As you all surely know by now, Kansas senior Frank Mason III in the past couple of weeks has swept nine national player of the year honors, ranging from the big dogs like the Naismith Trophy and AP Player of the Year to similar honors handed out by USA Today, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Sporting News Bleacher Report and a couple of national associations.
With the Wooden Award representing the last major honor to be handed out — Friday in Los Angeles — Mason, who led the Jayhawks to a 13th consecutive Big 12 title and became the first player in Big 12 history to finish a season averaging 20 points and 5 assists per game, is on the verge of sweeping them all.
While the other honors are nice and those trophies shine just as bright on a mantle or in a trophy case, the Wooden, Naismith and AP honors are generally regarded as the biggest of them all.
With that in mind, I set out Monday morning to find how often a player has swept all three of the top honors and the result surprised me just a little.
It turns out, it’s much more common than many might think.
In fact, only twice in the past 20 years have those three awards not gone to the same player.
Last season, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield won the Wooden and Naismith while Denzel Valentine, of Michigan State, won the AP honor.
Before that, you had to go all the way back to 2003, when Texas’ T.J. Ford won the Wooden and Naismith awards and David West, of Xavier, won the AP honor. Other than that, from 1998 through 2017, it’s the been the same player winning all three awards 18 of the 20 times.
While that bodes well for Mason’s chances of winning the Wooden Award on Friday — and, at this point, how could they not give it to him? — it also would make that accomplishment a little less rare than some may believe.
Having said that, sweeping all 10 awards is another feat altogether. For one, Bleacher Report has not been giving out it’s award for 20 years. For two, some of those other outlets have gone against the grain a few times, with a couple of them involving Jayhawks.
For instance, in 2002, when Duke’s Jay Williams swept the big three, KU’s Drew Gooden tied him for the NABC honor.
A year later, in 2003, KU’s Nick Collison split things up even more when he won the NABC award despite Ford winning the Wooden and Naismith and West being named the AP player of the year.
In 2012, when Anthony Davis, of Kentucky won — and should have won — most major player of the year honors, the NABC award went to Michigan State’s Draymond Green and ESPN.com picked KU’s Thomas Robinson.
Same thing in 2006, when Duke’s J.J. Redick cleaned up, Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison won the NABC honor and Oscar Robertson Trophy, handed out by the USBWA.
Different strokes for different folks, I guess. And, it’s important to note that each award has a slightly different criteria, outlined by the organization sponsoring the award and the voting panel making the selection.
Every once in a while, character will play a larger role or voters will give greater consideration to performance in the tournament or high-profile games, and that can lead to different awards going to different players.
In Mason’s case, he was high character all season and throughout his KU career, was stellar on the stat sheet, showed up in the tournament and also delivered in KU’s biggest games all season long.
That’s why he has cleaned up this postseason and why there’s no reason to believe he won’t add another on Friday when the Wooden winner is announced.
I’m sure Mason would trade all of them for a trip to the Final Four or to be playing in tonight’s national title game, but getting to that point involves a little bit of luck. What Mason has achieved was all about the work he put in and the production all of that heart and sweat generated.
What a year.
Players to sweep the AP, Naismith and Wooden Awards in the last 20 years:
2017 – Frank Mason III, Kansas
2015 – Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
2014 – Doug McDermott, Creighton
2013 – Trey Burke, Michigan
2012 – Anthony Davis, Kentucky
2011 – Jimmer Frdette, BYU
2010 – Evan Turner, Ohio State
2009 – Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
2008 – Tyler Hansbrough, UNC
2007 – Kevin Durant, Texas
2006 – J.J. Redick, Duke
2005 – Andrew Bogut, Utah
2004 – Jameer Nelson, Saint Joseph’s
2002 – Jay Williams, Duke
2001 – Shane Battier, Duke
2000 – Kenyon Martin, Cincinnati
1999 – Elton Brand, Duke
1998 – Antawn Jamison, UNC
With Roy Williams and his top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels set to face Oregon, instead of Kansas, in this weekend’s Final Four outside of Phoenix — in a game that nearly became the fourth meeting in NCAA Tournament play since 2008 between Ol’ Roy and Kansas — we won’t get the opportunity to dissect every aspect of the Carolina-KU match-up like we’ve done in years past.
From Roy vs. Self to the pressure of Williams facing his old team to the match-ups on the floor that might most impact the game, we would’ve been neck deep in that stuff by this point in the week had Kansas not fallen to Oregon in the Elite Eight.
