Posts tagged with Jayhawks
1:45 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS COACH CHARLIE STRONG
Charlie Strong’s first season in charge of the heralded Texas football program didn’t live up to his — or any of the Longhorns’ — expectations. UT did win enough games to gain bowl eligibility, but Texas finished 2014 with a 6-7 mark, and a 31-7 loss to Arkansas in the Texas Bowl.
The Longhorns also got blown out in their regular-season finale, versus TCU, so Strong felt just plain angry about the way his first year in Austin turned out.
Strong said every person involved in the program enters 2015 as fired up about getting Texas back to its glory days as he is. The UT coach shared he spoke with the team’s seniors and it came up that they have yet to experience a double-digit win season.
“So it's more about them,” Strong said. “They want to show that what it's all about and what the university is all about and just how they want to go out and compete.”
From the head coach’s discussions with strength coach Pat Moorer this summer, he thinks numerous Longhorns are taking it upon themselves to step up and get UT headed in the right direction.
“But you know what, when you're at a place like here, it should be like that,” the second-year Texas coach said. “We shouldn't even have to have this conversation. It should get where each and every year we talk about competing.”
12:10 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA STATE COACH MIKE GUNDY
In 2014, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy decided to pull the trigger and insert a true freshman at quarterback late in the season. While he, of course, wishes the three games Mason Rudolph played hadn’t cost him a year of eligibility, Gundy still thinks it was the right move for the program then and now, and the Cowboys are seeing dividends from the move.
OSU went 7-6 overall last fall and 4-5 in the Big 12, but it won two of its last three games — including a win over Washington in the TicketCity Cactus Bowl — with first-year QB Rudolph on the field. The team’s sudden late-season starter threw for 853 yards and six touchdowns (four interceptions) in those three games.
The way the Cowboys ended the season, Gundy said, led the staff to go ahead and name Rudolph the starter for 2015 long ago, even though there are other options on the roster, including J.W. Walsh. OSU’s head coach said the player who would have been a red-shirt freshman this season looks much different in his second summer in the program, and Rudolph is working hard and showing signs of toughness.
11:47 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
More leftover KU nuggets from Monday Fun Day in Big D...
• KU coach David Beaty said that senior Ben Goodman was “by far” the best leader the Jayhawks have on the roster, but that does not mean Goodman is the only leader. Late in the breakout sessions, I caught up with sophomore tight end Ben Johnson and asked him to rattle off the names of a few players who had emerged as leaders throughout the spring and offseason. After tipping his head toward Goodman as a somewhat obvious answer, Johnson listed senior wide receiver Tre' Parmalee, juco running back transfer Ke'aun Kinner, junior linebacker Courtney Arnick and junior quarterback Montell Cozart as some of the team's best leaders. Johnson also said he had done his best to fill the role vacated by Jimmay Mundine in terms of leading the tight ends and leading by example whenever possible.
• One other interesting note about leaders, Beaty said Michael Cummings has maintained a role as one of the team's best leaders, even while recovering from ACL surgery. “The day after he had surgery (in mid-June), he hobbled up to my office to talk about how he could help the team,” Beaty recalled. “We didn't have to talk about it because he already knew and had it in his mind, but I told him that day that the key now is for him to find a way to still help this team. And he has. He always has his arm around one of the younger guys out there and is trying to make this team better.”
• In the name-flying-under-the-radar category, it might be time to start looking a little more closely at red-shirt freshman defensive tackle Daniel Wise. There's a serious opportunity for some unproven guys to step up on the interior of the defensive line for the Jayhawks this fall and Goodman said he thought Wise, 6-foot-3, 271 pounds, was a guy who could definitely make some noise and hold his own in there. Another guy Goodman mentioned was senior Kapil Fletcher (6-3, 271), who played seven games a season ago after transferring to KU from Hartnell College.
• Speaking of D-Tackles, Goodman said he was not worried at all about those guys (and others) being able to handle the middle of the trenches for the KU defense this fall. “I played in there last year, out of position, at 250 pounds and I at least was able to hold my own. So I know those guys, who are around 280 or so, will be fine in there.” Time will tell, but Goodman brings up an interesting point.
• Every Jayhawk in attendance on Monday was asked to give their realistic expectations for the 2015 season. Although none of them gave a specific win total — and why would they? — you could tell that these guys believe they'll be better than people think. And why wouldn't they? From the sound of things, they've definitely been putting in the work it takes to be a successful team, it's just going to come down to the answers to these questions — Do they have enough talent to compete? Will a few guys step up from out of nowhere and make a big impact? And will they have enough depth to handle injuries and fatigue? At least as of now, the answers to those questions all look less than positive, but you can't blame the players themselves for being confident and believing that they can go out there and get the job done. That's an important part of it. How much it matters remains to be seen.
11:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
IOWA STATE COACH PAUL RHOADS
Like Kansas, Iowa State experienced a rough 2014 season. The Cyclones — the only Big 12 team to lose to the Jayhawks last fall — went 2-10.
Seventh-year ISU coach Paul Rhoads had plenty of issues to address in the offseason, and after surrendering 38.8 points a game to its opponents, defensive strides have been one area of focus.
“We’ve been porous, as far as stopping the run,” Rhoads said.
The coach thinks the defensive line will have depth and talent in 2015, though, and Rhoads said the Cyclones have six players returning with starting experience on defense and 10 more who played significant snaps. So he thinks continuity and seasoning will help the progress on that side of the ball.
On offense, the coach pointed out, ISU has 11 players who have previously started. It also will help to have offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, the former KU head coach, back.
“I think Mark has a much better understanding of where the league is at,” Rhoads said, “going into his second season as offensive coordinator.”
11:08 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
OKLAHOMA COACH BOB STOOPS
Not many football coaches would consider an 8-5 season disappointing. Then again, not many football coaches work at programs such as Oklahoma.
Bob Stoops’ Sooners finished 2014 with fewer than 10 wins for just the second time in the past nine seasons.
“It’s not up to our standards and our expectations as a a program, for sure,” Stoops said of a down year that ended with a 40-6 loss to Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
OU averaged 36.4 points a game in 2014 and 464.7 yards, but Stoops hopes to put up even larger numbers this year, with new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley (formerly O.C. at ECU) in place. Stoops said the Sooners need to move the ball more consistently and simply show a better ability to put points on the scoreboard.
A reporter asked Stoops if the program is where he wants it to be at right now, and he gave his numerous reasons for feeling optimistic. For starters, he has been at Oklahoma for 17 seasons (and won 168 games), and the Sooners are just a year removed going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl.
“I look around the country, we’re probably not the only team who was 8-5 or 7-6,” Stoops said.
In his time at Oklahoma, the team has finished with 10 or more victories 13 times.
11:03 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
A few leftover notes from KU's turn at Big 12 media days on Monday...
• Asked what surprised him the most so far about the job and taking over the KU program, KU coach David Beaty said the support and acceptance from the KU fan base had been the most surprising. He's well aware of how rough things have been the past few seasons and he does not blame anyone for being down on the program or taking a wait-and-see approach to being a fan. But he's been incredibly pleased by how welcoming everyone has been and how much so many fans have expressed to him how badly they want KU to have good football again.
• Beaty was asked about whether he thought the Big 12 should expand from 10 teams to 12 and he quickly passed through the topic. He did say that he thought finding schools that were the right fit was the most important factor if the conference were to expand and said he would rather see the conference stay at 10 schools than add just for the sake of adding and getting to some magic number. Asked if he had any schools in mind that he'd like to see the conference go after, he simply said, “No.”
• Asked how he came up with the three players who would represent KU at Big 12 media days this year, Beaty spoke to a team mantra that has become pretty popular in Lawrence and on Twitter this offseason: “They earned it,” he said of Jayhawk representatives Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith. “If we're gonna talk and say that we're gonna base everything we do on earning it and hard work then we're gonna do it with everything we do. Because if we don't, it's gonna lose it's punch.”
• History and tradition clearly mean so much to Beaty and he's done a lot already to make sure his team understands what came before them and what legacies they're trying to represent and honor. That's why he has made such strong efforts to get so many former players in front of the Jayhawks at practice and things like that and also why he has so regularly emphasized that everything these guys have today — the football complex, the TV exposure, the gear, etc. — has come about because of the blood, sweat and tears of former players who did not have it so good. That even extends to the 2008 Orange Bowl team, which Beaty said was sort of irrelevant to this group initially but no longer is because of the big deal they've made about how special that team was. “We're standing on the shoulders of giants,” Beaty said. “They were in the dungeon and we're in the Taj Mahal. It's important that we honor and appreciate that.”
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
BAYLOR COACH ART BRILES
A year ago Baylor football coach Art Briles had an arm he could trust in the Bears’ high-octane offense. But Bryce Petty’s days in a BU uniform are through.
That makes junior Seth Russell the quarterback for what is expected to be one of the nation’s top teams. At this point of Russell’s career, Briles said he doesn’t quite know what he has in the new No. 1 QB, compared to what he knew of Petty at the same stage of his career.
Briles and the Baylor coaches are still trying to figure out how Russell functions as an athlete, how he competes and how he processes it all. As he gets adjusted to his new role in the spotlight, Briles said he wants to make sure Russell doesn’t feel too much pressure.
“You just have to be good,” Briles said. “You don’t have to be great.”
10:00 a.m. Original post — By Benton Smith
We’re back in Dallas for another day of Big 12 football news conferences.
