Rushed Reactions: Kansas 81, West Virginia 71

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 12th, 2016


Three key takeaways.

Kansas Does the Double Big 12 Championship Thing (USA Today Images)

Kansas Does the Double Big 12 Championship Thing (USA Today Images)

  1. Devonte’ Graham shows out once again. Kansas’ sophomore guard has never been particularly bad, but he’s been a completely different player over the last month of the season. He routinely broke West Virginia’s trademark press and hit plenty of big shots, finishing with 27 points on 16 attempts en route capturing the Big 12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award. Graham also capitalized on some suspect decision-making by the Mountaineers, adding four steals to his stat line, and was the most expressive player for a team that has been criticized by Bill Self for not having vocal leaders. There may not be a player who epitomizes Kansas’ loose style of play down the stretch of this season more than Graham, and it’s getting easier with each passing game to nod your head with Chris Stone’s prediction that the Raleigh, North Carolina native will have one shining moment in the Dance.
  2. Devin Williams finds rhythm, but not help. West Virginia’s best player has struggled to find consistency against top-flight opponents as of late, but he was tremendous throughout the game — regularly going up strong against Kansas’ big men and showing a smooth jumper when the Jayhawks gave him space. Williams finished with a game-high 31 points, but his supporting cast completely let him down. Though the Mountaineers came into the game on an extended hot streak from deep, they shot just 2-of-15 there tonight, and Daxter Miles was the only Mountaineer other than Williams who scored more than six points. We know that fouls may be an issue next week with West Virginia playing in neutral environments, but this is also too deep a team for it to rely so heavily on one guy.
  3. West Virginia exposes Kansas’ liabilities defending the interior. The Jayhawks’ biggest strength is their incredibly deep rotation of perimeter players, but its interior (especially on the defensive end) carries more questions. Landen Lucas has been the team’s best post defender over the last few weeks, but Kansas struggled to maintain a lead in the first half as Williams got Lucas into early foul trouble. Jamari Traylor didn’t provide any answers behind him, and for all the talent and potential Carlton Bragg brings to the table, his four fouls in just 10 minutes of action show that he’s still a long way off. All of that comes before getting into why Cheick Diallo and Hunter Mickelson haven’t given Kansas meaningful minutes. It’s much easier said than done, but if an opponent can get Lucas into foul trouble or make him defend in space, the Jayhawks’ less effective and experienced players will be pressured to perform above their norms. It’s far from the only thing needed to send Kansas home early in the next couple weeks, but when it comes to considering key ingredients for an upset, making Lucas uncomfortable should be at the top of the list.

Star Of The Game: Devonte’ Graham. It’s hard to steal the show from Devin Williams, who scored a career-high 31 points and went a perfect 7-of-7 from the floor in the first half and 12-of-14 overall, but Graham accomplished his feat with incredible activity on both ends of the floor.

Quotable: “I wait till Calipari calls me. Cal usually calls me and tells me what seed we’re going to be and what game we’ll play them. I think the theory is they can’t have both of us at the Final Four, you know, it would be too much. So they make us play before we get there.” –Bob Huggins, who is always good for a soundbite, on whether he has a sense of what seed his Mountaineers will earn on Selection Sunday.

Sights And Sounds: Wayne Selden‘s vicious dunk over Baylor’s Ish Wainwright on Friday night created a viral sensation in the form of Selden’s uncle, Anthony Pitts, who arrived in Sprint Center with another massive clock draped around his neck, a la Flava Flav. In the latest tribute to his nephew, the newfound piece of jewelry was adorned with a photo of the poster jam. You can now follow Uncle Anthony on Twitter, with over 1,600 followers and counting.

What’s Next: Kansas is playing the best basketball of any title contender right now and is all but certain to capture the #1 overall seed even if Michigan State beats Purdue tomorrow afternoon in Indianapolis; There’s no shame in losing to the Jayhawks, and West Virginia will still be in the hunt for a #2 seed despite tonight’s loss.

Brian Goodman (987 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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