But just because the Jayhawks aren’t playing does not mean we can’t examine one aspect of the transition from Williams to Self that actually came up last week in Kansas City as the Jayhawks were preparing for their Elite Eight clash with Oregon.
One day before what wound up being the final day of the 2016-17 season, Self was asked if he ever thought back to the days when people questioned whether he would play fast enough for KU fans’ liking or if he would bring Big Ten basketball to Lawrence.
As you all know, this year’s Jayhawks, led by national player of the year Frank Mason III, were one of the fastest KU teams in recent memory, constantly looking to push the pace to take advantage of the terrifying speed that their four-guard lineup could generate.
Most of the time it worked. Especially in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, where Kansas averaged 93 points per game in its three wins and still finished at 84.5 points per game for the tournament even with the dud against the Ducks.
Here’s what Self had to say about this year’s team, which was the highest scoring KU team in Self’s 14 seasons in Lawrence.
“Well, you know, following Coach Williams and his staff, they played at breakneck speed and certainly really, really emphasized not only transition but the secondary break as much as anybody in America maybe ever has,” Self began. “I've never been one to emphasize that as much. I've always been let's score in primary (transition), but if it's not there we can run our stuff.”
That subtle shift did not necessarily change the result — both Williams’ and Self’s KU teams played fast and put up points — but it did change the perception because Williams’ teams attacked relentlessly and never slowed up while transitioning quickly from fast-break opportunities into their offense. The switch from fast-break opportunities into halfcourt sets of teams coached by Self were more evident.
“Their stuff was secondary and they were so good at it,” Self said of Williams’ offenses.
“It's been talked about I'm sure amongst fans probably for years that we don't play as fast as we should. The reality of it is I don't know how we can play much faster than we (did this season). It (was) a team that (got) up and down and of course that doesn't mean you're going to make shots or score more points, but certainly this team (was) aggressive and (played) to their athletic ability.”
Credit Self’s willingness to put his personnel in the best position to succeed and to adjust away from his traditional emphasis on playing inside-out, with big men dominating the touches and opening everything else up from there.
Kansas did not have the crop of big men it normally does and rather than trying to force a square peg into a round hole, Self found a way to maximize what he could get out of his most talented and dangerous players.
That led to All-American nods for Mason and Josh Jackson, a second-team all-Big 12 season for Devonte’ Graham and breakout years by both Lagerald Vick and Svi Mykhailiuk, who saw their minutes and production increase big time this season.
All of that thrown together led to the Jayhawks fielding the most potent offense they’ve had during Self’s time in charge of the program, topping the previous best output by a point and a half per game.
Here’s a look at Self’s offenses at Kansas, ranked first through 14th
1 – 2016-17 – 83.2 ppg in 36 games
2 – 2009-10 – 81.6 ppg in 36 games
3 – 2015-16 – 81.3 ppg in 38 games
4 – 2010-11 – 81.2 ppg in 38 games
5 – 2007-08 – 80.5 ppg in 40 games
6 – 2013-14 – 79.0 ppg in 35 games
7 – 2006-07 – 78.4 ppg in 38 games
8 – 2008-09 – 76.4 ppg in 35 games
9 – 2003-04 – 75.8 ppg in 33 games
10 – 2012-13 – 75.2 ppg in 37 games
11 – 2005-06 – 75.2 ppg in 33 games
12 – 2004-05 – 75.0 ppg in 30 games
13 – 2011-12 – 73.5 ppg in 39 games
14 – 2014-15 – 71.1 ppg in 36 games
A few quick notes about these rankings:
• It’s worth noting that two of the three highest-scoring teams in the Self era came during the past two seasons, when rule changes (shorter shot clock, officiating emphasis, etc.) were put in place to increase scoring
• One thing that jumped out to me was that the 2012 national runner-up scored the second fewest points of any team in Self’s time at Kansas. That team, if you’ll recall, was led by Jeff Withey’s defense and got great defensive games from Travis Releford, Thomas Robinson and even Tyshawn Taylor, proving the old adage that defense wins championships, or, almost.
• It’s no surprise that the 2014-15 team was dead last on this list. Their inability to score consistently ultimately led to the second-round exit and loss to Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament.
• I was a little surprised the 2008 title team wasn’t a little higher on this list, but, again, that team was so solid defensively and still did top the 80 points per game mark.
• It should be interesting to see where next year’s team, which we don’t quite know the make-up of yet, will fall on this list. My early guess is that it will crack the Top 6.
Isn't technology great?
Thanks to a suggestion from our publisher, Scott Stanford, who just can't get enough KU sports talk despite his humble South Carolina roots, we're going to start a new feature here on KUsports.com to bring you some of our regular radio appearances right here on the site.
