Down the stretch of Kansas’ claw-it-out home win over Baylor, it seemed like the then-No. 10 Jayhawks couldn’t get a stop.
Well, they couldn’t.
For a four minute stretch, starting at the seven-minute mark in the second half, the Bears scored on nine — yes, nine — straight possessions, but it wasn’t all bad defense, at least in a traditional sense.
On two of those possessions, the Bears were helped out by offensive rebounds, one of which led to a KU foul and another to a Baylor 3-pointer. So when it came time for the Jayhawks to come up with a stop, they needed not only to force the Bears into a miss, but to close out the possession with the ball.
Clinging to a one-point lead with less than 10 seconds left, Devonte’ Graham was matched up on Manu Lecomte, who was all-but certain to take the final shot.
In the corner, Lagerald Vick guarded Jake Lindsey, who had attempted only one shot on the day and wasn’t much of a threat. Lecomte drove into the lane, and Udoka Azubuike moved over to help contest the shot.
Vick did his job, executing on the fairly standard defensive rotation to get into position to defend and box out Baylor 7-footer Jo Lual-Acuil. Vick’s positioning wasn’t perfect, but he was able to nudge the big man forward under the hoop enough to prevent the easy putback.
Graham grabbed the board and was fouled. KU held on to get the win.
So let’s talk about Silvio De Sousa —
KU coach Bill Self has talked plenty about the potential of playing with two big men in the lineup now that Silvio De Sousa is eligible, at least for a few minutes each game.
The first look at what that might entail came against the Bears, though the stretch lasted all of one-minute and 40 seconds.
While it remains to be seen how effective the lineup will be, it was actually pretty solid on a first go-around. Offensively, KU went to a high-low look and got De Sousa involved with an early touch. Baylor was in its zone, though, so there wasn’t much room for him to operate.
(Keep in mind this was Baylor’s hybrid 1-3-1 zone, meaning Self wasn’t putting De Sousa in the middle of it like he would with Vick in a standard 2-3 zone.)
The result wasn't pretty.
Yet there were some positives.
Early in the game, the Bears aggressively doubled Azubuike in the post. He made a couple nice plays, finding cutters for baskets, but it allowed the Bears to dictate where the ball was going and foul quickly without fear of Azubuike being able to go up and score.
With De Sousa in the game, all the newcomer had to do was walk toward the hoop to keep his defender from leaving. Azubuike had a chance to go one-on-one in the post, though the result was simply a foul and free throws instead of a basket.
Finally, on defense, there wasn’t much to look at. The Bears only had two offensive possessions with De Sousa and Azubuike in the game, but they struggled to get the ball inside at all on the first and had to settle for a Lindsey 3-point jumper.
Now, watch the second possession.
There was a little hiccup on the baseline, when Svi Mykhailiuk incorrectly expected Udoka Azubuike to follow a shooter out to the corner, and another when Malik Newman didn't rotate late in the play after De Sousa recovered (note that De Sousa actually points to where Newman needs to go), but ultimately KU did a solid job until the end.
The final part of the play — De Sousa fouls his man trying to grab the rebound — came because the freshman ran in to get the rebound instead of just putting his body into his man, at which point Graham or Newman would’ve come up with an easy board.
But that's a forgivable mistake. And fixable, too.
No calls in Allen Fieldhouse? —
Opposing fans on Twitter — and coaches, occasionally — seem to have no problem calling out the Big 12 referees.
In non-conference play, there wasn’t much reason to do so with regard to KU. However, recently, the Jayhawks have been getting to the line more — check out the statistic below from Chris Stone — which means the Twitter conspiracists are back.
OK. So the play above is probably a foul, especially the way it looks in real-time. But if you slow it down, the no-call is a little more understandable.
Azubuike, who comes off his man to contest the shot, takes a step forward and leaps up to try and block the ball. There’s a lot of contact, but it’s actually fairly close to being legal, had Azubuike maintained absolute verticality.
In any event, though, teams should never rely on an official to bail them out. Fran Fraschilla, who called the game for ESPN, previously made the point that all coaches hope for is a fair whistle down the stretch. While there's certainly no disagreement here, a point made by Self after the K-State game is just as valid.
"I would guess over the course of the game (and season)," Self said, "it would pretty much balance out."
If you think stopping Trae Young from scoring is the best way for No. 10 Kansas to defeat No. 4 Oklahoma this Tuesday, let me present a counterargument in the form of a number: 33.125.
That’s the number of points per game Young is averaging in losses and games decided by single digits. His shooting percentage hasn’t been great in all of them, but then again, it hasn’t been great in some of Oklahoma’s most lopsided and impressive wins this season.
Against then-No. 8 Texas Tech, Young shot 7 for 23. The Sooners won by 10.
A big win at TCU? Young shot 9 for 23. The Sooners scratched out a narrow road win over a top-10 team.
No, the secret to containing Young thus far — if there is such a thing — involves something his teammates warned about all the way back at Big 12 Media Day. Young, a 40-plus points per game scorer in high school, was known for his shot. Yet when asked about Young, teammate Kameron McGusty brought up a different part of his game first.
