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The Jayhawks were already going to be loaded this season with Devonte Graham, a potential All-American, returning for his senior season and Udoka Azubuike healthy after missing last year due to injury along with Malik Newman becoming eligible after a transfer from Mississippi State and recruits Billy Preston and Marcus Garrett bolstering the ranks. The return of Mykhailiuk, though, only solidifies Kansas’ place not only atop the Big 12, but in the country.
Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 forward, had something of a breakthrough season as a junior, posting career highs nearly across the board, including shooting 39.8 percent on nearly five 3-point shot attempts per game. With his size and shooting ability, Mykhailiuk was sure to garner professional interest, even though it would have been more likely than not he would been drafted in the second round of next month’s draft.
Mykhailiuk’s situation is certainly a unique one for college basketball as the Ukraine native enrolled at Kansas in 2014 just after his 17th birthday. He won’t turn 20 until next month, making him the same age as many sophomores and more likely to be viewed by NBA teams in the future as having upside, rather than a typical 22- or 23-year-old senior who scouts look at as having come close to reaching their ceiling.
Mykhailiuk wasn’t going to be the linchpin of Kansas’ success next season, but his decision to return shouldn’t be underestimated. His size, experience, skill and versatility provide the Jayhawks with a real weapon that will help alleviate pressure and expectations from other players up and down the roster. He’s very much a difference-maker for a team that will be contending for a spot in the Final Four.
KU’s Josh Jackson pleads not guilty to misdemeanor
Kansas freshman forward Josh Jackson was in court on Wednesday, pleading not guilty to criminal property damage stemming from an incident outside a Lawrence bar back in December.
Jackson was charged with misdemeanor criminal damage in late February for damages he allegedly caused to the vehicle of a Kansas women’s basketball player. According to the affidavit, McKenzie Calvert had thrown a drink into the face of KU guard Legerald Vick, her ex-boyfriend. This led to Jackson following her outside where witnesses told authorities that Jackson damaged a tail light and door of Calvert’s car. The estimated cost of repair exceeded $1,100.
According to Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star, Jackson is due back in court on May 24. That is the same date as the deadline for entry in the 2017 NBA Draft. Jackson, a projected top-3 pick, has not announced his decision to either go pro or return to Kansas for his sophomore season.
Jackson’s attorney is expected to file for diversion, which is a rehabilitation program for a criminal offender. Completion of this deal would mean Jackson would avoid conviction and a criminal record.
Kansas freshman Udoka Azubuike remains on the road to recovery.
The 7-footer had surgery Tuesday to remove the screw from the injured wrist that sidelined him for his first season in Lawrence, Jayhawks coach Bill Self told the Lawrence Journal-World.
“He’s gonna be very limited the next couple weeks,” Self said. “But then he’ll be right back into full rehab.
“He’s been doing all kinds of rehab with his wrist and he’s been doing basketball activity, but just non-contact. We don’t expect him to have contact until June, but all indications are that he is right on schedule.
“He’s gotta take a couple weeks off from doing that stuff to allow the sutures to heal and that kind of stuff. After that, then he’s back on and we’ll become more aggressive with his rehab, but he’s still non-contact until June.”
Azubuike played in 11 games, starting six, last season before damaging his wrist in practice in December and shutting down his season, watching from the bench as the Jayhawks won their 13th-straight Big 12 regular season title and advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to Oregon.
He averaged 5.0 points and 4.4 rebounds in just under 13 minutes per game in his abbreviated freshman season. A healthy Azubuike, a top-50 player in the 2016 class, figures to have a major role this upcoming season for the Jayhawks, who will once again be favored to win the Big 12 and compete for a national title in 2017-18.
