Friday, March 22, 2019

Quick turnaround: Jayhawks embracing all aspects of rapid-pace preparation for Auburn

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) makes his way to the locker room as he and the Jayhawks arrive on Friday, March 22, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji (30) makes his way to the locker room as he and the Jayhawks arrive on Friday, March 22, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Salt Lake City – By the time the 4th-seeded Kansas men’s basketball team had moved on to preparing for No. 5 seed Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the hard work was already done.

Saturday's matchup — 8:40 p.m. on TBS — did not become official until sometime around 6 p.m. on Thursday night, but the KU coaching staff had done enough work in the days between Selection Sunday and Thursday’s opener on all of KU’s potential first- and second-round opponents to have a full barrage of film clips loaded onto each KU player’s individual iPad by the time the Jayhawks left the arena.

“We got the film immediately afterwards,” junior forward Mitch Lighfoot recalled of KU’s post-Northeastern routine. “It’s a quick turnaround and we use as much time as we can to prepare for this next game. Time is definitely of the essence.”


Nick Krug

Kansas head coach Bill Self talks with media members outside the team locker room on Friday, March 22, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

While that was nothing new for Lightfoot, it was a first for the KU freshmen and three other first-year Jayhawks who are playing in their first NCAA Tournament.

It’s one thing to have a Saturday-Monday turnaround during the regular season. But doing it at the NCAA Tournament, with the stakes as high as they can be and the attention on every detail magnified to the Nth degree, is a totally new experience.

“These guys were really excited about winning,” video coordinator and former Jayhawk Jeremy Case said Friday. “We were supposed to win that game. But coach was great about it. He let them know, ‘Good job, but...’”

From there, things began to happen fast.

Freshman guard Ochai Agbaji on Friday recalled what went through his mind while walking the walk of a first-time winner in the NCAA Tournament.

“Right to Auburn,” Agbaji said. “I mean, yeah, we ate, relaxed a little bit, but then it was right to focusing on Auburn. We know it’s a quick turnaround and you have to focus on what’s ahead and not look back.”

To that end, many Jayhawks were already watching film on the Tigers on the short bus ride back to the hotel. While that is just the beginning of diving into the game plan, the KU freshmen said it helped calm their racing minds to get an early look at their next opponent.

“Just every Auburn guy and what their strengths are,” Agbaji said when asked what was on the iPads. “They’re already on it and that’s pretty impressive because right after the game, as soon as you get back to the hotel it’s there and you can get to work.”

After a team meal and that brief moment to relax, the Jayhawks had the first of a half dozen or so team meetings that would be crammed into the next 48 hours, this one accompanied by a 10-12 minute scouting video of what Auburn runs, how they play and where they like to operate.

The video played start to finish, pretty much without stopping, and is designed to make the first glimpse something familiar in the minds of the Jayhawks.

“He’ll pause it sometimes, if there’s anything we really need to focus on,” Agbaji said.

Added Lightfoot: “They talk throughout it. They show what the players are doing, talk about them, then they’ll show plays and talk about the plays, and whatever else we need.”

From there it’s off to bed and up early for a team breakfast, more film and another meeting.

Rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, rinse repeat.

The whole process happens fast and can create a bit of a time vortex, with only the 40 minutes of game time feeling familiar.

“Time can get away,” freshman point guard Devon Dotson said. “You look up and it’s already like 6 o’clock and you feel like you’ve just woken up.”

“It was all very quick,” Dotson added. “(Thursday) night we started to focus on Auburn and we watched some film on them and really just talked about what we can do. We didn’t really have too much time to celebrate the win. It moves at a fast pace. That’s what this tournament is. You have one day off to prepare for the next team and you have to be ready.”

It’s always been that way, although the methods, like the game, are changing every year.

Case, who played at Kansas from 2003-08, recalled the NCAA Tournament preparation from his playing days, which included handwritten scouting reports on actual paper and was devoid of anything close to resembling cut-up film on individual iPads.

“We learned a different way. Same idea, but it wasn’t like it is now,” Case said. “It was a different time. It feels weird even saying that, but it was a different time. And we kind of have to adapt to how we show them things. And they ask for things. ‘Can I get the game on my phone?’ Or, ‘Can I get this cut up?’ And we can just shoot it to them.”

Case said he did not think guys could watch too much film of an unfamiliar opponent in the hours leading up to game time. And Lightfoot agreed, saying the more you watch, the more you learn.

But while the 48 hours between final horn and pregame routine — yes, some things do stay the same — is all about absorbing as much information as possible, Case said the end result never changes, no matter how much time a team has to prepare for its next opponent.

