Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 77-69, comeback victory over West Virginia on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
There was really nothing to not like about KU's offensive effort. Maybe Svi didn't take enough shots (3-of-6). Maybe Devonte' Graham didn't make enough (2-of-6). But overall, Ku shot 47 perent from the floor, 32 percent from 3-point range, turned it over just eight times and, oh yeah, won the game. Doing all of that against a tough, defensive minded team like West Virginia brings this into the A range on the curve.
I thought KU's effort was there all game on the defensive end. At times, the Mountaineers just made a bunch of tough shots. Particularly senior guard Daxter Miles Jr. The Jayhawks' defense was at its best when the game was on the line and that's good enough to make this a solid B for me. Give them the plus for again coming within three rebounds of playing even with WVU in that area, as well.
Udoka Azubuike was a beast and played with great effort and energy for most of the night. He even hit his free throws and avoided the bad fouls that have plagued him at times this season. Azubuike also gets credit for playing 31 minutes on a night when KU needed him out there for every one of them. Mitch Lightfoot played just nine minutes and had very little to show for it on an off night for the KU back-up.
Graham may not have shot as much as some would have liked or expected, but he still finished with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Sheesh. Lagerald Vick had a great first half from an effort and intangible standpoint. Malik Newman had a good finish and a couple of important minutes in the middle. And Marcus Garrett played a terrific first half. Only Svi Mykhailiuk failed to stand out, and even at that the senior hit half of his shots and added four rebounds, four assists and three steals in 37 minutes. If you had a problem with the KU backcourt in this one, I'm not sure what to tell you.
As mentioned above, Garrett's first half was terrific. He played tough, scored points inside and out and even handled the role of being the point man in bringing the ball up the floor on a handful of occasions. He played sparingly in the second half, though, and Lightfoot had an off night. So this one's a low B, mostly due to lack of material to grade.
According to multiple reports, Kansas coaches Bill Self and Jerrance Howard spent part of their Valentine's Day on Wednesday visiting Romeo — Romeo Langford, that is.
Langford, the top remaining uncommitted prospect in the 2018 class, and one of the top targets on Kansas' wish list for months, is down to KU, Indiana and Vanderbilt and is in the process of making another round of check-ins with all three schools.
A product of New Albany, Indiana, Langford, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard and dynamic scorer who is enjoying a monster senior season, has had plenty of opportunities to visit Indiana and continues to be wooed by both the IU basketball program and thousands of people in his home state on an almost-daily basis.
Think of the legend of the Indiana high school basketball player who can do no wrong and is a hero to everyone in the state, in the biggest cities and smallest farms, and that's pretty much the life Langford leads right now.
But just because the Hoosiers have the home-court advantage does not mean the Jayhawks or Commodores are out of it and that's why all three schools continue their pursuit of the prized recruit as hard as they ever have.
For Kansas, adding Langford to an already stellar class, which currently ranks No. 3 in the nation according to Rivals.com, would position the 2018 crew to be considered the best in the country and, arguably, the best Self and company have ever hauled in at KU.
With guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes, big men Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack and Kansas City-area wing Ochai Agbaji already on board, adding Langford would put this group over the top, bringing the necessary added scoring and outside shooting that the Jayhawks need in the class.
Langford's father, Tim, recently spoke about all three of his son's finalists with Adam Zagoria, of zagsblog.com, and it's clear that playing alongside Dotson and Grimes would not be a problem for Langford, who knows both players very well.
“We like Coach Self as a coach and we also like the program,” Tim Langford told Zagoria. “We like their staff. He already mentioned that they were going to try to get those two guys (Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes), they finally got Grimes. He was talking about doing a three-way offense for his guards and having Romeo, Grimes and Dotson take the ball up and down the court, so we don’t see any problem with that.”
Here's a quick look at Tim Langford's latest thoughts on Romeo's other two finalists:
“Well, first of all he’s homegrown and making history by staying at home and going to IU. And also we like the style of offense that Archie Miller has. They brought the one they had from Dayton, he brought that to Indiana. So we like that, but we still want to see a bit more and also get to know the coaching staff a little bit more, too.”
“Coach (Bryce) Drew, for one, played NBA ball for five or six years and his style of offense, Romeo can see himself fitting in that style of offense. But we like that program and the coaching staff also."
According to Zagoria, Langford is expected to visit Vanderbilt this weekend for Vandy's home game against Florida.