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty and the Jayhawks went through their media sessions yesterday and have completed their responsibilities, so we’ll share some notes and thoughts that haven’t been addressed yet, as well as the comments of the Big 12 coaches in attendance.
In the meantime, catch up on some of Monday's highlights:
5:05 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
There aren’t a lot of expectations for Kansas football this season. So Ben Goodman, Jordan Shelley-Smith and Ben Johnson didn’t anticipate hearing a lot of questions about wins or bowl games at Big 12 Media Days.
Goodman said while they respect people’s opinions, given KU’s recent struggles, they also easily keep themselves from feeling negative about outside perceptions.
“We just look at it as motivation, man,” Goodman said.
The Jayhawks know few in the college football world think they are capable of becoming relevant.
“We have to earn it, which is our slogan, but we have to earn people’s respect, too,” Goodman said. “Stay tuned in in Lawrence, and I hope we earn y’all’s respect.”
Since Goodman brought up “earn it,” I asked him how often David Beaty uses the two words.
“He says it a lot,” the senior defensive lineman said, before giving his impression of Beaty, which wasn’t quite as polished as Shelley-Smith’s. “‘Hey, man. Earn it. Earn it, earn it, earn it. Love you guys.’”
Beaty doesn’t mind those type of light-hearted moments, because he wants players enjoying themselves while they work toward restoring the program’s public image.
4:15 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
The interview portion of the afternoon just wrapped in Dallas, and Jayhawks Ben Goodman, Ben Johnson and Jordan Shelley-Smith, as well as first-year coach David Beaty, spent over an hour and a half answering questions.
One of the highlights of the session had to be junior offensive lineman Shelley-Smith giving his Beaty impression, which of course included the team slogan, "earn it."
12:37 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TEXAS TECH COACH KLIFF KINGSBURY
A former quarterback himself, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury has two quarterbacks competing to become the Red Raiders’ starter this fall.
Junior Davis Webb and sophomore Patrick Mahomes both have had individual success at times in their careers. Kingsbury said both will need to eliminate negative plays at the QB position for Texas Tech to win more games.
Both showed progress in the spring with ball security, but Kingsbury knows that has to carry over to actual games to mean anything. Whomever is named the starter, he added, won’t see a quick hook when mistakes come.
Kingsbury plans to name a starter “fairly early” in preseason camp, but if an injury takes place after one guy wins the job, he won’t be worried, because he thinks Tech has two players capable of winning games.
12:18 p.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KANSAS STATE COACH BILL SNYDER
After leading his Kansas State football team to a 9-4 record in 2014, coaching legend Bill Snyder heads into preseason camp with significant uncertainty at the most marquee position.
Snyder, who has seven quarterbacks on his K-State roster, said the Wildcats will open practices in a few weeks with four players sharing opportunities to become the starter. Ideally, one will emerge as the clear starter before the season begins.
“I don’t know how fast that will be,” Snyder said. “Right now, they’re all on equal footing.”
When questioned on the possibility of implementing a platoon, or two-quarterback system, Snyder said that won’t be the intent. He doesn’t favor that approach, but he hasn’t ruled it out, either.
One of the four leaders at this juncture is transfer Jonathan Banks, a sophomore from Contra Costa College. But because he joined K-State in the summer, so they haven’t seen him in practices yet.
Freshman QB Zach Davidson red-shirted in 2014. Sophomore Jesse Ertz played in mop-up duty last season. Junior Joe Hubener played in seven games a year ago.
“They’re all good young guys,” Snyder said. “They all care, they’re all good teammates.”
11:33 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
WEST VIRGINIA COACH DANA HOLGORSEN
Headed into his fourth year coaching in the Big 12, West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen feels pretty confident and comfortable with his team.
Part of those positive vibes come from having more than 50 players who have been on the field in Big 12 football games. And some of the optimism originates from how competitive the Mountaineers were in 2014, when they went 7-6, despite having major issues with giving the ball away.
WVU was 120th in the nation in turnover margin last season, and four of its losses came by 10 or fewer points.
“We know we would’ve put ourselves in a position to win the conference,” Holgorsen said, if the Mountaineers had taken care of the ball.
Holgorsen has been known in his coaching career for his involvement in Air-Raid offenses, and he thinks his West Virginia version will only be as good as its quarterback.
Success with the Air-Raid, the fifth-year WVU coach said, comes down to taking care of the football. The Big 12 has had “tremendous” quarterback play through the years and many instances of pass-heavy offenses.
“The main thing when it comes to winning a championship,” Holgorsen said, “is guys that take care of the football.”
11:05 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
KU COACH DAVID BEATY
First-year Kansas football coach David Beaty opened his morning press conference at Big 12 media days talking about how excited he is to be back in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, one of the nation’s hotbeds of high school recruiting.
