Entries from blogs tagged with “KU football”

Getting to know: Stanford basketball

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase calls out instructions from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana State at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase calls out instructions from the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana State at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

When Stanford coach Jerod Haase suited up for the Jayhawks from 1994-97, he owned a 42-0 record inside of Allen Fieldhouse.

It certainly will be a different feeling this time around in an underdog role.

Stanford, ranked 68th by KenPom, has a strong defense, especially in the interior with tall post players protecting the rim. But then there’s the inconsistency on offense outside of its top two scorers — Reid Travis and Dorian Pickens.

“For us to be successful we need multiple guys on the offensive end to be efficient,” Haase said. “It can't just Reid or Dorian. We need four or five guys a night that have a chance to get double figures. We're not to that point, yet."

Opening the season with a 6-2 record, Saturday’s matchup against the fourth-ranked Jayhawks will be Stanford’s first road game. The Cardinal own losses against Miami and No. 12 St. Mary’s.

Interesting note: Haase, who started 99 of the 101 games he played at Kansas, ranks 11th in KU history in career three-pointers (156) and steals (174). He scored 1,264 points, which ranks 33rd all time.

Series history: Kansas leads, 8-3. The Cardinal won the last meeting when it knocked the Jayhawks out of the NCAA Tournament in 2014 with a 60-57 victory.

Interesting note, Part II: After playing 12th-ranked St. Mary’s on Wednesday, this will be the first time Stanford has played back-to-back ranked opponents since the 2014 NCAA Tournament, when the Cardinal beat New Mexico and Kansas in the first two games.

STANFORD STARTERS

No. 1 — G Christian Sanders | 6-4, 192, sr.

Stanford forward Michael Humphrey (10), guard Marcus Allen (15) and guard Christian Sanders (1) celebrate a score from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana State at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

Stanford forward Michael Humphrey (10), guard Marcus Allen (15) and guard Christian Sanders (1) celebrate a score from the bench during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana State at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

  • Stanford’s top point guard, Sanders ranks seventh in the Pac-12 with 3.6 assists per game (29 through eight games).

  • Sanders is averaging 3.6 points on 42 percent shooting (10-of-24), relying on jump shots. According to hoop-math.com, he’s only attempted 17 percent of his shots at the rim and he’s missed all of them.

  • He was suspended at the end of last season for a violation of team rules.

  • His father, Brad, played at Kansas from 1975-79. He played in 91 games in his KU career, hitting 80 of 185 shots for 43.2 percent. Christian was born in Wichita.

  • QUOTE: “My dad played basketball at Kansas, so growing up it was a school for our family to cheer for,” Sanders said when he was in high school. “When we moved, it lost a little bit, but in our hearts, it’s always been a good school for us.”

No. 15 — G Marcus Allen | 6-3, 190, sr.

Indiana State guard Laquarious Paige (32) drives past Stanford guard Marcus Allen (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

Indiana State guard Laquarious Paige (32) drives past Stanford guard Marcus Allen (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

  • Known for his defense, Allen is only averaging 4.3 points in 23.4 minutes per game. He’s shooting 15 percent from behind the three-point line (2-of-13) and 30 percent from the floor (13-of-43). Those numbers are significantly down from last year, averaging 11.1 points on 41 percent shooting.

  • He’s started 56 games in his career, the most on the team. He missed a few games last year with a stress fracture in his right foot.

  • His twin brother, Malcolm, is a junior on the team and has played in two games this year. They were co-valedictorians out of high school. His mother, Trina, was a former gymnast at Stanford.

  • QUOTE: "I've met Jarron (Collins) and I've seen Brook and Robin around," said Allen, who is two inches taller than his brother. "It's pretty awesome, the legacy of twins here. It's just always a cool thing to say."

No. 11 — G Dorian Pickens | 6-5, 215, jr.

Stanford guard Dorian Pickens (11) makes a game-winning three-point shot in front of Indiana State guard Brenton Scott (4) and forward Niels Bunschoten (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

Stanford guard Dorian Pickens (11) makes a game-winning three-point shot in front of Indiana State guard Brenton Scott (4) and forward Niels Bunschoten (12) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

  • Ranks second on the team with 13.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. Pickens is Stanford’s top deep threat, shooting 43.8 percent from behind the three-point line (14-of-32). He averaged 18.3 points in the Advocare Invitational and was named to the all-tournament team.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Pickens takes mostly jump shots. He’s only taken 23 percent of his 75 shots at the rim. He’s also a great free-throw shooter, making 24 of his 28 attempts this year.

  • Wednesday’s loss against St. Mary’s was the first time Pickens didn’t score in double digits, snapping an eight-game streak.

  • A noted shoe enthusiast, Pickens says he owns more than 150 pairs of shoes. He was named Arizona’s 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year.

  • QUOTE: “Dorian is so smooth, so confident, so fluid,” Haase said.

No. 22 — F Reid Travis | 6-8, 245, jr.

Stanford forward Reid Travis (22) goes up for a shot between Indiana State forward Matt Van Scyoc (30), forward Brandon Murphy (34) and guard Jordan Barnes (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

Stanford forward Reid Travis (22) goes up for a shot between Indiana State forward Matt Van Scyoc (30), forward Brandon Murphy (34) and guard Jordan Barnes (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

  • Stanford’s best player, Travis leads the Cardinal with 16.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, shooting 54 percent from the floor and ranking second in the Pac-12 with 3.5 offensive rebounds per game. He’s recorded four double-doubles this season.

  • He missed the final 22 games last year with a stress reaction in his left leg. The Minneapolis native was a part of the “Big Three” recruiting class out of the state in 2014, which included former Duke standout Tyus Jones and former UNLV star Rashad Vaughn.

  • Travis plays with a lot of strength inside of the paint, posting up against bigger opponents. But what separates him is a strong motor on the glass and his comfort level with finishing at the rim. According to hoop-math.com, Travis has converted on a team-best 67 percent of his shots at the rim.

  • His biggest weakness: free throws. Travis is shooting a career-high 65 percent after shooting missing more than half his freebies during his freshman and sophomore years. He went 0-for-3 at the line against St. Mary’s on Wednesday.

  • QUOTE: “His work ethic to change his shot was extremely impressive,” Haase said. “And I’ve been around college basketball for a little while now, and not many players can change their shot once they get to college, and he did it in one summer.”

No. 10 — F Michael Humphrey | 6-9, 220, jr.

Stanford forward Michael Humphrey controls a rebound in front of Indiana State center T.J. Bell during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

Stanford forward Michael Humphrey controls a rebound in front of Indiana State center T.J. Bell during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game at the AdvoCare Invitational tournament in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Friday, Nov. 25, 2016. Stanford won 65-62.

  • Stanford’s starting center is averaging 7.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 19.9 minutes through eight games. He’s recorded five blocks and nine steals after ranking 10th in the Pac 12 last season with 38 blocks.

  • Humphrey is shooting 41 percent from the floor, but isn’t afraid to stretch out to three-point line, converting on 2 of his 9 attempts.

  • At 6-9, Humphrey played quarterback for his high school football team at Sunnyslope High in Phoenix.

  • QUOTE: "I think the general feel of going into practice has changed a lot," Humphrey said. "Everyone is really excited to go into practice. Practice is really up-tempo and quick. Everything serves a purpose. You really see the carryover from drills into scrimmages. And I think the overall feel of practice has changed. It's more intense and productive.

STANFORD BENCH

No. 30 — C Grant Verhoeven | 6-9, 250, sr.

  • Through eight games, Verhoeven is averaging a career-best 6.3 and 4.0 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 19-of-33 from the field and 2-of-5 from deep.

  • He’s played double-digit minutes in each of the last four games after playing single-digit minutes in three of the team’s first four games. He was limited to only eight games in the 2014-15 season because of a hip injury.

  • Prounciation: Ver-who-van. His father, Pete, played for four teams during a six-year NBA career, including the Kansas City Kings in 1984-85 (54 games off of the bench, 2.3 points per game).

  • QUOTE: "He's been fantastic and ... he's a warrior in so many ways and I think that sets the tone for the entire team," Haase said Wednesday. "I probably need to find a few more minutes for him in the first half. I thought in the second half he was one of the brights spots and there weren't a whole lot."

No. 2 — G Robert Cartwright | 6-2, 180, soph.

Saint Mary's Joe Rahon, left, drives the ball against Stanford's Robert Cartwright (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Stanford, Calif.

Saint Mary's Joe Rahon, left, drives the ball against Stanford's Robert Cartwright (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in Stanford, Calif.

  • He missed all of last season after suffering a gruesome compound fracture in his right forearm during practice, emphasis on the gruesome. With a sizable scar around his elbow, Cartwright said he had “an S-shaped arm” after falling to ground on a layup attempt.

  • Through eight games, Cartwright is averaging 5.5 points and 2.1 rebounds off of the bench. But he’s only shooting 30 percent from the floor (15-of-50) and 26 percent from deep (5-of-19).

  • A backup point guard, he has 24 assists — matching his total from his freshman season — compared to 12 turnovers. He’s added 12 steals.

  • QUOTE: “I think it’s a miracle to go from going through all those surgeries less than a year ago to running the show in practice,’’ Travis said. “It blows my mind.”

