Ten Big 12 players, four from Kansas, make Wooden Award preseason top 50 list; UCSB’s Alan Williams snubbed
I wonder how John Wooden, in some ways the most famous name in the history of college basketball, would feel about the list of preseason candidates for the player of the year award that bears his name being based on NBA potential, not college performance.
Actually, having seen him coach and be interviewed on TV many times, I don’t wonder. Surely, he would not like it.
Yet, the preseason list of 50 candidates for the Wooden Award, released Monday, three days after the season started, had an omission that anyone who spent Friday night in Allen Fieldhouse would agree is unfortunate.
UC Santa Barbara center Alan Williams is not on a list that four Kansas players made: freshmen Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, sophomore Wayne Selden and junior Perry Ellis.
Kansas defeated UCSB, 69-59, and in the process did a nice job of defending Williams. The senior finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. He scored 10 of his points in the final 5:16.
Oubre played four minutes and didn’t score a point or pick up a rebound. That’s not to say he won’t develop into a fine player by midseason, but that’s why the midseason Wooden Award watch list and allows for midseason adjustments. Twenty-five will make that cut and all the names don’t have to come from the original 50.
Williams ranked 12th in the nation in scoring (21.3) and second in rebounding (11.5) last season, but that didn’t merit top 50 status. Shame.
Interestingly, the Big 12, not the ACC, had the most candidates (10), followed by the ACC (eight), and the Big Ten and SEC (7).
The other Big 12 players on the list, listed in alphabetical order by player’s last name: Marcus Foster (Kansas State), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Isaiah Taylor (Texas), Myles Turner (Texas).
Kansas and Kentucky (Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, freshman Karl Anthony-Towns) are the only schools with as many as four players. Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet is among the 50, which makes Kansas the only state represented by three different schools.
Kansas, which remained No. 5 in the Associated Press college basketball poll, faces No. 1 Kentucky in the second game of a Champions Classic doubleheader, in Indianapolis. No. 4 Duke faces No. 19 Michigan State in the first game.
The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 16, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (49) 2-0 1,574 1
- Arizona (4) 2-0 1,491 2
- Wisconsin (7) 2-0 1,475 3
- Duke (4) 2-0 1,422 4
- Kansas 1-0 1,306 5
- North Carolina 2-0 1,254 6
- Louisville 1-0 1,130 8
- Florida 1-0 1,127 7
- Virginia 2-0 1,065 9
- Texas 2-0 1,061 10
- Wichita St. 1-0 1,002 11
- Villanova 1-0 858 12
- Gonzaga 1-0 841 13
- Iowa St. 1-0 746 14
- VCU 1-0 654 15
- San Diego St. 1-0 564 16
- UConn 1-0 525 17
- Oklahoma 1-0 466 19
- Michigan St. 1-0 443 18
- Ohio St. 1-0 361 20
- Nebraska 1-0 298 21
- SMU 1-0 290 22
- Syracuse 2-0 190 23
- Michigan 1-0 177 24
- Utah 1-0 118 25
Others receiving votes: Stanford 63, Colorado 52, Iowa 48, UCLA 41, Kansas St. 29, Arkansas 23, Memphis 11, Minnesota 11, Notre Dame 10, Pittsburgh 10, Louisiana Tech 9, Dayton 7, Florida St. 6, NC State 6, Oklahoma St. 6, Cincinnati 5, George Washington 5, LSU 5, Illinois 3, Maryland 3, BYU 2, Baylor 2, UTEP 2, Georgetown 1, N. Iowa 1, Stephen F. Austin 1.
My AP top 25 ballot:
1 - Kentucky: If John Calipari could convince all nine McDonald’s All-Americans to return in 2015-16, SMU coach Larry Brown would predict a 75-0 season, instead of 45-0.
2 - Duke: Jahlil Okafor, a 6-11, 270-pound freshman from Chicago, averages 18 points and 7.5 rebounds. He’s made 85 percent of his shots and looks like a guy who really enjoys playing basketball.
3 - Arizona: The Pac-12 school in Tucson is one of seven schools appearing in AP’s top 25 in both basketball and football, joining Duke, Oklahoma and four Big Ten schools (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Nebraska).
4 - Wisconsin: Two games in, underrated sophomore Nigel Hayes from Toledo has 23 rebounds.
5 - Kansas: Which KU player will earn the most money in the NBA over the next 15 years? I’ll say Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, even though others will get a head start on him. And you say?
6 - Texas: Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor made made five three-pointers all of last season, four two games into this season. And 6-foot-11, 240-pound freshman Myles Turner has played 40 minutes, totaling 25 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots. The Longhorns are loaded and shape up as legitimate national-title contenders.
