Kansas City, Mo. — When Kansas lost starting center Udoka Azubuike for the Big 12 tournament due to a left knee injury, senior point guard Devonte’ Graham knew the top-seeded Jayhawks would need Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa to produce in the 7-footer’s absence.
What Graham didn’t realize before Thursday’s quarterfinal against Oklahoma State, though, was KU would even lean a little bit on basketball walk-on and football scholarship player James Sosinski — in the first half no less.
Two fouls apiece on fill-in starter Lightfoot and backup big De Sousa before intermission forced Bill Self to turn to Sosinski for just the fourth time this season.
“I was surprised when he got in,” Graham said. “It’s funny, because coach did tell him, ‘James, you better be ready.’ I thought he was just joking.”
It was at that point in the discussion that Graham, enjoying the team’s 82-68 victory over the Cowboys, spotted Lightfoot walking nearby in KU’s locker room and let it be known Sosinski had the Jayhawks’ sophomore big man to thank for his unexpected role.
“But numbnuts over here, when he’s fouling, when Mitch’s fouling and Silvio comes in and fouls, you’ve got to put somebody in,” Graham said toward Lightfoot, who grinned in response. “We might as well get James to come in and get a foul off. He used to playing football, so he just hacked him when he got in.”
Indeed, the Cowboys’ Yankuba Sima drew a foul on Sosinski, put in two free throws, and scored another basket inside during the 6-foot-7 KU reserve’s 1:25 of playing time.
“He fouled as soon as he got in,” Self said afterward, before joking a yellow flag might have landed on the Sprint Center court in response to the KU tight end’s aggressive play. “It should’ve been 10 yards.”
Before De Sousa got comfortable, finishing with 6 points and 8 rebounds in 15 minutes, Self didn’t think the freshman played very well in his first opportunity off the bench. KU’s coach even thought about turning to Sosinski earlier than he did in the first half. The next time Self needed to sub out Lightfoot, he wanted to insert Sosinski, before his assistants talked him out of it.
“I’m probably glad I made the decision I did,” Self said. “It’s nice to have James, but I never thought going into this season, when you’ve got Udoka and you’ve got Billy Preston, that James Sosinski may be important in the postseason,” he added with a chuckle.
In truth, Sosinski's presence didn’t make or break KU. The only statistic he recorded in his minute-plus was a personal foul. In the final seconds of the half, Sosinski looked to be positioned for an offensive rebound on a missed Marcus Garrett 3-pointer. However, senior Svi Mykhailiuk came crashing in from the weak side, soaring above the low-to-the-floor football/basketball player. Mykhailiuk scored a buzzer-beating layup for a 43-42 halftime lead.
“I was thinking I was gonna get it and Svi got it,” Sosinski said. “I just kind of let him shoot it, that’s his go-to. It was a big momentum swing going into the second half.”
Just a bad-luck situation for the seldom-used backup to KU’s backup bigs? Not according to Graham.
“No, that was a good-luck situation,” a smiling Graham countered. “I’m glad Svi got it and scored. No telling what James would’ve done with it.”
It’s not that the Jayhawks don’t appreciate Sosinski and his contributions. De Sousa said he never looks forward to his encounters with the scout team big during Kansas practices. When they match up, De Sousa thinks to himself, “Man, why you gotta guard me right now?”
“He’s really hard to score on,” De Sousa added. “He just plays hard. He goes after every single ball. That’s how he is.”
“He always plays great in practice. If he gets in I’m pretty confident he’s not going to let his guy score easily, and if he had to foul he’s gonna foul really hard,” Mykhailiuk said. “He’s a good player, and he definitely helped us today.”
The two-sport athlete from Chandler, Ariz., has played sparingly, with two similarly brief appearances, since getting four minutes of playing time Dec. 18 versus Omaha and scoring 4 points in mop-up duty.
Sosinski left the arena Friday feeling grateful for his short cameo and a rare chance to chip in.
“Even though it was a minute and a half, every minute’s important in games like this,” Sosinski said. “Since I know I’m not going to play any minutes, I’ve just got to play as hard as I can.”
Less than two weeks ago Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, while discussing a recent uptick in Malik Newman’s play, stated how proud he was of the starting guard’s progress.
The sophomore transfer from Mississippi State was coming off one of his best offensive showings as a Jayhawk, going for 20 points and 5 assists in a rout of Oklahoma. It was Newman’s third time posting at least 20 points and ninth time in double figures over a stretch of 10 games.
Even more encouraging, the 6-foot-3 guard from Jackson, Miss., looked better handling the ball. Newman had shown he could be more than a spot-up 3-point shooter by driving to the paint to either draw contact, score or set up teammates. In a five-game span that concluded with the OU game on Feb. 19, Newman averaged 4.2 assists and 0.6 turnovers — far better than his current season averages of 2.1 assists and 1.5 turnovers.
While Self appreciates the headway Newman has made to become a more complete player than what he showed back in the non-conference portion of the schedule and Self is happy the shooting guard won the Big 12’s Newcomer of the Year award, KU’s coach is hoping for a Newman resurgence with the postseason’s arrival.
In the Jayhawks’ final three games of the regular season, Newman, who is supposed to complement Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte’ Graham in the backcourt, didn’t always deliver on his potential, and his numbers began trending in the wrong direction.
At Texas Tech, Newman was solid, with 12 points and 5 defensive rebounds, but he made just 1 assist (in the first half) — his lowest ball distribution total in three weeks — and committed 1 turnover. Against Texas in KU’s home finale, Newman provided 9 points, 4 defensive boards and 1 assist, with 1 turnover. He bottomed out in the Jayhawks’ loss at Oklahoma State, with 7 points, 3 defensive rebounds, 0 assists and 3 cough-ups.
After averaging 4.2 free-throw attempts a game in the previous 12 contests, Newman didn’t get to the foul line once in his final two games of the regular season.