No. 14 — G Marcus Sheffield | 6-5, 180, soph.

  • Averaging 4.4 points and 1.1 rebounds in 18.4 points per game. He’s fourth on the team with 11 assists this year.

  • After scoring 17 points against Cal State Northridge in the second game of the season, he’s scored a combined 13 points in the next six games.

  • His father, Marcus, played basketball at Morgan State.

No. 20 — C Josh Sharma | 7-0, 220, soph.

  • He’s recorded 11 blocks in 96 minutes. He’s averaging 4.0 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

  • Not afraid to step behind the three-point line, Sharma is shooting 2-of-11 from deep this year.

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Postgame Report Card: KU 91, Long Beach State 61

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets in for a bucket past Long Beach State forward LaRond Williams (22) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets in for a bucket past Long Beach State forward LaRond Williams (22) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 91-61 victory over Long Beach State on Tuesday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: A

The Jayhawks hit 9 of their first 14 three-pointers and 14 of 26 for the night. Beyond that, KU was insanely good in transition and shared the ball so well. There were a couple of ill-advised shots and a few too many turnovers (19) but this was a solid A effort.

Defense: B+

KU limited LBSU to 40 percent shooting, forced 15 turnovers and used those turnovers to create transition offense. But the 49ers scored a few buckets right at the rim and shot 42 percent from three-point range.

Frontcourt: B

Udoka Azubuike played hard, played aggressive and played a lot. Carlton Bragg Jr. did not, picking up two fouls in the first 1:13 he was on the floor. Bragg came around in the second half and played much harder — not necessarily much smarter — and Dwight Coleby gave a few decent minutes, as well, on a night when Landen Lucas did not play.

Backcourt: A

Throwing star of the game Lagerald Vick into the backcourt mix certainly did nothing to hurt the Jayhawks in this one. Vick was great from minute one and Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham, who combined for 20 points, 12 assists and 8 rebounds in 28 & 29 minutes apiece, did everything they could to keep his flow going.

Bench: B-

Svi knocked down a few jumpers and Bragg played a strong second half. Other than that, the bench did not provide much to write home about.

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Getting to know: Long Beach State basketball

North Carolina's Kenny Williams, left, reaches for a loose ball with Long Beach State's Justin Bibbins during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. North Carolina won 93-67.

North Carolina's Kenny Williams, left, reaches for a loose ball with Long Beach State's Justin Bibbins during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. North Carolina won 93-67.

If the Kansas Jayhawks show the positives of a strong non-conference schedule each season, boosting their RPI and resume for the NCAA Tournament selection committee, Long Beach State proves there is a downside.

The 49ers are the preseason favorites to win the Big West Conference, but have sputtered to a 1-7 record against tough competition including road games at Wichita State, North Carolina, Louisville, UCLA and Washington.

LBSU is ranked 166th in the Kenpom rankings — the lowest mark for a KU opponent this year — but features the toughest schedule in the country.

“We should be better,” LBSU coach Dan Monson told the Grunion Gazette. “I’m disappointed I haven’t seen more growth.”

Despite losses against top competition, there’s still plenty of talent that helped LBSU become Big West preseason favorites. Junior forward Gabe Levin has registered three double-doubles in eight games, earning preseason all-Big West honors along with junior point guard Justin Bibbins.

Interesting note: The 49ers own an 18-87 record against ranked teams, losing their last 19 games against top-25 opponents. Their last win over a ranked opponent was in Dec. 2011 against No. 14 Xavier. Over the past six seasons, LBSU has ranked no lower than sixth in non-conference strength of schedule in the nation.

Series history: Kansas leads, 3-1. Jayhawks won the last meet, 88-80, in 2011.

LONG BEACH STATE STARTERS

No. 21 — G Justin Bibbins | 5-8, 150, jr.

  • A preseason all-Big West selection, Bibbins is off to a very slow start shooting the ball, making just 28 percent of his shots (24-of-86) and 23 percent of threes (7-of-31). Last year, he shot 44 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep.

  • Through eight games, he’s averaging 8.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 31 minutes per game. He has 31 assists compared to 27 turnovers along with a team-best 11 steals.

  • According to hoop-math.com, he’s taking a lot of mid-range jumpers (making up 42 percent of his shots) and missing them (25 percent shooting percentage on them).

  • QUOTE: “This is the first team I’ve been on here that has scorers like this,” Bibbins said. “I can get off the ball and trust people can get the ball in the basket. It makes me feel comfortable, relaxed and play my game.”

No. 11 — G Jordan Griffin | 6-3, 165, fr.

None by BallerVisions

  • Primarily a three-point shooter, Griffin is shooting a team-best 38.7 percent from behind the arc. He’s made at least one triple in the last seven games.

  • A recent addition to the starting lineup, Griffin is averaging 7.1 points and 1.6 rebounds in 19.5 minutes a night.

  • He knows how to play defense without fouling. He’s only committed one foul in 156 minutes, the fewest fouls per 40 minutes mark in the country. He’s recorded nine steals, which ranks second on the team.

  • QUOTE: “Our three freshman have done well and are very coachable,” Monson said. “They’re not the problem. Some of the older guys are more worried about the expectations they have for themselves instead of the expectations we have for our team.”

No. 3 — G Noah Blackwell | 6-2, 190, soph.

None by Daily 49er Sports

  • In eight games (three starts), Blackwell is averaging 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds. He has 10 assists compared to 11 turnovers with six steals on defense.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Blackwell has taken only seven percent of his shots at the rim. Instead, he opts to fire away from the three-point line or take mid-range jumpers.

  • He’s shooting 35.7 percent from deep, connecting on 10 of his 28 attempts. But he made four threes in games against UCLA and Washington and is otherwise shooting 2-of-17 in every other game.

  • QUOTE: “(Blackwell) will have a bigger role on offense and defense,” Bibbins said in the preseason. “He can be a spark for us.”

No. 00 — F Gabe Levin | 6-7, 215, jr.

North Carolina's Justin Jackson, left, defends against Long Beach State's Gabe Levin during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. North Carolina won 93-67.

North Carolina's Justin Jackson, left, defends against Long Beach State's Gabe Levin during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. North Carolina won 93-67.

  • A preseason All-Big West pick, Levin is Long Beach State’s leading scorer (13.0 points per game) and rebounder (7.6 rebounds). He’s shooting 47 percent from the field (40-of-85) and 33 percent from deep (7-of-21). On defense, he’s added eight steals and six blocks.

  • Recorded double-doubles against North Carolina, Louisville and Binghampton. According to hoop-math.com, he’s made 71 percent of his shots at the rim, which helps his efficiency.

  • At his third school in four years. He played his freshman season at Loyola Marymount, opted to transfer to Marquette, then transferred without playing a game for the Golden Eagles to Long Beach State. He averaged 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds at Loyola Marymount in 2013-14.

  • QUOTE: “He came in, he put the weight of the world on his shoulders when he first got here.” Monson said. “He didn’t give it time to figure out his role, he just came in thinking he had to do everything.”

No. 4 — F Temidayo Yussuf | 6-7, 250, soph.

Long Beach State's Temidayo Yussuf (4) attempts a shot over the defense of Louisville's Jaylen Johnson (10) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov 17, 2016, in Louisville, Ky.

Long Beach State's Temidayo Yussuf (4) attempts a shot over the defense of Louisville's Jaylen Johnson (10) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov 17, 2016, in Louisville, Ky.

  • Received a medical redshirt last season after suffering a season-ending foot injury in the first game of the year.

  • Back from his foot injury, he’s played limited minutes. In fact, his 34 minutes against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday was the first time he’s played more than 16 in a game this season. He’s averaging 6.1 points and 3.1 rebounds.

  • Pronounced: tem-uh-DIE-oh YOU-seff. He shoots well at the free-throw line for a big man, making 19 of his 25 attempts this season.

  • QUOTE: “It’s great to see him back,” Monson said. “Not only because he’s a great kid, but he’s also a great leader. He’s so solid for us.”

LONG BEACH STATE BENCH

No. 1 — G Evan Payne | 6-1, 190, jr.

  • He’s played the last three games off of the bench, and it looks like the move has paid off. He’s averaged 14 points on 46 percent shooting during that span. On the season, he’s averaging 11.5 points on 37 percent shooting from the floor.

  • Payne is the best free-throw shooter on the team, making 92 percent of his attempts (23-of-25).

  • The Akron, Ohio native played his first two seasons at Loyola Marymount before opting to transfer. He sat out all of last season after averaging 18 points per game as a sophomore.

  • QUOTE: “He’s a proven scorer at this level,” Monson said. “We’re really trying to make him more of a basketball player than just a scorer. But he’s got the hardest part down. ... I mean, he’s as good a scorer as I’ve coached.”

No. 2 — G Loren Jackson | 5-8, 145, fr.

Long Beach State's Loren Jackson goes for a layup around UCLA's Aaron Holiday during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. UCLA beat Long Beach State 114-77.

Long Beach State's Loren Jackson goes for a layup around UCLA's Aaron Holiday during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. UCLA beat Long Beach State 114-77.