7 - North Carolina: The academic scandal looks worse with every breaking story.
8 - Wichita State: Tekele Cotton has improved significantly every year and if his season debut (17 points, five rebounds, three steals) was an accurate indication, he’s primed for a big senior year.
9 - Louisville: None of the 15 players on the three All-American teams returned this season, so somebody had to be named preseason All-American. Montrezl Harrell, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior from Tarboro, North Carolina, seemed as good a choice as any. He certainly played like an All-American in delivering coach Rick Pitino a victory over son Richard. Harrell attempted 12 shots from the field and scored 30 points. He made 3 of 4 three-pointers and 9 of 10 free throws.
10 - Florida: The Gators are in the market for a football coach, which means the basketball team can fly under the radar for a while. Anybody else rooting for Steve Spurrier to return to Gainesville?
11 -Virginia: Big bodies, soft long-range shooting touches and a patient offensive approach combine to frustrate opponents who tend to fall behind and stay behind, getting tighter and tighter as the game clock shows less and less time.
12 - Villanova: Will need to shoot better than it did against Lehigh (8 for 33 from three) to win games in Big East, but did do other things well to compensate. In 77-66 victory, Wildcats limited Lehigh to four offensive rebounds and committed nine turnovers to the Mountain Hawks’ 23.
13 - Iowa State: Georges Niang, a tough guy to guard, is even tougher with improved conditioning, more experience and the team’s need for him to be the go-to guy. He totaled 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Cyclones’ season-opening, 11-point victory against Oakland. And UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones, a 6-6, 210-pound scorer from Los Angeles, didn’t waste any time fitting in, with 20 points and 11 rebounds in his debut.
14 - Virginia Commonwealth: In scoring a 16-point victory against Tennessee, the Rams didn’t shoot well or take care of the basketball (18 turnovers), but they rebounded an amazing 47 percent of their misses.
15 - Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound shooter, read the writing on the wall, which spelled the names of lottery picks galore, and bolted Kentucky, where he had averaged 10.2 points as a freshman. Nothing happened in his Zags debut to make him question that move. He scored 18 points and made 3 of 5 threes in 20 minutes against Sacramento State.
16 - Nebraska: Terran Petteway scored 25 points and made 6 of 9 threes in season-opener. Coming off averaging 18.1 points a year ago for the Cornhuskers, Petteway scored just 3.1 points a game as a freshman at Texas Tech.
17 - San Diego State: Coach Steve Fisher, an easy guy for whom to root, needs two more victories to reach the 500 milestone. His sixth won Michigan a national championship.
18 - SMU: Larry Brown will go down as one of the greatest coaches in basketball history and he wasn’t too shabby as a player. After playing for North Carolina, Brown was one of the original ABA players. In fact, Brown led the ABA in assists in each of the league’s first three seasons. He still sees the floor as well as anybody.
19 - Ohio State: Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell turned down Arizona, Florida, hometown Louisville and North Carolina to join the Buckeyes. He’s exactly what Ohio State needed, having its top three scorers from a team that needed scoring. A 6-5 lefty shooting guard, Russell debuted with a team-high 16 points and six assists.
20 - Oklahoma: TaShawn Thomas, a beast of a scorer and rebounder (15.4, 8.1) at Houston last season, has been granted immediate eligibility, which puts one more hurdle in KU’s way on its quest for an 11th consecutive Big 12 championship. He only had four points in 23 minutes in his Sooners debut, but he’ll be a force in time.
21 - Connecticut: The Huskies’ first title defense battle went better than that of Buster Douglas nearly a century ago, but not a whole lot better. Huskies had to get off the deck from a six-point deficit at the half to defeat Bryant, 66-53.
22 - Michigan: Wolverines opened season against Hillsdale College, a Div. II school in Michigan. The Wolverines shot threes (11 for 19) much better than they defended them (10 for 23).
23 - Notre Dame: Rough, rough ACC baptism for the Fighting Irish a year ago (15-17 overall, 6-12, tied for 11th in ACC), but that could be traced to Jerian Grant’s academic ineligibility for most of the season. He averaged 19 points a game. He and fellow senior Pat Connaughton give the Irish a great tandem at forward and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson makes the team play at a fast pace.
24 - Michigan State: Putting the Spartans on the ballot is a reflex, but after they snuck by Navy by just eight points it’s worth wondering whether they deserve it, especially considering Notre Dame wasted the 25. Midshipmen by 39 points.
