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Tale of the Tait

KU seniors say goodbye

Kansas seniors Frank Mason III, left, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self come together for a photograph during the senior introductions on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017.

Kansas seniors Frank Mason III, left, Landen Lucas and Tyler Self come together for a photograph during the senior introductions on Monday, Feb. 27, 2017. by Nick Krug

One of the things that made Saturday's Elite Eight loss to Oregon in Kansas City, Mo., so tough for so many Jayhawks to swallow was the fact that none of them wanted seniors Landen Lucas, Frank Mason III and Tyler Self to end on anything other than a victory.

Although Self did not play much — even though he did get into the first three games of KU's run this season — the coach's son emerged this season as a true member of the team, who helped the young players understand the culture and requirements of playing for Kansas while also putting in the kind of work that's impressive to see for a player not rewarded with playing time.

Lucas and Mason leave Kansas as two of the most appreciated players in recent memory, partly because of their status as seniors in an era that has been dominated by early departures and transfers and partly because of the paths they took to prominence. Somewhat overlooked during their early days at KU, the two kept their heads down, put in the work and became such strong players who embodied everything that head coach Bill Self wants Kansas basketball to be known for.

While the rest of the team tries to move on, the reality of Saturday being their last game in a Kansas uniform hit everybody in the program hard, and all three found time, amid their grieving, to hit social media with heart-felt goodbyes and thank you's to the Kansas basketball family.

Here's a quick look at their messages.

None by Frank Mason

None by Tyler Self

Reply 7 comments from Mike Nicco Steve Johnson Joe Ross Bob Forer Dale Rogers Stupidmichael

Postgame Report Card: Oregon 74, KU 60

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) is swarmed in the paint by Oregon players including Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, front, and Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) is swarmed in the paint by Oregon players including Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, front, and Oregon forward Jordan Bell (1) during the second half on Saturday, March 25, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s season-ending, 74-60, Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center on Saturday night.

Offense: D

By far KU’s worst grade of the season in this category on a night when the Jayhawks flat-out could not hit anything. KU finished 21-of-60 for the game, including 5-of-25 from 3-point range. The Jayhawks were tight, flat, struggled to get to the rim (Oregon big man Jordan Bell had eight blocks) and never really got going in transition, finishing with just 11 fastbreak points.

Defense: B-

KU’s defense actually wasn’t that bad. Especially in the second half, when the Jayhawks limited Oregon to 40 percent shooting (30.8 from 3-point range) and got enough stops to get back into the game. But the area that had played second fiddle for most of the season, got no help from the Jayhawks’ high-powered offense on a night when Kansas was held to a season-low 60 points.

Frontcourt: C-

Landen Lucas and Dwight Coleby — the only two KU big men who played — combined for nine points, four rebounds, one assist, one block, one turnover and two fouls in 37 minutes. And yet KU routinely threw them the ball in their half-court sets. Perhaps just another sign of how frustrated the Jayhawks were by their shots not falling elsewhere.

Backcourt: B-

Mason had an absolutely stellar first half — but was neutralized in the second — and Josh Jackson had a strong second half after doing next to nothing in the first. Add to that the fact that Devonte’ Graham failed to make a shot and Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick were decent in supporting roles and the whole big, ugly mess lands somewhere in the low B range.

Bench: C-

Vick did a solid job of filling in for Josh Jackson initially, but finished 2-of-8 overall and 1-of-5 from 3-point range for seven points and three rebounds. Coleby, who had been so good in some big situations in earlier rounds, was almost unplayable and logged just four minutes.

Reply 3 comments from Steve Johnson Texashawk10_2

Oregon’s Dana Altman harbors bad memories, big respect for KU basketball

Oregon head coach Dana Altman smiles as he talks with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Oregon head coach Dana Altman smiles as he talks with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — Oregon coach Dana Altman, who spent three seasons at Kansas State as an assistant under Lon Kruger and, a few years later, returned to Manhattan to lead the Wildcats’ program for four seasons, has had enough experience with Kansas basketball to last a few lifetimes.

