2 | KANSAS

November 09, 2015

THE SHORT ANSWER

When Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham shared the backcourt last year, they were usually wearing practice jerseys. In games, coach Bill Self chose to play either the 5'11" Mason or the 6'2" Graham alongside big wings like 6'7" Kelly Oubre Jr. (now a Wizards rookie) and 6'5" Wayne Selden Jr., then a sophomore. But the effect of small ball in the team's workouts was clear. "More good things were happening than bad," Mason says.

The Jayhawks expect that to continue this year. To accelerate tempo and to get better passers and playmakers on the floor, Self plans to start Mason and Graham and hope they do for Kansas what similarly statured backcourts did for recent NCAA champs Duke and Louisville. "We're getting back to playing the way we have when we've had our better teams," Self says.

Graham, a sophomore, has a good feel for momentum and game flow as a point guard, and he can shoot (42.5% from three last year). Mason is a natural scorer who despite his size likes to attack the rim, though he also ranked in the 74th percentile nationally in points-per-spot-up (1.032) last year, per Synergy Sports data. They will feed off each other while raising their teammates' productivity. "When it's both of us [playing]," says Graham, "it takes the pressure off our wing guys and helps everybody make better decisions on the court."

PROJECTED TEAM STATS

OFFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 116.4 (8th)

DEFENSIVE EFFICIENCY 92.5 (6th)

BIG 12 RECORD 13--5 (1st)

X-FACTOR

Svi Mykhailiuk, a deadeye 6'8" sophomore from Ukraine, added 10 pounds (to reach 205) in hopes of muscling his way into the lineup. "[With Mykhailiuk] you can run bad offense and come away with three points," coach Bill Self says.

STAT SHEET

With 2015--16 projections for the top six scorers

Coach Bill Self (13th season)

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

PPG RPG APG OFF. RATING USAGE
PF Perry Ellis* 6'8" Sr. 16.3 8.4 1.5 116.4 24.3%
PG Frank Mason III* 5'11" Jr. 12.7 2.9 3.8 115.3 21.2%
PF Cheick Diallo 6'9" Fr. 10.8 7.5 0.8 115.0 21.0%
G-F Wayne Selden Jr.* 6'5" Jr. 9.0 2.6 2.2 110.6 19.8%
SF Brannen Greene 6'7" Jr. 6.7 2.9 1.0 120.4 16.4%
PG Devonte' Graham* 6'2" Soph. 6.4 2.0 2.3 113.4 17.6%

*Starter

TOURNAMENT TRACKER

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

TITLE GAME

FINAL FOUR

ELITE EIGHT

SWEET 16

ROUND OF 32

ROUND OF 64

'11--12

'12--13

'13--14

'14--15

'15--16

PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (MASON) PHOTOED ZURGA/GETTY IMAGES (MYKHAILIUK) CHART

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)