Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reply

Class of 2017 PF Billy Preston to announce today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None by Billy Preston♕

Reply

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reply

The Day After: Down goes Duke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quick takeaway

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

Three reasons to smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three reasons to sigh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next up

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


By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

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


More news and notes from the win against Duke


Reply

Landen Lucas’ slow start no reason to panic

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

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

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

And it’s not his fault.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

By the Numbers: Kansas 77, Duke 75

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


More news and notes from the win against Duke


Reply

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

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

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

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

Offense: B+

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

Defense: B-

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

Frontcourt: C

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

Backcourt: A

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

Bench: A-

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

Reply

Champions Classic careers of current Jayhawks less than stellar

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) has his shot blocked by Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Also pictured are Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) and Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22).

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) has his shot blocked by Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein (15) during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Also pictured are Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) and Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22). by Nick Krug

New York — The Kansas basketball program’s 1-4 record in the Champions Classic, which resumes tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York City, where Kansas will face No. 1 Duke at 8:30 p.m., hardly comes as a surprise when looking at some of the individual statistics in the showcase from some of the top players on this year’s squad.

Before finally breaking through with a victory over Duke in Chicago early in the 2013-14 season, the Jayhawks opened the six-year old classic with back-to-back losses to Kentucky and Michigan State in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Two players from this year’s team — seniors Frank Mason III and Landen Lucas — played in KU’s lone victory at the event and they enter this year’s showcase game as two of the most experienced players on such a stage for either squad.

But experience does not make for good numbers and neither Mason nor Lucas has fared particularly well in this event during their Kansas careers.

Mason, who played 23 minutes as a true freshman in that win over Duke, is just 8-of-31 from the floor in three career Champions Classic games. He has played an average of 30 minutes per game and has recorded what would be considered impressive numbers in just two categories during that time — free throw shooting and rebounding.

Mason is 20-of-24 all-time from the free throw line in this event and also recorded a respectable five rebounds during last season’s six-point loss to Michigan State in Chicago. If there’s a silver lining surrounding Mason’s Champions Classic numbers, it’s that they have improved with each season. What’s more, he is by far the most accomplished Jayhawk on the current roster in the season kick-off classic.

Kansas guard Frank Mason hangs for a shot against Duke during the second half of the Champions Classic matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago.

Kansas guard Frank Mason hangs for a shot against Duke during the second half of the Champions Classic matchup on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago. by Nick Krug

Asked this week what he remembered most about the Jayhawks’ win over Duke during his freshman year — this was the game that former Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins sealed with a transition dunk — Mason pointed to the obvious.

“I don’t remember much,” he said. “I just remember that we got the win. That was the most important thing. I think we played pretty well on the defensive end. We limited them to not too many second-chance shots and played pretty well on the offensive end.”

Like Mason, Lucas has appeared in each of the past three Champions Classic games, while junior guards Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have played in the previous two. But none of them have approached the kind of minutes Mason has logged. Lucas has played just over 23 career minutes while Graham played 38 a year ago but just 14 the year before and Mykhailiuk has tallied a total of 35 minutes in his two games in the high-profile event.

Carlton Bragg Jr. — 4 points and 1 rebound in 11 minutes in last year’s game — is the only other Jayhawk on the current roster to have experienced this stage.

As a group, that foursome has combined to score 18 points on 6-of-29 shooting in all of those previous appearances. And of those 18 points, nearly a third came from the free throw line.

If the Jayhawks hope to tip their Champions Classic fortune to a more positive outcome, it’s going to take much better efforts than any player on the roster has given in this event to date, veterans and newcomers alike.

Reply

Bill Self stresses 3-point defense against Duke

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) defends against a shot from Indiana guard Curtis Jones (0) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) defends against a shot from Indiana guard Curtis Jones (0) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self warned before the Jayhawks’ season-opener in Honolulu that KU would be in trouble if they did not defend Indiana’s three-point shooters.

Sixteen makes and 48 percent from three-point range later, the Hoosiers dropped KU to 0-1 on the season with a 103-99, overtime battle in the Armed Forces Classic.

Self and senior guard Frank Mason both admitted that part of the Jayhawks’ struggles against the three-point shot was that Indiana shot out of its mind and hit some very tough shots and incredibly clutch times. But that did not eliminate the fact that both believed the Jayhawks could defend better and Self said, yet again, that they better Tuesday night against No. 1 Duke in New York City.

“We’re capable of being a very good shooting team,” Self said. “But Indiana and Duke aren’t teams you probably want to get in a HORSE contest with and I think sometimes they can kind of goad you into that. They hit a three and you want to match it on the other end.”

That happened at times against the Hoosiers and Self said it easily could happen again against the Blue Devils, given the enormous stage, magnitude of the game and desire to right what went wrong in the opener.

“They’re about as good a shooting team as we’ll play all year,” Self said of 2-0 Duke. “We may play the best two shooting teams that we’ll play all year in the first two games. We didn’t do a great job defending Indiana and we’ve gotta be a lot better getting to the three-point shooters against Duke.”

One way to do that, according to Self, is to make Duke’s sharp-shooters work when they don’t have the ball.

“We need to do some different things to kind of create less rhythm for them offensively,” Self said. “And sometimes you can do that when you have the ball and make them guard you on the defensive end.

