Villanova's shooting gave KU no chance

By Steve Sell
April 02, 2018

Maybe the fans entering the cavernous Alamodome in San Antonio on Saturday should have been issued umbrellas.

At least the Kansas Jayhawk fans.

Villanova rained 3-pointers the likes never seen before in the NCAA Tournament and its game with KU was practically over just after it started.

The jaw-dropping shooting display put the Jayhawks behind 22-4 barely after the first TV timeout and had KU mind-blown.

Unlike most games where KU would have come back with a big run and made it competitive, the margin never got under double digits and the game many were calling the probable championship contest — especially after the Michigan-Loyola stinker — short-changed the fans from a suspense standpoint, but they were mesmerized by a performance on par with Bill Walton’s 21-of-22 game against Memphis.

The Wildcats were practically allergic to the paint in the first half, making a mind-boggling 13 of 26 treys, while testing KU’s interior defense just 7 times, making 4.

Kansas' defense simply couldn’t catch up to the shooters, as Villanova’s offensive spacing was textbook. The Wildcats took advantage of the slow-footed Udoka Azubuike, who reminded me of George Foreman in his famous “rope-a-dope” fight with Muhammad Ali. All of the 280-pounder’s chasing on defense wore him out and he was physically spent 10 minutes into the game. While he did score 8 points and grab 5 rebounds, he wasn’t the force KU needed and it should open his eyes about declaring for the NBA as at this point in his career he doesn’t have the stamina to play more than 4 or 5 effective minutes at a time.

It wasn’t just one or two players for Villanova, it was a collective effort. In going 18 of 40 from beyond the arc, seven Wildcats got into the act and six of them made more than one. It was surprising KU ended up tied with Villanova in rebounding since there weren’t that many caroms to grab.

Devonte’ Graham had a nice game in defeat for KU in his career finale with 23 points, but many of those came after the fact. Malik Newman kept up his sizzling pace with 21 and also pulled down 8 rebounds, probably signaling the end of his career as he’s likely to go pro. Svi Mykhailiuk’s last game was a 10-point effort, but he had only 2 rebounds.

Legerald Vick was relatively quiet, but KU received a spark from Silvio DeSousa, who scored 7 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, but was a defensive liability.

KU fans should be thankful the Jayhawks even reached this game. This was as up-and-down of a season that coach Bill Self has experienced, but the team played well at the right time and getting one step from the national championship game should be a nice touch on his Hall of Fame resume.

KU fans can’t really look ahead to next year as they simply don’t know who the team is going to have. I wouldn’t be surprised if Self has to replace the entire starting five, as Azubuike could get some bad advice, while I have a feeling for whatever reason that Vick may test the pro waters.

If everybody that can come back does, KU has an influx of newcomers to blend in, including three talented redshirts who have experienced success at other schools, while it also had three players who showed a lot of promise in the McDonald’s All-Star Game.

The beat will go on for KU, though the sound may not be as loud as it was with this trip to the Final Four.