Jayhawks to get second crack at Syracuse-style zone

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) delivers on a lob jam over Syracuse forward Matthew Moyer (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

Kansas guard Lagerald Vick (2) delivers on a lob jam over Syracuse forward Matthew Moyer (2) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017 at American Airlines Arena in Miami.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

It's extremely rare for a college basketball team to play the same team twice in a row.

And that will not be exactly the case at 8 p.m. Wednesday, when No. 2 Kansas faces Washington at Sprint Center in the Jayhawk Shootout in Kansas City, Mo. But the unbeaten Jayhawks will be getting the next best thing.

“Watch Syracuse,” KU coach Bill Self said when asked for a quick breakdown of the challenges Washington might present. “I mean, they run more actions than Syracuse, offensively, but there's a lot of similar things and, defensively, they play the same zone.”

Led by longtime Syracuse assistant coach Mike Hopkins, the Huskies (6-2) will bring to town a style of play that is eerily similar to the Syracuse team that Kansas defeated last weekend in Miami.

That means Kansas (7-0) will get a second chance to tackle that legendary 2-3 zone and, from the sound of it, that's something Self is looking forward to.

“The way that I thought we would attack it best on Saturday was awful,” Self said of KU's plan against Syracuse. “I mean, I thought, 'There's no way this won't work.' And none of it worked.”

From there, the Jayhawks transitioned to more of what Self called a “stationary” zone offense, which led to a lot of standing and passing, shooting and passing over the top of the zone.

While that worked well — especially for Devonté Graham, who matched his career high with 35 points, and Lagerald Vick, who worked with surgeon-like precision in the high post — Self and the Jayhawks are not expecting to see the exact same looks from Washington that they got from Syracuse.

“We got the ball to the high post in the second half quite a bit against Syracuse's zone,” Self said. “So I'm sure that (Washington will) do some stuff to maybe try to take that away. So we need to have a couple of different ways to attack it.”

While KU's fresh comfort and familiarity with the zone will be an advantage for the Jayhawks, Washington will have a similar advantage in that Hopkins can call — and surely has called — his old boss and ask him what worked, what didn't and what he wished he would have done against the Jayhawks in Miami.

Still, Self likes where his team sits and so does Las Vegas, which has KU pegged as a 22-point favorite in this one.

“Playing Syracuse the game before we play Washington hopefully will help us a little bit, because Mike, obviously, is going to do a lot of the same things they do at Syracuse,” Self said. “... It'll be a nice challenge, but it'll be really nice to see if we can improve how we attack their zone.”

Graham gains another

One day after earning three national player of the week honors for his 70-point week that featured back-to-back 35-point games in wins over Toledo and Syracuse, senior point guard Devonté Graham snagged another on Tuesday.

The folks in charge of The Oscar Robertson Trophy on Tuesday named Graham their national player of the week for his strong performance that took him from fourth on the KU scoring list to the top.

Graham enters the clash with Washington leading KU at 18.6 points per game, with a .408 mark from 3-point range and team-bests in assists (55), steals (16) and free throw shooting (.923).

Sosinski addition official

KU football player James Sosinski, a tight end who has spent the past couple of weeks practicing with the men's basketball team in search of a walk-on spot on the roster, has impressed Self enough to earn that spot.

Sosinski, a 6-foot-7 sophomore from Chandler, Ariz., who is listed at 250 pounds by KU basketball, officially has been added to the 2017-18 roster.

The former South Mountain Community College player who averaged a double-double during his one semester with South Mountain, will wear No. 55 for the Jayhawks and is expected to be in uniform, on the bench and available for Wednesday's game.