Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
The speculation from most fans and observers regarding Kansas guard Frank Mason throughout the 2015-16 KU men’s basketball season was that some kind of nagging injury might have been bothering him during various portions of the Jayhawks’ run to a 33-5 record and trip to the Elite Eight.
There certainly were times when Mason, a junior from Petersburg, Virginia, looked a little off of his game and did not play at the same level that he had during his stellar sophomore season.
Mason, like the consistently solid player he has proven to be, always found a way to contribute and, more importantly, always bounced back from those rough stretches, but it seemed to me and most of the people I talked to about Mason throughout the season that he was not playing at quite the same level as a junior as he did as a sophomore.
With the season now in the past and my curiosity racing, I checked out Mason’s stats from both seasons to see how they compared.
The result? It turns out Mason is way more consistent than I even realized.
In the 25 statistical categories kept every season for each player, Mason stayed the same or improved in 20 of them.
The entire lot will be outlined a little later, but, for now, let’s focus on the five categories in which he took a step backwards.
• FG percentage — Mason shot .434 as a junior, seven tenths of a percentage point lower than his .441 average as a sophomore. The interesting thing about this stat, however, is that Mason both took and made more shots during his junior season, with the higher number of attempts creating the slightly lower shooting percentage. It’s also worth noting here that Mason, who played in and started every game during the past two seasons, received the benefit of two more games as a junior because the Jayhawks advanced two rounds farther in the NCAA Tournament. So keep that in mind when reading these stats.
• Three-pointers attempted — Depending on how you look at it, this, too, could have gone down as an “improvement” because Mason took 113 threes as a junior and just 98 as a sophomore. The reason I tossed it into the “got worse” category, though, was because the higher volume of three-point attempts led to Mason shooting a worse percentage.
• Three-point percentage — Mason shot .429 from behind the three-point line as a sophomore and dipped to a .381 three-point shooter his junior season. As mentioned above, the 15 more attempts (again, remember the two extra games) was a big factor for the lower percentage and it’s interesting to note that Mason made just one more three-pointer (43) as a junior than he did as a sophomore (42). In fact, Mason either tied or missed tying by one in seven of the 25 statistical categories: Games started (all), minutes per game (33.5), three-point makes (43-42), turnovers (73-74), steals (50) and blocks (3-4).
• Free throw percentage — As was the case with his three-point shooting, a higher volume of free throws led to a lower percentage for Mason, who shot .739 as a junior compared to .786 as a sophomore. That .739 clip came in 44 more free throw attempts and Mason made 26 more free throws in 2015-16 than he did during the 2014-15 season. Again, you have to take into account those two extra games when considering these and all of his numbers, but, even with that included, Mason exceeded what a lot of his numbers should have been based on his career averages.
• Personal fouls — Mason fouled a whopping 19 more times during the 2015-16 season, hacking opponents 84 times compared to just 65 the previous season. When you consider that his minutes per game and starts were the same as the year before, this stat is a pretty good illustration of just how the way officials emphasized the new rules for fouls (especially early in the season) impacted the game.
So what does all of this mean? As with most stats, it really can mean whatever you interpret it to mean. But one thing that cannot be argued is that Mason, injured or not, was at least as productive as a junior as he was during his sophomore season.
In fact, even his points-per-game average was nearly identical — 12.9 ppg as a junior and 12.6 ppg as a sophomore.
A couple of reasons it might not have seemed that way throughout the season? 1. The better season turned in by Wayne Selden, who replaced Mason as the Jayhawks’ second leading scorer behind Perry Ellis. 2. The emergence of sophomore Devonte’ Graham, who played a much bigger role during his second season with the Jayhawks than he did during his first, which often allowed Mason to do more blending in rather than leading the charge.
Either way you viewed it then or view it now, Mason, as any coach would like to see from his point guard, has been remarkably consistent during the past two seasons and has been the steady driving force behind the team’s recent success.
So what should we expect from Mason as a senior in 2016-17? Here’s a wild guess — more of the same.
— Here's a quick look at the comparison between the two seasons, first in overall stats and second in numbers per 40 minutes. The only stats of the 25 I referenced not shown in the table below are (totals listed in parentheses, with 2015-16 listed first): Games started (38-36), Average minutes (33.5), Average rebounds (4.3-3.9), Assist per game (4.6-3.9) and Average points (12.9-12.6) —
Mason's past two seasons
Mason's past two seasons per 40 minutes
Tuesday afternoon’s two-hour practice, which came three days after the annual spring game, represented our final chance to see the 2016 Kansas University football team until preseason camp.
And, at least through these eyes, the 14th session of spring ball offered a much better look at this group of Jayhawks, mostly because we had more time and did not have to worry about trying to keep up with that strange scoring system that decided the spring game.
The biggest difference between Saturday and Tuesday was the fact that the Jayhawks were wearing shorts, shoulder pads and helmets on Tuesday instead of full pads and it sounds like that’ll be the case again Thursday, when the Jayhawks close out their spring schedule.
From there, they’ll focus on finishing school, getting through finals and then jumping into the always-grueling summer session, which will be run by the players themselves and strength coach Je’Ney Jackson and his staff.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at a few things that caught my eye on Tuesday, both the good and the bad...
• As I wrote in a short article after practice, sophomore QB Ryan Willis was throwing — albeit with a Nerf football — during the early portions of practice and, from the looks of things, the Jayhawks can’t get him back soon enough. Maybe it was just a bad day, but all four of KU’s other quarterbacks showed accuracy issues and failed to consistently put the ball where it needed to be in team drills, on everything from short throws to the flat to deep shots down the field. Willis is not perfect, but he’s got a great arm and he just might believe he is.
• One thing that really jumped out during the entire two-hour session was how much KU’s coaches emphasized good footwork. Sure, fundamentals are stressed every day. And let’s face it; when you’re in the position that KU football is in, you sure better be focusing hardcore on fundamentals. But the specific nature of how much they drilled footwork was interesting to me.
• You know those tomahawk and buckeye stickers that Florida State and Ohio State players (and several other teams with their stickers) put on their helmets when players reach certain goals? It looks as if the Jayhawks are joining the club? I don’t know yet if this is just a practice thing, just a spring thing or something more permanent. But I do know that it’s just a reward for KU’s defensive players right now and that could be the result of the defense getting the better of the offense on a pretty consistent basis throughout the spring. Either way, the tiny Jayhawk stickers look pretty cool.
• Minor detail here, but it definitely stood out: DC Clint Bowen was not at practice because, as Beaty said, he was "as sick as a dog." You know he'd have to be to stay away from one of 15 spring practices that are so valuable to the team. That said, the defense seemed to move fine and work with a business-as-usual attitude and effort without their leader their. Good sign.
• Now for some individual notes.... I’m telling you what, man. This walk-on freshman receiver named Keegan Brewer can really play. He’s physical enough to play right now, runs great routes, has good hands and just oozes confidence. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we’ll see him playing plenty of snaps this fall and during the next four years. And he looks like a pretty dynamic player with great drive and work ethic.
• Return man and former Wichita State sprinter Ryan Schadler was back working with the running backs on Tuesday. Because of a minor injury Schadler did not get any carries (or snaps) during last weekend’s spring game, but him working with the RBs certainly is no surprise. It’s a thin position and Schadler has some skills, so don’t be surprised if that role sticks. One other quick note here: The thin and inexperienced nature of the position should provide a good opportunity for incoming freshman Khalil Herbert to get some carries right away, provided he reports in good shape and picks up the offense quickly.
• I love the look of Fish Smithson and Tyron Miller at safety. Both guys look like natural leaders and bring confidence to the KU secondary. Miller looks about the same, physically, but he appears to be so much more comfortable at his position of choice.
• Remember Chase Harrell? The big, athletic wide receiver who graduated high school early last year and came to KU in time for spring practice? There was a lot of hype around him early on because of that (which might have been unfair) but Harrell went on to red-shirt the 2015 season. I haven’t heard or seen much from him this spring and I can’t help but wonder if he’ll be one of those late bloomers, especially when you consider how many talented receivers are already taking snaps ahead of him. This group of wideouts might not wow the folks at Alabama, but I think there are at least three or four receivers on this team that could play at just about any school in the country. That’s what makes finding the right QB all the more important.
• At the top of that list — though he’s not all that young — is transfer wideout LaQuvionte Gonzalez. You all saw what “Quiv” can do during the spring game, but watching him school the young DBs in KU’s secondary with his quickness and route-running savvy is good entertainment.
• Red-shirt freshman Jace Sternberger is a horse. He came in with good size and appears to have gotten much bigger but, and here’s the important part, he does not seem to have lost his athleticism and speed. I think this guy is going to have a big and very versatile role in KU’s offense this season and beyond. He really seems to be a coach’s dream, too — always attentive, always ready, locked in from start to finish.
• Curious about the first-string offensive line? Well, this was the way it looked during the spring game and it stayed consistent during Tuesday’s practice. From left to right: LT Clyde McCaulley, LG Jayson Rhodes, C Joe Gibson, RG Jacob Bragg, RT De’Andre Banks. It’s hard to know whether that’s what it will be this fall or not, especially when you consider last year’s left tackle (Jordan Shelley-Smith) is currently nursing an injury. But that’s the way it looks right now. Having said that, I was surprised to see how many little details the coaches still had to remind these guys about during Tuesday’s practice. I don’t know if this group has worked together most of the spring or not, and that could’ve been part of the problem. But for all of the good things we’ve heard about how far this group has come in the weight room and conditioning, it seems there’s still more than a little work to do on the field.
• One of the strangest things I saw at Tuesday’s practice came in the final 15 or 20 minutes, when it was offense against offense and defense against defense. What I mean by that is this: Wideouts Shakiem Barbel and Steven Sims alternated between receiver and defensive back. Ryan Schadler played some safety. Offensive lineman Will Smith played some linebacker. Weird, huh? Now, it’s important to note that none of these offensive players “playing defense” of the defensive guys posing as point-producers on the other side of the field actually were running things. It seemed to me as if going offense vs. offense and defense vs. defense was merely a way to keep more players engaged and learning, instead of having the offense go against the defense and putting half of the team on the bench or sideline. Can’t hurt, right?
It’s a dangerous and somewhat foolish endeavor to put expectations of any kind on incoming college freshmen, but most of us just can’t help ourselves, can we?
Whether you’re talking about the type of insane hype that surrounded Andrew Wiggins — which would’ve been there wherever he chose to go to school — or the more tempered hopes put on guys like Wayne Selden, Cole Aldrich, Drew Gooden and dozens of others, fans, media members and even the coaches and players always seem to have some notion of what they expect to get from their shiny new Jayhawks.
That certainly is and will continue to be true of Josh Jackson, the No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2016, who, minutes ago, picked Kansas over Arizona and Michigan State.