There remains no known timeline for a Romeo Langford decision. It's possible it could come before the April signing period arrives — perhaps at the McDonald's All-American Game in late March — or even sometime sooner.
In the meantime, there's no doubt that Langford and his family will continue to kick the tires on every aspect of each program and that coaches from all three will continue to recruit Langford like he is the player that could put them over the top.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 83-77 road win at Iowa State on Tuesday night.
The Kansas offense scored more than 80 points for the first time since Jan. 9 — the last time the Jayhawks played Iowa State — and shot 48.4 percent from the floor while bouncing back from last weekend's 6-of-31 shooting performance from 3-point range with a 9-of-26 night that included some clutch shots from a couple of key players.
The Jayhawks weren't necessarily terrific defensively but a lot of their good offense was fueled by stops on the defensive end and they did limit the Cyclones to 18.8 percent shooting from 3-point range for the game while making it incredibly hard on guards Donovan Jackson (3 points on 1-of-9 shooting) and Lindell Wigginton (12, 3-of-12) for most of the night. Kansas was out-rebounded 40-31.
Udoka Azubuike was an absolute monster, scoring 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting and carrying the Kansas offense at times. He also blocked three shots and committed just one bad foul, an improvement upon recent games. During the minutes they were on the floor, Mitch Lightfoot and even Silvio De Sousa also did a decent job of holding down the fort for Azubuike, even if it wasn't always pretty. Give most of the grade here to Azubuike, though. He was big and Kansas needs more of that moving forward.
Rare is the game where Lagerald Vick and Malik Newman were more productive, efficient and clutch than seniors Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, but that's what we got on Tuesday night. Add to that the fact that Self said some of KU's best basketball came with guard Marcus Garrett on the floor and this one just barely creeps into the A range, mostly because Vick and Newman's solid nights were so big but also did not come on a night when Graham and Mykhailiuk disappeared.
The numbers might not have been the most eye-popping, but for this team, I think the bench you saw on Tuesday night was exactly what you'll need — and want — to see the rest of the way. From here on out, it's up to KU's top five to carry the day. And they obviously won't be able to do it alone. But they are going to have to play the bulk of the minutes and those three subs are going to have to fill in by keeping things together as best they can when they're asked to step onto the floor. Lightfoott, Garrett and De Sousa did that in this one. And they did it well.
After a steady climb up the polls to open Big 12 play, the Jayhawks suddenly are headed in the opposite direction.
Ever since climbing back into the Top 5 in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll during Week 12, the Jayhawks have fallen in three consecutive weeks, first dropping to No. 7, then to No. 10 and this week to No. 13.
The fall out of the Top 10 comes on the heels of a weekend loss to Baylor in which the Jayhawks suffered their largest defeat of the season (16 points) and also scored a season-low 64 points in the process.
The Jayhawks remain one of four Big 12 teams ranked in the Top 25 but only Texas Tech — 21-4 overall, No. 7 in the country and in first place in the conference — seems to be headed in the right direction, with No. 20 West Virginia falling a spot after their loss to Oklahoma State and No. 23 Oklahoma falling six spots after their loss to Iowa State.
Virginia jumped up to the No. 1 spot this week, taking over the slot previously held by Villanova, which fell to third. Michigan State (2nd), Xavier (4th) and Cincinnati (5th) round out this week's Top 5.
The Jayhawks will look to begin their climb back up the polls this week at Iowa State on Tuesday night. The Cyclones have won their last four Big 12 home games by an average of 13 points over the likes of Oklahoma, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Baylor.
Tip-off on Tuesday is set for 6 p.m. at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.
Here's a look at this week's complete Top 25:
1 – Virginia (30), 23-2
2 – Michigan State (21), 24-3
3 – Villanova (9), 23-2
4 – Xavier (5), 23-3
5 – Cincinnati, 23-2
6 – Purdue, 23-4
7 – Texas Tech, 21-4
8 – Ohio State, 22-5
9 – Gonzaga, 23-4
10 – Auburn, 22-3
11 – Clemson, 20-4
12 – Duke, 20-5
13 – Kansas, 19-6
14 – North Carolina, 19-7
15 – Saint Mary's, 24-3
16 – Rhode Island, 20-3
17 – Arizona, 20-6
18 – Tennessee, 18-6
19 – Wichita State, 19-5
20 – West Virginia, 18-7
21 – Texas A&M, 17-8
22 – Michigan, 20-7
23 – Oklahoma, 16-8
24 – Nevada, 21-5
25 – Arizona State, 19-6
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 80-64 loss at Baylor on Saturday in Waco, Texas.
