Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for the 2017-18 Jayhawks

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) slap hands during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Whether it wraps up on a win or a loss, the end of any Kansas basketball season brings with it immediate questions about the future.

Who’s coming back? Who’s going pro? What does next year’s rotation look like? How many days until Late Night?

It’s an age old ritual for Kansas basketball fans and always brings with it some excitement and sadness.

This year, most of the sadness will come from the departure of seniors Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas, two fan favorites who worked as hard as anybody and brought incredible consistency to the program during the past three seasons.

In the era of one-and-done players dominating headlines, four- and five-year guys like Mason and Lucas are not only a rare commodity but also real treats.

Following them out the door likely will be freshman phenom Josh Jackson, a projected top-three pick in this summer’s NBA Draft, who had a magnificent season for the Jayhawks and has everything one needs to become a terrific pro.

Beyond that, however, there are a few question marks, a few exciting prospects and even a couple of unknowns about what KU basketball will look like entering the 2017-18 season.

The following will break down two such scenarios, a best-case and worst-case look for next season.

Best-case scenario:

This one’s easy. Devonte’ Graham elects to return for his senior season, Svi Mykhailiuk joins him and the Jayhawks return a few key veterans and add some healthy bodies and exciting new faces to the lineup in preparation for a run at consecutive Big 12 title No. 14 and a return trip to the elusive Final Four.

In this scenario, one possible starting lineup would be:

G – Devonte’ Graham
G – Malik Newman
G – Lagerald Vick
F – Billy Preston
C – Udoka Azubuike

That fivesome is a preseason Top 10 team, maybe even Top 5, and would give KU a nice mix of veterans and newcomers, athleticism and size and a clear leader in Graham.

The bench then would be deeper than ever — especially when comparing it to this season’s paper thin rotation — and would feature all kinds of different options and combinations to throw on the floor.

G – Svi Mykhailiuk
G – Marcus Garrett
G – Sam Cunliffe (second semester)
F – Carlton Bragg Jr.
F – Dwight Coleby
F – Mitch Lightfoot

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) pushes the ball up the court to Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) pushes the ball up the court to Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) during the first half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

I like Vick over Svi in the starting lineup because of his versatility and higher ceiling. Svi had a great junior season but Vick has the potential to explode during his third season at KU and offers all of the things Svi does in a much more athletic and explosive package.

Bragg is a bit of a mystery, as he was for most of the 2016-17 season, but, if he dedicates himself this summer and matures a little bit, a case could be made for him to become the player next season that many expected him to be this season. If he does that, he easily could slide into the starting spot occupied by Preston in this scenario. If not, he’s still a potential luxury off the bench. A couple of big ifs but a nice problem to have as long as he’s still around.

The other thing that must be considered in this scenario is Self’s potential to add another player or two. There are still a few point guards out there and you have to think KU will add one either in the Class of 2017 or possibly via the graduate transfer route.

In related news, I’ve seen and heard that five-star prospect Trevon Duval is leaning toward Duke and may announce this week, so KU fans might not want to hold their breath on him much longer.

Beyond that, adding a big man via transfer is definitely something that would make sense. Bragg, Coleby and Lightfoot were serviceable at times this season and all could improve a lot in the offseason, but it’s never a bad thing to have several options.

Either way, the group above is deep, talented, experienced, athletic and good enough to compete at the standard expected at Kansas. Adding another player or two to what’s listed above only would enhance that.

Worst-case scenario:

Although the mock drafts have him listed as a second-rounder, it’s definitely possible that Graham could leave early and decide to get his professional career under way. If he does, there’s a good chance that Svi, who’s still just 19, would follow him out the door, leaving KU without much experience and depth in the backcourt.

If that’s how things play out, the starting lineup next year would be hard to project because, as things stand today, KU does not have another obvious option at point guard. As mentioned above, it seems likely that they’ll add one, but if it’s a freshman, you’d be looking at a freshman running Bill Self’s team, either a yet-to-be-known player or Garrett.

Newman could play point but might be better off the ball as more of a pure scorer and Vick isn’t really an option.

There also are questions out there about whether Preston will actually be eligible. I’m assuming that will all work out, but since this is worst-case scenario, let’s say, at least initially, that it doesn’t.

With that in mind, here are a couple of potential lineups for next season, the first based on what we know today and the second based on future developments.

G – Malik Newman
G – Marcus Garrett
G – Lagerald Vick
F – Carlton Bragg Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike


G – PG to be determined
G – Malik Newman
G – Lagerald Vick
F – Carlton Bragg Jr.
C – Udoka Azubuike

Kansas guard Malik Newman elevates to the bucket past LaGerald Vick during Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Malik Newman elevates to the bucket past LaGerald Vick during Late Night in the Phog on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

In both scenarios, the bench would more or less be the same as above — with Bragg as a starter instead of Preston — and you’re probably still looking at the Big 12 favorite and a Top 20 team.

What this whole exercise has taught me is that there are two Jayhawks I feel very solid about penciling into the starting lineup next year and a third that’s right behind them.

Whether Graham returns or not, Newman has a chance to lead the Jayhawks in scoring and could be the type of guard we haven’t seen all that often around here during recent seasons. He’s a scoring machine who can get to the rim, score off the bounce and also shoot from the outside and he learned a lot during his transfer season and will be determined to prove himself worthy of playing at a program like Kansas.

After Newman, Azubuike, the 7-footer whose absence in January, February and March was felt big time by this year’s team, will be next to impossible to keep out of the starting lineup, as well. He’s a load to handle, has good feet and hands and will provide KU with much more of a shot-blocking presence than anything they had this season.

Those two are a nice one-two punch to build around no matter who else is on the roster.

Based on the jump he made from his freshman to sophomore season, Vick also seems like a strong candidate to start no matter what. But with the potential for Svi to return still a factor, I’m not as sold on solidifying Vick as a starter, even though he seems like a better option for next season.

No matter how this all plays out, next season is going to feel a little different for longer than normal. With Mason and Lucas being such fixtures in the program for so many seasons, getting used to seeing Kansas basketball without them will take some time.

The team’s trip to Italy this summer will help the Jayhawks build a bond and find their new chemistry, and that also wil give fans a head-start on familiarizing themselves with the new faces.

For now, there’s still a bunch up in the air, and even though the season is over, there’s still plenty of Kansas basketball news worth tracking and covering during the coming days, weeks and months.

