Sunday, March 19, 2017

Notebook: Jayhawks excited to return to Sprint Center; Three Big 12 teams reach Sweet 16

Kansas head coach Bill Self reaches to slap hands with fans after the Jayhawks' 90-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas head coach Bill Self reaches to slap hands with fans after the Jayhawks' 90-70 win over Michigan State on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.


— The Kansas Jayhawks are coming home, and when they get there, a date with Purdue in the nearby NCAA Tournament will be waiting.

That’s thanks to KU’s 90-70, second-round victory over No. 9 seed Michigan State on Sunday night at BOK Center, and when the roar of the crowd and celebratory smiles and high-fives and hugs had ended, the Jayhawks found themselves focusing on one thing.

“You know, you work your butt off all year long so you can hopefully play a regional in Kansas City, so you gotta do the things to get there,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Now, that doesn’t mean we have an advantage or anything like that, but you would think that would be a nice reward to having a good season.”

Sure sounded like it.

“Well, I’m excited,” said KU junior Devonte’ Graham, who hit the Spartans for 18 points, four assists and three steals in 34 minutes on Sunday. “Why wouldn’t we be excited to play in our hometown, in our own state, in front of the best fans in the world. I’m excited to get back and redeem myself in the Sprint Center.”

The address of the Sprint Center notwithstanding, the Jayhawks, to a man, sounded more than a little pumped about the prospects of returning to the place where, just 11 days ago, they lost to TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament.

“Yeah, definitely,” said sophomore guard Lagerald Vick. “We have an advantage with the fans and it just feels like home, feels like (Allen) Fieldhouse.”

Added senior point guard Frank Mason, who hit his averages of 20 points and five assists against Michigan State: “It doesn’t really matter where we play, but it’s Kansas basketball and we get a chance to play 35 miles away from Lawrence and I think it’s just great for the fans and for us to get a chance to play there for the Sweet 16. We’re all excited.”

Time to get tough

Known for their physical, aggressive, full-of-attitude philosophy, the Spartans had little success getting under the skin of the Jayhawks in Sunday’s second-round clash.

That, according to several Kansas players, made the 20-point victory that much sweeter.

“Moving on to the Sweet 16 is exciting enough, so I think we would’ve been excited either way,” senior forward Landen Lucas said. “But that obviously contributed to it a little bit.... We’re not gonna back down from anybody or let anybody punk us. We enjoy that. We kind of rally together as a team and it kind of showed on the court.”

Mason, who embodies that ideal as well as any player to come through the Kansas program, said that mentality starts at the top.

“I think we all play with a lot of pride,” Mason said. “We all believe in each other and I think it starts with coach (Self). He really gets on to us in practice and he makes us compete. And, you know, it just carries on to the games. I’m just proud of the way my teammates played and the great job that my coaches did.”

Hey, coach

Not long after the Jayhawks’ knocked off Michigan State and just a few minutes before Baylor stepped onto the BOK Center floor for its game against USC, Baylor coach Scott Drew peeked his head into the Kansas locker room and shouted, “Great job, guys. Congratulations.”

Self said he and Drew caught up in the hallway outside of the locker room, and, like a ghost, Drew was in and out of the locker room as quick as he appeared. A couple of hours later, was staging his own celebration in a nearby locker room, as the Bears knocked off USC, 82-78, to move on to the Sweet 16.

Baylor and Kansas advancing placed three Big 12 teams into this year’s Sweet 16. It marks the second year in a row three Big 12 teams reached the Sweet 16 and the seventh time in conference history.

No glory this time

For the second game in a row, Kansas guard Tyler Self and a couple of other KU walk-ons got off the bench and into an NCAA Tournament game.

This time, though, there would be no big shot glory or wild celebration about Tyler scoring as there was on Friday night after the senior walk-on drilled a late 3-pointer on his only attempt in KU’s first-round win over UC Davis.

Instead of letting his son pull the trigger in this one, Self told him to dribble out the shot clock and turn the ball back over to Michigan State with just a few seconds remaining.

“I figured he’d stay at 100 percent for his NCAA Tournament career,” Self joked after the victory.

This and that...

KU’s win trimmed Michigan State’s lead in the all-time head-to-head series to 7-6 and made the Jayhawks 2-1 vs. the Spartans in NCAA Tournament play.... Self is now 6-7 all-time against MSU coach Tom Izzo, 3-4 at Kansas.... The win gave Kansas its 14th 30-win season of all-time, with eight of those coming under Self.... Self also improved his personal NCAA Tournament mark to 42-17, 32-12 at Kansas.... KU now owns an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 102-44.

By the Numbers: Kansas 90, Michigan State 70.

By the Numbers: Kansas 90, Michigan State 70.

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

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Michigan State


Mike Kendall 3 years, 8 months ago

Awww Coach, let Tyler shoot the ball. LOL

Steve Zimmerman 3 years, 8 months ago

Great sportsmanship, great respect, great game, great win!!

Tony Bandle 3 years, 8 months ago

I honestly feel that it is a huge advantage for KU that we are in the Sprint Center:

1] We are not playing Iowa State:

2] If we can dictate the pace, we can run Purdue out of the Center thus negating their size.