“You want to give the defense a chance to break down,” he continued. “The other thing is, when you’re in the bonus or double-bonus, a lot of times you’re bailing out the defense by not making them guard, especially when they’re calling it close. You want to put pressure on officials to make calls and the best way to do that is to put pressure on the other team to have to guard the ball.”

Self and No. 7 Kansas will face No. 1 Duke a little after 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in the Champions Classic.

Reply

Bill Self not overly excited by likely absence of 3 talented Duke big men

Kansas head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend watch with smiles during the campers vs. counselors scrimmage, Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and assistant coach Kurtis Townsend watch with smiles during the campers vs. counselors scrimmage, Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at the Horejsi Athletic Center. by Nick Krug

When the Kansas basketball program faces top-ranked Duke Blue Devils on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden in New York City, they’ll do so without having to worry about three Duke players who played a big role in the Blue Devils earning that No. 1 ranking in the preseason polls.

Talented freshmen Marques Bolden, Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum have yet to play a game for the Blue Devils, who raced out to a 2-0 start with easy victories over Marist and Grand Canyon over the weekend. And it does not look like the match-up with Kansas in the annual Champions Classic is going to be their first game either.

Speaking after Duke’s Sunday victory over Grand Canyon, head coach Mike Krzyewski told reporters, “I don’t anticipate these guys playing on Tuesday, and they might not play all week.”

Good news for Kansas, bad news for the event, which has become one of the most exciting early-season tip-off classics and is expected to draw more than 50 NBA scouts to one of the best basketball venues in the world.

KU coach Bill Self certainly is not planning to feel too sorry for Coach K and the Blue Devils, who still saw five players reach double figures in both weekend victories and features five other former McDonald’s All-Americans who figure to give Kansas all it can handle, including leading scorer and national player of the year candidate Grayson Allen along with super sixth man Frank Jackson.

“They’re still gonna have plenty of guys that are capable of playing very well,” Self said. “They still have good players. They’ve still got McDonald’s All-Americans playing with those other guys who can play. It just goes to show you how deep they are.”

With Krzyzewski revealing that the talented trio was not likely to play on Tuesday, Self said he had no reason to believe that would not be the case. Beyond that, though, he said Kansas would not prepare any differently whether those guys were playing or not playing because most of KU’s preparation for Duke — and most of its opponents — comes down to one thing.

“If they have two bigs in the game, we’ll prepare (one) way and if they have one big in the game we’ll prepare (another) way,” Self said. “That’s gonna be the case regardless of who’s out there.”

Kansas' current roster features three former McDonald's All-Americans — Josh Jackson, Udoka Azubuike and Carlton Bragg Jr.

That tie is far from the only connection these two blue blood programs have at the highest levels of college basketball.

Kansas and Duke are two of just four NCAA Division I men's basketball programs with more than 2,000 all-time victories. Kentucky (2,205), leads with Kansas (2,186) in second, followed by North Carolina (2,177) and Duke (2,087).

Dating back to 1990, Kansas' 27 current consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances is the nation's longest active streak, and is tied for the NCAA record. Duke is next with 21. KU has five national championships, including three NCAA titles, while Duke has five NCAA championships.

Kansas ranks fourth in all-time NCAA Tournament games played at 144. Duke is fifth at 141. Kansas and Duke have met 10 times, including eight match-ups on neutral floors and five in the NCAA Tournament. Three of those five were in a Final Four (1986, 1988, 1991). Duke defeated Kansas, 72-65, in the 1991 NCAA Tournament title game.

Reply

The Day After: Hawaii Oh-No

Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (13) gets a hand on a shot from Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Indiana forward Juwan Morgan (13) gets a hand on a shot from Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

A week in paradise was spoiled by a hard-fought, overtime loss to No. 11 Indiana on Friday night, and now the Kansas men’s basketball team heads to New York, where its reward for dropping the season opener is a date with No. 1 Duke on Tuesday night.

The Jayhawks were good for long stretches of Friday’s loss, great for small spurts and still sluggish too many other times. Combine all of that together and pit it against a team that endured a very similar night, and it’s no wonder you got a high-octane game that came down to the final few possessions and needed an extra five minutes to be decided.

The teams shot an identical 31-of-71 clip from the field in this one, but the Hoosiers dropped in eight more three-pointers and just four fewer free throws. That should tell you just how well the Jayhawks actually did play. To give up a 20-point edge at the three-point line and free throw line combined and still have a chance to win the game is pretty solid.

Not everybody had a good night and a couple of guys were downright awful, but it’s important to remember that this was still just the first game and that the last time these guys played anything that had that much intensity and emotion and excitement tied to it was last March when they fell one win shy of reaching the Final Four. Competing at that high of a level takes time to perfect and is something that needs to be learned and there are still a few Kansas players who need to find their way.

