Big 12 Basketball: Kansas Jayhawks Matchup Preview
The Kansas Jayhawks are rolling right now. After losing an instant classic 103-99 to Indiana in OT in the first game of the season, the Jayhawks beat Duke in Madison Square Garden to kick off a six-game winning streak. In their most recent game against Long Beach State, KU destroyed the 49ers 91-61. Sophomore Lagerald Vick led the way with a career-high 23 points on a perfect night where he shot 9-for-9 from the field, including 4-for-4 from behind the arc. Next up is Stanford on Saturday, and this will be one of the toughest remaining non-conference games on the slate.
Self May Have Found the Magic Lineup
Coming into this year, there was a lot of speculation about Kansas playing a four-guard lineup much of the time due to thinnest frontcourt coach Bill Self has ever had. He may just have found the lineup that could be the ticket to another trip to the Final Four for the Jayhawks. In the last two games, the starting five has been Frank Mason, Devonté Graham, Josh Jackson, Udoka Azubuike and Vick.
Vick has responded to his promotion into the starting lineup by recording back-to-back career highs. He has improved from last year as much as any player on the Kansas roster. Azubuike has been great as well. He is a rebounding machine, and that big body takes a lot of necessary space clogging up the middle. That is very helpful when the Jayhawks are going with the four-guard lineup.
Azubuike has been inserted into the starting lineup thanks to an oblique injury that senior Landen Lucas has been suffering from. It has to be said that the freshman has been a much better presence at center than the timid and often awkward Lucas is. Though Lucas will play on Saturday against the Cardinal, Azubuike will remain as the team’s starting center.
Svi Could Be the Perfect Sixth Man for the ‘Hawks
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who is one of four NCAA I basketball players from Ukraine, has been the man who has been relegated to the bench to promote Vick to the starting lineup. Like every moment of his career at KU, Svi has shown that his only worry is to do whatever he can to help the team win. He looks like a perfect sixth man so far. He shot 5-for-10 from the field against Long Beach State, including 4-for-8 from three-point range.
A Look at Stanford
The Cardinal are 6-2 on the season. Their losses were to Miami in their opening-round matchup at the Orlando Advocare Invitational, and to No. 12 St. Mary’s at home during this past week. Miami is a very athletic team, and Stanford showed that they struggle to defend athletic players in their loss to the Hurricanes.
That means that the Jayhawks’ four-guard lineup should work well against Stanford. They will want to look to move the ball quickly around the perimeter and drive against their less-athletic opponents. If the defense collapses, the Jayhawk drivers can dish for wide-open three-point looks for the team’s many talented shooters.
On the other side of the ball, power forward Reid Travis will be a handful for the Jayhawks’ thin frontcourt to deal with. He is averaging a double-double with 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. The Kansas big men will need to avoid the foul trouble that has plagued them thus far this season, playing straight-up defense against Travis without reaching.
If the Jayhawks can stay out of foul trouble and take advantage of their athleticism, they should be able to win this game comfortably. Even if they do not play their best, it is hard to imagine this talented team losing at home to anyone other than a top-20 opponent. Stanford is good, but they just aren’t good enough to come into Allen Fieldhouse and seriously threaten Kansas.
Steven Callahan is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog every Friday. View his archive here.