25 - Syracuse: The Washington Generals weren’t available so the Orange opened the season slaughtering Kennesaw State by 47 points and Hampton by 18.
I don’t think UC Santa Barbara will upset Kansas in tonight’s season-opener in Allen Fieldhouse. The home-court advantage is much greater in the fieldhouse than most places — especially in home openers, in which KU has won 41 in a row. Plus, Kansas has greater depth of talent.
But I will say that this sort of experience imbalance fits the profile of a March Madness upset. Two players on the floor tonight best illustrate the challenge for a young, elite school trying to defeat an experienced mid-major with a star player, and the challenge the mid-major faces in trying to overcome a raw talent disparity.
UCSB senior Alan Williams, all 6-foot-8, 265 pounds of him, ranked 12th in the nation with 21.3 points per game and second with 11.5 rebounds.
Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander, all 6-8, 240 of him, ranked fourth per rivals.com among Class of 2014 recruits.
Both men have long wingspans — Williams 7-1-1/2, Alexander 7-3 — and Alexander is a more explosive jumper, a faster runner, blessed with better lateral quickness. Alexander can do certain things Williams never will be able to do because he has a more athletic body. Alexander can’t yet do many things Williams can, such as know how to make himself available in the post to receive passes for easy buckets, because he didn’t need to develop sophistication in his game to dominate. Properly sealing his man for an over-the-top pass is a reflex to Williams from any spot in the post. It’s something Alexander is learning on a daily basis at the big-man laboratory that on an annual basis is as good as any in the country. Williams knows how to draw fouls and avoid them. Alexander is learning how to do that.
Williams, who won’t play as difficult a schedule as Alexander, will produce more consistently. Alexander, coming off the bench tonight, will have help if he ever guards Williams. (Kansas likely will start with Jamari Traylor on him). During his time on the floor last season, Williams took 37.17 percent of his team’s shots, fifth-highest figure in the nation. So how does Kansas stop him tonight? The first step includes rattling the guards into throwing the ball away, even using full-court pressure at times.
“Williams is a great guy at getting angles,” Self said. “He scores before he catches. He’s a man down there. And he goes after the ball like a man. We haven’t had a man compete like he’ll compete against us, even in practice guarding each other, because he really gets after it.”
Nobody expects Alexander at this stage of his career to be as good at putting himself into easy scoring position as Williams, but nothing would make Alexander’s coach happier than if he duplicated the Gauchos All-American candidate in one area.
“You guys see him when the lights are on in the games,” Self said of Alexander. “I see him every day, and I will tell you this: I want him to be much more aggressive than what he’s been, but he is an aggressive-by-nature guy.”
Beyond Traylor and Alexander, Kansas has shot-blocker Hunter Mickelson and physical Landen Lucas are available to throw different looks at Williams.
Post defense ranks high among Self’s list of concerns about his shorter-than-usual roster and the Jayhawks are hit with a big test right off the bat, thanks to Williams.
“I wonder a lot about it and our length,” Self said. “He’s plenty good enough that if you play behind, he catches it and scores over you. If you front him, he’s great at sealing and they throw over and they look to do that, so we’re going to have to be pretty alert on the weak side, that’s for sure.”
UC Santa Barbara went 21-9 overall and 12-4 in the Big West last season, good for second place behind UC Irvine.
Michael Bryson, a 6-4, 201-pound junior, averaged 11.5 points a year ago and shot .417 from three-point range. Kyle Boswell, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 10.4 points and shot .429 from three.
“Williams is their star, but Byron is a really good player, too, and he can move around the post, he’s a good three-point shooter, good athlete and they’re really quick on the perimeter,” Self said. “And they can stretch it the majority of the game at four spots, so it’ll be hard to trap the post and do things like that.”
After totaling 39 points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots in an 83-64 rout of South Dakota State last December, the humble Williams showed he is as comfortable in front of a microphone as he is in the paint.
Traditional powerhouses, including Kansas at No. 5, dominated the top of the preseason Associated Press college basketball poll released Friday.
Loaded Kentucky, snagging 52 of 65 first-place votes, is ranked first followed by Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, KU and North Carolina.
The poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points:
1 - Kentucky (52)
2 - Arizona (5)
3 - Wisconsin (8)
4 - Duke
5 - Kansas
6 - North Carolina
7 - Florida
8 - Louisville
9 - Virginia
10 - Texas
11 - Wichita State
12 - Villanova
13 - Gonzaga
14 - Iowa State
15 - Virginia Commonwealth
16 - San Diego State
17 - Connecticut
18 - Michigan State
19 - Oklahoma
20 - Ohio State
21 - Nebraska
22 - SMU
23 - Syracuse
24 - Harvard
25 - Utah
Others receiving votes: Stanford 71, Iowa 58, Colorado 57, UCLA 35, Minnesota 34, Kansas State 27, Arkansas 21, Pittsburgh 20, Memphis 15, NC State 14, Louisiana Tech 9, Cincinnati 8, LSU 8, George Washington 7, Notre Dame 6, Oklahoma State 6, Dayton 6, Georgetown 5, Florida State 5, Maryland 3, Illinois 3, UNLV 2, Brigham Young 2, West Virginia 1, Baylor 1, Stephen F. Austin 1, UTEP 1.
The top 25 ballot I sent to AP:
1 - Kentucky: Nine McDonald’s All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein, an embarrassment of riches.
Remember the 78-76 thriller of a victory against Wichita State in as good a game as was played in the NCAA Tournament? Well, Kentucky has 52 of its 78 points back from that one, in addition to four new McDonald’s All-Americans, including 7-footer Karl Towns, projected top five NBA selection.
Outspoken coach John Calipari has said he will play two platoons of five, subbing all five for the other five to start the season. We’ll see if he sticks with that plan.
2 - Duke: Point guard Tyus Jones and center Jahlil Okafor, two of the nation’s top freshmen, mixed in with steady seniors Quinn Cook in the backcourt and Amile Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon all adds up to a team ready to start the season on a roll that will be tough to slow down.
3 - Kansas: Long on depth and short on height, Kansas will only improve significantly from last season if its point guard play does. If Conner Frankamp, ill-equipped to defend Big 12 point guards, were the answer he would not have transferred.
4 - Arizona: The Pac-12 will have a down year, keeping Arizona from playing a schedule that will make it less tested than most heavyweights in March. Still, there is plenty to like about this team, starting with 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, former recruiting target of KU. He’s a nice complement to talented forwards Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
5 - Texas: Much of the preseason talk will center on 6-11 freshman sharpshooter Myles Turner, sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor and senior forward Johnathan Holmes, but it’s junior center Cameron Ridley who can turn this team into a monster. A 6-9, 285-pound force, Ridley’s tough to keep off the boards. If he can continue to improve his touch from the free-throw line (.333 as a freshman, .626 as a sophomore) he can become a handful for every Big 12 team.
6 - North Carolina: Marcus Paige, the slender, lefty point guard can score and still has the gift of making everyone on the court with him better. Roy Williams never sends a boring team onto the court and this year’s squad certainly is no exception.
7 - Louisville: Rick Pitino opens the season vs. Minnesota, coached by son Richard on Nov. 14, a made-for-TV matchup with some sizzle. Louisville’s Pitino has a shot at having as smooth an ACC debut as his former boss, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. Forward Montrezl Harrell, an explosive, strong, relentless force underneath, would be one of the best players in any league.
8 - Wichita State: It still hacks me off that the NCAA Tournament committee put two of the nation’s best teams on a crash-course toward each other so early in the tournament. Few coaches know how to turn slights into advantages the way Gregg Marshall can, so look for that to benefit the Shockers, led by cerebral point guard Fred Van Vleet and born scorer Ron Baker. Look for Frankamp to join the lineup second semester next season.
9 - Florida: Just one starter returns, but fear not Billy Donovon will teach long, quick athletes how to play really tough defense and the Gators will exceed preseason expectations.
10 - Michigan State: The Spartans lost a ton from last season, but if underrated forward Branden Dawson can stay healthy, he could be tough to stop.
11 - Wisconsin: You don’t feel great for Badgers coach Bo Ryan making the Final Four for the first time a year ago, you don’t have a heart. The Badgers return 82 percent of their scoring and 85 percent of their rebounding. Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot three-point threat, leads the way and forward Sam Dekker isn’t far behind. Teams will look to make their seasons by upsetting Wisconsin, a new feeling for the Badgers, who will get everybody’s best shot.
12 - Villanova: Darrun Hilliard scored 14 points in ‘Nova’s 63-59 victory against Kansas in the Bahamas. JayVaughn Pinkston had 13 and Ryan Acridiacono hit the game-winning three-pointer. They’re all back. It felt like an upset at the time but really wasn’t, considering the Wildcats went on to earn a No. 2 seed.
13 - Iowa State: If Fred Hoiberg were raised in, played college ball in and coached in Washington, D.C. instead of Ames, his nickname would be The President and he would look the part. Players develop under him because he gives them the freedom to shoot and puts them in position to take good shots. Georges Niang, who looks as if he’s lost all of his body fat, is one of the more interesting big men to watch in college basketball because he has such refined passing and shooting skills from the perimeter and is clever in the post as well.
