Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis wasn't the only member of the staff to address the media Thursday morning, marking the start of fall camp.
New offensive coordinator John Reagan, who assisted at KU from 2005 to 2009 and spent four seasons at Rice (three as O-coordinator) was joined by defensive coordinator Clint Bowen for a brief press conference, too.
Below are some of the topics the pair of coordinators discussed the day before the first practice of the 2014 season.
• Reagan is excited to see new WR Nigel King (just announced today as a transfer from Maryland) and find out what he can bring to KU's offense at camp. King hasn't been here for the spring and summer. But he isn't new to college football. He won't have the adjustment issues that others do.
• Adding speed to KU's roster has been important for Weis and is critical to KU's potential going forward. "It's kind of like money: you never think you have enough. You end up wanting more."
• Looking across the country, regardless of the system, it is important to have a QB who can keep plays alive with his feet. With where KU is at as an offense, it is probably even more important, and sophomore QB Montell Cozart fits that mold.
• As an offensive coach, you're trying to find the player in conflict on defense, and hopefully you'll have the matchups you need to be productive. You have a philosophy and that is what you do.
• Pace of play is different for every team. Some teams are trying to run as many plays as possible. That probably won't be the case for KU. Doing that might lead to fights between Reagan and D-coordinator Bowen.
• KU's receivers are better than Reagan thought when he first got to Lawrence, from Rice. He is excited about that. They will have to help the guy who is throwing the ball and they are capable of that, too.
• New summer time availability for players helps the coaches teach. … Reagan hopes it helped Cozart tremendously.
• Weis has allowed Reagan to do what he needs to do. The head coach, after giving up coordinating duties, simply sits back and asks philosophical questions. It has been exactly what Reagan hoped it would be.
• Reagan ran versions of the spread even back in 2005 and '06… Some of the adaptations that are made come week to week. Major ones come in the offseason.
• Looking at an offense, if you have a QB that is good enough to play, you better have a scheme to fit him. But nothing affects the value and explosiveness of an offense quite like the QB and the O-line.
• Reagan isn't Cozart's position coach, but he can tell the sophomore has key attributes — studies the game and is a very personable guy. They both have a good feel for each other. They'll learn more about Cozart's ability in game-week preparation this fall.
• There has to be spoken and unspoken communication on the O-line if it's all going to fit right. The '07 KU line had that. They made mistakes but they had something special about them. … KU has a guy in Ryan Cantrell (assistant direct of operations and former KU center) who can tell the current players how that worked.
• "I'm extra-concerned about a lot of positions right now," Reagan said, when asked about his concern at center. (KU opens camp with junior Keyon Haughton at the top of the depth chart and red-shirt freshman Joe Gibson listed second.) The center position is key, but there can be four other guys on the O-line who can help with communication.
• Last year, the Jayhawks gained a lot of experience at a lot of positions on defense. On the D-line, some of the new faces like junior Andrew Bolton and junior T.J. Semke are definitely in the mix. They hope to have a solid six guys to rotate in on the line.
• As a defensive coach, you always start with the opposing QB when formulating a game plan. The opposing QB's skill set dictates how the KU defense prepares.
• Spread offenses put defenses in binds. The good spread teams mix it up and don't just throw the ball. Offensive coaches in football today are doing a great job with that. It has taken schematics to a higher level. It is all about putting defenses in conflict in open space.
• Bowen doesn't think fast-paced offenses and not having the ability to substitute leads to injuries necessarily. It just takes time in your preparation — that's the primary concern.
• Junior cornerback Kevin Short has "a very high" upside. He has a lot to learn. But he is a long, rangy DB (6-foot-2, 190 pounds). He can run and has good instincts. They are very excited about what Short could develop into.
• There are some guys in the secondary with the talent to play in the NFL. They all physically have that body type and have the ability to step up.
• After switching things up last year defensively, the staff just works together for what's best for the players and the programs.
• First-string senior "buck" Michael Reynolds is a proven pass-rusher. There are candidates for a second guy. Reynolds could have a special season. Senior "buck" Victor Simmons has come a long way at a new position for him. WIthin the scheme, KU's coaches will plug in guys who can rush — the Jayhawks especially need two coming off the edge to change third down.
— Hear the full press conference audio: Bowen and Reagan discuss KU football team's potential
Try to remember the last time someone told you, "The Big 12 is a great basketball league," and you completely agreed.
Hopefully that happened sometime around 2002 to 2004. Because, in terms of overall NCAA Tournament success for the league as a whole, that statement hasn't exactly held true in about a decade.
Quick. Name the last men's basketball team from the Big 12 besides Kansas University to reach the Final Four.
Playing this game in my head, I went to Rick Barnes' 2003 Texas team, led by dynamic, though slight, guard T.J. Ford. Somehow, I skipped over Eddie Sutton's 2004 Oklahoma State team, featuring Tony Allen's amazing all-around game and the at times unstoppable offense of John Lucas.
Point being: It's been a while. It was 10 years ago that a Big 12 team not coached by Bill Self advanced all the way to the Final Four. When Sutton took the Cowboys, Self had just completed his first season at KU.
In the Big 12 men's basketball season review, sent to media from the conference in April, the league highlights its postseason accolades, including its seven bids in the 2014 tourney. And rightfully so. Seventy percent of the conference went dancing and each program got in with a single-digit seed.
But not a one of them — not even Kansas — could make it beyond the Sweet 16 this year. Of course, only two, Iowa State and Baylor, even survived that long.
The Big 12 failed to reach the Elite Eight in 2005 and 2013, as well. But the more telling statistic regarding the league's ability outside of Kansas to contend for a national championship lies in the number of Final Four appearances in the past 10 tournaments by conference teams who don't wear crimson and blue: zero.
In that same span, Kansas reached the sport's ultimate showcase in 2008 and 2012. Meanwhile…
• The old Big East sent six programs — Georgetown, Connecticut, Villanova, West Virginia (now in the Big 12), Louisville and Syracuse — to the Final Four.
• The Big Ten? Five: Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin.
• The SEC checks in with three: Florida, LSU and Kentucky.
• Three different leagues have produced two representatives: the ACC (North Carolina and Duke), Conference USA (Louisville and Memphis) and even the Colonial Athletic Association (George Mason and VCU).
That leaves the Big 12 in the same tier as the former Pac 10 (UCLA), the Horizon League (former team Butler) and the Missouri Valley Conference (Wichita State), with one program representing their leagues at the Final Four from 2005 to 2014.
Don't forget. No league in the country has reached the same stratosphere as the storied American Athletic Conference, which hasn't existed without one of its teams winning the national championship (Connecticut).
When the Big 12 boasts it is among the national leaders in Final Four appearances, it uses data form 2002 to present. In 2002, both Oklahoma — then coached by Kelvin Sampson — and Kansas made it, and in 2003, KU and Texas represented the league.
That just reads better than the facts from the past 10 years: two appearances, one school.
As long as the flawed RPI exists, Big 12 coaches will continue to reference that as proof their league is one of the toughest around. The Big 12 had the best RPI in the nation this past season. Same goes for 2009-10. It has ranked in the top three in conference RPI seven of the past 10 years.