Devonte' Graham did everything he could to get this team's offense going, both by scoring buckets and pushing the pace to try to get easy looks for his teammates and KU's transition game going, but he was just one man. The rest of the offense was woeful at best, misfiring too many times, turning the ball over and making bad decisions from start to finish.
The few minutes of zone that the Jayhawks played well in the second half helped Kansas crawl back into the game, but they still gave up 50 points in the second half and allowed Baylor to shoot 56.6 percent for the game, including 53.3 percent from 3-point range. Not the kind of defense Bill Self is used to seeing nor demands from his teams.
Once again, Udoka Azubuike was careless with his fouls and too often made bad decisions with the ball when he actually did get it. His 4-of-4 shooting performance might look decent and seem deserving of something better than an F, but, in reality, it just makes his overall offensive night look worse because he should have been doing much more of that instead of allowing Baylor to gain confidence guarding him by being passive in the post. Add to that an uncharacteristic, low-energy start by Mitch Lightfoot and this grade is easy.
Given what Graham did, it's hard to go too low here. And there were some — some — decent moments from a couple of KU's guards. But overall, the backcourt looked lost and played fragmented basketball for far too much of KU's ugliest loss of the season.
It's kind of odd to call it a bench, given the fact that two of the three guys who played off the bench played 32 minutes apiece, but that speaks both to this team's chemistry issues and lack of depth. The fact that two players who have primarily functioned as starters this season could not bring much energy or production off the bench was bad for the Jayhawks and this grade.
Most years, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self is peppered with questions on a weekly basis about weaknesses, low points or obstacles to the Jayhawks being the supreme college basketball program in all the land.
And most years, it's Self's high demands and stringent coach's perspective on every detail of his team's performance that leads the questions that direction.
Throw in the fact that the Jayhawks have lost three games at Allen Fieldhouse already this season and are playing with a paper-thin bench and a group of players who, though talented, have not yet fully clicked for any kind of period of time, and it's easy to see how Self could, would and perhaps even should be hypercritical of everything involving his team right now.
But that was not the way things went down on Thursday afternoon, at his regularly scheduled news conference, where, between fielding questions about KU's progress and the individual strengths and weaknesses of nearly every player in KU's rotation, Self hit the pause button.
“I think we've had some guys individually get better,” Self began, when asked if the opportunity to play a team for the second time in a season — a la Baylor on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Waco, Texas — offered an opportunity to better assess progress. “Being a descendent of Tony Robbins, always being so positive all the time, I can paint a pretty bleak picture sometimes, (but) we're still 8-3.”
That's 8-3 in the Big 12. 19-5 overall. Both are records most coaches and programs would do anything for, and, at Kansas and with Self, those records spark a much different response.
“I had a text yesterday or this morning from one of my ex-players at Oklahoma State,” Self recalled. “He said, 'Coach, I know you're having a rough, rough season, but hang in there.' That is the mindset so much, in large part maybe because I help paint that in some ways. I'm not saying I'm happy by any stretch. I would just think that the tougher teams, the teams that can execute out of timeouts, the teams that understand the importance of getting two or three stops in a row at game point, those are the teams that will have a chance to finish strong and win the league.”
With seven games still to play — four on the road and three at home — Kansas has positioned itself to have that kind of finish.
Tied with Texas Tech for first place in the Big 12, the combined record of KU's final seven opponents is: 109-57 overall and 37-40 in Big 12 play compared to 114-53 and 39-38 for Texas Tech.
The two play each other again on Feb. 24 in Lubbock, Texas.
Who knows what will happen between now and then, or in the two conference games that remain after that one's over. Either way, record differential or not, it doesn't figure to be easy for either squad and likely will come down to the same thing that so many Big 12 games this season already have — stars and subs alike rising to the big moment.
“TCU, the first time we played them, our stuff worked, their stuff worked,” Self said. “The second time we played them, our stuff didn't work, their stuff didn't work. I think you probably have that in the NFL, the second time you play a team within your division. I think you'd have that wherever. In all honesty, the way you win more times than not (during) the second half (of the Big 12 schedule) is (with) guys making individual plays rather than scoring off your plays.”
Oak Park High senior Ochai Agbaji (pronounced Och-eye A-ba-gee), a 6-foot-5 wing regarded by many as the best player in the Kansas City area, is ready to announce his college of choice.
