|Top-seeded Kansas faces tough Seton Hall squad|
WICHITA, Kan. -- For top-seeded Kansas, production at the point made up for the loss of a post in the paint in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
That tradeoff might be difficult to pull off Saturday, however, when the Jayhawks (28-7) face brawny Seton Hall (22-11) at Intrust Bank Arena.
Senior point guard Devonte' Graham was sensational in a first-round win over Penn, posting 29 points, six rebounds and six assists to wake up the slow-starting Jayhawks. The performance prompted Bill Self to stack up his point guard with past Kansas greats.
"I don't know if I've consistently seen anybody play better for us than what he has," said the Jayhawks' 15th-year coach. "We've seen this many, many times with him, and I don't know if anybody could ever predict the guy would go from an unknown to a first-team All-American, but he is one terrific guard."
The value provided by Graham, who initially signed with Appalachian State, is reflected in 16 complete games of 40 minutes.
While Graham is exceptional involving teammates, averaging 7.4 assists, he took on the scoring load against Penn after Kansas trailed by 10 in the first half. The output was partly necessitated by the absence of 7-foot sophomore center Udoka Azubuike, who played just three minutes in the first-round win. He continues to nurse a sprained MCL, which kept Azubuike from participating in the Jayhawks' Big 12 Tournament championship.
"I'm just going to keep playing the same way I've been playing all year, stay in attack mode," Graham said. "We know it's do-or-die for everybody. Nobody wants their season to end, so we're all going to play with reckless abandon and a lot of emotions."
Azubuike worked out for most of Kansas' closed practice on Friday, said Self, and is expected to contribute more against Seton Hall and the physical presence it imposes.
"Unless there's some form of setback, we certainly anticipate him being available in a way that you can actually play him to try to win the game," Self said. "It may not be 25 or 30 (minutes), but we should get some competitive minutes out of him."
Seton Hall, which tied for third in the Big East and is seeded eighth, scored on its first eight possessions and led throughout its 94-83 first-round win over North Carolina State.
Senior guard Khadeen Carrington scored 26 points to lead the Pirates and also averages 4.5 assists. Senior wing Desi Rodriguez, who averages a team-high 17.9 points, netted 20 in the first round.
The toughness the Pirates possess could key an upset bid, especially underneath where senior center Angel Delgado averages 13.3 points and 11.5 rebounds. Senior forward Ismael Sanogo averages 5.3 boards and has swatted a team-high 29 blocks.
"(Rebounding) is something you've got to balance with Kansas," said Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, "because they're so good in transition. The best transition defense is the offensive rebound, because if you get second-chance points it stops teams from leaking out."