As Kansas’ senior point guard and unofficial team leader, Devonté Graham plans on monitoring his teammates closely the remainder of the Big 12 men’s basketball season.
“Call guys out when they are not playing right, not acting right, if their attitude is not right,” Graham said, asked how he planned on responding to KU’s 85-73 loss to Texas Tech on Tuesday night, one that dropped the No. 10-ranked Jayhawks to 11-3 overall and 1-1 in the conference heading into Saturday’s 8:15 p.m. contest against No. 16 TCU (13-1, 1-1) at sold-out, 6,800-seat Schollmaier Arena.
“Then you also have to instill that confidence in them, make sure they know that we need them, that they’ve got to be tough and bring it every game.”
KU, which won at Texas in its league opener before suffering the worst home loss in the 15-year Bill Self era, now finds itself trying to avoid its first 1-2 conference start since 2005-06.
“It’s collective as a group, us taking responsibility, manning up and saying, ‘I didn’t play as hard as I could have,’ or ‘I didn’t rebound as well as I could have,’ things like that,” Graham said, referring to how KU must approach a tough road game that follows a home loss.
“I think we do a good job with that. It’s always a wake-up call. I think it refocuses us and gets us prepared for the next game. We watched film on what we need to improve on. Guys realize they are not playing as hard as they think they are. Or the way we’re rebounding … we look really bad. We’ll focus in and move forward.”
KU will be facing a stern test on the home court of a team coming off Tuesday’s 81-78 overtime victory at Baylor. TCU fell to Oklahoma, 90-89, on Dec. 30 in Fort Worth in the league opener for both those teams.
“We need to obviously give a much better effort, play much better against a really good TCU team,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We don’t have as much margin for error (this season). We need to get a lot better, become more consistent and figure out a way to make people play bad.”
TCU has played well since the arrival of second-year coach Jamie Dixon at his alma mater.
For instance, a year ago, in the Big 12 opener, the Horned Frogs, who ultimately capped the season by winning the postseason NIT, led KU by 10 points in the first half before falling 86-80 at home.
TCU also lost in Lawrence, 87-68, but defeated KU in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals, 85-82. TCU’s top six scorers return off that squad.
“I think it’s pretty apparent what they’ve done,” Self said. “I think Jamie would agree there was a good collection of players that Trent (Johnson, previous coach) and his staff recruited. Jamie stepped in there and coached those guys up and got them all confident.
“He’s been able to recruit well since he’s been there. They are one of the deeper teams in our league. They’ve got experience. They have youthful exuberance. They won the NIT last year and are much better this year. I think TCU is here to stay ... they’ve made a serious commitment to basketball.”
TCU’s five starters all average double-digit scoring. Kenrich Williams averages 14.8 points a game, followed by Vlad Brodziansky (13.7), Desmond Bane (12.6), Jaylen Fisher (11.3) and JD Miller (11.1).
“They won the conference 13 times in a row. It’s every time a big game for us to play somebody like that,” Brodziansky told The Star at Big 12 Media Day. “They are one of the best teams in the nation. It’s always a challenge. We know we have to give our best, too.”
The 6-foot-11 pound Brodziansky scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds in last season’s game against KU in Fort Worth. Williams, a 6-7 forward, had 11 points and 11 boards.
“It was the Big 12 opener. We had a new coaching staff. We knew we’d have to give it all,” Brodziansky recalled. “We came up short. It was a tough game. We played hard.”
Brodziansky is hopeful the Horned Frogs ultimately will reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1998.
“I mean it feels good. We can’t really get satisfied with it,” he said of the squad’s success and players’ popularity on campus. “We have to work every day because at the end of the day it doesn’t mean that much. The most important thing is the end of the season. I can tell all the people are excited about TCU basketball right now. It makes us work even harder to not disappoint them and keep on a roll.”
TCU won NIT a year ago
“Whooo,” he said, then after a few moments stated, “The NIT. We got a ring from that. After we beat them, that just led to better things, the NIT win, being ranked this year, us starting out this good this year.”
Of that victory over KU, sophomore Desmond Bane, who hit three free throws with 2.5 seconds left, told the Star-Telegram: “That was huge for me and my confidence moving forward. And it was great for our program to be able to do something like that, something special. I feel like we’ve really been able to build off that win.”
TCU seeks win over ranked foe at Schollmaier
TCU is 0-9 against ranked opponents at Schollmaier Arena, which opened Dec. 20, 2015.
“All last year — we had Baylor at home, lost to them close, lost to Kansas at home close — we really just needed that win that could put us over the hump,” Bane told the Star-Telegram. “We knew we were good all along, but that (Kansas) win really helped put us over the top.”