“I think he's shown flashes of being, of showing a lot of progress,” Self said of Newman, who averaged 12.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in Big 12 play, while shooting 43.4% from the field and making 33 of 88 3-pointers (37.5%). “And then I honestly think he's shown flashes of not. I would like more consistency.”
|2017-11-17||South Dakota State||W||26||4||7||.571||2||4||.500||3||3||1.000||0||0||2||0||13|
Newman needs to revive the versatility that made him so valuable in late January and most of February now that it’s March. Newman has stated a number of times how important it is for he and other Jayhawks to help take some of the burden off Graham’s shoulders.
If Newman wants to make that happen on a regular basis in the weeks ahead, he can just recall some of Graham’s advice. The senior point guard said when Newman was at his best recently it was all about taking an assertive approach on offense and trying to reach the paint off the bounce.
“I keep telling him that,” Graham related. “Just look to score. Don’t worry about nothing else. Because once you start thinking you just get all messed up. So just look to score, be aggressive on the offensive end and it just takes care of itself.”
Just more than half of Newman’s shot attempts this season have come from behind the arc. A 36.9% 3-point shooter on the year (37.5% in Big 12 action), spotting up isn’t always Newman’s best play. When he is more diverse with the ball in his hands, it tends to benefit both him and his teammates.
Plus, Self wants Newman contributing in less trackable manners. As you might expect, those areas where the coach would like to see more consistency directly tie to relieving Graham of some of his duties. KU’s 15th-year coach finds himself examining what Newman does on a game-by-game basis to help Graham.
“I’d love to see Malik be able to say, ‘I want to guard the other team's best perimeter player.’ I would love to see us be able to initiate offense with Malik, so Devonte' doesn't have to,” Self said. “And those don't have anything to do with stats, but those are things that would help our team a tremendous amount. He's shown he can do that, but I think he can be more consistent with that.”
Newman’s first crack at a late-season renaissance comes Thursday in Kansas City, Mo., when the top-seeded Jayhawks face either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Over the course of the past couple of months every coach in the Big 12 spoke about the quality and depth of the league this year. Yet as the postseason begins this week, some college basketball observers might hesitate to pick any of the Big 12’s best teams to make a deep run in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
On Monday’s coaches conference call, Bill Self addressed the notion that the Big 12 lacks a nationally elite team this season.
“Usually the appearance of the best leagues are the ones that are top-heavy and bottom-heavy, because you have guaranteed — not guaranteed — but you have W’s built in supposedly if you’re not good. In our league, if you play poorly you lose,” Self explained.
In his 15 seasons coaching KU, Self certainly has fielded more complete and/or deeper teams, as well as faced some Big 12 opponents better suited for longterm March success.
“I don’t know that the teams at the top are maybe as talented as some of the teams that we’ve had in the past at the top,” Self admitted. “But all the other teams (this season) are more talented.”
That is what has made the Big 12 so unique and intriguing this season. The worst team in the conference turned out to be Iowa State, and the Cyclones defeated both West Virginia and Texas Tech in Ames, and even gave the Jayhawks a scare in Lawrence.
One could argue that speaks to the teams atop the conference lacking dominance this season. But when Self observes the national landscape, he notices more parity than supremacy.
“So I think you could say, on paper, there may not be a (Big 12) team that stands out that could make a Final Four run. You could say that, but I don’t believe that’s absolutely true at all either, because I think all leagues across America are somewhat similar,” Self said. “There’s a lot of really, really, really good teams, but there’s few dominant teams like there have been in the past years.”
Final Big 12 standings
Texas Tech, 11-7
West Virginia, 11-7
Kansas State, 10-8
Oklahoma State, 8-10
Iowa State, 4-14
Here’s a look at this week’s Big 12 Power Rankings. Each team’s best victories and its losses — good, bad and in between — are considered in this process, using KenPom.com’s ratings to classify the league’s most and least impressive squads to date. Results from all league games also are listed.
Big 12 Power Rankings — March 5, 2018
No. 1 - Kansas (24-7)
Kenpom ranking: No. 12
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +2.5
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 23 Kentucky, No. 51 Syracuse, at No. 40 Texas, at No. 20 TCU, No. 104 Iowa State, No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 13 West Virginia, No. 33 Baylor, No. 32 Texas A&M, at No. 44 Kansas State, No. 20 TCU, at No. 104 Iowa State, No. 13 West Virginia, No. 43 Oklahoma, at No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 40 Texas
Losses: No. 97 Washington, No. 38 Arizona State, No. 10 Texas Tech, at No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 57 Oklahoma State, at No. 33 Baylor, at No. 57 Oklahoma State
No. 2 - West Virginia (22-9)
Kenpom ranking: No. 13
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +5.9
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 39 Missouri, No. 1 Virginia, at No. 57 Oklahoma State, at No. 44 Kansas State, No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 33 Baylor, No. 40 Texas, No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 20 TCU, at No. 33 Baylor, No. 104 Iowa State, No. 10 Texas Tech
Losses: No. 32 Texas A&M, at No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 20 TCU, No. 23 Kentucky, at No. 104 Iowa State, No. 57 Oklahoma State, at No. 12 Kansas, at No. 40 Texas (OT)
No. 3 - Texas Tech (23-8)
Kenpom ranking: No. 10
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +3.6
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 19 Nevada (OT), No. 33 Baylor, at No. 12 Kansas, No. 44 Kansas State, No. 13 West Virginia, No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 40 Texas (OT), at No. 20 TCU, No. 104 Iowa State, at No. 44 Kansas State, No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 20 TCU
Losses: No. 29 Seton Hall, at No. 43 Oklahoma, at No. 40 Texas, at No. 104 Iowa State, at No. 33 Baylor, at No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 13 West Virginia
No. 4 - TCU (21-10)
Kenpom ranking: No. 20
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +2.9
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 19 Nevada, at No. 33 Baylor (OT), No. 104 Iowa State, No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 40 Texas, No. 57 Oklahoma State, at No. 104 Iowa State, No. 33 Baylor, No. 44 Kansas State
