A quick look back at "The Best" of the 2018-19 KU basketball season
With the 2018-19 Kansas basketball season now a thing of the past, most KU fans are probably more than happy to move on.
And who could blame them?
The Jayhawks’ most recent basketball run was full of rocky moments, rough patches and tough stretches, and the Jayhawks, at 26-10, finished tied for the most single-season losses in the Self era. What's more, at .722, the team recorded the second-worst winning percentage of Self’s 16 seasons at KU, coming in just behind the 2013-14 team that finished 25-10 for a .714 mark.
The 2018-19 season was also just the seventh in Self’s 16 seasons in which KU failed to win at least 82 percent of its games.
But it wasn’t all bad.
Freshmen became familiar faces and a fun part of the future. The tough schedule produced serious battles night in and night out. And KU coach Bill Self had to dig deep to find new ways to tweak his lineup, adjust his game plan and inspire his players to overcome more adversity than any one KU basketball team had faced in years.
All of that worked at times and didn’t at others, while still leading to 26 wins and a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Here’s a quick look back at some of the best moments of the 2018-19 season.
Best Home Win – Feb. 25 vs. Kansas State
Backs against the wall and needing to put a little pressure on K-State at the top of the standings, the Jayhawks played one of their best games of the season, holding the Wildcats to 31.6 percent shooting in a 64-49 win at Allen Fieldhouse.
Best Road Win – Jan. 12 at Baylor
No one knew at the time that the Bears would be a factor in the Big 12 race, but the Jayhawks made sure early that they weren’t a factor in this one. Kansas jumped out to an 18-2 lead and held BU without a field goal for the first 10:26 of the game en route to a 73-68 victory in Waco, Texas.
Best Neutral Site Win – Nov. 6 vs. Michigan State
There were a bunch of these and KU finished the 2018-19 season with a 6-2 record on neutral courts, 7-2 if you count the December win over New Mexico State at Sprint Center. But few were as impressive as this team’s season debut. Playing as the preseason No. 1-ranked team in the country against a Michigan State team that wound up in the Final Four, the Jayhawks controlled things from the jump and knocked off Tom Izzo’s club, 92-87, at the Champions Classic in Indianapolis.
Best Comeback – Win vs. Marquette in Brooklyn
Trailing by 9 at the break and as many as 12 during a rough first half, the Jayhawks ripped off a 22-0 run in the first 9 minutes of the second half to put an end to Marquette’s upset bid at the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center. Kansas won, 77-68, thanks to a dominant 39-21 second-half showing.
Best Overall Game – Win vs. Tennessee in Brooklyn
Two nights after their come-from-behind win over Marquette, the Jayhawks, with renewed energy, staged a classic with the Volunteers in the same venue, needing overtime to settle the score. Despite Tennessee leading by as many as 9 points in the second half, the Jayhawks found a way to get it to overtime, where they cruised to an 87-81 victory over the 5th-ranked Vols.
Best Single Shot – Vick’s That Forced OT vs. Stanford
This one came with seven seconds to play and KU’s Allen Fieldhouse winning streak on the line. With the play drawn up to go to Dedric Lawson, KU senior Lagerald Vick cut it short, jumped 3 feet into the air and dropped a dagger through the net that helped send the game to OT, where KU won 90-84 to improve to 6-0. The shot, which was made so spectacular because of the ridiculous degree of difficulty in front of the Kansas bench, was just one moment during Vick’s torrid start to his final season as a Jayhawk. The only other one I considered was the shot Lawson hit while sitting on the ground in the lane against Louisiana.
Best Dunk – Agbaji Lob vs. TCU
Ten seconds after checking into the game for the first time in his KU career — 15 games into what was supposed to be his redshirt season — Kansas City, Mo., freshman Ochai Agbaji caught a lob from Devon Dotson and flushed it, marking the explosive beginning of Agbaji’s strong second half to his freshman season. There were more highlight-worthy dunks that followed, but none will be remembered quite like this one.
Best Senior – Lagerald Vick
OK, so Vick was the only senior on the KU roster this season, but he still did enough — for a while — to earn this distinction. Without him, KU might have lost more like 12 or 13 games during the 2018-19 season. Before his leave of absence that ended his KU career 12 games shy of the finish line, there was plenty to remember about Vick’s final year with the program. He finished the season averaging 14.1 points per game on 45.5 percent shooting from 3-point range, numbers that left him near the top of the Big 12 in both categories.
Best Junior – Dedric Lawson
When all was said and done, the numbers the KU All-American produced during his first season with the Jayhawks rivaled those put up by some of the biggest names in KU history. In addition to averaging a double-double — 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game — Lawson recorded 22 double-doubles and became just the ninth Jayhawk in the history of the program to score 700 points in a single season and the fifth player in program history to record 700 points and 370 rebounds in the same season.
Best Sophomore – Marcus Garrett
I’ll be honest, I was tempted to go with Silvio De Sousa here just because of how well he handled his uncertainty and eventual suspension all season and continues to handle it to this day. But Garrett actually played so it has to be him. Beyond that, had it not been for the ankle injury in early February, Garrett’s season — and KU’s — may have been even more solid than it wound up being. He still has some work to do to improve as an offensive player, but the groundwork is in place for strong junior and senior seasons the next two years.
Best Freshman – Devon Dotson
So tough, so strong, so fast and so reliable. Dotson had as good a freshman year as anyone could have expected and has put himself well ahead of the pace of former KU greats Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham in terms of being in the conversation as the best point guard to ever play for Self. He still has to become a better and more consistent shooter to land on that list — Mason, Graham and Sherron Collins all could shoot the lights out — and another year of maturity and strength training will help him a ton, as well. But Dotson handled the role of running the show and playing major minutes incredibly well as a true freshman and there’s plenty of reason to think his best is still ahead.
Best Celebration – Locker Room at TCU
There were some Mitch Lightfoot roars and a few Ochai Agbaji demonstrations that could have contended for this spot, but as far as the best celebration by the entire team, that had to come after the Jayhawks’ tough road win at TCU, which kept them alive in the Big 12 race and temporarily answered the question of whether this Kansas team could find a way to win away from Allen Fieldhouse. Even KU AD Jeff Long got in on the locker room fun, and Self said in the postgame press conference that it was the best locker room the Jayhawks have had all season in terms of energy and pure elation.
Best Quote – Bill Self after January loss at Kentucky
Playing at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena for the second time in the past few seasons, Self was asked after the Wildcats’ win over the Jayhawks what he thought of Rupp’s atmosphere and environment. His answer? “It’s good,” Self said. “It’s no Allen Fieldhouse, but it’s good. It’s a terrific atmosphere. I said before the game, this is why you go to Kentucky or go to Kansas.” Even in defeat, Self found a way to try to pick up a victory over KU’s national rival.