Entries from blogs tagged with “college football”
The countdown to Kansas University's spring football game is down to four days now.
Coach Charlie Weis addressed the annual showcase and other topics Tuesday morning with the media.
Here are some of the highlights from the Q & A session, in bullet-point form:
• The format for the spring game will be four 15-minute quarters, with a running clock, except for last two minutes of each half. KU has enough players to split the roster into two different teams and not just do offense vs. defense. Unless a rash of injuries breaks out, they will be able to do two different teams.
• Weis has a rule for the spring game that should make for an exciting second half, instead of players just going through the motions. He won't unveil the rule until Saturday, but it is all planned out.
• At a couple of positions, there are two players considered first-string options: left tackle and nickelback. Senior lineman Pat Lewandowski and senior defensive back JaCorey Shepherd will be on the Blue team in the first half, while senior lineman Zach Fondal and sophomore defensive back Greg Allen will play on the White team. At halftime, those players will swap teams, so they will have played with both the first and second units.
• If during the game, due to injury, they have to trade some players, Weis will "set the terms" of the trade.
• Spectators won't see a red jersey on the quarterbacks on Saturday. Only one player will have a red (no contact) jersey on, and that will be senior receiver Tony Pierson. The quarterbacks will be "live" on each play. Weis has never done that before. When the QB keeps the ball, you never know how many yards they would have gained on a run when they are wearing red and the defense can't tackle them. The QBs have been hit, sacked plenty of times this spring. The goal is for them not to get hit. … Pierson has been hit, too. The coaches went over the pros and cons, but they determined Pierson has had such a good offseason the last thing they want is for him to get injured on the last day of spring football.
• Weis told offensive coordinator John Reagan not to hold back any plays he wants to run during the spring game. This isn't like planning for a game, when you're preparing for an opposing team with certain plays. The whole playbook is available.
• Kansas has more talent and more speed right now than it has had in the past two seasons under Weis. Wide receivers coach Eric Kiesau told Weis Tuesday morning that KU's starting three wide receivers — Pierson, senior Nick Harwell and junior Rodriguez Coleman — all would have been on the two-deep last season at Washington (Kiesau's previous employer). That shows KU has made some serious improvements at that position alone.
• Pierson was nursing some tightness in his hamstring at practice Saturday, which was open to the media. He wasn't going as hard as he has been able to. … Pierson is working at both kickoff and punt returning. Returning punts isn't easy. "You have to be a little bit of a psycho" to take that job and do it well.
• Harwell is working at both return spots, too, as is junior defensive back Kevin Short. "We have some interesting candidates." You don't want to lose a valuable player in the return game, but if that guy can help change the game, they want to have him out there.
• Weis will make "common sense" contributions when talking offense with Reagan. It's been interesting this spring for Weis to see so much more of the team now that he's not running the offense. It's been good. It gives Weis the opportunity to challenge the staff and make everybody better.
• When Weis arrived and got rid of so many players from previous coach Turner Gill's team, he was taking a bad team and making it worse. He did it for the right reason, but he didn't factor in how limited a roster KU would be left with. Now the roster is pretty full. The infrastructure has been rebuilt and now KU has a predominantly junior and senior team. Usually those are the teams that win. … When they got rid of so many guys, they had to fill holes with junior college players. They couldn't count on freshmen to fill the gap.
• Looking at the WR spot, KU will lose four players after this season. Realistically, they will have to go half and half recruiting to replace those holes — half high school and half junior college. The same goes for KU's O-line and defensive backs, too
• KU's offensive line has had continuity this spring. The guy who is the strongest is junior Damon Martin, so he's at right tackle with senior Mike Smithburg next to him. The coaches were ready to adapt when they had a bunch of talented guards. Some shuffling got the most talent on the field.
• There are tiers at the QB position, as far as the depth chart is concerned. If they had to play an actual game in two weeks, it would be between senior Jake Heaps and sophomore Montell Cozart. And it wouldn't be a bad thing if they both played because they do different things. The coaches are ready to gear themselves toward who will be the main guy. The longer KU goes without naming a starter at QB, the tougher it will be for the competition to prepare.
• Kansas doesn't want to take senior linebacker Ben Heeney off the field, but he will have to rest at some point. Junior LB Schyler Miles is close to junior Jake Love as far as the depth chart goes, and who will replace Heeney at times.
• At the spring game, Weis would like the fans to have some fun. Come halftime the game will get very interesting. He would like to be in the second half with the players having a little pressure on them to win. Weis also wants the offensive operation to show efficiency. … Several players will get an opportunity to play a lot more snaps than they have at practices this spring. It gives them an opportunity: Let's see what you've got. Of course, they want to come out injury-free, too.
• The biggest accomplishments this spring, defense and offense: With junior defensive lineman Andrew Bolton's play on the end, senior defensive lineman Keon Stowers can play inside. … The defense is now in its second year, and that gave the players an opportunity to turn it loose. Most of the guys are retuning guys. ... On offense, most of it was getting the system installed. The players need to be used to running a no-huddle offense.
• Cozart has completed a high percentage of his passes this spring. The one thing he brings that is unique is his feet. He has a chance to be a really good player.
• Sophomore QB T.J. Millweard, who transferred from UCLA, is the newest member of that QB group and he is coming off his best practice to date. Whether he makes his way up the depth chart this year or next, Weis knows he will keep working to get there. His mental aptitude is there and he has to catch up physically.
• Next week, in the days following spring game, players will hear from the coaching staff about where they stand.
• Kansas has a number of older guys who are experienced. Because of that, they won't pick captains until right before the season begins. It's tough to be a leader when you're not playing, so the guys who end up captains will be front-line players.
• Harwell is a natural leader. Weis is glad they have him. He's a hard worker, the wide receivers follow him and he jumps on everybody. "Thank you, Miami of Ohio."
• Weis does believe that if you have two quarterbacks you don't have one, but that's not the case if you use them in different ways. KU would feature one set of plays with Heaps and another set when Cozart is on the field.
• Weis said to the team last December: It's time. Kansas football has been down for five seasons. The No. 1 thing is these veterans have to get KU back to winning. That's the first major hurdle for the program to get over. Then you shoot for the moon. Players can't worry about the expectation on the street or in the media. They have to set their own bar and can't settle for anything but attaining their goals.
— Listen to the press conference in its entirety by clicking here: Charlie Weis talks spring game, KU football depth
Spring break is over at Kansas University, and the football team got back to spring practice Sunday night.
Coach Charlie Weis spoke about the team's progress up to this point Tuesday at Anderson Family Football Complex, before the team's afternoon practice.
Listen to audio from the Q & A by clicking here: Weis updates progress of spring football
Here are some of the highlights, in bullet-point form:
• Coming back from spring break, Weis was pleased with the tempo at Sunday night's practice. Usually guys get into a routine and thats how you thrive. They had a week off and guys traveled all over the place, but everyone was here. They met and practiced until 10 at night. As far as the practice itself, it wasn't the sharpest at all times. And the offense had its best practice yet. Putting in a new offense against a more experienced defense, the defense had been ahead of the offense this spring. That changed at Sunday's practice. Clint Bowen is calling this "not positive Tuesday" after the defense got burned too many times.
• There has been clear separation amongst multiple quarterbacks this spring. Both the players and coaches see where that is but they're not going to come out and say that at this point. Today, for a good portion of practice, Heaps won't get any reps. That will force everyone's hands. The other players won't have that security blanket of the most experienced QB in the system being there. … The separation is solely based off performance. They've taken things like experience and thrown them out the window. A lot of it comes at the line of scrimmage. Quarterback and everyone else are looking for a signal from the sideline.
• Weis spent a lot of time on two days during spring break watching the scrimmage from before break in detail. On Sunday he talked with the coaches and told them what he saw on video, and asked where he was right and where he was wrong. On video, there is a lot with which to be pleased. But Weis didn't want the defense to feel good about itself because it was ahead of the offense. On Sunday the offense ran some plays to exploit some defensive vulnerabilities.
• Senior Jake Heaps is one of the leading candidates at QB. Because he is the most experienced, you would expect him to run the offense better than everyone else. Taking him out of the equation at Tuesday's puts more pressure on the other quarterbacks. The coaches want to see how each candidate responds. It's just as if someone got injured. Weis wanted to do that to create more pressure in the QB competition. When you're trying to see five players, it's hard to get everyone enough reps.
• Weis is letting the offensive staff put in the offense. Weis knows the system and the plays, but there are things in the system that need to be executed. They want to make sure they're not only installing plays but also executing before they get ahead of themselves.
• Senior Brandon Bourbon has transitioned back into a running back-only position. That has helped them tremendously at the position. … When personnel groupings are called out at practice, guys know now who is in what group, even if there isn't a physical depth chart for everyone to see.
• Senior receiver Tony Pierson has seen a little bit of contact at practices. Weis "isn't stupid enough" to let Pierson go through practices without getting hit. He got hit and came off the field and told Weis that was the best thing that has happened to him.
• At wide receiver, they could talk about senior transfer Nick Harwell. But the guy who has had a good spring — the best camp of anyone on offense, in fact — is junior Rodriguez Coleman. They're throwing the ball to him a lot. The defense focuses in on Pierson and Harwell. Coleman gets a lot of one-on-one because of that. If you don't have anyone who is getting open on the single receiver side, that's a problem. Coleman is getting open.
• Junior Kevin Short is playing at corner in practices. Both senior Dexter McDonald and senior JeCorey Shepherd are pretty good players at corner. Now they can put all three of those guys out on the field at once.
• Sophomore defensive back Greg Allen might be the most pleasant surprise on defense.
• Freshman tight end Ben Johnson has been getting a lot of reps. He's ready, willing and able, even though he hasn't played yet. He did a nice job on the show team while red-shirting last season, but now he's with the big boys. He really seems to get better at every practice, and that's because he is gaining confidence.
• With installing a new offense, they don't want to go too fast. If they have a bunch of plays, and they're not good at any of them, there is no growth. Now when they start to run certain plays, they can expect production. When they're on the field, they're on the clock. They've only got four hours on a practice day to work with the players. On the off days, coaches figure out how much installation they need, and how much repetition they need.
• On the offensive line right now, there are about eight players they think they could go into a game and win with right now. They would like that number to be 10. Going into the season you want a backup at each position. At most of the positions right now, there is a clear No. 1 and a clear No. 2. Not all positions, but most.
• Sophomore QB TJ Millweard is very sharp, mentally. He went through a year of not playing as a transfer. He has knocked off a lot of that rust. Mentally, he could go run the KU offense right now. Physically, he will have to prove he can do so.
• On defense, you can tell there are a lot of seniors. On offense, there are a lot of guys who weren't playing last season for KU. With the production they have had in the passing game the past two seasons, that might be a good thing. KU might be thin at a few positions on offense, but their front-line players are good enough to win with.
• Weis expects guys to come back in the spring strong and ready to play because of strength coach Scott Holsopple. He knows the line between caring for them and pushing them. He's the true "love-hate" coach. Holsopple has a lot more access to the players than anyone on the football staff. He has been critical to the team's development.
• On the defensive line, junior college DE Kapil Fletcher, walking through the door, should be more ready than high school players. There is a "fearsome foursome" of freshmen coming in. Weis just said this morning, "Let's not rule anybody out." They don't know until they get here whether they are ready for prime time. Weis tells every player coming in there is no reason to assume they will have to red-shirt. They have a chance to work themselves in on the two-deep.
• Senior WR Justin McCay is right behind Coleman right now. McCay had his best practice on Sunday. He plays a different style than Coleman, and he needs to use that to his advantage.
• Heaps hasn't changed one bit. That's one of the biggest things you could say about this guy. He's got great leadership on top of everything else. He's excited with the newness of the spring and the offense. With the lack of production last season, there is reason for him to be excited about a new system.
• Senior LB Ben Heeney has been great at practices, working his butt off. He is clearly one of, if not the leader, of the defense.
• They just met as a staff yesterday about recruiting. Weis went through about 30 guys who the staff wanted to offer. … Weis doesn't offer now until they get a transcript in. Weis wants to know the odds of a player graduating are very high. There are reasons guys don't get offered other than what kind of skills they possess.
St. Louis — When this year's NCAA Tournament bracket came out, the popular assumption was Kansas University's men's basketball team would need to win a rematch with New Mexico in order to reach the Sweet 16.
So much for that theory. After surviving an early scare from Eastern Kentucky on Friday at Scottrade Center, the No. 2-seeded Jayhawks (25-9) earned a berth in the round of 32 against Stanford — not New Mexico.
The South region's No. 10 seed, the Cardinal (22-12) knocked UNM out of The Big Dance with a 58-53 victory Friday.
The Lobos entered the postseason ranked No. 17 in the nation, and many observers thought UNM deserved a better seed than No. 7. But Stanford, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 — and the first since sixth-year coach Johnny Dawkins took over — outplayed New Mexico early to get out to a 20-4 lead less than 20 minutes into the game.
Said senior forward Josh Heustis afterward: “Coach tells us, a lot of teams are just happy to be here. Only a handful of teams think they can actually win the thing. We’re going to be one of those teams.”
Stanford finished just 10-8 in the Pac 12, but is fairly battle-tested, having now played 17 games against teams which made it to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal are 8-9 against the field, with wins against Arizona State, New Mexico, Cal Poly, Connecticut, Oregon, Texas Southern and UCLA.
Beginning at 11:15 a.m. Sunday morning, Stanford has a chance to notch its biggest victory to date, against Kansas.
On Saturday, Dawkins talked about the opportunity that awaits his program: a trip to the Sweet 16.
"You know, it would be great. Whenever you play a program like Kansas you have an opportunity to play a storied program," Dawkins said.
"For us, Stanford has been to the Final Four before. They have been to the tournament a number of times. It would just continue to keep Stanford, you know, where we think Stanford belongs, one of the elite programs in the country.
"When you compete against a program like Kansas and you can have success, it puts you among those type programs and so it is an opportunity to continue to build on. Something that's been very good, you know, out in California at Stanford."
Stanford gets 87.2% of its offense from its starters, because three players who averaged double-digit minutes last season missed most or all of this season with injuries.
Meet the Cardinal Kansas will have to hold back to move on to Memphis.
