CHICAGO — On a night in which most of the conversation in college basketball was about Peacocks and one of Jesus’ disciplines, in Chicago, Kansas advanced to the Elite Eight because of… cognac?
Remy Martin, the player — not the liquor — was a “Very Special Old Pale” (VSOP) for Bill Self and No. 1 Kansas on Friday night as the Jayhawks were able to hang on and defeat No. 4 Providence 66-61 behind Martin’s game-high 23 points to advance to Sunday’s Elite Eight where they will face No. 10 Miami.
This is one of those NIL deals that you think would have been made already, given how easy marketing would be.
According to KUsports.com, Martin has an NIL deal with a local Toyota dealership that gives him a 2021 Camry to drive, as he became the first player on the team to land a significant deal. “This is amazing,” Martin said in October. “I’m just super-grateful for the opportunity. Being in college for the amount of time that I (have), I never would’ve thought I would see the day where I’d be able to make some money off this opportunity and get a vehicle, which is unreal to me.”
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And it’s not like he hasn’t proved his worth during the tournament. The little curly-haired reserve guard did everything for Kansas on Friday night, and if it wasn’t for him the Jayhawks would be going home to Lawrence instead of being one game away from returning to their first Final Four since 2018.
“This is the second game in a row where he’s come out in the first half and just completely taken over,” said Jayhawks forward Jalen Wilson. Martin led Kansas in scoring with 15 in their first round game against Texas Southern and did it again with 20 points against Creighton in the second rround. “He’s playing with so much confidence, and we love it. We love him playing like that, and we need him playing like that.”
Beyond what he did in the score column, Martin grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists, and drew eight fouls against the Providence defense. He also took a charge at the 5:32 mark in the second half that changed the game, as Kansas was down 48-47 at the time and the Friars were on a fastbreak looking to extend their lead before Martin’s play changed possession.
“I actually thought that Remy’s defense has really improved as much as anybody’s,” Kansas coach Bill Self explained. “He was trying to do what we wanted him to do by pressuring the ball.”
The reason Martin’s play was so vital is because their best player — Ochai Agbaji — has been struggling. He was held to five points Friday, but his second-half backdoor alley-oop was the highlight of the game, as it gave the Jayahwks a seven-point lead.
“Sometimes when you’re really struggling and you’ve got a guy that can go upstairs like that, sometimes that’s the easiest basket you can get,” Self said. “We’ve always liked throwing them, and they took away our backdoors and our lobs all night long. But, we caught them on that one.”
At age 23, Martin is well above the legal drinking limit. And according to Niche.com, Kansas is ranked above Kansas State as the best party school in the state. And since the kids in Lawrence were already toasting to Remy Martin on Friday night, they might as well have it in their cups.