According to USA Basketball head coach Bill Self, point guard Frank Mason has been playing with a sore wrist since the exhibition games several weeks ago against Canada in Kansas City.
“Frank is a competitor,” Kansas coach Bill Self told Bobby Nightengale for the Lawrence Journal-World. “You guys may not know this, but he nicked his wrist up pretty good in Kansas City. He doesn’t have confidence shooting the ball right now. The ball is not going into the hole. I don’t know if he’s made a three since we’ve been here, if I’m not mistaken. It’s because of his wrist. It’s just sore. But hopefully another day off will get him closer to healthy because he’s so good with the ball.”
Through the first two games — wins over Turkey and Brazil — Mason was shooting 6-of-19 from the field (0-for-7 from three). He got hot during USA’s 106-41 thrashing over Chile, scoring a game-high 23 points, knocking down 67 percent of his attempts. However, even after his best scoring output of the tournament, he was still bugged by the injury.
“Just a little,” Mason told Nightengale. “It’s really the same. That last shot before the first half (ended), I fell on it again. So it’s kind of sore still.”
Kansas continues Group D pool play against Serbia on Tuesday night at 11 p.m. EST.
Kansas defeated Canada, 87-76, on Friday night at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, serving as the team’s final exhibition game before the Jayhawks travel to South Korea for the 2015 World University Games.
Wayne Selden finished with a double-double of 22 points and 10 boards. Frank Mason added 15 points and dished 11 assists while committing just two turnovers.
Kansas, representing the USA in the global event, defeated Canada in an exhibition game earlier this week at the Sprint Center. In both games, the Jayhawks fell behind by double-digits.
“It was a lot like last game,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said following Friday night’s game. “I think we got down like eight or nine points in the last game (10) and 10 points tonight. Our starters looked great, if you were to look at our point differential from our starters compared to our subs, I bet our starters were plus 25 or 30 and our reserves didn’t play as well tonight until Hunter [Mickelson] sparked us and Carlton [Bragg, Jr.] did some things there late. I thought it was a pretty good game, Wayne [Selden, Jr.] player great. Perry [Ellis] was good. Frank [Mason III] was really good again. Nic [Moore] was good. We need those four to play and we need everyone else to be solid and we will have a chance to maybe win a few games over there.”
The 2015 World University Games begin July 3 in Gwangju, South Korea. The first game for Kansas will be against Turkey on July 4.
The roster includes SMU’s Nic Moore and Florida Gulf Coast’s Julian DeBose.
Kansas, ranked No. 5 in the preseason rankings, welcomed in one of the top Alan Williams and UC Santa Barbara — one of the top mid-major programs in the nation — to Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, and pulled out a 69-59 win.
The Gauchos had kept it close in the first half, and a 10-0 run in the opening minutes of the second half cut the Jayhawks lead to 39-37. But for a five-minute stretch, the trio of Frank Mason, Cliff Alexander and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk scored KU’s 19 points to extend the lead to 15. UC Santa Barbara would get it to 10 on multiple occasions, but could never crack through and cut the deficit to single digits.
Bill Self did not start any of his heralded freshmen, but Devonte Graham led all Jayhawks with 14 points. Graham, the former Appalachian State signee who fought all of last winter to get his release, was the spark late in the first half. After being hit with his second foul, Graham returned to the game and behind the freshman floor general, KU went on a 10-0 run, which led to a 31-23 halftime lead.
Williams, the 6-foot-8 senior, recorded 16 double-doubles last season, ended with game-highs in points (22) and rebounds (13) to go along with four blocks.
Kansas now sets its sights on top-ranked Kentucky in Tuesday night’s Champion Classic in Indianapolis. UC Santa Barbara plays one of the best mid-major non-conference games of the year on Monday night at Florida Gulf Coast.
As is the case with the debate as to who the best player in college basketball, the question of who the most important players in college basketball can result in a variety of answers. A lot of attention in basketball is given to the point guard position, especially in March, but the truth is that the answer ultimately varies from team to team. Below are some of the most important players in college basketball heading into the 2014-15 season.
1. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky: He’s one of two point guards on the Kentucky roster with freshman Tyler Ulis being the other. Harrison has the experience of not only reaching the national title game but also dealing with the hype that annually surrounds the Kentucky program. Those experiences and his improvement skill-wise will be of great importance to Kentucky in 2014-15.
2. T.J. McConnell, Arizona: On the court there won’t be much of a change in McConnell’s role, as he’ll once again run the point for the Wildcats. The key here: leadership. Arizona lost a great leader in Pac-12 Player of the Year Nick Johnson, so someone has to step forward and fill that void. McConnell may be the best option at this point in time.
3. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: Harrell averaged 14.0 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season, and he’s expected to be an even greater force for the Cardinals in their first season as a member of the ACC. And his progress is critical, because even though the Cardinals have depth in the front court there isn’t a lot of experience beyond Harrell.
4. Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State: After being a reserve on a team that reached the Final Four in 2013, Van Vleet took the big step forward many expected him to as a sophomore. Van Vleet averaged 11.6 points, 5.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game last season in helping lead the Shockers to 35 straight wins, and he’ll once again run the show in 2014-15.
5. Jahlil Okafor, Duke: One of Duke’s issues last season was the lack of a presence in the middle that opponents had to respect offensively, much less one they had to fear. Okafor, CBT’s pick for preseason National Player of the Year, will take care of that concern and open things up for Duke’s other scoring options in the process.
6. Frank Mason, Kansas : In recent years consistency has been an issue for Bill Self’s point guards, and while the Jayhawks have continued to rule the Big 12 they’ve had some issues in March. Can Mason step forward and change that? The hope in Lawrence is that he can, with freshman Devonte Graham also due to see time at the position.
7. Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Whatever North Carolina needed on the perimeter Paige did it last season, leading the team in scoring and assists. Roy Williams has more perimeter options at his disposal this season, but Paige will still be the man the Tar Heels look to for production and leadership.
8. Georges Niang, Iowa State: Niang’s changed his body since the end of last season, and with Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane gone he’ll be asked to lead the way for the reigning Big 12 tournament champions.
9. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: It goes without saying that Dekker was a key player for the Badgers last season, averaging 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. And with leading three-point shooter Ben Brust moving on, Dekker’s success in improving as a perimeter shooter (32.9% 3PT last season) will be a key for Wisconsin as they look to return to the Final Four.
10. Siyani Chambers, Harvard: In each of the last two seasons Chambers has helped lead Harvard to wins in the NCAA tournament. That’s one way in which to measure his value to the Crimson ahead of the 2014-15 season, but here’s another: where does Harvard turn at the point should he suffer an injury? Harvard doesn’t have much depth at the position, which makes Chambers an even more important player as they look to make a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
FIVE MORE NAMES TO KNOW
1. Kaleb Joseph, Syracuse
2. Nic Moore, SMU
3. Ryan Boatright, UConn
4. Delon Wright, Utah
5. Isaiah Taylor, Texas
On the surface, Kansas once again looks like a team that will be the favorite to win the Big 12 regular season title and will have to horses to make a run at a Final Four and head coach Bill Self’s second national title.
That’s what happens when you stockpile talent the way Kansas does.
Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are talented enough that few would be surprised if their time in Lawrence is limited to one season. One of the biggest reasons that Wayne Selden is back for his sophomore year is that a bum knee kept him from playing up to his potential. Perry Ellis will put up enough numbers to make a run at being the Big 12 Player of the Year, while the likes of Brannen Greene and Svi Mikhailiuk will likely be relegated to the bench despite having NBA potential in their own right.
But as has been the case every season since Sherron Collins left the program, the biggest question mark — and perhaps the determining factor for success this year — the Jayhawks will have this season is at the point guard spot.
Naadir Tharpe is gone. Sophomores Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp both return and Self brings in talented freshman Devonte’ Graham, which means that Self will have plenty of options.