  • The speedy freshman is averaging 5.3 points and 1.5 assists through eight games. He’s dished 12 assists compared to 17 turnovers.

  • He was a strong three-point shooter in high school but is off to a slow start, making just 2 of his 15 attempts from behind the arc.

  • According to hoop-math.com, he’s only making 37.5 percent of the shots that he’s taking at the rim. Instead, he’s much more effective shooting mid-range jumpers.

  • He led Victory Rock (Fla.) Prep to a Grind Session national title last season, scoring a game-high 32 points in the championship game with seven three-pointers. The championship game was played at Lawrence Free State in March.

No. 5 — F Mason Riggins | 6-8, 255, soph.

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks reaches for the ball past Long Beach State's Mason Riggins (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016.

North Carolina's Isaiah Hicks reaches for the ball past Long Beach State's Mason Riggins (5) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016.

  • After starting 23 games last year, Riggins has worked mostly off of the bench this year. He’s averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds, shooting 50 percent from the floor in limited action.

  • Mostly a slasher, Riggins takes two-thirds of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com.

No. 35 — F Javonntie Jackson | 6-6, 190, fr.

  • After playing at least 14 minutes in the first three games, Jackson’s minutes have dwindled. He’s played at least 10 minutes only once in his past five games. He’s averaging 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds.

  • From Compton HS, he led his school to a league title, its first since Toronto Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozen played there.

  • QUOTE: “This team is probably as good offensively as I’ve had for a while,” Monson said. “But it needs some guys to do the dirty work and it needs some guys to rebound and defend and do some other things. Javonntie’s one of those guys. He’s a junkyard dog.”

No. 23 — F Roschon Prince | 6-6, 235, jr.

  • Only played one minute against Florida Gulf Coast on Friday after playing double-digit minutes in the previous seven games.

  • Prince is averaging 4.1 points and 2.9 rebounds.

  • Played his freshman season at USC before opting to transfer to Long Beach State. He averaged 4.2 points and 2.7 rebounds with the Trojans in 2013-14.

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This Week in the Big 12 Conference…

Welcome to the first edition of our This Week in the Big 12 blog, a short and sweet conference notebook of sorts that keeps tabs and catches you up on what’s going on with the teams that KU will play 18 games against to close the 2016-17 regular season.

We’re not going to go into great depth here nor is this going to be overly analytical. That may change when Big 12 play gets rolling, but, for now, we’ll keep this merely to observations and interesting happenings from around the Big 12 Conference.

Although this seems like it’s going to be a down year for the Big 12, there are still plenty of intriguing teams and interesting talents that make the conference worth keeping up with. Besides, you never know when a team or player is going to explode out of nowhere and become a true challenger to KU’s streak of 12 straight Big 12 titles.

Speaking of becoming a challenger, let’s get to right to it...

• Don’t look now, but Kansas has company in the Top 10 of this week’s AP Poll. Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears, which have raced out to a 6-0 start, checked in at No. 9 this week and even received one first-place vote.

The reason? The Bears made it through a murderer’s row type of week, knocking off No. 24 Michigan State by 15 one day and then topping No. 10 Louisville, 66-63, one day later to claim the Battle for Atlantis title. That, after already owning a victory over then-No. 4 Oregon earlier in the season.

Baylor did not receive a single vote in either the AP or preseason coaches’ poll before the year began. But the Bears are getting plenty of love now.

Baylor plays No. 7 Xavier on Dec. 3, but if it can navigate that game, the Bears stand a great chance to take an unbeaten record into Big 12 play. Their strong start has been due mostly to the big time play of Jonathan Motley and a better-than-expected defense.

• Speaking of defense, Bob Huggins’ West Virginia squad lived up to its “Press Virginia” nickname on Monday name by forcing a school-record 40 turnovers in a win over Manhattan.

The Mountaineers, who have been playing this specific frantic style for the past three seasons now, turned opponents over 28 percent of the time in Year 1, 25 percent of the time last season and are sitting at a whopping 35 percent of the time this season. That’s hard to even comprehend.

So let’s say you’ve got a game where each team has 80 possessions. The Mountaineers are either taking the ball from you or forcing you to cough it up on 28 of those possessions. And that’s on average. Incredible stuff and a clear sign that the Mountaineers, currently sitting at 4-1 and ranked No. 25, will be a legitimate challenger in the Big 12 this season.

My favorite part about WVU’s 40-turnover night? That had to be Huggins’ response. “I thought we did a pretty good job,” he said.

• The only other Big 12 team currently ranked is No. 19 Iowa State, whose only blemish in a 5-1 start was a tough and dramatic loss to No. 11 Gonzaga in the final of the Advocare Invitational in Atlanta, 73-71.

Outside of that game, the Cyclones have not truly been tested and have been a bit of a mixed bag so far this season. They knocked out Miami, Florida, by 17 but also barely squeaked by Indiana State by two in the Advocare semis. Beyond that, ISU has had games where they’ve scored big — 130 and 113 are their season-highs — and games where they’ve been stuck in the 70s.

So clearly, Year 2 of the Steve Prohm takeover is still a work in progress, but give the ’Clones credit for using their veteran backcourt to get out to a great start.

• I didn’t think it was possible for a building to seem more lifeless and empty than the Sprint Center when UAB played George Washington last week before KU’s match-up with Georgia. But then I saw highlights from the K-State-Boston College game at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and realized I was wrong.

That place was empty, but that didn’t bother the Wildcats, who rolled to a 72-54 victory.

That’s something the Wildcats have done more than a little of so far this season. The Wildcats’ five victories so far this season have come by an average of 20 points and KSU might very well still be undefeated itself if not for allowing a layup to Maryland’s Melo Trimble with 6.6 seconds to play in the championship game of the Barclays Classic.

• It’s still early, but nobody in the Big 12 has gotten off to a disastrous start. The conference, as a whole, opened the day with a 49-9 record and featured two unbeatens (Baylor and TCU are both 6-0) and just one team with two losses — Shaka Smart’s Texas Longhorns.

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Neon Udoka Azubuike?

Kansas forward Udoka Azubuike dunks against Duke during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas forward Udoka Azubuike dunks against Duke during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

With the big fella slated to start his second consecutive game for the 5-1 Kansas men's basketball team, KU coach Bill Self has been fielding an increased number of questions about 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike during the past week or so.

But few questions have resulted in better answers than the one Self gave Monday when he was asked if Azubuike reminded him of anyone from the past.

“Shaq in the movie Blue Chips would be the only one," joked Self, with laughter filled the room around him. "You know, just dunk it. And if you go back and watch it, there’s a lot of similarities. But that would be the only thing that (Azubuike) reminds me of.”

That character from the 1994 movie starring Nick Nolte was named Neon Boudeaux. And like Azubuike, whenever Neon got anywhere near the rim, he rose up and tried to bring it down.

It was a bit hokey in terms of sports movie standards, but left nothing to the imagination about the impact of a player of Neon Boudeaux's caliber, which Shaq, of course, delivered on the NBA stage for the better part of nearly 20 NBA seasons.

Azubuike, of course, is just getting his career started. Still incredibly young (17) and raw, the Nigerian already has reached the point in his KU career where his improvement comes in bunches and shows up big time on the big stage. That's not to say he has moved past the point where he can make silly mistakes or forget an assignment here or there. But whether you're talking about conditioning, knowledge of the game or execution on the floor Azubuike is growing fast and Self continues to marvel at some of the things he can do.

“His skillset isn’t one that’s gonna leave you going crazy," Self said. "But what is unbelievable is how quick he is off his feet and how long he is and how big he is and how well he moves.”

Asked what Azubuike's ceiling could be during his time at Kansas, Self had no problem pencilling him in between two very concrete categories.

“He’s not Joel (Embiid)," said Self, almost offended that anyone might even consider thinking that. "Not close. But he does have a chance to be as good as any big man we’ve had here that I’ve coached other than Joel.”

Blue Chips, starring Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Nolte.

Blue Chips, starring Shaquille O'Neal and Nick Nolte. by Matt Tait

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 95, UNC Asheville 57

Kansas freshman Udoka Azubuike finishes a dunk during the first half against UNC Asheville on Friday, Nov. 25, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshman Udoka Azubuike finishes a dunk during the first half against UNC Asheville on Friday, Nov. 25, at Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 95-57 victory over UNC Asheville at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday, Nov. 25.

Offense: A

The Jayhawks were fast, efficient and relentless on offense, with four players finishing in double figures, including both first-time starters Lagerald Vick (15) and Udoka Azubuike (17). Frank Mason continued his torrid start by leading all scorers with 21 points.

Defense: A-

The Jayhawks limited Asheville to 36 percent shooting and destroyed the Bulldogs on the boards, 49-23. The minus comes for forcing just 8 turnovers.

Frontcourt: A

Coming off the bench, Bragg and Lucas did a better job of going after the ball on the glass, finishing with nine combined rebounds. Add that to the monster night turned in by Azubuike and the KU frontcourt finally gets a passing grade.

Backcourt: A

Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson did what they tend to do and Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk contributed, as well, for this deep and talented KU backcourt.

Bench: B-

Normally, big nights from Azubuike and Vick would mean good things for the KU bench, but with those two starting, that made the bench look a little different. Lucas, Bragg and Svi were good at times but also had their share of bonehead moments.

