Saturday, February 11, 2017

Notebook: Mason ‘wasn’t himself’ playing sick; KU earns a top seed in NCAA tournament sneak peek

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pumps his fist after drilling a three-pointer against Texas Tech during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) pumps his fist after drilling a three-pointer against Texas Tech during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017 at United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas.


— Battling an illness throughout the week but still able to practice, Kansas senior Frank Mason III gutted out a season-low 26 minutes to help No. 3 Kansas hold off a serious threat by Texas Tech, 80-79, on Saturday at United Supermarkets Arena.

Mason, who entered the day as the Big 12’s leading scorer at 20.4 points per game finished an uncharacteristic 4-of-13 from the floor for 12 points, five rebounds, one steal, two turnovers and no assists. Eleven of those 12 points came in the second half, including a monster 3-pointer with 7:28 to play.

“Frank wasn’t himself tonight and he was laboring,” KU coach Bill Self said after the game. “He practiced the last couple days but he’s dragging. He’s dragging. We got about as much out of him as I thought we could today.... He still made a couple of big plays.”

Despite the rougher-than-usual day, Mason’s teammates said they appreciated their point guard’s willingness to lay it on the line for the team.

“It was big time,” senior forward Landen Lucas said. “He’s our leader and he knows that, so to come out here and play a little sick, with foul trouble too, that’s a couple things going against him. He stepped up and made sure we came out of here with the win.”

Added junior Devonte’ Graham, who slid into Mason’s spot whenever he was on the bench: “He’s the leader of our team and we go when he goes and, once he fouls out, I just have to step up in his role and take over that leadership and try to help close the game.”

Graham, with a huge assist from Josh Jackson and his 31 points, got that done, but Self said KU may have been fortunate to get the outcome it got given the production discrepancy between the starting guards.

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Bill Self on Josh Jackson's big day and KU's one-point win at Texas Tech

Bill Self on Josh Jackson's big day and KU's one-point win at Texas Tech

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“Whenever our guards are going against guards and they (Tech’s Keenan Evans and Niem Stevenson) get 47 and our guys combine for 20 or whatever, that’s not a good day,” Self said. “I think Devonte’ and Frank and everybody on our team would tell you that Stevenson and, obviously, Evans, were better than us today. But our guys did find a way to get it done.”

Lucas solid

Though he was disappointed with what he saw on the stat sheet in the first column he checks after every game — rebounds — Kansas senior Landen Lucas more than made up for his five-rebound performance with a solid offensive game.

Lucas finished 5-of-7 from the floor for 13 points and enjoyed moments where he took over the game, particularly in the first half when KU continually fed him the ball in the post.

“It ended up being part of the plan, after early on we saw we had an advantage,” Lucas said. “In the second half we did it a couple times, but, really it was just get Josh the ball.”

After the game, Self explained the situation that inspired the Jayhawks to take advantage of Lucas’ 6-foot-10, 250-pound presence in the post.

“They played (6-8 forward Zach) Smith on Josh coming out,” Self said. “So that put Landen on their 6-6 guy and he played good. Gotta make free throws, though.”

Lucas, a career .643 shooter at the line, finished just 3-of-6 from the free throw line, including a big miss of a one-and-one situation in the final minute of a tied game.

Sneak peek at March

Shortly before KU’s one-point win at Texas Tech on Saturday, the NCAA Tournament selection committee, for the first time ever, released an early look at the Top 16 seeds for the upcoming tournament.

Following the lead of college football, which tracks the standings for entry into the College Football Playoff during the final several weeks of the season, the NCAA elected to do the same to try to generate even more buzz for what is widely regarded as one of the greatest sporting events in the world.

According to the committee, Kansas entered the day as the No. 2 overall seed and earned a No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, which would finish in Kansas City, Mo. Defending champ Villanova was the No. 1 overall seed and the Wildcats joined Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga as the four No. 1 seeds.

A lot can still change, of course, between now and Selection Sunday, which is slated for March 12.

This and that...

Kansas now leads the all-time series with Texas Tech, 33-4, including 16 consecutive victories and a 13-4 record in games played in Lubbock.... KU’s 10th Big 12 victory of the season marked the 23rd consecutive season in which the Jayhawks have won at least 10 conference games.... Kansas is now 7-1 in true road games this season and 11-2 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse.... KU’s victory kept the Jayhawks in sole-possession of first in the Big 12 race, one game ahead of Baylor, which defeated TCU, 70-52, on Saturday.

By the Numbers: Kansas 80, Texas Tech 79

By the Numbers: Kansas 80, Texas Tech 79

— See what people were saying about the game during's live coverage.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas Tech


Kent Richardson 4 years, 7 months ago

KU is 22-3. Among national title contending teams we are top five in scoring, rebounding, FG%, 3PFG% and assists. To me this explains why we have won so many one or two possession games. We can trade baskets with the best of them. It either takes a freak shooting effort 15/31 from 3 by IU and 18/34 from ISU or our own 42% FG and 40% FT attainment vs WVU to take us down.

If we would go with a lineup of Frank, DeVonte, Josh, Carlton and Landen how would we fare? I'm saying this with the possibility of the four guard being a defensive liability. Playing twice as many minutes would Bragg be able to post 10+ PPG? If we could lower the opponents by 4 or 5 pts a game by having a stronger overall rim presence it may be a plausible winning lineup. My fantasy lineup does not hurt our only two step up guys JJ and Frank. It may help Jackson with not having to guard a 4 most of the time.

Is Frank breaking down as the season wears on? It would be understandable if he is. If JJack is on a 21+ PPG pace like he has been over the last 5 games it may not matter.

Pair this 3 guard with a little zone, as needed, due to foul trouble or career games coming at us. It won't be as effective if we only use it at panic time.

All this is looking ahead to a second round game against a Davidson when we have that off night.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 7 months ago

Lots of good questions and analysis, Kent. Barring injuries and/or foul troubles, KU is as good as anyone in the country. When you add in perhaps the best coaching staff in the country, you have the right ingredients.

Of course, you need a little luck too, as you indicate, because rarely does anyone go through the post season always playing at their best. It's what you do in those situations where you don't have your "A" game that will be decisive.

Armen Kurdian 4 years, 7 months ago

It doesn't feel like a #1 seeded team, but then it's still a relative comparison, based on how other teams are faring and our competition. What really speaks volumes is Mason, after four years, a contender for the Wooden award, really not just about his personal basketball ability, but his ability to lead and manage the offense...his acumen. It goes to show what can happen to you when you stay four years at the college level and how much better you can become.

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