Monday Notebook: First-place Jayhawks prepare for big-time test

1. Jayhawks take down Iowa State 83-78

KU took too long to pull away from the Cyclones, but they got the win nonetheless. The Jayhawks were led by Malik Newman. No joke. He scored 27 points, and added eight rebounds. Newman played really well on both sides of the ball. Very refreshing to see but I don’t expect it to continue. Svi Mykhailiuk added 23 points on 6-of-9 from behind the arc. He hit five threes in the first half, and four in the first ten minutes. Svi’s as deadly a shooter as KU has had in the Bill Self era. Devonte’ Graham had a miserable shooting day, going 4-of-14 from the floor and 2-of-7 from three. He scored just 11 points. Graham did add nine assists, however. And this is the type of player Graham is. He is a shooter (though he has been driving a lot more recently) who will be cold sometimes, but even when he’s cold he will play pretty good defense and dish out assists.

Udoka Azubuike had a relatively quiet game scoring nine points and getting six rebounds. No one has any idea why he didn’t get more touches. Lagerald Vick finished with eight points, eight boards, and four assists. Where has early season Lagerald Vick gone? He was fantastic in the first 10 to 12 games. Since then he’s been a glorified role player. Kansas’ biggest flaw right now is that they can’t make game ending runs. Which is crazy because that’s what we were all praising this team for doing early on. That being said I’m not going to complain about a win in conference play.

2. Bruce Weber and the Purple Kitties do the only thing they know how 

Oh Bruce Weber. Complaining about the refs, calling out Fran Fraschilla, only to watch him diss you, and calling the EXACT SAME PLAY that you did at the end of last season’s game in Allen Fieldhouse. All that and KU still almost lost. This game was yet another example of Kansas being unable to close games. One way to close games though is by making free throws, and KU went 15-of-17 from the line, including the game winners hit by Malik Newman. Newman didn’t have the follow up performance everybody was hoping for. He scored just seven points, but at least he wasn’t bad on the defensive end. Devonte’ Graham scored 23 points, going 4-of-8 from three, and 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Graham has decided to drive the ball and it has really improved his game and given KU a little more consistency.

Udoka Azubuike had a nice outing scoring 18 points, adding eight rebounds and five blocks. He’s mostly a dunker but he had a really nice post move early in this game that has me excited for his future. Svi Mykhailiuk scored 11 points all in the first half. Is this a thing for Svi now? To hit all of your threes in the first half and score four or less points in the second half? That’s what it feels like at least. He did hit two MONSTER threes at the end of the first half to tie the game and take the momentum back from K-State. Lagerald Vick finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Vick also hit two monster threes, his coming late in the second half to tie the game. Lastly, Silvio De Sousa made his long awaited Kansas debut on Saturday. He scored no points, but looked pretty decent defensively. I’m looking forward to the day when Bill Self puts De Sousa in a game before Mitch Lightfoot.

3. Can the Jayhawks take down West Virginia in Morgantown?

I think they can. Don’t get me wrong, West Virginia is really good. Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., and Esa Ahmad are all good to great players. Their press is suffocating. KU has lost four consecutive games in Morgantown. Perry Ellis went 1-3 there. Frank Mason couldn’t win there. But I predict that Kansas will win this game. I don’t have any logical reason to believe this. KU probably has their most inconsistent team since 2014-15. The only actual basketball reason I have is that West Virginia’s press can give up quite a few threes and if KU is hot they can beat anybody. Based on the law of averages Kansas is due. I think it would be fitting for the Jayhawks to finally get a win in Jevon Carter’s senior year. There are few players I respect more than Jevon Carter. The man works his butt off and is a great scorer to boot. But man oh man would I love to see Kansas go into Morgantown and take him down. Mostly because they never have. West Virginia and Kansas have had some truly great bouts. In Lawrence and in Morgantown. I think this will be the first time in the ITP era that KU will win in Morgantown.

4. My mid-season Final Four prediction

#1 Michigan State. They’re struggling right now, but no one is deeper than they are. Tom Izzo is also pretty dang good at getting his guys to play well in March. Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. is one of the best one-two punches in basketball.

#2 Duke. Also a very deep and well coached team. Marvin Bagley is dominant and Grayson Allen is (sigh) really good. Duke is a team that needs to be able as well as everyone thinks they can to make the Final Four but they might be better than all the other teams that will make the field anyway.

#3 Villanova. Veteran team. They’re going to have to get over that first weekend hump however. Jalen Brunson is a fantastic points guard and Nova is actually good down low this season. Dangerous tourney combo.

#4 Kansas. Unknown ceiling with the addition of De Sousa and hopefully Billy Preston soon. Incredible ability to make threes. Great point guard. The defense will get better as the season goes along as well. Those are all things that can add up to tourney success.

Landen Fields is a contributor for Rock Chalk Blog. You can check out his archive here.

Landen Fields

I’m a junior in high school. I’m also homeschooled, which gives me the ability to watch ESPN all day. I love the Jayhawks, and I love to write about them. I’m also a huge fan of Star Wars, Marvel, and action/sci-fi movies. I hope to have a career in sports media one day, and I am grateful for this first step into a larger world.