In short, the beat goes on.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about facing Oregon during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks about facing Oregon during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

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KU seniors say goodbye

Kansas seniors Frank Mason III, left, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self come together for a photograph during the senior introductions on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.

Kansas seniors Frank Mason III, left, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self come together for a photograph during the senior introductions on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. by Nick Krug

One of the things that made Saturday's Elite Eight loss to Oregon in Kansas City, Mo., so tough for so many Jayhawks to swallow was the fact that none of them wanted seniors Landen Lucas, Frank Mason III and Tyler Self to end on anything other than a victory.

Although Self did not play much — even though he did get into the first three games of KU's run this season — the coach's son emerged this season as a true member of the team, who helped the young players understand the culture and requirements of playing for Kansas while also putting in the kind of work that's impressive to see for a player not rewarded with playing time.

Lucas and Mason leave Kansas as two of the most appreciated players in recent memory, partly because of their status as seniors in an era that has been dominated by early departures and transfers and partly because of the paths they took to prominence. Somewhat overlooked during their early days at KU, the two kept their heads down, put in the work and became such strong players who embodied everything that head coach Bill Self wants Kansas basketball to be known for.

While the rest of the team tries to move on, the reality of Saturday being their last game in a Kansas uniform hit everybody in the program hard, and all three found time, amid their grieving, to hit social media with heart-felt goodbyes and thank you's to the Kansas basketball family.

Here's a quick look at their messages.

None by Frank Mason

None by Tyler Self

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Postgame Report Card: Oregon 74, KU 60

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) is swarmed in the paint by Oregon players including Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, front, and Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) is swarmed in the paint by Oregon players including Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, front, and Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s season-ending, 74-60, Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center on Saturday night.

Offense: D

By far KU’s worst grade of the season in this category on a night when the Jayhawks flat-out could not hit anything. KU finished 21-of-60 for the game, including 5-of-25 from 3-point range. The Jayhawks were tight, flat, struggled to get to the rim (Oregon big man Jordan Bell had eight blocks) and never really got going in transition, finishing with just 11 fastbreak points.

Defense: B-

KU’s defense actually wasn’t that bad. Especially in the second half, when the Jayhawks limited Oregon to 40 percent shooting (30.8 from 3-point range) and got enough stops to get back into the game. But the area that had played second fiddle for most of the season, got no help from the Jayhawks’ high-powered offense on a night when Kansas was held to a season-low 60 points.

Frontcourt: C-

Landen Lucas and Dwight Coleby — the only two KU big men who played — combined for nine points, four rebounds, one assist, one block, one turnover and two fouls in 37 minutes. And yet KU routinely threw them the ball in their half-court sets. Perhaps just another sign of how frustrated the Jayhawks were by their shots not falling elsewhere.

Backcourt: B-

Mason had an absolutely stellar first half — but was neutralized in the second — and Josh Jackson had a strong second half after doing next to nothing in the first. Add to that the fact that Devonte’ Graham failed to make a shot and Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick were decent in supporting roles and the whole big, ugly mess lands somewhere in the low B range.

Bench: C-

Vick did a solid job of filling in for Josh Jackson initially, but finished 2-of-8 overall and 1-of-5 from 3-point range for seven points and three rebounds. Coleby, who had been so good in some big situations in earlier rounds, was almost unplayable and logged just four minutes.

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Oregon’s Dana Altman harbors bad memories, big respect for KU basketball

Oregon head coach Dana Altman smiles as he talks with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Oregon head coach Dana Altman smiles as he talks with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — Oregon coach Dana Altman, who spent three seasons at Kansas State as an assistant under Lon Kruger and, a few years later, returned to Manhattan to lead the Wildcats’ program for four seasons, has had enough experience with Kansas basketball to last a few lifetimes.

And not all of it was bad. In fact, in his seven seasons with the Wildcats, Altman was a part of six K-State victories over Kansas and had an overall record of 6-13, 2-8 as a head coach.

Altman on Friday recalled the 1988 season, when Mitch Richmond and the Wildcats won two out of three match-ups with the Jayhawks in the regular season and Big Eight tournament, before falling to Kansas in the Elite Eight.

With his third-seeded Ducks slated to take on top-seeded Kansas in that same round at 7:49 p.m. tonight at Sprint Center, Altman will be looking to exact a little revenge.

“If you spend seven years at Kansas State, you don't like the Jayhawks, all right,” Altman admitted. “Chickenhawks, all right? You can't spend seven years 90 miles away and the one chance we had to go to the Final Four in '88 they beat us after we had beat them in the conference tournament. We beat them 2 out of 3 and we had to play 'em a fourth game and they beat us to go to the Final Four.”

While that memory remains painful for the veteran coach, it did nothing to tarnish the respect he has for the tradition-rich Kansas program.

“Kansas State has great tradition,” he said. “But Kansas, obviously, has done awfully, awfully well. Type of tradition we would like to build at Oregon. We've got a long ways to go to even be mentioned with those types of programs, but I think someday our program can have that stability and that consistency that some of the traditional programs have and KU definitely has that.”

One of the aspects of KU’s tradition that Altman admires most is the way it has continued no matter who was calling the shots.

“The games against Kansas were always tough,” Altman said. “Coach (Larry) Brown was there and then Roy (Williams) took over for him. It was always a tough atmosphere to go over there, and (we) played them in old Kemper (Arena) a number of times in the (Big Eight) tournament. Kansas tradition has been there for a long, long time. They've been good for a long time under a number of coaches.”

So what does he think of the guy who currently occupies the head coach’s office at KU? Well, even though this will be his first encounter with Bill Self as the leader of the Jayhawks, Altman and Self go way back to their Creighton and Tulsa days and even squared off as assistants when Self was at Oklahoma State and Altman was at K-State.

Asked to describe his perception of a Bill Self-coached team, Altman had no problem finding the words.

“Well, they compete,” he said. “They always have. Defensively, they're always going to be solid. This year is a little different because they're not quite as big. Traditionally they've always run a high-low and tried to jam that thing in and they're dependent more on their 3-point shooting this year offensively than what they have been. Bill has a way of getting the best out of each team. He's flexible enough that if the personnel is a little different he can change his style and he has with this team. I mentioned not running as many sets and not looking high-low as much and a lot more perimeter-oriented than some of his other bull clubs have been. But they're always going to be disciplined, well-schooled and know what they want out of each defensive and offensive possession. You don't win as many games.... he's been at great programs. Tulsa was good. Illinois was good, and Kansas. He's had pretty good jobs, but he's always made ’em a little bit better.”

