No. 11 Kansas edged No. 20 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon, securing the Orlando Classic championship inside HP Field House at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. Frank Mason snatched 10 rebounds. Perry Ellis was in double figures again, scoring 17 points. Svi Mykhailiuk broke out of a mini shooting slump by hitting three of six from three-point range.
The Jayhawks have now won four straight since suffering a beatdown to No. 1 Kentucky at the Champions Classic. They have four days off before facing No. 18 Florida at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night. And the Chalkboard has questions. So let’s get to them.
To tell the truth.
How good was Perry Ellis at the Orlando Classic? Ellis was good enough that his 17-point performance against Michigan State was his second worst offensive performance of the year, according to offensive rating. Ellis posted a 102 offensive rating on Sunday, a number dragged down by some poor free-throw shooting (three of seven) and three missed three-pointers. Still, Ellis was Kansas’ best player in Orlando. He was in double-figures all three games, and other than Svi Mykhailiuk’s three three-pointers on Sunday, Ellis at times felt like Kansas’ only viable offensive option against Michigan State.
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The Spartans don’t feature a ton of size inside, but Ellis is suddenly hitting the boards, too. He averaged 11 rebounds in the final two games of the tournament, including five total offensive rebounds.
Is this the new normal for Frank Mason? If you’re Bill Self, you certainly hope so. Mason’s offensive rating is up from last year (106 to 112); his assist rate is up, and he’s shooting better from the outside (33 percent to 46 percent). The three-point shooting probably won’t last, at least to that degree, but consider this: Mason’s overall offensive numbers are still being dragged down by his ugly shooting performance against Kentucky, when it felt as if his shot was blocked like 673 times. Mason’s turnovers are still a issue; he had six in the final two games in Orlando. But Mason is proving to be a better version of himself in 2014-15.
How off was Wayne Selden on Sunday? By the numbers, Selden was Kansas’ worst offensive player against Michigan State — by a wide margin. He was zero from 10 from the floor, recorded three turnovers and posted an anemic offensive rating (0.49 points per possession). Kansas was counting on Selden to take another step during his sophomore season, and so far, the results have been underwhelming.
Selden, who ranks second on the team in minutes, is shooting 26.5 percent from the floor and 26 percent from three-point range. During the second half of Sunday’s game against Michigan State, Selden began attacking the rim — a positive sign. But too often, Selden has settled for long jumpers. Entering Sunday, nearly 44 percent of Selden’s 39 shot attempts this season were two-point jumpers, per to Hoop-Math.com. Selden was making just 23.5 percent of them. By the Sunday night, the numbers were even worse.
How tough is Kansas’ upcoming three-game stretch? After facing No. 20 Florida on Friday, the Jayhawks will travel to Georgetown on Dec. 10 and then face Utah at Sprint Center on Dec. 13. All three team ranks in the top 30 in KenPom’s ranking. As of Sunday, Florida ranked 20th, while Georgetown (28) and Utah (30) both profile as NCAA Tournament teams. Before Sunday’s victory over Michigan State, Kansas was 10th.
Trailing 36-32 in the final seconds before halftime, Kansas’ Svi Mykhailiuk used a screen from Jamari Traylor, took a pump fake to shed a defender, and drained a three-pointer before the buzzer.
Sophomore guard Frank Mason.
After Sunday’s victory, Jamari Traylor recalled Kansas’ 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky at the Champions Classic. The Jayhawks, Traylor said, were dominated on the boards, in part, because their rotation rebounding was subpar. When Kansas did get bodies on Kentucky’s big guys, Kansas’ guards weren’t there to help collect the defensive rebounds. On Sunday, Mason finished with a career-high 10 boards despite standing just 6 feet tall.
Kansas held Michigan State to just 24 percent shooting in the second half.