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 65, Georgia 54

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) slaps hands with Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) after getting a bucket and a foul during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) slaps hands with Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) after getting a bucket and a foul during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016 during the championship game of the CBE Classic at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 65-54 victory over Georgia in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic on Tuesday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Offense: A-

At this point, this team’s offense is coming from its four guards, so if you’re grading on that kind of a scale and not expecting much from the KU big men, you can’t give the offense anything other than an A. We'll throw in the minus for the poor contributions from KU's frontcourt and Svi's off night shooting the ball.

Defense: B

Foul trouble forced KU to try a 2-3 zone for much of the night and Georgia’s cold shooting allowed the Jayhawks to stay in it. It’s not the defense of choice for anyone in crimson and blue, but the fact that they don’t like it and don’t practice or play it often is reason enough to give it a solid grade considering how well it worked.

Frontcourt: D

To give the KU frontcourt an F would be a discredit to junior Dwight Coleby, who got the most out of his body and his minutes and, according to Self, “bailed out” KU’s bigs. So give Coleby a solid B or B+ and give the rest of the bunch an F. That equals a D on the final grade sheet.

Backcourt: A

Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson were more than just all-tournament team selections. They were awesome. They play so fast, so hard and so well together.

Bench: C+

Lagerald Vick played with great effort, gave some good minutes and finished with solid numbers (9 points and 8 rebounds) and Coleby came in and played well beyond what anyone would’ve expected from him. Svi (1-of-7 from the floor in 23 minutes) and Udoka Azubuike (next to nothing in five minutes), left more than a little to be desired.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Georgia


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Mason finally surrenders spot as KU’s top scorer

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks for an outlet under the bucket as he is defended by UAB guard Dirk Williams (11) during the first half of the CBE Classic on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) looks for an outlet under the bucket as he is defended by UAB guard Dirk Williams (11) during the first half of the CBE Classic on Monday, Nov. 21, 2016 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Well, that was a first.

After setting the college basketball world on fire during the first couple of weeks of the season with big time performance after big time performance, Kansas senior Frank Mason III finally surrendered his spot as the Jayhawks’ top scorer, giving way to freshman Josh Jackson, who led everyone with 22 points in KU’s 83-63 win over UAB at Sprint Center in the CBE Classic.

Surpassing Mason wasn’t easy, though.

The 6-foot-8 freshman needed every one of his monster dunks and timely free throws to outscor his senior teammate, who finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three-point range.

Mason, who entered Monday’s game averaging 23 points per night, led Kansas with 30 points vs. Indiana, 21 points vs. Duke and 18 points in the home opener against Siena.

While his 20-point night against UAB certainly keeps him in line with those strong performances, it also prompted one media member to ask KU coach Bill Self about Mason’s role as more of an “unsung hero” on this Kansas team.

Self saw it differently.

“It’s really, really nice,” said Self said of having someone as steady as Mason running his team. “But I don’t think he’s an unsung hero. He was National Player of the Week, so I don't see him being unsung at all. I know he’s not in our mind. I know everybody in our room understands and appreciates his value.”

If there’s one area in which Self would like to limit Mason, it’s playing time. Although he loves having his tough-as-nails point guard on the floor as much as possible, Self also recognizes the importance of keeping him fresh and not wearing him down.

There’s more to it than that, though.

“I do think we need to limit his minutes,” Self admitted. “To let other guys play better, we’ve got to limit his and Devonte (Graham’s) minutes.”

Despite the Jayhawks winning by 20 points on Monday, Mason played 35 minutes against UAB and, as he always seems to do, took a couple of hard shots and hit the floor more than his share of times.

Late in the game, Mason tumbled to the ground and stayed down for a few minutes, grabbing his lower right leg before getting up and heading to the bench. Self said after the game that Mason was fine and did not need any kind of special treatment.

Although Mason has yet to play fewer than 35 minutes in a game this season, that clearly has not hurt his production.

As much as Self would like to rest Mason more, and as much as Mason might benefit from it, don’t expect it to happen all that often. The senior from Petersburg, Virginia, has been a workhorse for this team for three seasons and it’s hard to imagine him surrendering that role now during his final season of college basketball.

Mason and the Jayhawks will take on Georgia (3-1) at 9 p.m. tonight in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic championship game at Sprint Center.

• — For a preview of what to expect in tonight's match-up, join our Gameday Chat with Matt Tait to talk KU-Georgia. Submit questions early or join the live chat at 2 p.m. central time. — •

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Getting to know: UAB basketball

UAB guard Hakeem Baxter (0) and UTEP forward Jake Flaggert (11) race to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

UAB guard Hakeem Baxter (0) and UTEP forward Jake Flaggert (11) race to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

Playing four games in an eight-day stretch, the Kansas Jayhawks will open bracket play in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic against UAB at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Sprint Center.

Similar to Siena on Friday, UAB doesn’t have the name-brand to match Duke or Indiana, but was picked to win Conference USA in the preseason coaches poll.

But the Blazers will be without junior point guard Nick Norton, a second-team all-conference selection last year after averaging 8.9 points and 5.1 assists, because of a torn ACL in his right knee.

Without Norton, the Blazers will be relying on guards Deion Lavender, Hakeem Baxter and Denzell Watts to bring the ball up the court, but none of them can match Norton’s strong passing and experience.

Norton’s injury was definitely a major setback, but the Blazers have enough talent to make sure it doesn’t derail their season. They have a couple of impressive shot blockers to protect the rim, plus they are one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country (80 percent).

Under first-year coach Robert Ehsan, who replaced former Kansas guard Jerod Haase, UAB opened the season with victories against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Troy, sandwiched around a 10-point home loss to Furman.

The Blazers, 100th in the KenPom rankings, have started fast in each game this season — shooting an average of 53 percent in the first half of their first three games.

Interesting note: UAB is 11-2 in its last 13 games decided by five points or less, including eight straight wins.

Series history: Kansas leads, 2-1. The Jayhawks won the last meeting in the Sweet Sixteen of the 2004 NCAA Tournament, 100-74.

UAB STARTERS

No. 0 — G Hakeem Baxter | 6-2, 186, sr.

UAB guard Hakeem Baxter goes to the basket against UTEP during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

UAB guard Hakeem Baxter goes to the basket against UTEP during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

  • A transfer from Maryland Eastern Shore, Baxter is averaging 11 points and 3.7 rebounds through three games. But he hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, 7-of-21 from the floor (33 percent) and 3-of-11 from deep (27 percent).

  • Despite not shooting the ball well, Baxter is known as UAB’s top defender on the perimeter.

  • An aggressive slasher, he’s had trouble finishing shots inside of the paint. According to hoop-math.com, Baxter is only shooting 37.5 percent on shots at the rim.

  • QUOTE: "You gotta be tough in Philly, especially in the neighborhood I come from, said Baxter, who hails from North Philadelphia. "But not even that, just playing basketball period. If you're not tough then none of the teams are going to want you, the AAU teams or the high school teams. They just want tough players."

No. 5 — G Deion Lavender | 6-4, 192, soph.

None by UAB Men's Basketball

  • A transfer from Southern Illinois, Lavender averaged 6.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per contest in 13 games during the 2014-15 season.

  • After sitting out all of the last season because of the NCAA transfer rule, Lavender is averaging 4.7 points and 5.3 rebounds through three games. Taking over point guard duties after Norton’s injury, Lavender has dished a team-high 16 assists in 85 minutes with only seven turnovers.

  • Lavender hasn’t shot the ball well, going 3-of-10 from the field and 1-of-4 from behind three-point line.

  • QUOTE: "He's a very good playmaker off the dribble and can really pass,” UAB coach Robert Ehsan said. “I don't know exactly what role he can take on, but I think he can have an important role not just this year, but for his the future."

No. 11 — G Dirk Williams | 6-5, 178, sr.

None by UAB Men's Basketball

  • A high-flying leaper, Williams earned Conference USA Sixth Man of the Year honors after averaging 9.5 points off of the bench.

  • Through three games, Williams ranks second on the Blazers with 13 points per game. He’s averaged 3.3 rebounds and he’s perfect from the free throw line: 13-for-13. He’s only missed five of his 62 attempts in his career at UAB.

  • He’s scored in double figures in 18 games during his UAB career, helping his team to a 16-2 record in those games.

  • Williams originally committed to Virginia Tech but switched following a coaching change to UAB.

  • QUOTE: "There was not much adjusting from coming off the bench," Williams said. "I worked hard over the summer and got better. This is a role that I will have to get used to."

No. 3 — F Chris Cokley | 6-8, 229, jr.

UAB forward Chris Cokley, left, comes up with a rebound in front of UTEP center Hooper Vint during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

UAB forward Chris Cokley, left, comes up with a rebound in front of UTEP center Hooper Vint during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

  • UAB’s leading scorer, Cokley is averaging 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in only 19.7 minutes. He’s shooting 16-of-26 (.615) for the field, making 67 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com.

  • Cokley was picked for the preseason C-USA All-Conference team. He averaged 13.1 points and a team-high 6.5 rebounds per game last season on 57 percent shooting. He was a second-team C-USA pick in the 2015-16 season.

