Posts tagged with Ku Basketball

How Kansas can clinch more than a share of Big 12 title No. 13 on Wednesday night

The Kansas bench celebrates a three from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk during a surge by the Jayhawks in the second half, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

The Kansas bench celebrates a three from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk during a surge by the Jayhawks in the second half, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. by Nick Krug

As everyone reading this surely knows, the Kansas men’s basketball team currently holds a three-game lead over three Big 12 teams with four games to play.

That means, with a win Wednesday night, Kansas can clinch at least a share of its 13th consecutive Big 12 title.

But did you know that it’s possible that the Jayhawks could clinch the league title outright with a win at 6 p.m. on Wednesday night at home against TCU?

It will take some help and it’s probably a big time long shot, but it is possible.

Both West Virginia and Iowa State play Monday night. Each would need to lose to keep this scenario alive. If either wins — WVU hosts Texas and Iowa State plays at Texas Tech — then the best Kansas can do on Wednesday is clinch a share.

For the sake of this blog, though, let’s say the Mountaineers and Cyclones cooperate and both lose. That would bring Baylor into the picture and the Bears, who dropped from 4th to 9th in this week’s AP Poll, would need to lose to Oklahoma at home on Tuesday to set up the KU-clinches-outright scenario.

Like I said, it’s probably a long shot at best, but KU has received more help than this during this incredible run of consecutive conference titles so I’m not counting anything out.

More likely, though, KU will be able to celebrate a league title next Monday, when the Jayhawks host Oklahoma for Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse.

For my money, though, I’d like to see it happen Wednesday so the Jayhawks can keep the home finale about the seniors and spread out the celebrations.

Then again, knowing how Landen Lucas and Frank Mason III think and have operated throughout their KU careers, they’d probably prefer to have the title-clinching celebration on Senior Night because, for them, the good of the team has always come before any of their own personal interests.


With Trae Young off the board, where do the Jayhawks go next?

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Trae Young, Collin Sexton, Quade Green and Tremont Waters — all are point guards ranked in the Top 36 of the Rivals 150 for 2017 and all were players that the Kansas men’s basketball program recruited on one level or another during the past several months.

With Young’s announcement today that he is staying home in Norman, Oklahoma, to play for the Sooners, the Jayhawks now have missed out on several of the top point guard targets in a class loaded with talent at the position.

All four of those players chose colleges that allowed them to stay close to home. And sometimes there’s just no competing with location.

However, all of those misses would be forgotten in a millisecond if the Jayhawks can entice five-star point guard Trevon Duval to pick Kansas.

Duval, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound point guard from IMG Academy in Florida, is the highest ranked point guard in the 2017 class. Slotted at No. 3, four spots above Sexton in the overall rankings and 11 spots in front of Young, Duval picking Kansas would be a big time get for the Jayhawks and likely push KU’s 2017 Class, which already includes five-star forward Billy Preston (No. 8 overall) and four-star combo guard Marcus Garrett (No. 37), into the Top 3 in the country.

With that said, landing Duval won’t be easy. Along with Kansas, the fast and physical flier from New York City also lists Arizona, Baylor, Duke and Seton Hall as finalists, but it’s not as if the Jayhawks are a long shot here.

In fact, after what KU showed Duval and his family during his official visit earlier this month, there are plenty of people out there who believe that KU is alive and well in their pursuit of Duval.

Shay Wildeboor, of, told The Journal-World that KU is expected to visit Duval today.

Obviously, had Young chosen Kansas today, KU’s chances at landing Duval would’ve been diminished. But since he didn’t, a case could be made that the Duval-to-Kansas odds might now actually be slightly better.

With Young out of the mix and Kansas losing Frank Mason III — and potentially Devonte’ Graham — after the season, there is a clear opening for a lead guard in the Kansas program.

Even with transfers Malik Newman and Sam Cunliffe (2nd semester) in the mix alongside Svi Mykhailiuk (another candidate to leave early), Lagerald Vick and Garrett, it appears that KU still would need true point guard to run the show.

