Posts tagged with Ku Basketball
Through his first three seasons as a Jayhawk, we've seen KU forward Perry Ellis do just about everything.
He's been good in the post and hit from the outside. He's shown the ability to put the ball on the deck and create for himself and score by hitting the offensive glass. His mid-range jumper (particularly from the baseline) is as smooth as butter and he's a career 74 percent free throw shooter.
When he started his four-year journey back in 2012 we knew that Ellis had all of the raw tools to develop into that kind of player. But they did not all show up at once. Little bit little — game to game, week to week and even year to year — Ellis unveiled new parts of his game that almost always took him to another level.
Remember the 2013 Big 12 tournament, where he helped carry the Jayhawks to the title and landed a spot on the all-tourney team? That was the first time Ellis showed consistent willingness and ability to be a force around the rim. And he never took a step back from there, even if asserting himself and his personality remained a work in progress.
Remember the end of the 2013-14 season and start of the 2014-15 season, when Ellis showed that he was both able and willing to shoot more three-pointers? He took 46 and made 18 (39 percent) over the course of his junior season and never looked anything but comfortable doing it. Those numbers doubled his career totals from his first two seasons.
Remember Ellis' insanely productive stretch during the 2014-15 season before he got hurt, when he improved his point total in six straight games and topped 18 points in five of them? That included a 28-point, 13-rebound explosion in a home win over Texas and seemed to indicate that Ellis finally understood that he could dominate games. He got hurt in the very next contest and he was not quite the same the rest of the season.
That stretch, perhaps as much as anything, may have been what led Ellis to decide to return for his senior season at Kansas.
It's not necessarily that he had anywhere to go nor was he deemed a lock to succeed in the NBA. Far from it. Instead, it seems logical that the most productive stretch of his career reminded Ellis just how much more he could improve and served as all the feedback he needed to believe that, with a return to KU, he could hone certain skills and better showcase his abilities in hopes of landing a spot in the NBA in 2016.
Time will tell how likely a prospect that last part is. But both Ellis and KU coach Bill Self believe it can happen and that will be a crucial driving force this offseason.
Talking after Monday's team banquet, Ellis pointed to things like better ball handling, improving on the perimeter and becoming even quicker, particularly defensively. Those specifics point to a guy who realizes that his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame is not power forward material in the NBA and his only path to achieving that dream is likely as a small forward.
While it's logical to think that Ellis, with his skills, work ethic and determination, can get there, it's also important to point out who some of the top small forwards in the NBA game are today — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Jeff Green, Josh Smith, Draymond Green and Luol Deng.
Ellis has a long way to go before he's on the same level as any of those guys, but you don't have to squint too hard to see it happening, at least in terms of him being able to compete at their position. Draymond Green was a power player for the Michigan State Spartans during his college career and he's now another one of those perimeter weapons for the Golden State Warriors. Leonard was among the conference leaders in rebounding during his days at San Diego State but now looks like one of the most dynamic offensive players in the game.
Ellis will never be as good as Leonard or Green. But the one delivered by Green, who stands 6-7, 229 pounds, is the perfect type of transformation for Ellis to aspire to have. Think Poor Man's Draymond Green on the end of some NBA bench. Sound a little underwhelming? I bet Ellis would take it in a second.
If Self and the Jayhawks can land a couple of big men in this recruiting class — say Cheick Diallo, Mike Thorne Jr., and/or Stephen Zimmerman — that will give Ellis more freedom to hone those small forward skills, much in the same way Marcus Morris was able to do it during his time as a Jayhawk.
If not, well, what's Ellis have to lose by returning to school and passing on a draft that might not have had a spot for him anyway?
Let me start by saying I thought Wayne Selden's announcement — via press release — that he was returning to Kansas University for his junior season was handled perfectly.
Selden, who enjoyed a solid freshman season but took a step back in a few areas as a sophomore, sounded sincere, outlined several good reasons for his return and even addressed how motivated he was by his rough 2014-15 season.
Good on ya.
The problem, though — at least in my eyes and surely many of yours — is that I'm not really sure Selden needed to announce that he was returning in the first place.
The stay-or-go question posed to Selden after his freshman season was legitimate given his recruiting ranking, his productive season and the inevitable departure of his then-teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. But that same question was not really on the minds of those who follow KU basketball this time around.
Selden has talent. He has good size, can shoot the ball, is a terrific passer and has been trustworthy enough in the eyes of Bill Self to average roughly 30 minutes per game during his first two seasons as a Jayhawk. That last part is no small feat.
But I've often wondered what's driving Selden as a college athlete, and Friday's announcement only added to my curiosity.
To me, it seems Selden spends too much time worrying about his image — how he looks when he plays, how he's perceived in the eyes of all kinds of people and how he's talked about as a prospect. If he worried as much about consistently playing hard as he did about looking hard, I think he could become a serious impact guy and a future pro.