• Beaty said getting KU’s football program back on track will be a process, not an event. The new KU coach said he and his staff have high standards, and they have simple ways to reach lofty goals: work hard and earn everything.
• Beaty wants KU football to have a brand that is tough, competitive and fun for players to play in.
• On freshmen/first-year players: In college football these days, it’s hard to tell a player he will for sure red-shirt. Injuries are a part of the game, so depth usually becomes a factor. High school players are coming in more prepared than ever. But incoming freshmen will have to earn playing time.
• Beaty referenced his time at KU as an assistant under Mark Mangino. Some of the things Mangino created, in terms of good habits, are still there, according to Beaty.
• Senior QB Michael Cummings is a better kid than he is a player, Beaty said. His knee injury in the spring game broke Beaty’s heart. Cummings had surgery in June, and Bowen looked out his office window the other day and saw Cummings down on the field throwing the ball. If anybody can make it back this season, it’s Cummings.
• It was a no-brainer decision to keep Clint Bowen on his staff as assistant head coach. Beaty and Bowen, and their families, vacationed together this summer. Beaty likes the kind of person Bowen is, but also how much Bowen cares about the KU program.
• New offensive lineman Jordan Shelley-Smith has been a consummate pro. That’s probably the most impressive thing about him. Shelley-Smith has put on 65 pounds since converting from tight end and it should pay dividends for him.
• With two days of contact now the standard for practicing in the Big 12, it won’t change the way KU does business. The program will adjust to this and other changes that come in the college football landscape.
• Strength coach Je’Ney Jackson used to be at KU as an assistant coach and worked with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris. Beaty hired Jackson because of how talented he is. He likes the standards and expectations Jackson sets for the players.
• You need to have some depth at running back in college football, and Beaty thinks the Jayhawks have that. He pointed to Taylor Cox, Ke’aun Kinner, De’Andre Mann and Taylor Martin as the players KU will lean on at the RB position.
• High school coaches in Texas know Beaty and co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry well, and they know when their kids go to KU they’ll be taken care of, and nothing will be given.
10:35 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
Some on social media wondered if Kansas football was going with "KU" on its helmets, without a Jayhawk logo.
But, as we saw last season, Kansas actually has a number of helmet options, and some of them that KU brought to Dallas have "KU" on one side and a Jayhawk on the other.
10:25 a.m. Update — By Benton Smith
TCU COACH GARY PATTERSON
This summer’s trip to Big 12 Media Days feels a lot different than the 2014 venture for TCU coach Gary Patterson. Twelve months ago, the Horned Frogs were coming off a 4-8 season in 2013, with few expecting much out of them.
“A year ago, you had to prove people wrong. Now you’ve gotta prove people right,” said Patterson, whose team went 12-1 last season after installing a new offense, and now is expected to battle Baylor for the 2015 league crown.
Patterson said entering this season as a Big 12 favorite only means so much.
“It’s a nice feeling, but I’ve been in this business too long to get caught up in it,” the TCU coach said.
Patterson has to stay even keeled, he continued, because then his team will do the same.
His best player, senior quarterback Trevone Boykin, has kept his cool this summer, as hype builds around the Heisman Trophy front-runner.
Patterson said Boykin spent all summer doing seven-on-seven work with his offensive teammates, instead of leaving town to work with some “quarterback gurus.”
10:21 a.m. Update — By Matt Tait
Just caught my first glimpse of KU coach David Beaty and the three KU player reps here in Dallas. Beaty and Ben Johnson elected to go with the light gray suit look while Jordan Shelley-Smith went dark blue and Ben Goodman went with the dark gray. All of them look sharp and they're all rocking the Jayhawk pin on their jackets.
A lot of teams just wear slacks and team polos to this event but the KU players always have tried to make sure they look as sharp as they can.
I think part of it is that they want to make sure they look like a top-level team so that people will treat them like one in spite of their record during recent seasons.
Beaty will hit the podium at 10:40 for his first official Big 12 Q&A.
Original Post: 9:25 a.m. — By Matt Tait
Like it or not, Big 12 football media days in Dallas always sort of represents the unofficial end of summer and the infant beginning of another college football season.
And it has arrived.
Four representatives of the Kansas University football team, along with players and coaches from the other nine Big 12 schools have invaded the Omni Hotel in Dallas to talk about the upcoming season, the challenges facing college football today and any and every other quirky and comedic thing they can think of to represent their schools and teams and kick off the 2015 season in style.
KU will be represented by first-year coach David Beaty, who should flourish in this setting, as well as players Ben Goodman (senior defensive end), Ben Johnson (sophomore tight end) and Jordan Shelley-Smith (junior offensive lineman).