“We’re probably the deepest we’ve been at point. Last year, I kind of screwed it up and didn’t play Frank there as much as I should have,” the Kansas head coach told reporters on Monday. “He played point, but I probably didn’t put enough on him to get him ready as quickly as he needed to. But certainly with Frank, and Conner can play some point, but Devonte’ Graham’s good. He’s a good player. You could see two of those three playing together a lot.”
But here is where it gets interesting: Not only does Self talk about playing two point guards at the same time, he also mentions that using a four-guard lineup with a pair of his big wings — 6-foot-8 Myhailiuk, 6-foot-7 Oubre and 6-foot-5 Selden — on the floor at the same time is a possibility.
“Your deepest position is wing, so I could see one of our wings being a 4-man and playing real small, which I think would be really hard to guard,” he said.
“I don’t want to play a point guard any more,” Self said. “[…] I want to play, ‘You play three guards, and whoever gets it, brings it.’ That’s how we’ve always had our best teams.”
“I want Wayne (Selden) to be able to play point. I want Frank (Mason), I want Conner, I want Devonte’ (Graham), I want Svi (Mykhailiuk) when he gets here … I want all these guys to be able to be a guy that can get it and bring it so we’re playing a bunch of combo guards that can all play point as opposed to just playing a point guard.”
“But up until the last 5-7 minutes, I hope we have three point guards out there playing at once,” Self said, “or at least the appearance of three.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I might be reading a bit too much into the kind of coach speak that happens during the summer, but remember this: Kansas has some talent up front, but they’re not all that big. Cliff Alexander and Perry Ellis are both about 6-foot-8, and while Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson provide more bulk up front, they aren’t quite as good as Ellis or Alexander.
And keep this in mind as well: the best team in the country, Kentucky, has a massive front line. Arizona is going to be really big up front as well. Texas, the second-best team in the Big 12, will also have plenty of big bodies this season.
If the Jayhawks are already going to be at a size disadvantage against some of the best teams in the country, wouldn’t it make sense to use a four-guard attack?
On February 1 in Austin, Texas No. 8 Kansas didn’t play its best basketball, falling to the Longhorns 81-69 in a game they trailed by as much as 20 early in the second half. The Jayhawks shot just 38.5% from the field as a team and Andrew Wiggins struggled, making just two of his 12 shot attempts. The rematch offered both the Jayhawks as a team and Wiggins individually a shot at redemption, and Bill Self’s team took advantage.
No. 19 Texas may have led 8-5 at the first media timeout but from there it was all Kansas, with the Jayhawks rolling to an 85-54 victory. Kansas was very efficient on offense and they were tough defensively, limiting the Longhorns to 34% shooting on the night. The win puts Kansas three games up on their closest challenger in the Big 12, which in all likelihood means that they’ll win their tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
Kansas went from down three to up 28 by the end of the first half, shooting 63% from the field with Wiggins serving as the catalyst. Wiggins was assertive offensively and it paid off, as he shot 5-for-7 from the field and scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half. As a team Kansas scored 1.39 points per possession in the first half, and given the amount of talent at Bill Self’s disposal they aren’t losing when performing that well offensively.
The contributions came from many players, with reserves Frank Mason and Tarik Black combining to score 23 points off the bench. Mason made six of his seven shots and scored 14 points, and with Naadir Tharpe (five assists) shooting 1-for-9 from the field those points were important. As for Black, his emphatic dunk provided two of the nine points he scored while also grabbing five rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
Given the issues he’s had with foul trouble throughout his career Black won’t be a 30 minute per game player, and given the presence of Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid (13 points, seven rebounds and six blocks) that’s fine. But the senior needs to be productive when on the floor if Kansas is to make a run at a national title, and he was against Texas.
With the number of young players in the rotation there’s still progress to be made in Lawrence. And their two games at Texas are a prime example of what can happen when things click for this group. In the first meeting there were issues on both ends of the floor, especially in regards to the quality of shots they were taking. There were no such problems in the rematch, and the Jayhawks rolled as a result.