Devonte’ Graham, Kansas, G, 6-2, 175, So., Raleigh, N.C./Brewster Academy [N.H.]
Graham was a key in the Jayhawks’ 2-0 week as Kansas recorded victories over two top 10 opponents. His best performance came at No. 3 Oklahoma as he scored a career-high 27 points on 8-of-13 (.615) shooting, including 6-of-9 (.667) from 3-point range. The sophomore guard had 16 points in the final eight minutes of the contest and also turned in a stellar performance on the other end of the court as the primary defender on OU standout Buddy Hield. Graham averaged 18.5 points and 3.5 rebounds for the week while converting 57.9 percent of his shots from the field, 61.5 percent from beyond the arc and 87.5 percent from the free throw line.
Big 12 Sports
LJW Tait: The Day After
For 39 minutes on Saturday afternoon -- so dang near the whole time -- Devonte' Graham was the personification of Kansas’ march-of-the-undead through recent Big 12 history. The sophomore chased after Oklahoma’s national player of the year candidate and harassed Buddy Hield into what qualifies as a bad day. At the other end, Graham scored more points than anyone who put on a uniform in Lloyd Noble Center, cold-bloodedly draining the biggest shots for his team and thus draining the hope from a crowd seeking a reckoning. He was the best guard on the floor when the other team was supposed to deploy the best backcourt in the country.
…A 76-72 win over Oklahoma on Saturday does not hand the Big 12 trophy to Kansas; it doesn’t even leave it in first place all alone, as West Virginia currently shares that space. But it was a season sweep of a national championship-caliber team, when that team had been sizing up this day for more than a month. The epic three-overtime loss to the Jayhawks on Jan. 5 was, by the admission of some Sooners players, one of the best games they’d ever been a part of. It was also a defeat that lodged in their chest, as if they tried to swallow a grapefruit whole. This was a day they’d long anticipated, for the vengeance they’d find during it.
And Kansas yanked it all away, because to beat Kansas for a Big 12 title, you are sadly not permitted such preferred zombie-elimination methods as setting them on fire. You have to be better at basketball, consistently, if not almost perfect at it.
…At some point the rest of the Big 12 will get the idea: In any attempt to steal away what has been Kansas’ for the past 11 years running, it’s best to keep quiet until you actually pull off the job. Do not make any sounds, lest you rouse what can’t be killed.
The Bill Self we saw star at Edmond Memorial, then start and lead OSU basketball teams, then build a reputation as a budding big-time coach while being groomed at ORU, Tulsa, and Illinois before following Roy Williams at KU, is on the cusp of being mentioned with the greatest coaches of all time. As in John Wooden. The UCLA dynasty records most of us espoused would never be challenged. Specifically, 13 straight Pac-12 (now) titles. Today’s upset win by KU means Self is staring at the distinct possibility of making it an even dozen consecutive Big 12 championships. Let that soak in. And we’re not talking about some Podunk League. Rather, a conference that has been at, or near the top, of the national pecking order.
Today’s win was a lot about what Self has established: confidence to make game-deciding plays, the poise it requires to pull it off and the defense he is committed to being a true blue believer in Mr. Defense, Eddie Sutton.
…I’ve known Bill for over 30 years, beginning when he’d tell me and my “Sportscene” and game broadcasting partner Bill Land the inside scoop before OSU games in the mid-80s when he assisted Leonard Hamilton. Forty minutes after today’s game I dropped by his postgame coaching locker room — where he was woofing down some fried chicken with his assistant coaches — to congratulate him and ask if he’d walk down the tunnel for a one on one interview. As always, he obliged.
Here’s part of our visit after KU’s critical victory over the hometown Sooners.
Video here via NewsOn6.com
No. 6 KU will be looking to avenge one of its three previous road losses when it is host to Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Cowboys, who were nine-point home underdogs in the teams’ earlier matchup on Jan. 19, overwhelmed the Jayhawks in an 86-67 victory at Gallagher-Iba Arena. It was KU’s worst loss to a conference opponent since the 2012-13 season.