If Graham returns for his senior season, he could be that point guard, but he also has shown this season that he is just as effective playing off the ball with another player handling the point.

The idea of Duval playing point with Graham and Newman starting next to him brings visions of a Top 5 preseason ranking and yet another title-contending Kansas team.

Maybe that’s how all this will play out and the Jayhawks, who have been relentless in their pursuit of Duval to this point, will wind up singing the praises of the slogan, “Good things come to those who wait.”

"There is heavy competition (for Duval) and Duke has been seen as the team to beat of late," wrote Eric Bossi of on Thursday. "But there’s nothing to suggest Kansas isn’t a real player here and they’ll certainly be turning up the heat.... It is never easy to miss out on a top 15 prospect like Young, but given that the majority of highly rated prospects are off the board, the timing isn’t the best and the pool of available players to choose from is pretty shallow. That said, Kansas is still Kansas and Bill Self is Bill Self, meaning that there are still options out there."

Having said that, it’s entirely possible that they’ll miss on Duval too, an ending that would bring a fair amount of uncertainty to next year’s Kansas roster.

Don’t substitute uncertainty for fear, however. Whenever you’ve got Bill Self running your program, you’re going to be OK. After all, did anyone think that Self’s decision to take a couple of kids named Mason and Graham, who once appeared to be headed to Towson and Appalachian State, would wind up producing one of the best backcourts the school has ever seen?

Maybe missing out on the Class of 2017’s crop of talented point guards is just the college basketball gods’ way of evening things out.

Then again, maybe Kansas will land Duval and all will be well that ends well.

Time will tell. Stay tuned...


K-State president has heard enough of vulgar anti-KU chant

Kansas State fans watch with disbelief after the Wildcats are whistled for a foul during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.

Kansas State fans watch with disbelief after the Wildcats are whistled for a foul during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan. by Nick Krug

Around here, the popular profanity-laced chant unleashed by K-State students at home basketball games, whether they're playing KU or not, has become the butt of many jokes, with Kansas fans pointing to what they believe is an inferiority complex by the Wildcats.

Whether that is accurate or not is up for debate and depends on who you're talking to and whom you're talking about, but administrators at K-State evidently have heard enough.

Released at high volume during the riot-inducing sounds of the popular techo beat "Sandstorm," the "F— KU" chant, as it has become affectionately known throughout the state, has been a fixture at Kansas State basketball games during recent seasons.

It showed up again this year, when the Jayhawks knocked off the Wildcats 74-71 on Feb. 6 in Manhattan and even was audible earlier in the season, when the Wildcats played Texas at home.

While the chant has become part of the rivalry and is a source of pride for many K-Staters, first-year KSU president Richard Myers would like to see it end.

Myers, on K-State's official web site on Thursday, released the following statement about the chant and sportsmanship in general.

"As the first year of my presidency unfolds, I continue to be even more impressed by the wonderful accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff. I hear daily about a student's accomplishment or a faculty member's significant research. What a pleasant surprise to discover our university is even better than I knew. This is why I decided to compete to become your president.

One surprise that has not been pleasant is hearing a vulgar chant at sporting events targeted at our in-state rival. It's easy to see how one can get caught up in the moment. However, many of my friends across the nation reached out to me following last week's men's basketball game and expressed their dismay. The chant was clearly heard from coast to coast on national television. It was personally embarrassing and not what one expects from a world-class university.

The strength of the Wildcat family lies in passing our legacy from one generation to the next. K-Staters are known for doing the right thing. Whether our fans are 8, 18 or 80, they deserve the best fan experience in the Big 12. I think about those younger fans sitting in the stands or watching on television and know they represent our next generation. As we continue the spring competition season, let's show them the Wildcat Way."

Whether the words above, or others like them from other K-State dignitaries, are enough to get rid of the chant remains to be seen and likely won't be known for at least another year. It's also not the biggest deal in the world. Fans will be fans and sometimes fans of all teams just can't control their emotions.

But props to Myers for speaking up.

