The 2017-18 KU men's basketball season is right around the corner.
Before KU gets things started at home against Tennessee State on Friday, our staff came together to answer 21 fun questions about KU basketball. The topics range from things in pop culture to specifics about lineups and projected minute totals.
The entirety of the list was discussed on two recent episodes of our KU Sports Hour podcast. The links to those episodes are below.
Part 1: Questions 1-10
Part 2: Questions 11-21
Here is the list of questions. Feel free to comment your own answers below!
1. Pick the most important word for Billy Preston: Fouls, interior, rebounding or other (list).
Matt Tait (@mctait): Other (consistency)
Tom Keegan (@TomKeeganLJW): Other (versatility)
Benton Smith (@BentonASmith): Interior
Bobby Nightengale (@nightengalejr): Interior
Scott Chasen (@ChasenScott): Other (mentality)
2. Pick the most important word for Udoka Azubuike: Fouls, stamina, turnovers or other (list).
Matt Tait: Fouls
Tom Keegan: Other (underhanded)
Benton Smith: Stamina
Bobby Nightengale: Other (rebounding)
Scott Chasen: Fouls
3. Rank KU’s scoring leaders 1-5.
Matt Tait: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Devonte’ Graham, 3. Udoka Azubuike, 4. Lagerald Vick, 5. Svi Mykhailiuk
Tom Keegan: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Devonte’ Graham, 3. Billy Preston, 4. Lagerald Vick, 5. Udoka Azubuike
Benton Smith: 1. Devonte’ Graham, 2. Malik Newman, 3. Lagerald Vick, 4. Svi Mykhailiuk, 5. Udoka Azubuike
Bobby Nightengale: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Lagerald Vick, 3. Devonte’ Graham, 4. Udoka Azubuike, 5. Svi Mykhailiuk
Scott Chasen: 1. Malik Newman, 2. Devonte’ Graham, 3. Lagerald Vick, 4. Svi Mykhailiuk, 5. Udoka Azubuike
4. Over/under 26.5 minutes per game for Marcus Garrett?
Matt Tait: Under
Tom Keegan: Under
Bobby Nightengale: Under
Benton Smith: Under
Scott Chasen: Under
5. Who will have the quickest foul out (player, minutes)?
Matt Tait: Billy Preston, 14 minutes
Tom Keegan: Mitch Lightfoot, 14 minutes
Benton Smith: Udoka Azubuike, 9 minutes
Bobby Nightengale: Mitch Lightfoot, 6 minutes
Scott Chasen: Billy Preston, 12 minutes
6. What movie title describes what KU needs out of Devonte’ Graham?
Matt Tait: The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Tom Keegan: Walker, Texas Ranger (pilot, 1993)
Benton Smith: Step Brothers (2008)
Bobby Nightengale: Iron Man (2008)
Scott Chasen: Phone Booth (2002)
7. What player shocks KU fans the most and how?
Matt Tait: Lagerald Vick’s dunks drop jaws of KU fans
Tom Keegan: Lagerald Vick throws down a ridiculous in-game dunk
Benton Smith: Udoka Azubuike goes end to end and destroys a rim
Bobby Nightengale: Svi Mykhailiuk plays like a first-round talent
Scott Chasen: Lagerald Vick has a monster season
8. Assign a Halloween costume to describe Mitch Lightfoot’s season.
Matt Tait: U.S. postal worker
Tom Keegan: Jack Nicholson with an ax from The Shining
Benton Smith: Scream costume
Bobby Nightengale: Rocky Balboa
Scott Chasen: Headless Horseman
9. More technicals: KU basketball players, Bill Self or push?
Matt Tait: Players
Tom Keegan: Players
Benton Smith: Bill Self
Bobby Nightengale: Bill Self
Scott Chasen: Push
10. Who is KU's most replaceable player between Devonte’ Graham, Malik Newman, Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike?
Matt Tait: Malik Newman
Tom Keegan: Lagerald Vick
Benton Smith: Lagerald Vick
Bobby Nightengale: Lagerald Vick
Scott Chasen: Lagerald Vick
11. What will KU’s best late game defensive lineup be at the end of the year?
Matt Tait: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Preston-Azubuike
Tom Keegan: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Preston-Azubuike
Benton Smith: Graham-Mykhailiuk-Vick-Garrett-Azubuike
Bobby Nightengale: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Lightfoot-Azubuike
Scott Chasen: Graham-Garrett-Vick-Preston-Azubuike
12. What will be Bill Self’s biggest adaptation this year?
Matt Tait: KU shooting a higher percentage of 3s
Tom Keegan: Living with mistakes
Benton Smith: Playing bigs through foul trouble
Bobby Nightengale: Five-guard lineups
Scott Chasen: Malik Newman
13. What will Sam Cunliffe’s biggest play this year look like?
Matt Tait: Dunk-contest moment in a game
Tom Keegan: Put-back dunk in a game
Benton Smith: Late-game 3 on the road in Big 12 play
Bobby Nightengale: Dunk in warmups
Scott Chasen: First-half 3 in an early NCAA tournament game
14. Will Chris Teahan’s first FGM come before or after January 1?
Matt Tait: Before
Tom Keegan: Before
Benton Smith: Before
Bobby Nightengale: Before
Scott Chasen: After
15. Predict KU basketball’s worst day in the 2017-18 season?
Matt Tait: Day after Stanford game (Dec. 22)