Those three players, though not widely known throughout the conference will be in charge of answering all of those tough questions the Jayhawks normally get down here — Why is it so hard to win at Kansas? What's it like to lose so often? Will this year be any different than the previous five? And so many others like that.
I saw the KU contingent in the lobby when we checked in last night and they don't appear to be concerned with those types of things. Instead, they're excited to be here, ready to represent KU well and looking forward to showing people that there's more to football and the teams in the Big 12 than the results on the field.
I wouldn't expect to hear any outlandish comments from any of these guys. They're respectful young men who understand that the best way to talk the talk is to walk the walk. But I'm sure they'll be happy to share with us how hard they've been working this offseason and why they're optimistic about what's ahead.
As for Beaty, you can bet he'll give some colorful quotes, simply because he uses such interesting and entertaining language. But you can also bet that you'll hear him speak the words “earn it” about a million times and also will NOT hear him call his team or anyone else “a pile of crap.”
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is speaking to the media to kick things off and the coaches press conferences get rolling at 10:05 with TCU coach Gary Patterson. Beaty is set to speak for the first time at 10:40.
Keep it right here for all of your coverage from Day 1 of Big 12 media days from myself and your guy Benton Smith.
Gold became a trending topic in the realm of college basketball social media Monday morning, as news spread of Kansas leading Team USA to a double-overtime victory over Germany in the World University Games final.
From SportsCenter, to Larry Brown to Dick Vitale, various tweets popped up congratulating the Jayhawks on their summer run.
Even cooler, though, was the opportunity this international stage gave KU’s players. And after going 8-0 in South Korea, the Jayhawks couldn’t help celebrating their feat.
A few former Kansas players acknowledged the win, too.
Even those tied to the KU football program showed some love for the basketball team’s golden moment.
— Check out all of our KU in Korea coverage, from Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder, the only local journalists covering the Jayhawks at the World University Games.
The hype for Kansas University’s 2015-16 men’s basketball season received another early boost to accompany the just-announced January showdown versus Kentucky, at Allen Fieldhouse.
With actual games still almost six months away, The Sporting News rolled out an updated preseason Top 25 and placed the Jayhawks at No. 1.
KU, of course, hasn’t advanced past the Round of 32 in the previous two NCAA Tournaments, so the selection might come as a surprise to some.
“When the best answer to the question of ‘Why Kansas?’ is ‘Why not?’, you’ve got yourself a pretty strange college basketball season on the way,” Mike DeCourcy wrote.
Between reliable senior-to-be Perry Ellis, the addition of incoming freshman big man Cheick Diallo and a number of Jayhawks capable of making significant strides in their development, The Sporting News likes KU’s potential rotation.
Still, attempting to predict next season’s elite teams, DeCourcy said on SportingNews.com, wasn’t as easy as it was in 2014-15, with Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke leading the pack.
“What we have now are a lot of teams that have potential, but flaws,” he said, “and they’re gonna have to overcome those flaws in order to be champions.”
Settling on Bill Self’s Jayhawks, DeCourcy added, came with some trepidation.
“There’s just not any single player that says, ‘I’m your star,’ and usually you need someone to carry you to a title,” he indicated. “Nobody at Kansas at this point has emerged as that sort of player.”
DeCourcy questioned whether Ellis possesses headliner power and pointed to Wayne Selden Jr. as someone who hasn’t proven to look comfortable in that role. Diallo, he added, projects as “a great defensive weapon,” but might not be as reliable on offense.
“One of those guys has to be a star for us to be right,” he offered, “but we like them more than some of the other contenders.”
Ultimately, DeCourcy said The Sporting News staff believes in Self, and thinks the Jayhawks will play great defense in 2015-16.
The two teams immediately following the Jayhawks in the advance rankings have Kansas ties. Former KU guard Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins snagged the No. 2 spot and Self’s predecessor at Kansas, Roy Williams, leads No. 3 North Carolina.
Wichita State, which knocked the Jayhawks out of The Big Dance this past March and adds former KU guard Conner Frankamp to the roster this coming season, landed at No. 9.
The Big 12 earned four total spots in the rankings, with No. 7 Iowa State, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 16 West Virginia joining KU.
Sporting News College Hoops 2015-16 Preseason Top 10
3. North Carolina
7. Iowa State
9. Wichita State
When one of the nation’s elite high school basketball prospects waits until late in the spring of his senior year to pick his future hoops home, the whole college basketball world takes notice.
Such was the case Tuesday, when Cheick Diallo tweeted out his decision to commit to Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks.
From college basketball reporters and analysts, to current and former Jayhawks, the news piqued the interest of many in the Twitterverse.
Here are some of the many reactions and story links:
New KU women's basketball coach Brandon Schneider introduced himself to the media and the Jayhawk fanbase this morning at a press conference.