As it stands, he's been a pretty good college player and may very well be on his way to becoming a four-year player. Remember when that wasn't a bad thing?
Taking this a step further, this whole thing seems to be a cultural problem, though, not just a Selden problem.
So many college players these days, talented and otherwise, seem to feel like they're missing out or falling behind their peers — or, worse yet, the high school guys coming behind them — if they're not constantly thrusting themselves into the national conversation or following the ever-growing trend of self promotion that has turned college basketball into a spectacle at which even Hollywood would blush.
On the handful of 2015 NBA mock drafts I searched, Selden was listed on just one — and that was as a late second-round pick. No way that guy's going to jump to the NBA unless there were some extenuating circumstances that would make such a move necessary. With Selden there are none, which made his return to KU not only the right move but also the obvious one.
No need to announce it. No need to give it a second thought. Just get into the gym and go to work. Maybe doing that will make the question relevant again next year.
Regardless of how it was announced or whether it even needed to be, at least Selden made the right move and didn't allow outside influences or his own ego to send him down the wrong path.
That's something. And it should be very interesting to see what the Wayne Selden Experience 3.0 looks like.
Wayne Selden By The Numbers
2013-14: 9.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.5 apg, 53% 2pt, 36% 3pt, 25 steals, 66 turnovers
2014-15: 9.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 39% 2pt, 37% 3pt, 21 steals, 70 turnovers
The 2014-15 college basketball season may just have ended — in thrilling fashion, no less; I mean, how about those Kentucky-Wisconsin and Duke-Wisconsin games to finish things off! — but there are plenty of people already looking ahead to the 2015-16 season, which is still six months away.
The folks in Lawrence, Kansas, certainly make up a large chunk of that group, as Jayhawk fans are always in basketball mode and the intensity only grows after a disappointing tournament exit like the one the Jayhawks suffered a few weeks ago.
With that in mind, let's take a quick ride down Prognosticator Place, where several national college basketball writers were bold enough to post their “way too early Top 25” lists for the 2015-16 season.
As you'll see, the Jayhawks were given a lot of love from these guys, just like they seemingly always are.
8. Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks will look awfully familiar in 2015-16. Freshman wing Kelly Oubre Jr. began the season in shaky form, turned into a reliable slasher, and still provided a minor shock when he announced his decision to turn pro. That may be the Jayhawks' only notable departure. Oubre's highly touted classmate, Cliff Alexander, proved to be too raw to play a major role as a freshman; he could benefit as much as any player in the the sport from another year in the Bill Self developmental churn. Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Frank Mason III and Brannen Greene -- who should slide into Oubre's spot, and provide more 3-point shooting in the exchange -- are the same group that fended off a brutal Big 12 for KU's 11th straight regular-season title. Throw in Top-25 recruit Carlton Bragg, and there's no inherent reason to expect anything less from the Jayhawks in the year to follow.
Key losses: F Kelly Oubre, F Cliff Alexander (projected to leave)
Key returners: G Frank Mason, G Wayne Selden, F Perry Ellis, G Devonte Graham, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Brannen Greene G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Notable newcomers: F Carlton Bragg
Outlook: Thanks to the anticipated return of point guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham and wings Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas appears pretty loaded on the perimeter. What will determine whether the Jayhawks extend their Big 12 title streak and make a deeper NCAA tournament run next March is how they address a series of questions about their frontcourt. Will all-conference forward Perry Ellis return for his senior season? Can heralded incoming freshman Carlton Bragg make an immediate impact? Will Kansas further bolster its frontcourt by landing spring targets Stephen Zimmerman, Cheick Diallo or Thon Maker? The return of Ellis would be critical because he was Kansas’ lone low-post scoring threat this past season. Undersized forward Jamari Traylor and reserves Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson are all back too, but each are better suited for backup roles. If Ellis returns and Kansas adds another big man to its class, the Jayhawks could be poised for a special season. If Ellis unexpectedly turns pro, there will be pressure on Bragg and any other incoming freshmen to develop a college-ready low-post game quickly.
Notable players definitely gone: Kelly Oubre
Others expected to leave: Cliff Alexander
Notable players expected to return: Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Jamari Traylor, Brannen Greene, Devonte' Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas
Others expected to join the roster: Carlton Bragg
Why the Jayhawks are ranked here: KU's roster will lack starpower. But so many quality pieces from a Big 12 championship team are returning that it would be silly to have Kansas outside of the top five. In other words, yes, the Jayhawks should win a 12th straight league title next season -- unless one of the next two teams listed wins the Big 12 instead.