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KU-Oregon by the numbers

Oregon forward Roman Sorkin, left, guard Dylan Ennis, guard Tyler Dorsey, forward Chris Boucher, guard Casey Benson (2) and head coach Dana Altman talk with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Oregon forward Roman Sorkin, left, guard Dylan Ennis, guard Tyler Dorsey, forward Chris Boucher, guard Casey Benson (2) and head coach Dana Altman talk with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — By now, everybody knows that both coaches, several players on each side and most of the people paying attention to this game in any way, shape or form believe that Kansas and Oregon are pretty similar teams that play very similar styles.

And while things like pace and personnel clearly indicate that, the Jayhawks actually own a clear advantage in most of the major statistical categories.

Not so surprisingly, Oregon’s advantages come on the defensive end, where the Ducks hold teams to fewer points and lower field goal and 3-point percentages while also owning a better turnover margin than Kansas.

But those are the results of numbers that have been compiled over the course of an entire 37-game season. In the last three games alone, the Jayhawks’ defense has improved significantly and been almost on par with KU’s explosive offense.

If that trend continues, and the Jayhawks are able to take advantage of the offensive edge that these numbers indicate they have, KU will be in great position to cut down the nets in Kansas City and reach its third Final Four under Bill Self and first since 2012.

One stat that might be a little misleading is Oregon's advantage in blocks per game. That number came with injured big man Chris Boucher in the lineup and were a direct reflection of Boucher's shot-blocking ability. In the four games the Ducks have played without Boucher, they have recorded a total of just eight blocks.

A quick look at a couple of key KenPom.com numbers shows an even steeper hill for the Ducks to climb. Kansas is currently ranked No. 3 by KenPom and Oregon comes in at No. 14.

Beyond that, KU’s No. 3 ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency is 16 spots higher than Oregon, in 19th, and the two teams are 23rd (Oregon) and 24th (Kansas) in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Those numbers lead to the conclusion that if both teams play their best game, Kansas’ superior offensive numbers would win out.

At this stage of the tournament, though, anything can happen, which makes all the numbers worth a look.

Points per game

KU: 83.9 Oregon: 79.1

FG percentage

KU: 49.2 Oregon: 48.3

3-point FG percentage

KU: 41.1 Oregon: 38.1

Free throw percentage

KU: 67.6 Oregon: 70.5

Rebounds per game

KU: 38.9 Oregon: 36.5

Offensive rebounding percentage

KU: 38.4 Oregon: 35.1

Assists per game

KU: 16.3 Oregon: 16.1

Blocks per game

KU: 4.6 Oregon: 6.3

Steals per game

KU: 7.0 Oregon: 6.6

Scoring defense

KU: 71.8 Oregon: 65.6

FG percentage defense

KU: 41.8 Oregon: 40.6

3-point FG percentage defense

KU: 35.3 Oregon: 31.4

Turnover margin

KU: +0.6 Oregon: +1.9

vs. current AP Top 25

KU: 7-2 Oregon: 3-3

KenPom ranking

KU: 3 Oregon: 14

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Eyes on Oregon: Jayhawks offer early thoughts on Elite Eight opponent

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) fights for position against Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) fights for position against Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — With just one day between monster games in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, the Kansas men’s basketball team has its work cut out for it in preparing for Saturday’s 7:49 p.m. tip-off against third-seeded Oregon with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Luckily for Kansas, a good chunk of what they’ll be preparing for should seem pretty familiar.

“They've got an athletic, terrific team,” KU coach Bill Self said of Dana Altman’s Ducks following a 98-66 pasting of Purdue that was the nightcap to Oregon’s 69-68 victory over Michigan. “They're like us; they're going to play small a lot of the time because they will play Dillon (Brooks) at the 4 like we play Josh (Jackson) and then play the best defender in the Pac-12, Defensive Player of the Year (Jordan Bell) around the middle, kind of like we do Landen (Lucas). So I think it will be two teams that at least match-up with each other pretty well.”

“I’ve seen Oregon,” Self added. “But I haven’t studied them like I need to study ’em. I was so focused on Purdue. But this is what I do know: They’re athletic like we’re athletic. And they’re gonna play small just like we play small.”

One of the most intriguing match-ups in Saturday’s Elite Eight showdown will feature two players that Self briefly mentioned during his breakdown of the Ducks.

KU freshman Josh Jackson versus Oregon junior Dillon Brooks promises to be an absolute battle, inside and out, on the glass and the perimeter, on the stat sheet and all over the floor.

While it remains to be seen exactly how the Jayhawks have scouted and will game plan for Brooks, who, in addition to being one of the most dramatically clutch players in all of college basketball this season, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, there’s no question that their similar size and usage make Jackson and Brooks a natural pairing.

Asked after his team’s pounding of Purdue how he felt about the assignment, should it come to him, the 6-foot-8, 207-pound Jackson said he welcomed the match-up with the 6-7, 225-pound junior forward.

“I would guard anybody,” Jackson said. “Most of the time I find myself guarding the best player on the other team at some point in the game, even if it’s not the whole game. I’m up for the challenge. I like a challenge.”

KU coach Bill Self seemed just as eager to see what Jackson could do against yet another talented opponent.

“You think of the match-ups Josh has had at the 4, in (Michigan State’s) Miles Bridges and now Dillon Brooks, I mean, those are some big time match-ups, the best college basketball has to offer. So that’ll be great,” Self said. “I see a lot of similarities (between the two teams) and, of course, they’ve shot the ball unbelievably well so far in the tournament. It’ll be a great match-up. It’s gonna be a fun game, two teams that like to get up and down.”

One other intriguing note about the match-up between top-seeded Kansas (31-4) and third-seeded Oregon (32-5) is that it will pit two teams against one another who lost in the Elite Eight a season ago, Kansas to eventual national champion Villanova in Louisville, and Oregon to Oklahoma in Anaheim, California.

“It’s great (for our players),” Self said of being one win away from a trip to the Final Four. “And they care so much. But Oregon’s kids care a lot too, and they’re one win away also. And they lost the Elite Eight game just like we did last year. So I’m sure that’s something that’s motivated them all year long, let’s get back and play this game different than we did the year before. And, of course, that’ll be the same thing with us. It’ll be a highly competitive game.”