Big 12 RPI rank, past 10 seasons
— (Source: statsheet.com)
A lot of good that did in a decade's worth of NCAA Tournaments.
The Big 12 rarely has disappointed in January and February, when games are exciting to watch, KU inevitably finishes first and that year's crop of other top dogs beat each other up just enough to lag behind the Jayhawks.
But, really, could one team win the regular-season title — outright or a share of it — 10 years in a row if the league truly was great?
Maybe Texas can end the rest of the Big 12's slump in March of 2015. Barnes' chances improved immensely when KU target Myles Turner, a 6-foot-11 center from Euless, Texas, announced he'll stay in state and join UT's talented Jonathan Holmes, Cameron Ridley, Demarcus Holland, Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix as a member of the Longhorns.
Final Four representatives, by conference, 2005-14
Big East: Connecticut (2), Louisville (2), Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia.
Big Ten: Michigan State (3), Ohio State (2), Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.
SEC: Florida (3), Kentucky (3) and LSU.
ACC: North Carolina (3) and Duke.
Conference USA: Louisville and Memphis.
Colonial Athletic Association: George Mason and VCU.
Big 12: Kansas (2).
Pac 10: UCLA (3).
Horizon League: Butler (2).
American Athletic Conference: Connecticut.
Missouri Valley: Wichita State.
The countdown to Kansas University's spring football game is down to four days now.
Coach Charlie Weis addressed the annual showcase and other topics Tuesday morning with the media.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q & A session, in bullet-point form:
• The format for the spring game will be four 15-minute quarters, with a running clock, except for last two minutes of each half. KU has enough players to split the roster into two different teams and not just do offense vs. defense. Unless a rash of injuries breaks out, they will be able to do two different teams.
• Weis has a rule for the spring game that should make for an exciting second half, instead of players just going through the motions. He won't unveil the rule until Saturday, but it is all planned out.
• At a couple of positions, there are two players considered first-string options: left tackle and nickelback. Senior lineman Pat Lewandowski and senior defensive back JaCorey Shepherd will be on the Blue team in the first half, while senior lineman Zach Fondal and sophomore defensive back Greg Allen will play on the White team. At halftime, those players will swap teams, so they will have played with both the first and second units.
• If during the game, due to injury, they have to trade some players, Weis will "set the terms" of the trade.
• Spectators won't see a red jersey on the quarterbacks on Saturday. Only one player will have a red (no contact) jersey on, and that will be senior receiver Tony Pierson. The quarterbacks will be "live" on each play. Weis has never done that before. When the QB keeps the ball, you never know how many yards they would have gained on a run when they are wearing red and the defense can't tackle them. The QBs have been hit, sacked plenty of times this spring. The goal is for them not to get hit. … Pierson has been hit, too. The coaches went over the pros and cons, but they determined Pierson has had such a good offseason the last thing they want is for him to get injured on the last day of spring football.
• Weis told offensive coordinator John Reagan not to hold back any plays he wants to run during the spring game. This isn't like planning for a game, when you're preparing for an opposing team with certain plays. The whole playbook is available.
• Kansas has more talent and more speed right now than it has had in the past two seasons under Weis. Wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau told Weis Tuesday morning that KU's starting three wide receivers — Pierson, senior Nick Harwell and junior Rodriguez Coleman — all would have been on the two-deep last season at Washington (Kiesau's previous employer). That shows KU has made some serious improvements at that position alone.
• Pierson was nursing some tightness in his hamstring at practice Saturday, which was open to the media. He wasn't going as hard as he has been able to. … Pierson is working at both kickoff and punt returning. Returning punts isn't easy. "You have to be a little bit of a psycho" to take that job and do it well.
• Harwell is working at both return spots, too, as is junior defensive back Kevin Short. "We have some interesting candidates." You don't want to lose a valuable player in the return game, but if that guy can help change the game, they want to have him out there.
• Weis will make "common sense" contributions when talking offense with Reagan. It's been interesting this spring for Weis to see so much more of the team now that he's not running the offense. It's been good. It gives Weis the opportunity to challenge the staff and make everybody better.
• When Weis arrived and got rid of so many players from previous coach Turner Gill's team, he was taking a bad team and making it worse. He did it for the right reason, but he didn't factor in how limited a roster KU would be left with. Now the roster is pretty full. The infrastructure has been rebuilt and now KU has a predominantly junior and senior team. Usually those are the teams that win. … When they got rid of so many guys, they had to fill holes with junior college players. They couldn't count on freshmen to fill the gap.
• Looking at the WR spot, KU will lose four players after this season. Realistically, they will have to go half and half recruiting to replace those holes — half high school and half junior college. The same goes for KU's O-line and defensive backs, too
• KU's offensive line has had continuity this spring. The guy who is the strongest is junior Damon Martin, so he's at right tackle with senior Mike Smithburg next to him. The coaches were ready to adapt when they had a bunch of talented guards. Some shuffling got the most talent on the field.
• There are tiers at the QB position, as far as the depth chart is concerned. If they had to play an actual game in two weeks, it would be between senior Jake Heaps and sophomore Montell Cozart. And it wouldn't be a bad thing if they both played because they do different things. The coaches are ready to gear themselves toward who will be the main guy. The longer KU goes without naming a starter at QB, the tougher it will be for the competition to prepare.
• Kansas doesn't want to take senior linebacker Ben Heeney off the field, but he will have to rest at some point. Junior LB Schyler Miles is close to junior Jake Love as far as the depth chart goes, and who will replace Heeney at times.
• At the spring game, Weis would like the fans to have some fun. Come halftime the game will get very interesting. He would like to be in the second half with the players having a little pressure on them to win. Weis also wants the offensive operation to show efficiency. … Several players will get an opportunity to play a lot more snaps than they have at practices this spring. It gives them an opportunity: Let's see what you've got. Of course, they want to come out injury-free, too.
• The biggest accomplishments this spring, defense and offense: With junior defensive lineman Andrew Bolton's play on the end, senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers can play inside. … The defense is now in its second year, and that gave the players an opportunity to turn it loose. Most of the guys are retuning guys. ... On offense, most of it was getting the system installed. The players need to be used to running a no-huddle offense.
• Cozart has completed a high percentage of his passes this spring. The one thing he brings that is unique is his feet. He has a chance to be a really good player.
• Sophomore QB T.J. Millweard, who transferred from UCLA, is the newest member of that QB group and he is coming off his best practice to date. Whether he makes his way up the depth chart this year or next, Weis knows he will keep working to get there. His mental aptitude is there and he has to catch up physically.
• Next week, in the days following spring game, players will hear from the coaching staff about where they stand.
• Kansas has a number of older guys who are experienced. Because of that, they won't pick captains until right before the season begins. It's tough to be a leader when you're not playing, so the guys who end up captains will be front-line players.
• Harwell is a natural leader. Weis is glad they have him. He's a hard worker, the wide receivers follow him and he jumps on everybody. "Thank you, Miami of Ohio."
• Weis does believe that if you have two quarterbacks you don't have one, but that's not the case if you use them in different ways. KU would feature one set of plays with Heaps and another set when Cozart is on the field.