But it seems to me that whatever lofty expectations are tossed onto the shoulders of the 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing player who likely will fill Selden’s role in KU’s starting lineup next season, Jackson is in the best position of any KU wing in recent memory to live up to them.
Jackson will be set up to succeed better at Kansas than any wing player since Ben McLemore because of the supporting cast around him.
And, with all due respect to how great McLemore was as a red-shirt freshman during the 2012-13 season, the hype attached to him was not anything close to what we saw with Wiggins, Selden, Kelly Oubre and, of course, now Jackson.
Like McLemore, though, Jackson will be surrounded by a veteran group of quality players who not only know how to play for KU coach Bill Self but also how to navigate the wild world of college basketball.
That can only help — be it in terms of taking the target off of Jackson’s back or in the mentor-student capacity — as Jackson brings his insane athleticism, killer outside shot and all-around impressive game to Lawrence for what figures to be his only season of college basketball.
Just think about KU’s backcourt for a minute. From Day 1, Jackson will be playing next to Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham, a senior and a junior who have the skills and mindset to make plays for themselves and others and the experience to help show Jackson the way and push him to match their focus, tenacity and hunger.
Picture this: Mason attacks the paint and kicks to a wide open Jackson on the wing. After the catch, Jackson will have a few options. 1. Knock down the open jumper with space and time to step into that smooth shot. 2. Attack the rim while the collapsing defense scrambles to recover. 3. Become a facilitator himself by driving to create and then kicking to Mason, Graham or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, all of whom can bury open jumpers from anywhere on the floor.
Beyond those on-the-court, in-game advantages, Jackson also will benefit from playing under the leadership of a couple of strong seniors in Mason and Landen Lucas.
McLemore enjoyed similar riches by being plugged into a starting lineup that included seniors Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and Kevin Young, four Jayhawks who finished the previous season on the doorstep of a national championship.
While that team was crazy talented in terms of toughness and experience, the 2016-17 team figures to have the edge in terms of guards who can make plays off the bounce.
Just think about what having one lead guard like that (Sherron Collins) did for all of those players around him on the 2009-10 team. Aldrich, Xavier Henry, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed and the Morris Twins all consistently got easy looks and open attack lanes because of the way Collins played the game.
If the combination of Mason and Graham can do that for Jackson — and, in turn, him for them — then KU’s newest one-and-done sensation could easily surpass the production of the others who came before him.
Here’s a quick look back at the hand dealt to each of KU’s high-profile wings in the past 10 years.
• Wayne Selden (2013-16) — Selden came in at the same time as Wiggins and played with the same lineup. What’s more, because of the presence of Wiggins himself, Selden was forced to play out of position his first season in Lawrence, which not only hurt his own growth and development but also created issues for the team. It was not until his junior year that Selden finally shined and, even then, he had plenty of moments when he disappeared. Though not as physical, Jackson seems to be coming to Kansas with a more advanced game than Selden brought.
• Kelly Oubre (2014-15) — Like Wiggins, Oubre held down the three spot in KU’s lineup and that, again, forced Selden to play the two. Although most of the key players on the roster were a year older than they were when Wiggins played, that did not necessarily make them a year wiser. Mason was much improved, but the Jayhawks replaced the experienced Tharpe with a rookie in Devonte’ Graham and still had a very young core group.
• Andrew Wiggins (2013-14) — Seven players in KU’s rotation during Wiggins’ lone year in Lawrence were sophomores or younger. That includes Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis. The only player on that KU team with any kind of veteran hue to him was junior guard Naadir Tharpe and, although I always thought Tharpe was a good leader, he was not the kind of guard who made others better with his play on the floor. Because of that, Wiggins often had to do too much and even though his insane talent led to some pretty darn good numbers (17 points, 6 rebounds in 33 minutes per game), you can’t help but wonder what those numbers might’ve been with a few tried and tested teammates taking off some of the pressure.
• Ben McLemore (2012-13) — After sitting out the 2011-12 season, McLemore was a star during the 2012-13 season but he benefitted big time from being eased into the role of hot shooter and highlight dunker because of the talent around him. Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford were tough proven perimeter players who were deadly in transition. And Jeff Withey and Kevin Young were so go inside (especially on the glass) that it allowed McLemore to roam free and play wherever he was most comfortable. Jackson could enjoy similar freedom.
• Josh Selby (2010-11) — Though more of a true guard than a wing, Selby’s issue (other than his personal shortcomings) was that he joined a team with too many quality veterans. Don’t get me wrong, if Selby had been as good as advertised, he would’ve played a ton and probably would’ve found his way into the starting lineup. But after a one-game explosion, the Baltimore guard who was ranked by some recruiting services as the No. 1 player in his class did little to back up that ranking and, instead, watched heady veterans like Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar, Travis Releford and Mario Little dominate the minutes on the perimeter.
• Xavier Henry (2009-10) — Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich were a dominant one-two, inside-out punch and everything else kind of fell in line around them. In fact, I’ve heard plenty of talk throughout the past several years from people wondering just how much more Henry could have shown/produced if he had been on a team like the one Wiggins was on. Instead of being leaned on as a primary piece, Henry spent most of his short KU career trying to fit in and fill a small role, which he did well.
• Brandon Rush (2005-08) — Many believed Rush was a one-and-done prospect when he came to Kansas, but he quickly showed that he needed at least a couple of seasons. A big reason for that was the fact that he came in with a bunch of guys who also were learning on the fly. Granted, that group made up the core of Bill Self’s 2008 national title team, but not having a single veteran who did not start out as a walk-on (Jeff Hawkins, Christian Moody and Stephen Vinson all played an unexpectedly big role on this young team) put Rush in the position of having to do more than he might have been ready for back in an era when other college teams still featured upperclassmen with some regularity.
• Julian Wright (2005-07) — Like Rush, Wright came in with that young core of future national champions and although Wright’s confidence and fearless approach to the game helped make him a lottery pick a year before his classmates won it all, Wright also would have benefitted from playing with a couple of veterans like Jackson will during the 2016-17 season.
As you may have read yesterday, the Kansas University football team has changed up its open-practice policy and limited how much we can see this spring.
Because of that, the “What Caught My Eye” blogs that many of you have come to enjoy during the past six years have gone by the wayside, with most of the media portion of practices this spring being limited to stretching and a special teams drill or two — the same thing, day after day.
In an earlier blog, I promised to come up with something to fill the void and that’s what this is. Instead of “What Caught My Eye,” it’s “What Caught My Ear.”
As I hustled around the room to get to as many players and coaches as I could during the player availability sessions this Wednesday and last Wednesday, I did so with the dog days of summer in mind. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a few tidbits about the progress of this team at this point along the way.
Here’s a look at a few things that caught my ear...
• LaQuvionte Gonzalez has definitely emerged as a team leader and seems to be dying to hit the field to show what kind of play maker he is. Most guys I talked to said “Quiv” is the fastest dude on this team and Gonzalez himself said, as difficult as it was to sit out last season, it made him appreciate his opportunity to play this game more than ever before and positioned him to make the most of every opportunity, every rep, every drill and every game in 2016. There’s not a ton of known commodities to look forward to with this team this fall, but Gonzalez should definitely land on that list.
• Speaking of speed, I keep hearing about sophomore running back Taylor Martin and how much faster and better he looks this season. Martin, who was a star in Texas at the prep level, didn’t get a ton of opportunities to carry the ball and showcase his game last season, but it sounds like he’s healthy and much more comfortable with the speed and complexities of the college game this spring. Given the lack of depth at KU’s RB position, that qualifies as very good news for this team, provided Martin can carry it over to preseason camp and then the season.
• Speaking of running backs, we learned this spring that juco transfer lead back Ke’aun Kinner played hurt all of last season. He had a torn labrum in his left shoulder entering college and it never fully healed while Kinner stepped into a heavy load with the Jayhawks during his first season in town. I talked to Kinner this week and he said he’s healthy now and feels great. I doubt it will impact much in terms of how he runs, but it should help in areas like pass protection, stiff-arms and those sorts of things.
• As far the quarterbacks go, you know by now that Ryan Willis was severely limited this spring because of a right wrist injury and that wrist issue will keep Willis out of Saturday’s spring game. Because of that, Montell Cozart — who lists himself at 90-95 percent healthy — got the first chance to run as the top quarterback in Beaty’s new “more of a true Air Raid” offense. It should be interesting to see how Cozart looks on Saturday and it will be good to talk to Beaty about Willis’ progress, too. At this point, if you made me bet, I’d bet on Cozart starting at quarterback in the season opener against Rhode Island. But it’s still very early and a lot could change in that department. As for the other QBs, I didn’t hear much about Deondre Ford, Keaton Perry or Carter Stanley this spring and newcomer Dagan Haehn is still recovering from his knee injuries and has been a non-factor. The only other intriguing player at this position is Louisiana athlete Tyriek Starks, who will report to campus in June.
• Here’s a quick look at a few names who have earned “Player of the Day” honors this spring: — Offense — James Sullivan (RB), Emmanuel Moore (WR), Tyler Patrick (WR), Austin Moses (WR), Darious Crawley (WR), LaQuvionte Gonzalez (WR), DeAndre Banks (OL), Jacob Bragg (OL) and Jayson Rhodes (OL). — Defense — Stephan Robinson (CB), Joe Dineen (LB), Damani Mosby (DE), Chevy Graham (CB), Tyrone Miller (S), Anthony Olobia (DE), Fish Smithson (S), Derrick Neal (CB), Osaze Ogbebor (LB) and Greg Allen (S). — Special Teams — Keith Loneker (LB), Joe Dineen (LB), Josh Ehambe (DE), Chevy Graham (CB), Matthew Wyman (K), Damani Mosby (DE) and Ben Johnson (TE). Joe Dineen and Damani Mosby were both two-time winners and Chevy Graham was a three-time honoree.
• Defensive end Dorance Armstrong continues to impress and is looking to build on a solid freshman season. But the biggest thing he’s focusing on right now is adding weight. D-Line coach Michael Slater said he wanted Armstrong to add some bulk so he can stay on the field and hold up.
• New special teams coach Joe DeForest said the vibe around KU today reminds him a lot of the feeling in Stillwater, Oklahoma, when he joined Les Miles’ staff at OSU at the beginning of the Cowboys’ rebuild in 2001.
• Offensive coordinator Rob Likens said the carry-over from last year’s initial installation to this year has been phenomenal. There has not been much time devoted (and/or wasted) on reteaching fundamental things about the Jayhawks’ offensive, defensive and cultural philosophies.
• Regarding the new offense, the main thing I keep hearing over and over about it is, "it's easier." They're also talking about how much fun it is and how it presents great potential for big plays all over the field. That, as much as anything, should be on full display during Saturday's spring game.
