Kansas blitzed Rider 87-60 on Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse. Wayne Selden had a career-high nine assists. Perry Ellis broke out with 17 points.
One week after a 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky at the Champions Classic, the 11th-ranked Jayhawks can watch film and think about something other than being the team responsible for the worst offensive performance of the Bill Self era.
The Jayhawks will face Rhode Island on Thursday in the opening round of the Orlando Classic. The tournament schedule features three games in four days, with a day off on Saturday. But as the Jayhawks head for Disney World, let’s get to the questions.
Do tell the truth …
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▪ How much stock can you put into this offensive performance? Rider entered the game ranked outside the top 200 nationally in defensive efficiency. They are projected to be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. But Self still believed Monday’s first half was his team’s best half of basketball thus far.
For the game, the Jayhawks finished with 1.38 points per possession, more than double their feeble output against Kentucky (0.66). All week long, there had been a focus on the little things. Angles. Screens. Ball movement. After the game, Self pointed out that Kansas had 13 post touches during the first half. Against Kentucky, the Jayhawks had zero.
“Of course, we didn't have to score over sevenfoot,” Self said, “and we weren't really pressured out, but I thought the guys did do a much better job of looking inside and feeding those guys. I think the ball movement was a lot better, and we actually screened a little better, too.”
▪ Will Svi Mykhailiuk continue to start? After the game, Self revealed that his new-look starting lineup (Svi on the wing; Landen Lucas in the middle) was partially because of some “slippage” off the court. One example: Being late to tutoring.
But Mykhailiuk, a 17-year-old freshman, proved his value on Monday. He finished with 10 points, and his offensive rating (163) was second on the team behind sophomore Brannen Greene, who finished with 17 points. Mykhailiuk has the ability to shoot — something Kansas needs — but he also provides value as a ball-mover in the offense.
When the Jayhawks’ offense is stagnant, Self will often say that the ball is “sticking”. In three regular-season games, Mykhailiuk has shown himself most adept at rotating the ball around the perimeter and keeping the offense flowing. It sounds like a simple skill, but on a young team, his advanced court awareness stands out.
Self has also praised Mykhailiuk’s positional defending; more times than not, he is in the right spot. That, along with his outside shooting potential, is one reason he’ll likely see major minutes as the season progresses.
“He's going to be a great shooter,” Self said. “He just hasn't got on a roll yet. But I think that Svi probably understands better than anybody maybe because of European ball that the ball needs to get from — if you can't do anything with it when you catch it, it needs to move, and he is the best we have at doing that.”
▪ Is Kansas ready to play three games in four days? The Jayhawks will step on the accelerator this week, playing three games in four days at the Orlando Classic. Kansas opens against Rhode Island on Thursday; a victory would mean a matchup with either Tennessee or Santa Clara.
Self believes the game reps should be helpful. When asked about the heavy schedule, Self brought up a point from Monday’s game. The Jayhawks’ scouting report had a specific line about not letting Rider big man Matt Lopez turn over his left shoulder.
“The first three baskets he gets, he turns left shoulder,” Self said.
“We are not a really a high IQ basketball group when it comes to really studying what helps us win,” Self added.
▪ Sophomore guard Wayne Selden: It’s not often that a Kansas team will win a game by 27 points while its starting two-guard goes scoreless. Selden, who finished with nine assists, played the role of facilitator, and he did it with a flourish. Selden said he was, in part, trying to set a good model for Kansas’ younger players. In other words: You don’t have to score to impact a game.
That was clear. But it’s also clear that Selden is still learning how to play a leading role. When does he need to be aggressive? Should he hunt for shots? Put more energy on defense? So far, the transition hasn’t been smooth. But without even making a shot, Selden was a big part of Kansas’ offense on Monday.
One week ago, Perry Ellis was feckless against Kentucky’s size, finishing with just four points. He had 17 points against Rider. But one dunk was louder than the others.
▪ 22 assists: The Jayhawks entered Monday with just 15 assists in two games; they matched that number during the first half against Rider before finishing with 22 assists for the game.