“Well, the thing about Josh, he gets himself in trouble, in my opinion, when he dances with the ball too much,” Self began. “There’s only really two guys on our team that have the freedom, in my opinion, to dance with the ball, and that would be Frank (Mason) and Devonté (Graham). With Sherron (Collins) back in the day, we let the ball stick with him, because he was so good off the bounce, but most other guys we’ve had have been ball-movers or straight-line drivers. And Josh will be much better at dancing with the ball when he learns to drive the ball straight lines and force help. Because a lot of times in high school, that was how they played — isolation, dance with it to go get your own shot. I’d rather drive it downhill.”
Midway through the second half, it appeared Jackson already had absorbed those instructions from his dance instructor. The freshman began his drive near mid-court with his left hand, made an extravagance-free drive to the paint and exploded for the kind of one-handed jam the fans inside the fieldhouse expected out of their latest one-and-done Jayhawk.
Admittedly excited about the slam, Jackson tried not to let his emotions overtake him in the moment.
“It wasn’t a statement dunk — I wouldn’t say that,” Jackson told reporters. “But it definitely felt good to get my first dunk in Allen Fieldhouse in. I just felt like it was a good play.”
Kansas may or may not be ready for its regular-season opener against defending Big Ten champion Indiana on Friday in Hawaii.
But there is no question the No. 3 Jayhawks looked better equipped to play the 11th-ranked Hoosiers than they did a week ago. The Jayhawks improved on an 18-point victory over Washburn with a 104-62 clobbering of Emporia State on Sunday night in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We played better. I don’t know if we were great,” said KU coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks outrebounded the Hornets, 49-31, after being outboarded by Washburn by one.
…Lagerald Vick replaced Carlton Bragg in the starting lineup following Bragg’s two-rebound outing against Washburn and had seven points and four boards. Bragg had two points, four rebounds and five turnovers.
“We wanted to try something different,” Self said. “Carlton struggled. Lagerald’s been as good a performer as we’ve had. I wanted to practice playing small. He (Bragg) is just in a funk. He’ll snap out of that.”
…Senior guard Mason and junior guard Graham (10 points, four assists and no turnovers) played well despite being “nicked up.”
“Frank jammed his thumb the other day. He got kicked in the shin today,” Self said. “Devonté’s been cramping most every day now. We have the nutritionist working with him. We’ve got to get him where he can play 30-plus minutes (he played 22).
“Josh was better tonight,” Self added. “He passed well, got in the flow offensively. Lagerald did some good things. Svi may have been as good as anybody we have in the two exhibition games. He’s been very good,” Self added.
The list of Jayhawks who showed improvement from last week’s exhibition opener to Sunday’s 104-62 victory over Emporia State at Allen Fieldhouse was long. And the areas in which Bill Self’s players improved were many.
But few Jayhawks made the Carl-Lewis leap from "eh" to "oh" like junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. And the biggest reason for it was because Mykhailiuk did a little bit of everything instead of relying mostly on his jump shot.
“I’ve been here two years and I know what coach wants from us and how we need to play,” said Mykhailiuk following No. 3 KU’s final tune-up for Friday’s regular season opener against Indiana in Honolulu. “I was trying to be aggressive, trying to rebound the ball, trying to play defense. I’m just trying to do a little bit of everything, whatever to help the team win.”
For the first time in three seasons, the coach doesn’t have a post player on the bench who understands exactly what he wants.
That was most evident during a three-minute stretch late in the first half of KU’s 104-62 exhibition victory over Emporia State on Sunday night.
It started with transfer Dwight Coleby, who failed to block out following an Emporia State free throw.
Self wasn’t going to let it slide. He sent Landen Lucas to check in.
Freshman Mitch Lightfoot showed his own inexperience a minute later, as he didn’t step up to challenge a drive from 5-foot-11 guard Brandon Hall, instead electing to back off while perhaps trying to take a charge.
Then there was freshman Udoka Azubuike, a 7-footer who a few possessions later jumped into a driving Emporia State player. The force of the 280-pounder knocked Jawan Emery back a few feet, resulting in an easy foul call.
After frequently playing four-guard “small ball” lineups against Washburn, Self went back to old reliable Sunday, keeping two bigs on the floor at almost all times.
He has years to go before earning mention in the same breath as fellow Nigerians, Houston Rockets Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon and former Chiefs running back Christian Okoye, but he shares their humble, likable natures. And Azubuike has the potential to become quite famous himself.
