Can you believe that the non conference portion of the schedule is already over!? There have already been a couple ups and downs from the first half of the season, so I researched a few stats for you and gave my review of how I believe that each player faired.
Devonte Graham- 34.7 MIN, 16.8 PPG, 7.6 APG, .868 FT%- Devonte has had a good start to the season and I believe that he has had a better start than most fans are actually giving him credit for. Unfortunately, he has two things really working against him, the first being that he is a streaky good shooter. When he gets going he can hit from almost anywhere on the floor and it shows with a .447 three point percentage on the year, but when he is cold he can’t hit the broad side of a barn and it seems that he can never pull himself out of it during the game. The second thing that is really working against him and unlike the first thing, this one he can’t really help and that is that HE IS NOT FRANK MASON. As much as you, me, and the next person want him to be, he is not and will never be Frank and as a fan base we really need to stop holding that against him. Devonte is second on the team in points per game, first in minutes per game, third in three point percentage for anyone that has shot over ten, and first in assists per game by almost four dimes per contest. All of those stats together go to show that he really has been an all around good player so far and for the most part has done what has been asked of him. But, there are a few other statistics that I would really like to point out and the first one is the turnovers per game, he is also first on the team with 2.6 per contest which is .8 more than his closest teammate. He has made some really boneheaded passes and plays that have resulted in turnovers and I believe that his is his biggest area that he needs to improve in during conference play. The second statistic is that he’s second on the team in free throw percentage at 87% and the only person that he is behind is Malik Newman which has shot 27 less free throws. The last thing is that he has only shot 38 free throws all year and the worst part of this stat is that he leads the team by 13! 13!! Not only does Devonte need to find a way to get to the line much more often, especially considering that he is shooting such a high percentage when he gets there but so does this entire team. Overall I have liked the first half of his season, though he needs to improve on a few things he is the engine that makes this whole thing run. NCAA tournament success and getting to 14 straight lay directing on this senior’s shoulders.
Malik Newman- 29.5 MIN, 10.4 PPG, 4.8 RBG, 1.000 FT%- Malik, Malik, Malik. This kid has been a real head scratcher for me and probably the most frustrating player that I have watched on a Kansas team for at least a couple seasons. All I heard last year and all off season is about how good Malik is and how much he is going to really contribute to this team but I have failed to see much of that this year so far. Other than driving in the lane to get his lay-up blocked and making me have flash backs to the Kentucky game a few years ago, he hasn’t done much for me. Malik is shooting 100% from the free throw line but yet he has only been to there 11 times, and by my calculation he has been in the lane and been swatted around 85 times (inflated, dramatic number). Now he has done several things right and most of his numbers on the year aren’t bad, so to be fair my expectations were more my fault than his. I fully expected him and Devonte to be just like Frank and Devonte from last year but that just hasn’t happened and it won’t happen, so all of us need to tone down our expectations, myself included. Malik is not a bad basketball player by any stretch of the imagination but there are just several things at this point that frustrate me about how he played during the first half of the year. I do hope that he continues to learn and get better through conference play but we all know that Big 12 play is a completely different beast.
Lagerald Vick- 33.2 MIN, 17.1 PPG, 6.6 RPG, .561 FG%- Lagerald has had as good of a start as anyone on this years team but I can’t really say that I am all that surprised. I actually expected this type of season
out of Lagerald last year so the fact that he is playing like this so far is very encouraging. He is currently first on the team in PPG with 17.1 and second in RPG with 6.6 so to say that he has had anything less than a great start to his junior campaign might be foolish. He has shown everyone his freak jumping ability with some of his high flying alley oops (see picture) and now that I am looking closer at his stats I believe that it shows a little bit in his rebounds per game. There really isn’t a whole lot more that I could have asked him to do during the first half of the season and judging by the minutes per game, (2nd) I don’t think Coach Self could have either. His game is no where near complete and I do believe that he will continue to round out his game as the year goes on, but overall has had a great start and lets hope that he can keep delivering highlight dunks for us to see later on Sportscenter.
Sviatoslav Mykhailuk- 32.5 MIN, 16.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, .447 3PT%- Which Svi are we going to get on which day? Svi continues to be very inconsistent and a spotty shooter, so it’s always a toss up on which side of him will show up gameday. Yes, I know that he had the game winner against Nebraska but other than that shot he had a very subpar game. He has shown flashes during the first half of the season of that player that we were told about the past three years and every time I see it I think “FINALLY!” Then he throws up a couple bricks in a row or turns the ball over in consecutive trips down the floor and all I can do is shake my head. But, I will say that after looking at the stats I am actually a little bit surprised that he only averages 1.6 turnovers per game because I feel like he has been so inconsistent with the ball in his hands, maybe he just turns the ball over at terrible times during the game, I’m not sure. Even with all of the inconsistency that I have seen from him so far there are few things that have impressed me. He has been consistently more aggressive this year than in years past with his drives to the basket for those good looking left handed lay-ups and with that clutch three pointer in the Nebraska game gave me some hope. But, I unfortunately believe that he will end his career as one of those players that were always over hyped and over rated, but for his last year we just need him to be the perfect role player.
Udoka Azubuike- 25 MIN, 15.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, .779 FG%- Udoka has had a decent start to the season but I am not bowing down to his numbers or field goal percentage yet. Why? Because other than just a few games, he has played against kids that are significantly smaller than him. Let’s wait until February before we go praising that field goal percentage number. Now don’t get me wrong, I think that he has been good, just not great. He is a giant and if he continues to learn how to stop fouling he could have a heck of a season, especially with the help that he has coming his way. Like Lagerald, he has done about everything we could have asked of him up to this point, especially with being the lone big man that is eligible to play. I believe that he can still play bigger than what he has played and keep working on his touch with those little bunny hooks but I know that usually comes with time. As long as he can stay out of foul trouble and we get someone else in there that can help him, I think that Udoka is the biggest piece to this championship puzzle.
As for the reserves, Marcus Garrett has shown that his role on this team is to lock down the other team’s best perimeter player, but should probably hold off on firing up too many three balls yet (20%). Mitch Lightfoot has one more block than his bigger, taller counter-part in 126 less minutes but still looks lost and over-matched most of the time. Sam Cunliffe has only played sparingly through his first 3 games of eligibility but appears to have the athleticism that was often talked about during the off-season. And last but absolutely not least, Clay Young, CLAY FREAKING YOUNG! I don’t really care what any one else says about this kid but he was our savior to the beginning of this season. He played clutch minutes while our other two bigs were in foul trouble and is the number one reason why we are 10-2 instead of 8-4.
Overall I think this team did about what was expected of them. You can’t expect a team that lost the National Player of the Year in Frank Mason, along with Josh Jackson and redshirt senior Landen Lucas to come out much stronger, right? This team sure has a long ways to go and if three point shooting goes cold down the stretch I’ll be really worried. Cheers to Big 12 play starting on Friday, 14 straight, and for the big man help being better than expected!