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Getting to know Kansas State

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber directs his defense during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber directs his defense during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Already 2-6 outside of Manhattan this season (1-4 in true road games, 1-2 at neutral sites), things don’t figure to get any easier for Bruce Weber’s Kansas State basketball team Saturday, when the Wildcats head east on I-70 to play the Sunflower Showdown at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas has knocked off K-State eight times in a row in Lawrence, with the last rivalry game road win for the guys in purple coming in 2006.

KU has won 13 of the last 15 meetings in the series and holds a 39-4 record against the Wildcats in the Big 12 era.

What’s more, the Wildcats (12-9 overall, 5-3 Big 12) enter the showdown having lost two of their last three games, falling at Iowa State and at home to West Virginia (both by six points), while beating Oklahoma State by 10 in Manhattan.

In order to beat Bill Self’s No. 9 Kansas team (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big 12), K-State will have to execute its defensive game plan and hope one of its top players is available (more on that to come).

In conference games, Weber’s squad only allows 60.5 points (second to Oklahoma State’s 59.5) and has held foes to 40.6% shooting (fifth in Big 12). The Wildcats also have limited their opposition to 30.1% 3-point shooting (second in the Big 12 to TCU’s 26.3%).

Here are the K-State players the Jayhawks will have to worry about as they try to stay atop the Big 12 standings.

WILDCATS STARTERS

No. 2 — Marcus Foster, 6-3, sophomore G

Kansas State guard Marcus Foster pulls up for a three before Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe during the second half on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State guard Marcus Foster pulls up for a three before Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe during the second half on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

K-State’s leading scorer comes in averaging 13.8 points, but that’s not the only category in which he leads the Wildcats. Foster has team-highs in: field goals (91), FGs attempted (216), made 3-pointers (51), 3-point tries (126), double-digit scoring games (17), 20-point games (4), and minutes (28.9).

Foster is by far the Wildcats’ top 3-point shooter, having hit 39 more than teammates Justin Edwards and Nigel Johnson (12 each).

He averages 2.2 assists per game, while hitting 42.1% of his shots and 40.5% of his 3-pointers.

Last season against KU, Foster averaged 13.5 points on 36.4% shooting. But Self said Friday he can tell Foster asserts himself more on offense this season, especially in Big 12 play.

The dynamic sophomore guard is averaging 13.4 points through eight league games while doing some of his damage by getting to the foul line — 32 for 42 (76.2%) in Big 12 action.

K-State has benefited when Foster isn’t doing the scoring alone, though. The Wildcats are 8-2 when three players reach double figures in the same game. Foster averages 15.9 points in those contests.

Foster went through a bit of a slump earlier this season, and even finished scoreless at Oklahoma State to open Big 12 play. Since then, he’s averaging 15.3 points and shooting 41.3%.

He had his worst shooting night since the league opener earlier this week, vs. WVU, making just 4 of his 12 shots.

hoop-math.com nugget: As athletic as he is, Foster only takes 20.4% of his shots at the rim. He has hit 25 of those 44 looks (56.8%). Most often, he prefers hoisting 3-pointers — 58.3% of his shots come from downtown.

No. 11 — Nino Williams, 6-5, senior F

Kansas teammates Jamari Traylor, center, and Tarik Black defend against a shot by Kansas State forward Nino Williams during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas teammates Jamari Traylor, center, and Tarik Black defend against a shot by Kansas State forward Nino Williams during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Williams’ status for Saturday afternoon, as of Friday, was up in the air. The athletic wing hurt his knee Tuesday during K-State’s home loss to the Mountaineers. http://www2.kusports.com/news/2015/ja...

If he can’t play, the Wildcats will be without their leading rebounder (4.9 per game), and a guy who has put up 11.7 points while hitting 53.4% of his shots.

Listed as day-to-day, Williams was named co-Big 12 Player of the Week on Monday, and had led K-State in scoring in three straight games, prior to playing 8 minutes vs. WVU:

  • 18 points vs. Baylor

  • 22 points at Iowa State

  • 20 points vs. Oklahoma State

He shot 25-for-37 — 68% — in that three-game stretch.

K-State would miss his energetic approach, too, if he’s unable to go. The Wildcats have a point system that tracks each player’s deflections/blocks, steals, dives, loose balls, offensive rebounds and charges drawn, and Williams has tallied a team-best 162 points.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Williams operates mostly on short- to mid-range offense. 60.9% of his attempts have come on 2-point jumpers. He has hit 44 of 98 (44.9%) in that range.

No. 42 — Thomas Gipson, 6-7, senior F

Arizona guard T.J. McConnell (4) attempts to drive past Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson (42) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

Arizona guard T.J. McConnell (4) attempts to drive past Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson (42) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game at the Maui Invitational on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner) by Eugene Tanner

The senior post player has become a steady source of offense, hitting 57.3% of his field goal attempts and 74.8% at the free-throw line.

In his seven previous games against Kansas, Gipson has averaged just 5.3 points and 4.4 rebounds, but K-State relies upon him more this season.

He has produced double figures in six of his last 12 games, most recently getting 15 at Iowa State. However, the big man also struggled against West Virginia, making 2 of 6 shots and scoring 8 points in the loss.

In K-State wins, Gipson averages 10.5 points and shoots 59.2%.

This season, he leads K-State in free throws made and attempted — 89 for 119.