  • The Savannah, Ga., native is dominant on straight line drives from the elbow. At times he can be pretty efficient when he posts up, scoring on 48 percent of his post-up possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

  • Cokley played his freshman season at 215 pounds and he earned C-USA Sixth Man of the Year honors.

  • QUOTE: “Big challenge but rankings don’t really matter,” Cokley said about the upcoming KU matchup. “It’s all about who plays the hardest, who makes all of the plays. So we’ll be looking forward to that.”

No. 34 — F William “Haha” Lee | 6-9, 209, jr.

  • Last year’s Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year, Lee ranked eighth in the country with 2.9 blocked shots per game. His 95 blocks were second on the school’s all-time single-season list.

  • Through three games, Lee is averaging 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. He’s shooting 10-of-23 from the floor, including 3-of-8 from deep. His 4.3 blocks a night rank fifth in the nation.

  • He’s recorded four or more blocks in 14 career games. In UAB’s win against Troy, Lee had seven blocked shot with only two fouls. He leads the nation in blocks per foul at 6.5.

  • In a 60-59 win over Iowa State in the first round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Lee posted 14 points and 12 rebounds.

  • QUOTE: “I'd like him to … get more physical, create more easy baskets for himself inside, get stronger, develop more as a leader and get more consistent,” Ehsan said. “We've seen him play at a high level and I want to get that out of him all the time."

UAB BENCH

No. 21 — F Tosin Mehinti | 6-9, 244, sr.

UAB forward Tosin Mehinti (21) is defended by UTEP center Hooper Vint (23), and guard Lee Moore (4) during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

UAB forward Tosin Mehinti (21) is defended by UTEP center Hooper Vint (23), and guard Lee Moore (4) during an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Birmingham, Ala. UAB won 87-80.

  • In UAB’s first three games, Mehinti is averaging 4.7 points and 4.3 rebounds off of the bench.

  • Mehiniti ranks fourth all-time on UAB’s career blocked shots list with 135 rejections. His teammate, Lee, is second with 159.

  • He battle a hamstring injury at the beginning of fall camp.

  • QUOTE: "I think Tosin has a chance to be and is probably the most physical and best defender we have," Ehsan said. "I'm going to challenge him to get back to blocking more shots, being that physical enforcer we know he can be.”

No. 22 — G Tyler Madison | 6-4, 222, sr.

  • After leading UAB with 16 points in its season opener, Madison is the leading scorer off of the bench with 10 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He’s shooting 9-of-13 from field (.692).

  • His older brother by 15 years, Kei, was a 6-10 post player recruited to Indiana by Bobby Knight, but he didn’t qualify academically to play his freshman season, eventually ending up with the Harlem Globetrotters. Another brother, Bobby, played at Western Michigan.

  • In high school, at Shelby County (Ala.), he was the program’s all-time leading scorer (2,378 points) and rebounder (1,222 boards).

No. 10 — G Javien Williams | 6-4, 175, fr.

  • Williams is averaging 16.7 minutes per contest through three games, averaging 5 points and 1.3 rebounds off of the bench.

  • He finished fourth in the 2016 Alabama Mr. Basketball voting last year after averaging 21.4 points in his senior season.

No. 1 — G Denzell Watts | 6-2, 235, sr.

  • Watts was initially expected to redshirt this season because of UAB’s depth at guard. But Norton’s season-ending injury has forced him onto the court for the past two games.

  • Helping at point guard, the Flint, Mich., native has one assist and one turnover in 26 minutes. He’s scored 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting.

No. 2 — G Nick Norton | 5-10, 168, jr.

  • UAB’s starting point guard is out for the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in the team’s season opener. He suffered the same injury during his junior year of high school.

  • The Bloomington, Ill., native averaged 8.9 points and 5.1 assists last year, earning an All-Conference USA third-team selection. He was 18th in the nation with a 3.0 assist/turnover ratio.

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KU men’s basketball players send support toward fellow Jayhawks

Because the Kansas men’s basketball program is a perennial title contender, claims the Big 12 crown like it’s a birth right every season and wins games at an alarmingly high rate, it has become easy for many backers of Kansas athletics to focus most, if not all, of their attention on the hoops program that brings more smiles than frowns.

Doing so takes time and, intentionally or otherwise, has allowed a good chunk of the fan base to overlook the goings on of other KU teams, even in sports as big as football, baseball and volleyball.

That’s kind of just the way it goes around here. And, because the football team has struggled so mightily during the past seven seasons, dismissing fall football and pining for basketball season to be a year-round passion hardly even gets a second thought from those who are doing it.

I’ve often wondered what it would take — outside of winning, of course — for the fan base to be more all-inclusive and, on Saturday, I may have found my answer.

Saturday was a monster day for Kansas athletics and more than a few people noticed. The Jayhawks knocked off Texas at Memorial Stadium in thrilling fashion, picking up the football program’s first win over UT since 1938.

A few hours earlier, KU’s volleyball team clinched the Big 12 title, adding yet another chapter to the awesome run by Ray Bechard’s squad during the past few seasons. And KU also enjoyed high-level success in cross country and swimming.

In short, there were no shortage of reasons to be proud to be a Jayhawk on Saturday and some of the most high-profile Jayhawks on the planet were happy to point that out.

One of them even included a cool hashtag that I hadn't seen before: #ISupportAllJayhawks

If these guys can show up and get behind the other programs at Kansas, you can’t help but wonder what kind of impact that could have on the rest of the Kansas fan base.

Can’t hurt, right?

None by Frank Mason

None by Frank Mason

None by Landen A. Lucas

None by Landen A. Lucas

None by Tyler Self

None by Mitch Lightfoot

None by Dwight Coleby

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 86, Siena 65

Siena guard Kadeem Smithen (14) falls backward as Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is whistled for a charge during the first half, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Siena guard Kadeem Smithen (14) falls backward as Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is whistled for a charge during the first half, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 86-65 victory over Siena in the home opener Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B-

The Jayhawks were so good in transition and really responded to Siena’s threats with some big buckets when they needed them, but again struggled from three-point range (3-of-12) and the free throw line (17-of-26). KU did shoot 57 percent from the floor overall.

Defense: B-

If you just watched how many times Bill Self rubbed his temples in frustration after watching his team miss an assignment, you might’ve given them an F. But if you looked at Siena’s 37 percent shooting from the floor you’d probably go higher. KU recorded 10 blocks, five coming from Landen Lucas.

Frontcourt: C-

Carlton Bragg had a great night, but his two running mates (Landen Lucas and Udoka Azubuike) struggled, scoring just 7 points and grabbing 8 rebounds combined.

Backcourt: A-

There were times when the KU guards were outplayed by Siena guard Marquis Wright. But they always seemed to answer when they needed to, they got a big time game from Lagerald Vick and there were just so many of them.

Bench: B-

Vick carried the grade for the bench, as Azubuike played just seven minutes and Svi gave Self at least seven headaches.

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Bill Self reacts to Billy Preston signing

It's rare that a coach can comment on a player as soon as he commits, but in the case of five-star forward Billy Preston, who announced Friday on ESPNU that he would play his college basketball at Kansas, that was exactly the way it went down.

The reason? Even though Preston revealed his decision on Friday, he actually had made up his mind much sooner.

Preston told Matt Scott, of TheShiver.com, that he knew Kansas was the place for him a week or 10 days ago. That allowed him to sign his official letter of intent in the early signing period, which ended Wednesday, even though he waited for the national television audience to announce his choice.

All of that allowed KU coach Bill Self to offer his thoughts about the No. 8 player in the 2017 Class according to Rivals.com. And it's clear that Self thinks the Jayhawks landed a good one.

"Obviously, we are very excited," Self said in a press release. "I don't think we've ever had the opportunity to coach a taller, more athletic, skill player than Billy. He has guard-type athletic ability and skills but, at 6-foot-10, he can be a force inside as well. We are thrilled to have Billy joining our basketball program."

Preston said his connection with Self and KU assistant Kurtis Townsend played a huge role in him picking the Jayhawks and Self said Townsend worked hard to land the Jayhawks' second commitment in the 2017 class.

"Coach Townsend was the point man and did a great job with Billy and his family," Self said. "I think what actually sold them was on his official visit he saw the interest level and the love our fans have for our players."

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Breaking down KU’s defense against Grayson Allen

Heading into Tuesday’s game against Duke, one of the biggest questions for the Kansas Jayhawks was figuring out how they would slow down junior guard Grayson Allen.

One of the most prolific scorers in the nation, Allen was held in check — 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting in 38 minutes.

It was only the fourth time in Allen’s last 39 games that he was held below 15 points. He shot 26.7 percent from the field (1-of-7 from deep), which was his lowest field goal percentage since a Dec. 19, 2015 loss to Utah in overtime (3-of-18, 16.7 percent).

The Jayhawks, of course, threw a number of defenders at Allen. They started with Frank Mason III, who gave up a few inches but knows how to hound ballhandlers. But when Mason picked up his second foul within the first four minutes, it was a credit to all of the other guards for not allowing Allen to ever find his rhythm.

A look at KU’s defense while guarding Allen:

Frank Mason - 11 minutes, 0-5 shooting.