“I don’t ever think you can look at it too much,” Case said. “But, at the same time, I don’t think you can put a whole lot of stock into it. At the end of the day, guys have to come on the court and perform. That’s what it comes down to.”


Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

That was not an impressive win over New Mexico State.

Len Shaffer 1 year, 8 months ago

You're right. And combined with one of KU's best games of the season, you'd think KU should win fairly easily. But of course we all know that's not how it works. It will probably be tight all the way. And besides, given how many times KU has botched the ends of close games this year, we're not exactly in a great position to criticize Auburn's ineptitude at the end of the NMSU game.

Bryce Landon 1 year, 8 months ago

When the tournament started, because of KU's so-so season, I picked Auburn to beat Kansas in the Round of 32 in my bracket. But after the way Auburn nearly messed the bed against New Mexico State, and after the way Kansas laid the lumber to Northeastern, I think we have a much better chance against the Tigers. Here's hoping the Jayhawks torch my bracket pick tonight!

Bryce Landon 1 year, 8 months ago

On unrelated notes, I am looking forward to next season's home game against Kansas State to hear the fans chant, "U-C-IR-VINE!" clap clap clap-clap clap "U-C-IR-VINE!" clap clap clap-clap clap. Getting a #4 seed doesn't seem to work out too well for the Mildcats.

Another thing that doesn't work to well is Iowa State beating us to win the Big 12 Tournament. When they beat us in the 2015 title game, they were upset by Alabama-Birmingham; and then last night, they were upset by Ohio State. And good riddance, I say! Whenever the Cry-Clowns lose, an angel gets its wings! (And so does a Jayhawk!)

Craig Carson 1 year, 8 months ago

thats the difference between ISU and KU fans...a Big 12 tourney title means a lot m ore to ISU than to KU fans...our REAL season starts in the big dance

Kit Duncan 1 year, 8 months ago

KSU and ISU players prepared for and played well against Kansas this year and won their respective home games. Both teams deserve respect for their accomplishments. Unfortunately, losing in the first round of the NCAA diminishes both teams’ accomplishments and the stature of the Big XII in the eyes of the sports world.

Many KSU and ISU fans, as well as some KU fans, don’t always deserve respect for the way they act toward opposing teams. It’s one thing to carry hatred toward a school (MU) for past sins committed against one’s state and local community, but another thing to berate an opposing team (KSU/ISU) because of a perceived rivalry.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

Well that's certainly good sportsmanship but I think I'm with Bryce on this one, although I don't share his hatred of Iowa State. I wouldn't want to reciprocate with a F KSU chant but we should absolutely mock them when the opportunity presents itself. KU fans are loud and support the home team like no other program but I think they are a bit too polite.

Greg Ledom 1 year, 8 months ago

Kansas fans are a bit too polite............interesting. I’ll take that over the reverse any day of the week. Rock Chalk!!

Dirk Medema 1 year, 8 months ago

It's sort of like rushing the court --- or not. Or like questionable plays by players at the end of the game, and choosing to repeat them with an exclamation point --- or not.

Personally, I'll choose the or not and smile knowingly doing it.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Meh.....Your post is too complicated. I'm glad they both got beat and I don't like either one of them. See?? Simple.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 8 months ago

To be fair Kit, for Kansas State and Iowa State, beating Kansas often represents one of their key preseason goals. It's just that usually, Kansas is much more competitive on the road and don't normally need the crowd to carry them to the finish line at AFH.

And yes, those first-round losses had to sting... Need salt?

greg robinson 1 year, 8 months ago

I always support any BIG12 team unless they’re playing us. I equate the reverse to chanting “overated” to a team you’re beating. Kind of diminishes your accomplishment 🤔.

Gary McCullough 1 year, 8 months ago

I expected KSU and ISU to go a fair piece into the tournament. As a result, my bracket is busted beyond all recognition. I can understand KSU's defeat is due to Wade's injury. That team hasn't played well when he wasn't in the lineup. But ISU was just terrible. They dribbled around the edges of the zone. They couldn't penetrate by passing or dribbling and turned the ball over whenever they tried. And Kaleb Wesson owned the paint. They couldn't do anything to stop him from backing into the restricted zone. However, the refs made several bad calls that went against ISU. Several times when the ISU big tried to hold his ground against Wesson, the refs called a foul when it clearly was Wesson that initiated the contact. They may have been collusion!

Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

That's what's so cruel about the tournament, your season's accomplishments are wiped out in a day. K-State wins the conference while 8th place Oklahoma, a team they've beaten twice is still playing.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Hmmmmmm?? I guess I would describe myself as hopeful....Not optimistic. Yes they looked good on Thursday. But then again that was Northeastern. I don't think people should expect too much given the way this season has gone. But you never know. It would be great to see them get back to KC......Prediction: Kansas 70, Auburn 66.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

That's pretty much the sentiment I've heard from every KU fan I've spoken to.