Quick Takeaway

I definitely don’t think it’s any time to panic. For one, I think Indiana’s damn good. And they’re so tough and relentless on the glass. For two, I thought Kansas did enough good things to encourage people to believe that this team is on its way to being solid but, like all teams, still needs a little time to truly find itself and mesh all of the parts. I’m sure part of the reason this one stings is that it was the season opener in a high-profile game against another highly ranked team. Losing’s never any fun, but losing those types of games always has a way of stinging, at least in the moment. In the big picture, though, this will be one that benefits Kansas. Not only did they learn a few things they need to work on, they also learned that they can overcome a little adversity when it hits. Now they just need to learn to finish once they do.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Frank Mason’s will to win is flat-out incredible, perhaps up there with any Jayhawk ever to play for Self. With KU looking dead in the water late in regulation, Mason threw the team on his back, attacked the rim relentlessly and helped force overtime. There’s been a lot of talk about the improvement of other Jayhawks over the summer, but it appears that Mason, who was already terrific to begin with, might have improved as much as anybody.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Indiana forward OG Anunoby (3) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives against Indiana forward OG Anunoby (3) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks competed. You can say they should’ve done this, could’ve done that or didn’t do something else, but there’s no doubt that these guys were battling in an absolute dog fight of a college basketball game. Indiana was strong and scrappy and KU did its best to match the Hoosiers’ fight and intensity from start to finish.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) fight for a rebound over Indiana forward OG Anunoby (3) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) fight for a rebound over Indiana forward OG Anunoby (3) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

3 – Basketball’s back. It’s such a simple one, but it’s worth remembering and especially worth focusing on following a tough loss. This college basketball season figures to be very exciting and very entertaining for the Jayhawks and we now are officially under way. Enjoy the ride.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – It’s only been a couple of games and it may not last, but Devonte’ Graham’s cramps could be a concern. It was not all that humid in the Stan Sheriff Center nor was it that hot of a day outside. Graham said last week that he thought the issue had to do with not eating enough and you can bet the KU medical staff is doing all it can to figure this thing out. It looked as if Graham began feeling the effects of cramping with about 10 minutes remaining so give him credit for playing through it to the end of regulation.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) chases down a steal from Indiana guard James Blackmon Jr. (1) during the second half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) chases down a steal from Indiana guard James Blackmon Jr. (1) during the second half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

2 – What was up with the KU bench? Entering the season, there was a ton of talk about KU’s deep and talented lineup that figured to include some seriously talented depth. It’s not there yet. Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot are going to need some time still to develop into players KU can count on and even sophomore Lagerald Vick showed he still has some work to do to make the leap from most improved player to prime time contributor. They’ll get there, but this game was a good reminder of just how important the guys KU lost were to the Jayhawks’ success last season.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) gets his fifth foul against Indiana forward De'Ron Davis (20) during overtime of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) gets his fifth foul against Indiana forward De'Ron Davis (20) during overtime of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

3 – Landen Lucas battled his butt off, but he can only do so much. And if he has to play that hard against talented big men, it’s going to make him less effective at times. IU center Thomas Bryant exploited that a little bit and even though going small is something that will work against a lot of teams, it’s clear that it’s not going to work against every team, therein making the development of KU’s young bigs even more important.

Next up

After two days of rest, recovery and licking their wounds, the Jayhawks will jump right back in to another high-profile, hellacious battle when they face No. 1 Duke at 8:30 p.m. in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

By the Numbers: Indiana 103, Kansas 99 (OT)

By the Numbers: Indiana 103, Kansas 99 (OT)

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


More news and notes from the loss against Indiana


Reply

Postgame Report Card: Indiana 103, KU 99, OT

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) fight for a rebound over Indiana forward OG Anunoby (3) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) and Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) fight for a rebound over Indiana forward OG Anunoby (3) during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at Stan Sheriff Center, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 103-99, overtime loss to No. 11 Indiana in the Jayhawks’ season opener Friday night in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Offense: B

Scoring 99 points and shooting 52 percent in the first half generally sounds like a nice start toward a good offensive night. But too many key contributors — most notably Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson each going 3-of-11 — struggled in this one, leaving the door open for Indiana to walk out with the win.

Defense: C

KU allowed the Hoosiers, who shot 43.7 percent for the game, to make 48.4 percent of their three-point attempts. That alone was enough to kill Kansas, saying nothing about KU’s difficulty keeping the IU guards in front of them at times.

Frontcourt: C-

Landen Lucas’ 11 and 7 were good, but he had an opportunity to do better and didn’t. Carlton Bragg took a nice step forward but still had a few mental mistakes and no one else was much of a factor up front. KU also was out-rebounded 50-39 and blocked just 2 shots.

Backcourt: A-

Anytime you have a player do what senior point guard Frank Mason III did in this one, that’s going to be enough for an entire unit to get an A of some kind. Mason flirted with a triple-double by pouring in 30 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds in 40 minutes.

Bench: C-

Although Svi was one of KU’s better players in the game, his bench mates — though lacking for opportunity — did not do much to help the Kansas cause. Lageraled Vick scored 7 points and grabbed 1 rebound in 28 minutes and Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot and even Tyler Self did not even combine to play 10 minutes.

Reply

Collin Sexton decision going down to the wire?

Individuals with knowledge about the recruitment of Class of 2017 point guard Collin Sexton by both Alabama and Kansas told the Journal-World on Wednesday that neither side knew, as of late Wednesday, whether the No. 7-ranked player in the country, according to Rivals.com, was going to pick them.

Rivals.com reported earlier Wednesday that sources had indicated that Sexton’s decision could come down to the wire. If it does, that should make for a very interesting afternoon Thursday, as the 6-foot-1, 170-pound, five-star prospect is slated to announce his decision on ESPNU at 5 p.m. central time.