• As for last year’s 0-12 season, the Jayhawks have not forgotten about it and are eager to use it to drive them and fuel their fire this season. Having said that, they definitely are not dwelling on it and seem to be operating like a new team with a fresh start. That’s no surprise given the fact that this group actually held up pretty well mentally while going through that winless season. Obviously, none of this means more wins are automatically on the way, but, from the mental side of things, this team appears to be in good shape and continuing to move forward — however slowly — in its attempt to strip away the culture of losing that has hung over the program since the end of the Mark Mangino era.
• The spring game is set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium and the weather forecast is fantastic. 67 degrees under mostly sunny skies with 0 percent chance for rain. It will be windy, so keep that in mind when looking at kicks and deep balls. And also be forewarned that this year’s spring game won’t actually be a game at all, more of an extended scrimmage. I’ll have a little more on that in my preview story later tonight.
Sadly, it seems we might have reached the end of an era here at Tale of the Tait — at least for now.
For the past half a dozen years, as you all well know, I’ve done my best to bring a little bit of insight and analysis from all of the KU football practices that we’ve been allowed to attend.
Sometimes, the input has been rather insignificant and focused on something a coach did or said or how much energy a certain player — or group of players — had to start practice. The always popular song of the day updates also falls into the insignificant category.
Other times, however, we have been able to check out some more interesting stuff such as how an injured player appeared to be moving around, just how big the new lineman really looked in person and what kind of effort was being put forth by the players and coaches during certain drills.
Now, however, those days appear to be done — at least with any consistency.
We’re scheduled to get a chance to see one entire spring practice sometime in mid-April, and that, along with Saturday’s spring game, should give us a decent idea of just how much better the Jayhawks look and perform. Up to this point, we’ve only heard such reports. So you can expect to see some thoughts of my thoughts in the blog after we attend that.
Other than that, though, the portion of practice they have kept open for us has included two things — eight minutes of stretching, five minutes of a special teams/field goal drill followed by a walk to the exits.
We also watched those sessions in the past, but always were able to see at least one or two position drills, as well. From those, you can tell a lot more — though, still, not all that much — about how players were progressing, who was out-working whom and things of that nature.
What we get now is pretty much designed to open the gates for us to get photos and video of certain players and/or coaches we might be writing about and that’s it, which is fine.
It’s completely up to them — specifically second-year head coach David Beaty — how much or little they let the media in, and if they want to keep it limited so their players can just focus on going to work, then so be it.
I just figured you guys should know what’s going on so you don’t think it’s me being lazy when the “What Caught My Eye” blogs are fewer and far between.
No bitterness here. I’ll find something else to occupy my time and also will come up with another blog of some sort to fill the void left by the absence of the What Caught My Eye blog.
Like many of you who I already have heard from on Twitter and via email, I’m bummed, too. But rules are rules so we do the best we can with what access the program does give us.
While watching Villanova celebrate and cut down the nets after Monday night’s thrilling victory over North Carolina in the national title game, a topic popped up on Twitter that I felt was worth looking into a little deeper.
Seeing how Kansas was knocked out of this year’s tourney by the Wildcats, I and dozens of other people in the Twitterverse began wondering how many times that had happened to KU in the past.
The answer? Quite a lot. In fact, since 1991, KU’s tournament fate has been tied to teams playing for the national title on the last Monday of the college basketball season nearly half the time.
Breaking it down further, KU has lost to the eventual national champion 7 times since 1991. What’s more, KU has lost to the eventual runner-up 5 more times in that same stretch. And, of course, the Jayhawks themselves have been the national runner-up 3 times in that span (1991, 2003 and 2012) and, of course, won one national title themselves (2008).
Take it back a few years farther and you can add another national title (1988) and another loss to the eventual runner-up (Duke in 1986).
I know a lot has been made about KU’s early exits, both under Roy Williams and Bill Self, and these facts certainly don’t eliminate those losses. But it sure seems like the following list proves, in yet another way, just how consistently strong Kansas basketball has been in the past 30 years.
Here’s a more detailed look:
1986 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Duke in national semifinals.
1988 – KU beats Oklahoma for the national championship.
1991 - KU loses to Duke in national title game.
1993 – KU loses to eventual national champion North Carolina in national semifinals.
1996 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Syracuse in Elite Eight.
1997 – KU loses to eventual champ Arizona in Sweet 16.
2002 – KU loses to eventual champ Maryland in national semifinals.
2003 – KU loses to Syracuse in national title game.
2004 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Georgia Tech in Elite Eight.
2008 – KU beats Memphis for the national championship.
2009 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Michigan State in Sweet 16.
2012 – KU loses to Kentucky in national title game.
2013 – KU loses to eventual runner-up Michigan in Sweet 16.
2016 – KU loses to eventual champ Villanova in Elite Eight.
Friends and teammates of former Kansas University running back Brandon Bourbon (2010-14) have become concerned about Bourbon’s safety after attempts to reach his phone for the past two-plus days have been unsuccessful.
Monday afternoon, a missing persons report was filed with the Missouri State Highway Patrol that indicated Bourbon had not been heard from since 7:30 p.m. on April 2.
The former four-star prospect from Potosi, Mo., who came to Kansas after initially committing to Stanford, suffered through an injury-plagued five-year run at KU and finished his career at Washburn University in Topeka.
During a mid-February phone interview with the Journal-World, Bourbon sounded like his usual full-of-life self and expressed excitement about plans to start up a training business for young athletes in and around his hometown, similar to the one former KU running back Jake Sharp has started in Salina.
Several friends, family members and former teammates took to social media on Monday to help locate Bourbon.
Oakland Raiders linebacker Ben Heeney sent out a handful of Tweets. Former KU wide receiver Josh Ford posted a message on Facebook that was shared by dozens of former Jayhawks. And Bourbon’s mother, Janet, posted the following on her personal Facebook account:
“Looking for my son Brandon K. Bourbon. He's not been heard from by anyone who knows him since Saturday evening. There is some incorrect information on Facebook that he was active a few hours ago. That (he) was on his computer. Please keep an eye out for him!”
According to a Tuesday update from The Associated Press, Washington County Sheriff's Capt. Zach Jacobsen said that Bourbon's family last saw him Saturday evening in the Potosi area, where his family lives. He says Bourbon's car, a silver minivan, is also missing, and that Bourbon's phone is off.
Jacobsen also said, since leaving college, Bourbon had been living in the Potosi area. He said authorities don't suspect foul play but are concerned because it's out of character for Bourbon to leave without contacting his family.
Anyone with information on Bourbon is asked to contact the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at 573-438-5478.
For those KU basketball fans who have not sworn off college hoops and crawled into a cave until October, when another season rolls around, this weekend’s Final Four offers a trio of intriguing rooting options.
With that in mind, I checked in with a dozen of the most die-hard KU fans I know to find out who they’re pulling for to take home the national title now that their beloved Jayhawks are no longer in the running.
• Roy Williams and North Carolina — Old habits die hard and if KU can’t win it, why not pull for the man who won 418 games in 15 seasons and led Kansas to four Final Fours. Enough time has passed between Ol’ Roy’s departure and today that going this route has become easier for most.
• Buddy Hield and Oklahoma — Big 12 pride runs deep around here these days and it seems safe to say that many KU fans would pull for just about any Big 12 team in the Final Four. Add to that the fact that OU star Buddy Hield has the utmost respect from the KU fan base and is as good of a guy as there ever has been in college basketball and this option becomes even more appealing. Besides, the Big 12 winning it all only further validates KU’s 12th consecutive Big 12 title and postseason tourney triumph.
• Jay Wright and Villanova — Believe it or not, there are some sports fans out there — even within Jayhawk Nation — who make it a rule to root for the team that knocked their team out. This, of course, makes the season-ending loss easier to swallow even if getting over the heartbreak of losing to said team can be a major challenge.
So there are the options because, as you all know, there’s probably not a single KU fan out there who would pull for Jim Boeheim and Syracuse, even if they are a double-digit-seeded underdog and even if it has been 13 years since that tough loss to the Orange in the title game.
Let’s see what a few of these fine folks had to say.
“I’m rooting for OU over Nova because I love Buddy and really didn’t enjoy the Nova fans. And I’m rooting for UNC over ‘Cuse because I just like them better overall. If OU and UNC meet in the final, I will pull for Roy because I think it’s time for him to hang it up and go out on top. I still love him and I also don’t want to listen to OU fans throw the national championship in our face.” — 40-year-old female Lawrence resident.
“I am cheering for OU. I like Buddy and (OU coach) Lon (Kruger), plus I think it helps the Big 12 brand a little bit.” — 32-year-old male Shawnee resident.
“I think the best team is North Carolina, but that’s not the team I’m going to root for. I’m going to root for Villanova because I like the way they play better than anyone else and I think their big guys are better than I thought they were.” — 65-year-old male Lawrence resident.
“Oklahoma because I think they always give every game their all and they share the ball a lot. They are great guys and I think they are going to go all the way.” — 11-year-old female New Jersey resident.
“I have some very close connections to North Carolina and, obviously, Roy gave us 15 great years, so I love those guys and I root for them now. So there’s a part of me that wants them to win, but, boy, I like Buddy Hield, too. How do you root against that guy? I don’t think you can. Normally, I would root for UNC, but I probably want Buddy Hield to win a national championship.” — 43-year-old male Lawrence resident.
“I’m not rooting for anyone now. My heart always breaks when the season ends with anyone but Kansas on top. The tournament is over in my mind. It’s also possible I’m a sore loser.” — 31-year-old female Lawrence resident.
“I was hoping Virginia was going to beat Syracuse and then I would’ve been fine with any of the four winning it because I really like all four of those teams and coaches. But I’d like to see Carolina win it. As a KU fan, I think it’d be nice to see the best team left rewarded by winning it all.” — 36-year-old male North Carolina resident.
“Definitely OU. Lon Kruger is nothing but class and has really done an amazing job in Norman. His players reflect his demeanor. They play hard with respect for the game and their opponents. There is no better representative of what college basketball should be than Buddy Hield. If KU isn’t going to have its One Shining Moment then I hope OU does.” — 40-year-old male New Jersey resident.
“My heart says to pull for OU due to conference ties and the class act of the coach and players. And that's probably all that matters. But pocketbook-wise, I’ll finish in second place and win $30 in the the “investment” pool I'm in if Syracuse wins one game or Villanova wins it all.” — 59-year-old female Independence, Mo., resident.
“I’m cheering for Oklahoma because Buddy Hield is the rare non-KU player who you wish was a Jayhawk. And even though they once were at Kansas State, Lon Kruger and Steve Henson are both native Kansans and their success helps make our state look good.” — 38-year-old male Lawrence resident.
