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Posts tagged with 2018-19 Season

Breaking down the future of KU’s basketball roster

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11), Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) and Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) celebrate a late three-pointer from Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot during the second half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11), Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) and Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) celebrate a late three-pointer from Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot during the second half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Well, here we are. It’s the first Monday following the end of another Kansas basketball season and, predictably, the skies are gray and cloudy around Lawrence, Kansas, and there’s a slight breeze and still a chill in the air.

Not to worry, KU fans. The forecast for the rest of the week — at least locally — looks much better, with sunshine returning and temperatures soaring into the 70s.

It’s funny, but in some ways, that very well could be a metaphor for the Kansas men’s basketball roster, which enters the offseason fraught with uncertainty and half of a dozen players loaded with options.

Sure this team lost 10 games and bowed out in the second round. And, yeah, the season as a whole was a rocky ride full of frustration, disappointment and confusion.

But the lessons learned during those days will no doubt benefit this program in the not-too-distant future and several key members of this year’s squad will be back with some serious motivation next season.

A handful won’t, of course; that’s the case every year. And that’s at least a part of why those post-NCAA Tournament-loss locker rooms are filled with tears and emotion. No matter how one season ends, the next will almost certainly feature a new cast of characters, new roles, new challenges and the patience required to put it all together.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at KU’s roster heading into the offseason. We’ll dive deeper into all of these situations and scenarios in the months and weeks ahead. But enough people are curious today about so many of these players’ futures that it’s worth addressing it quickly right away.

Remember, the information below is based on what I know, think and/or have heard as of March 25, 2019. Things certainly can change — and often do — and we’ll be there every step of the way tracking any decisions and movement that any of these players make.

First, The Starting Five:

• Devon Dotson – I can’t recall anyone taking losses at Kansas quite as hard as Dotson did all season. From the first loss of the year at Arizona State (I’m still convinced that up until that point Dotson thought he would win every game he played at KU) to the tearful ending last Saturday, Dotson’s emotions often came pouring out following KU’s losses, which perfectly fits the way he plays with passion and intensity on the floor. Dotson will be back for the Jayhawks next season and he’ll have an even bigger role than he did this season. In addition to becoming a stronger leader, I look for the point guard from Charlotte to become a better scorer and to get even stronger. First-team all-Big 12 is well within reach for the sophomore-to-be, who will no doubt be a pro someday. The hope among KU fans is that someday is still two or three years down the road, but Dotson is well on his way after a fabulous first year.

• Ochai Agbaji – As much fun as Ochai’s season was, it ended on a bit of a sour note. After exploding onto the scene midway through the season, Agbaji hit a bit of a wall down the stretch and never fully got his mojo back. He’ll find it this offseason — in a big way — and he, along with Dotson, will enter the 2019-20 season as the unquestioned leaders and face of this KU program. There was some talk about Agbaji finding his way onto the NBA radar following his hot start. And, yeah, they know about the kid now. But he still has work to do in college and he both knows that and wants to do it, so there’s no reason to expect anything but a strong return from one of KU’s most exciting players.

• Quentin Grimes – There’s no denying that Grimes’ first season as a Jayhawk left a little to be desired. The fans will tell you that, Grimes will tell you that, pretty much anyone you ask will tell you that. But give the guy credit for being a consistent and reliable starter who played big minutes night in and night out and gave it his best shot. There were times when Grimes showed flashes of the player many expected him to be. There were other times where he looked lost, overwhelmed or in his own head. That’s all part of being a freshman college basketball player and, back in the day, used to be completely OK. These days, though, with everyone expecting these highly ranked players to explode, it can leave people scratching their heads and criticizing the kid. There’s no doubt in my mind that Grimes’ size, skill set, age and upside still make him an incredibly attractive option in the eyes of NBA scouts. We’re not talking lottery pick like people projected when he came to KU, but he’s still very draftable. Things definitely could change, but I’m moving forward with the idea that Grimes will seriously explore making the jump to the NBA and, if the feedback he gets is good, will not be back at KU next season.

• Dedric Lawson – If ever there were a player who you thought might be willing to come back for his senior year just because of his vibe and personality, Lawson is it. But the reality of his situation makes it hard to see the junior forward returning. For starters, he averaged a double-double this season and was a unanimous pick for first-team all-Big 12 honors. If he were to return, he would have to at least do that again or risk hurting his stock in the eyes of the NBA. That’s pretty risky considering so few players have ever even come close to putting up the kind of numbers Lawson did under Self. Beyond that, Lawson has now put off his NBA dream for four seasons of college — two at Memphis, a transfer year and this season at KU. That’s a long time to wait for a player who once was a Top 10 prospect. And even though there are no guarantees that he’ll be drafted — my guess at this point is he’d be a second round pick — I think Lawson is ready to roll the dice and get his pro career started.

