Entries from blogs tagged with “football”

Dean Smith thanks former players with checks

26 APR 1952:  University of Kansas coach Dr. Forrest "Phog" Allen gives his final instructions to his team before playing and winning the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four held in Seattle, WA at the Edmundson Pavilion. Kansas defeated St. John's 80-63 for the title. future North Carloina coach Dean Smith (facing camera) was a junior at Kansas.

26 APR 1952: University of Kansas coach Dr. Forrest "Phog" Allen gives his final instructions to his team before playing and winning the NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four held in Seattle, WA at the Edmundson Pavilion. Kansas defeated St. John's 80-63 for the title. future North Carloina coach Dean Smith (facing camera) was a junior at Kansas.

Known not just for his contributions to the game of basketball, but also for his class and love for his players, Dean Smith’s legend continues to grow — even after his death.

Before Smith died, the former Kansas basketball player and legendary North Carolina coach made sure he left a little “thank you” behind for each of his former players.

A photo of a letter sent out from Smith’s trust began circulating on social media Thursday afternoon.

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The message, as shown in the note sent to former UNC player Dante Calabria, explained that Smith set up his will to give $200 to each Tar Heel he coached during his time in Chapel Hill:

“Each player was important and special to Coach Smith and when he prepared his estate plan, Coach wanted to reach out to each of his lettermen. Accordingly, Coach directed that following his passing each letterman be sent a two hundred dollar check with the message, ‘enjoy a dinner out, compliments of Coach Dean Smith.’”

What a cool gesture.

Smith, a native of Emporia, played at KU under Phog Allen, and came off the bench for the Jayhawks when they won the 1952 national championship game against St. John’s.

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College basketball world reacts to KU’s Round of 32 exit

When the season ends for Kansas, it doesn’t just move the needle in the Sunflower State, the college basketball nation takes notice.

When the Jayhawks lose before the Sweet 16, it becomes an even bigger deal. Throw in the whole in-state, previously unplayed rivalry game angle and you’ve got all sorts of intrigue surrounding KU’s Round of 32 loss to Wichita State on Sunday in Omaha.

Below is some of the Twitter chatter, photos, stories — and trash talk — that showed up after the Shockers bounced Kansas from the NCAA Tournament.

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Jeff Eisenberg went as far as to include one Kansas player in his “Best and worst of the NCAA tourney’s opening weekend” feature.

Spoiler alert: The Jayhawk didn’t land in the best category.

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Wayne Selden Jr. received the unappealing label of “Player who shrank in the spotlight”:

“Selden scored a quiet six points in a victory over New Mexico State on Friday and then went scoreless on five shots in a 78-65 loss to Wichita State two days later. Granted Kansas' game plan was to pound the ball inside against the smaller Shockers, but Selden still acknowledged after the game that he had let down his team by not being aggressive on offense and not playing well on defense.”

A couple of former KU players felt pretty good about their Jayhawks before the game, but since then we have social media silence on the subject.

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Take four more looks at pivotal play in Kansas loss to Wichita State

Take four more looks at the most talked-about play in Wichita State’s 78-65 victory Sunday in Omaha, one that sent the veteran Shockers on to a Sweet 16 game Thursday in Cleveland vs. Notre Dame.

The first thing you probably noticed is that at one point Kansas freshman Kelly Oubre was ahead of the Shockers' Zach Brown, but was ultimately beaten to the ball and mistimed his lunge for it.

Now watch it again and this time focus on Brannen Greene. After Brown tipped the pass, Greene, watching the ball, took three walking steps and the sprinted down the court. Three steps too late.

Now watch it a third time and this time focus on Perry Ellis. He was too far behind Brown to make a play, but had Ellis sprinted down court, making an angle to the basket, he could have been there for the rebound in the event Brown missed the dunk. Instead, he jogs very slowly down the right side of the court.

Watch it a fourth and final time and this time focus on Oubre after Brown makes the steal. Instead of sprinting after him in case he lost the ball on the dribble or missed the shot at the rim, Oubre actually drifts out of bounds and very slowly jogs for a few steps.

It was no way for any of the KU players to end a play that felt as if it ended the season.

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Getting to know Wichita State

Wichita State's coach Gregg Marshall talks to Wichita States guard Zach Brown (1) during Wichita States' win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE..

Wichita State's coach Gregg Marshall talks to Wichita States guard Zach Brown (1) during Wichita States' win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE.. by Richard Gwin

Separated by 161 miles of interstate and rolling plains, Kansas and Wichita State could play basketball against each other every year pretty easily.

Of course, they don’t. Which makes Sunday’s NCAA Tournament meeting — the first game between the Jayhawks and Shockers since January 6, 1993 — feel even more significant. As if that would be necessary in this scenario: winner moves on to the Sweet 16; loser’s season is over.

KU and WSU have squared off 14 times in the past, but Sunday in Omaha marks the first time that will happen with both ranked in the AP Top 25. Kansas entered the tourney at No. 10 and Wichita State is 14th.

The Shockers (29-4) also made it this far into March Madness last season, when they fell in their second game as the No. 1 seed to No. 8 seed Kentucky — the eventual national runner-up. In 2013, WSU went all the way to the Final Four. So it’s not as if this stage, hype or playing Kansas will rattle Wichita State.

If WSU can knock off its in-state big brother, that would give Gregg Marshall’s program 30 wins for the third season in a row. Since leaving Winthrop (a program he took to seven NCAA Tournaments), Marshall has gone 6-3 in The Big Dance at Wichita State.

Marshall’s teams have a reputation for playing tough, even when they are out-sized, as WSU will be against Kansas (27-8). But the Shockers’ four perimeter players all rebound, which has allowed Wichita State to average a +5.3 advantage on the glass this season (31st in the nation).

Having all those guards also makes it easier to protect the rock. WSU commits fewer turnovers a game (9.1) than all but three teams in the nation, and the Shockers have a +3.9 turnover margin.

The guy who runs the show, junior point guard Fred VanVleet, said his perimeter running mates Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel give WSU a unique look.

“They’re all irreplaceable to me,” VanVleet said.

One of the most talented point guards in the nation, VanVleet might be the most important player on the CenturyLink Center floor Sunday. So I asked him to give a little info on his teammates after he spoke with various reporters about his own development.

Here are the Shockers Kansas will have to worry about as the Jayhawks aim to survive and advance to the Sweet 16.

SHOCKERS STARTERS

No. 31 — Ron Baker, 6-4, 220 junior G

Wichita State guard Ron Baker drives to the basket in Wichita States' win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Wichita State guard Ron Baker drives to the basket in Wichita States' win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Mike Yoder

— Season stats: 15.0 points, 43.7% FGs, 38.4% 3s (76 of 198), 75.8% FTs (91 of 120), 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 steals

“Obviously Ron has been our best scorer this year, shooting the ball. And his defense is kind of underrated at times.”

hoop-math.com nugget (stats entering NCAA Tournament): Most of Baker’s shots come from downtown: 53.2% of his team-leading 355 attempts. WSU doesn’t mind that he takes the most shots, either. He leads their top seven players in eFG%: 54.6%.

No. 23 — Fred VanVleet, 6-0, 195 junior PG

Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet smiles during interviews Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet smiles during interviews Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Richard Gwin

— Season stats: 13.1 points, 43.3% FGs, 36.2% 3s (38 of 105), 79.9% FTs (119 of 149), 4.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.8 steals

For all he can do offensively, he has made it a point to work himself into a standout defender, as well.

“I think wanting to be a good defender is probably the first step.”

One of the assistant coaches his freshman year used to joke he had trouble finding guys VanVleet was capable of guarding when they were going over scouting reports.

“I just didn’t want to be that guy.”

“Having Tekele on our team, and seeing the respect that he gets for locking people down, I always wanted to be held in that same regard.”

“I think paying attention to game plan and scouting and just studying guys that you might guard helps a lot.”

“It’s tricky, because I try to be aggressive, but being as important as I am to this team … sometimes I got in foul trouble early on in this season being stupid.”

“You just want to be sound. If it’s a great scorer, try to make it tough on them, try to make every shot contested. If it’s a point guard who just runs the show, I just like to deny him and disrupt him, disrupt the timing of the offense and just make life miserable for the other team.”

— hoop-math.com nugget: VanVleet operates and scores in every area of the floor. He makes 52.8% of his shots at the rim, 36.8% of his 2-point jumpers and 36.2% of his 3s.

No. 12 — Darius Carter, 6-7, 245 senior F

— Season stats: 11.1 points, 51.8% FGs, 3 of 5 3s, 63.5% FTs, 5.4 rebounds

Carter leads the way inside for the perimeter-oriented Shockers, and they will need him to make his presence felt against a larger KU team.

“He’s been real great when he’s on the floor, not in foul trouble.”

That quote might sound disparaging, but you have to consider the source. VanVleet is the point guard, and a team leader. He wants Carter giving Wichita State all he can.

And Carter was sitting right next to him in the locker room when VanVleet said that. Subtle reminder. Plus, he spent time addressing his own foul issues and overcoming those. He wants his vital teammate to do the same.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Carter makes the most of his touches, converting 66.4% of his shots at the rim and 42.2% of his 2-point jumpers. He also has 21 put-backs on the offensive glass this season.

No. 32 — Tekele Cotton, 6-3, 205 senior G

Wichita State guard Tekele Cotton (32) shoots a layup while playing against George Washington guard Kethan Savage, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic on Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Wichita State guard Tekele Cotton (32) shoots a layup while playing against George Washington guard Kethan Savage, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Diamond Head Classic on Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) by Eugene Tanner

— Season stats: 9.6 points, 41.2% FGs, 29.6% 3s (32 of 108, 70% FTs, 4.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists

“Tekele, you know, he’s known for his defense, but he’s been great for us attacking the rim.”