“Roy. He's family. Also, watching the Tar Heels makes me nostalgic for his era of Jayhawks. Basically, after we beat the Tar Heels in 2008, it healed all wounds with Roy ever since.” — 36-year-old female Fairway resident.
“I’m actually currently in Norman, Oklahoma, so I will be rooting for OU. However, that is partly because the Nova fans were a bit arrogant in Louisville and that made me want them to lose. If OU does win Saturday, I don’t want them to win it all because I don’t want a Big 12 school to be national champs if it isn’t Kansas.” — 41-year-old male Lawrence resident.
In the hours that followed Monday’s news that Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo was throwing his name into the NBA Draft pool — though not hiring an agent just yet — I must’ve seen and heard from hundreds of KU fans who called him crazy for even thinking he’s ready for the NBA.
The thing is, though, that’s not what Diallo is saying by declaring for the NBA Draft. What he is saying is that he’s ready to start getting ready for pro basketball.
And although that could happen if he elected to return to Kansas for his sophomore season, it would happen a lot faster if he turned pro. So that’s why he’s going to. And KU fans should probably embrace that idea ASAP so they’re not disappointed in late May when Diallo stays in the draft.
Here’s the deal: Diallo, like so many other talented players before him and undoubtedly many more to come, chose to play at Kansas in large part because he believed KU coach Bill Self could get him ready for the NBA. If he stayed all four years, or even two or three, there’s no doubt that would happen. But it didn’t happen in one, so now Diallo has a choice to make.
If you really think about it, the choice is easy.
Staying at Kansas gives Diallo access to Self and strength coach Andrea Hudy for another season but also forces him to spend part of his time attending classes and comes with restrictions on just how often he can work with his coaches.
Turning pro eliminates the classes, strips away the restrictions and makes becoming a better basketball player Diallo’s full-time job. He can work on his game — and body — morning, noon and night, even if he’s the last man on an NBA bench or plays in the D League. And either of those, if you ask me, is the path to quicker development.
I don’t doubt that Diallo enjoyed his one year at Kansas, even with all the crap that came with it. He handled himself great during what can only be described as a rough season and was a good teammate, supportive of everyone in the program and, even when not playing in them, seemed to stay engaged in the games and proved to be a positive influence from the bench.
But he didn’t play much. And a big reason for that was because he never really earned Self’s trust. Although he, no doubt, would be in a better place heading into year two, there’s no guarantee that trust would ever be earned. And if it isn’t, then what? Another year on the bench? Another year wasted when it could have been spent developing the skills that might one day get him paid big bucks?
If I’m Diallo, I’m taking the path that allows me to develop my game as quickly as possible. It has nothing to do with greed or disliking Kansas or even the money, at least not today. But it has everything to do with positioning himself to set up his family for life. And the fastest way for Diallo to do that is to turn pro now.
Both ways he’d be taking a gamble. But Diallo’s a confident kid and he believes in himself. With that in mind, the gamble more worth taking is the one that, if all goes well, ends with him signing a big contract sooner rather than later.
It should be interesting to see how it all plays out for him. But don’t count on having a front row seat.
As fans of college basketball, we’ve all seen it a hundred times.
A player who has some ability but may be a little under the radar explodes during the NCAA Tournament and, just like that, finds himself listed as one of the hot draft prospects for the next NBA Draft.
Big time performances on college basketball’s biggest stage have a way of cranking up the hype machine on these types of players and, whether NBA Scouts truly put THAT much stock into an impressive tournament run, it’s impossible to argue that such a stretch does not at least catch their eyes and make them look at a player in a different light.
While the positive side of the equation is the way it goes most often, there also is something looming on the other side. Although it does not happen quite as often — because players are most often judged and evaluated on their full body of work instead of just a bad game or unlucky night — we have seen college players have their NBA draft stock suffer because of poor tourney performances.
Whichever side of the fence you sit on, it’s undeniable that playing well in the NCAA Tournament can have a major impact in the draft status for a college basketball player. Does a good run turn a no-name into a lottery pick? Not likely. But can a monster showing elevate a future pro from the second round into the first or from the late first into the lottery? You bet.
The Kansas basketball team’s recent 3-1 run in the NCAA Tournament that ended in heartbreak one game shy of the Final Four last weekend, featured some big time games from some of KU’s biggest names.
Naturally, now that the season has ended, it only makes sense that we start to wonder what that will mean for their draft status.
For a senior like Perry Ellis, who has no choice but to leave for the NBA, were the three 20-point games enough to validate a career made on consistency even though that career ended with a whimper?
And for a junior like Wayne Selden, who had his best year at Kansas and seems to have so many of the tools the NBA likes to see in its prospects, will the off night in the season’s final game reintroduce doubts into the minds of the scouts?
Because all 32 NBA teams have an entire army of scouts and not just one, it’s impossible to get a feel for this without talking to multiple representatives. But ESPN Insider’s Chad Ford, who has dozens of NBA scouts on speed dial, recently released its Tourney Stock Watch update and both Ellis and Selden were on it, under the heading “Stock Neutral,” which basically means that neither Ellis nor Selden hurt or helped himself that much by what he did in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a quick look at Ford's blurbs on each Jayhawk:
Perry Ellis, 6-9, 225-pound senior forward
"Ellis had been on fire in the first three rounds of the tournament. He had one of the best offensive games of his career against an athletic Maryland front line, scoring 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. However, his Kansas career ended on a sour note, as he scored just four points, committed four turnovers and shot 1-for-5 from the field against Villanova.
Ellis's fundamentals and steadiness will get him a good look in the second round. However, that performance against the Wildcats left scouts with a pretty bad taste in their mouths." — Chad Ford
Wayne Selden, 6-5, 230-pound junior guard
"When Selden is aggressive, he can really look the part of an NBA player -- especially when his 3-point shot is falling. He was aggressive against Villanova, but shot 0-for-6 from the field, including missing two wide open 3s in the final minutes that would've put Kansas on top.
I hear he is seriously pushing to declare for and stay in the draft. He's had a solid junior season and may warrant a second-round selection. But for all the talk about him being a lottery pick, I don't think so." — Chad Ford
From my perspective, I think both Ellis and Selden are guys that, in the right situation with the right teams, could enjoy long NBA careers.
Selden probably has a better shot to make a true impact because he has the size and skills you can plug into an actual NBA position. Ellis, though more talented overall than Selden, is not quite suited to play either the 3 or the 4 at the NBA level and, therefore, is going to have to catch a break by landing with the perfect team, of which there might only be 3 or 4 out there.
Picture Ellis on a team like the San Antonio Spurs, for example. His skill set, focus, versatility and appreciation for the finer points of the game could land him a spot on that roster very easily.
Regardless of where they end up or when they're picked, it seems clear that both will get all that any college player can ask for — a chance.
And it should be fun and interesting to watch how things play out for both players, whether Selden leaves this year or not.
Just like that, another wildly successful Kansas basketball season ended in disappointment for the players and fans in Louisville and around the world on Saturday night.
Villanova 64, Kansas 59.
In a game that featured two veteran teams that could score in such a wide variety of ways, the low-scoring nature of this one showed just how much of a battle it was and how things can get wacky when a trip to the Final Four is on the line.
From the sound of things, it was Villanova’s goal to make it that way and, boy, did the Wildcats succeed.
“We wanted to make it a street fight, make it an ugly game,” said Nova guard Ryan Arcidiacono. "I think we did that.”
There’s no question. And it cost a Kansas team that was on one heck of a roll and appeared to be a real contender to win a national title a great shot at bringing some more meaningful hardware back to Lawrence.
The Twitter world certainly did not seem to want to hear it, but I think reasonable people can agree that Kansas lost to a damn good team on Saturday night at KFC Yum! Center. Were there bad calls? Sure. Did the Jayhawks miss shots they normally might have — perhaps even would have — made? You bet. But it’s not as if things went perfectly for Villanova either. And the Wildcats deserve credit for finding a way to make a couple more plays in a game that wound up being exactly what Nova coach Jay Wright predicted it would be a day earlier — a heavyweight battle. The Kansas team we saw in this one was not the same free and loose team that won 17 straight heading into it. And they were still almost good enough to beat a very talented, tough and experienced team. And, oh by the way, Wright is one heck of a coach. Possibly the most underrated in college basketball. So as much as I’m sure this loss stings for KU fans like all the other NCAA Tournament losses before it, that should not be the way this team and this season are remembered. 33-5 and one step shy of another Final Four. That’s a very good year any way you slice it.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The Devonte’ Graham bounce-back effort from a sub-par Sweet 16 game was impressive and crucial to keeping Kansas in the game. The sophomore guard who struggled through illness two days earlier hit 5 of 9 three-pointers and led the Jayhawks with 17 points. So many of his triples were absolutely critical and kept Kansas in the game. It may not mean a lot today, but just the thought of this guy being around — and continuing to improve at a rapid rate — for two more seasons should bring smiles to KU fans’ somber faces.
2 – I know people will want to talk about how many open three-pointers he missed, but I think Wayne Selden deserves a ton of credit for finding a way to get 16 points on a night he didn’t have it. Selden never stopped attacking, kept shooting and gave all he had to the effort on a night when it would have been very easy to pout about things not going well for him personally. In a related area, Selden also handled the postgame media barrage admirably. He obviously was not thrilled, but he did not project that. In fact, none of the players did. And that says a lot about their growth and maturity.
3 – Reeling after a rough first half, KU came out of the locker room with a purpose and completely erased a seven-point deficit — and actually built a couple of five-point leads — in the first nine minutes of the second half. The way Nova was playing, it looked as if it would take more of a slow and steady effort to chip into that lead. But Kansas turned up its defense — Nova shot just 40 percent from the floor for the game — and found a way to get some easy points on offense to momentarily claim control of the game. It didn’t last, of course, but that response to the halftime adjustments was impressive.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Villanova’s ability to grab 13 offensive rebounds absolutely killed Kansas. In a game as low-scoring and tightly contested as this one was, giving up any free possessions can be devastating. And it was for Kansas. On at least a couple of occasions late, the Wildcats were able to pad their lead from two to four because of offensive rebounds, the biggest coming on a wild rebound and put-back of a missed three-pointer by Mikal Bridges that put Nova up 56-52 with 4:28 to play.
2 – Villanova deserves a ton of the credit for it, but there’s no two ways about it, Perry Ellis’ final game as a Jayhawk was a dud. The senior forward, who finished eighth all-time on KU’s scoring list, scored just four points and made just one basket, the unexpected and tough-to-swallow end to one of the best scoring stretches in recent KU memory. Ellis entered the game having scored 20 or more points in seven of his last eight games, but, on this night, he struggled to get the four points he got and KU did not get enough from those around him to save the season.
