Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 95-85 loss to No. 16 Arizona State on Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks shot 48 percent from the floor and looked much more aggressive attacking the rim and finding their offense. And they were terrific early, particularly Devonte' Graham. The problem was, ASU put so much pressure on Kansas with its offense that the shots the Jayhawks did miss came at crucial times and proved to be massive blows. Turnovers also were a big, big problem.
Outside of the first few minutes and a couple of desperation possessions late in the second half, the Jayhawks were exposed in just about every way, defensively, in this one. KU's guards could not contain the Arizona State guards on the drive and gave up good looks from 3-point range. And there was next to no inside presence. Both are problems that already have haunted this team and will continue to do so unless the Jayhawks make major improvements quickly.
Udoka Azubuike struggled most of the day. Even though he made six of his seven shot attempts, Kansas almost never was able to throw the ball to him inside and the 7-footer struggled on the glass and to be any kind of defensive presence. Mitch Lightfoot did what he could to be a factor and had a couple of good moments, but he does not bring enough to the table yet to overcome an off day from Azubuike.
Considering half of this grade is for offense and the other half is for defense, the Jayhawks had very little chance for a high grade no matter how good their offense was. And it, too, was not great. Graham did what he could to be much better than he was against Washington, which helped, but none of the KU guards did much in the second half and none of them had any kind of consistency.
Lightfoot grabbed five rebounds and blocked a couple of shots in 18 minutes. And Marcus Garrett, whose early-season confidence has disappeared of late, did next to nothing in his 15 minutes. KU definitely is missing a spark off of the bench of any kind and not only needs these two to elevate their play but also to get a notable contribution from soon-to-be-eligible guard Sam Cunliffe.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Arizona State
- More Miscues: Jayhawks struggle defensively, fall at home to Arizona State
- Tom Keegan: Jayhawks missing scoring spark off the bench
- Notebook: Malik Newman leaves game with a concussion
- The Keegan Ratings: Devonte' Graham tops ratings in home loss to Arizona State
- Devil of an afternoon: Arizona State knocks off KU in Allen Fieldhouse
Losses tend to expose all kinds of weaknesses and quickly send the focus of both the team and the fan base to what is not going right as opposed to what is.
“We're not a good execution team,” KU coach Bill Self said after the loss. “When we're playing well, we're a good playing team, but we haven't scored all year on plays. We had some plays that we tried to do, but our execution's so bad. We got the ball where it needed to go, for the most part. I just thought our defense was horrendous and our hustle plays weren't very good either.”
While those reality-check moments can often be a good thing in the eyes of the coaching staff, one national college basketball writer believes that Wednesday's loss to Washington was anything but good for Kansas.
Gary Parrish, of CBS Sports, on Friday released the latest version of his Top 25 (and one) rankings which he tracks throughout the season. And KU's newest spot was more than a little shocking.
After entering Wednesday as a 22-point favorite and ending the day on the wrong end of a nine-point loss to unranked and unheralded Washington, Parrish dropped the Jayhawks from No. 2 in his rankings all the way down to No. 24.
While that free fall is eye-opening enough, here's the best part: Five Big 12 teams — count 'em FIVE — are ranked ahead of KU, according to Parrish, with West Virginia (9), TCU (13), Baylor (17), Texas (19) and Texas Tech (21) all surfacing before the picture of the Jayhawk.
Here's what Parrish had to say in the rankings about dropping the Jayhawks 22 spots.
“The Jayhawks were 21.5-point favorites when they lost to Washington late Wednesday. Devonte' Graham missed seven of the eight shots he took.”
There's not a lot there that explains the massive drop, but it's clear that Parrish is punishing Kansas for laying an egg and may believe the Jayhawks are only as good as Graham.
Somewhat expectedly, Parrish fielded more than a few questions in the comment section and on Twitter about his treatment of the Jayhawks.
Only then did we gain a little more insight into why he dropped Bill Self's squad 22 spots.
“Lots of questions about Kansas at No. 24,” Parrish Tweeted. “Here’s the simple answer: No team I have ranked ahead of KU has a loss anywhere close to as bad as KU’s loss to Washington. And if I’m going punish other teams for crazy-bad losses, I felt like I had to do the same to the Jayhawks.”
