Kansas Jayhawks: Point Guard Play Key to Success


Dec 10, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) passes the ball as Georgetown Hoyas center Joshua Smith (24) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Kansas Jayhawks are well on their way to an 11th straight Big 12 Conference regular season title.

One could point to many factors why the Jayhawks have been successful this season.

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They lead the league in 3-point percentage, and are top four in the conference in rebounding, scoring, and shooting and free-throw percentage.

However, one key factor to this year’s squad has been the play of the team’s point guards, Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham.

It’s no secret the Jayhawks haven’t exactly had solid play from the position since as far back as Sherron Collins‘ senior year in 2010.

Sure, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson and even Naadir Tharpe had flashes of brilliance, but none were as consistent as Collins as an upperclassman, or even Russell Robinson during the 2008 National Championship run.

Enter Mason and Graham.

The duo, led by Mason, has been extremely consistent this season. It’s a big reason why turnovers have been down, the team is third in the conference in assists per game (14.4), and in the top 20 percent in the country.

Mason leads the team with 4.4 APG, which is third in the Big 12, and has a better than 2/1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Graham has been stellar in 11 games since coming back from a toe injury, totaling 31 assists to just six turnovers. He has only recorded a turnover in four of the 11 games.

The freshman has certainly played like one at times, but the fact this team has a backup point guard it can rely on, puts it miles ahead of the past few years when the Jayhawks didn’t even have a consistent starter at the position.

The past five games, that have seen the Jayhawks go 4-1, have shown the importance of consistent play from the number one position.

Graham has totaled just eight points during that stretch, but he has more assists (11), and just three turnovers.

Mason on the other hand is averaging just 9.4 points per game during that time, and was held under 10 for the first time in 21 games in Saturday’s victory over Baylor.

However, he has been finding teammates at a higher rate of six APG, and had exactly eight in the past two games, and three of the past four.

A double-digit scoring streak is really something that means more to fans and media than coaches, and head coach Bill Self has to be happy that his point guard is doing what point guards are supposed to do best — find the open man.

During the victory against Baylor, CBS announcer Doug Gottlieb, an accomplished Big 12 point guard in his own right, said Mason should be one of the last options for shooting a 3-pointer, despite knocking them down at an impressive rate of 43 percent.

He was right.

The Jayhawks lead the conference in 3-pointers, but have Brannen Greene (.500), Selden (.423), and even Oubre (.380) who can take care of shots behind the arc.

The Jayhawks need Mason and Graham slashing to the hoop and distributing the ball to those guys who can take care of putting up the points.

That is exactly what happened against Baylor, as Oubre hit two threes, and Selden one, during a 9-0 run that trimmed a 26-14 deficit, to 26-23.

It ended up being a turning point in the game, and Mason assisted on two of those makes.

The Jayhawks can win without Mason scoring.

His two highest scoring games of the season, on the road at Iowa St. (21) and Temple (20), were both losses. In the team’s four defeats, he has tallied just nine assists, while averaging nearly three PPG more than his season average.

In other words Frank, keep passing the ball.

I’m sure your teammates won’t mind.

Next: Kansas Jayhawks: Naming the All-Bill Self KU Teams

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