KANSAS CITY, MO. — After finishing two games behind Kansas in the Big 12 conference standings last year, West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins said the key to unseating KU at the top of the conference is learning to win at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks own a 206-9 record at home under coach Bill Self, including only two league losses since 2007. Obviously, no other team in the Big 12 enjoys the same level of success on its home floor.
"People have to go into Allen Fieldhouse and win once in a while," Huggins said. "Because the rest of us all lose at home, and I think if you look at it, that's without a question, the difference. That has a lot to do with the job that Bill does. Bill does a great job. And they have really good players."
On a 12-year conference title streak, the Jayhawks are one season shy of tying the longest consecutive conference title streak, set by UCLA in 1967-79.
"Kansas' dominance is really -- it comes down to three things," Huggins said, "they've got a great coach, they've got great players, and they never lose at home. Until we start beating them at home -- and we had chances, we had chances. We missed free throws and a lot of crazy things happened at Allen Fieldhouse now. So we end up losing. If we had beaten them, I think somebody else would have had a chance to maybe tie for the league championship or whatever."
Despite KU's long streak at the top of the conference, Huggins disagrees with people that believe it hurts the image of the Big 12 to have one team with a monopoly on conference titles.
"I don't know why that would taint anything, you know what I'm saying?" Huggins said. "Because they've been one of the top three or four teams in the country for how many years, and that's not going to change. They can be in whatever league you want to put them in and they're still going to be. Don't listen to those people."
KANSAS CITY, MO. — After coaching for 13 seasons at Pittsburgh, TCU men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon enters the Big 12 Conference with some appreciation for Bill Self and the Kansas program.
Speaking at Big 12 Media Day for the first time, Dixon compared Self to some of the coaching giants in the industry and said he's on his way to earning a plaque in the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"We've gone against some pretty good coaches over the years and Hall of Famers. He's obviously a future Hall of Famer if not already," Dixon said of Self. "And, yeah, I mean, what they've done is inconceivable. No one could have predicted it, and it's still hard to believe."
Coaching in the ACC, Dixon matched up against some of the giants of the industry throughout the season. But he's amazed by the Jayhawks' 12-year reign at the top of the Big 12.
"There's nothing like this. I mean, to win it 12 years in a row and what Kansas has done, it's unheard of," Dixon said. "I guess it hasn't been done since UCLA, I guess is what they said. And that was obviously a different time. So, yeah, it is different in that regard. But probably stands out even more when you get the picks for the year, and the 12, 13th time, and they're claiming them the champion in the 13th year already."
The Horned Frogs are ranked last in the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll, but Dixon said it's ultimately up to the rest of the conference to unseat the Jayhawks from their spot at the top of the conference.
"I was talking to somebody earlier, it's unbelievable," Dixon said of the streak. "Obviously that was the thing about the Big East. There was no clear-cut team year-in, and year-out. We had the best record in the conference over a ten-year span. But we weren't looked at as the leader of the conference.
"There's no question about it. I guess it's up to the other nine to do something about it."
KANSAS CITY, MO. — Speaking at Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday at Sprint Center, Iowa State men's basketball coach Steve Prohm addressed his team's play in Kansas City, winners of two of the past three Big 12 tournament titles.
"What I think the number one factor coming over here is being just three hours from here, that Cyclone Nation really makes this — Hilton South is what they call it, it's an unbelievable atmosphere here," Prohm said. "I think that obviously goes a long way in winning games in this arena."
The Cyclones, coming off a 23-12 season, were ranked fourth in the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll behind Kansas, West Virginia and Texas. KU coach Bill Self gave the Cyclones his first-place vote.
Iowa State split the season series with the Jayhawks last year, winning in Ames, 85-72. When the two schools played again in the regular-season finale, the Jayhawks won, 85-78.
"I thought both games were really well played," Prohm said. "We were fortunate to beat them at our place. Then we went to their place last game of the regular season and actually really played well. I think we led by three with three minutes to go. But when you're playing Kansas, you're playing elite teams, you have to make tough plays down the stretch and you have to finish games. We weren't able to do it up there this past season."
Iowa State senior Monté Morris was picked as the conference's preseason Player of the Year. The dynamic point guard is the top returning scorer in the league after averaging 13.8 points per game, adding a league-leading 6.9 assists per game last year.
