Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writer (@trelyday03)
I’ve been back and forth on this for quite some time now, and I wasn’t convinced of this until earlier this week. Kansas went into the half down by nine on the road to unranked Oklahoma. Easily the worst half of basketball I’ve watched this team play, but they came out guns blazing in the second half en route to an 11 point victory on the road.
Now I am a noted huge fan of Lonzo Ball and UCLA’s backcourt. Josh Hart and Jalen Brunson lead Villanova. Bronson Koenig and Zak Showalter with the Badgers. And of course Malik Monk and D’Aaron Fox in Kentucky. All of those combinations are some of the most elite combinations you’ll see, but they all fall short of the duo in Lawrence, Kansas.
The Kansas Jayhawks have the best backcourt in the country. We’re going to classify Josh Jackson as a frontcourt player just for the sake of this argument. The Jayhawks are one of a few teams that play two point guards at the same time. Bill Self has gone full Tom Thibodeau with their minutes as well. Frank Mason plays about 36 minutes a game, and Graham plays around the same amount as well. Self has them on the floor so much he’s had to shorten practices more than he ever has in his career.
The minutes don’t seem to affect either of them, because they seem to get stronger as the game goes on, which in the college game is something to be marveled at. Mason says he would play all 40 minutes if he could, and that doesn’t surprise me seeing as he logged a ridiculous 53 minutes in their double overtime victory against Oklahoma last season. Then later logged 42 minutes a couple weeks later in a victory against Kentucky.
Back to this season. Mason is averaging a shade under 20 points per game, and it’s clearly evident he can’t be kept from getting to the rim, and he won’t be held down for a full 40 minutes. He had nine points at halftime on Tuesday against Oklahoma. It only took him 10 minutes to score 18 more points, and finished the game with 28. Name another guard in the country that can score 18 points in 10 minutes. That’s just one head of the snake.
Devonte Graham who is one of the most elite sharpshooters in the country is just as good. His three point percentage is down this year because he’s taken more shots, but 38 percent is still no easy feat. Mason is the physical guard, but Graham is more finesse and it’s the perfect combination. He makes plays on the offensive end, but his defense is what really stands out to me. To play the amount of minutes he does and hold the offensive burden he does, and then get it done on the defensive end is incredible.
Last season after Buddy Hield walked into Allen Fieldhouse and hung 46 points on them, the Jayhawks went to Norman and Graham pulled off one of the best defensive performances I’ve seen in awhile. Graham held Hield to just 24 points on 5-15 shooting, which at the time was seemingly impossible to do. Graham hasn’t needed to put on a defensive performance like last season, but if his number is called I’m sure he’ll be up to the task.
All of the backcourts I mentioned earlier are extremely talented, but none of them hold the burden that Graham and Mason do. Quite honestly I don’t think other guards would be able to handle it. Which is why I think those two guys are the best the country has to offer. Now all that’s missing from their success is a National Championship.