The K-State fan base is one of the best in the country and consistently brings great energy and excitement to the rivalry with KU. They're clever, loud, passionate and proud and those traits should be enough without having to make blatant, loud and prolonged profanities a part of their regular routine.


Josh Jackson’s bounce pass from his butt a microcosm of KU’s comeback

It wasn’t the play of the game, it did not save the Jayhawks from doom and despair, but it did deal a serious blow to West Virginia’s chances and wound up being the signature play that demonstrated just how right things went for Kansas down the stretch in Monday night’s thrilling, 84-80, overtime victory at Allen Fieldhouse.

With Kansas leading by five with 2:40 to play in overtime, the Jayhawks took possession after yet another WVU turnover and looked to add to their lead.

A bucket here, and the Mountaineers, who led by 14 with 2:58 remaining in regulation, would be reeling.

With the shot clock approaching 10 and Carlton Bragg Jr., in trouble in front of the Kansas bench, Bragg’s tall frame allowed him to see Josh Jackson wide open between the 3-point line and mid-court on the opposite side of the floor and Bragg calmly flipped a pass Jackson’s way.

After the game, KU coach Bill Self said Bragg made the right play and even called it a terrific skip pass to Jackson, who, had he caught it clean, would have had plenty of time and space to attack the paint off the dribble before the shot clock expired.

One problem. As the pass floated his way, Jackson fell. With the clock still ticking down and the Mountaineers’ defense approaching, Jackson gathered himself, sat calmly on his rear end and bounced a perfect left-handed pass around the defense to a charging Bragg, who flashed to the top of the key to help Jackson.

Bragg didn’t have the best night by any stretch of the imagination. His stat-sheet totals looked like a ghost town and he had more muffed plays than memorable ones. But in this sequence, the sophomore from Cleveland made three terrific decisions and executed each to perfection to help the Jayhawks pull off the remarkable victory.

First was the pass. Second was his flash to help Jackson. And the third good move by Bragg on the play was to immediately get rid of the ball after catching it so one of KU’s other play makers could make a play.

On this occasion, that happened to be Devonte’ Graham, who put on a dribbling clinic and elevated for a dagger of a 3-pointer with :02 on the shot clock and 2:13 on the game clock.

Graham’s second 3-pointer of OT, released right in front of Self, gave Kansas a 79-71 lead and sent Allen Fieldhouse into a frenzy.

Here’s Jackson after the game on the play:

“I was trying to catch the ball and I slipped,” he said, noting the floor was wet in that spot. “I was just waiting for somebody to get open. I wasn’t sure if we had a timeout or not, so I didn’t want to call one. I just seen Carlton just running to the ball and immediately I just threw it to him.... I was just waiting for somebody to come flash to the ball and help me out. Thankfully Carlton did.”

In the video, you can see Jackson charging to the rim on the back side as Graham released his shot. Asked why, he pointed out that he had a ton of confidence that Graham would make the shot, but added, “But I’m still going to the glass, trying to rebound, in case he doesn’t.”


Jayhawks in prime position to earn 13th straight Big 12 title

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) flashes a smile as the Jayhawks close out the game against West Virginia in overtime, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) flashes a smile as the Jayhawks close out the game against West Virginia in overtime, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

If you followed along with my Gameday Chat yesterday you’d know that I made a light case that the Jayhawks already had locked up at least a share of Big 12 title No. 13 in a row.

That was before the epic comeback vs. West Virginia and it seems even more certain now.

Sure, the Baylor loss on Monday night helped. A two-game lead with five to play is a pretty good spot to be in. But it’s an even more pleasant place when you consider this: Kansas could lose at Baylor on Saturday and still not be worried.

The reason?

Since Big 12 play began back in December, no conference team (other than Kansas, which opened Big 12 play 7-0) has ripped off five consecutive conference wins, which is likely what it would take for the Bears to dethrone Kansas.

Taking that notion one step further, half of the Big 12’s 10 teams have just five conference wins or fewer this entire season.

