Throughout his entire career, Svi Mykhailiuk has been questioned. In the Elite Eight, he showed up when it mattered most.
The senior came into the year with plenty of doubters, including myself. In a preseason column, I made a point saying that Svi is just an okay player and that fans shouldn’t set their expectations too high. After a season of proving all of the doubters wrong, including myself, he put the argument to bed once and for all Sunday against Duke.
Svi had one of the best games of his career on the biggest stage against the Blue Devils. He played 42 minutes in the overtime classic and put up a meaningful double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Svi’s effort was most profoundly felt on defense, as he was tasked with guarding Duke stud Marvin Bagley. Bagley was one of the best players in the country all year and will be a future top-five NBA draft pick. Riding Bagley was Duke’s best bet to beat KU, and going into the game, it seemed like Kansas wouldn’t have an answer for Bagley and his overwhelming offensive game.
Svi’s stifling defense ended up being the solution to the Bagley problem. Bagley scored only 16 points, a relatively low number taking into account the rest of his year. He never seemed comfortable on the offensive end and couldn’t get to the spots he wanted.
Svi also did a great job boxing out Bagley all game and played much bigger on the boards than his height would indicate. His biggest rebounding moment came on the final play of regulation. After Duke’s Grayson Allen missed a jumpshot, Bagley seemed to be in the perfect spot for a game-winning tip-in. Svi had other ideas, as he tipped the ball away, sending the game to overtime.
That excellent play culminated in the biggest moment of the game and of Svi’s career. With only 27 seconds left, fellow senior Devonte Graham delivered a pass to Svi, who then drilled a three from the right wing, eventually sending the game to overtime. The shot will go down as one of the biggest in the program’s storied history.
That game-tying three, along with the rest of his performance, finally silenced all of his critics. It showed that Svi is good enough defensively to compete with anybody, that he shows up in big games and that he can make big shots when called upon.
Svi’s journey at Kansas isn’t over quite yet, as he’ll do what he can to get KU past Villanova on Saturday night and into the championship game on Monday. Villanova has been one of, if not the best team in college basketball all year, but that shouldn’t rattle Svi. He should be right at home in the small-ball, up and down style of game that is sure to be played. Look for him to come up big again when it matters most against the Wildcats.