No. 7 Kansas
Why They're Here: Consistency. Even with losing Kelly Oubre and likely Cliff Alexander, Kansas has a veteran core returning. As long as Perry Ellis doesn't leave for the NBA as well, Bill Self will have four of the five guys back who were starting at the end of the season. The Jayhawks will also be banking on a big jump for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Even though he only played 11.2 minutes per game and had 10 DNPs this year, NBA scouts considered the Ukrainian KU's best pro prospect. Mykhailiuk turns 18 in June and has the ability to be an All-Big 12 wing if he's able to relax and just play—he often looked sped up and nervous as a 17-year-old freshman.
Greatest Asset: Guard play. Frank Mason made a huge leap his sophomore season—averaging 12.6 points and 3.9 assists per game—and he should continue to improve. Wayne Selden has been a bit of a disappointment at Kansas because of his inconsistencies, but there's a reason scouts once viewed him as a first-round prospect. If Mykhailiuk doesn't assert himself, Self has plenty of options. Backup point guard Devonte' Graham came on strong at the end of the year, and Brannen Greene is a knockdown shooter who is a nice asset when his shot is falling.
Will Change If... Ellis leaves or Self adds another blue-chipper or two. There are rumblings that Ellis will consider skipping his senior season. Self is also still in the mix for several of the top unsigned players.
And, of course, we can't forget Joey Brackets, who already has unveiled the first edition of his ESPN.com feature, Bracketology, which has KU listed as a 3 seed in the Midwest, where North Carolina and Roy Williams loom as the No. 1 seed.
Let the countdown begin!
Very little public information has been released about the situation surrounding Kansas University freshman forward Cliff Alexander, who sat out of Saturday's 69-64 victory over Texas at Allen Fieldhouse after the NCAA made KU officials aware of an eligibility concern surrounding Alexander.
Following Saturday's game, KU coach Bill Self admitted to having little knowledge about the situation — though it seems highly likely that Self has learned a ton more in the 24 hours since first hearing about it — but Self also made it clear that he did not believe the issue had anything to do with something the school, the coaches or the basketball program had done wrong.
While such a stance undoubtedly was refreshing for KU fans to hear, it did not erase the fact that Alexander is out indefinitely and there's no telling at this point when or even if he might return.
Sunday morning, SI.com's Brian Hamilton got in touch with the attorney helping Alexander work through the situation, Washington D.C.-based Arthur McAfee, and even McAfee was unable to shed much light on any kind of time frame.
“I can’t handicap it for you, it wouldn’t be fair to either side to do so,” McAfee told Hamilton. “Our goal is to make sure there is clarity with whatever issue [the NCAA] may have. We’re always confident that whatever information [it is] looking for is in favor of Cliff. These things take time to develop. [It has] procedures [it] must follow, and I think there’s an attempt to do it fairly quickly. We will see here in short order, I hope.”
These things certainly are not new to college athletics or college basketball or even KU, but given the fact that this one has popped up in March, with just two games remaining in the regular season, one can't help but wonder if things can and will be resolved in time for Alexander to return to the Jayhawks' lineup this season.
Despite being unable to predict how long the ordeal would last or how long Alexander would be sidelined, McAfee seemed confident that things would move quickly one way or the other.
“I would assume that [the NCAA] understands the pressures of the current basketball season,” McAfee told Hamilton, “and I’m sure [it] will try to do [its] job in a thorough fashion, to cause the least amount of harm to Cliff and the university.”
Whenever these situations arise, information can be tough to come by because everyone involved typically wants to say as little as possible as to not interfere with the process. Self said following Saturday's game that Alexander would be able to practice while things played out, but until more is known or things are resolved, that's likely all Alexander will be able to do and we probably won't be hearing from him until KU knows his status for the rest of the season.
The good news, from a Kansas perspective, is that the university acted fast in sitting Alexander and has made it clear that it is 100 percent willing to cooperate with whatever the NCAA needs. It certainly would be foolish for them not to do so, but such swift action often is looked upon favorably by the NCAA.
Stay logged on to KUsports.com for any information we or others are able to learn about the Alexander situation.
Lost, at least to some, in the aftermath of K-State's latest court-storming frenzy and all of the opinions and hot takes that followed it, was the admirable restraint shown by Kansas University forward Jamari Traylor.
I like Traylor. He's a friendly guy who has his limitations as a basketball player but also genuinely seems to be trying his best whenever he's on the floor.
All of that said, my respect for the Chicago junior sky-rocketed Monday night, after watching him get unnecessarily bumped and blindsided by a Kansas State fan who rushed the floor. Rather than adding a horrendous layer of nastiness to an already ugly scene, Traylor acted with intelligence.
Judging by the photograph captured by Journal-World photographer Nick Krug — which Kansas State police used to help successfully identify and find the young man who I can only assume is a K-State student — I'm guessing that the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Traylor had at least 4 or 5 inches and 50 or so pounds on the guy.
Add to that the fact that Traylor is a finely tuned, ripped Div. I athlete and the K-State student is, well, not, and it's easy to conclude that if Traylor had felt like it — or even if he simply had been in a frame of mind to react and retaliate without thinking — he could have sent the young man to the hospital in a matter of seconds.
