Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

Self hoping to see sophomore center Udoka Azubuike at full speed

Kansas head coach Bill Self brings in the Jayhawks during a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self brings in the Jayhawks during a timeout in the second half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Kansas men's basketball team began final preparations for its trip north to Omaha this week to take on Clemson in the Sweet 16 on Friday night, with a spot in a third consecutive Elite Eight on the line.

After returning home from Wichita following Saturday night's Round 2 win over Seton Hall, the Jayhawks took Sunday off and went through a light workout and team meetings on Monday before running through a full practice Tuesday afternoon.

KU coach Bill Self, speaking with former KU walk-on Nick Bahe, now a radio talk show host in Omaha, said Tuesday that things looked good for sophomore center Udoka Azubuike heading into Tuesday's practice.

“We'll find out today,” Self told Bahe during a 12-minute segment on Game Time with Nick Bahe. “He took Sunday and Monday off. Others did some things, but he couldn't. But we think he'll be full-speed today and if he's full-speed today and Wednesday and Thursday, only foul trouble and flat-out fatigue will be the only way he's not in the game on Friday.”

Azubuike, of course, is still nursing an injured left knee that popped up two days before the Big 12 tournament and kept Azubuike out of all but three minutes of the Jayhawks' next four games.

The 7-foot center made a full return to the floor against Seton Hall and recorded 10 points and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes to help Kansas advance.

Self and Bahe, who finished his playing career at Creighton, in Omaha, discussed several other aspects of this year's team and this year's NCAA Tournament during their quick radio reunion, which both opened and ended with Bahe and Self joking about the former guard's cat-like quickness.

“If we had that jet-quick point guard from Omaha from 15 years ago, we'd have a better chance,” Self joked. “It's been a struggle ever since you left. … Even you at half speed is probably quicker than most.”

Self also appeared on Jim Rome's show on Tuesday and had similar thoughts about Azubuike.

“He took yesterday and Sunday off. He’ll be full speed Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He’ll start on Friday as long as we don’t have a setback," Self told Rome. "Hopefully I’ll be more worried about foul situations than health, because we are going to need him.

"I think we have to play through him from this point forward, no matter how long it lasts. We have to get some inside baskets.”

Here's a quick look at a few other topics Self discussed on Tuesday:

On returning to Omaha for the fourth time in the NCAA Tournament

“Omaha's a great town and the downtown is nice where we'll stay and I think our fans do enjoy it,” Self began.

“We've been up there, I think this will be our fourth time playing in the tournament up there, and we haven't always been really good. We weren't good the last time we played there (vs. Wichita State in Round 2 in 2015). But hopefully we'll remember the two times prior to that.”

One of those trips, of course, marked the beginning of KU's run to the 2008 national title. Kansas defeated Portland State and UNLV in two games in Omaha before going on to win four more to bring home the title.

The other time Kansas played in Omaha under Self came in 2012, when the Jayhawks knocked off Detroit and survived a second-round scare from Purdue en route to a national runner-up finish in that tournament.

Kansas is 5-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament games played in Omaha under Self.

On the turning point for the 2017-18 team

“I didn't think we were very good midway through our conference season,” Self began.

“We had our 120-year reunion and Oklahoma State came up here and spanked us pretty good in front of all those (former players). And I think that really turned out to be a blessing for us because I didn't hold back much after that. Our guys were embarrassed. Not that we lost to Oklahoma State. Not that. But you have so many people that come back, alums of 20, 30, 40, 50 years to see their team, their boys, play and that was the best we gave them. I think that that kind of set the tone that this is really unacceptable, which it was. And we got better because of it.

“Lagerald Vick started playing better, Malik Newman's really picked it up, Devonte' Graham's played at a player of the year level all year long and Udoka's continually getting better. So there were some things naturally that took place. But through a couple of tough times we had to get better and the guys really did rally around that.”

On Graham reminding him of Aaron Miles

Although it was nothing new, Self again tossed Graham's name into the ring with some pretty impressive company.

“I think he's the best leader we've ever had here,” Self said. “Aaron Miles may be the best one we've ever had up until now. I loved Aaron, but Devonte's that type of leader plus he's getting you 17 a game and also getting seven and a half assists a game. He's just been fantastic. He's willed us to win a lot of games.

“You don't ever want to put it on a guy saying, 'Hey, go win it.' But much like we have with others, whether it be Frank or whoever, we've leaned on them, but Devonte's probably performed as well as anybody we've had in late-game situations.”

On 16 seed UMBC beating 1 seed Virginia and if that'll happen again

“It's a little bit different now because you don't have four 16 seeds, you have six,” Self explained. “So the way it used to be, you have basically two 15s that are now 16s because we have the play-in games. I'm not saying that makes a big difference, but it could.

“The gap has shrunk. When you have experience and talent, it's obviously the best scenario. But sometimes with a 15 or 16, you've got good players and you've got experience and they're playing with house money and a lot of times you're playing with youth as a 1 seed.”

“I do think the gap has narrowed. I do think it'll happen again. I was really happy for (UMBC coach) Ryan (Odom) because I know Ryan a little bit, and I felt awful for (Virginia coach) Tony (Bennett) because that's something that will be remembered as opposed to the fact that they won the ACC by four games and won their conference tournament. But that's the nature of the business and nobody knows that better than us because we've had some great times, but we've had some heartaches too in the tournament.”

“The tournament can very cruel but it can also be the most rewarding (event). But it'll happen again. It won't be 135 games again before it happens again because the gap has narrowed.”


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KU coach Bill Self 12-2 all-time vs. ACC while at Kansas

Kansas head coach Bill Self calls out a play during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

Kansas head coach Bill Self calls out a play during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami. by Nick Krug

If past matchups are any indication of future success, the Kansas Jayhawks could be in for a good time this weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, where top-seeded KU (29-7) will face fifth-seeded Clemson (25-9) in the Sweet 16 at 6:07 p.m. Friday at CenturyLink Center.

Win that one, and it's back to the Elite Eight for the Jayhawks, who have seen their season end one game shy of the Final Four in each of the past two years.

But it's not the Jayhawks' history in Elite Eight games that serves as the indicator of how things might go this weekend, rather, KU coach Bill Self's stellar record against ACC teams during his days at Kansas.