— hoop-math.com nugget: There is a reason VanVleet wants Cotton finishing inside. Cotton converts 58.8% of his shots at the rim compared to his sub-par 3-point shooting.

No. 3 — Evan Wessel, 6-4, 218 junior

Wichita State guard Evan Wessel pauses during interviews Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Wichita State guard Evan Wessel pauses during interviews Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Richard Gwin

— Season stats: 4.1 points, 38.1% FGs, 34.2% 3s (27 of 79), 52.9% FTs (9 of 17), 3.4 rebounds

“Evan’s just a tough guy, diving on the loose balls, doing dirty work, knocking down open threes, rebounding the ball — playing out of position at the four.”

— hoop-math.com nugget: Wessel doesn’t often score, and he knows not to waste his attempts. Just 9.3% of his shots are 2-point jumpers. And only 19.6% of his shots come at the rim. If he’s shooting, it’s likely an open 3. That’s where 71% of his shots are taken.

SHOCKERS BENCH

No. 24 — Shaquille Morris, 6-7, 261 freshman F

Wichita State's guard Shaquille Morris (24) slams home a dunk in Wichita State's win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha.

Wichita State's guard Shaquille Morris (24) slams home a dunk in Wichita State's win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha. by Richard Gwin

— Season stats: 5.0 points, 55% FGs, 0 of 1 3s, 64.2% FTs (34 of 53), 2.7 rebounds

The numbers below provide all you need to know on the powerful young big man.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Morris takes 44.4% of his shots at the rim. That’s probably not enough, considering he converts 72.7% of his shots there and just 35.2% of his 2-point jumpers.

No. 0 — Rashard Kelly, 6-7, 232 freshman F

Wichita State guard Rashard Kelly celebrates in the final minutes of Wichita States' win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Wichita State guard Rashard Kelly celebrates in the final minutes of Wichita States' win over Indiana Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Mike Yoder

— Season stats: 3.0 points, 48.6% FGs, 4 of 9 3s, 52.4% FTs, 3.0 rebounds

— hoop-math.com nugget: His 15 put-backs are second on the team, and that’s where 36.8% of his made baskets at the rim come.

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Let the hype continue: Media day, before KU vs. WSU

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to the media outside the Jayhawks' locker-room Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. .

Kansas coach Bill Self talks to the media outside the Jayhawks' locker-room Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. . by Mike Yoder

There might not be basketball games going on Saturday in Omaha, but there certainly is pre-game buzz at CenturyLInk Center for Sunday’s Kansas University basketball game against Wichita State, in the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 32.

The locker rooms for both the Jayhawks and Shockers were packed with media members as the anticipation for the Sunflower State’s postseason matchup grows.

This will be your landing place for all the quotes, audio, video and photos the KUsports.com team gathers, so check back as we update it throughout the afternoon.

— 4:54 p.m. update —

Kansas sophomore forward Landen Lucas understands why this Kansas vs. Wichita State game means so much in the Sunflower State, and to the fans especially.

That just makes it more exciting for the players, too, Lucas said.

— 4:49 p.m. update — By Matt Tait—

Just another quick hit from WSU guard Ron Baker, a Scott City, Kansas, native, who was asked on Saturday about the idea of playing KU and K-State on a more regular basis in the future.

“Every Kansas school would like that, I think," Baker said. "Obviously we're not the BCS school and I can see how KU and K-State wouldn't want to have a home-and-home. It's just kind of how the RPI and BPI and all that stuff works.”

“I think it would be good for the state if we had like a Sunflower Showdown. Even if we're not playing each other, maybe the three schools played different opponents in the same location. That way Kansas can kind of bond and watch those three games in a day. Something simple like that would be neat.”

Great idea. Needs to happen.

— 4:30 p.m. update — By Matt Tait

Had a chance to talk with both Perry Ellis and Wichita State's Evan Wessel about their friendship and time playing together in high school at Wichita Heights.

Interestingly enough, the two guys are pretty similar. Both quiet. Both polite. Both hard-working dudes who have made the most of their abilities.

I asked a few KU guys what they would want to know about Ellis if they had the chance to talk to Wessel and their answers were pretty funny. Evan Manning, Tyler Self and Josh Pollard said they've heard stories about how Ellis used to get technical fouls when he was younger and may even have thrown a chair once. Wessel didn't recall those incidents and said it might have happened before they started playing on the same teams.

Landen Lucas wanted to know if Wessel remembered whether Ellis would actually dance at school dances or just kind of hang back against the wall. Wessel didn't remember any specific incidents of Ellis dancing or not dancing but said he was certain that Ellis was never the one out there leading the dance party.

KU freshman Kelly Oubre might have given the most interesting answer when he was asked what he'd want to know about Ellis from Wessel: "They're the opposition right now."

I asked Jamari Traylor what he would want to know and he said he had been around Ellis for so long now that he could not really think of anything.

"I know everything I need to know about Perry," Traylor said. "I've been around him for a while now. I know I'd trust him with my wallet."

Wessel, who averages 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds a game in 23 minutes, said the one thing he always liked the most about Ellis' game was how unselfish he was.

"He could always be the best player on the floor when he's out there," Wessel said. "But he still was unselfish. He's a great teammate and a lot of fun to play with."

As for the upcoming battle between these two former Wichita Heights teammates, both sounded excited about the challenge and each said he hoped he would guard the other guy, which seems pretty likely according to players and coaches in both locker rooms.

"It's going to be a great opportunity," Wessel said. "Great teammates back in high school and it will be fun to play against him here tomorrow."

Added Ellis: "We have been competing since we were young and he's a great guy and it's going to be fun to get to play against each other again."

— 4:09 p.m. update —

Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall knows this is a big game for his program, but he also realizes the ultimate goal here in Omaha is moving on to Cleveland.

It's exciting. I'm not going to tell you that I'm not excited about being in the third round against a wonderful program, a great team, a great coach, but when that ball is tossed, I'm just going to coach my team, and it's going to be just like any other game, with tremendous energy and intensity. And last year, Kentucky, that was a wonderful basketball game! It was electricity all through the building; it was one play after another, and tomorrow's game could very well be like that. I just hope we come out on the different end.

— Hear Marshall's press conference: Gregg Marshall looks ahead to Sunday's game vs. Kansas

— 3:58 p.m. update —

You might have heard that Wichita State junior Ron Baker grew up a Kansas basketball fan. He talked about that Saturday in the Shockers' locker room.

— 3:42 p.m. update —

Bill Self said it didn't take long for Kansas to turn its focus to Wichita State.

Yesterday was a great win for us, I think anybody that plays in the tournament that won would say it's a great win, but we got forgot about 30 minutes after we played and focused in on the next task, and that's a talented and well-coached Wichita State ball club.

— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self discusses Saturday's showdown with Wichita State

— 3:15 p.m. update —

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— 3:05 p.m. update —

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— 2:20 p.m. update —

You can tell some of the Jayhawks aren’t as excited about the two-programs-from-Kansas angle of this game as the media. Which is completely fine and understandable.

Kansas would want to win this game if Indiana was the opponent, too. The players don’t mind all the WSU buzz, but the subplots didn’t seem to exactly intrigue them. They’re just trying to get to the Sweet 16.

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Jayhawk-killer Ali Farokhmanesh surprises Kansas fans in Omaha

When March rolls around and the talk turns to NCAA upsets, you're liable to overhear conversations like this in Kansas basketball circles:

"Who was that shooter? Who was the little, um ... "

"He had a weird last name, right?"

"Yeah, yeah, yeah. What was his name?"

"Uh, Farokhmanesh? Farokhma-something?"

"Yes. Yeah, I remember him just raining jumpers the whole game."

Now what happens when the conversation starter is that guy, the infamous hero/villain of Northern Iowa's 2010 upset of KU, Ali Farokhmanesh?

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar (12) defends UNI's Ali Farokhmanesh (5) Saturday, March 20, 2010, in Oklahoma City, OK.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar (12) defends UNI's Ali Farokhmanesh (5) Saturday, March 20, 2010, in Oklahoma City, OK. by Mike Yoder

To find out, the Omaha World-Herald grabbed the now-Nebraska graduate assistant and brought him to CenturyLink Center, where the Jayhawks started their 2015 NCAA Tournament.

Read the result, as chronicled by the W-H's Dirk Chatelain, or watch the video below:

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Getting to know upset-minded NMSU

New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies, right, hugs center Tshilidzi Nephawe toward the end of the second half of the Aggies’ victory over Cal State-Bakersfield in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament on Friday in Las Vegas. Nephawe is one of four seniors Menzies will count on when the Aggies open the NCAA Tournament against Kansas on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.

New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies, right, hugs center Tshilidzi Nephawe toward the end of the second half of the Aggies’ victory over Cal State-Bakersfield in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference tournament on Friday in Las Vegas. Nephawe is one of four seniors Menzies will count on when the Aggies open the NCAA Tournament against Kansas on Friday in Omaha, Nebraska.

New Mexico State hasn’t lost a college basketball game since Jan. 17. Winners of 13 straight, the Aggies hope to keep that streak alive Friday in Omaha, Nebraska, against national powerhouse Kansas.

Dancing in March for the fourth season in a row, NMSU (23-10) also has a chance to deal the Big 12 (0-3 on the first day of The Madness) another NCAA Tournament blow — if it can find a way to topple the Midwest’s No. 2 seed, KU (26-8).

