12 team to score 90 points in six straight games since at least 1996. The Sun Devils average 91.4 points per game.
Series history: Kansas leads 5-4. The Jayhawks won the last meeting in 2003 during the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Kirk Heinrich scored 24 points in a 108-76 win.
BREAKING DOWN ARIZONA STATE
No. 0 — G Tra Holder | 6-1, 180, sr.
One of the most dangerous scorers in the Pac-12, Holder leads Arizona State with 20.3 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting. He’s made 45 percent of his attempts from behind the 3-point line and knocked down 85 percent of his free throws.
Holder, who scored 40 points earlier this season against Xavier, ranks 13th on the school’s all-time leading scorer list.
From Brentwood, Calif., Holder says he wears the No. 0 because “no excuses.”
- "He just feels like no one can really stay in front of him," ASU coach Bobby Hurley said. "He's got multiple moves he can go to, his 3-point game is making defenses honor that. He's great and crafty at finishing. How much he's improved and how much he's grown and the player he's become, I'm just so proud of him."
No. 11 — G Shannon Evans II | 6-1, 172, sr.
A transfer from Buffalo, Evans followed Hurley to Arizona State. In his senior season, he’s averaging 18.6 points and 5.3 assists. He’s shooting 42.9 percent from the 3-point line.
Evans leads the Sun Devils with 14 steals and is their top free-throw shooter with an 87.2 percent mark. He’s averaging 36 minutes per game.
No. 23 — F Romello White | 6-8, 235, r-fr.
An academic redshirt last season, White is averaging 16.6 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 71.2 percent from the floor, taking nearly all of his shots right at the rim.
White, who has a 7-foot wingspan, has recorded three double-doubles this year. He’s taken the most free-throw attempts on the team (70) — shooting 60 percent. He was coached in AAU by Jerry Stackhouse.
ONE THING ARIZONA STATE DOES WELL
There’s a couple of reasons the Sun Devils are so dangerous offensively. They know how to earn trips to the free-throw line and they are one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country. Arizona State has made 41.6 percent of its attempts from behind the arc, which ranks 22nd in the nation.
ONE AREA ARIZONA STATE STRUGGLES
The Sun Devils allow a lot of 3-pointers and they haven’t been great at defending the arc throughout the season. Opposing teams are shooting 35.8 percent from 3-point range in 215 attempts (27 per game). Arizona State hasn’t played great defense in transition either.
MEET THE COACH
Bobby Hurley is in his third season with the Sun Devils, looking for his first winning season with the school. Previously, he coached two seasons at Buffalo, which included an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Hurley starred at Duke where he won two NCAA titles and remains the NCAA all-time assists leader (1,076). His brother, Dan, coaches at Rhode Island, and his dad, Bob Sr., was a legendary high school coach in New Jersey.
Kansas by 12. I think the Jayhawks’ offensive struggles were a little overblown last game against Washington. Not many teams will be able to replicate Washington’s zone and it took an off night for several of KU’s shooters. Defensively, I think there were more holes that showed than a week ago, which ASU should look to exploit.
My prediction: Kansas 87, Arizona State 78. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 4-3.
The price of 13 consecutive Big 12 titles and a lofty national ranking is that Kansas will almost always be circled on the calendar by opponents.
Look no further than Wednesday’s 74-65 loss against Washington in Kansas City, Mo., where the Huskies tried to make a statement with their play on both sides of the court. After the final horn sounded, the Huskies met in the middle of the court to celebrate. That celebration continued after the handshake line with David Crisp and Noah Dickerson screaming in joy into an ESPN camera. They could even be heard through the walls of their locker room.
After scoring 10 points, Crisp mentioned how locked in they were during practices leading into the game.
Similar to other blue bloods, there’s something much different, and memorable, about beating the Jayhawks.
When TCU topped Kansas last year in the first round of the Big 12 Tournament — Josh Jackson sat because of a suspension — it served as a turning point for the Horned Frogs. Their bid for the NCAA Tournament fell short, but they went on to win the NIT.