Since arriving at KU for the 2003-04 season, Self is 12-2 all-time against current ACC teams. Considering the fact that the Jayhawks will be playing this weekend in a regional that includes nothing but ACC teams as possible opponents — Clemson, Duke and Syracuse — that past success could bode well for the Jayhawks.

Self has led KU into battle against roughly half of the current members of the ACC during his 15 seasons in charge of the Jayhawks. And Clemson is one of the eight teams Self's Jayhawks have not faced in the past 15 years.

In fact, KU and Clemson have never faced one another in a basketball game of any kind.

Self lost to the first ACC team he faced at Kansas — 79-71 to Georgia Tech in overtime of the Elite Eight — and then won five in a row over ACC teams, including a Final Four meeting with North Carolina in 2008, before dropping another game.

That loss, to Duke in the finals of the 2011 Maui Invitational, came in the same season that the Jayhawks finished as the national runners-up to Kentucky, a run that featured victories over ACC teams North Carolina State and North Carolina two days apart in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in St. Louis.

Those wins marked the beginning of KU's current six-game winning streak against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

As the overall record suggests, Self's Jayhawks own a winning record against every ACC team they have faced in the past 15 seasons, including a 2-1 mark against Duke and a 1-0 mark against Syracuse, the two teams that will face each other in the other regional semifinal this week in Omaha.

KU's lone victory over the Orange — since Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013 — came earlier this season, when Devonte' Graham dropped 35 points and five assists on Jim Boeheim's squad in a 76-60 victory in Miami.

Here's a quick glance at Self's records against the 7 ACC teams he has faced while at Kansas:

• Boston College, 2-0 (home and home in 2006 and 2008)

• Duke, 2-1 (loss in Maui and two wins in Champions Classic)

• Georgia Tech, 2-1 (Elite Eight loss, New Year's Day win in 2005, regular season win in 2007)

• North Carolina, 3-0 (Final Four win in 2008, Elite Eight win in 2012, 2nd Round NCAA Tournament win in 2013)

• North Carolina State, 1-0 (Sweet 16 win in 2012)

• Syracuse, 1-0 (regular season win in 2017-18 in Miami)

• Wake Forest, 1-0 (Battle for Atlantis victory in Bahamas in 2013)

• Clemson, TBD


Reseeding and Vegas odds reveal wide open NCAA Tournament

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham slaps hands with fans as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' win, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham slaps hands with fans as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' win, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

So we're down to the Sweet 16, with two No. 11 seeds, two No. 9 seeds and two No. 7 seeds for good measure.

Holy smokes!

While just two of the tournament's No. 1 and No. 2 seeds remain — Kansas and Villanova on the 1 line and Purdue and Duke on the 2 line — it's certainly anybody's guess as to who will make it out of this weekend and on to the Final Four in San Antonio.

I absolutely love how the bracket has shaken out thus far. For one, upsets are fun and this past weekend was as wild as I can remember. For two, it's a great look for the Big 12 Conference that its top four finishers — in both the regular season and the Big 12 tournament — make up 25 percent of the Sweet 16.

And, finally, I think it's great that the Final Four could end up being something wacky and unexpected like Nevada, Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Clemson or it could take on a blue blood, more-traditional look with Kansas or Duke, Kentucky, Villanova and Michigan all advancing.

Of course, it also could wind up being some combination of the two and that's what makes the days ahead so much fun.

Regardless of who is playing who or how this team matches up with that team, there is one reality that every team still standing must deal with at this point — every game from here on out is going to be a war.

Forget the fact that Duke is playing No. 11 Syracuse and is a double-digit favorite. Ask Michigan State how that worked out?

Forget the fact that Loyola-Chicago is a super Cinderella or that Kansas State is playing mighty Kentucky and look at the reality for both teams — Loyola has found a way to win two wild games and there's no reason to think they can't do it a third time. And K-State won its two games without its best scorer and rebounder. With Dean Wade expected back for the KSU-Kentucky game, Bruce Weber's squad has a real shot of reaching the next round or beyond.

We've still got a couple of days before things get going again, but that hasn't stopped anyone from breaking this thing down to the Nth degree.

One of the most popular things for college basketball analysts to do this time of year is to reseed things after each break in the action. Sure, Kansas and Villanova remain as the only 1 seeds left, but does that mean they're the favorites?

Far from it.

According to Andy Katz, of NCAA.com, and Myron Medcalf, of ESPN.com, there are at least a few teams who currently qualify as better picks than Kansas to cut down the nets.

So say the folks who setting the betting odds, as well.

According to Bovada.lv, the Jayhawks have just the sixth best odds of winning it all of the 16 teams remaining, at 17/2, with Duke (13/4), Villanova (9/2), Gonzaga (7/1), Kentucky (7/1) and Michigan (8/1) all ahead of them.

As for that whole reseeding thing, that appears to be a little murkier.

Medcalf has the Jayhawks ranked as the 10th best team remaining and Katz lists Kansas as the fourth best team still alive.

Medcalf's picks are based largely off of how the teams played in the first two rounds and not as much their overall body of work.

Wrote Medcalf:

Bill Self might be approaching his most impressive postseason feat. The Jayhawks are playing a four-guard lineup that works best when Udoka Azubuike is healthy and avoiding foul trouble. That wasn't the case Saturday against Seton Hall, as he was hindered by a sprained MCL and drew his fourth foul with 8:53 to play, but Kansas still beat Angel Delgado and Seton Hall with a strong finish.

On a day when Devonte' Graham finished 1-for-7 from the field, Azubuike played only 22 minutes and still had 10 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Azubuike changed the game in limited time. And Kansas continues to find a way in challenging circumstances.

Katz, meanwhile, believes that KU's experience has served them well thus far and will continue to do so in the rounds ahead.

Wrote Katz:

The Jayhawks rolled through the Big 12 tournament and haven’t stopped. Penn gave Kansas a game for a spell, but then the second gear took over. Seton Hall certainly pushed the Jayhawks, but Kansas had the look of a champion in the final minutes. Experience matters at this time of the season and the Jayhawks are using theirs to the max.

Time will tell how things shake out and we'll be there every step of the way that the Jayhawks are playing to bring you everything you need from Omaha.