• Weis said to the team last December: It's time. Kansas football has been down for five seasons. The No. 1 thing is these veterans have to get KU back to winning. That's the first major hurdle for the program to get over. Then you shoot for the moon. Players can't worry about the expectation on the street or in the media. They have to set their own bar and can't settle for anything but attaining their goals.
— Listen to the press conference in its entirety by clicking here: Charlie Weis talks spring game, KU football depth
Spring break is over at Kansas University, and the football team got back to spring practice Sunday night.
Coach Charlie Weis spoke about the team's progress up to this point Tuesday at Anderson Family Football Complex, before the team's afternoon practice.
Listen to audio from the Q & A by clicking here: Weis updates progress of spring football
Here are some of the highlights, in bullet-point form:
• Coming back from spring break, Weis was pleased with the tempo at Sunday night's practice. Usually guys get into a routine and thats how you thrive. They had a week off and guys traveled all over the place, but everyone was here. They met and practiced until 10 at night. As far as the practice itself, it wasn't the sharpest at all times. And the offense had its best practice yet. Putting in a new offense against a more experienced defense, the defense had been ahead of the offense this spring. That changed at Sunday's practice. Clint Bowen is calling this "not positive Tuesday" after the defense got burned too many times.
• There has been clear separation amongst multiple quarterbacks this spring. Both the players and coaches see where that is but they're not going to come out and say that at this point. Today, for a good portion of practice, Heaps won't get any reps. That will force everyone's hands. The other players won't have that security blanket of the most experienced QB in the system being there. … The separation is solely based off performance. They've taken things like experience and thrown them out the window. A lot of it comes at the line of scrimmage. Quarterback and everyone else are looking for a signal from the sideline.
• Weis spent a lot of time on two days during spring break watching the scrimmage from before break in detail. On Sunday he talked with the coaches and told them what he saw on video, and asked where he was right and where he was wrong. On video, there is a lot with which to be pleased. But Weis didn't want the defense to feel good about itself because it was ahead of the offense. On Sunday the offense ran some plays to exploit some defensive vulnerabilities.
• Senior Jake Heaps is one of the leading candidates at QB. Because he is the most experienced, you would expect him to run the offense better than everyone else. Taking him out of the equation at Tuesday's puts more pressure on the other quarterbacks. The coaches want to see how each candidate responds. It's just as if someone got injured. Weis wanted to do that to create more pressure in the QB competition. When you're trying to see five players, it's hard to get everyone enough reps.
• Weis is letting the offensive staff put in the offense. Weis knows the system and the plays, but there are things in the system that need to be executed. They want to make sure they're not only installing plays but also executing before they get ahead of themselves.
• Senior Brandon Bourbon has transitioned back into a running back-only position. That has helped them tremendously at the position. … When personnel groupings are called out at practice, guys know now who is in what group, even if there isn't a physical depth chart for everyone to see.
• Senior receiver Tony Pierson has seen a little bit of contact at practices. Weis "isn't stupid enough" to let Pierson go through practices without getting hit. He got hit and came off the field and told Weis that was the best thing that has happened to him.
• At wide receiver, they could talk about senior transfer Nick Harwell. But the guy who has had a good spring — the best camp of anyone on offense, in fact — is junior Rodriguez Coleman. They're throwing the ball to him a lot. The defense focuses in on Pierson and Harwell. Coleman gets a lot of one-on-one because of that. If you don't have anyone who is getting open on the single receiver side, that's a problem. Coleman is getting open.
• Junior Kevin Short is playing at corner in practices. Both senior Dexter McDonald and senior JeCorey Shepherd are pretty good players at corner. Now they can put all three of those guys out on the field at once.
• Sophomore defensive back Greg Allen might be the most pleasant surprise on defense.
• Freshman tight end Ben Johnson has been getting a lot of reps. He's ready, willing and able, even though he hasn't played yet. He did a nice job on the show team while red-shirting last season, but now he's with the big boys. He really seems to get better at every practice, and that's because he is gaining confidence.
• With installing a new offense, they don't want to go too fast. If they have a bunch of plays, and they're not good at any of them, there is no growth. Now when they start to run certain plays, they can expect production. When they're on the field, they're on the clock. They've only got four hours on a practice day to work with the players. On the off days, coaches figure out how much installation they need, and how much repetition they need.
• On the offensive line right now, there are about eight players they think they could go into a game and win with right now. They would like that number to be 10. Going into the season you want a backup at each position. At most of the positions right now, there is a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2. Not all positions, but most.
• Sophomore QB TJ Millweard is very sharp, mentally. He went through a year of not playing as a transfer. He has knocked off a lot of that rust. Mentally, he could go run the KU offense right now. Physically, he will have to prove he can do so.
• On defense, you can tell there are a lot of seniors. On offense, there are a lot of guys who weren't playing last season for KU. With the production they have had in the passing game the past two seasons, that might be a good thing. KU might be thin at a few positions on offense, but their front-line players are good enough to win with.
• Weis expects guys to come back in the spring strong and ready to play because of strength coach Scott Holsopple. He knows the line between caring for them and pushing them. He's the true "love-hate" coach. Holsopple has a lot more access to the players than anyone on the football staff. He has been critical to the team's development.
• On the defensive line, junior college DE Kapil Fletcher, walking through the door, should be more ready than high school players. There is a "fearsome foursome" of freshmen coming in. Weis just said this morning, "Let's not rule anybody out." They don't know until they get here whether they are ready for prime time. Weis tells every player coming in there is no reason to assume they will have to red-shirt. They have a chance to work themselves in on the two-deep.
• Senior WR Justin McCay is right behind Coleman right now. McCay had his best practice on Sunday. He plays a different style than Coleman, and he needs to use that to his advantage.
• Heaps hasn't changed one bit. That's one of the biggest things you could say about this guy. He's got great leadership on top of everything else. He's excited with the newness of the spring and the offense. With the lack of production last season, there is reason for him to be excited about a new system.
• Senior LB Ben Heeney has been great at practices, working his butt off. He is clearly one of, if not the leader, of the defense.
• They just met as a staff yesterday about recruiting. Weis went through about 30 guys who the staff wanted to offer. … Weis doesn't offer now until they get a transcript in. Weis wants to know the odds of a player graduating are very high. There are reasons guys don't get offered other than what kind of skills they possess.
St. Louis — When this year's NCAA Tournament bracket came out, the popular assumption was Kansas University's men's basketball team would need to win a rematch with New Mexico in order to reach the Sweet 16.
So much for that theory. After surviving an early scare from Eastern Kentucky on Friday at Scottrade Center, the No. 2-seeded Jayhawks (25-9) earned a berth in the round of 32 against Stanford — not New Mexico.
The South region's No. 10 seed, the Cardinal (22-12) knocked UNM out of The Big Dance with a 58-53 victory Friday.
The Lobos entered the postseason ranked No. 17 in the nation, and many observers thought UNM deserved a better seed than No. 7. But Stanford, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 — and the first since sixth-year coach Johnny Dawkins took over — outplayed New Mexico early to get out to a 20-4 lead less than 20 minutes into the game.
Said senior forward Josh Heustis afterward: “Coach tells us, a lot of teams are just happy to be here. Only a handful of teams think they can actually win the thing. We’re going to be one of those teams.”