Losses: No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 40 Texas (2OT), at No. 43 Oklahoma (OT), at No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 84 Vanderbilt, No. 10 Texas Tech, at No. 12 Kansas, at No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 10 Texas Tech
No. 5 - Kansas State (21-10)
Kenpom ranking: No. 44
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -0.9
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: at No. 104 Iowa State, No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 20 TCU, at No. 33 Baylor, at No. 40 Texas, at No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 104 Iowa State, No. 40 Texas, No. 33 Baylor
Losses: No. 38 Arizona State, No. 102 Tulsa, No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 10 Texas Tech, at No. 12 Kansas, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 13 West Virginia, No. 10 Texas Tech, at No. 43 Oklahoma, at No. 20 TCU
No. 6 - Baylor (18-13)
Kenpom ranking: No. 33
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +0.5
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 27 Creighton, No. 40 Texas, No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 104 Iowa State, at No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 40 Texas (2OT), No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 43 Oklahoma
Losses: at No. 15 Xavier, No. 17 Wichita State, at No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 20 TCU (OT), at No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 104 Iowa State, at No. 12 Kansas, No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 21 Florida, at No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 20 TCU, at No. 44 Kansas State
No. 7 - Texas (18-13)
Kenpom ranking: No. 40
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -2.1
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 24 Butler, at No. 104 Iowa State (OT), No. 20 TCU (2OT), No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 104 Iowa State, No. 43 Oklahoma, at No. 43 Oklahoma, No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 13 West Virginia (OT)
Losses: No. 3 Duke (OT), No. 8 Gonzaga (OT), No. 9 Michigan, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 33 Baylor, at No. 57 Oklahoma State, at No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 10 Texas Tech (OT), No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 20 TCU, No. 33 Baylor (2OT), at No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 12 Kansas
No. 8 - Oklahoma State (18-13)
Kenpom ranking: No. 57
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -2.8
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 35 Florida State, No. 104 Iowa State (OT), No. 40 Texas, No. 43 Oklahoma (OT), at No. 12 Kansas, at No. 13 West Virginia, No. 10 Texas Tech, at No. 104 Iowa State, No. 12 Kansas
Losses: No. 32 Texas A&M, No. 17 Wichita State, No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 43 Oklahoma, at No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 33 Baylor, at No. 10 Texas Tech, at No. 37 Arkansas, No. 20 TCU, No. 33 Baylor, No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 20 TCU, at No. 40 Texas
No. 9 - Oklahoma (18-12)
Kenpom ranking: No. 43
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -2.7
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 46 USC, at No. 17 Wichita State, at No. 20 TCU, No. 57 Oklahoma State, No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 20 TCU (OT), No. 12 Kansas, No. 33 Baylor, No. 44 Kansas State, No. 104 Iowa State
Losses: No. 37 Arkansas, at No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 44 Kansas State, at No. 57 Oklahoma State (OT), at No. 53 Alabama, at No. 40 Texas, No. 13 West Virginia, at No. 104 Iowa State, at No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 40 Texas, at No. 12 Kansas, at No. 33 Baylor
No. 10 - Iowa State (13-17)
Kenpom ranking: No. 104
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -6.8
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 33 Baylor, No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 13 West Virginia, No. 43 Oklahoma
Losses: at No. 39 Missouri, No. 207 Milwaukee, No. 44 Kansas State, No. 40 Texas (OT), at No. 57 Oklahoma State (OT), at No. 12 Kansas, at No. 20 TCU, at No. 40 Texas, No. 14 Tennessee, at No. 33 Baylor, at No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 12 Kansas, at No. 44 Kansas State, No. 20 TCU, at No. 13 West Virginia, No. 57 Oklahoma State, at No. 43 Oklahoma
It’s not that uncommon for a team to come out of nowhere and reach college basketball’s biggest stage, the Final Four — think No. 7 seed South Carolina a year ago, 10th-seeded Syracuse in 2016, No. 9 seed Wichita State in 2013 or 11th seed VCU in 2011
But every once in a while one of those teams actually cuts down the nets at the completion of the Big Dance as national champions.
Kansas coach Bill Self wouldn’t exactly be floored if this year’s NCAA Tournament concluded with such mayhem.
Appearing recently on Andy Katz’s podcast, March Madness 365, Self’s conversation with Katz included some discussion of the 2014 tournament, when senior guard Shabazz Napier guided seventh-seeded Connecticut, a team that finished third in the American Athletic Conference, to six straight wins and a national title.
Katz wondered whether this might be a year when some under-the-radar team outside of the top five, or even the top 10, catches fire and surfaces as the NCAA champion.
“There’s no question that can happen,” Self replied. “And when you say may not be in the top five, you could talk about in the country or you could talk about in the seeds. There may be a six seed, or a seven, or an eight or a nine, whatever, that could challenge and get hot at the right time. That has happened in the past — it’s been rare.”
Self correctly recalled UConn faced a No. 8 seed, Kentucky, in the 2014 title game. The Wildcats, who had lost three of their last four regular-season games, recovered for a postseason run with a typically youthful-yet-talented lineup, led by freshmen Julius Randle, James Young and Aaron and Andrew Harrison.
“That could happen again. I don’t think that’s far off,” Self continued, “if the right players get hot at the right time. You would still think the percentage play would be the ones that have shown consistency throughout the year, but as we’ve all found out, you know, 1988 Kansas won it on Danny’s back. It’s just a six-game tournament. They had 11 losses that year.”
As KU’s 15th-year coach referenced, 30 years ago Naismith and Wooden award-winner Danny Manning carried the sixth-seeded Jayhawks to glory, highlighted by a regional final victory over No. 4 seed Kansas State and Final Four wins against No. 2 seed Duke and No. 1 seed Oklahoma.
“I think it’s very possible that this could be a year that somebody like that could do it,” Self said.
Among the country’s top candidates for player of the year, most are not in position to pull off something as miraculous as Manning and KU back in 1988, or even as unexpected as what Napier and UConn did four years ago.
Between the 10 Naismith Trophy semifinalists (listed below), only two of them play for teams currently projected by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi as heavy underdogs to make a lengthy March run toward San Antonio.
