Equally skilled at scoring and rebounding, Seton Hall senior forward Angel Delgado presented one of the toughest matchups for Kansas big men all season.
Heading into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks could face more players like him.
Clemson, KU’s opponent in the Sweet 16 on Friday (6:07 p.m., CBS), is led by 6-foot-9, 237-pound junior Elijah Thomas but he’s not as prolific as an offensive rebounder as 6-foot-10, 245-pound Delgado. Thomas does average 10.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, ranking fourth in the ACC with 2.24 blocks per game.
If the Jayhawks advance to the Elite Eight, they could face prolific scorers and rebounders like Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. or Syracuse’s Oshae Brissett. Bagley is fifth in the nation with 21 double-doubles this season, only one behind Delgado. Carter, a more traditional center than Bagley, has recorded 15.
The 6-foot-11 Bagley and 6-foot-10 Carter combined for 26 rebounds (seven offensive) against Texas center Mo Bamba in November.
With the benefit of already facing Delgado, their second-round win gives the Jayhawks a blueprint of how they will need to attack some of the top forwards remaining in their region. Of course, it’s unlikely any of those forwards will have as much success as Delgado. He became the fifth player in the last 40 years to record 20-plus points and rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game.
What saved Kansas, in the eyes of coach Bill Self, was Udoka Azubuike’s performance to fight strength with strength.
“If Udoka wasn’t able to come back from his injury, we don't win,” Self said afterward.
Delgado had 12 points (5-for-9 shooting), 11 rebounds and one turnover when matched up against Lightfoot. Seven of his 11 rebounders were on the offensive end, tormenting the Jayhawks with second-chance points.
In four minutes against De Sousa, Delgado had four points, three rebounds and a blocked shot. Self said the game was a “little bit too big” for De Sousa. At this point of the season, the Jayhawks can’t afford wasted offensive possessions when players are out of position.
“We obviously couldn’t guard (Delgado),” Self said. “Angel had 12 and 12 at halftime. This isn’t a knock to Mitch, but Mitch physically is going to have a hard time with that.”
Azubuike limited Delgado to eight points and nine rebounds — only one offensive board. The Dominican Republic native shot 4 of 6 against Azubuike but opted to attempt more jumpers and short hook shots.
“Second half, I thought Dok actually defended him pretty good,” Self said. “Of the 24 he got, he probably got six or eight on Dok and the rest were on our other guys. We thought that our best chance was to put a big, heavy body on him.”
Afterward, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said he wished the Pirates would’ve fed the ball more to Delgado when he was guarded by Azubuike. They went away from him, looking for other scoring options, because Azubuike’s size took so much energy out of Delgado.
In December, Syracuse’s Brissett had 13 points and nine rebounds against KU, but only one rebound was on the offensive end.
“You just gotta give him credit,” Delgado said of Azubuike. “He's an unbelievable player. He did a great job with his bad knee. You just gotta give credit to great players.”
Wichita — Hoping to receive 20 minutes from Udoka Azubuike on Saturday, Kansas coach Bill Self said he thought Azubuike was the team's most valuable player with the way he provided offense in the post and defended Seton Hall center Angel Delgado in a 83-79 win at Intrust Bank Arena.
"We won the game because of Dok," Self said. "That kid would've had 35 and 34 if Dok didn't play. I'm really, really thankful and proud of him for his attitude and coming back so quick."
Advancing to the Sweet 16, Self said he doesn't want to get caught up in how the team played as long as the Jayhawks continue to win.
"We have to win two more games to get where we want to go but so proud of our kids and certainly nobody can say they haven't had a great season," Self said. "Now we have to go make great (turn into) special."
Wichita — In the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004, Seton Hall’s basketball players were going to be confident against any team they were matched up against.
With experience against No. 1 seeds Villanova and Xavier during Big East play, they know what it’s like to play the top teams in the country. The Pirates had an 0-4 record against the top two teams in the Big East, taking Villanova to overtime on Feb. 28 at home. They lost both road games against eventual top-seeded opponents by double digits.
