Three Thoughts on Kansas’ 78-61 Big 12 Tournament Quarterfinal Win Over West Virginia
The top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks are marching on just like expected. They handled the eighth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers 78-61 Thursday afternoon in the quarterfinal round of the Big 12 Tournament to set up a date with Iowa State for a berth in the championship. With that in mind, here are three thoughts on the decision.
This is really a descriptor for multiple reasons. The Jayhawks were without their head man, Bill Self, as he’s recovering from an illness that’s hospitalized him at the University of Kansas Health Systems. In the meantime, assistant Norm Roberts served as the acting head coach and led the team to victory No. 26 on the season. It’s victory No. 5 this season under that scenario, as Roberts also stepped in when Self was suspended to start the year.
“By the way, even though Bill Self was not here, Bill Self was here because this team has his imprint on it,” remarked analyst Fran Fraschilla immediately afterwards. “And with all due respect to Norm Roberts–and I mean this sincerely–Dajuan Harris could coach the team. That’s how good of a leader he is.”
With best wishes extended Self’s way, his team also responded in a pretty unselfish manner, distributing a modest 15 assists–even though that’s shy of their season average of about 17–and sharing the basketball nicely.
Along with that, Kansas truly plays its best basketball when scoring isn’t lopsided solely in the favor of consensus Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson. Interestingly enough, when Wilson nets 25 or more points, Kansas is only 3-3, making up half of its losses. He finished with 22 in this one, along with 11 rebounds for a double-double. And he had plenty of help in the process. The aforementioned Harris filled up the stat sheet with 13 points, eight assists, five steals and four rebounds. Guard Gradey Dick and forward K.J. Adams joined them in double figures with 18 and 13, respectively.
“Just running together,” Wilson said. “No matter what adversity we go through, going throughout the entire season, we’ve found a way to come together and play as a team in the toughest moments. And I think today was a great example of that.”
On to the NCAAs for West Virginia
It’s not all bad for the Mountaineers. They should consider themselves quite safe for the Big Dance and refocus all their energy there. Now it’s just about where they’ll lace them up next because their 19-13 record and 7-11 mark during the regular season is more than enough to get them in. ESPN Bracketology expert Joe Lunardi indicates as much, labeling West Virginia a No. 9 seed entering the day. Nothing that happened today can change that status enough for the Mountaineers to be looked at as in jeopardy. It’s just about how far the likes of guard Erik Stevenson and forward Emmitt Matthews Jr. can carry them at this point. The two finished with 13 and 10 in this setback, respectively.