Stay in touch with KUsports.com throughout the day Friday and Saturday for more on this match-up from the coaches and players at Sprint Center.

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Postgame Report Card, Sweet 16 style: Kansas 98, Purdue 66

The Kansas bench reacts to a three pointer by Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot late in the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The Kansas bench reacts to a three pointer by Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot late in the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 98-66, Sweet 16 victory over Purdue.

Note: I tried not to grade this game in the context of it being a packaged deal with the two that came before it, but it was awfully tough to do.

Offense: A+

Unless you’re mad at Landen Lucas for shooting 50 percent on 1-of-2 shooting from the floor, there’s absolutely nothing you can nitpick about this performance.

KU shot 55 percent from the floor for the game, 67 percent in the second half, and finished 15 of 28 (53.6 percent) from 3-point range on a night when it simply chewed up and spit out the Boilermakers with a heavy dose of Kansas offense.

Hate all you want on the free throw shooting (15-of-22), but even that was a percentage point higher than KU’s season average and the Jayhawks are still shooting 81 percent from the line this tournament. Oops. There’s my first slip up.

Defense: B+

The Jayhawks struggled to close out on shooters early in the game and offered little resistance to Purdue’s big men when they got it close to the basket. Luckily for the Jayhawks, the Kansas guards were up to the task of both out-shooting the Boilermakers (by a long shot) and helping the big men protect the paint.

The effort on the bigs, graded as a whole, was worthy of an A. But KU’s early effort against Purdue’s 3-point attack dropped it into the B range, just barely. We’re talking 89.475 percent here.

Frontcourt: B+

Landen Lucas played much bigger and better than his 2 points and 4 rebounds will show. And his body will remind him of that tomorrow. But give Dwight Coleby and Carlton Bragg Jr., credit for having Lucas’ back on a night when he picked up two tough-luck fouls and checked out of the game at a crucial time after getting his third.

KU’s big men are confident right now. And, collectively, they’re more than serviceable.

Backcourt: A+

When you’ve got three of the best players in the entire tournament starting in your backcourt and two complementary players who can combine for 22 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals the way Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick did on Thursday, it’s almost just not fair.

Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham were great on both side of the floor and Josh Jackson was right there with them to help move Kansas within one victory over a trip to the Final Four.

Bench: A

Vick had a couple of difference-maker moments — that dunk, a 3-pointer and a couple other drives to the rim — and Coleby and Bragg were solid in relief of Lucas.

Add to that the fact that Tyler Self and the walk-on crew checked into an NCAA Tournament game for the third consecutive game (oops, slip-up No. 2) and you’re looking at A material.

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Common opponents only mean so much in KU-Purdue showdown

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) is followed by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) as the Jayhawks enter Sprint Center during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) is followed by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) as the Jayhawks enter Sprint Center during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game. by Nick Krug

Kansas coach Bill Self was asked on Wednesday if Purdue’s second-round victory over Iowa State, winner of this season’s Big 12 tournament and the only team to knock off Kansas at home in the past three years, got his attention.

Purdue coach Matt Painter was asked a similar question about whether his team gained any added confidence from defeating the only team to win at Kansas, one game before facing the top-seeded Jayhawks at around 8:40 tonight inside Sprint Center in the Sweet 16.

Both coaches answered the respective questions. And the answers revealed one thing — that win over Iowa State, though huge at the time, really doesn’t mean much today.

“You know what? They had my attention back in January,” Self said. “I was telling somebody earlier, sometimes I think as a coach you look at it and say, OK, what teams out there are a little bit different that could potentially be a contrasting style that you could match-up with, and Purdue was the first one that came to mind for me. I've watched them throughout the year, certainly not studying them but (I’ve) watched them. But seeing what they did to Iowa State even though Iowa State I believe came back and took a two-point lead, I think. Purdue controlled that game. But Iowa State got on one of their great runs that they can obviously get on because they can score so well from the perimeter. It was very impressive what they did and how they closed the game out after they got behind. I didn't need that game to impress me, though, I was there beforehand.”

Painter, who demonstrated clear and similar respect for Kansas, said his team used Iowa State’s win over Kansas to get his team ready to play the Cyclones not the Jayhawks.

“That was one of the selling points I had for Iowa State,” Painter said. “The fact that they won at Kansas. Right away you don't have to say anything more to get respect for Iowa State and say, ‘Hey, this team went into Kansas and won.’ Everybody knows the success that Kansas has had at home over the years, so Kansas was a selling point to make sure our guys knew how good Iowa State was. Obviously, Kansas had a better year than Iowa State and then they battled and they've been very, very good. Our guys have a lot of respect for their players and we look forward to competing against them.”

Counting Michigan State and Indiana, both of whom Purdue played twice, the Jayhawks and Boilermakers had several games against common opponents this season.

KU’s record in those five games? 3-2, with losses coming against Iowa State (92-89, OT) and Indiana (103-99, OT) and wins at Iowa State (76-72), at home against Nebraska (89-72) and last weekend vs. Michigan State (90-70) in the second round.

Purdue’s record in those six games? 5-1, with the lone loss coming at Nebraska (83-80) and wins at Michigan State (84-73) and Indiana (69-64), home versus Michigan State (80-63) and Indiana (86-75), and last weekend against Iowa State (80-76) in the second round.

Dissecting common opponents and concluding something from the exercise is always fun and interesting, but rarely worth much. Just because KU beat Michigan State by more points than Purdue did either time it played the Spartans or just because KU crushed Nebraska and Purdue lost to them does not mean a thing for tonight’s match-up.

No one from those teams will be in the building tonight. Only Jayhawks and Boilermakers, ready to break the common opponents tie with the best indicator of all — a do-or-die, head-to-head showdown.


More news and notes previewing Kansas vs. Purdue


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KU-Purdue by the numbers

Kansas head coach Bill Self, right, and assistant Kurtis Townsend chat at half court during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas head coach Bill Self, right, and assistant Kurtis Townsend chat at half court during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

On the surface, today’s match-up between top-seeded Kansas (30-4) and No. 4 seed Purdue (27-7) in the Midwest Regional semifinals at Kansas City’s Sprint Center seems like a clash between two completely different teams.

On paper, however, these two teams appear much more similar than many are saying.