3 – One shot, one miss, one assist, three fouls, two turnovers and a steal. That, in all its glory, is all Kansas got from a three-man bench that played just 18 minutes combined and looked incapable of impacting the game on either end of the floor. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk missed his only shot of the night, a three from the corner that he aimed instead of shot and Jamari Traylor and Carlton Bragg could not handle Nova’s physical play. In a sense, Kansas getting nothing from its bench in the final game of the season was a fitting end because this team rode its starting five so heavily for most of the year.
One for the road
KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova in Louisville...
• Dropped Kansas coach Bill Self to 2-6 all-time in Elite Eight games, his losses at Kansas coming to Georgia Tech, UCLA, VCU and now Villanova.
• Snapped a 17-game winning streak which was the nation's longest active winning streak. That winning streak was the longest of the season and the longest since 2010-11, when Kansas opened the season 18-0.
• Made Kansas 14-7 all-time in Elite Eight games.
• Evened the series against Villanova is tied 3-3.
• Bumped Kansas to 100-44 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
Now it’s time to take inventory, see who stays, who leaves, which top-tier recruits will pick Kansas and what the Jayhawks will do to retool a team that returns a lot of experience and talent but also will need to fill a few key spots to make another run next season. Stay tuned...
— See what people were saying about KU's Elite Eight loss during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Elite Eight loss to Villanova
- Frustrating finish: Jayhawks baffled by Villanova
- Keegan: Brutal first-half stretch doomed KU
- Villanova game-planned to stop Ellis
- Seniors likely not only players KU will lose
- Graham addresses controversial fifth foul
- Self: Elite Eight loss hard for everybody
- Prep bigs Maker and Ayton to play for World Team
- Villanova ends KU’s season, reaches Final Four
- Keegan Ratings: Graham’s big night not enough vs. Villanova
Villanova’s Jay Wright once pointed to 2 talented KU freshmen as a prime examples of the importance of coaching
Villanova coach Jay Wright is one of the best in the business when it comes to taking and answering questions from the media.
And the man in charge of finding a way to knock out top-seeded Kansas on Saturday night was at it again on Friday, filling the room with thoughtful answers and interesting anecdotes.
Many of them had to do with his team or this specific match-up, but others focused more on philosophy and the bigger picture of the game of basketball.
One such story that illustrated that second aspect to perfection was born out of Villanova’s upset victory of second-ranked Kansas in the Bahamas early in the 2013-14 season.
Villanova defeated a young Kansas team that featured freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and a handful of players on this year’s team on a late shot by then-sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
The three-pointer was Arcidiacono’s only make of that game, but was far from the only thing Wright remembered about the contest.
Here is that story, in Wright’s words...
"The other really unique thing about that game, I think I told Bill this, Wiggins had played, I don't know, maybe one or two games before that, and we were pressing him a little bit. He had five turnovers. I think he was sick that day too.
We, in the scouting report, pumped him up to our guys, how good he was. In the game, he had like five turnovers, didn't play that well. I said to our guys, I said, All right, watch this team. I said, You think they turned the ball over and we just beat them? You don't think they're that good? This is why players need coaching. Wiggins had five turnovers. I guarantee you by the end of this season, this kid will be one of the top picks in the draft. The kid, Embiid, got in foul trouble in that game. I said, When he gets coached by Bill Self for a year, I guarantee you this kid is going to be a great player by the end of the year and this team will be a great team. They didn't look good then, guys were sick.
When teams win a game, they think they're better. Then they watched them. At the end of the year, I said, You see that team now? Is that the same team that played us? They're all like, No. I said, That's why players need coaching. You need to be coached.
It was helpful for our guys, who heard a lot about Embiid and Wiggins, to say, well, those one-and-done guys are getting coached. I better listen and be coached. It really helped our team."
Maryland was bigger, they said. Kansas out-rebounded them. By a lot.
Maryland may have more overall talent, they said. Kansas had the three best players in the game.
Maryland would be a real test, unlike anything KU saw in Des Moines, they said. And yet Kansas still won by 16 points, 79-63 on Thursday night at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville.
There may have been more than a few signs pointing to the Sweet 16 match-up with Maryland being a serious challenge for the top-seeded Kansas basketball team, but the Jayhawks did not let any of those change anything about the way they do business.
This team is so focused and on such a mission that, at this point, it seems like it’s going to take a truly special performance by an opponent to derail the train the Jayhawks are rolling on right now.
I could not help but keep thinking after this one how it was pretty much the polar opposite of the UConn game. Instead of overwhelming the Terrapins in the first half, the way they did the Huskies last week in Round 2, KU survived a rough first half — with a two-point lead, no less — and then unleashed a second-half barrage that produced seven more points for the Jayhawks and five fewer points for the Terps than what each team had recorded in the opening half. In short, when it mattered most, KU rose to the occasion. And if you hope to keep advancing at this time of year, that’s exactly what you have to do. KU did that, in yet another impressive manner, and the Jayhawks are back in the Elite Eight for the first time in four seasons.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Perry Ellis was good. We all know that by now. But the thing that impressed me most about Ellis’ big night was how well and how willing the Jayhawks were to ride him. For a stretch there in the second half, KU went through Ellis on every single possession and just dared Maryland to stop him. They couldn’t, of course, and that’s just good coaching, good chemistry and the latest crystal-clear sign that this group of guys (a) really plays well together (b) really likes each other and (c) will do anything it takes to win. Thursday night, that was feeding Ellis the rock and they did that over and over.
2 – Give Kansas credit for not panicking early on when things weren’t going well. In year’s past — perhaps even earlier this year — KU might have just forced up a bunch of three-pointers on a night when an opponent frustrated their offensive flow. Not Thursday. Not only did KU stay tough and continue fighting to find something that worked, they only took nine three-pointers all night, another sign of how well they understood how dominant Ellis was.
3 – It sure is fun to watch Wayne Selden play locked-in, intense basketball. And, boy, what a clutch player he has become. You can tell this run means something to Selden. It shows up in just about everything he does out there. And his numbers and production are matching his mindset. Selden was great again Thursday night (19 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and there’s no reason to believe he’ll be anything but that on Saturday as well.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – There were quite a few silly fouls by Kansas in this game, a couple coming from Jamari Traylor and at least one more coming from Frank Mason. Fouls that come from effort and energy and intensity you can live with. But fouls that come from momentarily losing your focus or laziness with your feet aren’t good. And they really won’t be good if they show up Saturday night against a Villanova team with a veteran backcourt and a roster that made 18 of 19 free throws in its Sweet 16 win on Thursday night.
2 – It didn’t end up hurting them, but it could down the road. There were a handful of empty possessions in the second half that ended with careless, unforced Kansas turnovers, most of them coming with KU up five and in position to go up seven or eight or up nine and in position to make the lead double digits. On at least a few occasions, that kept the door cracked for Maryland, who never seriously threatened after the first few minutes of the second half. Still, the fact that those moments were the result of self-inflicted wounds is something to sigh about.
3 – Devonte’ Graham gets a pass because he was playing through injury and illness, but losing Brannen Greene to injury altogether is not the kind of news you want this time of year. Greene sat out the game because of back spasms and does not appear to be likely to play on Saturday. Although it’s been 10 games since he played more than 11 minutes — and in those 10 games he has made just three shots total — Greene’s still a little bit of a veteran and, even if he’s not hitting or even taking deep threes, he’s a threat to do so. Plus, he’s a terrific free throw shooter. KU can overcome his absence. But it’s definitely not something Jayhawk fans wanted to hear about.
One for the road
Here’s how KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland in Louisville impacted the program...
• WINNING STREAK: Kansas extends its winning streak to 17 games... It is KU's longest of the season and the longest active winning streak in NCAA Division I... KU features 14 winning streaks of 10 games or better during the Bill Self era.
• AWAY FROM HOME: KU is now 18-4 away from Allen Fieldhouse this season... The Jayhawks have won eight-straight neutral-site games, not including the Dec. 12 win over Oregon State at Sprint Center in Kansas City, which was deemed a home game by the NCAA.
• W-L RECORDS: Bill Self improves to 385-82 (.824) while at Kansas, 592-187 (.760) all-time, and 40-16 (.714) in the NCAA Championship (30-11 while at KU)... Kansas is now 2,186-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks advance to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2012, when they defeated North Carolina to reach the Final Four. Top-seeded Kansas will play No. 2 seed Villanova at 7:50 p.m. on Saturday at KFC Yum! Center.
— See what people were saying about the Sweet 16 matchup between KU and Maryland during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Sweet 16 victory over Maryland
- One step closer: Ellis’ career night leads KU into Elite Eight
- Keegan: Lucas uses brain and brawn inside
- Turgeon: We lost to nation’s best team
- Miles misses playing days
- Notebook: Haase possible candidate for Stanford vacancy
- Sweet victory: Jayhawks beat Maryland to stay alive
- Keegan Ratings: Ellis continues hot streak in NCAA Tournament
Now that we know which team top-seeded Kansas (32-4) will face in this year’s Sweet 16 this week in Louisville, it’s time to take a little closer look at the Maryland Terrapins.
As you all surely know by now, a terrapin is a turtle and this troop of tortoises is coached by former KU guard Mark Turgeon, who hails from Topeka and played at Kansas from 1984-87. Turgeon also served as a team captain.
Maryland, a No. 5 seed in the South region, enters Thursday’s showdown with the Jayhawks — slated for 8:40 p.m. central on CBS — with a 27-8 record and on the heels of first- and second-round victories over South Dakota State and Hawaii.
The Terrapins, who opened the season ranked No. 18 in The Associated Press’ preseason poll, spent all but two weeks after that ranked in the Top 10 before finishing the regular season right where they began the preseason — ranked No. 18.
Maryland reached as high as second in the AP poll for three different weeks — Weeks 3, 4 and 14 — and was in the Top 5 for nine weeks.
After reaching the No. 2 spot in Week 14 back on Feb. 8, Maryland lost five of eight down the stretch and watched a 22-3 mark turn into a 25-8 record heading into the Big Dance.
The losses during that stretch were: vs. Wisconsin (70-57), at Minnesota (68-63), at Purdue (83-79), at Indiana (80-62) and vs. Michigan State (64-61).
Four of those five teams made the tournament and two of them — Indiana and Wisconsin — joined Maryland in reaching the Sweet 16.
Maryland’s other losses during the 2015-16 season were at Michigan State (74-65) on Jan. 23, at Michigan (70-67) on Jan. 12 and at North Carolina (89-81) on Dec. 1.
Despite the impressive sound of those defeats, you should remember that they all were losses and kenpom.com ranked Maryland’s schedule as the 47th toughest in college basketball this season.
KenPom.com ranked KU’s schedule as the seventh toughest.