14 - Virginia: Tony Bennett, son of Wisconsin coaching legend Dick Bennett, did more than hoist three-pointers with remarkable accuracy playing for his father at Wisconsin-Green Bay. He also paid attention to how the coach drew the most out of his talent and is doing the same at Virginia. The Cavs won the ACC regular season and post-season titles by playing at a deliberate pace, screening to open shots and playing scrappy defense. Can the Cavs do it again. Their talent level says no, but then again it said the same thing a year ago.
15 - Connecticut: Tied for third in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies caught fire and won the NCAA Tournament under second-year coach Kevin Ollie. Guard Ryan Boatright is the lone returning starter, so a repeat isn’t likely. But the Huskies will play their hearts out for their coach and exceed expectations.
16 - Virginia Commonwealth: Every year, a school with a longer basketball tradition offers coach Shaka Smart a hefty pay raise and every year he turns it down to stay put. Pretty cool.
17 - Gonzaga: Guard Kevin Pangos, a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection returns for what seems like his 25th season in Spokane, which I’m told is beautiful this time of year.
18 - Nebraska: Andrew White III found a perfect landing spot, but will have to sit out this season before playing for Tim Miles. Just because White wasn’t quite good enough to crack the Kansas rotation, doesn’t mean he won’t become a big-time scorer for Nebraska. Small forward Terran Petteway averaged 3.1 for Texas Tech as a freshman, sat out a year as a transfer, and averaged 18.1 points as a third-year sophomore for the Cornhuskers.
19 - San Diego State: Steve Fisher is the anti-Bo Derek. The actress best known for her role in 10 always had such an interesting, almost exotic look. But she was so boring in interviews. Fisher looks as if he should be boring and then he opens his mouth and out spills humor, insight and candor. If center Skylar Spencer can play as he did in a four-point victory in Allen Fieldhouse (nine points, six rebounds, six blocked shots) on a regular basis, Fisher’s Aztecs will be more interesting than most project them to be at this point.
20 - SMU: Those close to Larry Brown say the former KU coach was big-time bummed when Emmanuel Mudiay, the nation’s top point-guard recruit, decided to play a year professionally in China instead of preparing for the NBA with one season at SMU, but I feel more sorry for Mudiay than for Brown. The teenager could have learned so much about how to play the game from Brown.
“He took eight different teams to the NBA playoffs," ESPN's Jay Bilas said after a recent KU practice. "Who does that? I mean, he’s a tremendous teacher. He played in the Olympics. He’s still the only man who has won an NCAA and NBA title. Played on the Olympic team. I think you could put Larry Brown’s experience in the game up against anybody’s. It’s an incredible, varied experience as a player and a coach.”
In the long run, that could have benefited Mudiay, who already has a game as sweet as tupelo honey, more than all the tea in China.
21 - Ohio State: Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell has the potential to solve the scoring problems the Buckeyes had a year ago. I bet your figured out all by yourself that when I said scoring I meant “scoring the basketball” as so many broadcasters and coaches are fond of saying. It’s the most annoying phrase ever to creep into basketball lexicon. It must stop, but it won’t unless you write your Congressman and encourage your friends, neighbors and relatives to do the same.
22. - Oklahoma: The Sooners await word on whether the NCAA will grant Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas immediate eligibility. A three-year starter at Houston, the forward is a versatile scorer and productive rebounder. Buddy Hield will try to improve on his team-leading totals of 16.7 points per game and 90 three-pointers.
23 - Michigan: The Wolverines have lost so much talent the past two seasons that the logical conclusion is there just isn’t enough talent to make up a Top 25 team. But that disregards the impact of John Bielein, a good guy and great coach. He’ll put enough confident scoring threats around star wing Caris LaVert to give him room to blossom and Michigan will remain a tough out.
24 - Syracuse: Coach Jim Boeheim has whiney expressions and sometimes words. He looks like a grump. And he’s the most underrated college basketball coach in the land. Boeheim lost a lot from last year’s team, but he has a gift for fitting pieces together in the right way and is a master at teaching a 2-3 zone nobody likes facing.
25 - Pittsburgh: Panthers lack star power, but they always know how to frustrate opponents by drawing them into ugly grind-it-out games.
Late Night, with David Letterman, then Conan O’Brien, then Jimmy Fallon, now Seth Meyers, is a show for entertainment purposes only. So is Late Night in the Phog, yet it’s only natural to draw iron-clad basketball conclusions from it because it’s all anybody has to go on at this point.