Fair enough. And, really, none of it matters much now.
What will be interesting to see is what happens to Kansas in Parrish's poll if the Jayhawks respond to the bad loss with a good win over No. 16 Arizona State (No. 12, according to Parrish) on Sunday. Or, on the other side of the coin, if he drops Kansas out of the Top 25 (and one) altogether if the Jayhawks lose to the Sun Devils.
Interesting stuff to kick around. But, again, Parrish's point of view does not mean much for the Jayhawks in terms of the big picture of their quest to win a 14th straight Big 12 title and snag a high seed in this year's NCAA Tournament three months from now.
Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, ESPN.com's Joe Lundardi, Mr. Bracketology himself, penned a quick piece on Thursday called, “Behind the Bracket: Why Kansas is still a No. 1 seed.”
While calling KU's loss to Washington “surprising” and saying that it maybe should have knocked the Jayhawks down to a No. 2 seed, Lunardi explained his reason for keeping them as a No. 1 seed by saying simply, “all (the loss to UW) did was drop the Jayhawks from No. 2 overall to No. 4. The reason is that a bevy of teams sitting just behind KU also went down, some in equally ignominious fashion.”
“Notre Dame? No thanks, lost at home to Ball State in a game the Irish were given a 93 percent chance to win. Florida? Double disaster, lost a pair at home to Florida State (semi-understandable) and Loyola Chicago, averaging 62.5 points in the process. Texas A&M, Virginia and Cincinnati were among other highly ranked unbeatens to suffer their first defeats. So Kansas lives to see another day on the top line. This is significant in large part because the Jayhawks have pretty much made it their permanent home for a staggering seven of the past 11 years. What happens next? Kansas will likely be favored in all but one of its remaining regular-season games (Jan. 15, at West Virginia). Even with Wednesday's loss, the Jayhawks retain No. 1 seed odds of nearly 80 percent.
What happens next for Kansas in the more immediate future is an even tougher test at 1 p.m. Sunday against a red hot and unbeaten Arizona State team that has proven to be an offensive juggernaut so far.
That will put a lot of pressure on the KU defense to play better than it did on Wednesday night. But the Jayhawks, this time out, will have the advantage of playing at Allen Fieldhouse, where the home team often gets the help of a sixth defender that is 16,300 fans strong.
Fan support or not, Self is looking for his team to find another gear to help overcome some of its obvious flaws that may be fixed in time or may linger throughout the rest of the season.
“We're not extremely quick and we're not very big,” he began. “Those are facts. That was evident (Wednesday night). So if you don't play with that chip on your shoulder and play scrappier than your opponent, we're going to have more nights like (Wednesday).”
Thanks to Wednesday night's 74-65 loss to Washington at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., Lagerald Vick now owns the distinction of being the only player on the 2017-18 KU basketball roster to set his career high in a losing effort.
It's a bit of a rare thing for a player at Kansas to post a career-high in a losing effort. But it has happened.
In fact, Frank Mason's 30-point game in a loss to Indiana in last year's season opener was a career-high at the time and Mason's final collegiate career high of 32 points came in a losing effort against Iowa State later in the season.
Andrew Wiggins, the future No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft, also set his Kansas career high of 41 points in a losing effort at West Virginia during his lone season at KU.
So it's not as if Vick is in poor company here. But, generally speaking, the biggest games from KU's best players are delivered in victories.
Just take a look at the rest of the roster.
Nine of the 11 other Jayhawks on the 2017-18 roster — freshman Billy Preston and newcomer James Sosinski have yet to score a point in their KU basketball careers — set their career highs in wins. And all but two of those have come this season.
The two that didn't?
Malik Newman's career best of 25 points came in January of 2016, when Newman helped Mississippi State knock off arch rival Ole Miss. And Sam Cunliffe's career high of 23 points came in an Arizona State victory over The Citadel early last season before Cunliffe transferred to Kansas.
While this certainly does not mean anything, good or bad, for Vick or the team the rest of the way, it is at the least mildly interesting. What's more, it seems like a safe bet that if Vick goes on to top the 28-point total he posted on Wednesday night, it likely will come in a Kansas victory.