KU and Maryland had two common opponents — Michigan State and UConn — and had similar results against both, with Maryland losing twice to Michigan State in tight games and KU losing to the Spartans 79-73 in the Champions Classic in November, and both beating Connecticut, Maryland 76-66 at home in December and KU 73-61 last week in Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament.
Now for a few basic quick facts and stats (KU’s numbers are in parentheses):
Points per game: 76.1 — (82)
Field goal percentage: .488 — (.496)
Field goal percentage D: .405 — (.397)
Three-point percentage: .367 — (.423)
Free throw percentage: .771 — (.710)
Rebounds per game: 35.3 — (38)
Turnovers per game: 12.8 — (12.5)
Two players with slick names — 6-3 sophomore guard Melo Trimble and 6-11 freshman center Diamond Stone — lead the Terps in scoring at 14.8 and 12.7 points per game — and three other Maryland players enter Thursday’s game averaging in double figures in scoring.
Maryland starts two seniors, a junior, a sophomore and a freshman, including senior forward Rasheed Sulaimon, a former Duke standout who transferred to Maryland following the 2014-15 season after being kicked off the team by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski following a tumultuous couple of seasons with the Blue Devils.
KU is 0-1 all-time against Maryland in the NCAA Touranment — that loss came in the 2002 Final Four, a game many believed should’ve been the title game that season — but owns a 3-2 overall record against Maryland, with the victories coming in 1964 (63-61 at Maryland), 1965 (71-62 in Lawrence) and 1984 (58-56 in the Great Alaska Shootout). The other loss, an 86-83 setback, came in 1997 in Washington D.C. at the Franklin Bank Classic.
We’ll have much, much more on Maryland and the match-up when we get to Louisville, so be sure to check out Kusports.com throughout the week for all kinds of stories, audio, videos, insight and analysis from KU’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2013.
The Kansas Jayhawks are back in the Sweet 16, a place they have not been since 2013, when Ben McLemore, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Jeff Withey were roaming the court for Kansas.
That year, the Jayhawks followed up their 2012 national title game run with a strong season that seemed bound for an Elite Eight match-up with Florida, before a late collapse against Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Dallas sent the Jayhawks home.
This year, KU rolls into the Sweet 16 after impressive victories over Austin Peay (105-79) and Saturday night’s 73-61 win over UConn.
As has been the case for much of the season, different players stepped up at different times for the Jayhawks, who were led in Des Moines by both a reserve wing player and two front-line leading scorers.
That type of depth makes this team such a beast to prepare for and game plan against and is a big reason the Jayhawks (32-4) are still playing into the second weekend of this year’s tourney.
KU’s first half against the Huskies was good. Really good. And it showed exactly why the Jayhawks entered this tournament as the favorite to win it all and a popular pick in many brackets to make a deep run. The Jayhawks’ confidence is as high as it’s been since the 2012 team — led by Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson — reached the national title game and it appears to be growing by the day. In a game that seemed as if it could pose a strong test for the top seed, the Jayhawks raced out of the gates with great energy and buried the Huskies early. That start showed exactly where this team’s mindset is at this point in the season and their comments in the locker room after both games only confirmed it — happy but not satisfied. This team wants more and plans on getting it.
Three reasons to smile
1 – You have to start with KU’s defense, if you ask me. The Jayhawks were so tenacious in that first half that they really took UConn out of its game. The guards harassed the Huskies ball handlers and challenged every shot and the bigs dominated the interior. It was a much more dominating performance than even the stats showed, mostly because the intensity and desire in the faces and body language of the Jayhawks does not show up on the stat sheet. These guys flat-out got after it and never gave UConn a real chance.
2 – Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis carried the load offensively, but junior big man Landen Lucas was as good, if not better, than both of them. Lucas absolutely dominated the glass — helping lead KU to a 44-24 rebounding advantage — and played as big as he has all season long. Lucas’ strong effort hardly came as a surprise and was mostly a continuation of a strong run of solid games in the second half of the season. Lucas’ 6 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks were way bigger in this game than any of those numbers actually sound.
3 – All right. Enough. How about that one-handed, hammer dunk by Wayne Selden? Shades of Tyshawn Taylor to Thomas Robinson against Baylor in the Fieldhouse right there. So good. So emphatic. And such a perfect exclamation point on a solid KU win.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – There’s no two ways about it, Frank Mason had a rough night. And it wasn’t just that he missed seven of the eight shots he took. He also looked sloppy with the ball and too often turned it over in a manner that led to easy transition points for the Huskies. Mason was still key to KU’s victory (he added five boards, four assists and a 6-of-6 clip from the free throw line) but his shot looked slow and uncertain out of his hand and when he drove, he did so with a lot of action that too often seemed to get him nowhere. That might have just been an indication of how quick UConn’s guards were, but KU’s going to need Mason to be better if it wants to keep advancing.
2 – It’s a bit inevitable that a 20-point halftime lead is going to get cut into at some point during a college basketball game. Rarely do you see a team with that big of a lead at the break add to the lead in the second half. Espeically when playing a good team. So it’s not the fact that UConn trimmed the Jayhawks lead to nine that was a concern, rather the way it happened. Connecticut’s pressure bothered the Jayhawks and KU momentarily unraveled because of it.
3 – Two nights after Jayhawks got a huge night from their bench, the KU reserves gave next to nothing against UConn. A big part of that was the lack of opportunity for the bench to contribute. KU’s starters all played 32 minutes or more and Self only dished out 29 combined bench minutes to four different players. In that time, only Carlton Bragg (2 points on 2 offensive rebounds in 4 minutes) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (1 point in 6 minutes) managed to score. The best bench contribution came from Jamari Traylor, who, in 10 minutes, blocked three shots and grabbed a pair of rebounds.
One for the road
KU’s 12-point victory over UConn on Saturday included the following notable performances...
• Frank Mason: Went 6-for-6 at the free throw line and is now 11-for-12 at the charity stripe during NCAA postseason play this season.
• Wayne Selden: After a 22-point effort on Saturday, Selden is averaging 18.0 points during the NCAA Championship this season. He entered the postseason with 10 total points in his first four NCAA postseason games.
• Devonte' Graham: One of three Jayhawks in double figures, scoring 13 on 4-of-8 shooting.
• Landen Lucas: Grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds with three blocks as KU's biggest force in holding UConn to zero second-chance points.
• Perry Ellis: Now has 1,767 career points to enter the top-10 on KU's all-time scoring list. Ellis passed Kirk Hinrich (2000-03; 1,753) with a three-pointer at the 4:08 mark of the first half, which gave KU a 38-16 lead. Ellis has tallied six 20-point scoring efforts in the last seven games and has scored 100 points in five postseason games this season on 61 percent shooting from the field.
• Jamari Traylor: Recorded three blocks and now totals 125 career blocks.
The Jayhawks will move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2013. Next week, they head to Louisville, where they will take on the winner of the second-round match-up between No. 5 seed Maryland and No. 13 seed Hawaii (6:10 p.m. Sunday) in the regional semifinals next Thursday night. Game time is yet to be determined.
— See what people were saying about Kansas vs. UConn during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s win over UConn
- On to the next round: Jayhawks show swag in tourney win over UConn
- Keegan: Lucas and Traylor closing the lane on defense
- Husky wants best for Jayhawk pal Selden
- Self likes Jayhawks’ feisty attitude
- Notebook: Ellis fine after bumping knee
- Moving on: Jayhawks get back to Sweet 16 with win over UConn
- Keegan Ratings: Selden wows as Kansas moves on in NCAAs
The Kansas basketball team did what No. 1 seeds used to always do back in the formative days of the NCAA Tournament — they kicked butt.
KU’s 105-79 victory over Austin Peay at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, was not even as close as the score indicated. This one really had the feel of more of a 30- or 40-point beatdown.
And a big reason for that was because of the offensive execution by nearly every Jayhawk who entered this game.
KU shot 56 percent (including 6 of 16 from downtown) from the floor and hit 21 or 27 free throws. More than that, though, it seemed as if evertyhing the Jayhawks did worked. They were good in the paint, good from outside and good in transition.
It’s hard to make too much of this victory given the fact that Austin Peay was a game above .500 and finished in eighth place in the Ohio Valley Conference. But all you can do is play the teams in front of you and KU played this one very, very well. It was as good of an opening-round victory as Kansas has had in years.
After all of that talk about being focused and hungry and this season having a different feel to it heading into the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks sure backed it up and delivered. KU was great from start to finish in their opening-round win against an overmatched 16 seed and there’s no doubt that what unfolded Thursday only elevated the confidence of this team. And that’s saying something given that the Jayhawks already were riding a 14-game (now 15-game) winning streak.
Three reasons to smile
1 – KU’s starters got some serious rest. None of KU’s first five played more than 26 minutes in this game and, even the minutes they did play were not all that taxing. That’s a big time advantage heading into Saturday’s second-round clash with UConn and you can bet those five will all be ready to go the full 40 if necessary.
2 – It did not matter who you talked to in the KU locker room, every single Jayhawk said they could play better and lamented the things the Jayhawks did not do well Thursday instead of celebrating the things they did. That’s not all that surprising and is just another good sign that this team is far from satisfied with what it has done thus far and has far bigger goals.
3 – Nine different Jayhawks put points on the board in this one. And one of the guys who did not was a big time surprise. Consider this for a quick second: KU put up 105 points and won by 26 without its hottest player scoring a single point. Devonte’ Graham, MVP of last week’s Big 12 tournament, was held scoreless in this one, missing all three shots he took (0-of-2 from three-point range) and failing to get to the free throw line. Graham, who finished with four fouls, did chip in with six assists, so it’s not as if he was completely invisible out there. But the fact that he did not score and KU still enjoyed one of its best offensive games of the season just shows how good this team was offensively on Thursday. Not only that, but it also may indicate that Graham is due in KU’s next game.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU’s defense was sub-par against the Governors. Austin Peay got far too many layups and APSU point guard Josh Robinson finished with a game-high 24 points. Self and several KU players talked after the game about how they wished they would’ve defended better. Graham even went as far as to say, if KU had played UConn on Thursday and played the same defense, it likely would have lost. Any time your D can be poor and you can win by 20-plus, life is good. Look for KU to be much better and much more focused defensively on Saturday.
2 – KU forced the Austin Peay into 36 misses and allowed them to get 15 of those back on the offensive glass. That’s too high of a percentage (42) for Bill Self’s liking and it was only magnified by the fact that Austin Peay out-offensive-rebounded Kansas 15-14.