From both scoring in the 80s and shooting similar percentages all over the floor to impressive defensive numbers and closer-than-expected rebounding totals, the Jayhawks and Boilermakers have at least as many things in common as they do differences.

To take things a step farther, KU coach Bill Self has stressed throughout the week that even though the talk has been about Purdue’s big front line — and understandably so — the two teams even play similar-looking lineups for a good chunk of the time.

“They’re not a big time shot-blocking team,” said Self, whose team actually blocks more shots per game than Matt Painter’s squad. “They’re a wall-up team. What gets lost a lot is Purdue plays, a majority of the time, the same way we do, with one big and four guards.... There’s more similarities in how the game will start than what a lot of people think.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the numbers.

Points per game

KU: 83.4 PU: 80.1

FG percentage

KU: 49.1 PU: 48.1

3-point FG percentage

KU: 40.6 PU: 40.4

Free throw percentage

KU: 67.6 PU: 75.9

Rebounds per game

KU: 38.9 PU: 37.9

Offensive rebounding percentage

KU: 38.3 PU: 32.5

Assists per game

KU: 16.2 PU: 18.4

Blocks per game

KU: 4.7 PU: 2.6

Steals per game

KU: 7.0 PU: 5.1

Scoring defense

KU: 72.0 PU: 67.5

FG percentage defense

KU: 41.7 PU: 41.7

3-point FG percentage defense

KU: 35.2 PU: 32.4

Turnover margin

KU: +0.5 PU: -1.1

vs. current AP Top 25

KU: 6-2 PU: 3-4


More news and notes previewing Kansas vs. Purdue


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Breaking down KU-Purdue on Sports Radio 810 WHB’s “Sports Night”

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shoots a selfie with some Jayhawk fans awaiting autographs following the Jayhawks' practice on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shoots a selfie with some Jayhawk fans awaiting autographs following the Jayhawks' practice on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

We're now less than 24 hours away from tip-off in the Sweet 16.

After several hours at Sprint Center on Wednesday afternoon and evening, between the drive home and finishing up a few stories for Thursday's paper, I hopped on with Sports Radio 810 WHB host Cody Tapp on Sports Night to discuss KU's showdown with Purdue in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night in KCMO.

Among the topics covered in the 30-minute breakdown of KU's upcoming clash with Purdue (9:30-minute mark through 42:00) were:

• If having better guards or better bigs than your opponent is more advantageous

• What it takes to beat Kansas (and if Purdue can do it)

• What's taken Josh Jackson to an even higher level in the Big Dance

• Why KU loves playing in Kansas City

• Whether KU would rather play Oregon or Michigan should it knock off Purdue

• And what winning another national title would mean to KU coach Bill Self

Take a listen below while you're trying to kill time before Thursday's game and be sure to check back with KUsports.com throughout the day Thursday for more coverage of the big game with the Boilermakers and, of course, before, during and after the game for all the Kansas basketball coverage you could possibly desire.

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Breaking down KU forward Dwight Coleby’s big night

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) have a laugh after a bucket by Coleby and a Michigan State foul during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) have a laugh after a bucket by Coleby and a Michigan State foul during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby, whose nine second-half minutes in Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Michigan State were as important as any played by any player in the game, prides himself on being ready.

But more than that, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound native of the Bahamas prides himself on his easy-going personality.

It’s hard to say that there was a direct correlation between Coleby’s island upbringing and his performance during Sunday’s 90-70 victory, but Coleby believes it could have played a role.

“Yeah, that’s my personality, just calm, relaxed and just focused,” he said. “It probably comes from where I grew up.”

A city of nearly 300,000 people on the island of New Providence, Coleby’s hometown of Nassau is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region and is a popular stop for cruise ships and tourists seeking good snorkeling.

The KU junior who is majoring in communications studies, attended high school in Mississippi (The Piney Woods School) before playing two seasons at Ole Miss and then transferring to Kansas.

Always the biggest and tallest player on his teams growing up, Coleby said he considers himself more of a power player than anything else and always has enjoyed games that feature physical play inside.

“I think I’ve got some kind of muscles for something,” he joked. “More power. I’ve always been that, one that wants to play physical and with contact.”

It was not just his muscles that propelled Coleby into the player of the game conversation following top-seeded KU’s latest victory. He also used his head, and not just on the floor either.

“That was a thing I talked about to him before the game, and this is from my experience of coming off the bench when I was doing that at the time,” said KU senior Landen Lucas, who played sparingly during his first two NCAA Tournaments. “When you’re on the bench early on, you gotta watch the game and understand how you can be effective, see what’s working for the other guys out there. He might’ve picked up on a couple things, and once he got out there, it was just fun to watch at that point in time. The whole team was playing well together and he did a lot of little things that didn’t show up in the stat book that ended up being the difference in the game.”

Just for fun, let’s take a look back.

• Coleby checked into the game for the first time at the 12:14 mark of the second half, nearly 30 minutes into the game and more than 90 minutes after the opening tip. His first stint on the floor was uneventful and lasted just 23 seconds, as Lucas came back in for him at the 11:51 mark.

• Coleby checked back in for Lucas at the 10:38 mark and, within his first minute on the floor, grabbed two big defensive rebounds in a game in which Kansas led by just five points at the time. The second rebound came after a missed jumper by Frank Mason and Coleby immediately went back up with it to put Kansas up 62-55 with 9:42 to play.

• His third of four rebounds came at the 8:39 mark, nearly two minutes after checking back in, and led to a huge roar of approval from an appreciative KU crowd and a pure free throw that put Kansas up 65-57. Coleby missed the second, but it hardly mattered. His work came on the other end where he kept Michigan State’s Nick Ward from grabbing the offensive board and also drew Ward’s fourth foul, which sent him to the bench.

• At the 7:27 mark, 3 minutes and 11 seconds of clock after he checked back in, Coleby went to the bench and Lucas returned. Forty-four seconds later, Lucas picked up foul No. 4 and had to sit with 6:43 to play and Kansas leading by just six. No one knew at the time that Lucas would not be needed again. During his next stint on the floor, Coleby picked up a steal that led to a layup by Josh Jackson (77-65, Kansas) and an offensive rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Jackson that turned into a 3-pointer by Devonte’ Graham (80-67, Kansas). “Huge. Huge,” said Lucas of Coleby’s offensive rebound, which he called one of the biggest plays of the game. “That’s the little things that end up making a big difference in the game. Go from a missed 3 that could’ve been a run-out and, instead, Devonte’ hits the 3. That’s big. That’s what I try to do when I’m in there and he came in and replaced me and I’m proud of him.”