The WAC regular-season and tournament champion Aggies lost at Baylor, 66-55, back on Dec. 17. But this is March. And upsets rule supreme.

If New Mexico State wants to test — or upset — Kansas, it will have to do so with its defense. The Aggies are:

  • 19th in the NCAA in scoring defense (59.3 points allowed)

  • 10th in 3-point FG% defense (29.3%)

  • 19th in rebound margin: +6.9 boards a game

The Aggies do all of that while playing pressure defense, and an adapting half-court zone that actually specializes in taking away open 3-point looks.

Asked to describe NMSU’s defense, sixth man D.K. Eldridge labeled it the ever-popular “40 minutes of hell.”

“We try to make it impossible to bring the ball across half court,” Eldridge said. “It mostly comes from all our deflections. We keep count of that. Daniel (Mullings) leading in deflections right now. Myself, Ian (Baker) can do it. And our back wall guys, they very athletic and make plays, as well.”

In summation: It’s the kind of approach that opponents hate.

In order to get to know the Aggies better, I asked senior guard Eldridge to provide his take on each of NMSU’s top six players.

AGGIES STARTERS

No. 3 — Remi Barry, 6-8, 225 senior F

New Mexico State senior forward Remi Barry participates in a NCAA second-round practice at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE., Thursday, March 19, 2015. New Mexico State will face the Jayhawks Friday in a second-round NCAA Tournament game.

New Mexico State senior forward Remi Barry participates in a NCAA second-round practice at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE., Thursday, March 19, 2015. New Mexico State will face the Jayhawks Friday in a second-round NCAA Tournament game. by Richard Gwin

— Season stats: 13.3 points, 46.3% FGs, 44.6% 3s (41-for-92), 76.6% FTs, 4.8 rebounds

“Coming off an injury from last year, he’s had a very successful year. He brings scoring to the table and he’s a part of our defense with his length.”

“He knows his role. He don’t get outside his box too much.”

No. 43 — Pascal Siakam, 6-9, 230 freshman F

New Mexico State freshman forward Pascal Siakam (43) warms up during a early practice session as New Mexico State took to the floor in Omaha, for a short practice session on Friday 19, 2015..

New Mexico State freshman forward Pascal Siakam (43) warms up during a early practice session as New Mexico State took to the floor in Omaha, for a short practice session on Friday 19, 2015.. by Richard Gwin

— Season stats: 13 points, 57.7% FGs, 0-for-2 3s, 76.3% FTs, 7.7 rebounds (4.4 offensive), 1.8 blocks

“Oh, man. He an animal down low. Only a freshman, though. That’s what’s crazy about it. He’s got a lot left. Hopefully this’ll give him experience to have confidence for the future.”

“He’s very athletic, rebounds, scores the ball really well. He plays hard every possession.”

No. 23 — Daniel Mullings, 6-2, 170, senior G

New Mexico State senior guard Daniel Mullings warms up with his team during a practice session at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE., Thursday, March 19, 2015.

New Mexico State senior guard Daniel Mullings warms up with his team during a practice session at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE., Thursday, March 19, 2015. by Richard Gwin

— Season stats: 12.6 points, 43.5% FGs, 36.1% 3s, 70.8% FTs, 5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2 steals

“He’s the head of the program. A very good player, athletic, very strong competitor.”

“Similar to myself, we just go out there and do what we do best: play hard every possession, give it our all for 40 minutes.”

“He’s a very strong driver, capable shooter, very good defense on the ball and off the ball.”

No. 15 — Tshilidzi Nephawe, 6-10, 268, senior C

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— Season stats: 10.4 points, 53.1% FGs, 62.1% FTs, 7.6 rebounds

“Just call him ‘Chili.’ He gets mad if you don’t say his nickname.”

“Just a big presence down low. Offense, it’s hard to stop him. Big, strong kid. A guy you want to get the ball to every time. You know you’re gonna get a bucket out of him.”

“On the defensive end, he just change shots, rebound, guard. He can get down and guard guards if he want to.”

“His conditioning got better. He came off an injury not too long ago (missed 12 games before returning in mid-January).”

“He’s a senior, does the right things. Not too many mistakes — on and off the court. He’s a guy that you want, and we want. We’re lucky to have him on our team.”

No. 4 — Ian Baker, 6-0, 180, sophomore PG

— Season stats: 9.5 points, 47.8% FGs, 47.2% 3s (58-for-123), 75.9% FTs, 2.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.4 steals

“He brings a lot. For being a young player, he’s a very experienced guy. He’s very mature at his position.”

“He can shoot the ball very well. He can lead the team on offense, and when he wants to he can play very good ‘D.’”

“He comes from a family with a lot of older brothers, so I think that’s why his maturity is so strong. … He’s a very good leader. We listen to him. He puts us in the right position to win games, hits a lot of big shots for us… When we’re in a deep situation, he’ll get us out of it.”

AGGIES BENCH

No. 1 — D.K. Eldridge, 6-2, 180, senior G

— Season stats: 8.1 points, 38.6% FGs, 28.1% 3s (34-for-121), 63.3% FTs, 2.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.1 steals

Eldridge considers himself a defensive-minded guy.

“That’s where my offense comes from most of the time — playing good ‘D.’ I know this team needs me in that category, so I just try my best to come off the bench and bring energy, especially when the starting five’s not feeling too energetic.”

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Former Jayhawk Jerod Haase deals Big 12 a blow by coaching UAB to upset victory vs. Iowa State

Jerod Haase

Jerod Haase

Omaha — Greg Gurley, attending Kansas University’s public practice, had just finished watching on a courtside computer UAB finish off an upset of Iowa State on Thursday in Lousiville, when he looked back on the first time he saw UAB coach Jerod Haase in a Kansas locker room.

“He was at Cal and we hated playing against him (in the 1993 NCAA tournament) because he was kind of that annoying guy,” Gurley said. “Then we beat him and he came into our uniform, full uniform on, and I remember I was with one of my teammates and I go, ‘Is that Jerod Haase?’ It was. He and coach (Roy) Williams talked and he basically told Coach Williams he wanted to transfer.”

Kansas went on to the Final Four.

“The next weekend after that he was in Lawrence on a visit,” Gurley said. “From that point on, he was attached to coach Williams, followed him to North Carolina and has done well.”
Haase, 40, played his final three seasons of college basketball for Williams at Kansas. He spent four seasons working under Williams at KU and eight at North Carolina. He is in his third season as head coach at UAB and coached in the NCAA tournament Thursday for the first time. Until that victory, the one that gained the most attention for Haase came when his Blazers upset mentor Williams' North Carolina squad Dec. 1, 2013, in Birmingham.

Haase has a 54-45 record at UAB. His Blazers advance to a Saturday game vs. UCLA.
The Big 12 went 0-3 Thursday, with Baylor (Georgia State) and Iowa State losing to No. 14 seeds and Texas losing to No. 6 seed Butler.

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Media day at CenturyLink Center

Kansas forward Perry Ellis talks to the media at the Centrurylink Center in Omaha, NE. Friday March 19, 2015.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis talks to the media at the Centrurylink Center in Omaha, NE. Friday March 19, 2015. by Richard Gwin

The NCAA Tournament already is in full swing in some cities, but in Omaha, Nebraska, the games don’t start until Friday. That means today at CenturyLink Center, players and coaches from Kansas University, New Mexico State, Wichita State and Indiana will only be talking basketball (and going through a pseudo practice which will be open to the public).

This will serve as your landing spot for the media day, and we’ll check in as we can to update you on what’s being said about Friday’s Round of 64 games — and the Sunday could-be game between KU and WSU, when that inevitably gets brought up.

Check back in throughout the day for updates.

— 7:43 p.m. update— By Matt Tait

Just filed this story about New Mexico State big man Tshilidzi Nephawe that includes where his nickname "Chili" came from, what he's playing for and why he's proud of his homeland of South Africa.

Had a lot of fun interviewing him and writing this one. Just a really, really good dude.

New Mexico State's 'Chili' plays to represent South Africa

— 5:08 p.m. update—

Kansas guards Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Wayne Selden Jr. answer questions during a press conference at Centrurylink Center in Omaha, NE. Thursday March 19 2015.

Kansas guards Kelly Oubre, Jr. and Wayne Selden Jr. answer questions during a press conference at Centrurylink Center in Omaha, NE. Thursday March 19 2015. by Richard Gwin

KU sent sophomore Wayne Selden Jr. and freshman Kelly Oubre jr. to the bright lights of the stage for Thursday's press conference.

Said Oubre of his upcoming first tourney:

"Guys like Wayne, Perry, Jamari, they've pretty much just calmed me down throughout this whole process and told me to take every game, one game at a time, one possession at a time; don't take anybody for granted and pretty much just play with a free mind. Try to take care of business for the name across your chest."

— Listen to what they had to say: Selden and Oubre discuss preparing for NCAAs

— 4:55 p.m. update —

At his press conference Thursday afternoon, Kansas coach Bill Self opened by talking about the excitement and urgency of playing in the NCAA Tournament.

"Obviously we're excited to play in another Tournament and something that we definitely do not take for granted, and the guys have worked real hard to put themselves in a position to be here. And, of course, being in Omaha is like a double bonus to us. It's certainly close for our fans. But even more importantly to us, it's a great venue, it's a great setup and a great city, and we have experienced a little bit of success the last couple of times we've been here, so we're very happy to be here in Omaha."

