Sunday, December 18, 2016


Keegan: Versatile, intense Josh Jackson makes it tough for upset-minded foes

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) gets inside for a bucket against Davidson during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.

Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) gets inside for a bucket against Davidson during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 17, 2016 at Sprint Center.


You can believe almost everything you read in sports sections across America, but there is one recurring exception: When a college basketball headline includes the word “upset,” check the betting line from the previous day’s paper before believing it.

If the score upsets you, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s an upset.

For example, when Kansas travels to Morgantown to play West Virginia on Jan. 24, KU likely will rank ahead of the Mountaineers in the top 25. But if the Jayhawks are favored, it only will be by a point or two. Still, if WVU wins, many headlines erroneously will call it an upset.

As for genuine upsets, Kansas is even more immune to those than in most seasons.

Freshman Josh Jackson is as big a reason for that as anyone. His defensive versatility — pressure a point guard on one possession and rattle him into throwing a pass that gets intercepted, help off his man to swat a post player's shot the next time down the floor, follow that with a deflection of a pass that when released seemed bound for a clear, safe path — tends to make opponents skittish.

Jackson doesn’t save his defensive intensity for big games because his approach is such that he doesn’t just treat all opponents alike, but all possessions as well, each one representing an opportunity to win a battle.

Offensively, Jackson takes over when needed, such as during the second half of Saturday’s 89-71 victory against Davidson in Sprint Center, a game KU trailed at the half, 43-42. His 3-pointer from the left corner sent the Jayhawks on a run, but his drives down the left side of the lane, one that resulted in two points, the other in three, took more out of Davidson.

Jackson’s blind loyalty to making winning plays enables him to work close to the hoop when others in his situation might prefer to audition for scouts.

Blend a freshman who plays with the confidence, smarts and unselfishness of an upperclassmen with similarly aggressive guards, senior Frank Mason III and junior Devonté Graham, and it makes it so tough for opponents to pull off an upset.


Eloise Slater 5 years, 11 months ago

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Brad Avery 5 years, 11 months ago

Jackson is by far the best of the "one and done" players Self has brought to KU. He is athletic, has a very versatile skill set, a great leader on the floor and intensely competitive, qualities which can drive a team to, dare I say it, a national championship.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

"By Far" better than Wiggins or Embiid? Jackson is good, but not far better...

Kent Richardson 5 years, 11 months ago

Keegan has spoken to how Jackson treats each possession as important, his to own, etc (not exact quotes). Embiid had a lot of this. Another similarity is when opponents try to get in their heads, with rough play, Joel and Josh get fired up instead of intimidated. Wonder if this trait is recognized during recruiting.

Tom Keegan 5 years, 11 months ago

It definitely was noticed in the case of Jackson. I don't know whether it was with Embiid, whose confidence took off at Kansas once he started having success. I bet they saw some of that in him. I'll ask Norm Roberts, lead recruiter for Embiid.

Mike Riches 5 years, 11 months ago

As much as I love watching Jackson play, it's hard to know the impact of playing alongside two of the best guards in the country. If Jackson were playing next to Tharpe and a freshman Selden, would he look as good? And if Wiggins played on this particular team, what kind of a year would he be having? It's just hard to know...

But that's not to take anything away from Jackson, who may very well end up being my favorite OAD...the kid is obviously crazy good!

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

I think if he was playing in the Tharpe/Selden combo, he might actually look better. I'm sure his stat line would look better. With the current team, he is an important contributor and isn't asked to carry the team. It allows him to have an impact on both offense and defense.

I also think Jackson is the best OAD to come to Kansas but as to how much better, I'll wait to see his impact in conference and the NCAA.

Russ McCaig 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree with you...have been saying this...I think Wigs had the talent...I think he was more passive than Josh...don't recall Wigs going to the floor as much, banging for rebounds as much...I always thought Wigs played 'not to get hurt'...we saw flashes at times...cant blame him with Nike and Adidas touting the bidding war for him after he graduates(d) going into the 'hundreds of millions of dollars' range...

Kent Wells 5 years, 11 months ago

For example, check the headline of the Portland win at Oregon State last night. Portland was a 6 point favorite. Not an upset.

Kevin Boone 5 years, 11 months ago

Jackson is definitely a stud. And you can still tell that he has a true breakout performance coming. This team has yet to put a full game together, and that is exciting.

Kent Richardson 5 years, 11 months ago

Brining this up because we play UK later in the year. Also thinking about post season matchups because we are KU!

Malik Monk has become the freshman of the year front runner after dropping 47 on Roy and the Tar Heels. Great shooter and floor runner. He is not as complete a player as Josh Jackson . Not the same enthusiasm on defense, assists or rebounding. Kentucky could have blown out NC in the first half but over and over they would pose after their offensive successes and in a blink NC would beat them down the floor and score. Understand this was not on missed shots but after made shots. And it was over and over again.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

I agree w/the first part of your post but Lonzo Ball is far away the early leader for Freshman of the Year.

Lonzo Ball: 15.0 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists (which rank second in the country), 56.0 percent shooting overall, 45.3 percent three-point shooting and a 3.3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Don't forget UCLA went into Kentucky and came away with the win.

