There might not be a player that has benefitted more from NCAA Tournament exposure than Kansas’ Malik Newman.
The transfer from Mississippi State has been a revelation for the Jayhawks this season. He’s averaging close to 20 points a game and nearly single-handedly carried Kansas in overtime in the Elite Eight against Duke.
And when Kansas takes on Villanova in the Final Four — and perhaps, if the Jayhawks win, in the national championship game — Newman will have to show up with a big game yet again, according to CBS Sports’ Reid Forgrave. Forgrave argues that Newman, the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year, will be the key for Kansas if the Jayhawks are to take home the fourth national title in school history.
“This is not to say Newman is Kansas’ best player. He is not,” Forgrave clarified. “Devonte’ Graham, who ought to be on everybody’s All-America first team, is.
“But make no mistake: It is Newman who is the difference-maker. He is the reason a Kansas team that seemed in trouble in January is sitting pretty as we near April.”
It won’t be easy, especially against a Villanova team that has one of the most talented backcourts in the nation. Newman was able to exploit Duke’s zone defense and find openings, but the Wildcats run man-to-man, and won’t hesitate to pressure the ball.
But it’s the Final Four, and at this point, every team remaining has something special to fall back on. For Kansas, it might just be Newman.