Chasson Randle, No. 5
6-2, 185, jr. guard
When Kansas freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden met with the media early Saturday afternoon at Scottrade Center, they hadn't yet gone through a Stanford scouting report.
So when a reporter asked them about how Randle could impact the game, it caught them a little off guard.
Replied Wiggins: "I am not sure right now. How about you, Wayne?"
Selden's response: "I am along with you."
By now, they've found out the junior guard makes Stanford's offense (73.1 points, 46.2% shooting) work.
Randle averages 18.9 points and 3.5 rebounds, and leads the Cardinal with 65 3-pointers (he makes 40.1% of his attempts). The floor general also asserts himself to get to the foul line, where he has made 162 of 210 tries (77.1%).
Randle, who played all 40 minutes against the Lobos, led Stanford with 23 points, and he has scored at least 20 points in five of Stanford's last six games.
Dwight Powell, No. 33
6-10, 240, sr. forward
Powell, playing against a talented UNM front court, wasn't himself in his NCAA tourney debut. The big man only scored three points and missed all eight of his shot attempts.
The senior, who averages 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds and has seven double-doubles this year, leads Stanford's all-time list of games played, with 133.
Powell's experience and production have twice landed him on the All-Pac 12 first team.
Anthony Brown, No. 21
6-6, 215, jr. guard/forward
His seven rebounds led Stanford against New Mexico, and the 6-6 swingman averages 12.6 points and 5.0 rebounds.
Another 40-minute man against UNM, Brown scored 10 points and hit all three of his 3-point tries.
Here is what the red-shirt junior from Fountain Valley, Calif., had to say about facing Kansas.
Josh Huestis, No. 24
6-7, 230, sr. forward
Known for his impact on the defensive end of the floor and his team-leading work on the glass (8.2 rebounds a game), he also averages 11.3 points on 45.5% shooting.
Earlier this season, Huestis became Stanford's all-time leading shot blocker, and currently has 184 on his résumé, even though he is only 6-foot-7. He has swatted 63 shots this season.
The forward sneaks outside when he can, and hits 34.2% from long range (25 of 73 3-pointers on the season).
Stefan Nastic, No. 4
6-11, 245, jr. center
The biggest man in a Cardinal uniform averages 7.1 points and 2.8 rebounds. His quick start against UNM made it easier for Stanford to advance, too. Nastic made his first three shots of the game.
He had made 16 straight shots over the course of five games before missing his final attempt of the first half. During said five-game stretch, he has made 94.7% of his shots. But he only took 3.8 attempts a game.
On the year, he hits 56.7% of his shots, with the vast majority of those coming in the paint.
John Gage, No. 40
6-10, 225, sr. forward/center
The backup big man is the Cardinal's leading scorer off the bench at just 3.3 points a game.
In the Pac 12 Tournament, he scored 8 points on back-to-back nights against Arizona State and UCLA. But on Friday against UNM, he went 1 for 4, scored three points and grabbed six rebounds in 14 minutes.
To wrap things up with our media day blog, here are a couple of final thoughts on KU's Friday opponent, Eastern Kentucky.
The Colonels make 8.9 three-pointers a game (eighth in the nation).
This season, Kansas has allowed opponents to make 35.9% of their three-pointers (257th in the nation).
Jayhawks opponents have made 6.3 three-pointers a game (185th in the nation).
A reporter asked Kansas sophomore forward Jamari Traylor about the challenge of defending EKU.
"They have a lot of guys that can stretch the floor and guys that will be their 4-man and can be 3-men," Traylor said. "So everybody can stretch the floor, and everybody can shoot it."
Without giving up any secrets, Traylor said KU has a good game plan in place, and the Jayhawks should be able to go out and do their jobs.
... On a totally unrelated note, you won't want to miss our video from Mike Yoder of Frank Mason showing off his athleticism during KU's open practice.
The 5-foot-11 freshman guard followed a few backflips with a dunk — a real crowd pleaser.
Update: 4:40 p.m.
KUsports.com's Matt Tait caught up with KU sophomore guard Evan Manning Thursday afternoon.
Throughout his basketball life, Evan spent postseasons with his father, Danny. But now that his dad's Tulsa team is playing in the NCAA tournament, March has a slightly different feel for the younger Manning.
The good news: a couple of victories by KU and Tulsa, and the father and son would be reunited in Memphis, one of the Sweet 16 sites.
Update: 4:20 p.m.
Kansas freshmen guards Frank Mason and Brannen Greene took a couple of minutes Thursday afternoon to provide a scouting report on Eastern Kentucky.
They know the Colonels are fast, and Friday's game figures to be played at a pace players from both teams will enjoy. The question is whether both sides will be able to thrive.
Update: 4:05 p.m.
One thing that really shines through on a day like this at the NCAA tournament is how much fun it is for the players to be here. They're excited for the postseason and they do actually have some down moments in which they don't have to be uptight or worried about the stresses that come with playing on this stage.
You can really see that in the above Nick Krug photo form inside the KU locker room.
Getting back to tomorrow afternoon's game, KU sophomore forward Perry Ellis said Eastern Kentucky could test KU's ability to get up and down the floor.
"They're a real quick team. Real fast," Ellis said. "A lot of back cuts. We just have to be fundamentally sound defensively, real disciplined and come out with a lot of energy defensively."
Ellis said playing with energy will be the key to the game, because if KU does that good things will follow.
— Check back in later at KUsports.com for more from St. Louis.
Update: 3:40 p.m.
(This entry comes from Matt Tait, who has bounced all around Scottrade Center today, gathering quotes.)
Learned a few interesting things in the Eastern Kentucky locker room this afternoon, mostly about their style of play.
There were a few laughs and colorful moments from big man Eric Stutz, who said people always tell him he looks like Jesus, Fabio and Ashton Kutcher, and added that he would like to own a waste disposal company after college.
"There's always gonna be trash," Stutz said. "…If I can get a degree in accounting along with the business aspect of it, all you gotta do is learn how to pick up trash.”
As for what they'll throw at the Jayhawks in about 24 hours, the Colonels, as you surely know by now, rely heavily on the three-point shot and pressure defense.
From the sound of things, they get a lot of open looks off of penetration, so if the Jayhawks' on-ball defense — or help and recovery on the back end — is not on point, EKU may very well get some open looks tomorrow.
Although they shot as many three-pointers as nearly any other team in the country, it's not like they just jack 'em up and don't have a conscience out there. A good chunk of their looks come from running offense and making extra passes, and they really try to take good looks. They do own the philosophy, though, that after one pass, if they've got a good look they can take it.
Senior guard Glenn Cosey made 110-of-259 threes for EKU this season and his teammates said he's the guy they'd want with the ball with the game on the line.
As for that pressure defense. It sounds like it's mostly in the half court and it's mostly a product of just wanting to out-work their opponents. A lot of times, as may be the case with Andrew Wiggins, one of their best defensive plays is to deny the catch. Stutz said Wiggins will get his touches and points and they know that, but they're still going to try to deny him the ball as much as possible.
From what I was told, there's not a lot of full-court pressure with the EKU 'D.' The point guard will usually pick up his man the length of the floor and that effort generally is what fuels the rest of the guys on the floor to get up on their guys.
“That's where our defense starts,” said senior Orlando Williams. “The point guard picking up his man and everybody else is in the passing lanes denying their man.”
It's an interesting match-up and one KU could quickly find difficult if the Jayhawks are careless with the ball and lazy. If they come out sharp, though, and match EKU's effort, they should be fine.
More to come….
Update: 3:20 p.m.
Listen to everything KU coach Bill Self had to say at his press conference:
Update: 2:50 p.m.
Eastern Kentucky's players know they have a style that fits March Madness well.
Here are a couple of the Colonels, Orlando Williams and Marcus Lewis, explaining the EKU approach in the locker room Thursday afternoon.
— Check back throughout the afternoon for more from St. Louis.
Update: 2:40 p.m.
Reporters basically tripped all over themselves to get interviews with Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins in a very crowded Jayhawks locker room Thursday afternoon.
While Wiggins and some of his teammates dealt with the swarm, senior center Tarik Black and sophomore forward Jamari Traylor took the stage in the press conference room.
Black said he has seen some crazy things happen in the NCAA tournament, and had crazy things happen to teams on which he has played at Memphis. The main thing to do this time of year, he stressed, is stay composed.
People try to make predictions about the tournament, Black added, but they're more like assumptions.
Bill Self took the stage next, and said the Jayhawks were pleased to be playing relatively close to home. Here are some of the highlights from his session:
• Eastern Kentucky does a lot of things that concern him. The Colonels don't turn the ball over, they have eight players who can shoot 3-pointers, and they defend higher on the floor than anybody KU has faced this season.
• All three Division I Kansas programs are here in St. Louis. As a state, each fan base should be proud about that.
• When teams pressure (EKU does) they do so to play to their strengths and skill sets. When KU sees that pressure, the Jayhawks need to not forget to play through their bigs. Hopefully Kansas is prepared for that.
• KU freshman center Joel Embiid has made progress in rehab, but they're taking it slow. The staff is optimistic they can get him to practice next week, if KU is still alive in the tournament. … Without Embiid on the floor, defensive mistakes turn into layups. In his absence, Kansas has to be much more sound defensively.
• Andrew Wiggins has a flair for the moment. That gives Self confidence in what the freshman phenom can make happen in the postseason. Wiggins needs to assert himself offensively and impact more possessions. If that happens, he will score more points.
• Kansas and Missouri, at this point, would have to meet up in the NCAA tournament to renew their rivalry. A scheduled regular-season game probably won't happen as long as Self is coaching at Kansas.
• Andrew Wigins and his brother, Nick, a senior guard at Wichita State, are both playing in St. Louis. Nick was great through the recruiting of Andrew by the KU staff. That played a minor role in Andrew picking KU, as did the fact parents Mitchell and Marita could make one trip to Kansas and see both of their sons play. … The fact that WSU and KU aren't playing each other here in St. Louis is probably better for the family.
• Wiggins will have an opportunity in the postseason to prove any of his critics wrong, but it will take Kansas advancing to make that happen.
Wouldn't you know it, as soon as Self left the press conference, he had a throng of other reporters waiting for him in the hallway.
Update: 1:00 p.m.
We just got back from the Eastern Kentucky locker room and coach Jeff Neubauer's press conference.
The Colonels (24-9), out of the Ohio Valley Conference, seem to be taking a laid back approach to their potential role as giant-killers against No. 2-seeded Kansas (24-9) on Friday.
Credit for the upbeat vibe in the locker room goes to ninth-year coach Jeff Neubauer. He has seen up close what it takes to bust a bracket. Neubauer served as an assistant coach at Richmond when the No. 14 seed knocked out No. 3 seed South Carolina in 1998.
Neubauer also worked at West Virginia, when the Mountaineers reached the Elite Eight in 2005.
The coach fielded plenty of questions — about Kansas, coming out of the OVC and March Madness in general. Here are some of the highlights:
• It's so hard in a league like the OVC to get to this point. And it will be a big challenge Friday against Kansas.
• The Colonels have talked all season about embracing challenges. They don't use the word underdog.
• He coached EKU as a No. 16 seed against North Carolina in 2007. The Colonels didn't do a good job out of the gate and ended up in a huge hole and lost by 21 points.
• Keeping that rough performance from 2007 in mind, Neubauer has been practicing his players hard in preparation for Kansas.
• EKU played three tournament teams this season: Wisconsin, North Carolina State and VCU. The Colonels, who went 0-3 in those matchups, played really well at N.C. State for 34 minutes. The game they will try to draw upon against KU is the overtime loss at VCU.
• Kansas has committed a lot of dead-ball turnovers/travels this season. EKU needs steals, not dead-ball mistakes, because steals turn into layups and dunks.
• The biggest problem/issue facing EKU's defense is junior Jayhawks point guard Naadir Tharpe. Neubauer said Tharpe takes care of the ball and that makes it difficult for opponents to score easy points through defense.
• EKU won't try to make Kansas play small. If the Jayhawks played small, they would still be significantly bigger than the Colonels.
Original post: 11:00 a.m.
While you're settling in to watch a full day's worth of NCAA tournament games — or sneaking away from work responsibilities here and there to keep up with the potential upsets — the KUsports.com staff will be busy gathering quotes, videos, stories and photos at Scottrade Center, in St. Louis.
Press conferences and open practices are the name of the game today for Kansas University's men's basketball team, as well as the other seven teams playing round of 64 games at the site: Eastern Kentucky, Stanford, New Mexico, Wichita State, Cal Poly, Kansas State and Kentucky.
Check in at this blog throughout the day for updates.
Eastern Kentucky players and coach Jeff Neubauer won't be available until early afternoon.
Kansas players and coach Bill Self will meet the media a little after 1:30 p.m.
In the meantime, check out a couple of videos from KU's arrival Wednesday night.
We'll be learning a lot about the Eastern Kentucky Colonels this week, in the days leading up to the NCAA Tournament matchup between the No. 15 seed out of the Ohio Valley Conference and the No. 2-seeded Kansas Jayhawks — Friday at 3:10 p.m., in St. Louis, Mo.
After finding out his team's draw, EKU coach Jeff Neubauer told the Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait he and his staff knew they would be facing one of the nation's elite teams:
"… We just happened to draw one of the greatest programs in the history of college basketball, so our team is looking forward to the challenge, and we’ll see if we’re ready for this test.”
Obviously, we're a lot more familiar with the Jayhawks (24-9) than the Colonels (24-9), so we might as well start getting to know KU's foe.
The best way to do that is with video highlights. Eastern Kentucky swept through the OVC tournament in Nashville, Tenn., more than a week ago. EKU defeated:
Southeast Missouri State, 84-76
Murray State, 86-83
EKU only has two double-digit scorers for KU to worry about, but three more players average a hair under 10, and the Colonels' sixth-leading scorer puts up more than eight points a night, so there is some balance to their attack:
G — Glenn Cosey, 18.8 ppg
G — Corey Wladen, 14.1 ppg
G — Marcus Lewis, 9.9 ppg
G — Orlando Williams, 9.6 ppg
G — Tarius Johnson, 9.5 ppg
F — Eric Stutz, 8.4 ppg
Playing in the one-bid OVC, in which Eastern Kentucky went 11-5 (second place in the East division, third-best mark in the league) didn't provide the Colonels with much high-level competition. But they did venture into some challenging non-conference matchups, including an 86-61 loss at Wisconsin in mid-December.
