Monday, November 14, 2016


Tom Keegan: Can Kansas stop Grayson Allen, Duke’s top Devil?

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) reacts following a basket against Grand Canyon during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Duke won 96-61.

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) reacts following a basket against Grand Canyon during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. Duke won 96-61.


— He plays for Duke, college basketball’s ultimate love-’em-or-hate-’em program, and video twice captured him tripping an opponent.

Those right there are nice qualifications for villain status, but if he didn’t also happen to be the best player in college basketball, nobody would have sorted through countless images of him and of failed Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz to find a pair that resemble each other. But somebody did, and man did it ever gain a lot of cyber steam.

Grayson Allen was by far the most popular choice as college basketball’s preseason player of the year and therefore deserves to be called college basketball’s top player until somebody proves otherwise.

The better a Duke player is, the more he is demonized in cartoon-character fashion. For all anybody knows, Allen could be a terrific guy, but that would take all the fun out of it. He’s cocky, he plays for Duke and he may or may not be a dirty player. Therefore, college basketball’s No. 1 villain plays for the No. 1-ranked team and for the game’s most accomplished coach since John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski.

Duke will have a tough time winning tonight’s blue-blood tussle with Kansas at Madison Square Garden without a big game from Allen, a 6-foot-5 junior who won the McDonald’s All-American slam-dunk contest the same year that Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. won the three-point shooting contest.

Tonight’s game originally shaped up as a showcase for recruits ranked by Rivals No. 1 (Josh Jackson), 2 (Harry Giles), 3 (Jayson Tatum) and 11 (Marques Bolden) but Jackson very well could be the only of the quartet to play because the other three are recovering from injuries.

So the focus shifts to veterans, a nice change of pace in a sport that tends to market its coaches and fabulous freshmen before its upperclassmen.

Allen was a hyped freshman a couple of years ago, but having chosen Duke, he had to wait his turn.

There was that one game against Wake Forest when Allen made 9 of 11 field goals, 4 of 5 threes and 5 of 6 free throws for 27 points.

After that one, teammate Jahlil Okafor called Allen, “aggressive, freak athlete, strong guy.”

That game was the exception for Allen, the fourth freshman. He came off the bench and watched Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones start and then become NBA first-round draft choices.

Heading into Duke’s national-title game vs. Wisconsin, Allen had reached double figure just four times.

Then he exploded in the title game for 10 of his 16 points in the second half. Wisconsin opened a nine-point lead with 13:23 left in the game, Allen scored Duke’s next eight points and in less than three minutes from when he started his barrage, it was a one-point game.

Allen knows how to perform in big games and by November standards, games don’t get any bigger than the Champions Classic.

Kansas has big-game performers of its own, most notably guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham.

“I’ve watched him a lot,” Mason said. “They play on TV a lot, so I’ve had a lot of chances to watch him play. He’s a great player, and I’m looking forward to playing him Tuesday.”

Mason used some of the same words in describing what makes Allen a tough player to guard that others use about the 5-11 Mason.

“He’s always driving the ball downhill, staying in attack mode,” Mason said. “He knows how to draw fouls. He’s just a smart player with, I think, a lot of different things.”

Graham, who outplayed national player of the year Buddy Hield of Oklahoma at both ends in Norman, likely will spend some time guarding Allen, as might Jackson. If Graham were to outplay Hield and Allen in an eight-month stretch, he would have to enter the best-player-in-college-basketball conversation.

“I think Frank said it pretty well,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Allen. “He puts pressure on you most every time he catches the ball. He’s a good player off the deck. He’s obviously a catch-and-shoot guy, but he’s also a guy who can get to the free-throw line as much as anybody. He puts pressure on you the whole time. He’s an attack-mode player.”

Unlike Hield, who was everybody’s Buddy because he was not only so good but so likable in every way, Allen is the sort of player some opposing fans might claim they wouldn’t want on their team. They’d be lying, of course, but to say otherwise would be to take all the fun out of it.


Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

should be a great game. My bet is that Duke will try to pound it inside. Play big Jayhawks!

Rae Bricil 3 years, 10 months ago

With Duke having 3 players out I think this is kind of a lose-lose game for KU. KU wins and there will be an asterisk that Duke was without 3 of it tops players and if KU loses well...granted it is a November game without too many long term consequences.

Also a bit surprised to see Vegas favoring Duke at this point.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 10 months ago

Three players out on a very deep talented team. Winning this game will not have an asterisk. Beating the #1 ranked team is not a losing situation and if you knew how Vegas sets the odds you wouldn't be very surprised.

Rae Bricil 3 years, 10 months ago

It will have an asterisk if they win--they are number 1 at this point not because of their record but because of their perceived level of talent and some of their top talent will not be on the court.

Although I am not an odds maker like yourself I have a basic comprehension of how Vegas sets odds. I was surprised that even without three of their better players they are, at this point, expected to beat a kansas team that is predominantly healthy.

Tom Keegan 3 years, 10 months ago

If you're going to be missing three freshmen, this is the time of year to do it because freshmen in November sometimes hurt as much as they help.

Rae Bricil 3 years, 10 months ago

maybe but maybe not. Without Wiggin's 22 pt Freshman performance against Duke in 2013 KU would most likely be win less at this event.

Dale Rogers 3 years, 10 months ago

He said "sometimes." Wiggins was one of the exceptions. More often than not, freshmen can hurt you this time of year but this is also the time of year you give them the minutes anyhow so they can help you come March.