“He’s someone that not very many people can match as far as a big body and athleticism,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “If he could continue to get better, hopefully by conference season, or midway through conference season, he could be really a good player because right now he’s so green and raw.”
Such rare raw material in so many ways.
And his humble nature will enable him to improve steadily because he won’t veer off the path by fantasizing about taking his game to the perimeter. To do so would be to stray from where he has the biggest advantage.
Teammate Carlton Bragg shared that Azubuike recently, “reached up and touched the rim when his feet were still on the ground,” and added that he never played with someone who so enjoys dunking.
“You throw it anywhere and he’ll go and get it,” Bragg said. “He can jump really high, and the other day he was touching the rim and his feet were still on the ground.”
"All thanks to my teammates," Azubuike said of his performance. "They trust me to throw the lob to me so I give them all the credit for the lobs and all that stuff. Pretty much I was just wide open, and when you throw the lob anywhere, I'm just going to go over there and catch it and dunk it."
“It was better,” Self said of his team winning the battle of the boards, which it was unable to do last Tuesday night in a win over Washburn. “It wasn’t great, but it was better. First half, I thought our big guys really went after the ball, especially on the offensive end.”
To a man, the players who spoke with the media following Sunday’s victory said rebounding was one of the team’s major points of emphasis against the Hornets. And that showed from the opening minute of the game to the end.
The No. 3-ranked Jayhawks angered themselves earlier in the week.
Rarely does an in-state Division II program come to Lawrence for an exhibition with a chance to put a scare into the Jayhawks. And, really, Emporia State’s odds of doing so dissipated when Washburn scrapped against Kansas five days earlier. Every player in a white adidas KU uniform — and head coach Bill Self — left that tune-up disappointed with the subpar effort.
Kansas took about six minutes to get firing in the first half, and once Mason and company started rolling, ESU couldn’t match the Jayhawks bucket for bucket.
An 11-all tie became a 21-point Kansas lead over a 10-minute span in the first half that ended with Mykhailiuk scoring the final eight points of a 13-0 spurt.
VOTE for Kansas
KU will open the regular season against Indiana about 8:30 p.m. Friday at the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu. The Jayhawks will practice Monday in Lawrence, then fly commercial to Honolulu out of Kansas City International Airport early Tuesday morning. The flight is so early Tuesday, the players and coaches will spend the night Monday in a Kansas City hotel.
The Jayhawks will tour the USS Arizona on Wednesday at Pearl Harbor and also hold a clinic for children. The squad will practice in Honolulu on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the game, which will be held at Stan Sheriff Center on the University of Hawaii campus.
After Friday’s game, the Jayhawks will fly commercial to New York in preparation for a Champions Classic contest against Duke at about 8:30 p.m. Nov. 15. The Jayhawks will return to Kansas City via charter on Nov. 16.
The Jayhawks are flying commercial to Honolulu and New York instead of charter because there are not many fans in the traveling party. KU officials said the cost would have been exorbitant to charter to Honolulu and New York without others on the flight helping defray the cost.
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid erupted in his 25 minutes during a 102-101 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday, scoring 22 points with six rebounds, two assists, one steal, four blocks, six turnovers and four 3-pointers.
WHAT IT MEANS:
The Process has been out of this world so far to start the season and he could be locking up the Rookie of the Year award in very Karl-Anthony Towns-like fashion. Once Embiid is ready to play a full compliment of minutes, he might set huge numbers if he can stay healthy.
Embiid has incredible averages of 30.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.9 blocks per-36 minutes this season, while posting a .607 true shooting percentage on a 39.4 usage rate.
BIG 12/COLLEGE NEWS
In last season's Opus, a wondrous map of the season ahead, The Bilastrator told you that North Carolina, Villanova, and Oklahoma could book travel to the Final Four, and that Kansas and Virginia could do the same. Sadly, the committee again failed to read the Opus and put Villanova and Kansas in the same bracket. Some will never learn.
The Bilastrator also told you one year ago that Buddy Hield of Oklahoma was a Wooden Award favorite, and Stephen F. Austin and Northern Iowa were teams to take in your bracket. It took an amazing comeback by Texas A&M and a tip-in from Notre Dame's Rex Pflueger to derail those two teams' amazing journeys. Six of The Bilastrator's 12 impact freshmen were selected in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft, and one was taken in the second round. The other five came back to school.