These highlights are Badger-centric, but you can see some of the ways Kansas might be able to break down the EKU defense for baskets:
• Anticipate over-aggressive plays in passing lanes
• Attack the paint
• Move the ball for reversals, especially against zone defense, for open shots
— Look for more on EKU in the days to come at KUsports.com.
In the realm of college basketball, March is known for its madness.
Kansas University coach Bill Self experienced a little of that himself Sunday evening after the NCAA unveiled the 2014 national championship bracket.
Even though Self barely had time to read up on KU's Friday opponent, Eastern Kentucky — let alone scout the Colonels by watching some game video — a room full of reporters awaited him at 6 p.m. inside Allen Fieldhouse to talk about the matchup between No. 2-seeded Kansas (24-9) and the No. 15 seed, EKU (24-9), out of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Here are the highlights of the Q&A, in bullet-point form:
• Self kind of thought Kansas would get a No. 2 seed. But he still thought KU had a really good chance of getting a No. 1 seed. If things had happened differently in some of the other conference tournaments, maybe the Jayhawks would have got consideration for the most sought after seed line.
• In KU's pod, New Mexico looks better than its No. 7 seed. Self hopes KU has a chance to play UNM or Stanford in the round of 32, but the Jayhawks' focus needs to be on Eastern Kentucky and defending the 3-point line. Self has already learned that EKU has four starters who shoot 3-pointers. They're a lot like Iowa State in that aspect.
• Sometimes when you play close to home there are more distractions. KU experienced that some last year, in Kansas City, Mo., for its first two NCAA games. Friday's games in St. Louis will be some of the hottest tickets ever for the first two rounds. Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky and Wichita State are all playing there. (All except KU are competing in the Midwest region.)
• KU has been in the same city as K-State for the NCAA tournament before. It will be interesting. You wonder if fans from both sides of the Sunflower Showdown will cheer for their rivals.
• Self couldn't believe SMU and Larry Brown didn't make the tournament. When it all played out on the selection show, Self though North Carolina would play SMU. But he forgot Providence hadn't been announced yet. … That's what Brown thought would happen (a Roy Williams and UNC vs. Brown and SMU game) when Self spoke with the former KU coach on Sunday morning.
• On the other hand… Self was really happy to see Danny Manning's Tulsa team earn a spot. Tulsa is in the same region as Kansas, as a No. 13 seed, and will face UCLA on Friday.
• Kansas needs to play with high energy all the time. When you do that you can camouflage some mistakes with this group. Iowa State might've beaten anybody the way it played Friday in the Big 12 semifinals. KU might've been better off giving the Cyclones some "dare" shots, instead of letting ISU get inside of them.
• Looking at a potential rematch with New Mexico, that first meeting (an 80-63 KU win at Sprint Center) was a long time ago, on Dec. 14. Self doesn't know how much of an advantage either team would have should each advance.
• With a young team, there is potential for some distractions at this time of year. The most focused team Self has ever had was in 2008. That was a "wild crew," but they did everything the coaches asked and trusted them. It's great to have rules, but sometimes players think rules are great for everybody else but themselves. That's when you start getting distractions.
• Andrew Wiggins has played great. He just didn't make some shots early against ISU.
• Self didn't know which regional KU would end up in. No matter what one you end up in, you always think that the committee didn't do you any favors. But the Midwest (No. 1 Wichita State, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Louisville, No. 5 St. Louis) looks really tough.
• Not to get ahead of themselves, but the South region has the best team in the country — Florida. And a team that everyone thought was the best team in the country a month ago — No. 3 Syracuse. UCLA, the No. 4 seed, is one of the hottest teams in the country. But the focus is getting through this weekend.
• There are more good teams and less great teams this season. Florida is a great team. The bottom line: everybody in the field can be had. This year, there are more good, solid teams that can beat what are perceived as the better teams.
• Joel Embiid's status remains the same. He feels better. Self doesn't feel optimistic Embiid would be able to play this weekend. But he is optimistic about the following weekend (Sweet 16). His availability is all symptom-related and he has responded very well of late.
— Listen to the complete press conference: KU coach Bill Self reacts to NCAA Tournament bracket
Now that the 2014 NCAA Tournament bracket is official, we know what the next couple of weeks could look like for Kansas University's men's basketball team.
The Jayhawks (24-9) earned the No. 2 seed in the South bracket, and open against no. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky on Friday in St. Louis.
Here are the rest of the Round of 64 matchups for the South bracket:
No. 1 Florida vs. Albany/St. Mary's
No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Pittsburgh
No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Stephen F. Austin
No. 4 UCLA vs. No. 13 Tulsa
No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Dayton
No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Western Michigan
No. 7 New Mexico vs. No. 10 Stanford
No. 2 Kansas vs. No. 15 Eastern Kentucky
Believe it or not, this is just the second time in KU coach Bill Self's 11 seasons that the Jayhawks received a No. 2 seed.
Since Self took over the program in the 2003-04 season, Kansas has entered the Big Dance as a No. 1 seed five times, and now two times apiece on the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seed lines.
The unpredictability of March is what makes the tournament a national treasure. Earning a top-four seed guarantees nothing.
Can KU make it all the way to the Final Four as a No. 2 seed? Absolutely. It happened two years ago. But as KU's rabid fan base is completely aware, playing as a favored seed can go in the other direction, too.
Here is a look back at how Kansas has played on each seed line in the Self era.
No. 1 seeds
The first No. 1 seed for the Jayhawks under Self didn't come with an accommodating road to the Final Four. The Jayhawks played the first weekend in Chicago, but the selection committee placed KU in the West regional, which meant an Elite Eight matchup with UCLA in San Jose, California, where the Bruins ended KU's season.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Niagara, 107-67
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 8 Kentucky, 88-76
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 4 Southern Illinois, 61-58
Elite 8: No. 2 UCLA beat Kansas, 68-55
You could say the 2008 NCAA Tournament worked out all right for Kansas. The Jayhawks' No. 1 seed gave them two games in Omaha, Neb., and two more in Detroit, before they moved on to the all-No. 1 seed Final Four in San Antonio, where KU defeated Memphis in overtime to win the national championship.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Portland State, 85-61
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 8 UNLV, 75-56
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 12 Villanova, 72-57
Elite Eight: Kansas beat No. 10 Davidson, 59-57
Final Four: Kansas beat No. 1 North Carolina, 84-66
National Championship: Kansas beat No. 1 Memphis, 75-68 (OT)
This is the worst-case scenario for a No. 1 seed, from a historical perspective. No top seed ever has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. But Kansas is one of the No. 1s to bite the bullet without getting to the Sweet 16. The Jayhawks opened in Oklahoma City, Okla., but never made it to St. Louis, because Northern Iowa ended KU's run before it had a chance to pick up any steam.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Lehigh, 90-74
2nd round: No. 9 Northern Iowa beat Kansas, 69-67
Kansas handled its coveted No. 1 seed better the season following its second-round exit against Northern Iowa. But after the Jayhawks advanced out of Tulsa, Okla., another mid-major team, VCU, stopped them short of a Final Four by ending KU's season in the Elite Eight, in San Antonio.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Boston, 72-53
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 9 Illinois, 73-59
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 12 Richmond, 77-57
Elite 8: No. 11 VCU beat Kansas, 71-61
First weekend sites don't get any cushier for Kansas than Kansas City, Mo. The Jayhawks moved on to the Sweet 16 via Sprint Center. However, the Jayhawks' run ended in their first game at the next stop, Arlington, Texas, with an overtime loss to Michigan.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 16 Western Kentucky, 64-57
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 8 North Carolina, 70-58
Sweet 16: No. 4 Michigan beat Kansas, 87-85 (OT)
No. 2 seed
Kansas couldn't make it three No. 1 seeds in a row, but the selection committee kept No. 2 seed KU close to home, and the Jayhawks responded by sweeping through Omaha and St. Louis, en route to the Final Four, in New Orleans. Kansas got all the way to the tournament final, where Kentucky stopped the Jayhawks from capturing their second championship in five seasons.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 15 Detroit, 65-50
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 10 Purdue, 63-60
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 11 North Carolina State, 60-57
Elite 8: Kansas beat No. 1 North Carolina, 80-67
Final 4: Kansas beat No. 2 Ohio State, 64-62
National Championship: No. 1 Kentucky beat Kansas, 67-59
No. 3 seeds
As a No. 3 seed playing not too far away, in Oklahoma City, for the first weekend, many figured Kansas was primed for another deep run in the tournament — and potentially a showdown with the regional's No. 1 seed, North Carolina, in the Elite Eight. Instead, Bucknell bounced the Jayhawks in the first round.
1st round: No. 14 Bucknell beat Kansas, 64-63
A year after the program's first national championship in 20 years, Self rebuilt quickly. A young group of Jayhawks earned a No. 3 seed and won two games in Minneapolis before falling to eventual national runner-up Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 14 North Dakota State, 84-74
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 11 Dayton, 60-43
Sweet 16: No. 2 Michigan State beat Kansas, 67-62
No. 4 seeds
Even though the Jayhawks were a No. 4 seed, they enjoyed a more than generous bracket assignment, playing the first two rounds at Kemper Arena, in Kansas City, and the next two in St. Louis, Mo. KU got all the way to the Elite Eight in Self's first season, and were minutes away from a third straight Final Four appearance before losing to Georgia Tech in overtime.
1st round: Kansas beat No. 13 Illinois-Chicago, 78-44
2nd round: Kansas beat No. 12 Pacific, 78-63
Sweet 16: Kansas beat No. 9 UAB, 100-74
Elite 8: No. 3 Georgia Tech beat Kansas, 79-71 (OT)
A young Kansas team didn't quite have the résumé for a top-three seed, and opened the postseason in Auburn Hills, Mich. Though the players were different from the previous season, the result was the same: a first-round exit for the Jayhawks. This time it came at the hands of another B-school, Bradley.
1st round: No. 13 Bradley beat Kansas, 77-73
Iowa State didn't have to go to overtime to beat Kansas State in the first game of the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Sprint Center, but that game was just as intense as the one that followed it — an OT thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Now that both the Cyclones (24-7) and Jayhawks (24-8) have lived up to the old March motto of "survive and advance," they will play each other for the third time this season Friday night at Sprint Center for a chance to advance to the Big 12 title game.
ISU and KU haven't played each other in six weeks. In the first meeting, on Jan. 13, Kansas won, 77-70, at Iowa State.
The rematch came 16 days later in Lawrence. Again, Kansas prevailed. This time, 92-81, at Allen Fieldhouse.
For the end of this trilogy, we've got a neutral site, in Kansas City, Mo. Sprint Center usually can't be called neutral the way Kansas fans pack it out, but Iowa State might be the one school this season that can come close to matching the crowd energy of the Jayhawks' fan base.
ISU always travels well for the conference tournament, even if the faithful know their Cyclones have little chance of winning the event. This year, ISU (ranked No. 16 entering the postseason) could be cutting down nets Saturday night. Even if the Cyclones have to go through No. 10 Kansas to do it.
As a bit of a refresher course on Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones, here is what they've been up to lately.
Melvin Ejim, No. 3
6-6, 220, sr. forward
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 15 points, 5/15 FGs, 2/5 3s, 3/3 FTs, 5 rebounds, 3 turnovers, 3 steals, 5 fouls.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 18 points, 7/13 FGs, 1/2 3s, 3/4 FTs, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers and 4 fouls in 29 minutes.
The Big 12's player of the year had a slow start in the quarterfinals against K-State. Slow by his standards at least. And Ejim still scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds after picking up some hardware.
Said Hoiberg of Ejim's outing, after ISU advanced with a 91-85 win: "Melvin, to go out there, and he had five offensive rebounds in the first half, did a good job I thought. He missed a couple of easy ones there in the first. He could have had a 30‑point game, but then made those really tough finishes around the basket, down the stretch. He hit some big free throws for us and again really helped us do the job on the glass."
He averages 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and has hit 36 of 109 3's in Hoiberg's free-wheeling offense.
DeAndre Kane, No. 50
6-4, 200, sr. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 21 points, 6/13 FGs, 1/3 3s, 8/16 FTs, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 22 points, 8/14 FGs, 2/4 3s, 4/6 FTs, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover in 34 minutes.
Kane scored the first basket of the game against Kansas State, then didn't make much noise offensively for a long time.
The All-Big 12 first team point guard scored 11 points and had 2 assists before fouling out. Still, ISU handled the final minutes just fine without him.
Kane averages 16.9 points, 6.7 boards and 5.8 assists. He has shot a team-leading 214 free throws, but only converts them at 63.6% of the time.
Georges Niang, No. 31
6-7, 240, so. forward
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 11 points, 4/20 FGs, 0/9 FTs, 3/4 FTs, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 24 points, 10/17 FGs, 3/7 3s, 1/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 turnovers, 1 block in 38 minutes.
When Kane left the floor against K-State, Niang became ISU's go-to play-maker.
After the Wildcats tied the game at 76 with less than four minutes left, Niang hit a jumper, found Naz Long for a 3, hit Ejim for a layup, scored in the paint, grabbed a defensive board and fed Long for an assist.
The versatile forward finished with 18 points, seven boards and four helpers.
"You look at what Georges did at the end," Hoiberg said, "those last couple of minutes he was in there, we gave the ball to him and he just went out there made unbelievable basketball plays."
Niang averages 16.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and also likes to fire from deep — connecting on 43 of 137 3-ponters this season (just 31.4%).
Dustin Hogue, No. 22
6-6, 215, jr. forward
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 13 points, 3/10 FGs, 0/1 3s, 7/8 FTs, 9 rebounds (6 offensive).
— Jan. 29 at KU: 7 points, 2/5 FGs, 2/3 3s, 1/2 FTs, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 2 turnovers in 31 minutes.