And not all of it was bad. In fact, in his seven seasons with the Wildcats, Altman was a part of six K-State victories over Kansas and had an overall record of 6-13, 2-8 as a head coach.

Altman on Friday recalled the 1988 season, when Mitch Richmond and the Wildcats won two out of three match-ups with the Jayhawks in the regular season and Big Eight tournament, before falling to Kansas in the Elite Eight.

With his third-seeded Ducks slated to take on top-seeded Kansas in that same round at 7:49 p.m. tonight at Sprint Center, Altman will be looking to exact a little revenge.

“If you spend seven years at Kansas State, you don't like the Jayhawks, all right,” Altman admitted. “Chickenhawks, all right? You can't spend seven years 90 miles away and the one chance we had to go to the Final Four in '88 they beat us after we had beat them in the conference tournament. We beat them 2 out of 3 and we had to play 'em a fourth game and they beat us to go to the Final Four.”

While that memory remains painful for the veteran coach, it did nothing to tarnish the respect he has for the tradition-rich Kansas program.

“Kansas State has great tradition,” he said. “But Kansas, obviously, has done awfully, awfully well. Type of tradition we would like to build at Oregon. We've got a long ways to go to even be mentioned with those types of programs, but I think someday our program can have that stability and that consistency that some of the traditional programs have and KU definitely has that.”

One of the aspects of KU’s tradition that Altman admires most is the way it has continued no matter who was calling the shots.

“The games against Kansas were always tough,” Altman said. “Coach (Larry) Brown was there and then Roy (Williams) took over for him. It was always a tough atmosphere to go over there, and (we) played them in old Kemper (Arena) a number of times in the (Big Eight) tournament. Kansas tradition has been there for a long, long time. They've been good for a long time under a number of coaches.”

So what does he think of the guy who currently occupies the head coach’s office at KU? Well, even though this will be his first encounter with Bill Self as the leader of the Jayhawks, Altman and Self go way back to their Creighton and Tulsa days and even squared off as assistants when Self was at Oklahoma State and Altman was at K-State.

Asked to describe his perception of a Bill Self-coached team, Altman had no problem finding the words.

“Well, they compete,” he said. “They always have. Defensively, they're always going to be solid. This year is a little different because they're not quite as big. Traditionally they've always run a high-low and tried to jam that thing in and they're dependent more on their 3-point shooting this year offensively than what they have been. Bill has a way of getting the best out of each team. He's flexible enough that if the personnel is a little different he can change his style and he has with this team. I mentioned not running as many sets and not looking high-low as much and a lot more perimeter-oriented than some of his other bull clubs have been. But they're always going to be disciplined, well-schooled and know what they want out of each defensive and offensive possession. You don't win as many games.... he's been at great programs. Tulsa was good. Illinois was good, and Kansas. He's had pretty good jobs, but he's always made ’em a little bit better.”

Reply 1 comment from Jmfitz85

KU-Oregon by the numbers

Oregon forward Roman Sorkin, left, guard Dylan Ennis, guard Tyler Dorsey, forward Chris Boucher, guard Casey Benson (2) and head coach Dana Altman talk with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Oregon forward Roman Sorkin, left, guard Dylan Ennis, guard Tyler Dorsey, forward Chris Boucher, guard Casey Benson (2) and head coach Dana Altman talk with media members during a press conference on Friday, March 24, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — By now, everybody knows that both coaches, several players on each side and most of the people paying attention to this game in any way, shape or form believe that Kansas and Oregon are pretty similar teams that play very similar styles.

And while things like pace and personnel clearly indicate that, the Jayhawks actually own a clear advantage in most of the major statistical categories.

Not so surprisingly, Oregon’s advantages come on the defensive end, where the Ducks hold teams to fewer points and lower field goal and 3-point percentages while also owning a better turnover margin than Kansas.