But he didn't. After initially reacting the way any of us would've — with shock, anger and frustration over something he never saw coming — Traylor walked away and did nothing.
I'll admit my surprise. Traylor is an emotional dude and an even more emotional player and it's easy to envision a scenario in which he might have taken the other path and created an even greater mess. That's especially easy to do when you consider the fact that the incident took place mere moments after a tough loss to a heated, in-state rival.
As for the incident as a whole, I don't have much to say about it other than to point out the obvious that the situation needs to be fixed.
Players and coaches from visiting teams cannot continue to be put in harm's way — no matter how serious the threat — when home fans storm the floor to celebrate an emotionally charged upset. It's a recipe for disaster and one that hopefully will be addressed and taken care of up front before someone unable to control himself the way Traylor was goes crazy and injures someone in response to the storming.
I'm certainly not condoning it, but you'd be hard pressed to find me passing judgment on any athlete who reacted negatively when put in a situation like the one Traylor was in. Sure, you'd like to think that all athletes could see the bigger picture, realize it's just a game, just walk away and all of those other buzz phrases that sound good, but in the heat of the moment that's not so easy to do and Traylor deserves a ton of credit for handling it the right way instead of making things worse.
8:34 p.m. Update:
In related news, the young man who bumped Traylor came forward with an apology letter in the K-State Collegian.
President Barack Obama visited Kansas University this morning to visit with KU students and several Lawrence residents on the heels of this week's State of the Union address.
Obama, a huge and well-known college basketball fan, opened his speech at Anschutz Sports Pavilion by talking a little KU basketball.
He said he met with KU coach Bill Self and the men's basketball team just before taking the stage and added that he figured he might as well talk to some basketball players since he was in Lawrence already and everything.
Several Jayhawks instantly took to Twitter to share their thoughts about meeting the president and Obama, himself, kicked off his speech with talk about KU being back on top of the Big 12 Conference race and praised Self's streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles.
Known by many as a gifted and charismatic speaker, Obama then made a correlation between one of his streaks and KU's streak of Big 12 titles.
“Coach Self has won 10 straight, I lost two straight (in Kansas),” he said, referring to losing the state of Kansas in the general election during both of his presidential campaigns. “I might have won some sections of Lawrence. That might have happened.”
Obama's love for KU hoops came as no surprise and it made sense for him to kick off the day's festivities talking about the one thing that unites this town better than anything else.
Our own Gary Bedore talked with Self briefly after the speech and the KU coach told him that the team met with Obama in Hadl Auditorium and presented him with a personalized jersey and KU basketball.
There are few things that fix problems in sports like winning and, in that regard, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up a huge home victory, 78-62 over Kent State, on Tuesday night.
Still irked by their showing at Temple more than a week earlier, the Jayhawks came out with greater intensity and a sense of purpose that certainly was missing the last time they took the floor, and, really, has been absent from time to time throughout the season.
Call it youth, call it a learning curve, call it whatever you want. But it definitely is reality. So is the fact that, even though the Jayhawks held off a pretty stiff challenge from a decent Kent State squad, there were still almost as many bad moments as good. But, as you all know by now, those negatives don't show up nearly as much when a team wins, and Kansas (10-2) needed Tuesday night as much as a 9-2, Top-15-ranked team can need a victory at this point in the season.
Without question the most encouraging part about KU's 10th victory of the season was the fact that Frank Mason, who again was spectacular, looked around and got the help he needed on both ends of the floor.
Kelly Oubre was great — is anyone noticing a trend emerging here?
Perry Ellis was relentless even after a slow start.
And Cliff Alexander had enough positive moments in the second half to remind KU fans what the Alexander who showed up earlier this season then disappeared just as quickly as he arrived looked like.
All in all. The effort was better, the intensity was better and so was the result.
Offensively, Kansas has enough weapons, versatility and talent to find a way to score enough points to win games. There are going to be nights — and, really, there already have been — where this team will struggle, but breaking out of an offensive slump really can be as simple as one guy hitting a shot or making an extra pass that gets the ball rolling again. So there's really no reason to worry too much about KU's offense and Tuesday was a good illustation of this. It's defense that is a different story, and, what Self said about Cliff Alexander — how “he can play well if he's just active” — can apply to the entire team and really help KU's defense shine. In the first half, that really wasn't the case except for one or two guys. But in the second half, when Kent State shot 18 percent worse and scored just four points in the decisive first eight minutes, KU's defense dominated and won the game.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The Jayhawks played faster and reaped the benefits. Throughout the eight days between games, KU coach Bill Self stressed tempo and pace to his team during practice. And it was clear that KU really tried to turn things up a notch against Kent State. Not only were they willing to — which Self actually said was easier because Kent State was not afraid to run either — but they succeeded big time. KU outscored Kent State 19-0 in fastbreak points, and even when they weren't directly scoring buckets, they found themselves dictating play or getting the to free throw line, both of which serve as reminders of more ways KU can control games in areas other than the scoreboard.