Tom Keegan: Elite Eight loss
Benton Smith: Sweet Sixteen loss
Bobby Nightengale: FBI investigation resurfaces in college basketball
Scott Chasen: Non-conference injury
16. What odds would you have to be given to bet $50 against KU winning the Big 12?
Matt Tait: 50-to-1
Tom Keegan: 12-to-1
Benton Smith: 50-to-1
Bobby Nightengale: 11-to-1
Scott Chasen: 25-to-1
17. Which player’s success will hinder another’s the most?
Matt Tait: Malik Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk
Tom Keegan: Billy Preston, Svi Mykhailiuk
Benton Smith: Lagerald Vick, Svi Mykhailiuk
Bobby Nightengale: Svi Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick
Scott Chasen: Marcus Garrett, Svi Mykhailiuk
18. What anthem should Bill Self have for the 2017-18 season and why?
Matt Tait: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), returning to the Final Four
Tom Keegan: Down by the River (Neil Young), Final Four in San Antonio
Benton Smith: I am a God (Kanye), Self has total control of the program
Bobby Nightengale: What is Love (Haddaway), "Baby don't hurt me"
Scott Chasen: Everybody (Backstreet’s Back), KU's best lineups will be 3-guard, 2-big
19. More losses for KU: vs. the SEC (Kentucky, Texas A&M) or in the rest of non-conference play?
Matt Tait: Rest of non-conference play
Tom Keegan: Rest of non-conference play
Benton Smith: Push
Bobby Nightengale: SEC games
Scott Chasen Push
20. What former Jayhawk and former Big 12 player from the streak would cause KU the most trouble to play against?
Matt Tait: Josh Jackson, Michael Beasley
Tom Keegan: Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant
Benton Smith: Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant
Bobby Nightengale: Joel Embiid, Blake Griffin
Scott Chasen: Thomas Robinson, Kevin Durant
21. Pick one player in the nation to add to KU.
Matt Tait: Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Tom Keegan: DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
Benton Smith: Miles Bridges, Michigan State
Bobby Nightengale: Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
Scott Chasen: Miles Bridges, Michigan State
For a Kansas basketball freshman, no descriptor should carry more weight from Bill Self than the word “tough.”
It’s a word the KU coach doesn’t throw around. Players have to earn it. Self assigns it far less frequently than a word representing the opposite — soft — which he can be heard shouting in disgust from the sidelines of games and practices, usually with a matching facial expression.
In that regard, Marcus Garrett fits the mold of one of Self’s favorite freshmen. The raw materials are just a little different.
“Marcus is going to be a really good player,” Self said. “I think he’s one of our tougher guys.”
Now press pause and jump back a year.
Josh Jackson’s days were numbered from the moment he stepped on campus.
Everyone knew he was a one-and-done and likely top-five NBA draft selection, despite what the swingman said, asked about that very topic in a press conference in February.
At the very least, the Big 12 coaches had a pretty good idea of Jackson's future. That included Self.
“We had a 6-8 guard that could rebound and block shots and defend, and he wasn’t a normal guy,” Self said of Jackson. ‘He was a guard, but he could do anything. And he was a matchup nightmare for others.”
Garrett will not be those things, at least at first. He doesn’t have Jackson’s athleticism. At 6-foot-5, 180 pounds, Garrett doesn’t have Jackson's size
Garrett can, however, replicate some of the things that made Jackson what he was. His Allen Fieldhouse debut was a step in the right direction.
The do-everything, hybrid guard-wing-whatever-he-is was asked to play the four, as well as in the backcourt. Garrett defended in the post and on the perimeter. He both threw and received inbounds and outlet passes. He didn't let a veteran opponent take advantage of him.
Same mold. Different material.
“He’s a really tough guy and that’s going to help us a lot,” said guard Svi Mykhailiuk.
Defensively, Garrett was tested. Several Pittsburg State players tried to go at him, to varying success.
Late in the first half, Demetrius Levarity received a pass on the right wing. He tried a hesitation dribble to get by Garrett. Then he spun back to his left to attempt a hook over his right shoulder. Garrett forced a tie-up and then ripped the ball away.
One possession later, Garrett was hounding Jabari Antwine. Antwine was trying to get the ball into the post, where the 6-foot-7 Levarity was being guarded by 6-foot-2 Devonté Graham.
Garrett’s activity forced the Gorillas to look elsewhere. They ended up getting called for a shot-clock violation.
“He gets his hands on a lot of balls. That’s what he does,” Self said. “He’s not going to be a guy that’s going to average double figures as a freshman. But he can be a guy that can steal us a lot of extra possessions.”
And yet, there are still the moments that will drive his coach crazy.
With just over two minutes to play in the first half, Garrett trailed Graham up the court.
Graham passed Garrett the ball and he shot a contested 3. The ball didn’t move from side to side, a staple of not only Self’s offense, but also that of Garrett’s former coach. The possession lasted seven seconds.
Earlier in the first half, Garrett poked a ball away. Rather than passing it to an open Mykhailiuk, who was running up the floor, he began to dribble.
Garrett turned it over and Billy Preston had to step in and take a foul to stop a layup. Self screamed in frustration from the bench.
In those moments, the freshman looked like a freshman, as compared to the “freshman, but he’s not really a freshman” Self had a year ago.
“Maybe the biggest dog in college basketball as a freshman last year,” Self said of Jackson. “I mean, he was an assassin.”
The good news for Garrett is that he doesn’t need to be just yet.
It’s unlikely Garrett will play a meaningful minute this season without two of Graham, Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick on the floor, meaning his developing 3-point shot won’t need to come around overnight.
For now, Garrett can play his way. That means straight-line drives to the basket to draw fouls — he shot a game-high eight free throws — and a little bit of everything else, like the five rebounds (two offensive), three assists, one steal and one block he tallied against Pittsburg State.
By the time he’s an upperclassman, though, would it shock anyone if these words that Self spoke of Jackson last year were being spoken about him?
“God, did he play good. I mean he played good. He showed America tonight that’s about as versatile of a player as there is in the college game.”