CHICAGO — The closest Trevon Duval came to sharing a locker room with the Jayhawks, at least by proximity, came on Tuesday night.
Deep inside the corridors winding throughout the basement level of United Center, the Duke and KU locker rooms were separated by a matter of feet. After surviving his first test, a win over No. 2 Michigan State in which Grayson Allen tallied 37 points, the point guard and former KU target sat in — not in front of, but in — his locker, flashing a smile that revealed a busted lip as he spoke.
"We can always get better," Duval said. "We all feel like we didn't play our best today, as a whole, but this game is over so now it's on to the next one."
That next-play type of mentality was a constant for the freshman.
Asked about all the great teams in the Champions Classic and prompted by the topic of Kansas being among his final schools, Duval simply volunteered that, "Yeah, Kansas was in there."
Asked about the details of his recruitment and how close he was to picking the Jayhawks, Duval volunteered little more.
"Uh, Kansas. I liked Kansas a little bit," Duval said. "But I'm here now, so I really liked Duke. That's all that really matters."
In that regard, he wasn't the only player who preferred to keep the focus on the game.
While Duval was magnificent against the Spartans, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists, 6 steals and 3 rebounds, Malik Newman's night was more of a mixed bag.
On one hand, the guard hit arguably KU's biggest shot and two important late free throws in the 65-61 win. Plus, he led the Jayhawks with nine rebounds on a night in which they crushed a bigger Kentucky squad on the offensive glass.
On the other, the red-shirt sophomore tallied more shot attempts (14) than points (12) and was swatted on several occasions at the rim. In fact, after Newman was rejected on two closely-occurring sequences, KU fans on Twitter seemed to be having flashbacks to the last meeting between the two teams in the event, when then-sophomore Frank Mason III made just one of 10 field goal attempts in a 32-point KU loss.
But this blog isn't about that. If you want to read about the game, there's plenty for you right here.
This is about what happened next.
In the post-game press conference, Newman answered questions about a variety of topics. He was even a good sport when he was asked how KU could build off the win, joking the next step was to get back in the gym and start shooting.
The one question he didn't answer, though, was completely unrelated.
On what was supposed to be the final question of the press conference, Newman was asked by a reporter why Mississippi State wasn't the right fit and why Kansas was.
As the words "Mississippi State" left the reporter's mouth, Newman's demeanor changed. He reached over at a stat sheet to his right and moved over a couple feet, staring down at it before picking his head up to deliver his answer.
"I have no comment on that," Newman said.
At this point, where the games actually matter and the mistakes and big shots all count for real, who could blame him?
When Devonte’ Graham lobbed the ball toward Udoka Azubuike, what the crowd at Allen Fieldhouse saw made them cheer. Bill Self had a different reaction.
The play he was stewing over came two trips earlier down the floor.
The sequence that started the fast break for Kansas actually originated from a KU mistake. Svi Mykhailiuk had the ball on the left wing. It was poked away and into the hands of a defender.
As Fort Hays State dribbled the other way, Mykhailiuk took a haphazard swipe at the ball, leaving KeShawn Wilson with a one-on-one shot to the hoop.
Malik Newman, who had already picked up a foul, defended the layup well and the shot missed. The ensuing break resulted in the lob, but Mykhailiuk still found himself on the bench.
"It's not that complicated to me. If you're going to make a mistake, at least make it going full speed," Self said. "When you try not to screw up, that's when you screw up the most. We just need those guys more aggressive, playing with more reckless abandon."
That was the way the first half went more often than not for Mykhailiuk. The film didn’t do him any favors.
Early in the first half, Fort Hays State had the ball out of bounds with just seven seconds on the shot clock. The inbounds was eventually redirected to Trey O'Neil, who Mykhailiuk pressured all the way out to half court.
O'Neil turned and dribbled back to his right, easily getting by Mykhailiuk and scoring on a layup. It was far from his only defensive lapse.
Mykhailiuk was a half-step slow reacting to an off-ball cut but still recovered well enough to make a play. Billy Preston, however, didn’t make enough of a path for Svi to step through on the handoff, and Mykhailiuk didn't fight through the traffic hard enough to prevent the layup.