But those are the results of numbers that have been compiled over the course of an entire 37-game season. In the last three games alone, the Jayhawks’ defense has improved significantly and been almost on par with KU’s explosive offense.

If that trend continues, and the Jayhawks are able to take advantage of the offensive edge that these numbers indicate they have, KU will be in great position to cut down the nets in Kansas City and reach its third Final Four under Bill Self and first since 2012.

One stat that might be a little misleading is Oregon's advantage in blocks per game. That number came with injured big man Chris Boucher in the lineup and were a direct reflection of Boucher's shot-blocking ability. In the four games the Ducks have played without Boucher, they have recorded a total of just eight blocks.

A quick look at a couple of key KenPom.com numbers shows an even steeper hill for the Ducks to climb. Kansas is currently ranked No. 3 by KenPom and Oregon comes in at No. 14.

Beyond that, KU’s No. 3 ranking in adjusted offensive efficiency is 16 spots higher than Oregon, in 19th, and the two teams are 23rd (Oregon) and 24th (Kansas) in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Those numbers lead to the conclusion that if both teams play their best game, Kansas’ superior offensive numbers would win out.

At this stage of the tournament, though, anything can happen, which makes all the numbers worth a look.

Points per game

KU: 83.9 Oregon: 79.1

FG percentage

KU: 49.2 Oregon: 48.3

3-point FG percentage

KU: 41.1 Oregon: 38.1

Free throw percentage

KU: 67.6 Oregon: 70.5

Rebounds per game

KU: 38.9 Oregon: 36.5

Offensive rebounding percentage

KU: 38.4 Oregon: 35.1

Assists per game

KU: 16.3 Oregon: 16.1

Blocks per game

KU: 4.6 Oregon: 6.3

Steals per game

KU: 7.0 Oregon: 6.6

Scoring defense

KU: 71.8 Oregon: 65.6

FG percentage defense

KU: 41.8 Oregon: 40.6

3-point FG percentage defense

KU: 35.3 Oregon: 31.4

Turnover margin

KU: +0.6 Oregon: +1.9

vs. current AP Top 25

KU: 7-2 Oregon: 3-3

KenPom ranking

KU: 3 Oregon: 14

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Eyes on Oregon: Jayhawks offer early thoughts on Elite Eight opponent

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) fights for position against Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks (24) fights for position against Michigan forward Moritz Wagner (13) during the first half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — With just one day between monster games in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, the Kansas men’s basketball team has its work cut out for it in preparing for Saturday’s 7:49 p.m. tip-off against third-seeded Oregon with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Luckily for Kansas, a good chunk of what they’ll be preparing for should seem pretty familiar.

“They've got an athletic, terrific team,” KU coach Bill Self said of Dana Altman’s Ducks following a 98-66 pasting of Purdue that was the nightcap to Oregon’s 69-68 victory over Michigan. “They're like us; they're going to play small a lot of the time because they will play Dillon (Brooks) at the 4 like we play Josh (Jackson) and then play the best defender in the Pac-12, Defensive Player of the Year (Jordan Bell) around the middle, kind of like we do Landen (Lucas). So I think it will be two teams that at least match-up with each other pretty well.”

“I’ve seen Oregon,” Self added. “But I haven’t studied them like I need to study ’em. I was so focused on Purdue. But this is what I do know: They’re athletic like we’re athletic. And they’re gonna play small just like we play small.”

One of the most intriguing match-ups in Saturday’s Elite Eight showdown will feature two players that Self briefly mentioned during his breakdown of the Ducks.

KU freshman Josh Jackson versus Oregon junior Dillon Brooks promises to be an absolute battle, inside and out, on the glass and the perimeter, on the stat sheet and all over the floor.

While it remains to be seen exactly how the Jayhawks have scouted and will game plan for Brooks, who, in addition to being one of the most dramatically clutch players in all of college basketball this season, was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, there’s no question that their similar size and usage make Jackson and Brooks a natural pairing.

