Don’t forget to include never having coached an NBA All-Star at Kansas on your list of reasons you are grateful Bill Self is your school’s basketball coach.
After all, if a Kansas player participated in the game you might be tempted to watch it and your eyes might never recover.
The NBA All-Star Game, once a worthwhile exhibition, has gone the way of the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star exhibition. In a word, unwatchable. The West defeated the East, 196-173, Sunday, but the real victim was not a team, rather an important facet of basketball, defense.
It’s just as well that none of Self’s Kansas players has played in All-Star Game because they play defense and they wouldn’t know what to do in a game where it’s not allowed.
In the next year or two or three, second-year pro Andrew Wiggins, averaging 20.8 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, likely will make the West roster. By then, he might have reason to show off his defensive skills. By then, maybe someone with influence will convince the NBA it needs to go the way of Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic and incentivize winning, the only way to resurrect the integrity of the game.
Give the home-court advantage in the NBA Finals to the winner of the All-Star Game. Please!
Watching video clips of the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Udoka Azubuike, calls to mind Cliff Alexander dominating Chicago high school competitors with a series of dunks, plus three inches in height, 20 pounds in weight, less body fat, and broader shoulders.
In other words, he is tall enough, big enough and aggressive enough to give Kansas what it hasn’t had since Joel Embiid’s back injury ended his college career late in his freshman season: A legitimate center.
It’s easy to picture Azubuike playing alongside Cheick Diallo and/or Carlton Bragg. Either 6-10, 250-pound center Marques Bolden (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) of DeSoto, Texas (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) or 6-9 forward Jarrett Allen (ranked 20th) of Austin could be added to a recruiting class that started with 6-8 forward Mitch Lightfoot (No. 117) of Gilbert, Ariz. Strong rebounder Landen Lucas also returns for Kansas.
As Alexander and Diallo illustrated, high school dominance doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing as a freshman, but physically, at the very least, Azubuike looks like more advanced than most teenage post players.
Azubuike chose Kansas over North Carolina, which puts a premium on a big man’s ability to run the floor, so he should fit KU’s desire to pick up the pace as well.
Skid row brims with men who relied too heavily on hollow hunches, so when I tell you I have a hunch, wish me luck. But I do have a strong one heading into today’s basketball game between Kansas and TCU, a 1 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse.
Something tells me freshman forward Carlton Bragg will get a long run today, make the most of it and produce his first double-figures scoring game.
For one thing, the opportunity likely will present itself since not one of the other four big men vying for playing time alongside senior Perry Ellis has established himself as the unquestioned leader of the pack.
In the loss at West Virginia, Cheick Diallo, Landen Lucas, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor combined for 35 minutes, six points, 13 rebounds, nine personal fouls and two turnovers.
In his four Big 12 games, Bragg has combined for 33 minutes, 15 points, 10 rebounds, four fouls and five turnovers.
The most skilled of the bunch, Bragg sometimes looks a little too eager to make something happen right away and ends up rushing himself into a bad pass or a missed shot from close range.
If Kansas can take control of today’s game early, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Bragg might be allowed to play through a mistake or two, get a good sweat going, compete with a free mind, settle down and not look so much like he's rushing to make it somewhere on time. It's tough to imagine any more welcome development for the Jayhawks than Bragg emerging.
Ellis could use the help. As the season wears on and the aches and pains mount for the players, it wouldn’t hurt for Ellis to get more rest. Bragg by far is the best option to replace Ellis’ scoring punch when he rests, so a breakthrough performance for the freshman could be a big step forward for the team.
Whereas Diallo is relatively new to the game, hasn’t yet developed a great feel, and sometimes finds himself in the wrong spot to lend help defensively or space the floor properly offensively, it’s clear Bragg knows how to play the game. He just too often plays it sped up. The latter takes less time to fix with experience than the former.
Among the five bigs not named Ellis, Bragg ranks third in minutes (174), behind Traylor (215) and Lucas (190), first in points (70), fourth in rebounds with 45, behind Lucas (68), Traylor (54) and Mickelson (46) and first in turnovers with 17.
My very specific hunch says Bragg will produce 12 points and six rebounds to send 16,300 home happy while they put the pedal to the metal to try to settle in front of their TV sets in time for the Chiefs' 3:35 p.m. kickoff.
Crowded out of prominence by the drama that unfolded over and over and over again later in a Big Monday night, Jamari Traylor’s terrific stretch at the opening of the second half of a 109-106, triple overtime victory over Oklahoma was not lost on his coach.
“I thought Mari was great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the fifth-year senior from Chicago. “Second half, he was about the only one playing start of the second half, and of course Landen (Lucas) down the stretch was awesome.”
Traylor came off the bench in the first half and started the second. It’s a good thing he did because without him using his explosive leaping ability near the hoop, the game could have gotten away from the Jayhawks.