“It definitely put us on the map,” TCU guard Kenrich Williams said at Big 12 media day in October. “I remember just going back to school and everybody congratulating us about beating Kansas.”
The Horned Frogs, who are ranked No. 20 in the nation with a 10-0 record, have continued to use that game as motivation that they can beat anybody. As far as ranking his favorite wins, Williams said the win over KU was “kind of close, actually” to the NIT championship.
“It’s one of the top teams in nation, so you always try to bring your best because you know they are going to play great,” TCU forward Vlad Brodziansky said. “You have to bring your best game to compete against them.
“It was a great feeling to beat Kansas, especially here (at Sprint Center), where it’s basically like their home crowd. It’s a great feeling.”
Last February, Iowa State snapped KU’s 51-game winning streak at Allen Fieldhouse with an overtime victory.
ISU players remember that they were trailing for the majority of the game until they heated up from the 3-point line in the second half. Then there was the added satisfaction of winning on KU’s home court.
“It got silent and everybody was covering their face up and stuff like that,” Iowa State guard Donovan Jackson said. “It was just a cool moment. … The thing I remember is just everyone’s faces in the stands being shocked.”
Jackson said it was “definitely” his favorite regular season win. He saw it as a chance to prove himself, scoring 10 points off of the bench.
“It kind of boosted my confidence,” Jackson said. “I’m a pretty confident guy. It just gave me some reassurance that I do belong out there.”
Of course, teams celebrate wins against Kansas differently. Put West Virginia point guard Jevon Carter in the group that doesn’t celebrate wins against KU any differently than he would another team.
The Mountaineers split their season series vs. KU last year, earning a win in Morgantown and losing in overtime at Allen Fieldhouse.
“It’s just a regular game,” Carter said. “It’s not like we beat them in no championship. It’s just another win.”
Losses tend to expose all kinds of weaknesses and quickly send the focus of both the team and the fan base to what is not going right as opposed to what is.
“We're not a good execution team,” KU coach Bill Self said after the loss. “When we're playing well, we're a good playing team, but we haven't scored all year on plays. We had some plays that we tried to do, but our execution's so bad. We got the ball where it needed to go, for the most part. I just thought our defense was horrendous and our hustle plays weren't very good either.”
While those reality-check moments can often be a good thing in the eyes of the coaching staff, one national college basketball writer believes that Wednesday's loss to Washington was anything but good for Kansas.
Gary Parrish, of CBS Sports, on Friday released the latest version of his Top 25 (and one) rankings which he tracks throughout the season. And KU's newest spot was more than a little shocking.
After entering Wednesday as a 22-point favorite and ending the day on the wrong end of a nine-point loss to unranked and unheralded Washington, Parrish dropped the Jayhawks from No. 2 in his rankings all the way down to No. 24.
While that free fall is eye-opening enough, here's the best part: Five Big 12 teams — count 'em FIVE — are ranked ahead of KU, according to Parrish, with West Virginia (9), TCU (13), Baylor (17), Texas (19) and Texas Tech (21) all surfacing before the picture of the Jayhawk.
Here's what Parrish had to say in the rankings about dropping the Jayhawks 22 spots.
“The Jayhawks were 21.5-point favorites when they lost to Washington late Wednesday. Devonte' Graham missed seven of the eight shots he took.”
There's not a lot there that explains the massive drop, but it's clear that Parrish is punishing Kansas for laying an egg and may believe the Jayhawks are only as good as Graham.
Somewhat expectedly, Parrish fielded more than a few questions in the comment section and on Twitter about his treatment of the Jayhawks.
Only then did we gain a little more insight into why he dropped Bill Self's squad 22 spots.