• David McCormack – His strong end to the season should fuel him for a big jump this offseason. And that is, without question, one of the brightest silver linings to come from the disappointing 2018-19 season. McCormack’s a monster. He has great size, an even better motor and skills that, when he harnesses them, will make him a load to handle for any team. Beyond that, the guy doesn’t know anything other than hard work. He’s bright part of KU’s future — both in the immediate and long-term looks — and he’ll come back ready for a much bigger role in 2019-20. By the way, I’m still really struggling to transition to putting the year 2020 into my writing. Unreal!

The Bench:

• Marcus Garrett – As close to a sixth starter as the Jayhawks have, Garrett’s value is insane. A lockdown defender and fearless competitor with the type of demeanor that makes him ready for anything and everything the coaching staff could ask him to do. There are a lot of moving parts and pieces with this team and program, so it’s hard to know whether Garrett will be in the mix as a starting option or stay in his incredibly valuable role as a reliable sub off the bench. Either way, he’ll be a veteran next season and that will be very good news for Kansas.

• Mitch Lightfoot – Speaking of veterans, here’s your guy. Senior Mitch will be back and better than ever next season, ready to give everything he’s got to his final hurrah with his beloved Jayhawks. It’s far too soon to know exactly what that will mean in terms of the role he’ll play, but this much we know, for three seasons Lightfoot has been a guy that people thought would not have a huge role and for three seasons he’s found a way to be a key part of KU’s rotation. No reason to doubt him now. That urgency he’ll feel from it being his last season — both when it arrives and in the offseason leading up to it — should push Lightfoot to not only bring the best out of himself but to demand it from others, too.

• K.J. Lawson – His is one of the most interesting situations on this entire roster. On pace to graduate this semester — he’s also getting married in July — the older of the Lawson brothers easily could move on before the start of next season. But there’s something about it that leads me to believe he’ll be back. I asked him in the locker room on Saturday if he and Dedric could do different things and go different ways and he said, “definitely.” That doesn’t mean either has made up his mind yet on what the future holds, but it does mean that even if Dedric goes pro, K.J. could return to KU for another year. He loves it here and he found a nice role during the second half of the season. Like I said, interesting.

• Charlie Moore – Moore had a rough year with the Jayhawks. He played, but often struggled when he was out there and did not look like the 13-points-per-game-at-Cal-as-a-freshman player that he was. Beyond that, the biggest area where KU was hoping to get help from Moore — 3-point shooting — yielded just 26.7 percent shooting for the season from downtown and very little consistency. It’s hard to see Moore having any bigger role a year from now and because of that it’s not hard to see him exploring the idea of moving on. I’m sure he wants to play. And I’m not sure the minutes will be there for him at KU. Beyond that, as a junior next season, the clock is ticking on his college career. If he’s back, he’s a deep bench player at best. But don’t be shocked if he looks around and finds a better fit.

The Others:

• Udoka Azubuike – After suffering his third significant injury in three seasons, the 7-foot center missed all but nine games of KU’s 2018-19 season and his absence significantly impacted the Jayhawks’ chances at a big run. So what’s next for the big fella? That’s anybody’s guess, but I wouldn’t bank on him returning to KU. Azubuike wanted to leave after his sophomore season and took his decision to return all the way down to the end of the deadline to pull his name out of draft consideration following the NBA’s pre-draft combine. There’s little doubt that his desire to leave between then and now has changed all that much and, the reality of it is, Azubuike may be looking at his injury situation as a risk and something that he does not want to derail any hopes of a pro basketball future. His situation is right up there with K.J. Lawson’s in terms of the most interesting to me. There’s no doubt that he could be back, but, again, I wouldn’t say anybody should count on that as things stand today.

• Silvio De Sousa – As far as we know, KU is still waiting for a ruling on the appeal of De Sousa’s two-year suspension, but I do think there’s some optimism around the program that the penalty will become less harsh. Whether that means he gets the entire 2019-20 season back or maybe just has to sit an additional 5-10 games, I think the prospects are good that De Sousa could play at some point next year. If that’s the case, he’ll be back for sure. Even if it’s not, though, I think De Sousa still could stay. For one, he lives like a king here and is loved by the entire KU basketball community. For two, this place and the people here have become like family to him and, remember, Angola is a long way away. Beyond that, he continues to get the best training, coaching and nutrition possible, all while working toward his degree at the same time. It wouldn’t shock me if he left if the appeal is denied, but I think De Sousa loves KU too much to just run away quickly.

Incoming Talent:

• Christian Braun – The guard from nearby Blue Valley Northwest had another monster year while leading the Huskies to a state title. He’s tough, can shoot it, is fearless and works as hard as anyone out there. The idea of him playing some kind of role right away is not in any way, shape or form a long shot. With his size and athletic ability, he definitely can be in the mix, especially if Grimes, Moore or K.J. Lawson leave.