The scrimmage portion of Late Night is just that, a scrimmage, a glorified pick-up game from which meaningful conclusions can’t really be drawn.
With that in mind, here are a few traps to try to avoid, even though they are easy to fall into by turning what happens during tonight’s for-recruiting-purposes show into rock-solid basketball information:
1 - Don’t study the expressions of the recruits in the building.
Stressed-out basketball junkies will take note that one recruit spent the whole night texting and looked bored. They’ll conclude that means Kansas isn’t getting him.
Another recruit will laugh at the skits, stomp his feet at great dunks and look to be having the time of his life. Again, those are viewed as signs that the recruit will become a Jayhawk.
In reality, both conclusions could be dead wrong. A player with a more understated personality such as Cliff Alexander never is going to look as excited as the extroverted Kelly Oubre.
Now, that doesn’t mean the recruits won’t be swayed by the crowd’s reaction to them. It just means some might not show their appreciation.
2 - Don’t project Brannen Greene’s season based on what happens tonight.
The sophomore has a beautiful three-point jumper, size and the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, which makes him a prime candidate to lead the scrimmage in scoring.
But his playing time will be determined on how well he defends and not a whole lot of defense is played on Late Night. If Greene gets after it defensively in a scrimmage in which most players don’t bring their best in that area, that’s a good sign. If he doesn’t, it’s not conclusive.
3 - Don’t be disappointed if you leave the building saying, “I was hoping to see more from Devonte Graham.”
A good point guard is supposed to make you leave the building talking about how well his teammates played because he delivered the ball to the right guy at the right time. The last thing KU needs is a point guard who monopolizes the ball the way Stephon Marbury did in making numerous NBA teams worse.
Graham has a sweet jumper and for a freshman already seems to do a nice job of keeping the ball moving.
Late Night’s a good night to enjoy the wild skills and athletic gifts of the players, a good night to enjoy watching sub-6-footer Frank Mason reach back to throw one down with authority, a good night to have a good time and leave stress outside in the long line you just put in your rear-view mirror.
The man working the television camera looked to the media relations staff for help and asked for a microphone check. After Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk was asked to say "check" into the mic, he leaned forward over it and softly said, "Boo!" with a little smile.
Nothing about the 17-year-old basketball star from Ukraine suggested he was uncomfortable or in any way overwhelmed.
Whether he brings enough strength, skill and athleticism at such a young age to earn significant playing time on a loaded Kansas team remains to be seen, but if he doesn't, it won't be because he doesn't believe in himself.
Asked what he does best as a basketball player, Mykhailiuk answered with one word: "Everything."
Asked what position he considered himself, he said without hesitation that he's a guard. He will join a crowded field on the perimeter that includes small guards Frank Mason, Devonté Graham and Conner Frankamp and wings Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre and Brannen Greene.
Kansas coach Bill Self typically likes to play four bigs and five perimeter players, but there is nothing typical about the depth of this team, even by Kansas standards.
Oh well, it's better to have too much depth than not enough.
Question: What is more difficult for a 17-year-old basketball player to achieve: Making the Ukrainian national team or cracking Kansas University’s 2014-2015 perimeter rotation?
Answer: We’ll soon find out.
Former NBA coach and broadcaster Mike Fratello, head coach of Ukraine’s national team, told Kansas coach Bill Self he didn’t see how incoming KU freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk could compete well enough against “men” to make the roster for the FIBA World and expected him to play for the junior national team. Mykhailiuk exceeded Fratello’s expectations and made the roster. Good sign. Great accomplishment.
It will be quite the accomplishment if Mykhailiuk, 17, can earn playing time on KU’s loaded perimeter.
Just for fun, let’s take a look at how the perimeter minutes might get distributed had Mykhailiuk not been recruited to Kansas and then try to make time for him by subtracting minutes elsewhere.
Three perimeter positions times 40 minutes equals 120. Add 10 minutes for when one of the perimeter players slides to the power forward position, meaning 130 minutes are split among the following six players: Small guards Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp and Devonte Graham and big wings Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre and Brannen Greene.
Obviously, these guesses are all way premature and mean nothing, which doesn’t take the fun out of the exercise. Give 25 minutes to Mason, 15 to Frankamp and 15 to Graham. That leaves 75 minutes for the three big wings. Give 30 minutes to Selden, 30 to Oubre and 15 to Greene.
It’s difficult to picture Mykhailiuk cutting into the minutes of Selden or Oubre.