Kansas made just four field goals in the opening 7:19 of the second half and Traylor had two of them. Traylor’s biggest contributions weren’t the points he scored. They never are. He’s a limited offensive player, but has a tendency to make defensive plays that fire up the crowd.
For sheer out-of-nowhere shock value, Traylor had the game’s two most amazing plays. Ninety seconds into the second half, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard drove to the hoop for a bucket that would have given the Sooners a nine-point lead. Traylor somehow snatched the shot out of mid-air with two hands and came crashing to the floor, landing on his back, where he stayed for a nervous moment.
A couple of minutes later, the Sooners’ high-flying Khadeem Lattin went in for a dunk that would have given OU a 12-point lead. Traylor had the body control to go up with Lattin, and without touching the would-be dunker, put his hand on the ball to block the shot and snuff the bucket. This time, Traylor landed out of bounds, near the stanchion and Lattin had the harder crash. Incredible play.
A couple of Kanas possessions later, Traylor caught a pass in the lane and decisively drove right, throwing a shot off the glass for a bucket that drew Kansas within seven points. After OU pumped it back to a nine-point lead, Traylor shaved it to seven again, crashing the glass from straight on to put back a Wayne Selden miss.
Traylor’s minutes are down a little this season (14.8 average, compared to 20.4 as a junior and 16.1 as a sophomore), but his spirits seem up. His body language is better and he has been a consistent positive, energetic force.
Tensions ran high in a game that both sides badly wanted.
"Some of those loose balls, diving, sacrificing bodies, that was two teams really, really competing,” Self said.
In other words, the game was right in Traylor's wheelhouse.
First, the world title. Next challenge for the Kansas University basketball team, a tougher one, the national title.
In winning USA’s first World University Games gold medal in men’s basketball in 10 years, Kansas revealed so many positives about itself. The games also showed there is so much to like about international rules.
Seven quick takeaways from the World University Games:
1 - Thanks to Frank Mason, KU will be tough to beat in close games. Fearless Frank has the quickness, skill and boldness to get where he wants to go with the ball and finishes at the hoop and sets up teammates with equal effectiveness in the clutch.
2 - Even when Wayne Selden’s shots don’t drop, as was the case in the double-overtime, gold-medal-game victory vs. Germany, he has the confidence to come up with big plays late with the game in the balance. He’ll face more athletic players in the college game, but he’ll also be playing the right position this season and far more often than not will be at an athletic advantage against the opposing small forward.
3 - Hunter Mickelson, an active force at both ends, has earned a spot in the rotation with his shot-blocking, tip-ins and consistent energy. Energetic incoming freshman Cheick Diallo projects as the starter, but when he has his freshman moments, KU coach Bill Self has somewhere to turn for relief. Curiously, Self went more with Landen Lucas, the better rebounder but not the defender or scorer that Mickelson is, for most of the second half. Mickelson held German center Bogdan Radosavljevic scoreless in the first half. Radosavljevic awakened when Mickelson sat.
4 - Self had to have made a strong impression, setting himself up for bigger jobs on the international stage. There isn’t a better man to coach the Olympic team than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, committed through the 2016 Games in Rio. But Coach K isn’t going to want to do it forever. His outrageous success as coach of the national team has to increase the chances of the next coach also coming from the college game. Team USA’s performance — so strong on effort and team play — in South Korea should move Self to the head of the non-Coach K division of college coaches, even ahead of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kentucky’s John Calipari.
5 - The international shot-clock rules (24 seconds, a reset to 14 seconds after a missed shot rebounded by the offensive team, eight seconds to advance the ball past mid-court) eliminates dead seconds, forces players to make moves and puts the game more in the hands of the players. It would work great in the college game.
6 - The international timeout rules, including limiting each team to two in the final two minutes, keeps an exciting, close game from grinding to a halt. It would lead to quicker games on TV, so that instead of watching the end of a game that doesn’t interest the on-deck audience, viewers can watch all 40 minutes of the games that interest them. The sooner college basketball goes to this format, the better.
7 - The added practice time, overseas bonding, strong performances under pressure can only benefit the Jayhawks in their quest to win what would be Self's second national title and fourth NCAA tournament title for the school. The roster has depth, experience and a clutch performer with the ball in his hands at the end of games and a smart, driven, seasoned coach pulling it all together.
Looking back on new KU women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider addressing fans in wake of winning national title at Emporia State
Kansas has decided that Brandon Schneider is the coach needed to pump life into a joyless women's basketball program that had trouble generating fan interest, particularly among students.
Schneider left the Emporia State women's program after winning the Div. II national championship in 2010, his 12th season at the school. He comes to Kansas from Stephen F. Austin, where his Ladyjacks won a share of the Southland Conference title in 2014 and won it outright last month in his fifth and final season at the school in Nacogdoches, Texas.
It will be interesting to see how far Schneider has come as a public speaker in the past five years. You can do so by taking a look at the video below of Schneider addressing Emporia State fans in the wake of the school's first national championship in any sport and then watching his 10 a.m. press conference by clicking on our All Eyes on KU blog.