• Issac McBride – Like Braun, I think this true point guard from Little Rock, Ark., also has a chance to come in and gain immediate playing time. The kid’s a scorer. And KU needs people who can score. It’s not just that he can shoot it or can finish — and he can do both very well — but McBride can create his own shot and scoring opportunities pretty much anytime and anywhere. He’ll have a golden opportunity to be the primary back-up to Dotson next season and if he’s able to handle it, his presence will help Dotson a ton, too.

The 2019 Targets:

• Matt Hurt – Top 10 prospect in the Class of 2019 is still at the very top of KU’s recruiting wish list and there’s no reason to think that the Jayhawks can’t land him. They’ve been on him the longest, they’ve put in the time and resources necessary to sell Hurt and his family on the KU program and experience. And there figures to be immediate playing time and a big role for Hurt in the lineup regardless of who stays and who goes. Duke has made some noise in its pursuit of Hurt in recent weeks and those two are probably his top options at the moment. If KU can land him, he’ll turn the 2019 class into a big deal.

• Cassius Stanley – Top 35 shooting guard who is a freak athlete out in California at 6-foot-5, 185 pounds. Stanley has liked KU for a long time and is merely waiting a few more weeks to announce his college choice between KU, Oregon and UCLA on April 17, the first day of the spring signing period. Stanley choosing KU would go a long way toward upgrading the athleticism on the roster and would be huge news for the 2019 class.

• Precious Achiuwa – The 6-9, 215-pound power forward from Montverde Academy has been on KU’s radar for a while and just recently took an official visit to campus. His physical style and good size would be a big get for the Jayhawks who could be looking to replace a lot of rebounds if Dedric Lawson turns pro.

• Tristan Enaruna – A 6-7, 205-pound small forward from Mt. Pleasant, Utah, Enaruna has landed more heavily on the KU radar in recent weeks because of his good size, athleticism and long-term potential. Ranked No. 105 by Rivals.com in the current class — one spot behind McBride — Enaruna is also considering Creighton, Georgia Tech, Illinois and others.

As you can see, there’s a lot up in the air with this roster moving forward, from recruiting pieces to stay-or-go decisions. And depending on how things play out, there could even be a few other names that surface as possible additions, be them late bloomers on the recruiting scene or grad transfers who help fill out the roster.

What you’ve read here is merely a best guess as of today about what could happen, and we’ll stay on top of it in the weeks and months ahead to bring you as many updates as possible on all of these players, and others, who might shape the 2019-20 Kansas basketball roster and be a part of what KU hopes is another deep run a year from now.

Reply 27 comments from Surrealku Curtis Blankenship Jayscott Adam Gerval Barry Weiss Cora Smith Jhawki78 Dane Pratt Eric Brunner Greg Bowles and 12 others

Saturday’s 2nd half was all about pride, but the season-ending loss was still devastating for Kansas

Kansas guard K.J. Lawson (13), Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) and Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) leave the court as the buzzer sounds the end of the game on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard K.J. Lawson (13), Kansas forward Dedric Lawson (1) and Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) leave the court as the buzzer sounds the end of the game on Saturday, March 23, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Salt Lake City — It was not words that were the currency of choice in the Kansas locker room following Saturday’s 89-75 loss to 5th-seeded Auburn in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but sounds and sniffles and pauses and sighs.

That was all that was needed to describe the devastation and disappointing pulsing its way through KU’s small corner of Vivint Smart Home Arena that will forever be known as the place that the challenging 2018-19 season went to die.

Devon Dotson sat with a towel on his head and did his best to answer questions from reporters about what went wrong and what comes next.

Mitch Lightfoot stayed strong early but eventually let the tears go as more time passed. And then there was Dedric Lawson, KU’s All-American forward who recorded yet another double-double but finished the season sobbing into a towel on his lap and painfully preaching about how this was his fault, he let his team down, he didn’t do enough.

“It hurts. It hurts bad,” Dotson said in a muted tone. “The season’s over. It just hurts. Really, it just hurts.”

The end always hurts. That’s nothing new. But there was something different about this ending, for this team, during this particular season.

After months of adversity, ups and downs, disappointing moments and even a few high hopes, the Jayhawks finally fell for the last time. And this wasn’t one of those of can’t-get-over-the-hump falls. This was a tumble-from-the-tree-house-with-no-time-to-free-your-hands-to-break-your-fall loss.

And those are the kinds of losses that leave you gasping to catch your breath and wondering what you could’ve done different for hours and days on end.

Down 10 before they could blink, 17 a few minutes later and 26 by halftime, the Jayhawks, if they were being honest, knew in the locker room after the first 20 minutes that a comeback was probably not in the cards.

Sure, their hearts wanted it. And, yeah, even parts of their brains might have believed it was possible. But they also knew what kind of animal was on the opposing bench and even if the Jayhawks had played their absolute best for the entire 20-minute second half, they knew they probably still would not have found enough good fortune to deliver what would have been the largest comeback in school history.

So at that point, their minds shifted to the one thing they could still control — playing with pride and going out with their heads held high.