“It’s always good to have a player like Trae, someone who can really pass the ball, score the ball,” McGusty said. “He’s very underrated as a point guard.”
Run that back?
It’s not like the two were unfamiliar — at all.
Forget about the two-week trip the Sooners made to Australia and New Zealand this summer, Young, a Norman, Okla. native, had plenty of chances to play with the OU players. According to coach Lon Kruger at Big 12 Media Day, Young was a participant in several informal pickup games in the time prior to his commitment, something that may already be showing on the court.
“In high school, you saw him score a lot of points, but beyond that, he sees the floor well,” Kruger said at the time. “He can get into places that attract help. He can make plays for his teammates and is very willing to do that.”
So how is Trae Young, the facilitator, affecting games? Let’s look at the numbers.
The easiest way to look at things would be to compare close games and losses to blowouts. In games OU wins by 10 or more points, Young is averaging 11.0 assists to 4.1 turnovers.
In all other games, he’s putting in fewer assists (8.0 and giving away the ball more (6.75 turnovers).
That difference is even more stark when you put it in terms of simple win-loss.
- Assists per game (wins): 10.71
- Assists per game (losses): 6.00
- Turnovers per game (wins): 4.57
- Turnovers per game (losses): 7.75
Young, the NCAA leader in both turnovers and assists, is picking up around 60 percent of his average assist total in losses while his turnovers go up by more than three. There’s a pattern there.
“And that’s the key,” Kruger said, asked about Young as a facilitator. “He’s a good basketball player. He’s got good instincts.”
So when Kansas coach Bill Self says in his post-Baylor press conference he isn’t sure if you can stop or contain Trae Young, the answer might not be about that at all, or at least what that may suggest.
West Virginia was physical with Young. They made things difficult on him, and he still got his points.
You know who didn’t? Brady Manek. Three days after scoring a season-high 28 points and drilling six 3s, Manek was only able to attempt one 3-pointer and was held scoreless.
That’s a hallmark of OU’s struggles.
In OU’s biggest wins this year, Young has scored a lot, but so have his teammates.
Against TCU in Norman, Manek scored 22 points on 13 shots and hit six 3-pointers. And in Fort Worth, McGusty went off for 22 points, tying the high total in the game for anyone not named Trae Young.
The win over Texas Tech? Christian James scored 15 points on 5-for-10 shooting while Khadeem Lattin added 11 and shot 4 for 5 from the field. The win over Wichita State? Manek scored 21 while McGusty and James combined for 26. USC? James and Manek combined for 34 points on 25 shots.
"He's not a one-man team," Self said. "They've got other guys that are good. We've got to figure out a game plan on how we try to slow 'em all down."
Now let’s go to the losses.
Against West Virginia, no OU player after Young (five assists to eight turnovers) had more than 12 points. Against Oklahoma State, no one else scored more than eight. Against K-State, Rashard Odomes scored 16, but the Sooners got a collective 11 points from their bench. Oh, and Young committed a Big 12 record 12 turnovers.
So if you’re looking for a number or stat that can help Kansas past Oklahoma, don’t just jump to the point totals.
“People just think of him as someone who’s just going to come and take all the shots, but he gets his teammates involved,” McGusty said. “He’s a good leader. He’s going to help us a lot this year in terms of winning games and leading the team.”
It isn’t often a player can score 27 points — a career-high at that — yet the most impressive part of his performance comes elsewhere.
Malik Newman’s outburst against Iowa State, an 83-78 Kansas win, was a welcome sign for KU fans. It was the same way for the redshirt sophomore, who knocked down 10 of his 21 field goal attempts in the win.
“It was a good one,” Newman said of his game. “Yeah, I can say (it was a breakout performance). Maybe.”
Some of Newman's struggles had been overstated. For instance, he had shot a respectable 17-for-35 in the four games leading up to the previous contest, against TCU, far from the numbers you'd expect going off some of the reactions on social media.
Other criticisms, however, were completely valid.
Newman shot 50 percent from 3 in his first six games, but saw his numbers tail off shortly after. In fact, after sustaining a head injury against Arizona State, Newman shot 4-for-19 from 3 over his next six contests. He was held without a made basket twice in that span.
The one thing he did consistently, though? Rebound.
Aside from the TCU game, arguably the worst of Newman’s collegiate career, the 6-foot-3 guard had snagged at least three rebounds in all but one of the Jayhawks' previous outings.
He grabbed four or more rebounds 11 times in KU's first 14 games and five or more rebounds seven times.
For reference, Udoka Azubuike, who is nine inches taller than Newman and outweighs him by nearly 100 pounds, has had the same number of games this year with two or fewer rebounds (two). In 16 games this season, Newman has actually grabbed more defensive rebounds than Azubuike four times, the same number of defensive rebounds twice and one or two fewer than Azubuike an additional five times.
“The reality of it is, Dok and Mitch (Lightfoot have) got to rebound better,” KU coach Bill Self said in a press conference leading up to the TCU game. “Dok gets four rebounds when there are 38 missed shots. That’s not good enough. He’s got to rebound the ball better.”
Said another way, KU has played 16 games this season. In five of them, Newman has posted an even or better defensive rebound rate than Azubuike — meaning he’s grabbed at least the same percentage of available defensive rebounds when he’s been on the court in about one-third of KU's games.
