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Tale of the Tait

Looking back at KU basketball’s milestone victories

It’s easy to gloss over a victory as historically significant as all-time win No. 2,200 when you consider the fact that the most experienced players on the current roster who delivered it only have been around for an average of less than 100 of those and the coach leading the way only 400.

But just because two of the players wearing KU uniforms today have been a part of just 14 of those 2,200 victories does not mean that the win — 85-68 over Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse — was not a major milestone to the thousands and thousands of KU fans who have screamed, yelled, cheered and rejoiced about more than half of those wins during their lifetimes.

Give the current Jayhawks credit for both recognizing the significance of Saturday’s 2,200th win and for having the respect to realize it’s not in any way about them and only them. And give senior point guard Frank Mason III major credit for offering the following four words as his final comment on the matter: “there’s more to come.”

Talk about a guy who gets it. Sure, being a part of win No. 2,200 was nice and likely will be something these guys look back on — many years from now — as one of the many, many cool parts of their Kansas careers.

But the objective today, as it has been year in and year out, week in and week out, for as long as anyone can remember is to find a way to bring more victories not celebrate wins gone by.

Bill Self now has been around for four milestone victories and if he's still the Kansas coach when the Jayhawks reach win No. 2,300, he'll tie Phog Allen and Roy Williams as the head coaches to deliver the most milestone wins in Kansas history.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at the major milestone wins, from 1 to 2,200, that Kansas basketball has achieved in the past 118 years.

Win Date Site Coach Opponent
1 Feb. 10, 1899 Lawrence James Naismith 31-6 vs. Topeka YMCA
100 Jan. 15, 1910 St. Louis W.O. Hamilton 34-13 vs. Washington (Mo.)
200 Jan. 24, 1917 Lawrence W.O. Hamilton 27-19 vs. Kansas State
300 Feb. 9, 1925 Lawrence Phog Allen 33-18 vs. Iowa State
400 Jan. 2, 1933 Lawrence Phog Allen 34-28 vs. Stanford
500 Jan. 18, 1939 Lawrence Phog Allen 37-32 vs. Missouri
600 Jan. 30, 1945 Lawrence Phog Allen 39-36 vs. Kansas State
700 Dec. 29, 1951 Kansas City, Mo. Phog Allen 75-65 vs. Missouri
800 March 15, 1957 Dallas Dick Harp 73-65 vs. SMU
900 Dec. 1, 1964 Fayetteville, Ark. Ted Owens 65-60 vs. Arkansas
1,000 Feb. 3, 1969 Lawrence Ted Owens 64-48 vs. Oklahoma State
1,100 Jan. 25, 1975 Lawrence Ted Owens 71-60 vs. Oklahoma State
1,200 Dec. 1, 1980 Lawrence Ted Owens 81-67 vs. Pepperdine
1,300 Dec. 3, 1985 Lawrence Larry Brown 86-71 vs. SIU-Edwardsville
1,400 Feb. 25, 1989 Lawrence Roy Williams 111-83 vs. Colorado
1,500 Jan. 16, 1993 Louisville, Ky Roy Williams 98-77 vs. Louisville
1,600 Nov. 27, 1996 Maui, Hawaii Roy Williams 80-63 vs. Virginia
1,700 Jan. 8, 2000 Boulder, Colo. Roy Williams 84-69 vs. Colorado
1,800 March 29, 2003 Anaheim, Calif. Roy Williams 78-75 vs. Arizona
1,900 March 3, 2007 Lawrence Bill Self 90-86 vs. Texas
2,000 March 11, 2010 Kansas City, Mo. Bill Self 80-68 vs. Texas Tech
2,100 March 24, 2013 Kansas City, Mo. Bill Self 70-58 vs. North Carolina
2,200 Jan. 7, 2017 Lawrence Bill Self 85-68 vs. Texas Tech
Reply 10 comments from Thad Daugherty Mike Greer Dirk Medema Randy Maxwell John Myers Brian Mellor Len Shaffer Dale Rogers Bryce Landon

Postgame Report Card: Kansas 85, Texas Tech 68

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) puts down a dunk against Texas Tech during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) puts down a dunk against Texas Tech during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 85-68 victory over Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Offense: A

The Jayhawks shot better than 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three-point range and made five consecutive shots during the decisive run that put the game out of reach with around five minutes to play.