Preparing to take the floor versus top-seeded Kansas at 6:10 p.m. Saturday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena, the Pirates expect they’ll be loose when the opening jump ball is tossed in the air.
“There’s no pressure,” Seton Hall sophomore guard Myles Powell said. “We’ve been doing this all year. We’ve been tested all year. It’s nothing new. They tie their shoes just like we tie our shoes. We’re not looking at them like they are something special and we’re not. We’re just going to come out and play our game.”
Seton Hall’s players agreed that Kansas plays a different style than what they saw against Villanova and Xavier, but they value the experience of playing a top team.
Instead, several players said the Jayhawks reminded them of Texas Tech. Seton Hall beat the Red Raiders, 89-79, at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 30.
“It doesn’t put no fear in our heart or anything because we’ve been here before and we know we can play with anybody in the country when we’re playing our game,” Powell said.
Sophomore guard Eron Gordon added: “I think that it’s given us the experience to be prepared and make sure we stay composed.”
After a first round victory over North Carolina State, the Pirates turned their attention to Kansas with two film sessions and a walkthrough before their early afternoon media sessions. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said players probably weren’t happy with him with an early wake-up call.
“When you're playing as good a basketball team as you are in Kansas, you need to do all the little extra things to try to give yourself a chance to win,” Willard said. “You just can't treat it like you're playing any other team. They're just too good.”
Confident in their preparation to play Kansas, the Pirates hope their experience in road games against Xavier and Villanova, along with other big crowds at Creighton and Louisville, will only benefit them in front of a pro-KU crowd in Wichita.
Sitting inside of a cramped visitor’s locker room at Intrust Bank Arena — home of the Wichita Thunder minor league hockey team — the Pirates said they are entering their second-round game like many of their other games.
“Regular road game,” Powell said. “We expected something like this. Yesterday they had us in the nice locker room, now look where we’re in. It’s just little stuff like that just helps fuel the fire. I feel like we’ve played better at road games than home. We’re definitely going to be ready.”
Led by a talented senior class, Seton Hall finished third in the Big East and earned its first NCAA Tournament victory in 14 years.
The reward of Thursday’s 11-point victory over North Carolina State is a second-round matchup against top-seeded Kansas (6:10 p.m., TBS) on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena. The Pirates have won five of their last seven games following a four-game losing streak at the beginning of February.
Kansas players compared Seton Hall’s style of play to West Virginia. Delgado provided a strong post presence and he’s surrounded by physical guards.
“The way they go about doing their business is different,” Self said of the comparison between Seton Hall and WVU. “But I think from a physical standpoint they certainly kind of look that role.”
Playing Texas Tech, its only Big 12 opponent this season in non-conference play, the Pirates (22-11) earned a 10-point victory at Madison Square Garden in November.
Fun fact: With a victory against Seton Hall, Bill Self will pass Roy Williams for the most wins among KU coaches in the NCAA Tournament. Self owns a 34-13 record in the tournament while Williams went 34-14.
Series history: The series is tied, 1-1. Seton Hall won the first meeting in 1988 in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. Kansas followed with a win in 2001 in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational.
BREAKING DOWN SETON HALL
No. 20 — F Desi Rodriguez | 6-6, 220, sr.
A second-team all-Big East selection, Rodriguez is averaging 17.9 points on 50.5 percent shooting from the field. He’s a 37.7 percent shooter from the 3-point arc, adding 4.9 rebounds per game. According to hoop-math.com, Rodriguez makes 67 percent of his shots that he takes at the rim.
Rodriguez missed three games at the end of the regular season with an ankle/foot, suffering a bone bruise. He’s scored at least 20 points in 12 games this season. Rodriguez ranks 14th in school history in scoring.
In the NCAA Tournament: Scored 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting with three rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.
- “I'm a fan of Kansas,” Rodriguez said. “But now I'm not no more, just for this game. But I watch their games a lot. Their games come on TV a lot. Just going through a variety of games, that's the best game on TV. They always give you a good game. Other than the other scouting report my coach is going to give me, I got a great scouting report myself.”