“They put a whupping on us,” KU forward Jamari Traylor said, “so we are looking forward to going out there and playing them again.”
The matchup will have a different feel this time as Oklahoma State, 12-13, 3-9 Big 12, likely will be without top guard Jawun Evans.
…“If we have to play a game on Monday, I’m glad it’s somebody that’s already beaten us,” Self said, “so we can be motivated by that.”
Even Graham, whose effort against OU led to a Sunday morning interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” was ready to look ahead.
“We went down there and got embarrassed at Oklahoma State,” Graham said. “It’s time to move on.”
…The Cowboys are coming off a 58-55 overtime victory over Kansas State in Stillwater. The triumph ended a three-game losing streak. Five of the Cowboys’ nine league losses have been by five points or fewer. Oklahoma State handed Kansas its most lopsided loss this season, 86-67 on Jan. 19. The Cowboys have been without guard Phil Forte (elbow) for 22 games and freshman standout Jawun Evans (shoulder) for the last three.
RPIs as of Sunday: OSU 142, KU 1
Self and his Jayhawks obviously were talking about OSU, not OU, at Sunday’s short practice and film session. Fans and media, however, may still have memories of Saturday’s contest alive and well right up until tip time tonight.
KU on Saturday received a monumental effort from 6-foot-2 Raleigh, N.C., native Graham, whose previous career scoring high was 22 set in KU’s 109-106 three-OT victory over OU on Jan. 4 in Allen.
“He was as good today as anybody’s been at Kansas since I’ve been here for a game,” Self said. “His defense on Buddy was remarkable. He played 39 minutes, and then he took over the game offensively — just took it over. He was special.
“That’s what we said on the board (before game): ‘Be special today.’”
Big game with the crowd fueling the other team, played midway through February, seems a prescription for exhaustion. So how did Graham stay fresh?
“I think they get more efficient as the season goes on, for sure,” KU’s strength-and-conditioning coach Andrea Hudy said.
That challenges conventional wisdom, always the first step in finding better ways to do things. Hudy banks on technology to tweak workouts.
“We monitor the fatigue and strength and power,” Hudy said. “If they get fatigued, then they won’t be able to produce force as fast. So then we pick up on that, and if we need to do more recovery or do something different, we do that.”
Whatever Graham is doing physically at the urging of the strength-and-conditioning staff is working wonders.
Next comes the psychological challenge. It’s so difficult for young athletes not to defer to older ones. No one disputes that Graham has the personality best suited for leadership on KU’s roster. It’s on Graham and the rest of the prominent players to knock down the age-hierarchy hurdles and follow the upbeat force’s lead. That should become easier for all parties in the wake of his coming-out party Saturday in Norman, Okla.
On the topic of leading, coming out of Saturday’s action, Graham leads the Big 12 in conference games only with a three-point percentage of .490, followed by Hield (.475) and OU teammates Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard (tied at .444).
With 25 or more wins in each of the last 10 seasons and 11 straight Big 12 conference championships, Bill Self has been the pinnacle of consistency and success since arriving at Kansas.
While winning has been the constant, the variations have come on the recruiting front as he’s proven capable of building teams in numerous ways. His star-studded 2013 class was one of the most talented in recent history, built around the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but he’s also won around guys like Thomas Robinson and Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, less celebrated recruits who developed into stars in Lawrence.
This year’s roster is a hybrid of sorts, a combination of both models, including two former five-star prospects but also three starters and two rotation players who didn’t even finish in the ESPN 100 coming out of high school.
In one of the most unpredictable college basketball seasons in recent memory, one that has seen other bluebloods like Duke and Kentucky both face their share of challenges in large part because of their freshmen’s inability to play up to expectations, Kansas hasn’t been nearly as vulnerable to those same problems because of the continued developed of once less celebrated prospects who are now upperclassmen.
Heading into Monday night’s matchup with Oklahoma State (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET), let’s take a look at the construction of the Jayhawks’ rotation, and a look back at the recruitment and high school evaluation of each player.