The spectacle of March Madness entertains and amazes the nation each and every year. But for the vast majority of the players out there deciding whose brackets get framed and whose get tossed in the recycling bin, the win-or-go-home tournament ends in pain.
Only a select few can survive The Madness and call themselves champions of the NCAA Tournament.
Over at The Players’ Tribune — a website designed to let professional athletes share their first-person accounts of athletic triumphs and trials — there is a series called “Tales of Madness,” in which former college hoops stars detail all that is great (and devastating) about The Big Dance.
Wouldn’t you know it, you can read about an early exit and "one shining moment" from the Kansas perspective, thanks to entries from a couple of all-time greats.
Paul Pierce shares his memories of a painful loss to Arizona — in the Sweet 16, in 1997 — in a piece titled “One Bad Game.”
On the polar opposite end of the NCAA Tournament experience, KU legend Danny Manning describes the joy of winning the 1988 national championship.
“I played in four NCAA tournaments at Kansas, but that 1987-88 team was a special group,” Manning says. “Whenever a team wins a championship, everything has to fall into place. The coach has to have the right gameplan, coaches have to implement it and the players have to buy in and execute it. You have to catch some breaks along the way, but you also have to be dedicated and disciplined in your actions.
“In that 1988 NCAA Tournament, we weren’t the most talented team. We weren’t the most athletic team. But as anyone who’s ever watched the tournament knows, once you’re in, everyone’s record is 0-0. It’s all about which team can get hot at the right time.”
Pierce and his fellow Jayhawks from that 1996-97 KU team know that better than just about anybody who put on a college basketball uniform. Kansas entered the NCAA Tournament with just one loss, and it came in double overtime at rival Missouri.
KU’s previous dominance that season didn’t matter against No. 4 seed Arizona, which, much like Danny and The Miracles, started clicking at just the right time and won a national title.
“Arizona was good — they had a tremendous backcourt comprised of Mike Bibby and Jason Terry — but I didn’t have much doubt that we would win,” Pierce says. “Honestly, I thought we would crush them. Our team was stacked with NBA talent. The expectation was that we were going to bulldoze through the early rounds of the tournament. I had my sights set on the Final Four, where I figured we’d probably meet Kentucky, the defending national champs. That was the game we were all looking forward to.
“But Arizona came to play, and we weren’t at our best.”
Nine years earlier, Kansas entered the postseason as a No. 6 seed with 11 losses. Manning says coach Larry Brown’s unwavering belief in the Jayhawks helped them overcome what had at times been a bumpy regular season — the Jayhawks were 12-8 at one juncture.
Manning admits no one outside of the program expected KU in the Final Four, but there the Jayhawks were, playing in nearby Kansas City, Missouri, against fellow Big Eight program Oklahoma in the title game.
In the final seconds of a one-possession game, Manning hit two clutch free throws to push Kansas to an unlikely national title.
At The Players’ Tribune, Manning says his favorite memory from that magical ride actually came after the final game ended.
“Sitting in the locker room with my teammates after winning the national championship, we talked about our season, which was my senior season. We talked about the tournament. And that’s when it hit us: That was the last time we’d ever be together on the court as a team. It was a somber moment for me, but also a very satisfying one knowing that I was a part of a group that was able to win a national championship. A lot of hard work, sweat and tears went into it. A lot of guys made huge sacrifices for our team and for each other. We’d been through such uncertainty and endured so many tough losses, and here we were, reaping the benefits together — as a team.”
Obviously, Pierce recalls a far more agonizing feeling permeating the Kansas locker room when the season ended in 1997.
“The tournament is unforgiving,” Pierce says. “If you have one bad game, that’s it. Throughout my career I’ve had many losses, but all these years later, this is one that still stings.”
— Other “Tales of Madness” from The Players’ Tribune include accounts from Ali Farokhmanesh, Mateen Cleaves, Baron Davis, Kenny Lofton, Jameer Nelson, Jalen Rose, Jason Kidd and more.
When the season ends for Kansas, it doesn’t just move the needle in the Sunflower State, the college basketball nation takes notice.
When the Jayhawks lose before the Sweet 16, it becomes an even bigger deal. Throw in the whole in-state, previously unplayed rivalry game angle and you’ve got all sorts of intrigue surrounding KU’s Round of 32 loss to Wichita State on Sunday in Omaha.
Below is some of the Twitter chatter, photos, stories — and trash talk — that showed up after the Shockers bounced Kansas from the NCAA Tournament.
Jeff Eisenberg went as far as to include one Kansas player in his “Best and worst of the NCAA tourney’s opening weekend” feature.
Spoiler alert: The Jayhawk didn’t land in the best category.