Defense: A-

The effort, activity and tenacity were all there and Kansas also limited the Red Raiders to 41 percent shooting from the floor. The only reason for the minus was KU’s inability to keep Tech from getting open looks from three-point range. Overall, though, a much, much better effort on the defensive end of the floor.

Frontcourt: C+

None of KU’s big men — all two of them — did much in this one. Bragg and Lucas combined for 11 points and 12 rebounds but also had a few forgettable moments, especially Bragg who struggled inside and occasionally got lost on defense.

Backcourt: A-

Devonte’ Graham (20 points) was hot early, Mason (26) was hot late and the Jayhawks got a big time effort from the three-headed monster of Graham, Mason and Jackson (63 of 85 points). Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk did not have much of an encore performance to his game-winner against K-State on Tuesday, finishing with five points and four rebounds before fouling out in 21 minutes.

Bench: C

Neither Bragg nor Lagerald Vick did much to write home about and both sent Bill Self looking to the bench to plug a starter back in a few too many times throughout this one.

Reply 2 comments from Brett McCabe Jay Scott

Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe closing in on a decision?

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Kansas University basketball recruiting

Sam Cunliffe, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound shooting guard who was ranked No. 36 overall in the Rivals.com recruiting class of 2016, was in Lawrence this week to visit Kansas and left with a great feel for the KU program.

"It was amazing," Cunliffe told TheShiver.com's Matt Scott following his visit, which included a trip to the KU-K-State game on Tuesday night. "That game was insane!!!! I loved every minute of it."

So much so that Cunliffe, who started 10 games for Arizona State this season but decided at semester to transfer, has chosen to shut down his recruiting.

"No more visits," Cunliffe told Scott on Wednesday. "Deciding real soon. No more than 3 days," he added.

If that timeline holds, Cunliffe should have a decision by the end of the week and the whole situation certainly has the feel of the young man picking Kansas.

Named the Seattle Times’ State Basketball Player of the Year following his senior season at Rainier Beach High, Cunliffe picked Arizona State from serious interest from California, Colorado, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Oregon, UNLV, Utah, Washington, Washington State and others.

A Seattle native who was the highest rated recruit landed by the Sun Devils since James Harden, announced in December that he was leaving ASU despite starting the first 10 games of his freshman season and averaging 9.5 points in 25.4 minutes.

In other recruiting news... Scott and other recruiting analysts are reporting that KU coach Bill Self will travel to Oklahoma today to watch Class of 2017 point guard Trae Young, who remains one of the top targets in KU's current class.

Young said last Fall that he wanted to take his time with the decision and get an opportunity to see each team in the mix play and watch how their seasons play out a little bit.

“I’m getting near to the end of my recruitment and I’m starting to look at these teams play and come to a conclusion what school I want to choose so it was a really big thing for them to come out and I’m really happy for that," Young told A Sea of Blue, SB Nation's Kentucky site, in late November.

Asked when he might announce, Young said, “Probably early January. Don’t have a date set yet, but probably early January.”

Other programs remain in the mix, but most analysts believe Young's recruitment is a hot contest between Kansas and in-state school Oklahoma.

Reply 16 comments from Matt Tait Jay Scott Vernon Riggs Ken Koonce Karen Mansfield-Stewart Kent Richardson Harlan Hobbs Jayhawkmarshall Brett McCabe Robert  Brock and 1 others

Svi’s game winner vs. K-State might not have happened a couple months ago

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) lays in the final shot for win over Kansas State on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) lays in the final shot for win over Kansas State on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Tuesday night, following KU’s thrilling, 90-88 victory over Sunflower State rival Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse, one thing rattled around inside my brain about junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk’s game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Yes, Svi traveled. Nobody’s disputing that. The closest anybody even came to doing so on Tuesday night were those who said they hadn’t seen it yet.

So, we know Svi traveled. We know, travel or not, that it was still a pretty impressive play to get a layup despite having to go the length of the floor in five seconds. And we know that, again, travel or not, Svi’s hanging scoop shot was no easy play, especially with the game on the line.

But none of that was what stuck with me following Tuesday’s game.

What stuck with me was the fact that, for the last time, travel or not, the shot was probably one Svi would not even have attempted a couple of months ago.

That’s how much confidence can help a player, and few players are playing with as much confidence right now as KU’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who, on Tuesday, reached double digits in scoring for the eighth consecutive game and 10th time overall this season.

Let’s take another quick look at the play and see what route a less-confident Svi could have taken instead of the one he chose, which won the game.