Stanford finished just 10-8 in the Pac 12, but is fairly battle-tested, having now played 17 games against teams which made it to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal are 8-9 against the field, with wins against Arizona State, New Mexico, Cal Poly, Connecticut, Oregon, Texas Southern and UCLA.
Beginning at 11:15 a.m. Sunday morning, Stanford has a chance to notch its biggest victory to date, against Kansas.
On Saturday, Dawkins talked about the opportunity that awaits his program: a trip to the Sweet 16.
"You know, it would be great. Whenever you play a program like Kansas you have an opportunity to play a storied program," Dawkins said.
"For us, Stanford has been to the Final Four before. They have been to the tournament a number of times. It would just continue to keep Stanford, you know, where we think Stanford belongs, one of the elite programs in the country.
"When you compete against a program like Kansas and you can have success, it puts you among those type programs and so it is an opportunity to continue to build on. Something that's been very good, you know, out in California at Stanford."
Stanford gets 87.2% of its offense from its starters, because three players who averaged double-digit minutes last season missed most or all of this season with injuries.
Meet the Cardinal Kansas will have to hold back to move on to Memphis.
Chasson Randle, No. 5
6-2, 185, jr. guard
When Kansas freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden met with the media early Saturday afternoon at Scottrade Center, they hadn't yet gone through a Stanford scouting report.
So when a reporter asked them about how Randle could impact the game, it caught them a little off guard.
Replied Wiggins: "I am not sure right now. How about you, Wayne?"
Selden's response: "I am along with you."
By now, they've found out the junior guard makes Stanford's offense (73.1 points, 46.2% shooting) work.
Randle averages 18.9 points and 3.5 rebounds, and leads the Cardinal with 65 3-pointers (he makes 40.1% of his attempts). The floor general also asserts himself to get to the foul line, where he has made 162 of 210 tries (77.1%).
Randle, who played all 40 minutes against the Lobos, led Stanford with 23 points, and he has scored at least 20 points in five of Stanford's last six games.
Dwight Powell, No. 33
6-10, 240, sr. forward
Powell, playing against a talented UNM front court, wasn't himself in his NCAA tourney debut. The big man only scored three points and missed all eight of his shot attempts.
The senior, who averages 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds and has seven double-doubles this year, leads Stanford's all-time list of games played, with 133.
Powell's experience and production have twice landed him on the All-Pac 12 first team.
Anthony Brown, No. 21
6-6, 215, jr. guard/forward
His seven rebounds led Stanford against New Mexico, and the 6-6 swingman averages 12.6 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Another 40-minute man against UNM, Brown scored 10 points and hit all three of his 3-point tries.
Here is what the red-shirt junior from Fountain Valley, Calif., had to say about facing Kansas.
Josh Huestis, No. 24
6-7, 230, sr. forward
Known for his impact on the defensive end of the floor and his team-leading work on the glass (8.2 rebounds a game), he also averages 11.3 points on 45.5% shooting.
Earlier this season, Huestis became Stanford's all-time leading shot blocker, and currently has 184 on his résumé, even though he is only 6-foot-7. He has swatted 63 shots this season.
The forward sneaks outside when he can, and hits 34.2% from long range (25 of 73 3-pointers on the season).
Stefan Nastic, No. 4
6-11, 245, jr. center
The biggest man in a Cardinal uniform averages 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds. His quick start against UNM made it easier for Stanford to advance, too. Nastic made his first three shots of the game.
He had made 16 straight shots over the course of five games before missing his final attempt of the first half. During said five-game stretch, he has made 94.7% of his shots. But he only took 3.8 attempts a game.
On the year, he hits 56.7% of his shots, with the vast majority of those coming in the paint.
John Gage, No. 40
6-10, 225, sr. forward/center
The backup big man is the Cardinal's leading scorer off the bench at just 3.3 points a game.
In the Pac 12 Tournament, he scored 8 points on back-to-back nights against Arizona State and UCLA. But on Friday against UNM, he went 1 for 4, scored three points and grabbed six rebounds in 14 minutes.
To wrap things up with our media day blog, here are a couple of final thoughts on KU's Friday opponent, Eastern Kentucky.
The Colonels make 8.9 three-pointers a game (eighth in the nation).
This season, Kansas has allowed opponents to make 35.9% of their three-pointers (257th in the nation).
Jayhawks opponents have made 6.3 three-pointers a game (185th in the nation).
A reporter asked Kansas sophomore forward Jamari Traylor about the challenge of defending EKU.
"They have a lot of guys that can stretch the floor and guys that will be their 4-man and can be 3-men," Traylor said. "So everybody can stretch the floor, and everybody can shoot it."
Without giving up any secrets, Traylor said KU has a good game plan in place, and the Jayhawks should be able to go out and do their jobs.
... On a totally unrelated note, you won't want to miss our video from Mike Yoder of Frank Mason showing off his athleticism during KU's open practice.
The 5-foot-11 freshman guard followed a few backflips with a dunk — a real crowd pleaser.
Update: 4:40 p.m.
KUsports.com's Matt Tait caught up with KU sophomore guard Evan Manning Thursday afternoon.
Throughout his basketball life, Evan spent postseasons with his father, Danny. But now that his dad's Tulsa team is playing in the NCAA tournament, March has a slightly different feel for the younger Manning.
The good news: a couple of victories by KU and Tulsa, and the father and son would be reunited in Memphis, one of the Sweet 16 sites.
Update: 4:20 p.m.
Kansas freshmen guards Frank Mason and Brannen Greene took a couple of minutes Thursday afternoon to provide a scouting report on Eastern Kentucky.
They know the Colonels are fast, and Friday's game figures to be played at a pace players from both teams will enjoy. The question is whether both sides will be able to thrive.
Update: 4:05 p.m.
One thing that really shines through on a day like this at the NCAA tournament is how much fun it is for the players to be here. They're excited for the postseason and they do actually have some down moments in which they don't have to be uptight or worried about the stresses that come with playing on this stage.
You can really see that in the above Nick Krug photo form inside the KU locker room.
Getting back to tomorrow afternoon's game, KU sophomore forward Perry Ellis said Eastern Kentucky could test KU's ability to get up and down the floor.
"They're a real quick team. Real fast," Ellis said. "A lot of back cuts. We just have to be fundamentally sound defensively, real disciplined and come out with a lot of energy defensively."
Ellis said playing with energy will be the key to the game, because if KU does that good things will follow.
— Check back in later at KUsports.com for more from St. Louis.
Update: 3:40 p.m.
(This entry comes from Matt Tait, who has bounced all around Scottrade Center today, gathering quotes.)
Learned a few interesting things in the Eastern Kentucky locker room this afternoon, mostly about their style of play.
There were a few laughs and colorful moments from big man Eric Stutz, who said people always tell him he looks like Jesus, Fabio and Ashton Kutcher, and added that he would like to own a waste disposal company after college.
"There's always gonna be trash," Stutz said. "…If I can get a degree in accounting along with the business aspect of it, all you gotta do is learn how to pick up trash.”
