All five of Kansas’ basketball starters on the Jayhawks’ 2017-18 league championship team have earned some sort of all-Big 12 recognition the past two days.
To summarize: Devonté Graham was chosen Big 12 player of the year and first-team all-league by both the Associated Press and the league coaches; Svi Mykhailiuk was second-team All-Big 12 by both the coaches and AP; Udoka Azubuike made the AP second team and coaches' third team; Malik Newman was the coaches' newcomer of the year and received AP All-Big 12 honorable mention; and Lagerald Vick received coaches' All-Big 12 honorable mention.
“I was happy for all our guys to get some individual attention. I think that's important. But I don't think it really means much, to be candid with you,” said KU coach Bill Self, voted Big 12 Coach of the Year by the AP and co-Coach of the Year with Texas Tech's Chris Beard by the league's coaches.
“They're going to get a certificate, with the exception of Devonté, and he's going to get a real nice trophy, but everyone else is going to get a certificate. I'm not against certificates or anything, but to me the best way to really put your stamp on it is to go out and win and have something tangible, have a trophy or something that you can help carry off a stage or something. That to me would be the motivation.”
The No. 9-ranked Jayhawks (24-7, 13-5 Big 12), have partied with the regular-season league championship trophy twice — on Feb. 24 in Lubbock, Texas, after defeating Texas Tech to assure at least a tie for the title and again on Feb. 26 after a home win over Texas that gave KU the outright crown.
Three victories on Thursday through Saturday at the Sprint Center would give KU another trophy — the Big 12 Tournament trophy — for the eighth time in the 15-year Bill Self era.
Self says it’ll be downright difficult to earn the hardware.
“You could say going into this tournament, nine teams deserve to be in the NCAA Tournament,” Self said. “I believe all four teams (tied for sixth at 8-10) — Baylor (18-13), Texas (18-13), Oklahoma (18-12) and Oklahoma State (18-13) — have done plenty enough to be in the field.
“It’s not how it works. How it works is somebody is going to lose the first round. OU or OSU will lose. West Virginia plays Baylor. It’s a possible loss game (for bubble team Baylor). Texas plays Iowa State. It’s a possible loss game (for Texas). You can be right there, but on the outside looking in real fast.”
Self said his alma mater, Oklahoma State, definitely deserves an NCAA bid.
“I don't see how you could say Oklahoma State does not. I mean, they've got too many great wins. But you can positively say that,” Self said. “Then you could also say, depending on what happens with other leagues across America, depending on the favorites that get upset that are going to get automatic bids, now you could say that of the nine teams going in, some of them need to win to solidify what's going on. Everybody will be fighting for their lives. It’ll be amped up a bit.”
KU will play the winner of Wednesday’s OSU-Oklahoma game around 2 p.m. Thursday, following the 11:30 a.m. game between Kansas State (21-10, 10-8) and TCU (21-10, 9-9). If KU wins it would meet either K-State or TCU at 6 p.m. Friday in the semifinals.
“I could be wrong, but it’d be hard to put a team with eight losses on the 1-line,” Self said, asked about possible NCAA seeding scenarios concerning the Jayhawks. “Even though we have played a monster schedule and have as many good wins as anybody, we also have some losses.
“To be on the 1-line, we’d have to win the tournament in Kansas City I’d think. Also, what will Duke do?” he added of the No. 5-ranked Blue Devils. “How will (No. 2) Villanova do? (No. 3) Xavier? Virginia … even if they lose will be on the 1-line,” he added of the No. 1-ranked Cavaliers.
“What will (No. 8) Cincinnati do in the AAC? We could help ourselves from a seeding standpoint by going over there and playing really well. The reality is as of now we could hurt our seed by how we play in Kansas City. We could help it if we go over there and play well.”
The Jayhawks will enter the Big 12 Tournament following Saturday’s 82-64 loss to the Cowboys in Stillwater, Okla. Prior to that, KU had won five games in a row.
“If we are going to get beat, I’d rather get beat like that so guys can see the tape and not rationalize we were better than we were,” Self said of the Oklahoma State rout. “We weren’t and the tape didn’t lie.
“(Last week) we played Monday, took off Tuesday, had practice Wednesday for the guys who don’t play. We had two days prep (for OSU). We spent the whole time how to get open versus pressure, running stuff versus pressure. We got to the game and it didn’t look like we spent 30 seconds even talking about pressure. One thing we haven’t done as well is run our plays,” Self added. “We scored at will through the first half of Big 12 play running our plays. The second half of the season, plays don’t work as well. Players making plays is how you score.”
He noted that before the OSU game, “we put in some new stuff nobody has seen. We had one player every play freeze. The timing was off. It looked like mush the whole time. We wasted time practicing stuff if guys can’t focus and execute it. We’ll have to do a better job on that.”
OU's Young ‘disappointed’ about award
Freshman sensation Trae Young of Oklahoma was not pleased Sunday after losing out to KU’s Graham as Big 12 Player of the Year.
"It’s an honor being the Freshman of the Year," Young said after Sunday's practice as quoted by the Tulsa World. "I'm disappointed I didn’t get Player of the Year. But I know winning matters. Winning matters, and I wish we could have won more games. I'm very disappointed. But if that was the case, Kansas should have the last 14 Player of the Years. But I'm very honored for the awards I got. So I’m very ready to get it going again."
Mason to host softball game in KC
Former Kansas guard Frank Mason of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings will hold a charity softball game on Saturday, June 16 at T-Bones Stadium, Mason and the Kansas City T-Bones announced on Twitter.
A home run derby event will begin at 2 p.m., with a celebrity softball game set for 3 p.m. The game will benefit the Children’s Mercy Kansas City & National Youth Foundation. To purchase tickets go to fm3charitysoftballgame.com.