Kansas men’s basketball players and coaches need not feel like failures after placing second of eight teams at the 2022 Battle 4 Atlantis.
So says 20th-year Jayhawk coach Bill Self, who notes that a 2-1 record against a strong field is an acceptable consolation prize.
“First of all the competition here, … NC State is a tournament team,” Self said of the ACC squad the Jayhawks tripped 80-74 in the first round of the event held Thanksgiving week in Paradise Island, Bahamas. “Wisconsin is a tournament team,” he added of the Badgers, a Big Ten team KU outlasted 69-68 in overtime in the semifinals.
“And Tennessee, potentially, I think they were preseason top 10-12. They are definitely a team that’s capable and they don’t even have their best player (injured guard Josiah-Jordan James) playing right now. They definitely are a team capable of being a Final Four team if things fell right,” Self added.
The No. 22-ranked Volunteers rolled to a 64-50 win over KU in Friday night’s championship game.
“It was good,” Self added of the experience of meeting three Power Five schools in the tourney.
Self’s No. 3-ranked Jayhawks (6-1), who resume the nonconference portion of the 2022-23 schedule Monday vs. Texas Southern (7 p.m., Allen Fieldhouse, ESPN+), experienced two wins by a grand total of seven points as well as the 14-point loss.
“A lot of things happened,” Self said of the final game vs. Tennessee. “One, we were individuals instead of team. (It was) everybody, not just one person, everybody. Two, bodies wore down. It’s nice to be physically conditioned and I think we are, but I think strength plays into that some. I think guys got tired.
“I think Gradey (Dick, freshman, seven points vs. UT; nine vs. Wisconsin; 25 vs N.C. State) was one of them (who got tired), too. We’re not going to play three games in three days again unless we are fortunate enough to make the finals of the Big 12 tournament. So I think in the past we have been a team like Tennessee (able to play three games in three days early in the season). I think for this team it would have been nice if there was a day in between (games) to be honest with you,” Self added.
Next up is Monday’s game against Texas Southern, a team picked to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference in the league’s preseason poll. It’s a rematch of last year’s first-round NCAA Tournament game in which KU won 83-56 on March 17 in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Tigers are led by guards Davon Barnes (14.1 ppg) and PJ Henry (13.2 ppg) and forward John Walker (12.1 ppg).
With Self saying after Friday’s game backup point guard Bobby Pettiford (strained hamstring) will not be “available in the immediate future,” some additional minutes could go to junior combo guard Joseph Yesufu.
The transfer from Drake scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-of-6 from three) in 27 minutes against Tennessee. He had one steal, two turnovers and no assists.
Yesufu was not satisfied with his performance.
“I feel I can do better on the defensive end,” Yesufu said, “and do better as far as getting my teammates involved. I had zero assists. I feel I can do a lot better.”