This guy might be the most impressive rebounder in the country. Hogue is only 6-foot-6 but always seems to come up with the ball once it bounces off the rim. Oh, you're bigger than him? Doesn't matter. He's gonna get it.
Hogue joined Ejim in the double-double department vs. K-State, going for 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"Dustin Hogue, I thought, did everything today," his coach said. "He's always been a guy that's done the dirty work for this team, all throughout the year. He doesn't get the credit he deserves today, not only on the defensive end and rebounding, which he always does, but made some huge plays for us on offense."
Hogue hit 6 of his 8 shots Thursday. On the season, he averages 10.6 points and 8.6 boards.
Monté Morris, No. 11
6-2, 170, fr. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 7 points, 1/5 FGs, 1/4 3s, 0/1 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers, 4 steals.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 4 points, 1/4 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 0 turnovers in 35 minutes.
Morris consistently put teammates in position to make something happen against Kansas State, and he ended up dealing 10 assists, to go with five points and three steals.
"I thought he was great," Hoiberg told the media after the game. "He always does the right thing defensively, got some key deflections. We were having trouble getting stops unless we got a turnover and I thought he did a really good job of staying tight with (Will) Spradling. It's not an easy matchup. He moves so much and Monte, I thought, did a great job chasing him all over the floor. And 10 assists and one turnover, it's hard when you have an 8‑to‑1 assist‑to‑turnover ratio to increase that in a game. But to go out there and do that as a freshman in his first Big 12 tournament tells you all you need to know about that kid. He loves the big stage. He won back-to-back state championships in Michigan. He came out and played as poised a game as I think you can have as a freshman."
Morris averages 6.0 points this season, and has passed out 120 assists, compared to 21 turnovers, in 31 games.
Naz Long, No. 15
6-4, 205, so. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 0 points, 0/2 FGs, 0/2 3s, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 16 minutes.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 0 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/2 3s, 1 turnover in 8 minutes.
Long has developed into ISU's best 3-point shooter, as he proved at the end of regulation against Oklahoma State last week, setting up an ISU overtime victory.
He drilled 2 of 3 from deep against K-State, and finished with 14 points.
On the year, Long has hit 53 3-pointers on 135 attempts (39.3%).
Matt Thomas, No. 21
6-3, 200, fr. guard
— Stats Jan. 13, vs. KU: 3 points, 1/5 FGs, 1/4 3s, 0/1 FTs, 2 rebounds, one assist, 3 blocks, 1 steal.
— Jan. 29 at KU: 6 points, 2/6 FGs, 2/6 3s, 1 rebound, 3 assists, 1 turnover and 2 blocks in 25 minutes.
A steady guard off the bench, Thomas averages 6.1 points, has made 43 of 127 3-ponters and has only turned the ball over 15 times all season.
He went scoreless against K-State in 10 minutes of action.
Both times Kansas and Oklahoma State met on the basketball court during the regular season, the Cowboys' guard-oriented attack gave the Jayhawks some trouble.
The first time around, KU held off a second-half OSU surge to earn an 80-78 win at Allen Fieldhouse.
In the rematch, the Jayhawks weren't as lucky, and lost, 72-65, at Gallagher-Iba Arena, in Stillwater, Okla.
Now comes Cowboys vs. Jayhawks, Part 3 — in the Big 12 Championship quarterfinals at 2 p.m., at Sprint Center, in Kansas City, Mo.
One of the preseason Big 12 favorites is going home to regroup for the NCAAs. And it could be No. 10 Kansas (23-8) if the Cowboys (21-11) have their way.
OSU, after all, has won five of its last six games since Marcus Smart's return from his suspension, with its only loss coming in overtime at Iowa State — on the Cyclones' Senior Day.
Meanwhile, Kansas has lost two of its last three.
After Oklahoma State disposed of Texas Tech, 80-62, Wednesday night, coach Travis Ford uttered some words that should frighten any team that faces OSU from this point on: "I thought we ran our offense — for the first time — pretty complete for 40 minutes. We took good shots, we had good possessions."
That's right, the man in charge of this ultra-talented, if underachieving, group said Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash and Phil Forte had not run the offense full throttle until now.
Of course, Texas Tech (14-18) isn't Kansas. But think about it this way: a team that already has split with KU is just starting to get it. And Kansas doesn't have 7-foot freshman center Joel Embiid to protect the paint this time.
OSU plans to attack KU off the dribble to get points in the paint. And if that works, Nash pointed out, it could mean difficulties for Kansas on more than one front.
"They bench is shorter now," Nash said Wednesday night. "We get 'em in foul trouble, maybe it can work out for us."
On that note, here's a brief refresher on OSU's core six players.
Marcus Smart, No. 33
6-4, 220, so. guard
— Jan. 18 at KU: 16 points, 3/14 FGs, 0/6 3s, 10/10 FTs, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 3 turnovers in 39 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 21 points, 5/14 FGs, 2/7 3s, 9/14 FTs, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, 1 block, 3 turnovers in 36 minutes.
Too strong to be slowed down by a foul, one of the nation's elite guards finishes through the contact he creates. Smart had a blast dismantling Texas Tech Wednesday night at the Sprint Center, where he made 6 of 10 shots, scored 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished seven assists and feasted on the Tech backcourt with six steals.
The Cowboys will go as far as Smart and Brown can take them in the next few weeks, and their first legit postseason test comes today, against Kansas.
Smart's season averages: 17.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.7 steals.
Markel Brown, No. 22
6-3, 190, sr. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 15 points, 5/13 FGs, 5/9 3s, 0/0 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 5 fouls in 28 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 21 points, 4/7 FGs, 3/5 3s, 10/10 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers in 38 minutes.
The chemistry Brown has with Smart in the backcourt makes OSU's talented backcourt all the more difficult to handle. The two can make eye contact on the perimeter and the next thing you know, Brown is catching a lob above the rim for an alley-oop.
Brown will step on the floor today feeling good, because he went for 20 points and hit 3 of 6 3-pointers against Tech less than 24 hours earlier.
While Brown can burn you on the perimeter with his touch (38.6% on 3s), he will gladly drive by his man for a layup or slam, too.
He averages 17.3 points and 5.5 rebounds, plus 3.0 assists.
Le'Bryan Nash, No. 2
6-7, 235, jr. wing
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 10 points, 5/11 FGs, 0/2 FTs, 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls in 22 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 16 points, 6/9 FGs, 4/5 FTs, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 blocks, 2 turnovers in 33 minutes.
Le'Bryan "Slash" took a back seat to Smart and Brown most of the Big 12 Tournament opener, but still produced 10 points — mainly by getting to the foul line, where he went 6 of 7.
Like Smart and Brown, Nash is too quick and strong for many perimeter defenders to deal with. He averages 14.0 points and 5.6 rebounds, and makes 52.5% of his shots.
Phil Forte, No. 13
5-11, 185, so. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 23 points, 7/11 FGs, 7/10 3s, 2/2 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers in 30 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 2 points, 1/6 FGs, 0/4 3s, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 turnover in 39 minutes.
It's almost bizarre to think OSU defeated Kansas in Stillwater with Forte going 0-for-the-game from 3-point range and only scoring two points.
It appeared the sophomore sniper might end up having a similar night against Tech on Wednesday. Forte didn't hit a shot until the 15:43 mark of the second half. Not that it mattered. The sophomore guard's 91st three-pointer of the season put Tech's deficit at 51-32. And he went on to score 14 points on 4 of 9 3-point shooting.
The kind of 3-point marksman Kansas hopes Conner Frankamp can become, Forte has made 94 3-pointers this season on 208 attempts (45.2%). Seventy-six percent of his shots come from behind the arc.
Kamari Murphy, No. 21
6-8, 220, so. post
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 12 points, 5/10 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 4 fouls, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 blocks in 38 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 8 points, 3/8 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 1 turnover and 5 fouls in 30 minutes.
Even with Embiid playing, Murphy enjoyed more success against Kansas than he has, on average, this season.
If KU help defenders come over to cut off drives by Smart, Brown and Nash, Murphy figures to benefit with open looks at the rim.
He averages 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds this season, and leads OSU with 40 blocked shots (five more than Brown).
Murphy only scored two points and had one rebound against Tech, and he picked up four fouls in 14 minutes.
Brian Williams, No. 4
6-5, 210, jr. wing
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal in 21 minutes.
— March 1 vs KU: 4 points, 1/2 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 3 steals and 1 turnover in 11 minutes.
Williams scored five of his six points against Tech in the first half, and went 4 for 5 at the foul line in OSU's easy win.
On the year, he averages 6.3 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Note: Fellow backup Leyton Hammonds gave OSU its first points of the game Wednesday night against Texas Tech, with a 3-pointer, after the Pokes fell behind, 8-0, prior to the first media timeout. Hamonds had gone scoreless in OSU's three previous games in limited minutes.
The regular season is over, and the postseason begins Thursday for Kansas University's men's basketball team.
Coach Bill Self doesn't yet know whether his Jayhawks (23-8 overall, 14-4 Big 12) will face Oklahoma State or Texas Tech in their Big 12 Championship opener in the Kansa City, Mo. — those two teams play in the opening round Wednesday — but he was ready to talk about the postseason Monday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
KU has lost two of its last three games, and freshman center Joel Embiid's availability at the Big 12 Tournament remains up in the air due to his back issues, making the next week even more intriguing.
Here are some of the highlights from Self's press conference, in bullet-point form:
• Self doesn't see a scenario where Joel Embiid doesn't play in the postseason. He does see a scenario where Embiid might not be able to play in the Big 12 Tournament, though. … Embiid is a lot better, symptom-wise, than he was a week ago. If the doctors say it is fine to play him this weekend, they will. Playing three games in three days at Kansas City, Mo., could be challenging for Embiid, too. Rather than manage minutes, Self would rather have him more rested for the NCAAs if that's what is best for the freshman big man.
• Self's first year here, Keith Langford hurt his knee and didn't practice the last few weeks of the season. The next year Wayne Simien had a similar situation. This isn't new territory for Self. Still, no one on the coaching staff is an expert on how to bring Embiid along. They will rely on what the doctors say. … Embiid is pain-free now, but that could change if he took a hit or bump at practice or in a game. … Embiid about "threw a fit" the last time they told him he couldn't play against TCU. He wanted to play.
• Oklahoma State is the No. 8 seed in the Big 12 Tournament — that shows how tough the league is. KU could play the Cowboys Thursday. That's good for KU. Self would like to face a real quality opponent.
• After losing at West Virginia Saturday, Self wants to see KU play tougher. The Jayhawks need to have more pride in guarding the ball, and keeping guys from getting to the rim.
• On Kansas point guards: Frank Mason and Naadir Tharpe, as well as Conner Frankamp, are the guys in charge of making sure KU plays well. But, really, it's on Tharpe to make that happen more than anybody else. KU needs its guard play to be sound, and they need to be a little more aggressive on both ends of the floor than they were at WVU.
• Big 12 awards turned out about the way Self thought. He has never understood, though, why voters are able to cast votes before the regular season is over. … Self thought Iowa State's Melvin Ejim deserved Player of the Year. Andrew Wiggins could've and should've been right there. … Self thought Rick Barnes deserved the Coach of the Year, but Lon Kruger deserved it, too.
• Big 12 Tournaments have always been competitive. But this year, regardless of what seeds end up in the championship game, it shouldn't surprise anybody. No. 8 seed OSU was picked to win the league before the season began. "It's gonna be a pretty special weekend."
• The last time KU played OSU, the Jayhawks lost. The guys should be excited to play the Cowboys again, considering they got outplayed at OSU.
• On playing away from Allen Fieldhouse: He wishes the W-L record was better (5-6 away, 4-1 neutral) but the competition had a lot to do with it. Villanova (lone neutral site loss, at the Bahamas) could be a No. 1 seed.
• Wiggins keeps getting better. He was fantastic, not just because of 41 points at WVU, but because of his energy level. Wiggins has proven he can take over. Self told Wiggins yesterday he needs to play at the level he has proven he is capable of. … With KU playing form behind, there was no margin for error, but the basket does get bigger. You can't make too much of the comeback because of that.
• On playing a junk zone defense, such as a triangle-and-two: Situations and personnel on the other team determine when they do that. KU hasn't done it much this year. Kansas should be able to stop people, even without Embiid on the floor.
• On the possibility of being in the same bracket as Wichita State: Self would welcome whatever bracket the Jayhawks end up in. It doesn't matter who the other top seeds are in that region. They want to play the other top seeds, regardless of who they are.
• Playing well this weekend is the key. A No. 1 seed could still be in play if KU wins the Big 12 Championship. … Regardless of what sites KU gets in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas fans will travel well.
• Perry Ellis needs to play well defensively for KU to have its best chance. But he is capable.
— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self on dealing with Embiid's back issues, Big 12 Championship
After Self's session, KU sophomore power forward Perry Ellis came out to answer questions from the media.
West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins rarely appears overjoyed on the sideline (see above photo).
But he might crack a smile for a split-second if the Mountaineers (16-14 overall, 8-9 Big 12) could figure out a way to knock off No. 8 Kansas (23-7, 14-3) in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Keeping Huggins perpetually cantankerous these days, WVU has lost five of its last seven games, including an 83-69 defeat at the hands of Kansas on Feb. 8.
Here's a look at WVU's schedule since then:
-Feb. 10 — W vs Iowa State, 102-77
-Feb. 15 — L at Texas, 88-71
-Feb. 22 — L vs Baylor, 88-75
-Feb. 26 — L at Iowa State, 83-66
-March 1 — W vs TCU, 81-59
-March 5 — L at Oklahoma, 72-62
Defensive breakdowns have cost the Mountaineers, who give up a Big 12-worst 77.6 points a game in conference action and have allowed Big 12 opponents to hit 47.5% of their shots — also last in the league. They aren't much better at defending behind the 3-point line, either. Big 12 opponents have mad 36.6% of their tries.
When West Virginia has managed to hold opponents 70 points, it is a perfect 10-0 this season.