Deandre Ayton, Arizona — No. 4 seed
Marvin Bagley III, Duke — No. 2 seed
Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State — No. 4 seed
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier — No. 1 seed
Miles Bridges, Michigan State — No. 2 seed
Jalen Brunson, Villanova — No. 1 seed
Keenan Evans, Texas Tech — No. 4 seed
Devonte’ Graham, Kansas — No. 1 seed
Jock Landale, St. Mary’s — No. 9 seed
Trae Young, Oklahoma — No. 10 seed
Assuming the Sooners make the field when it is announced in a little more than a week, it would take a string of remarkable performances by freshman point guard Trae Young as well as some vastly improved defense by OU as a team to pull off a Final Four run.
Similarly, while 6-foot-11 St. Mary’s senior center Jock Landale has overmatched opponents inside, averaging 21.5 points and 10.2 rebounds this year, the Gaels also would need to bolster their team defense to do real damage in the tournament.
Still, plenty of other Cinderella candidates for 2018 exist, including:
Nevada, a projected No. 6 seed led by junior forward Caleb Martin (19.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 43.8% 3-point shooting)
Houston, a projected No. 7 seed featuring senior guard Robert Gray Jr. (17.7 points, 4.7 assists)
Creighton, a projected No. 7 seed powered by senior guard Marcus Foster (20 points, 2.7 assists, 43.4% 3-point shooting), a transfer from Kansas State, and junior wing Khyri Thomas (15.2 points, 2.9 assists, 41.4% 3-point shooting), who is considered a first-round talent by NBA scouts
Arkansas, a projected No. 7 seed with two productive senior guards, Jaylen Barford (18.1 points, 3.9 rebounds, 43.5% 3-point shooting) and Daryl Macon (17.3 points, 4 assists, 44.3% 3-point shooting), as well as a potential first-round draft pick inside with freshman Daniel Gafford (11.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks)
Butler, a projected No. 8 seed led by senior forward Kelan Martin (20.7 points, 6.4 rebounds)
Missouri, a projected No. 9 seed featuring senior guard Kassius Robertson (16.6 points, 2.4 assists, 43.2% 3-point shooting), senior forward Jordan Barnett (13.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 41.1% 3-point shooting) and — possibly (?) — soon-to-be NBA lottery pick Michael Porter Jr.
Alabama, a projected No. 10 seed with the services of a likely top-10 draft pick, freshman point guard Collin Sexton (18.1 points, 3.5 assists)
Middle Tennessee, a projected No. 12 seed led by senior forward Nick King (21.3points, 8.3 rebounds)
Sometimes his athleticism makes him look like the best player on the floor. Other games he can go an entire half — or longer — mostly unnoticed.
Junior Lagerald Vick’s impact from game to game is even too erratic for 15th-year Kansas head coach Bill Self to predict.
A little over a week ago, Vick scored 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting in the Jayhawks’ home drubbing of Oklahoma, his third straight game contributing double figures.
In the two games that followed, at Texas Tech and at home versus Texas, the 6-foot-5 guard combined to make 3 of 10 shots and score 6 points in 67 minutes of playing time.
Vick at least contributed 6 rebounds and 4 assists against the Longhorns, two days after giving Kansas 1 board and 0 assists at Texas Tech.
Naturally, Self wants the best version of Vick showing up on a regular basis — the Vick who opened Big 12 play with 21 points and 4 rebounds at UT or the one who provided 16 points and 4 rebounds at Iowa State — instead of seeing that variation of the junior from Memphis once every few weeks or so.
Obviously, no player is going to perform at his peak every single game. No. 6 KU (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big 12) doesn’t need Vick to be impeccable to win, but Self would like to see Vick’s below-average games not dip so severely.
KU’s senior point guard, Devonte’ Graham is as steady as they come. Sophomore center Udoka Azubuike’s effectiveness can vary.
“With Lagerald,” Self said, “there’s a pretty big gap.”
|Lagerald Vick 2017-18 splits|
|In 24 wins||50.4%||43.2%||64.1%||12.3||5.3||2.5||1.6||32.1|
|In 6 losses||44.4%||15.4%||62.5%||12.2||3.8||2.0||2.2||34.7|
By far the most noteworthy correlation between Vick’s struggles and KU winning or losing show up in his 3-point shooting. A 37.2% shooter from beyond the arc as a junior, Vick knocks down 43.2% of his long-range shots in Kansas wins but connects on only 15.4% of 3-pointers in losses.
Self has witnessed Vick’s play energize his teammates at times this season, and that’s really what he wants out of the third-year guard more than anything for the season’s stretch run.
“I think Lagerald’s kind of like our 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. “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.”
Before Big 12 play began, Vick averaged 17.1 points on 56.1% shooting and made 46.8% of his 3-pointers, in 33.2 minutes a game. He hasn’t been able to replicate such production in conference games, averaging 9.1 points on 42% shooting, while hitting 30% from 3-point range.
His teammates know KU is at its best when Vick is locked in and reaching his potential.
“I think we’re way better,” sophomore Mitch Lightfoot said of the Jayhawks with a prime Vick at their disposal. “Lagerald's a great player and he offers several different threats. Gives you a four-guard front that’s kind of hard (to defend), four-headed dragon, because you’ve got opportunities to score from everywhere.”
Indeed, the KU offense can look pretty menacing to adversaries, with Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Malik Newman and Vick playing around a 7-foot force in Azubuike.
“The hardest thing to guard is four shooters around the big,” Self said. “We're just going to play four guards that can shoot. It doesn't always work out well, but it's worked out OK so far.”
Now that it’s March, KU needs a stable Vick more than ever.
“He’s been pretty good recently,” Lightfoot said, in reference to a three-game stretch preceding Vick’s latest two games, “and he was really good at the beginning of the year, so it’s encouraging.”
Added Self: “He could really elevate our team play.”
It only took 21 minutes Monday against Texas for center Udoka Azubuike to supply Kansas with one of the most productive games of his young career.
