The Jayhawks smashed Omaha by 45 points on Monday night, just like we all knew would happen. I’ll give you some takeaways and what not, but the biggest thing I walked away from this contest was something that Bill Self said in his post-game interview:
1. Help is on the way for the Jayhawks
Self said after the game that the Stanford contest coming up on Thursday would “hopefully be the last game we’ll have to play small.” This is music to any and all Jayhawk fans’ ears. Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston are just sitting there, waiting in the wings, awaiting clearance from the NCAA. I’m not in the belief that De Sousa will be an immediate impactful player, but Preston could step in and give this team 20+ minutes per game of solid play. Given a few weeks of practice and experience, De Sousa will be shaped into form as well.
Here’s the thing, though. Considering how good Udoka Azubuike and KU’s guards are, Bill Self doesn’t need much from Silvio De Sousa or Billy Preston. He needs minutes; extra bodies that can give quality time while Azubuike sits on the bench and rests. If De Sousa can keep KU pace with a quality opponent for a four-minute stretch while Azubuike rests and avoids picking up another foul, he’s done his job. Preston, though, lifts the offense to another level. His versatility will stretch defenses out on the perimeter, which will free space for Azubuike to do his thing inside. While De Sousa being another body will do wonders for Kansas, Preston will elevate this offense to another level. It will give them a completely new way to play.
Bill Self definitely seems confident that the Jayhawks could get some good news with potentially both of these freshman bigs in the coming days. If he gets it, Kansas is undoubtedly the favorite to win the Big 12 – again.
2. Svi Mykhailiuk posts the best game of his career
In just 27 minutes, Mykhailiuk scored 26 points on 10-for-13 from the floor. He also scorched the nets from deep, going 6-for-7 on three-pointers. Mykhailiuk’s splits in home games against cupcakes vs. power-five teams continue to be lopsided, but it’s clear the Nebraska game-winner restored his confidence.
Mykhailiuk was also impressive on the defensive end. He has struggled in the past keeping his man in front of him, but so far this year, that’s been vastly improved. Svi’s 6’8″ size is rare in a college shooting guard, so he already has an advantage with the shooting guards he’s defending. Now that he’s learned college footwork and (for the most part) how to stay out of foul trouble, it’s elevated him to an all-around player.
3. KU is so, so much better when they force turnovers
The Jayhawks only forced nine turnovers against Omaha, but those rare occasions showcased just how much better it makes this team. With a team that plays so fast, forcing turnovers allows KU to jump-start its offense and so few teams are able to keep up. The faster the tempo is, the better it is for Kansas, so the focus with this team needs to be to force as many turnovers as possible.
The downside to upping the aggression on defense is that you’re more prone to get into foul trouble. For now, this is a problem, but if De Sousa and Preston get cleared soon, the Jayhawks would suddenly be up to 10 scholarship players. That would change their defensive mentality considerably, allowing them to be more aggressive, which would turn into better defense. Despite some ugly showings, Kansas has actually been a very good defensive team this year. Getting some reinforcements and forcing turnovers would up that even more.
4. Malik Newman finally got going a bit
Coming off an 0-for game against Nebraska, Newman started slow, scoring just five points in the first 30 minutes of Monday’s game. Self describes Newman as an excellent mid-range shooter, and he showcased this by draining consecutive long jumpers late in the second half. In a two-minute spurt, Newman made three straight shots, jumping his point total to 14 and allowing him to finish with a 6-for-10 mark from the floor.
Devonte’ Graham, Lagerald Vick, and Mykhailiuk are bonafide scorers who are going to give you plenty most nights. Having a fourth guard contributing consistent scoring changes Kansas dramatically. It allows the Jayhawks to space the floor more, which, considering frontcourt help is on the way, is an enormous plus. Newman is a talented player that has had difficulty adjusting his game to the way Kansas plays, but he showed signs late in Monday’s contest that he might be figuring it out.
5. KU’s biggest home win in six years provides a good “get right” game
The 45-point win was the biggest scoring margin for the Jayhawks since beating Howard in December 2011. They weren’t challenged, but it provided something that the Jayhawks needed: the opportunity to come home, smash a cupcake, and get back on track. They were always going to obliterate Omaha, but it helped Kansas to continue its absurd pace of burying inferior opponents at home from the get-go.
Now with consecutive wins and the chance to head into Big 12 play on a roll, the Jayhawks head west to take on a depleted Stanford team that they should handle with relative ease. At 9-2, Kansas is back on track, and considering the help that’s on the way, fans should be back to feeling confident about this team’s chances.