3 – I hate to single out a guy on a night when things went so well for the team, but it’s tough to find too much wrong with this one so Brannen Greene falls victim to that. And with good reason. Not only did Greene miss all three shots he attempted, but he also had a rough stretch midway through the first half in which he misfired on a jumper and then got lazy getting back on D and just reached out and grabbed a guy’s jersey. Self sat him and had some words for him when he got to the bench. To be fair, Greene added four assists and played just 11 minutes. But it was definitely a night to forget for the KU junior, who kept alive his streak of struggling on nights when Svi plays great.
One for the road
A few individual highlights from KU’s first-round rout of Austin Peay...
• Senior F Perry Ellis Scored 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field in 25 minutes. Reached 20 points for the fifth time in the last six games. Now has 1,749 career points, seven shy of entering the top-10 on KU's career scoring list. Kirk Hinrich (2000-03) currently stands in 10th-place with 1,753 career points.
• Sophomore G Devonte' Graham Dished out a game-high six assists without turning the ball over.
• Junior G Wayne Selden Jr. Turned in his most productive performance in an NCAA tournament game, scoring 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes. Entered Thursday averaging 2.5 ppg in NCAA postseason play.
• Sophomore G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Scored a career-high 23 points to lead the Jayhawks in scoring for the third time this season. Made a career-high nine field goals on 11 attempts. His first 20-point scoring effort also marks his 10th career double-figure scoring effort.
• Junior F Landen Lucas Grabbed eight rebounds, while adding 16 points on a near-perfect shooting night (6-7 FG). Has led KU in rebounding for 10 of the last 12 games.
The Jayhawks advance to Saturday’s second round, where they will play No. 9 seed UConn, a 74-67 winner over Colorado during the day’s first game in Des Moines. Game time has not yet been determined.
— See what people were saying about KU's first-round victory during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s victory over Austin Peay
- Impeached: Governors no match for Jayhawks in first round
- Keegan: Jayhawks have no need to stress this March
- Governors: Even KU’s bench players were great
- Everybody plays: Seldom-used subs thrive against APSU
- Notebook: Jayhawks not thrilled with defense in tourney rout
- KU freshmen overjoyed by first taste of NCAAs
- Jayhawks fly by Austin Peay in NCAA opener
- Keegan Ratings: Mykhailiuk puts on show in first-round blowout
If you’ve been able to catch the pre-game shoot-arounds for Kansas during the past few weeks, you might have noticed something that more resembles football than basketball at the beginning of them.
Each time the Jayhawks take the floor for the first time on game days, junior guard Frank Mason will fire a ball as high into the air as he can. From there, junior forward Landen Lucas will track it on its path down and try to settle under it like punt returner would in a game of football.
“Frank just started throwing it up at the beginning of the season and I started trying to catch it,” Lucas said. “I was like, ‘Man, I gotta start trying to catch this.’ It’s getting tougher. Sometimes you lose it in the lights a little bit. But that’s the football side of me coming out.”
Lucas, who played football when he was younger and has always enjoyed watching it, said Mason used to just fling the ball above his head and out to the someone in the other line to get their pre-game routine going. But after Lucas posed as a punt returner, even calling for a fair catch from time to time, Mason started challenging the KU big man more and more each game.
“That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “I should start calling for a fair catch so people get away from me.”
It’s getting ridiculous these days, as Mason has started launching the ball so high that it nearly hits the rafters.
Lucas said the higher the better because it increases the challenge and he was happy to report that he has dropped just two of them all season. One came last week in the Big 12 title game against West Virginia, but the pre-game fumble did not hurt the Jayhawks in the win column.
“I don’t like dropping ‘em. I think it’s a bad sign,” he said. “But we came out with a win (vs. WVU) so that’s OK. It’s something that we just goof around with and have some fun. So far, I’ve missed two and I don’t plan on missing any more.”
With his Big 12 tourney champions hat on his head and a fresh blue T-Shirt with the stickers still on it pulled over his jersey, KU junior Landen Lucas talked in the winning locker room after Saturday’s 81-71 victory over West Virginia at Sprint Center about this team’s mindset heading into the tournament that really counts.
With a free mind and glowing smile, Lucas talked about this team not really feeling any pressure right now. The Jayhawks are excited instead of scared, eager instead of hopeful. Being on such a roll and entering the tournament as the likely No. 1 overall seed as the Jayhawks are expected to be when the bracket is announced later today, Lucas said, puts Kansas in the best position it can possibly be in to accomplish what it wants to accomplish.
That, of course, is picking up a couple more hats and T-Shirts in the next few weeks.
Said Lucas: If you would’ve told us that we’d be Big 12 champs, Big 12 tournament champs, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and on a 14-game winning streak heading into it, we would’ve taken that in a second.
Now, he added, it’s just about handling business.
The 30-4 Jayhawks have handled a lot of business during the second half of their season and did so on Saturday night. It’s not like Saturday’s game was easy, by the way. Far from it. West Virginia missed shots but still stayed within striking distance for most of the game. Every time the Mountaineers tried to threaten, KU got a big play from one of its many playmakers. Often that was Devonte’ Graham, who played out of his mind, but Wayne Selden and Lucas both made their share of big plays, as well.
There are plenty of people out there who will say that taking such a long winning streak into the Big Dance is a dangerous thing. But I don’t think that’s the case with this KU team. This group has gained confidence by the day, swagger by the second and really seems to believe it can still play better.
Self has said it, Lucas said it again Saturday night and it’s clear everyone on this team believes it.
Can you imagine if they actually do it?
This team is ready. No doubt. The Jayhawks have the pieces, the depth, the talent, the balance, the coaching, the hunger.... Need me to go on? I thought about this during the Big 12 title game and refrained from Tweeting it for fear of bringing a nasty backlash my way if KU choked. But I don’t know how you can watch this team and not think they’re going to make a deep tourney run.
Three reasons to smile
1 – It’s starting to get a redundant, but until he slows his roll, Devonte’ Graham is always going to show up on this list. The sophomore guard and his fearless nature showed up again big time on Saturday night, helping lead Kansas to a Big 12 tourney title. Graham scored 27 points, made 5 of 6 three-pointers and was perfect (10-for-10) at the free throw line. But more important than that was the fact that he added four steals, five rebounds and three assists, all in just 34 minutes. There’s no task too tall for Graham right now. And he just might be the most confident player in college basketball.
2 – KU just keeps scoring. There have been stretches during several games in the past couple of weeks when KU’s offense looked pretty ho-hum. But rather than letting that destroy their confidence and get them out of their game, the Jayhawks have been able to keep their heads and just keep firing. So many different guys can score in so many different ways and this team, perhaps better than most in recent memory, really seems to understand the concept of feeding the hot hand and finding the open shooter. KU scored 48 points in the second half and that was while protecting a lead. This team loves to stay in attack mode and you couldn’t ask for a better trait heading into the NCAA Tournament.
3 – We’ll see if this continues (and there’s no reason to think it won’t) but Bill Self sure deserves some credit for his managing of this team. Not just for the meeting with the four leaders that helped inspire the move to more time for Landen Lucas but also because he really has these guys playing loose and for fun. His mantra of play for pleasure not pressure is pure genius and, for a guy who has drawn criticism for tightening up at times, especially in the NCAA Touranment, this mentality and mindset, should it stick, could be huge. The have fun and let ‘er rip demeanor served KU well in the Big 12 tournament and that should be a great primer for what’s ahead.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Devin Williams is a beast, and there aren’t many out there like him, but his monster day again showed that KU could be vulnerable to playing against a team with serious size. The Jayhawks were out-rebounded 32-27 and 12-5 on the offensive glass.
2 – Mason, who already was dealing with an injured foot that almost kept him out of Saturday’s game, took another beating and finished just 2 of 8 from the floor. This is never a good sign for a team’s starting guard, but Graham’s emergence sure has made it easier to handle for the Jayhawks. The pressure that was on Mason’s shoulders last season is virtually non-existent this season and the junior guard is free to play off the ball, pick his spots to make plays and help the offense flow rather than being asked to carry it. He played 38 minutes and dished seven assists on Saturday, so it’s not like the 2-for-8 shooting made for a total dud of a night.
3 – Granted, West Virginia does go by the moniker Press Virginia. And I actually thought KU handled the Mountaineers’ press pretty well for most of this game. But the Jayhawks still turned it over 20 times, with five different players coughing it up three times or more. Jamari Traylor (3 turnovers in 12 minutes) and Brannen Greene (2 in 9). A big part of that was because of the style and pace of the game and this is not a huge concern because KU won’t face many teams from here on out that play like the Mountaineers and the Jayhawks are well equipped to carve up most average presses.
One for the road
KU’s third win in three days that delivered a Big 12 tournament title...
• Made Kansas 30-4, extending its winning streak to 14 games...
• Gave Kansas 30 wins for the 13th season, including five of the last seven years...
• Made KU 13-4 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (7-3 in true road games and 6-1 on neutral floors)...
• Made Kansas 10-2 in Big 12 Championship title games and 14-6 in all-time league tournament title tilts...
• Improved Kansas to 71-26 in league tournament play, 41-10 at the Big 12 Championship...
• Made Kansas 31-6 all-time in Sprint Center, including 4-0 this season...
• Gave Kansas a 6-3 all-time series advantage against West Virginia...
• Made Bill Self 382-82 while at Kansas, 589-187 all-time and 36-11 in conference tournament play, 27-6 while at Kansas in the Big 12 Championship...
• Made Kansas 2,183-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks head back to Lawrence to get ready to find out their NCAA Tournament fate on Selection Sunday. The team will gather together to eat and watch the selection show, which is slated for two hours this season and will begin at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.
— See what people were saying about the Big 12 title game during KUsports.com’s live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Big 12 postseason crown
- Dual champs: Graham pushes KU to Big 12 postseason title
- Keegan: Tough group of Jayhawks keep on conquering
- Jayhawks likely No. 1 overall seed in NCAA tourney
- Notebook: Mason’s foot bothering him
- Williams redeems himself vs. Lucas
- Another day, another Selden clock for Uncle Anthony
- Big 12 champs: KU knocks off WVU for tourney title
- Keegan Ratings: Graham outstanding as KU beats WVU
The Kansas University men’s basketball team kept their roll going Friday night inside Sprint Center, with a 70-66 victory over No. 5 seed Baylor in the Big 12 tourney semifinals.
Although the game meant very little in terms of the big picture for this year’s team — KU has a No. 1 seed locked up and is all but guaranteed to be the No. 1 overall seed — you never would’ve known it by the way the Jayhawks competed.
Out of the gate, Kansas showed a desire to out-hustle and out-work Baylor to loose balls and rebounds and the Jayhawks’ used a strong second half surge to build a 16-point lead late in the game.
Things got tight in the final seconds, but KU played most of the second half in complete control and now the Jayhawks have an opportunity to add another trophy to their case.
