What a tournament! Everyone doubted this Kansas team all year long, including me, then they go out and not only win the regular season Big 12 title for the 14th straight year but also win the Big 12 Tournament, just to prove all the doubters wrong.
I will admit that when I heard the news about Udoka I doubted this team even more, I thought if they don’t have our best big guy then there is no way we win the conference tournament. But at the same time I did feel like since Udoka is out it would give our other two big some extra time to get ready for the big tournament, somy realistic goal was to play at least two games.
I really didn’t know what to expect, especially after about halfway through the first half of the Oklahoma State game, but then they put on quite a run to end the game in a comfortable fashion.
There were three key stats that jumped out to me that I feel is the reason Kansas won the Big 12 Tournament. Two of them were a little surprising to me while the third one was fairly expected because it came from our leader and Big 12 Player of the Year.
Devonte didn’t have a great scoring tournament until the second half of the championship game but he did average 10 assists per contest over the three games, including 13 in the championship game. With Graham leading the team in assists, it really opened the door for Malik Newman who exploded for 30 points against Oklahoma State. Malik averaged 24 points per game throughout the tournament and carried us to victory in the first two games earning him the Most Outstanding Player award.
The last thing was the most surprising to me, and probably the best thing that could have happened in this tournament. With Udoka out because of a sprained MCL, we really needed a big man to step up if we were going to win and that is exactly what happened. Silvio De Sousa grew up right before our eyes in three days. He showed that he wasn’t intimidated by a trash talking Konate, while going for a double- double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and even started the second half of the championship game.
The Big 12 Tournament really showed everyone who this team is. They were doubted this entire season and then doubted in the conference tournament after losing Udoka and they still came out on top.
Seeing the growth in Newman and De Sousa through this tournament gave me a lot of confidence in this team, and I believe that it will really help us take another step forward in the big dance. They have a lot of work to do but I feel like with every sports and news outlet continuing to doubt them that it will only help them and make them hungrier.
I have Final Four aspirations and I think every other KU fan does too. Let’s all hope that this is finally our year to get that Elite Eight monkey off of our back.