3] There will be that much more tickets available for Hawk fans since the Pychos won't be there. That translate and "Allen Field House-like" setting that will provide extra motivation for the team.

4] Having just been there, the shooting backgrounds will be a lot more familiar to us than the other teams in the regional.

Joe Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

2- Amen, Amen, AMEN!

Big guys labor moving up and down the court. We have so many thoroughbreds on the perimeter that Id just run the break and the secondary break every time. If they play big they wont keep up, and if they try they will be rendered less effective by virtue of being gassed. Hi tempo game is what you want.

Suzi Marshall 3 years, 8 months ago

Pulled off the 'hat-trick' with wins over Kentucky-Duke-MSU in one year. It would be supercool to add victories against the BIG Champion and one vs UNC or UCLA or a second vs UK. Winning games is always a nice thing but winning them against big name rivals is super sweet.

The beginning of each year, I mark off the most coveted goals. The National Championship is always right up there but because of the nature of the tournament, I never look at it as a realistic goal. The annual goals are:

1) Win Big 12 Title (check),

2) Advance to the Sweet 16 (check)

3) Win 30 games (check)

Now we are playing to make the season super successful and possibly special, i.e. The Big One!

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 8 months ago

I have no problems in taking the easiest route possible to a national championship.

Hat tricks are for hockey games.

Mike Kendall 3 years, 8 months ago

Add one more Suzi---after we win the Big One---Frank Mason win the Wooden Player of the Year!

Craig Alexander 3 years, 8 months ago

There will be a lot of Jayhawk faithful upset if Mason doesn't win that award! He continues to deliver.

Brock Wells 3 years, 8 months ago

Good article: UNC losing is the only thing that could have made the weekend better. I'm trying not to get overly excited about the 'hawks because all the pieces are there and we were the best team in the first two games.

Classy of Coach Drew before Baylor's big win to congratulate the guys. It would be awesome if the big 12 gets 3 of 4 final four spots!

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 8 months ago

Touching story but I hope she goes home crying Thursday night.

Bryce Landon 3 years, 8 months ago

Also, tipoff for our game has been set for 8:39 pm and will be seen on CBS.

Harlan Hobbs 3 years, 8 months ago

Frank Mason: "It doesn't matter where we play." What a marvelous statement which is vintage Frank.

Obviously, playing in KC was the goal and is exciting. However, Frank's demonstration of determination and leadership puts him near the top of the list of All-Time Jayhawks.

Lots of folks to consider for that list, but none more instrumental than Frank Mason. He should be a lock for the Wooden Award even though the talking heads have "Lonzo Ball on the brain." Lonzo may be the more talented player, but Frank is the Player of the Year for all that he represents and has accomplished against large odds.

Len Shaffer 3 years, 8 months ago

I think the season that Frank has had (and continues to have) has to be among the top 10 seasons in KU basketball history, and maybe even in the top 5. If he can add a championship, a realistic case could be made for his season being one of the top 2 or 3 in KU history.

David Robinett 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm calling this the revenge tour. Beating teams who have taken us out in the before. MSU, Purdue, potentially Michigan...

David Robinett 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm calling this the revenge tour. Beating teams who have taken us out in the tourney before. MSU, Purdue, potentially Michigan...

Joe Ross 3 years, 8 months ago

This Purdue team can derail the whole train. Records, seedings, accolades, etc. are out the window. Matchups play a big role as well as in-game adjustments. If Purdue gets Lucas in foul trouble we will have little answer in the post. Coleby showed up last game, but 1. there is no guarantee he will repeat his performance. 2. Swannigan is much better in the post than Ward, 3. Coleby isn't capable of scoring the ball on the offensive end like Lucas.

Purdue beat Iowa State on a neutral floor. Iowa State beat us on our HOME floor. Purdue should therefore be taken seriously, as a team who could beat us on our home floor as well, and CERTAINLY on a neutral floor.

This response is not so much an objection to your comment as it is saying "Kansas better damn well play this game with a sense of urgency".

Mike Greer 3 years, 8 months ago

By the time you make it to the Sweet 16 there should be a sense of urgency with every game. Assuming there were ever easy games in the tournament (look at the times KU has lost early) these guys are gone by now. What's left at this point are either teams that are on a roll and just really hot right now, like Michigan, or teams that legitimately are and have been good solid teams with a realistic chance of winning it all. What's gone are teams like Duke and ISU who got hot for their tournament and cooled off last weekend. I think you need that sense of urgency regardless of the team you face at this point in the tournament. And I'm certain coach and the team realize that. These are seasoned players for the most part and the one "new guy" I can honestly say, probably doesn't like to loose at rock/paper/scissors, much less basketball.

If they keep up the intensity and attitude, I think they go very far. I don't think this team is as susceptible to what Nova did last year and take one guy out of the game. I think if you try to take out Josh, you get hit with the other 3 guards or open up the inside. If you try to take Frank out, well lots of luck this year with that, but if you try, Josh is going to hurt you really bad.

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