The 7-foot sophomore yielded 20 points and often seemed invincible in his domination of the Longhorns’ front line. Defenders have looked overmatched versus Azubuike before, but the big man from Nigeria completely crushed the Longhorns, succeeding on 10 of his 11 attempts in the paint, a foray that included six dunks.
The Jayhawks’ colossus shot 90.9% from the field, the highest mark for KU since Perry Ellis made 11 of 12 (91.7%) versus Iowa State in the 2014 Big 12 Tournament. Azubuike’s 10-for-11 shooting also represented the best outing in a conference game by a Jayhawk since Julian Wright posted the same line against Baylor, in 2006.
Even better for No. 6 Kansas (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big 12), Azubuike looked lively on the defensive end of the court, as well, tying his career high with 5 blocked shots.
The commanding performance left KU’s senior point guard, Devonte’ Graham, wanting more.
“That’s exactly how he should play,” Graham said, noting assistant coach Norm Roberts went up to Azubuike at shoot-around the day of the game and conveyed the absence of Longhorns star center Mo Bamba (injured) didn’t mean KU’s center could take the day off.
“You should want to go even harder because you’ve got a mismatch now,” Graham related of Roberts’ directive. “So he played exactly how Coach Rob wanted him to play.”
After watching his 18-year-old center’s thrashing of UT bigs Jericho Sims and Dylan Osetkowski, KU coach Bill Self, of course, appreciated not just the point production, but Azubuike’s overall effort, which Self agreed is becoming more consistent late in the season.
“I think he’s playing with a lot more energy and a lot more oomph, probably, than what he was earlier,” Self appraised, calling Azubuike as active as he has seen him this season.
What’s more, the massive sophomore pulled down 8 rebounds for Kansas, the sixth time in 17 Big 12 games he gathered at least that many.
But there was one aspect where Azubuike, Self was quick to point out, seemed to regress. An 18-for-31 free-throw shooter in the nine games following his infamous 1-for-8 night at Oklahoma, in February, KU’s big man missed all four of his attempts at the foul line versus Texas.
“I hadn’t seen him shoot like that in a while,” Self said, after Azubuike even air-balled one try. “So we’ve got to get back in the gym and do a lot (of work) on that.”
In order to maximize Azubuike’s impact in March, Self indicated he and his staff might need to start more closely monitoring how long KU leaves the 285-pound center on the floor.
“He gets his second foul because he’s tired,” Self said of a defensive play on the perimeter, when Azubuike didn’t move his feet quickly enough while trying to hedge against Matt Coleman on a ball screen. The whistle kept Azubuike, a game-altering talent, on the bench the final 6:55 of the first half.
“That worries me a little bit,” Self said. “I probably need to not let him play as long of stretches.”
Azubuike had been on the floor for 5:03 worth of game clock when he showed fatigue and picked up his second foul.
He didn’t get called for any fouls while playing 12 second-half minutes, a stretch during which Azubuike made 6 of 7 shots, swatted 3 UT attempts and gathered 5 rebounds.
The mightiest presence on the KU roster played for stretches of 6:33 and 4:04 during the second half, as well as a brief 0:20 stint late in the win.
No one else in a Kansas uniform possesses the same potential as Azubuike to influence outcomes on both ends of the floor. As critical as Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk are for Kansas, a “turned-up,” as Self likes to say, Azubuike will be equally paramount in the weeks ahead in order for the Jayhawks to reach their ceiling.
Easily lost in the farewell performances inside Allen Fieldhouse by seniors Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, as well as the always wide-reaching shadow of center Udoka Azubuike, a freshman backup played as important a role as any of his Kansas teammates in the second half of Monday’s win over Texas.
Head coach Bill Self turned to Marcus Garrett off the bench even before the first post-halftime timeout, and the first-year guard out of Dallas immediately made an impact, setting himself up for an 11-point, 4-rebound, 3-assist showing.
On his first offensive possession of the second half, Garrett, who went scoreless in nine first-half minutes, went right to work, upon catching a pass from Graham in the right corner.
When Texas big man Jericho Sims closed out poorly, Garrett drove past him, forcing help. That left the largest man in the building, Azubuike, uncovered for a jam off a Garrett assist.
Only a few possessions had gone by before Azubuike returned the favor.
Texas finally figured out defending KU’s 7-foot sophomore one-on-one in the post was a lost cause. So the Longhorns tried double-teaming Azubuike on the left block.
Once Garrett’s man left him, he wisely positioned himself right under the basket. UT’s weak-side defender on the play, Kerwin Roach II, hesitated to leave Graham open on the opposite wing,and when Roach didn’t slide over to cover Garrett, the freshman put in a layup with zero resistance.
The basket, the freshman’s first of the night, answered a Jacob Young 3-pointer that had just narrowed the Texas deficit to 6 points. With Garrett’s timely lay-in, UT never got any closer.
Because Texas played a pair of big men, Dylan Osetkowski and Sims, much of the night, the Jayhawks knew they could find mismatches on the perimeter versus either.
A 6-foot-9 freshman, Sims got turned around on one sequence, losing sight of Garrett while stepping into the paint as a help defender.
When Lagerald Vick kicked the ball out to Garrett, Sims didn’t know the 6-5 KU freshman had relocated, and Garrett breezed past him to scoop in a layup.
Desperate for some sort of defensive solution for the Jayhawks, Texas at times implemented a 2-3 zone. When the Longhorns took that route, placing Garrett in the middle of the floor, at the free-throw line, proved to be a useful countermeasure.
The Sims-Osetkowski combo got exposed defensively within the zone when Garrett flashed to the open space above the foul line, forcing Osetkowski to step toward him. Before Sims figured out what was coming, Garrett lobbed an entry pass toward the backboard.
Predictably, Azubuike finished an alley-oop with a two-handed slam.
One quality of Garrett’s that makes him so valuable, even at this early stage of his career, is his defense. Not only does the freshman grasp his responsibilities in various situations, he often forces turnovers with his anticipation.