— Listen to the complete press conference here: Bill Self talks expectations, New Mexico State

— 4:47 p.m. update — by Matt Tait

The Jayhawks were in, by far, the smallest locker room I've seen them in during an NCAA Tournament (New Mexico State's was not any bigger) and it was incredibly packed during the entire open locker room session.

Jamari Traylor was so far back in the corner of the locker room that he just hung back in his locker and stayed out of sight. I was able to get back into the corner eventually and I asked him how the past four days had been for the health of the Jayhawks.

"We're good, man," Traylor said. "Everybody's healthy, feeling good and ready to go."

Down the row from Traylor, Brannen Greene held the edge and that made the access to him easy in and easy out. I talked to Greene a lot about the difference between the feeling he has this year at the tournament and the feeling he had last year, as a true freshman.

The basic answer was this: Instead of having his head on a swivel and being a little bit in awe of all that takes place here, from the media hype to the fan frenzy to the intensity of the games himself, Greene feels much more comfortable and enjoys that he knows what to expect.

"Your energy has to be at an all-time high at a tournament like this," Greene said. "And I think we all know that now. Instead of worrying about all of the things going on around us, we can focus more on basketball and getting ready to play."

— 4 p.m. update —

The Kansas locker room was crowded with working media Thursday afternoon, but our photographer Mike Yoder got in there for video.

— 2:20 p.m. update —

You can't tell a whole lot from these open "practices" that the NCAA Tournament holds for the fans, but Brannen Greene — just like his teammates — worked on his shot during the session.

None by Benton Smith

Some fell, some didn't. But that's the way it goes when three or four players are shooting at once.

If KU wants to turn a corner and start playing at a higher level on offense, they'll need Green to find that shooting touch again.

Here's a look at all of the perimeter players going through drills Thursday afternoon.

None by Benton Smith

— 1:33 p.m. update —

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

None by Benton Smith

None by Benton Smith

None by Benton Smith

None by Benton Smith

None by Benton Smith

None by Benton Smith

None by Benton Smith

— 1:05 p.m. update —

None by Matt Tait

None by Matt Tait

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None by Matt Tait

— 12:53 p.m. update —

None by Benton Smith

— 12 p.m., from Benton Smith —

Just got back from the New Mexico State locker room and the Aggies seem loose and confident.

They pride themselves on playing disruptive, turnover-focused defense and they hope that creates easy offense for them.

NMSU opponents average 13.2 giveaways a game this season, so it’s not a ridiculous number. But that mindset can get under opponents’ skin, and that can be just as beneficial.

Both point guard Ian Baker and sixth man D.K Eldridge talked about that peskiness and pointed to it as one of NMSU’s strengths.

Check back for video from the locker room and quotes from the Aggies (23-10).

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One more look at the unjust stacking of Midwest region

Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells at his players during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kentucky head coach John Calipari yells at his players during the first half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

I came up with one more way to look at the unfairness of the NCAA tournament seeding to see if I could confirm my suspicions that the Midwest region is strangely stacked, so much more loaded than the others.

I looked at the points each school received in the final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll and compared them, region-by-region. Sure enough, it confirmed the power of the Midwest regional.

Led by Kentucky’s 1,625 points, the Midwest has 6,014 AP poll points. The East finishes second with 5,527 points, the West (4,855) third and the South (4,824) fourth.

The top 25 ranking of Midwest regional teams: 1. Kentucky, 8. Notre Dame, 10. Kansas, 12. Maryland, 14. Wichita State, 20. West Virginia, 24. Butler.

Think about this for a moment: There are four regionals and the Midwest has five of the first 14 teams in the Associated Press poll. Not cool. Four East schools rank in the top 14: 2. Villanova, 6. Virginia, 11. Northern Iowa, 13. Oklahoma, three from the South regional (4. Duke, 7. Gonzaga, 9. Iowa State), just two in the West (3. Wisconsin, 5. Arizona), plus Nos. 15. North Carolina and 16. Baylor.

Oh well, the games begin in full today and tomorrow, so it’s probably time to focus on them and stop griping about the unbalanced brackets.

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Kentucky and 15 lesser teams that could win it

In this photo from Nov. 28, 2012, SMU head coach Larry Brown instructs his team against Utah in Salt Lake City. The well-traveled coach — who led Kansas University to the 1988 NCAA crown — has SMU off to a 9-4 start.

In this photo from Nov. 28, 2012, SMU head coach Larry Brown instructs his team against Utah in Salt Lake City. The well-traveled coach — who led Kansas University to the 1988 NCAA crown — has SMU off to a 9-4 start.

Sixteen teams capable of winning the national title and why in 16 words:

1 - Kentucky: Several NBA teams lack legitimate NBA center. Kentucky has three: Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie-Cauley Stein, Dakari Johnson.

2 - Duke: Overlooked key Quinn Cook, senior guard, beautifully complements freshmen Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones.

3 - Arizona: Experienced point guard T.J. McConnell brings out best in forwards Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

4 - Wisconsin: Frank Kaminsky, 7-foot center with guard skills, one of many Badgers with Final Four experience.

5 - Gonzaga: Big Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and veteran guard Kevin Pangos just two of many three-point threats.

6 - Villanova: Think Pink: Can JayVaughn Pinkston lead ’Cats to a national title 30 years after Ed Pinckney did?

7 - Virginia: Pack-line defense: The only defender who ever extends to three-point line is the man guarding the ball.

8 - North Carolina: Marcus Paige latest Roy Williams superstar Iowan, joining Kirk Hinrich, Harrison Barnes, Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison.

9 - Lousiville: Rick Pitino’s scoring-challenged, hard-working Cardinals led by relentless Montrezl Harrell, all muscle and hustle.

10 - Ohio State: If “next Michael Jordan” tag had not died, D’Angelo Russell would be guy wearing it now.

11 - Kansas: Only if Kelly Oubre, Hunter Mickelson disrupt defensively and Brannen Greene makes three threes a game.

12 - Iowa State: Free-minded shooters, versaitle players, a coach with professional demeanor, no deficit too big to overcome.

13 - Michigan State: You’ll never find another love like mine for first name of Spartans guard Lourawls Nairn, Jr.

14 - Ole Miss: Third in nation in free-throw shooting, experienced, play hard, take smarter shots without Marshall Henderson.

15 - Northern Iowa: Five three-point shooters get hot for six games in a row and a miracle can happen.

16 - SMU: Coach Larry Harvey Brown. Coach Larry Harvey Brown. Coach Larry Harvey Brown. Coach Larry Harvey Brown.

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KU Sports Extra — 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket breakdowns

The KU Sports Extra team, Tom Keegan and Matt Tait, breaks down the four regions of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket.


Midwest

None


West

None


East

None


South

None


Don't forget to make your picks in KUsports.com's Bracket Challenge.

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Kansas finishes at No. 10 in final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in a three-point basket in the first-half against the Lafayette Leopards Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) shoots in a three-point basket in the first-half against the Lafayette Leopards Saturday, Dec. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas, which drew a No. 2 seed in the loaded Midwest region, was ranked No. 10 in the final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll, one spot behind Big 12 rival Iowa State.

The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through March 15, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

         Record   Pts Prv
  1. Kentucky (65) 34-0 1,625 1
  2. Villanova 32-2 1,522 4
  3. Wisconsin 31-3 1,460 6
  4. Duke 29-4 1,406 2
  5. Arizona 31-3 1,405 5
  6. Virginia 29-3 1,333 3
  7. Gonzaga 32-2 1,229 7
  8. Notre Dame 29-5 1,178 11
  9. Iowa St. 25-8 1,043 13
  10. Kansas 26-8 |995 9
  11. N. Iowa 30-3 |979 10
  12. Maryland 27-6 |935 8
  13. Oklahoma 22-10 |740 15
  14. Wichita St. 28-4 |737 12
  15. North Carolina 24-11 |703 19
  16. Baylor 24-9 |680 16
  17. Louisville 24-8 |614 14
  18. SMU 27-6 |485 20
  19. Utah 24-8 |455 17
  20. West Virginia 23-9 |398 18
  21. Arkansas 26-8 |373 21
  22. Georgetown 21-10 |177 23
  23. Michigan St. 23-11 |159 |_
  24. Butler 22-10 |142 22
  25. VCU 26-9 |109 |_

Others receiving votes: Oregon 91, Providence 62, Xavier 18, Davidson 16, Ohio St. 12, Stephen F. Austin 12, Wyoming 6, Boise St. 5, LSU 5, BYU 3, Valparaiso 3, Harvard 2, Murray St. 2, Wofford 2, Colorado St. 1, Dayton 1, Iowa 1, Purdue 1.

My top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: Going undefeated made the regular season and NCAA tournament more interesting. Win or lose, it's a bigger story than if 'Cats had come into it with a loss.

2 - Virginia: Won the ACC regular-season title, has three losses, and didn't get a No. 1 seed .

3 - Wisconsin: Size, extensive tourney experience, skill shooters, coach Bo Ryan. Book a return trip to the Final Four.

4 - Villanova: Big East landed 6 of 10 members in the field and Villanova dominated the conference. Don't count the 'Cats short.

5 - Arizona: Did more to earn a No. 1 seed than Duke did.

6 - Duke: If Duke had Virginia's season and Virginia had Duke's, does anyone believe the seeds would be the same? No? Didn't think so.

7 - Gonzaga: Most talented Zags team ever has size, experience and a ton of shooters. If chalk rules in the South, regional final with Duke could be high-scoring game.

8 - Notre Dame: Unlike many of Mike Brey's past teams, this one can do more than get hot from the perimeter, but Irish can still do that.