“That’s what it’s about,” Dotson said. “I mean, we were down by like 20 and we just wanted to give them something to guard.”

Added Lightfoot, who said Saturday’s feeling was the worst of the three NCAA Tournament losses he has experienced while at Kansas: “So many guys care so much about it and it’s more about the pride and the place you play at and the people who back you and each other and coaches. We were fighting for everything.”

Doing so allowed the Jayhawks to keep the final score respectable. The 89-75 margin on the scoreboard certainly was not reflective of the way Auburn dominated the game. But it was fair in that it showed that Kansas never laid down.

Sophomore guard K.J. Lawson, who just wrapped up his first season as a Jayhawk, said that aspect of Saturday’s setback was incredibly important to everyone in the Kansas locker room.

The program means too much to too many people for this group of guys — a crew that has been ridiculed and criticized, cussed and consoled, that will always be remembered as the team that didn’t win the Big 12 regular season title — to let what happened in the first half be the lasting memory of a season gone wrong.

So they scrapped. And fought. And somehow played well enough to outscore Auburn by a dozen in the second half. And this was no pity party either. This was a real effort against an Auburn squad that had its starters on the floor into the final few minutes. So that was at least something.

K.J. Lawson drew a comparison to a boxing match in which the challenger was being thoroughly beaten and out-boxed by the champ.

“You’re just playing for pride, playing for those guys that came before us,” Lawson said. “At that point, you just have to make it respectable. You know, this is the NCAA Tournament. It doesn’t really help any, but you still have to do it. That’s like a moral victory, trying to get to the 12th round. I know I’m about to get knocked out, but it just shows we didn’t give up and just let them crack us in our dome.”

Had the halves been flipped, it might have been Kansas that left Utah moving on to the Sweet 16 with its dreams of playing for a national championship still in tact.

After all, KU out-shot Auburn 59.4 percent to 48 percent in the second half, including 55.6 to 30.8 from 3-point range.

But those numbers only show indirectly how utterly different the first half was. After all, even though KU caught fire and made Auburn work, the Tigers still did shoot nearly 50 percent in the second half. That came in stark contrast to the 29.6 percent shooting the Jayhawks delivered in the first half.

“I’m proud of our kids,” KU coach Bill Self said with complete sincerity. “We hung in there (in the) second half and didn’t get a lot of stops.”

The tears will flow for a while still. The pain will last. And some of these guys will never fully get over the disappointment they felt on Saturday night. But at least that second half will help. At least they have that. At least they didn’t lay down and lose by 52, even if it might have felt like it.

“Definitely better effort,” Dotson said of the second half. “We showed signs. But, you know, a loss is a loss. And this one hurts. I don’t know. I’m just sad, heartbroken from this loss.”

Reply 7 comments from David Robinett Marius7782 West_virginia_hawk Layne Pierce Cassadys Dale Rogers

KU Sports Extra - A KU-Auburn Primer

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Devon Dotson’s tweaked ankle a non-issue for Kansas entering Friday’s practice

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) gets under the Northeastern defense for a bucket during the first half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kansas guard Devon Dotson (11) gets under the Northeastern defense for a bucket during the first half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Kansas point guard Devon Dotson said Friday that his left ankle was a little sore when he woke up on Friday morning, following KU’s 87-53 victory over No. 13 seed Northeastern on Thursday night.

But neither Dotson nor KU coach Bill Self seemed at all worried that the ankle tweak, which Dotson endured while battling for a rebound in the second half of Thursday’s victory, would have a negative impact on his ability to be ready for Saturday’s second round game against 5th-seeded Auburn in Salt Lake City.

“A turned ankle isn’t going to keep a guy from playing,” Self said.

When asked about the communication he’s had with his point guard about the injury, Self said the two have treated it as if it’s a non-issue.

“I haven’t even asked him how he felt,” Self explained. “Because he may tell me doesn’t feel well. So I’d rather not know that and just imagine he’s going to be 100 percent, which I’m sure he will be.”

As for Dotson’s take on the ankle, he, too, was optimistic that he would be just fine by game time Saturday night. The fact that he was able to re-enter Thursday’s game and play down the stretch while testing it out, gave him some confidence that the injury was minor.

“It feels all right,” Dotson said. “Kind of sore waking up (Friday) morning and I’ll try to really test it at practice, but it’s feeling all right. I’m not really worried about it.”

Another Jayhawk battling an ailment on Friday was sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, who was not present at any of KU’s media activities and instead stayed back at the team hotel trying to fight off some kind of illness.

“We’re hoping it’s not the flu,” Self said Friday. “But he’s being treated like it is. He was running a fever and certainly had some of those symptoms. But we think, hey, with a good day’s rest and a lot of fluids, he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. He better be.”

Self said Garrett started feeling bad before Thursday’s game and got worse as the night went on. But, like with Dotson, Self seemed supremely confident that the team’s best defender would be doing his thing on Saturday night.