Asked after his team’s pounding of Purdue how he felt about the assignment, should it come to him, the 6-foot-8, 207-pound Jackson said he welcomed the match-up with the 6-7, 225-pound junior forward.

“I would guard anybody,” Jackson said. “Most of the time I find myself guarding the best player on the other team at some point in the game, even if it’s not the whole game. I’m up for the challenge. I like a challenge.”

KU coach Bill Self seemed just as eager to see what Jackson could do against yet another talented opponent.

“You think of the match-ups Josh has had at the 4, in (Michigan State’s) Miles Bridges and now Dillon Brooks, I mean, those are some big time match-ups, the best college basketball has to offer. So that’ll be great,” Self said. “I see a lot of similarities (between the two teams) and, of course, they’ve shot the ball unbelievably well so far in the tournament. It’ll be a great match-up. It’s gonna be a fun game, two teams that like to get up and down.”

One other intriguing note about the match-up between top-seeded Kansas (31-4) and third-seeded Oregon (32-5) is that it will pit two teams against one another who lost in the Elite Eight a season ago, Kansas to eventual national champion Villanova in Louisville, and Oregon to Oklahoma in Anaheim, California.

“It’s great (for our players),” Self said of being one win away from a trip to the Final Four. “And they care so much. But Oregon’s kids care a lot too, and they’re one win away also. And they lost the Elite Eight game just like we did last year. So I’m sure that’s something that’s motivated them all year long, let’s get back and play this game different than we did the year before. And, of course, that’ll be the same thing with us. It’ll be a highly competitive game.”

Stay in touch with KUsports.com throughout the day Friday and Saturday for more on this match-up from the coaches and players at Sprint Center.

Reply 1 comment from Craig Alexander

Postgame Report Card, Sweet 16 style: Kansas 98, Purdue 66

The Kansas bench reacts to a three pointer by Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot late in the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The Kansas bench reacts to a three pointer by Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot late in the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 98-66, Sweet 16 victory over Purdue.

Note: I tried not to grade this game in the context of it being a packaged deal with the two that came before it, but it was awfully tough to do.

Offense: A+

Unless you’re mad at Landen Lucas for shooting 50 percent on 1-of-2 shooting from the floor, there’s absolutely nothing you can nitpick about this performance.

KU shot 55 percent from the floor for the game, 67 percent in the second half, and finished 15 of 28 (53.6 percent) from 3-point range on a night when it simply chewed up and spit out the Boilermakers with a heavy dose of Kansas offense.

Hate all you want on the free throw shooting (15-of-22), but even that was a percentage point higher than KU’s season average and the Jayhawks are still shooting 81 percent from the line this tournament. Oops. There’s my first slip up.

Defense: B+

The Jayhawks struggled to close out on shooters early in the game and offered little resistance to Purdue’s big men when they got it close to the basket. Luckily for the Jayhawks, the Kansas guards were up to the task of both out-shooting the Boilermakers (by a long shot) and helping the big men protect the paint.

The effort on the bigs, graded as a whole, was worthy of an A. But KU’s early effort against Purdue’s 3-point attack dropped it into the B range, just barely. We’re talking 89.475 percent here.

Frontcourt: B+

Landen Lucas played much bigger and better than his 2 points and 4 rebounds will show. And his body will remind him of that tomorrow. But give Dwight Coleby and Carlton Bragg Jr., credit for having Lucas’ back on a night when he picked up two tough-luck fouls and checked out of the game at a crucial time after getting his third.

KU’s big men are confident right now. And, collectively, they’re more than serviceable.

Backcourt: A+

When you’ve got three of the best players in the entire tournament starting in your backcourt and two complementary players who can combine for 22 points, five rebounds, two assists and three steals the way Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagerald Vick did on Thursday, it’s almost just not fair.

Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham were great on both side of the floor and Josh Jackson was right there with them to help move Kansas within one victory over a trip to the Final Four.

Bench: A

Vick had a couple of difference-maker moments — that dunk, a 3-pointer and a couple other drives to the rim — and Coleby and Bragg were solid in relief of Lucas.

