ICYMI: Sunflower Sweep Postgame News Links
After starting Big 12 play at 5-3, with three consecutive road losses, KU now has won six straight conference games — seven in a row overall (Kentucky) — and takes a two-game lead over three teams (Baylor, Oklahoma and West Virginia) with four games left in Big 12 play.
The Jayhawks really have hit their stride lately and appear to be playing with more confidence than they have all season. What’s more, it’s different guys stepping up at different times to help carry this team that is right on pace to be the top seed in the Big 12 tournament and likely a No. 1 seed — perhaps the overall top seed — in the Big Dance after that.
Saturday was Mason’s turn and the junior (who became the 58th Jayhawk to reach the 1,000-point plateau) looked a lot more like his old self than he had almost at any point this season, playing fast, finishing at the rim and looking unstoppable at times.
LJW Tait: The Day After
There was a time, not too long ago, when Kansas was trailing in the Big 12 standings and also projected, by KenPom, to lose the league title to multiple schools. But now look. The Jayhawks are 23-4 thanks to a seven-game winning streak, and they're suddenly two games ahead of Oklahoma and West Virginia in the Big 12 standings with just four conference games remaining.
And two of those four remaining games are at Allen Fieldhouse.
In other words, unless Kansas loses a rare home game in these final two weeks of the regular season, Bill Self's program will win at least a share of its 12th consecutive Big 12 championship and, more than likely, also secure a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. It'll be a remarkable accomplishment given the relative lack of NBA talent in KU's starting lineup, and it's a reminder that Kansas should be the favorite in the Big 12 every season until A) somebody proves otherwise, or B) Self bounces to the NBA.
Obviously, Kansas remains No. 1 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one).
Kansas at Baylor (8 p.m. ET Tuesday, ESPN2): It will take more than one loss to knock Kansas off the top line. In fact, at least one in the regular season and another in the Big 12 tourney would be necessary.
ESPN Lunardi ($)
Team with the best shot in 2016: Kansas
Most recent Final Four appearance: Kansas 2012
Ken Pomeroy's efficiency stats date back to the 2001-02 season. Since then, only one national champion has finished outside Pomeroy's top 20 in adjusted defensive efficiency at the conclusion of a season: North Carolina in 2008-09 (No. 21). Kansas will enter this week ranked 21st in the category. Those Tar Heels owned an offense that excelled both inside and outside the arc, much like KU's group this season. Plus, the Jayhawks enjoy a level of depth that few squads have matched. Deep into Saturday's win at Kansas State, Devonte' Graham -- the team's hero in a win at Oklahoma -- hit his first and only shot of the evening. The Jayhawks won a tough road game against their rivals without his offense. In the NCAA tournament, foul trouble and cold nights will hit the entire field. But KU's personnel position the Jayhawks to resist the full brunt of those possible hurdles in the most critical moment of the season. Bill Self's squad could rep the Big 12 in Houston.
1. Kansas (23-4, LW: No. 1): If you want to know what makes this season so weird, it’s Kansas being ranked No. 1 overall. I think they have the best overall profile. I think that the fact they are sitting two games ahead of the field is the uber-competitive Big 12 says all that you need to know. I think what Bill Self has done with a team where his only three projected first round picks barely may be the best coaching job of his career.
But if you had to pick four teams to make the Final Four right now, how many of you would have the Jayhawks on that list? Michigan State and Xavier will be the trendy picks. Oklahoma has the star everyone knows. North Carolina and Maryland are the talent-laden underperformers with the highest ceilings.
Kentucky. Duke. Cal. Arizona. Those teams have lottery picks and are peaking at the right time.
Kansas is a balanced, well-coached, veteran team. That doesn’t usually get a ton of hype. But it is a good formula for winning games.
KU led 55-41 with 12:02 left when senior Perry Ellis had a deep cut opened on the top of his head. After a team doctor sewed in 12 stitches, Ellis returned to the floor at 6:05, the Jayhawks’ lead down to seven points, 60-53.
Ellis left for good at 1:12 — KU up by four — this time getting blinded by teammate Wayne Selden Jr., who inadvertently hit him in the eye, scratching it.
“We obviously need Perry out there, but we competed hard. The guys hung in there. We were able to piece it together,” Self said.
Devonté Graham hit four key free throws in the last 30 seconds as well as a crucial step-back jumper for his only six points of the game.
“Devonté has five turnovers and an oh-fer and scored six points in the last three minutes, basically to win the game,” Self said.
…“Perry is good to go,” Self said Sunday night, noting Ellis would not have to wear protective goggles. “His head is fine. His eye is sore but getting better.”
Ellis was checked out by doctors Saturday night after returning to Lawrence and again Sunday.
“Reports from the ophthalmologist was positive. It is a scratch, and it should heal up in a couple of days. We gave him today off, and he should be able to practice tomorrow. With his head, he is fine. He just has some stitches on top of it,” Self said.
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!”
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