“He’s sick,” Self said. “(He) didn’t have a good night (Thursday). But he’ll be ready to go.”

Reply 1 comment from Dirk Medema

2nd Round matchup between KU and Auburn set to tip around 8:40 p.m. Saturday

Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) shoots a free throw against New Mexico State during the first half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Auburn guard Bryce Brown (2) shoots a free throw against New Mexico State during the first half, Thursday, March 21, 2019 at Vivint Smart Homes Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. by Nick Krug

Salt Lake City — For just the second time in the history of the two programs, Kansas and Auburn will square off on the basketball court on Saturday night, with the winner earning a trip to the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Mo.

And we now know that that game will tip off around 8:40 p.m., roughly 30 minutes following the 6:10 tipoff between top-seeded Gonzaga and No. 9 seed Baylor in the first of two games in Salt Lake on Saturday.

That much was made official on Thursday afternoon, when Kansas, the No. 4 seed, and 5th-seeded Auburn won first-round games at Vivint Smart Home Arena over Northeastern (87-53) and New Mexico State (78-77) respectively.

Auburn is led by head coach Bruce Pearl and features a team of ultra-athletic guards that, like Northeastern, can shoot the daylights out of it. Auburn, which finished tied for fourth in the SEC at 11-7 (26-9 overall) and won the SEC tournament by beating Tennessee by 20 in the title game, ranked second in the SEC in 3-point shooting, at 37.6 percent, third in scoring offense (79.6 ppg) and fourth in scoring defense (68.1 ppg).

Said Pearl in a self-assessment of his team after Thursday’s victory: “We play 10 guys and we fly around and we turn you over and we shoot a lot of 3s.”

Auburn and Kansas have met just once, with the Tigers winning a 1985 NCAA Tournament game in South Bend, Ind., 66-64.

Stay in touch with KUsports.com throughout the day Friday for much more on this matchup, including a breakdown of the game from both locker rooms.

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A look at the 2019 NCAA Tournament seedings, 1 through 68

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrates a bucket and an Iowa State foul on Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) during the first half, Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) celebrates a bucket and an Iowa State foul on Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) during the first half, Saturday, March 16, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

While Selection Sunday is one of the best days of the year for college basketball fans, it also marks the end of months worth of speculation and prediction about which teams would be headed where in the NCAA Tournament.

Beyond that, the unveiling of the bracket brings with it disappointment for some teams, heavy scrutiny from the media and the reality that not every team can be pleased with whether it got in or its draw.

Still, most years the committee does a more-than-admirable job with an almost-impossible task and puts together an intriguing and interesting field that promises to entertain.

One of the more fun things to do before the games begin — the First Four tips off in Dayton on Tuesday and the rest of the action begins Thursday, with No. 4 seed Kansas opening NCAA Tournament play at 3 p.m. in Salt Lake City against No. 13 seed Northeastern — is to take a look at just how close we were to having a different bracket altogether.

How were the 1 seeds stacked? Who almost got a 3 seed instead of a 4. How close were the 8s and the 9s from avoiding that potential second-round matchup with a 1 seed?

All of those questions, and many more, can be answered easily by taking a look at the final overall rankings for the field, released Sunday night not long after the bracket came out.

As you can see below, Kansas, at No. 13 overall, was that close to being a 3 seed and likely was edged out of that spot by Texas Tech, which won the Big 12 regular season title and split with the Jayhawks this season.

But remember, seed isn’t everything. Had Kansas been a 3 seed instead of a 4, it’s all but guaranteed that the Jayhawks would have been a 3 in some region other than the Midwest.

So while 3 is certainly higher than 4, in this case, being the 4 might wind up benefiting the Jayhawks because, if they’re able to survive two rounds in Salt Lake — neither of which will be anywhere close to easy — KU will be coming home to play the Sweet 16 and possible Elite Eight games in Kansas City, Mo., 40 miles from campus.

That’s not a bad fate for a team that lost 9 games and fell lower than the 2 line for the first time since 2009.

There’s a long way to go before we get to that point, and we may never get there, but it’s always interesting to look at how closely things came to producing a completely different bracket than the one that is now being feverishly filled out by the rest of the college basketball world.

One other thing that jumped out to me regarding the overall rankings is where the committee put Michigan and Michigan State. The Spartans beat their in-state rivals three times this season, including one final time in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament title game. Their reward? Being the No. 8 overall seed and landing in the same region with top overall seed Duke while the Wolverines got the No. 6 spot and avoided that fate.

There’s no telling why that happened, but given the conference affiliation, geographic location and head-to-head results between the two, it seems like Michigan State got a raw deal there.

They’re just one of 20 or so teams out there that probably feels they got a raw deal — hello No. 1 seed North Carolina coming to KC to potentially play KU or Iowa State — and this look at the overall rankings gives you a real feel how some of those things could have been avoided.