There’s a point, just across halfcourt, when K-State’s Wesley Iwundu is closing in and, under different circumstances, easily could’ve been enough of a bother to coerce Svi into getting rid of the ball, especially when you consider that his only option from this position would’ve been to toss it back and to his right to Frank Mason III, who was crossing the mid-court stripe at about the same time and has a recent history of hitting game winners.

Mason even put his hand up briefly, calling for the ball. But Svi either never saw it or disregarded it because he felt good enough about his own ability to go win the game.

Let’s keep moving.

Once Svi reached the free throw line, where two KSU defenders greeted him and two others trailed closely, it would have been easy for him to (a) decide to throw a lob to Landen Lucas on his left or (b) zip a pass to Josh Jackson on the right for a baseline jumper to win the game.

A pass to Lucas would have made sense given the fact that the Jayhawks love lobs and Lucas delivered a career-high 18 points against the Wildcats. But it also might have taken too much time and there’s a chance Svi sensed that, with his internal clock surely a half-second or so ahead of the actual game clock thanks to adrenaline and the chaotic nature of those final few seconds.

Finding Jackson, who was more in Svi’s line of sight, also would have made sense because the KU freshman is known as a terrific scorer and has a knack for getting to the rim. That, too, might have taken a tad too long and such a decision could’ve cost the Jayhawks their shot to win it in regulation.

That’s three separate options — all of which would have made sense — that Svi passed up in order to put the game on his shoulders.

Again, there’s little-to-no chance he makes that decision a couple of months ago.

And the fact that he made it (both the shot and the decision) on Tuesday night should be viewed as perhaps the best news of all to come out of a game that people will be talking about for quite some time.

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has finally become a player. And I can’t help but get the feeling that the best is yet to come for KU’s most recent hero.

Reply 4 comments from Chandleraccipiter Dale Rogers Marcus  Balzer Jay Scott

Postgame Report Card: Kansas 90, Kansas State 88

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes in with a put-back bucket against Kansas State during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) comes in with a put-back bucket against Kansas State during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s thrilling, 90-88 victory over Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Offense: A

They scored 52 points in the first half and, somehow, led by 10 after the Wildcats shot 54 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three-point range during the same 20-minute period. It’s to the point now where it’s newsworthy if the Jayhawks’ offense isn’t an A.

Defense: C

The Jayhawks had plenty of opportunities to bury the Wildcats but kept letting them off the hook by breaking down against dribble penetration and good ball movement. KU did grind out just about every possession and that saved them from getting a C-minus here. Some of the credit for this effort has to go to K-State's players for being absolutely fearless all night.

Frontcourt: B+

Lucas was so good yet again (18 points and 12 rebounds) and delivered some of his biggest buckets and rebounds when the Jayhawks needed them most.

Backcourt: A

Jackson was sensational in the first half and Frank Mason was Frank Mason. But the big bucket came from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk at the buzzer and the Jayhawks would’ve been blown out of not for their backcourt. Such is life.

Bench: C

Vick and Bragg were merely average — good moments mixed with bad — and Lightfoot did not play enough to factor too heavily into this grade.

Reply 3 comments from Barry Weiss David Soltis Jay Scott

Next 5 weeks feature 2 key stretches for Kansas basketball

Kansas guard Frank Mason Jr., (0) jumps to make a cross court pass and break a press in a game between the Jayhawks and the Mountaineers at the WVU Colliseum in Morgantown, W.V. Tuesday.

Kansas guard Frank Mason Jr., (0) jumps to make a cross court pass and break a press in a game between the Jayhawks and the Mountaineers at the WVU Colliseum in Morgantown, W.V. Tuesday. by Mike Yoder

It hasn’t mattered who was on the team, what the rotation looked like or how deep and talented the Kansas men’s basketball team has been.

Almost every year, without fail, there has been a small but impactful stretch, usually during conference play, when the Jayhawks have struggled and KU fans has questioned what in the heck was going on.

Last year, a team that gave eventual national champion Villanova an absolute street fight in the Elite Eight lost three of five games during mid-to-late January, all on the road and all by double digits.

One year before that, the Jayhawks lost three of six, including twice in a seven-day span, before bowing out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round.

And three seasons ago, the Jayhawks lost three of four early in the season — including back-to-back games at Colorado and Florida — and finished the season losing two of their last three to close the regular season and four of its final seven overall.