No. 31 — C Angel Delgado | 6-10, 245, sr.
A double-double machine and second-team all-Big East choice, Delgado has 21 double-doubles this season. The Big East’s all-time leader in rebounds, Delgado is averaging 13.3 points and 11.5 boards, shooting 50 percent from the field.
Delgado, from the Dominican Republic, takes 55.5 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. He ranks second on the team with 22 blocks.
In the NCAA Tournament: Recorded 13 points (4 of 7 shooting), nine rebounds and four assists before fouling out in 25 minutes.
No. 13 — G Myles Powell | 6-2, 195, so.
Capable of heating up at any time, Powell is averaging 15.5 points on 37.8 percent shooting from the 3-point arc. But he’s been in a funk, making 9 of his last 45 attempts from deep. Beyond his shooting, Powell is second on the team in assists (2.8 per game) and steals (1.0 per game).
In the NCAA Tournament: Making 10 of his 12 attempts at the free-throw line, he scored 19 points (1 of 7 shooting from 3) with nine rebounds.
No. 0 — G Khadeen Carrington | 6-4, 195, sr.
Seton Hall’s top free throw shooter (83.6 percent), Carrington has scored 15.2 points per game while shooting 35.3 percent from the 3-point line. The dean’s list student leads the Pirates with 36 steals and dishes 4.5 assists per game. He’s scored more than 20 points in five of the team’s last six games.
In the NCAA Tournament: Scored a team-high 26 points vs. N.C. State, making 6 of his 14 shots (3 of 5 from deep) while earning 13 trips to the free-throw line in 32 minutes.
No. 14 — F Ismael Sanogo | 6-8, 215, sr.
Playing off of the bench, Sanogo has produced 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Focusing on defense, he leads the team with 29 blocks and ranks second with 33 steals. When he does look to score, he’s shooting 54.9 percent from the field (45.8 percent on 24 attempts from 3).
In the NCAA Tournament: Finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes, snagging two steals while shooting 4 of 6 from the floor.
ONE THING SETON HALL DOES WELL
It’s no surprise with such a talented rebounder like Delgado, but Seton Hall entered the NCAA Tournament ranking 29th in the nation in offensive rebounding rate. The Pirates snagged 34.1 percent of their misses, tops in the Big East.
ONE AREA SETON HALL STRUGGLES
The Pirates have trouble forcing turnovers, ranking 196th in the nation in turnover percentage defense. That allows opposing teams to settle into their offenses. In their eight losses against Big East opponents, the Pirates failed to force more than seven turnovers in three of them.
MEET THE COACH
Kevin Willard is in his eighth season at Seton Hall, guiding the team to its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s led the Pirates to four 20-win seasons. Prior to his time at Seton Hall, he was the head coach for three seasons at Iona.
Described as a player’s coach, Willard spent time as an assistant at Louisville and with the Boston Celtics. Willard’s father, Ralph, was a former head coach at Holy Cross, Pittsburgh and Western Kentucky.
Kansas by 4. I don’t think it’s a particularly great defensive matchup for Kansas, especially if Udoka Azubuike is still limited from his knee injury. But the Pirates have struggled against high-scoring offenses this season and aren’t among the top teams in defending the 3-point line.
My prediction: Kansas 81, Seton Hall 72. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 16-13.
Wichita — Playing tough road games is nothing new for Seton Hall. That’s life in the Big East, which included games at Butler, Creighton, Villanova, Xavier and Providence.
After traveling to play those NCAA Tournament teams, the Pirates plan to have the same road game, us-against-the-world approach when they play Kansas in the second round at 6:10 p.m. Saturday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We’re in Kansas aren’t we? It’s a road game,” senior forward Ismael Sanogo said. “The NCAA did a good job of making it easier for them but we’re a tough team and we can handle it.”