That said, I’m always impressed by the Selection Committee’s work and there’s little doubt that the hours upon hours they spend creating this thing are done in the interest of releasing the best, fairest, most competitive bracket they can put together.

The bottom line is simple: Regardless of where you’re seeded, who you play, where you should’ve been seeded or what road you think would have been easier, the only thing that matters is whether you win the game against the teams thrown in your way.

Let the games begin. And while you continue to fill out your brackets, be sure to register for our KUsports.com bracket for a chance to win cash money. The Top 3 finishers win $500, $250 and $100 cash, thanks to our sponsor, Truity Credit Union.

Enjoy the tournament, everybody!

  1. Duke (29 – 5)
  2. Virginia (29 - 3)
  3. North Carolina (27 - 6)
  4. Gonzaga (30 - 3)
  5. Tennessee (29 - 4)
  6. Michigan St. (28 - 6)
  7. Kentucky (27 - 6)
  8. Michigan (28 - 6)
  9. Houston (31 - 3)
  10. Texas Tech (26 - 6)
  11. LSU(26-6)
  12. Purdue (23 - 9)
  13. Kansas (25 - 9)
  14. Florida St. (27 - 7)
  15. Kansas St. (25 - 8)
  16. Virginia Tech (24 - 8)
  17. Marquette (24 - 9)
  18. Auburn (25 - 9)
  19. Wisconsin (23 - 10)
  20. Mississippi St. (23 - 10)
  21. Villanova (25 - 9)
  22. Maryland (22 - 10)
  23. Buffalo (31 - 3)
  24. Iowa St. (23 - 11)
  25. Louisville (20 - 13)
  26. Nevada (29 - 4)
  27. Cincinnati (28 - 6)
  28. Wofford (29 - 4)
  29. VCU(25-7)
  30. Syracuse (20 - 13)
  31. Ole Miss (20 - 12)
  32. Utah St. (28 - 6)
  33. Washington (26 - 8)
  34. UCF(23-8)
  35. Baylor (19 - 13)
  36. Oklahoma (19 - 13)
  37. Iowa (22 - 11)
  38. Seton Hall (20 - 13)
  39. Minnesota (21 - 13)
  40. Florida (19 - 15)
  41. Ohio St. (19 - 14)
  42. Belmont (26 - 5)
  43. Temple (23 - 9)
  44. Saint Mary's (CA) (22 - 11)
  45. Arizona St. (22 - 10)
  46. Murray St. (27 - 4)
  47. St. John's (NY) (21 - 12)
  48. Oregon (23 - 12)
  49. New Mexico St. (30 - 4)
  50. Liberty (28 - 6)
  51. UC Irvine (30 - 5)
  52. Vermont (27 - 6)
  53. Saint Louis (22 - 12)
  54. Northeastern (23 - 10)
  55. Yale (21 - 7)
  56. Old Dominion (26 - 8)
  57. Georgia St. (23 - 9)
  58. Northern Ky. (26 - 8)
  59. Montana (26 - 8)
  60. Colgate (24 - 10)
  61. Bradley (20 - 14)
  62. Abilene Christian (27 - 6)
  63. Gardner-Webb (23 - 11)
  64. Iona (17 - 15)
  65. Prairie View (22 - 12)
  66. Fairleigh Dickinson (20 - 13)
  67. North Dakota St. (18 - 15)
  68. N.C. Central (18 - 15)
Reply 1 comment from Greg Ledom

Quentin Grimes just fine after cramps took him out of KU’s semifinal win over West Virginia

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) is visited by trainers as he lies on the floor with a cramp during the second half, Friday, March 15, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas guard Quentin Grimes (5) is visited by trainers as he lies on the floor with a cramp during the second half, Friday, March 15, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — Kansas freshman Quentin Grimes, who carried the Jayhawks to a halftime lead and 88-74 victory over West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament semifinals on Friday night at Sprint Center knew a couple of things right away when he went down with a leg injury with 6 minutes to play in the victory.

First, he knew exactly what was wrong with him. Second, he knew he needed to be anywhere but on the floor.

“Right when I shot it, the cramp came in right when I was releasing the ball,” Grimes recalled after his 18-point, 5 3-pointer night helped pace KU to victory. “I went to pass it but nobody was open so I just had to shoot it and then the cramp was pretty bad when I came down. … My whole leg cramped up and I was like, ‘Dang, I need to get up out the game now.’ I got some fluids in me and I should be good for tomorrow. I’m feeling better now.”

Helped off the floor by KU trainers, Grimes limped his way to the bench, where he quickly took in some Gatorade and electrolyte pills to get the fluids flowing through his body.

Before that, though, Grimes stayed down on the floor for a few minutes, writhing in pain and struggling to regain his feet.

Grimes was not the only one who was unafraid of the severity of the injury that had fans in the stands craning their necks the rest of the night to see if they could catch a glimpse of what was going on with Grimes.

