The most ridiculous sequence of this Kansas basketball season took 41 seconds. Then it was over. It included three massive blocks, six missed shots, four passes, one wild loose-ball showdown at midcourt, with two players meeting head on, like two sports cars crashing in the night, and it also included one Jamari Traylor.
It’s safe to assume that no player in college basketball has covered more ground in 41 seconds than Traylor did during a flurry of action on Saturday afternoon. Traylor, the Jayhawks’ personification of a quick-twitch muscle, covered more than 270 feet of hardwood — the numbers are approximations here — and completed what Kansas coach Bill Self would call “the best play that I’ve seen since I’ve been at Kansas.”
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It all started innocently enough. With Kansas leading 23-21, Traylor caught the ball in the middle of Texas’ zone, turned to face the basket and attacked the rim. Myles Turner, the Longhorns’ 7-foot center, swatted the shot off the backboard, and suddenly, it was on.
Six seconds later, Traylor had sprinted the length of the floor, chasing down Texas’ Demarcus Holland and denying his dunk attempt at the rim. Another 15 seconds later, Traylor was flying back through the air, just missing an offensive rebound, and falling into the arms of somebody sitting along the baseline.
“I just ended up on the camera man or somebody,” Traylor would say, “whoever was there.”
While Traylor staggered to his feet, Texas raced the other way. Isaiah Taylor attacked the basket. Perry Ellis came up with another block. Turner missed a follow, and somehow, the ball skirted back toward the half-court line — just as Traylor was coming back into the frame.
“The ball happened to be rolling,” Traylor said, “so I just tried to run and dive get down to it.”
For a moment, the Kansas-Texas game looked like something out of the old XFL, when two guys would line up and div after a loose ball, determining which team would get the ball first. Holland was chasing the ball toward half-court, sprawling face first toward the ball. Traylor was coming the other direction, sliding 10 feet across the middle of the floor.
On the television broadcast, you could hear a broadcaster momentarily lose his mind: “Oh, what action!”
Traylor won win the loose-ball, batting it out toward Frank Mason, and Kansas came up with the first basket of the sequence when Mason finished at the rim and drew a foul.
“I looked up at the bench and everybody was hype,” Traylor said. “So I was like: ‘Oh man, it must have been something.’
“I was so tired.
In the moments after the game, Self stood outside the Kansas locker room. A few minutes earlier, at the postgame press conference, he had offered his view, saying it was probably the best hustle play he’d seen in his 11 years at KU. Now he was trying to replay the sequence in his head. But really, it was all a blur. How many times had Traylor gone up and down the court? Did the block come first, or was it the steal? Seriously: What happened?
“It was unbelievable,” Self said. “I’d have to watch it again. That was a hell of a play.”
The hunt for 11
Now that the dust has cleared from another Saturday in the Big 12, let’s take a look at the updated conference standings. The biggest result: Iowa State’s loss at Texas Tech, which left Kansas alone atop the Big 12 by a half-game over K-State.
A third of the way through the Big 12 schedule, the Jayhawks are 5-1 and sitting in pretty enviable position in the league race. Here’s one way to look at Kansas’ path to earning at least a share of an 11th straight Big 12 title. If the Jayhawks hold serve at home — which will, of course, be very difficult in the deep Big 12 — they would need to come up with just two more road victories to get to 13 victories. At this moment, it seems hard to envision any Big 12 team — other than maybe Kansas — finishing better than 13-5.
One reason: The road record. West Virginia has matched Kansas’ two road victories — at Texas Tech and TCU — while Texas is also 2-1 on the road, winning at Texas Tech and TCU. Kansas, meanwhile, has banked road wins at Baylor and Texas, meaning the Jayhawks still have winnable games at TCU (on Wednesday) and Texas Tech (Feb. 10).
The rest of Kansas’ road games (West Virginia, K-State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma) will all come in tough environments against good teams, and the Jayhawks figure to take some lumps. But for Kansas, the math is simple: If the Jayhawks win their home games and avoid a Topeka YMCA moment on the road, some team will have to play out of its mind to keep pace.
The player of the game.
How good was Brannen Greene against Texas?
Greene’s offensive rating was 198, according to KenPom.com, which surpassed his previous season high of 186 against Georgetown. (And Greene was five of five from three against Georgetown.) In 20 minutes on Saturday, Greene was four of five from three-point range and one of two from inside the arc. He also snatched four rebounds.
More than any player on Kansas, Greene can stretch a defense with outside shooting. He’s now shooting 48 percent from three on the season, and on Saturday, his presence helped Kansas solve Texas’ zone.
One other number: For the season, Greene’s effective field-goal percentage (a stat that gives more weight to three-pointers) is 67.2, easily the best on the team. (Cliff Alexander is second with an effective field-goal percentage of 57.0) I was curious if any Kansas guard or wing during the Self era has had a better effective field-goal percentage than 67.2, so I scrolled through the last decade of numbers at KenPom.com. The answer: No — though Travis Releford (64.6) came close in 2012-13.
Greene, of course, has not played consistent minutes, and perhaps he’s do for some regression. He also rarely takes any two-pointers (just 17 on the season, compared to 50 three-point attempts), so he’ll always appear extremely efficient if the threes are dropping. But as the Jayhawks left the Erwin Center on Saturday afternoon, one thing was clear: If Greene is knocking down threes, it changes the dynamic of the Kansas offense.
The quote of the day.
“Two steps across half-court might be a good shot for BG,” — Kansas freshman Devonte’ Graham on Brannen Greene
The stat of the game.
This number demands another mention. According to KU’s sports information crew, the Jayhawks’ three turnovers matched the fewest since 1966. They also had zero turnovers during the second half.