West Virginia is too far back now to be a factor and Baylor still has to navigate home games with Kansas and WVU and a road trip to Ames, Iowa. A loss in any one of those games pretty much ends it for the Bears.

But let’s say Baylor gets red hot and wins all five games. Kansas then would have to go 2-3 to not win a share of the title. For a team that sits 11-2 through 13 games, it’s hard to envision them losing 3 of 5 to close the season.

What’s more, if you’re looking at schedules alone, you’d have to give the advantage to Kansas in that department, too.

With home games remaining against Oklahoma and TCU and road games at Baylor, Texas and Oklahoma State, Kansas likely needs only to win the two games at Allen Fieldhouse to maintain its position at the top of the Big 12 standings.

Baylor still has to play 3 of the Top 4 teams in the current standings and, like Kansas, also plays at Texas.

The combined Big 12 record of KU’s five remaining opponents is 26-35. The record of Baylor’s five remaining foes? 32-30. Advantage Kansas.

A case could be made for KU losing two of the five games fairly easily. At Baylor at Saturday will be a bear, no pun intended, and closing the season at Oklahoma State looms as a difficult task, as well. KU has lost three straight in Stillwater.

But, again, even if KU were to drop those two games, Baylor would have to win out to move into a tie with Kansas. If Baylor loses even just one game, Kansas would then have to lose at Texas or home against TCU or Oklahoma to finish in a tie.

And, on the flip side, if Baylor loses one of its five remaining games, Kansas could lose both at Baylor and at OSU and still win the thing outright, which is exactly the goal this team has in mind year after year.

Even though Kansas sits in the perfect position to keep its Big 12 title streak alive, it has been a crazy season in the Big 12 and the conference is tough from top to bottom so it’s not safe to take anything for granted and you can bet the Jayhawks will not.

But regardless of what lies ahead and all of the scenarios that still could play out, one thing is certain: Kansas can basically lock it up with a win on Saturday at Baylor.

A win in Waco would put the Jayhawks up three games with four to play.

As a parting note, here’s a quick look at each team's longest 2016-17 conference winning streaks in the Big 12 this season:

Kansas – 7
Baylor – 4
Oklahoma State – 4
TCU – 3
West Virginia – 3
Iowa State – 2
Kansas State – 2
Oklahoma – 2
Texas – 1
Texas Tech – 1

Current Big 12 standings (as of Feb. 14)

Kansas — 11-2
Baylor — 9-4
West Virginia — 8-5
Iowa State — 7-5
TCU — 6-6
Kansas State — 5-7
Oklahoma State — 5-7
Texas Tech — 5-8
Texas — 4-8
Oklahoma — 2-10


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 84, West Virginia 80, OT

The Jayhawks come together with seconds remaining during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks come together with seconds remaining during the second half, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s ridiculous, 84-80, overtime victory over No. 9 West Virginia at Allen Fieldhouse.

Offense: B-

Grading all things on a relative scale, the Jayhawks’ offense got a D for their stat-sheet performance and an A+ for their heart. Down but not out, Kansas found its shooting touch just in time and finished the game on fire, shooting 50 percent from the floor in OT and 67 percent from 3-point range in that same span.

Defense: A-

KU’s defense was poor early, as the Mountaineers pushed Kansas around and got just about anything they wanted. But that stretch was short-lived, as the Jayhawks started guarding midway through the first half to keep WVU close and then finished with some of their best defense of the season, forcing turnovers and tough shots over the game’s final 7 or 8 minutes.

Frontcourt: B-

Landen Lucas’ 8 points and 13 rebounds were all big, but he could’ve been better from the floor (3-of-6, including three misses in close) and at the free throw line (2-of-7). Mitch Lightfoot and Dwight Coleby, in 10 combined minutes did enough to get noticed, which was more than could be said for Carlton Bragg Jr., who had enough rough night despite playing 18 minutes.

Backcourt: A-

Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson just found a way. It wasn’t always pretty, but KU’s lead trio combined for 56 points and some of the biggest plays of the night. An off night by Svi Mykhailiuk accounts for the minus, but after that battle, this group gets an A for willing Kansas to a comeback that won’t soon be forgotten.