And he plans to do it at 2 p.m. Thursday during a ceremony at Oak Park.
Agbaji's recruitment is not the typical chase for the stars that that KU program is known to be involved with. But the Jayhawks, along with a handful of other schools from Power 5 conferences — Nebraska, Oregon, Wisconsin and Texas A&M among them — recently jumped into the race to land one of the fastest-rising recruits still available in the 2018 class.
Unranked by Rivals.com and slotted as the No. 328 prospect in the nation by 247 Sports — No. 75 overall among shooting guards and No. 11 in the state of Missouri — the 6-foot-5, 195-pound wing first received an offer from Kansas last weekend, after KU coach Bill Self made the drive over to watch Agbaji play live.
In that game, Agbaji poured in 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, displaying the kind of all-around game that has attracted some of the biggest programs in college basketball to take a closer look of late.
Dubbed by 247 Sports recruiting analyst Matt Scott “a walking box score,” Agbaji grew an inch from his playing days with MOKAN Elite last summer and has drawn comparisons to former KU star and Kansas City native Travis Releford but with a better jump shot.
After receiving an official scholarship offer from Self and the Jayhawks last week, Agbaji told Scott he was “excited about it” and added that it was “an honor.”
Those statements, along with an announcement date coming two days before he was expected to take an official visit to Oregon State over the weekend, have some thinking Kansas is in good shape with Agbaji.
But Kansas or not, the Jayhawks and the rest of the surging shooting guard's suitors will know by Thursday afternoon where Agbaji is headed.
Should Agbaji pick Kansas, he would become the fifth player in KU's 2018 class, joining five-star guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes and Top 40 big men Silvio De Sousa, who already with the team but still counts in the 2018 class, and David McCormack.
With De Sousa already having a scholarship and Dotson, Grimes and McCormack taking the scholarships made available by the combined departures of Billy Preston, Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, adding an additional player — or two; KU remains in the hunt for five-star guard Romeo Langford — would put Kansas one player over the scholarship limit and create an interesting situation heading into the offseason.
There would, of course, be all kinds of options — not to mention time — for Self and company to figure out the numbers crunch. And with Lagerald Vick, Udoka Azubuike and Malik Newman all having been kicked around as potential early-departures and transfers always being an option, it's not hard to see how Kansas could make any scenario (adding one player, two players or no players) work, should the need arise.
Check back with KUsports.com Thursday afternoon for more on Agbaji's big announcement.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 71-64 grind-it-out victory over TCU at Allen Fieldhouse.
Devonte' Graham and Udoka Azubuike combined to shoot 13-of-26 from the floor for 40 points. That's an A. Malik Newman and Svi Mykhailiuk combined to shoot 1-of-11 from the floor for five points. That's a D. The tie-breaker? Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot combined to shoot 7-of-9 from the floor for 16 points on a night when the Jayhawks needed every point they could muster. Call it a B, especially considering KU's 70 percent shooting from the free throw line.
The Horned Frogs entered the game averaging 86 points per game and operating as one of the most efficient offensive teams in the Big 12 Conference. Kansas held them to 64 points — 28 in the second half — on 40 percent shooting. It might not always have been pretty, but it was a damn good defensive effort by the home team, one that featured a ton effort, energy and desire.
Udoka Azubuike delivered the kind of double-double he should have most nights out and Mitch Lightfoot was rock solid in his first start. If KU gets more nights like that from its two big men, this team could turn a corner in a hurry. Azubuike was a force on both ends, dunking over people at will on offense and skying high for defensive boards. He even blocked a pair of shots and grabbed three offensive rebounds. The best part? They committed just four fouls between them and made a monster impact in just 47 combined minutes.
We covered this a bit in the offensive grade, but this one gets the plus because of the big night delivered by Graham — when KU absolutely had to have it — and the ultra-solid 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting from back-up guards Garrett and Lagerald Vick. Svi and Newman were not good offensively, but both played hard and found other ways to impact the game. Newman's five assists tied for the team high and Svi's 36 minutes and presence as a player the TCU defense absolutely had to respect and pay attention to opened things up inside for Azubuike.
I'm not sure you can get much more out of Garrett, who made all four shots he attempted and grabbed two rebounds and dished an assist in 15 minutes. And Vick, after being benched at the start of the game, still played 29 minutes and, at times, looked as aggressive as he has looked in weeks. TCU's a good team. This was a good win. Nobody in a Kansas uniform is apologizing for the way it came or looked. All that matters is how it reads on their record.