Lahaina, Hawaii It makes little sense that, with its best shooter sitting at home back on the mainland, the Kansas University men's basketball team would roll through the field at the Maui Invitational with the three-pointer serving as the team's most dangerous weapon.
But, so far at least, hasn't this been the season of little sense for the Jayhawks?
A day that began with the long overdue clearing of Kansas freshman Cheick Diallo by the NCAA, ended with the Jayhawks blistering the nets at Lahaina Civic Center for the third consecutive day en route to knocking off No. 19 Vanderbilt, 70-63, in the title game.
Suspended junior Brannen Greene could only watch from Lawrence, Kansas, as his teammates filled up the nets in his place. At this rate, with Greene in the dog house and Diallo headed into the rotation, it's only logical to think that the group that delivered coach Bill Self his first Maui Invitational championship might be the guys this team rides with the rest of the way.
Images from the Jayhawks' matchup against the Commodores in the championship game of the 2015 Maui Invitational
The Jayhawks entered Wednesday's championship game having drained 43 of 93 three-point attempts in four games this season. That's good for 46.2 percent and an average of nearly 11 threes per game. The number went up to 46.8 percent by game's end.
In Wednesday's first half alone, KU (4-1) drilled 5 of 10 from downtown, led by the hot stroke of junior guard Wayne Selden Jr., who hit 3-of-4 from the outside and, during one stretch, looked unstoppable. KU finished 8 of 16 from three for the game, marking the fourth time in the past five halves that the Jayhawks shot 50 percent or better from three-point land.
“We felt like we had to take away the three-point line from them in order to win the game,” said Vandy coach Kevin Stallings. “And we didn't do that.”
After particularly hot-shooting nights during the recent past, Self has referred to the three-point shot as “fool's gold,” and he likely will go to his grave saying that making shots is no way to win basketball games.
But his Jayhawks sure challenged that theory these past three days in Maui, and even though Self probably has not changed his philosophy on the shot, the best indicator that he's at least OK with his team letting 'em fly was that the Jayhawks did not stop shooting them in Hawaii. KU averaged 23 three-point attempts per game at the tournament. And 37 percent of the shots KU took this week came from behind the arc.
Get this: the Kansas teams with the four highest three-point shooting seasons in school history (271 in 2010-11 and 2007-08, 262 in 2009-10 and 231 in 2006-07) all were coached by Self.
Here's the thing about the three-point shot, basketball's great equalizer: It can be a lot like the cool kid in class. When it's forced, it looks awful and rarely works out well. When it comes within the flow of the offense and is the result of touches in the post and an extra pass or two, it looks as smooth as silk.
These Jayhawks, at least so far, have the discipline to understand the difference. There are a bunch of guys on this team who love shooting the three, but few who have fallen in love with taking it. That was on full display during Wednesday's title game. Selden flashed his step-back game and drove to the rim like he was in Korea. Devonté Graham and Frank Mason III continued to attack the rim and set up teammates. Heck, even Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who factored into this tournament almost exclusively as a three-point marksman, drove to the rim and finished off the glass a couple of times during the victory.
So maybe those folks pumping out the popular Twitter hashtag #FreeTheThree should consider adding a word to the slogan — #FreeTheQualityThree.
This team may never shoot it like Self's squads that had Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar in 2010-11, or the '08 championship team — each group made a KU record 271 three-pointers during those seasons — but with all of the weapons the current KU team possesses, both inside and out, they might not be able to avoid it.
— See what people were saying about the Maui Invitational title game (and Cheick Diallo) during KUsports.com’s live coverage