Bench: B

Lagerald Vick played some big minutes in the first half and would’ve played more if not for foul trouble. Self said as much after the game and his strong night — 14 points in 18 minutes — led KU’s bench. As mentioned above, the three bigs who came off the bench delivered a mixed bag of production.


Postgame Report Card: Kansas 80, Texas Tech 79

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0), forward Landen Lucas (33) and guard Devonte' Graham (4) come together during a Texas Tech surge in the second half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0), forward Landen Lucas (33) and guard Devonte' Graham (4) come together during a Texas Tech surge in the second half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 80-79 victory at Texas Tech on Saturday.

Offense: A

The Jayhawks shot 49.2 percent from the floor, 40 percent from 3-point range and turned it over just nine times while getting to 80 points. There were times in the first half where KU’s crisp passing and willingness to make the extra pass — or in some cases two or three extra passes — looked like an absolute clinic.

Defense: C+

Texas Tech shot 48.3 percent from the floor and 30 percent from 3-point range and did most of its damage right at the rim. The Red Raiders did hit a bunch of tough, mid-range jumpers, but also got a bunch of layups on drives to the basket and went to the free throw line 21 times.

Frontcourt: B+

Landen Lucas was solid from start to finish — save for his 3-of-6 showing at the free throw line — and came up with several big buckets and big rebounds during KU’s win. Carlton Bragg Jr., also gave a few good minutes, but also sprinkled in a few too many head-scratching mistakes, too.

Backcourt: B-

KU’s top two guards got outscored 47-18 by Texas Tech’s top two guards (Evans and Stevenson) and the Jayhawks consistently watched the TTU guards blow by their perimeter defense. Still, KU’s defense played big when it mattered down the stretch and Josh Jackson and Svi Mykhailiuk combined to score 40 points to aide KU’s typically solid duo of Graham and Mason.

Bench: C

Lagerald Vick had a huge transition dunk and scored five straight points during one stretch in the first half. And Bragg scored a big bucket out of a timeout. Other than that, neither player factored too much into the game during their 37 combined minutes.


Trae Young’s father says 5-star 2017 PG is still undecided

Kansas basketball recruit Trae Young (11) weaves his way though traffic as he drives to the hoop  during AAU competition Saturday afternoon at Lawrence Sports Pavilion.

Kansas basketball recruit Trae Young (11) weaves his way though traffic as he drives to the hoop during AAU competition Saturday afternoon at Lawrence Sports Pavilion. by John Young

College basketball recruiting can be a pretty cut-throat business, full of back-stabbing, trashing other schools and coaches and sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t always belong.

That’s why it was so cool to see the picture of Kansas coach Bill Self and Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger sitting together last night at a game in Norman, Oklahoma, where five-star target Trae Young put on yet another show and filled up the stat sheet.

Many recruiting analysts believe that Kansas and Oklahoma are the two finalists for Young, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound point guard who is ranked No. 14 by in the Class of 2017. So it would have been very easy for Self and Kruger to steer clear of one another and focus only on making sure they got what they needed out of the trip.

Instead, the two veteran Big 12 coaches, who have a ton of respect for one another, watched the game together. Get this: As someone pointed out on Twitter, you’ve got a native Oklahoman trying to convince Young to leave the Sooner State for Kansas and a native Kansan trying to tell Young to shun the Sunflower State to stay in Oklahoma. Recruiting in a nutshell right there.

Young’s recruitment has been one of the most closely watched by KU fans and the whole thing is now a little more than a week away from being over.

Young announced last week that he would reveal his decision at noon on Feb. 16, which means one week from tomorrow, at noon central, we’ll know whether all of that time and effort put into recruiting Young by Self, KU assistant Norm Roberts and the rest of the staff was worth it.

Until then, this is what we know today — Young remains truly undecided and is still trying to sort out which one of those choices is the best for him.