2 – The opening few minutes of the second half were crucial and KU delivered. Not only did they score the first five points of the second half to push their six-point halftime lead to 11 just like that, but the Jayhawks did it by getting to the free throw line. Even though they didn't connect on all of their trips — and were an uncharacteristic 13-of-22 from the free throw line for the night — the fact that they were able to get there helped them establish control and gave them a chance to pick up some easy points.
3 – The KU defense recorded a season-high eight blocked shots, but the total number was not nearly as impressive as the way the Jayhawks got there. Seven different players swatted a Kent State shot attempt, with freshman Cliff Alexander being the lone KU player to pick up two blocks. The total marked the largest number of players to block a shot in the same game since 2010 and served as further proof that Bill Self's boys took their shortcomings against Temple to heart.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's first-half offense was merely OK and featured way too many possessions of one-on-five basketball. On a few occasions, that was because of the shot clock winding down. And there's definitely nothing wrong with a guy trying to be aggressive by making a play and attacking the rim. But Self's offenses have always flowed so well and the Jayhawks always have looked so much better when they achieve that flow. This team's still getting there in that regard.
2 – Wayne Selden continues to be a bit of a mystery and even Bill Self has started to acknowledge that. After the game, Self said Kelly Oubre had firmly locked up the 3 spot in the starting lineup but added that he'd love to see Brannen Greene or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — or both — elevate their games to the point where they're pushing Oubre. Self then went on to say that if either guy could do that, it would probably help Selden, too, and therefore would help the team. Selden made just 1 of 7 shot attempts with one of the misses coming on a perfectly drawn up lob out of a timeout. Instead of laying it in or throwing it down, Selden, who elevated above the rim, tried for the home run and wound up firing the ball over the iron and into the Kent State bench. Selden's 29 minutes marked the fourth time in the past five games that the sophomore guard has played fewer than 30 minutes.
3 – Brannen Greene played just four minutes in the first half and did not get into the game again until the final three minutes, when the outcome had been decided. The quiet night from the sophomore was merely the latest in the odd up-and-down trend from the sharp-shooter, who, just a few games again, was in position to lock up a starting spot himself. It's hard to say exactly what's going on with Greene, but Self briefly mentioned his inconsistent nature in the postgame. I'm sure the bulk of that inconsistency is showing up in practices, but KU needs Greene to figure it out as soon as he can. With Frank Mason taxed to the max at the point guard spot and Selden still struggling to produce himself, KU's going to need all the help it can get on the perimeter to survive Big 12 play.
One for the road
KU's 16-point squeeze job of the Golden Flashes...
• Made Kansas 10-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Kept the Jayhawks unbeaten all-time versus Kent State (2-0) and improved them to 12-1 against current membership of the Mid-American Conference.
• Pushed the Jayhawks to a 63-8 record in games following a loss under Self.
• Made Kansas 5-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in the building's 60th season.
• Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 14-straight games.
• Made Kansas 718-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 180-9 home mark under Self.
• Improved Self to 335-71 while at Kansas and 542-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,136-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will close out the non-conference portion of the 2014-15 schedule on Sunday with a 3:30 p.m. tip-off against UNLV. UNLV already boasts a victory over Arizona and should pose a significant challenge for the Jayhawks. After that, KU heads to Waco, Texas, on Jan. 7 for the Big 12 opener against Baylor.
You all saw it, so there's no real reason to rehash the gory details of Monday nights' 77-52 KU basketball loss to Temple.
The Jayhawks were as bad in this one as they were in the loss to Kentucky in the second game of the season, and, in some areas, may even have been worse.
Clearly, very few people saw a loss like this coming, given the way the Jayhawks have played lately and shown steady growth over the course of the season. The bottom line, though, is this team is still relying on a lot of young players and many of those guys are still learning how to play at this level, how to play for Bill Self and how to fit into leadership roles.
Many believed that Wayne Selden was poised to step right into that role as the unquestioned team leader, but, even if he has shown areas of improvement in that department, he's still a work in progress there. So is Perry Ellis, who has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of complete struggle, the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, all in the first 11 games.
Where Ellis and Selden go from here will be important, but clearly this team is in need of improvements in a bunch of areas and from a bunch of guys before Big 12 play gets started, which is now just two weeks away.