The Pirates (22-11) advanced with a 94-83 victory over North Carolina State in the first round of the tournament Thursday. In true road games this season, they’ve posted a 5-6 record with victories over Louisville, Butler and Providence.
Kansas has certainly felt the home-state advantage in Wichita, drawing more than 13,000 people to an open practice on Wednesday. Intrust Bank Arena announced 14,390 people attended KU’s 76-60 win over Penn in the first round, a majority cheering for the Jayhawks.
“The fans really did a good job of getting them back in it,” Penn guard Darnell Foreman said. “You know what I mean? Their support was never wavering.”
KU coach Bill Self believes there’s some added pressure playing close to home, referencing last season’s Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center in Kansas City — "I think the guys felt like that every fan was holding their breath every possession" he said.
The Jayhawks have a 5-0 all-time record in Wichita, winning their first NCAA Tournament game in the city since 1981 on Thursday.
“It's definitely more positive than not positive, without question,” Self said. “But I don't think it plays a huge role in certain segments of a game. But when you get rolling or you get on a little roll, it definitely gives you momentum, the fans do.”
In the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, they picked up their first tournament win in 14 years. Minutes after playing N.C. State, most of the Seton Hall players said they were unfamiliar with Kansas and knew they would be logging several hours of watching film when they weren’t practicing.
But they are confident that they can avoid allowing the crowd to affect them in any negative way.
“It’s like you are going to another away game,” Seton Hall senior center Angel Delgado said. “We’ve been doing this for the whole year. It’s kind of easy for us to have the (road) mindset.”
Kansas City, Mo. — In the first half of Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup at Sprint Center, everything was going to plan for Purdue except in one spot.
Kansas had an edge in rebounding, which led to an edge on the scoreboard.
It didn’t matter that the Boilermakers were shooting the ball well and forcing the Jayhawks into some tough shots. The Jayhawks kept scoring off of their own misses until they eventually stopped missing in a 98-66 victory to advance to the Elite Eight.
Purdue’s trio of big men, 6-foot-9 Caleb Swanigan, 6-8 Vincent Edwards and 7-2 Isaac Haas, combined for 37 points and 13 rebounds — a big drop from their output of 55 points and 25 rebounds against Iowa State in the second round.
The Jayhawks out-rebounded the much taller Purdue, 36-29. Freshman Josh Jackson had a game-high 12 boards (four offensive).
“Those guys, especially Caleb on the glass, it's hard to keep 'em off,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “If you look at Landen (Lucas’) stats he only got four rebounds, but the story is Caleb only got seven. And if you had told this before the game that would be the give and take I would have sold out for that because he does a really good job of making sure neither one of them got it for the most part.”
Swanigan’s seven rebounds were his second-lowest total this season — and only the seventh game he failed to record a double-double.
Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III had seven rebounds (two offensive), matching Swanigan on the glass. Reserve forward Carlton Bragg Jr., snagged six boards (two offensive) in 10 minutes, while Lucas added four (two offensive) and Dwight Coleby had one defensive rebound.
“I would say if you look at the threes that were taken, 55 3's were taken in the game, so it ends up being longer rebounds and a lot of times it's being quick to the basketball and opportunistic,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.
Off of 12 offensive rebounds, the Jayhawks scored 16 second-chance points, their most since an overtime, home loss to Iowa State on Feb. 4.
KU has won the rebounding battle in seven of its last eight games, the only exception being a Big 12 Tournament loss to TCU without Josh Jackson available because of a one-game suspension.
“Our defense and rebounding and everything was good the second half,” Self said, “and, of course, we made a ton of shots and that always helped.
“Obviously, Dwight bought us a ton of minutes whenever Landen was in foul trouble. But I thought Carlton came in and did a good job, too. You add those guys together you get 23 key minutes out of that position when Landen can't be in the game. So I think they both kind of bailed us out.”
Entering Thursday, the Boilermakers (27-8) had a 6-4 record when they were out-rebounded by an opponent.