“The thing about it is, with Dok, there are so many more ways to impact the game (than scoring),” Self said after the win over Iowa State. “He’s got to rebound the ball. There were some possessions there in the first half where he never jumped. That doesn’t bode very well when you’re small and your team doesn’t rebound the ball very well.”
Still, if those numbers seem a little fishy to you, the last game provided plenty of visuals as to why they shape out that way.
No rebound illustrated KU’s woes in that area more than Azubuike’s board with 5:12 to play in the first half.
As a shot went up from the right wing, Newman put his body into Iowa State’s Hans Brase, who had a six-inch, 40-pound advantage.
Azubuike, with a decisive size advantage on his man — the 6-9, 225-pound Carmeron Lard — simply held his ground, reached up and grabbed the easy board.
Such a sequence was the polar opposite of the strategy employed by the Oklahoma City Thunder last season, when the team's big men would go out of their way to shield off defenders so that Russell Westbrook, the eventual NBA MVP, could snag easy boards and bring the ball up the court in transition.
But what happened on the KU play wasn’t some kind of a strategy. It was more representative of Azubuike's struggles.
Earlier in the season, Self called Azubuike out for his rebounding, adding that KU doesn’t have enough players rebounding the ball above the rim, which should be a strength of the 7-footer.
If there’s one player who can — and does — rebound above the rim, though, it’s definitely Newman.
One of Newman’s more emphatic rebounds on Tuesday came with just under seven minutes to play in the first half.
After an Iowa State 3-point attempt, Azubuike was too far out of position to get a body on Solomon Young. Devonte’ Graham came off his man to knock Young back just a touch, but it would’ve been an easy Iowa State offensive rebound if not for Newman swooping in and collecting the ball over two big men.
“I just wanted to try to get in there and rebound,” said Newman. “I notice that we’ve been struggling this season with rebounding, so I wanted to get in there and help the big fella’.”
Newman continued to fight for boards into the second half, even as he started to light up the scoresheet.
With just over 16 minutes to play, Lindell Wigginton took a shot from the right side of the key. Azubuike got back toward the hoop, but again just stood around rather than trying to put a body on his man, who ran back into the paint.
Newman, the only KU player to box out on the play, was shoved in the back, but still came up with the rebound.
“He played great,” Graham said. “He was just active. That’s what coach has been asking of him.”
The final highlight rebound of Newman’s day was far more in the Oklahoma City-style.
Five minutes after Newman’s leaping snag, he stood at the top of the key while Lard took a jumper late in the shot clock. Newman ran back toward the hoop and grabbed an athletic, albeit easy, rebound, since Marcus Garrett did his job boxing out Brase.
This time, things came together perfectly.
Newman sprinted down the court to the right wing. He took a step-back 3, perhaps an ill-advised shot given his shooting woes entering the game, but he shot it with plenty of confidence and it fell through the net.
All in all, Newman snagged eight defensive boards, five of which came in the second half. Of those five, the Jayhawks scored on four of the following offensive possessions.
Newman's eight rebounds tied for the team lead against Iowa State and came up one short of a career-best total he notched in a win over Kentucky earlier this season. Yet he was hesitant to declare himself fully back based off just one performance.
“At the end of the day, you just have to keep grinding,” Newman said, “get yourself out of that hole.”
FORT WORTH, Texas — Before leaving Schollmaier Arena, Fort Worth-native Clayton Orlie, 14, needed to pass along his message.
Waiting in lower bowl of the cozy venue, Orlie and his friend and fellow area-native Connor Hadley were able to get the attention of Devonte’ Graham and pose for a picture with the KU guard despite the TCU attire Hadley sported.
As Graham walked away, heading back into the tunnel after the Jayhawks’ 88-84 road win over the Horned Frogs, Orlie shouted out to him.
“Say hi to Frank Mason for me,” yelled Orlie, before dropping his voice to a whisper. “I love Frank Mason.”
The message didn't come from nowhere.
Last season, Orlie was able to make the trip out to Allen Fieldhouse for his birthday. He said his father, who attended college near KU, told him he just had to take in the experience.
Orlie, who says his favorite teams are KU and TCU, was paying attention, not only the season before, but to the current one as well.
“Lately, he’s been playing a lot more like Frank Mason,” Orlie said of Graham. “Frank did that his senior year.”
What Orlie and his friend saw in Graham is exactly what the senior has been trying to work on.
While Graham has shown the ability to play with the ball in his hands in the past, too often he’s only been a threat to score from the perimeter.
Graham, a 44-percent 3-point shooter two of the last three seasons, has had 11 career outings where all his field goal attempts have been 3-pointers. He’s played 20 career games where all his made field goals have been 3s, 10 of which came in his junior season.
While there’s nothing wrong with that model for a complementary piece, as a point guard logging heavy minutes, Graham has looked for a change.
“I’m trying to (drive more),” Graham said. “That’s really what I’ve been focusing on, just trying to get in the paint, get to the foul line, get easy baskets and make plays for others.”
The foul-line part of that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
In the seven games from Graham's sophomore season to now where all his field goal attempts were 3s, he shot a combined 13 free throws. In two of them, both coming last season, he got to the line 0 times.