But of course, Prohm wants the Cyclones to contend for a Big 12 title and work their way to the level of success that is common at Kansas.
"Obviously Kansas is the standard, like I touched on, and our goal is to continue to put ourselves in a position to challenge them," Prohm said.
"But Allen Fieldhouse, Hilton Coliseum, there's probably, like I said, not five better places to play college basketball."
One of the top defensive backs in the NFL, former Kansas football star Aqib Talib has once again made headlines for the wrong reasons this week.
The ninth-year corner, who already has three interceptions and a touchdown return through five games this season for defending Super Bowl champion Denver, reportedly shot himself in the right leg this summer.
On Tuesday, the 30-year-old Talib told Denver’s 9News Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “may fit in” in the Broncos’ locker room. Talib’s comments came days after an old recording emerged of Trump using vulgar language while denigrating women.
Talib played at Kansas from 2005 to 2007 and ranks second all-time in program history, with 13 career interceptions (Ray Evans, who played in the 1940s, is first, with 17).
Watch the Talib clip below.
With the 32nd annual Late Night in the Phog tonight, the anticipation of the beginning of another Kansas basketball season is at an all-time high.
Led by 14th-year head coach Bill Self, the Jayhawks will open the season, as they always do, with high hopes and lofty goals. A likely Top 3 team heading into the season — which officially begins in Honolulu on Nov. 11 — the Jayhawks will be gunning both for a national title and a record-tying 13th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
While the quest for both will hold the interest — and nerves — of KU fans for the next several months, few things get the fan base as fired up as Late Night, which offers both an opportunity to see the players in action and be entertained by their personas away from basketball.
"There’s nothing like it," said junior guard Devonte' Graham. "The fans know what recruits are coming from high school. They get all the privileges just to be around here and experience Late Night. Seeing Allen packed is different from just walking in and seeing it empty. You can’t really imagine it but it definitely is a huge impact on recruits.”
With that in mind, here's some of the sights and sounds from Late Night — the unofficial beginning of the KU basketball season...
-Check back to KUSports.com and this blog for much more coverage of Late Night
It’s only been one year since the Memphis football team traveled to Lawrence for last season’s matchup against Kansas, but the Tigers will feature a much different look Saturday.
Exit former coach Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech) and quarterback Paxton Lynch (Denver Broncos). Enter Mike Norvell and Riley Ferguson.
Norvell, the youngest FBS head coach at 34, was Arizona State’s offensive coordinator and quarterback coach from 2012-15. The Sun Devils ranked 23rd in the nation last year in total offense.
In Week One — the Tigers had a bye last week — Norvell became the first Memphis head coach to win his debut since 1984 with a 35-17 victory over Southeast Missouri. Both Norvell and KU coach David Beaty belong to the same coaching tree under current ASU coach Todd Graham.
When Graham was the head coach at Rice, he hired Beaty as a receivers coach in 2006 — his first full-time college assistant role. Three years later, at Tulsa, Graham hired Norvell in the same role.
“I know Mike really, really well. One of the finest young minds in all of college football,” Beaty said of Norvell. “Very sought after, he could’ve went a lot of different places. A really good football coach.”
Graham told the Commercial Appeal: “Very similar coaches. Guys that are very passionate, guys that are very smart. Great motivators of their players. And obviously great offensive minds. … (I'm) really proud of them.”
During Memphis season-opening win, junior transfer QB Ferguson threw for 295 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in his debut. He played for Coffeyville Community College in Kansas last year after starting his collegiate career at Tennessee.
The Tigers had no problem in their passing game against SEMO, completing 65 percent of their passes. But in the run game, they only had 110 yards on 33 attempts (3.3 yards per carry). Patrick Taylor led with 86 yards on seven carries, which included a 51-yard run.
The Tigers might be without senior running back Sam Craft, who missed two weeks of practice because of a hamstring injury. He ran for 333 yards and five touchdowns last year, along with 114 receiving yards and two scores. According to Tom Schad of the Commercial Appeal, Craft was a limited participant at practice Wednesday and only did a portion of the 7-on-7 drills.