That leaves Greene, a skilled scorer with a big body and a reputation as an underachiever at the defensive end. Nothing motivates the way playing time does, so if Greene has the maturity to realize how much he must improve his defense in order to play and has it in his body to play much better D, he could become the team’s most improved player. And if a 17-year-old can beat him out, then that 17-year-old is one serious talent. Any way you look at it, KU has tremendous perimeter depth, regardless of how the minutes are distributed.
The question of how to pronounce Mykhailiuk's name no longer is a mystery, but the readiness of his game remains one.
Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, Yao Ming, Greg Oden. The bigger the body, the more susceptible it is to injury, particularly when put through the ringer of ridiculously long NBA seasons.
Walton won an NBA championship, one of the things that sets him apart from the others mentioned, but he also missed three entire seasons and averaged 47 games in the 10 he played.
If the Cleveland Cavaliers want to talk themselves out of selecting Joel Embiid with the first pick in the upcoming NBA draft, they have no shortage of historical data to support that decision. And they'll be cowards destined to spend most of their existence in dank, dreary cellar of the Eastern Conference's Central Division.
Passing on Embiid in the wake of a stress fracture of the back followed by a stress fracture of the right foot certainly represents the safe path for the Cavs to take, but since when is greatness achieved by letting caution overrule courage?
If Embiid falls faster on draft day than Kansas University's national-title hopes did when the smart and talented center suffered his back injury, either the Celtics (sixth) or Lakers (seventh) will do what they do best, walk away with another draft-day steal.
A junior at Indiana State, Larry Bird was chosen sixth in the 1978 draft by Red Auerbach, who paid enough attention to the rules to know that Bird was eligible for selection because he was four years out of high school. Bird originally enrolled at Indiana when Bob Knight was coach. He quickly returned home to French Lick, briefly spent time at a junior college, left and went to work at a city job, performing various duties, including driving a garbage truck. He enrolled at Indiana State and, as a senior, led the Sycamores to a national-title runner-up in 1979, the year Magic Johnson's Michigan State squad won it all.
The Lakers had the courage to think outside of prevailing NBA wisdom in directing the Charlotte Hornets to take Kobe Bryant with the 13th pick of the 1996 draft so that they could trade for him, back when high school picks were considered by most too risky.
Health concerns regarding Embiid certainly have legitimacy. But nobody is without risk. Is Jabari Parker, a very polished offensive player, quick enough to guard small forwards? Will ultra-quick, explosive Andrew Wiggins ever develop enough ball-handling and shooting skills to become a perennial All-Star? A healthy Embiid, armed with Hakeem Olajuwon footwork, stands way above the rest of the class.
Now that the NCAA tournament brackets have been released, not much attention is paid to the season’s final Associated Press college basketball top 25 poll, but it is worth noting one surprise: Iowa State shot past Kansas into ninth place, one spot ahead of KU.
An even bigger stunner: Saint Louis, with six losses, remained ranked, checking in at No. 25.
The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 16, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:
Record Pts Prv<
1 - Florida (50) 32-2 1,610 1
2 - Wichita St. (15) 34-0 1,571 2
3 - Virginia 28-6 1,430 6
4 - Arizona 30-4 1,422 4
5 - Louisville 29-5 1,412 5
6 - Villanova 28-4 1,231 3
7 - Michigan 25-8 1,162 8
8 - Duke 26-8 1,121 7
9 - Iowa St. 26-7 1,055 16
10 - Kansas 24-9 1,045 10
11 - Michigan St. 26-8 950 22
12 - Wisconsin 26-7 892 12
13 - San Diego St. 29-4 890 8
14 - Syracuse 27-5 757 11
15 - Cincinnati 27-6 720 13
16 - Creighton 26-7 658 14
17 - New Mexico 27-6 623 20
18 - UConn 26-8 503 21
19 - North Carolina 23-9 424 15
20 - UCLA 26-8 413 NR
21 - Oklahoma 23-9 265 17
22 - Ohio St. 25-9 167 24
23 - Baylor 24-11 148 NR
24 - VCU 26-8 140 23
25 - Saint Louis 26-6 131 18
Others receiving votes: Memphis 101, Gonzaga 83, Kentucky 77, Stephen F. Austin 46, Harvard 30, Saint Joseph’s 14, Texas 13, Oregon 8, Providence 6, UMass 3, Tennessee 2, NC Central 1, W. Michigan 1.
My AP top 25 ballot: (Kenpom.com ranks various statistical categories, including experience and offensive and defensive efficiency. All the statistical team rankings listed below in those categories are from kenpom.com.)
1 - Wichita State: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Cleanthony Early (15.8); Experience Ranking: 101; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 8; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 10.