Kent Richardson 5 years, 11 months ago

Can't argue with what you say. Once the conference starts the west coast teams get lesser ratings because of starting times it seems. He is so complete and I think his #4 position player 6' 10" Leaf another freshman is just as impressive.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

All good points. I think UCLA is currently the best team in the country w/Ball and Leaf. We really need Udoka and Bragg to improve.

Humpy Helsel 5 years, 11 months ago

I hope we see more zone before league. We need to see him in the middle more in game conditions. He looks like he can destroy a zone with his combination of size, passing, and in the paint abilities. We will need that against Baylor. The whole deal about the Big XII being down this year is over-rated. It will be good and it will be tough on cold nights in January and February. TCU better. OSU better. TT better. Texas better. Honestly, watching North Carolina and Kentucky on Saturday, they look a half-notch better than we are as of right now. We'll know more about that in January. At the end of the day, we need more defense like we saw for about 10 minutes of the second half of last Saturday's game. No one said much about it, but the improved free throw shooting on Saturday was a welcome sight.

Tom Keegan 5 years, 11 months ago

I think the idea of Big 12 being down was blown to bits a few weeks ago. I don't think anybody believes that anymore. If bids were handed out today, Oklahoma and Texas would be only teams left out.

Barry Weiss 5 years, 11 months ago

Certainly the rpi rankings have the b-12 on top again.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

I'm just waiting to see the BIG 12 show up in the NCAA again. We get as many as 7 teams in but by the time the Sweet 16 comes around, it's usually KU and one other team still in.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Baylor and WVU are the only other legit big12 teams.

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

No arguement from me. Holding serve at home against those two teams will be a priority.

Gerry Butler 5 years, 11 months ago

lmao, you think Texas is better then last year? -- -ya ok. mercy. the others you mentioned umm ya - -Texas not so much -they look lost. 5-5 THAT'S NOT BETTER.. Honestly like you said N.Carolina, Kentucky AND UCLA are better at this point.. The improved free throw shooting- - -a result of getting different people to the line, better shooters, not exclusive Udoka -and Josh. Udoka is killing us on free throw pct as a team right now - -Josh is low but improving. Svi got there 6 times, nakes a difference when you have different one's shooting

Marius Rowlanski 5 years, 11 months ago

Could be wrong Gerry but I think Humpy was talking about expectations but maybe Texas still shouldn't be on that list.

KSU is 10-1 but their only quality win was over unranked Maryland. Other than that, nothing but cupcakes.

Jay Scott 5 years, 11 months ago

Texas was top 25 to start the season. Are they better? NO. Shaka is a media myth.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 11 months ago

I won't put an adverb in front of the adjective "better", but I totally agree with Brad's sentiment. Josh overall is more talented than Andrew and Joel, and unless he gets injured, he will have a greater impact on the team given that Andrew seemed to disappear at times, and Joel was injured when it got down to crunch time.

Since KU has so many potential scorers, Josh is able to exploit his diverse talents in multiple ways. If KU continues to play the small lineup, they can be successful because Josh rebounds well, can post up his opposition, drive to the basket and dish off, or just simply take control on his own. Plus, he one classy young man. What more could you ask for?

Barry Weiss 5 years, 11 months ago

its really hard to compare the three, Josh, Joel and Andrew straight up. They each have certain strengths the others don't. I will say Josh has probably the best court awareness and passing/assists of the three. I have not looked at any stats, so someone can prove me wrong there, but it just seems like he engages his teammates a bit more into the flow of the game.

Edward Daub 5 years, 11 months ago

Josh Jackson has yet to play a true road game in a hostile environment, which will be his true litmus test of greatness. First true road game is at UNLV!

WVU ("Press" Virginia) has defeated KU three straight times in Morgantown. Contrasting Styles, WVU typically presses full court the entire game and KU typically sticks with half court man-to-man.

And Congratulations goes to Bob Huggins who just won Career Game #800. That a way "Huggy Bear"! Take me home, country road.

Mike Greer 5 years, 11 months ago

You can debate "better ", but impact wise, I think Josh has an advantage, in part at least because of his teammates. You really are hard pressed to make the comparison. Enjoy the ride with all of them!

Kent Richardson 5 years, 11 months ago

Josh just seems to reject the status quo in his game. It looks like he is working on his overall game. Two good things regarding that. 1) If his shot isn't falling he won't and hasn't "disappeared" from games. 2) As he evolves/improves we may not see a "breakout" game and the inevitable drop off but we could have a 22 point, 10 rebound and 5 assist player for several games in a row.

Harlan Hobbs 5 years, 11 months ago

I don't think you have to worry about UNLV, Edward. They lost to Duke at home by nearly 50 points. They are picked to finish last or next to last in their conference.

It is a big comedown for a usually good program. Hopefully, their new coach from New Mexico State, Marvin Menzies, will be able to turn things around. He was dealt a really bad hand.

Dyrk Dugan 5 years, 11 months ago

Marius Rowlanski, K State LOST to Maryland. That's the one L. Their best win may be home vs. Wazzu; the power 5 wins aren't very many.

Bernard Gregory 5 years, 11 months ago

I really like the fact that Josh seems to have the win no matter what I need to do mentality. He always seem to have some type of presence when he is on the floor even if he is not scoring. I sort of feel like with Wiggins that the guys and the coaches expected more of him than they do with Josh. From what I see its more of a we are going to do this mentality no matter what we have to do.

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