• So charmed was Coleby in this game that even plays that might draw grumbles during most games drew applause and positive nods. The most obvious was his foul on MSU freshman Miles Bridges with 3:12 to play. Instead of letting Bridges go up for an easy two, Coleby hammered him and made him earn the points at the line. Bridges made one of two free throw attempts and Kansas answered with another 3-pointer by Graham on the other end. Net two points for KU.

• From the 6:43 mark to the time he sat for good, Coleby played the game’s next 5 minutes and 16 seconds and did not check out until Kansas led 87-70 with 1:27 to play. Lucas, still with four fouls, came in for him then, but, at that point, it was as much so Coleby could walk off to a hero’s ovation as getting Lucas back in the game. The game was over.

With Coleby’s confidence sky high and his teammates’ faith in him now even higher, the Jayhawks could not help but flash huge smiles of pride and joy when discussing all that Coleby did to help the Jayhawks get back to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

“Perfect timing,” said sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr., who struggled against Michigan State’s physicality. ““He’s been working all year and tonight he stepped up when his jersey was called.”

Added Coleby: “I always wanted to do something like this on the biggest stage, and to have an opportunity to do it is just great.”

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Postgame Report Card: Kansas 90, Michigan State 70

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) look to trap Michigan State guard Cassius Winston (5) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) look to trap Michigan State guard Cassius Winston (5) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 90-70, second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Michigan State on Sunday night at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Offense: A

Scoring 100 points in the first round was one thing, but following that up with 90 in Round 2, against Tom Izzo and Michigan State, no less? That’s downright impressive. KU coach Bill Self agreed, even if he wished it had come from better execution. “I thought we made hard shots. I don’t know that it was great offensive execution, I thought it was great individual play.”

Defense: A

KU’s biggest runs featured the Jayhawks getting defensive stops and hitting the glass. Kansas out-rebounded Michigan State 36-28, not the most impressive number, but more than enough to control the game. The Spartans shot a decent percentage (44) but had to earn absolutely everything and occasionally got swallowed up and watched the Jayhawks sprint the other way for easy transition buckets. Speaking of fast-breaks, KU’s transition D also was solid most of the night. Oh, yeah, and then there were those two blocks by Josh Jackson. Wow.

Frontcourt: A-

Reserve Dwight Coleby got the glory and absolutely deserved it for coming up huge in a big spot, but Landen Lucas was terrific. Absolutely, positively, sensationally terrific. He was strong when he posted up, scored with ease, grabbed nine rebounds in the first half alone and played the kind of defense that must’ve made Michigan State think there were two or three No. 33’s on the floor for Kansas. He walled up and played tall inside, showed strong help on ball screens and even trapped a time or two. Just a terrific performance to build even more confidence and head into next week’s showdown with Purdue Caleb Swanigan. Bragg’s rough night accounts for the minus.

Backcourt: A+

Mason didn’t have a great night shooting the ball, but who cares. He finished with 20 points and 5 assists — right on his season averages — and set up his teammates in good position to make plays all night. Beyond that, Josh Jackson (23) and Devonte’ Graham (18) put up big time point totals and buried the Spartans inside and out. Svi Mykhailiuk (9) came within one point of making it two games in a row that the starting five all reached double figures in scoring and also played some of his best defense of the season early in the game.

Bench: B+

As mentioned above, Carlton Bragg had another rough night. Nick Ward was just too big, strong and powerful for Bragg to hold up. But Dwight Coleby and Lageral Vick both played very well for Kansas and contributed some positive minutes and memorable plays. With the good showings out-numbering the bad, 2-1, and one of them coming as at least a little bit of a surprise, this grade gets bumped all the way up to the high-B range.

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KU-Michigan State by the numbers

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) elevates for a shot over UC Davis forward Garrison Goode (44) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) elevates for a shot over UC Davis forward Garrison Goode (44) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

In the past couple of days, we’ve used a bunch of words and thoughts, characters and quotes to set up today’s second-round clash between top-seeded Kansas (29-4) and No. 9 seed Michigan State (20-14) at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

And while a key hustle play, clutch adjustment or subtle benefit from a little extra attention to the scouting report and tendencies of an opponent can help decide games such as these, most of the time, more than words or thoughts or strategies or breakdowns, the games are decided by the numbers.

Those are the things that matter most, more so than the way the game is officiated, coached or even the style with which it's played.

While their records differ drastically, the numbers for these two teams are awfully similar in many areas, in terms of both overall team statistics and some of the individual match-ups that figure to be key in this one.

With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at today’s 4:15 p.m., head-to-head match-up between the Jayhawks and Spartans through the eyes of the most relevant season-long statistics posted by both teams.

Points per game

KU: 83.2 MSU: 71.9

FG percentage

KU: 48.9 MSU: 47.1

3-point FG percentage

KU: 40.6 MSU: 37.4

Free throw percentage

KU: 67.1 MSU: 66.9

Rebounds per game

KU: 39 MSU: 36.7

Offensive rebounding percentage

KU: 38.6 MSU: 32.6

Assists per game

KU: 16.4 MSU: 17

Blocks per game

KU: 4.7 MSU: 4.7

Steals per game

KU: 6.9 MSU: 4.4

Scoring defense

KU: 72.1 MSU: 68.1

FG percentage defense

KU: 41.7 MSU: 40.6

3-point FG percentage defense

KU: 35.3 MSU: 34.4

Turnover margin

KU: +4.5 MSU: +3.9

vs. current AP Top 25

KU: 6-2 MSU: 3-7

The names are in, the story lines are written, the stage is set.

From here, it’ll be the numbers above and how each team performs and executes in many of those areas that determines which team moves on to next week’s Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Mo.

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Let’s be Frank: Mason’s importance vs. Michigan State goes well beyond scoring

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets down on defense as UC Davis guard Darius Graham (2) brings the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets down on defense as UC Davis guard Darius Graham (2) brings the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

By now, everyone in the country knows that Kansas senior Frank Mason III is a stone-cold scorer.

His 3-point shot is a bona fide weapon, his transition game is relentless and flat-out frightening and his willingness to throw his body into, over, through and around bigger, stronger, taller opponents is the stuff of legends inside KU circles.