“Lots of questions about Kansas at No. 24,” Parrish Tweeted. “Here’s the simple answer: No team I have ranked ahead of KU has a loss anywhere close to as bad as KU’s loss to Washington. And if I’m going punish other teams for crazy-bad losses, I felt like I had to do the same to the Jayhawks.”
Fair enough. And, really, none of it matters much now.
What will be interesting to see is what happens to Kansas in Parrish's poll if the Jayhawks respond to the bad loss with a good win over No. 16 Arizona State (No. 12, according to Parrish) on Sunday. Or, on the other side of the coin, if he drops Kansas out of the Top 25 (and one) altogether if the Jayhawks lose to the Sun Devils.
Interesting stuff to kick around. But, again, Parrish's point of view does not mean much for the Jayhawks in terms of the big picture of their quest to win a 14th straight Big 12 title and snag a high seed in this year's NCAA Tournament three months from now.
Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, ESPN.com's Joe Lundardi, Mr. Bracketology himself, penned a quick piece on Thursday called, “Behind the Bracket: Why Kansas is still a No. 1 seed.”
While calling KU's loss to Washington “surprising” and saying that it maybe should have knocked the Jayhawks down to a No. 2 seed, Lunardi explained his reason for keeping them as a No. 1 seed by saying simply, “all (the loss to UW) did was drop the Jayhawks from No. 2 overall to No. 4. The reason is that a bevy of teams sitting just behind KU also went down, some in equally ignominious fashion.”
“Notre Dame? No thanks, lost at home to Ball State in a game the Irish were given a 93 percent chance to win. Florida? Double disaster, lost a pair at home to Florida State (semi-understandable) and Loyola Chicago, averaging 62.5 points in the process. Texas A&M, Virginia and Cincinnati were among other highly ranked unbeatens to suffer their first defeats. So Kansas lives to see another day on the top line. This is significant in large part because the Jayhawks have pretty much made it their permanent home for a staggering seven of the past 11 years. What happens next? Kansas will likely be favored in all but one of its remaining regular-season games (Jan. 15, at West Virginia). Even with Wednesday's loss, the Jayhawks retain No. 1 seed odds of nearly 80 percent.
What happens next for Kansas in the more immediate future is an even tougher test at 1 p.m. Sunday against a red hot and unbeaten Arizona State team that has proven to be an offensive juggernaut so far.
That will put a lot of pressure on the KU defense to play better than it did on Wednesday night. But the Jayhawks, this time out, will have the advantage of playing at Allen Fieldhouse, where the home team often gets the help of a sixth defender that is 16,300 fans strong.
Fan support or not, Self is looking for his team to find another gear to help overcome some of its obvious flaws that may be fixed in time or may linger throughout the rest of the season.
“We're not extremely quick and we're not very big,” he began. “Those are facts. That was evident (Wednesday night). So if you don't play with that chip on your shoulder and play scrappier than your opponent, we're going to have more nights like (Wednesday).”
Thanks to Wednesday night's 74-65 loss to Washington at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Lagerald Vick now owns the distinction of being the only player on the 2017-18 KU basketball roster to set his career high in a losing effort.
It's a bit of a rare thing for a player at Kansas to post a career-high in a losing effort. But it has happened.
In fact, Frank Mason's 30-point game in a loss to Indiana in last year's season opener was a career-high at the time and Mason's final collegiate career high of 32 points came in a losing effort against Iowa State later in the season.
Andrew Wiggins, the future No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, also set his Kansas career high of 41 points in a losing effort at West Virginia during his lone season at KU.
So it's not as if Vick is in poor company here. But, generally speaking, the biggest games from KU's best players are delivered in victories.
Just take a look at the rest of the roster.
Nine of the 11 other Jayhawks on the 2017-18 roster — freshman Billy Preston and newcomer James Sosinski have yet to score a point in their KU basketball careers — set their career highs in wins. And all but two of those have come this season.
The two that didn't?
