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Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Eight Jayhawks still alive for NBA title as playoffs begin

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) tries to get past Orlando Magic's Franz Wagner (22) and Cole Anthony (50) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid (21) tries to get past Orlando Magic's Franz Wagner (22) and Cole Anthony (50) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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Eight former Kansas Jayhawks will have the opportunity to help their teams make a run at an NBA title this spring in the NBA playoffs.

Headlining the list is MVP candidate Joel Embiid, who appears to be in a battle with Denver’s Nikola Jokic for this year’s top individual honor.

Embiid’s Philadelphia 76ers are seeded fourth in the East and will open the postseason against fifth-seeded Toronto and fellow-former Jayhawk Svi Mykhailiuk.

Embiid led the entire league in scoring, at 30.6 points per game, and also averaged 11.7 rebounds while shooting 50% overall, 37% from 3-point range (with a whopping 93 3-point makes) and 81.4% at the free throw line.

In his first full season with Toronto, Mykhailiuk appeared in 56 games, with five starts, while averaging 4.6 points in 12.8 minutes per game.

At the top of the Eastern Conference is former KU forward Markieff Morris, whose Miami Heat are seeded first entering the playoffs.

After an injury left Morris inactive from mid-November into March, the former lottery pick returned to action on March 12 and appeared in seven of the Heat’s final 14 games of the regular season.

Morris’ twin brother, Marcus Morris Sr., is at the opposite end of the spectrum. His Clippers will need a win tonight in the final game of the Western Conference play-in tournament to make the field of eight.

Marcus Morris appeared in 54 games for the Clippers this season — all starts — and averaged 15.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 29 minutes per game.

In his first year in New Orleans, former KU point guard Devonte’ Graham also found himself in the play-in tournament in the Western Conference. Graham, who has started 160 of the 194 games he has played in during the past three seasons, was in a similar position in 2021 with Charlotte, which lost two games in the play-in tournament in the Eastern Conference and did not make the eight-team field.

This season, Graham averaged 11.9 points and 4.2 assists in 28.4 minutes per game with the Pelicans, shooting 34% from 3-point range and 84% at the free throw line.

Graham’s old team, which now features former Jayhawk Kelly Oubre Jr., was back in the play-in tournament in the East, finishing the regular season 10th in the standings. In his first year with Charlotte and seventh season in the league, Oubre averaged 15 points and four rebounds per game in 26.3 minutes.

Andrew Wiggins’ Golden State Warriors are the second-highest seeded team to feature a Jayhawk in this year’s postseason. The Warriors finished third in the West at 53-29 and they’ll face sixth-seeded Denver in the opening round. In his second full season with the Warriors, the former No. 1 overall pick earned a spot on the All-Star team while averaging 17.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 73 starts.

The final Jayhawk whose team is still alive in this year’s title chase won’t actually have a say in how things go.

Utah Jazz big man Udoka Azubuike recently underwent season-ending surgery to repair ligaments in his right foot and ankle and will miss the postseason. Utah is seeded fifth in the West and will face No. 4 season Dallas in Round 1.

Once the play-in tournaments set the final 16-team field, the eight first-round series will begin Saturday and Sunday.

Another trophy coming

It’s been a big month for trophy collections for the Kansas men’s basketball team and there’s one more on the way.

After grabbing trophies to celebrate the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles, along with the Midwest Regional Championship trophy and National Champions trophy at the Final Four, the Jayhawks will receive the NABC National Championship trophy at Thursday’s team banquet on KU’s campus.

Given annually to the team that finishes at the top of the coaches poll at the end of the college basketball season, the Ferris Mowers NABC trophy is one KU fans have seen before, with its three Waterford Crystal parts — ball, base and support.

“Kansas’ run through the NCAA Tournament, capped by its historic comeback in the championship game, deserves to be celebrated,” said NABC Executive Director Craig Robinson. “The Ferris Mowers NABC National Championship Trophy is our sport’s most coveted prize, and it is our privilege to present it to Bill Self and his KU team.”

The Ferris Mowers NABC National Championship Trophy was first awarded at the end of the 1990-91 season.

Killer combo

The Kansas men’s and women’s basketball programs combined for 55 victories during the 2021-22 season, which tied for the second most among all NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hoops teams this season.

The KU men finished 34-6 and won the national championship. The KU women, who reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013, finished with 21 wins and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

That combination tied the Jayhawks with Baylor, Gonzaga and Toledo for second, four wins behind the men’s and women’s programs at South Dakota State, which combined for 59 victories.

Comments

Scott MacWilliams 1 month, 1 week ago

Not gonna catch those SD State Jackrabbits! Wonder if they're related to the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog??

Andy Godwin 1 month, 1 week ago

You really have to feel for Udoka Azubuike. Such a big and powerful man, but injuries continue to plague his college and professional career. His ankles have had a hard time keeping up with the pounding incurred as part of basketball. It is hard to make the feet and ankles stronger.

Rodney Crain 1 month, 1 week ago

...most coveted prize? That is very funny.

Edward Daub 1 month ago

Joel should win MVP! Without Ben Simmons, he carried the 76ers on his back. Rock Chalk!

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