Although the Mableton, Georgia, guard made official visits to Oklahoma State and NC State, and even kept alive in-state programs Georgia and Georgia Tech, recruiting analysts for weeks have had this pegged as a race between Alabama and Kansas.

Sexton, who has made it clear that he would sign in the early signing period — which began Wednesday and runs through next Wednesday — announced his decision date two weeks ago and has had nothing but great things to say about both Alabama and Kansas.

A source said Wednesday that Sexton came to a decision on Monday after sitting down with his family and coaches. But the same person said late Wednesday night, that it appeared that Sexton had not informed either program of his decision.

Widely regarded as one of the most dynamic and talented players in the class, Sexton is seeking immediate playing time and an opportunity to develop his game into NBA-ready status. While both Alabama, led by former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson, and Kansas, led by Mr. Draft Lottery, Bill Self, seem to have that going for them, only one has a campus located reasonably close to Sexton’s home town.

Whether that proves to be a critical factor or not remains to be seen, but unless Sexton decides to put things on hold, we’ll know one way or another later today.

Reply

More sights and sounds from the Jayhawks at Pearl Harbor

The Kansas basketball teamtoured the USS Chafee at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickman near Honolulu on Wednesday, and, in doing so, provided a wonderful opportunity to observe the Jayhawks away from their area of expertise — the basketball court.

KU's coaches, players, managers and support staff toured the ship for roughly 45 minutes, getting lessons about the ship's history, its operations and stories from several active Naval officers.

The tour included an up-close look at the destroyer's weapons system, operating instructions for the 15,000-pound anchor, a trip inside the control room, where the captain's chair sat proud at the front of the ship and handshakes and smiles from the Jayhawks to the military men and women and plenty of smiles right back.

The opportunity to tag along provided great images, both of still photographs and videos, for Nick Krug and I to grab and there's no doubt that we both also immensely enjoyed the experience in such an historic environment.

In case you're not a Twitter follower or didn't have an opportunity to hop on Twitter yet today, here's a quick look at some of the videos that we posted during the tour. Nick broke off and went with the players and I stuck with KU coach Bill Self and his staff.

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

Reply

Ranking KU basketball’s 2016-17 exhibition performances

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hangs for a shot in the paint against Washburn during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hangs for a shot in the paint against Washburn during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Exhibition games are no way to judge basketball players on where their games are and what kinds of production they’ll deliver during the upcoming season, but for the next two-plus days, that’s all we’ve got to go on with the Kansas men’s basketball team.

With that in mind, as we count down to the regular season opener against No. 11 Indiana at the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu — 8 p.m. central on Friday — let’s take a look at which Jayhawks impressed the most and are playing the best entering Game 1 of the 2016-17 season.

There certainly were a few surprises — both good and bad — during KU’s victories over Washburn and Emporia State last week, and it’s interesting to note, at least in my mind, that two of KU’s five projected starters landed on the bottom half of this list.

Sign of things to come or merely a case of prime time players waiting for the lights to shine brighter before bringing out their best? Time will tell, and we can all expect to know a lot more about this KU team than we know today Friday night and next Wednesday after a bout with No. 1 Duke in the Big Apple.

For now, though, the exhibition report card is the best we’ve got, so let’s have one more look.

1 - Frank Mason III – Not only was the senior guard KU’s best player, scorer and competitor in the two exhibition games, but he also was by far the team’s most consistent performer. After hitting 13 of 19 shots from the floor and averaging 19 points and 7 assists in the two tune-ups, Mason appears poised for a big final season in Lawrence.

2 - Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – A brutal miss on his first shot of exhibition play quickly was forgotten by Svi, the coaching staff and the KU fan base. The junior wing responded by hitting 10 of his next 15 shots, including 6 of his next 9 three-point attempts. Beyond that, the young man from Ukraine got involved in all aspects of the game and looked much more aggressive, comfortable and polished than ever before.

3 - Lagerald Vick – All that talk about how good he looked this summer and how much improvement he made certainly seems legit. Vick looks comfortable on the floor, both as a shooter and when attacking the rim, and appears to have figured out how to use his length, speed and athleticism to impact the game on both ends.

4 - Josh Jackson – After a slow first half in the opener, Jackson became much more attack-minded and began to demonstrate why so much praise has been heaped on him during the past several months and years. He still settles for his jump shot a little too much for my taste, but that figures to change as soon as Jackson fully understands his role and what this team wants and needs him to do.

5 - Devonte’ Graham – It wasn’t that Graham was bad, more that he just didn’t do much. Sixteen total points on 10 combined shots in 25 minutes per game during the two exhibitions is decent for most players but sub-par for Graham, who has the ability to take over games and lead this team in scoring. It’s hard to think that the junior’s average stat line being anything more than him deferring to others in games that did not matter.

6 - Udoka Azubuike – KU coach Bill Self warned against getting too excited about Azubuike’s preseason dunk party because it came against players 5, 6 and 7 inches shorter than he was. Obviously, those types of looks aren’t going to be there as easily against tougher competition, but you have to like the fact that the big fella knew what to do with them when they were. If not for his foul trouble (8 in 2 games) and limited minutes (24 total), he might have landed a little higher on this list. Either way, he remains a work in progress but certainly should feel good about his debut as a Jayhawk.