As for what they'll throw at the Jayhawks in about 24 hours, the Colonels, as you surely know by now, rely heavily on the three-point shot and pressure defense.
From the sound of things, they get a lot of open looks off of penetration, so if the Jayhawks' on-ball defense — or help and recovery on the back end — is not on point, EKU may very well get some open looks tomorrow.
Although they shot as many three-pointers as nearly any other team in the country, it's not like they just jack 'em up and don't have a conscience out there. A good chunk of their looks come from running offense and making extra passes, and they really try to take good looks. They do own the philosophy, though, that after one pass, if they've got a good look they can take it.
Senior guard Glenn Cosey made 110-of-259 threes for EKU this season and his teammates said he's the guy they'd want with the ball with the game on the line.
As for that pressure defense. It sounds like it's mostly in the half court and it's mostly a product of just wanting to out-work their opponents. A lot of times, as may be the case with Andrew Wiggins, one of their best defensive plays is to deny the catch. Stutz said Wiggins will get his touches and points and they know that, but they're still going to try to deny him the ball as much as possible.
From what I was told, there's not a lot of full-court pressure with the EKU 'D.' The point guard will usually pick up his man the length of the floor and that effort generally is what fuels the rest of the guys on the floor to get up on their guys.
“That's where our defense starts,” said senior Orlando Williams. “The point guard picking up his man and everybody else is in the passing lanes denying their man.”
It's an interesting match-up and one KU could quickly find difficult if the Jayhawks are careless with the ball and lazy. If they come out sharp, though, and match EKU's effort, they should be fine.
More to come….
Update: 3:20 p.m.
Listen to everything KU coach Bill Self had to say at his press conference:
Update: 2:50 p.m.
Eastern Kentucky's players know they have a style that fits March Madness well.
Here are a couple of the Colonels, Orlando Williams and Marcus Lewis, explaining the EKU approach in the locker room Thursday afternoon.
— Check back throughout the afternoon for more from St. Louis.
Update: 2:40 p.m.
Reporters basically tripped all over themselves to get interviews with Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins in a very crowded Jayhawks locker room Thursday afternoon.
While Wiggins and some of his teammates dealt with the swarm, senior center Tarik Black and sophomore forward Jamari Traylor took the stage in the press conference room.
Black said he has seen some crazy things happen in the NCAA tournament, and had crazy things happen to teams on which he has played at Memphis. The main thing to do this time of year, he stressed, is stay composed.
People try to make predictions about the tournament, Black added, but they're more like assumptions.
Bill Self took the stage next, and said the Jayhawks were pleased to be playing relatively close to home. Here are some of the highlights from his session:
• Eastern Kentucky does a lot of things that concern him. The Colonels don't turn the ball over, they have eight players who can shoot 3-pointers, and they defend higher on the floor than anybody KU has faced this season.
• All three Division I Kansas programs are here in St. Louis. As a state, each fan base should be proud about that.
• When teams pressure (EKU does) they do so to play to their strengths and skill sets. When KU sees that pressure, the Jayhawks need to not forget to play through their bigs. Hopefully Kansas is prepared for that.
• KU freshman center Joel Embiid has made progress in rehab, but they're taking it slow. The staff is optimistic they can get him to practice next week, if KU is still alive in the tournament. … Without Embiid on the floor, defensive mistakes turn into layups. In his absence, Kansas has to be much more sound defensively.
• Andrew Wiggins has a flair for the moment. That gives Self confidence in what the freshman phenom can make happen in the postseason. Wiggins needs to assert himself offensively and impact more possessions. If that happens, he will score more points.
• Kansas and Missouri, at this point, would have to meet up in the NCAA tournament to renew their rivalry. A scheduled regular-season game probably won't happen as long as Self is coaching at Kansas.
• Andrew Wigins and his brother, Nick, a senior guard at Wichita State, are both playing in St. Louis. Nick was great through the recruiting of Andrew by the KU staff. That played a minor role in Andrew picking KU, as did the fact parents Mitchell and Marita could make one trip to Kansas and see both of their sons play. … The fact that WSU and KU aren't playing each other here in St. Louis is probably better for the family.
• Wiggins will have an opportunity in the postseason to prove any of his critics wrong, but it will take Kansas advancing to make that happen.
Wouldn't you know it, as soon as Self left the press conference, he had a throng of other reporters waiting for him in the hallway.
Update: 1:00 p.m.
We just got back from the Eastern Kentucky locker room and coach Jeff Neubauer's press conference.
The Colonels (24-9), out of the Ohio Valley Conference, seem to be taking a laid back approach to their potential role as giant-killers against No. 2-seeded Kansas (24-9) on Friday.
Credit for the upbeat vibe in the locker room goes to ninth-year coach Jeff Neubauer. He has seen up close what it takes to bust a bracket. Neubauer served as an assistant coach at Richmond when the No. 14 seed knocked out No. 3 seed South Carolina in 1998.
Neubauer also worked at West Virginia, when the Mountaineers reached the Elite Eight in 2005.
The coach fielded plenty of questions — about Kansas, coming out of the OVC and March Madness in general. Here are some of the highlights:
• It's so hard in a league like the OVC to get to this point. And it will be a big challenge Friday against Kansas.
• The Colonels have talked all season about embracing challenges. They don't use the word underdog.
• He coached EKU as a No. 16 seed against North Carolina in 2007. The Colonels didn't do a good job out of the gate and ended up in a huge hole and lost by 21 points.
• Keeping that rough performance from 2007 in mind, Neubauer has been practicing his players hard in preparation for Kansas.
• EKU played three tournament teams this season: Wisconsin, North Carolina State and VCU. The Colonels, who went 0-3 in those matchups, played really well at N.C. State for 34 minutes. The game they will try to draw upon against KU is the overtime loss at VCU.
• Kansas has committed a lot of dead-ball turnovers/travels this season. EKU needs steals, not dead-ball mistakes, because steals turn into layups and dunks.
• The biggest problem/issue facing EKU's defense is junior Jayhawks point guard Naadir Tharpe. Neubauer said Tharpe takes care of the ball and that makes it difficult for opponents to score easy points through defense.
• EKU won't try to make Kansas play small. If the Jayhawks played small, they would still be significantly bigger than the Colonels.
Original post: 11:00 a.m.
While you're settling in to watch a full day's worth of NCAA tournament games — or sneaking away from work responsibilities here and there to keep up with the potential upsets — the KUsports.com staff will be busy gathering quotes, videos, stories and photos at Scottrade Center, in St. Louis.
Press conferences and open practices are the name of the game today for Kansas University's men's basketball team, as well as the other seven teams playing round of 64 games at the site: Eastern Kentucky, Stanford, New Mexico, Wichita State, Cal Poly, Kansas State and Kentucky.
Check in at this blog throughout the day for updates.
Eastern Kentucky players and coach Jeff Neubauer won't be available until early afternoon.
Kansas players and coach Bill Self will meet the media a little after 1:30 p.m.
In the meantime, check out a couple of videos from KU's arrival Wednesday night.
In the realm of college basketball, March is known for its madness.
Kansas University coach Bill Self experienced a little of that himself Sunday evening after the NCAA unveiled the 2014 national championship bracket.
