University of Kansas

Jayhawks enter second-round NCAA Tournament game with healthy dose of respect for Michigan State

During a Saturday press conference, Devonte Graham (left) and teammate Frank Mason talked about the Jayhawks upcoming second-round game against Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla.
During a Saturday press conference, Devonte Graham (left) and teammate Frank Mason talked about the Jayhawks upcoming second-round game against Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament in Tulsa, Okla. rsugg@kcstar.com

. Kansas’ basketball players are not dwelling on Michigan State’s so-so 20-14 record entering Sunday’s second-round NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional contest at BOK Center.

“It’s Michigan State. No matter how their season is, there’s a great tradition there,” KU senior guard Frank Mason said Saturday. “Great coaching staff. Tom Izzo is one of the best, and I think he does a great job of preparing his guys for these type of moments.”

The No. 9-seeded Spartans are 14-10 as a lower seed in tourney games during Izzo’s 22 years at Michigan State. At 4:15 p.m. on Sunday the Spartans will meet a No. 1 seed in the Kansas Jayhawks.

“I think the guys when they get to the NCAA Tournament play their best ball, and they really get up and down and they defend. That’s when they really need to play their best ball, here in the tournament,” Mason added. “I think they do a great job of that.”

Michigan State opened the tournament with a 78-58 victory over No. 8 seed Miami on Friday night.

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“They run so many plays and have so many sets that one day of preparation you can’t get a good feel for all the stuff they run or try to memorize a lot of their plays,” said KU junior guard Devonté Graham. “We just had practice (Saturday afternoon) and went over the scouting report kind of in depth, and we’ll go back to the hotel and do the same thing. So it’s just trying to get a good feel for a lot of the sets that they run.”

Asked the key to beating Michigan State, Mason said: “I would say creating easy shots for my teammates, getting them involved early, playing great defense and making them feel me every possession, because it starts with the point guard. Just say getting out in transition, running and trying to get easy baskets before their defense sets up, showing great leadership skills and just being coachable and leading our younger guys.”

Mason enters the game averaging 20.8 points per game with 171 assists to 83 turnovers. Michigan State junior point guard Tum Tum Nairn averages 3.6 points with 126 assists against 38 turnovers. Michigan State freshman Cassius Winston comes off the bench to the tune of 174 assists, 74 turnovers and 6.7 points per game.

“I see a guy that can really see the floor,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Winston. “I think he’s one of the best passers in college basketball. He has more assists than Frank, and he’s playing 13 minutes a game less than Frank.

The reality of the way Tom’s teams guard, the makeup is you guard your man, but they’re always in strong help and always forcing you to play around the perimeter. So they do a real good job keeping the ball out of the paint.”

Mason averages 36.1 minutes per game; Nairn 23.1 and Winston 20.5.

“We hear a lot of people talking about how many minutes we play,” Mason said of the workload he and Graham take on for Kansas. “I think as athletes and competitors, it really doesn’t matter how many minutes we’re out there. Once we’re off the court we do a great job of taking care of our bodies and getting in the hot tub, cold tub, recovery booths and getting with our trainers and things like that to make sure we’re feeling a lot better for the next day.”

There are extended timeouts in the NCAA Tournament, up from 90 to 120 seconds in the regular season to a maximum of 3 minutes in the tourney.

“It just feels a lot longer than the normal timeout throughout the regular season,” Mason said. “You definitely could tell. It just feels a lot longer than the normal timeout throughout the regular season. and I think it’s good for both teams.”

Self on Underwood

Brad Underwood is leaving Oklahoma State after one year as the Cowboys head coach to take the same job at Illinois. Self is a graduate of Oklahoma State, and he coached at Illinois before coming to Kansas.

“I just heard it 10 minutes ago, so it shocks me,” Self said of the news that Underwood was moving on to Illinois.

“I think it would shock most people, because obviously, Brad was on a roll, I thought, in Stillwater,” Self added. “And a lot of great things have transpired in the short time he’s been there. So without knowing any details, I don’t know what else to say. ... Oklahoma State ... is in better shape than it was a year ago. So I’m sure that they’ll, I don’t even want to use the word ‘recover.’

“I’m sure they’ll respond very favorably to this. But it is a shock. You see a lot of coaching changes across America, but very rarely do you see one after just one year. But Brad’s a really good guy and done a great job. But from the outside looking in, it looked to me like OSU and Brad fit very, very well.”

Self, though, feels the job at Illinois is a good one.

“Illinois is a great basketball job,” Self said. “I was there. There’s no other way to look at it. It’s one of the better jobs in the Big Ten. If you look at recruiting base and institution, location, exposure, budget. There’s a lot of things about it that is very, very attractive.”

The clock game revisited

Self was an assistant at Kansas and Izzo at Michigan State in 1986 when the Jayhawks beat the Spartans, 90-86, in overtime in a NCAA Tournament regional semifinal at Kemper Arena. That’s the game in which the Kemper clock malfunctioned.

With 2:21 left, the clock stopped for between 11 and 19 seconds according to published reports. KU’s Archie Marshall hit a game-tying bucket with 9 seconds left that forced overtime. Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote said the game would have been over before Marshall’s score if not for the clock malfunction.

“Was there a clock issue in that game?” Self said on Saturday. “You know what, I was assistant, but I was so far down in seniority that I was an assistant that sat in the endzone about 15 rows up. So I didn’t make the bench during the NCAA Tournament in ’86.

“But you know, obviously Scott Skiles and company. But I don’t really remember much about the clock. I think in Kansas they thought it was — there was no malfunction and everything was handled perfectly in Kansas, and I’m sure in the state of Michigan they thought totally otherwise. But I know it was controversial, and it was an unbelievable win, obviously, for Kansas. But I really don’t remember much about it.”

KU’s Lagerald Vick on the matchup

“We are very confident going into the game. We had a good practice today. So we just have to go over some stuff, but we will be ready to play tomorrow,” Vick said Saturday of Sunday’s game against Michigan State.

NCAA round two: (1) Kansas vs. (9) Michigan State at 4:15 on Sunday (CBS, chs. 5 and 13)

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