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?
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