Malik Newman's career best of 25 points came in January of 2016, when Newman helped Mississippi State knock off arch rival Ole Miss. And Sam Cunliffe's career high of 23 points came in an Arizona State victory over The Citadel early last season before Cunliffe transferred to Kansas.
While this certainly does not mean anything, good or bad, for Vick or the team the rest of the way, it is at the least mildly interesting. What's more, it seems like a safe bet that if Vick goes on to top the 28-point total he posted on Wednesday night, it likely will come in a Kansas victory.
After all, the reason Vick got loose for his 28 points on Wednesday — a total that easily could have been more if a couple of close-range misses had fallen through — was because the Huskies made it there game plan to let him go and try to beat Kansas elsewhere.
The plan worked. This time. But it's awfully uncommon for a KU opponent to purposely try to allow one guy to score all of the points while still keeping their sights on winning the game.
Here's a quick look at the current career highs of every eligible player on the 2017-18 KU roster:
|KU player||Career High||Opponent||Season||Result|
|Devonte' Graham||35||vs. Toledo
|2017-18||96-58 KU win
76-60 KU win
|Lagerald Vick||28||vs. Washington||2017-18||74-65 KU loss|
|Svi Mykhailiuk||27||vs. South Dakota State||2017-18||98-64 KU win|
|Malik Newman||25||vs. Ole Miss (at MSU)||2015-16||83-77 MSU win|
|Sam Cunliffe||23||vs. The Citadel (at ASU)||2016-17||127-110 ASU win|
|Udoka Azubuike||21||vs. Oakland||2017-18||102-59 KU win|
|Marcus Garrett||13||vs. Texas Southern||2017-18||114-71 KU win|
|Mitch Lightfoot||11||vs. Oakland||2017-18||102-59 KU win|
|Chris Teahan||4||vs. Toledo||2017-18||96-58 KU win|
|Clay Young||3||vs. Tennessee State||2017-18||92-56 KU win|
|Billy Preston &
|N/A||Neither player has scored
a point for KU yet
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 74-65 loss to Washington on Tuesday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Outside of Lagerald Vick, who, himself, had a few ups and downs but also delivered a career-high 28 points, the KU offense struggled to deliver good possessions and had a tough time getting leading scorer Devonte' Graham good looks. The offense was bad for most of the night, but Vick's effort pulled it into the C range.
There were times when the KU defense looked good. But those were few and far between and scarce in the second half. Washington opened the second half by doing and getting whatever it wanted on the offensive end to build a sizable lead and the Huskies' second-chance points proved to be a big part of this one.
The zone again proved to bother Azubuike, but the big fella enjoyed moments of being the kind of factor he needs to be for this team. First-half foul trouble for both him and Mitch Lightfoot again hamstrung KU coach Bill Self.
Good thing for Lagerald Vick. Otherwise, this one could have really been ugly. Devonte' Graham had an off night shooting the ball but did not really do much to pull himself out of it. Malik Newman was non-existent again and Svi Mykhailiuk missed six of his eight 3-point attempts and made more than a couple careless passes.
On a night when KU coach Bill Self needed a spark from someone off the bench, he got next to nothing from Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot and once again was forced to use walk-on Clay Young in the first half.
Andrew Wiggins (41), Elijah Johnson (39) and Ben McLemore (36) all scored more points in a single game during their time as Jayhawks than current KU senior Devonte' Graham scored last week.
But, unlike Graham, who tallied a career-high 35 points in back to back wins over Toledo and Syracuse last week, none of them were able to follow up their outbursts with quite the same kind of performance the next game out.
Wiggins came the closest, scoring 30 points in an overtime win over Oklahoma State in the 2014 Big 12 tournament, five days after scoring 41 in a loss at West Virginia.
But Johnson followed up his big game with a much more modest 12-point night in a win over West Virginia. Johnson did add 10 assists and five rebounds to his line. And what's funny about Johnson's follow-up game was that it was the night that McLemore scored his 36.
McLemore then followed that up with a 13-point effort on Senior Night in 2013.
