Mason, Graham need more rest

By Steve Sell
November 22, 2016

Tuesday’s tidbits...

• TOO MANY MINUTES — We’re four games into the season and already a disturbing trend is developing for the Kansas basketball team.

Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham are playing far too many minutes.

Of course, the numbers are slightly skewed by the fact KU played extra basketball in its overtime loss to Indiana. And the other teams on the schedule have all been good tests, which means the Jayhawks haven’t played cupcakes that would allow the starters some rest.

But Mason currently sits at 36.2 minutes a game and Graham is at 35.2. Bench players Svi Mykhailiuk and LeGerald Vick are actually for third at 25.5 apiece because freshman phenom Josh Jackson has been plagued by foul trouble and plays only 24.4.

KU coach Bill Self, however, doesn’t have many other options. The only other guard is Tyler Self, who’s really not considered a front-line player as he’s a fan favorite in mop-up time.

The Jayhawks have a lot of versatility as Jackson can handle the ball like a point guard and maybe Monday’s game will shake him up enough that he now realizes what a force he can be when he stays on the floor.

But Self has to find a way to alleviate the minutes for Mason and Graham even if it means going with some odd combinations. Mason’s game is predicated on driving to the basket and he’s probably knocked to the floor 10 or 15 times a game. If you recall, he was worn to a frazzle by the end of last season from the constant pounding he took. Graham operates a little more on the perimeter and has a little more bounce in his step.

At some point the Jayhawks won’t be playing ranked teams and maybe they’ll get some rest.

• UNDERWOOD’S TEAM FRENETIC — Going into Monday’s game against UConn, the first three games of the Brad Underwood regime resulted in Oklahoma State going over the 100-point mark.

No way were the Cowboys expected to approach the century mark against a potential ranked team.

But they almost did. Oklahoma State rang up 98 in outlasting the Huskies 98-90 to earn a spot opposite of Roy Williams’ North Carolina Tar Heels in tonight’s semifinals of the Maui Invitational.

Underwood has brought his harassing defensive style from Stephen F. Austin and for those who doubted it would work at a higher level, it appears they’re wrong. The Cowboys forced the frazzled Huskies into 18 turnovers just off steals as their defense proved to be their best offense.

Now I’ll be shocked if North Carolina has as much trouble handling the ball as UConn. The Tar Heels are a Top 5 team and Williams has seen about every style imaginable in all his years of coaching. What a great test for Underwood and his team.

• HOW GOOD ARE THE WILDCATS? — I watched Kansas State’s basketball game with Hampton on Sunday and came away impressed.

But the jury is still out.

The Wildcats have assembled a schedule that almost guarantees them a glossy record going into Big 12 play. It’s loaded with home games against mostly non-descript opponents.

Games against Boston College and Washington State would appear to be the high-water dates. There are too many Prairie View A & Ms and Gardner-Webbs for my liking.

I’m sure the future of Bruce Weber was taken into consideration when compiling opponents. Weber’s wins have been decreasing since he first took over and guided Frank Martin’s holdovers to a share of the Big 12 title.

I think once the Wildcats muddle through the non-con games, they’re going to be better than people think in the Big 12. Weber has upped the talent level and his team is tough on its home floor.

If it can find a way to go about .500 on the road, it could be challenging for an upper-division finish in a Big 12 that has fallen off some this year.