Here are a few summaries of what’s going on with Kansas Athletics this week, April 3:
1. It’s officially official; Frank Mason is the AP and Naismith Player of the Year
We all knew this was coming, but it’s great to actually see it in writing. To top it off, Mason is first Jayhawk to ever win the AP award. You can name great player after great player to play at Kansas, but Frank Mason is the only one able say that he was the player of the year (to be fair though, the AP award didn’t start getting handed out until 1961 and Wilt Chamberlain, the best player to ever play at Kansas, was in the NBA by that point). To update the list, Mason has been named Player of the Year by the AP, SI, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Bleacher Report, USA Today, NABC, and USBWA, plus the Naismith Award. The only award left is the Wooden, which is announced this Friday.
This is an incredible honor for Frank and for KU basketball. Mr. Mason was spectacular all season long as he dominated lesser players, led comebacks, and hushed K-State students. I think going into this year we all forgot how really good Frank had previously been. Add that to the fact that everybody was hyping up how good Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson were going to be, and you can see how surprising this truly was. It was fun to watch, and I’m sad it’s over. Congratulations, Frank Mason!
2. Bill Self is a Hall of Famer
632 career wins (418 at KU), a 217-10 record at Allen Fieldhouse, 17 regular season conference titles (thirteen straight at Kansas), two Final Fours, and one national championship. Bill Self is arguably the best coach in Kansas basketball history, and that’s very impressive considering who the building is named after. Phog Allen is really the only one that could be considered better at this point. Larry Brown, Ted Owens, and Roy Williams were great, but they just don’t have the numbers that Self and Allen do. Also, despite a reputation for choking in the tournament, coach Self has been really good in March. Yes, he has 14 tourney losses in 15 appearances, and yes, he has seven Elite Eight losses. But most teams haven’t even been that far often enough to lose seven games. He’s also won 43 NCAA tournament games, which is top-five among active NCAA coaches. Kansas will get to promised land again, and Bill Self will be the man to lead them there. Other notable HOF inductees are Muffet McGraw, Tracy McGrady, Rebecca Lobo, and Jerry Krause. Congrats, Coach!
3. Two fantastic national semifinals set up a great championship game
Gonzaga ended South Carolina’s Cinderella run in the Final Four by a score of 77-73. The Gamecocks were down by double digits well into the second half, but they battled all the way back to tie it and give themselves a chance to win. But in the end, Gonzaga just had too much. Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Matthews, Zach Collins, and Przemek Karnowski scored 62 of the Zags’ 77 points. The Bulldogs also hit nine threes.
In the second game of the night, North Carolina (much to my enjoyment) finished off Oregon, 77-76. This was a really good game. Kennedy Meeks had 25 points and 14 rebounds, while Justin Jackson scored 22 points, going 4-9 from three. They were the best players on the floor all night. In the last ten seconds of the ballgame, Meeks and point guard Joel Berry II missed four free throws, but great rebounding by the Tar Heels won the day. That sets up a really intriguing title game between North Carolina and Gonzaga, as the Bulldogs are one of the few teams in the country that can hang with UNC’s size. I’m actually a little excited for this one. My Prediction: UNC 75, Gonzaga 73.
4. A waaaaay too early look at next season
KU has already scheduled Kentucky (Champions Classic in Chicago), Syracuse (HoopHall Miami Invitational), Arizona State in Lawrence, and both Stanford and Nebraska on the road. That’s not even including whoever they play in the Big 12/SEC classic (likely Florida since they already have Kentucky on the schedule). They will obviously have to play the usual Big 12 conference slate as well. My on-paper prediction: KU is the preseason #3 in the nation. They finish 15-3 in the Big 12 for their 14th straight Big 12 title. They finish 26-5 overall. I won’t predict the tournament as of yet because I don’t want to jinx anything.
Landen Fields is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. You can check out his archive here.