KU looked like an NCAA title team Monday

By Steve Sell
March 01, 2016

Now THAT Kansas basketball team looked NCAA championship-worthy.

It was all set up for the Jayhawks to fail on Monday. They had just clinched a share of their 12th straight Big 12 Conference championship on Saturday, which was followed by a long, emotional ceremony after the game.

They were heading to Texas for yet another ESPN Big Monday game against a Longhorn team that had just knocked off its biggest rival Oklahoma two days before and was itching to take down the new No. 1 team in the country.

The Jayhawks were primed for a letdown. Instead it was a beatdown.

KU stunningly scored the first 15 points of the game and only seemed to gain strength from there as the Longhorn faithful were quiet as church mice.

When Kansas plays like that, especially on the defensive end, it is the best team in the country. Texas, admittedly not a great shooting team, started 1 of 18 and was buried under an avalanche of KU 3-pointers.

It was as close as a perfect game as a team can play, except for some sloppy turnovers. KU shot 64 percent from the field and an astounding 69 percent from 3-point.

Kansas has surged defensively behind Landen Lucas. After Bill Self had a revolving door at the 5-spot for the first half of the season, auditioning his six-pack of bigs, he finally settled on the steady, unheralded Lucas.

Lucas will never be any great shakes offensively, but he gets good enough position for three or four baskets a game. He’s developed into an elite defender and rebounder, except for his occasional excess fouling.

It’s also taken some of the pressure off Perry Ellis, who can concentrate more on the offensive end. All he did against Texas was put on an offensive clinic to make 9 of 11 floor shots and score 20 points.

Jamari Traylor has elevated his game recently as he's at the end of his career. He had some spectacular plays against Texas, including the most spectacular dunk of the season He’s playing with more energy, which is his No. 1 attribute.

Guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are solid. I wasn’t sure at the start of the year if the 2-point guard plan was going to work, but it’s perhaps been one of the top three keys to the year. Graham has really developed as a shooter and Mason is bulldog-tough.

On the wings, Wayne Selden’s play is still a cause for concern. He’s lost all confidence in his shooting —though he did knock down a couple of 3s against Texas — and he gets careless with the basketball. That’s why the emergence of Svi Mykhailiuk has been so immense and then there’s Brannen Greene and you never know what to expect from him because he’s been so wildly inconsistent.

KU is as deep as any team in the nation, which comes in handy when teams play twice in three days at nationals. Of course, the Jayhawks have played so many Big Monday games that they are used to it.

KU is one of the top four teams in the country. All that can hold it back is if the 3-point shooting dries up. If it plays defense the way it did Monday, that will be enough to make the Big Show.