Here are a few summaries of what’s going on with Kansas Athletics this week, March 20:
1. KU destroys UC Davis in tourney opener, 100-62
UC Davis was making me sweat early in this one, but then the Aggies’ coach was hit with a technical foul which jumpstarted a massive Kansas run that UC Davis could never recover from. Five Jayhawks scored in double figures. Frank Mason had 22 points, eight assists, and five boards. He is (or at least should be) the player of the year. Josh Jackson returned from his suspension to score 17 and record seven rebounds. Landen Lucas finished with a double-double. He was clearly the best post player on the floor (how long has it been since we have been able to say that?).
Devonte’ Graham hit four threes and scored 16 points, and Svi Mykhailiuk hit two threes and added 16 points. They’ve been good all year, but if they can get out of their slumps and start to get hot again, the sky’s the limit. I feel like I’m forgetting something. Hmmm. Oh yeah, Bill Self smiled because Tyler Self HIT A THREE! Way to go, Tyler! We love you.
2. The Jayhawks pull away from Michigan State for a trip to the Sweet 16
KU took down the Spartans of Michigan State 90-70 on Sunday. Sparty was able to hang with the ‘Hawks well into the second half, but then Josh Jackson took over. He set a Kansas tournament freshman record for points in a game with 23. He had a pretty rough start to the game, but once he got going, he couldn’t be stopped. Frank Mason finished with his season averages of 20 points and five assists. Michigan State couldn’t stop him from getting in the paint. Devonte’ Graham had 18 points and knocked down four more threes, a couple of which were absolute daggers to the heart.
Landen Lucas had his second double-double of the tourney with 10 points and 11 rebounds. He was solid but had to sit out most of the second half due to foul trouble. Luckily Dwight (his name that is now officially endorsed by Inside the Paint’s Daniel Cunningham) Coleby was outstanding in his nine minutes of action. He scored just three points but had four rebounds and played very solid defense. Next up: Purdue in the Sprint Center on Thursday for a spot in the Elite Eight.
3. Top games of the Sweet 16
Midwest Region: #1 Kansas vs #4 Purdue. Two of the best players in the country in Frank Mason and Caleb Swanigan going at it in this one. I’m not sure either team will be able to guard the other’s best players. I don’t think Purdue will have an answer for Mason or Josh Jackson, but the Jayhawks may not have an answer for Swanigan or fellow big man Isaac Haas. Should be a good game. Prediction: KU 81, Purdue 75
Midwest Region: #3 Oregon vs #7 Michigan. There might be 60 attempted threes in this one. This game is going to be very fast-paced and very fun. Michigan is a hot team with a ton of confidence, while Oregon is more talented but struggled against Rhode Island (who’s a good team, don’t get me wrong, but if your team has Dillon Brooks and the other team doesn’t you should win by more than three). Prediction: U of M 83, Oregon 81
South Region: #2 Kentucky vs #3 UCLA. This was one of the best games in the regular season. I expect it to be about that good this time around. Neither team has looked particularly strong through the first two games, but in March, a win is a win is a win. UCLA has the best player on the floor in Lonzo Ball, but Kentucky might have the best scorer in Malik Monk. Will the Wildcats be able to avenge their early season loss? Prediction: UCLA 86, UK 82
West Region: #2 Arizona vs #11 Xavier. The Musketeers absolutely destroyed Florida State on Saturday. In the preseason, I thought Xavier was a Final Four team. Obviously their season did not reflect that, but they seem to have found their stride in the tournament. Arizona (who I also believed had Final Four potential) hasn’t looked outstanding through the first weekend, but won both games nonetheless. I think Arizona is the better team, but if Xavier has found its groove then this game is really a toss up. Prediction: Arizona 94, Xavier 88
Ok, so all my brackets (I have four of them) are busted and I know yours are too. Personally, though, I’m perfectly happy seeing Duke, Louisville, and Villanova lose. It’s going to be a great Sweet 16 weekend and I wish your brackets the best of luck from here on out.
Landen Fields is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. You can check out his archive here.