After all, the reason Vick got loose for his 28 points on Wednesday — a total that easily could have been more if a couple of close-range misses had fallen through — was because the Huskies made it there game plan to let him go and try to beat Kansas elsewhere.
The plan worked. This time. But it's awfully uncommon for a KU opponent to purposely try to allow one guy to score all of the points while still keeping their sights on winning the game.
Here's a quick look at the current career highs of every eligible player on the 2017-18 KU roster:
|KU player||Career High||Opponent||Season||Result|
|Devonte' Graham||35||vs. Toledo
|2017-18||96-58 KU win
76-60 KU win
|Lagerald Vick||28||vs. Washington||2017-18||74-65 KU loss|
|Svi Mykhailiuk||27||vs. South Dakota State||2017-18||98-64 KU win|
|Malik Newman||25||vs. Ole Miss (at MSU)||2015-16||83-77 MSU win|
|Sam Cunliffe||23||vs. The Citadel (at ASU)||2016-17||127-110 ASU win|
|Udoka Azubuike||21||vs. Oakland||2017-18||102-59 KU win|
|Marcus Garrett||13||vs. Texas Southern||2017-18||114-71 KU win|
|Mitch Lightfoot||11||vs. Oakland||2017-18||102-59 KU win|
|Chris Teahan||4||vs. Toledo||2017-18||96-58 KU win|
|Clay Young||3||vs. Tennessee State||2017-18||92-56 KU win|
|Billy Preston &
|N/A||Neither player has scored
a point for KU yet
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 74-65 loss to Washington on Tuesday night at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Outside of Lagerald Vick, who, himself, had a few ups and downs but also delivered a career-high 28 points, the KU offense struggled to deliver good possessions and had a tough time getting leading scorer Devonte' Graham good looks. The offense was bad for most of the night, but Vick's effort pulled it into the C range.
There were times when the KU defense looked good. But those were few and far between and scarce in the second half. Washington opened the second half by doing and getting whatever it wanted on the offensive end to build a sizable lead and the Huskies' second-chance points proved to be a big part of this one.
The zone again proved to bother Azubuike, but the big fella enjoyed moments of being the kind of factor he needs to be for this team. First-half foul trouble for both him and Mitch Lightfoot again hamstrung KU coach Bill Self.
Good thing for Lagerald Vick. Otherwise, this one could have really been ugly. Devonte' Graham had an off night shooting the ball but did not really do much to pull himself out of it. Malik Newman was non-existent again and Svi Mykhailiuk missed six of his eight 3-point attempts and made more than a couple careless passes.
On a night when KU coach Bill Self needed a spark from someone off the bench, he got next to nothing from Marcus Garrett and Mitch Lightfoot and once again was forced to use walk-on Clay Young in the first half.
Andrew Wiggins (41), Elijah Johnson (39) and Ben McLemore (36) all scored more points in a single game during their time as Jayhawks than current KU senior Devonte' Graham scored last week.
But, unlike Graham, who tallied a career-high 35 points in back to back wins over Toledo and Syracuse last week, none of them were able to follow up their outbursts with quite the same kind of performance the next game out.
Wiggins came the closest, scoring 30 points in an overtime win over Oklahoma State in the 2014 Big 12 tournament, five days after scoring 41 in a loss at West Virginia.
But Johnson followed up his big game with a much more modest 12-point night in a win over West Virginia. Johnson did add 10 assists and five rebounds to his line. And what's funny about Johnson's follow-up game was that it was the night that McLemore scored his 36.
McLemore then followed that up with a 13-point effort on Senior Night in 2013.
According to KU's media relations staff, Graham's back-to-back games of 35 points last week marked the first time since the 1969-70 season that a Jayhawk had scored 35 or more in back to back games.
That player was former KU center and 14-year NBA veteran Dave Robisch, who tallied 39 points against Iowa State and 38 against Colorado the next time out during a pair of conference games back in 1970.
Graham's two 35-point outings set a new career high for the senior from Raleigh, N.C., — eclipsing the old mark of 27 — and all seemed to come within the flow of KU's offense, without the point guard forcing the action or seeking his own shot to the detriment of the team.
