Wichita — Preparing to play Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard discussed what's stood out on film when he's studied the Jayhawks and why he believes Svi Mykhailiuk is the X-factor of KU's offense.
"They space you out, they pick and roll, they are driving," Willard said. "I love Devonte' Graham, what he does. He's the ultimate point guard, two guard. He can score when he needs to and he gets everybody involved."
With a size advantage in the post, via star forward Angel Delgado, Willard said the Pirates will try to make the most of their physicality.
Wichita — Limited to three minutes in a 76-60 victory over Penn on Thursday, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said Udoka Azubuike "looked good" during Friday's practice ahead of the Jayhawks' second-round matchup against Seton Hall in the NCAA Tournament.
"We stressed it," said Self of Azubuike's knee (MCL sprain). "We threw him lobs. We did a lot of things to make him go get it to get some confidence. He did a good job with that. He's not 100 percent by any stretch, but I think you can put him out there for 15 minutes or so tomorrow."
Azubuike could play a big role against Seton Hall senior forward Angel Delgado, a second-team all-Big East selection who has averaged 13.3 points and 11.5 rebounds.
Mitch Lightfoot: Bill Self and Devonte’ Graham deserve credit for navigating KU through early deficit
Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot said after the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament victory over Penn that head coach Bill Self helped steer him to a productive second half, during which Lightfoot scored nine points and secured nine rebounds.
“He just kind of got on to us, told us the bigs need to set better screens and give us a better presence,” Lightfoot shared of Self’s halftime message.
A sophomore forward who is currently starting in place of Udoka Aazubuike as the center works his left knee back into shape, Lightfoot attributed KU’s rally from a 10-point deficit to Self, as well as team leader Devonte’ Graham.
“He did a great job of leading us and showing us how we could fight,” Lightfoot said of Graham, the team’s senior point guard.
The top-seeded team in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest region, Kansas fell behind by 10 points in the first half versus No. 16 seed Penn Thursday before recovering for a 76-60 victory at Intrust Bank Arena.
Jayhawks senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, who scored a game-best 29 points, credited the upset-minded Quakers for attacking KU early, and taking a 21-11 lead.
“It was more what they were doing. They came out running their offense well and it’s hard to guard when you’re trying to play up and pressure but you’re worried about the backdoor. And then they might come up and fake it one way and come off a down-screen and the next thing you know they’ve got a wide-open jump shot,” Graham said, referring to Penn’s 4-for-7 start on 3-pointers.
“They was releasing the ball so quick it was hard to get to them, and then they was knocking down shots,” Graham added. “So we just had to come out and settle down after the first 10 minutes and lock in.”
Wichita — Scoring 11 points in the first 13 minutes, there was nothing easy about the Kansas basketball team's 76-60 victory over Penn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Intrust Bank Arena.
"There's been more pleasant dental appointments that I've gone to that," KU coach Bill Self joked. "Yeah I'm glad it's over."
KU senior Devonte' Graham sparked the Jayhawks' offense with 19 points in the first half, despite missing his first few shots.
"Devonte' missed some wide open looks to start the game as we all did," Self said. "That's what happens. You miss some open ones and then the next open ones feel like they are a little bit guarded. But he made a couple of big 3s."
Kansas center Udoka Azubuike, after playing three minutes in the first half of the Jayhawks’ NCAA Tournament victory over Penn, said he could have played in the second half, too.
The Jayhawks’ 7-footer, still working his way back form a left-knee injury, said KU coach Bill Self deemed the typical starter didn’t need to play down the stretch of a 76-60 victory.
After not attempting a shot and contributing one rebound and one steal during a stretch from the 8:32 mark to the 5:51 mark of the first half, Azubuike said he didn’t feel hesitant to jump while playing with a brace on his left knee.
“I was only concerned with my running, getting back on defense, sliding my feet,” Azubuike said. “That’s pretty much what I was really concerned about. I wasn’t concerned about my jump, because I know once you throw me a lob or something I’m going to jump and get it.”
The Kansas basketball team conducted an open practice ahead of its first-round matchup against Penn in the NCAA Tournament.
Wichita — Kansas senior point guard Devonte’ Graham, preparing to appear in his fourth and final NCAA Tournament, said the top-seeded Jayhawks don’t have to put any extra pressure on themselves just because their opponent, No. 16 seed Penn, can play with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“Pressure, you know, we’ve been through pressure all season,” Graham said Wednesday at Intrust Bank Arena, the day before KU’s first-round matchup with the Quakers.
“With the 14 straight (Big 12 regular-season titles), I feel like that was the most pressure I feel like any team could have been through,” Graham offered. “Us going through that pressure up to now, we shouldn’t feel pressure. We should just feel free and play loosely.”
Wichita — One day before the start of the NCAA Tournament, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said he wants the Jayhawks to play loose when they tip off against Penn in the first round at 1 p.m. Thursday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena.
"Every kid growing up that plays this game, they dream of in the backyard or in the driveway of playing in this tournament and this moment," Self said. "There shouldn't be any what-ifs."
After an earlier practice Wednesday, Self said Udoka Azubuike (MCL sprain) will be a game-time decision for the Jayhawks' first round game.
Wichita — Kansas sophomore guard Malik Newman said the top-seeded Jayhawks have observed some of the national buzz 16th-seeded Penn has garnered ahead of their Thursday NCAA Tournament matchup at Intrust Bank Arena.
KU’s players, Newman shared, are trying to find the balance between ignoring the hype and giving the Quakers the respect they deserve.
“It could be good or it could be bad. I mean, you can look at it as, ‘Ah, man, they’re hyping this team up,’ and this, that and the other,” Newman said. “And then you start thinking about it like, ‘Are they really this good? Are they this and are they that?’ Or you can look at it as they’re just hyping the team up just because we’re Kansas or something like that.
“We try our best not to look into it and look at it just as another opponent that’s going in to play,” Newman continued, “and we have to take care of business.”
KU (27-7) and Penn (24-8) tip off Thursday at 1 p.m.
“They’re easily a team that if we overlook then they could give us problems or possibly beat us,” Newman said. “So we can’t overlook anyone at this point. Everyone in the tournament is capable of beating someone. If not, they wouldn’t be here. I think if we overlook somebody our chances of going home would be very high.”