Conversely, Mason had 0 games from his sophomore to junior seasons where he failed to log a 2-point attempt. As a senior, Mason averaged 6.6 free throw attempts per game, compared to 3.4 attempts by Graham going into the game against Texas Tech.
That was where the change began.
Against the Red Raiders, Graham went 13 for 13 from the line. He was more aggressive driving the ball in the second half, and his coach wanted to see more, even if the way he described Graham's play wasn't the most appealing.
In the post-game press conference, Bill Self referred to the concept of "bad offense," speaking not to the quality of the results of each possession, but to the idea that those sequences involved only one player putting his head down and getting to the rim.
In that aspect, the "bad offense" was anything but that.
“He did great. He did great driving the ball,” Self said. “The thing that Devonte' did really good, and I think you cited the second half, are things he needs to do the entire game."
Against TCU, Graham shot 15 free throws and made 13. He attempted five in the first half, more than he’d taken in nine of the Jayhawks 14 previous contests.
(Now, three of those foul shots were the result of Graham being fouled on a jumper, but there were other instances, both in transition and in the half court, where Graham made an effort to get into the lane.)
Ultimately, a pair of TCU intentional fouls helped inflate Graham’s game totals, but it wasn’t by chance he was the one holding the ball late.
“I feel like, if anything, the ball should be in my hands to make plays down the stretch,” Graham said. “And I was getting fouled and definitely wanted to be the one at the free throw line to try to ice the game.”
Other fouls, though, Graham earned — bruises and all.
With just over two minutes left, Graham poked the ball away from a TCU guard and sprinted the length of the court. He was crashed into as he attempted a layup and fell to the ground.
The thud of Graham hitting the court was audible all the way across the arena.
“I just landed on my butt wrong,” Graham deadpanned.
After a beat, Graham got up and knocked down two free throws.
The toughness impressed his coach — “To me, Devonte’ just willed us to win,” Self said after the game, “he showed some (guts) tonight. Good God, he was good.” — and it even won over a new fan.
“I don’t watch a lot of Kansas, but I know about Kansas,” Hadley said. “Tell if I’m wrong on this, (but) since Frank Mason left, it looks like he’s stepped up as a leader — not only on the court, but as a person, making sure he got those dimes to all those people, crashing in with all those close free throws at the end to help secure the dub.”
KU’s biggest issue with Stanford wasn’t going to be "the" matchup so much as it was "a" matchup.
Most KU fans were at least familiar with big man Reid Travis before Thursday’s game, a 75-54 KU win. It wasn’t long ago — just over a calendar year, in fact — the big man posted a career-best 29 points for the Cardinal in a 15-point KU win in Allen Fieldhouse.
It wasn’t just that he scored 29 points, it was how he scored those 29.
“We didn’t do anything with him,” said KU coach Bill Self immediately following the 2016 matchup. “That was a total beat-down by him on our big guys.
"Whenever one guy can set the all-time record for most free throws ever shot against Kansas and the most free throws ever made against Kansas, in the history of the school, home or away, (it) means that we probably didn’t guard. He drew basically 17 fouls on four guys."
Reid tallied 22 free throw attempts in the loss, knocking down 19.
Those numbers were in Self’s mind following the Jayhawks’ last game before the Stanford matchup this season, as both Self and senior Svi Mykhailiuk referenced them following a blowout win over Omaha.
That set the stage for Thursday. This time, things were different.
Rather than defend Travis straight-up and risk foul trouble to Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, Self attacked the big man with smaller players.
Svi Mykhailiuk drew the matchup first, defending Travis from the start of the game on.
The senior guard — listed at 6-foot-8 on the roster, though he gave a smaller number when asked about it at KU media day — was giving up some size in the matchup, with Travis outweighing him by about 40 pounds. However, Mykhailiuk more than held his own.
On the first defensive possession, Mykhailiuk denied the ball all the way out to the perimeter. He boxed out on the eventual shot attempt and KU came up with the ball.
The next possession, Mykhailiuk worked back in transition and was forced to help on a different man. After a missed Stanford layup and offensive rebound, though, the offense reset.
Mykhailiuk, who was still out of position, was late recovering to an open Travis at the 3-point line. Travis, who had made three 3-pointers in his last two games, missed what was a fairly open shot. It was arguably his best look of the half.
The only other candidate came when he had a big on him.
After a variety of action at the top of the key, Lightfoot found himself guarding Travis.
Lightfoot, KU’s most aggressive defender at the rim — arguably to a fault — had the same problem the KU bigs had last year.
Travis barely even up-faked, but Lightfoot left his feet and had to contort his body to avoid a foul. With Lightfoot out of the picture, Travis laid the ball up and in.
Travis scored six points in the first half. All six came with Lightfoot guarding him.
All-in-all, the Jayhawks primarily used multiple smaller defenders to guard the Stanford big man, which changed the way he was able to play.
The smaller KU guards were able to slide and stay in front of Travis, like a few minutes into the game, when Mykhailiuk — not known for his lateral quickness — slid into the lane and kept Travis from getting to the rim on a drive.