“I've always coached 'em down to the point where we haven't had very many (players put up huge point totals),” Self said this week, when asked about Graham's big nights. “Wiggs got 41 at West Virginia because we were behind and a lot of them were catch-up points. But we haven't had very many of them get that number. ...Wilt (Chamberlain) probably did it a couple times.”
Self continued: “Elijah got like 39 or something against Iowa State, but that was an overtime game. So, as far as in the teeth of a game, Devonte' had 35 with eight minutes left against Toledo and he had 35 with about five minutes left against Syracuse. So, yeah, I don't know if we've had anybody ever score the ball that well when the game was still in balance, so to speak. Because a lot of times guys get points by being ahead late and they (shoot free throws) or being behind and then you have real short possessions. This was not a case of either one of those.”
Before Monday's practice, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self said he wanted a couple more days to evaluate KU football tight end and potential KU basketball walk-on James Sosinski before giving him an outright spot on the team.
Evidently, Self saw enough on Monday to alter the timeline.
Monday night, on his weekly Hawk Talk radio show, Self revealed that Sosinski, the 6-foot-7, 260-pound tight end with a junior college basketball background, had impressed enough to earn a uniform and a spot on the bench.
“We’ve decided that he’s going to suit up for us. So he’ll travel with us,” Self said on Monday night. “That doesn’t mean you should expect him to get in the game, stuff like that. Because he wouldn’t play ahead of other guys yet.”
Self said Monday that the former South Mountain Community College standout, who received Division I hoops offers after just averaging 19 points and 12 rebounds in just one semester with South Mountain, had impressed him thus far through his basketball IQ and physical strength.
Although he figures to remain a deep insurance policy and primarily is expected to help the Jayhawks in practice by providing a physical presence for 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike to battle with, Self was not ruling out a potentially bigger role.
“Who knows, if a month from now we’re playing somebody and they are hurting us and we need to steal a couple of minutes because they’ve got a big guy that's laying on us, maybe he can go out and neutralize that,” Self said of Sosinski. “Or maybe he can go out and foul the heck out of somebody really hard. I think he can be an asset.”
Beyond that, Self said Sosinski also would benefit the the Jayhawks just by traveling with the team.
“When we go to places and shoot on the day of the game, in order to get our seven guys who are playing the majority of the minutes out there, they're going to be guarded by (walk-ons) Clay (Young), (Chris) Teahan and three managers. ...Getting a big guy out there that can at least lay on 'Dok will be an asset for us.”
In many ways, Sosinski already is.
“I noticed (during Monday's practice), when he would screen somebody it was different than when some other guys screen you. He’ll hit you. He really has done pretty well.”
Although Sosinski had not yet been added to KU's official roster as of Tuesday morning, a basketball official said KU's newest big man would wear No. 55 for the Jayhawks.
“He is a good player,” Self said. “He’s a nice young man. I think he’ll be good for us.”
Kansas football tight end turned potential KU hoops walk-on, James Sosinski, strolled out to the practice floor with the rest of the Jayhawks on Monday and Self updated his status, as well.
“I'm going to watch him practice today and tomorrow,” Self said. “And if he does well, we're going to let him suit up and be on the bench on Wednesday. I'm sure he will. I'm real impressed with him as a kid. He seems bright, he's picked up stuff, even though we haven't thrown anything at him hardly, and I think he'll know his role.”
The idea of Sosinski joining the basketball team surfaced last week, when Self invited him to practice to give him a look. The idea then was that he would watch him for a few practices and see if he was worth adding to the roster.
Given that KU has just seven scholarship players eligible at the moment — with walk-ons Clay Young and Chris Teahan representing the eighth and ninth players in KU's current rotation — adding another body to a thin bench seemed like an idea worth exploring.
It's hard to know how long Sosinski would have to be around for Self to trust him enough to put him in a game. But it's worth noting that last Saturday, during KU's 76-60 victory over Syracuse, Young, who stands 6-foot-5, played nine first-half minutes and was asked to guard Syracuse's 7-foot-2 center and other taller players.
Outside of mop-up duty late in blowouts and offering emergency depth for KU's big men, the 6-7, 260-pound former junior college basketball player Sosinski also would have value in KU's practices.
