Rushed Reactions: #7 Kansas 77, #1 Duke 75

Posted by Justin Kundrat on November 16th, 2016

RTC’s Brian Otskey (@botskey) and Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) are providing on-site coverage of the Champions Classic this evening.

Three Key Takeaways.

Frank. Mason. For the Win. (USA Today Images)

Frank. Mason. For the Win. (USA Today Images)

  1. Josh Jackson’s coming out party has commenced. Following a disappointing nine-point debut on 3-for-11 shooting against Indiana, the 6’8″ freshman posted 15 points on just nine shots tonight. His obvious hesitancy and discomfort in the first game and a half of his career forced Frank Mason into the role of primary scorer while pressuring other players such as Devonte’ Graham to fill the void. But Jackson broke out in the second half, using his length to defend the passing lanes while creating for himself at will on the offensive end. There will be ups and downs this season for a player like Jackson, but the obvious sentiment is that Bill Self needs him fully locked in come March.
  2. Stopping Duke on offense is already a headache. The hype around NPOY candidate Grayson Allen is warranted, but the Blue Devils have five legitimate scoring threats and the lineup versatility to match almost any team even without their heralded freshmen. Sophomore Luke Kennard is capable of playing a stretch four role, but Duke can also go big by playing senior Amile Jefferson alongside the shot blocking center Chase Jeter. The Jeter/Kennard toggle provides Coach K with the ability to choose between offense and defense without having to drastically alter his lineups. Given the team’s current inside-outside dynamic, expect Duke to capitalize regardless of how teams choose to defend them.
  3. The concerns around Kansas’ defense are overstated. It’s not that the Jayhawks cannot defend — rather, it’s that their early results are simply a combination of playing two of the country’s best offenses. Strong individual defenders such as Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are known quantities, but team defenses take time to develop and this is especially true for a team that lost two key cogs in Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis. Josh Jackson has the tools to become an exceptional perimeter defender and Udoba Azubuike has a 7’5″ wingspan who and will develop better defensive instincts over time.

Star of the GameFrank Mason (21 points, five assists) continues to be the lifeblood of this Kansas team. The senior point guard has shown an innate ability to shift between roles of a distributor and scorer, and he was successful in managing both again tonight. When the Jayhawks’ offense sputtered, he attacked the basket; when things were rolling, he led the offense. His and-one layup at the two minute mark helped Kansas fend off a last minute push by the Blue Devils, and his game-winning jumper with two seconds remaining put the nail in the coffin.


Coach K's Team Will Be Very Tough at Full Strength (USA Today Images)

Coach K’s Team Will Be Very Tough at Full Strength (USA Today Images)

  • “It felt good when it left my hand, but the only thing I was worried about was my balance. I was a little off balance.” — Frank Mason, on his last second game-winning shot.
  • “I thought Josh was great. He was by far the best player in the game to start the second half… but he’s an emotional guy and he needs to learn how to control that better.” Bill Self, on his freshman Josh Jackson.
  • “I just told him to go stand in the corner.” Self, on Devonte’ Graham‘s cramping in the second half.
  • “I think Grayson [Allen] had a very frustrating game… I think he’s going to a point where he makes a move and he expects a foul,” Mike Krzyzewski, following his team’s loss.

Sights & Sounds. After a somewhat disappointing turnout from Michigan State and Kentucky fans in the opener, Madison Square Garden erupted for what was considered the prime time event. Despite having the edge in proximity, Duke fans were likely outnumbered and definitely outnoised by Kansas fans, creating what felt like a quasi-home environment for the Jayhawks.

What’s Next? Duke will presumably hand over its #1 ranking regardless of what happens on a trip to face Penn State and either Rhode Island or Cincinnati in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament this weekend. Meanwhile, Bill Self’s Jayhawks will close the book on what has been a brutal opening schedule that included thousands of miles of air travel. They will look to collect themselves in a home outing with Siena on Friday night.

Justin Kundrat (175 Posts)

Villanova grad, patiently waiting another 10 years for season tickets. Follow Justin on twitter @JustinKundrat or email him at

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