According to KU's media relations staff, Graham's back-to-back games of 35 points last week marked the first time since the 1969-70 season that a Jayhawk had scored 35 or more in back to back games.
That player was former KU center and 14-year NBA veteran Dave Robisch, who tallied 39 points against Iowa State and 38 against Colorado the next time out during a pair of conference games back in 1970.
Graham's two 35-point outings set a new career high for the senior from Raleigh, N.C., — eclipsing the old mark of 27 — and all seemed to come within the flow of KU's offense, without the point guard forcing the action or seeking his own shot to the detriment of the team.
“I've always coached 'em down to the point where we haven't had very many (players put up huge point totals),” Self said this week, when asked about Graham's big nights. “Wiggs got 41 at West Virginia because we were behind and a lot of them were catch-up points. But we haven't had very many of them get that number. ...Wilt (Chamberlain) probably did it a couple times.”
Self continued: “Elijah got like 39 or something against Iowa State, but that was an overtime game. So, as far as in the teeth of a game, Devonte' had 35 with eight minutes left against Toledo and he had 35 with about five minutes left against Syracuse. So, yeah, I don't know if we've had anybody ever score the ball that well when the game was still in balance, so to speak. Because a lot of times guys get points by being ahead late and they (shoot free throws) or being behind and then you have real short possessions. This was not a case of either one of those.”
Only a few days after facing Jim Boeheim and Syracuse’s zone defense, the Kansas basketball team will see plenty of similarities against Mike Hopkins, a longtime Syracuse assistant, and Washington’s new zone defense.
The Huskies (6-2) have won their last four games, all of them at home against mid-major competition. But they’ve struggled to an 0-2 record against Power Five opponents heading into Wednesday’s game against Kansas (8 p.m., ESPN2) at Sprint Center.
One of the differences with the Huskies’ defense is how well they steal the ball. Washington is on pace to set a new school record, averaging 9.1 steals per game, which leads the Pac-12. The Huskies have double-digit steal totals in four games this season.
“Very few times in life you have opportunities to play a team of the caliber of a Kansas,” Hopkins said. “They’re No. 2 in the country and that’s why you come to these big schools and have these opportunities. I think the guys will be excited.”
Fun fact: As previously noted by KUsports.com’s Tom Keegan, the Kansas-Washington game was scheduled as a favor to Michael Porter Jr., a one-time commit to UW, as a potential homecoming game.
Series history: Kansas leads 8-1. The Jayhawks have won the last four meetings with their most recent meeting in 2008. Cole Aldrich had 16 points, nine rebounds and six blocks in a 73-54 win. UW’s Isaiah Thomas had 17 points.
BREAKING DOWN WASHINGTON
No. 5 — G Jaylen Nowell | 6-4, 200, fr.
From Seattle, Nowell has emerged as one of Washington’s go-to scorers in his first collegiate season. He’s averaging 17.9 points on 52 percent shooting, adding 3.9 rebounds per game.
Nowell is very efficient with his mid-range jumper, knocking down 49.1 percent of those shots according to hoop-math.com. He’s an even better finisher at the rim, which makes him tough to stop once he starts driving downhill.
He scored 32 points in the team’s season opener, setting the UW freshman debut record. He won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2015 FIBA U16 championships.
- “Jaylen Nowell is a special player, and I’ve been around a lot of great players,” coach Mike Hopkins said. “He’s got the eyes of a scorer. You can’t really explain it, he just does it. He gets those killer eyes.”
No. 15 — F Noah Dickerson | 6-8, 245, jr.
Dickerson is averaging nearly a double-double in 24.6 minutes per game, posting 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds a night. He leads the Huskies with 29 offensive rebounds and is shooting 67 percent from the floor.
According to hoop-math.com, he takes nearly two-thirds of his shots at the rim, which helps him earn trips to the free-throw line. A 73 percent free-throw shooter, he ranks 13th in the nation with 67 attempts. He originally committed to Florida, but switched after Billy Donovan left for the NBA.