His second of three steals in the game materialized while guarding Roach on the perimeter. The Texas guard showed the ball while pivoting to face up, and Garrett just took it out of his hands, Kawhi Leonard style.
The KU freshman took off in the other direction for what instantly became a four-on-one fast break.
Garrett looked like a veteran leading the transition attack, swinging the ball over to Mykhailiuk on the opposite side just in time to make Roach react, allowing Garrett to receive a pass right back from Mykhailiuk for an uncontested layup.
Not always the most sure-shooting guard, Garrett (10 for 36 on 3-pointers) even knocked down his lone attempt from behind the arc to cap his 4-for-7 night from the floor.
Texas had just whittled KU’s lead to 8 with 3:39 to go, prompting Self to call timeout. The Jayhawks worked their half-court offense until Graham found a driving angle to create. The point guard spotted his freshman teammate open in the left corner and, without hesitation, Garrett stroked a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double digits.
In the past 10 games, Garrett hasn’t shot 3-pointers often, but he has connected on 5 of 9 attempts.
Garrett’s 11 points were his most since scoring a season- and career-high 13 versus Texas Southern in November, and his team-best 3 steals made him the KU leader in that category for the seventh time during his freshman season.
At the end of a night that shined the spotlight on KU’s seniors, Self identified Garrett and Azubuike as the two best Jayhawks against Texas.
“I thought defensively he was about as good as we had,” Self said of Garrett. “He had three steals, and that’s something we don’t do very well. I was really happy for him. Made a big three when they got it to single figures.”
Garrett isn’t suddenly going to become a consistent double-digit scorer for Kansas, but he operates with increasing confidence the deeper the Jayhawks get into this season. When your role players become more competent, the on-court product is bound to benefit.
Already a proficient defender, Garrett continues to progress as a driver, passer and finisher, while showing signs his shooting might be coming along, as well. With the postseason just around the corner, a player once ignored by opposing defenses now possesses the ability to stimulate the Kansas offense.
This might not be the last time this year we see Garrett emerge from the background to key a Kansas victory.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Texas
- Senior Night Special: Jayhawks cruise to win over Texas, clinch outright Big 12 title
- Tom Keegan: Jayhawks sidestep several obstacles to 14th straight Big 12 title
- Notebook: Graham, Newman earn Big 12 weekly awards; Texas guard Andrew Jones leaves hospital
- KU basketball’s red uniforms a request of “Number 4”
- The Keegan Ratings: Sophomore Udoka Azubuike tops ratings on Senior Night in victory vs. Texas
- KU seniors shut down fieldhouse for season with 80-70 win over Texas
While the Big 12 is brimming with quality college basketball teams, each capable of beating any league opponent on the right day, Kansas coach Bill Self knows only one conference squad is capable of feeling legitimately satisfied at this point of the season.
The vast majority of the Big 12 heads into this week’s slate of games disgruntled over at least one recent result. But not Texas Tech, the one sitting alone atop of the standings.
“There are some teams on an uptick, but I don’t think anybody’s ecstatic on where their team is at this point in time, with the exception of obviously the Red Raiders,” Self said.
Victorious in five straight league games, Texas Tech (21-4 overall, 9-3 Big 12) has Self’s Jayhawks (19-6, 8-4), the 13-time defending conference champs, in an unfamiliar spot — trailing.
Big 12 regular-season crowns, of course, have become the standard in Self’s tenure. But the 15th-year KU coach wondered Monday whether his players, either consciously or subconsciously, think too much about the race and extending the program’s streak of titles to 14.
“We probably just need to get better,” Self said. “And, you know, the streak is always thrown at us. Although we don’t talk about the streak I know that’s kind of the elephant in the room, so to speak, at least from what I’ve been told. And we just need to get away from that and concentrate on just playing a game at a time.”
Tech owns a one-game lead in the quest for the title in part because No. 13 KU has dropped three of its past six games, but also due to the Red Raiders’ Jan. 2 statement victory at Allen Fieldhouse.
It has been clear to Self since then that Keenan Allen-led Tech has a tough, athletic roster that is well coached by Chris Beard. So he isn’t in any way shocked the Red Raiders are in first place with six games to go.
“They’re the obvious favorite to win our league,” Self declared, “which they should be — they’ve got a game lead. But they’re also the one team in our league, if you really look at our league, everybody else is puttering around.”
It wasn’t long ago that KU responded from a loss to Tech with a five-game winning streak. Self said his Jayhawks, like Oklahoma (16-8, 6-6), West Virginia (18-7, 7-5) and other teams have played well at times, but have gone through stretches where they “have not been very good,” as well.
“Tech is the one team — you take away maybe their one game at Iowa State (70-52 loss, on Jan. 20) … Of their 12 league games they’ve probably been really good in about 11 of them,” Self said. “So they’ve been by far the most consistent.”
Kansas won’t get its rematch with the Red Raiders in Lubbock, Texas, until Feb. 24. In order for the Jayhawks to enter that anticipated matchup in position for the outcome to play a factor in the 2018 title race, they will first have to get through Tuesday night’s game at Iowa State (6 p.m., ESPN2), and then back-to-back home games versus West Virginia and Oklahoma.
“We've still got the vast majority of things in front of us,” Self said. “Probably have as tough a schedule left as anybody in the league, so if we're going to do this, we've got to do it the hard way. But it'll mean more when it gets done if we're able to do it.”
What’s left for Big 12’s top 3 teams
Tuesday vs. Oklahoma
Saturday at Baylor
Feb. 21 at Oklahoma State
Feb. 24 vs. Kansas
Feb. 26 at West Virginia
Match 3 vs. TCU
Tuesday at Iowa State
Saturday vs. West Virginia
Feb. 19 vs. Oklahoma
Feb. 24 at Texas Tech
Feb. 26 vs. Texas
March 3 at Oklahoma State
Monday vs. TCU
Saturday at Kansas
Feb. 20 at Baylor
Feb. 24 vs. Iowa State
Feb. 26 vs. Texas Tech
March 3 at Texas
Big 12 standings (6 games remaining)
Texas Tech, 9-3
West Virginia, 7-5
Kansas State, 6-6
Oklahoma State, 5-7
Iowa State, 4-8
The selection committee is not going to invite all 10 Big 12 teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Still, the more we see from these teams in conference play the more it appears every roster in the league would be capable of winning at least a “First Four” or first-round matchup in The Big Dance. There truly aren’t any weaklings or feeble opponents in the Big 12.
