Kansas’ dual point guard attack is paying major dividends.
Having two capable floor generals on the floor instead of one is generally a more efficient way to manufacture good offense and that’s just what’s happened for the Jayhawks through nine games this season.
Bill Self’s decision to play both Frank Mason and Devonte Graham at the same time has given Kansas another breakdown guy on the floor to get into the teeth of the defense while also providing a way to get Wayne Selden more time primarily on the wing.
The results are undeniable.
Through nine games the Jayhawks are averaging 90.0 points after averaging 71.0 points last season during non-conference play. During that span Mason and Graham have a combined 84 assists to just 19 turnovers.
He’s currently playing the best basketball of his career, averaging 16.6 points while shooting 57.5 percent from the field and 60.0 percent from 3-point range.
Another thing that happens when Kansas plays this duo together?
The Jayhawks now have the luxury of pressuring opposing guards more and funneling them inside to guys like Cheick Diallo and Hunter Mickelson at the rim.
It’s hard to argue with the early results for Kansas (8-1).
Northwestern is a storyline to track moving forward
The bottom seven teams in the Big Ten have a combined record of 39-33 and the rebuilding situations at both Ohio State and Wisconsin have opened the door for someone else to emerge.
Could that be the Wildcats?
Time will tell, but anytime a program that’s never reached the NCAA Tournament possesses a puncher’s chance to make history it makes things intriguing.
Northwestern is currently 9-1 heading into Tuesday’s game against Mississippi Valley State and has three more winnable games (at DePaul, Sacred Heart, Loyola) prior to beginning Big Ten play at Nebraska on Dec. 30.
Chris Collins doesn’t perhaps have as good of a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament as he would have if sophomore wing Vic Law wasn’t lost for the season due to a shoulder injury, but the former Duke shooting guard has proven in two years and change as a head coach that he’s comfortable switching styles.
Collins has the Big Ten’s most underrated back court in Bryant McIntosh and Tre Demps, a few quality role players, and a team that’s shooting 40.2 percent from 3-point range.
The Wildcats haven’t beaten anyone of major substance yet, but they have a legitimate chance to enter their league at 12-1 in a year in which the middle of the conference has gotten closer to the bottom.
It will be real interesting to see how this all plays out in Evanston over the next few months.
The Big East has risen nationally
Any new version of a conference is going to be dissected until it has several teams play deep into the NCAA Tournament, but the Big East has really elevated its perception over the first month of the season.
This league’s 10 teams have a combined 77-20 record as of today and the conference currently has five teams — Villanova, Xavier, Butler, Georgetown and Providence — that all resemble the fabric of a program that could advance in the NCAA Tournament.
Meanwhile Marquette, Seton Hall and Creighton all appear to be postseason teams and St. John’s — the team picked to finish last in the conference — upset Syracuse on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
Has the new version of the Big East arrived from a national perspective?
It certainly feels like it.
This Just In
• Oregon’s Tyler Dorsey (knee) and Dwayne Benjamin (ankle) are both doubtful for Tuesday’s game against UC Irvine, Dana Altman told CBS Sports.
• Wake Forest’s Codi Miller-McIntyre (foot) will make his season debut against UNC-Greensboro on Tuesday, Danny Manning told CBS Sports.
• SMU’s Semi Ojeleye will redshirt during the upcoming season, sources told CBS Sports. He will have two years of eligibility remaining.
• UCLA’s G.G. Goloman (stress fracture) hopes to return by the start of Pac-12 play, Steve Alford told CBS Sports on Tuesday morning. Goloman was starting up front for the Bruins prior to injury.
This and That
• The light appears to be going on for Diamond Stone. Maryland’s 7-foot freshman is averaging 14.7 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 53.0 percent from the field in his last three games. If Stone continues to emerge, the Terps are going to be even tougher to handle in Big Ten play on the low block. Mark Turgeon’s squad is currently 9-1 overall.
• Washington’s Andrew Andrews is quietly having a season for the ages. The fifth-year point guard is averaging 21.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists for the 7-2 Huskies. The most underrated thing about Andrews’ game? How adept he is at getting to the foul line. Andrews has attempted 88 free throws in Washington’s first nine games.
• Syracuse is 1-3 in its last four games after winning the prestigious Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas. The main reason for the Orange’s struggles? They’re shooting 33-of-107 from 3-point range since returning to the states. Live by the bomb — die by the bomb.
• Seton Hall’s Desi Rodriguez is quietly one of the more improved players in the Big East. The 6-6 forward averaged 5.6 points last season as a freshman while making just one 3-point shot during all of last year. Now as a sophomore he’s a completely different player. Rodriguez is now averaging 12.3 points through the Pirates’ first 10 games while shooting 13-29 from long distance during that span. Kevin Willard’s team next hosts Wichita State on Saturday in Newark.
• Oregon has a dangerous game Tuesday in Eugene against Big West favorite UC Irvine. The Anteaters are currently 7-3 and are coming off an impressive road victory over Utah State in Logan. This is the type of team that looks like a scary 13 or 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine narrowly missed pulling an upset of Louisville last March in the Round of 64.
• Pitt’s James Robinson is FDIC insured. The Panthers’ senior point guard has logged 244 minutes this season and only committed five turnovers — that’s insane. Jamie Dixon’s team is 8-1 and has an interesting game looming against Davidson on Sunday at Madison Square Garden.
• Providence freshman Drew Edwards made the most out of his opportunity on Saturday against Bryant. The 6-3 guard had only played a total of 58 minutes in the Friars’ first 10 games, but was pressed into extended action do to injuries and came off the bench to score 17 points in 29 minutes against the Bulldogs. Ed Cooley’s team is currently 10-1 overall.
• Tad Boyle has quietly led Colorado to eight consecutive wins after an opening night loss to Iowa State on a neutral floor. The Buffaloes have an All-Pac-12 first-team player in big man Josh Scott (18.7 points, 9.8 rebounds) and two capable wings in George King and Josh Fortune. It will be interesting to see if this team can match up with SMU next week in the Las Vegas Classic.
• Houston’s Rob Gray looks nothing like a college basketball from a physical perspective. At 6-2 and 190 pounds Gray doesn’t boast great size or game changing speed, but man can he score. The JUCO import has been the Cougars’ most valuable newcomer and will give Kelvin Sampson’s team a chance to finish in the top-four of the American Conference. Gray had 31 points in Sunday’s win over LSU and is averaging 19.6 points while shooting 49.5 percent and 40.9 percent from 3-point range. Houston is 6-1 overall.
• A note to all college basketball players: it makes absolutely no sense to transfer in the middle of your second year because you’re only left with a season and a half of eligibility. If you wait until the end of your second year to transfer, you’ll have two seasons of full eligibility after sitting out a year per NCAA rules.