Bill Self's Kansas Jayhawks have won 12 straight regular season Big 12 championships. However, for the past two years, KU has been stymied in the Big 12 Tournament.
Tonight in Kansas City, Rock Chalk reigned supreme. The West Virginia Mountaineers put up a strong fight, but Devonte' Graham's 5 three-pointers were too much to overcome. KU battled their way to a 81-71 victory, sending a statement to the nation that they're the team to beat in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Graham Explodes To Give Mountaineers Fits
Slowly but surely, the 2015-16 Kansas Jayhawks have become Devonte' Graham's show. Graham showed a fire in his eyes today, drilling 5 treys to end up at 27 total points. He was also 10-10 at the free throw line.
Graham turned the tables on WVU by picking the 'Eers' pockets 4 times. West Virginia prides themselves in causing turnovers, but Graham only coughed up the ball twice in the face of constant pressure.
After the game, Graham said, "Our confidence is out the roof, and I think we've been playing like it."
The point guard certainly showed swagger tonight, ripping up the court with his play. He ended up garnering the tournament MVP award. Graham has faced criticism from analysts for consistency issues during the past two years, but it looks like he's ready to be the go-to guy for Rock Chalk Jayhawk.
Along with Graham, Wayne Selden Jr. had a great shooting night, going 8-13 for 21 points. Frank Mason III struggled in this matchup, scoring 4 points on 2-8 shooting, but he did turn into a facilitator to dish out 7 assists. Perry Ellis made a few moves to score some layups and get to the charity stripe, ending up with 17 points.
Mountaineers Go Cold From Deep
In West Virginia's thrilling win over Oklahoma on Friday, they utilized brilliant shooting from Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. The guard duo combined for 8 treys, keeping OU on their toes.
Tonight, both went ice cold from beyond the parabola. They went a combined 1-8 from outside as the Jayhawks made a point of guarding them well.
Jaysean Paige, arguably the best player in the nation to come off the bench, continued his recent cold stretch by scoring only 6 points tonight. He also lost the ball 4 times, a rare, sloppy performance for the usually sure-handed former JUCO transfer.
The saving grace for West Virginia tonight was the gargantuan performance by Devin Williams. The junior big man scored a career high of 31 points, pushing his way around in the paint and scoring layups in bunches. He got to the free throw line often, going 13-15 at the stripe.
Despite Williams' big game, the Mountaineers let Kansas go on a massive run to start the 2nd half. West Virginia was down 14 points at one point. WVU relied on their depth to stay in the game, but Kansas' superior guard play pushed the Jayhawks to the win.
West Virginia has been known for their pressure defense, but they ended up getting a little too rough in this game, committing 24 fouls. Kansas wasn't far behind WVU in fouls, committing 23. Many of those fouls were on the offensive end, as both teams were proficient at getting their feet set and taking charges.
West Virginia now waits to learn of their seeding for the NCAA Tournament. After defeating Oklahoma, it looked like WVU would move onto the 2 seed line, but after Villanova's surprising loss to Seton Hall in the Big East Tournament Championship, it looks as if the Wildcats will fall to the 2 seed line and knock WVU down to a 3 seed. Regardless, the Mountaineers are regarded as one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. With their amped up pressure defense and a load of depth, WVU could end up playing in the Final Four.
Kansas looks like the best team in the nation right now. They boast of a rising superstar in Devonte' Graham, a deep backcourt, and a consistent threat in the paint via Perry Ellis. They will likely end up with the #1 overall seed in the tournament. Bill Self has went without an NCAA Title since 2008, and the Jayhawks want to end the long drought this season.
Note: If West Virginia sneaks into the 2 seed line, WVU and Kansas may be in the same bracket, although the selection committee will likely try to avoid this scenario.