With that, The Bilastrator once again welcomes you to basketball wisdom. As always, you're welcome.
National championship favorites
Duke Blue Devils
The most talented roster that coach Mike Krzyzewski has fashioned in many years, Duke has a great balance of incredible freshmen and experienced returnees, headlined by Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen. With health and quality point guard play, Duke won't play a game in which it is not favored to win.
Not surprisingly, Kentucky has another supertalented, but very young, roster. The strength of this team is in the backcourt, with the dynamic Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox, both likely first-round picks. Hold on to your popcorn because those two will have you rising out of your seats -- regularly.
Coach Bill Self has won a dozen Big 12 titles in a row. Get ready for No. 13. This is not a traditional Self team built on inside scoring. The strength of this year's Jayhawks will be in their guards, with freshman Josh Jackson being the straw that stirs. Jackson is better-equipped to be "the man" than Andrew Wiggins was. That is saying something.
Coach Dana Altman had a remarkable season last year and will have an even better one this year. With top-flight returnees in Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Chris Boucher, the Ducks can make a run for it all.
Coach Jay Wright didn't just lose talent to graduation, he lost a ton of character when Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu got their sheepskins. What returns for the Wildcats, however, is worthy of making a legit run at another title.
Elite Eight Wooden Award favorites
Grayson Allen, Duke Blue Devils
Allen is a complete player and one of the best scorers in the country. He will play fewer minutes and be more productive in those minutes.
Ivan Rabb, California Golden Bears
The lefty big man has the ability to dominate the Pac-12.
Josh Hart, Villanova Wildcats
He's one of the best defenders in the country -- and one of the very best players and competitors.
Dillon Brooks, Oregon Ducks
An injury has limited him early, but Brooks is one of the nation's best offensive players.
Josh Jackson, Kansas Jayhawks
This freshman can do it all, except shoot consistently from the perimeter. But his playmaking is nothing short of remarkable.
Jayson Tatum, Duke Blue Devils
A potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, Tatum has jaw-dropping talent.
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin Badgers
Hayes is versatile and skilled and has the experience to take advantage of it.
Dedric Lawson, Memphis Tigers
Lawson can put up numbers with his scoring and rebounding. Coach Tubby Smith will help him harness his enormous talent.
ESPN Jay Bilas ($)
ESPN men’s college basketball analysts Dan Dakich, Fran Fraschilla and Jay Williams will continue to be a major part of ESPN’s industry-leading men’s college basketball coverage by signing multi-year deals to remain with the company, it was announced by Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. Dakich has agreed to a three-year extension, and Fraschilla has a new four-year deal, both with the network through 2020. Williams signed a new three-year deal and will have a recurring role on Mike & Mike.
“The opportunity to lock Dan, Fran and Jay into long-term deals is a win for our men’s basketball coverage and ensures our leadership in the space,” said Lee Fitting, ESPN senior coordinating producer. “All three are authorities on the game with their unique experiences to contribute – whether calling one of our many games or in studio. We are happy they’re ours for years to come.”
…Fraschilla joined ESPN in 2003, and will continue to be a mainstay on Big 12 Conference games on ESPN’s Big Monday series and each Saturday. Bob Wischusen will move into the role of play-by-play on Monday and Saturday Big 12 games.
Fraschilla will also be a part of weeknight ESPN’s studio shows, and will provide commentary for the NBA Draft and continue to offer his expertise on international players at the collegiate and professional levels.
Find out the tournament history for specific seeds, teams, coaches or conferences.
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Last season, Brown averaged 19 points, 9.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists on his way to first-team all-state honors.
With one scholarship remaining, the Ducks appear to be in good position with their final slot, as either Brown or talented four-star guard Daejon Davis will likely be headed to Eugene.
…Here's what Max Mandel had to say in his signing day breakdown:
"Heading into Signing Day, the buzz has been around Oregon as a leader (for Davis). With that said, it will be very interesting to see what happens with 5-star prospect, Troy Brown. He has been prioritized by the Oregon staff, and would be yet another commitment at the position Davis plays in this class. Oregon already has commitments from V.J. Bailey and Abu Kigab, and both of them project as guards at the collegiate level. Oregon has long been considered one of the leaders for Brown, and he is scheduled to make his decision on November 7th. Depending on what happens with that, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Davis make his decision a couple days later."
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