Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jayhawks executing individual roles to near perfection

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas head coach Bill Self watch the replay of a foul called on Jackson during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) and Kansas head coach Bill Self watch the replay of a foul called on Jackson during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Whenever a team rips off 18 consecutive victories as the Kansas men’s basketball team has since dropping the season opener back in November, there are a number of elements responsible for the run.

From quality coaching and clutch play to finding their rhythm and lucky breaks, the Jayhawks have experienced a little bit of all of it since starting this winning streak with a thrilling win over Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

But while many of those aspects have become the standard for Kansas basketball — faces change, expectations don’t — Texas coach Shaka Smart, whose team was knocked out by the Jayhawks, 79-67 on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, pointed to a somewhat overlooked facet of what has made these Jayhawks so good.

“I think one thing that they’ve done a terrific job at, and this is a testament to their coaching staff, is that they have very well-defined roles,” Smart said after the loss. “(Josh) Jackson is going to attack and do a lot of things. And, obviously, he’s got a mismatch when he’s playing at the four spot. (Devonte’) Graham and (Frank) Mason are going to do what they do. They’re going to control the ball, make plays and make plays at the end of the clock. (Landen) Lucas rebounds like crazy. And then they have guys that come in off the bench that have roles, as well.”

Consider, for a minute, what those “guys that come in off the bench” did against the Longhorns on Saturday. It was nothing flashy, nothing that would get noticed most places. But in a game in which Texas never quit and pretty much played even with the Jayhawks for the final 36 minutes, the contributions of Carlton Bragg Jr., Lagerald Vick and Mitch Lightfoot certainly made an impact.

Together, that trio combined for 15 points and seven rebounds on 5-of-10 shooting in 37 minutes, each while playing a very specific role.

Vick, as he has all season, played 18 minutes and served as the team’s fifth guard, a versatile option used to spell any of the four starters and a weapon from three-point range, in transition and on the glass.

Bragg, whose 6-foot-10 frame was of particular importance in this one given the size of Texas’ front line, took up space on both ends and hit three of five shots and a pair of free throws.

And Lightfoot, who had not played in KU’s last two games and stepped on the floor for just four minutes in the Jayhawks’ previous six games, provided good energy and key rest for an ailing Lucas during his four first-half minutes.

It’s not just the Jayhawks’ ability to understand and execute traditional roles of starter versus reserve or veteran versus rookie that has made this team click. The Jayhawks also have done an impressive job of spreading the wealth when it comes to the role of big-shot maker, especially when answering an opponent’s run.

“Svi didn’t have a big game, but he made a couple of timely plays,” Self explained. “Devonte’ didn’t (score) the second half until the end. We have had different players step up and make positive plays when the game is on the line.”

The unselfish nature of the individual players on this team has made the Kansas offense a bear to prepare for and tough play against. It also has played a huge part in so many talented players sliding so effortlessly into the roles where they’re currently flourishing.

“This is pretty much what I expected out of us,” said Jackson after Saturday’s win. “I knew we had a great team from the beginning. It was sad for us to lose the very first game of the season, but, all in all, it didn’t really mean that much. I think these are the games that mean the most.”


Mallory Briggans 4 years, 4 months ago

I was curious on what was going on in the Trevon Duval camp.........very very very interesting. On his twitter page he there was info about his McDonalds All-american selection and people offering congratulations and such ..................but what caught my attention was a post of him wearing a Jayhawk uniform. ...with the words ROCK CHALK ....and the Jayhawk mascot with his picture .....Very interesting post ....could it be legitimate could it be his college choice . He is the number 1 point guard in the country. Duke was thought to be the leader but him in a post wearing a Jayhawk uniform .Hmmmmmmmm

Gerry Butler 4 years, 4 months ago

he was just messing around, just to get responses such as yours. - He is a virtual lock for Duke. focus on Trae Young much more legit chance landing him thenTrevon.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

There's also one in a Baylor uniform. Means nothing.

Mallory Briggans 4 years, 4 months ago

Well after following his tweets my optimism was tempered when I saw him in a Duke and Baylor uniform as well so for brief moment things looked promising ....I apologize for what looked like something promising ....But we are in his final 5 if that is any consolation

Buck Bukaty 4 years, 4 months ago

No worries, Mallory. Roseanne Roseannadanna said it best, "Nevermind!". Ha Ha. Keep surfing the net for our news and pleasure!

Len Shaffer 4 years, 4 months ago

Actually that was Emily Litella, but your point is well taken ...

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

Doesn't matter. He is going to Duke and we are going to get Trae Young.

Buck Bukaty 4 years, 4 months ago

What gave me a "what just happened" pause was Carlton actually executing a drop-step move. I asked myself, did he just do that? Then a bit later he made the same move again. If he had ever attempted such before, I haven't noticed. On one he drew a foul, and I believe the other didn't go in for whatever reason. Big men at this level and the next usually aren't open long enough in the lane for his preferred signature face-up jump shot. Hope he continues to perfect the drop-step.

On a sad note, RIP Yordano Ventura!

Michael Gentemann 4 years, 4 months ago

Correction: Emily Litella had the catchphrase "never mind".

Len Shaffer 4 years, 4 months ago

LOL. You could have saved yourself the trouble by just referencing Gilda Radner.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

Unless you are referring to an album by Nirvana, "never mind" is the correct spelling.