“We've been able to dominate the boards in our first two games and (Kansas) did a good job on the glass,” Painter said. “Seemed like every time they got an offensive rebound they made us pay and every time we turned it over they were so fast in transition of going the other way and converting. Hats off to them. They played a great game.”
Back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010, Purdue’s basketball team has its eyes set on improving on one of the best seasons in school history.
The Boilermakers, known for all of their size, will tip off against top-seeded Kansas around 8:40 p.m. Thursday (CBS) at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.
Purdue, which won an outright Big Ten title, ranks sixth nationally in 3-point shooting (40 percent) and eighth in defensive rebounding.
“We have confident players,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We have some guys that can really shoot the basketball.”
Interesting note: Last weekend in Milwaukee, Purdue scored 80 points in back-to-back tournament games for the first time since 1998.
Series history: Kansas leads 3-2. The last three meetings have been in the NCAA Tournament, including KU’s 63-60 win in the second round of the 2012 tourney.
Vegas says: Kansas by 5.
No. 11 — G P.J. Thompson | 5-10, 185, jr.
Known for his defense and reliability with the ball, Thompson is averaging 7.2 points and 3.0 assists per game. He ranks second on the team with 33 steals.
Thompson is second in the nation with a 4.25 assist-to-turnover ratio. In the last two seasons combined, he’s committed 47 turnovers in 1,763 minutes.
The Indianapolis native is shooting 40 percent from behind the 3-point line and is connecting on 70.5 percent of his free throws. He was a 29-percent 3-point shooter during his freshman year.
His father, LaSalle, played basketball at Indiana State and Ball State before playing several years overseas.
QUOTE: "We want him to be aggressive," Painter said. "We want him to look for his shot, drive the basketball and still take care of it. That’s what you want from your point guard…. He’s a steady hand. He gets us where we need to go on offense, but he also needs to hit that 3."
No. 31 — G Dakota Mathias | 6-4, 200, jr.
Purdue’s top 3-point shooter, Mathias has drained 45.8 percent of shots from deep, averaging 9.9 points. According to hoop-math.com, he only attempts 10.5 percent of his shots around the rim.
Averaging 3.9 rebounds and 3.71 assists per game, Mathias has scored 12 or more points in four of the last seven games.
Mathias posed for a picture during Wednesday’s practice with Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. Mathias says Miller is one of the reasons that he wears the No. 31 jersey.
Pronunciation: muh-thigh-us. The Elida, Ohio native played through ankle injuries, mononucleosis and vertigo during his freshman season.
QUOTE: “Dakota’s been great,” Painter says. “Where he’s improved the most is defensively. As a coach, you can’t have enough people you trust. A lot of times, players don’t understand that. Can the coaches trust you? Can you follow your assignment? Just be accountable. He’s gotten better. There were some tough lessons.”
No. 14 — G Ryan Cline | 6-6, 195, soph.
Averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, Cline is almost exclusively a 3-point shooter. He’s connected on 41 percent of his shots from behind the arc.
According to hoop-math.com, Cline has attempted a minuscule 3.1 percent of his shots at the rim. Of his 130 shot attempts this season, 106 are from behind the 3-point line.
He was suspended for the first three games of the season after being charged with possession of marijuana during the offseason.
His father, Michael, played basketball at Ohio State from 1976-79 and was a team captain for two seasons.
QUOTE: "My awareness and my positioning has always been pretty good, especially coming from Carmel and coach (Scott) Heady," Cline said. "Being able to move laterally and be able to contain my man has gone really well."
No. 12 — F Vincent Edwards | 6-8, 225, jr.
Averaging 12.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting, which includes a 42.5 percent clip from behind the 3-point line. He makes 82 percent of his free throws.
A strong passer out of the 4-man position, Edwards actually ranks second on the team with 110 assists this season (3.2 per game).
On a tear at the end of the season, Edwards has scored 21 points in both of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He’s shooting 19-of-30 from the floor and 2-of-6 from deep.
His dad, Bill, starred at Wright State before playing overseas. Both of his older brothers played college basketball. Bill Jr. played at Penn State and Darius was at Miami of Ohio.