We'll post, "Say What?" as often as possible when we go on a sports radio talk show and embed the segment — or at least the hour that includes our part — here at KUsports.com for your listening pleasure.
That way, in case you missed it during the day or can't find it elsewhere online, you'll be able to hear even more insight and analysis from me, Tom Keegan, Benton Smith and Bobby Nightengale.
Keegan and I are on at least two or three radio shows a week on a regular basis with various hosts on 810 WHB, 610 Sports Radio and 1320 KLWN. While the blabbing from us is something you might be used to, the hosts often bring a different flavor to the discussion while challenging us to answer tough questions and giving us great ideas for entertaining KU sports discussion.
So be on the look-out for "Say What?" on a regular basis and enjoy!
There are plenty of questions about the immediate future for Kansas basketball worth examining, but by far one of the biggest — and most important — has to do with who will play point guard for the Jayhawks during the 2017-18 season.
While there are options out there, from uncommitted seniors in the Class of 2017 and players who recently de-committed from other schools to graduate transfers and even the junior college ranks, the top two options for the Jayhawks easily are current junior Devonte' Graham and prep standout Trevon Duval, who is playing at the McDonald's All-American game in Chicago this week.
The interesting thing about these two options is that they might be closely tied together. In an interview with Rivals.com's Krysten Peek in Chicago, Duval referenced Graham when talking about the Jayhawks and where things stood with his recruitment.
On the surface, it makes sense that Graham staying would scare Duval off of coming to Kansas. The No. 3 player in the 2017 class, according to Rivals, is a big time player, who wants the ball in his hands and has the potential to explode onto the college scene. If Graham's back for his senior season, it's easy to see how one could think that Duval may not get that opportunity, at least not 100 percent of the time.
On the other hand, though, the 2016-17 season showed that Duval really does not have much to worry about. With Frank Mason III handling the point, Graham was great in a supporting, off-the-ball sort of role and could easily fill that role again.
The possibility also exists that Graham and Duval, should both be Jayhawks next year, could find a way to share the role more than Mason and Graham did, giving each an opportunity to play some point and also play off the ball.
It's also worth considering that Duval may want to play with Graham and could be waiting for his decision in that context, as well.
Regardless of how that would look on the floor, there's little doubt that KU coach Bill Self — and Graham, for that matter — would find a way to not only make it work but make it work well.
Duval is a serious talent who could come in and start right away, with or without Graham in the lineup. He plays fast, he's physical and he can score inside and out. He seems in many ways like exactly the type of point guard Bill Self likes and would be a terrific replacement for Mason.
Duval has a final five of Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Seton Hall and told Peek this week that he would like to make a decision in April. The April signing period begins April 12 and runs through the middle of May.
There've been rumblings about Arizona and Duke emerging as the favorites for Duval, but, from everything I've heard, the Kansas coaching staff is still in it and continues to go after him with the belief they can still get him.
As long as Graham returns, landing Duval is not a make-or-break proposition for the 2017-18 Jayhawks. But having them both in crimson certainly would elevate KU's prospects heading into next season.
Here's a quick look at Duval's most recent take from the McDonald's game on his five finalists, which also can be seen in the video above. This year's game is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN from the United Center in the Windy City.
On Arizona: "The coaching staff says they need a point guard in this class. They need someone who can play with DeAndre Ayton and if Allonzo Trier comes back someone to get him the ball. They're just telling me I can really be the one to help their team out."
On Baylor: "My old teammate, Mark Vital, has really been in my ear just talking to me about the team and picking my brain to see what I like in a school and he said, 'Baylor's the perfect place for you.' "
On Duke: "Their fan atmosphere for games was definitely crazy. They cheered my name during the game and asked me to come sit with them so their fans are really into it. Gary (Trent Jr.) and Wendell (Carter) are both in my ear. You know I haven't heard anything but Duke from them since I've been here so they're recruiting pretty hard."
On Kansas: "Billy (Preston) is recruiting me too. He's telling me they need a point guard so everyone's doing a little bit of recruiting. I'm going to wait to see what Devonte Graham does and a few other people before I make any kind of decision."
On Seton Hall: "The visit was great actually. I've been to their campus a couple times, I've seen it but to visit during the Big East tournament was really special just to see how that all goes. Plus they get to play in the Garden so that was special."
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.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s season-ending, 74-60, Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center on Saturday night.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
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
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
KU: +0.6 Oregon: +1.9
vs. current AP Top 25
KU: 7-2 Oregon: 3-3
KU: 3 Oregon: 14
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.