Wayne Selden Jr. received the unappealing label of “Player who shrank in the spotlight”:
“Selden scored a quiet six points in a victory over New Mexico State on Friday and then went scoreless on five shots in a 78-65 loss to Wichita State two days later. Granted Kansas' game plan was to pound the ball inside against the smaller Shockers, but Selden still acknowledged after the game that he had let down his team by not being aggressive on offense and not playing well on defense.”
A couple of former KU players felt pretty good about their Jayhawks before the game, but since then we have social media silence on the subject.
There might not be basketball games going on Saturday in Omaha, but there certainly is pre-game buzz at CenturyLInk Center for Sunday’s Kansas University basketball game against Wichita State, in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32.
The locker rooms for both the Jayhawks and Shockers were packed with media members as the anticipation for the Sunflower State’s postseason matchup grows.
This will be your landing place for all the quotes, audio, video and photos the KUsports.com team gathers, so check back as we update it throughout the afternoon.
— 4:54 p.m. update —
Kansas sophomore forward Landen Lucas understands why this Kansas vs. Wichita State game means so much in the Sunflower State, and to the fans especially.
That just makes it more exciting for the players, too, Lucas said.
— 4:49 p.m. update — By Matt Tait—
Just another quick hit from WSU guard Ron Baker, a Scott City, Kansas, native, who was asked on Saturday about the idea of playing KU and K-State on a more regular basis in the future.
“Every Kansas school would like that, I think," Baker said. "Obviously we're not the BCS school and I can see how KU and K-State wouldn't want to have a home-and-home. It's just kind of how the RPI and BPI and all that stuff works.”
“I think it would be good for the state if we had like a Sunflower Showdown. Even if we're not playing each other, maybe the three schools played different opponents in the same location. That way Kansas can kind of bond and watch those three games in a day. Something simple like that would be neat.”
Great idea. Needs to happen.
— 4:30 p.m. update — By Matt Tait
Had a chance to talk with both Perry Ellis and Wichita State's Evan Wessel about their friendship and time playing together in high school at Wichita Heights.
Interestingly enough, the two guys are pretty similar. Both quiet. Both polite. Both hard-working dudes who have made the most of their abilities.
I asked a few KU guys what they would want to know about Ellis if they had the chance to talk to Wessel and their answers were pretty funny. Evan Manning, Tyler Self and Josh Pollard said they've heard stories about how Ellis used to get technical fouls when he was younger and may even have thrown a chair once. Wessel didn't recall those incidents and said it might have happened before they started playing on the same teams.
Landen Lucas wanted to know if Wessel remembered whether Ellis would actually dance at school dances or just kind of hang back against the wall. Wessel didn't remember any specific incidents of Ellis dancing or not dancing but said he was certain that Ellis was never the one out there leading the dance party.
KU freshman Kelly Oubre might have given the most interesting answer when he was asked what he'd want to know about Ellis from Wessel: "They're the opposition right now."
I asked Jamari Traylor what he would want to know and he said he had been around Ellis for so long now that he could not really think of anything.
"I know everything I need to know about Perry," Traylor said. "I've been around him for a while now. I know I'd trust him with my wallet."
Wessel, who averages 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds a game in 23 minutes, said the one thing he always liked the most about Ellis' game was how unselfish he was.
"He could always be the best player on the floor when he's out there," Wessel said. "But he still was unselfish. He's a great teammate and a lot of fun to play with."
As for the upcoming battle between these two former Wichita Heights teammates, both sounded excited about the challenge and each said he hoped he would guard the other guy, which seems pretty likely according to players and coaches in both locker rooms.
"It's going to be a great opportunity," Wessel said. "Great teammates back in high school and it will be fun to play against him here tomorrow."
Added Ellis: "We have been competing since we were young and he's a great guy and it's going to be fun to get to play against each other again."
— 4:09 p.m. update —
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall knows this is a big game for his program, but he also realizes the ultimate goal here in Omaha is moving on to Cleveland.
It's exciting. I'm not going to tell you that I'm not excited about being in the third round against a wonderful program, a great team, a great coach, but when that ball is tossed, I'm just going to coach my team, and it's going to be just like any other game, with tremendous energy and intensity. And last year, Kentucky, that was a wonderful basketball game! It was electricity all through the building; it was one play after another, and tomorrow's game could very well be like that. I just hope we come out on the different end.
— Hear Marshall's press conference: Gregg Marshall looks ahead to Sunday's game vs. Kansas
— 3:58 p.m. update —
You might have heard that Wichita State junior Ron Baker grew up a Kansas basketball fan. He talked about that Saturday in the Shockers' locker room.
— 3:42 p.m. update —
Bill Self said it didn't take long for Kansas to turn its focus to Wichita State.