On another possession, Sam Cunliffe kept his footing and forced a travel. When tasked with boxing out the big on the ensuing possession, Cunliffe used his vertical leap to tip the ball away.
Other defenders had their moments too.
Just about everyone got their shot guarding the big man in the first half. With KU switching out on the perimeter, even Malik Newman ended up briefly guarding Travis.
At a significant size disadvantage, Newman fronted Travis in the post and relied on Azubuike to help had a pass come over the top.
Azubuike’s man eventually floated out behind the arc and was able to get a 3-point look, but the shot missed. KU survived the mismatch.
Late in the first half, with Newman again switched onto Travis, the big man was able to post up and the pass came in over the top.
With the KU coaches barking “help him” from the sidelines, Marcus Garrett got the message and slid into position, leaping up and knocking the ball away.
The KU guards also did their part in keeping Stanford from getting the angles to work the ball into the post, which Devonte’ Graham said after the game was a key emphasis.
And when Travis did catch the ball with a smaller defender on him, KU trapped almost immediately.
It was all part of the first-half effort that saw KU take control of the game and never look back.
The biggest problem for the Jayhawks in guarding Travis last time around was fairly simple. KU couldn’t keep him off his spot and lacked the ability to recover and wall up in the post.
After that game, Self gave Azubuike a pass, since he was just a freshman, but said he expected more from then-sophomore Carlton Bragg, redshirt-junior Dwight Coleby and redshirt-senior Landen Lucas.
That was clearly a bigger emphasis this time around, even when the ball was outside the perimeter.
Early on, most of Travis’ touches were on the outside. He caught passes at the top of the key and swung the ball to get Stanford into its offense.
Mykhailiuk, in turn, somewhat overplayed when Travis was one pass away from the action. With just over two minutes gone and Stanford with the ball on the perimeter, Mykhailiuk turned and faced Travis, extending all the way out beyond the 3-point line to deny the pass.
The plan wasn’t for Mykhailiuk to face-guard Travis for a full 40 minutes, but it did seem like denying the pass to Travis in the first place was a key focus for the KU wings.
At the very least, they showed more focus and awareness out on the perimeter than had typically been the case this season.
Just watch Marcus Garrett (No. 0) on this possession...
And Sam Cunliffe (No. 3) on this one…
As for post defense — seen a little bit in the clip above — the Jayhawks primarily kept a man in front of Travis in the post, relying on help to come from the back-side.
Part of Self’s criticism in the last Stanford game had come from a lack of attention to the scouting report.
“You’ve got to play your man before he catches it,” Self said. “Our guys just played butt-behind and let him go where he wanted to go."
Mykhailiuk did have some lapses in focus throughout the game, over-helping at points in the first half and allowing Travis to post up late, but the Stanford guards didn’t always find him.
Travis’ first 2-point shot attempt didn’t come until more than six minutes into the game. Once again, it was Mykhailiuk sliding his feet to get in front of Travis and forcing him into a mid-range attempt that fell off the mark.
That possession actually carried with it all of the principles described.
Mykhailiuk got in front of Travis in the post and denied the entry. He followed him out to the perimeter and forced the miss and then even came up with the rebound, although the play was blown dead due to a Stanford technical foul.
Regardless, all of that played a role in the Jayhawks holding Travis to such a quiet outing.
The big man finished with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He got to the line for only three free throws, which marked his lowest since a February 22 matchup with Oregon State the year before.
And best of all, the effort earned a thumbs up from the coach.
“I thought,” Self said, “we did a great job defensively on him."
Normally, the conversation between a fan and announcer is one-sided.
Fans can bark at their TVs, but the announcers will never hear them. Announcers can talk on the broadcast waves, but the fans can’t really respond.
Thanks to Twitter, we now know what at least one announcer would say if he could hear what was being said.
ESPN announcer and personality Dan Dakich was on the call for the recent KU drubbing over Omaha. Almost instantly, fans erupted on social media with tweets and posts voicing their displeasure. The tweets became so plentiful, in fact, that they were addressed on air in a segment called, “Not so mean tweets.”
Here are some of the actual tweets they used in the segment:
- @TheFoyeEffect: Dan Dakich is impressively stupid
- @BallmanMcG: I hope Dan Dakich never announces another basketball game ever again.
- @BradLoganCOTE: Who is Dan Dakich? I’m dead serious.
Dakich responded on air, joking back and forth with the users. Then he took it a step further, retweeting and responding to several users on Tuesday.
That just so happened to be the perfect opportunity for one radio host.
Joshua Brisco, host of (Almost) Entirely Sports on ESPN Kansas City, was spending his Tuesday broadcast discussing the Kansas City Chiefs when one of his friends told him another was “Twitter sparring” with Dakich.
Brisco then took to Twitter and engaged with Dakich, ultimately leaving the phone number to his show as an open invitation.
“I didn’t expect him to call, but I thought there was a chance,” Brisco told the Journal-World. “There was another national broadcaster — who shall remain nameless — who declined an offer to come on the show in a similar circumstance, so I figured that Dan would do the same thing just to avoid a potential ambush. He had no idea who I was or what my agenda was.”
The ensuing segment was filled with plenty fireworks.
