In the postseason, today is a little tougher than yesterday and not as tough as tomorrow. At least that’s how it usually works with one-and-done tournaments.
That’s not necessarily the case for Kansas in the Big 12 tournament.
In such a closely bunched conference it’s more about matchups than record.
A case easily could be made that KU will have a tougher time getting past first-round opponent Oklahoma State than competing against the winner of the TCU-Kansas State game.
Mitch Lightfoot played well in both games against TCU, averaging 7.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and four blocked shots.
TCU’s big man Vladimir Brodziansky brings more skill than power and Lightfoot is well equipped to follow him to the 3-point line.
KU has trouble matching up with skilled Kansas State power forward Dean Wade with our without Azubuike in the lineup, so the Wildcats aren’t a horrible matchup either.
If Kansas can cool off Kendall Smith (49 points, 6 of 9 3-pointers in two games vs. KU) and Mitchell Solomon (25 points, 14 rebounds in the two games) and advance to Friday, it’s realistic to believe the Jayhawks will be playing in the Big 12 title game, which would be quite the accomplishment for a team that lacked front court depth before suffered a sprained MCL in practice Tuesday that will prevent him from playing this week in Sprint Center.
Still, playing without Azubuike is a significant loss at both ends because KU has no big man who can guard ball screens even close to as well as him and he’s such an unstoppable force when he gets the ball on the block.
Kansas center Udoka Azubuike suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee during a scrimmage in Tuesday's practice and will not participate in the Big 12 tournament, KU basketball coach Bill Self announced this afternoon.
"We will hold him out this weekend in Kansas City and he will be reevaluated Sunday and our expectation is that he'll be back on the court next week," Self said. Self said the sprain, "is isolated. It is a Grade 1 sprain."
A Grade 1 sprain is the least severe and means that a ligament has been stretched but not torn.
Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors suffered a similar injury two years ago and missed two weeks.
The Kansas football roster hasn’t been updated since season’s end, which maintains a certain degree of mystery to what 2018 will look like.
So many questions remain. An updated roster will answer some. The 15 spring football practices will clarify others.
The first area of interest involves the identity of the offensive player who will start each play with the football in his hands.
Question No. 1: Will center Mesa Ribordy’s concussion history allow him to continue his football career or will KU have to turn elsewhere for a center?
Either way, identifying an offensive lineman who can snap and handle all the duties that come with the position is a top spring priority for the Jayhawks.
Ribordy missed the Iowa State and TCU games, which KU lost by a combined score of 88-0 and followed a 106-yard performance with a 21-yard historically bad dud.
No obvious candidates jump to mind. Hakeem Adeniji could be tried, but the team is on the shy side at tackle in the first place, so that might not work.
Question No. 2: Will defensive end Isaiah Bean’s concussion history allow him to continue his career?
If not, KU will have plenty of candidates, thanks to recruiting the position aggressively in anticipation of losing Dorance Armstrong to the NFL draft.
Bean had trouble putting on weight, but had remained an intriguing prospect because of his explosiveness.
Question No. 3: Will head coach David Beaty take a different approach from seasons past and name a starting quarterback by the end of spring, giving the top choice more time to get teammates to rally behind him?
Let’s hope so. Beaty and offensive coordinator Doug Meacham will choose from three candidates. Peyton Bender, a senior, and Carter Stanley, a junior, split the job in 2017 and neither player won over the coaching staff.
Enter Miles Kendrick, an undersized born leader, hard worker and confident presence. He’ll be given a serious look after spending his first semester out of high school at a junior college in California before transferring to KU, the only school to offer him a scholarship. He’s considered a dual-threat QB, as is Stanley.
Question No. 4: Will graduating high school a semester early enable cornerback Corione Harris ample time to refine his game to the degree he can become a starter from Day 1 of his college career?
At 6-foot-1, 170 pounds as a high school senior in New Orleans, Harris gained a reputation as a physical corner and was recruited by Auburn, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and Texas, among other heavyweights and stayed loyal to KU assistant coach Tony Hull.
If Harris can lock down a starting job right away, he’ll generate a huge buzz. He wouldn't be the first cornerback named Harris to start as a freshman at KU. Chris Harris arrived on campus with decidedly less fanfare and developed into an All-Pro corner.