Add to that the fact that Tyler Self and the walk-on crew checked into an NCAA Tournament game for the third consecutive game (oops, slip-up No. 2) and you’re looking at A material.

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

Common opponents only mean so much in KU-Purdue showdown

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) is followed by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) as the Jayhawks enter Sprint Center during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) is followed by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) as the Jayhawks enter Sprint Center during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game. by Nick Krug

Kansas coach Bill Self was asked on Wednesday if Purdue’s second-round victory over Iowa State, winner of this season’s Big 12 tournament and the only team to knock off Kansas at home in the past three years, got his attention.

Purdue coach Matt Painter was asked a similar question about whether his team gained any added confidence from defeating the only team to win at Kansas, one game before facing the top-seeded Jayhawks at around 8:40 tonight inside Sprint Center in the Sweet 16.

Both coaches answered the respective questions. And the answers revealed one thing — that win over Iowa State, though huge at the time, really doesn’t mean much today.

“You know what? They had my attention back in January,” Self said. “I was telling somebody earlier, sometimes I think as a coach you look at it and say, OK, what teams out there are a little bit different that could potentially be a contrasting style that you could match-up with, and Purdue was the first one that came to mind for me. I've watched them throughout the year, certainly not studying them but (I’ve) watched them. But seeing what they did to Iowa State even though Iowa State I believe came back and took a two-point lead, I think. Purdue controlled that game. But Iowa State got on one of their great runs that they can obviously get on because they can score so well from the perimeter. It was very impressive what they did and how they closed the game out after they got behind. I didn't need that game to impress me, though, I was there beforehand.”

Painter, who demonstrated clear and similar respect for Kansas, said his team used Iowa State’s win over Kansas to get his team ready to play the Cyclones not the Jayhawks.

“That was one of the selling points I had for Iowa State,” Painter said. “The fact that they won at Kansas. Right away you don't have to say anything more to get respect for Iowa State and say, ‘Hey, this team went into Kansas and won.’ Everybody knows the success that Kansas has had at home over the years, so Kansas was a selling point to make sure our guys knew how good Iowa State was. Obviously, Kansas had a better year than Iowa State and then they battled and they've been very, very good. Our guys have a lot of respect for their players and we look forward to competing against them.”

Counting Michigan State and Indiana, both of whom Purdue played twice, the Jayhawks and Boilermakers had several games against common opponents this season.

KU’s record in those five games? 3-2, with losses coming against Iowa State (92-89, OT) and Indiana (103-99, OT) and wins at Iowa State (76-72), at home against Nebraska (89-72) and last weekend vs. Michigan State (90-70) in the second round.

Purdue’s record in those six games? 5-1, with the lone loss coming at Nebraska (83-80) and wins at Michigan State (84-73) and Indiana (69-64), home versus Michigan State (80-63) and Indiana (86-75), and last weekend against Iowa State (80-76) in the second round.

Dissecting common opponents and concluding something from the exercise is always fun and interesting, but rarely worth much. Just because KU beat Michigan State by more points than Purdue did either time it played the Spartans or just because KU crushed Nebraska and Purdue lost to them does not mean a thing for tonight’s match-up.

No one from those teams will be in the building tonight. Only Jayhawks and Boilermakers, ready to break the common opponents tie with the best indicator of all — a do-or-die, head-to-head showdown.


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KU-Purdue by the numbers

Kansas head coach Bill Self, right, and assistant Kurtis Townsend chat at half court during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas head coach Bill Self, right, and assistant Kurtis Townsend chat at half court during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

On the surface, today’s match-up between top-seeded Kansas (30-4) and No. 4 seed Purdue (27-7) in the Midwest Regional semifinals at Kansas City’s Sprint Center seems like a clash between two completely different teams.

On paper, however, these two teams appear much more similar than many are saying.

