Kansas 17:2 ….. (11:1 when posted)
Has there ever been such an experienced and talented Bill Self team that’s flown THIS FAR under the radar? I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times. Elite guard play, especially experienced elite guard play, cut down the nets in March every year. Let’s take a look at the last 4 championship teams:
2016 Villanova: Floor leader/captain — (SR) Ryan Arcidiacono (guard/swingmen scorers Josh Hart & Kris Jenkins)
2015 Duke: Floor leader/captain — (SR) Quinn Cook and The Randy Marsh-like balls of Tyus Jones https://ballisland.com/2017/01/11/first-blog-post/
2014 Uconn: Floor leader/captain/Kemba Reincarnate/(Did that actually happen???) — (SR) SHABAZZZZ… along with Robin sidekick (JR) Ryan Boatright
2013 Louisville: Floor leader/captain — (SR) Peyton Siva and Fire Flames scorer Gawd (JR) Russ Smith
Sure, there’s exceptions out there but you get the point. Tell me you can’t see Bitch I’m Frank Mason
and “Bagels” Devonte’ Graham at the top of this column when I write it all over again in 2018.
First though, take a stroll back in time with me to Bitch I’m Frank Mason’s freshman year. He was playing alongside Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid (WILD stuff I know), and I was relentlessly betting against the Jayhawks primarily because of the aforementioned Bitch I’m Frank Mason. He was HORRENDOUS and his 41% fg%, 33% 3P with an astounding 2 fouls per game (only 16 mpg) back this up. If you watched him play the numbers don’t even tell half the story.
But look at what young Frank has become! He’s averaging 20.5 ppg, 4.5 reb, 5.6 assists with 53 fg% and 55 3p%!!! while averaging 4.5 attempts per game! I might need to use some more !!! because that’s what you call a Naismith Award candidate. Complementing him is his sidekick Devonte’ Graham who’s upped his usage and has a 3:1 Assist:TO ratio giving the Jayhawks the most devastating (save maybe Kentucky) and experienced backcourt in America.
Now here comes the scary part. Somehow we’ve come this far and I have yet to mention Phenom Freak SuperstaR Josh Jackson. The ‘fro, the freak athleticism, the 2-way tenacity, and his mode always set to ATTACK AND DESTROY make him the leader for the #1 pick in my eyes.
That ‘fro is dope.
With the leadership on this team of Mason, Graham, and Senior Landen Lucas who mans the middle, Jackson will never need a back brace to carry this team on his shoulders. Quite the opposite. As crazy as it sounds for a potential #1 NBA overall pick, Jackson can let Mason and Graham handle the bulk of the offense and playmaking while he is the ultimate glue guy. His athleticism, rebounding (especially ORB), defense, and ability to finish fill in any sort of hole this team needs. If his jumper starts falling later in the year (currently 25.7 3p%) LOOK OUT, it’s the only temporary hole in his game.
To add to this juggernaut 6’8 Ukrainian Sviatoslav (call me Svi) Mykhailiuk is a 19 year old junior and shooting 44.4% from deep on 5 attempts per game. The kid has game too, he’s not “Just a Shooter” (shout out Mgoblog) but has a full arsenal of artillery at his disposal.
Does this all sound too good to be true? Maybe it is. With blue chip Freshman C Udoka Azubuike going down for the year, Landen Lucas is the only real interior presence (with a splash of Carlton Bragg off the bench) . That’s not saying much. Check that, it’s a MAJOR weakness. The defense is also only ranked 40th nationally via KenPom and has some work to do. Many analysts/pundits/talking heads say they have too many holes and too thin a bench to truly contend for a title.
But I say FUCK that noise. Bill Self is a top 5 coach and this team’s defense will continue to improve.
I’ve laid out the blueprint for this team’s success deep in March; they have a senior floor leader and potential player of the year who’s got the balls to take and make the big shots in March.
On KenPom’s player of the year standings he currently ranks 6th. Who ranks 7th? Glad you asked. None other than SuperFro’ Phenom Josh Jackson. Add in their sidekicks Graham and the Ukranian Gunman with the senior Lucas in the middle and ’nuff said. And for that lack of depth in the frontcourt, 6’10 Carlton Bragg is still only a sophomore who was the 25th overall recruit in his class.
Anything can happen in March Madness, but Kansas is built for a late season title run. I’m on hands and knees praying this team stumbles a bit during Big12 play (and I expect they will) in the Wacos and Morgantowns of the world so people will point out their flaws and be scared away. I won’t be, and you can take that to the bank (or the bookie).
VERDICT: ALL IN (500 units)