Question No. 5: Will solid depth at running back result in more running plays?
KU’s two quarterbacks combined to throw 460 passes last season. The five running backs combined for 391 carries.
Freshman Pooka Williams, sophomore Dom Williams, junior Khalil Herbert and senior Taylor Martin all bring speed.
At previous coaching stops the personnel on hand dictated that Meacham’s offenses would be pass-oriented. But don’t forget, this is a man who spent his college career blocking for Hall of Fame backs Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas. His coaching background is rich with Air Raid history, but don’t think for a second he doesn’t know the value of running the football.
The Big 12 tournament generally brings an uptick in intensity from the players. Given that the conference is loaded with bubble teams this year, intensity figures to soar to an even greater degree.
"As hard as Oklahoma State played against us on Saturday, that game, OU versus Oklahoma State, will be every bit as intense, and then whoever we play will be even more intense than what it was, what we saw Saturday, and we didn't react favorably at all to playing a hungry, motivated team Saturday," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Since Kansas didn't respond well Saturday, Self is happy his players will follow that up with exposure to more of the same and then some in Sprint Center.
"That'll be good for us," Self said. "I said this earlier: (Udoka Azubuike) has never seen this. Malik (Newman), for sure, has never seen this. Marcus (Garrett) has never seen it. Mitch (Lightfoot) has never seen it. Silvio (De Sousa) has never seen it. Lagerald (Vick) has seen it a little bit, but really the only two that have been in the fire has been Devonte' (Graham) and Svi (Mykhailiuk) when you're going against hungry teams like that. That was probably good for us to see that, and I anticipate it being that at least plus some this weekend."
A look at how the only Jayhawks to appear in Big 12 tournament games have fared:
|Year: Opponent, result
|2017: TCU, 85-82 L
|2016: KSU, 85-63 W
|2016: BU, 70-66 W
|2016: WVU 81-71 W
|2015: TCU 64-59 W
|2015: BU 62-52 W
|2015: ISU 66-70 L
|Year: Opponent, result||Min.||2-pt
|2017: TCU, 85-82 L||35||2-2||4-8||18—2—1|
|2016: KSU, 85-63 W||17||0-0||2-2||6—4—3|
|2016: BU, 70-66 W||10||0-1||0-1||0—3—1|
|2016: WVU 81-71 W||3||0-0||0-1||0—0—0|
|2015: TCU 64-59 W||15||1-2||0-2||2—1—2|
|2015: ISU 66-70 L||0||0-0||0-0||0—0—0|
|Year: Opponent, result||Min.||2-pt
|2017: TCU, 85-82 L||35||3-6||1-4||9—6—2|
|2016: KSU, 85-63 W||3||0-1||0-1||0—1—0|
|2016: BU, 70-66 W||1||0-0||0-0||0—0—0|
|Year: Opponent, result||Min.||2-pt
|TCU, 85-82 L||1||0-0||0-0||0—0—0|
For the first couple of weeks of the season, Oklahoma’s Trae Young was college basketball’s best player and an argument could be made that Lagerald Vick was Kansas’ top performer.
Yet, Devonte’ Graham is player of the year in the Big 12 and it was and easy decision for coaches. He won by unanimous vote.
The five-month season tests the experience and mental strength of student-athletes and few can rank with Graham in both areas.
Young hit the freshman wall and Vick wasn’t able to maintain a November in which he matched Graham’s 15.8 points per game and shot .519 from 3-point range, compared to Graham’s .361.
Kansas lost five games in the 18-game Big 12 schedule and in each one of the losses Vick had a particularly poor performance.
Every tendency tends to bring more credibility when using data from Big 12 games only because statistics based on all games can be skewed by dominating weaker competition. The gap between Vick’s performance in victories vs. losses is the biggest on the team and grows considerably larger when considering exclusively Big 12 games.
In the 13 victories, Vick shot .385 from 3-point range and averaged 10.3 points per game, solid if unspectacular numbers. In the five losses, Vick averaged 5.6 points and 3-point accuracy rate of slightly under 9 percent (2 for 23).