7 - Mitch Lightfoot – If you don’t like what Lightfoot did in the exhibitions, you don’t like Kansas basketball. He scrapped, played with great energy, looked much more comfortable than most freshmen would and even filled up the stat sheet in limited minutes. That kind of play will earn you a spot in Bill Self’s rotation and as long as he sustains it, Lightfoot appears to have won the job of KU’s fourth big man.

8 - Landen Lucas – Like Graham, Lucas is listed low here because he just didn’t do much, mostly because of early foul trouble in both games. Like most of the Jayhawks, however, Lucas’ second game was much better than his first — 7 rebounds vs. 1 rebound — and he’s smart enough and experienced enough to know it’s going to take a different focus, effort and intensity to knock of Indiana and Duke. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Lucas in the past 10-12 months, it’s that we know he’ll show up.

9 - Carlton Bragg Jr. – It’s hard to say if it was the match-ups or the expectations that led to Bragg’s rough outings, but there’s no denying that the sophomore forward had a rough go of it against Washburn and Emporia State. The good news for Bragg is that his confidence will be restored to full capacity — if not higher — if he performs well against the Hoosiers and Blue Devils in games that are far bigger than either of the last two.

10 - Dwight Coleby – Doesn’t look fully recovered from the injury and also does not appear to be executing to Self’s liking. It’s hard to see Coleby playing much of a role this season except in the cases of extreme foul trouble or blowouts.

Reply

Is Devonte’ Graham poised to join exclusive company?

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) puts up a three from the corner during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) puts up a three from the corner during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

It’s obviously still early, but if KU’s exhibition victories over Washburn and Emporia State are any indication of what’s to come, junior guard Devonte’ Graham could be on pace to accomplish a feat that only two other players have achieved in the Bill Self era at Kansas.

Graham’s .441 three-point field goal percentage during the 2015-16 season put him second (minimum 100 attempts) among all KU players under Self in that category.

Mario Chalmers’ .468 clip during the 2007-08 national title season ranks first and teammate Brandon Rush (.438 in 2006-07) ranks third.

Chalmers and Rush — in those back-to-back seasons — are the only two Jayhawks under Self to twice finish a season with a three-point percentage above .400. Remember, we’re talking players who qualify in the minimum 100 attempts category here.

Interestingly enough, Graham’s teammate Frank Mason finished the 2014-15 season at .429, but Mason did so in 98 attempts. It marked just the third time since Self arrived in Lawrence that KU’s yearly three-point percentage leader did not top the 100-attempt mark. KU’s record book keeps the statistic for players with a minimum of 40 attempts, but 100 felt like a better number for this blog because it provides a good look at true three-point gunners who were key members of their KU squads.

Back to Graham, he finished KU’s exhibition tune-ups with a .444 percentage from behind the three-point line — 2-for-5 against Washburn and 2-for-4 against Emporia State.

If Graham is able to keep that up, he’ll join Chalmers and Rush on this exclusive list. If he can’t, it’s not likely to be the attempts that cost him. Graham connected on 75 of 170 three-point attempts last season, and, with the Jayhawks slated to play smaller and with more four-guard lineups this season, Graham actually could get more attempts in 2016-17. The only question then will be will he make enough to qualify?

Here’s a quick look at the eight previous times a KU player under Self with at least 100 three-point attempts in a season topped 40 percent from long range.

• Mario Chalmers - 2007-08 - .468

• Devonte’ Graham - 2015-16 - .441

• Brandon Rush - 2006-07 - .438

• Xavier Henry - 2009-10 - .423

• Ben McLemore - 2012-13 - .420

• Brandon Rush - 2007-08 - .419

• Mario Chalmers - 2006-07 - .417

• Brady Morningstar - 2008-09 - .415

*minimum 100 attempts

It’s worth noting that Morningstar nearly accomplished the feat again in 2009-10 (.396) and teammate Tyrel Reed came crazy close to joining this list in both of those seasons (.398 in 117 attempts in 2008-09 and .484 in 91 attempts in 2009-10).

Reply

The Day After: Humming past the Hornets

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) drives against Emporia State guard Jay Temaat (10) during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) drives against Emporia State guard Jay Temaat (10) during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If I had a dollar for each time I heard a member of KU’s coaching staff or roster tell me after Sunday’s 104-62 victory over Emporia State that working out the kinks was the reason they play these exhibition games, I’d be able to treat the first five commenters on this blog to a delicious McPick 2.

Quarter pounders and chicken nuggets aside, the sentiment behind that statement is great news for the Jayhawks, who clearly are willing to put in the work to improve and also fix whatever needs to be addressed.

With the NCAA’s 12 days of mandatory time off a thing of the past — Tuesday’s travel day will mark KU’s final required off day — the Jayhawks can spend the next few days focusing hard on their first opponent, No. 11 Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic.

The Hoosiers are a talented team that returns a few big time players. But KU has the edge in experience and depth and should benefit from its veteran mentality and focus. There’s no doubt that KU’s next game will have an NCAA Tournament feel to it and that’s why it’s good the Jayhawks truly used the exhibition outings to identify issues and then work on them rather than sleep-walking through them.

