Looking for any possible edge entering his final March Madness, Kansas fifth-year senior forward Landen Lucas has been breaking down tape of one of the greatest teams in Jayhawk basketball history: the 2008 NCAA champs.
“Not to compare 100 percent, but just to see how they went about things, just kind of get a vibe of what made them so good,” Lucas said, explaining the reasoning behind his film study.
“It’s fun because I picture us doing the same things they were able to do. It’s cool to watch those games and really kind of see what made them so good.”
Next spring, the 2008 Jayhawks will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of their 84-66 Final Four semifinal victory over North Carolina and 75-68 overtime title win over Memphis, in San Antonio. Prior to that, KU beat Portland State and UNLV in Omaha, Neb., and Villanova and Davidson in Detroit.
“I watched a couple of their tournament games and everybody was ready to go,” said Lucas, who, as a senior leader, plans on having the 2016-17 Jayhawks mentally prepared for Friday’s first-round NCAA Tournament game against either UC Davis or North Carolina Central at 5:50 p.m. at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.
“I didn’t really see anybody who would come in off the bench or start the game who wasn’t prepared for that matchup. So that’s how we have to be. Because if one or two people aren’t on board, then we’re not going to be able to advance.”
Through his research, Lucas observed that the 2008 Jayhawks, “were a tough team. If they were ever down in games, they quickly got it turned around. When they went on a run, their defense was unbelievable. They were flying around. They were all on the same page.
“I’ve seen flashes of some of the stuff that they’ve done from us, but the flashes are a couple of minutes long, and I felt like they did a good job extending those.”
The 2008 Jayhawks (37-3) allowed 61.5 points a game while averaging 80.5. KU’s current team (28-4) surrenders 72.4 points per contest while scoring 82.7.
“We’ve been working on that a lot in practice,” Lucas said of trying to more resemble the ’08 team defensively, “and really it’s making sure everybody’s on the same page with things. We’re communicating well. We’re in the right position. Just small, basic stuff that you can fix in practice and work on. Pay attention to the scouting report and understand that. That’s important moving forward, because we might not have seen too many games of the teams we’re playing. So it’s important to know their personnel and what they like to do, because that could be a big factor in these upcoming games.”
KU coach Bill Self said half-jokingly on Sunday that he’s been a “maniac” at practice seeking improvement defensively following Thursday’s 85-82 first-round Big 12 tournament loss to TCU. The Horned Frogs converted 49.2 percent of their shots and outrebounded KU, 36-31.
“I do think there are some things that we have to tighten up. Our ball screen defense was bad against TCU, and obviously rebounding,” Self said. “When you play four little guys like we did against TCU, it’s an excuse if somebody outrebounds you. It’s never an excuse. You’ve got to be tougher and more competitive, and certainly defensive rebounding and ball screen defense are probably about the two most important things we have to get better at going into the tournament.”
Lucas said he’s sure the Jayhawks will embrace what Self is preaching.
“I’m very confident,” Lucas said, “because I feel like the guys who are looked upon like myself, and Frank (Mason), and Devonté (Graham) and all the guys that have been through this before, we understand just how important it is to get everybody on board, and we’re not accepting anything short of that focus, laser-sharp attention that is needed for each and every game.
“So I’m confident in the whole team being focused and ready to go, and a lot of that comes on the older guys who have been through it, but we’ll get them ready.”
The Jayhawks will board a bus Wednesday afternoon for Tulsa after practicing at Allen Fieldhouse. Their Thursday shootaround at BOK Center, which is open to the public, will run from 4:25 p.m. to 5:05 p.m.
Lucas ‘ahead of curve’
Self wasn’t surprised Lucas has been studying a lot of film, including film of the 2008 champs.
“First of all, we subbed a lot more back then (in ’08). So there were a lot of opportunities to look ready to play,” Self said. “When guys are playing 35 minutes (in 2017), you only take them out once a game. So that may be something.
“When I watch old footage, I usually don’t watch how the body language is when we check in. That’s not my focus from 2008. But Landen’s ahead of the curve, so that may be something he studies.”
KU to learn opponent Wednesday
North Carolina Central (25-8) will play UC Davis (22-12) in a play-in game at 5:40 p.m. Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio. The winner will play KU in the first round Friday.
North Carolina Central, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference postseason tournament champ, is making its second NCAA Tournament appearance. In 2014, the 14th-seeded Eagles lost to No. 3 seed Iowa State, 93-75 in the first round, three years after the program entered Division I.
UC Davis, the Big West tourney champion, is making its first tourney appearance.
N.C. Central’s players and coaches have dedicated the postseason to former chancellor Debra Saunders-White, who died in November from cancer.
“She’d be hugging me right now, saying, ‘Let’s go to the Final Four. Next is a Final Four’ ” seventh-year North Carolina Central coach LaVelle Moton told the Charlotte Observer. “So it ain’t stopping with her. She was a winner. She was a champion and she had the heart of a lion.”
UC Davis is led by sixth-year coach Jim Les, whose biggest win as coach at Bradley came in 2006, when the Braves beat KU in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament.
Juiston considering nine schools
Kansas is one of nine schools in the running for Shakur Juiston, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound sophomore forward from Hutchinson Community College.
Juiston, the most valuable player of the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, tells Zagsblog.com he has a list of KU, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Rutgers, St. Joseph’s, VCU, Connecticut, UNLV and Rhode Island.
“I’m open if anybody wants to recruit me, but based on what’s going on so far these are the top nine. I don’t want to close out any new opportunities,” Juiston said.
Juiston averages 16.5 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks for Hutchinson CC (31-2), which will compete in the upcoming NJCAA Championship later this month in Hutchinson.
Juiston, who has 20 double-doubles this season, is a graduate of Paterson (N.J.) Eastside High.
Waters hasn’t released list yet
Tremont Waters, a 5-11 senior point guard from Notre Dame High in West Haven, Conn., who recently asked Georgetown for a release from his letter of intent, will not announce a list of schools until after he receives the release and schools begin to contact him.
Waters, whose style of play has been compared to former NBA great Allen Iverson, initially chose Georgetown over KU, Duke, UConn, Indiana, Kentucky and Yale. ESPN.com says Syracuse is expected to have great interest in Waters.
Kansas and Duke are in the running for Trevon Duval, a 6-2 point guard from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., who has completed visits to KU, Duke, Arizona, Baylor and Seton Hall.
Duval is ranked No. 3 nationally; Waters No. 36 by Rivals.com.