As the Kansas Jayhawks prepare for their Sweet 16 matchup against No. 5 Clemson, is it fair to ask if the Jayhawks’ depth problems have solved themselves with Udoka Azubuike’s return to the lineup?
Four players for Kansas reached double-figure scoring marks in their second round victory over Seton Hall, led by Malik Newman’s 28 points.
That contest featured Azubuike’s first significant action since he missed the entire Big 12 Tournament with an MCL injury. He dropped 10 points and pulled down 7 rebounds off the bench and was credited by Bill Self as the driving force in the four-point win.
“If Udoka wasn’t able to come back from his injury, we don’t win,” Self said after the game.
Kansas’ primary posts behind Azubuike — Mitch Lightfoot and Silvio De Sousa — got valuable minutes in Azubuike’s absence.
Lightfoot started at the five-spot. His best performance came in the first round against Penn, when he had 9 points and 11 rebounds.
It was De Sousa’s growth, particularly in the Big 12 Tournament, that bolstered the Jayhawks’ depth.
Against West Virginia in the Big 12 championship game, the midseason roster addition scored 16 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting. He also had 10 rebounds for a double-double.
“Silvio was fabulous — I mean, fabulous,” Self said after that title win. “He doesn’t know what he’s doing at all, but he showed everybody he can catch lobs, he can rebound and he can compete.”
De Sousa is arguably the most athletic big on the Jayhawks’ roster. Lightfoot is the energy guy, while Azubuike is the most talented. The trio at full strength can be a dominating force inside.
Even Self believes that the Jayhawks are the healthiest they’ve been in a while.
— Matt Tait (@mctait) March 22, 2018
Spreading the offense
Reinforcements in the paint take pressure off of the Kansas guards — Devonte’ Graham, Newman, Svi Mykhailiuk. As does the posts’ efficiency.
When Newman can nearly score 30, Graham can notch a double-double and Mykhailiuk can drop three-to-four 3-pointers, Kansas is nearly unbeatable when their posts are adding 20 points on 10-to-12 shots.
Clemson’s defense is one of the most vaunted in the country. The Tigers rank 23rd nationally in scoring defense (65.5) and 15th in opponent shooting percentage (40.4).
However, Clemson’s biggest weakness on defense is perhaps Kansas’ biggest strength. Clemson only ranks 167th in opponent 3-point percentage (34.9) while the Jayhawks are the ninth-best shooting team from behind the arc (40.3 percent).
Kansas has also buried at least seven 3-pointers in all but three of its wins this year.
Hot shooting is hard to stop, and Clemson already is behind the eight ball in that department.
No style points
Kansas’ two wins in the NCAA Tournament haven’t been the prettiest. No. 16 seed Penn led by double digits in the first half and Seton Hall gave the Jayhawks all they could handle.
That’s been no concern of Self, though.
“Well, I think in the NCAA Tournament you don’t worry as much if you played well or if you played poor,” Self said, per the Associated Press. “You worry more about, ‘Did we advance?’ And I think that’s all we did is we advanced.”
The post Is Kansas at its most complete heading into the Sweet 16? appeared first on Diehards.
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