Quick takeaway

Like most of you, I saw a KU team that took coaching well and responded to the challenges the Kansas coaching staff threw at them in the days following the Washburn victory. KU was more aggressive, made rebounding a key part of the game and played with great effort and energy at both ends. That’s the sign of a veteran team and that’s reason enough to believe that these guys will be ready for real competition against some of the best teams in college basketball in a matter of days. When KU is clicking and playing with great effort and intensity, the pieces become a little bit interchangeable and the outcome usually goes the Jayhawks’ way.

Three reasons to smile

1 – KU’s transition offense was so good in this one that it had to make you think that playing with four guards most of the time might be the right move. Match-ups, of course, will determine a big chunk of that, but these guys are fast and furious when they get out and go and, with multiple players able to attack the rim in transition, it has to be a nightmare for opponents to both gameplan for and stop when the clock is running.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pulls up for a layup against Emporia State during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pulls up for a layup against Emporia State during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – It’ll be interesting to see how freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot fares against tougher competition, but you had to love the way the guy debuted in a Kansas uniform. He plays hard, he plays smart and he’s tougher than you might have expected. Lightfoot scored in spurts in this one and finished with 12 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal in 15 minutes. If he continues to bring the same energy to the floor that he did in the exhibition games, his minutes per game number may hover around double digits. But don’t expect it to be there Friday against Indiana or next Tuesday against Duke unless foul trouble becomes a factor.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) gets a bucket past Emporia State forward Garin Vandiver (34) and guard Jevon Taylor (21) during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) gets a bucket past Emporia State forward Garin Vandiver (34) and guard Jevon Taylor (21) during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – KU hit 5-of-9 three-pointers in the first half of this one and finished 7-of-18 for the game, for 38.9 percent. Add to that the lights-out, outside shooting that the Jayhawks delivered against Washburn (10-of-22, 45.5 percent) and it’s clear that this team is comfortable bombing away from behind the three-point line. The best part about those shots (other than the fact that many of them went in) is that KU finished exhibition play 12-for-22 (.545) from three-point land in the first half and enters the season with a ton of confidence pulling the trigger from behind the line.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Players go through funks and come out of them all the time. It happens. But I’d be lying if I said KU fans should not be concerned about the funk that KU sophomore Carlton Bragg is in. Not only was he bad in the two exhibition games, he also looked like he could not get out of his own head and therefore started pressing and thinking about what he was not doing right. The expectations (and need) for Bragg to have a huge season are so great that Bragg not playing up to his potential would be bad news for Kansas. But it’s clear he’s not quite ready for a major role. That could change quickly and likely will come down to Bragg finding a way — any way — to regain his confidence. That’ll be tougher to do against Indiana and Duke, but if it happens, it could go down as a confidence boost on steroids.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) gets physical with Emporia State forward Terrence Sardin (33) during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) gets physical with Emporia State forward Terrence Sardin (33) during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Landen Lucas’ foul trouble also is a concern. He was so good last season about playing defense — really, really good defense close to the basket — without fouling. But whether it’s the new rules emphasis or the undersized opponents, Lucas could not keep from fouling during exhibition play. He’s so smart and so skilled that there’s no doubt he’ll adjust. But therein lies the concern — will his adjustment make him a different player?

The Kansas bench keeps it loose during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas bench keeps it loose during the second half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – It’s a minor deal and likely no reason to sweat, but the Jayhawks struggled at the free throw line for the second game in a row. Getting there 32 times is great news, but making only 65.6 percent of the free throw attempts is not. Teams don’t shoot free throws quite as well as they used to. Last season’s squad shot just 71.3 percent for the year. But if Kansas wants to get off to a 2-0 start against a pair of Top 12 teams, it’s going to need every free point it can get.

Next up

The 2016-17 regular season gets under way for real at 8 p.m. Friday, when the Jayhawks travel to Honolulu to take on No. 11 Indiana in the Armed Forces Classic. Nick Krug and I will be representing the Journal-World and KUsports.com on the islands, so be sure to check out all kinds of coverage this week leading up to the game.

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


More news and notes from the exhibition win over Emporia State


Reply

Postgame Report Card: KU 104, Emporia State 62

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) pulls back for a near dunk against Emporia State forward Jawan Emery (32) during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. Emery fouled Jackson on the play.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) pulls back for a near dunk against Emporia State forward Jawan Emery (32) during the first half, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. Emery fouled Jackson on the play. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 104-62 victory over Emporia State in the Jayhawks’ exhbition finale Sunday night at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: A-

The turnovers were down (11), the shooting percentages were up (61 percent from two, 39 percent from three) and KU was so, so good in transition all night. Another sub-par night at the free throw line (21-of-32) accounts for the minus.

Defense: B+

Several Jayhawks had active hands all night, both when guarding the ball and in the passing lanes, and the home team got nine blocked shots from five different players, led by three from Udoka Azubuike.

Frontcourt: C

The rebounding was better — especially in terms of effort on the offensive glass — but Landen Lucas was still pretty quiet (though aggressive at the start of both halfs) and Carlton Bragg had another rough night.

Backcourt: A

Frank Mason picked up where he left off in the exhibition opener to set the tone and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson joined in from there.

Bench: A

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Udoka Azubuike contributed 30 points in 37 combined minutes and delivered a good chunk of KU’s highlights in this one, from behind-the-back passes in transition to monster flush after monster flush on alley-oops from teammates.