It'll be interesting to see how the Jayhawks respond to this loss, and I'm not just talking about how they play against Kent State next Tuesday. KU was exposed in some pretty important areas in the loss to Temple and there are teams in the Big 12 that have the right mix of personnel, swagger and talent to try to replicate what the Owls did to Kansas in this one. The easy thing to say is that KU will learn from this loss, work hard over the break and keep getting better. And I'm sure all of that is true. But KU's going to have to find a way to tweak what it does on both ends of the floor to prevent nights like this from happening again. We're not talking wholesale changes or anything drastic, but they have to find easier ways to score and also need to identify the right lineup that's willing to compete defensively every possession. The guys that will do that are the guys that will get the most minutes in the coming weeks.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Plenty has been said about Frank Mason's night and the guy deserves all the credit in the world for showing up to play on a night when most of his teammates didn't. Mason scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting — including 4-of-6 from three-point range — and added three steals and two assists. The most impressive number of them all, however, might have been the minutes played. Mason was on the floor for every second of the game, which only further proves (a) how valuable he is to this team and (b) how obvious it was that he was one of the few guys who was ready to battle.
2 – His numbers did not reflect it, but I thought Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned in a second straight game where he looked much more like the Svi we saw early in the season than the Svi we saw during a recent slump. He was aggressive and willing to compete, even if his shots weren't falling either.
3 – You hate to use the old “wake-up call” line for one of the reasons to smile, but there weren't many others in this one so we'll go with it. So much has been made about KU's ability to find ways to win so far this season even on nights when it didn't play its best. That's a good trait for a team to have, but it's not a given. I think there's a chance that some of these guys — especially the younger dudes — started buying into the idea that all they had to do was show up and they'd find a way to pull out a win. That kind of belief and confidence is a good thing, so long as the team executes the first part, which is to show up. KU did not do that against Temple, and that'll be the lesson it can take away from an awful nigh heading into January.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – OK, so there were more like 30, but if we're going to narrow it down to just three, we'll begin with KU's terrible start. That first 10 minutes (and maybe even the first 3-5) really set the tone for the entire night. The Jayhawks looked disinterested, lazy, sluggish and, simply put, like they didn't want to be there. Off nights are going to happen. But with a roster this deep, talented and versatile I didn't think we'd see a night where almost every player in crimson and blue failed to bring it. Monday was one of those nights and the Jayhawks got what they deserved because of it.
2 – While that start was a tone-setter, KU's defense was what cost them most and eliminated any chance KU had to stay in the game. That was particularly true in the first half, when Temple's guards drove to the rim at will and the Owls' crisp ball movement led to open shot after open shot. Long story short — Temple got whatever it wanted on offense and KU looked powerless to stop it.
3 – Cliff Alexander continues to be a work in progress and, in some ways, may even have taken a step or two backwards these past couple of weeks. Early in the season, Alexander was getting by on energy, effort and raw ability, but, today, he seems to be over-thinking things and looks flat-out lost at times, particularly on defense. One sequence Monday night showed that better than any other. With KU still hanging around early in the second half, Alexander fired a 16-foot jumper early in the shot clock. It's not a terrible shot, and it's one he can make, but there's no need to take it when he did. On the very next possession, Temple ran a high ball screen and Alexander left his man to go double team, which allowed the guy he was guarding to slip effortlessly to the rim, where he received an easy pass and finished a bunny to add to Temple's lead. Even after starting, Alexander only played 17 minutes, took just the one shot and scored 2 points. The big freshman needs winter break to arrive as much as anybody.
One for the road
KU's beatdown at the hands of Temple on Monday:
• Snapped an eight-game winning streak, which was KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made Kansas 9-2 or better for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.
• Dropped KU’s record away from Allen Fieldhouse to 5-2 this season and 1-1 in true road games.
• Made Kansas 8-4 all-time versus Temple and 60-17 against current members of the American Athletic Conference.
• Moved Self to 334-71 while at Kansas, 541-176 overall and 4-1 all-time against Temple.
• Made KU 2,135-824 all-time.
After going their separate ways for Christmas, the Jayhawks will return to action at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when they'll take on Kent State at 7 p.m.
Following Saturday's 96-69 victory over Lafayette — a game that was actually a much tougher battle than the final score indicates — Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self explained that he no longer would divulge his starting lineups after Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene both were held out of the starting five just one day after it was announced that Alexander would join the group for the first time this season.
Greene was late to weights on Friday, Alexander had what Self called a bad day of practice that same day and Landen Lucas and Kelly Oubre slid into their spots.
I get where Self's coming from on this, but, after what we saw on Saturday it might not matter whether he announces his starters or not. It might just be that obvious. If Oubre continues to make the progress he's making and plays at all like he played on Saturday, he'll be in there. No questions asked.
After that it'll come down to the fifth spot, where Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander look like the top three options. Lucas and Traylor have had their chances. And they've been serviceable. But Alexander's the best of the three and the odds are good that he'll figure out how to handle his business away from game night sooner rather than later.
If he does, the starting five is easy to pick out — Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander — and KU fans won't need to wait for it to be announced by Self or anybody else.