Mason picked up two fouls in the first four minutes, including a dead-ball foul on a baseline out of bounds play where he tried to go around a screen from Chase Jeter.

Allen missed two shots in the first half, including a drive to his right where Carlton Bragg challenged him at the rim on a wild layup shot. Bragg also helped in transition, forcing Allen to pass to a three-point shooter. Allen also tried a catch-and-shoot three that hit the front of the rim.

In the second half, Bragg and Lucas helped out well on a couple of pick-and-rolls, plus Mason did well denying passes to Allen. He missed three shots, including one open look where he lost Mason and ran to the corner for an open three-point attempt.

Lagerald Vick - 16 minutes, 3-4 shooting

Vick ran through screens and did a fantastic job of staying in front of Allen in the first half. He made Allen work for his opportunities, getting only one open look after running through a screen and then juking Vick on a pump fake.

On pick-and-rolls, Lucas helped Vick by forcing passes with strong rim protection. Allen’s only points were on a drive to his right, going with a reverse layup after he got a step on Lucas by not using his screen from Amile Jefferson.

Vick guarded Allen for the final six minutes — except for the final possession — and gave up five points after getting caught on a back screen, then Allen drove past him for a layup with a minute left.

Devonte' Graham - 6.5 minutes, 1-4 shooting

Graham allowed one drive following a shot fake that forced Landen Lucas to come out and help, giving Chase Jeter an easy dunk. Then he slipped while closing out on another play, giving Allen an open layup.

Allen didn’t challenge Graham much. There was one baseline out of bounds play where he drove left but was met by Bragg in the middle of the lane and missed on a layup. At the end of the first half, Allen lost Graham on a handoff at the top of the arc, drove to his left but was challenged and blocked at the rim by Mitch Lightfoot, suffering an apparent calf injury on the play.

Svi Mykhailiuk - 2.5 minutes, 0-1 shooting.

It was kind of lost because Frank Jackson hit a game-tying three with 15 seconds left, but Mykhailiuk covered Allen on Duke’s final possession after players had to matchup with whoever was next to them. Allen tried to drive on Mykhailiuk with a crossover, but lost the ball on the drive and was forced to pass back out to the perimeter.

Josh Jackson - 1.5 minutes, 0-0 shooting

When Jackson was at his best offensively in the second half, he guarded Allen and did a nice job staying in front of the preseason ACC Player of the Year.

*Note: There was one possession in the second half where nobody picked up Allen in transition. Allen had an open look but missed an open three from the wing.

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Azubuike’s development right on track; no need to rush it

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) pulls a rebound from Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. At left is Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2).

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) pulls a rebound from Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. At left is Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2). by Nick Krug

With senior big man Landen Lucas struggling so far this season, to the tune of 13 points, 8 rebounds and 9 fouls in just 49 minutes in KU’s first two games, the natural tendency of the KU fan base is to look to the bench to see who might be able to do better.

Add to that the fact that freshman center Udoka Azubuike was one of the top performers and a key part of KU’s Champions Classic win over No. 1 Duke on Tuesday night and the looks from the fans start to become less exploratory and more insistent.

Two games in to this 2016-17 season —and Azubuike’s college career — I already have heard all kinds of people ask if Azubuike should be starting in Lucas’ spot.

I don’t blame them for the inquiry. Azubuike has a ton of potential and his style of play is exciting. Beyond that, fans are gonna fan. But that’s why they’re fans and not head coaches making millions of dollars per year to run the program.

The man in charge of doing that, KU’s Bill Self, is not anywhere near ready to sit Lucas in favor of Azubuike and it’s because there’s so much more that goes into playing that spot — or any spot — for the Jayhawks than Azubuike even knows at this point.

Factors such as conditioning, IQ, experience and others all play into how much — and how quickly — Azubuike can have handle a bigger role on this team. Lucas is a pro in all of those areas and, as we saw last season, has a way of making things better for the other four players on the floor even if his numbers aren’t jumping off the page while he’s out there.

So the right move for fans wanting to see more of Azubuike is to pull for him to develop but not at the expense of Lucas’ minutes. Lucas will be fine. And Azubuike will get better. Perhaps quickly. But the whole thing is a process and one Self is just fine with thus far.

“No, probably not ahead,” said Self when asked if Azubuike’s early production had surprised him. “I don’t think he’s behind. He’s about what we thought. I think he’s improving so much so quickly and I think we thought that would happen so I’d say he’s right on schedule of what we thought he’d be.”

One thing that could change that is if he takes his performance against Duke — 6 points, 12 rebounds in 15 minutes — and uses that to springboard his development. I asked Self the other day if he thought playing that well against a team of that caliber could end up delivering 4 or 5 games worth of confidence and experience for the freshman big man and Self supported that thought.

“I think so,” he said. “I think he learned a lot. Conditioning’s important and he got tired. He’s worked his tail off conditioning, but he’s got another step he can take there. Offensively, all our bigs are too slow to catch, gather and go. They’re allowing small guys to basically become a defender on ’em. He’s gotta get better at that. As far as going after balls, he may have knocked some guys over to get ’em, but he went after some balls the other day that were pretty impressive.”

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Class of 2017 PF Billy Preston to announce today

It's another big day for KU on the recruiting trail and, depending on how you look at things, the Jayhawks seem to be due for one of these to go their way.

Oak Hill forward Billy Preston, the No. 8 ranked player in the 2017 class according to Rivals.com said on Twitter earlier today that he was going to make his decision/announcement between 3-4 p.m. central time and it will be televised on ESPNU.

Sources have said that KU feels pretty good about their chances with Preston, who was one of several visitors at Late Night in early October.

Should Preston — 6-9, 220 pounds — pick the Jayhawks, they would be getting a versatile forward with power and the potential to deliver guard type skills from the position, as well.

Preston is down to KU, Syracuse, USC and Indiana and recently broke down all four schools with HoopPhenomReport.com:

On Kansas: “Coach Self and Coach Townsend are both great coaches. I couldn’t say anything bad about them because they have been recruiting since my 8th grade year. All through adversity, they still stayed with me through the process and the coaches want me to come there and play my game.”

On Syracuse: “Coach Jim Boeheim is a legend. He’s one of the greatest coaches to ever do it and you really can’t turn that down. Coach Autry has also been great to me since he’s my main recruiter up there and he tells me that there has been many guys like me that have been successful there and that I could be next.”

On Indiana: “Coach Crean is a great coach. He coached Dwyane Wade at Marquette. He really focuses on player development and I think as a player you don’t have any limits when it comes to developing and I think overall he could be a great coach for me.”

On USC: “It’s home. I’ve known Coach Enfield and Coach Hart since my 8th grade year and they have stayed loyal to me all throughout this process. Just like Kansas, I couldn’t say anything bad about them… I love those guys.”

Stay tuned to KUsports.com later today for coverage and reaction from Preston's decision.

None by Billy Preston♕

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Getting to know: Siena basketball

Duke's Grayson Allen defends Siena's Marquis Wright during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

Duke's Grayson Allen defends Siena's Marquis Wright during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Friday, Nov. 13, 2015.

After playing two of the most historic programs in college basketball, Indiana and Duke, the Kansas Jayhawks finally return to Allen Fieldhouse for their home opener against Siena at 7 p.m. Friday.

Siena doesn’t have the same history or talent level as KU’s first two opponents, but it won’t be a cupcake on the schedule, either.

The Saints (1-1) were picked second in the MAAC preseason poll behind Monmouth. They beat Cornell in their home opener before losing to George Washington by two points Tuesday.

Ranked 79th in the latest KenPom rankings, Siena features a dynamic offense with a few players capable of scoring in double figures in each game. Turnovers were a big problem for the Saints last season, but they’ve made big strides and committed only 14 turnovers through two games.

One of the biggest benefits for Siena — like many of the top mid-major schools — is that it returned most of its top players. The Saints bring back their top five scorers and rebounders from last year.

“It’s not the team that I was hoping we would come home to after a long trip,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We’ll have to be ready obviously, and hopefully the crowd will be juiced for it.”

Interesting note: With a victory, Self will become the winningest coach in Allen Fieldhouse history, surpassing Ted Owens’ 206 wins. Self owns a 206-9 record at Allen Fieldhouse, including a 40-game win streak.

Interesting note, part II: Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, then with Loyola (MD), was the only coach to hold Steph Curry to zero points in a game at Davidson. Patsos opted to double-team Curry at all times, essentially making 4-on-3. "Anybody else ever hold him scoreless?" Patsos asked in his postgame press conference. "I'm a history major. They're going to remember that we held him scoreless or we lost by 30?"

Series history: Kansas leads, 1-0. Jayhawks won the only meeting on Jan. 6, 2009, 91-84.

SIENA STARTERS

No. 1 — G Marquis Wright | 6-1, 161, sr.

Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig (24) and Siena's Marquis Wright (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 92-65.

Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig (24) and Siena's Marquis Wright (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 92-65.

  • Siena’s leading scorer, Wright is averaging 26 points on 47 percent shooting (17-of-36). He’s 7-of-12 from deep (58 percent) and has dished nine assists without a turnover.

  • The Waldorf, Md., native earned preseason third-team All-MAAC honors and he wasn’t thrilled that he was passed over on the first two teams. “See what I mean about the disrespect,” Wright posted on Twitter, “it’s all good ima [sic] earn mine.”