9 - Maryland: Deserve better fate than having to face Kentucky in Sweet 16 game.

10 - Kansas: Normally, an Indiana-Kansas matchup would excite the masses, but in this case it would be a buzz-kill because it would cancel anticipated rare matchup with Wichita State. If you're scoring at home, four of my top 10 teams are in the Midwest Region. That shouldn't happen.

11 - Iowa State: You turn off the TV when Cyclones get way behind you're just not paying attention.

12 - Oklahoma: As do Cyclones, Sooners have easier path to Sweet 16 than Kansas.

13 - North Carolina: Very talented team that has shown recent signs of putting it together. Even so, with Wisconsin and Arizona in the West, projecting Heels to make Final Four is a bit of a reach.

14 - Louisville: Lousy shooters can make teams play poorly with disruptive defense. If Cards defeat UC Irvine and face Northern Iowa in Seattle on Sunday it would be fascinating matchup between great shooters and top-notch defenders.

15 - Northern Iowa: America, meet Seth Tuttle, a 6-foot-8, 240 pounds worth of pure basketball skill.

16 - Wichita State: Shockers must be so mad over getting seeded seventh they're going to play like hornets for as long as they last in the tournament.

17 - Michigan State: Guard Travis Trice averaged more than 20 points in eight games leading up to overtime loss to Wisconsin in Big Ten title game.

18 - Baylor: Not as talented as some Bears teams of recent past, but grittier.

19 - Utah: Utes have lost 4 of past 7. Looking for a first-round upset. Try Stephen F. Austin.

20 - West Virginia: Juwan Staten and Gary Browne expected back for game with Buffalo, coached by former Duke star Bobby Hurley.

21 - Oregon: Ducks not a horrible sleeper choice, but it will be tough to get past Wisconsin in second game.

22 - Georgetown: Many puzzled by No. 4 seed for Hoyas, but if Joshua Smith can stay out of foul trouble, he presents a lot of problems for the guys trying to guard him.

23 - Arkansas: If Hogs and North Carolina meet, that's a lot of talented size on the court and a must-watch game.

24 - Butler: Bulldogs love the underdog role but are seeded five spots higher than talented Texas. Still, it will feel like the Bulldogs are underdogs.

25 - Purdue: Legendary Boilermakers coach Gene Keady is coaching in the tournament as an assistant at St. John's.

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Women’s basketball coaching search: Iowa Western Community College head coach Jim Turgeon

Iowa Western Community College women's basketball coach Jim Turgeon takes 30-3 record into national juco tournament.

Iowa Western Community College women's basketball coach Jim Turgeon takes 30-3 record into national juco tournament. by Tom Keegan

Former Kansas point guard Mark Turgeon has coached Maryland to a second-place finish in the prestigious Big Ten and his Terps were ranked No. 8 in the nation, one spot ahead of his alma mater, heading into conference tournaments. Even so, he has not yet clinched coach of the year honors in the Turgeon family. That fierce competition is far from over.

Turge's older brother, Jim Turgeon, 52, brings a 30-3 record in his eighth season for Iowa Western Community College into the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament, which takes place today through Saturday at the Bicentennial Center in Salina. Iowa Western, in Council Bluffs, is located just across the river from Omaha. His Reivers play their fist tourney game Wednesday.

Turgeon searches the globe to put together his roster of 13 players. Four countries (Australia, Cyprus, Hungary, United States) and eight states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, South Dakota) are represented.

In coaching his international roster, Turgeon pulls from coaches with Kansas ties.

"We play aggressive man-to-man defense and we run my brother's secondary break and then we'll usually go into Bill Self's high-low offense," said Turgeon, a graduate of Washburn University." We like to score in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock or the last 10 seconds."

Meaning?

"We'll try to create turnovers and score when the defense isn't set," he said. "When the defense is set, we try to be patient and break down the defense."

Comparing himself to his more famous, wealthier brother, Jim said, "I'm two years older, much better looking and taught him everything he knows."

The brothers, natives of Topeka, share a down-to-earth, Kansas vibe.

"He is (down-to-earth) and he's brutally honest and sometimes that gets him into trouble," Jim said. "When we talk on the phone, first we talk about family and then we talk about our teams, share frustrations and also talk about the positive things that do work."

Jim Turgeon, 191-64 at Iowa Western, has the school record for victories. He is the second-winningest coach in Dodge City Community College, where he went 123-97. Check out these turn-around numbers: In three seasons before Turgeon took over at Dodge City, the school went 28-63. In his final five seasons before getting the heck out of dodge, his record was 105-55.

The year before going to Dodge, Turgeon was an assistant coach at a men's junior-college program near Dallas.

"I wanted to get back to Kansas," he said of the move to Dodge. "I never dreamed I'd be a woman's basketball coach, but it turned out to be my niche. My dad worked with girls most of the time (as assistant at Topeka Hayden High) and it's become my niche. I love it. I'll never go back to coaching men, unless Mark wants to pay me a half-a-million dollars a year to be his assistant. I don't see that happening. I don't know if any university could take two Turgeons at the same time."

Asked if he would be interested in becoming Kansas women's basketball head coach, Jim Turgeon said, "I guess the best way to answer that is that I grew up wanting to be the head coach at Kansas on the men's side, but now I'm on the woman's side. Of course, I'd be interested."

Turgeon isn't campaigning for the job. He merely picked up a phone call and started answering questions honestly.

"I'm in a really good situation," he said. "I have an opportunity to win every year and my family's happy here. That's coach-speak, I know, but it also happens to be true."

Dodge City's a tough place to build a winner, as proven by the program's performance before and after Turgeon. The guy knows how to recruit, coach and develop talent and he does it while maintaining an enjoyable atmosphere for his players.

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Bill Self examines the Midwest region of NCAA Tournament

Kansas players Jamari Traylor, left, Devonte Graham, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis surround Frank Mason before a pair of free throws by Mason during the second half on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Jamari Traylor, left, Devonte Graham, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis surround Frank Mason before a pair of free throws by Mason during the second half on Friday, Dec. 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

As the 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket got unveiled Sunday evening, it quickly became clear Kansas University might have one of the most difficult roads to the Final Four in Indianapolis.

KU coach Bill Self discussed his team’s Friday matchup with a solid No. 15 seed, New Mexico State, as well as a potential Round of 32 game against Wichita State Sunday evening, following the selection show.

Oh, yeah. One more thing: Kentucky is the No. 1 seed in KU’s Midwest region.

Here are some highlights from the press conference:

• Saturday’s result against Iowa State in the Big 12 final might not have mattered for KU’s seeding. It would have been hard to pass Gonzaga on the 2-seed line. KU got what it should have in ending up in Kentucky’s bracket, because the other No. 2 seeds probably had better years.

• New Mexico State (23-10) had some injuries this season and that is why have lost some of the games they did.

KU could face Wichita State in the Round of 32, and Self couldn’t believe the Shockers got a No. 7 seed.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) watches as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) rejects his floater during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) watches as Kentucky forward Alex Poythress (22) rejects his floater during the second half of the Champions Classic on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. by Nick Krug

• If this KU team gets a chance to play in the Elite Eight game, against Kentucky, “it’s been a hell of a year.”

The Jayhawks don’t even have to talk about that right now. Hopefully they will get to talk about that next week.

• Kansas took Sunday off from practicing. Kansas City was taxing on the team. They are beat up. Playing Friday helps KU. There is an extra day to get healthy, get bodies back fresh.

Perry Ellis isn’t close to being where he needs to be, but these four days will be big for him getting that bounce back.

• Self saw New Mexico State while flipping channels last night. He goes through all the teams that could end up being Nos. 15 or 16 seeds, and he had New Mexico State as a No. 13 seed.

“It is a hard first game, and we need to be ready come Friday.” When KU is good, it is really good. But it can’t afford to take 5 or 10 minutes off like it did against Iowa State.

• Self was pleased to see seven Big 12 teams get into the Big Dance.

• Self told the players: “You know how many bullets we’ve dodged?” in his time at KU, in terms of potential NCAA Tournament matchups. It isn’t guaranteed KU will play Wichita State.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson draws a foul on a shot from Purdue forward Robbie Hummel during the second half on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

Kansas forward Thomas Robinson draws a foul on a shot from Purdue forward Robbie Hummel during the second half on Sunday, March 18, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha. by Nick Krug

• KU has always had a good crowd in Omaha, Nebraska, and Wisconsin will travel great, too. KU has had some good runs going through Omaha, too: The Jayhawks won it in 2008 and got to the final in 2012 after playing in Omaha.

• Larry Brown and SMU got in, and Self thought that might end up being a Round of 32 matchup for Kansas. Instead it was Wichita State.

• The guys are excited, and one guy who should be more excited than anybody else is Ellis. That is a pretty big potential matchup for him, maybe facing his hometown program in Wichita State next Sunday.

• Kentucky was a lot better than Kansas that day they met in November, but that team is even better now. KU is better, too.

There might not ever have been a team as favored going into the tournament as Kentucky.

• Self thinks KU has had a real good season, but you have to accomplish some things in the next few weeks to make it memorable.

For KU, losing to ISU, there was a little hangover, but that’s gone now.

• KU could have an exciting next few weeks potentially, with maybe the chance to play the hottest team in the ACC in Notre Dame and the prohibitive favorite in Kentucky.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander watches warmups on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas University officials announced that Alexander will not play against Texas after they were alerted to a potential eligibility issue involving Alexander by the NCAA.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander watches warmups on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. Kansas University officials announced that Alexander will not play against Texas after they were alerted to a potential eligibility issue involving Alexander by the NCAA. by Nick Krug

• Self doesn’t think he should even talk about Cliff Alexander anymore with the media. If new information comes out, then he will.

