Kansas has won 17 straight games since dropping its season opener to Indiana, but the Jayhawks got a little lucky against Kansas State on January 3. Svi Mykhailiuk converted a coast-to-coast lay-up as time expired to give Kansas a 90-88 win, but there was just problem: Mykhailiuk traveled. Blatantly.
He picked up his dribble well beyond the three-point line and took four long strides to the bucket.
That was a travel, right?
“Yeah, I didn’t know it at the time because it did happen fast, and obviously the officials didn’t know it at the time, either,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But yeah, he got away with an extra step or step-and-a-half.”
Gottlieb, who thought the infraction was obvious, was incredulous. Did Self really not know in real time that Mykhailiuk traveled?
“No, I didn’t know he walked,” Self said. “I didn’t know that until I watched the replay. I don’t know how positively you would know that until you saw it. Obviously it was something that should have been called but wasn’t. But we got by with one there.”
In any event, No. 2 Kansas (17-1) has been one of the best teams in the nation this year. Frank Mason III is averaging 20.3 points per game, Josh Jackson is averaging 15.1, Devonte’ Graham is averaging 13.2, and Mykhailiuk is averaging 10.9.
With Mason at 5-11 and Graham at 6-2, though, it’s difficult to remember a Bill Self team this small – at Kansas, anyway.
“Well, we’ve played small before,” he said. “We did that a lot with Perry (Ellis), especially his junior year. But the reality is, we’ve played with smaller teams. A lot of teams wouldn’t mind having 6-10, 6-8 upfront. That’s not ridiculously small, but we’ve played with smaller teams but we’ve always played big with smaller teams. We’re playing Josh or Lagerald Vick at the 4, but we’re playing them as guards. So it is a different look and certainly a different style than we’ve ever played before.”
It’s working. Mason, who almost played for Towson, is up for National Player of the Year honors, while Graham, who initially signed with Appalachian State before finding his way to Lawrence, has become a beast.
How are two relative afterthoughts performing at such a high level on the biggest of stages?
“I think in those two situations, they were probably a little bit undervalued or maybe hadn’t been seen quite as much – although they both played for great AAU programs,” Self said. “But I think the word on them, maybe something was wrong. Maybe they were too small or somebody questioned something about them. But I think they were better talents than maybe signing at that mid-major level. But fortunately for us, neither one was, for various reasons, content with their decisions and went on with prep schools and then we were able to basically see them in their fifth year. And to see what they’ve done since they’ve been here – there’s a lot of good guards out there – but two guys that play together, that certainly understand and are tough and competitive, those guys do it about as tough as anybody does.”
Kansas hosts Texas (7-10) this Saturday at 2 p.m. ET before three straight games against top-10 teams: at No. 7 West Virginia (15-2) on Jan. 24, at No. 5 Kentucky (15-2) on Jan. 28, and against No. 6 Baylor (16-1) on Feb. 1.