There were plenty of good things and a few bad things about Saturday's victory, but the fact that this team can throw so many good shooters on the floor makes them tough to handle. KU has shot the ball well from the outside through the first 10 games of the season and Self said before the season that he thought this group would be the best three-point shooting team he's had in a while. He was right. Mason, Selden, Oubre, Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk all can knock down the three if given room and, with Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander doing enough inside to occupy the paint, these guys are getting a lot of open looks and that should continue. KU is shooting just under 40 percent (62-for-157) from three-point range so far this season, and six different Jayhawks are shooting 34 percent or better from downtown. The Jayhawks were 12 of 23 from the outside against Lafayette and that clip helped keep the scrappy Leopards from creeping too close in the second half.
Three reasons to smile
1 – We already mentioned Oubre's big game, but it's worth mentioning again. The guy scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, blowing out of the water his previous career-highs in both areas. But it was not just the final numbers that made his day so impressive. It was the way he got them. Oubre was aggressive, smooth, confidence and cagey. And he picked up his big line in relatively easy fashion. In fact, a single play in the first half that delivered two of Oubre's six misses might have been one of his most impressive moments. After misfiring on a wide open three-pointer from the left wing, Oubre immediately followed the miss, caught the rebound in mid-air and went right back up for what looked like it would be an easy put-back. It wasn't, as Oubre's follow had a little too much behind it and the second shot came clanging off the rim. Rather than get discouraged, Oubre dug in, kept fighting and saw that mentality pay off. He seemed pretty matter-of-fact about the game afterwards and it should be interesting to see how he responds to the breakthrough on Monday night.
2 – Welcome back, Svi. After looking out of sorts during the past few games, Mykhailiuk regained his old form and again looked sharp on Saturday. He scored 11 points, made three three-pointers, played 22 minutes and appeared to be having fun again. He also dished two assists and picked up a steal and appeared to be thinking less and playing loose a lot more. There's no doubt that seeing his outside shot fall again lifted his confidence.
3 – A lot of KU fans want to talk about this team's tendency to let big leads slip away, but I don't think that's cause for concern, or at least not too much concern. Teams are going to make runs. Opponents aren't going to quit. In fact, they're probably going to play even harder when facing a big, double-digit deficit. That's to be expected. And the mark of a quality team, at least in my mind, is when it can watch a big lead slip away and find a way to dig back in and build it back up in the minutes that follow. KU did that a couple of times against Lafayette and these Jayhawks appear to be comfortable operating that way.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU has looked pretty good defensively when the games have gone up and down this year, but the Jayhawks struggled to keep the Leopards from finding their rhythm behind the three-point line in this one. The only reason this is worth sighing about is that it should have come as no surprise that Lafayette was going to fire away from the outside. KU's latest opponent came into Allen Fieldhouse shooting 42 percent from three-point range and had nothing even close to resembling an inside presence. Still, Lafayette knocked down 12 of 26 three-pointers (46 percent) and used the long-range bomb to crawl back into the game after KU looked to have put things away by halftime. With KU's depth, length and athleticism, there should not be too many teams that get as many easy and open looks from the outside as the Leopards did on Saturday.
2 – Landen Lucas may not only have lost his starting job, but he may also have lost a good chunk of his minutes. The big man who made a late start in place of Cliff Alexander played just six minutes and went from being in the starting lineup at the beginning of the day to being on the floor in the final two minutes when Tyler Self, Evan Manning, Josh Pollard and Christian Garrett were getting their time, as well. Lucas missed the only two shots he attempted, including a bad miss of a sweet dime from Selden, and grabbed just one rebound and picked up one foul. Self has said he'd like to play five perimeter guys — Mason, Selden, Greene, Svi and Oubre — and possibly four big men, with Ellis, Alexander and Traylor being locks. That leaves that final spot to a battle between Lucas and Hunter Mickelson. And I don't think you have to look any farther than Saturday to see who might be in the lead there. Oh, and that could quickly turn into six perimeter guys and three bigs if Devonte' Graham can come back healthy.
3 – It's a minor thing but I noticed it a few times during Saturday's victory. Jamari Traylor seems to have a hard time closing the door on the trap when the Jayhawks pick up with some full-court pressure. It's not something to be too concerned about given the fact that the other team's point guard should be quicker than Traylor and able to avoid getting trapped, but it just looked like Traylor struggled to execute when he was asked to do this. He didn't use the sideline to his advantage, got caught bouncing instead of closing out and put the Jayhawks at a numbers disadvantage by doing it.
One for the road
KU's victory over the visiting Leopards on Saturday:
• Extended Kansas’ winning streak to eight games, which is KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made the Jayhawks 9-1 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Pushed KU to 1-0 all-time versus Lafayette and 9-2 against current membership of the Patriot League.
• Made Kansas 4-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Made KU 717-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 179-9 under Self.
• Improved Self to 334-70 while at Kansas, 541-175 overall and 1-0 all-time against Lafayette.