We'll kick start this week's coverage with a new KU Sports Hour podcast this afternoon and then start to breakdown that KU-Clemson matchup, set for 6:07 p.m. Friday on CBS.

So check back with KUsports.com often throughout the week for all of the latest from the Jayhawks' charge toward San Antonio.

And, if you haven't taken our latest quiz yet, check it out and enter to win a $25 gift card.

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Updated odds to win 2018 national championship, per Bovada.lv

Updated odds to win 2018 national championship, per Bovada.lv by Matt Tait


How a ‘bad,’ ‘terrible’ play helped KU finish off Seton Hall

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

WICHITA — Svi Mykhailiuk is lucky to be alive.

OK, so that might be a slight exaggeration. But if you were only basing it off the look on Bill Self’s face when Mykhailiuk let go of a pass that was at best risky and probably closer to the “terrible” grade Self later applied to it, then the words of the senior after the game made a little more sense.

“Oh, he would’ve killed me,” joked Mykhailiuk after KU’s 83-79 win. “It was a bad, bad play.”

Here’s how it all happened.

Khadeen Carrington hit a deep 3-pointer to cut KU’s lead over Seton Hall to four with 29.4 seconds remaining. Seton Hall took a timeout.

Mykhailiuk ran the baseline and inbounded the ball to Lagerald Vick. Vick tapped it back to Mykhailiuk, who, without even first landing on the ground, threw a pass all the way down the floor to a streaking Devonte’ Graham.

“I saw Devonte’ open so I threw it to him,” said Mykhailiuk. “I did not think (the defender) was going to come steal the ball. I was nervous when I passed that.”

Desi Rodriguez, who was keeping an eye on Lightfoot down the floor, broke away from his man. He had a chance to grab the ball as it bounced right by the half-court line.

The ball should have been picked off. Even the announcer calling the game thought so.

“Back to Mykhailiuk, who threw it away!” exclaimed Brad Nessler, who then saw the ball bounce under Rodriguez’s hands and end up in Graham’s mitts.

“Almost!” he corrected.

(Check out the aftermath of the pass in the photo below. Look at Graham's facial expression and the surprise that's on it after he ended up with the ball. And be sure to note the pain on Rodriguez's face in the background. There's little doubting that the Seton Hall senior, just a split second earlier, thought he had the steal.)

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) comes away with a ball that was nearly stolen late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) comes away with a ball that was nearly stolen late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Back to the sequence, the nerves were free-flowing all around.

“Every ball has a chance to get picked off,” said Mitch Lightfoot, “but once the ball was a loose ball I was like, ‘Uh oh.’”

“We just got lucky on that one,” added Graham. “I had seen the defender like at the last second, so I just tried to hit the ball to myself. Thank God that it came, that it went through.”

Graham regained possession, took a pair of dribbles and shoveled the ball off to Lightfoot. The big man dunked it with two hands and let out a roar in the process.

The basket gave KU 77 points and put the Jayhawks up six. Carrington would hit another three, but there wasn’t enough time for the Pirates to keep trading baskets.

It would’ve been the game-winning score, in fact, if not for a meaningless — to some — 3-pointer with two seconds left to massage the final margin.

“You’ve got to make winning plays with the game on the line,” Graham said. “Coach stresses it a lot in practice and we just try to do it in the games.”

As for the other stress — that of Self’s potential reaction — Mykhailiuk’s teammates each laughed when told about Mykhailiuk’s comment.

At least one player, though, agreed with the Ukranian’s assertion.

“Not far from it,” Lightfoot joked. “Thank God it didn’t happen. Thank God we’re moving on.”


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 83, Seton Hall 79

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) elevates to the bucket against Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) during the first half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) elevates to the bucket against Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) during the first half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 83-79 2nd Round NCAA Tournament victory over Seton Hall in Wichita.

Offense: A

Even on a night when leading scorer Devonte' Graham shot 1-of-7 from the floor, the Jayhawks had enough offense to reach the Sweet 16. Malik Newman was terrific, finishing with 28 points on 8-of-14 shooting and the Jayhawks, after starting 3-of-13 from 3-point range, made 6 of their last 8 3-pointers to knock out the Pirates. The Jayhawks, as a team, shot 50 percent from the floor, 42.9 percent from 3-point range and got to the free throw line 10 more times than Seton Hall (26-16).

Defense: B-

There were a few key stops and the Jayhawks forced Seton Hall into 15 turnovers — many of them coming in the key stretch that opened the game and gave Kansas control — but overall, the Jayhawks had very little answer for Angel Delgado, got beat up inside during the 18 minutes when Udoka Azubuike was not in the game and, according to KU coach Bill Self, did not do a very good job of making Seton Hall play bad at any point in the game. Still, they scrapped out enough key plays and made enough big shots to survive and advance.

Frontcourt: B+

Mitch Lightfoot did all he could do but simply was not built to bang bodies with a man so much bigger and stronger than him in Delgado. And Silvio De Sousa too often looked lost on the floor again to play more than four minutes. Luckily for the Jayhawks, Azubuike proved that his injured left knee has made major improvement and he was able to gut out 22 crucial minutes to the tune of 10 points and 7 rebounds, neither number coming anywhere close to illustrating Azubuike's impact on the game.

Backcourt: A

Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk bounced back from sub-par nights in the opening round with big nights in this one, combing for 44 points to help pace the KU offense. Both players were at their best driving to the rim, which either led to tough buckets inside or trips to the free throw line. Lagerald Vick also had an under-the-radar solid game, finishing 5-of-9 from the floor for 13 points and four rebounds in 33 active minutes. Vick looked turned up all night and really appears to be playing an aggressive brand of basketball on both ends when it counts the most. Marcus Garrett had an off night and Devonte' Graham did, as well, finishing with five times as many turnovers as made shots. But the play of Newman, Mykhailiuk and Vick more than carried the day for the Kansas backcourt and Graham dished nine assists to keep all of them involved.

Bench: A

He started the second half, so Azubuike was only a part-time bench player on Saturday night. But boy were those bench minutes enormous. The big guy helped KU's defense survive Delgado and also gave KU a real threat in the paint on the offensive end. He's not fully recovered from that ailing left knee, but you never would've known that from watching him play. He was aggressive, played hard and attacked the ball and rim whenever possible. Azubuike's play alone earned the bench an A. And, provided all goes as well next week as it did this week with his healing, that likely will be the last time we see him come off the bench for Kansas.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Seton Hall

By the Numbers: Kansas 83, Seton Hall 79.

