KU Blasts Emporia State 104-62 in Easy Victory

Mar 26, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) reacts after making a three pointer during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats in the south regional final of the NCAA Tournament at KFC YUM!. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Kansas Jayhawks guard Frank Mason III (0) reacts after making a three pointer during the second half against the Villanova Wildcats in the south regional final of the NCAA Tournament at KFC YUM!. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

After a sloppy first exhibition game against Washburn, Kansas basketball returned to form against Emporia State, winning 104-62. Did we learn anything about Kansas basketball?

KU’s backcourt might be even better than we thought.

How could this be the case? Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, and Josh Jackson were always thought to be the best in the nation. However, in the exhibition games, the depth of the backcourt has really stood out. Lagerald Vick could be the breakout star for Kansas basketball this season, as he’s scored nine and seven points in the two games, and has had the most consistent activity level of any Jayhawk so far. He even earned the start tonight against Emporia State, in place of ineffective Carlton Bragg.

Svi Mykhailiuk has also played very well so far. The junior Ukrainian scored 16 points against Washburn, making 4-6 three point attempts. Tonight, he was even better, again scoring 16 points, but Svi only turned the ball over once, and also pulled down four rebounds to go along with three assists. Svi’s shooting has been as good as we’ve seen from him so far, going 5-7 and 5-9 from the floor so far. Svi’s more aggressive, attacking style of play has played a large part in his gains so far. It comes as a result of playing with the ball in his hands for the Ukrainian national team over the summer. Graham concurred in his postgame remarks, “That’s what coach has been trying to get him to do, just to be more aggressive, not only shooting the ball, but being in the paint and making plays for himself and others.”

More from Kansas Jayhawks Basketball

Is Kansas committing to small ball?

It seems unlikely, but the starting lineup and how head coach Bill Self has used his depth offers some clues to lineup combinations the rest of the season. Tonight, Self started four smalls: Graham, Frank Mason, Vick, and Josh Jackson. All of whom played very well. The ball moves even better with four smalls in the game, making Kansas lethal from nearly every spot on the floor. It helps that the Jayhawks have a legitimate “positionless player” in Josh Jackson. He continued his statsheet stuffing tonight, scoring 11 points, including a highlight dunk, pulled down seven rebounds, and recorded five assists. Kansas fans should get used to seeing that kind of stat line.

Frank Mason continues to be the best player through two games. After his near triple double against Washburn, Mason scored 17 points tonight on 7-7 shooting, pulled down three rebounds, and assisted on five Kansas field goals, against just one turnover. With Mason’s more limited minutes and more specialized role this year, he’s capable of being the best player on the floor on any given night. Devonte was Devonte again tonight as well. He scored 10 quiet points, recorded two rebounds and four assists, against zero turnovers.

The frontcourt is still very much a work in progress.

With Carlton Bragg’s benching, the frontcourt now has more questions than answers. First, some good news. Udoka Azubuike is going to be fantastic, but it will take time. Tonight, the 7-footer scored 13 points (10 on dunks), and pulled down seven boards. His much leaner frame allows him to be extremely active, if foul-prone, on both ends. He’s solidified the role of third big man for the Jayhawks. Landen Lucas was quiet, but effective. He showed some nice post moves and his rebounding acumen, scoring six and pulling down seven rebounds in just 16 minutes. He’ll be solid all year long.

Carlton Bragg’s struggles are somewhat mystifying. He’s combined for just eight points and six rebounds over the two exhibition games, as well as seven fouls. Beyond the statistics, Bragg looks like he’s pressing, trying to be the breakout player we all expect him to be. It’s going to be difficult for Bragg to get worse than he was tonight, as he only had two points, but fouled out with 11 minutes left in the second half, and turned it over five times in 15 minutes. He showed off some passing ability tonight when Emporia played zone defense against the Jayhawks, and passed it well. Bragg is far too talented for this to continue, and I expect him to play well against Indiana.

The other two big men, Dwight Coleby and Mitch Lightfoot, showed flashes of being contributors tonight. Coleby had eight points and two rebounds, but clearly isn’t yet 100% after ACL surgery a year ago. Lightfoot was a spark plug off the bench. He scored 12 points on 4-4 shooting, including a highlight reel dunk over what seemed like half the Hornet roster, leading to quite the bench celebration. Safe to say the freshman will be a fan favorite for his entire tenure at KU.

Bottom line

There are some good things going for the Jayhawks now, but still a lot of questions to answer. The schedule is brutal right off the bat, with neutral site games in Hawaii on Friday against 11th ranked Indiana, followed by the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden against #1 Duke. If the guards play as well and Bragg gets back to himself, KU should at least get a split, if not win both games.