QUOTE: “I’m just playing hard,” Edwards said. “I’m just going hard. I think that’s one thing that’s changed for me is I’ve just been focused on playing hard because if I’m playing hard, everything else takes care of itself. When I get my motor going, I’m able to get myself going, offensive rebounding really helps me out.
No. 50 — F Caleb Swanigan | 6-9, 250, soph.
A national player of the year candidate, Swanigan is tied for third in single-season NCAA history with 28 double-doubles this season. He’s averaging 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds.
Swanigan is shooting 52.7 percent from the field, including a 43.2 percent mark from behind the 3-point line. He’s third on the team with 103 assists and leads with 28 blocked shots. According to hoop-math.com, he’s converting on 79.2 percent of his shot around the rim.
He declared for the NBA Draft last season, but withdrew after less-than-positive reviews from scouts. He originally committed to Michigan State in high school, but said he switched to Purdue because he wanted to play power forward instead of center.
ESPN wrote a feature on Swanigan’s childhood, who stayed at homeless shelters before being adopted by sports agent Roosevelt Barnes, a former Purdue football standout. Nicknamed “Biggie” by his aunt after rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s hit song “Hypnotize.”
QUOTE: “When he steps on the court, he knows without a shadow of a doubt, ‘There is not one dude out here that works harder than me. I’ve earned the right to go put up 20 and 20,’” said Josh Bonhotal, Purdue’s strength and conditioning coach.
No. 44 — C Isaac Haas | 7-2, 290, jr.
From Hokes Bluff, Ala. (pop. 4,286), Haas is averaging 12.6 points and 5.1 rebounds off of the bench. He’s shooting 58 percent from the floor.
During the NCAA Tournament, Haas is averaging 11 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game.
Haas ranks sixth in minutes on Purdue’s roster but he’s second in free throws attempted, a credit to his ability to draw fouls. He’s a 71.3 percent shooter at the charity stripe.
His younger sister, Erin, has epilepsy, “My sole purpose, honestly, is to help Erin have the best life she possibly can,” he said in a feature from ESPN. He originally committed Wake Forest (before Danny Manning), switching at the end because of Painter’s reputation developing bigs. He wears size 22 shoes.
QUOTE: “I’ve done a better job growing into my body and understanding my body, the conditioning needs, the rebounding and physical aspects you have to go into detail with as a big guy,’’ he said. “It’s like coach always says, you don’t put regular gas in a Lamborghini. You have to use premium. It’s about the right time and work.”
No. 3 — Carsen Edwards | 6-0, 190, fr.
Averaging 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on 39 percent shooting from the floor.
The Atascocita, Texas native combined for 21 points in 39 minutes during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He has 354 points on the season, the seventh-most for a Purdue freshman in school history.
A pesky defender, Edwards leads the Boilermakers with 35 steals.
His brother, Jai, plays football at Blinn Junior College.
QUOTE: “I’m just trying to do my job, honestly,” Edwards said. “I’m just trying to improve on doing my job more and more every game and eliminating mistakes. I’m just going to continue to watch film and seeing what I need to continue to keep working on.”
No. 55 — G Spike Albrecht | 6-0, 180, r-sr.
A graduate transfer from Michigan, well known for his 17-point performance in the 2013 NCAA title game (and his post-game tweet to supermodel Kate Upton), Albrecht is averaging 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game off of the bench.
In the NCAA Tournament, he hasn’t attempted a shot in 20 minutes, dishing two assists. He shot 6-for-25 from the 3-point line (24 percent) throughout the season.
He only appeared in eight games for Michigan last season before missing the rest of the season to rehab from double hip surgeries. He suffered from a painful genetic condition, diagnosed as a hip impingement. He played his junior season at Michigan through a torn labrum.
First name is Michael. Nicknamed Spike after he wore his baseball spikes everywhere when he was 8 years old.