His father, former Texas Tech star Rayford Young, confirmed as much on KLWN’s Rock Chalk Sports Talk on Monday.

“He hasn’t made a decision yet,” Ray Young told Nick Schwerdt during a 15-minute radio interview. “That’s one thing I can tell you. He’s still praying about this thing every night.... I would be lying to you if I said that I’m not ready for this thing to be over with, but, at the same time, I’m kind of sad too because we really care for all these schools that have been putting in their time recruiting him. It’s gonna be a bittersweet day when we have to tell a couple of those schools no.”

Ray Young listed Oklahoma State in the mix, as well, but the Cowboys, at least to those who cover these things closely, appear to be a long shot at best.

Ray Young went on to explain just how difficult the entire process has been for Young, who appears to be weighing the decision of staying home and becoming the next great Sooners savior or joining the Jayhawks and competing for a national title on a stacked roster.

“Now it’s at the point where he just wants to make sure whatever school he goes to it’s a good fit for him and he’s gonna have the role that he deserves, that he should have,” Ray Young said. “Kids these days, they want to step on campus and have an impact from Day 1, especially a kid like Trae, one of the top two or three point guards in the nation, a McDonald’s All-American. So he wants to go play right away and make an impact and help the team win. I’ll be honest, one thing about Kansas is they’ve got Frank Mason playing the point and he’s a senior, that’s very intriguing to my son. Why wouldn’t it be intriguing to any senior in high school?”

While all of those factors, and so many more, have weighed heavily on Young’s mind during this whole process, Ray Young said Self’s style and the manner in which he has gone about recruiting Young have been refreshing and made things much easier to handle.

“It’s been a really, really tough decision,” Ray Young said. “But Coach Self’s been great. He doesn’t put any pressure on Trae, he just tells it like it is and tells him what his role’s gonna be and now it’s up to Trae.”

That last part seems to be a true indication of just how this process has gone down. Unlike some parents, who get overly involved and start to act and feel as if they are the ones being recruited, Ray Young, has left this decision in the hands of his son.

“My role is to try to let him make his own decision, but, at the same time, guide him in those decisions,” Ray Young said, noting that his experience in recruiting and playing in the Big 12 have provided good insight for his son. “Trae and I are really close and he’ll ask me questions every day about, ‘What do you think about this situation, what do you think if I did this, would this be the right thing to do?’ I think it’s great that we have that relationship but, at the same time, he’s not gonna be in our house forever.”


Although he’s capable of scoring more, does KU guard Devonte’ Graham need to?

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets in for a bucket against Iowa State guard Deonte Burton (30) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 at Hilton Coliseum.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) gets in for a bucket against Iowa State guard Deonte Burton (30) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 at Hilton Coliseum. by Nick Krug

So far this season, Kansas junior Devonte’ Graham has made up one half of the best backcourt in college basketball and done so without having the kind of season anybody expected he would.

A common pick for player most likely to lead the 2016-17 Jayhawks in scoring before the season began, Graham has done that exactly one time in 24 games this season (Jan. 21 vs. Texas).

Graham’s partner in crime, national player of the year candidate Frank Mason III, has led KU’s offensive attack 17 times and currently leads the Big 12 in scoring at 20.4 points per game. If he keeps up his current pace, Mason will become the first player in Big 12 history to average 20 points and five assists per game during an entire season.

For now, though, let’s focus on Graham. There will be plenty of time to write and read about Mason in the coming weeks.

While Mason has done a lot of the heavy lifting for KU’s offense this season, freshman Josh Jackson has led the Jayhawks in scoring five times and reserve sophomore Lagerald Vick is right there with Graham in leading KU in scoring once, Nov. 29 vs. Long Beach State.

Which brings me to the whole point of this blog. Monday night in Manhattan, where the Jayhawks completed the season sweep of the Wildcats with a hard-fought, 74-71 victory, Graham was one of three Kansas players in double figures, joining Mason (21) and Jackson (18) to lead KU to the victory.

Graham’s 10 points came on just five shots, as he hit 2-of-5 from the field, including two clutch 3-pointers and all four free throws he attempted.