Four consecutive Final Fours. Three national-title games in four seasons. A coach can't accomplish those feats without having the ability to recruit, develop and make the right moves in close ballgames against strong competition.
John Ontjes has accomplished those feats as head coach of the Hutchinson County Community College women's basketball program. He starred as a player for two years at Hutch before starting at point guard for Billy Tubbs for a year and Kelvin Sampson for a year at Oklahoma. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 assists during his Sooners career. He was better than solid as a player and is a way better coach than player.
His team, noted for tenacious defense, held 14 of its final 15 opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Blue Dragons took a 36-0 record into the national title game March 21, a 54-46 loss to Chipola.
Brad Hallier of the Hutchinson news recently wrote a column endorsing Ontjes for the KU job and expressing the opinion that the coach is too good for any level but high Div. I. In it, Hallier cited an amazing statistic in the column: The Blue Dragons have built a home-court winning streak of 117 games for their ultra-competitive coach.
Six of the 13 players on this season's Hutch roster played high school ball in Kansas.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has not shared the names of his 15 finalists on a list that started with 60 names, but he did say he has explored coaches from all levels, including junior college. Given that, it's difficult to imagine Ontjes at the very least was not on the original list and very well could be among the final 15.
As Angel Goodrich demonstrated when she took Kansas to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, nothing is more important than a terrific point guard.
Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (first name pronounced by saying the word “knee” and the letter “L”) was one herself and during her eight seasons as an assistint has mentored others.
A native of St. Louis who graduated from ND in 2000 with a history degree, Ivey also has been Notre Dame’s recruiting coordinator since 2012. The Fighting Irish, who rank second nationally in field-goal percentage (49.8) and fifth in scoring (80.9), face South Carolina in a 5:30 CT semifinal in a game televised on ESPN. This is Notre Dame's fifth consecutive Final Four.
Ivey has received praise for her work with ND point guard Lindsay Allen and with Skylar Diggins before that. She also has had a hand in the Irish ranking in the top five nationally in each of the past three recruiting classes.
After her All-American career at Notre Dame, Ivey spent five seasons playing in the WNBA.
“Niele is really a rising star, a rock star if you will, in the coaching profession,” Notre Dame head coach Muff McGraw said in the Niele bio on the school’s website. “... She’s got to be known as one of the best recruiters in the country and certainly with our point guards, she does just a phenomenal job.”
Ivey made the 2001 Final Four all-tournament team by averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 assists in leading Notre Dame to its first national title.
Ivey keeps the public up to date on Notre Dame basketball and on her son Jaden’s budding hoops career with the Twitter handle @IrishCoachIvey.
Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger started his search for a new women’s basketball coach by compiling a list of 60 names. At least 59 of them were not named by Fortune Magazine as one of the “World’s Greatest Leaders.”
On a list that ranked Pope Francis fourth, LeBron James 31st and Jimmy Fallon 45th, Princeton eighth-year women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart checked in at No. 43. The Tigers went 31-1 this past season, losing to Maryland, 85-70, in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
“Banghart, who has a master’s degree in leadership development, expects more of her players than great play: They must adhere to Princeton’s tough academic standards too,” Fortune wrote of the Dartmouth graduate.
Banghart’s team plays an up-tempo style and led the nation in three-point accuracy this season, which is fitting considering that in 1999, Banhart led the nation in three-point field goals per game.
Seeded eighth in the NCAA tournament, the Tigers posted the second Ivy League victory in tourney history (Harvard 1998 was the first), defeating Wisconsin-Green Bay, 80-70, in the round of 64. Before hiring Banghart, Princeton never had been to the NCAA tourney. This was the fourth trip in five seasons for the Tigers, whose season included a 30-point victory at Michigan.
Banghart’s turn-around at the Ivy League school didn’t take long. She went 21-37 in her first two seasons, 148-30 in the next six.
Take four more looks at the most talked-about play in Wichita State’s 78-65 victory Sunday in Omaha, one that sent the veteran Shockers on to a Sweet 16 game Thursday in Cleveland vs. Notre Dame.
The first thing you probably noticed is that at one point Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre was ahead of the Shockers' Zach Brown, but was ultimately beaten to the ball and mistimed his lunge for it.
Now watch it again and this time focus on Brannen Greene. After Brown tipped the pass, Greene, watching the ball, took three walking steps and the sprinted down the court. Three steps too late.
Now watch it a third time and this time focus on Perry Ellis. He was too far behind Brown to make a play, but had Ellis sprinted down court, making an angle to the basket, he could have been there for the rebound in the event Brown missed the dunk. Instead, he jogs very slowly down the right side of the court.
Watch it a fourth and final time and this time focus on Oubre after Brown makes the steal. Instead of sprinting after him in case he lost the ball on the dribble or missed the shot at the rim, Oubre actually drifts out of bounds and very slowly jogs for a few steps.
It was no way for any of the KU players to end a play that felt as if it ended the season.