  • Wright became the 42nd player in school history to surpass 1,000 career points, passing the milestone in the team’s season opener. He was named the MAAC’s Player of the Week after scoring 31 points in the win over Cornell.

  • He missed 15 games last season with a foot injury including most of conference play. Before the injury, he led the Saints in points (17.3), assists (4.6), steals (2.1) and three-point percentage (.548).

  • QUOTE: "I actually thought it was a real honor for Marquis because the coaches kind of vote on what you did against (them) and they didn't really see him (last season)," coach Jimmy Patsos said of Wright’s preseason third-team selection. "He played in two league games, really, and he was limping at the end. So I thought it was a credit to him to be picked."

No. 13 — G Khalil Richard | 6-0, 188, fr.

None by Jon Rothstein

  • Richard didn’t play during his senior year of high school because of a broken foot. He said he practiced at the end of the year but never recovered in time to step on the court in a game.

  • In two starts, he’s only scored two points in 39 minutes, shooting 1-of-9 from the field. But the point guard has made up for it with strong passing (five assists) and good ball control (one turnover).

  • Received an All-Baltimore Catholic League honorable mention after averaging 12.9 points as a junior in high school.

  • QUOTE: “I’m definitely surprised about the situation,” Richard said of competing for a starting role. “I wasn’t expecting that. I’ve just got to keep working hard and turn it up a few notches.”

No. 15 — G Nico Clareth | 6-5, 186, soph.

Siena's Nico Clareth (15) grabs an offensive rebound away from Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Madison, Wis.

Siena's Nico Clareth (15) grabs an offensive rebound away from Wisconsin's Nigel Hayes (10) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Madison, Wis.

  • He was named the MAAC’s Sixth Man of the Year last season after breaking Siena’s freshman scoring record with 13.1 points per game. He was also chosen for the MAAC All-Rookie team.

  • A fiery, emotional leader, Clareth is averaging 14 points and three assists in the first two games this year. He’s shooting 10-for-32 from the floor (.313), including 5-of-18 from downtown (.278).

  • Erupted for 21 points in 24 minutes off of the bench against Wisconsin last season.

  • He underwent knee surgery on June 1 after playing through patellar tendinitis.

  • QUOTE: "There were times when I wouldn't go to the bucket because of my knee or I wouldn't dunk the ball because of my knee," Clareth said. "This surgery is supposed to fix or just greatly decrease the symptoms I had, so I think this should change the game completely. Now I'm playing basketball. This is a new year for me. This is the beginning of my basketball career, I think."

No. 31 — F Brett Bisping | 6-8, 234, r-sr.

  • From the great city of Peoria, Ill., Bisping earned preseason first-team All-MAAC honors after ranking 19th in the country with 10.4 rebounds per game. He added 15.9 points per game, registering 13 double-doubles.

  • One of the best post players in school history, Bisping is 31st in all-time scoring (1,138 points) and 11th in rebounding (715). He does most of his damage by simply out-hustling opponents.

  • Through two games, Bisping is averaging 14 points and 10.5 rebounds with three blocks, four steals and four turnovers. He’s shooting 71.4 percent from the field (10-of-14) and 80 percent from behind the three-point line (4-of-5).

  • His sister, Brooke, was a starter for the Bradley University women’s basketball team. His father, Todd, won a Class 2A Kansas state title with Linn in 1985.

  • QUOTE: "My Dad always told me, 'Rebounding is how bad you want it, the position you have, and then athleticism,’” Bisping said. "I think I want the ball more than other people. Sometimes I steal rebounds from my teammates just by accident because I want the ball."

No. 0 — F Javion Ogunyemi | 6-10, 243, sr.

Siena's Javion Ogunyemi (0) shoots against Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Madison, Wis

Siena's Javion Ogunyemi (0) shoots against Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Madison, Wis

  • After earning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, Ogunyemi opens as a preseason first-team all-conference selection.

  • He led the MAAC with 71 blocks (2.09 per game) last season — third-most in single-season school history. He added 113 offensive rebounds.

  • Ogunyemi is averaging 16 points and six rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game. He’s added five blocks, five assists and three turnovers.

  • Pronunciation: JAY-vee-on Oh-gun-YEM-ee. He grew two inches in the offseason, according to the Siena roster. He went from being listed at 6-foot-8 during the past three years to 6-10.

  • After his sophomore season, he briefly transferred to Boston University. After he was home sick, according to the Albany Times Union, he returned to Siena without playing a game at Boston.

  • QUOTE: "He's shooting the ball more," Patsos said. "I think he's trying to be more like (Golden State's) Draymond Green. They watched the NBA finals. He's still rebounding and still doing good. He'd better play inside."

SIENA BENCH

No. 21 — G Ahsante Shivers | 6-4, 209, fr.

  • In 27 minutes this season, Shivers has scored nine points with two steals, five rebounds and one assist.

  • Pronunciation: Ah-SAHN-tay SHIV-ers. His older brother, Keith, plays for Coppin State.

  • QUOTE: "He's a junkyard dog," Patsos said. "The MAAC's not a pretty league. It's a tough, grind-it-out league. I think that's what Sante kind of gives us. He's a tougher guard, doesn't really have a position. I've seen a lot of guys like him be successful in this league."

No. 32 — F Evan Fisher | 6-8, 246, soph.

  • A stretch big man with an ability to shoot threes, Fisher has struggled to shoot the ball this season, going 1-for-6 from deep (.167) in two games.

  • Fisher has scored six points in 37 minutes with five fouls.

  • The left-hander averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game last year off of the bench.

  • QUOTE: "We want him to do the dirty work," Patsos said. "We want him to rebound and set good screens like (former Detroit Pistons center) Bill Laimbeer and shoot open 3s."

No. 14 — G Kadeem Smithen | 6-3, 167, r-soph.

  • A transfer from Richmond, Smithen sat out all of last season. In his lone season there, in 2014-15, he averaged 3.6 minutes per game. He had 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

  • In two games with Siena, he’s scored seven points with seven rebounds, two blocks and six fouls in 40 minutes.

No. 24 — F Lavon Long | 6-7, 222, sr.

  • Expected to be a starter, Long was suspended for the first three games for an athletic department rule violation, which includes Friday’s matchup against KU.

  • Long scored in double figures 17 times last season, averaging 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game.

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KU-Duke draws ESPN’s largest ever college basketball streaming audience

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs his players during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs his players during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

While many local Kansas basketball fans were rejoicing over the Champions Classic being televised on ESPN and not one of the handful of early-season games that KU fans have a difficult time getting through their cable systems, a good chunk of the rest of the world was watching the game online.

I'm sure several KU fans went this route, too, but regardless of the demographic make-up, KU's 77-75 victory over No. 1 Duke on Tuesday night set a record for ESPN's online streaming services.

The streaming audience of 83,000 average viewers per minute made KU-Duke ESPN’s most streamed men’s college basketball game of all-time, topping last year’s Kentucky-Duke Champions Classic game, which drew 78,000 steaming viewers per minute.

According to ESPN, the total live audience for the game, which includes television viewers and the streaming audience, topped 2.4 million, up 28 percent from last year's KU-Michigan State game, which drew a combined audience of 1.9 million.

For comparison, the first game of Tuesday's Champions Classic doubleheader, No. 2 Kentucky’s 68-49 win over No. 13 Michigan State, picked up a total live audience of 2.15 million viewers, including a streaming audience of 67,000 average viewers, making that game one of the top five largest men’s college basketball regular season streaming games on ESPN.

The two Champions Classic games combined had a streaming average minute audience of 76,000 viewers, up 21 percent from the 2015 event.

The Champions Classic is owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN, and recently signed a three-year extension to play the event through 2019.

With the way people are watching their sporting events changing by the day, with more people abandoning cable and going with online streaming services, the numbers figure to continue to rise into the future, as consuming games in this manner, be it at home on the couch or on the go on a tablet or cell phone, certainly seems to be a sign of the times and a legitimate part of the college sports experience.

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The Day After: Down goes Duke

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) celebrates a bucket and a foul late in the game with teammate Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) celebrates a bucket and a foul late in the game with teammate Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

New York — There’s so much that goes into the Champions Classic year after year, but that’s especially true when the game is played in New York City at Madison Square Garden.

The hype goes up a level or two, the stage is a little bigger and brighter and the outcome, good or bad, seems to carry the weight of more than a single victory.

That was just one of the benefits KU received from Tuesday’s, grind-it-out, 77-75 victory over Duke that came when Frank Mason III drilled a pull-up jumper with 1.8 seconds to play to give the Jayhawks’ the victory.

The fact that Kansas beat Duke clearly meant a lot to the team and the fan base, as it would any day of the week, any time of year. But the fact that the Blue Devils were ranked No.1 in the nation when this one came only added to the excitement surrounding it.

No one in Jayhawkland is walking around today believing that this win was as good as bringing home a national championship. But you can’t blame them if it helped validate all of those dreams they’ve had all offseason about this being the team that could bring another title back to Lawrence.