Its WVU's offense that keeps this team competitive. In Big 12 games, the Mountaineers are:
-1st in turnover margin (+3.0 a game)
-2nd in free throw percentage (74%, behind only Oklahoma's 76.8%)
-2nd in 3-point field goal percentage (37.1%, slightly behind OU's 37.7%)
-2nd in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.27, behind Iowa State's 1.69)
-3rd in 3-point field goals made (7.59 a game)
Additionally, the Mountaineers give themselves a much better chance when they are scoring inside. They are 16-5 this season when producing 20 or more points in the paint. And 0-9 when they don't hit the 20-point mark.
It wouldn't be a first if Huggins' crew is able to pull off an upset victory over Kansas. Now in his seventh season at WVU, his teams have defeated 22 ranked teams, and eight of those victories came against top-10 opponents.
Before we get reacquainted with the players who will attempt to knock off the Big 12 champion Jayhawks at 11 a.m. Saturday at WVU Coliseum, watch this interview with Huggins about the matchup:
Juwan Staten, No. 3
6-1, 190, jr. guard
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 22 points, 7/12 FGs, 8/10 FTs, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers in 39 minutes
A don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-him guard who could be an All-Big 12 First team selection when postseason awards are announced on Sunday, Staten averages a league-leading 19.7 points in Big 12 games.
The Bob Cousy Award finalist averages 18.2 points and 5.9 rebounds a game on the season, and a team-leading 5.8 assists.
Too fast for most defenders to keep him in front of them, Staten has attempted 7.3 free throws a game this year and has made 73.1% of them.
He has only made 5 of 14 3-pointers all season and didn't attempt one against Kansas in the first meeting.
Eron Harris, No. 10
6-3, 195, so. guard
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 17 points, 3/10 FGs, 3/9 3s, 8/8 FTs, 6 rebounds, 3 assits, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, 1 block in 39 minutes
After a hot first half at KU, Harris only scored four in the second, once Kansas began defending him with Andrew Wiggins.
The leading free-throw shooter in Big 12 games (92.8% on 69 attempts), like Staten, enjoys creating havoc off the dribble.
Unlike Staten, Harris (17.6 points a game) is a serious threat from 3-point range. He has knocked down 81 this season on 194 attempts (41.8%, third in the Big 12).
Among Big 12 players, only Phil Forte of Oklahoma State (88) and Brady Heslip of Baylor (95) have made more 3-pointers than Harris, who is tied for third in that category with Buddy Hield of Oklahoma.
Devin Williams, No. 5
6-9, 255, fr. forward
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 1/4 FGs, 2/4 FTs, 6 rebounds, 1 turnover, 5 fouls in 12 minutes.
The big man just couldn't figure out a way to stay on the floor at Kansas. Williams fouled out while playing just 12 minutes.
Clearly, WVU needs him on the court. He grabbed six rebounds during his cameo in Lawrence.
He'll have one less post threat to worry about this time, with Joel Embiid resting his strained back, so Williams should have an easier time producing near his season averages of 8.3 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Williams enters the game coming off back-to-back double-doubles, with 10 points and 10 boards against TCU and 14 points and 12 boards against Oklahoma.
Rémi Dibo, No. 0
6-7, 225, jr. forward
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 7 points, 2/9 FGs, 1/7 3s, 2/2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 4 fouls in 17 minutes
Dibo forced some bad shots at KU, but he still produced close to his season averages of 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds.
His past two games have gone much worse for him, though. Dibo combined to go 2-for-13 against TCU and Oklahoma, scoring two points in each contest and missing all six of his 3-pointers.
On the season, he has made 39.5% of his 3's (fourth in the Big 12) and totaled 49 makes (seventh in the Big 12).
Nathan Adrian, No. 11
6-9, 230, fr. forward
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 3 points, 1/3 FGs, 1/3 3s, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 4 fouls in 18 minutes
The freshman big came off the bench when WVU played at Kansas, but he is a starter now due to an illness that has kept Terry Henderson off the floor.
Adrian only averages 5.6 points and 2.9 rebounds on the season, but he scored 14 points and pulled down six rebounds against TCU before going scoreless at OU with two boards.
More of an outside shooter than a guy who likes to post up, the 6-foot-9 freshman has made 37 of 102 3-pointers.
West Virginia bench
Gary Browne, No. 14
6-1, 195, jr. guard
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 5 points, 1/3 FGs, 1/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal in 23 minutes
He only scores 6.1 points a game, but he is the most experienced player on the roster, having appeared in 94 career games.
Browne is capable of more than his average shows, too. He has 21 double-figure scoring games in his career, with six coming this season.
He went 2 for 3 from 3-point range and scored 12 points in WVU's loss at OU this week.
Terry Henderson, No. 15
6-4, 200, so. guard
— Feb. 8 vs. KU: 2 points, 0/3 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 3 turnovers in 22 minutes.
Huggins said in an interview this week he doesn't know how much the team can expect out of Henderson — the team's third-leading scorer this season — against Kansas.
Since KU limited the sophomore guard at Allen Fieldhouse, he has battled an illness that kept him out of the past four WVU games.
If Henderson can go, Kansas will have another WVU perimeter weapon to worry about. The sophomore guard averages 12.1 points on the season and has made 42 of 113 3-pointers (37.2%).
Tubby Smith's Texas Tech men's basketball team nearly had one of the upsets of the 2013-14 season on Feb. 18, at Lubbock, Texas.
That was before Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins scored the winning basket of a 64-63 victory with just more than a second to go.
Both Wiggins and center Joel Embiid turned out to be fortunate freshmen in the final minute, and the Red Raiders lost their second game of what is now a five-game skid, entering tonight's rematch at Allen Fieldhouse vs. the No. 8 Jayhawks (22-7 overall, 13-3 Big 12).
Texas Tech (13-16) is just 5-11 in the Big 12, but as anyone who watched the Red Raiders nearly knock off KU could attest to, they are far more competitive this season under first-year coach Smith. In their 11 conference defeats, they've lost by an average margin of 7.4 points. Last season, Tech dropped 15 Big 12 games by an average of 21.4 points.
Tech does a few things well, and most of its success comes due to a commitment to playing at a methodical pace, which limits possessions and chances for its opponents. In Big 12 games, the Red Raiders are:
• 1st in scoring defense (68.1 points allowed)
• 1st in rebounding defense (opponents grab 29.0 a game)
• 2nd in 3-point field goal percentage (30.64%, percentage points behind Kansas State's 30.56%)
• 3rd in field goal percentage (44.4%)
• 4th in rebounding margin (+2.0)
While Tech is just 6th in Big 12 games in the category of offensive rebounds (11.0 a contest), the number is deceiving because the Red Raiders play at a slower pace, so there are fewer shots taken — and therefore fewer rebounds available — in their games than in those played between other Big 12 teams.
In conference games, 35.5% of Tech's 31.0 rebounds a game come on offense.
Against Kansas, the Red Raiders earned just more than half of their 25 rebounds on the offensive glass (13, compared to 12 defensive boards), leading to 14 second-chance points for Tech.
That glass work has helped Tech become one of the more prolific teams in the nation at scoring inside the 3-point line. The Red Raiders score 58.3 percent of their points on 2-point field goals — 18th in the country.
Just one Red Raider consistently takes and makes a high volume of 3-pointers, and he comes off the bench. On that note, let's get reacquainted with Texas Tech.
Jaye Crockett, No. 30
6-7, 210, sr. forward
— Feb. 18 vs. KU: 10 points, 3/11 FGs, 2/3 3s, 2/3 FTs, 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, 1 steal, 0 turnovers in 26 minutes.
A huge chunk of Tech's inside-the-arc offense comes from its leading scorer. Crockett averages 13.6 points and 6.3 rebounds, and has made 51.2% of his shots this season.
The senior forward will take some bombs from beyond the arc — 18-for-56, 32.1% — but he does much more damage inside of it. On 2-point shot attempts, he makes 55.6%.
However, Crockett's production has dropped off the past three games, as he has battled tendinitis in both knees.
Since scoring 10 against Kansas, he had six points in 26 minutes at Oklahoma State, 8 points in 32 minutes vs. Kansas State and 1 point in 18 minutes at Baylor.
Not a good sign.
Jordan Tolbert, No. 32
6-7, 225, jr. forward
— Feb. 18 vs. KU: 16 points, 7/10 FGs, 0/1 3s, 2/2 FTs, 6 rebounds (4 offensive), 2 steals, 2 turnovers.
Now 20 points shy of 1,000 for his career, the junior averages 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds this season. He has started five games against Kansas during between his freshman season and now, and averages 10.6 points against the Jayhawks.
Like Crockett, Tolbert scores efficiently inside the arc. A 55.6% shooter from the floor overall, he is one of the more experienced players in the Big 12 and has converted 60% of his 2-point attempts.
In his past two games, though, Crockett has made just three of his 12 field-goal attempts, and is averaging 7.5 points a game, scoring 66.6% of his points at the free-throw line.
Robert Turner, No. 14
6-3, 180, jr. guard
— Feb. 18 vs. KU: 11 points, 4/7 FGs, 1/2 3s, 2/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers.
A junior college transfer, Turner leads Tech with 77 assists this season.
He averages 9.6 points and 2.7 assists, and is tied for the second-most 3-pointers attempted on the team. From distance, Turner has hit 22 of his 72 tries (30.6%). In his last 12 Big 12 games, he has only hit more than one 3-pointer on one occasion. In that stretch, he is 7-for-26 (26.9).
Turner made 6 of 7 2-point attempts at Baylor his last time out, and is a 41.1% shooter overall this year.
His 40 steals lead Tech.
Toddrick Gotcher, No. 20
6-4, 200, so. guard
— Feb. 18 vs. KU: 0 points, 0/0 FGs, 0/4 FTs, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover in 21 minutes.
At different times this season, he has played all three positions on the perimeter, and averages 7.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Gotcher has averaged 9.0 points a game in his past three, since getting shut out vs. Kansas.
Like Turner, he has hoisted 72 3-pointers. Gotcher has found a little more success, making 24 (33.3%).
From the floor, he has made 40.5% of his field goal attempts.
Dejan Kravic, No. 11
7-0, 235, sr. forward
— Feb. 18 vs. KU: 13 points, 6/8 FGs, 1/1 FTs, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls, 1 turnover in 23 minutes.
The big man, as you might assume, basically lives inside the arc offensively. He has only tried a pair of 3-pointers this season. His field-goal percentage is 49.7% for the year and 51.7% in Big 12 action.
Kravic averages 7.0 points and 4.3 rebounds on the season.
His 37 blocked shots lead the Red Raiders.
Texas Tech bench
Dusty Hannahs, No. 2
6-4, 210, so. guard
— Feb. 18 vs. KU: 10 points, 3/9 FGs, 2/5 3s, 2/2 FTs, 4 rebounds (2 offensive), 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover in 30 minutes.
The backup guard is Tech's gunner. He has hit 40 of 104 3-pointers on the season (38.5%), while making 25 of 61 in Big 12 games (41%).
Hannahs averages 8.3 points a game, and as a 91.8% free-throw shooter is on pace to be Tech's all-time single-season leader in that category. He averages 2.1 free-throw makes a game in 22.5 minutes this season. In Big 12 play, he had nailed 33 of 35 (94.3%).
With the Allen Fieldhouse season finale coming up Wednesday night for the No. 8-ranked Kansas University men's basketball team, coach Bill Self met with the media Tuesday afternoon to talk about the game against Texas Tech.
The 7 p.m. matchup with the Red Raiders (13-16 overall, 5-11 Big 12) will double as Senior Night for the regular-season Big 12 champions. KU seniors are Tarik Black, Niko Roberts and Justin Wesley, who will start the game.
Kansas (22-7, 13-3) had won four straight before falling at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
KU escaped with a 64-63 win at Texas Tech on Feb. 18.
The Jayhawks have won 30 consecutive home finales.
Here are the highlights from Self's Q & A, in bullet-point form:
• On KU's three seniors: Tarik Black will be remembered as an unbelievable teammate and great leader, who has impacted KU's ability to win in his one season here. He's ultra-positive and is always trying to make other players better.
Self has known Niko Roberts since he was a small child. He has helped the program on the scout team and been a great ambassador.
Justin Wesley may be the coolest kid on the team. He was the first big off the bench a couple years back and played in the national title game in 2012, but now he barely plays.
All three have played a role in Self's personal happiness in their time here.
• On Tarik Black starting: Jayhawks won't emphasize that they don't have Joel Embiid. They are fortunate to have a three-year major college starter in Tarik Black to step in. When your number is called, guys need to be ready. KU won't talk about what it doesn't have, but what it does have.
• On home finales with underclassmen expected to leave early: This is not Freshman, Sophomore or Junior Night. It's Senior Night. Other programs might do it differently, but that's now how they'll do it at Kansas. Self might recognize someone but he doesn't want anything taken away from the seniors, who are graduating.
• On scheduling/quality RPI: Special assistant to the athletics director Larry Keating does a great job working with Self on KU's scheduling, to put together a strong schedule that will help the Jayhawks' RPI. Some of it is luck, with the way it plays out. The Big 12 is good enough to get KU a good RPI, but the only reason Kansas is No. 1 in the RPI is the non-conference schedule. No way they would be No. 1 with seven losses otherwise.
• Tubby Smith has done a great job at Texas Tech. They guard, they milk the clock. They shoot it with under seven seconds on the shot clock many possessions. And the Red Raiders are a great offensive rebounding team.
• The Big 12 title is all wrapped up. It's a little different having that done with two games left. Winning the league was the goal and they've completed that. Now what they're playing for is potential seeding and having momentum. The guys should be enjoying playing. They have played with passion, and Self doesn't see that changing. They need to play just as hard moving forward.
• On potential to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament: You see the losses at seven, but you see that schedule and say a lot of teams would've lost seven. Then you look at their Big 12 record and they must be good. If KU doesn't play that well going forward, they don't deserve to be in that discussion. … Self thinks Wichita State, Arizona and Florida are locks for No. 1 seeds.
• The Jayhawks haven't celebrated too much about their Big 12 title. They high-fived after the Oklahoma game. They won it outright and then got beat at Oklahoma State. They won't celebrate too much, even if they beat Texas Tech.
• Brannen Greene hasn't had a chance to play a lot, but it's because he has some guys in front of him and maybe gets in his own way sometimes. He will be an NBA player. He doesn't guard anybody yet, but he is a talented kid.