Heck, even the 2007-08 team, which finished 37-3, dropped two of those three in a 12-day span in February, right around the time when you want to start building momentum for a postseason run.

Each of those teams won the Big 12 Conference and one of them won the national championship. The point? Good teams lose games. Heck, even great teams lose games or have lulls or struggle through adversity. It’s part of what makes college basketball so great and part of what makes what the Jayhawks have done in winning a dozen straight Big 12 titles so impressive.

Before we tip things off for Game No. 2 of 18 in the Jayhawks’ quest to make that 13 straight — 8 p.m. tonight vs. Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse — let’s just take a moment to accept and embrace that this team is probably going to have its rough patch, too.

If you’re the type of fan that would rather know when these stretches are coming instead of being blindsided by a loss you never expected, continue reading.

The Jayhawks’ conference schedule this season is pretty well set up, with KU two in a row on the road just one time — Monday, Feb. 6 at Kansas State and Saturday, Feb. 11 at Texas Tech. Back-to-back home games ease the Jayhawks into that doubleheader and a follow-up home game against West Virginia sits on the back end.

But it’s that fairly lengthy period, beginning Jan. 16 and ending Feb. 18, that actually presents a couple of stretches in which the Jayhawks could be bitten by the loss bug more than once.

The first and most obvious stretch is a five-game run that starts in Ames, Iowa, includes road games at West Virginia and Kentucky (not a Big 12 team, but still) and ends with Baylor at home on Feb. 1.

Tom Keegan wrote Monday that Baylor and West Virginia pose the biggest threats to KU continuing its Big 12 title streak, so having to play one of them away and the other at home around the same time as the always-tough trip to Iowa State and an unknown journey to Kentucky very well could present the Jayhawks with their toughest challenge of the season.

Right after that run is another sequence that features three nasty games in a four-game stretch, with the fourth and seemingly easiest game of the group still coming on the road.

KU plays at K-State on Feb. 6, travels to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech five days later and follows that week up by hosting West Virginia and traveling to Baylor.

There’s no way the Jayhawks will lose all of those, but a case could be made for dropping two or perhaps even three of them, especially because West Virginia seems, at least to me, to be the Big 12 team most poised to come into Allen Fieldhouse and leave with a victory.

Don’t worry. I’m not predicting doomsday for the Jayhawks here. I still think they’ll go undefeated at home and I also still think they’ll win the Big 12. The biggest reason? It’s not because Baylor and West Virginia aren’t worthy challengers but more because of the overall strength of the league and the much higher likelihood of Baylor or WVU slipping up in a game they shouldn’t instead of Kansas doing the same.

Either way, it should be a fun couple of months and if you’re one of those KU fans that doesn’t handle losses very well, keep an eye out for the two stretches in the schedule that I mentioned above.

Reply 5 comments from Garry Wright Jay Scott Nick Kramer Jayhawkmarshall Pius Waldman

Jayhawks on radar of 2 potential transfers

Recruiting never stops in the fast-moving world of college basketball. And during the same week that the Kansas men’s basketball team learned it was losing a player, when former transfer Evan Maxwell announced he was leaving the program, the Jayhawks also surfaced as potential landing spots for a couple of transfers.

The first, Arizona State shooting guard Sam Cunliffe, was expected to arrive in Lawrence on Monday evening and will be in attendance at Allen Fieldhouse for the KU-K-State game on Tuesday night.

Cunliffe recently told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com that he was “beyond excited for the Kansas visit.”

A 6-foot-6, 195-pound Seattle native who was the highest rated recruit landed by the Sun Devils since James Harden announced recently that he was leaving ASU despite starting the first 10 games of his freshman season and averaging 9.5 points in 25.4 minutes.

"The current speculation about Me leaving ASU is just that,” Cunliffe Tweeted on Dec. 12. “I'm coming home to Seattle for personal and family reasons. Any decisions about my future beyond coming home right now have yet to be made. I understand the current media interest, but I ask that you respect the privacy of me and my family right now."

Named the Seattle Times’ State Basketball Player of the Year following his senior season at Rainier Beach High, Cunliffe picked Arizona State from serious interest from California, Colorado, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Oregon, UNLV, Utah, Washington, Washington State and others.

According to Wildeboor, Cunliffe, Rivals.com’s No. 36-ranked player in the Class of 2016, does not yet have any other visits lined up and it will be worth keeping an eye on him during the next couple of days to see how his visit with the Jayhawks went.