We are two point underdogs.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

I would guess that's about right......I put their odds at 50-50......maybe slightly lower since they don't play well away from Allen. But on the other hand I think of all the supposed "great" teams KU has had only to see them be a disaster in the first or second who knows?? Just think of 1988 and hope I guess!

Dirk Medema 1 year, 8 months ago

"they don't play well away from Allen" or they didn't play well on the road. I think they have played well in neutral site games. Definitely better than the road.

David Howell 1 year, 8 months ago

We should not be surprised if the Jayhawk's win or lose ........ The Hawks need a full 40 minutes of defending the 3 point line and nothing less.

Hopefully they are not over-confident because Auburn will play with an edge to prove the last game was not a lucky win.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Poor ISU. They think the Big 12 Tournament is the National Tournament.....So funny. They are always an easy out in March Madness. I will admit they have talent but can never get it together and perpetually missing a key ingredient......If their program wants to get serious and change their mindset.....they could start by tearing down their stupid banners of "Sweet 16" appearances.....How embarrassing.....But very telling.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

Their tournament history is littered with first and second round exits but they did make the final four in 1944 so they can hang a banner for that.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Thanks Dane I never knew that.....Still pretty lame, though. Weren't there only like 5-10 teams involved in it back then?

Bryce Landon 1 year, 8 months ago

One of my favorite ISU losses in the Tournament came in 2001 when Larry Eustachy's gang of punks and thugs joined the very exclusive club of 2-seeds that lost to 15-seeds and got toppled by Hampton. KU may have been on the wrong end of more than its share of upsets, but at least KU doesn't have the blemish of losing to a 15-seed in its history!

Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

In terms of point spreads that lost to Hampton was the fifth biggest upset. Number one belongs to mizoo who were beaten by 15 seed Norfolk State in 2012. Both are everyone’s top ten list of biggest tournament upsets.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Yes that was AWESOME!! I lived in Richmond,VA then so got lots of extra coverage.....It was wonderful!

Robert Brock 1 year, 8 months ago

Some KU fans cheer when our conference brothers lose. ISU and KSU losing early shows how weak the Big 12 is and could very well be a harbinger of a KU loss against Auburn.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Nah I just don't like them & they are most certainly not my brothers......I don't really care about what it makes the Big 12 look like.

Andy Godwin 1 year, 8 months ago

Face it the Big 12 does not have a dominant team this season. TTU has played the best since losing to KU. The Big 12's best seeds were 3, 4, and 4. The sad thing was in a down year, KU managed to still finish just 3rd. Clearly losing Udoka (and DeSousa) influence the season's outcome and the slow development of OAD Grimes has not helped. On the flipside, Dotson has been outstanding at point guard. KU for the first time in a long time is really playing with house money since few, outside of a handful of loyal Jayhawks, expect them to even get out of Salt Lake. Dedric needs to be exceptional, Dotson outstanding, Garrett, Agbaji, and Grimes consistent on both sides of the ball, David, Mitch, and KJ providing controlled energy, and Moore a more steady hand when relieving Dotson for KU to even have a chance. Rock Chalk.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

Oh they definitely have a chance......Actually I think Auburn is the team that is worried.

Marius Rowlanski 1 year, 8 months ago

Villanova won two championships in the last three years. That's one more championship then the entire BIG12 since its inception. We do great against other conferences during the preseason conference play and normally plays above .500 when looking strictly at wins and losses but anyone who claims the BIG12 is a premier basketball conference is either kidding themselves or just not following common sense.

23 years and ONE championship.

Brad Watson 1 year, 8 months ago

Loose and free....nothing to fearlessly........with great effort ......and attention to details....I BELIEVE IN THIS TEAM!!!!!!!

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

That's probably why the 1988 team won it all. Nobody gave them a chance......a lowly 6 seed after a very average season. Who knows??

Dane Pratt 1 year, 8 months ago

We’ve had a number of games this season where we really butchered the ending. Poor shot selection, turnovers and missed free throws. Seems like it’s been a while since we’ve had one of the types of endings Auburn had against NMSU. In the closing minutes Auburn committed 3 turnovers, 5 fouls, and only had 1 FG attempt which they missed. The only thing that saved them was NMSU wanted to lose the game more than Auburn did. If it’s a close game, I like our chances.

Ken Stclair 1 year, 8 months ago

I don't know why.....But of all players seems like if Grimes scores around 10-12 points in a game then KU almost certainly wins. That's all they need from him and that little extra is enough to get the win. He's certainly not our best player-but his contribution is essential I think.

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