Reply

KU freshman Mitch Lightfoot feeling good about quest to find his role

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) is fouled by Washburn forward Jeremy Lickteig (34) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) is fouled by Washburn forward Jeremy Lickteig (34) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot learned a couple of things during Tuesday night’s exhibition victory over Washburn, his first actual game against an opponent in Allen Fieldhouse.

The first was what it looked like to see 40-50 rows of people packed in behind the basket when you’re trying to shoot free throws.

The second was what exactly he wanted his role to be for this Kansas team during the 2016-17 season.

“For me, I’ve gotta be able to move the ball, rebound and defend,” Lightfoot said during a Thursday meeting with the local media. “That’s my biggest thing. Coach has really emphasized that with me.”

Asked if those things came naturally for Lightfoot, who scored 23 points and 12 rebounds during his senior season of high school, the 6-foot-8 forward from Gilbert, Arizona, said filling those roles well throughout the preseason caught him by surprise.

“It’s been something that I didn’t really know I could do well,” he said. “But I’ve kind of realized that I do that.... When I first got out there, the first minute or two, I felt like I was moving a million miles an hour. I’ve gotta get to the point where I can find the happy medium between going as hard as I can and doing everything correctly.”

One way he plans to do that is to try to fill the role vacated by former Jayhawk Jamari Traylor, whom KU coach Bill Self constantly praised for his effort and energy and willingness to do the little things to help the team win throughout his KU career.

“I loved how Jamari played,” Lightfoot said. “Just kind of does all the dirty work, gets all the rebounds, all the 50-50 balls. I really want to be like that. The hard worker is kind of what I like to be labeled as.”

Lightfoot showed flashes of that during Tuesday’s exhibition opener, finishing with 3 points and 7 rebounds in 9 minutes. But he’ll be the first to tell you that he, like everyone on the team, still needs to get better and get more comfortable with where and how he fits into this team.

With Traylor no longer in town, Lightfoot has found a current teammate who spent a year learning from Traylor to act as his unofficial mentor.

“Carlton (Bragg) would be the one that I’ve learned the most from,” Lightfoot said of the sophomore forward. “He’s only a year older than me, but (in) that year he learned so much from being here and learning from Perry (Ellis) and Jamari and all them. I’m just trying to be a sponge to everything he has to teach, him and Landen (Lucas).”

Reply

The Day After: Woeful against Washburn

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a steal from Washburn guard Randall Smith (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4).

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes away with a steal from Washburn guard Randall Smith (3) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4). by Nick Krug

College basketball is back in Lawrence, Kansas, and while that, generally speaking, is enough to excite just about everybody in this town, Tuesday’s 92-74 exhibition victory over Washburn at Allen Fieldhouse left just as many people scratching their heads as it did jumping for joy.

Although the score does not indicate a struggle, the third-ranked Jayhawks were sloppy, sluggish and outworked during much of Tuesday’s game by a smaller, less talented Washburn team that simply competed.

KU coach Bill Self was far from pleased after the win and it’s clear that there are a few areas that Self and his staff will emphasize — and emphasize and emphasize — this week during practice in order to help Kansas prepare for a regular season stretch that opens in 9 days against No. 11 Indiana and No. 1 Duke four days apart.

Quick takeaway

One of the things that stood out most to me after this game was freshman guard Josh Jackson’s comment about how he was not overly worried about the way his team played because it was the first time for them playing all together as a team.

In practices, for months now, these guys have gone against one another, been divided up into blue and red teams for scrimmages and been battling in mostly pick-up style environments. Never had they been a team of 10 players all working toward the same goal, with substitutions and rotations and all of those things that come with a normal game. It might sound like an excuse, but I’ll buy it.

After all, that’s exactly what these exhibition games are for — to allow teams to work out the kinks and figure out what they do well and what they need to work on. There’s no doubt that what we saw on Tuesday night won’t fly against Indiana and Duke — or even most teams in the Big 12 — but the guess here is that KU, with a few more practices and another exhibition game, will get things together in time to put much better showings on the floor in those two regular season openers.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hangs for a shot against Washburn forward David Salach (40) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hangs for a shot against Washburn forward David Salach (40) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to smile

1 – Frank Mason’s ready for a big year. That fact probably does not surprise a soul, but boy was it evident in this one. Mason was by far KU’s best player, start to finish, and he looked even better than he had during his strong sophomore and junior seasons.

One thing that really struck me about Mason’s 21-point, 10-rebound, 9-assist night was how he continued to attack the rim and play with great aggression but did not hit the deck nearly as often as he has seemed to in the past. That’s good news for Kansas because the Jayhawks are going to need their floor leader to be fresh and at his best right out of the gate if they hope to compete with the likes of Indiana and Duke in the next couple of weeks.

2 – Josh Jackson figured it out. He had a slow start and looked nothing like the ultra-competitive, alpha dog that Self and others have described him to be during the first 26 minutes of this game. But Jackson finally broke through midway through the second half and showed that he understands exactly the way this team needs him to play all season. He was aggressive, he attacked the rim whenever possible and rarely settled for jumpers even when that would have been the easy thing to do.