Cunliffe already has been removed from the Arizona State official roster and been granted a release.

Another potential transfer worth tracking is Georgetown’s Isaac Copeland, a 6-9, 220-pound forward who was ranked No. 23 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com and spent one season at famed Brewster Academy a la current Jayhawk Devonte’ Graham and former Jayhawks Thomas Robinson and Naadir Tharpe.

Copeland, a junior who started five games and appeared in seven for the Hoyas this season, is hoping to have two years of eligibility remaining following his transfer. He will apply for a medical red-shirt for this season and plans to have back surgery, which will keep him out of action for the next two to three months.

“Yes, the coaching staff at Kansas is trying to figure out a good time to visit if possible,” the former five-star prospect recently told Wildeboor via text message. “If everything works out, I am going to visit Kansas. I am looking to find out if I can make it out to Kansas for a visit. When I make my decision on a school, I plan to enroll at the beginning of the spring semester.”

For his career, Copeland has appeared in 73 games, averaging 8.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.

According to Wildeboor, Copeland recently narrowed his list of schools down to Arizona State, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, NC State, Nebraska, Texas and Connecticut.

Reply 5 comments from Jayhawkmarshall Harlan Hobbs David Morrison Karen Mansfield-Stewart Jay Scott

Postgame Report Card: Kansas 86, TCU 80

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) floats to the bucket against TCU forward JD Miller (15) during the first half, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) floats to the bucket against TCU forward JD Miller (15) during the first half, Friday, Dec. 30, 2016 at Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth, Texas by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 86-80 victory over TCU in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener Friday night in Fort Worth, Texas.

Offense: B-

The Jayhawks topped 80 points, saw five players reach double figures and shot 80 percent from the free throw line. But a miserable 1-of-9 stretch to open the game and 43 percent shooting overall balanced out those positive numbers.

Defense: C

TCU controlled portions of this one offensively and Kansas was never able to put the Horned Frogs away because TCU simply kept scoring, most of it coming at the rim or behind the three-point line.

Frontcourt: A

Only two true big men played and those two players combined for 20 points and 26 rebounds in 46 minutes. Landen Lucas (17) and Carlton Bragg Jr. (9), were both terrific on the glass from start to finish.

Backcourt: B+

KU coach Bill Self referred to his guards as one-dimensional players on Friday night, good on offense and not-so-good on defense. But the good side far outweighed the bad side on a night when the Jayhawks needed every point they scored.

Bench: A

Carlton Bragg Jr. still looked off offensively, but he played hard, grabbed nine boards and hit a big bucket late to help the Jayhawks hang on. Lagerald Vick, meanwhile, poured in 17 points and was huge in the first half as KU crawled out of a 10-point hole and led by four at the break. No other KU bench players entered Friday’s game.

Reply 8 comments from Barry Weiss Dirk Medema Dale Rogers Jayhawkmarshall Greg Lux Pius Waldman Steve Jacob

KU’s rotation still intact despite disappearance of depth

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) floats in for a shot against Stanford forward Michael Humphrey (10) during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) floats in for a shot against Stanford forward Michael Humphrey (10) during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A little more than a week ago, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self during an appearance on the weekly Big 12 coaches teleconference shared his thoughts about his ideal rotation and how it related to this year’s team.

“I’ve always thought that eight or nine was the number, depending on your particular team,” Self said then. “Five perimeter players, with the fifth one playing the least amount of minutes, and you need four big guys, with the fourth one playing the least amount of minutes.”

Because of strong recruiting, strategic depth and the team-first mentality of nearly all of the players he has brought to Lawrence, Self, more often than not, has enjoyed the luxury of playing to that number while still having bodies on reserve in the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency role.

Even with the recent, season-ending injury to freshman center Udoka Azubuike, nothing really has changed regarding Self’s rotation and the way he would like to use it. What is gone is the Jayhawks’ margin for error and any depth this team once appeared to have.

“Each situation’s different,” Self said. “When I was at Illinois, we had four really good bigs so I didn’t care about fouls. We played extra aggressive and when a guy got two fouls in the first half he basically took himself out, which was great for team chemistry because it forced us to play everybody.”

The Azubuike injury very well may force Self to play “everybody” in the coming weeks, but the playing time tiers for each available Jayhawk seem to be clearly defined.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at where the Jayhawks’ rotation sits 12 games into the season with the beginning of Big 12 play less than a week away.