In years past, a banked-in three-pointer at the halftime buzzer that gave its opponent a lead after a sluggish first half might have been enough to rattle a Kansas team. Not this bunch. Not only did the Jayhawks not even blink after Jake Lindsey’s three-pointer that beat the buzzer put them down 23-21 at the break, they also came out determined to put a stop to any momentum the Bears had gained. We’ve talked about it all year, but that kind of resolve is a result of this team’s maturity, veteran status and hunger. Call it what you want, but these guys really just seem to be on a mission and their focus sharpens every day.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Well, if slam dunks do it for you, then this was the game for you. KU threw down eight dunks in this one and it felt like twice that many. So many lobs, so many emphatic finishes and one memorable one by Wayne Selden with attitude. The Jayhawks have shown more of that lately and if they keep it up, that will only help heading into the NCAA Tournament.
2 – As far as starts go, they don’t come much better than the one Devonte’ Graham delivered against Baylor on Friday. And the thing about it is, Graham’s a heck of a finisher, too. Call it confidence, courage, a captains mentality or whatever else you’d like. Either way, the continued growth shown by Graham, who, arguably has been KU’s second best player this season, has made a huge impact on this team and put the Jayhawks in position for a deep run.
3 – It may seem obvious, seeing how he led all scorers with 20 points, but the eight-point run that Perry Ellis went on by himself early in the second half was flat-out nasty. It looked as if Ellis just decided that he was going to take over the game and then went out and did it. It was reminiscent of what OU’s Buddy Hield and Iowa State’s Georges Niang did on Thursday night, and it’s no coincidence that all three guys were first-team all-Big 12 picks. Ellis wasn’t great in the first half, but he more than made up for it with that stretch to start the second that gave Kansas control.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU’s close was atrocious. Remember, this was a 16-point KU lead with 1:51 to play. And if had not been for a Devonte’ Graham free throw with 5.4 seconds to play, Baylor would’ve had a shot to tie it in the final seconds. Self was so displeased with the way his second unit played the final minute that he actually put four of his starters back in the game with 25 seconds to play. All’s well that ends well, I guess. But there’s no doubt that Self will use this as a reminder for everyone on his roster of what can happen if you don’t finish games.
2 – Baylor forced Kansas into 18 turnovers and many of them were the result of careless mistakes. Devonte’ Graham turned it over four times, but made up for it a bit by dishing eight assists. The bigger turnover concern came from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who coughed it up three times. Four other Jayhawks turned it over at least twice.
3 – The Jayhawks have cooled off a little from behind the three-point line during the past couple of games. Kansas made just 4 of 16 from three-point range on Friday, but the bigger issue was that just two Jayhawks were responsible for those four makes. Graham hit three and Frank Mason drilled one in the early going. Brannen Greene continues to press (and barely play) and Selden was 0-of-3 from downtown.
One for the road
KU’s Big 12 semifinal victory over Baylor on Friday night...
• Extended its winning streak to 13 games.
• Made KU 12-4 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (7-3 in true road games and 5-1 on neutral floors).
• Made Kansas 12-6 in Big 12 Championship semifinal games and 20-16 in all-time league tournament semifinals.
• Advanced KU into the conference tourney championship for the 12th time in Big 12 history and 20th time overall.
• Improved Kansas to 70-26 in league tournament play, 40-10 at the Big 12 Championship.
• Pushed Kansas to 30-6 all-time in Sprint Center, including 3-0 this season.
• Gave Kansas its eighth-straight win against Baylor, making the series 27-4 in favor of the Jayhawks.
• Made Bill Self 381-82 while at Kansas, 588-187 all-time and 35-11 in conference tournament play, 26-6 while at Kansas in the Big 12 Championship.
• Made Kansas 2,182-835 all-time.
The Jayhawks advance to Saturday’s championship game, where they will meet West Virginia for the third time this season. The Mountaineers knocked off third-seeded Oklahoma after a wild finish in Friday's other semifinal. Tip-off for the title game is set for 5 p.m. Saturday.
— See what people were saying about KU's semifinal victory during KUsports.com's live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Big 12 semifinal victory
- Clocked: Selden highlights KU’s semifinal victory over BU
- Keegan: Bragg following Ellis’ development path
- Bears: Some of us got dunked on
- Self’s halftime message to Jayhawks short and blunt
- Kansas knows WVU will bring pressure in title game
- KU to face West Virginia for Big 12 tourney title
- Jayhawks dunk their way to Big 12 semifinal victory
- Keegan Ratings: Once again, Ellis carries KU to victory
For the third time this season, the Kansas University men’s basketball team defeated in-state rival Kansas State, this one coming via an 85-63 victory in the Big 12 championship quarterfinals on Thursday at Sprint Center.
It was by far KU’s easiest victory over the Wildcats this season and featured a Kansas team that looked hungry and excited to get this postseason thing going.
Way back in July, when Kansas was busy playing for a gold medal at the World University Games in Korea, people started talking about (a) how much that experience could help this team and (b) how concerned they were about the long-term effect fatigue might have, as well.
Even during KU’s January funk, when the Jayhawks lost three straight Big 12 road games and looked to be in jeopardy of losing their hold on the conference, the trip to Korea came up as a possible reason for the rough patch.
But Thursday, after being asked to explain his team’s third loss to the Jayhawks this season, K-State coach Bruce Weber reference Korea.
“We are going to Europe in August,” Weber began. “So we get 10 days extra practice. And you can see how tough Kansas is. That trip last year, people don’t understand how valuable it was. That competition, you know what, they play 13 games, two exhibitions, 11 over there. I’m amazed people say they’re going to wear down. Shoot, they seem bouncier and playing harder than ever now, and they played all of the games and had the extra practices. But they have an older, good group. Like I say, they really play together. And when you’ve got two guards like Mason and Graham, that makes a big difference.”
Well said, Bruce. Kansas does not appear to be tiring. It appears to be just hitting its stride.
The Jayhawks were incredibly efficient during Thursday’s victory, especially on the offensive end, where they shot 57 percent and assisted on 24 of 32 field goals. But, as good as the KU offense was, it was the return of that suffocating defense that most impressed me. After letting Iowa State become the first team to top .415 shooting since Kentucky in late January, KU bounced back by limiting K-State to .387, including a .367 mark in the second half when KU really ran away. On a team as deep as this, with so many offensive weapons and so many different guys willing and able to step up and be the man to score, it’s KU’s defense that can (and probably will) determine whether they make a deep tourney run or not.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Frank Mason showed a lot of fire, at least by Frank Mason’s standard. And KU coach Bill Self said after the game that this is a different team when Mason displays that kind of energy, emotion and passion during games. Self said he expects that from Devonte’ Graham and even Wayne Selden, Landen Lucas and Perry Ellis for the most part. But Mason, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting on Thursday, is the hardest guy to get it out of and Self loves to see it.
2 – At just the right time of year, freshman forward Carlton Bragg showed up and gave opponents something else to worry about. Bragg was great in this one, finishing with a career-high 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting and he even knocked down both of his three-point attempts. Not bad for a guy who had attempted five three-pointers all season. Offensively, Bragg looked comfortable, confident and under control in this one. Defensively, he finished with five fouls and did not grab a single rebound. That’s not something this team will mind (because it doesn’t necessarily need it) if Bragg can continue to contribute at such an efficient rate on the offensive end.
3 – I thought the most impressive part about Thursday’s effort against K-State was not KU’s field goal percentage and not even its ability to keep Kansas State from shooting a good percentage. Instead, it was just how hard KU played, especially late in the second half when the game was in hand and KU easily could’ve coasted to victory. Instead of doing that, the Jayhawks continued to jump every passing lane, pressure the ball and attack on offense. It was clearly a team that viewed the second half of an easy victory as yet another opportunity to fine-tune things.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – The Wildcats showed no qualms about pounding the ball inside when looking to score on offense. And for a good chunk of Thursday’s game, they did just that. K-State finished with 30 points in the paint and fed D.J. Johnson (10 points on 4-of-8 shooting) over and over when he was on the floor. The problem for the Wildcats, though, was that Johnson had trouble staying on the floor because of his four fouls. Had he been able to play more than 15 minutes, that points in the paint number no doubt would’ve been higher and an early-season concern about this Kansas team — it’s ability to handle bigger teams — might’ve resurfaced for a few minutes. It’s not that KU was ever in jeopardy of losing this game, more that Johnson’s success inside could serve as a blueprint of sorts for other, more capable foes.
2 – Justin Edwards’ 23 points (on a very productive 9-of-15 shooting) were not a terrible issue. The rest of the Wildcats struggled to score and Edwards was on, so it made sense for his point total to be high by game’s end. What did not make sense was the guard’s double-digit number in the rebounding category. Edwards led all players with 10 rebounds, five of them coming on the offensive end. K-State plays a scrappy brand of basketball and Edwards is particularly tenacious. Even though KU won the game and controlled things most of the way, Edwards’ line shows at least five times when the Wildcats outworked the Jayhawks.
3 – It sure seems like Thursday’s game would’ve been another good opportunity for freshman Cheick Diallo to get some extended minutes and grow his confidence. Instead, Diallo sat on the bench with a few stitches in his mouth, the result of a fluke accident in practice in which Svi popped him in the mouth. Self said Diallo could have played but that he didn’t want him to get hit again and have the stitches come loose. So he sat him. No harm, no foul. All that was lost, really, was a chance for Diallo to experience the feel of do-or-tie, tournament-time basketball for the first time, which could’ve served KU well if it needed him down the road.
One for the road
KU’s third win over K-State this season...
• Pushed Kansas' winning streak to 12 in a row.
• Made Kansas 18-2 all-time in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 championship and 39-10 overall.
• Improved KU’s record vs. Kansas State in the Big 12’s postseason tournament to 9-0.
• Secured Kansas' 28th win for the fifth time in the last 8 seasons.
• Gave Bill Self a career record of 587-187, including a 380-82 mark at Kansas.
• Improved KU's overall record to 2,181-835.
The win moved the Jayhawks into Friday’s semifinals, where they’ll face No. 5 seed Baylor (a 75-61 winner over Texas in Thursday’s early game) at 6 p.m. at Sprint Center, with a berth in the Big 12 title game on the line.
— See what people were saying about KU’s quarterfinal vs. rival K-State during KUsports.com’s live coverage
More news and notes from KU’s Big 12 Tournament win over K-State
- On a roll: Bragg, Jayhawks impress in tourney opener
- Keegan: Graham, Mason driving KU’s success
- Kansas native Wade disappointed in performance vs. Kansas
- Jayhawks have incentive to beat Baylor in semis
- Notebook: Diallo sits out Big 12 Tournament opener
- Jayhawks roll against K-State to open postseason
- Keegan Ratings: Mason shows few flaws against Wildcats