In a later stint on the court, Mykhailiuk found himself matched up with the Tigers' Marcus Cooper. He tried to cheat on a screen and was burned by a simple left-to-right crossover, again for a layup.
"Defensively we were bad," Self said after the game. "We've certainly got to do a better job of guarding the ball."
Offensively, it wasn’t much better.
Mykhailiuk shot just 1 for 5 in the first half, missing all three of his 3-point attempts. Even so, it was an attempted layup that stuck in Self's craw.
Nearing the midway point in the half, Mykhailiuk executed on a backcut and MItch Lightfoot delivered a perfect pass to put him in at the hoop.
Mykhailiuk went up for the layup and, perhaps sensing potential contact, contorted his body to try and lay it in left-handed. The shot bounced off the rim.
“Guy comes to contest, he flinched,” Self said. "He's a senior. That's the kind of stuff I'm talking about."
To be fair, Mykhailiuk wasn’t the only one to draw the ire of Self.
Newman, who picked up a cheap foul early in the game, did himself no favors later in the half, as he drove into heavy traffic and nearly turned it over.
The Jayhawks got the ball back and worked it around to Mykhailiuk, who launched a contested 3. At the next stoppage, both returned to the bench.
"You don't play with activity and people minus Devonte' go 3 of 21 from 3," Self said. "That is a formula to get your butt handed to you."
Perhaps it all would’ve been forgivable, though, if the swingman found other ways to contribute.
Mykhailiuk ended the game with eight rebounds and five assists, with a majority of those numbers coming in the second frame.
As for the first half, he had the chance to thread an easy entry pass to Udoka Azubuike, but his pass sailed by the big man and out of bounds.
"When you're not making shots and you don't give us any activity, there's absolutely no reason to play," Self said.
So to start the second half for the second straight game, Self went with Marcus Garrett and Preston over Mykhailiuk and Newman.
He doubled down on the move after the game, noting that Garrett made plays neither of the other two older players could make. Self did, however, make an even stronger statement.
Just over five minutes into the second half, Self turned to his bench to put in a wing. He opted for walk on Clay Young, continuing to leave Mykhailiuk and Newman on the bench for some time.
If it wasn't obvious as to why, Self made it perfectly clear after the game.
"No, I really did think, 'Now Clay, we need you to play a certain way,' " Self joked, before shedding the sarcasm for a more serious tone. "I just didn't really think that Svi or Malik deserved to be out there, to be honest with you.
"I think they got the message."
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.”
Imagine you’re the coach of the KU football team.
First off, congratulations on the gig! Now it's time to earn your paycheck.
You’re playing against rival K-State and, despite being a 24-point underdog, you're down only 11 points five minutes into the third quarter.
Your quarterback is Carter Stanley, who threw for 181 yards in the first half. That's an extremely welcome sign considering your team was shut out in the nine quarters preceding the game and only combined for 127 yards in the two games before it.
Your special teams unit has struggled, but a defense that was once a huge minus for the team has actually played quite well.
Your team has the ball at the K-State 41-yard line. It’s 4th-and-3. Make the call: Should you go for it or punt?
If you’re like me — or the KUsports.com staff — you go for it.
In that exact situation in its 30-20 loss to K-State on Saturday, KU decided to do the opposite.
Cole Moos came on to punt. He kicked a line drive right to D.J. Reed, a dynamic K-State return man who already had a 99-yard kick return for a touchdown on the day.
Reed returned the ball to the K-State 46-yard line, meaning KU actually lost five yards of field position on the decision. K-State marched down the field and kicked a field goal. It would end up being a difference-maker at the end of the game — but first let’s talk about the decision.
Beaty was asked, twice, about that sequence in his postgame news conference. Both times, he maintained KU was playing the numbers.
Here's the transcript:
Reporter: “Coach, you guys had been, especially early in the year, a lot more aggressive going for it on fourth down. I was just curious what went into that decision in the third quarter, 4th-and-3 from the 41?”