“I know my boy,” KU freshman Ochai Agbaji said after the victory. “He was cramping up (Thursday) and I saw it on the bench (on Friday) so I knew he was cramping up and I knew he’d be fine.”

Added point guard Devon Dotson: “Oh, I knew he was fine. We were kind of joking a little about it, talking about how he was cramping up last game, so I knew it wasn’t too bad. That’s how cramps can be.”

Like the rest of his teammates, Grimes spoke with reporters in the KU locker room after the game and said he planned to get some extra treatment late Friday night to ensure that he would be ready for Saturday’s Big 12 title game.

Kansas will take on Iowa State at 5 p.m. Saturday with the Big 12 tournament title on the line.

Reply 6 comments from West_virginia_hawk Kujhawk001 Dirk Medema Bville Hawk

Kansas signees, Christian Braun, Mackey McBride, earn Gatorade Player of the Year honors

Christian Braun

Christian Braun by Matt Scott

Arkansas and Kansas aren’t known for having the best basketball talent among the nation's high school ranks year in and year out. But the Kansas men’s basketball program did pull the best players from those states in its most recent recruiting class.

Class of 2019 signees Christian Braun, of Blue Valley Northwest, and Mackey McBride, of Little Rock, Ark., this weekend were named the Gatorade Boys Basketball players of the year from their respective states after turning in fantastic senior seasons.

Braun is the third player from his school to win the Gatorade Player of the Year honor.

The 6-foot-7, 190-pound guard led the Huskies to a 27-2 record and the Class 6A state championship this season, averaging 27.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, including 16 points and 10 rebounds in the title-game win over Washburn Rural High.

Braun, who was 5-foot-8 as a freshman, was the MVP of the state tournament and is a two-time first team all-State selection. He concluded his prep basketball career with 1,074 points.

McBride, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard led Baptist Prep Eagles to a 30-4 record and the Class 3A quarterfinals this season, averaging 28.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, while converting 47.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.

An all-State honoree, he was selected to the All Arkansas Preps First Team and the USA TODAY’s ALL-USA Arkansas First Team as a junior. McBride has also been chosen to play in the Big Baller Brand All-American Game.

Now in its 34th year, the Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which works with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Braun joins Gatorade Kansas Boys Basketball Players of the Year Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (2017-18, Bishop Miege), Mitchell Ballock (2016-17, Eudora High), Jerrick Harding (2015-16, Wichita Southeast) and Dean Wade (2014-15, St. John) as recent winners of the Kansas honor.

Four-star Little Rock, Ark., point guard Issac "Mackey" McBride brings the ball up the floor and looks to initiate offense during a prep game last season. (Photo by Nick Wenger)

Four-star Little Rock, Ark., point guard Issac "Mackey" McBride brings the ball up the floor and looks to initiate offense during a prep game last season. (Photo by Nick Wenger)

Reply 1 comment from David Robinett

Latest NBA rumor regarding KU coach Bill Self involves the Chicago Bulls; Believe it at your own risk

Kansas head coach Bill Self rips into an official during the second half, Thursday, March 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas head coach Bill Self rips into an official during the second half, Thursday, March 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

There’s a rumor out there that Kansas coach Bill Self will be leaving KU after the 2018-19 season to coach the Chicago Bulls next season and it’s at least worth addressing.

But not because I think it’s rock solid or have heard it anywhere else. More because the way the rumor came out was so comical that I can’t get through the night without calling that out.

Brandon Lang, a gambling analyst with his own website (BrandonLang.com) and a flare for the dramatic, was on NBC Sports Radio on Thursday breaking down the lines for a few college basketball games, when he jumped in to tell host Tim Murray his big news about Self’s future.

“I’ll throw (out) the biggest rumor mill (information) that I found out today from a very reliable source, that Bill Self will be leaving Kansas at the end of the year to become the head coach of the Chicago Bulls,” Lang said. “Brandon Lang is pulling an Adam Schefter, breaking that story on every radio show right now. You heard it here first: Bill Self saying thank you Kansas. We won 14 straight Big 12 championships, it came to an end, it’s time for me to move on and go coach the Chicago Bulls. You heard that first right here. Brandon Lang, March 14, 2019.”

If you’re so inclined to listen and judge for yourself the validity of Mr. Lang’s claim, that quote, and the banter that followed, is in the embedded Tweet below, starting at the 2:54 mark.

OK. Now normally I don’t post all of these types of rumors because they can run rampant and also can create more buzz and panic than they deserve. But I chose to address this one for a couple of reasons.

One: I’ve already had a ton of people ask me about it and I always want to do my best to provide some kind of information. Self’s a little busy right now, but we can ask him about it later tonight.

Two: I could not leave it alone when I heard Mr. Lang twice mention his own name in the quote while also drawing the comparison between him and NFL Insider Adam Schefter, who has literally broken hundreds of player and coaching moves during his career.

Maybe the guy knows something the rest of us don’t. Maybe he’ll be proven right and get the last laugh.