While Iowa State is in 10th place in the standings, it’s hard to label the Cyclones as the conference’s worst team. ISU already has defeated Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma in Hilton Coliseum. And perennial league champion Kansas could be next (Tuesday at 6 p.m., ESPN2).
Is Texas the worst team? The Longhorns own wins over the first-place Red Raiders and OU.
It can’t be Oklahoma State. The Cowboys over the course of the past two weeks won on the road in Lawrence and Morgantown, W.Va.
At this point it’s easier to pick a best team than a worst one in this loaded conference.
KU coach Bill Self stated this past week — before the Jayhawks lost by 16 at Baylor, a team that seemed in the mix for the “worst” label as recently as seven days ago — the Big 12 is surpassing the lofty expectations he had for it going into conference play.
“Whenever the leaders in the league have as many losses as what this league has, sometimes it gives the appearance of mediocrity. But that’s not true at all. It’s just that everybody here can play,” Self said.
“I’ve never seen a league this deep,” the 15th-year KU coach added. “We may have 10 teams that are as good as any league’s best 10 teams have — and they may have 14 or 15 teams in their league.”
No favored team is safe, regardless of venue, this year in the Big 12. It’s kind of a shame we won’t get to see all 10 programs take a crack at the madness of March.
Big 12 standings (6 games remaining)
Texas Tech, 9-3
West Virginia, 7-5
Kansas State, 6-6
Oklahoma State, 5-7
Iowa State, 4-8
Here’s a look at this week’s Big 12 Power Rankings. Each team’s best victories and its losses — good, bad and in between — are considered in this process, using KenPom.com’s ratings to classify the league’s most and least impressive squads to date. Results from all league games also are listed.
Big 12 Power Rankings — Feb. 12, 2018
No. 1 - Texas Tech (21-4)
Kenpom ranking: No. 8
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +6.0
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 19 Nevada (OT), No. 34 Baylor, at No. 14 Kansas, No. 56 Kansas State, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 66 Oklahoma State, No. 44 Texas (OT), at No. 22 TCU, No. 91 Iowa State, at No. 56 Kansas State
Losses: No. 35 Seton Hall, at No. 31 Oklahoma, at No. 44 Texas, at No. 91 Iowa State
No. 2 - Kansas (19-6)
Kenpom ranking: No. 14
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +0.6
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 33 Kentucky, No. 46 Syracuse, at No. 44 Texas, at No. 22 TCU, No. 91 Iowa State, No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 16 West Virginia, No. 34 Baylor, No. 21 Texas A&M, at No. 56 Kansas State, No. 22 TCU
Losses: No. 98 Washington, No. 32 Arizona State, No. 8 Texas Tech, at No. 31 Oklahoma, No. 66 Oklahoma State, at No. 34 Baylor
No. 3 - West Virginia (18-7)
Kenpom ranking: No. 16
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +5.9
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 38 Missouri, No. 1 Virginia, at No. 66 Oklahoma State, at No. 56 Kansas State, No. 31 Oklahoma, No. 44 Texas, No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 31 Oklahoma,
Losses: No. 21 Texas A&M, at No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 14 Kansas, at No. 22 TCU, No. 33 Kentucky, at No. 91 Iowa State, No. 66 Oklahoma State
No. 4 - Oklahoma (16-8)
Kenpom ranking: No. 31
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -0.4
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 47 USC, at No. 18 Wichita State, at No. 22 TCU, No. 66 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 22 TCU (OT), No. 14 Kansas, No. 34 Baylor
Losses: No. 45 Arkansas, at No. 16 West Virginia, at No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 66 Oklahoma State (OT), at No. 43 Alabama, at No. 44 Texas, No. 16 West Virginia, at No. 91 Iowa State
No. 5 - TCU (17-8)
Kenpom ranking: No. 22
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +2.4
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 19 Nevada, at No. 34 Baylor (OT), No. 91 Iowa State, No. 16 West Virginia, at No. 66 Oklahoma State, No. 44 Texas
Losses: No. 31 Oklahoma, No. 14 Kansas, at No. 44 Texas (2OT), at No. 31 Oklahoma (OT), at No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 87 Vanderbilt, No. 8 Texas Tech, at No. 14 Kansas
No. 6 - Oklahoma State (15-10)
Kenpom ranking: No. 66
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -4.6
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 25 Florida State, No. 91 Iowa State (OT), No. 44 Texas, No. 31 Oklahoma (OT), at No. 14 Kansas, at No. 16 West Virginia
Losses: No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 18 Wichita State, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 31 Oklahoma, at No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 34 Baylor, at No. 8 Texas Tech, at No. 45 Arkansas, No. 22 TCU, No. 34 Baylor
No. 7 - Kansas State (17-8)
Kenpom ranking: No. 56
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -3.6
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: at No. 91 Iowa State, No. 66 Oklahoma State, No. 31 Oklahoma, No. 22 TCU, at No. 44 Texas
Losses: No. 32 Arizona State, No. 119 Tulsa, No. 16 West Virginia, at No. 8 Texas Tech, at No. 14 Kansas, No. 14 Kansas, at No. 16 West Virginia, No. 8 Texas Tech
No. 8 - Baylor (15-10)
Kenpom ranking: No. 34
Average point differential in Big 12 play: +1.2
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 23 Creighton, No. 44 Texas, No. 66 Oklahoma State, No. 91 Iowa State, at No. 66 Oklahoma State, No. 14 Kansas
Losses: at No. 13 Xavier, No. 18 Wichita State, at No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 22 TCU (OT), at No. 16 West Virginia, at No. 91 Iowa State, at No. 14 Kansas, No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 38 Florida, at No. 31 Oklahoma
No. 9 - Texas (15-10)
Kenpom ranking: No. 44
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -3.1
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 20 Butler, at No. 91 Iowa State (OT), No. 22 TCU (2OT), No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 91 Iowa State, No. 31 Oklahoma
Losses: No. 5 Duke (OT), No. 7 Gonzaga (OT), No. 27 Michigan, No. 14 Kansas, at No. 34 Baylor, at No. 66 Oklahoma State, at No. 16 West Virginia, at No. 8 Texas Tech (OT), No. 56 Kansas State, at No. 22 TCU
No. 10 - Iowa State (13-11)
Kenpom ranking: No. 91
Average point differential in Big 12 play: -4.4
Top-50 & Big 12 wins: No. 34 Baylor, No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 16 West Virginia, No. 31 Oklahoma
Losses: at No. 38 Missouri, No. 211 Milwaukee, No. 56 Kansas State, No. 44 Texas (OT), at No. 66 Oklahoma State (OT), at No. 14 Kansas, at No. 22 TCU, at No. 44 Texas, No. 12 Tennessee, at No. 34 Baylor, at No. 8 Texas Tech
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the strangest stat lines of the season, Kansas senior Svi Mykhailiuk, a 21-time double-digit scorer this season, played 36 minutes against TCU earlier this week and only attempted two field goals.