2 - Florida: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three; Leading Scorer: Casey Prather (14.2); Experience Ranking: 93; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 17; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 5.
3 - Arizona: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three, excluding injured player; Leading Scorer: Nick Johnson (16.2); Experience Ranking: 327; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 35; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 1.
4 - Louisville: McDonald’s All-Americans: One; Leading Scorer: Russ Smith (18.3); Experience Ranking: 123; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 10; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 6.
5 - Virginia: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Malcolm Brogdon (12.6); Experience Ranking: 258; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 25; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 3.
6 - Michigan State: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three; Leading Scorer: Gary Harris (17.1); Experience Ranking: 207; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 11; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 39.
7 - Michigan: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Nik Stauskas (17.5); Experience Ranking: 332; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 3; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 104.
8 - Syracuse: McDonald’s All-Americans: One, excluding injured player; Leading Scorer: C.J. Fair (16.7); Experience Ranking: 263; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 34; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 18.
9 - Villanova: McDonald’s All-Americans: One; Leading Scorer: James Bell (14.5); Experience Ranking: 235; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 16; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 14.
10 - San Diego State: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Xavier Thames (16.8); Experience Ranking: 165; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 103; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 7.
11 - Kansas: McDonald’s All-Americans: Three; Leading Scorer: Andrew Wiggins (17.4); Experience Ranking: 348; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 6; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 45.
12 - Duke: McDonald’s All-Americans: Six; Leading Scorer: Jabari Parker (19.3); Experience Ranking: 279; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 2; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 102.
13 - Wisconsin: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Frank Kaminsky (13.6); Experience Ranking: 191; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 5; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 59.
14 - Iowa State: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Melvin Ejim (18.1); Experience Ranking: 236; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 15; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 54.
15 - North Carolina: McDonald’s All-Americans: Four; Leading Scorer: Marcus Paige (17.4); Experience Ranking: 311; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 58; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 22.
16 - Cincinnati: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Sean Kilpatrick (20.7); Experience Ranking: 112; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 109; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 9.
17 - Creighton: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Doug McDermott (26.9); Experience Ranking: 12; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 1; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 126.
18 - UCLA: McDonald’s All-Americans: Two; Leading Scorer: Kyle Anderson (14.9); Experience Ranking: 293; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 14; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 49.
19 - New Mexico: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Cameron Bairstow (20.3); Experience Ranking: 106; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 38; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 38.
20 - Oklahoma: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Buddy Hield (16.8); Experience Ranking: 305; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 13; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 81.
21 - Ohio State: McDonald’s All-Americans: Two; Leading Scorer: LaQuinton Ross (15.4); Experience Ranking: 53; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 122; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 4.
22 - Connecticut: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Shabazz Napier (17.4); Experience Ranking: 67; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 80; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 11.
23 - Kentucky: McDonald’s All-Americans: Seven; Leading Scorer: Julius Randle (15.0); Experience Ranking: 351; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 19; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 35.
24 - Memphis: McDonald’s All-Americans: Two; Leading Scorer: Joe Jackson (14.3); Experience Ranking: 62; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 66; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 53.
25 - VCU: McDonald’s All-Americans: None; Leading Scorer: Treveon Graham (15.7); Experience Ranking: 186; Offensive Efficiency Ranking: 106; Defensive Efficiency Ranking: 2.
The website www.Bovada.lv, sent an e-mail to me and others in the media with its odds to win remaining men's basketball conference tournaments. The Big 12 basketball tournament gets under way Wednesday night at Sprint Center with two quarterfinal contests.
The odds might surprise some who have reached the conclusion that because Kansas played so poorly for much of its loss at West Virginia without Joel Embiid and will be playing without him throughout the Big 12 tournament, the Jayhawks have no shot at turning the Sprint Center home-court advantage into a conference tournament title.
Kansas has played three full games without Embiid, going 2-1, with home victories against TCU and Texas Tech, the last two finishers in the conference, and a loss at West Virginia.
Bovada.lv odds to win Big 12 tournament:
Iowa State 5/1
Oklahoma State 5/1
Kansas State 16/1
West Virginia 16/1
Texas Tech 250/1
Since 3/2 odds translate to a 40 percent chance, there is no "odds-on-favorite" here, but it is interesting that at least one offshore sports book believes KU to have the best shot of the 10 teams.
The only schools Bovada lists as odds-on-favorites to win remaining conference tourneys are Arizona (2/3), Louisville (2/3) and Florida (2/3), three schools that likely will be the most popular Final Four selections in office bracket pools.