“He's hard for Udoka to score on,” Self said of 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike. “(James is) the one heavy body that we can put down there that can lean on him and be just as strong and have even a better base than Dok to kind of push him out. So I think this is good for Udoka.”
After exploding for back-to-back 35-point games in Kansas victories over Toledo and Syracuse, senior point guard Devonte' Graham was named Big 12 player of the week on Monday.
Graham also picked up a pair of national weekly honors, snagging the same recognition from ncaa.com and The Lute Olson Award.
Asked Monday if he saw Graham's hot start coming, Self slipped into comedian mode.
“Yeah, I expected him to get 35 the last two games,” he deadpanned. “If you look at his yearly stats, over seven games, I would (have thought) he'd be averaging about 18 and shooting about 40 percent from 3 and having a lot of assists. So, yeah, these were probably the stats I would've anticipated this early. But I wouldn't have anticipated him scoring 70 points in a week, though. That's a pretty good week.”
Graham entered last week's Toledo contest averaging 12 points per game and now ranks third in the Big 12 in scoring with an 18.6 average.
Graham is not just leading Kansas scoring, he ranks second in the Big 12 in assists at 8 per game, fourth in steals (2.3), third in free throw percentage (92.3), fifth in 3-point field goals made (2.9), seventh in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.8) and tied for third in double-doubles with two.
Monday marked the second time in Graham's career that he had been named the Big 12 Player of the Week, with the other coming Feb. 15, 2016, when he scored his previous career high of 27 points at Oklahoma.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said after Saturday's 76-60 loss to No. 2 Kansas in Miami that he heard, on more than a few occasions, that the Orange would not fare well playing their signature 2-3 zone defense against the Jayhawks.
But while Syracuse did, in fact, fall to the Jayhawks — in game which the Orange led for just 2:15 and not at all for the final 27:54 — Boeheim was quick to point out that it was not KU's 3-point shooting or the struggles of Syracuse's zone that cost his team.
“Overall, we did a good job on their shooters. I mean, really, except for (KU senior Devonte') Graham,” said Boeheim, noting that KU players not named Graham shot just 4-of-18 from 3-point range. “They shoot 35 percent from the 3 (11-of-31) and they (were) shooting 47 coming in here.”
Graham, of course, more than made up for the off day from his teammates, connecting on 7-of-13 triples himself en route to a career-high tying 35-point outburst that carried KU to victory.
But even his 54 percent clip from deep was more about big time shots made by the KU senior than a failure by the Syracuse defense, according to Boeheim.
“We believe we can stop people from the 3-point line if we play our defense properly,” he said. “It's interesting that Kansas was shooting 47 percent against six teams that played man-to-man. But everybody says, '(You) can't play zone.' Well, obviously you can't play man-to-man either. People don't get that.”
So many of Graham's 3-point makes came from well beyond the 3-point line and in nearly the same spot above the top of the key.
When asked after the victory why he found room to shoot in that area, Graham unknowingly added support to the Syracuse coach's claim.
“That's just what they're supposed to do,” Graham said of the way Syracuse defended the Kansas offense. “When we run our 2-3 zone, when the ball goes to the middle, we fan out. You have to leave someone open, and it's usually the guy at the top. I was just trying to stay ready to shoot the ball.”
After misfiring on his first three 3-point attempts of the game, Graham caught fire from there, connecting on seven of his next eight 3-point attempts before missing his final two.
Each long-range bomb that fell softly through the American Airlines Arena nets brought serious energy and momentum to the Kansas bench and crowd and had the opposite effect on Boeheim and the Orange.
Even with that, Boeheim, somehow, was asked after the game if he was “happy with the defense you guys played on Devonte' Graham.”
“He got 35,” Boeheim said. “I guess we weren't too happy with that. ...This would've been, I think, a fairly close game if we would've shot a little better. But Kansas is a tremendous team.”
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Syracuse
- Jayhawks squeeze Orange in Miami
- Keegan: Graham even impresses NBA exec Riley, who’s seen it all
- Notebook: Vick finds groove vs. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone
- Report Card: Jayhawks beat Orange
- Preston doesn’t travel to Miami
- Graham again tops Keegan Ratings
- Graham, walk-on Young spark KU past ’Cuse