So there’s no questioning that another good scoring day from Mason would go a long way toward helping the top-seeded Jayhawks stand tall against tough No. 9 seed Michigan State at 4:15 today in a second-round, NCAA Tournament clash at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

But this appears to be one of those match-ups in which it might best help the Jayhawks (29-4) if Mason scores only when he has to and focuses on the rest of his game the rest of the night. Mason knows that. And, as he has been all season long, he’s more than willing to do exactly that if that’s what gives his team the best shot of heading to the winner’s circle.

“I would say creating easy shots for my teammates, getting them involved early, playing great defense and making me feel me every possession,” answered the seemingly-always-stoic Mason when asked what, from his position, was the key to beating the Spartans (20-14). “It starts with the point guard and (I just want to focus on) getting out in transition, running and trying to get easy baskets before their defense sets up, showing great leadership skills and just being coachable and leading our younger guys.”

Looking at it through those words alone, Mason carries a huge load into the Jayhawks’ second game of what they hope will be a long NCAA Tournament run. But, as anyone who has followed this team — up close or from afar — has seen all season, no weight has proven to be too heavy for the Jayhawks’ bulldog point guard and no challenge has been too stiff for him to answer.

In 33 games this season, Mason has tallied 20 points or more 20 times, including seven of the last eight. What’s more, in the 13 games in which he did not reach the 20-point mark, Mason came within a single shot of touching 20 six different times.

While numbers like that, which have Mason racking up national player of the year honors left and right, certainly seem solid, it’s the rest of the stat sheet that shows not only how valuable Mason is to this Kansas team — even just writing that carries that, ‘OK, Captain Obvious’ vibe with it — but also just how impressive his ability to deliver, day after day, week after week, game after game, from start to finish, has been.

The rebounds (4.2 per game), the assists (5.2 per game), the minutes (36.1 per game) and the long list of clutch shots. All have been crucial for Kansas in reaching this point. And they’ll need more of all of them to continue to advance.

But the one thing that does not show up on the stat sheet, the one thing that can’t be measured or stacked up against anybody else’s numbers in any advanced metrics or projected numbers is the one thing that Mason’s teammates value most about their veteran leader.

“Big comfort level," said junior running mate Devonte' Graham when asked what Mason brings to this team. "We know we can give him the ball at any time and he can make a play, late clock, early clock, transition.... At this time of year, the best players gotta be on the court making plays and doing whatever we can to help the team win.”

Added freshman phenom Josh Jackson: “We all have a lot of confidence in Frank. And just to have him on the team makes us so much more comfortable. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like being on the opposite team, trying to guard that guy. He’s a monster.”

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) tries to recover a loose ball from UC Davis guard Siler Schneider during the first half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At right is UC Davis guard Brynton Lemar (0).

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) tries to recover a loose ball from UC Davis guard Siler Schneider during the first half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At right is UC Davis guard Brynton Lemar (0). by Nick Krug

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KU Sports Extra: Jayhawks’ NCAA Tourney Run Off to a Terrific Start

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Road To The Final Four - The Journey Begins Today

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Why Josh Jackson thinks KU is “the best team in the country”

The Jayhawks come together in a huddle at the start of practice on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Jayhawks come together in a huddle at the start of practice on Thursday, March 16, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

With a bright NBA future waiting just around the corner, Kansas freshman Josh Jackson enters his first — and likely last — NCAA Tournament in an enviable position.

Jackson, who for the first time since March 4 will be back in the lineup with the Jayhawks at 5:50 p.m. tonight in Round 1 against No. 16 seed UC Davis at the BOK Center, said Thursday that he feels like he’s a part of “the best team in the country right now.”

When asked to explain why, the 6-foot-8 guard from Detroit pointed to a number of reasons.

“I feel like we got the best guards,” Jackson began. “I feel like we have things that some teams just don’t have. Like, in (senior forward) Landen (Lucas), we’ve got a really good glue guy who does so many things that don’t show up in the stat book. I feel like we all just care so much and want to win more than anything. So I feel like we’re all gonna do whatever we need to do in order to make that happen.”

Jackson, of course, is better equipped than most players on his team — or any other team for that matter — to deliver those things in a number of different areas. But instead of taxing himself by worrying about the stakes and the stage, Jackson said he planned to treat his NCAA Tournament debut like any of the 31 games he played in that came before it.

“It’s exciting,” Jackson said. “And I’ve just gotta maintain my composure and stay focused and just remember it’s a game and just come out and play like I would any other game.”

Doing that won’t be easy. Jackson said he had been waiting for this moment since he was a kid, growing up rooting for Michigan State and watching the NCAA Tournament on television each year.

So now that he’s here, how has the experience lived up to his expectations?

“So far, it is everything I thought it would be,” Jackson said. “I think it’s gonna get a lot more exciting as it goes on. It’s also gonna get a lot harder, but that makes it more fun.”

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Tulsa one of several special places in a state full of them for KU coach Bill Self

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches with the bench as the Jayhawks make a run against Illinois during the second half on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa.

Kansas head coach Bill Self watches with the bench as the Jayhawks make a run against Illinois during the second half on Sunday, March 20, 2011 at the BOK Center in Tulsa. by Nick Krug

Long before the killer recruiting class at Illinois that wound up in the national title game two years after he left and years ahead of his remarkable stretch at Kansas, where he has more conference titles than home losses, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self spent seven years building toward moments like those in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Forty miles due north of Okmulgee, a town of 12,000 people where Self and his sister, Shelly, were born, Tulsa has become as much a part of Self’s Oklahoma roots as any of the several small towns he once called home.

“I don’t remember much of it,” joked Self of his actual birth day in 1962. “We lived in a small town called Morris, which, obviously Morris didn’t have a hospital so we went 11 miles or 10 miles down the road and Shelly and I were both born there. My dad and mom were teachers and dad was a coach.”

From his days as a child in Okmulgee, Morris and Claremore, to his high school days in Edmond and college days in Stillwater, all of them combine together to make for some of Self’s favorite memories and foundational moments in the game of basketball.

“Seven years in Stillwater (as a player and coach at Oklahoma State) and then seven years in Tulsa (as a head coach at Oral Roberts and Tulsa) and we saw the full gamut,” Self recently recalled. “We go from losing 18 in a row to winning 31 of our last 38 at Oral Roberts to being an average, average team, at best, our first year at Tulsa to a couple years later (making) a pretty good run to the Elite Eight.... Tulsa is obviously a place that’s very fond to us and we always look forward to going back, although this one will not be social at all but we certainly still have a lot of great friends there.”