• Naadir Tharpe seems to be doing better with his injured thumb. He will practice today and be able to play. … How Tharpe goes dictates how well KU plays. He has been really solid and is probably as responsible for KU winning the league as any player.
• On alcohol being available at the BIg 12 Tournament: It won't affect KU at all. But Self could have used some help in that department in the final minutes at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
— Listen to the complete press conference by clicking here: Self discusses wrapping up the Big 12, KU's RPI
— Hear from KU's three seniors: Black, Roberts, Welsey discuss time at KU
Believe it or not, spring football starts at Kansas University this week.
It might even be pleasant outside by the time the Jayhawks start practicing on Thursday.
With 15 spring practices coming up before KU's spring game on April 12, head coach Charlie Weis fielded questions from the media Monday morning. Here are some of the highlights in bullet-point form:
• Everything is settled with KU's staff, and the schedule for spring is all set. They kick it off on Thursday with practice, then have another on Sunday. They'll have four before spring break. Their fifth practice will be on Sunday, March 23, when they get back from spring break. Then they're at it regularly until the spring game. KU would like to start spring football later, but they would miss out on seeing some junior college players at the end of April.
• There are a handful of walk-ons who will participate in spring football.
• On working in new coaches: You have to do some extra work. When Weis was an assistant, he always wanted to be one step ahead of the posse. Being that it's a new system going in for the offense, WR coach Erick Kiesau, who joined the staff less than two weeks ago, won't be too far behind. Even though terminology has been meshed between Weis's system and the one new coordinator John Reagan ran at Rice, there is enough newness to it that it should be easy for Kiesau to catch up.
• The most important thing Kansas needs to do is score more points. Weis wants to identify this spring the guys who can make plays on offense and figure out by August how to put them in position to do that on a regular basis. They definitely will hand it off a lot, but KU needs passing game efficiency and production, too.
• On timeline for picking a starting QB: Weis won't mandate who plays; he will have some input with Reagan, but the competition has to play out. ... It's never a good thing if it goes deep into August — that means you don't have a QB. Usually the cream rises to the top, and he thinks that will happen.
• Evaluating in the spring: By the fourth day, they are going full speed. That Thursday before spring break when all the players are thinking about their break "I'm gonna wear them out." Players will start to prove their worth then.
• On senior QB Jake Heaps: What he has that no one else has is experience. That goes a long way. And while that's a plus, when Reagan sits down with the staff, they will pick a starter based on who puts them in position to score touchdowns.
• There is no way right now to know how much a player has progressed from the end of the season to now. ... Quarterbacks are usually hard workers, so you usually don't have to worry about them improving.
• Sophomore QB Montell Cozart overthrew a lot of receivers when he played last fall. That was probably nerves. A lot of that comes with being a freshman. That's not an excuse, but a fact. Cozart was recruited to play QB, and there is good competition. Whoever wins the position will have to earn it. Cozart is a QB; KU is not necessarily interested in moving him to another position if he doesn't end up being the starter.
• Running back is a deep position for KU. But there are a lot of players with a lot to prove. It should be a position with a lot of talent. That's what it looks like at this time.
• On WR transfer senior Nick Harwell: You try not to get so excited when you see his competitiveness and ability. He doesn't get beat in drills and wants to go against the best defender every time. He is the kind of competitor Weis is used to dealing with.
• Kansas is "pretty salty" on the defensive line. KU has a plan in place. There is a solid 2-deep-plus. Weis isn't saying they're the '85 Chicago Bears, but they are solid. He'll stay in their ears about how people outside the program think they're bums.
• Junior defensive lineman Andrew Bolton's not the guy you want to fight. Because you will lose. Bolton is what football players are supposed to look like. Weis is looking forward to his two years at KU. He is raw, hasn't played in a year. There will be some growing pains.
• Weis never thought he would be the WR coach. That was a temporary fix. He can't imagine with his "nimbleness" he would have been out there displaying techniques too well.
• Weis didn't come to Kansas to retire. He came here to turn it from a losing program to a winning program. Now that he doesn't have offensive coordinator responsibilities, he thinks he is in the best place to make the program reach its peak. He had to "fire" the offensive coordinator, because the Jayhawks weren't scoring enough points. He wanted to bring someone in, Reagan, who is used to scoring in the 40s.
• Shutting down senior WR Tony Pierson was the right thing to do last fall. They might bring him along slowly in the spring due to his concussion history. He will have to get hit sometimes but they don't want it to be a free-for-all. At the end of the year, Pierson didn't want to have to sit. But it wasn't his decision. Three games in, he was on his way to 1,000 yards. When he got slammed vs. Texas Tech, that was basically the end of his season. He could be very productive this coming fall. He's clearly the fastest guy on offense.
• Who can be leaders for KU on offense? Senior RBs Brandon Bourbon and Taylor Cox could be in that position. But Harwell's personality makes him a natural fit. He is on his teammates when they slack off. That's a pleasure to be around.
• Redshirt freshman O-lineman Joey Bloomfield could play guard or tackle. He'll probably start off inside at guard, and KU will give him a good look.
• Junior Kevin Short is listed as a NB/CB. He has potential to be a weapon in the secondary.
• On junior RB Darian Miller's off-field/personal issues that came up last fall. It's best to keep it that way — personal/private. KU wants to keep working with him as they would with anybody. The best thing for him will be to have his issues as minimal as possible by the fall.
• Junior "buck" Marcus Jenkins-Moore might look a little rusty/slow in the spring. Only because he is coming off a knee injury. He will look a lot different by the fall. He will actually get better as time goes on and not wear down.
• On moving senior Victor Simmons to buck: They are trying to get more small guys on the field. Not more big guys. They need a guy like Simmons on the field, and part of the game plan.
• Sophomore kicker Matt Wyman has all the tools to be a top line kicker. But a 50-50 kicker is no good for anybody. That game-winner he made last season was both a good thing and a bad thing. The team won, but then he thought he was good and forgot what got him there. The job isn't automatically his, but he can make every kick and is capable of being a higher-percentage kicker.
• KU has a chance to have more edge pressure next season. Ideally, they don't want to have to blitz all the time to get pressure. KU might have a couple more guys to make that happen in 2014.
• Weis doesn't look at redshirt freshman O-lineman Joe Gibson (from Rockhurst, in Kansas City, Mo.) as a walk-on. He is a guy who could play here and be a scholarship player before he leaves KU.
• Junior O-lineman Damon Martin will start at one position or another. He has improved and he is the strongest of all the linemen. He could play tackle or guard. If the three guards are the top five linemen on the team, one of them will play tackle. None of the five best linemen will be sitting on the bench. The guys that need to be on the field can learn to play different positions if necessary.
• Returning senior TE Jimmay Mundine is clearly the best player at his position. Redshirt freshman Ben Johnson hasn't played a down, but he has a huge upside and has a chance to get on the field. Johnson and Harwell were the two players always making noise on the practice squads.
— Click here to listen to the full Q&A session: Weis addresses media prior to start of spring football
You thought things got intense the last time Kansas University's men's basketball team played against Oklahoma State? Just wait until Saturday night.
What a way to kick off the month of March. The Cowboys (18-10 overall, 6-9 Big 12) have not lived up to their potential this season — they struggled even before Marcus Smart got suspended for his altercation with a Texas Tech fan — and this ESPN College Game Day matchup doesn't have the ramifications most thought it would before the season began. Still, you won't find a much more dangerous bubble team in the nation right now than OSU. Time is running out for the Cowboys to prove they belong in the NCAA Tournament (despite losing seven straight games from Jan. 27 to Feb. 17), and nothing would solidify their spot in The Big Dance more than beating No. 5 Kansas (22-6, 13-2).
Gallagher-Iba Arena figures to shake with noise as long as Oklahoma State can stick around with Kansas, and the Cowboys have enough talent in their backcourt to beat any team in the country.
Since Smart's return to the lineup, OSU has blown out the two teams at the bottom of the Big 12 standings, Texas Tech and TCU.
Even though the Cowboys have lost 10 times, eight of those were by two possessions or less, including two overtime losses: 3OT vs. Iowa State and OT at Baylor. Four losses were in one-possession games.
Since Travis Ford took over at Oklahoma State in 2008-09, the Cowboys are 9-10 at home against Top 25 teams. One of those victories came in November vs. Memphis. But the Cowboys are only 2-4 against ranked opponents overall this season.
For the Cowboys to earn the kind of hey-look-at-us victory that has eluded them to date, they will need significant production from their top four leading scorers. So let's get reacquainted with Smart and his highly skilled allies, who would like to keep the Jayhawks from winning the Big 12 outright today in Stillwater, Okla.
Marcus Smart, No. 33
6-4, 220, so. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 16 points, 3/14 FGs, 0/6 3s, 10/10 FTs, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, 4 steals, 3 turnovers in 39 minutes.
One assist shy of a triple-double in OSU's two-point loss at Kansas, the troubled soon-to-be NBA lottery pick put up a great stat line despite missing 11 of his 14 shots.
Smart is strong in every facet of the game. In his two appearances since serving his three-game suspension, he has delivered 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, 5.5 steals and 5.5 rebounds.
On the season, the bull of a point guard averages 17.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and shoots 42.1% from the floor — but only 29.3% from 3-point range (39 of 133).
Markel Brown, No. 22
6-3, 190, sr. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 15 points, 5/13 FGs, 5/9 3s, 0/0 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 5 fouls in 28 minutes.
Two technical fouls limited Brown's productivity in OSU's loss at Kansas. And he still made five 3-pointers.
The high-flying shooting guard averages 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists, makes 47% of his shots and 36.7% of his 3-pointers (44 of 120).
Brown is the first player in OSU history to record career numbers of 250 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocks. And he is only the second Cowboy in the program's record books to get to 500 career rebounds (Brown has 555) playing under the height of 6-4. The other was Randy Rutherford.
Le'Bryan Nash, No. 2
6-7, 235, jr. wing
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 10 points, 5/11 FGs, 0/2 FTs, 5 rebounds (3 offensive), 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 4 fouls in 22 minutes.
Not that long-range daggers are his specialty, but Nash had a chance to defeat Kansas with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Allen Fieldhouse in January. However, on the Cowboys' final possession, he was stripped by Frank Mason (see above photo).
A slashing junior forward, Nash has never scored more than 11 points against Kansas in four career games.
This season, Nash averages 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds. He's a 52.7% shooter, but doesn't have to be worried about behind the arc, where he has missed all six of his attempts.
Phil Forte, No. 13
5-11, 185, so. guard
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 23 points, 7/11 FGs, 7/10 3s, 2/2 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers in 30 minutes.
A sub the first time these two teams met, one of the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the country can burn opponents from the opening tip now that he's a starter.
Forte averages 13.3 points, 1.3 assists, converts 45.5% field goals and is slightly better from long range, making 45.8% of his 3-pointers.
The 5-11 guard makes 3.1 3-pointers a game in Big 12 action. He torched Kansas for seven the first time around. He's coming off a 5-for-10 performance at TCU, and he made all six of his 3's at Oklahoma in January.
In 86 tries at the free-throw line this season, Forte has only missed nine times. His 89.5% success rate leads the Big 12.
Kamari Murphy, No. 21
6-8, 220, so. post
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 12 points, 5/10 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 4 fouls, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 2 blocks in 38 minutes.
Essentially the lone post player for OSU, the 6-8 forward only had 1 rebound in 38 minutes at KU, back in January.
Murphy averages 6.4 boards this season and surely will make a larger impact in Stillwater. In his last five games, he's averaging 9.8 rebounds to go with 7.2 points.
About 31 percent of his rebounds this season come on the offensive glass, and he makes 57% of his shot attempts — all of which are 2-pointers.
Brian Williams, No. 4
6-5, 210, jr. wing
— Jan. 18 vs. KU: 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal in 21 minutes.
Earlier in the season, Williams started for Ford, but that's no longer the case.
He averages 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. While Williams has made 48.6% of his shots overall, he hits just 27.3% of his 3-pointers and doesn't take them too often (3 for 11).
After scoring a season-high 15 points against Iowa State, Williams has gone scoreless in three of his last six outings and hasn't played more than 12 minutes since being moved to the bench.
Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self fielded questions from the media for about 30 minutes Thursday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.
The No. 5 Jayhawks (22-6 overall, 11-2 Big 12) play at Oklahoma State (18-10, 6-9) at 8 p.m. Saturday night. Self commented on that game and much more, including the rise of Wichita State to national prominence and whether the Jayhawks could add the Shockers to their schedule.
Here are the highlights in bullet-point form:
• Winning the Big 12 outright is a small part of the motivation on Saturday. The big part is playing an Oklahoma State team Kansas has developed a little rivalry with lately, as well as playing on a national showcase in prime time on ESPN.
• Oklahoma State is different now that Marcus Smart is back. He can impact a game and not score. His defensive anticipation is as good as anyone who KU will play against, and not just this year. Smart has totally dominated the games since serving his suspension.
• OSU is playing better because Phil Forte is playing better. He thrives when Smart is on the floor. They're kind of like the Morris twins in the way they feed off of one another. You can't leave Forte open. That's what makes him hard to guard.
• Self thought this game at OSU would have conference title implications, as far as who would have the best shot to win it. It's nice to go down there with a tie already clinched, but the Jayhawks want to take care of business. KU needs to play well to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
• On Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor: They're a big part of why KU is better. They provide a needed energy presence, and give the Jayhawks a different look than the starting frontcourt players, Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis.
• Kansas isn't in competing with Wichita State for a No. 1 seed, despite the arguments media or people want to have about it. Self thinks WSU deserves the No. 1 seed line if the Shockers keep on winning. It's hard to win on the road, especially when you're everybody's Super Bowl game. … Self isn't in the least bit concerned with anything but the teams on KU's schedule. The Jayhawks have a long way to go before they will be a No. 1 seed. It all depends on how they finish the season.
• Wichita State's success is great for the state. Iron sharpens iron. When others are good in your area, it makes you better. It's good for Kansas to have Wichita State and Kansas State playing well.