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 4 months ago

Are we still talking about a win vs Texas?

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

Steve, given your comments on the Texas game, please refrain from inserting yourself into a collective "we". Your thoughts were so nonsensical that it would be embarrassing to have to share any responsibility for them.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

Good grief. Do you feel obligated to attack everyone here? Can you just not help it? What a jerk.

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

Don't feel left out. When you make a comment that's idiotic. I'll mock you too.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

Congrats, I guess. You've posted here twice and neither time was anything but attacking other users. You are a primary reason why more KU fans do not participate here. Chill out, man, no board needs a person like you on it.

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

You must be a liberal. You're whining about having your insults shown as asinine.

Jerry Walker 4 years, 4 months ago

“Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.” -- Colbert

Steve Corder 4 years, 4 months ago

While agreeing with Matt that KU has these melding

Steve Corder 4 years, 4 months ago

Slipped: While agreeing with Matt that KU has these melding characteristics, I do not know of any top tier teams that do not similarly possess such traits.

However, championship caliber teams must have the "killer instinct" to place the proverbial "boot on the throat" (does NOT mean making a crucial shot, rather NOT making careless passes/turnovers and out of control drives to the rim) of an opponent in later stages of the game. Although yet to display this instinct on the home court, this team may be close to developing that trait. The next four B12 games (WVU, Baylor, ISU & K-State) will provide an answer.

Tom Jones 4 years, 4 months ago

Agreed, but Saturday's game at Rupp will be a much better indicator of where KU is in the big picture.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

Winning or losing a true road game vs a Top 10 team in January doesn't prove where KU is at all. KU could go 0-2 or 2-0 this week and it doesn't change their ability to win a national title three months from now.

They have the parts needed to make a deep run in the tourney. They need to keep refining their game and keep healthy and they have a great shot at achieving their goals.

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

It didn't take you long. Saying that these upcoming games are somehow not an indicator of where the team's development is at qualifies as truly stupid.

Benz Junque 4 years, 4 months ago

There are really good teams losing tough road games ALL OVER the sport right now. If you don't get that then that's on you.

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

Dude. Your comments were stupid... be a man and own it or just skulk away.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

What would you know about being a man? I see president pervert did some more magical counting over the weekend. He analyzes crowd size as effectively as you analyze basketball. Two pervs in a pod.

Jay Scott 4 years, 4 months ago

Hey Brett. Have a good weekend?

On Friday, the 1043rd state and federal elected office switched from Donkeycrat since Jan 2009. That's REAL Hope and Change!

Good news. Even though you're emotionally incontinent over the election, your life will likely still improve now. Unless of course you're a criminal, a welfare cheat or a federal bureaucrat. Imagine Brett, even you might be gainfully employed! That's really Making America Great Again when Brett can hold a job!

Tom Jones 4 years, 4 months ago

Fortunately, no one said their record this week DOES "change their ability to win a national title three months from now". What are you reading?

Just stating the (what should be, anyway) obvious...playing a high quality team that doesn't play us twice a year and doesn't have years worth of scouting on our coach's and players' tendencies on the road is much closer to what we will be facing in the later stages of the tourney than road games in our conference.

Agreed that they have the parts to make a run, just depends a lot on matchups, as always.

Dale Rogers 4 years, 4 months ago

I understood Tom to say the UK game will be an "indicator" or where the team is AT THIS POINT IN TIME. I don't see anything about March/April.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 4 months ago

Where did you come up with that line of reasoning? What better way to assess a team's strength and weaknesses than playing against other top teams?

Tony Bandle 4 years, 4 months ago

Always keep 1988 in mind.

Our last three wins were against teams that had beaten us in the regular season. The most important thing about these upcoming challenges is, if we win, remember what got us victory and, if we lose, figure out what we need to get a better result next time.

My gut feeling is we go 1-1, but my gut isn't smart enough to name who.

Mike Greer 4 years, 4 months ago

If they can do their best imitation of Oklahoma, and not turn the ball over, they can and will beat WVU. If they get careless like they did against Texas, it's going to be a 30 turnover night and the prospects don't look nearly as good.

Playing in Rupp is going to be tough, but I think the team has the talent to pull it off, that one's going to come down to which team is shooting well.

Here's hoping for 2-0. If it's 1-1 I hope the win comes at the expense of Press Virginia, geez I hate that defense and the fact the refs get tired of making calls.

Chad Smith 4 years, 4 months ago

Jay Scott, as controversial and cynical he may be, does have a point about people saying these games arent a true barometer or lack importance. If none of these games mattered, we might as well just skip the whole season and have every D 1 team seeded randomly and play an 8 week NCAA tournament. Of course these games matter. They arent season defining of course, i think we all understand that, but realistically this is the "MEAT" of our schedule and will show us our relative strengths and weaknesses. You have to face some struggles and obstacles and stack up against teams that can take away what you do well and challenge you. How else can you develop and grow as a team? Especially with the standard KU has set in the conference, we need all the good competition we can get. Rock Chalk!!

Brett McCabe 4 years, 4 months ago

It would be a good response by you if it had anything to do with the subject.

With you doors posting, it's like whispering a secret at the end of the lunch table and seeing what comes out on the other end. Usually, a large degree of imagination and straw men. Try to stay focused.

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