By the Numbers: Kansas 83, Seton Hall 79.


First Glance: Your early primer on KU-Seton Hall

Seton Hall guard Khadeen Carrington (0) puts a shot over North Carolina State guard Allerik Freeman (12) during the second half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Seton Hall guard Khadeen Carrington (0) puts a shot over North Carolina State guard Allerik Freeman (12) during the second half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

The matchup is set, the second round is now just a day away and we all know that top-seeded Kansas will face No. 8 seed Seton Hall at 6:10 p.m. Saturday on TBS.

So what, exactly, does that mean?

Well, throughout the rest of the day, we'll get an opportunity to find that out, as we get into both locker rooms and ask the players and coaches about the matchup.

But in the meantime — KU's locker room opens around 1:00 and Seton Hall's opens around 2:00 — let's take a quick look at the basics.

Here are three quick reasons to smile and three reasons to sigh from the KU perspective.

We'll have much more throughout the day, but here's a little something to hold you over until the main course.

3 reasons to smile –

1 - I'll be honest, I thought NC State looked like the better matchup for Kansas, both from a stylistic standpoint and because of the fact that KU senior Devonte' Graham knows those guys so well. But that one would've been more of a game of similar styles facing off against one another. In this one, it's a little bit of that size against speed thing that we saw against Texas A&M earlier this season. That's not to say Seton Hall is quite as big as A&M or that KU's quickness advantage will be that pronounced. But I think it's there. Seton Hall has big guards who move heavy in half-court sets and could have a hard time matching up with Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick and even Malik Newman and Marcus Garrett. If KU's offense plays at a crisp pace, attacking off the bounce and getting the ball moving, it should give the Pirates problems. That's in the half-court. If KU can get out in transition, that will make the advantage even greater. Even though Seton Hall is also comfortable on the run, they're not quite as fast.

2 - Seton Hall may have just played its best game. Watching courtside, it was clear that the Pirates were playing for their lives and played incredibly hard to advance. The Jayhawks did, too, of course, but the challenge was not quite as great — especially for the KU defense — and there was just something about that Seton Hall-NC State game that looked like it took a greater toll on the players. I'd expect the Jayhawks to put the Pirates in a ton of pick-and-roll situations, both because it's best for Kansas to keep the ball in Graham's hands and let him dictate everything that happens and also because Seton Hall's defense is vulnerable against ball screens.

3 – Throughout the years, Bill Self coached KU teams have been pretty tough to beat on short notice. Self and his coaching staff have always done a fantastic job of quickly coming up with a game plan and, more importantly, communicating it to their players in a way that both makes sense and does not overwhelm them. Devonte' Graham should help a lot here, as well, as there's pretty much nothing that guy hasn't seen. Add to that the fact that KU did not play its best game by any means in Round 1 and it's easy to see the Round 2 effort looking much more relaxed and efficient. Mykhailiuk and Newman, in particular, seem to be due for big bounce-back games. If that happens, Graham does his thing and the Jayhawks get anything from their three-headed big man monster — remember, without Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot and De Sousa averaged 15 points and 13 rebounds in 3 games at the Big 12 tourney — it should be advantage Kansas. Let's not forget the home-court edge in atmosphere that will be 100 percent in KU's favor.

3 reasons to squirm

1 - Angel Delgado is a beast and he could be a handful for the KU big men. The second-team all-Big East player has a relentless motor and plays with a lot of passion. He can play all over the floor, loves the spin move in the post and has a decent but inconsistent jumper for a guy his size (6-10, 245). In all honesty, though, if Delgado is pulling jumpers, KU will be absolutely ecstatic. If KU center Udoka Azubuike were completely healthy, this would not be nearly as big of a concern, even though Delgado's quickness could still give Azubuike problems. This, to me, seems like a pretty good matchup for Silvio De Sousa, much the way going up against Sagaba Konate was last weekend. That's not to say De Sousa will have the same kind of success against Delgado that he had against Konate, but KU will need him to be on that level. I'd also look for a lot of doubling of Delgado on the catch. KU has done a terrific job at this all season — and, really, throughout Self's time in charge — and in addition to taking him out of the game a little, it could force Delgado into forcing passes out of the double team and into turnovers, which would aid KU's quest for transition.

2 – Offensive rebounding is a real strength of Seton Hall's and it goes beyond Delgado, who ranks eighth nationally at almost four per game. As a team, the Pirates rank 37th nationally in offensive rebounding, getting 12.2 offensive boards a game, and 28th in the nation in getting 34.1 percent of available opportunities. KU, meanwhile, as you all know, ranks 280th in the country in giving up offensive rebounds, allowing opponents to get 31.2 percent of their misses back. KU's guards have shown they can hit the glass, especially Newman and Svi. And all five of them will have to be willing to do that kind of work in order for KU to neutralize what should be Seton Hall's biggest edge.

3 – The experience edge, as a whole, goes to Seton Hall, as the Pirates have a bunch of seniors and upperclassmen who are playing for their lives and have a better understanding of what a loss means. KU has the same thing going for it with Graham and Svi, but those young guys, even though there's no doubt that they want to win for their seniors, might not fully understand everything that goes into the win-or-go-home mindset. Even with a younger lineup, KU has much more NCAA Tournament experience than the Pirates because of KU's ability to go deep in the past couple of tournaments. As much as the experience/urgency factor could favor the Hall, it also could go against them, as there has been a tendency for teams to tighten up when they know their season is on the line.

Much more where this came from. This was just a quick look. So stick with KUsports.com throughout the day and leading up to game time on Saturday for all kinds of coverage on this second round matchup.


Thanks to senior guard Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall has a head start on scouting Kansas

Seton Hall forward Desi Rodriguez (20) puts a shot over North Carolina State forward Lennard Freeman (1) and North Carolina State guard Allerik Freeman (12) during the second half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan.

Seton Hall forward Desi Rodriguez (20) puts a shot over North Carolina State forward Lennard Freeman (1) and North Carolina State guard Allerik Freeman (12) during the second half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Wichita — He may have stopped short of saying he was excited to play the Jayhawks, but Seton Hall senior Desi Rodriguez sure sounds ready.