• Landen Lucas is banged up and at this point in time, they need him and every player as healthy as possible. KU can be as close to whole as it has been in a while very soon.

• Self talked to the entire team after the TCU game on Thursday about how disappointing that was, and part of that was the way Wayne Selden Jr. played. Selden responded perfectly in the next two days.

• KU didn’t have the same intensity level in the second half vs. Iowa State, but still had a chance to win it late after being down 7 points.

Another positive came the night before with how KU rebounded and defended against Baylor.

But the bottom line is they need Ellis back playing to his potential.

• The Big 12 didn’t do well as a league in the NCAAs last season, after a strong regular season.

This year was another strong campaign, and the seeding reflected that. To validate that you need to have three or four teams get to that second weekend.

— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self reacts to Selection Sunday, KU's draw

— Hear from Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr.: Ellis and Selden discuss the NCAA Tournament

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Women’s basketball coaching search: Wichita State head coach Jody Adams

Joy Adams

Joy Adams by Tom Keegan

My knowledge of the women’s college basketball coaching world is limited, but now that Kansas has an opening, I have started asking a lot of questions and doing some research in order to blog about potential candidates. It’s important to understand that by writing about coaches, I’m not saying KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger is planning to interview them. I’m not even saying they necessarily would leave their jobs for KU, which some, Zenger included, believe to be a sleeping giant in women's basketball. I’m just trying to call attention coaches who have winning backgrounds and could possibly be interested in the opening.

Wichita State head coach Jody Adams, the first potential candidate in this, the latest KU coaching-search blog, has done a remarkable job in building a winner and bringing positive attention to the Shockers' women's program.

Wichita State’s Missouri Valley Conference records in seven seasons before Adams took over: 8-10, 7-10, 7-11, 2-16, 8-10, 4-14, 3-15. That’s 17-55 in the four seasons leading up to Admas’ first.

Under Adams: 4-14, 8-10, 10-8, 12-6, 15-3, 14-4, 17-1. That's 46-8 in Adams' past three seasons. Phenomenal. Adams has taken the Shockers from worst in the Missouri Valley to first. This will be the third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for Wichita State, which never had earned a berth pre-Adams.

Her amazing turnaround job at Wichita State should not come as a huge surprise to anyone familiar with her background. Adams was known as among the nation’s top recruiters at various assistant-coaching stops, including at MInnesota and UMKC.

Her competitive spirit was evident long before she put it to use as a recruiter. Adams’ winning ways started as a player. As a sophomore, she was starting point guard of the 1991 Tennessee national-championship team. She started her coaching career as a graduate assistant under the legendary Pat Summitt.

Adams, in her seventh season at Wichita State, takes a 26-4 record and nine-game winning streak into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, which starts today in St. Charles, Mo.

Considering her playing background and coaching success, Adams shapes up as the Kim Mulkey of the Missouri Valley. Wichita State recognized Adams' efforts last July by signing her to a five-year contract extension through 2019. You know how that goes. In sports, contracts are made to be broken.

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Bill Self, Jayhawks turn their focus toward postseason

Coach Bill Self congratulates Kansas guard Frank Mason III after the Jayhawks overtime win over the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4.

Coach Bill Self congratulates Kansas guard Frank Mason III after the Jayhawks overtime win over the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4.

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and his Jayhawks finally can turn their focus to the postseason.

At a press conference Monday in Allen Fieldhouse, Self spoke plenty about this week’s Big 12 Tournament and some about the NCAA madness that follows.

Of course, the status of three guys who didn’t play for KU at Oklahoma on Saturday — Perry Ellis, Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene — came up too.

Here are some of the highlights from the Q&A:

• On being named the Big 12’s AP coach of the year: It’s nice, but it’s a reflection of the fact you have good players and a good team. There were several guys who could’ve won it.

“For the first time, I think the media actually knows what it’s talking about,” the coach joked (we assume).

• The mood after KU’s loss at Oklahoma was positive. The Jayhawks played hard, and fought and just got beat.

Losing on the last play again, like at West Virginia, made it harder to stomach. KU didn’t make shots the first half and did much better in the second half. The Jayhawks played better than they had the week prior, too.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) drives against Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue (22) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) drives against Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue (22) during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

• Perry Ellis will be evaluated tomorrow, as he has been every day. The hope is he will be able to go full speed at practice by Wednesday. If that’s not the case, he won’t play Thursday.

Ellis will wear a brace the rest of the season, regardless, for precautionary measures.

• Self has never thought it is that important to win the Big 12 Tournament. The Jayhawks want to go and win, just like every team. But it’s the only game where you can lose and immediately be recharged and looking to what’s next.

As soon as you win it, your whole focus turns. There is no relishing it. You want to win it because you’re competitive and it’s against your peers, but it’s not the end of the earth if you don’t.

• One could make a case for seven or eight different teams winning the Big 12 Tournament if they get hot. You could also make a case that if those same teams don’t come out ready on Thursday, they will lose.

• Self might watch some other games this week if they’re on TV, but he won’t study them.

Kansas head coach Bill Self slaps hands with center Joel Embiid as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' 86-64 win over Georgetown on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self slaps hands with center Joel Embiid as he leaves the court following the Jayhawks' 86-64 win over Georgetown on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

• In terms of preparing for the NCAA Tournament, Self will do something differently this year. Last year the team thought it was going to get Joel Embiid back and prepared for him to play. That was a mistake. The Jayhawks should’ve prepared not expecting him, and if he came back it would be a bonus.

KU spent too much energy thinking Embiid would come back. So this year, Self won’t count on Cliff Alexander coming back. If he gets cleared, KU will plug Alexander in.

• Based on Self’s limited information, which he read on the Yahoo! report, he doesn’t really know where Alexander’s situation stands.

So Self is planning not to have Alexander available.

“He’s a stud… He’s down.. But his attitude’s great,” Self said of Alexander. And the freshman big man probably has practiced better than ever.

Every good player in the country has “somebody meet with somebody.” It becomes illegal if there are things beyond that. And Self doesn’t have enough information on it to comment on that part of it.

• The players feel bad for Alexander, but there won’t be a negative situation if they don’t get him back. The guys are prepared and focused.

• Landen Lucas, Self thought even before the sophomore’s big day at OU, would be good enough to start at Kansas one day. He is a good player and a part of the program’s future moving forward.

• Brannen Greene should play on Thursday. He has handled his business since Saturday’s suspension. He needs to keep doing that.

• Self hasn’t talked to Wayne Selden Jr. since the game at OU, but the report from the trainer is he is fine. He should be 100 percent by Thursday.

Selden also has suffered from the flu.

“We checked everyone’s schedule and there is no time for anyone to get sick,” Self joked.

• Both Kansas State and TCU — KU’s potential opponents on Thursday — guarded Kansas really well in the regular season.

• The play KU ran to get Frank Mason III fouled on a three-pointer at the end of the Oklahoma loss worked out well. They call it “home run,” and probably every team in America runs it or something close. It is like the famous Valparaiso play.

• There is so much hype on the NCAA Tournament, it means more in people’s minds and you have to deliver. From KU’s perspective, you know the difference between some of the seeds is very small, even if some people think of certain outcomes as monumental upsets.

Everybody can beat everybody.

• Kentucky is “really good.” They won games where they didn’t play well and that’s what is impressive about their undefeated mark at this point.

But if something happens and they don’t win it all, it won’t be monumental. The best team doesn’t always win.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dives out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) dives out of bounds for an attempted save before the Jayhawks' bench during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

• Jamari Traylor’s season has been up and down, but the last two games he has been really good. “He’s not big enough to do what he does,” Self said. Last year the role was easier for Traylor because he had big guys like Embiid and Tarik Black ahead of him.

Self just wishes he would defensive rebound the ball a little better. He’s on an uptick right now.

• Nothing that happened Saturday at OU will hurt Kansas, it can only help the team.

• You don’t want your guys practicing more than an hour and 10 minutes or so at this time of year to avoid fatigue. You might work on a couple of late-game situations a day and have some refreshers, but you don’t necessarily spend more time on those sorts of plays.

• “The Big 12 Tournament should stay in Kansas City.” That’s not because it is close to KU, it’s because it is the best setup. You’re guaranteed sellouts. At other conference tournaments there will be tons of empty seats in those early rounds.

Self joked, Fred Hoiberg would rather it be in Des Moines. But other league coaches like it in Kansas City, Missouri, too — not just Self.

• If KU hadn’t played such a good schedule the Jayhawks wouldn’t have had the same chance at a high seed as they do now, with a 24-7 record. The Jayhawks are used to playing hard schedules.

— Listen to the complete press conference: Bill Self talks Big 12 Tournament, March Madness and more

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Kansas stays at No. 9 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) goes for a block against West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse..

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) goes for a block against West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse..

Kansas stayed at No. 9 in the Associated Press college basketball poll, released today. Maryland replaced Wichita State at No. 8 and the Shockers dropped to 12th.

