If one distinction could be gained from the latest game played by Kansas, it’s that the Jayhawks are not immune from the turmoil biting teams at the top of the college basketball rankings.
Kansas (9-2) became the latest to tumble from that perch when it lost at Villanova on Dec. 21.
“The reason No. 1, supposedly, lost was because they played a really good (Villanova) team in their building,” said Kansas coach Bill Self, “and (the Wildcats) made more plays down the stretch. But I don’t think it had anything to do with what anybody’s ranked.”
Michigan State, Duke, Kentucky and Louisville were previously left to regroup after falling as the top-ranked team. Now it’s the No. 5 Jayhawks who must bounce back, returning from an seven-day break Sunday to play at Stanford (11-1).
The matchup offers Kansas a chance for road redemption. The 56-55 defeat against Villanova marked the first true road test of the season for the Jayhawks, who previously lost to Duke in the Champions Classic at New York and captured the Maui Invitational in their only road ventures.
While Self called the Villanova clash “a great game to win, obviously, for seeding purposes” in the NCAA Tournament, he acknowledged “there were some things about the game that were positive for us growing up, even though the outcome wasn’t great.”
Among those was the assertiveness displayed by freshman guard Christian Braun, who played 16 minutes after starter Marcus Garrett went out with an ankle injury. Braun scored six points, including a driving layup with 1:49 remaining for a 55-51 lead, which would be the last points Kansas scored.
Garrett, a junior guard who rates as the Jayhawks’ top defender, is expected to play at Stanford.
Although the Jayhawks are shooting 52.1 percent on the season, they managed just a 43.6 percent performance against Villanova.
Senior center Udoka Azubuike posted his fourth double-double. The 7-footer leads Division I by shooting 80.5 percent from the field, and he averages 14 points and 8.4 rebounds. Sophomore point guard Devon Dotson leads the Big 12 with a 19.2-point average.
Stanford also has been off since Dec. 21, when it edged San Diego 62-59 behind 20 points from freshman guard Tyrell Terry. Junior forward Oscar da Silva added 19 points, 11 rebounds and five steals as the Cardinal achieved their best start since 2008-09.
After starting every game last season, da Silva has become Stanford’s key threat. He averages a team-high 17.6 points and six rebounds.
“Our game plan offensively is to play with pace, get to multiple sides of the floor, and then attack from the inside out,” Stanford coach Jerod Haase said.
“One of the best ways we have at our disposal is throwing it to Oscar. He’s making a lot of good decisions in there. As long as he’s not turning the ball over, good things are going to tend to happen.”
Terry averages 15.6 points.
The Kansas-Stanford clash caps a four-game series between the two programs. The Jayhawks won each of the first three meetings. Each team begins conference play later in the week.
–Field Level Media