You can listen to it in full by clicking here.
Dakich didn’t back down from any of his comments on the broadcast — more on that in a second — but he did say he expected some of the heat he got from KU fans.
“I catch hell every time I do a game,” Dakich said on the show. "And everybody knows, like everybody in the world knows, that, with all due respect, very few fan bases whine more than Kansas.”
Dakich referred to a conversation he had with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski on Tuesday about how fans tend to hear only what they want.
"I must have said 8,000 glowing things about Kansas, because I really like Kansas basketball,” Dakich said. "Like I really like Bill (Self).”
Still, it was another comment about the coach that stuck in the minds of KU fans.
After praising Self and KU’s streak of 13-conseuctive Big 12 championships, Dakich took exception to a no-call on a drive by an Omaha player.
Specifically, Dakich said “there’s nothing more disgusting” than the disparity in officiating between big and small schools, adding that the referees are paid differently depending on the game, and thus they want to keep coaches like Self happy.
Some KU fans were upset by that comment.
"That’s all I’ve heard today is, 'You can’t say they’re in Self’s pocket,' ” Dakich told Brisco. "I can say it, I’ve said it and I’ll keep saying it because they’re in (Tom) Izzo’s too. They were in (Bob) Knight’s too when I was there. It’s just the way the world works.”
The basis of that statement appears to be accurate. In 2012, Syracuse.com’s Mike Waters wrote a story about the wear and tear on officials.
In it, he noted an official can earn “roughly $3,000 for working a Big East or Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)” game, compared to smaller conferences like the MAAC, in which that total might drop to about $1,500.
"I did say, and this is a fact — this is every coach that coaches at a mid major — when you play at a Kansas, you know you’re going to get screwed,” Dakich said. "I was an assistant at Indiana for Bob Knight I used to tell him, like if we’re playing Central Michigan, 'Coach, you’ve got to stand up and change the game.’
“Look, officials make about $2,000 doing a Kansas game and about $750 doing an Omaha game. So who the hell you think they’re going to try to keep happy? It’s human nature.”
Dakich's comments didn’t stop there.
Aside from defending his own words, Dakich picked a fight with quite a few KU fans.
One user tweeted at Dakich to tell him “Malik (Newman) and Svi (Mykhailiuk) probably have more talent in their pinkies than you ever did.”
Then Dakich responded, calling out the user and comparing her hair to “lettuce."
“You guys are so, like, uptight and insecure and nuts, so I wanted crazy lady to know that I was just kind of joking around,” Dakich told Brisco. “I would imagine (that my reasoning) escaped her. That’s why I did that, because she seemed to be a very hateful person.”
Dakich also called out several people who didn’t even tag him on the platform.
He said he got into the habit of searching for his own name because former NFL punter Pat McAfee warned him to do so. Dakich noted that he has now caught someone trying to falsely use his name for publicity on four separate occasions.
“I was one of those 6 a.m. to midnight guys,” Dakich said. “Now I work three hours a day so hell, I’ve got to fill my time. And what the hell? It’s what I do.
“I love getting people to the point where they’ve got to swear at me. And then I kind of laugh and go about my business."
As for some other highlights of the conversation, Dakich called out one Twitter user on air who responded to Brisco’s initial post to announce the interview.
“You better be careful because — let me see here, hold on a second — some (jerk) named Joe Davis says, 'No, No Josh,’ " Dakich said. "He (doesn’t) want to listen when I’m on. So you might have just lost a listener for some dude named Joe Davis. That might come back to crush you.
“Hey Joe Davis, you’re going to miss a hell of a segment if you don’t want to listen to me and Josh, brother. Cause this is — ha, I almost swore right there — this is going to get good Joe Davis.”
Brisco, on the other hand, took it all in stride.
“I so respect him for (calling in). I loved every minute of it,” Brisco said. “He’s opinionated and confrontational and he has his own personality that reaches far beyond a KU-Omaha blowout.
“And that’s why many KU fans didn’t like him on that game. I saw people say that, ‘He made it about himself.’ … I just wish basketball fans had a little bit of a stronger stomach for that kind of personality.”
Really, Brisco was just concerned about getting the name of his impromptu guest right.
“I realized that, moments before he called in, that I wasn’t 100 percent confident I had been pronouncing Dakich correctly,” Brisco said. “So I was thrilled when he said his own name in the third-person a few minutes into our conversation."
The KU defense — and its reputation — took a beating over the last week.
Some fans have gone as far as to long for the days of last season, lest we all forget that team was, at times, so poor on that end it prompted several rants from coach Bill Self.
After a game against TCU last season, Self proclaimed, “We don’t guard,” three times within the same answer. After a game against K-State, in which KU allowed 88 points and nearly gave up a game-winner on a blown switch, Self took it a step further.
“We’ve had stretches where we didn’t guard very well other times during our tenure here over 13 years, but we’ve never had a team this poor on that end,” Self said. “I mean this is without question probably — not probably — it is the poorest defensive team that we’ve ever had.
