The wait was worth it, if you ask Kansas Jayhawks fans, finally getting to see what all the fuss was about when heralded freshman Cheick Diallo made his debut in a blowout home win over Loyola-Maryland Tuesday night.
Diallo responded in a big way in his first game for head coach Bill Self, scoring 13 points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking three shots in only 16 minutes of action off the bench, including paying homage to fellow power forward Karl Malone on a fastbreak dunk.
Diallo, among the top recruits in the country and the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American showcase, was officially ruled eligible to play in the 2015-16 season by the NCAA just a few days before. Kansas was holding its breath on the 6-foot-9 forward from Mali due to academic issues with his former high school. He served a five-game suspension for receiving benefits to start the season, missing Kansas’ marquee matchups in the Maui Invitational and the team’s loss to Michigan State.
With Diallo making a major impact on both ends of the floor, KU’s sports betting handicapping odds to win the national title jumped from 12-1 to 10-1, tying the Jayhawks with the North Carolina Tar Heels and Maryland Terrapins as the second-overall favorite to win the NCAA tournament, behind Kentucky at 5-1.
Diallo combines with seniors Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor to form a very potent and versatile Jayhawks frontcourt, and Self can mix in matchup nightmare, 6-foot-8 sophmore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who is averaging just under 10 points off the bench.
Kansas runs a smaller lineup with two point guards setting the tempo, and allowing the athletic forwards to fill the lanes in transition. That’s led to one of the highest-scoring offenses in the country, averaging 93.5 points per game on 51.2 percent shooting – including a dead-eye 45.7 percent clip from outside the 3-point arc.
The Jayhawks are in action next against the Harvard Crimson at home Saturday and Diallo should see increased minutes based on his debut performance. Kansas then takes on Holy Cross in Lawrence Wednesday before facing Oregon State in Kansas City, Missouri on Saturday, December 12. Kansas is current 5-1 with a 4-1 ATS record in lined games, going 3-2 Over/Under in those contests.