QUOTE: “Having this opportunity to come back and play again, I may not have had the best year for me individually, but I’ve been a part of a team that’s had a lot of success with a great group of guys,” Albrecht told USA Today. “It’s everything I was looking for in a fifth year.”
More news and notes previewing Kansas vs. Purdue
- Star players illustrate contrasting styles in KU-Purdue, Sweet 16 showdown
- Tom Keegan: Passing key to Kansas running game
- Notebook: No extra motivation necessary for Jayhawks in Sweet 16
- Boilermakers bracing for KU-friendly environment at Sprint Center
- Kansas set to face Caleb ‘Biggie’ Swanigan — or Mr. Double-Double
- Former Gene Keady players wearing suits and ties on both benches of Purdue-Kansas game
- Most player of the year votes counted before Mason and Swanigan tip off
- Gameday Breakdown, Sweet 16: KU vs. Purdue
There’s no secret when it comes to Purdue’s style of play. There’s plenty of height and the Boilermakers like to make the most of it.
Purdue, which will face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at Sprint Center (8:40 p.m., CBS), is led by Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound presence in the post. He’s surrounded by 6-8 forward Vincent Edwards and 7-2 center Isaac Haas.
Swanigan is more than your prototypical center. He fights for every inch in the paint and he’s capable of drilling shots from the outside, connecting on 43 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He’s even a 78.5 percent shooter at the free-throw line.
But facing talented post players is nothing new for the Jayhawks, and they are confident it won’t be as big of a mismatch as it looks when they stand next to each other.
“I think we match up fine,” Kansas senior center Landen Lucas said. “We have played big teams before in our league. We play big teams all year. So it is nothing new for us and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
The Jayhawks will try to combat Purdue’s height advantage with their versatility in the post featuring the 6-10 Lucas and 6-8 Josh Jackson, with 6-10 Carlton Bragg and 6-9 Dwight Coleby off of the bench.
Swanigan, Edwards and Haas all average more than 12 points and five rebounds per game, and the trio combined for 55 points, 25 rebounds and 11 assists in Saturday’s 80-76 win over Iowa State.
The Jayhawks watched most of that game waiting for their own matchup against Michigan State’s star freshmen forwards on the following day.
“I was really impressed because, when you think of it right now going into it, I mean, they've got some guys that we haven't seen down low yet,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We haven't gone against an inside presence scoring like Caleb and of course the big fellow off the bench. We recruited him, and he's a load.”
Along with a strong frontcourt, the Boilermakers (27-7) are smart with the ball. They rank second in the country in assists per game (18.3) only trailing UCLA.
In their win over Iowa State, they had an incredible 27 assists on 31 made baskets — “There's nobody that would execute in the half-court or share the ball any better than that,” Self said.
Junior point guard P.J. Thompson ranks second in the nation with a 4.25 assist-to-turnover ratio, only behind Monte Morris, who he matched up against Saturday.
“We’ve got to come up with a way to eliminate post touches and still get to their shooters because they can stretch it from all the spots to the perimeter,” Self said.
The Boilermakers didn’t know if they’d be playing Kansas or Michigan State after Friday’s win, but they knew there was a chance they would be entering a tough environment in Kansas City, Mo.
Playing at the Sprint Center should give the Jayhawks as close to a home-court advantage as possible in the NCAA Tournament, and the Boilermakers will do their best to use it to motivate themselves.
"We enjoy playing on the road," Purdue guard Dakota Mathias told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. "We like all the boos and the hatred coming towards us. We've won in a lot of hostile environments, a lot of big-time places, so this isn't going to be any different.”
Haas added: "You draw energy from that. That’s what makes basketball fun. I look forward to stepping on that court and hopefully making them silent.”
Tulsa, Okla. — Matched up against each other for the majority of Sunday’s second-round game at BOK Center, Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges enjoyed the opportunity to play each other on college basketball’s biggest stage.
Kansas freshman Jackson had the upper hand over one of his good friends, scoring a game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in KU’s 90-70 win against Michigan State to advance to the Sweet 16. He added three rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes.