“It took us a while to get this poor. You just don’t get this bad overnight, defensively,”
So assuming KU’s defense right now is somewhere in between “the poorest defensive team” KU has had and actually fairly OK given it held its first eight opponents to 74 or fewer points and is only playing with seven scholarship players at the moment, it probably isn’t the worst idea to look all over the box score to find out why the last two games went the way they did.
One number jumps out in that regard.
Points off turnovers:
- Dec. 6, 2017: Washington 16, KU 8
- Dec. 10, 2017: Arizona State 25, KU 9
Compared with some of KU’s other wins, those margins are cause for concern.
In the gut-it-out win over Kentucky, 65-61, KU tabbed 17 points off 18 Kentucky turnovers. In the game against Syracuse, where Devonte’ Graham’s 35 points and seven 3-pointers led KU to a 16-point win, KU forced 17 turnovers and tabbed 16 points.
Doing some quick math, you can put KU down for about one point off each turnover per game. That makes sense, considering some turnovers result in easy runouts and others, like charges or passes that fall out-of-bounds, let the defense reset and are harder to score after.
In trying to separate those out, one category that helps is “fastbreak points.” I’d caution against gleaning too much from that statistic by itself, considering the definition of what is and isn’t a fastbreak is entirely arbitrary. But in context, it’s a pretty solid way to break things down.
Against Washington, KU forced 12 turnovers. Off those 12 turnovers, KU scored eight points. Only three of those were on fastbreaks. Let's dive a little deeper.
KU tabbed six steals against Washington, likely the best chances for easy fastbreak buckets. The first was with just a few seconds left in the first half when Marcus Garrett single handedly blew up the Huskies’ play.
That play shouldn’t have produced any KU points so we can remove it.
The second-to-last steal was actually a jump ball and the last came in a 14-point game with less than a minute left, so those probably aren’t ones to dwell on. The remaining three, however, showcase a bit of a problem.
First, with 18:55 to play in the first half, Graham deflected a pass to start a fastbreak. Malik Newman came up with the ball and had Graham open for a split second, but instead held onto it and drove.
Graham, with nowhere to go, backtracked to the 3-point line. Newman put up a shot in traffic and was swatted at the rim.
“I think if (Newman) would just worry about things that have an impact on us winning or not, I think he’d be better off,” Self said after that game. “Missed Devonte’ a couple times wide open in transition.”
The next instance was the opposite case of that, by all accounts.
With 12-and-a-half minutes left in the second half, Mykhailiuk knocked a ball away and Graham dove on the floor to get it. He bounced it back to Mykhailiuk, who pushed it up the floor.
Multiple Washington players stared at the ball on the play and made no attempt to get back on defense. That left Lagerald Vick running wide open to the hoop, but Mykhailiuk’s pass was off the mark and flew into the stands.
Vick took the blame for the play, patting his chest, but it wasn’t at all his fault.
As for steal No. 3, it came with just over two minutes to play and the Jayhawks desperately trying to make the comeback.
Garrett poked the ball away into the hands of Vick, who tried to pitch it ahead to Newman.
Vick's pass traveled too far down the court. Garrett was actually credited for the turnover on the play, likely due to an error by the scorekeepers, but it was another opportunity KU couldn’t afford to waste.
Now the Arizona State game was somewhat different. KU actually made the right play a few times early on.
The first instance was in fact so well executed that it’s worth watching the entire sequence.
KU’s defense — yes, that defense — first did an impeccable job swarming to the ball and helping and switching when necessary. Arizona State couldn't get anything going and the result was a turnover, as Graham easily intercepted a pass along the baseline.
Graham started the break, taking three dribbles and firing the ball up the court to Mykhailiuk. Mykhailiuk dropped it backward for Newman, who drilled the 3-pointer in rhythm.
KU took a 10-2 lead. Arizona State called timeout.
Every opportunity didn’t go that smoothly.
With 14-and-a-half minutes to play in the first and the Sun Devils on an 8-0 run, Newman poked a ball away and Graham recovered it to start a break. KU didn’t have numbers, so a basket was no guarantee, but Vick and Mykhailiuk essentially ended the opportunity by running to the exact same spot on the floor.
Graham passed the ball up the court, but Vick had to slow down to keep from colliding with Mykhailiuk. The KU offense had to reset.
Instead of an easy bucket, KU settled for a Vick floater in traffic on the possession. The shot was swatted away, marking the fourth of six straight scoreless KU possessions.
That was a theme of the day.
The next steal came at the rim, so KU didn’t really have numbers. Even if they did, Graham was slow getting down the floor so KU couldn’t capitalize on a quick 5-on-4 break to create a mismatch somewhere.
That was less true on the next chance, as Newman poked a ball away and Mykhailiuk recovered it and dribbled into the frontcourt.
Udoka Azubuike put his hand up for the ball in the paint. Mykhailiuk didn’t pass and instead spun around at the top of the key.
On the wing, Arizona State’s Remy Martin saw Mykhailiuk dribbling and abandoned Graham, his original assignment. Mykhailiuk could’ve passed Graham the ball, only Martin was quick enough to poke it away.
KU should’ve ended up with an easy layup or 3-pointer. Instead it went down as a turnover.
“They said every time Svi has the ball to crowd him, try to take his ball,” Self said. “His ball handling was very, very weak today.”