When you consider the fact that he added seven rebounds and six assists, you can’t classify Graham’s outing as anything other than a wildly productive night.

My issue, though, wasn’t his production. It was the number of shots. I get that Graham has settled into a role where he defers to the red-hot Mason, clears the way for the crazy-talented Jackson and finds other ways to impact the game, be it by keeping the ball moving, defending, picking specific spots to score or some combination of the three.

But is Graham taking five shots really a good thing, especially on a night when Vick attempted seven?

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) lines up a three over Texas guard Eric Davis Jr. (10) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) lines up a three over Texas guard Eric Davis Jr. (10) during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Graham has played the second-most minutes (827) and attempted the third-most shots (243) on the team to date, so it’s not like this is some kind of epidemic. Far from it, in fact.

All three players who make KU’s offense go have settled very nicely into their specific roles and seem to be comfortable letting things play out the way they will. That’s an advantage for Kansas every night because it makes the Jayhawks difficult to prepare for and even more difficult to stop.

There’s no doubt that Graham is a willing and capable scorer. He has shown that throughout his career and has had stretches, even halves, this season when he shot lights out only to pull back and focus on other aspects of the game — most notably, winning — the rest of the time.

Graham is averaging 13.3 points per game — good for 13th in the conference — so he’s making the most of his shots when he takes them. I just think he could stand to take more. Not at the expense of Mason or Jackson, of course, but there should not be another game the rest of the way where Vick takes more shots than Graham. That now has happened five times this season, but, prior to Monday, had not happened since KU topped Davidson on Dec. 17. It would be good news for Kansas if it was merely a fluke and not a sign of things to come.

This team needs Graham to factor heavily into the offense and put pressure on opposing defenses from start to finish, if for no other reason than to continue to ease the squeeze opponents can put on Mason and Jackson.

One final point about Graham’s season thus far, for those of you who made Graham your pick when asked before the season who would lead KU in scoring, present typists included. Consider this about Graham’s current 13.3 points per game average: In four of the previous 13 Kansas seasons under Bill Self, that total would have been right there in the mix to finish as KU’s leading scorer. And two other times a 13.3 average would have put Graham just a couple of points behind the team leader.

There are a dozen other ways to do it, but those facts, at least to me, further hammer home just how special of a season Mason is having.


Postgame Report Card: KU 74, K-State 71

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) compete for a ball during the second half, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) compete for a ball during the second half, Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 74-71 victory at Kansas State on Big Monday.

Offense: A-

The way this game was played for most of the night, it looked like it was destined to be one of those slugfests in the 50s or 60s. But KU got to 74 points, thanks largely to 47 percent 3-point shooting and the right guys going to the free throw line most of the night. Josh Jackson continues to struggle on the freebies, but KU was good everywhere else.

Defense: B+

The Jayhawks showed a great deal of toughness and physical play throughout the game and did enough on the defensive end to impress their coach. Self said after that game that, outside of the Jayhawks’ effort on the defensive glass, KU really guarded well. That’s good enough for me, but not quite good enough for the A.

Frontcourt: B+

Carlton Bragg returned to the lineup and was a big factor and Landen Lucas (7 points, 7 rebounds) played a solid and easy-to-overlook game from start to finish. K-State’s DJ Johnson was the best big on the floor in the first meeting between these two, but not Monday night.

Backcourt: A

Frank Mason led with 21 points and a giant heart, Devonte’ Graham quietly flirted with a triple-double (10 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) and Josh Jackson finished with 18 points and teetered on the brink of taking the game over all night. In short, just another night for the ultra-talented KU backcourt.

Bench: B

Ten points, eight rebounds, three assists and a one block in 39 minutes. That’s the kind of production KU will gladly take from its bench every night, particularly if Bragg and his physical presence inside leading the way. Bragg finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds on 3-of-4 shooting from the floor and Lagerald Vick, who shot just 2-of-7 from the floor, delivered a huge dunk and grabbed five big rebounds.