Jayhawks prepare for bout vs Wichita St

The round of 32 matchup many people began anticipating when the brackets were  announced will come true on Sunday inside the Century Link Center in Omaha.

The Wichita State Shockers (29-4, 17-1 Missouri Valley) and the Kansas Jayhawks (27-8, 13-5 Big 12) each finished off their respective opponents in their first games of the NCAA Tournament to set up the showdown.

“It’s a big game for us. The state of Kansas has been kind of…anticipating this game for a while now. We just [have to] get our minds right and focus on the game and what we [have to] do to get the win,” said Kansas’ freshman guard Devonté Graham.

The Jayhawks will see a small lineup against the Shockers, who start four guards and one forward. Wichita State boasts two main scoring threats in junior guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. The two guards combine for 28-points-per-game. VanVleet was the star of Wichita State’s opening win with 27 points. Baker finished with 15.

The Jayhawks spread their scoring around in their first game of the NCAAs. Sophomore guard Frank Mason III led the way with 17 points, while five other players put in at least eight.

Kansas junior big man Perry Ellis will be the center of attention for multiple reasons against Wichita State. Ellis is from Wichita and the Shockers were a finalist when it came time for Ellis to decide where he was attending college.

Ellis’ knee has also been a topic of conversation since he came back from injury in the Big 12 Tournament after more than two games off.

“My leg feels good,” Ellis said when asked about his recovery. “I would say…it’s just a mental thing. Each day I’m getting better and better. Practice today went well. The key thing is just getting out there and just being aggressive and attacking and I was doing that today…That’s just going to be the key going forward, but the knee feels great.”

Kansas head coach Bill Self said his team forgot about their opening win about 30 minutes after it ended, when they began focusing on what lies ahead.

“I like the fact that we played the first game yesterday…I liked the fact that we played early so we basically had two days to prep for this (game) from a mental standpoint as opposed to one,” he said.

He offered plenty of compliments for the Shockers’ program in his press conference on Saturday.

“They’re a real sound team, and it’s hard…taking something away from sound teams and making them uncomfortable and making them play without rhythm,” he said.

Guards like Graham will be a key factor if they want to play the sound defense and efficient offense it takes to beat a team like the Shockers.

“He’s had some good games for us,” Self said of his freshman. “He’s a good player and probably hasn’t scored the ball consistently like we think he can, but he shot the ball well yesterday and I think we’re a better team in sections of the game when we have our two little ball handlers (Mason and Graham) in there together.”

 

 

Tip off will be Sunday at 4:15 p.m. Pregame will begin on KJHK at 3:45 p.m.

 

 

— Adam Drovetta

KJHK 90.7 FM