Bridges led the Spartans with 22 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-15 shooting in 34 minutes. He briefly went to the locker room in the first half with a hip pointer.
The sight of Jackson and Bridges dominating in a game was nothing new to MSU coach Tom Izzo, who noted he saw it plenty while recruiting both of them.
“I give all the credit in the world to Josh. I thought he's improved his jump shot a lot,” Izzo said. “And he does play hard, but I look at the stats and I look at the game and I think about the injury and the time he missed, I'm really, really proud of Miles. And you know what, I'm proud of Josh.”
Jackson scored 14 points in the second half and put the finishing touches on KU’s victory with a right-handed slam down the lane in the final minutes for a 15-point lead.
Before facing Bridges and childhood friend Cassius Winston (seven points, eight assists), Jackson said Kansas coaches told him not to be too amped up when the game started.
“I came out and was still just a little too excited. I tried to force stuff a little bit,” Jackson said. “But as the game went on, I felt like the game started slowing down, it came to me a little bit more. And I just had to realize it was just another game, and it was about Kansas basketball versus Michigan State, and it wasn't about me versus Miles.”
In his first — and likely only — NCAA Tournament, Jackson is averaging 20 points and five rebounds on 17-of-28 shooting (61 percent).
Both Jackson and Bridges, potential lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft, played with and against each other since the sixth grade in AAU games. Jackson grew up in Detroit, Bridges in Flint, Mich.
“I knew it was going to be a fun game before it even started,” Jackson said. “So it was just really fun to be able to go out there and play against those guys and really proud to see them here and having success.”
Bridges, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, opened the game with a 3-pointer over Jackson and backed up some of his trash-talking with strong play in the post.
“It's always good playing against Josh,” Bridges said. “It gets a little physical at times. We compete every time we play against each other. He's a great player. He's going to have huge success in the league, so it's always good playing against him.”
For fans, it was an opportunity to see an NBA preview, where both players could have big roles for the next decade.
But Sunday, the main focus for each player was just trying to find a way to win and keep his season alive.
“Two great players going at it,” Izzo said. “The stats were somewhat the same, but I think Josh has really played well. He's really come on."
Tulsa, Okla. — Earlier this season, the Kansas basketball team had trouble with its interior defense against talented big men.
There were the standout games from Reid Travis, Jarrett Allen, Vlad Brodizansky, and a couple of other opponents in the first half of the year.
Heading into the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Michigan State on Sunday (4:15 p.m., CBS), the Jayhawks will attempt to slow down freshmen forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward.
Bridges, 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, is a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, averaging a team-best 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He’s scored at least 15 points in seven straight games.
“He's an unbelievable athlete, but he's got unbelievable feel,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Bridges. “I mean just making the extra pass or just knowing when to cut. And they play through him a lot. They play through him probably about as much as they play through well, I guess Denzel (Valentine) last year, but they put the ball in his hands a lot to make decisions.”
Kansas freshman Josh Jackson will likely draw the primary defensive assignment against Bridges, a good friend of his, which would match senior center Landen Lucas versus the 6-8, 250-pound Ward (13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds per game).
Of course, KU’s team defense will rely on more than one-on-one match-ups in the post. Guards are expected to do their part to help through help defense and ball pressure.
“I think the toughest part is you can tell guys what to do, but when you play against good guys that are hard to handle, the execution isn't always what you tell (them),” Self said. “It's hard to simulate athletic ability.”
Adding a wrinkle to the difficulty of preparing for Bridges and Ward is the one-day turnaround in the second game of the tournament’s weekend.
It goes both ways for all teams, but it doesn’t make it any easier to stop two of the top freshmen in the Big Ten.
“They run so many plays and got so many sets that one day of preparation, you really can't get a good feel for all the stuff they run or try to memorize a lot of their plays,” KU junior guard Devonte’ Graham said. “But we just had practice and we just went over the scouting report kind of in depth and we'll go back to the hotel and do the same thing. So it's just trying to get a good feel for a lot of the sets that they run.”