Perhaps the worst mishap of either game, though, wasn’t off a steal. It may have been a player trying to atone for a mistake the game before.
With less than five minutes left, Newman grabbed a rebound off an Arizona State miss. He dribbled up the court and tried a 50-foot pass to Graham, but there was no real lane to do so.
After the game, Graham said the idea for the pass was OK, the execution was just lacking. Self’s description, coming in an unrelated answer, was a little less forgiving.
“(A) terrible, bone-head, full court pass that went out of bounds,” Self said.
By themselves, those opportunities weren’t what caused the two losses.
While KU only scored 65 against Washington, the offense was far more free flowing against a team that played exclusively man-to-man defense in Allen Fieldhouse
“You score 85 at home,” Self said. “You expect to win.”
And that’s certainly true. But KU can still do more a lot on that end.
Against Washington, the easiest way for KU to score against the adjusted zone would’ve been to avoid it all together — simply running down the floor before it could set up.
And against Arizona State, even if both teams wanted to run, the Jayhawks still could’ve done more of it on their own terms to break through dry spells and make things more difficult for the competition.
“It just unbelievable,” Self said. “Whenever you control tempo and control pace, the basket grows, and it shrinks on the other end.”
In the last two games, that’s one thing KU certainly hasn’t done. You can't forget about the other side of it, either.
The Jayhawks have allowed 41 points off 29 turnovers in the last two games, a rate (1.41 points per possession) far higher than the clip they've scored at. They've also been outscored in transition, 24-13, despite being a team that should be built to get out and run, even off misses and long rebounds.
Again it was Self, speaking to a different topic, who said it best.
"There's not that dog or competitive juice," Self said, "that guys need to have when the game's on the line."
Before the start of the 2017 football season, the KUsports.com staff posed 35 questions about KU football to the readers, with the chance to see how you stack up with fellow KU fans and the staff on the line.
Exactly three months later, the season has concluded. KU finished the year 1-11 and went winless in Big 12 play for the second time in the David Beaty-era.
While the team fell well short of expectations, some of you more than saw it coming. With that, here are the results of the challenge, including winners, top staff scores and the most- and least-correctly picked answers...
Top 5 Finishers
1st place — 24 points (35 possible)
- Brian from Lawrence, @BMWjhawk
T-2nd place — 23 points
- Tate from Shawnee, @tvobach
- Ryan from Wichita, @ryancamenzind
- Max from Denver, no Twitter listed
T-5th place — 22 points
- Tanner from San Francisco, @tannerbuzick
- Matt from Denver, @DDSF
- Blair from Chicago, @RealBlairSheady
- Bob from Denver, no Twitter listed
- Jason from Independence, @TarH2O23
KUsports.com staff standings
- Tom Keegan — 21 points
- Matt Tait — 20 points, tie-breaker
- Scott Chasen — 20 points
- Benton Smith — 17 points
- Bobby Nightengale — 15 points
Thirteen entrants tied with 21 points. Eleven entrants tied with 20.
Average score: 15.226
Median score: 15
Low score: 9 (Six entrants)
1. How many different quarterbacks start a game for KU in 2017?
- Correct answer: 2 (Peyton Bender, Carter Stanley)
- Number of correct responses: 225/284 (79.23 percent)
2. Over/under 30,500 fans for KU’s largest crowd?
- Correct answer: Over (36,223 vs. K-State)
- Number of correct responses: 224/284 (78.87 percent)
3. Which total will be higher — KU’s longest punt (67 yards) or touchdown from scrimmage (77)?
- Correct answer: Touchdown from scrimmage
- Number of correct responses: 219/284 (77.11 percent)
4. Who will start the final game of the season at quarterback?
- Correct answer: Peyton Bender
- Number of correct responses: 215/284 (75.70 percent)
T-5. Will KU defeat a ranked opponent?
- Correct answer: No
- Number of correct responses: 200/284 (70.42 percent)
T-5. Over/under 10.0 TFLs for Daniel Wise?
- Correct answer: Over (15.5)
- Number of correct responses: 200/284 (70.42 percent)
1. Who will record the first catch of the season?
- Correct answer: Jeremiah Booker
- Number of correct responses: 6/284 (2.11 percent)
- Most common answer: Steven Sims (176/284, 61.97 percent)
2. Where will Jeremiah Booker finish on the team in receptions?
- Correct answer: 5th
- Number of correct responses: 11/284 (3.87 percent)
- Most common answer: 3rd (171/284, 60.21 percent)
3. Who will have more sacks — Dorance Armstrong + Daniel Wise (8.5 sacks) or the rest of the team (13.5)?
- Correct answer: The rest of the team
- Number of correct responses: 27/284 (9.51 percent)
- Most common answer: Armstrong + Wise (255/284, 89.79 percent)
4. Over/under 3.0 wins for KU football in 2017?
- Correct answer: Under (1.0)
- Number of correct responses: 29/284 (10.21 percent)
- Most common answer: Over (254/284, 89.44 percent)
5. Where will KU finish in the Big 12 standings?
- Correct answer: 10th
- Number of correct responses: 38/284 (13.38 percent)
- Most common answer: 9th (96/284, 33.80 percent)
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."