Yesterday was a great win for us, I think anybody that plays in the tournament that won would say it's a great win, but we got forgot about 30 minutes after we played and focused in on the next task, and that's a talented and well-coached Wichita State ball club.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self discusses Saturday's showdown with Wichita State
— 3:15 p.m. update —
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— 2:20 p.m. update —
You can tell some of the Jayhawks aren’t as excited about the two-programs-from-Kansas angle of this game as the media. Which is completely fine and understandable.
Kansas would want to win this game if Indiana was the opponent, too. The players don’t mind all the WSU buzz, but the subplots didn’t seem to exactly intrigue them. They’re just trying to get to the Sweet 16.
The NCAA Tournament already is in full swing in some cities, but in Omaha, Nebraska, the games don’t start until Friday. That means today at CenturyLink Center, players and coaches from Kansas University, New Mexico State, Wichita State and Indiana will only be talking basketball (and going through a pseudo practice which will be open to the public).
This will serve as your landing spot for the media day, and we’ll check in as we can to update you on what’s being said about Friday’s Round of 64 games — and the Sunday could-be game between KU and WSU, when that inevitably gets brought up.
Check back in throughout the day for updates.
— 7:43 p.m. update— By Matt Tait
Just filed this story about New Mexico State big man Tshilidzi Nephawe that includes where his nickname "Chili" came from, what he's playing for and why he's proud of his homeland of South Africa.
Had a lot of fun interviewing him and writing this one. Just a really, really good dude.
— 5:08 p.m. update—
KU sent sophomore Wayne Selden Jr. and freshman Kelly Oubre jr. to the bright lights of the stage for Thursday's press conference.
Said Oubre of his upcoming first tourney:
"Guys like Wayne, Perry, Jamari, they've pretty much just calmed me down throughout this whole process and told me to take every game, one game at a time, one possession at a time; don't take anybody for granted and pretty much just play with a free mind. Try to take care of business for the name across your chest."
— Listen to what they had to say: Selden and Oubre discuss preparing for NCAAs
— 4:55 p.m. update —
At his press conference Thursday afternoon, Kansas coach Bill Self opened by talking about the excitement and urgency of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
"Obviously we're excited to play in another Tournament and something that we definitely do not take for granted, and the guys have worked real hard to put themselves in a position to be here. And, of course, being in Omaha is like a double bonus to us. It's certainly close for our fans. But even more importantly to us, it's a great venue, it's a great setup and a great city, and we have experienced a little bit of success the last couple of times we've been here, so we're very happy to be here in Omaha."
— Listen to the complete press conference here: Bill Self talks expectations, New Mexico State
— 4:47 p.m. update — by Matt Tait
The Jayhawks were in, by far, the smallest locker room I've seen them in during an NCAA Tournament (New Mexico State's was not any bigger) and it was incredibly packed during the entire open locker room session.
Jamari Traylor was so far back in the corner of the locker room that he just hung back in his locker and stayed out of sight. I was able to get back into the corner eventually and I asked him how the past four days had been for the health of the Jayhawks.
"We're good, man," Traylor said. "Everybody's healthy, feeling good and ready to go."
Down the row from Traylor, Brannen Greene held the edge and that made the access to him easy in and easy out. I talked to Greene a lot about the difference between the feeling he has this year at the tournament and the feeling he had last year, as a true freshman.
The basic answer was this: Instead of having his head on a swivel and being a little bit in awe of all that takes place here, from the media hype to the fan frenzy to the intensity of the games himself, Greene feels much more comfortable and enjoys that he knows what to expect.
"Your energy has to be at an all-time high at a tournament like this," Greene said. "And I think we all know that now. Instead of worrying about all of the things going on around us, we can focus more on basketball and getting ready to play."
— 4 p.m. update —
The Kansas locker room was crowded with working media Thursday afternoon, but our photographer Mike Yoder got in there for video.
— 2:20 p.m. update —
You can't tell a whole lot from these open "practices" that the NCAA Tournament holds for the fans, but Brannen Greene — just like his teammates — worked on his shot during the session.
Some fell, some didn't. But that's the way it goes when three or four players are shooting at once.
If KU wants to turn a corner and start playing at a higher level on offense, they'll need Green to find that shooting touch again.
Here's a look at all of the perimeter players going through drills Thursday afternoon.
— 1:33 p.m. update —
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— 12:53 p.m. update —
— 12 p.m., from Benton Smith —
Just got back from the New Mexico State locker room and the Aggies seem loose and confident.
They pride themselves on playing disruptive, turnover-focused defense and they hope that creates easy offense for them.
NMSU opponents average 13.2 giveaways a game this season, so it’s not a ridiculous number. But that mindset can get under opponents’ skin, and that can be just as beneficial.
Both point guard Ian Baker and sixth man D.K Eldridge talked about that peskiness and pointed to it as one of NMSU’s strengths.
Check back for video from the locker room and quotes from the Aggies (23-10).