One missed 3-pointer less than 5 minutes into the game. One missed layup before the midway mark of the first half. And not one more shot the rest of the way for a skilled 6-foot-8 scorer who, even after a 1-point performance, is averaging 16.4 points a game.
Sure, Mykhailiuk had experienced off shooting nights this season for the Jayhawks. He only hit 3 of 12 shots and scored 8 points in a loss to Washington. He was a 3-for-10 shooter on his way to 7 points in a home win against Baylor. But two field goal attempts? From a player that so often has played confidently while both draining 3-pointers and driving to the paint?
Maybe KU coach Bill Self got a better sense of what happened after reviewing the game footage, because he didn’t really know what to make of it immediately after the Jayhawks’ 71-64 victory Tuesday night.
“You know what, not really,” Self said Thursday afternoon. “Watching the tape, I don't know that he felt great. He did not look visibly himself. I don't know if anybody else noticed that. There was something. I’m not saying sick-sick. He just didn't seem quite energetic or talkative or himself. When other teams take you away like TCU did, then you’ve got to be able to work through that and adjust.”
Unlike so many previous KU opponents, TCU’s defenders didn’t experience numerous mental lapses and leave a 46.3-percent 3-point shooter open on the perimeter. Mykhailiuk surely would have fired away as usual if the Frogs had been so careless — even if he was a tad under the weather, an excuse Self said Mykhailiuk didn’t even consider admitting.
Defensively, TCU didn’t help much off of Mykhailiuk. In some instances coach Jamie Dixon called for his Frogs to focus so intently on KU’s typical high-volume shooter that the senior from Ukraine would find a man covering him immediately on the catch, sometimes with a second defender shading that way, too (as examined further in Scott Chasen’s 1-3-1 breakdown from the game).
Self credited TCU with making some “subtle” and “clever” adjustments to its perimeter defense to put Mykhailiuk through a more difficult night than most foes.
Mykhailiuk is averaging 13.3 shot attempts per game as a senior. His previous season-low for one outing was nine — twice, in 26 minutes versus Texas Southern, and in 38 minutes against Syracuse.
Even as a junior Mykhailiuk regularly took far more shots. Only once, amid a late-season slump, did he get off fewer than four attempts, when he went 1-for-2 at Oklahoma State while playing just 12 minutes.
From a production standpoint, Mykhailiuk relapsed back to his days as an underclassmen for one night. The lack of chances to get involved and contribute at times visibly frustrated the habitually buttoned-up guard.
But don’t count on this becoming any type of trend. Now 20 years old and far more confident than ever as a senior, Mykhailiuk is equipped to learn from the type of defense with which TCU challenged him, even if future Kansas opponents try and use it as a blueprint.
Now Self, his assistants, Mykhailiuk and his teammates all have seen an opponent take away one of the Jayhawks’ best offensive weapons. They will be able to learn from what went wrong and adjust if/when they run into a similar scheme.
Self, after re-watching the game, pointed out one very simple way Mykhailiuk and his teammates were held back in the quest to get the usually stable scorer at least a few more open looks.
“Think about this. How many shots do our perimeter get off of ball screens where help is forced? Half? Well, we didn't force help off ball screens, because of the way they pre-switched it and did some things,” Self said, while crediting TCU for its strategy.
Whether it was perfect defense, his teammates not actively setting him up, the effects of illness or a cocktail of all three, count on the 0-for-2 line going down as an aberration for Mykhailiuk. KU wouldn’t be 19-5 overall and 7-3 in the Big 12 if it weren’t for the guidance he and fellow senior Devonte’ Graham have brought to the team.
Averaging 15.7 points in league games, Mykhailiuk is the Big 12’s 10th-leading scorer. Against conference competition, only Oklahoma super-freshman Trae Young (4.4 3-pointers a game) does more damage from outside than KU’s fourth-year shooter from Cherkasy, Ukraine (3.5 3-pointers a game). He shoots. He attacks bad closeouts. He sets up his teammates (2.9 assists per game on the year, 3.1 in conference).
And unlike in past seasons, senior Svi is too driven to become bogged down by one subpar performance.
“I think Svi’s been absolutely terrific,” Self said. “He's had an unbelievable senior year. He's been aggressive. But for whatever reasons, (the Horned Frogs) were able to take him away. And I don't know if it was as much us or a combination of us and maybe him just not having that extra oomph to maybe fight through some stuff.”
Mykhailiuk, who averaged 21.8 points in his previous four games, gets a chance to rediscover his offensive impact Saturday at Baylor (1 p.m., CBS).