From both scoring in the 80s and shooting similar percentages all over the floor to impressive defensive numbers and closer-than-expected rebounding totals, the Jayhawks and Boilermakers have at least as many things in common as they do differences.

To take things a step farther, KU coach Bill Self has stressed throughout the week that even though the talk has been about Purdue’s big front line — and understandably so — the two teams even play similar-looking lineups for a good chunk of the time.

“They’re not a big time shot-blocking team,” said Self, whose team actually blocks more shots per game than Matt Painter’s squad. “They’re a wall-up team. What gets lost a lot is Purdue plays, a majority of the time, the same way we do, with one big and four guards.... There’s more similarities in how the game will start than what a lot of people think.”

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the numbers.

Points per game

KU: 83.4 PU: 80.1

FG percentage

KU: 49.1 PU: 48.1

3-point FG percentage

KU: 40.6 PU: 40.4

Free throw percentage

KU: 67.6 PU: 75.9

Rebounds per game

KU: 38.9 PU: 37.9

Offensive rebounding percentage

KU: 38.3 PU: 32.5

Assists per game

KU: 16.2 PU: 18.4

Blocks per game

KU: 4.7 PU: 2.6

Steals per game

KU: 7.0 PU: 5.1

Scoring defense

KU: 72.0 PU: 67.5

FG percentage defense

KU: 41.7 PU: 41.7

3-point FG percentage defense

KU: 35.2 PU: 32.4

Turnover margin

KU: +0.5 PU: -1.1

vs. current AP Top 25

KU: 6-2 PU: 3-4


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Breaking down KU-Purdue on Sports Radio 810 WHB’s “Sports Night”

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shoots a selfie with some Jayhawk fans awaiting autographs following the Jayhawks' practice on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) shoots a selfie with some Jayhawk fans awaiting autographs following the Jayhawks' practice on Wednesday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

We're now less than 24 hours away from tip-off in the Sweet 16.

After several hours at Sprint Center on Wednesday afternoon and evening, between the drive home and finishing up a few stories for Thursday's paper, I hopped on with Sports Radio 810 WHB host Cody Tapp on Sports Night to discuss KU's showdown with Purdue in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night in KCMO.

Among the topics covered in the 30-minute breakdown of KU's upcoming clash with Purdue (9:30-minute mark through 42:00) were:

• If having better guards or better bigs than your opponent is more advantageous

• What it takes to beat Kansas (and if Purdue can do it)

• What's taken Josh Jackson to an even higher level in the Big Dance

• Why KU loves playing in Kansas City

• Whether KU would rather play Oregon or Michigan should it knock off Purdue

• And what winning another national title would mean to KU coach Bill Self

Take a listen below while you're trying to kill time before Thursday's game and be sure to check back with KUsports.com throughout the day Thursday for more coverage of the big game with the Boilermakers and, of course, before, during and after the game for all the Kansas basketball coverage you could possibly desire.

Reply 1 comment from Plasticjhawk

Breaking down KU forward Dwight Coleby’s big night

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) have a laugh after a bucket by Coleby and a Michigan State foul during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby (22) and Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) have a laugh after a bucket by Coleby and a Michigan State foul during the second half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Kansas forward Dwight Coleby, whose nine second-half minutes in Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament victory over Michigan State were as important as any played by any player in the game, prides himself on being ready.

But more than that, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound native of the Bahamas prides himself on his easy-going personality.

It’s hard to say that there was a direct correlation between Coleby’s island upbringing and his performance during Sunday’s 90-70 victory, but Coleby believes it could have played a role.

“Yeah, that’s my personality, just calm, relaxed and just focused,” he said. “It probably comes from where I grew up.”

A city of nearly 300,000 people on the island of New Providence, Coleby’s hometown of Nassau is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region and is a popular stop for cruise ships and tourists seeking good snorkeling.

The KU junior who is majoring in communications studies, attended high school in Mississippi (The Piney Woods School) before playing two seasons at Ole Miss and then transferring to Kansas.