One player who won’t step on the field is senior defensive lineman Latarius Brady, who made two starts and had 13 tackles last year. He is recovering from a torn ACL in spring practices, but isn’t expected to return until next month.
The Jayhawks will try to keep pace offensively with Memphis, especially after last year. The Tigers recorded 651 yards of offense in last year’s matchup, the third-highest single-game total in school history. That included 281 rushing yards for five touchdowns.
Interesting note: The Jayhawks have played in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium twice, but never against Memphis. In 1973, KU lost to Tennessee in a neutral-site game, and later in the season, lost to N.C. State in the Liberty Bowl game.
FIVE TIGERS TO WATCH
No. 4: QB Riley Ferguson | 6-4, 210, jr.
In his Memphis debut, Ferguson completed 26 of 40 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns against SEMO.
Connected with 10 different pass-catchers in Week One, replacing first-round draft pick Paxton Lynch under center.
He redshirted in 2013 at Tennessee after suffering a leg injury. In 2015, he was quarterback at Coffeyville CC and was 225 of 332 for 2,942 yards and 35 touchdowns, earning first-team all-KJCCC honors.
No. 3: WR Anthony Miller | 5-11, 190, jr.
Miller was dominant in the season opener with nine receptions for 103 yards. It was his fifth-career 100-yard receiving game and he was one catch shy of tying his career high.
The redshirt junior made four starts last season, finishing third on the team with 47 receptions and ranking second with 694 yards. He added nine carries for 54 yards and a score.
Along with his talent at receiver, Miller is the top option as a punt returner. He returned three punts against SEMO for 33 yards.
No. 54: C Drew Kyser | 6-5, 300, soph.
Last year, he played in all 13 games as a true freshman with 12 starts. He was instrumental in an offense that finished 19th in the nation in total offense (486.9 yards per game).
Named to the Remington Trophy fall watch list, awarded to the top center in the country.
No. 8: CB Arthur Maulet | 5-11, 190, sr.
Don’t let the 0 receptions vs. Missouri State fool you. Cross earned first-team all-AAC honors in 2014 for a reason.
The tight end caught three passes for 69 yards and a TD in the Tigers’ bowl win over BYU to close 2014.
On the John Mackey Award watch list for the nation’s top tight end.
No. 46 : PK Jake Elliott | 5-10, 165, sr.
One of the top place kickers in the nation, earning preseason All-America honors from USA Today. He earned second-team honors from Sports Illustrated and third team from Athlon Sports.
In 2015, Elliott tied a school record by making 23 of 28 field goals. He drilled two field goals in the season opener, both longer than 40 yards.
The kicker set a new school record by hitting 63 extra points, going perfect in the process. He’s made his last 147 PAT attempts.
Four of Elliott’s seven kickoffs went for touchbacks in the season opener.
The two-time AAC Special Teams Player of the Year ranks third on the school’s all-time scoring list with 333 points. Elliott only trails New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (369) and Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams (362).
In the two-plus years since Joel Embiid left Kansas for the NBA, his injury-plagued career has kept him from playing any games for the Philadelphia 76ers. But the 7-foot-2 center from Cameroon somehow found a way to stay relevant in the league’s zeitgeist by becoming an internet/Twitter/Instagram star.
In particular, videos of Embiid going through basketball workouts during his rehab process became both wildly popular for fans of the Sixers and the young big man, while simultaneously serving as fodder for jokes about him never appearing in an actual professional game.
Well, The Ringer took the Embiid mythology to another level Wednesday, when Kevin O’Connor’s story on the 22-year-old prospect included a mockumentary on the former KU star.
Titled, “Joel Embiid: Legacy of a Legend,” the video includes such one-liners as:
“This is what watching Wilt Chamberlain in person must’ve felt like.”
“And there’s a revelation: Oh my God. LeBron James is trash.”
“Joel Embiid is one of the bravest men, probably on the face of the planet.”
Perhaps the jokes will stop this coming season, when Embiid is on schedule to make his NBA debut. Or perhaps more injury setbacks will continue to group the promising center with the likes of Greg Oden.
Some people think Embiid could win Rookie of the Year, and others will remain skeptical until he proves them wrong.
No matter where you stand on the Embiid debate, The Ringer’s video tribute is worth checking out.