It’s not as much that Kansas couldn’t win without Vick playing well as it is the Jayhawks didn’t lose in Big 12 play when he was aggressive and shot well. Vick scored in double figures in seven Big 12 games, all victories. KU went 6-5 when he produced single-digit points. When he shot 33 percent or worse on 3-point attempts, KU went 7-5, 6-0 when he shot better than that.
More than Vick’s lack of scoring has been noticeable in losses. He’s not a big assist man under any circumstances, but he’s almost non-existent in that area when he shoots poorly.
In Big 12 play, Vick averaged 1.6 assists in victories, 0.8 in losses. Kansas coach Bill Self recently called him the team’s X-factor.
"When he’s really good he gives us a whole different element as a team, because he can drive it, he can force help, he can shoot it, he could be as good a perimeter defender as we have,” Self said a few days before KU's 82-64 loss to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, in which Vick made 1 of 5 3-pointers. “I don’t think he’s played poorly (of late). I just don’t think he’s played consistently well as he was earlier in the season. But hopefully he’ll get that back here at the end.”
If he can, the end won't arrive prematurely.
It's not all that common for an elite college basketball program to have a pair of seniors as productive as Kansas' duo of Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk.
The most talented players tend to be underclassmen who play one (Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson, Ben McLemore), two (Darrell Arthur) or three (Brandon Rush, Thomas Robinson, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Mario Chalmers, Cole Aldrich) seasons.
Graham and Svi needed all four years to give themselves the best shot at developing into NBA prospects and they both showed steady improvement throughout their careers. Kansas coach Bill Self appreciates that he never has had to coach attitude and effort with them.
They form the highest-scoring senior tandem to play four seasons for Self at Kansas. Wayne Simien and Keith Langford spent half their careers playing for Roy Williams, half for Self.
A look at the highest-scoring senior tandems to play for Self at Kansas:
|Year||Bill Self senior tandem
||Points per game
|2004-05||1 - Wayne Simien
|2017-18||2 - Devonte' Graham
||3 - Frank Mason
|2012-13||4 - Jeff Withey
|2011-12||5 - Tyshawn Taylor
|2015-16||6 - Perry Ellis
|2007-08||7 - Darnell Jackson
|2010-11||8 - Tyrel Reed
Graham's season-by-season stats show how more was put on him each season and he proved up to the challenge.
Svi showed similar growth throughout his career.
USA Today released its annual salary information for coaches in college basketball. Bill Self ranked fourth with a 2018 salary of $4,954,877.
A look at the 10 highest-paid coaches in college basketball in 2018, per USA Today:
|1 - Mike Krzyzewski (Duke)
|2 - John Calipari (Kentucky)
|3 - Chris Holtmann (Ohio State)
|4 - Bill Self (Kansas)
|5 - Tom Izzo (Michigan State)
|6 - Sean Miller (Arizona)
|7 - Bob Huggins (West Virginia)
|8 - Larry Krystkowiak (Utah)
|9 - John Beilein (Michigan)
|10 - Archie Miller (Indiana)
|Source: USA Today
|Big 12 coach
|1 - Bill Self (Kansas)
|2- Bob Huggins (WVU)
|3 - Shaka Smart (Texas)
|4 - Lon Kruger (OU)
|5 - Scott Drew (Baylor)
|6 - Bruce Weber (K-State)
|7 - Steve Prohm (Iowa St.)
|8 - Chris Beard (Texas Tech)
|9 - Mike Boynton (OSU)
|TCU coach Jamie Dixon
No fewer than 38 different men have coached Big 12 schools against Bill Self during his 15 seasons at Kansas. Billy Gillispie, Bob Huggins and Melvin Watkins each led two different universities against Self's Kansas squads.
Just one man among those 38 coaches can boast a winning record in Big 12 games played in the regular season and postseason against KU's Hall of Fame coach. By Saturday evening, it's possible there won't be any.
Oklahoma State's Mike Boynton is in a league of his own in having a winning Big 12 record against Self. Then again, he has faced him just once, winning in Allen Fieldhouse, 84-79, Feb. 3.
Self puts his 18-0 record in Big 12, regular-season payback games on the line Saturday at Gallagher-Iba Arena against Boynton's Cowboys in a game that tips off at 3 p.m.
