The point guard position was one that served as a biggest question for the Kansas Jayhawks in 2013-14, with the inconsistency of Naadir Tharpe and the youth of freshman Frank Mason resulting in many wondering if Bill Self had enough at the position to win a national title. While that spot wasn’t the only reason why the Big 12 regular season champions fell to Stanford in the Round of 32, the instability at the point certainly didn’t help matters.
That area is once again the focus of discussion for a team that will also have to account for the loss of key contributors such as Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, not to mention Tharpe’s decision to transfer to a school closer to his native Massachusetts.
One player who will have the opportunity to earn immediate playing time at the point is incoming freshman Devonte’ Graham, whose recruitment received national attention due to Appalachian State’s refusal to release him from his National Letter of Intent (he was finally released in early April).
Prior to committing to Appalachian State, Graham’s coaches felt that his recruitment wasn’t at the level it should be for a player of his caliber. But the guard continued to work at his craft, and the long road has ultimately led to Graham becoming a Jayhawk with designs on being a player who can have an immediate impact.
In a story written by Rustin Dodd of the Wichita Eagle, Graham’s circuitous path to Lawrence is discussed along with how much instability at the point has impacted Kansas in recent years. Included is a note on the concept on win shares, which are used to measure the impact a player has on how successful his team is.
The advanced metric of Win Shares, designed to measure one player’s total value to a team, does a pretty good job of illustrating Kansas’ deficiency at point guard. In the last two seasons, the eight point guards who played in the Final Four averaged 5.6 Win Shares per season. During the same span, Kansas starting point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe averaged just 2.8 Win Shares.
For two seasons, Bill Self’s teams have been a living, breathing embodiment of an old college basketball truism. You need elite guards to win in March. So when Graham sat down with Self in April, the Kansas coach made it clear:
“There would be an opportunity,” Graham says.
Graham will compete with Mason and Conner Frankamp for minutes at the point this season, and regardless of who wins the job the most important thing for Kansas is that they find a concrete solution. Graham’s skill level has been praised by scouts and coaches alike, and while he may not be rated as highly as some of Kansas’ other incoming freshmen (Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre chief among them) his position makes Graham one of the Jayhawks’ most important newcomers.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Syracuse vs. No. 18 UConn, 3:30 p.m.
For the first time since the Orange departed the Big East, the two former rivals will square off. Today’s battle will take place at the Battle 4 Atlantis, as the Orange knocked off Charlotte yesterday and the Huskies dispatched Michigan. To get ready for this battle, I’d suggest ready through the conversation @NoEscalators had with himself last night.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 25 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Gonzaga, 1:00 p.m.
The other semifinal in the Battle 4 Atlantis could end up being just as good, as the Aggies — who might be the second best team in the SEC — square off with a Gonzaga team that has one of the best front lines in the country. This will be a good test to figure out just how good both of these teams are.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
1. No. 20 Wichita State vs. USC, 2:00 p.m.: The Shockers will be without Fred VanVleet for this event. It will also be a chance for us to gauge just how good this 4-0 USC team is.
2. No. 23 Xavier vs. Alabama, 12:00 p.m: The Musketeers should have no problems dispatching Alabama.
3. No. 8 Villanova vs. Stanford, 4:30 p.m.: The Wildcats are, once again, as good as any team in the country. Josh Hart might be the nation’s most underrated star.
4. No. 14 Cal vs. San Diego State, 12:00 a.m.: Tyrone Wallace and company have been awesome this season. They get their first real test of the season tonight.
5. Providence vs. Evansville, 7:00 p.m.: Evansville is one of the nation’s best mid-majors, good enough to give the likes of Wichita State and Northern Iowa a fight in the Missouri Valley. And Providence? They got a kid named Kris Dunn. Heard of him?
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 3 Michigan State vs. Boston College, 6:30 p.m.
- No. 11 Arizona vs. Santa Clara, 11:30 p.m.
- No. 17 Notre Dame vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
No. 2 Maryland finally found their rhythm on Wednesday night, blowing out a good Rhode Island team, 86-63, in the finals of the Cancun Challenge.
Melo Trimble and Rasheed Sulaimon combined for 34 points and eight assists on 13-for-14 shooting and Robert Carter added 15 points, nine boards, three assists and three blocks. Peak Maryland, which is what we saw tonight, is really dangerous.
But Peak Maryland wasn’t the story after the game, as tempers flared in the waning minutes.
It started when Maryland coach Mark Turgeon called a timeout with less than two minutes remaining. Jake Layman had just hit a three to put Maryland up by 24 points and Turgeon wanted to get his walk-ons in the game. Hurley said to the Maryland bench, “We’ll see you again, boy,” according to Inside Maryland Sports, which prompted this reaction from Turgeon:
After the game, the two teams had to be separated in layup lines. According to reports from IMS and from the Baltimore Sun, Hurley was cursing at Maryland players as he was shaking their hands after the game. According Doug Gottlieb, who called the game for CBS Sports Network, Trimble said that the Rhode Island team wanted to “fight us”: