University of Kansas

This decade, no player has done what KU's Udoka Azubuike just did

KU Jayhawks center Udoka Azubuike
KU Jayhawks center Udoka Azubuike File photo

I'm as guilty as anyone.

Throughout this entire season, I wrote often about the huge storyline that was Kansas' coaching staff adjusting its style to shoot more threes.

And while that was a big reason for KU's success and subsequent run to the Final Four, it probably distracted from something else that was important too.

Bill Self — a coach who has previously described his overarching mantra as, "If you’re good, you get easy baskets and don’t give them up" — actually wasn't straying far from his roots while scheming effectively to get a large number of close shots.

This can be seen most clearly when looking at Udoka Azubuike. KU's 7-foot center has a unique skillset, as he's huge but also athletic, able to finish alley-oops above the rim while also overpowering defenders who don't properly body him up.

Self and KU's coaching staff played frequently to those strengths — so well, in fact, that Azubuike reached a mark that no other Div. I player has this decade.

According to play-by-play numbers gathered and sorted by college basketball statistician Will Schreefer, Azubuike had 117 dunks during his 36 games in 2017-18. That's not only tops among KU players in recent years, it's also the No. 1 mark out of 42,209 player seasons in college basketball since the start of Schreefer's database in 2009-10.

2017-18 KU's Udoka Azubuike117
2016-17 UCF's Tacko Fall105
2016-17 UK's Bam Adebayo101
2016-17 FGCU's Demetris Morant97
2017-18 Duke's Marvin Bagley96
2011-12 UK's Anthony Davis87
2017-18 Wake Forest's Doral Moore87
* — Since 2009-10 season

There are a few fascinating things here, but let's start with this: Azubuike actually holds the new record by a long shot. His 117 dunks are 12 more than Central Florida's 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, who had 105 in 2016-17.

Azubuike's final number of 117 also could be selling him short. KU's sports information department keeps its own record of dunks, and it credited him with 118 in the Villanova game notes before he had two against the Wildcats, which would have pushed his total to 120 for the season.

It also seems, based on the list above, that Self's offensive philosophy has been passed on to his protégés.

Fourth on the list is Florida Gulf Coast's Demetris Morant, who was coached by ... former Self assistant Joe Dooley.

And tied for sixth on the leaderboard is Wake Forest's Doral Moore ... who played last year under former KU staffer Danny Manning.

In case you were wondering, Azubuike easily is KU's best dunker this decade. Thomas Robinson's 2011-12 season comes in second, while no other KU player has even managed half of the slams that Azubuike did this season.

2017-18 Udoka Azubuike117
2011-12 Thomas Robinson70
2016-17 Josh Jackson50
2010-11 Markieff Morris44
2012-13 Jeff Withey39
2011-12 Jeff Withey36
2012-13 Ben McLemore35
2013-14 Andrew Wiggins35
2013-14 Joel Embiid 32
2017-18 Lagerald Vick32
* — Since 2009-10 season

Azubuike is no guarantee to come back next season, declaring last week for the NBA Draft without an agent. He has until May 30 to decide if he wants to return to Lawrence for his junior year.

If he does, expect him to once again be an important part of KU's offense.

Self loves his easy baskets ... and Azubuike has no equal when it comes to those.