Speaking after eighth-seeded Seton Hall's 94-83 victory over No. 9 seed NC State at Intrust Bank Arena, Rodriguez explained that he already has a little familiarity with Kansas.

And it has nothing to do with knowing any of their players or coaches leading up to Saturday's showdown.

“It's funny because I watch them,” Rodriguez said. “I'm a fan of Kansas. But now I'm not no more, just for this game. But I watch their games a lot. Their games come on TV a lot. Just going through a variety of games, that's the best game on TV. They always give you a good game.”

Rodriguez expects to learn much more about the Jayhawks in the next 24 hours, but said he was pretty content with his head-start.

“Other than the other scouting report my coach is going to give me, I got a great scouting report myself,” Rodriguez said. “I've been scouting them myself all year, watching all their games. That's a tough team.”

Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard interrupted.

“You're doing a scouting report?” Willard asked.

“Yeah. I've been doing scouting on Kansas. I can tell you a little bit about it. But I've been watching their game. Great team, great coach. We're just going with a focused mindset to try to get a win.”

Added Seton Hall's Khadeen Carrington, who led the Pirates with 26 points against NC State: “Yeah. I watch Kansas a lot, too. I watched them a few times this year. They got great guards. They got great bigs. So I'm sure coach is going to have a great game plan. I'm not bringing up a scouting quote like Des. I'm just listening to the coaches.”

Said Rodriguez, defending himself and paying KU a compliment in the process: “It's always good to watch good teams. Good teams play, you can learn. And I've been watching them and hopefully we can get a win.”

As for Willard's understanding of the Jayhawks, he appears to have some catching up to do.

“I have not watched Kansas one bit,” the Seton Hall coach said. “It's just not what I do. I just don't think I'm smart enough to watch more than one team at a time, to be perfectly honest with you.

“I know Bill (Self). And I have unbelievable respect for his program and have watched them play. So I know how they play. Bt this time of year, you kind of get in a bunker and you hold down. We'll watch a lot of film with the team tonight and put our game plan together. But you know you're going to play the 1 seed and you know it's going to be a challenge because the 1 seed is the 1 seed for a reason. And Kansas is Kansas because they're a phenomenal program with great players.”


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 76, Penn 60

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) fights his way around a pick set by Penn forward AJ Brodeur (25) as he defends Penn guard Ryan Betley (21) during the first half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. At right is Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22).

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) fights his way around a pick set by Penn forward AJ Brodeur (25) as he defends Penn guard Ryan Betley (21) during the first half, Thursday, March 15, 2018 at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan. At right is Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22). by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 76-60, first-round NCAA Tournament victory over 16th-seeded Penn on Thursday in Wichita.

Offense: B+

If Devonte' Graham had not been outstanding, the Jayhawks could have been in real trouble. And even Graham needed 24 shots to get to 29 points, with eight coming at the free throw line. The turnovers were down (8) and the free throw shooting (88.2 percent) and 3-point shooting (41.2 percent) was up. What's most impressive was that Kansas won this game by shooting just 17 3-pointers, including a 3-of-6 mark in the second half.

Defense: B-

The Jayhawks got the stops they needed, but a big chunk of the reason for that was the fact that Penn simply missed a bunch of shots. The Quakers shot 39.3 percent for the game and missed 34 of the 56 shots they took. But give Kansas some of the credit for those misses, because KU's style and defensive effort really wore Penn down in the final 25-30 minutes of the game.

Frontcourt: B

After a pair of rough games against K-State and West Virginia, Mitch Lightfoot returned to form in this one, finishing one point shy of a double-double and playing solid defense on a tough player in Penn's AJ Brodeur. “Their big guy's a little bit different style of big guy than we see in the Big 12,” Lightfoot said of Brodeur. “He did a great job. He was throwing some fakes in there that I haven't seen. It was a great team to play against. Take a page out of his book and put it in my game.” Outside of Lightfoot's nine-point, 11-rebound game, the Jayhawks got very little from Silvio De Sousa in his 10-minute return to Earth, and next to nothing (other than an emotional lift) from the 3 minutes played by injured starter Udoka Azubuike. KU will need both Lightfoot sidekicks to play much better on Saturday against Seton Hall.

Backcourt: A

Graham and Lagerald Vick were great and Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk hit some timely shots and were as good as they needed to be. Newman had a rough defensive day and should be motivated to bounce back from that in Round 2. And Vick, who Self has said is on an uptick in the past week, delivered the kind of performance he can really build on heading into the rest of the tournament.

Bench: A-

Marcus Garrett grabbed five rebounds — the same number as Azubuike and De Sousa combined — and, once again, played his role well in 22 important minutes. Azubuike's bench minutes were as important as anything, though, given the fact that his knee was uncertain and he now knows a little better what to expect from it on Saturday after two more days of rest.


Jayhawks arrive in Wichita for NCAA Tournament

After a Tuesday afternoon practice at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence — at 1 p.m., no less, the same time as tip-off in their Round 1 NCAA Tournament game Thursday against Penn — the No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks hopped on a bus and headed south to Wichita, site of this year's first and second round Midwest regional games.

Arriving at the team hotel in Downtown Wichita, at about 8:30 p.m., the Jayhawks filed in, one by one, and checked into their rooms that they hope they'll be in for the next few days.

In addition to media sessions and an off-site practice, KU will host an open practice at Intrust Bank Arena from 12:30 p.m. to 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday.


Bill Self to coach U18 team with USA Basketball this summer

Kansas head coach Bill Self lays into an official during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas head coach Bill Self lays into an official during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. by Nick Krug

Regardless of how the Jayhawks do in this year's NCAA Tournament, Kansas coach Bill Self will not have to wait an entire year to guide a team through another tournament.

On Tuesday, Kansas and USA Basketball announced that Self will be the head coach of the U18 USA Men's National Team when it travels to Canada this summer to compete in the FIBA Americas basketball tournament.

Self, who served as a member of the USA Basketball Men's Collegiate committee from 2005-08, will be coaching international ball for the first time when he takes a group of Under-18 players to St. Catherines, Canada, June 11-17 for the event.