• On returning to Oklahoma State, where he played in college: The first time he coached KU down there, Self toured every place and talked with a lot of good friends. KU got rocked in that game. Now he approaches it as a business trip.
• Going into the NCAAs, you start thinking more about seeding and the tournament itself. It's too premature to give much thought to those things now.
• Kansas keeps making the NCAA Tournament despite turnover in the roster. That's because the players are good and the assistant coaches are good. Those are the constants, the jobs those assistants have done. KU has brought in talent and has been able to overcome inexperience.
• On the Big 12 player of the year coming from KU: Self would like to see Embiid as a candidate but numbers tend to drive that award and people might not include him despite the impact he has on the floor. Andrew Wiggins is a leading contender. People should wait to draw their conclusions until the Big 12 season is over.
• On KU assistant coaches: Self thought Barry Hinson was positive, but Fred Quartlebaum (director of student-athlete development in his first year at Kansas) makes Hinson look like a the sky is falling and the sun will never come up personality. Jerrance Howard is a younger coach, has more energy and fun to him than Self and Kurtis Townsend. One thing you can't undersell is having someone who has been in the fire. Norm Roberts was a head coach in New York for St. John's. KU has a nice blend on its staff, and has for a while. Different personalities on the staff offset each other, and that's a good thing.
• On highly-ranked recruits: The key with Kansas has been evaluating and projecting what they could become. You can look at players who are ranked in the top five or 10 and you know they will have a huge impact. But there isn't much difference between 11 and 50. Those recruiting services, though Self appreciates them, are overrated. KU coaches have done a good job of plugging in guys that fit the program.
• Wayne Selden is getting it. Embiid and Wiggins deserve the majority of the attention, but if KU didn't have those two, Selden would be a guy that would be in consideration for freshman of the year in the Big 12.
• Naadir Tharpe has given KU point guard play that has allowed the Jayhawks to do well in the Big 12. He has gotten better, but one area where he can get better is on the defensive end.
• Wiggins has learned to impact the game with his athletic ability. People line up and what to get a piece of him, because he got so much attention. He has had the best season of any player on the team to this point. Wiggins has been the most consistent. That's pretty good when you don't have upperclassmen to show you how to do it, plus all the expectations on him. He has been himself and not tried to be what he's not. No disrespect to Embiid, but it's easier when there is less pressure. Now Embiid is feeling the way Wiggins has all season.
Wiggins is so nice. He might be the most polite kid KU has ever had. Nice is OK, except for two and a half hours a day. Wiggins couldn't have handled it better with all the hype. He just plays. Some of the things that are said about him register for him and motivate him.
• Oklahoma State is capable of beating anybody, particularly when they're playing at home. OSU is right at the top of the Big 12 in terms of raw talent.
• Self wouldn't say Kansas would never play Wichita State. KU is pretty locked in schedule wise, and that wouldn't be a part of what they have planned right now. KU will schedule strictly on what the program thinks is best. It might be better for KU to play out in New York or Los Angeles or Philadelphia. You want to do what's best for the program. When Self was at Illinois, the program had a presence in a lot of metropolitan areas because they were in the Big 10. It doesn't hurt now that he's at KU to be able to go play at Georgetown or another major city.
• Self thought against Texas Kansas was at the level it needs to be defensively. They didn't carry that over to the Oklahoma game. Kansas needs to make other teams play poorly. That's what got the Jayhawks to the title game in 2012.
• Re-focusing after clinching a share of the Big 12 title. Whenever you win your league, that's a good year. But good years aren't good enough. The whole focus now is what are they going to give to make good become great, and can they become special. It's hard to take those steps. If they're not motivated by that, then there is a problem.
• As the road team for a College Game day game: It's not too different from another road game. Except when guys are laying around watching TV, there will be a lot of talk about the game, which should get the Jayhawks amped up.
• Self's parting shot: "This may have been the longest press conference I've ever done."
— Hear the complete press conference by clicking here: Bill Self discusses what lies ahead for KU
— Listen to a Q & A with guard Wayne Selden: Wayne Selden discusses learning as a freshman, the Big 12 title
It feels like about a year ago that Kansas University's men's basketball team last faced Oklahoma.
Actually, it was only close to a full Big 12 schedule ago.
OU has played 12 times since the Jayhawks beat the Sooners, 90-83, back on Jan. 8, in Norman, Okla., and KU has competed in 13 games in the six-plus weeks that have passed since their first meeting.
This rematch doesn't have the same anticipation surrounding it as KU's revenge sequel with Texas on Saturday, but Oklahoma (20-7 overall, 9-5 Big 12) is one of three teams currently tied for second in the conference (Iowa State and UT are the others) and quickly running out of time in its pursuit of Kansas (21-6, 12-2).
Tonight's Big Monday game at Allen Fieldhouse is one of KU's biggest to date, because a victory guarantees the Jayhawks at least a share of their 10th straight Big 12 championship.
Kansas coach Bill Self said Saturday night it has been long enough since KU faced Oklahoma that players from both teams have long forgotten the intricacies of the scouting reports they received for that game.
So, what have Lon Kruger's Sooners been up to? For one, they spent most of Saturday afternoon blasting Kansas State. The final score was OU 86, K-State 73, but Oklahoma led by as many as 27 points in the second half on its home floor.
That was Oklahoma at its best, but the Sooners have been inconsistent over the past few weeks. In fact, three of OU's five conference losses have come in the last six games. The Sooners really needed their win over K-State on Saturday, as well as their victory at Oklahoma State (without Marcus Smart) a week earlier, because prior to that they had dropped three of their previous four:
• L 81-75 at Iowa State on Feb. 1
• L 91-86 (OT) at West Virginia on Feb. 5
• W 88-72 vs. Baylor on Feb. 8
• L 68-60 vs. Texas Tech on Feb. 12
Despite its recent road setbacks, Oklahoma is 8-4 away from Norman this season — 4-3 in true road games and 4-1 at neutral sites.
The Sooners create most of their success on the offensive end of the court. In Big 12 games, Oklahoma is:
1st in free throw percentage (76.4%)
1st in made 3-pointers (124, or 8.9 a game)
3rd in scoring (78.6 points)
3rd in 3-point FG percentage (37.3%)
tied for 3rd in steals (6.29)
Kruger has embraced the power of the 3-pointer, so OU isn't shy from behind the arc. The Sooners average 21.8 attempts from deep per game, and they are the only team in the Big 12 with six players to have made at least 20 3-pointers.
Let's get reacquainted with the six OU gunslingers (and one of their teammates).
Buddy Hield, No. 24
6-4, 208, so. guard
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 18 points, 6/14 FGs, 3/8 3s, 3/4 FTs, 8 rebounds (3 offensive), 1 steal, 1 turnover, 5 fouls in 38 minutes.
Fact: Hield is going to hoist some 3-pointers. He averages 6.7 attempts from deep a game and has made 70 of his 182 tries (38.5%).
He averages 17.5 points and 3.4 successful 3-pointers a game in Big 12 play, and scored a career-high 30 points at ISU on Feb. 1.
In three of his last six games, he has made five from downtown.
Defensively, the sophomore guard is second in the Big 12 in steals (1.44 a game, behind only Marcus Smart's 2.46).
Cameron Clark, No. 21
6-7, 211, sr. forward
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 32 points, 10/18 FGs, 0/4 3s, 12/16 FTs, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, 4 personal fouls in 29 minutes.
Percentage-wise, the versatile forward is OU's most effective 3-point shooter. Clark, who torched Kansas for 32 points back in January without even making a 3, has converted 28 of his 60 tries from downtown (46.7%).
During OU's last four games, he has hit 20 of his 33 shots (60.6%). He scored 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds Saturday vs. K-State.
Clark averages 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, and when he draws contact, he hits 78.4% of his free throws.
Jordan Woodard, No. 10
6-0, 185, fr. guard
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 10 points, 0/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 10/10 FTs, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers.
This freshman isn't only a threat from long range (22 for 58, 37.9%), he attacks the opposing defense.
Woodard's 173 free throw attempts lead OU, he shoots 77.5% at the foul line and that's where he has scored 45% of his 11.0 points a game this season.
He tends to wear down defenders in the second half — that's when 128 of his free-throw attempts have come.
Sixth in the Big 12 with 4.7 assists a game, the first-year point guard can set up his teammates almost as easily as he can create his own offense.
Isaiah Cousins, No. 11
6-4, 186, so. guard
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/1 3s, 2/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 2 turnovers.
The sophomore is coming off a 6-for-11, 17-point outing against K-State and has made 43.4% of his field goals this season. His career high of 21 came four games ago against Baylor.
Cousins averages 10.5 points and 4.1 rebounds. From the land of 3, he has made 26 of his 72 shots (36.1%).
Ryan Spangler, No. 00
6-8, 232, so. forward
— Jan. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 2/3 FGs, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover, 4 fouls in 23 minutes.
Hey, it's a Sooner who isn't going to shoot a 3-pointer … Well, actually he might, too. Even OU's bruiser has hit 3 of 11 from distance.
But most of the time, you'll find Spangler attacking the glass — and not just on defense. The sophomore power forward averages 9.6 boards a game and about a third of those come on offense (3.3 a game).
The hard-working big man has 10 double-doubles to his name and leads the league in boards. He has been successful on 60.2% of his shots this season and made at least half of his attempts in 23 of OU's 27 games.
His board production fell off against K-State, when he only had two, but in other Big 12 games he has hauled in double-digit totals seven times, with a season-high 17 coming against Oklahoma State late last month.
Tyler Neal, No. 15
6-7, 234, sr. forward
— Jan.. 8 vs. KU: 11 points, 4/5 FGs, 2/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover in 23 minutes.
In just 15.9 minutes a game, the substitute forward scores 6.8 points and pulls down 3.4 rebounds.
And, of course, he can knock down 3-pointers. Neal has nailed 27 this season and makes 42.2% of his bombs.
Frank Booker, No. 1
6-4, 198, fr. guard
— Jan.. 8 vs. KU: 4 points, 1/2 FGs, 1/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 0 turnovers in 10 minutes.
A relative non-factor against Kansas the first time around, the backup guard has done damage against other Big 12 opponents and averages 5.3 points on the year.
The freshman went 4 for 6 on 3-pointers at OSU and scored 15 points. At K-State on Jan. 14 he made 3 of 7 treys for nine points.
On the season, Booker has hit 34 of 93 3-pointers (36.6%). The guy loves hanging out beyond the arc. He has only made seven two-point field goals this season.
Three weeks ago, Rick Barnes' Texas basketball team handled Kansas in Austin, Texas, giving the Longhorns their fourth straight win over a top-25 team and catapulting them into the chase for the Big 12 championship.
The Horns' bigs gave the Jayhawks fits, and point guard Isaiah Taylor flew up and down the floor, rarely slowing down.
Today, No. 19 Texas (20-6 overall, 9-4 Big 12) comes to Allen Fieldhouse trying to narrow the gap between first and second place against No. 8 Kansas (20-6, 11-2).
A pair of road setbacks since UT's defeat of Kansas on Feb. 1 kept the Longhorns from gaining any more ground on KU. Here is what Texas has done since knocking off the Jayhawks:
• W at TCU, 59-54
• L at Kansas State, 74-57
• W vs. Oklahoma State, 87-68
• W vs. West Virginia, 88-71
• L at Iowa State, 85-76
That leaves the top half of the Big 12 standings looking like this, heading into Saturday's marquee matchup between the top two teams in the conference:
Iowa State, 8-5
Kansas State, 8-5
If the Jayhawks earn some redemption for their 81-69 loss at Texas tonight, a 10th straight Big 12 championship becomes even more attainable. If the Longhorns pull off a sweep of KU, the next couple of weeks become very interesting in the Big 12 title chase.
Texas held KU to 38.5% shooting in the first meeting. In the Longhorns' nine conference wins this season, opponents have scored 66.1 points and shot 38.1% from the floor — plus a 29.2% mark from 3-point range.
In their four Big 12 losses, the Longhorns allowed an average of 83.5 points per game on 47.6% shooting.
UT out-rebounds its opponents by an average margin of +8.0 a game, and has won the battle of the boards in 21 of 26 games. The Longhorns got the better of the Jayhawks, 38-33, on Feb. 1.
Now, it's time to get reacquainted with the Longhorns who will try to duplicate that success in tonight's rematch.
Jonathan Holmes, No. 10
6-8, 240, jr. forward
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 22 points, 6/13 FGs, 1/2 3s, 9/10 FTs, 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 0 turnovers, 3 blocks.
The team's most experienced player and a certain leader, Holmes averages 13.1 points and 7.4 rebounds.
He's one of the most effective scorers in the Big 12, converting 51.2% of his shots, hitting 23 of 60 3-pointers (38.3%) and making 78% of his free throws.
The one thing he doesn't do much of on offense is pass to set up someone else: 16 assists this season vs. 43 turnovers.
He hauled in a UT season-high 16 boards (including six on offense) in the Longhorns' win at TCU on Feb. 4.
Defensively, Holmes is one of three UT players in the top eight in the league in blocked shots. At 6-8, he's eighth, with 1.21 swats a game.
Javan Felix, No. 3
5-11, 195, so. guard
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 9 points, 1/6 FGs, 0/2 3s, 7/10 FTs, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 fouls in 18 minutes.
The undersized guard scored 16 points and nailed four 3-pointers for the second game in a row in UT's loss to Iowa State this week.
Felix has been on a tear the last three games, averaging 20.3 points on 22-for-52 shooting and 14-for-33 accuracy (42%) from behind the 3-point line.
On the season, he averages 12.8 points and 2.8 assists, but in Big 12 games, the sophomore's scoring numbers have gone up, to 15.5.
Felix leads UT with 44 3-pointers this season, and he attempts 5.3 a game, making 33%. He hit what proved to be a game-winner in the final seconds of overtime at Temple in December.
Isaiah Taylor, No. 1
6-1, 170, fr. guard
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 23 points, 7/14 FGs, 1/2 3s, 8/8 FTs, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers.
The speedy freshman was a highlight reel waiting to happen against Kansas in Austin, Texas.
Taylor averages 13.1 points and 3.7 assists on the season, but is coming off another breakout game at Iowa State, where he scored 26 points, and had eight assists, seven rebounds and one turnover.
