In the last few years, Bill Self has had some really good-shooting teams at Kansas. I’m not sure he’s ever had one quite like this.
The No. 3 Jayhawks made a school-record 19 three-pointers in their 114-71 waxing of Texas Southern, improving to 4-0 for the first time in four seasons on Tuesday night. Every Jayhawk that played made a positive impact in a way that hasn’t happened in Self’s 15-year tenure at Kansas. It was a resounding win for a team that’s significantly better than many expected them to be at this point in the year.
Here are some instant takeaways from the biggest win, scoring margin wise, that Kansas has collected in nearly six calendar years:
1) Balance, balance, balance
Seven scholarship players got action for the Jayhawks. They all scored in double-figures. They all played at least 23 minutes, but none of them played more than 30. They all took at least seven shots, but only one took more than 12. They all shot at least 33% on three-pointers. It was as balanced of a game as you’ll ever see from a team that put forth a 43-point obliteration.
In a way, it’s the perfect way to sum up the 2017-18 Jayhawks. As good as each individual player can be at times, this team doesn’t have a superstar. This team doesn’t have a top-five college player. What they do have, potentially, are as many as five guys that could all be top-20 college players. The last several teams to hoist NCAA championship banners have all had one thing in common: tremendous balance throughout the roster.
2) Marcus Garrett is criminally underrated
Garrett is Travis Releford on steroids. He’s only played in four collegiate games, yet his ability to post quietly brilliant stat lines is like something I’ve never seen before. Garrett posted 10 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 26 minutes. But Garrett’s best attribute is his ability to be an elite on-ball defender this early in his career. He just quietly locks down his man, eliminating one of the opponent’s best options from the game plan. Garrett isn’t going to post booming stats to get recognized, but the balance he provides is valuable, and the undoubtably elite defense he brings every night makes him arguably Kansas’ most valuable player.
3) Is this the real Svi Mykhailiuk?
Now averaging an even 20 points per contest in 2017-18, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk looks like an All American at this stage in his career. He was 7/9 from the floor and 5/7 from three, giving him 16 three-pointers and a 56% shooting clip from the field in four games. In 118 minutes, he has 80 points and two turnovers. It’s kind of like when Wayne Selden exploded onto the scene as a junior in the nonconference slate, only to fall off considerably once conference play started. Is Svi going to follow a different trajectory? He elevates Kansas’ ceiling to a point that I didn’t think was possible at the season’s beginning. He’s the only player on the roster that is both a top-three inside scoring and top-three outside scoring option. Just 80% of the Svi Mykhailiuk we’re seeing now would be a first-team all-league player. Can he sustain it?
4) Udoka Azubuike’s transition from really big dude to legitimate college center is complete
He’s more than just a big man that can dunk the ball in space. Udoka Azubuike has post moves, and they’re flat-out working. He’s shooting 88% on the season, which is ridiculous, but opponents now really have to respect what he can do inside. With a growing arsenal of scoring moves, KU is able to stretch its offense to the corners of the floor, freeing a devastating three-point game. The point is, Udoka Azubuike makes KU’s offense significantly better even on possessions when he never touches the ball. On a roster full of talented players, I think he is the team’s most indispensable and important player.
5) The pace is great, but how long can it continue?
This is a roster that was born to play fast. They’re as athletic as any team out there, and I’d love to see a team better at shooting the ball. And man, do they look good playing this way. They’re full of energy, sprinting down the floor and hustling for every loose ball. Even Azubuike is gracefully hustling back every possession. But… how long can this continue with just seven scholarship players? Even on a night when the outcome was never in doubt, Self had to play 100% of his scholarship players at least 23 minutes. Is Azubuike going to get worn down? Probably, unless some frontcourt help shows up in some way, shape or form. But for now, it’s beautiful to watch.
6) Devonte’ Graham is still this team’s best player
Graham’s start to 2017-18 has been rather underwhelming, but he put a stop to that on Tuesday by going off for the most balanced game of his career thus far. Graham had 17 points, 11 assists, six rebounds, and just one turnover. He looked every part of a true point guard, dropping dimes with ease and vocally leading this team through the entire night. He now has three double-digit assist games in four contests this year, which is something that Frank Mason didn’t do once in his Kansas career. Graham and Mason are very different players, but Graham has the ability to make just as much of an impact on Kansas. When he’s a pass-first guy, he raises the roof on Kansas to a national-title-or-bust level.