Always the biggest and tallest player on his teams growing up, Coleby said he considers himself more of a power player than anything else and always has enjoyed games that feature physical play inside.

“I think I’ve got some kind of muscles for something,” he joked. “More power. I’ve always been that, one that wants to play physical and with contact.”

It was not just his muscles that propelled Coleby into the player of the game conversation following top-seeded KU’s latest victory. He also used his head, and not just on the floor either.

“That was a thing I talked about to him before the game, and this is from my experience of coming off the bench when I was doing that at the time,” said KU senior Landen Lucas, who played sparingly during his first two NCAA Tournaments. “When you’re on the bench early on, you gotta watch the game and understand how you can be effective, see what’s working for the other guys out there. He might’ve picked up on a couple things, and once he got out there, it was just fun to watch at that point in time. The whole team was playing well together and he did a lot of little things that didn’t show up in the stat book that ended up being the difference in the game.”

Just for fun, let’s take a look back.

• Coleby checked into the game for the first time at the 12:14 mark of the second half, nearly 30 minutes into the game and more than 90 minutes after the opening tip. His first stint on the floor was uneventful and lasted just 23 seconds, as Lucas came back in for him at the 11:51 mark.

• Coleby checked back in for Lucas at the 10:38 mark and, within his first minute on the floor, grabbed two big defensive rebounds in a game in which Kansas led by just five points at the time. The second rebound came after a missed jumper by Frank Mason and Coleby immediately went back up with it to put Kansas up 62-55 with 9:42 to play.

• His third of four rebounds came at the 8:39 mark, nearly two minutes after checking back in, and led to a huge roar of approval from an appreciative KU crowd and a pure free throw that put Kansas up 65-57. Coleby missed the second, but it hardly mattered. His work came on the other end where he kept Michigan State’s Nick Ward from grabbing the offensive board and also drew Ward’s fourth foul, which sent him to the bench.

• At the 7:27 mark, 3 minutes and 11 seconds of clock after he checked back in, Coleby went to the bench and Lucas returned. Forty-four seconds later, Lucas picked up foul No. 4 and had to sit with 6:43 to play and Kansas leading by just six. No one knew at the time that Lucas would not be needed again. During his next stint on the floor, Coleby picked up a steal that led to a layup by Josh Jackson (77-65, Kansas) and an offensive rebound of a missed 3-pointer by Jackson that turned into a 3-pointer by Devonte’ Graham (80-67, Kansas). “Huge. Huge,” said Lucas of Coleby’s offensive rebound, which he called one of the biggest plays of the game. “That’s the little things that end up making a big difference in the game. Go from a missed 3 that could’ve been a run-out and, instead, Devonte’ hits the 3. That’s big. That’s what I try to do when I’m in there and he came in and replaced me and I’m proud of him.”

• So charmed was Coleby in this game that even plays that might draw grumbles during most games drew applause and positive nods. The most obvious was his foul on MSU freshman Miles Bridges with 3:12 to play. Instead of letting Bridges go up for an easy two, Coleby hammered him and made him earn the points at the line. Bridges made one of two free throw attempts and Kansas answered with another 3-pointer by Graham on the other end. Net two points for KU.

• From the 6:43 mark to the time he sat for good, Coleby played the game’s next 5 minutes and 16 seconds and did not check out until Kansas led 87-70 with 1:27 to play. Lucas, still with four fouls, came in for him then, but, at that point, it was as much so Coleby could walk off to a hero’s ovation as getting Lucas back in the game. The game was over.

With Coleby’s confidence sky high and his teammates’ faith in him now even higher, the Jayhawks could not help but flash huge smiles of pride and joy when discussing all that Coleby did to help the Jayhawks get back to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

“Perfect timing,” said sophomore Carlton Bragg Jr., who struggled against Michigan State’s physicality. ““He’s been working all year and tonight he stepped up when his jersey was called.”

Added Coleby: “I always wanted to do something like this on the biggest stage, and to have an opportunity to do it is just great.”

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