Self will be joined by former KU legend and Self assistant Danny Manning, now the head coach at Wake Forest, and Dayton coach Anthony Grant.

"It's an honor to be selected to coach, and I look forward to working with Danny and Anthony and the young men that will represent the USA in the U18 competition," Self said in a press release. "It's something I've wanted to do for a while, and I'm really looking forward to it.

“I've worked with Danny quite a bit, but I haven't had a chance to spend a much time with him as of late, and I look forward to reconnecting. I've always thought he has a great basketball mind. I'm very excited about working with Anthony. He has spent a lot of time running his own programs but also has spent a lot of time with coach (Billy) Donovan at Florida and with the (Oklahoma City) Thunder. I think he will add some things to the staff that we can utilize and make us better.”

Self is far from the only one looking forward to the summer challenge.

"I feel very fortunate and blessed to be a part of USA Basketball and have this opportunity to be a part of this staff," Manning said in the release. "To have a chance to be an assistant on Bill's staff again is something I am really excited about. There will be a lot of familiarity with coach Self after working with him for so many years, and he is a very good friend of mine. I have gotten the chance to get to know Anthony over the years, and I am sure he will do a great job at Dayton. I am excited to spend time with Bill and learn from him again and also learn from Anthony and all his experiences."

Added Grant: "It is truly an honor to represent our country as a member of the USA Basketball U18 coaching staff. I look forward to working with coach Self and coach Manning and preparing our young men to qualify for next year's U19 World Cup. I have tremendous respect for Bill Self and the success he has had at every stop in his career," Grant said of the USA coaching staff. "I am excited about this opportunity to work with him and help us win the FIBA Americas Championship. I have known Danny for several years and what he has been able to achieve as a player and now a coach is admirable. I respect him as a man and a coach, and look forward to being on this staff with him."

Bringing Self into the fold of USA Basketball was a long overdue move according to Purdue coach Matt Painter, who also serves as the chair of the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team Committee, which is responsible for selecting the USA U18 staff and athletes.

“The leadership of Bill, Anthony and Danny will be instrumental in the development of the U18 national team,” Painter said in the release. “They are outstanding leaders that get the most from the players they coach and will be able to continue the success that the U18 team has experienced on the global level.”

While the opportunity to coach a national team and represent one's country, the way KU did at the World University Games in South Korea a couple of years ago, certainly qualifies as an exciting adventure, the opportunity to spend some more quality time around a handful of players who could one day play for him at KU is an added bonus for Self and has been beneficial to other college coaches who held this position in the past.

In 2016, current Texas coach Shaka Smart, along with Maryland's Mark Turgeon and UConn's Kevin Ollie, led Team USA to the gold. And two years before that, then-Florida coach Billy Donovan teamed with Sean Miller and Ed Cooley to lead the U18 team to the top prize.

Team USA has won four consecutive gold medals at the event.

Training camp for the 2018 USA Basketball Men's U18 National Team will be conducted from May 31 through June 2 at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and finalists for the team are expected to be announced on June 2. Athletes eligible for this team must be U.S. citizens who are 18 years old or younger (born on or after Jan. 1, 2000).

The team will continue training June 3-8 in Colorado Springs until departing for the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship.


KU senior Devonte’ Graham admits second-round showdown with hometown team would be a lot of fun

Devonte' Graham screams toward the Allen Fieldhouse crowd after a Jayhawks basket versus Tennessee State.

Devonte' Graham screams toward the Allen Fieldhouse crowd after a Jayhawks basket versus Tennessee State. by Nick Krug

When it comes to talking about their draw in the NCAA Tournament, par for the course with college basketball players this time of year is to be focused only on the opponent in front of them and nothing else.

And while that certainly seemed to ring true with the top-seeded Kansas men's basketball players on Sunday, there also was a very human moment that broke through.

Asked if there were any potential matchups beyond Thursday's first-round game against No. 16 seed Penn — 1 p.m. on TBS at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita — that excited him, KU senior Devonte' Graham pointed to Round 2 and a potential meeting with No. 9 seed North Carolina State.

“Well, if we win the first game, my home, NC State was (one) of the last two teams I picked (between, while being recruited), so playing against them would be fun for me,” said Graham, a native of Raleigh, N.C., who has spent plenty of time around the Wolfpack program throughout his life.

“I know a lot of them,” Graham said. “Played with them in the summer time when I go home and stuff like that, so I've got a lot of friends on that team.”

In order for the matchup to materialize, KU must first get by Penn and NC State must get past No. 8 seed Seton Hall. Because of that, it makes sense that Graham does not plan to get too far ahead of things by reaching out to those guys for a little friendly chatter leading up to the possible showdown.

The same cannot be said for the other side, however.

“Some of them have already text me,” Graham said. “(Guys) that used to play there or that's on the team now. It's just my friends, so it would be a good, fun game for me, personally.”

The Jayhawks own an 11-1 all-time edge over the Wolfpack, with the most recent meeting also coming in the NCAA Tournament. Kansas knocked off NC State, 60-57, in the Sweet 16 back in 2012 in St. Louis before topping North Carolina in the Elite Eight to reach the Final Four.

As for the Jayhawks' series with Seton Hall, that series, which is tied at 1-1, has been dormant for even longer. KU's last meeting with the Pirates came at the Maui Invitational in 2001, when the Jayhawks rolled to an 80-62 victory.

As for the series with the team they know they will play, the Jayhawks hold a 3-0 all-time advantage over Penn, with the most recent victory coming via a 105-59 win on Jan. 4, 2000 in Lawrence.

Despite a fun second-round matchup with his hometown team looming, moving KU's edge in the series with Penn to 4-0 was the only thing on Graham's mind after he left the Allen Fieldhouse media room following Sunday's selection show.

"We're focused on Penn,” Graham said. “That's it. We ain't worried about anybody else. ... We just have to take it one game at a time like coach always tells us and treat each weekend like it's a two-game tournament.”

Like I said, par for the course. But seeing that Graham had actually looked at the bracket and was unafraid to talk about that potential meeting with the program he almost picked over Kansas was pretty cool and also speaks to the senior's mindset heading into the tournament.

KU coach Bill Self always talks about the teams with fresh and free minds having the best chances to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. And Graham's willingness to talk about what might happen without hesitation sure sounded like a guy with a free mind to me.