Beaty: “I think I said it a little bit earlier. There’s a lot of study that has been done throughout sport, particularly in football, obviously, on fourth down and the value of touchdowns. And there’s a lot of analytics that go into it and we stay pretty close to the analytics. We stay pretty close to it. There are certain things where you have to go with your feel and situationals, but that one there was an analytic call. It was the right call based on the analytics that we had.”
Reporter: “The analytics were to punt, 4th-and-3 on the 41?”
Beaty: “Like I said, what our analytics told us at that point was that was the right thing to do. And with our defense playing the way that we were playing we felt like we had a good chance to get the ball back.”
Assuming Beaty wasn't thinking about another sequence — or tripped up by the wording of the question — that's a surprising answer.
In 2014, the New York Times came out with a fourth down bot.
It analyzes fourth down decisions, weighing the expected number of points for the team in the case of a conversion and for the other team in the event that it fails, based off of 10 years of data. It then spits out the decision of whether or not to go for it on Twitter — but for our purposes, there’s also a chart that explains the decision-making.
Now, that data isn’t 100 percent applicable to college football, as it’s based on NFL teams, but it’s a good place to start. In fact, KU’s fourth-down decision making has lined up with it at several points this year.
After charting 80 of KU’s fourth down opportunities going into the K-State game, including plays that were wiped out or changed due to penalty, the bot would’ve advised KU to go for it 19 times. In actuality, KU went for it or attempted to do so on 12 of them, with the biggest difference being 4th-and-1s.
The bot recommends always going for it on 4th-and-1. KU punted on four such opportunities, each time holding the ball on either their own 34 or 35 yard-line, which makes sense. There's nothing to complain about there.
Still, it bodes well for KU that these numbers match up, and it shouldn’t be all that surprising given that offensive coordinator Doug Meacham said earlier in the year it was “kind of a buzzkill” to have to settle for field goals and punts.
“(KU's fourth down chart) is probably a little bit more aggressive than your norm — than what the norm is, I guess,” Meacham said back in September. “It’s just like if I coached baseball I’d probably steal a lot more than a lot of these guys do. I mean, make them make a play. You go for it on fourth down. Make them make a play. You punt or try a 48-yard field goal, that’s just kind of a buzzkill to me. Let’s just go.”
But even if KU’s analytics, for whatever reason, disagreed with the NYT bot on Saturday, given KU’s track record this year, things don't quite add up.
Prior to the K-State game, KU had five 4th-and-1s between the opponent’s 39 and 45 and went for it all five times. That shouldn’t come as any surprise, regardless of the situation.
Then there was the Ohio game, which featured perhaps the two most comparable instances.
Down 11-0 in the first quarter, KU faced 4th-and-4 from the Ohio 42. KU went for it, but Peyton Bender’s pass fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover on downs.
In the second quarter, down 25-7, KU faced 4th-and-3 from the Ohio 38. Again the Jayhawks went for it and were successful, eventually scoring on the drive off a nine-yard touchdown pass from Bender to Chase Harrell.
Entering the week, KU had converted on 11 of 18 fourth downs, ranking in the top-half of the nation. They had broke the huddle planning to go for it 19 times, with two situations being altered by penalty and an additional official attempt being added on a muffed punt.
“Everything we do is calculated. The coaches have a formula for that and it’s been great for us this year," said Stanley. "We’re definitely one of the best teams in the country on fourth down. And obviously as a quarterback, sure, I want to stay on the field.”
It's worth noting that Beaty said the team can override decisions based on feel, but in both cases against Ohio — and the one on Saturday — the NYT bot says to go.
Add to that the third-down call, and it sure seemed like KU was gearing up to go for it.
Facing 3rd-and-3 — again, from the 41 — Stanley lofted a pass down the left sideline deep for Steven Sims. Sims was able to find some separation after giving Reed a little nudge but couldn’t come down with the ball.
That type of call, an aggressive, deep-play in a short-yardage situation, would seem to align with what Meacham said earlier in the year.