— Watch the mockumentary below:
As sweet a life as the NBA provides its players, it honestly can’t be all that much fun to play for one of the league’s struggling franchises.
Still, former one-year Kansas standout Ben McLemore proved to be a good sport when someone with Sacramento pitched him the idea of paying tribute to a viral video that exploded across social media a few days ago.
If you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook or any other social media platform in the past 72 hours, surely you’ve come across the video of a woman laughing hysterically as she tries on her Star Wars Chewbacca mask.
In a parody of the latest queen of the Internet, the third-year Kings guard claims on camera he just got back from the store and is excited about his purchase.
What did McLemore supposedly buy?
A Chewbacca mask. The Sacramento guard isn’t moved to hysteria over trying out the mask, which comes with a recorded Wookiee roar, but he enjoyed the gag all the same.
Check out the video, tweeted out by the Kings, below:
Former Kansas football star and Super Bowl champion Chris Harris of the Denver Broncos didn’t hold back Thursday in an appearance on ESPN’s Highly Questionable.
In the midst of an interview with co-hosts Dan Le Batard and Bomani Jones, Harris offered his recollection of an infamous on-campus altercation between members of the KU basketball and football teams, back in 2009.
“Were you on the Kansas football team that lost the fight to the basketball Morris twins?” Le Batard asked.
Smiling, Harris responded: “We definitely won that fight.”
Jones followed up: “We hear the other way.”
As reported by the Lawrence Journal-World at the time, the brawl left KU guard Tyshawn Taylor with a dislocated left thumb weeks before the start of the 2009-10 basketball season.
According to LeBetard, Marcus and Markieff Morris’ account of the incident includes them back-to-back, taking on football players “over someone who was on the track team.”
Harris remembers the fracas differently.
“Nah, man. I mean that story right there, I think it was over one of the little track girls, but, I mean, we had 300-pound dudes fighting these basketball guys, so they definitely didn’t win,” Harris said. “I definitely watched it and seen it with my own eyes. We definitely won that for sure. I love the Morris twins, though. Those my boys, though.”
Furthermore, Harris claimed there wasn’t really a football versus basketball dynamic at KU.
“We (the football team, coming off back-to-back bowl-win seasons) were actually pretty good at that time,” Harris said. “I guess you could say they were running the campus. We were, too.”
Reiterating his love for the Morris twins, Harris said he had to have his football teammates’ backs during the heated disagreement, before again laughing at the idea of a humongous defensive tackles in a melee against slighter basketball players.
“It’s not fair to fight a 6-foot point guard or 6-7, 6-9 power forward. I think we had a little advantage,” Harris recalled, wearing a grin.
Harris, who played with volatile cornerback Aqib Talib at Kansas and is teamed up with him again in Denver, also shared on ESPN one of his favorite Talib stories from back in the day.
“I was a true freshman, and I was starting opposite of Talib, who was an All-American. We were playing Missouri. They had their whole team on the 50-yard line, and Talib just like ran through their whole team,” Harris said. “And they were warming up, running plays, and he like, they had to get the cops to come drag him off there, off their side of the field for warmups, back in the tunnel. So I was like, ‘Man.’ That was one of the craziest times I’ve seen Talib right there.”
Watch the entire entertaining segment with Harris below:
Hey, everyone. You’ll never believe this. Cheick Diallo is entering the NBA Draft.
This obviously isn’t news at this point, but we do have Diallo’s somewhat official statement on the matter as of Monday afternoon.
The big man who spent one season at Kansas tweeted out a letter regarding his decision to sign with an agent and forego his college eligibility.
“After spending the last couple of weeks thinking about my future,” Diallo stated in his Twitter message, “I took the decision to enter the 2016 NBA Draft, and signed with an agent today.
“It was not an easy call, but time has come for me to take that step up to the next level and make my goal of joining the NBA come true.”
Diallo details his unlikely life path from Kayes, Mali, to where he is now in the open letter, which includes thank-yous to those he encountered along the way.
The gregarious post player also thanks his fans, and declares himself “a Jayhawk for life.”
“This is the first step of many more to come,” Diallo says in the closing paragraph, “and I am looking forward to the new challenges with confidence and determination.”
Read Diallo’s entire letter below.