Taylor has only taken 15 3-pointers this season, but uses his speed to create high-percentage opportunities, and shoots 41.7% from the floor.
His ability to beat his man off the dribble also helps him get to the free-throw line, where he has made 124 of 165 attempts (6.6 trips a game) this season — 75.2%.
In his last seven games, Taylor is averaging 19.1 points and shooting 45.3% from the floor. At the foul line in that stretch he has only missed three of his 50 free throws.
Cameron Ridley, No. 55
6-9, 285, so. center
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 9 points, 3/7 FGs, 3/6 FTs, 10 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 4 blocks, 4 fouls in 23 minutes.
The ginormous center delivered one of the most impressive plays of the game against Kansas three weeks ago, nearly tearing down the rim on a dunk as he went past Joel Embiid.
In 25.1 minutes a game this year, Ridley averages 10.8 points and a team-leading 7.9 rebounds.
Ridley pulls down 3.0 offensive rebounds a game.
His 2.31 blocks are third-best in the Big 12, and he denied four KU shots in the Horns' win at UT.
Demarcus Holland, No. 2
6-2, 185, so. guard
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 4 points, 1/4 FGs, 2/4 FTs, 11 rebounds (5 offensive), 3 assists, 2 steals.
Usually the last offensive option when he is on the floor, Holland still averages 7.8 points a game.
The sophomore has made 40.5% of his shots this season, but struggles from behind the 3-point line, where he has only made 13 of 45 (28.9%).
Those shooting woes carry over to the foul line, too, where Holland is just 41 for 73 (56.2%) on the year.
Still, as a guard he averages 5.0 rebounds and does enough little things that he leads UT in minutes a game this season: 31.12.
Connor Lammert, No. 21
6-9, 235, so. forward
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 7 points, 3/5 FGs, 0/2 3s, 1/2 FTs, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 block in 19 minutes.
Though he comes off the bench, Lammert has scored in double figures four times this season.
The sixth man averages 5.7 points and is third on the team with 5.0 rebounds.
The 6-9 forward stretches opposing defenses occasionally, making 14 of 37 3-pointers this season.
Overall from the floor, Lammert has made 49.6% of his shots.
Prince Ibeh, No. 44
6-10, 250, so. center
— Feb. 1 vs. KU: 2 points, 1/3 FGs, 0/2 FTs, 3 rebounds (all on offense), 1 turnover, 4 blocks, 3 fouls in 17 minutes.
Ibeh didn't play a ton against Kansas, but he proved to be as significant a deterrent to the Jayhawks' offense as anybody in burnt orange, swatting away four KU shot attempts.
The backup big only averages 14.0 minutes a game this season, but contributes 3.7 rebounds and 1.88 blocks (fourth in the Big 12) to go with 4.2 points.
With Saturday's home game against No. 19 Texas coming up, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self met with the media Thursday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse to talk about the rematch with the Longhorns, who handled the No. 8 Jayhawks in Austin, Texas, on Feb. 1.
Here are the bullet-point highlights from the Q & A:
• On Texas freshman guard Isaiah Taylor: "I thought he totally controlled the game." Texas had KU on its heels the whole time. The Longhorns' transition offense was better than KU's defense, and the Jayhawks' ball-screen defense wasn't any good at all. KU did a bad job on the boards at Texas, too.
• UT bigs Cameron Ridley and Demarcus Holland gave KU problems. The Jayhawks usually win the battle of the boards in Big 12 play this season. But the one game they didn't "we obviously got whipped" on the glass. That was a big reason why Texas controlled the game.
• On clinching the Big 12 title in the weeks to come: We can't talk about anything past Saturday, because if KU doesn't win against Texas, it's down to a one-game lead, as opposed to a three-game lead. To him, this game isn't even about the league race as much as it is playing a Texas team that smacked the Jayhawks around already.
• February can be a tough time of the year, and part of it is playing teams a second time. Self watched a little of Syracuse's loss to Boston College on Wednesday night. Regardless of what people think, in 35 games or so of basketball, it's hard to be jacked up every game. Emotion plays a big part of your energy level.
When another team gives you your best shot and you're off a little bit, that negates a talent advantage that might be had. Playing a team the second time, it's harder to get easy baskets, players are better scouted. If two teams play the first time and it's a wide margin "I guarantee the second game is always gonna be much narrower." Teams raise their level the second time if they've been handled easily the first time. Top-five teams in the country are laboring to win, especially on the road. It's been that way every year. That's likely what happened with Syracuse.
• KU has been ranked as a top field-goal percentage defense team most of Self year's in Lawrence. This season, the Jayhawks are one of the top offensive field goal percentage teams. KU entered the week No. 1 in the nation in field goal percentage. (Currently, they're at 50.3%.) Self would rather Kansas be good at making it difficult for its opponents to score. No matter what a team's offense is like, there are going to be some nights where it is off, like at Texas Tech. You have to figure out a way to win those games when shots aren't falling.
A lot of times, guys have the sense that it is easy to out-score foes if shots are falling. Defense is a better formula for success over time. You're not always gonna make shots. "Defense always travels."
Self figured this team would be really good defensively and average on offense. It's kind of been the reverse. "And we're still not great, offensively."
KU might not be as bad defensively as he plays it up. In order for KU to be great, Jayhawks have to be great defensively. This team just has different pieces and personalities from teams in the past. Some personalities are more laid back than past intense guys on defense like Thomas Robinson or Travis Releford.
"We're better defensively when we suck offensively."
• Can players get tougher once they arrive at a college program? Coaches can improve on it, but you can't turn a guy into a junk yard dog. You can improve them on a scale — if they're a 5, they can go to an 8. There's room for improvement. It's also a team thing.
• Self would like to see KU's point guards "cut the head off" defensively. Past guards like Tyshawn Taylor, Sherron Collins, Russell Robinson and Mario Chalmers might have been taken for granted. Naadir Tharpe isn't as big as some of those guys, but he and Frank Mason can do a better job of forcing opponents to play poorly offensively.
Self isn't just picking on Tharpe and Mason, that's just kind of the way KU is playing.
• Joel Embiid seems to be fine. Self talked to him this morning. He assumes his back is fine. It's his back that would give him problems, if anything.
• Embiid is about to set the KU freshman blocks record. He's currently tied with Eric Chenowith at 62. He is good, but could be great. There is another step he has to take.
• Naadir Tharpe hasn't shot it great the past week. But he's been a consistent shooter this season and is a good passer, creates shots off penetration. KU needs him to be good for the Jayhawks to be great. Self is pleased with Tharpe, but he would like to see him and others guard the ball better.
• On the Kansas vs Texas series: There have been some really good players and games between the two programs since Self's arrival at Kansas. Hopefully this one will be a classic, too.
• If Kansas isn't good defensively, that's on Self. There's no excuse for not being good on that end.
— Hear full audio from the press conference by clicking here: Bill Self discusses KU's upcoming rematch with Texas
— Listen to Jayhawks freshmen Conner Frankamp and Joel Embiid talk about Saturday's game.
Apparently it's better to be elite than perfect.
With two of the most talented freshmen in the nation wearing Kansas University basketball uniforms, even crunch-time blunders from Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid turned into gold for the Jayhawks Tuesday night, as they escaped Lubbock, Texas, with a 64-63 victory over Texas Tech.
No. 8 KU (20-6 overall, 11-2 Big 12) didn't play awful at United Spirit Arena, home of the Red Raiders (13-13, 5-8), but the outcome might have flipped had center Embiid not had guard Wiggins' back — and vice versa — in the final minute.
Returning to the Kansas lineup after sitting out a game with an ailing back and knee, Embiid's final two points on an 18-point night came on his third offensive rebound, when he jammed in a missed dunk by Wiggins with just more than 30 seconds left in the second half.
Wiggins had pulled off a similar baseline drive and slam earlier in the night, but he hesitated for a split-second when TT big man Dejan Kravic slid over as a help defender. That threw Wiggins' timing off just enough that his dunk attempt hit the rim. But the 6-foot-8 guard's drive drew so much attention, Embiid had no problem gathering the mistake and stuffing it home to finish 6-for-7 from the floor.
After Texas Tech's Robert Turner hit two bonus free throws to put KU in a one-point deficit, Kansas had to get a basket to avoid its third conference loss. Embiid received the ball on the right block, and as he spun toward the baseline, he lost his handle. Wouldn't you know it, Wiggins was there to grab the loose ball and lay it in for the win, and finish with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
A couple of unlikely and remarkable plays end up making the difference, offensively, in the final minute of a game controlled by Texas Tech from a pace standpoint — KU's 42 field-goal attempts were its second-lowest total of the season (Baylor held the Jayhawks to 40 attempts on Jan. 20).
Kansas was obviously the more talented team, and like it or not, that's how a lot of college basketball games are decided when the disparity is drastic between two rosters. Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith, who knows the game as well as anyone, had a terrific game plan and his players executed it to near perfection. In the end, it simply wasn't enough.
“Good teams like Kansas make plays like that. Great players make plays like that," Smith said. "Andrew’s a great player and great players make plays like that.“
You won't hear Kansas coach Bill Self complaining about his team winning in a tough situation on the road, but he surely will let his players know the kind of effort they gave late in the first half and through chunks of the second half, when Texas Tech was in control, won't win them many games in the postseason, which is now less than a month away.
Three reasons to smile:
1 — The Red Raiders easily could have won this game. "Wait, why am I smiling about this?" you may ask. Well, the Jayhawks didn't let them win. With a coach of Smith's caliber, in a packed house full of hostile fans and with Tech players likely believing a victory over KU could get them out of relative irrelevancy and one step closer to an NCAA Tournament berth, Kansas denied the Red Raiders the résumé-building victory they so desperately needed.
And despite the game-winner Wiggins converted on offense, his defensive stand seconds earlier had as much to do with the KU win. Texas Tech only turned the ball over nine times, hit 47% of its shot attempts and 6 of 12 from three-point range, but KU's defense came through in the final minute (with the exception of Embiid getting whistled for a blocking foul on Turner with 16 seconds left).
On Tech's previous last-minute possession, Wiggins blocked a Jaye Crockett jumper with the shot clock winding down, and when the denial fell back in Crockett's lap, Wiggins contested another jumper. The long rebound went to Tech's Jordan Tolbert, but Kansas forced a held ball, with the possession arrow in its favor.
2 — The real Joel Embiid is back. That evil twin of Embiid's — the one whose back and/or knee issues limited his range of motion and kept him to 7.5 points in his past four appearances — that guy is gone.
The real Embiid looked comfortable running the floor, and making assertive moves in the post. He finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds and a block, but the most promising number for KU is that he played 32 minutes. As Self talked about after the win, the 7-footer hadn't even practiced that much in the past week. Embiid said he felt like he was at about 90 percent.
So, barring any more injury setbacks, this is the kind of performance the Jayhawks can expect out of their center from Cameroon going forward.
3 — These young Jayhawks have confidence. Any time a team can pull off a last-second win, it gives the players an experience they can draw from in the future. The next time Kansas finds itself down a possession in the final minutes, Self can say, "Hey, remember how we finished strong at Texas Tech, and Jo Jo and Wiggs made those clutch plays? That's the mentality it's going to take to win this one."
What's more, the Jayhawks didn't let their struggles at Tech hold them back in the final minutes. Freshman guard Wayne Selden hadn't scored in the second half, and had only made 1 of 7 shots on the night when he rose up to drain a critical thee-pointer with less than three minutes to play.
Even when the Jayhawks are down, they believe they will win a close game.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 — Although Embiid returned, Texas Tech beat Kansas in points in the paint, 30-24. Embiid's defense might not have caught up with his offense quite yet, and Kansas only blocked three shots (one for Embiid, two for Wiggins). That total, though, isn't as troubling as how easily Tech scored inside at times. Defensive breakdowns led to open dunks/layups. Kravic, a senior 7-footer only averaging 6.4 points a game — scored 13 on 6 of 8 shooting.
Part of Tech's success inside came with its 13 offensive rebounds. KU had 13, too, and out-rebounded TT, 28-26, overall. But the Red Raiders scored 19 second-chance points, compared to KU's 14.
2 — Perry Ellis didn't make a shot, and barely made an impact. After a career game against TCU on Saturday, the sophomore forward contributed to Kansas losing the points in the paint battle. Ellis missed all three of his shot attempts, found himself in foul trouble and was the only Kansas starter to not play 30-plus minutes (he played 26). All four of his points came at the free-throw line and he only secured two rebounds.
Hardly the only culprit for KU, Ellis was one of five Jayhawks to play at least 10 minutes but not produce more than six points as Wiggins and Embiid carried the load. Selden and Naadir Tharpe each scored six, Jamari Traylor had five in 12 minutes and Tarik Black scored four in 10 minutes.
Between Ellis, Selden and Tharpe, they combined to hit 3 of 18 field goals.
3 — Texas Tech made 47% of its shots. Since Self arrived at Kansas, his teams have won so often because of defense. In eight of Self's previous 10 seasons at KU, his teams have led the Big 12 in field-goal percentage defense. Currently, the Jayhawks are fifth in that category, at 41.2%.
Six of KU's last eight opponents have made 42% of their shots or better. For the Jayhawks to truly be considered one of the nation's top teams this season, they just need to turn it up a notch on the defensive end, and force foes into more difficult attempts.
One thought for the road:
There is no shame in winning ugly. Especially on the road. Even though Kansas had season-lows in rebounds (28) and assists (six), the Jayhawks managed to win. The ongoing struggle for this team seems to be getting everyone to produce to his fullest (or in that neighborhood) each and every game. A lot of that has to do with the team's youth. Consistency is the most difficult thing to grasp for most teams. Because KU starts three freshmen and a sophomore, that is inherently more challenging. If junior point guard Tharpe (1 of 7 shooting, 2 assists, 4 turnovers at TT) can set the tone in that department, the rest of the team likely will follow his lead.
Thanks to Iowa State's 85-76 win over Texas on Tuesday in Ames, Iowa, the Longhorns enter Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game at Allen Fieldhouse two games behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings. A win for the Jayhawks would avenge their road loss to UT and put them even closer to a 10th straight Big 12 championship.