Believe it or not, the Jayhawks have used four different starting lineups so far this season, with guards Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson being the only players to start all 12 games thus far.

After starting the season with the traditional two-big-man approach, Self went to the four-guard lineup in Game 6 and has played some version of his four-guard lineup the majority of the time since.

After tinkering with sophomore Lagerald Vick in the starting lineup for three games, Self has moved on to Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk in that fourth guard role and the junior from the Ukraine who stayed in Lawrence for Christmas has responded with some of the best games of his career.

Because of that, at least right now, it seems as if Mykhailiuk has a hold on that fourth perimeter player spot and Vick sits at No. 5. Most years, that would put Vick on the outside looking in for minutes. But because of the four-guard approach, Vick still stands to get plenty of playing time and enters Big 12 play averaging 25 minutes per game, just 0.9 minutes per game less than Mykhailiuk.

Up front, things might be even clearer.

With Azubuike out, Lucas slides back into a starting role and, barring foul trouble figures to play 30-plus minutes per night.

Sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr., who remains in search of some consistency and comfort, is the obvious No. 2 big man both because of his potential and experience and all of a sudden could be one of the most important players on the team, even while struggling. Self talked after the Jayhawks’ victory over UNLV about needing Bragg to play big because of the Jayhawks’ lack of depth in the front court.

Freshman Mitch Lightfoot, who opened the season strong before getting stuck on the bench, has returned to action of late and is KU’s clear No. 3 big with junior transfer Dwight Coleby working as the No. 4 forward.

Unlike Vick as the team’s fifth perimeter player, Coleby seems more likely to fit into Self’s ideal vision of what a fourth big man would be. Coleby is averaging just six minutes per game and has played just eight minutes combined in the last five games.

Although that nine is now set in stone — even if some shifting occurs — Self said the impending arrival of Big 12 play might tighten the rotation a little on its own, which, barring further injury or foul trouble, would give KU’s suddenly thin lineup the appearance of more depth.

“I don’t know if your bench shortens,” Self said of the start of conference play. “But I do think you probably play your most productive players a couple or three minutes more than what you would during non-conference play.”

The third-ranked Jayhawks (11-1) will open Big 12 play at 8 p.m. Friday at TCU in Fort Worth, Texas.

Reply 8 comments from Barry Weiss Pius Waldman Steve Corder Humpy Helsel Surrealku Andy Godwin

Postgame Report Card: Kansas 71, UNLV 53

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham, right, and forward Carlton Bragg Jr. fight for a rebound with UNLV guards Jalen Poyser (5) and Kris Clyburn (1) during the second half, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham, right, and forward Carlton Bragg Jr. fight for a rebound with UNLV guards Jalen Poyser (5) and Kris Clyburn (1) during the second half, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 71-53 victory over UNLV in Las Vegas on Thursday night.

Offense: B-

The Jayhawks shot just .444 for the game, including .387 in the second half, and got sub-par statistical nights from dynamic duo Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason III. Had it not been for the hot hand of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and the extreme hustle of Josh Jackson, this easily would have been a straight C kind of night. The 71-point total was KU's second-lowest output of the season (65 vs. Georgia) and snapped a six-game streak of scoring 89 points or better.

Defense: B

Too many layups and uncontested three-pointers allowed the Rebels to kind of crawl back in it. But the Jayhawks did out-rebound UNLV 45-40 and limited the Rebels to .345 shooting for the night.

Frontcourt: B-

Limited tremendously on the offensive end — Landen Lucas, Carlton Bragg and Mitch Lightfoot combined to shoot 3-of-7 for the game — the KU big men did enough on the glass and around the rim to creep into B range.

Backcourt: B-

Two of the four starting guards struggled and two of the four were rock solid. That brings us to perimeter player No. 5, Lagerald Vick, who finished with five points, two rebounds, two blocks and an assist to go along with three turnovers and 2-of-5 shooting. Jackson and Svi were better at being good than Mason and Graham were good at being bad, so the backcourt gets hangs on for a B.

Bench: C

Not a night to brag about for the Kansas bench. Carlton Bragg, Mitch Lightfoot, Dwight Coleby and Lagerald Vick combined to play just 46 minutes and, outside of an amazing block by Vick in transition and a couple of timely buckets and rebounds, nothing any of them did really stood out much.

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