No. 4 — G Matisse Thybulle | 6-5, 195, jr.
Only two players in the country, including West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, average more than his 3.5 steals per game. In addition to being a pesky defender with a 7-foot wingspan, Thybulle leads the Huskies with 18 blocks.
Thybulle, who has started 73 straight games, is averaging 11.3 points and 2.9 assists on 39 percent shooting. He’s made 12 of 44 attempts from behind the 3-point line.
ONE THING WASHINGTON DOES WELL
Washington ranks 11th in the country in free throw attempts, averaging an impressive 29 free throws per game. As a team, the Huskies are shooting 72.2 percent from the charity stripe. Kansas doesn’t foul often, especially with its limited depth, so it will certainly be an area to watch for both teams.
ONE AREA WASHINGTON STRUGGLES
Through the first eight games of the season, the Huskies have done a poor job of defending the 3-point line, allowing opponents to shoot 38.3 percent from behind the arc. One of the pitfalls of a zone defense is that they will allow a lot of 3-point attempts. Washington ranks 295th in the country in 3-point defense.
MEET THE COACH
Mike Hopkins spent 22 seasons as an assistant at Syracuse and was the designated replacement for Jim Boeheim, if the longtime coach had opted to retire. A Southern California native, Hopkins started at guard for Syracuse in the early ‘90s.
Known for his intensity, Hopkins has implemented a 2-3 zone at Washington. "I know the benefits of it,” Hopkins said. “The biggest thing I want to do is control tempo. So if you're fast, I can slow you down; if you're slow, I can speed you up.”
Kansas by 21. The Jayhawks probably had no better preparation for Mike Hopkins’ schemes than facing Syracuse last weekend. Facing a similar zone defense, I think it only plays to KU’s advantage.
My prediction: Kansas 86, Washington 61. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 4-2.
Before Monday's practice, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said he wanted a couple more days to evaluate KU football tight end and potential KU basketball walk-on James Sosinski before giving him an outright spot on the team.
Evidently, Self saw enough on Monday to alter the timeline.
Monday night, on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show, Self revealed that Sosinski, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end with a junior college basketball background, had impressed enough to earn a uniform and a spot on the bench.
“We’ve decided that he’s going to suit up for us. So he’ll travel with us,” Self said on Monday night. “That doesn’t mean you should expect him to get in the game, stuff like that. Because he wouldn’t play ahead of other guys yet.”
Self said Monday that the former South Mountain Community College standout, who received Division I hoops offers after just averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds in just one semester with South Mountain, had impressed him thus far through his basketball IQ and physical strength.
Although he figures to remain a deep insurance policy and primarily is expected to help the Jayhawks in practice by providing a physical presence for 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike to battle with, Self was not ruling out a potentially bigger role.
“Who knows, if a month from now we’re playing somebody and they are hurting us and we need to steal a couple of minutes because they’ve got a big guy that's laying on us, maybe he can go out and neutralize that,” Self said of Sosinski. “Or maybe he can go out and foul the heck out of somebody really hard. I think he can be an asset.”
Beyond that, Self said Sosinski also would benefit the the Jayhawks just by traveling with the team.
“When we go to places and shoot on the day of the game, in order to get our seven guys who are playing the majority of the minutes out there, they're going to be guarded by (walk-ons) Clay (Young), (Chris) Teahan and three managers. ...Getting a big guy out there that can at least lay on 'Dok will be an asset for us.”
In many ways, Sosinski already is.
“I noticed (during Monday's practice), when he would screen somebody it was different than when some other guys screen you. He’ll hit you. He really has done pretty well.”
Although Sosinski had not yet been added to KU's official roster as of Tuesday morning, a basketball official said KU's newest big man would wear No. 55 for the Jayhawks.
“He is a good player,” Self said. “He’s a nice young man. I think he’ll be good for us.”