KU Sports Extra: Bracket Reaction 2018

Selection Sunday has come and gone and it's time to usher in another NCAA Tournament.

The Kansas men's basketball team earned a No. 1 seed in the Midwest region after going 27-7 this season and winning both the Big 12 regular season and Big 12 tournament titles.

The Jayhawks will open NCAA Tournament play at 1 p.m. Thursday in Wichita against No. 16 seed Penn, the champions of The Ivy League.

Here are our early thoughts on that matchup and the entire 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket.


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 81, West Virginia 70 - Big 12 title game

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pressure West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the first half, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) pressure West Virginia guard Daxter Miles Jr. (4) during the first half, Saturday, March 10, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 81-70, Big 12 title game victory over West Virginia on Saturday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Offense: A

Five guys in double figures. Big shots and timely moments. Spreading the wealth and going for the dagger late instead of trying to run clock. It wasn't a perfect night on the offensive end, but there's no doubt that the Jayhawks did and got what they wanted for much of the game. The Jayhawks shot 56 percent from the floor, 55 percent from 3-point range and managed to win despite shooting 50 percent from the free throw line in two fewer trips than the Mountaineers.

Defense: A

Daxter Miles Jr., scored 25 points but needed 20 shots to do it. Jevon Carter added 17 points but shot 5-of-12 to do it. And Silvio De Sousa's 10 rebounds, six from Malik Newman and five from Lagerald Vick all were huge parts of the defensive effort in this one. Kansas limited WVU to 40 percent shooting for the game, including 33 percent from 3-point range. There were some rough stretches, but they were few and far between and most of what West Virginia got on offense was a credit to them. The Jayhawks competed all night and were terrific when they had to be.

Frontcourt: A

Udoka Azubuike sat in street clothes and Mitch Lightfoot delivered little. Luckily for the Jayhawks, Silvio De Sousa decided to have his best game of the year. In 26 minutes, the freshman tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds and provided more than enough for the Jayhawks inside.

Backcourt: A

Newman buried 6-of-8 3-pointers and Svi Mykhailiuk knocked in 4-of-8. Devonte' Graham chipped in three triples and added 18 points and 13 assists. And Lagerald Vick gave terrific effort for most of the game, making a couple of big shots, none more impressive than the baseline riser early in the second half that is basically indefensible. In short, KU got big time games from all five guards who played, including Marcus Garrett, who did not put up big numbers but was key against the WVU pressure.

Bench: A

Even though he started the second half, Silvio De Sousa is technically still a bench player. Good thing, too, because that keeps alive KU's stretch of A's from this game. As you know by now, De Sousa was sensational in this one, helping lead Kansas to the Big 12 title with equal parts grit and passion. If this really is just the beginning for the big fella, the next couple of weeks could get pretty interesting.

By the Numbers: Kansas 81, West Virginia 70

By the Numbers: Kansas 81, West Virginia 70


Jayhawks Cut Down the Nets in Kansas City


KU Guard Malik Newman on Having Fun Again on the Basketball Court


KU Sports Extra: Sunflower State Sweep

The ninth-ranked Kansas men's basketball team stormed into the Big 12 tournament title game on Friday night with an 83-67 victory over fourth-seeded Kansas State.

It marked the 10th time the Jayhawks and Wildcats have hooked up in the Big 12 tourney and the Jayhawks are now 10-0 in those games. It marked the third time the Jayhawks and Wildcats hooked up this season. And the Jayhawks are now 3-0 in those games.

Their reward? West Virginia at 5 p.m. Saturday night for the Big 12 title.

Check out the latest KU Sports Extra for more thoughts on KU's win over K-State and the upcoming showdown with West Virginia.


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 83, Kansas State 67 — Big 12 semifinals

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) and Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) salute teammate Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after a made free throw during the second half, Friday, March 9, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Malik Newman (14) and Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) salute teammate Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) after a made free throw during the second half, Friday, March 9, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 83-67 Big 12 semifinal victory over Kansas State on Friday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Offense: B-

Malik Newman caught fire for the second night in a row and he and Svi Mykhailiuk, combining for nine 3-pointers, both hit some incredibly well-timed shots. Outside of that, KU's offense was a little bit sloppy and lacked rhythm. Part of that could have been the fact that the Jayhawks' energy was not where it needed to be. The other factor might have been point guard Devonte' Graham dealing with some kind of mild illness. Either way, KU was good enough in this one but far from anything that would be considered great.

Defense: B-

The Jayhawks were much better on the perimeter here than they were inside, where Makol Mawien went 13-of-19 for 29 points. And, like the rest of the game, KU slipped in and out of good moments and bad when it came to their defense. Kansas State shot just 2-of-13 from 3-point range and was merely average attacking the rim off the dribble.

Frontcourt: C

The numbers for Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa were good for the second game in a row. Sixteen points and 14 rebounds combined, certainly seem like good numbers in place of Udoka Azubuike. But it sure seemed like KU coach Bill Self was yelling at both players a lot more than he did on Thursday and Self, himself, said after the game that both players did some good things and also were awful at times. They'll have to be better on Saturday in the title game.

Backcourt: B+

Newman's 22-point night puts him at 26 points per game in the tournament so far and makes him the front-runner for Big 12 tourney MVP if the Jayhawks can win on Saturday. Graham came through with eight assists and Mykhailiuk knocked down 50 percent of his 3-point attempts. All are things the Jayhawks need to get consistently from this point on. Getting Lagerald Vick going again would not hurt either. He finished with 10 points and four rebounds in 28 minutes but did not seem to be as engaged as the Jayhawks want/need him to be.

Bench: B

Marcus Garrett made the play of the night — a steal after his own miss that helped KU pull away for good — and De Sousa logged career-highs in minutes (19) and rebounds (11). The only other player who checked in off the bench during real game minutes was Sam Cunliffe and he went out almost as quickly as he came in after fouling on his first possession and throwing the ball away on his second.

By the Numbers: Kansas 83, K-State 67

By the Numbers: Kansas 83, K-State 67


KU Sports Extra: Storming Into the Big 12 Semis

The Kansas men's basketball team avenged a pair of regular season losses to Oklahoma State with an impressive 82-68 victory over the Cowboys in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at Sprint Center.