After all, it’s not a huge reach to think of Self someday making the jump to the NBA, nor is this the first time anybody has talked about it. What’s funny, though, is the timing of it all. Self was just asked about the NBA a week or so ago by college hoops analyst Jeff Goodman on Goodman’s podcast and although he said he’d be lying if he said he had never thought about the challenge the NBA presents, he also painted a pretty clear picture that he still liked his current gig at Kansas.

Take it or leave it. Consider the source. Panic if you want. But I’d probably just kick back and enjoy the next few weeks of basketball if I were you.

None by NBC Sports Radio

Reply 5 comments from Steve Hillyer West_virginia_hawk M.E. Fisher Michael Maris

Sensing a Silvio-type emergence from KU forward David McCormack? You’re not alone

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) wrestles for a ball with Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) during the second half, Thursday, March 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. At left is Texas guard Kerwin Roach II (12).

Kansas forward David McCormack (33) wrestles for a ball with Texas forward Dylan Osetkowski (21) during the second half, Thursday, March 14, 2019 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. At left is Texas guard Kerwin Roach II (12). by Nick Krug

Kansas freshman David McCormack calls it “sort of an unspoken thing” and junior forward Mitch Lightfoot says you’d have to be crazy not to see the parallels.

Regardless of how you classify it, if you find yourself wondering, dreaming or even just contemplating whether McCormack could be to this year’s KU team what Silvio De Sousa was to last year’s, you’re definitely not alone.

“Yeah, you’ve got to think about it,” Lightfoot said of the obvious comparison. “Coming on at the same time, right when we need him. He’s done a great job and if he can give us even a little bit of what Silvio gave us... (Silvio) played his butt off in March (last year) and I think Dave has all the ability to do that.”

Filling in for the injured Udoka Azubuike — sound familiar? — De Sousa staged a coming out party in last year’s Big 12 tournament, averaging 20 minutes per game while scoring 30 points on 14-of-18 shooting (78 percent) and grabbing 29 rebounds in three games while helping Kansas take the tourney title.

McCormack, after his 13-point, 9-rebound effort in 29 minutes against Texas on Thursday night, is actually slightly ahead of that pace in many areas and on track to score 39 points (on 86 percent shooting), grab 27 rebounds and play 27 more minutes than De Sousa did at last season’s Big 12 tournament.

Sure it’s just a one-game sample size. But McCormack proved Thursday night that, like De Sousa did in three Big 12 tournament games last year, that the postseason stage is not too big for him. In fact, it might bring out the best in him.

Playing more minutes is an obvious way to grab more stats, but you still have to deliver when you’re out there. And few Kansas players have delivered of late the way McCormack has during his nine-game starting stretch.

The numbers, the confidence, the presence and the joy all have transformed McCormack into an almost unrecognizable player. It’s almost as if he’s the kind of player who couldn’t stay on the floor for even a minute without making three mistakes midway through conference play and now is a critical part of KU’s postseason hopes.

Oops. Sorry. That was De Sousa last season.

McCormack said he has not yet talked much to De Sousa about the role he played late last season and hasn’t heard much advice from De Sousa either. But he doesn’t feel he needs it. That’s where the whole “unspoken” thing comes into play.

The 6-foot-10 McCormack said he has felt the 6-9 De Sousa’s strong support, in practice and from the bench, throughout his freshman season. And it’s clear that, whether they’ve talked about it or not, McCormack has at least picked up how to approach this opportunity from observing the way De Sousa has continued to battle in practice even while serving an NCAA suspension.

How many opportunities lie ahead this season for McCormack and his teammates remains to be seen and could very well depend, at least partly, on whether the freshman forward continues to be the kind of presence he has been during the past couple of weeks.

Lightfoot likes that idea and believes the Jayhawks will continue to benefit from McCormack’s play both in terms of the numbers he puts up and the example he sets for how to exhaust everything you’ve got in the tank and then keep playing.

“The kid’s playing his butt off,” Lightfoot said. “He wants it so bad and you’ve really got to respect that. He really showed us something (Thursday night) and I couldn’t be more proud of the kid.”

Added KU freshman Quentin Grimes, when asked what he liked most about McCormack’s game right now: “Just how active he is. If he misses a shot, he doesn’t care, he’s going to go for the offensive rebound. On the defensive side, he’s going to try to get every rebound. So you can’t complain when a guy plays that hard.”

Next up, another matchup with West Virginia, a team that plays big and should inspire KU coach Bill Self to put McCormack out there for more De Sousa-like minutes.

Tipoff for tonight’s Big 12 tourney semifinal with the 10th-seeded Mountaineers at Sprint Center is slated for approximately 8:30, 30 minutes following the other semifinal matchup between No. 5 seed Iowa State and top-seeded K-State.

Reply 9 comments from Surrealku Michael Maris Jhawki78 Mike Greer Dirk Medema Blake Brown Goku Brjam

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