March Madness 2017: Big 12 Tournament Preview, Bracket and Conference Postseason Awards
Big 12 Player of the Year: Frank Mason III, Kansas
Mason’s play this season makes him the no-brainer conference player of the year and perhaps the frontrunner for the national award. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 5.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 48.8 percent from the field and a sizzling 49.3 percent from 3-point range for the potential No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Big 12 Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
There was a temptation to reward Brad Underwood for Oklahoma State’s turnaround, but it’s impossible not to recognize Self leading his program not only to a 13th-straight conference title, but doing it by four games in the country’s toughest league. Kansas may have the top talent in the league year in and year out, but Self’s presence on the sideline guarantees it comes together year in and year out. This season was no exception.
First-Team All-Big 12:
Frank Mason III, Kansas (POY)
Monte Morris, Iowa State: The nation’s leader in assist-to-turnover ratio is as consistent an elite presence on the floor as there is in the country.
Jawun Evans, Oklahoma State: The most dynamic and important piece of the country’s best offense, Evans averaged 18.7 points per game.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: Mason is Kansas’ MVP, but Jackson is the Jayhawks’ most difficult matchup and is a likely top-five NBA draft pick.
Johnathan Motley, Baylor: The big man doubled his rebounding output this season to average a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The thought was coming into the year that the Big 12 would be down this season, but for the fourth-straight year it ranked as the country’s best conference by KenPom. Another thing that didn’t change was Kansas winning the league, making it 13 in a row for the Jayhawks. The league isn’t going to send a huge number to the NCAA tournament this season, but make no mistake, the conference’s round-robin schedule was a grind, making it all the more impressive Kansas cleared the league by four games.
The Jayhawks are clearly the class of the Big 12, winning the conference by its largest margin since 2010. Kansas isn’t invulnerable at the Sprint Center, as the rest of the league has more than enough firepower to threaten them, but there’s no argument that makes anyone else the favorite.
And if they lose?: West Virginia
The Mountaineers should have swept Kansas this year. They rocked them in Morgantown, but blew a late lead in spectacular fashion in Lawrence later in the season. Their Press Virginia style seems to seriously bother the Jayhawks, and it could make for a raucous title game.
Baylor: The Bears went 2-4 against the top-four of the conference, but their length and the talent of Johnathan Motley makes them an intriguing matchup
Iowa State: The Cyclones have won six of their last seven and three members of their core — Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long and Matt Thomas — who have won two Big 12 tournament titles in their career. They’ve also have claimed wins against each of the other top teams in the league this year.
Sleeper: Oklahoma State
The Cowboys opened the Big 12 slate with six-straight losses, but then won nine of 10 before ending the season with losses to Iowa State and Kansas. Their defense is porous, but their top-ranked KenPom offense, led by point guard Jawun Evans, makes them a legitimate threat to reel off three wins in three days.
The Bubble Dwellers: One
Kansas State: Most projections have the Wildcats just on the bad side of the field of 68 line, which means they’ll probably have to score a win against Baylor in the quarterfinals to move the needle. Depending on what happens around the rest of the country, that one more win could be enough to earn a berth.
Defining moment of the season: Kansas erasing a 14-point deficit in the final three minutes at home against West Virginia. This is Peak Phog Allen.
CBT Prediction: Kansas
No. 1 Kansas rallies to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Senior Night
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Frank Mason III scored 23 points in his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, Devonte Graham hit a series of crucial 3-pointers in the second half and top-ranked Kansas rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Oklahoma 73-63 on Monday night.
Graham finished with 16 points and Josh Jackson had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Big 12 champion Jayhawks (27-3, 15-2), who trailed 54-42 before finishing the game on a 31-11 run.
The Sooners (10-19, 4-13) were poised to spring a big upset on the day the Jayhawks ascended to No. 1 for the first time this season. But after they took their biggest lead with just over 10 minutes to go, Mason got the comeback started with a nifty basket inside.
He added a steal moments later to set up Lagerald Vick’s 3-pointer, and Jackson scored before Graham hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc. And when Mason added another basket moments later, the Jayhawks had put together a 17-2 charge that gave them a 64-58 lead with about 5 minutes left.
Kansas slowly drew away to make senior night memorable for Mason, big man Landen Lucas and reserve guard Tyler Self, whose father – Kansas coach Bill Self – called him “my favorite Jayhawk of all time.”