“There’s a lot of math involved, a lot of data involved in when and when not to. It’s kind of like when you go to Vegas, you know the blackjack card, when to take a hit. We kind of have that for fourth downs,” he said. “They let me know. And it helps me because on third down I can maybe do something that is a little abstract, because I know I’ve got another one.”
That would certainly qualify as “a little abstract,” only there wasn’t “another one,” to follow.
It cost KU any chance of coming back at the end.
Leading by a touchdown, the Wildcats started their final offensive drive of the game at the KU 45. They were only able to gain 21 yards, but in doing so, they kicked a 41-yard field goal to go up 10 with 1:21 to play.
“That put it out of reach,” Beaty said. "We were just two scores out, and that made it difficult.”
It didn’t have to be that way.
Had KU gotten the first down and simply kicked a field goal, even if everything had worked out the same way, they would've at least had a shot to tie.
And who knows what might have happened?
If the ensuing kickoff after a score had pinned K-State back at the 25 instead of, say, the 46, could KU have kept the Wildcats from scoring?
If KU had gotten a touchdown on the drive, would that have put pressure on K-State that forced a critical mistake?
Might KU have thrown a pick-six on the next play, falling behind three scores and making this whole conversation pointless?
One thing is for sure: We'll never know.
Lest we forget that athletes are human, too, the announcement of a 7 p.m. CT, primetime matchup featuring KU football and TCU on FOX this Saturday brought a little joy to the KU locker room.
The Jayhawks are coming off back-to-back-to-back-to-back 11 a.m. (CT, of course) kickoffs, starting at Ohio in a game that was technically played in the eastern time zone.
The Jayhawks' schedule on those days involved a 7 a.m. wakeup — which can be as early as 5:30 or 6 a.m. for players who require treatment — followed by a 7:30 a.m. offensive meeting and walkthrough. Then the players eat a meal and head to the stadium, all before 9 a.m. on a Saturday.
"Everyone's different. Some people like to sleep in, some people are early-morning risers," said quarterback Peyton Bender.
Anyone stand out in that second group?
"Not that I know of," Bender said with a laugh. "They kind of force us to be morning people, though."
It shouldn't come as any semblance of a shock that players relish the chance to sleep in.
It's also no excuse for the Jayhawks' performances over the last four weeks of the season, since their opponents have to wake up at the same time.
Still, the change is welcome.
"One thing that we've learned through our years is that you can't get them to take the rest on the front end. Kids just don't do it. Neither do we," said KU coach David Beaty. "They'll sleep in the morning, but they won't sleep at night. They're going to bed when they go to bed. That's just the way it is."
Some players handle the schedule better than others.
Redshirt junior Joe Dineen identified junior wideout Jeremiah Booker as someone who consistently brings energy no matter what time it is.
Dineen admittedly isn't much of a morning person himself, though he still manages to make it to the field on time.
"The thing with me is I get really nervous and I get anxiety so it's hard for me to sleep the night before a game anyways, let alone if I have to wake up early," Dineen said. "I'm not tired before the game, though. I'll tell you that. I get up and ready to go before the game. But maybe when I first get up I'm a little sleepy."
On the road, Dineen rooms with former Free State High teammate Keith Loneker Jr. — "Loud. Loud. Snores. Loud. Phone is loud," Dineen jokes of Loneker's morning habits — but that isn't where the biggest problems happen.
The night before a game, especially on the road, the coaches can just about guarantee players have their lights turned out by 10 or 10:30 p.m., depending on the schedule.
The rest of the week, however...
"It's critical," said defensive coordinator Clint Bowen. "That's where sometimes having older, mature kids is a little bit better. You know these guys in their first, second, even third year of college, it's still kind of fun for 'em."
The coaches address that very thing with the players. In addition to conversations about sleep and decision-making throughout the week, players can also read articles posted on the wall of the weight room with studies relating sleep to peak performance, reaction time and memory, according to Dineen.
That being said, the coaches aren't blind to the idea that college kids are going to be, well, college kids.
"You know what I mean," Bowen said with a smile. "You remember those first few years."