The top 25 teams in APpoll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Sunday, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

              Record Pts Prv
  1. Kentucky (65) 31-0 1,625 1
  2. Duke 28-3 1,544 3
  3. Virginia 28-2 1,454 2
  4. Villanova 29-2 1,444 4
  5. Arizona 28-3 1,360 5
  6. Wisconsin 28-3 1,344 6
  7. Gonzaga 30-2 1,229 7
  8. Maryland 26-5 1,103 10
  9. Kansas 24-7 1,040 9
  10. N. Iowa 30-3 1,037 11
  11. Notre Dame 26-5 1,026 12
  12. Wichita St. 28-4 797 8
  13. Iowa St. 22-8 786 17
  14. Louisville 24-7 780 16
  15. Oklahoma 21-9 772 15
  16. Baylor 23-8 701 14
  17. Utah 23-7 587 13
  18. West Virginia 23-8 525 20
  19. North Carolina 21-10 406 19
  20. SMU 24-6 339 22
  21. Arkansas 24-7 300 18
  22. Butler 22-9 287 21
  23. Georgetown 20-9 223 _
  24. Davidson 23-6 99 _
  25. Boise St. 24-7 82 _

Others receiving votes: Oregon 69, Providence 63, Ohio St. 40, BYU 18, Michigan St. 15, LSU 8, Iowa 7, St. John's 6, San Diego St. 3, Stephen F. Austin 2, Dayton 1, North Florida 1, Purdue 1, Valparaiso 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: Wildcats (31-0) are fifth team since Indiana’s 1976 undefeated national championship team to make it through regular season undefeated. The others: Indiana State (1978-79, 26-0), UNLV (1990-91, 27-0), St. Joseph’s (2003-2004, 27-0), Wichita State (2013-14, 31-0).

2 - Virginia: Senior star Justin Anderson had hoped to return to the lineup Saturday after missing eight games with a broken finger, but he underwent an appendectomy Thursday. The Cavs’ 59-57 Saturday loss at Lousiville makes them 7-1 without Anderson, who is questionable for the ACC tournament.

3 - Duke: At his best in big games throughout the season, freshman point guard Tyus Jones had a second terrific performance vs. North Carolina, scoring season-high 24 points Saturday. He also has shown big improvement in the second half of the season and is shooting .446 from three and averaging 14.4 points in the past 15 games.

4 - Wisconsin: National player of year candidate Frank Kaminsky averages in past five games: 23 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 blocks, .719 overall shooting, .467 from three.

5 - Villanova: St. John’s came into Philadelphia with a four-game winning streak, the most victories (21) during the Steve Lavin era and took an 18-7 lead. Villanova outscored the high-flying Johnnies a stunning 98-50 the rest of the way.

6 - Arizona: Finished Pac-12 regular season in style, destroying California by 39 and Stanford by 22. T.J. McConnell (11 assists both games) and Brandon Ashley (averaged 18 points, 7.5 rebounds and made 13 of 19 field goals and 10 of 12 free throws) had huge weeks.

7 - Gonzaga: This will be 16th time in 16 seasons under Mark Few that Zags make the tournament. This could be the year Few makes the Elite Eight for the first time. He has made it to the Sweet 16 in four seasons, including his first two. Zags have lost in Round of 32 in each of past five seasons. With so much size and skill, this looks like the best Gonzaga team ever.

8 - Maryland: Turge’s Terps finished Big Ten season riding seven-game winning streak with Dez Wells averaging 18.7 points. In final two games, victories at Rutgers and at Nebraska, Wells averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds. Let’s see, Maryland used to be in the ACC, Rutgers the Big East and Nebraska the Big 12. It still feels weird to call those games Big Ten matchups.

9 - Notre Dame: Irish are nation’s No. 1 two-point shooting team (.586) and rank 24th in nation with .390 three-point percentage. They don’t play rugged defense, but at least make teams earn it from the field by not fouling very often.

10 - Kansas: Frank Mason, Brannen Greene, Devonte Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have combined for nine blocked shots in 2,157 minutes. Hunter Mickelson has 14 blocked shots in 109 minutes.

11 - Oklahoma: Sooners try to make it three victories in one season vs. in-state rival. Whatever Cowboys have tried to do to throw off Buddy Hield’s shot hasn’t worked. In two games he has made 15 of 18 shots, including 5 of 6 three-pointers and has averaged 21 points.

12 - Iowa State: In conference games, Monte Morris leads Big 12 in assists (5.44) and assists-to-turnovers (4.08) and ranks second in minutes (34.5), field-goal percentage (.518) and steals (tied with two others at 1.72). Most underrated player in conference.

13 - Louisville: Mangok Mathiang, averaging 2.6 points, had not taken a shot until making a 15-footer with 2.7 seconds left to deliver Louisville a 59-57 victory vs. Virginia. Rick Pitino: “Mangok was the 64th option.” Mathiang: “I was just shocked that I made it.”

14 - Baylor: Rare is the conference that can pit teams as good as Baylor and West Virginia against each other in first-round conference tournament game..

15 - West Virginia: Mountaineers looking to avenge regular-season sweep by Baylor, which won the two games by average margin of 15 points.

16 - North Carolina: Tar Heels have lost 6 of 10, but four of the losses were to top 10 teams, two coming in overtime.

17 - Utah: First 25 games: 21-4; Past five games: 2-3. Three-point shooting percentage in 23 victories: .435, compared to .297 in seven losses.

18 - Northern Iowa: Down 36-22 at halftime vs. Illinois State in the Missouri Valley conference tournament title game, the Panthers took over the game with a 25-4 run..

19 - Wichita State: Ron Baker was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting in second half in loss to Illinois State. At the half, Baker had 13 points, four rebounds and five assists.

20 - Oregon: Ducks finished Pac-12 regular season on five-game winning streak, including 11-point victory vs. Utah. Only loss in past 10 games came at UCLA.

21 - Georgetown: Hoyas tied for second with Butler in Big East by going 5-1 at end of schedule.

22 - Arkansas: Sophomore center Bobby Portis averaging 17.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots.

23 - Michigan State: Guard Travis Trice, who scored 18 of his 21 points Saturday in the second half in 74-72 victory at Indiana, getting hot just in time for postseason. Averaged 20.8 points in last six games

24 - Butler: Coach Chris Holtmann took over on an interim basis in October when Brandon Miller requested a medical leave of absence. He was named permanent head coach in January, meaning his gamble of leaving his post as head coach at Gardner-Webb for an assistant’s job at Butler paid off. Holtmann’s records at Gardner-Webb: 11-21, 12-20, 21-13, an impressive turn-around.

25 - Purdue: If I see the Boilermakers listed as a bubble team one more time my head will explode. The Boilermakers tied for third in the always-strong Big Ten with 12-6 record.

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These guys again: No. 15 Oklahoma

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12), forward Perry Ellis, and Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., right, battle for a rebound with Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) and Oklahoma TaShawn Thomas (35) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12), forward Perry Ellis, and Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., right, battle for a rebound with Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) and Oklahoma TaShawn Thomas (35) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Lon Kruger’s Oklahoma Sooners hoped Saturday’s regular-season finale at home against perennial power Kansas would decide the 2015 Big 12 championship.

However, two road losses in OU’s previous five games destroyed the Sooners’ chances of becoming the team that ended KU’s run of regular-season dominance.

Oklahoma lost at Kansas State by 3 on Valentine’s Day, and fell victim to a massive Iowa State comeback on Big Monday earlier this week.

Now, it’s not as if the No. 15 Sooners (20-9 overall, 11-6 Big 12) have nothing left to play for against the No. 9 Jayhawks (24-6, 13-4). There is the matter of closing down Lloyd Noble Center for the season in style, not to mention the feather in the cap a win over KU brings to a team’s résumé just before the start of the NCAA Tournament.

Frankly, OU should feel pretty good about winning this rematch with Kansas. The Sooners recovered from a 20-point deficit at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 19 and took a four-point lead in the second half before Kansas won, 85-78.

KU is 5-5 in true road games. Plus, the Jayhawks, have neither Allen Fieldhouse, Perry Ellis nor Cliff Alexander to help them this time.

At home this season, OU has defeated Baylor, Iowa State, West Virginia and Oklahoma State (all ranked at the time).

OU visitors this season have been out-shot:

  • 48.3% to 36.6%, from the field

  • 40.6% to 29.2%, from 3-point land

With that in mind, here is a refresher on the Sooners KU will have to hold back to have a shot at entering the postseason on a three-game winning streak.

SOONERS STARTERS

No. 24 — Buddy Hield, 6-4, junior G

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) celebrates during the Sooners' comeback against Kansas during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) celebrates during the Sooners' comeback against Kansas during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 19 at KU: 26 points, 7/19 FGs, 4/13 3s, 8/9 FTs, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 TOs, 2 steals in 37 minutes

The Big 12’s leading scorer — his 18.5 points per game in conference are even better than his 17.3 average for the season — is a gunner. Hield already has taken 206 3-pointers, and has made 79 (2.7 makes a game).

In the league, the dynamic junior shoots 44.9% from the floor and 38.3% from 3-point land.

Hield and fellow starting guards, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins, are active defenders, too. Hield has 26 steals in the Big 12, and the trio of guards all rank in the top eight in the conference in that category.

A strong candidate to be named conference player of the year, Hield torched KU in the first meeting, and now has two fewer interior defenders to worry about when he attacks off the dribble.

In eight league games, he has scored 20 points or more, and did so in each of his last two outings — 21 vs. TCU, 26 at Iowa State.

hoop-math.com update: Good luck coaxing Hield into taking 2-point jump shots, a range at which he only makes 32.9% of his attempts. He takes 2.5 of those a game and only 18.4% of his 397 shots this season have been 2-point jumpers. Hield basically lives downtown (51.9% of his shots are taken there), and at the rim. … Oh, yeah. Hield also has 20 put-backs on the offensive glass this year.