A look at what my unofficial research shows are the Big 12 records of men who have coached against Self:
vs. Bill Self
in Big 12
Nobody stopped the game to announce Udoka Azubuike’s feat. Nobody gave him a broken-rim trophy to commemorate the moment. But when Senior Night starter Clay Young fed the ball to the sophomore center and he slammed it home with 18:44 left in the first half of Monday’s game against Texas, it was Azubuike’s 100th dunk of the season.
Dunks and three other categories are tracked by Kansas under the heading, “miscellaneous stats.”
Azubuike didn’t stop there, picking up six dunks in the final game in Allen Fieldhouse this season.
A look at KU’s miscellaneous stats with one game remaining.
|Player||Floor Burns||Dunks||Charges Drawn||FT-FTA|
Last 5:00 reg.
|Marcus Garrett||12||1||0||5-8 (.625)|
|Lagerald Vick||25||26||0||5-11 (.455)|
|Sam Cunliffe||1||2||0||0-0 (.000)|
|Devonte' Graham||40||1||5||45-58 (.776)|
|Svi Mykhailiuk||24||17||5||15-17 (.882)|
|Chris Teahan||1||0||0||2-2 (1.000)|
|Malik Newman||13||4||0||26-35 (.743)|
|Clay Young||1||0||1||0-0 (.000)|
|Silvio De Sousa||1||1||0||0-0 (.000)|
|Udoka Azubuike||31||105||0||5-19 (.263)|
|Mitch Lightfoot||25||13||13||2-2 (1.000)|
How much would you pay for an all-expenses-paid, eight-day trip that included front row-seats for Oklahoma visiting Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse last Monday, then Syracuse at Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday, and then back to Allen Fieldhouse today to watch Texas play KU in an 8 p.m. tipoff?
"Can you believe ESPN pays me for this?" Vitale beamed last week after rattling off a schedule that called for him to analyze games featuring a Diaper Dandy trio of Trae Young, Marvin Bagley and Mohamed Bamba, plus seniors Devonte' Graham and Grayson Allen, and a seat in two venues with such rich history.
Vitale, 78, doesn't show any signs of aging, and is always ready to weigh in with opinions, such as:
"My No. 1 seeds: Villanova, Virginia, Michigan State and Kansas."
"Indiana never should have fired Tom Crean. Two Big Ten titles. Three Sweet 16 appearances. Are you kidding me?"
This from his blog that appears on DickVitaleonline.com: "I believe the Wildcats must be banned from March Madness if all of this is true and the wiretap is pretty amazing proof. (DeAndre) Ayton should be declared ineligible if he took the alleged cash mentioned in FBI report. ... (Sean) Miller has now ruined his coaching career."
Vitale has been calling games for so long — DePaul's 90-77 defeat of Wisconsin, Dec. 5, 1979, was his first — that some might not remember how successful he was during a four-year stint as head coach of University of Detroit, where he posted a 79-29 record.
Vitale coached his final team to a 26-3 record that included a victory at eventual national-champion Marquette, coached by his friend, the late, great Al McGuire. Vitale coached the Titans into the Sweet 16 that year and then spent a year as the school's athletic director. After that, he accepted the Detroit Pistons' coaching offer and was fired 12 games into his second season. Not even a full month later, he found a home in the broadcast booth.
Vitale has used his fame in recent years to raise funds for pediatric-cancer research with his Dick Vitale Gala. The 13th-annual event is scheduled for May 11 in Sarasota. Vitale said it has raised $21 million, including a record $3.1 million last year.
"It's probably the most important thing I do in my life right now, giving back to help kids," Vitale said.
It's an arm of the V Foundation, named after late North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano.
"Every dollar goes to the V Foundation," Vitale said. "We've raised $200 million. My $21 million is strictly for pediatric cancer."
Vitale recently spoke at a funeral of a pediatric-cancer victim he had befriended.
"Toughest speech I ever had to give in my life," Vitale said. "I'm obsessed with this stuff. I have five healthy grandkids and I wouldn’t want them to go through the pain that these kids have gone through. ... Here's the sad part that a lot of people don't know: Four cents out of every dollar raised for cancer goes to pediatrics. Four cents. Mine, every dollar goes to it.”
Visit DickVitaleonline.com for information on how to join Vitale's fight.