Even though Self barely had time to read up on KU's Friday opponent, Eastern Kentucky — let alone scout the Colonels by watching some game video — a room full of reporters awaited him at 6 p.m. inside Allen Fieldhouse to talk about the matchup between No. 2-seeded Kansas (24-9) and the No. 15 seed, EKU (24-9), out of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Here are the highlights of the Q&A, in bullet-point form:
• Self kind of thought Kansas would get a No. 2 seed. But he still thought KU had a really good chance of getting a No. 1 seed. If things had happened differently in some of the other conference tournaments, maybe the Jayhawks would have got consideration for the most sought after seed line.
• In KU's pod, New Mexico looks better than its No. 7 seed. Self hopes KU has a chance to play UNM or Stanford in the round of 32, but the Jayhawks' focus needs to be on Eastern Kentucky and defending the 3-point line. Self has already learned that EKU has four starters who shoot 3-pointers. They're a lot like Iowa State in that aspect.
• Sometimes when you play close to home there are more distractions. KU experienced that some last year, in Kansas City, Mo., for its first two NCAA games. Friday's games in St. Louis will be some of the hottest tickets ever for the first two rounds. Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State are all playing there. (All except KU are competing in the Midwest region.)
• KU has been in the same city as K-State for the NCAA tournament before. It will be interesting. You wonder if fans from both sides of the Sunflower Showdown will cheer for their rivals.
• Self couldn't believe SMU and Larry Brown didn't make the tournament. When it all played out on the selection show, Self though North Carolina would play SMU. But he forgot Providence hadn't been announced yet. … That's what Brown thought would happen (a Roy Williams and UNC vs. Brown and SMU game) when Self spoke with the former KU coach on Sunday morning.
• On the other hand… Self was really happy to see Danny Manning's Tulsa team earn a spot. Tulsa is in the same region as Kansas, as a No. 13 seed, and will face UCLA on Friday.
• Kansas needs to play with high energy all the time. When you do that you can camouflage some mistakes with this group. Iowa State might've beaten anybody the way it played Friday in the Big 12 semifinals. KU might've been better off giving the Cyclones some "dare" shots, instead of letting ISU get inside of them.
• Looking at a potential rematch with New Mexico, that first meeting (an 80-63 KU win at Sprint Center) was a long time ago, on Dec. 14. Self doesn't know how much of an advantage either team would have should each advance.
• With a young team, there is potential for some distractions at this time of year. The most focused team Self has ever had was in 2008. That was a "wild crew," but they did everything the coaches asked and trusted them. It's great to have rules, but sometimes players think rules are great for everybody else but themselves. That's when you start getting distractions.
• Andrew Wiggins has played great. He just didn't make some shots early against ISU.
• Self didn't know which regional KU would end up in. No matter what one you end up in, you always think that the committee didn't do you any favors. But the Midwest (No. 1 Wichita State, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 St. Louis) looks really tough.
• Not to get ahead of themselves, but the South region has the best team in the country — Florida. And a team that everyone thought was the best team in the country a month ago — No. 3 Syracuse. UCLA, the No. 4 seed, is one of the hottest teams in the country. But the focus is getting through this weekend.
• There are more good teams and less great teams this season. Florida is a great team. The bottom line: everybody in the field can be had. This year, there are more good, solid teams that can beat what are perceived as the better teams.
• Joel Embiid's status remains the same. He feels better. Self doesn't feel optimistic Embiid would be able to play this weekend. But he is optimistic about the following weekend (Sweet 16). His availability is all symptom-related and he has responded very well of late.
— Listen to the complete press conference: KU coach Bill Self reacts to NCAA Tournament bracket
Now that the 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket is official, we know what the next couple of weeks could look like for Kansas University's men's basketball team.
The Jayhawks (24-9) earned the No. 2 seed in the South bracket, and open against no. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky on Friday in St. Louis.
Here are the rest of the Round of 64 matchups for the South bracket:
No. 1 Florida vs. Albany/St. Mary's
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh
No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Western Michigan
No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
Believe it or not, this is just the second time in KU coach Bill Self's 11 seasons that the Jayhawks received a No. 2 seed.
Since Self took over the program in the 2003-04 season, Kansas has entered the Big Dance as a No. 1 seed five times, and now two times apiece on the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed lines.
The unpredictability of March is what makes the tournament a national treasure. Earning a top-four seed guarantees nothing.
Can KU make it all the way to the Final Four as a No. 2 seed? Absolutely. It happened two years ago. But as KU's rabid fan base is completely aware, playing as a favored seed can go in the other direction, too.
Here is a look back at how Kansas has played on each seed line in the Self era.
No. 1 seeds
The first No. 1 seed for the Jayhawks under Self didn't come with an accommodating road to the Final Four. The Jayhawks played the first weekend in Chicago, but the selection committee placed KU in the West regional, which meant an Elite Eight matchup with UCLA in San Jose, California, where the Bruins ended KU's season.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Niagara, 107-67
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 8 Kentucky, 88-76
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 4 Southern Illinois, 61-58
Elite 8: No. 2 UCLA beat Kansas, 68-55
You could say the 2008 NCAA Tournament worked out all right for Kansas. The Jayhawks' No. 1 seed gave them two games in Omaha, Neb., and two more in Detroit, before they moved on to the all-No. 1 seed Final Four in San Antonio, where KU defeated Memphis in overtime to win the national championship.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Portland State, 85-61
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 8 UNLV, 75-56
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 12 Villanova, 72-57
Elite Eight: Kansas beat No. 10 Davidson, 59-57
Final Four: Kansas beat No. 1 North Carolina, 84-66
National Championship: Kansas beat No. 1 Memphis, 75-68 (OT)
This is the worst-case scenario for a No. 1 seed, from a historical perspective. No top seed ever has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But Kansas is one of the No. 1s to bite the bullet without getting to the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks opened in Oklahoma City, Okla., but never made it to St. Louis, because Northern Iowa ended KU's run before it had a chance to pick up any steam.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Lehigh, 90-74
2nd round: No. 9 Northern Iowa beat Kansas, 69-67
Kansas handled its coveted No. 1 seed better the season following its second-round exit against Northern Iowa. But after the Jayhawks advanced out of Tulsa, Okla., another mid-major team, VCU, stopped them short of a Final Four by ending KU's season in the Elite Eight, in San Antonio.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Boston, 72-53
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 9 Illinois, 73-59
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 12 Richmond, 77-57
Elite 8: No. 11 VCU beat Kansas, 71-61
First weekend sites don't get any cushier for Kansas than Kansas City, Mo. The Jayhawks moved on to the Sweet 16 via Sprint Center. However, the Jayhawks' run ended in their first game at the next stop, Arlington, Texas, with an overtime loss to Michigan.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Western Kentucky, 64-57
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 8 North Carolina, 70-58
Sweet 16: No. 4 Michigan beat Kansas, 87-85 (OT)
No. 2 seed
Kansas couldn't make it three No. 1 seeds in a row, but the selection committee kept No. 2 seed KU close to home, and the Jayhawks responded by sweeping through Omaha and St. Louis, en route to the Final Four, in New Orleans. Kansas got all the way to the tournament final, where Kentucky stopped the Jayhawks from capturing their second championship in five seasons.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 15 Detroit, 65-50
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 10 Purdue, 63-60
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 11 North Carolina State, 60-57
Elite 8: Kansas beat No. 1 North Carolina, 80-67
Final 4: Kansas beat No. 2 Ohio State, 64-62
National Championship: No. 1 Kentucky beat Kansas, 67-59
No. 3 seeds
As a No. 3 seed playing not too far away, in Oklahoma City, for the first weekend, many figured Kansas was primed for another deep run in the tournament — and potentially a showdown with the regional's No. 1 seed, North Carolina, in the Elite Eight. Instead, Bucknell bounced the Jayhawks in the first round.
1st round: No. 14 Bucknell beat Kansas, 64-63
A year after the program's first national championship in 20 years, Self rebuilt quickly. A young group of Jayhawks earned a No. 3 seed and won two games in Minneapolis before falling to eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 14 North Dakota State, 84-74
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 11 Dayton, 60-43
Sweet 16: No. 2 Michigan State beat Kansas, 67-62
No. 4 seeds
Even though the Jayhawks were a No. 4 seed, they enjoyed a more than generous bracket assignment, playing the first two rounds at Kemper Arena, in Kansas City, and the next two in St. Louis, Mo. KU got all the way to the Elite Eight in Self's first season, and were minutes away from a third straight Final Four appearance before losing to Georgia Tech in overtime.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 13 Illinois-Chicago, 78-44
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 12 Pacific, 78-63
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 9 UAB, 100-74
Elite 8: No. 3 Georgia Tech beat Kansas, 79-71 (OT)
A young Kansas team didn't quite have the résumé for a top-three seed, and opened the postseason in Auburn Hills, Mich. Though the players were different from the previous season, the result was the same: a first-round exit for the Jayhawks. This time it came at the hands of another B-school, Bradley.
1st round: No. 13 Bradley beat Kansas, 77-73
Iowa State didn't have to go to overtime to beat Kansas State in the first game of the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Sprint Center, but that game was just as intense as the one that followed it — an OT thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Now that both the Cyclones (24-7) and Jayhawks (24-8) have lived up to the old March motto of "survive and advance," they will play each other for the third time this season Friday night at Sprint Center for a chance to advance to the Big 12 title game.
ISU and KU haven't played each other in six weeks. In the first meeting, on Jan. 13, Kansas won, 77-70, at Iowa State.
The rematch came 16 days later in Lawrence. Again, Kansas prevailed. This time, 92-81, at Allen Fieldhouse.
For the end of this trilogy, we've got a neutral site, in Kansas City, Mo. Sprint Center usually can't be called neutral the way Kansas fans pack it out, but Iowa State might be the one school this season that can come close to matching the crowd energy of the Jayhawks' fan base.
ISU always travels well for the conference tournament, even if the faithful know their Cyclones have little chance of winning the event. This year, ISU (ranked No. 16 entering the postseason) could be cutting down nets Saturday night. Even if the Cyclones have to go through No. 10 Kansas to do it.
As a bit of a refresher course on Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones, here is what they've been up to lately.
Melvin Ejim, No. 3
6-6, 220, sr. forward
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 15 points, 5/15 FGs, 2/5 3s, 3/3 FTs, 5 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 3 steals, 5 fouls.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 18 points, 7/13 FGs, 1/2 3s, 3/4 FTs, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls in 29 minutes.
The Big 12's player of the year had a slow start in the quarterfinals against K-State. Slow by his standards at least. And Ejim still scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds after picking up some hardware.
Said Hoiberg of Ejim's outing, after ISU advanced with a 91-85 win: "Melvin, to go out there, and he had five offensive rebounds in the first half, did a good job I thought. He missed a couple of easy ones there in the first. He could have had a 30‑point game, but then made those really tough finishes around the basket, down the stretch. He hit some big free throws for us and again really helped us do the job on the glass."
He averages 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and has hit 36 of 109 3's in Hoiberg's free-wheeling offense.
DeAndre Kane, No. 50
6-4, 200, sr. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 21 points, 6/13 FGs, 1/3 3s, 8/16 FTs, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 22 points, 8/14 FGs, 2/4 3s, 4/6 FTs, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover in 34 minutes.
Kane scored the first basket of the game against Kansas State, then didn't make much noise offensively for a long time.
The All-Big 12 first team point guard scored 11 points and had 2 assists before fouling out. Still, ISU handled the final minutes just fine without him.
Kane averages 16.9 points, 6.7 boards and 5.8 assists. He has shot a team-leading 214 free throws, but only converts them at 63.6% of the time.
Georges Niang, No. 31
6-7, 240, so. forward
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 11 points, 4/20 FGs, 0/9 FTs, 3/4 FTs, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 24 points, 10/17 FGs, 3/7 3s, 1/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block in 38 minutes.
When Kane left the floor against K-State, Niang became ISU's go-to play-maker.
After the Wildcats tied the game at 76 with less than four minutes left, Niang hit a jumper, found Naz Long for a 3, hit Ejim for a layup, scored in the paint, grabbed a defensive board and fed Long for an assist.
The versatile forward finished with 18 points, seven boards and four helpers.
"You look at what Georges did at the end," Hoiberg said, "those last couple of minutes he was in there, we gave the ball to him and he just went out there made unbelievable basketball plays."
Niang averages 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and also likes to fire from deep — connecting on 43 of 137 3-ponters this season (just 31.4%).
Dustin Hogue, No. 22
6-6, 215, jr. forward
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 13 points, 3/10 FGs, 0/1 3s, 7/8 FTs, 9 rebounds (6 offensive).
— Jan. 29 at KU: 7 points, 2/5 FGs, 2/3 3s, 1/2 FTs, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 turnovers in 31 minutes.
This guy might be the most impressive rebounder in the country. Hogue is only 6-foot-6 but always seems to come up with the ball once it bounces off the rim. Oh, you're bigger than him? Doesn't matter. He's gonna get it.
Hogue joined Ejim in the double-double department vs. K-State, going for 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"Dustin Hogue, I thought, did everything today," his coach said. "He's always been a guy that's done the dirty work for this team, all throughout the year. He doesn't get the credit he deserves today, not only on the defensive end and rebounding, which he always does, but made some huge plays for us on offense."
Hogue hit 6 of his 8 shots Thursday. On the season, he averages 10.6 points and 8.6 boards.
Monté Morris, No. 11
6-2, 170, fr. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 7 points, 1/5 FGs, 1/4 3s, 0/1 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 4 steals.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 4 points, 1/4 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 0 turnovers in 35 minutes.
Morris consistently put teammates in position to make something happen against Kansas State, and he ended up dealing 10 assists, to go with five points and three steals.
"I thought he was great," Hoiberg told the media after the game. "He always does the right thing defensively, got some key deflections. We were having trouble getting stops unless we got a turnover and I thought he did a really good job of staying tight with (Will) Spradling. It's not an easy matchup. He moves so much and Monte, I thought, did a great job chasing him all over the floor. And 10 assists and one turnover, it's hard when you have an 8‑to‑1 assist‑to‑turnover ratio to increase that in a game. But to go out there and do that as a freshman in his first Big 12 tournament tells you all you need to know about that kid. He loves the big stage. He won back-to-back state championships in Michigan. He came out and played as poised a game as I think you can have as a freshman."
Morris averages 6.0 points this season, and has passed out 120 assists, compared to 21 turnovers, in 31 games.
Naz Long, No. 15
6-4, 205, so. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 0 points, 0/2 FGs, 0/2 3s, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 16 minutes.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/2 3s, 1 turnover in 8 minutes.
Long has developed into ISU's best 3-point shooter, as he proved at the end of regulation against Oklahoma State last week, setting up an ISU overtime victory.
He drilled 2 of 3 from deep against K-State, and finished with 14 points.
On the year, Long has hit 53 3-pointers on 135 attempts (39.3%).
Matt Thomas, No. 21
6-3, 200, fr. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 3 points, 1/5 FGs, 1/4 3s, 0/1 FTs, 2 rebounds, one assist, 3 blocks, 1 steal.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 6 points, 2/6 FGs, 2/6 3s, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 turnover and 2 blocks in 25 minutes.
A steady guard off the bench, Thomas averages 6.1 points, has made 43 of 127 3-ponters and has only turned the ball over 15 times all season.
He went scoreless against K-State in 10 minutes of action.
Both times Kansas and Oklahoma State met on the basketball court during the regular season, the Cowboys' guard-oriented attack gave the Jayhawks some trouble.
The first time around, KU held off a second-half OSU surge to earn an 80-78 win at Allen Fieldhouse.
In the rematch, the Jayhawks weren't as lucky, and lost, 72-65, at Gallagher-Iba Arena, in Stillwater, Okla.
Now comes Cowboys vs. Jayhawks, Part 3 — in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals at 2 p.m., at Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo.
One of the preseason Big 12 favorites is going home to regroup for the NCAAs. And it could be No. 10 Kansas (23-8) if the Cowboys (21-11) have their way.
OSU, after all, has won five of its last six games since Marcus Smart's return from his suspension, with its only loss coming in overtime at Iowa State — on the Cyclones' Senior Day.
Meanwhile, Kansas has lost two of its last three.
After Oklahoma State disposed of Texas Tech, 80-62, Wednesday night, coach Travis Ford uttered some words that should frighten any team that faces OSU from this point on: "I thought we ran our offense — for the first time — pretty complete for 40 minutes. We took good shots, we had good possessions."
That's right, the man in charge of this ultra-talented, if underachieving, group said Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte had not run the offense full throttle until now.
Of course, Texas Tech (14-18) isn't Kansas. But think about it this way: a team that already has split with KU is just starting to get it. And Kansas doesn't have 7-foot freshman center Joel Embiid to protect the paint this time.
OSU plans to attack KU off the dribble to get points in the paint. And if that works, Nash pointed out, it could mean difficulties for Kansas on more than one front.
"They bench is shorter now," Nash said Wednesday night. "We get 'em in foul trouble, maybe it can work out for us."
On that note, here's a brief refresher on OSU's core six players.
Marcus Smart, No. 33
6-4, 220, so. guard
— Jan. 18 at KU: 16 points, 3/14 FGs, 0/6 3s, 10/10 FTs, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 3 turnovers in 39 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 21 points, 5/14 FGs, 2/7 3s, 9/14 FTs, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Too strong to be slowed down by a foul, one of the nation's elite guards finishes through the contact he creates. Smart had a blast dismantling Texas Tech Wednesday night at the Sprint Center, where he made 6 of 10 shots, scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished seven assists and feasted on the Tech backcourt with six steals.
The Cowboys will go as far as Smart and Brown can take them in the next few weeks, and their first legit postseason test comes today, against Kansas.
Smart's season averages: 17.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.7 steals.
Markel Brown, No. 22
6-3, 190, sr. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 15 points, 5/13 FGs, 5/9 3s, 0/0 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 5 fouls in 28 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 21 points, 4/7 FGs, 3/5 3s, 10/10 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers in 38 minutes.
The chemistry Brown has with Smart in the backcourt makes OSU's talented backcourt all the more difficult to handle. The two can make eye contact on the perimeter and the next thing you know, Brown is catching a lob above the rim for an alley-oop.
Brown will step on the floor today feeling good, because he went for 20 points and hit 3 of 6 3-pointers against Tech less than 24 hours earlier.
While Brown can burn you on the perimeter with his touch (38.6% on 3s), he will gladly drive by his man for a layup or slam, too.
He averages 17.3 points and 5.5 rebounds, plus 3.0 assists.
Le'Bryan Nash, No. 2
6-7, 235, jr. wing
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 10 points, 5/11 FGs, 0/2 FTs, 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls in 22 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 16 points, 6/9 FGs, 4/5 FTs, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, 2 turnovers in 33 minutes.
Le'Bryan "Slash" took a back seat to Smart and Brown most of the Big 12 Tournament opener, but still produced 10 points — mainly by getting to the foul line, where he went 6 of 7.
Like Smart and Brown, Nash is too quick and strong for many perimeter defenders to deal with. He averages 14.0 points and 5.6 rebounds, and makes 52.5% of his shots.
Phil Forte, No. 13
5-11, 185, so. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 23 points, 7/11 FGs, 7/10 3s, 2/2 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers in 30 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 2 points, 1/6 FGs, 0/4 3s, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover in 39 minutes.
It's almost bizarre to think OSU defeated Kansas in Stillwater with Forte going 0-for-the-game from 3-point range and only scoring two points.
It appeared the sophomore sniper might end up having a similar night against Tech on Wednesday. Forte didn't hit a shot until the 15:43 mark of the second half. Not that it mattered. The sophomore guard's 91st three-pointer of the season put Tech's deficit at 51-32. And he went on to score 14 points on 4 of 9 3-point shooting.
The kind of 3-point marksman Kansas hopes Conner Frankamp can become, Forte has made 94 3-pointers this season on 208 attempts (45.2%). Seventy-six percent of his shots come from behind the arc.
Kamari Murphy, No. 21
6-8, 220, so. post
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 12 points, 5/10 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 4 fouls, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 blocks in 38 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 8 points, 3/8 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 turnover and 5 fouls in 30 minutes.
Even with Embiid playing, Murphy enjoyed more success against Kansas than he has, on average, this season.
If KU help defenders come over to cut off drives by Smart, Brown and Nash, Murphy figures to benefit with open looks at the rim.
He averages 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds this season, and leads OSU with 40 blocked shots (five more than Brown).
Murphy only scored two points and had one rebound against Tech, and he picked up four fouls in 14 minutes.
Brian Williams, No. 4
6-5, 210, jr. wing
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal in 21 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 4 points, 1/2 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 3 steals and 1 turnover in 11 minutes.
Williams scored five of his six points against Tech in the first half, and went 4 for 5 at the foul line in OSU's easy win.
On the year, he averages 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Note: Fellow backup Leyton Hammonds gave OSU its first points of the game Wednesday night against Texas Tech, with a 3-pointer, after the Pokes fell behind, 8-0, prior to the first media timeout. Hamonds had gone scoreless in OSU's three previous games in limited minutes.