Playing without sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, KU outscored OSU by a point in the first half and by 13 in the second en route to the run-away victory.

Malik Newman poured in 30 points and Silvio De Sousa and Mitch Lightfoot combined for 14 points and 14 rebounds to make up for the absence of Azubuike.

Here are a few thoughts from Tom Keegan and Matt Tait from Sprint Center.


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 82, Oklahoma State 68, Big 12 tournament

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) soars in for a lob jam against Oklahoma State during the second half, Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) soars in for a lob jam against Oklahoma State during the second half, Thursday, March 8, 2018 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 82-68 victory over Oklahoma State during Thursday’s Big 12 tournament quarterfinals at Sprint Center.

Offense: A

Malik Newman became the seventh KU player to score 30 points in a conference tournament game and missed out on tying Wayne Simien for KU’s record for most points in a single conference tournament game by a single point. Obviously, that stole the show in this one. But, as a team, KU was pretty darn good elsewhere offensively, too. The Jayhawks shot 56 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and knocked in 10 of 14 free throws while dishing out 17 assists. It was exactly the kind of game Kansas needed following last weekend’s brutal loss at Oklahoma State.

Defense: A

There were good moments and bad on defense, but, overall, the Jayhawks competed their tails off and the numbers showed that. KU held Oklahoma State to 40 percent shooting, 22.7 from 3-point range, and limited them to just 10-of-32 shooting in the second half. That half included an OSU scoring drought that nearly lasted eight minutes and allowed Kansas to take control of the game.

Frontcourt: B+

Graded on a curve, considering the fact Udoka Azubuike was out with a knee injury, the Jayhawks’ big men were still pretty darn good. Fourteen points and 14 rebounds combined for Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa was more than enough to make up for the absence of Azubuike. This would’ve been an A had it not been for the handful of bad fouls committed by both players. If they can clean up that part of their game, their confidence and production will only get better.

Backcourt: A

How about this for an oddity: Devonte’ Graham actually had one of the roughest days of the KU guards. Yes, Graham still had 10 points and nine assists, but he tossed in six turnovers to go along with that. Newman’s 30 points were magnificent and Svi Mykhailiuk added 13 on 50 percent shooting — not to mention grabbing six boards during an active rebounding day for the KU senior — and Lagerald Vick finally got going again in the second half with 11 points and four rebounds.

Bench: B

Marcus Garrett made his mark on the game by competing far harder than his final numbers showed and Silvio De Sousa did the same, albeit in slightly louder fashion. Add to that the essential minutes that football tight end James Sosinski played toward the end of the first half and, all in all, it was a darn good day for the Kansas bench.


How Mitch Lightfoot made charges a secret weapon for KU basketball

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) takes one of his two charges against Oklahoma State during the second half of Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) takes one of his two charges against Oklahoma State during the second half of Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — Sitting at his locker in the bowels of Sprint Center after an 82-68 KU win, Mitch Lightfoot dropped his phone and watched as it tumbled to the floor.

A reporter reached out to pick it up, but Lightfoot shooed him away.

“It’s already cracked as it is,” Lightfoot said. “It doesn’t really matter.”

As it were, there probably couldn’t have been a more on-brand comment from the sophomore.

Lightfoot scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds on Thursday, but his two biggest plays didn’t involve the ball ever entering his possession. Twice in the second half he stood in to take a charge on the Cowboys. Twice the referee signaled for the offensive foul, leading to an energetic celebration for a player sprawled on his back.

“It’s kind of weird that I get excited for charges,” said Lightfoot. “Someone’s running you over and you get up with a smile on your face.”

Don’t underestimate the value of that smile, though.

As an individual basketball play, few plays are more powerful than a charge.

  • The clock stops
  • The defense doesn’t allow a score
  • An offensive player gets a foul
  • Possession changes

“If you block it they can get it back,” Lightfoot said. “If you get a charge, it’s automatically our ball and a huge momentum shift.”

“Mitch is a good shot-blocker, but I think taking the charge and getting there is more of a momentum play,” added walk-on Clay Young. “I love charges, personally. I think they’re huge in-game.”

And there’s an art to taking them.

Lightfoot has drawn multiple charges in several games this year, including a December game against Syracuse in Miami and the game on Thursday.

“I certainly look for the opportunity. I try to — not find certain guys — but understand certain people’s games,” LIghtfoot said. “That helps a lot in scout. If he’s going to drive to the hoop and he’s going to play with that reckless abandon, you know you can step in, might get a charge on him”

There’s more to it than that, though.

“I had several fouls (against OSU) so there were certain opportunities where I couldn’t step in for a charge because it’s kind of a 50-50 call,” Lightfoot said. “The ones I stepped in on were kind of like 80-20 where I’m probably going to get that.”

And perhaps what makes Lightfoot most effective is that opponents don’t always see it coming.

Quizzed about Lightfoot’s prowess for drawing charges, Malik Newman offered up one suggestion. He said part of it is Lightfoot avoiding “doing anything dumb,” but the other half is what the opponent might be expecting.

“I think as a guard going to basket, a big man would never try to take a charge on me,” Newman said. “I think that’s the same thing that those guys think with him.”

With Lightfoot, that makes some sense. Listed at 6-foot-8, 210 pounds, Lightfoot is far from the most imposing center in the conference. He’s far from that on his own team.

Silvio De Sousa, who backed up Lightfoot on Thursday, is listed at 6-9, 245. James Sosinski, a mid-season addition from the KU football team, stands at 6-7 but weighs 250 pounds.

“This will sound really weird, but I didn’t really take them,” Lightfoot said. “I took them every once in a while in high school. I got to the All-American camps and stuff and I realized that you might not block everyone’s shot because certain people are more athletic than you. You just gotta step in and take a charge.”

The same might apply to just about every player on the team — with one exception.

Azubuike, who coach Bill Self said will miss the Big 12 tournament with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee, stands at a hefty 7-foot, 280 pounds. For that, at least one teammate couldn’t help but crack a big smile when trying to imagine him sliding over to beat an offensive player to a spot.

“No way. No way. Dok take a charge something wrong,” Newman joked. “Dok take a charge we gotta get him out. There’s something wrong with him mentally.”