Only two years after starting three freshmen and a sophomore, Bill Self has somehow been labeled “anti-freshmen,” most likely by those trying to compete with the Jayhawks on the recruiting trail. The reality though is that Kansas, Duke and Kentucky all possess high-profile freshmen who weren’t quite ready to be impactful playing major minutes in their freshmen year. Diallo and Bragg aren’t any different from Skal Labisierre at UK or Chase Jeter at Duke. The difference is that Kansas hasn’t lost as many games, and that’s because while the Jayhawks continue to target the top prospects in the country, their recruiting approach is versatile enough to simultaneously identify and develop lesser celebrated prospects who are ultimately no less capable of leading the Jayhawks to continued success.
ESPN ($) Insider
“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!”
Big 12/College News
President Santa Ono has led a quiet and diligent effort to position the University of Cincinnati to join the Big 12 Conference, one that’s won high praise from a powerful official who is key to deciding whether the league will expand.
The university released emails, travel records and other documents to The Enquirer last week that give insight into UC’s attempt to join a Power 5 conference – a move that would position the Bearcats among the haves in a growing schism in college athletics rooted in television money and influence.
Big 12 expansion is not imminent, but UC is believed to be on a short list of schools to join a 10-member conference that includes traditional football heavyweights Oklahoma and Texas. Big 12 presidents and chancellors met earlier this month and reportedly discussed expansion, but no decisions were made. They are scheduled to meet again in May, when a decision on adding universities could be made.
“I am indeed optimistic that through these efforts the University of Cincinnati is positioned exceptionally well to continue to compete at the highest level,” Ono told The Enquirer in his first public comments about the efforts to move to the Big 12.
Here is a look at the findings in the documents, which The Enquirer obtained through a public records request:
The Cyclones probably are in the spoiler role now, two games behind co-leaders Kansas and West Virginia, but wait:
Iowa State plays at West Virginia on Feb. 22 and at Kansas on March 5.
Before that, however, the Cyclones must win at Baylor at 8 p.m. Tuesday night before entertaining any thoughts of being the team that dethrones the Jayhawks.
There’s no room for error. Iowa State must finish the regular season with a seven-game winning streak to make it happen — and then possibly even need help from other teams.
As well as the Cyclones are playing right now — or at least played during Saturday night’s 10-point home win against Texas — remember this:
Half of the remaining six Big 12 games are on the road, where Iowa State has a 3-3 record.
The NCAA Tournament mock selections were tedious Thursday. They most definitely were not tedious Friday.
Completing the 68-team field, accompanied by interesting debates. Seeding the teams. Filling out the bracket. All the things that consume Americans each March, we did Friday at NCAA headquarters. And it was rapid fire.
Our process was condensed — the middle of the field was selected and seeded overnight by NCAA staff, just to expedite things and get people out of town Friday night — but didn’t cost us any vantage point on how things operate in one of the most mysterious venues in U.S. sport. The NCAA basketball committee room. About 20 media members got a peek beyond the curtain the last couple of days. Here’s what we saw.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
No. 5 Gilbert Christian has one of the state's best players in 6-foot-9 Mitch Lightfoot, but Shadow Mountain's firepower from its starters to its bench make the Matadors a heavy favorite in Division II. They haven't lost to any in-state opponents. Almost all of Shadow Mountain's wins against in-state teams have been by double digits.
Here are the boys basketball state brackets:
Every Monday we’ll scour the globe to check in with the country’s most elite players and have them spill the tea and break down on one of the many sure-fire juke moves they implement throughout the course of a game.
This week we caught up with Potter’s House Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Fla.) center Udoka Azubuike, a five-star Kansas commit who was recently named to the Jordan Brand Classic and McDonald’s All American Game.
THE MOVE: The Power Dribble and Dunk
THE EXECUTION: “I’ll just get the ball in the post and I’ll either spin and do a hard power dribble, or I’ll just go right to the power dribble and I’ll try and dunk as hard as I can.”
THE SELL: “When I get it in there that deep in the paint, it’s hard to stop that.”
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube