Entries from blogs tagged with “college football”
Kansas offensive coordinator Rob Likens walked into his office at Anderson Family Football Complex in early April and found an unexpected gift of sorts waiting for him.
There, placed on a shelf sometime in Likens’ absence, sat a framed photograph of KU’s co-defensive coordinator, Kenny Perry.
This would have caught Likens off guard had Perry not established himself as the unpredictable instigator on new coach David Beaty’s staff.
“He embraces that role,” Likens said. “He loves it.”
At Kansas practices this spring, Perry’s intensity while coaching the cornerbacks leads one to think he might not have a light-hearted cell in his DNA. That’s on-the-field Perry. The one ambling around the coaches’ office quarters, playing Elf on the Shelf with a framed photo of his own mug helps his fellow staffers retain their sanity while embarking of the arduous mission of turning around a downtrodden program.
“I like to bring a lot of different energy,” Perry explained. “I love coaching, and it’s so stressful you’ve gotta add some light to it.”
That’s why not long after Perry received a framed photo of himself from Beaty on his birthday, the assistant decided he could have some fun with it.
“It’s gonna be Coach Perry on the Shelf,” the former TCU corners coach declared. “It’s gonna show up in different offices.”
Wearing a wry grin, Perry said he will decide who “deserves” the photo, which doubles as a trophy.
“It’s a memento of my appreciation for the job they’re doing,” Perry said.
Countered a laughing Likens: “Yeah, I was a ‘winner,’ right, to have his photo? Exactly. That’s the way he looks at it.”
Perry got his start as a high school assistant coach in 1994 and worked his way through the ranks, eventually landing at TCU as director of high school relations in 2013. Along the way, he decided to take on the practical joker route with his fellow coaches to alleviate the stress.
KU running backs coach Reggie Mitchell said he has worked on some staffs in the past and he didn’t want to be around his co-workers once practice ended. But he’s having a blast with this group assembled by Beaty, thanks in part to Perry’s ability to catch other assistants off guard with his wisecracks.
“You can put him in any circle of people and he’s gonna fit right in,” Mitchell said. “He has the kind of personality to make you feel like you’ve known him all your life.”
Beaty’s staff, the coaches hope, are building a foundation through their camaraderie. Likens said they have more fun together than any staff he has worked on in 23 years. There is something to that, he added, because this can be a trying time for them as they attempt to build Kansas into a successful program.
“Coaches are perfectionists, and we get very, very frustrated. There’s days I come off that practice field. ‘Wooo,’” Likens reenacted, letting his head hang low to mimic the end of a rough day. “And it’s hard. And (Perry’s) there to lift me up.
“He comes off the practice field some day and his corners had a bad day and he’s down, I’m there to lift him up,” Likens added. “We all encourage each other, because we all understand the vision. We all know it’s going to get there. It’s not there yet, and it’s gonna take some time.”
One benefit of that chemistry is that it can trickle down to the players — Likens has seen that happen before. It may not show up immediately, he added, because the Jayhawks wearing helmets and pads are still in the feeling out process with their new coaches, seeing how they will react on good days and bad ones.
The more the players and the guys in charge can build strong relationships in the midst of this restoration phase, they’re betting it will pay off in the years to come.
“God hoping, we win a lot of games,” Perry said. “But there’s gotta be a happy medium. You spend so much time together, if you’re not having fun you’re not happy together, and it doesn’t create a good house. Right now we got a great house. You’ll go through some growing pains, and you’ve gotta have a solid foundation. I think that’s what David’s built.”
The Oklahoma City Thunder has a coaching vacancy.
Cue the wild speculation.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday afternoon the small-market NBA franchise not too far from Lawrence, Kansas, decided to get rid of head coach Scott Brooks.
So don’t be too surprised if rumors start swirling about the Thunder having interest in Kansas head coach Bill Self or vice versa.
According to Wojnarowski, Oklahoma City has strong interest in Florida coach Billy Donovan. If the two-time NCAA champion Gators coach wants to jump to the league, the job could be his for the taking.
Plus, UConn's Kevin Ollie, who played for OKC, could figure into the coaching search.
But KU fans long have feared Self would leave Allen Fieldhouse behind for a lucrative, appealing job in the professional ranks. Throw into the equation that Self grew up in Edmond, Oklahoma, and went to Oklahoma State, and one could easily infer the Jayhawks’ coach would listen if OKC gave him a call.
And any coach with a pulse would have to contemplate such an offer, because the Thunder have arguably two of the best five players in the NBA in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
Here’s what we know:
• NBA teams have reached out to Self in the past. Just last year, Cleveland had some exploratory discussions with him about his interest.
• But Self told Gary Bedore last summer “not many” organizations have actually sought him out.
• As recently as last offseason, Self shot down the notion of leaving Kansas for an NBA job anytime soon.
“We’ve got so many good things going on right here,” Self told 610 radio in May of 2014. “You add the DeBruce Center (for Naismith rules and training table) and add the living quarters (new apartment complex to be built) to go along with the way we’ll be fed, from a recruiting standpoint we’ve done pretty well. I think we can even take a step up.”
The Thunder might not even have Self on their short list. It’s too early in the process to know either way. Whomever OKC goes after, expectations will be monumental. Injuries to Durant, Westbrook and Serge Ibaka at various junctures left the Thunder out of the playoffs this year. And Oklahoma City has a championship-level roster when everyone is healthy.
The new guy, whether that’s Donovan, Ollie, a coach with NBA experience or someone else, will be expected to not only guide the Thunder back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2012, but bring the Larry O’Brien Trophy to Oklahoma.
OKC general manager Sam Presti made that clear in a statement he released:
“We move forward with confidence in our foundation and embrace the persistence and responsibility that is required to contract an elite and enduring basketball organization capable of winning an NBA championship in Oklahoma City.”
Self operates at KU with those types of job requirements, and maintaining those is easier at the college level when you’re working at a name-brand program such as Kansas.
For all the talent the Thunder has, nothing in the NBA is guaranteed. Durant will be a free agent in 2016. Westbrook’s contract expires the following season. We might be two years away from Oklahoma City falling into irrelevancy.
You couldn’t say that about Kansas.
Are the Thunder interested in Bill Self? Who knows at this juncture.
Given Self’s situation, and contract with KU, it’s hard to imagine he would want to leave that behind to become the head coach of his home state’s pro team.
UPDATE — 5:30 p.m.
The Oklahoman’s Thunder beat writer, Anthony Slater, on Wednesday posted a long list of possible replacements for Brooks. Of course, Donovan and Ollie topped the lineup as favorites.
However, The Oklahoman also pointed to Self and Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg as currently employed options. Slater wrote Self would be a “widely popular” hire in OKC:
“Self is from Edmond and is as charismatic as they come. Not sure he fits the Thunder mold or is even on the radar at all. But, man, is it a fun hire to think about. Particularly from a media perspective.”
Like fellow one-and-done Jayhawk Kelly Oubre Jr., Kansas freshman forward Cliff Alexander won’t have a press conference to discuss his decision to leave early and enter the NBA Draft.
An NCAA investigation into his eligibility that forced KU to keep Alexander off the court for the final eight games of the season surely had much to do with that.
The 6-foot-8 big man from Chicago played 28 games for Kansas, started six of those and finished his short-lived career as a Jayhawk averaging 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, while shooting 56.6% from the floor and 67.1% from the free-throw line.
Despite unpredictable production on the floor and off-the-court issues surrounding an alleged extra benefit for a family member, Alexander says in a video released by KU Athletics that he will remember his time with the program fondly.
Alexander says his first trip to Allen Fieldhouse, the venue that became his temporary basketball home, really stands out for him.
“It means a lot to me to know that a lot of great players have played in the fieldhouse,” Alexander says. “Basketball was invented here and one of the greatest coaches coached here, one of the greatest coaches still do coach here. It was just a great experience.”
(Give Alexander a pass on that “basketball was invented here” part of it. Someone on campus probably told him that or he inferred it from the tales of KU lore. Of course, the inventor of the game, Dr. James Naismith, coached at Kansas from 1898 to 1907.)
While the video doesn’t get into his reasons for leaving or his at times tumultuous season, it does give the young forward a chance to thank KU coach Bill Self and offer a final message to the Kansas fans.
“Thanks for being with me, supporting me the whole way. I love you guys and miss you guys. Rock chalk Jayhawk.”
Alexander reached double figures in scoring nine times in his lone season in Lawrence and twice had double-digit rebound totals.
The potential first-round pick showed brief flashes of what he might some day become as a player, but you can see in this chart from StatSheet.com just how erratic a year he had.
Here is a look back at Alexander’s most productive games for Kansas:
Nov. 24 vs. Rider: 10 points, 4 rebounds 4/4 FGs, 2/3 FTs in 13 minutes
Nov. 28 vs. Tennessee: 16 points, 4 rebounds, 5/6 FGs, 6/9 FTs in 20 minutes
Dec. 5 vs. Florida: 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2/4 FGs, 8/8 FTs in 19 minutes
Dec. 20 vs. Lafayette: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4/6 FGs, 2/2 FTs in 17 minutes
Jan. 4 vs UNLV: 10 points, 5 rebounds (4 offensive), 2 blocks, 5/12 FGs in 21 minutes
Jan. 10 vs. Texas Tech: 12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 6/8 FGs in 15 minutes
Jan. 19 vs. Oklahoma: 13 points, 13 rebounds (7 offensive), 3 assists, 4/7 FGs, 5/7 FTs in 23 minutes
Jan. 24 at Texas: 15 points, 9 rebounds (5 offensive), 6/11 FGs, 3/6 FTs in 27 minutes
Feb. 10 at Texas Tech: 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4/5 FGs, 2/3 FTs in 20 minutes
Shaka Smart, whose 2011 VCU Rams busted onto the college hoops scene by toppling No. 1 seed Kansas on the way to the Final Four, didn’t flee for the first big-name university to call him up once he became a hot coaching commodity. He stuck it out in Richmond, Virginia, and waited for the right job.
The up-and-coming, 37-year-old coach from a previously unheralded program in a far-from-major conference has arrived in the Big 12, where KU has reigned supreme for 11 consecutive seasons.
Friday, Texas introduced Smart as its new men’s basketball coach — a move that could change the landscape of Big 12 basketball for years to come.
At VCU, Smart’s teams won 74.4% of their games with his “havoc” brand of full-court pressure defense and up-tempo offense. The Rams led the country in steals per game for three consecutive seasons (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14) and ranked fourth nationally this past year (9.5 spg).
With that unique brand of basketball, VCU joined Duke as the only two programs in the nation to win at least 26 games in each of the past six seasons — not even Kansas could make that claim, thanks to a 25-10 showing in 2013-14.
Make no mistake, that Elite Eight win over KU in San Antonio four years ago catapulted Smart into the college hoops zeitgeist. Without that victory, who knows if he is standing in Austin, Texas, today flashing a “hook ’em, Horns” sign.
With Smart landing at Texas, that VCU-Kansas game came up at his introductory press conference. A reporter asked the new Longhorns coach whether his “havoc” brand of hoops translated well to a major conference such as the Big 12.
Smart’s fearlessness and swagger showed up in his answer:
“It translated pretty well a few years ago in San Antonio.”
On that day, 11th-seeded VCU beat top-seeded Kansas, 71-61. The Jayhawks had lost twice all season before shooting 22-for-62 (35.5%) against Smart’s Rams and missing all but two of their 21 three-pointers (9.5%). KU turned the ball over 14 times (20.6% of its possessions), and VCU harassed Kansas star forward Marcus Morris into eight giveaways.
After the loss, KU coach Bill Self said the Rams didn’t get the Jayhawks’ best shot, “but they had a lot to do with it not being our best shot.”
Basically, Kansas performed way out of character, because Smart’s Rams wanted the game to play out in that fashion.
“They were the aggressor,” Self said at the time. “Our whole deal is, ‘They are a scrappy team. We’ve got to be scrappier. Attack. Attack.’ They were the ones on the attack much more than us.”
Following the biggest victory of his career, the then-VCU coach said his senior-laden team established the tone in the first half (KU trailed 41-27 at the break).
“And if you watch closely, their players were tugging on their shorts for much of the game. When you don’t have your legs, it’s hard to make outside shots.”
“… That’s why we play the way we play,” Smart said. “That’s part of our havoc style is getting people winded, getting people fatigued.”
A little more than four years later, the new Texas coach reflected on the marquee victory and said his VCU team had a swagger and belief about it “that I think you have to have to beat those types of teams.”
Now his goal is to replicate that at UT.
“That’s what we’re gonna work towards here. And I think that is very, very doable, but it takes a connected effort. It takes a group of guys that are willing to put the team agenda front and center and understand if the team succeeds, everyone benefits.”
The Big 12 has some of the best coaches in America, and now that Smart has arrived on the scene, dominating the league will become even more difficult for KU and Self. When Smart spoke at his introductory press conference about what attracted him to the Texas job, he repeatedly mentioned its “world class” athletics department and the pride UT takes in winning championships.
Rick Barnes didn’t exactly leave Texas in shambles. Yes, Myles Turner and Jonathan Holmes are gone. But Isaiah Taylor, Demarcus Holland, Javan Felix, Cameron Ridley, Kendal Yancy, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh all figure to be back next season.
And now UT has a young, energetic, charismatic coach in charge of a sleeping giant of a basketball program. Meaning, Texas will likely start landing even better recruiting classes.
Shaka Smart didn’t say it out loud during his first appearance in burnt orange — and why would he? — but you know his goal is for Texas to knock KU from its Big 12 throne, and give the league another powerhouse program that annually contends for national titles.
Kansas football assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Clint Bowen knows this spring will be critical in the overall development of the 2015 Jayhawks, even if there are more things on his to-do list than can possibly be accomplished for a young, rebuilding unit.
After going through just four practices, Bowen — also the safeties coach — sat down with the media Wednesday to discuss the state of the defense.
Here are some of the highlights:
• The up-tempo approach of KU’s new Air Raid offense also benefits the defensive side of the ball.
With NCAA rules dictating how much time players can spend on the field, coaches have to find ways to get in as many plays as possible in the short amount of time they are out there.
“With what they’re doing offensively, it allows it to just play out naturally.”
• When installing the defense this spring, there are one of two ways to approach it:
No. 1: Put in a few things and master those.
No. 2: Examine as much of it as you can “real fast” and hope enough of it sticks.
The Jayhawks went with the latter, and are putting in as much as they can early, teaching it and getting it all on video. They recycle through that install again so the players can retain more each time through.
“It allows you to practice situational football a lot faster — right away, going into your first scrimmage.”
The Jayhawks will get into these kind of situations in the next few practices: third downs, red zone, two-minute drills.
• Through four practices, Bowen wasn’t ready to say any particular individuals have stood out, because the defense really has to start over as a group with the talent it lost from the 2014 season (see: Ben Heeney, JaCorey Shepherd, etc.).
The players that are here need to take pride in giving the unit an identity.
“At this point in time, I think they’re all in the same boat of trying to figure it out.”
Bowen just wants them being physical, playing hard and learning.
• On the roster as a whole, and on the defensive side of the ball, KU lacks depth. Bowen feels pretty good about what kind of 2-deep chart they will have, but the trouble comes beyond that.
Sub-packages, like nickel or dime defenses?
“Those things are out right now.”
Bowen says you don’t want to wear out all of your top players by making them play different packages.
So this is the mindset they ned to embrace:
“Only 11 of them can play at one time, so as long as we’ve got 11, we’re good.”
• With the new defensive coaches on the staff, they are all getting used to each other’s approaches and tendencies.
“We’ve got a great group of guys on the staff, and everyone’s working for the common goal.”
• Bowen and new co-defensive coordinator Kenny Perry were acquaintances before, knew each other. Now that they’re working together they’re meshing.
Bowen said defensive back coaches have an “alligator hunter mentality”: There’s no such thing as a “pretty good” alligator hunter.
“That’s where you live as a DB coach. I think we always live on edge.”
Perry is intense because a mistake in the secondary means a TD for the opponent. You have to coach with a paranoia about yourself when working in the secondary.
• Junior corner Brandon Stewart, who just arrived on campus before the spring semester started, seems to have some skills: good feet, awareness, instincts and “can run a little bit.”
• The departure of would-be senior safety Isaiah Johnson was “a disappointment, but not a surprise.”
• Now that David Beaty is here leading the program, it’s easier to communicate with high school coaches in Texas.
A lot of those high school coaches in Texas are legitimate friends of Beaty’s. That helps in recruiting.
• As new coaches get to know each other, that’s usually an easy transition because they’re all in this profession to improve their program and help the players develop.
A lot of KU coaches are still in the process of relocating their families to Lawrence, buying houses and those types of things, so more of that camaraderie that comes with the job will show up even more once everyone is settled.
Known not just for his contributions to the game of basketball, but also for his class and love for his players, Dean Smith’s legend continues to grow — even after his death.
Before Smith died, the former Kansas basketball player and legendary North Carolina coach made sure he left a little “thank you” behind for each of his former players.
A photo of a letter sent out from Smith’s trust began circulating on social media Thursday afternoon.
The message, as shown in the note sent to former UNC player Dante Calabria, explained that Smith set up his will to give $200 to each Tar Heel he coached during his time in Chapel Hill:
“Each player was important and special to Coach Smith and when he prepared his estate plan, Coach wanted to reach out to each of his lettermen. Accordingly, Coach directed that following his passing each letterman be sent a two hundred dollar check with the message, ‘enjoy a dinner out, compliments of Coach Dean Smith.’”
What a cool gesture.
Smith, a native of Emporia, played at KU under Phog Allen, and came off the bench for the Jayhawks when they won the 1952 national championship game against St. John’s.
Separated by 161 miles of interstate and rolling plains, Kansas and Wichita State could play basketball against each other every year pretty easily.
Of course, they don’t. Which makes Sunday’s NCAA Tournament meeting — the first game between the Jayhawks and Shockers since January 6, 1993 — feel even more significant. As if that would be necessary in this scenario: winner moves on to the Sweet 16; loser’s season is over.
KU and WSU have squared off 14 times in the past, but Sunday in Omaha marks the first time that will happen with both ranked in the AP Top 25. Kansas entered the tourney at No. 10 and Wichita State is 14th.
The Shockers (29-4) also made it this far into March Madness last season, when they fell in their second game as the No. 1 seed to No. 8 seed Kentucky — the eventual national runner-up. In 2013, WSU went all the way to the Final Four. So it’s not as if this stage, hype or playing Kansas will rattle Wichita State.
If WSU can knock off its in-state big brother, that would give Gregg Marshall’s program 30 wins for the third season in a row. Since leaving Winthrop (a program he took to seven NCAA Tournaments), Marshall has gone 6-3 in The Big Dance at Wichita State.
Marshall’s teams have a reputation for playing tough, even when they are out-sized, as WSU will be against Kansas (27-8). But the Shockers’ four perimeter players all rebound, which has allowed Wichita State to average a +5.3 advantage on the glass this season (31st in the nation).
Having all those guards also makes it easier to protect the rock. WSU commits fewer turnovers a game (9.1) than all but three teams in the nation, and the Shockers have a +3.9 turnover margin.
The guy who runs the show, junior point guard Fred VanVleet, said his perimeter running mates Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel give WSU a unique look.
“They’re all irreplaceable to me,” VanVleet said.
One of the most talented point guards in the nation, VanVleet might be the most important player on the CenturyLink Center floor Sunday. So I asked him to give a little info on his teammates after he spoke with various reporters about his own development.
Here are the Shockers Kansas will have to worry about as the Jayhawks aim to survive and advance to the Sweet 16.
No. 31 — Ron Baker, 6-4, 220 junior G
— Season stats: 15.0 points, 43.7% FGs, 38.4% 3s (76 of 198), 75.8% FTs (91 of 120), 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals
“Obviously Ron has been our best scorer this year, shooting the ball. And his defense is kind of underrated at times.”
— hoop-math.com nugget (stats entering NCAA Tournament): Most of Baker’s shots come from downtown: 53.2% of his team-leading 355 attempts. WSU doesn’t mind that he takes the most shots, either. He leads their top seven players in eFG%: 54.6%.
No. 23 — Fred VanVleet, 6-0, 195 junior PG
— Season stats: 13.1 points, 43.3% FGs, 36.2% 3s (38 of 105), 79.9% FTs (119 of 149), 4.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.8 steals
For all he can do offensively, he has made it a point to work himself into a standout defender, as well.
“I think wanting to be a good defender is probably the first step.”
One of the assistant coaches his freshman year used to joke he had trouble finding guys VanVleet was capable of guarding when they were going over scouting reports.
“I just didn’t want to be that guy.”
“Having Tekele on our team, and seeing the respect that he gets for locking people down, I always wanted to be held in that same regard.”
“I think paying attention to game plan and scouting and just studying guys that you might guard helps a lot.”
“It’s tricky, because I try to be aggressive, but being as important as I am to this team … sometimes I got in foul trouble early on in this season being stupid.”
“You just want to be sound. If it’s a great scorer, try to make it tough on them, try to make every shot contested. If it’s a point guard who just runs the show, I just like to deny him and disrupt him, disrupt the timing of the offense and just make life miserable for the other team.”
— hoop-math.com nugget: VanVleet operates and scores in every area of the floor. He makes 52.8% of his shots at the rim, 36.8% of his 2-point jumpers and 36.2% of his 3s.
No. 12 — Darius Carter, 6-7, 245 senior F
— Season stats: 11.1 points, 51.8% FGs, 3 of 5 3s, 63.5% FTs, 5.4 rebounds
Carter leads the way inside for the perimeter-oriented Shockers, and they will need him to make his presence felt against a larger KU team.
“He’s been real great when he’s on the floor, not in foul trouble.”
That quote might sound disparaging, but you have to consider the source. VanVleet is the point guard, and a team leader. He wants Carter giving Wichita State all he can.
And Carter was sitting right next to him in the locker room when VanVleet said that. Subtle reminder. Plus, he spent time addressing his own foul issues and overcoming those. He wants his vital teammate to do the same.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Carter makes the most of his touches, converting 66.4% of his shots at the rim and 42.2% of his 2-point jumpers. He also has 21 put-backs on the offensive glass this season.
No. 32 — Tekele Cotton, 6-3, 205 senior G
— Season stats: 9.6 points, 41.2% FGs, 29.6% 3s (32 of 108, 70% FTs, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists
“Tekele, you know, he’s known for his defense, but he’s been great for us attacking the rim.”
— hoop-math.com nugget: There is a reason VanVleet wants Cotton finishing inside. Cotton converts 58.8% of his shots at the rim compared to his sub-par 3-point shooting.
No. 3 — Evan Wessel, 6-4, 218 junior
— Season stats: 4.1 points, 38.1% FGs, 34.2% 3s (27 of 79), 52.9% FTs (9 of 17), 3.4 rebounds
“Evan’s just a tough guy, diving on the loose balls, doing dirty work, knocking down open threes, rebounding the ball — playing out of position at the four.”
— hoop-math.com nugget: Wessel doesn’t often score, and he knows not to waste his attempts. Just 9.3% of his shots are 2-point jumpers. And only 19.6% of his shots come at the rim. If he’s shooting, it’s likely an open 3. That’s where 71% of his shots are taken.
No. 24 — Shaquille Morris, 6-7, 261 freshman F
— Season stats: 5.0 points, 55% FGs, 0 of 1 3s, 64.2% FTs (34 of 53), 2.7 rebounds
The numbers below provide all you need to know on the powerful young big man.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Morris takes 44.4% of his shots at the rim. That’s probably not enough, considering he converts 72.7% of his shots there and just 35.2% of his 2-point jumpers.
No. 0 — Rashard Kelly, 6-7, 232 freshman F
— Season stats: 3.0 points, 48.6% FGs, 4 of 9 3s, 52.4% FTs, 3.0 rebounds
— hoop-math.com nugget: His 15 put-backs are second on the team, and that’s where 36.8% of his made baskets at the rim come.
New Mexico State hasn’t lost a college basketball game since Jan. 17. Winners of 13 straight, the Aggies hope to keep that streak alive Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, against national powerhouse Kansas.
Dancing in March for the fourth season in a row, NMSU (23-10) also has a chance to deal the Big 12 (0-3 on the first day of The Madness) another NCAA Tournament blow — if it can find a way to topple the Midwest’s No. 2 seed, KU (26-8).
The WAC regular-season and tournament champion Aggies lost at Baylor, 66-55, back on Dec. 17. But this is March. And upsets rule supreme.
If New Mexico State wants to test — or upset — Kansas, it will have to do so with its defense. The Aggies are:
19th in the NCAA in scoring defense (59.3 points allowed)
10th in 3-point FG% defense (29.3%)
19th in rebound margin: +6.9 boards a game
The Aggies do all of that while playing pressure defense, and an adapting half-court zone that actually specializes in taking away open 3-point looks.
Asked to describe NMSU’s defense, sixth man D.K. Eldridge labeled it the ever-popular “40 minutes of hell.”
“We try to make it impossible to bring the ball across half court,” Eldridge said. “It mostly comes from all our deflections. We keep count of that. Daniel (Mullings) leading in deflections right now. Myself, Ian (Baker) can do it. And our back wall guys, they very athletic and make plays, as well.”
In summation: It’s the kind of approach that opponents hate.
In order to get to know the Aggies better, I asked senior guard Eldridge to provide his take on each of NMSU’s top six players.
No. 3 — Remi Barry, 6-8, 225 senior F
— Season stats: 13.3 points, 46.3% FGs, 44.6% 3s (41-for-92), 76.6% FTs, 4.8 rebounds
“Coming off an injury from last year, he’s had a very successful year. He brings scoring to the table and he’s a part of our defense with his length.”
“He knows his role. He don’t get outside his box too much.”
No. 43 — Pascal Siakam, 6-9, 230 freshman F
— Season stats: 13 points, 57.7% FGs, 0-for-2 3s, 76.3% FTs, 7.7 rebounds (4.4 offensive), 1.8 blocks
“Oh, man. He an animal down low. Only a freshman, though. That’s what’s crazy about it. He’s got a lot left. Hopefully this’ll give him experience to have confidence for the future.”
“He’s very athletic, rebounds, scores the ball really well. He plays hard every possession.”
No. 23 — Daniel Mullings, 6-2, 170, senior G
— Season stats: 12.6 points, 43.5% FGs, 36.1% 3s, 70.8% FTs, 5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2 steals
“He’s the head of the program. A very good player, athletic, very strong competitor.”
“Similar to myself, we just go out there and do what we do best: play hard every possession, give it our all for 40 minutes.”
“He’s a very strong driver, capable shooter, very good defense on the ball and off the ball.”
No. 15 — Tshilidzi Nephawe, 6-10, 268, senior C
— Season stats: 10.4 points, 53.1% FGs, 62.1% FTs, 7.6 rebounds
“Just call him ‘Chili.’ He gets mad if you don’t say his nickname.”
“Just a big presence down low. Offense, it’s hard to stop him. Big, strong kid. A guy you want to get the ball to every time. You know you’re gonna get a bucket out of him.”
“On the defensive end, he just change shots, rebound, guard. He can get down and guard guards if he want to.”
“His conditioning got better. He came off an injury not too long ago (missed 12 games before returning in mid-January).”
“He’s a senior, does the right things. Not too many mistakes — on and off the court. He’s a guy that you want, and we want. We’re lucky to have him on our team.”
No. 4 — Ian Baker, 6-0, 180, sophomore PG
— Season stats: 9.5 points, 47.8% FGs, 47.2% 3s (58-for-123), 75.9% FTs, 2.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals
“He brings a lot. For being a young player, he’s a very experienced guy. He’s very mature at his position.”
“He can shoot the ball very well. He can lead the team on offense, and when he wants to he can play very good ‘D.’”
“He comes from a family with a lot of older brothers, so I think that’s why his maturity is so strong. … He’s a very good leader. We listen to him. He puts us in the right position to win games, hits a lot of big shots for us… When we’re in a deep situation, he’ll get us out of it.”
No. 1 — D.K. Eldridge, 6-2, 180, senior G
— Season stats: 8.1 points, 38.6% FGs, 28.1% 3s (34-for-121), 63.3% FTs, 2.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals
Eldridge considers himself a defensive-minded guy.
“That’s where my offense comes from most of the time — playing good ‘D.’ I know this team needs me in that category, so I just try my best to come off the bench and bring energy, especially when the starting five’s not feeling too energetic.”
As the 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket got unveiled Sunday evening, it quickly became clear Kansas University might have one of the most difficult roads to the Final Four in Indianapolis.
KU coach Bill Self discussed his team’s Friday matchup with a solid No. 15 seed, New Mexico State, as well as a potential Round of 32 game against Wichita State Sunday evening, following the selection show.
Oh, yeah. One more thing: Kentucky is the No. 1 seed in KU’s Midwest region.
Here are some highlights from the press conference:
• Saturday’s result against Iowa State in the Big 12 final might not have mattered for KU’s seeding. It would have been hard to pass Gonzaga on the 2-seed line. KU got what it should have in ending up in Kentucky’s bracket, because the other No. 2 seeds probably had better years.
• New Mexico State (23-10) had some injuries this season and that is why have lost some of the games they did.
KU could face Wichita State in the Round of 32, and Self couldn’t believe the Shockers got a No. 7 seed.
• If this KU team gets a chance to play in the Elite Eight game, against Kentucky, “it’s been a hell of a year.”
The Jayhawks don’t even have to talk about that right now. Hopefully they will get to talk about that next week.
• Kansas took Sunday off from practicing. Kansas City was taxing on the team. They are beat up. Playing Friday helps KU. There is an extra day to get healthy, get bodies back fresh.
Perry Ellis isn’t close to being where he needs to be, but these four days will be big for him getting that bounce back.
• Self saw New Mexico State while flipping channels last night. He goes through all the teams that could end up being Nos. 15 or 16 seeds, and he had New Mexico State as a No. 13 seed.
“It is a hard first game, and we need to be ready come Friday.” When KU is good, it is really good. But it can’t afford to take 5 or 10 minutes off like it did against Iowa State.
• Self was pleased to see seven Big 12 teams get into the Big Dance.
• Self told the players: “You know how many bullets we’ve dodged?” in his time at KU, in terms of potential NCAA Tournament matchups. It isn’t guaranteed KU will play Wichita State.
• KU has always had a good crowd in Omaha, Nebraska, and Wisconsin will travel great, too. KU has had some good runs going through Omaha, too: The Jayhawks won it in 2008 and got to the final in 2012 after playing in Omaha.
• Larry Brown and SMU got in, and Self thought that might end up being a Round of 32 matchup for Kansas. Instead it was Wichita State.
• The guys are excited, and one guy who should be more excited than anybody else is Ellis. That is a pretty big potential matchup for him, maybe facing his hometown program in Wichita State next Sunday.
• Kentucky was a lot better than Kansas that day they met in November, but that team is even better now. KU is better, too.
There might not ever have been a team as favored going into the tournament as Kentucky.
• Self thinks KU has had a real good season, but you have to accomplish some things in the next few weeks to make it memorable.
For KU, losing to ISU, there was a little hangover, but that’s gone now.
• KU could have an exciting next few weeks potentially, with maybe the chance to play the hottest team in the ACC in Notre Dame and the prohibitive favorite in Kentucky.
• Self doesn’t think he should even talk about Cliff Alexander anymore with the media. If new information comes out, then he will.
• Landen Lucas is banged up and at this point in time, they need him and every player as healthy as possible. KU can be as close to whole as it has been in a while very soon.
• Self talked to the entire team after the TCU game on Thursday about how disappointing that was, and part of that was the way Wayne Selden Jr. played. Selden responded perfectly in the next two days.
• KU didn’t have the same intensity level in the second half vs. Iowa State, but still had a chance to win it late after being down 7 points.
Another positive came the night before with how KU rebounded and defended against Baylor.
But the bottom line is they need Ellis back playing to his potential.
• The Big 12 didn’t do well as a league in the NCAAs last season, after a strong regular season.
This year was another strong campaign, and the seeding reflected that. To validate that you need to have three or four teams get to that second weekend.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self reacts to Selection Sunday, KU's draw
— Hear from Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr.: Ellis and Selden discuss the NCAA Tournament
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and his Jayhawks finally can turn their focus to the postseason.
At a press conference Monday in Allen Fieldhouse, Self spoke plenty about this week’s Big 12 Tournament and some about the NCAA madness that follows.
Of course, the status of three guys who didn’t play for KU at Oklahoma on Saturday — Perry Ellis, Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene — came up too.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:
• On being named the Big 12’s AP coach of the year: It’s nice, but it’s a reflection of the fact you have good players and a good team. There were several guys who could’ve won it.
“For the first time, I think the media actually knows what it’s talking about,” the coach joked (we assume).
• The mood after KU’s loss at Oklahoma was positive. The Jayhawks played hard, and fought and just got beat.
Losing on the last play again, like at West Virginia, made it harder to stomach. KU didn’t make shots the first half and did much better in the second half. The Jayhawks played better than they had the week prior, too.
• Perry Ellis will be evaluated tomorrow, as he has been every day. The hope is he will be able to go full speed at practice by Wednesday. If that’s not the case, he won’t play Thursday.
Ellis will wear a brace the rest of the season, regardless, for precautionary measures.
• Self has never thought it is that important to win the Big 12 Tournament. The Jayhawks want to go and win, just like every team. But it’s the only game where you can lose and immediately be recharged and looking to what’s next.
As soon as you win it, your whole focus turns. There is no relishing it. You want to win it because you’re competitive and it’s against your peers, but it’s not the end of the earth if you don’t.
• One could make a case for seven or eight different teams winning the Big 12 Tournament if they get hot. You could also make a case that if those same teams don’t come out ready on Thursday, they will lose.
• Self might watch some other games this week if they’re on TV, but he won’t study them.
• In terms of preparing for the NCAA Tournament, Self will do something differently this year. Last year the team thought it was going to get Joel Embiid back and prepared for him to play. That was a mistake. The Jayhawks should’ve prepared not expecting him, and if he came back it would be a bonus.
KU spent too much energy thinking Embiid would come back. So this year, Self won’t count on Cliff Alexander coming back. If he gets cleared, KU will plug Alexander in.
• Based on Self’s limited information, which he read on the Yahoo! report, he doesn’t really know where Alexander’s situation stands.
So Self is planning not to have Alexander available.
“He’s a stud… He’s down.. But his attitude’s great,” Self said of Alexander. And the freshman big man probably has practiced better than ever.
Every good player in the country has “somebody meet with somebody.” It becomes illegal if there are things beyond that. And Self doesn’t have enough information on it to comment on that part of it.
• The players feel bad for Alexander, but there won’t be a negative situation if they don’t get him back. The guys are prepared and focused.
• Landen Lucas, Self thought even before the sophomore’s big day at OU, would be good enough to start at Kansas one day. He is a good player and a part of the program’s future moving forward.
• Brannen Greene should play on Thursday. He has handled his business since Saturday’s suspension. He needs to keep doing that.
• Self hasn’t talked to Wayne Selden Jr. since the game at OU, but the report from the trainer is he is fine. He should be 100 percent by Thursday.
Selden also has suffered from the flu.
“We checked everyone’s schedule and there is no time for anyone to get sick,” Self joked.
• Both Kansas State and TCU — KU’s potential opponents on Thursday — guarded Kansas really well in the regular season.
• The play KU ran to get Frank Mason III fouled on a three-pointer at the end of the Oklahoma loss worked out well. They call it “home run,” and probably every team in America runs it or something close. It is like the famous Valparaiso play.
• There is so much hype on the NCAA Tournament, it means more in people’s minds and you have to deliver. From KU’s perspective, you know the difference between some of the seeds is very small, even if some people think of certain outcomes as monumental upsets.
Everybody can beat everybody.
• Kentucky is “really good.” They won games where they didn’t play well and that’s what is impressive about their undefeated mark at this point.
But if something happens and they don’t win it all, it won’t be monumental. The best team doesn’t always win.
• Jamari Traylor’s season has been up and down, but the last two games he has been really good. “He’s not big enough to do what he does,” Self said. Last year the role was easier for Traylor because he had big guys like Embiid and Tarik Black ahead of him.
Self just wishes he would defensive rebound the ball a little better. He’s on an uptick right now.
• Nothing that happened Saturday at OU will hurt Kansas, it can only help the team.
• You don’t want your guys practicing more than an hour and 10 minutes or so at this time of year to avoid fatigue. You might work on a couple of late-game situations a day and have some refreshers, but you don’t necessarily spend more time on those sorts of plays.
• “The Big 12 Tournament should stay in Kansas City.” That’s not because it is close to KU, it’s because it is the best setup. You’re guaranteed sellouts. At other conference tournaments there will be tons of empty seats in those early rounds.
Self joked, Fred Hoiberg would rather it be in Des Moines. But other league coaches like it in Kansas City, Missouri, too — not just Self.
• If KU hadn’t played such a good schedule the Jayhawks wouldn’t have had the same chance at a high seed as they do now, with a 24-7 record. The Jayhawks are used to playing hard schedules.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self talks Big 12 Tournament, March Madness and more
Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners hoped Saturday’s regular-season finale at home against perennial power Kansas would decide the 2015 Big 12 championship.
However, two road losses in OU’s previous five games destroyed the Sooners’ chances of becoming the team that ended KU’s run of regular-season dominance.
Oklahoma lost at Kansas State by 3 on Valentine’s Day, and fell victim to a massive Iowa State comeback on Big Monday earlier this week.
Now, it’s not as if the No. 15 Sooners (20-9 overall, 11-6 Big 12) have nothing left to play for against the No. 9 Jayhawks (24-6, 13-4). There is the matter of closing down Lloyd Noble Center for the season in style, not to mention the feather in the cap a win over KU brings to a team’s résumé just before the start of the NCAA Tournament.
Frankly, OU should feel pretty good about winning this rematch with Kansas. The Sooners recovered from a 20-point deficit at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 19 and took a four-point lead in the second half before Kansas won, 85-78.
KU is 5-5 in true road games. Plus, the Jayhawks, have neither Allen Fieldhouse, Perry Ellis nor Cliff Alexander to help them this time.
At home this season, OU has defeated Baylor, Iowa State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State (all ranked at the time).
OU visitors this season have been out-shot:
48.3% to 36.6%, from the field
40.6% to 29.2%, from 3-point land
With that in mind, here is a refresher on the Sooners KU will have to hold back to have a shot at entering the postseason on a three-game winning streak.
No. 24 — Buddy Hield, 6-4, junior G
— Jan. 19 at KU: 26 points, 7/19 FGs, 4/13 3s, 8/9 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 TOs, 2 steals in 37 minutes
The Big 12’s leading scorer — his 18.5 points per game in conference are even better than his 17.3 average for the season — is a gunner. Hield already has taken 206 3-pointers, and has made 79 (2.7 makes a game).
In the league, the dynamic junior shoots 44.9% from the floor and 38.3% from 3-point land.
Hield and fellow starting guards, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins, are active defenders, too. Hield has 26 steals in the Big 12, and the trio of guards all rank in the top eight in the conference in that category.
A strong candidate to be named conference player of the year, Hield torched KU in the first meeting, and now has two fewer interior defenders to worry about when he attacks off the dribble.
In eight league games, he has scored 20 points or more, and did so in each of his last two outings — 21 vs. TCU, 26 at Iowa State.
— hoop-math.com update: Good luck coaxing Hield into taking 2-point jump shots, a range at which he only makes 32.9% of his attempts. He takes 2.5 of those a game and only 18.4% of his 397 shots this season have been 2-point jumpers. Hield basically lives downtown (51.9% of his shots are taken there), and at the rim. … Oh, yeah. Hield also has 20 put-backs on the offensive glass this year.
No. 11 — Isaiah Cousins, 6-4, junior G
— Jan. 19 at KU: 18 points, 7/15 FGs, 3/8 3s, 1/1 FTs, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 TOs, 2 steals in 38 minutes
KU didn’t have much success checking Cousins in the first game, either.
On the season, Cousins is the conference’s top 3-point shooter at 44.7%. Wouldn’t you know it, he’s even better in the Big 12: 30-for-65, 46.2%.
Basically, never leave that guy open. Especially at home, where he makes 51% of his 3-pointers.
Cousins averages 11.4 points and 3.9 boards in the conference, and he has 24 steals so far.
He has made 3 or more 3-pointers in 7 Big 12 games this season.
— hoop-math.com update: When he’s not taking 3-pointers, 38.2% of Cousins’ shots have been 2-point jumpers. He has made 39 of 113 (34.5%), and they primarily come one-on-one. Only 9 of his 2-point jumpers have been assisted.
No. 35 — Tashawn Thomas, 6-8, senior F
— Jan. 19 at KU: 4 points, 1/7 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 6 TOs, 3 blocks in 25 minutes
The only OU starter who failed to reach double figures in the first meeting with KU, Thomas might not have a problem doing so this time around, what with the Jayhawks’ frontcourt looking so thin right now.
The big man averages 11.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in the league, and makes 47.5% of his shot attempts.
While Thomas has swatted away 24 shots in the Big 12, he also has drawn 8 charges in his last 9 games.
He had 4 offensive rebounds, and 8 total, in each of his last 2 games.
Thomas’s 24 points vs. BU and 22 vs. ISU this season keyed big home wins.
— hoop-math.com update: As you likely know by now, Thomas mostly operates inside, with 51.8% of his shots coming at the rim. He shoots 35.3% (41-for-116) on 2-point jumpers.
No. 00 — Ryan Spangler, 6-8, junior F
— Jan. 19 at KU: 13 points, 6/10 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/1 FTs, 10 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 assists, 1 TO, 1 block in 37 minutes
Just about every KU opponent this season has had at least one guy hurt the Jayhawks on the offensive glass. For Oklahoma, that man was Spangler.
Thanks in part to his work on the boards when OU puts up a shot, he shoots 57.6% from the floor in the Big 12 — which easily makes him the league leader. Only ISU’s Monté Morris (51%) and Ellis (50%) are in the same neighborhood.
In league games, he averages 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and has denied 24 shots.
For some reason, Spangler has taken 18 3-pointers this season in the league. He has made just 3 — 16.7%.
— hoop-math.com update: Even though most of Spangler’s boards come on defense, he averages 2.3 a game on offense, and has a team-leading 25 put-backs this season. 19% of his shots at the rim have been on the offensive glass. Spangler shoots 71.9% at the rim (87 of 121).
No. 10 — Jordan Woodard, 6-0, sophomore G
— Jan. 19 at KU: 10 points, 2/5 FGs, 6/7 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 TO, 1 block, 1 steal in 38 minutes
OU’s point guard averages 3.6 assists in the Big 12, to go with his 9.6 points and 2.9 rebounds.
Woodard isn’t quite the shooter — 11-for-32 from 3-point distance in the league — that Hield and Cousins are but he gets easy points at the free-throw line, where he connects 84.9% of the time (62 makes on team-leading 73 attempts).
His 1.59 steals a game also lead OU, and rank him tied for fourth in the league.
— hoop-math.com update: The point guard can get to the rim on his own. Of his 31 field goals at the rim this season, only six came via a teammate’s assist.
No. 1 — Frank Booker, 6-4, sophomore G
— Jan. 19 at KU: 3 points, 1/1 FGs, 1/1 3s, 0 TOs in 3 minutes
Booker’s role has increased significantly since the first matchup with Kansas.
He barely played back in January at the fieldhouse, but since then he has registered 15 minutes or more in 9 of the last 11 games (including each of the last 6). Booker now averages 14.4 minutes in Big 12 games, contributing 5.6 points off the bench.
Outside of Hield and Cousins, he is OU’s best 3-point shooter. In conference games, Booker has made 20 of 58 3-pointers (34.5%).
Though he went 0-for-5 at ISU on Monday, he made 4 of 8 recently — Feb. 21 at Texas Tech.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Some players take a lot of 3-pointers. And then there is Booker. This season, 79% of his shots have come behind the arc. (For comparison’s sake: Brannen Greene takes 71.8% of his shots from downtown.) Look for him to catch and shoot. 24 of his 28 makes from 3-point land have been assisted.
Just one game remains in the regular season for Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team, and his Jayhawks (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big 12) already have sole possession of a conference championship sealed up.
Plus, two guys that started for KU just less than two weeks ago — forwards Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander — don’t figure in the plans.
That makes Saturday’s game at Oklahoma (20-9, 11-6) unique, but Self still plans on going down to Norman to win.
He talked about that and more Thursday afternoon at his weekly press conference. Here are some of the highlights:
• On monumental rallies in the Big 12 this past week: They’ve always happened, based on Self’s knowledge, and they happen at home, where the crowd plays such a part of it. The Iowa State rally vs. OU was different. The Cyclones went off. KU didn’t really hit shots vs. West Virginia; the Jayhawks just rebounded. At Allen Fieldhouse, the crowd gives KU players so much confidence.
• The perception of the Big 12 nationally is it’s a great league, and not a top-heavy league, which Self thinks is fair. There is parity in the Big 12. There are only 10 teams in the conference, which is different from the other major conferences. ESPN has promoted the league favorably but the Big 12 still operates in the fly-over states and doesn’t get quite the attention that the ACC gets, for example.
• Sometimes the regular season gets overlooked, and sometimes that’s unfair. KU has had a good season, but the Jayhawks have to play well in the postseason to make it special.
Everybody in the league has done well at some point or another in the postseason in the Big 12 since Self has been here, too, he said.
If you have good enough players to win the league, you have a good enough team to make a run in the postseason.
• Perry Ellis is responding well to treatment. But he’s definitely not going to play at Oklahoma. Hopefully by next week they will know if he can get out there and play in the Big 12 Tournament.
It’s a sprained knee.
• There is nothing new on Cliff Alexander, so to Self’s estimation, the chances of him playing Saturday are almost non-existent.
• This altered lineup impacts how KU will play at OU, when they should be fine-tuning things. Wayne Selden Jr. has an ankle injury, too. The Jayhawks might tweak some things and “have some fun with it.”
Depending on Selden’s situation, there won’t be anyone who has played a ton of minutes except for Frank Mason III. And Mason wants to play. He doesn’t want to rest. Besides, Self says KU is going down to OU to win the game.
• There are probably a lot of things that would have to happen for KU to get in position to be considered for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.
If things went in the other direction, the Jayhawks could fall to a 3-seed line.
Self hopes KU has its full complement of players for the Big 12 Tournament, because right now it feels like they are in limbo.
• Oklahoma has a tremendous lineup, and Self thought this game would probably mean a lot more in terms of the league title race.
But now KU is playing for seed lines, that sort of thing, as is OU.
• Now with 11 Big 12 titles in a row, Self can remember certain portions of specific seasons when things sort of clicked or things fell apart.
Self will probably remember this one more than others because it was such a grind to get the championship. This might have been the most difficult season to win the league, in large part because the differential in talent is so small.
• When guys like Hunter Mickelson and Landen Lucas come in ready to play like they did against West Virginia, that is a credit to them more than the coaches.
Mickelson just wants a chance to play, which is a good thing. Self said he, Lucas and Svi Mykhailiuk have as good an attitude as anybody in the program.
• Mickelson can shoot and blocks some shots. He busted his butt against WVU. And Lucas made a “stud play” at the end of regulation to block a shot that could’ve won it for WVU.
It’s kind of a next man up situation, as the football saying goes. Those guys should play well and Self thinks they will.
• KU hit nine 3-pointers in the first half against OU at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season, but the Jayhawks aren’t going to Norman expecting to make that many.
Still, without Ellis, it will behoove Kansas to hit some perimeter shots on Saturday.
Self doesn’t talk about missing shots with the team, just with the media.
ISU and OU are the best shot-making teams in the league, so Kansas doesn’t want to go down there and get in a game of HORSE. You have to have some shot-makers. But mainly KU needs to get quality shots more than anything else.
• In the race for Big 12 Player of the Year, Ellis might be hurt by missing time at the end. To Self, Ellis putting KU on his back speaks volume. Buddy Hield has been great for Oklahoma, too.
Ellis certainly has played himself onto the first team without question.
— Listen to the entire press conference: Bill Self talks quality of Big 12, seed lines and more
Odds are you vividly remember what happened the last time Kansas and West Virginia squared off. Feb. 16 wasn’t that long ago, after all.
The final seconds, in which the Mountaineers’ Juwan Staten scored a layup on one end of the floor and the Jayhawks’ Perry Ellis missed one on the other end, received a lot of attention. But West Virginia’s ability to dominate the offensive glass and create Kansas turnovers throughout proved even more important for Bob Huggins’ squad.
In a 62-61 WVU win, the Mountaineers scored 15 second-chance points off 22 offensive rebounds. — Again, 22 offensive rebounds. — Plus, Kansas gave the ball away 14 times, and West Virginia capitalized by scoring 17 points off turnovers.
West Virginia thrived by doing what it does best. Now the question is: Can the Mountaineers replicate that at Allen Fieldhouse? Statistics indicate those specific set of skills travel well.
According to TeamRankings.com, WVU leads the nation in opponents’ turnover percentage: 28.2%. In away games, WVU opponents have turned it over on 28% of their possessions.
What’s more, WVU retrieves 38.7% of available offensive rebounds — that ranks 8th in the nation. On the road, the Mountaineers get 37.6%.
The tricky part for the No. 20 Mountaineers (22-7 overall, 10-6 Big 12), though, could be maintaining their typical style, aggressiveness and effectiveness without a key piece or two.
Huggins said Monday starting guards Staten and Gary Browne are “day-to-day” with injuries. Staten hurt his knee against Texas and Browne suffered an ankle sprain against Baylor.
Without both of those guys, beating No. 9 Kansas (23-6, 12-4) might prove impossible. WVU lost by 12 at Baylor without Staten and Browne (played just 3 minutes).
Now, as a refresher, here are the Mountaineers KU has to hold back in the final week of the regular season, as the Jayhawks try to clinch their 11th straight Big 12 championship outright.
No. 3 — Juwan Staten, 6-1, senior G
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 20 points, 9/18 FGs, 2/3 3s, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 1 steal in 32 minutes
Will West Virginia’s best player be available at Kansas? We might have to wait until just before Tuesday’s 8 p.m. tip to find out.
If he suits up and is close to 100%, Staten gives WVU its best shot at pulling off an upset. The Big 12’s preseason Player of the Year has scored 20 or more points in three straight games vs. Kansas.
In 14 Big 12 games, Staten has averaged 13.1 points and 5.0 assists, made 10 of 29 3-pointers (34.5%) and hit 40.8% of his field goals overall. He also gets to the foul line with regularity, but has made just 53 of 86 free throws (61.6%).
— hoop-matth.com update: Look for Staten to go one-on-one and take 2-point jump shots. 48.4% of his attempts on the season qualify as such, and while he connects on 41.3% of them, only 10 of his 62 makes have come via a teammate’s assist.
No. 5 — Devin Williams, 6-9, sophomore F
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 8 points, 4/7 FGs, 4 rebounds (1 offensive), 3 assists, 2 TOs, 1 steal in 26 minutes
In WVU’s first meeting with the Jayhawks, KU actually did a nice job of negating his presence on the offensive glass, but his teammates more than made up for Williams only grabbing 1.
Williams has cleaned the glass well in the Big 12, averaging 8.9 bards to go with his 11.4 points and 46.2% shooting. He averages 2.7 offensive rebounds a game.
The big man gets to the foul line for 4.9 attempts a game in the league, and he shoots 69.9%.
— hoop-math.com update: Given his size and rebounding ability, it’s surprising that Williams only takes 47.1% of his shots at the rim. He gladly takes jumpers from the baseline and elbows. His 34 put-backs on the offensive glass don’t even lead the team.
No. 14 — Gary Browne, 6-1, senior G
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 6 points, 1/6 FGs, 1/2 3s, 3/4 FTs, 3 rebounds (1 offensive), 2 TOs, 1 steal in 24 minutes
Another starting guard described as “day-to-day,” West Virginia could really use one of its better 3-point shooters at Allen Fieldhouse.
In Big 12 games, Browne has knocked down 16 of 48 3-pointers (33.3%). That’s not outstanding, but he has made the second-most 3s on the team in conference.
Browne averages 8.6 points in the league on 38.9% shooting from the field.
On the season, he has made 26 of 72 from 3-point range.
— hoop-math.com update: More likely to shoot jumpers than attack the rim, Browne makes 35.9% of his 2-point jumpers — the range where 26.4% of his attempts comes from. He doesn’t live there as much as he does downtown, but if you can force him there it is to your benefit.
No. 1 — Jonathan Holton, 6-7, junior F
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 5 points, 2/3 FGs, 1/2 FTs, 9 rebounds (6 offensive), 1 assist, 1 TO, 1 block, 2 steals in 22 mintues
One of many players to destroy KU on the offensive glass just more than two weeks ago, Holton might not have scored much himself, but his 6 offensive rebounds set a tone for WVU’s win.
In Big 12 play, 52% of his rebounds come on the offensive glass, and he averages 5.1 boards a game, while scoring 5.3 points and making 41.1% of his shots.
Holton is coming off a performance of 7 offensive rebounds (10 total) at Baylor, where he scored 7 points.
— hoop-math.com update: More than any of his teammates, Holton operates at the rim, where he takes 64.5% of his shots and makes 61% of those looks. He has 46 put-backs via the offensive glass to lead WVU. 29.7% of his shots at the rim are a result of his rebounding.
No. 4 — Daxter Miles Jr., 6-3, freshman G
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/3 3s, 3 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 assist, 0 TOs in 15 minutes
The freshman has struggled with his shooting in the Big 12:
38-for-97 FGs, 39.2%
14-for-49 3s, 28.6%
11-for-21 FTs, 52.4%
With Staten and Browne unavailable at Baylor, Miles scored 11 points (4-for-9 shooting, 1-for-5 from 3) and dished 5 assists.
That came after a 12-point, 5-steal showing in a win vs. Texas, in which Miles hit 4 of 8 shots and 2 of 4 from 3-point range.
— hoop-math.com update: Only 11.7% of his shot attempts have been 2-point jumpers. He only shoots 19% from that range, and rightfully prefers scoring at the rim (39-for-71) or taking 3-pointers.
No. 2 — Jevon Carter, 6-2, freshman G
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 13 points, 4/8 FGs, 3/5 3s, 2/2 FTs, 6 rebounds (4 offensive), 1 assist, 1 TO in 29 minutes
We told you before the game at WVU to watch out for this guy off the bench. But who knew he’d kill it on the offensive glass, too, with 4 boards on that end of the floor?
Carter might get a chance to make an even bigger name for himself if Staten and/or Browne can’t play. One of those scenarios would make him a starter, and even more critical to the Mountaineers’ offense.
He started at Baylor and basically became Juwan Staten Jr., scoring 25 points on 7-for-13 shooting from 3-point range. — That is correct. Carter made 7 3-pointers his last time out. — He took 16 shots and 13 came from behind the arc.
While WVU’s style forces teams to turn it over more often than usual, Carter really forces things as a defender, with a team-leading 28 steals in Big 12 play.
In conference, Carter averages 9.4 points and 3.1 rebounds. Plus, the young guard has made 39.4% of his shots, 40.5% of his 3s and 84% of his free throws.
— hoop-math.com update: Third on WVU in FG attempts, most of those come from 3-point range (58%), but Carter also finds his way to the paint, where he converts 58.6% of his shots at the rim (34-for-58).
No. 00 — Jaysean Paige, 6-2, junior G
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 3 points, 1/2 FGs, 1/2 3s, 1 rebound (on offense), 3 TOs, 1 block in 6 minutes
He only averages 12.7 minutes in the Big 12, but those obviously could go up depending on the health of WVU’s backcourt.
Paige has made 13 of 41 3-pointers in the league and averages 4.7 points.
— hoop-math.com update: A catch-and-shoot guy, each of Paige’s 28 3-point makes this season has come off an assist.
No. 11 Nathan Adrian — 6-9, sophomore F
— Feb. 16 vs. KU: 2 points, 1/7 FGs, 0/4 3s, 4 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 assist, 0 TOs, 1 steal in 17 minutes
A big man who spends time on the perimeter on offense, Adrian has taken 2.0 3-pointers a game in the Big 12. Unfortunately for WVU, Adrian has made 5 of his 32 tries.
With a 25.4 field-goal percentage to boot, he averages only 2.8 points in the league.
— hoop-math.com nugget: He’d probably be better off getting more looks at the rim, but Adrian is a big guy who likes to jack 3-pointers (that’s where 56.3% of his shots come from). At the rim, he converts 65.4% of his attempts. But only 25.2% of his shots are taken there.
The Texas Longhorns, presumed before the season began to occupy the same air at the top of the Big 12 with Kansas — or perhaps operate at a slightly higher stratosphere — are running out of time to save face.
Rick Barnes, in search of his 400th career win Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse against the No. 8-ranked Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-4 Big 12), would have had that milestone out of the way weeks ago had his team lived up to its preseason No. 10 expectations.
However, after UT went 11-2 in the non-conference — with one of those losses coming at Kentucky — the ’Horns never found their stride in the Big 12. Coming into a rematch with KU, Texas is 6-9 in the league and eighth in the standings.
The Longhorns have one quality win in the league: they beat West Virginia at home on Jan. 17. Their other five wins?
Two against Texas Tech
Two against TCU
One on the road against a Marcus Foster-less Kansas State
While the Jayhawks are working toward earning an 11th straight Big 12 championship, the Longhorns (17-11) might still have work to do just to get into the NCAA Tournament. The latest edition of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology at ESPN.com has Texas among the “first four out.” (Kansas is a No. 2 seed in the South, where Duke is No. 1.)
So, yeah, winning at Kansas would kind of be a big deal for UT.
Kansas enjoyed one its best all-around games of the season at Texas, on Jan. 24, when the Jayhawks won 75-62. But the Longhorns, as expected, gave KU issues inside, to the tune of 9 blocked shots.
This group of Longhorns, in fact, already holds the program’s single-season record for swats: 207.
In Big 12 play, they lead the conference with 7.4 denials a game. That’s also their season average, which ranks No. 1 in the nation.
With all of that in mind, here is a refresher on the Longhorns KU will have to hold back to get one win closer to a regular-season title.
No. 1 — Isaiah Taylor, 6-1, sophomore G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 23 points, 8/17 FGs, 0/1 3s, 7/8 FTs, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 TO, 1 steal in 35 minutes
KU’s perimeter defenders had issues staying in front of the speedy point guard, who tied his season high with 23 points against the Jayhawks.
Since returning from a left wrist injury for the start of Big 12 play, Taylor is averaging a team-leading 13.1 points for UT, to go with 3.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists.
Taylor is hitting just 37.5% of his shots in the league and has only connected on 6 of 26 3-pointers (23.1%). But his quickness off the dribble gets him to the foul line: 58 for 71 (81.7%).
The fact that his 12 steals in 15 Big 12 games leads the team shows you how much UT’s defensive success is about the length of the front line. You would think he would be able to gamble more and come up with more takeaways.
After a stretch of 3 straight games in single digits, Taylor enters the KU rematch coming off a 23-point showing vs. Iowa State and a 13-point effort at West Virginia (both losses).
— hoop-math.com update: Taylor shoots more 2-point jumpers than he does shots at the rim or 3-pointers. 47.6% of his shots have come in that in-between range (a 6.1% increase since the last time UT played KU), and he’s made 33 of 98 (33.7%).
No. 10 — Jonathan Holmes, 6-8, senior F
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 14 points, 5/9 FGs, 2/5 3s, 2/2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TOs in 30 minutes
One of the team’s more talented returning players, and the lone scholarship senior, the inside-outside threat has averaged just 8.4 points in Big 12 play, making 35.7% of his shots and 13 of 49 3-pointers (26.5%).
Holmes, a 1,000-point career scorer, suffered a concussion midway through the second half of a home game vs. Oklahoma State on Feb. 4 and missed the following 2 games.
His offensive numbers since that injury have impacted his conference averages:
5 points, 1/5 FGs vs Tech
5 points, 2/9 FGs, 1/6 3s at OU (still got 11 rebounds)
2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/2 3s vs. ISU
6 points, 2/3 FGs, 2/3 3s at WVU
— hoop-math.com update: Holmes does not take many shots at the rim (29.8% of his 215 attempts have come at that distance), and he converts 51.6% of the time at point-blank range.
No. 55 — Cameron Ridley, 6-9, junior C
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 8 points, 3/4 FGs, 2/5 FTs, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 TOs, 2 blocks in 28 minutes
The man who will be easiest to spot on the floor Saturday is listed at 285 pounds, and KU players on offense will be looking for him, because he has 169 career blocked shots (fourth all-time at UT).
In Big 12 play, Ridley swats 1.7 shots a game, scores 8.1 points, hauls in 6.0 rebounds and makes 59.5% of his shot attempts.
His 2.5 offensive rebounds in Big 12 games rank fifth in the conference.
He has gone four straight games, though, without reaching double figures in points or rebounds. And he only has 3 blocks in that stretch.
— hoop-math.com update: Appropriate for his size, 65.3% of Ridley’s shots come at the rim, and he has made 73.4% of them this season. His 30 put-backs lead Texas.
No. 2 — Demarcus Holland, 6-2, junior G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 6 points, 3/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 4 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 4 TOs in 32 minutes
Sixth on Texas in scoring in Big 12 play, Holland averages only 5.9 points a game. But he is coming off a season-high 14 points at West Virginia.
Maybe UT just needs to let him shoot more. In league games, Holland makes 48.6% of his attempts and 45% of his 3-pointers (9 of 20). He made 5 of his 7 shots and 2 of 3 3-pointers at WVU.
However, he had only made 9 of 16 free throws (56.3%) in conference play.
— hoop-math.com update: Keep him mid-range and you should be OK defensively. Holland has only hit 8 2-point jumpers in 35 attempts (22.9%), while he converts 66.2% of his shots at the rim and 46.3% of his 3s.
No. 0 — Kendal Yancy, 6-3, sophomore G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/1 FGs, 1 rebound in 3 minutes off the bench
KU will see much more of Yancy this time, now that he’s in the starting lineup.
Barnes changed his role 6 games ago, and the second-year guard has taken off of late. In his last 3 games, Yancy is averaging 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, making 48.7% of his shots and has hit 9 of 20 3-pointers (45%).
Since becoming a starter, he put up:
7 points, 5 rebounds at K-State
12 points, 4 rebounds vs. TCU
3 points, 1 rebound vs. Tech
14 points, 6 rebounds at OU
29 points, 9/17 FGs, 6/9 3s, 5/6 FTs, 5 rebounds vs. ISU
9 points, 4 rebounds at WVU
It is clear from the Iowa State game he is explosive. In Big 12 play, he had made 13 of 37 3-pointers (35.1%).
— hoop-math.com update: 18 of his 20 2-point jumpers have been unassisted. Translation: he can score one-on-one.
No. 52 — Myles Turner, 6-11, freshman F
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 8 points, 4/11 FGs, 0/3 3s, 8 rebounds (3 offensive) 0 TOs, 5 blocks, 5 fouls in 27 minutes
The guy KU wishes would’ve chosen crimson and blue instead of burnt orange leads Texas with 2.6 blocks and 6.4 rebounds a game in the Big 12, while scoring 10.5 points on 42.4% shooting.
In his last four games, the talented first-year (likely one-and-done) center has posted a pair of double-doubles while averaging 13.8 points and 8.3 rebounds.
Turner came off the bench in the last three games and his recent numbers would’ve looked even better if not for a dud at WVU: 7 points, 1 rebound, 2/6 FGs in 24 minutes.
— hoop-math.com update: More than half (51.1%) of Turner’s attempts are 2-point jumpers. He has hit 49 of 114 (43%).
No. 3 — Javan Felix, 5-11, junior G
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/6 FGs, 0/3 3s, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 TO in 17 minutes
Not many teams can say they shut down Felix, but the Jayhawks did just that in Austin.
The guy averages 9.1 points in Big 12 play, makes 42% of his shots and shoots 43.9% from deep, but he registered a goose egg against KU. This from a dynamic guard who has led his team in scoring 5 times in conference play.
Felix is the best 3-point shooter in a Texas uniform, with a team-best 25 made in Big 12 play, on 57 attempts.
Is he due for a breakout game? Felix scored just 2 points vs. Iowa State and only played 2 minutes at West Virginia.
— hoop-math.com update: Fourth on the team in field-goal attempts (201), Felix takes the majority of his shots (56.2%) from 3-point range. Only 12.4% of his attempts have come at the rim, where he has made 14 of 25 (56%). He makes 42.9% of his 2-point jumpers.
No. 21 — Connor Lammert, 6-9, junior F
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 3 points, 1/6 FGs, 1/5 3s, 6 rebounds, 1 blocks, 0 TOs in 20 minutes as a starter
The former Texas starter now joins a talented bench unit. In Big 12 games, he averages 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds and has made 12 of 39 3-pointers.
Lammert scored a season-high 12 points at K-State earlier this season, and had 8 points at WVU.
— hoop-math.com update: Lammert actually leads UT rotation players in FG% at the rim: 75%. He has made 18 of 24 with 10 coming via assists.
No. 44 — Prince Ibeh, 6-10, junior C
— Jan. 24 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/0 FGs, 4 rebounds, 1 block in 8 minutes
The backup big man only plays 9.3 minutes and scores just 1.7 points a game in the Big 12, but he’s the kind of defensive rim protector that can bother KU, swatting shots and forcing misses.
Ibeh blocked 4 shots at K-State (a season high) and swatted away 2 apiece at Baylor, OU and WVU.
— hoop-math.com update: Not exactly an offensive focal point for UT, Ibeh doesn’t venture outside of the paint often. 80.5% of his shots come at the rim and he makes 69.7% of them,
With Kansas University back atop the Big 12 basketball standings and one of the league’s preseason favorites, Texas, coming to Allen Fieldhouse Saturday, KU coach Bill Self had his weekly press conference Thursday afternoon.
The coach hit on KU’s loss at Kansas State this week, what Iowa State’s loss to Baylor means for the Jayhawks and just how good the Longhorns (17-11 overall, 6-9 Big 12) are, despite not living up to expectations — among other topics.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:
• Self didn’t watch the Iowa State-Baylor game Wednesday night. He watched Duke and Virginia Tech and another one. If he watched it, he’d be nervous and all of that. KU’s assistants watched it. … “I followed the score.”
ISU was playing well before Baylor went on a run, from what he heard. Kansas knows how good Baylor is — the Bears gave the Jayhawks all they wanted.
• All that matters in the next week-plus is KU (22-6, 11-4) taking care of business. But Self had to be a Baylor Bears fan on Wednesday night. Plus, that ISU loss probably gives the KU players a little bit of extra energy with the Jayhawks back atop the Big 12.
There should be high drama in the Big 12 to close the regular season, and it’s a great league. The race deserves to come down to the wire.
• Perry Ellis is probably playing as close to his ceiling as he has in his career and that has gone to an even higher level the past few games.
• KU’s offense fell off in the last 10 minutes at Kansas State. The spacing was bad and the screening was poor, as it has been al year. Ellis has been the only offensive threat inside. It would be nice to throw the ball to a big inside and have him get fouled or score.
KU still has players who need to deliver at center. Plus, Frank Mason III needs to drive to the paint.
• Self was really proud of how Jamari Tryalor handled the contact from a K-State fan amid the crowd storming after the game in Manhattan. He didn’t talk about that or the storming with players. They need to move on. When you keep talking about something like that you sound like a “whiny brat.”
• Texas freshman Myles Turner is playing great. The Longhorns are a lot like the Jayhawks. They can play terrific or take a noticeable step back. Turner is playing a lot of minutes, playing closer to the basket and he is hard to guard because he gets his shot off too quickly.
UT has an imposing a front line as any team in America, probably with the exception of Kentucky. They’re still capable of beating anybody.
• KU freshman big Cliff Alexander didn’t get a good chance to play at K-State because of quick fouls. He was probably more effective coming off the bench than he has been as a starter. He actually had some “unlucky” fouls at K-State. Keeping him out of foul trouble so he can play with reckless abandon would probably be his best-case situation.
• There will be a spotlight on the state of Kansas Saturday with Wichita State and Northern Iowa playing Saturday afternoon — two top-10 kind of teams playing with the league on the line.
And it will be festive at Allen Fieldhouse for KU and Texas. The GameDay crew will be at both games and that will be cool for the state of Kansas.
• The Big 12 has a lot of guards who can get to the paint, and Isaiah Taylor is one of the dominant point guards. There is Mason, Monté Morris, Juwan Staten, Kenny Chery and Taylor. This is a point guard league right now. Taylor and Staten — the two KU plays next — are probably the best at getting inside.
They say guards win. Self would say there are less marquee big guys in the Big 12 this season compared to year’s past. This year, the dominant players are guards, or undersized bigs, like Ellis and Georges Niang.
• Back when Kevin Durant played at Allen Fieldhouse for Texas, Self asked Danny Manning about him and the former KU great said, “That’s the baddest man that ever played on this floor.”
UT has had some greats, such as Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge. Texas has recovered nicely since losing a bunch of guys in one season early, which probably was anticipated.
• KU assistant Jerrance Howard is happy to be back at work. They haven’t made a big deal about it.
• Panic isn’t the word, but KU didn’t play with poise the final 10 minutes at K-State. There was poor ball and body movement on offense from KU down the stretch. Mason wasn’t a factor and they were able to negate Ellis primarily. K-State defended them very well.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self talks Big 12 race, Texas and more
By the end of Big Monday, the fans inside Bramlage Coliseum might sound like Bruce Weber. Kansas State’s fan base delights in nothing more than knocking off rival Kansas, and the Jayhawks anticipate a raucous road environment.
The Wildcats (13-15 overall, 6-9 Big 12) will have to embrace and thrive off of all the crazy going on in the stands, because they are in desperate need of a win.
K-State has lost seven of its last eight, including a 68-57 loss at Kansas (22-5, 11-3) on Jan. 31.
There are, of course, more tangible, on-the-court things the Wildcats have at their disposal, too — and they did beat Oklahoma in Manhattan just over a week ago. They might be eighth in the Big 12 standings, but they have a few things they can hang their proverbial hats on.
In conference games, Kansas State is:
3rd in points allowed, 63.1
4th in 3-point FG% defense, 32.8%
1st in rebounds allowed, 31.7 a game
If K-State is able to score a rivalry win, it will have to do it on the defensive end of the floor.
Now, as a refresher, here are the Wildcats that KU will have to worry about inside the famed “Octagon of Doom.”
No. 11 — Nino Williams, 6-5, senior F
— Jan. 31 at KU: 4 points, 1/7 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 TOs, 1 block, 1 steal in 22 minutes
Questionable headed into the first Sunflower Showdown of the season, Williams wasn’t at full strength vs. KU in Lawrence.
In 15 Big 12 games this season, he has averaged 10.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and leads his team with 31 offensive rebounds. Williams is shooting 45.3% from the floor in conference and has proven to be K-State’s best free-throw shooter, hitting 88.4%.
In a poor K-State showing at Baylor this past weekend (69-42 loss), Williams only made 2 of 5 from the floor for 4 points in 22 minutes.
Before that he had 4 straight double-digit outings: 13 vs. Texas, 22 at West Virginia, 13 vs. OU, 14 at TCU.
— hoop-math.com update: Williams operates mostly on short- to mid-range offense. 60.7% of his attempts have come on 2-point jumpers. He has hit 56 of 136 (41.2%) in that range, with his percentage dipping over the past few weeks.
No. 42 — Thomas Gipson, 6-7, senior F
— Jan. 31 at KU: 19 points, 7/13 FGs, 5/7 FTs, 7 rebounds (4 offensive), 0 TOs in 30 minutes
If the guy can get 19 points against Kansas on the road, expect an even bigger night from the senior in his last home game against the Jayhawks.
Gipson averages 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds, while hitting 46.5% of his shots in Big 12 games.
He was the only Wildcat to score in double figures (11 points) at Baylor.
His 4 offensive boards at KU tied his season high, his 7 field goals made still stand as his best this season and his 19 points marked his best scoring performance in conference play.
KU better find a way to keep him off the offensive glass or Gipson might set a handful of new season-best marks.
— hoop-math.com update: Leading K-State in put-backs on offensive rebounds (18), Gipson takes 59.4% of his shots at the rim and converts 67.3% of them (that number has dropped by just under 5 percent since the last game vs. KU).
No. 25 — Wesley Iwundu, 6-7, sophomore G
— Jan. 31 at KU: 4 points, 2/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0/2 FTs, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TOs, 1 block in 29 minutes
Not exactly the biggest scoring threat, the second-year guard averages 5.8 points in the Big 12 while making just 37.2% of his shots, 3 of 11 3-pointers and shooting 68.4% at the foul line.
But he helps K-State get stops, pulls down 3.1 rebounds and ranks second on the team to Jevon Thomas with 2.3 assists a game in the conference.
In two of his more recent games — vs. Oklahoma and at TCU — Iwundu grabbed a combined 8 offensive rebounds. He also had 2 steals as K-State upset OU.
— hoop-math.com update: Of Iwundu’s 133 shot attempts, he only has made 17 away from the rim. So, yeah. KU won’t mind if he settles for jumpers.
No. 1 — Jevon Thomas, 6-0, sophomore G
— Jan. 31 at KU: 2 points, 1/3 FGs, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 TO, 4 fouls in 23 minutes
The Jayhawks completely shut him down a few weeks ago, but that’s kind of the way things go for Thomas, who hasn’t topped 6 points once in Big 12 play.
Despite playing 27.0 minutes a game since the start of league play, he averages just 3.3 points. Thomas has made just 32.1% of his shot attempts, 2 of 10 3-pointers and even struggles at the foul line — 11-for-26.
At least he leads the Wildcats with 17 steals in 15 games and averages 3.0 assists.
He actually netted his personal Big 12-high of 6 points at Baylor by shooting 3-for-4.
Thomas hasn’t made a 3-pointer since Jan. 27 against West Virginia.
— hoop-math.com update: Thomas has made 42 shots this year, with 26 coming at the rim. He has hit 8 of 25 2-point jumpers (32%) and 8 of 27 3-pointers.
No. 5 — Tre Harris, 6-5, freshman G
— Jan. 31 at KU: Did not play
He’s only played in seven Big 12 games for K-State, but he started the last one, in place of Marcus Foster, who often moves back and forth between inside and outside of Weber’s dog house.
Possibly K-State’s best 3-point shooter, Harris has knocked down 9 of 22 in conference play (40.9%).
He went scoreless in 18 minutes at BU, but has come through with a couple of explosive outings:
4-for-6 on 3-pointers vs. Texas, 12 points
2-for-3 on 3-pointers at TCU, 14 points
On the season, the freshman has connected on 48.7% of his 3-pointers — 19 for 39.
- — hoop-math.com nugget: Because he has only played in 18 games this season, he ranks ninth on K-State in shot attempts, but when he is on the floor he is — by far — most likely to fire away from deep. That’s where Harris has taken 77.4% of his shots.*
No. 2 — Marcus Foster, 6-3, sophomore G
— Jan. 31 at KU: 19 points, 7/18 FGs, 3/10 3s, 2/4 FTs, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 TOS, 1 steal in 35 minutes
Will Weber really bring Foster off the bench again? Or will he start the most dynamic player on the roster and ride him in hopes of a marquee win?
Foster played 29 minutes — second-most on the team — in the loss at Baylor, scoring 8 points on 3-for-11 shooting. He missed all 5 of his 3-pointers.
Playing in just 12 conference games and starting only 7, the at-times explosive shooting guard averages 12.8 points in the conference, but has hit just 36.6% of his shots in the league. He’s even worse from 3-point range, connecting on 19 of 68 (27.9%).
Foster has come off the bench in each of his last 3 appearances after being held out of 3 straight games. He had scored 11 or more points in 9 straight games before shooting just 4-for-17 combined in his last 2 appearances.
— hoop-math.com update: As athletic as he is, Foster only takes 20.8% of his shots at the rim. He has hit 30 of those 54 looks (55.6%). Most often, he prefers hoisting 3-pointers — 58.5% of his shots come from downtown.
No. 14 — Justin Edwards, 6-4, junior G
— Jan. 31 at KU: 0 points, 0/6 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 TO in 15 minutes
At times a starter, Edwards has come off the bench in 9 of K-State’s Big 12 games, and averages 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds, while making 40% of his shot attempts and hitting 13 of 35 3-pointers (37.1%).
His best recent performance came almost two weeks ago, at West Virginia. In 29 minutes off the bench, Edwards shot 5-for-7, hit both of his 3-pointers and scored 14 points.
— hoop-math.com update: Fourth on the team in FG attempts (160), Edwards has only hit 6 of 21 (28.6%) 2-point jumpers. He prefers getting to the rim: 38 for 78 (48.7%).
No. 41 — Stephen Hurt, 6-11, junior F
— Jan. 31 at KU: 6 points, 2/3 FGs, 2/2 3s, 2 rebounds, 2 TOs, 1 block in 10 minutes
You really have to take note of every big body an opponent can throw at Kansas, because the Jayhawks have had so many issues on the offensive glass and finishing against size.
Plus, when you consider Hurt caught KU bigs off guard in the first meeting by knocking down a pair of 3-pointers, he seems even more important to what K-State is trying to accomplish.
He only plays 12.1 minutes a game in the league, and averages 3.7 points and 2.4 rebounds. And he has only made 37.5% of his shots. Hurt has taken 6 3-pointers in league games and he hit 3 of them.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Just 34.1% of his attempts come at the rim, but he makes 70% there. 52.3% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, where he makes 30.4% — that number has fallen by nearly 7 percent in the past three-plus weeks.
The last time Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team faced TCU, the Jayhawks had to win ugly, 64-61, in Fort Worth, Texas, a few weeks back.
The Allen Fieldhouse atmosphere on Saturday afternoon figures to make the rematch with the Horned Frogs (16-10 overall, 3-10 Big 12) a little easier for No. 8-ranked KU (21-5, 10-3), but TCU has been up to its muddying, defensive ways this past week, with home victories over Oklahoma State and Kansas State — both held to 55 points.
The Horned Frogs kept the Wildcats without a field goal in the final 9:42 of the first half Wednesday night, limiting K-State to 15 first-half points. A few days earlier, the Cowboys only connected on 3 of 16 3-pointers.
TCU’s offense has come around in its back-to-back wins, as well. The Horned Frogs shot 52.7% combined against OSU and K-State — pretty good for a team shooting 39.3% in Big 12 play.
All season, the Frogs have taken advantage of the offensive glass. TCU averages 13.3 offensive rebounds a game in the Big 12 (third, behind West Virginia and Baylor), and has racked up more offensive boards than its opponent in each of its last eight games: vs. Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State and K-State.
You might recall the Frogs gathered a season-high 26 offensive rebounds against Kansas.
Statistically, TCU has more success in these scenarios:
The Frogs are 9-1 when scoring 70 or more points
The Frogs are 14-2 when out-rebounding their opponent
The Frogs have shot a better percentage from the field than their opponent in all 16 victories
Now, as a refresher, here are the TCU players the Jayhawks have to worry about as they try to get one win closer to an 11th straight Big 12 championship.
HORNED FROGS STARTERS
No. 5 — Kyan Anderson, 5-11, senior G
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 17 points, 5/18 FGs, 2/6 3s, 5/7 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 5 TOs, 3 steals in 37 minutes
The No. 6 all-time scorer in program history (1,519 points) and all-time steal leader (166) leads the Big 12 in minutes played (35.38) this season, and averages 12.5 points, 4.0 assists and 1.54 steals in league games.
Often, Anderson makes it his personal mission to get TCU easy points at the free-throw line, where he has hit 50 of 60 tries in conference play.
But he doesn’t forget about his teammates. The point guard has 5 or more assists in 5 of his last 6 games. In his four years, TCU is 22-17 when he dishes 5 or more.
Anderson also leads TCU in 3-pointers made in Big 12 games (16) but has struggled to make them consistently (27.6%).
— hoop-math.com update: While the rest of Anderson’s teammates don’t shoot the ball from deep too often, he more than makes up for it, taking 49% of his shots from 3-point range. 69.2% of his 3-point makes have been assisted.
No. 32 — Trey Zeigler, 6-5, senior G
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 12 points, 5/15 FGs, 2/4 FTs, 11 rebounds (5 offensive), 1 assist, 1 TO, 1 steal in 35 minutes
Eight times this season in Big 12 games, including against KU, the athletic guard has scored in double figures. He averages 9.8 points in conference while shooting 44.4% from the field.
Not a guard who spends a lot of time on the perimeter, Zeigler has missed each of his 5 3-point attempts in league games. But he does have 21 offensive rebounds in conference.
He put up a season-high 19 points at K-State back in early January. But in his past four games, three have resulted in single-digit scoring. He did go for 13 points while making all 5 shot attempts last weekend vs. OSU.
— hoop-math.com update: Zeigler, obviously not much of a shooter, takes 55.9% of his shots at the rim, which is second on TCU. He has made 60.6% of his 104 attempts.
No. 34 — Kenrich Williams, 6-7, sophomore F
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 13 points, 5/14 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3/6 FTs, 9 rebounds (7 offensive), 1 assist, 0 TOs, 2 steals in 25 minutes
Just to reiterate: He had SEVEN offensive rebounds vs. KU a few weeks ago. Don’t think for a second the Jayhawks haven’t heard that number constantly at practices this week.
Williams has 39 offensive rebounds in Big 12 games, which leads the Frogs, and he averages a team-best 6.6 boards in conference.
Offensively since the start of 2015, he averages 8.4 points, making 41.8% from the floor.
Williams’ scoring is on an uptick, with double-digit performances in 6 of his last 9 games.
He’s a guy coach Trent Johnson likes to have on the floor almost as much as Anderson.
— hoop-math.com update: Here’s another Horned Frog who knows where he needs to be shooting. Williams takes 56.6% of his shots at the rim and makes 61.7% at that distance.
No. 33 — Chris Washburn, 6-8, sophomore F
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 7 points, 3/10 FGs, 1/4 FTs, 12 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 assists, 0 TOs, 2 blocks, 3 steals in 28 minutes
Making just 36.7% of his shots in league games, while averaging 6.0 points and 5.6 rebounds, Washburn turned in one of his better performances of the year in helping TCU beat K-State.
The big man put up a career-high 17 points, went 9-for-13 at the free-throw line and had a team-leading 8 rebounds.
Washburn has 24 offensive rebounds in conference play, but had just 1 in each of his last 2 games.
The 5 offensive boards he corralled against KU are his season-high.
— hoop-math.com update: While Washburn has taken 80 shots at the rim this season, making 60% of those, he has only connected on 20 of his 71 2-point jumpers (28.2%). … His 24 put-backs on the offensive glass lead TCU.
No. 14 — Karviar Shepherd, 6-10, sophomore C
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 8 points, 3/5 FGs, 2/5 FTs, 4 rebounds, 5 fouls, 2 TOs, 1 block in 37 minutes
Projected as a skilled big man out of high school, when Kansas rerouted him, Shepherd has been far from great offensively this season.
In Big 12 action, the center has hit only 33 of 75 shots, averages 5.8 points and 5.2 rebounds, and has been atrocious at the foul line (9-for-25).
Shepherd, who has 22 boards on the offensive end since the start of league play, has experienced a little more success of late, though. He shot 5-for-8 against both OSU and K-State as he put up double figures in back-to-back games for the first time this season, as TCU won consecutive games for the first time since the Big 12 schedule began.
— hoop-math.com update: The majority of his shots — 65.1% — have come on 2-point jumpers, and Shepherd has made only 37 of 99 (37.4%). He is taking an even higher rate of his shots in this range since the last time playing KU, but is making them at nearly the exact same clip.
HORNED FROGS BENCH
No. 4 — Amric Fields, 6-9, senior F
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 1 point, 0/2 FGs, 1/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 assist in 12 minutes
An athletic, long sub, he is shooting a team-best 49.3% from the floor in the Big 12, while averaging 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds.
But Fields is another Frog who has looked atrocious at the charity stripe (13-for-35) in conference play.
Like Shepherd, he is coming off back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts: 12 vs. OSU and 10 vs. K-State.
Fields even hit 2 of 3 from 3-point land against the Wildcats, a surprising number, considering he has only made 9 of 26 from deep all season long.
— hoop-math.com update: Fields is actually the team’s most effective shooter. His eFG% of 57.2% leads the team.
No. 11 — Brandon Parrish, 6-6, sophomore F
— Jan. 28 at TCU: 2 points, 1/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1 rebound, 2 TOs in 16 minutes
In limited minutes, Parrish averages just 4.6 points in the conference, but is the team’s second-best 3-point threat — not that that’s saying much — with 9 makes on 28 attempts (32.1%) in Big 12 games.
Three weeks ago, he made 3 of 5 from behind the arc at Iowa State and scored 11 points — his first double-digit outing since the Big 12 opener.
— hoop-math.com update: Parrish has taken 32% of his shots at the rim and 40.6% from 3-point range. He has made 23 of 41 inside (56.1%).
Fully entrenched in the stretch run of the regular season, Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team has four games left to tweak and improve before the start of the Big 12 Tournament and the March Madness that follows.
The No. 8-ranked Jayhawks (21-5 overall, 10-3 Big 12) have a rematch with TCU (16-10, 3-10) Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, and KU only beat the Horned Frogs by three in Fort Worth, Texas, on Jan. 28.
Self, with his team coming off a last-second loss at West Virginia and having lost two of its last four, discussed TCU, the Big 12 race and much more Thursday afternoon during his weekly press conference.
Here are some of the highlights:
• Kansas has to take care of business in the Big 12 race. But there are certain outcomes that obviously would help out. A victory by Oklahoma State, Self’s alma mater, against Iowa State Wednesday night sure would have been handy, but ISU prevailed on the road.
• If you’re not big and don’t get 50-50 balls because of length, you have to do things from a physical standpoint and strategically to come up with more rebounds. And the guards have to clean up. Kelly Oubre Jr. is doing the best, but none of the perimeter guys have been good enough at chasing down rebounds.
• Sometimes offensive rebounding numbers are misleading because so much of it is based on your shooting percentages. KU hasn’t done a good job of securing defensive boards of late, though. The Jayhawks were really poor in Fort Worth with that against TCU.
• Self thinks KU has actually played pretty well away from Allen Fieldhouse this season. Winning on the road against top 25 teams isn’t the easiest task. The Jayhawks have competed in their Big 12 road losses.
• The loss at WVU wasn’t about Perry Ellis missing in the final seconds. The ending of any game becomes more magnified because you don’t have time to recover from mistakes. You see more losing plays than winning plays at the end of games. In Ellis’s situation, it’s hard to know the time and he might have rushed it a little, but he was off balance.
Self said Ellis has had time to recover from that letdown, and he’ll be fine.
• Kyan Anderson of TCU has hurt KU in the past. Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham have to be good defending him. Anderson scored 17 vs. KU in the first meeting this season. He’s a nice player and he controls TCU’s team.
• If you’re going to play somebody twice, it’s easier to prep players for the rematch when you have a difficult time the first time around. It’s an easy reminder of how difficult it was to beat someone, which was the case at TCU.
• It’s now crunch time in the Big 12 race. Self isn’t banking on the teams behind KU losing. This time of year puts pressure and motivation on the Jayhawks to continue to play at a high level.
• Mason is holding up well, despite all the minutes he plays and bringing the ball up. He got tired at WVU and part of that was there were so many long possessions on defense for him, due to the Mountaineers getting so many offensive rebounds.
• TCU is playing to win, and playing with confidence in its past two games — home wins over Oklahoma State and Kansas State. The Horned Frogs were really good in the second half vs. KU, too.
• February are the dog days in college basketball. Everybody is going to get their breaths for the stretch run. But in the meantime fatigue can become a factor. Players get tired, and their brains can get tired.
Self doesn’t practice long this time of the year. They’ll go hard for an hour and 15 minutes today. It’s more important to have fresh legs and minds.
• Self doesn’t think KU scores enough points. How you get to 80 points (KU averages 72.4 in the Big 12) almost is irrelevant. The best scoring teams for him at KU were the ones that could score from all five spots.
KU doesn’t have low-post scoring but the Jayhawks are better now than they were earlier in the year.
• It was hard to take Mason out of the game at WVU because Graham had three quick turnovers. The freshman is capable of playing a little better than he has.
• Landen Lucas is much better against zone defenses than freshman Cliff Alexander, and better against pressure. Self is pleased with Lucas. He has played well and given KU much more depth.
• Alexander might feel more beat up right now than it ever has in his life. A bruised sternum hurts, but he’s holding up well. Everybody’s got something, especially this time of year.
• For the stretch run, Self would hope KU could improve at rebounding the ball and stealing possessions.
The biggest thing is tightening up the defense and rebounding, and on offense “do what we do.” The coaches are just asking guys to carry out their assignments, not do something extraordinary on offense.
Also, KU isn’t shooting many free throws. The Jayhawks only shot 11 at WVU and that’s a team that allows opponents to get to the line a lot.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self: KU needs to take care of business in Big 12 race
With less than three weeks left in the regular season and just six games remaining before its time for the Big 12 Tournament, Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team already has defeated eight league opponents.
The Jayhawks (21-4 overall, 10-2 Big 12) get their first crack at their ninth potential victim on Big Monday, at West Virginia (19-6, 7-5).
Winning at WVU Coliseum, of course, is more easily typed or read than executed on the court. West Virginia plays a brand of pressure defense that is unique to the Big 12, and the Mountaineers have Bob Huggins, the third-winningest active Division I coach (759-306 career record) — behind just Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim — barking out orders from the sideline.
In Big 12 play, No. 23-ranked West Virginia leads the league in:
steals, 10.3 a game
turnover margin, +5.6 a game
offensive rebounds, 15.5 a game
On the season, the Mountaineers also lead the nation in those same categories: 12.0 steals, +8.4 turnover margin, 16.9 offensive boards.
WVU actually has nine different players with 20 or more steals this season. For comparison’s sake, KU (fifth in Big 12 play with 6.5 steals) has four players with 20-plus swipes this season: Frank Mason III (34), Kelly Oubre Jr. (26), Jamari Traylor (23) and Perry Ellis (22).
Basically, between second chances and takeaways, the Mountaineers, who have lost three of their last four, win games by making sure they take more field goal attempts than their foes. Through 12 conference games, WVU averages 61.5 shot attempts a game. Their opponents? How about 47.2?
League opponents are shooting more free throws than West Virginia, but the difference isn’t exactly alarming: WVU takes 25.6 a game at the foul line, and their opposition takes 32.2 a game.
If the No. 8-ranked Jayhawks can break the press and break 70 points, they should be in good shape. The Mountaineers are 16-0 this season when holding opponents to 69 or fewer points.
Let’s meet the Mountaineers the Jayhawks have to worry about in Morgantown, West Virginia.
No. 3 — Juwan Staten, 6-1, senior G
With more than 1,000 points, 400 assists, 100 steals and 350 rebounds in his career, Staten is Mr. Mountaineer these days.
The Big 12’s preseason Player of the Year might not beat out Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield for the postseason version of that award, but the dynamic veteran guard averages 12.2 points and 5.0 assists in conference play, while shooting 38.5% from the floor. He has made just 7 3-pointers on 22 attempts in league games.
While he attacks aggressively, and has taken 74 free throws in Big 12 games, he is only making 58.1% at the foul line.
Staten has scored in double figures 21 times this season to lead WVU, and has produced 20 points or more on four occasions.
He can be stopped, though. Baylor held him to 6 points, Texas only let him get 3 and Oklahoma limited him to 4. The Sooners were the only team to lose to WVU in those instances.
Staten has 8 steals in league play and 27 on the season.
— hoop-matth.com nugget: Look for Staten to go one-on-one and take 2-point jump shots. 50% of his attempts on the season qualify as such, and while he connects on 41.9% of them, only 9 of his 57 makes has come via a teammate’s assist.
No. 5 — Devin Williams, 6-9, sophomore F
With 70 offensive rebounds this season, Williams helps WVU set the tone on the glass.
He averages 2.9 offensive boards a game in Big 12 play, and puts up 12.4 points against conference competition. His 9.5 rebounds a game in the league ranks second to Baylor’s Rico Gathers (13.1). Plus, Williams converts on 49.5% of his looks, which ranks him third in the Big 12.
He has four double-doubles in conference so far.
Williams went for 18 points/8 rebounds vs. Texas Tech and 20 points/15 rebounds vs. Baylor. But in his last 2 games, he has only put up 5/7 vs. K-State and 4/9 at Iowa State.
The big man has as many steals in Big 12 play as Staten (8) and has 21 total.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Given his size and rebounding ability, it’s surprising that Williams only takes 46.9% of his shots at the rim. His 30 put-backs on the offensive glass tie him for the team lead.
No. 1 — Jonathan Holton, 6-7, junior F
His 65 offensive rebounds are second on the team.
So although Holton only averages 5.1 points in Big 12 action, watch out for him on the glass, where he pulls down 4.4 boards.
The transfer who began his career at Rhode Island sat out last season. Holton hasn’t scored more that 4 points in any of his previous 4 games, but he did have 8 rebounds at Oklahoma and 6 boards vs. Baylor in that span.
The forward has racked up 34 steals this season, with 12 coming in Big 12 action.
— hoop-math.com nugget: More than any of his teammates, Holton operates at the rim, where he takes 64.2% of his shots and makes 61.3% of those looks. Like Williams, he has 30 put-backs via the offensive glass.
No. 14 — Gary Browne, 6-1, senior G
WVU isn’t a very good 3-point shooting team, as proven by Browne’s 12 3-pointers in Big 12 play (on 38 attempts no less) leading the starters.
The team captain had 12 points and 6 rebounds at Oklahoma. But he went scoreless vs. Baylor before bouncing back with 8 points in each of his last 2 games.
The senior guard has 10 steals in league games and 30 overall.
— hoop-math.com nugget: More likely to shoot jumpers than attack the rim, Browne makes 38.9% of his 2-point jumpers — the range where 27.5% of his attempts comes from.
No. 4 — Daxter Miles Jr., 6-3, freshman G
Four times in league games, the first-year guard has scored double figures: at Texas Tech, vs. TCU, vs. TT and vs. Baylor.
He averages 5.8 points in the Big 12 and shoots 37% from the floor.
While Miles has taken 35 3-pointers in conference play, just 9 have dropped (25.7%).
A freshman who has started every game, he has 30 of WVU’s steals, with 14 of those coming in the Big 12.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Only 13.5% of his shot attempts have been 2-point jumpers. He only shoots 19% from that range, and rightfully prefers scoring at the rim or taking 3-pointers.
No. 2 — Jevon Carter, 6-2, freshman G
Watch out for this young stud off the WVU bench.
TCU lost track of him in the final seconds of overtime and it cost the Horned Frogs dearly when he drew a foul and hit the game-winning free throws.
He only averages 8.3 points in Big 12 play, but he has made a team-leading 17 3-pointers in 12 league games, while shooting 33.3% from deep.
Wreaker of havoc on the defensive end of the floor, Carter has swiped 24 takeaways in Big 12 play alone. On the season, the 6-2 thief has 48.
He had a personal best 6 steals at TCU in his Big 12 debut. In the league, only K-State has faced Carter and kept him from getting at least one takeaway.
— hoop-math.com nugget: Third on WVU in FG attempts, most of those come from 3-point range (55.9%), but Carter also finds his way to the paint, where he converts 59.3% of his shots at the rim.
No. 0 — Jaysean Paige, 6-2, junior G
He scored personal Big 12-highs with 10 points apiece against TCU, ISU and K-State.
On the season, Paige shoots 40.6% from 3-point range. That success rate dips in Big 12 play, where he has made 11 of 33 (33.3%).
He only averages 13.9 minutes on the season but has 27 steals to his credit. In the Big 12, Paige has 11 steals while playing the least (14.3 minutes) of WVU’s core players.
— hoop-math.com nugget: A catch-and-shoot guy, each of Paige’s 3-point makes this season has come off an assist.
Early in Big 12 play, the Kansas Jayhawks got a glimpse of what the rest of the conference soon would learn: Scott Drew has a tough, talented team this season at Baylor.
KU won its conference opener for the 24th consecutive year back in January at Waco, Texas, but the Jayhawks escaped with a 56-55 decision at the Ferrell Center only after making some big shots late and figuring out ways to exploit BU’s half-court zone at times in the second half.
Since then, Baylor has moved up to No. 16 in the nation and comes into Saturday’s rematch at Allen Fieldhouse 18-6 overall and 6-5 in the Big 12, after losing its first two league games.
The Bears entered this week as one of the conference’s hottest teams, having won 5 of their last 6, but then they stumbled at home, with a 74-65 loss to Oklahoma State. Baylor allowed OSU to make 9 of 24 3-pointers in the loss, while the home team only hit 3 of 15 from deep.
Here are some trends from the Bears this season:
Baylor has lost second-chance points in each of the last 5 games after not doing so in any of its first 19 games, but the Bears are 3-2 in those games. (BU outscored KU 13-8 in second-chance points last time.)
Baylor is 18-3 this season when scoring 60-plus points, and 0-3 when being held under 60 (as the Bears were vs. KU).
Baylor is 14-1 this season when recording 13-plus assists and 4-5 when recording fewer than 13 (10 assists vs. KU).
Baylor is 1 of 9 Division I teams to hold all opponents under 75 points this season. (If the Bears can keep that streak alive at the fieldhouse, that stat would look even more impressive.)
As a refresher, here are the Bears No. 8 Kansas (20-4, 9-2) has to worry about as the Jayhawks continue their chase for an 11th straight league championship.
No. 1 — Kenny Chery, 5-11, senior G
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 25 points, 8/14 FGs, 4/7 3s, 5/5 FTs, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 TOs in 35 minutes
He gave KU issues all night in the first meeting. You can bet his stat line will be memorized by the guys responsible for guarding him in the rematch.
In his last 10 games, Chery is averaging 14.7 points, after scoring 8.2 a game before that. Plantar fasciitis forced him to miss some games early in the season but he now looks back at full strength.
With 4 seconds left against Iowa State back on Jan. 14, he hit the game-winner in a 74-73 Bears victory.
Chery scored 19 points in the second half while hitting all 5 of his 3-point tries in a Jan. 31 beating of Texas.
Late in games this season, he makes a point to have the ball in his hands when the other team is fouling. He has made 23 of 26 free throws this season in the final five minutes of action.
Oklahoma State is one of the few Big 12 teams to figure out how to shut Chery down. He missed all 4 of his 3-pointers in the Bears’ loss to OSU and only scored 9 points in 30 minutes.
In 11 Big 12 games, he’s averaging 13.7 points and 3.6 assists, and has made a team-leading 21 of 54 3-pointers.
— hoop-math.com update: Just 18.3% of his shots so far have come at the rim. Chery has taken 66 2-point jumpers and has made 39.4% of those tries (he has improved by more than 10% in that category since last facing KU). He’s 33-for-86 from deep (38.4%).
No. 2 — Rico Gathers, 6-8, junior F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 9 points, 3/10 FGs, 3/4 FTs, 14 rebounds (9 offensive), 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 TO in 29 minutes
Just a reminder: Gathers is an absolute beast of a physical specimen and has broken out this season as one of the Big 12’s best interior players.
His 16-point, 16-rebound game against Oklahoma State marked:
his 20th double-figure rebounding game of the season, 34th of his career
his 13th double-figure scoring game of the season, 27th of his career
his Big 12-leading 13th double-double of the season (third in a row), 20th of his career
and — probably most impressively — his fourth straight game with 15-plus rebounds (the 2nd-most ever by a Baylor player, behind only Jerome Lambert’s, 15)
Bill Self said Gathers deserves to be in the conversation for the Big 12’s Player of the Year.
In Big 12 play, he averages 11.2 points, a league-best 13.5 rebounds (better by 4.0 a game than No. 2 rebounder Devin Williams of WVU) and 5.7 offensive rebounds a game.
*— hoop-math.com update: Shocking news! Gathers leads Baylor in put-backs. Actually, the number is kind of incredible. He has scored 66 put-backs this season. Sixty-six. A whopping 39.6% of his shots at the rim come on put-backs.
No. 00 — Royce O’Neale, 6-6, senior F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 3 points, 1/7 FGs, 1/2 3s, 0/1 FTs, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover in 27 minutes
The Jayhawks did a nice job of turning him into a non-factor the first time around.
Of late, O’Neale is averaging 14.0 points in his past 4 games, when he has connected on 19 of 34 shots since being held scoreless at OSU.
He was a big part of Baylor’s road win at West Virginia last week, contributing 15 points on 5-for-7 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
In conference games, he’s averaging 9.2 points and 5.6 boards, plus 3.5 assists. He’s shooting 44.6% in the league and has made 11 of 28 3-pointers.
— hoop-math.com update: O’Neale scores mostly at the rim (42 field goals) and from downtown (30 3-pointers). He makes 64.6% of his takes to the rim.
No. 35 — Jonathan Motley, 6-9, freshman F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0/0 FTs, 8 rebounds, 1 assists, 3 blocks, 2 TOs in 31 minutes
Another guy who didn’t accomplish much offensively vs. Kansas back in the first week of January, the long red-shirt freshman has made an impact defensively, with 35 blocks in his past 15 games.
Foul trouble early in games have limited Motley’s effectiveness. He averages 11.7 points and 4.8 rebounds when he makes it to halftime with one or no fouls.
When he has at least 2 fouls entering the break, he only averages 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds.
Motley has even been more effective scoring the ball when he stays out of foul trouble: 35.3% when committing 2-plus fouls in the first half vs. 48% shooting when avoiding that. He had 2 first-half fouls vs. Kansas in Waco.
In Big 12 play, Motley averages 8.3 points and 3.4 rebounds, and has made 43.6% of his shots, while missing both of his 3-point attempts.
— hoop-math.com update: Motley loves finishing inside, where he has 54 field goals at the rim. Keep him away from point-blank range and he makes just 26.2% of his 2-point jumpers and 23.1% of his 3-pointers.
No. 11 — Lester Medford, 5-10, junior G
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 8 points, 2/6 FGs, 2/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 0 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 TO in 28 minutes
In his first 3 conference games, which included the loss to KU, he only had 1 assist against 5 turnovers. But in his last 8 games, Medford has 34 assists and 15 turnovers. Over the last 6 games, he has twice led Baylor in scoring and has 21 assists in that stretch.
But Medford played 33 minutes in the Bears’ home loss to OSU and only scored 1 point, missing all 5 of his field goals.
In 11 Big 12 starts, Medford averages 8.0 points and has been most effective as a 3-point marksman, hitting 19 of 43 (44.2%).
— hoop-math.com update: Of Baylor’s rotation players, Medford spends the least time taking shots in between the rim and the 3-point arc. Just 14.7% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, while 31.4% have come at the rim and a the majority, 53.8%, have come from long distance.
No. 21 — Taurean Prince, 6-7, junior F
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 8 points, 3/7 FGs, 1/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks, 0 TOs in 27 minutes
Baylor easily could start him, and he could probably start for any team in the Big 12. But Drew uses him as a guy he knows he can get production from off the bench.
Prince scored 20 points in the loss to OSU earlier this week, when he had his team-leading 18th double-figure scoring game of the season. He has scored 10-plus in a career high 8 straight games.
On the season, he averages 12.6 points a game, which ranks first in the power-five conferences among reserves.
Prince averages 13.6 points and 5.6 boards in Big 12 action, makes 44.8% of his shots, and has made 19 of 56 3-pointers.
— hoop-math.com update: He can create his own easy points. Only 52.1% of Prince’s 48 buckets at the rim have come off assists. One of his methods? Crashing the offensive glass. He has 19 put-backs.
No. 25 — Al Freeman, 6-3, freshman G
— Jan. 7 at Baylor: 0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/1 3s, 0 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 TOs in 9 minutes
At times, he has proven an effective scorer off the BU bench. But the first game vs. KU certainly wasn’t one of those.
Freeman has scored 7 points or more 11 times and when he does, Baylor is 10-1.
The red-shirt freshman is typically the first guard off the bench for the Bears, and he scored 11 in BU’s key road win against West Virginia last weekend.
Still, he’s only averaging 3.1 points in 16.1 minutes in Big 12 play. He has made 5 of his 12 3-pointers in the conference.
— hoop-math.com update: Most of his shot attempts, 52.0% actually, come from long range. However, Freeman has connected on just 31.5% of his 35 3-point attempts.