Quick takeaway

Say what you will about Duke being short-handed — although, to the Blue Devils’ credit they said nothing about it — but this Kansas victory was big time and for more than just evening the record at 1-1 and helping the Jayhawks avoid an 0-2 start for the first time in more than 40 years. KU gained confidence, proved itself as a legit national title contender with a couple of big time players and also got enough from some of its young-and-still-developing players to put a serious boost into the hope and expectations for what guys like Udoka Azubuike, Lagerald Vick and others can be, perhaps sooner rather than later. In short, coming off of a tough Indiana loss in a game the Jayhawks probably should have won, this was the perfect answer for this team at this time.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Frank Mason’s a boss. All offseason, people wondered who would lead this team in scoring. And the options were many. Some said freshman Josh Jackson, others picked Devonte’ Graham and a few others even said Carlton Bragg. I was in the Graham camp. Shame on me. And shame on the rest of us. Mason is this team’s heartbeat, and, better than anyone on the roster, he has the ability to rise up to meet any challenge and deliver. The fact that he can do it in multiple ways — with the drive, with the jumper, on defense, etc. — only makes him seem like more of a bad man. It’s still early and Mason might not end up leading this team in scoring, but I wouldn’t bet against it at this point.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is hoisted up by teammate Josh Jackson as he is congratulated by center Udoka Azubuike and forward Dwight Coleby after Mason hit the game-winning shot to beat Duke 77-75 during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) is hoisted up by teammate Josh Jackson as he is congratulated by center Udoka Azubuike and forward Dwight Coleby after Mason hit the game-winning shot to beat Duke 77-75 during the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

2 – Let’s give Bill Self a little credit for handling the substitutions brilliantly. It can’t be easy to put guys in and pull guys out in search of some kind of rhythm and survival when fouls are being called at a record pace. But just about every button Self pushed worked out perfectly. He benched guys with two fouls, reinserted them even with they had four fouls and found enough of a way to create enough continuity and good energy on the floor to help Kansas pull this one off. The players themselves, of course, get some of the credit for this, but overlooking Self’s role in it and just how difficult it can be when the whistles are blowing like they were, should not be done.

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs his players during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs his players during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

3 – Carlton Bragg’s coming. He’s still got a long way to go, looks slow and lost too often on defense and still could stand to be tougher, but his last two games — against big time competition — have been far better than his first two against exhibition foes. That’s good news for the Jayhawks. Not only did Bragg put together a decent night against Duke on the offensive end (9 points on 3-of-5 shooting, 3-of-4 from the free throw line) but he also made a couple of his biggest plays in absolute crunch time. One was a baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down and the Jayhawks fighting to hold Duke off. And the other was a big boy rebound on the defensive end, where he went up with authority and ripped it out of the air. He finished with five boards and needs to play more like that and worry less about his offense, but it sure looks like it’s coming.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – KU has to get better guarding the ball. Duke’s guards are terrific — as were Indiana’s — and there were a few times where the Jayhawks locked down on the perimeter. But there were still far too many times when the Blue Devils blew right past their men and got the rim for easy buckets. Self said the Jayhawks need to be better playing with their heads and their feet on the defensive end and the next few weeks should offer an opportunity to get there and feel better about it. But, if nothing else, this early season test has shown the Jayhawks that they absolutely need to become better one-on-one defenders if they want to contend at the highest level with the top teams.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) chases after Duke guard Luke Kennard (5) during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) chases after Duke guard Luke Kennard (5) during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

2 – Landen Lucas is laboring. Maybe it’s the injured foot, maybe it’s the new rules emphasis, maybe it’s the new team and figuring out how the pieces fit. But Kansas needs him. I posted a blog earlier today that said there’s no reason to panic about Lucas’ start, but if there’s one area that is a concern here it’s that it looks like it’s bothering him. I don’t remember seeing Lucas look at the officials after no-calls or tough contact plays as much as last year and, to me, that’s a sign of a guy who’s battling through something — in this case a sore foot — and looking to get a little help to get through it. It’ll come. And Lucas will figure it out. But this team cannot reach its ceiling without him.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shows his frustration after a foul by the Jayhawks during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shows his frustration after a foul by the Jayhawks during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

3 – Self talked about it after the Indiana game and it’s still a little bit of an issue. The Jayhawks pick some weird times to take some awful shots and have a little bit of poor shot selection plaguing them right now. Luckily for Kansas, the big time scorers on this team have it figured out and rarely jack up bad shots. But the other guys taking those bad shots takes an opportunity away from the front-line guys to take good ones, which only compounds the problem. Again, it’s early, but that’s among the biggest areas of this team’s offense that needs to be cleaned up.

Next up

Kansas’ wild road trip from Lawrence to Hawaii, on to New York and back to Lawrence is over and the Jayhawks will host Siena at 7 p.m. Friday in their home opener. The opponent and the venue both will be welcomed for this team that has to be a little exhausted, physically and emotionally.


By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

— See what people were saying about KU's matchup against Duke during KUsports.com’s live coverage.


More news and notes from the win against Duke


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Landen Lucas’ slow start no reason to panic

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for a rebound with Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for a rebound with Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

For the fifth season in a row, it looks as if Kansas big man Landen Lucas is going to have to spend some time figuring out exactly what his strengths are, what he does well and where he fits into this Kansas team.

And it’s not his fault.

Because Lucas, the 6-foot-10 forward from Portland who finished the 2015-16 season as one of the most consistently solid players on one of the country’s best teams, played so well down the stretch a year ago, the belief among many Kansas fans was that he was bound to pick up where he left off and build on that strong junior season.

And if Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Brannen Greene and Cheick Diallo all were back as a part of Bill Self’s rotation, Lucas may have done just that.

But this is a different team, one with different strengths and weaknesses, and it looks as if it’s going to take Lucas — and just about everyone else for that matter — a little bit of time to find out exactly how he fits and what his role is with this bunch.

Searching for those answers against the likes of Indiana and Duke to kick off the season only magnified the process that lies ahead. Had KU opened with a couple of patsies, Lucas likely would have performed much better and looked a lot more like the player he was as a junior. But the fact that he hasn’t is not necessarily a bad thing for him or the Jayhawks.

Lucas is arguably the smartest guy on this roster and he, perhaps more than anyone, goes to work throughout each day by studying himself as much as he studies opponents. Getting the opportunity to face two Top 10 teams out of the gate will expedite his opportunity to learn what he’s all about with this year’s squad and there’s no doubt in my mind that the lessons he learned in the two high-profile games to start the season will serve him well along the way and late in the season, when he thinks back on what went right and what went wrong in order to prepare for similar opponents on other big stages.

It’s not as if Lucas has a notebook he keeps on the bench and he jots down little nuggets and tidbits into it along the way. But it would not surprise me for a second if he had one in his dorm room.

Let’s also not forget that Lucas has been dealing with a sore foot that may very well be worse than any of us realize. It’s hard enough to battle against these types of teams and players at full strength but being asked to do that when you’re dealing with an ailing foot — kind of an important body part for a basketball player — certainly can impact your effectiveness and confidence.

I haven’t noticed too much wincing or pain in Lucas’ body language in the first two games and neither he nor Self are the types to blame the foot for Lucas’ slow start. But you have to consider that it has played a role, perhaps a big role.

Regardless of what’s been ailing him and the slower than expected start that Lucas has gotten off to, you can’t convince me for a second that this is the type of season the KU big man is going to have. He’s too smart, works too hard and cares too much to limp to the finish line.

Having to prove himself in the face of a little adversity has been a staple in Lucas’ KU career and it looks as if, with one season of college basketball still left to play, he’ll have to do it one more time. Count on him getting it done.


By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

— See what people were saying about KU's matchup against Duke during KUsports.com’s live coverage.


More news and notes from the win against Duke


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Postgame Report Card: No. 7 Kansas 77, No. 1 Duke 75

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets in for a bucket past Duke guard Luke Kennard (5) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets in for a bucket past Duke guard Luke Kennard (5) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016 at Madison Square Garden in New York. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 77-75 victory over No. 1 Duke in the Champions Classic on Tuesday night in New York City.

Offense: B+

Kansas shot 51 percent for the game, including 61 percent in the second half, and nearly hung 50 on the Blue Devils in the second half. This would have been an easy A — and possibly an easy win — if Kansas had hit better than 2-of-17 from three-point range and 9-of-19 from the free throw line.

Defense: B-

The Jayhawks were good when they had to be and great at times, but still let the Blue Devils drive the ball to the rim and into the paint way too easily and also missed some opportunities to close out to three-point shooters. Beyond that, they committed several silly fouls. But they cleaned up the rebounding and forced 16 Duke turnovers.

Frontcourt: C

Udoka Azubuike was a beast and gave this team 15 big minutes. Landen Lucas struggled with foul trouble yet again and only grabbed one rebound and Carlton Bragg, though clutch with a couple of buckets late, still looked passive too often and lost at times.

Backcourt: A

The three best players in the game for Kansas were the Jayhawks’ starting backcourt and one of them hit the game winner. Enough said.

Bench: A-

As noted above, Azubuike was big off the bench for the Jayhawks on a night when they needed him, but so, too, were Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The two bench guards combined for 11 points and seven rebounds in nearly 30 minutes a piece and were ultra aggressive attacking the rim as both scorers and rebounders.

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