Jackson said nerves and his focus being on not messing up instead of playing well cost him in the first half. Sounds like a legit excuse to me. We’ll know if it was by the way Jackson plays the next time out. If he attacks from the beginning and plays the entire game the way he finished this one, all will be well and Jackson will be on track to deliver what so many expect of him this season.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) gets up for a shot over Washburn forward Jeremy Lickteig and teammate Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) gets up for a shot over Washburn forward Jeremy Lickteig and teammate Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) during the second half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Bill Self is not afraid of the four-guard lineup. Self hinted the other day that even though it seems clear that KU has a set starting lineup, he’s not certain that the five he threw out there to start this one would be his best lineup because he believes his best lineup could be small. It certainly was on Tuesday, when Lagerald Vick was in there playing well with Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Jackson.

KU’s experiment with the four-guard look was significant on Tuesday and it featured a variety of different lineups. What impressed me the most about it, though, was even when it wasn’t sharp — when ball movement suffered or Washburn made KU pay on the glass or inside — Self did not panic. He stuck with the lineup for extended minutes and did not allow the knee-jerk reaction to a couple of bad possessions to lead to him putting a second big man back out there.

Foul trouble probably played some part in that, but I’m guessing that the other major factor was Self understanding that those smaller lineups are probably going to be critical for Kansas this season and he knew he needed to let those guys get comfortable out there playing together.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Kansas was out-rebounded by Washburn in this one, but it was not just the final numbers (45-44) that were a concern as much as it was the way Washburn got there. The much smaller Ichabods team was more aggressive, played hungrier and looked to want it more and that led to several second-chance opportunities on the offensive glass and a few defensive rebounds they should not have had, as well.

This aspect surprised me. I thought this Kansas team, with all of its veteran experience and promising newcomers would be full of life and energy when it finally hit the floor for a real game, but Washburn stole the show in that area.

Washburn forward David Salach (40) falls over the top of Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Washburn forward David Salach (40) falls over the top of Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Remember when Carlton Bragg knocked in a few outside shots during the Late Night scrimmage and we all went nuts about how it’s clear he’s ready for that Perry Ellis role? Tuesday’s effort showed otherwise. Bragg was far too passive in this one and did not look willing — or even able — to go inside and battle on the glass. He is, of course, but he’s going to have to show it in order for his head coach to believe that.

At this point, Bragg’s sole focus for the next exhibition game should be to go out and grab 10 rebounds or more no matter how he has to get them or what it takes to make that happen. Heck, at this point, Self would probably even be thrilled if Bragg ripped a couple of rebounds away from teammates. That’s the mentality he needs to bring to every game and if he doesn’t, he’s not going to play enough minutes to fill Ellis’ former role.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) pulls up for a three against Washburn forward Brandon Fagins (24) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) pulls up for a three against Washburn forward Brandon Fagins (24) during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – A turnover party broke out at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night and just about every Jayhawk who suited up was invited. The Jayhawks turned it over 24 times in this one, with five different Jayhawks recording three or more, including Josh Jackson’s team-high five. It wasn’t just a freshman problem, though. Frank Mason had three. Landen Lucas had three. Svi had four. And nearly all of them were of the careless, pass-dribble-or-jump-before-you-think variety.

Turnovers that come from great effort are one thing and Self has proven he can live with those. A few of them anyway. But turnovers that come from just throwing the ball away or playing out of control or trying to force something when executing the simple play is the right move will drive the KU coach bonkers.

Whether it was a two-handed temple rub, throwing his play sheet down or rolling his eyes, throwing his hands behind his head and sitting back in his chair and sighing, Self had a stressful night Tuesday and KU’s sloppy play with the ball was a big reason for that.

Next up

Kansas will close out its exhibition season at 7 p.m. Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse against Emporia State.

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


More news and notes from the exhibition victory against Washburn


Reply

Postgame Report Card: KU 92, Washburn 74

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket against Washburn during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket against Washburn during the first half, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 92-74 victory over Washburn in the Jayhawks’ exhibition opener at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Offense: B-

The Jayhawks scored 92 points and had some efficient moments, but overall were far too loose with the basketball, missed too many free throws and had a few too many stretches of one-on-one play. The Jayhawks’ 39 percent clip from three-point range helped salvage the offense’s night.

Defense: C

KU’s size and length really bothered the Ichabods everywhere but the three-point line, where WU hit 10-of-26 tries. Kansas also recorded 9 blocked shots, led by 2 apiece from Jackson and Azubuike.

Frontcourt: C

Landen Lucas and Udoka Azubuike recorded 5 fouls in the first 5 minutes of the game and generally had a difficult time scoring in the block despite KU trying to force feed them the ball during portions of the game. Beyond that, KU's bigs were out-rebounded 45-44 and consistently got out-hustled to loose balls and missed shots.

Backcourt: A

Frank Mason (one assist shy of a triple-double 21-10-9) and Lagerald Vick (9 points in 29 minutes) were among KU’s best players in the game and Josh Jackson, once he got going, showed why he was the No. 1 recruit in the country last year. He finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 turnovers in 19 minutes.

Bench: B-

Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk knocked down shots and Azubuike and Lightfoot brought pretty good energy and were active throughout the game. Other than Vick’s first half, no bench performance stood out as the kind that could win KU a game, but nobody really hurt the Jayhawks either, other than Azubuike’s early foul trouble.

Reply

loading...