This week, while leading his 14th Kansas team into the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time — again as a No. 1 seed for the seventh time in the past 11 years — Self will wake up, go to bed, eat, drink, sleep and sweat in Tulsa, where his Jayhawks (28-4, ranked 3rd in the country) will take on UC Davis at 5:50 p.m. Friday and, if things go well there, will follow that up with a second-round game on Sunday against the Miami-Michigan State winner at a to-be-determined time at BOK Center.

“This is pretty much home,” Self said. “Even though I guess we spent most of our childhood years in Edmond, but still we spent a lot of time in this area.... It feels good. You know, Tulsa, I grew up, part of my youth was in Claremore, which is just down the road, and coached in Tulsa for seven years. Got a ton of friends here. I don’t know if I’ll get a chance to see very many of ’em but I’m sure some of ’em will swing by practice and it’ll be good to see ’em.”

Returning to Oklahoma to coach has not been all good for Self since leaving Tulsa before the 2000-01 season for Illinois. Although the Illini never played in Self’s home state during his three years leading the program, Self’s Kansas teams lost three in a row in Stillwater from 2014-16, before ending the streak with a win 12 days ago, and also have lost in Norman three times since Self took over at Kansas. Beyond that, Self is just 4-3 at Kansas in Oklahoma City, including a 1-2 record in the NCAA Tournament, with losses to Bucknell and Northern Iowa.

But Tulsa specifically has been good to Self, who led KU to two victories over Boston University and, of all teams, Illinois in the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

“I love Tulsa,” Self said. “And I will tell you this; I'd much rather be in Tulsa than Oklahoma City, because we haven't played very well in Oklahoma City. We actually played well in Tulsa last time we were there.”

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KU’s Mason prominently displayed on SI cover

If you're the type that believes in the Sports Illustrated cover jinx, the magazine did you a favor this week.

Instead of featuring one player or one team on its annual March Madness cover, SI went back to its old iconic days of the tournament edition and put representatives from every team that made the tournament onto the cover.

Kansas, of course, is included in the mix, with senior guard Frank Mason III prominently displayed as one of the focal points of the cover. Mason, high center, is joined by one player from the other three No. 1 seeds in this year's tournament as being a little larger than life.

That's a good way to go about it if you're Sports Illustrated because now nobody can claim they were the victim of the cover jinx. Well, nobody and everybody at the same time.

Joining the athletes themselves on this year's cover are coaches, mascots, women's players and women's coaches. Heck, even popular halftime act Red Panda made it onto the cover. Let's hope that's not a jinx for her.

I haven't devoured every inch of it yet, but from what I can tell, Mason is the only Jayhawk represented on the cover.

Kansas, seeded No. 1 in the Midwest, will open NCAA Tournament play at 5:50 p.m. Friday in Tulsa, Okla., against the winner of Wednesday's First Four game in Dayton, Ohio, between North Carolina Central and UC Davis.

I'm not sure if Seth Davis' picks are the same that appear in the magazine. We'll find out later this week. But Davis picks Kansas, UCLA, Gonzaga and Duke as his Final Four.

This year's Sports Illustrated March Madness cover.

This year's Sports Illustrated March Madness cover. by Matt Tait

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Scouting an unknown opponent adds new wrinkle, but overall process familiar for Kansas

Kansas head coach Bill Self leads his players through an inbounding scenario during a practice on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self leads his players through an inbounding scenario during a practice on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Sure, it’s possible that Kansas and Iowa State will meet in the Sweet 16 or Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s in the Elite Eight or UCLA and Oregon in the Final Four or Duke and North Carolina in the national championship game.

And if any of those, or others like them, wind up being the case, then scouting reports won’t be as important for each coach to come up with because those teams all know each other so well from having competed in the same conference and faced each other multiple times already this season.

That’s not the case for the early rounds, though, where teams are facing each other for the first time this season — sometimes the first time in years or ever — and are currently in the process of scouring over notes and video to get a good read on their upcoming opponent.

Although the Kansas men’s basketball team does not yet know who it will face in the first round in Tulsa, Okla., on Friday — the winner of UC Davis vs. North Carolina Central at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday plays Kansas on Friday — the Jayhawks are busy scouting a number of different opponents.

KU coach Bill Self talked about the process Monday morning on the Big 12 coaches teleconference and sounded like a man comfortable with not knowing the identity of that first opponent because he and the Jayhawks have experienced similar situations so many times before in other tournaments.

“Same thing we do if we played in Maui, for instance,” said Self, outlining his scouting game plan for the week. “I wouldn’t go to Maui just looking at the first opponent. I would spend early in the week looking at the second-round opponent and then, as you get closer to the game, focus on the first opponent. The NCAA Tournament allows you to do that because each weekend’s a two-game tournament.”

Self confirmed on Sunday that teams were not allowed to send assistant coaches to Dayton, Ohio, to watch that NC Central-UC Davis match-up live. But assistant coach Norm Roberts has spent the past couple of days devouring every available bit of information on both teams and Self personally will move into that phase of his preparation tomorrow.

“We divide the scouts up, obviously,” Self said. “Norm has the first game, regardless of who it is, and Jerrance (Howard) and Kurtis (Townsend) have the second game if we’re fortunate enough to advance. Me personally, I’m watching (potential second-round foes) Michigan State and Miami. That’s what my focus is right now because I don’t know who we’re playing (Friday) yet. My focus, beginning (Tuesday) night, wiIl probably be both UC Davis and North Carolina Central. I want to have the best deal possible. I want my own scouting report done on the potential Sunday game before Wednesday because Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I want my total focus to be on the first game.”

While the scouting report procedure will provide Kansas with a detailed look at the specific teams the Jayhawks could and will face, Self said the big-picture thinking is to expect tough games from start to finish.

“All the teams in the field are saying, ‘God, we got a tough path,’ because the reality is you do,” he said. “You don’t have as many dominant teams, or any dominant teams, compared to what you’ve had 15 or 20 years ago, and even though parity may not be the right word, you have more evenly balanced teams. The difference between a 5 and a 12, a 3 and a 10, a 1 and a 5 or however you go about it is less now than probably it ever has been. It makes for some great match-ups, especially early in the tournament that first weekend.”


More from Selection Sunday


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