Rae Bricil 3 years, 10 months ago

I realize he said sometimes—as noncommittal as it is—and that is why I said maybe... You on the other hand said more often than not—which again maybe true when you are talking about freshmen in general and therefore I would agree. That said, Dukes freshmen don’t appear to be typical freshmen. They appear to be extremely talented freshmen like Andrew Wiggins or the 2011-12 UK freshmen. If I recall correctly, in November, that group of freshmen outplayed KU’s upperclassmen-- in that instance talent trumped experience (2x that year) and the freshman did not “hurt” the team.

Also, and I could easily be wrong about this point, it seems to me that freshman in other programs, on average, have an easier time adapting to their respective programs. This is not a bad thing I just think that UK’s system, for example being dribble drive, lines up with what kids have been playing and therefore the transition may be quicker.

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 10 months ago

Nobody, including myself, wants to think about this. But is it possible, at this juncture, Bill is satisfied to play strait up fundamentals and see where the chips fall. Win or lose, and I doubt if he loses much sleep if we go 0-2, is Coach letting it play out and uses whatever happens as a teaching/learning experience between now and Jan. 1? The man seems to be watching the minutia of the present while he has his eye clearly on the bigger, longer term picture of the future. I can only imagine anyone complaining about jet lag has to listen to some half joking, half serious ribbing about "if you all want to play in the league with all the travel, then get used to it."

Kent Wells 3 years, 10 months ago

I'm guessing my beloved hawks stumble tonight against Tripson Allen who records the rarest of triple doubles: 12 kicks, 10 bites, and 11 groin punches.

Kent Richardson 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't think we have anyone who can really guard him at this point of the season. Due to lack of playing time Vick and Svi spend a lot of time thinking about where they are supposed to be and end up late to react to dribble moves. Same thing, same reason with Bragg and Doke. It will be January before it is sorted out again and it's hard to win against top teams like Indiana and Duke unless you can match up rebounding and/or raining threes.

Mick Allen 3 years, 10 months ago

Whomever Allen guards needs to take it at him, as he is not a good defender. If he is guarding Devonte, he won't be able to stay in front of Devonte off the bounce. If he guards Jackson, hopefully Jackson can take him to the cup and score over him as Allen is not tall enough to bother Jackson's shot, be it a pull up jumper off the dribble, or Jackson taking it to the rim. If we can wear him down when he is defending,hopefully this will have a negative impact on his offense.

Robert Brock 3 years, 10 months ago

Indiana beat KU in the transition game and out-rebounded the Hawks something fierce. Win or lose, the Jayhawks need to start learning how to play. Can you hear me, Carlton Bragg?

Humpy Helsel 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree with you, Robert. I think eventually, at the next level, Carlton will be a step out 3 or 4. But right now, we need him to get tough and get in there and battle underneath as our other bigs aren't dominant enough to do it alone. Especially on the defensive boards. We can't allow second chance points. Frank's rebounding prowess is fun to watch and talk about, but against the really good teams, it will be minimized and won't be much of a factor. It's a man's game underneath and Carlton needs to learn to like it, and fast.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

good point about it being a man's game in the paint. I can see already we miss Jamari Traylor under the boards from last year. Lucas is hurt I guess, so for now its hard to fault him. We need warrior's on the glass tonight!

Adam James 3 years, 10 months ago

One thing that has stuck out to me as I read articles about Duke and UK in comparison to KU is that Self is able to stay a National Title contender without the same number of high level talent. I love our current roster and wouldn't trade it for anyone else, but our starting five has Frank Mason (3 stars), Devonte Graham (2 stars), Landon Lucas (4 stars) and then two 5 star guys in Bragg and Jackson. After that, the rest of our guys are 4 stars and below with Dok being the other 5 star guy. It's pretty impressive what Self is able to do with this group and other teams he has had in the past. Our best class was Wiggins class, but Joel was hurt and we had Nadiir Tharpe (3 stars) at PG. This 2013 Champions Classic game is our only win in the classic since 2011. This gives you an idea of how our talent compares to the rest. I can't imagine if Self had Duke's current roster or a haul of 3 players in a year that are top 10 in their class. Year after year he is able to win the Big 12 and earn a top 3 seed in the tournament with lesser talent. In checking out the IU roster, as a whole, they have higher ranked players from top to bottom than our current KU roster. We have 1 more 5 star guy, but they have a bunch for 4 stars. I know HS rankings don't mean everything, but sometimes I think our KU teams have less of a margin for error in big games. Most fans and outsiders assume that we have unbelievable elite talent with Kansas on the jersey, but that is simply not true. We have solid players that are well coached and 1-2 five star players mixed in. Minus the 3 freshman tonight, Duke still has a roster that is better on paper than us. I'm not saying this means Duke wins, but we will have to play well and make them play average or below average to win tonight. Simply put, our margin for error is not very big when we play high level teams. I believe this KU team is final four material, but we will have to play our best when we play the top teams. This will be the case tonight. We will have to play our best to win and any major deficiency in a particular area will be tough for us to overcome. Even with the 3 freshman 5 star guys out, Duke still has Frank Jackson (5 stars), Grayson Allen (5 stars), Luke Kennard (5 stars), Chase Jeter (5 stars). This will put them at 7 five-star players when they are healthy compared to our 3 guys. If we beat Duke tonight or plan to beat another high level team, we will have to play close to our ceiling to win those games. We just have to hope that those games come during the tournament. If they do, we will go home happy and if they don't if will be another Sweet 16 or Elite 8 loss. Here is to playing great tonight! RCJH!!

Mike Greer 3 years, 10 months ago

If this is how basketball is going to be called from now on, I'm going to quit watching!

Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

Ya Mike, they said tonight there were no rule changes, just they were going to start calling fouls what they did not in the past. bottom line, a good team better have a 10 person rotation until everyone understands these new calls.

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