No. 11 — Isaiah Cousins, 6-4, junior G

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. reaches through for a steal against Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. reaches through for a steal against Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins (11) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 19 at KU: 18 points, 7/15 FGs, 3/8 3s, 1/1 FTs, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 TOs, 2 steals in 38 minutes

KU didn’t have much success checking Cousins in the first game, either.

On the season, Cousins is the conference’s top 3-point shooter at 44.7%. Wouldn’t you know it, he’s even better in the Big 12: 30-for-65, 46.2%.

Basically, never leave that guy open. Especially at home, where he makes 51% of his 3-pointers.

Cousins averages 11.4 points and 3.9 boards in the conference, and he has 24 steals so far.

He has made 3 or more 3-pointers in 7 Big 12 games this season.

— hoop-math.com update: When he’s not taking 3-pointers, 38.2% of Cousins’ shots have been 2-point jumpers. He has made 39 of 113 (34.5%), and they primarily come one-on-one. Only 9 of his 2-point jumpers have been assisted.

No. 35 — Tashawn Thomas, 6-8, senior F

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) puts up a shot over Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas (35) and guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) puts up a shot over Oklahoma forward TaShawn Thomas (35) and guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 19 at KU: 4 points, 1/7 FGs, 2/2 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 6 TOs, 3 blocks in 25 minutes

The only OU starter who failed to reach double figures in the first meeting with KU, Thomas might not have a problem doing so this time around, what with the Jayhawks’ frontcourt looking so thin right now.

The big man averages 11.2 points and 7.0 rebounds in the league, and makes 47.5% of his shot attempts.

While Thomas has swatted away 24 shots in the Big 12, he also has drawn 8 charges in his last 9 games.

He had 4 offensive rebounds, and 8 total, in each of his last 2 games.

Thomas’s 24 points vs. BU and 22 vs. ISU this season keyed big home wins.

— hoop-math.com update: As you likely know by now, Thomas mostly operates inside, with 51.8% of his shots coming at the rim. He shoots 35.3% (41-for-116) on 2-point jumpers.

No. 00 — Ryan Spangler, 6-8, junior F

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls back for an attempted dunk against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls back for an attempted dunk against Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler (00) during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 19 at KU: 13 points, 6/10 FGs, 0/1 3s, 1/1 FTs, 10 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 assists, 1 TO, 1 block in 37 minutes

Just about every KU opponent this season has had at least one guy hurt the Jayhawks on the offensive glass. For Oklahoma, that man was Spangler.

Thanks in part to his work on the boards when OU puts up a shot, he shoots 57.6% from the floor in the Big 12 — which easily makes him the league leader. Only ISU’s Monté Morris (51%) and Ellis (50%) are in the same neighborhood.

In league games, he averages 10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and has denied 24 shots.

For some reason, Spangler has taken 18 3-pointers this season in the league. He has made just 3 — 16.7%.

— hoop-math.com update: Even though most of Spangler’s boards come on defense, he averages 2.3 a game on offense, and has a team-leading 25 put-backs this season. 19% of his shots at the rim have been on the offensive glass. Spangler shoots 71.9% at the rim (87 of 121).

No. 10 — Jordan Woodard, 6-0, sophomore G

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) puts up a three from the corner as he is defended by Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) puts up a three from the corner as he is defended by Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) during the first half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— Jan. 19 at KU: 10 points, 2/5 FGs, 6/7 FTs, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 TO, 1 block, 1 steal in 38 minutes

OU’s point guard averages 3.6 assists in the Big 12, to go with his 9.6 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Woodard isn’t quite the shooter — 11-for-32 from 3-point distance in the league — that Hield and Cousins are but he gets easy points at the free-throw line, where he connects 84.9% of the time (62 makes on team-leading 73 attempts).

His 1.59 steals a game also lead OU, and rank him tied for fourth in the league.

— hoop-math.com update: The point guard can get to the rim on his own. Of his 31 field goals at the rim this season, only six came via a teammate’s assist.

SOONERS BENCH

No. 1 — Frank Booker, 6-4, sophomore G

— Jan. 19 at KU: 3 points, 1/1 FGs, 1/1 3s, 0 TOs in 3 minutes

Booker’s role has increased significantly since the first matchup with Kansas.

He barely played back in January at the fieldhouse, but since then he has registered 15 minutes or more in 9 of the last 11 games (including each of the last 6). Booker now averages 14.4 minutes in Big 12 games, contributing 5.6 points off the bench.

Outside of Hield and Cousins, he is OU’s best 3-point shooter. In conference games, Booker has made 20 of 58 3-pointers (34.5%).

Though he went 0-for-5 at ISU on Monday, he made 4 of 8 recently — Feb. 21 at Texas Tech.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Some players take a lot of 3-pointers. And then there is Booker. This season, 79% of his shots have come behind the arc. (For comparison’s sake: Brannen Greene takes 71.8% of his shots from downtown.) Look for him to catch and shoot. 24 of his 28 makes from 3-point land have been assisted.

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Bill Self: Big 12 champion Jayhawks going to OU to win

Kansas coach Bill Self hugs Devonte Graham (4) after a 76-69 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse..

Kansas coach Bill Self hugs Devonte Graham (4) after a 76-69 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse..

Just one game remains in the regular season for Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team, and his Jayhawks (24-6 overall, 13-4 Big 12) already have sole possession of a conference championship sealed up.

Plus, two guys that started for KU just less than two weeks ago — forwards Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander — don’t figure in the plans.

That makes Saturday’s game at Oklahoma (20-9, 11-6) unique, but Self still plans on going down to Norman to win.

He talked about that and more Thursday afternoon at his weekly press conference. Here are some of the highlights:

On monumental rallies in the Big 12 this past week: They’ve always happened, based on Self’s knowledge, and they happen at home, where the crowd plays such a part of it. The Iowa State rally vs. OU was different. The Cyclones went off. KU didn’t really hit shots vs. West Virginia; the Jayhawks just rebounded. At Allen Fieldhouse, the crowd gives KU players so much confidence.

The perception of the Big 12 nationally is it’s a great league, and not a top-heavy league, which Self thinks is fair. There is parity in the Big 12. There are only 10 teams in the conference, which is different from the other major conferences. ESPN has promoted the league favorably but the Big 12 still operates in the fly-over states and doesn’t get quite the attention that the ACC gets, for example.

Sometimes the regular season gets overlooked, and sometimes that’s unfair. KU has had a good season, but the Jayhawks have to play well in the postseason to make it special.

Everybody in the league has done well at some point or another in the postseason in the Big 12 since Self has been here, too, he said.

If you have good enough players to win the league, you have a good enough team to make a run in the postseason.

Perry Ellis is responding well to treatment. But he’s definitely not going to play at Oklahoma. Hopefully by next week they will know if he can get out there and play in the Big 12 Tournament.

It’s a sprained knee.

There is nothing new on Cliff Alexander, so to Self’s estimation, the chances of him playing Saturday are almost non-existent.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) hangs for a shot against Texas center Cameron Ridley (55) and forward Connor Lammert during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas forward Perry Ellis.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) hangs for a shot against Texas center Cameron Ridley (55) and forward Connor Lammert during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas forward Perry Ellis. by Nick Krug

This altered lineup impacts how KU will play at OU, when they should be fine-tuning things. Wayne Selden Jr. has an ankle injury, too. The Jayhawks might tweak some things and “have some fun with it.”

Depending on Selden’s situation, there won’t be anyone who has played a ton of minutes except for Frank Mason III. And Mason wants to play. He doesn’t want to rest. Besides, Self says KU is going down to OU to win the game.

There are probably a lot of things that would have to happen for KU to get in position to be considered for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs.

If things went in the other direction, the Jayhawks could fall to a 3-seed line.

Self hopes KU has its full complement of players for the Big 12 Tournament, because right now it feels like they are in limbo.

Oklahoma has a tremendous lineup, and Self thought this game would probably mean a lot more in terms of the league title race.

But now KU is playing for seed lines, that sort of thing, as is OU.

Now with 11 Big 12 titles in a row, Self can remember certain portions of specific seasons when things sort of clicked or things fell apart.

Self will probably remember this one more than others because it was such a grind to get the championship. This might have been the most difficult season to win the league, in large part because the differential in talent is so small.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) knocks the ball loose to create a steal against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) knocks the ball loose to create a steal against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

When guys like Hunter Mickelson and Landen Lucas come in ready to play like they did against West Virginia, that is a credit to them more than the coaches.

Mickelson just wants a chance to play, which is a good thing. Self said he, Lucas and Svi Mykhailiuk have as good an attitude as anybody in the program.

Mickelson can shoot and blocks some shots. He busted his butt against WVU. And Lucas made a “stud play” at the end of regulation to block a shot that could’ve won it for WVU.

It’s kind of a next man up situation, as the football saying goes. Those guys should play well and Self thinks they will.

KU hit nine 3-pointers in the first half against OU at Allen Fieldhouse earlier this season, but the Jayhawks aren’t going to Norman expecting to make that many.

Still, without Ellis, it will behoove Kansas to hit some perimeter shots on Saturday.

Self doesn’t talk about missing shots with the team, just with the media.

ISU and OU are the best shot-making teams in the league, so Kansas doesn’t want to go down there and get in a game of HORSE. You have to have some shot-makers. But mainly KU needs to get quality shots more than anything else.

In the race for Big 12 Player of the Year, Ellis might be hurt by missing time at the end. To Self, Ellis putting KU on his back speaks volume. Buddy Hield has been great for Oklahoma, too.

Ellis certainly has played himself onto the first team without question.

— Listen to the entire press conference: Bill Self talks quality of Big 12, seed lines and more

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