• Made the Jayhawks 2,135-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks will travel to Philadelphia for their final game before Christmas on Monday against Temple at the Wells Fargo Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be shown on ESPN2. After that, KU will close out 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when the Jayhawks welcome Kent State to town for a 7 p.m. game on Jayhawk TV.
Say what you will about the sluggish second half, the Kansas University men's basketball team on Saturday at Sprint Center again found a way to win a grinder, 63-60 over No. 13 Utah.
The game featured one of KU's best halves of the season and also one of its worst, as the Jayhawks (8-1) raced out to a 42-21 lead behind a strong first half and then saw that lead erased when a less-than-stellar second half.
Hot free throw shooting, more solid three-point shooting and that hard-to-describe quality that allows this team to scratch out a victory in the waning minutes all benefited the Jayhawks on Saturday in a game that featured a couple of teams that played incredibly hard but at different times.
KU was lights out in the first half. After struggling to get the offense going, the Jayhawks started making shots and never let their defense slip, suffocating the Utes into 35 percent first-half shooting and 10 turnovers.
The two teams flipped roles in the second half, when KU shot just 26 percent and committed seven turnovers, which allowed the Utes to climb all the way back into it and set up the dramatic finish.
Heading into the opening game of the Orlando Classic, the Jayhawks knew that they were in for a rough stretch of games. Rather than giving in to the difficulty of the schedule or leaning on their youth and inexperience as an excuse, the Jayhawks pulled together, played tough and won six straight games in the face of just about every kind of adversity you could imagine. This team is still a work in progress and there remains a lot of room for improvement, but what they've been able to do during the past few weeks makes you believe that these guys are ready to defend their 10 consecutive Big 12 titles and go hunting for No. 11.
Three reasons to smile
1 – For the second game in a row, freshman Kelly Oubre looked comfortable and made some consistent positive contributions. Oubre scored nine points in 17 minutes and hit all five of his free throw attempts while also grabbing three rebounds. It's not the numbers that are worth noting, rather the way he looks a look more sure of himself and confident in what he's doing.
2 – One of these days, KU's free throw shooting will just be a given and won't qualify as a reason to smile. Today is not that day. The Jayhawks drained 21 of 23 free throws, including all 10 they attempted in the first half and needed just about every one of them to hold off the Utes. Brannen Greene, who stepped into the starting lineup for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk but didn't do much most of the game, knocked down four in a row in the final minute to help seal the victory. As a team, KU hit all eight of its free throw attempts in the final five minutes.
3 – Jamari Traylor came back with a purpose. Having a good game is no reason to excuse an arrest, but it was clear from the way he played that Traylor was trying to make up for his mistake. He still had a couple of inexplicable mistakes — a terrible pass here, a turnover there — but he hit 4 of 8 shots, all 5 of his free throws and finished with 13 points and 5 boards. The most impressive thing about Traylor's play to me was that he looked relaxed.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's second-half offense was awful. Not only did the Jayhawks shoot just 26 percent and make just six field goals, but there were way too many one-on-five possessions, when the ball didn't move and the Jayhawks just threw up some wild shot or turned it over. With several guys on the roster feeling comfortable and looking locked in from three-point range of late, better ball movement and less pounding could lead to open three-pointers and better possessions. In short, pretty much what you saw in the first half.
2 – Landen Lucas' time in the starting lineup is probably pretty close to ending. Lucas missed his only two shot attempts — showing once again that he lacks the strength and explosion to finish at the rim — and the only other statistic he recorded was his two turnovers. No rebounds. No assists. No blocks. No free throws. Lucas has done an admirable job during the first nine games, but he's clearly not the guy the Jayhawks need out there and it seems the coaching staff gets that, as evident by his seven minutes against Utah.
3 – Remember that shoulder issue that once plagued freshman Devonte' Graham? It never really materialized into something to worry about, but the point guard's latest injury is. Graham is expected to miss four weeks — perhaps longer — with a toe injury and the news comes at the worst time. Graham played very good basketball in his past two games and really looked to be getting comfortable out there, both with his role on the team and with the jump to college basketball as a whole. His absence will be a blow to this team.
One for the road
KU's latest win in Kansas City...
• Extended its win streak to seven-straight games, matching its longest win streak of last season.
• Was the fourth-straight win for KU by six points or fewer.
• Made the Jayhawks 8-1 for the second time in the last three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.
• Improved Kansas’ lead in the all-time series to 2-0.
• Improved KU's record to 5-1 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Upped the Jayhawks’ all-time record at Sprint Center to 25-5 and 210-79 in games played in Kansas City.
• Gave Bill Self his first victory against Utah, making him 1-1 vs. the Utes, 333-70 at Kansas and 540-175 overall.
• Made KU's all-time record 2,134-823.
The Jayhawks will get a break from their rough and rugged schedule, as they'll be off all week until next Saturday's 2 p.m. home game against Lafayette.