Defensively, he leads the Wildcats with 10 charges drawn and 14 blocked shots.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Tied with Justin Edwards for the team lead in put-backs on offensive rebounds (12), Gipson takes 60.5% of his shots at the rim and converts 72% of them.

No. 25 — Wesley Iwundu, 6-7, sophomore G

Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu gets an overtime bucket to widen the Wildcats' overtime lead on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State forward Wesley Iwundu gets an overtime bucket to widen the Wildcats' overtime lead on Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Though athletic and active, the second-year wing at times hasn’t provided much offensively: 5.8 ppg on the season on 45.7% shooting. His numbers have improved a little in eight Big 12 games, which coincides with Weber inserting him in the starting lineup: 6.6 points on 48.6% shooting.

Iwundu did score a season-high 12 points (shot 6-for-9 on free throws), pull down 6 rebounds and pass out a team-best 3 assists against West Virginia. But it was just his fourth double-digit output of the season.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Of Iwundu’s 92 shot attempts, he only has made 14 away from the rim.

No. 1 — Jevon Thomas, 6-0, sophomore G

Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes down with a rebound between Kansas State players Thomas Gipson, left, and Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis comes down with a rebound between Kansas State players Thomas Gipson, left, and Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Another unproductive source of scoring in the starting five, Thomas averages 5.4 points on the season. It’s even worse in Big 12 games: 3.5 points and 37% shooting.

He could help out his numbers by hitting more free throws: 37 for 68 (54.4%) on the season, 6 for 14 (42.9%) in conference games.

If he’s on the floor late, Thomas is the guy you want to foul if you need to: 10 of 21 in the final five minutes of games this year.

What Thomas does bring, though, is ball-handling and passing. He’s eighth in the Big 12 with 3.6 assists a game.

He’s also a disruptive defender, who has 25 steals to his credit.

Thomas hasn’t made more than 2 shots in a game since a 13-point outing at Tennessee in the first week of December. He only went 1-for-2 vs. WVU and combined to shoot 0-for-7 in his previous two games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Thomas has made 34 shots this year, with 20 coming at the rim. He has hit 6 of 17 2-point jumpers and 8 of 21 3-pointers.

WILDCATS BENCH

No. 14 — Justin Edwards, 6-4, junior G

None by Collegian - Sports

The most likely Wildcat to throw down a dunk (11 this season), the transfer from Maine comes off the bench and is K-State’s No. 4 scorer: 6.4 points, 39.5% shooter.

Edwards has averaged 3.9 rebounds in Big 12 games and three times this season has led his team in boards.

He also has swiped a team-high 26 steals.

He went scoreless (0-for-4) in 18 minutes vs. West Virginia after back-to-back double-digit outings: 12 at ISU, 14 vs. OSU.

Not a great 3-point shooter (12 for 43 for 27.9%), Edwards hit a pair from deep in each of those recent productive games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Tied for third with Gipson for FG attempts (124), Edwards has only hit 4 of 19 (21.1%) 2-point jumpers. He prefers getting to the rim: 33 for 62 (53.2%).

No. 41 — Stephen Hurt, 6-11, junior F

Another transfer, who formerly called Lipscomb and NW Florida State home, Hurt might have his name called more often than usual as Weber tries to match up with KU’s front line.

The big man averages just 4.8 points and 3.3 boards a game. But he’s fourth on K-State with 25 offensive rebounds despite playing 13.7 minutes. He hauled in 6 of those at Long Beach State in November.

Despite his size, Hurt only has blocked 3 shots this season.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Only 34.8% of his attempts come at the rim, but he makes 73.9% there. 53% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, where he makes 37.1%.

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Jayhawks preparing to battle respected rivals from K-State

Kansas forward Landen Lucas battles for a loose ball with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Also pictured are TCU Horned Frogs forward Chris Washburn (33) and Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34).

Kansas forward Landen Lucas battles for a loose ball with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. Also pictured are TCU Horned Frogs forward Chris Washburn (33) and Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34). by Nick Krug

Bill Self’s Kansas basketball team found ways to win both of its past two games in the Lone Star State — even if that one at TCU became a struggle late.

Now Self and the Jayhawks can put their successes behind them and focus on what’s next. The coach met with the media Friday afternoon, before No. 9 Kansas (17-3 overall, 6-1 Big 12) plays two huge games at Allen Fieldhouse — Saturday against Kansas State (12-9, 5-3) and on Big Monday against Iowa State (15-4, 5-2).

Here are some of the highlights from the press conference:

K-State is much improved in Big 12 play, and those are the games Self has studied. Usually when you go through rough spots it’s when you labor to score. Their offense is flowing better and Nino Williams and Marcus Foster are playing well. The Wildcats are 5-3 in a great league.

Williams might be injured and unavailable Saturday. As a fan of the game and a fan of his, Self would hope everybody plays.

Foster was aggressive last year, but in the games Self has studied he seems even more aggressive now — splitting ball screens, making guarded shots and the like. He’ll get plenty of attention from KU, and the Jayhawks did that last year, too. Kansas did a better job guarding him in Allen Fieldhouse last season than it did in Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is fouled on his way to the bucket while defended by TCU Horned Frogs forward Devonta Abron (23) and guard Trey Zeigler (32) during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is fouled on his way to the bucket while defended by TCU Horned Frogs forward Devonta Abron (23) and guard Trey Zeigler (32) during the second half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

Self told Landen Lucas, Svi Mykhailiuk and Hunter Mickelson prior to the TCU game they always need to be ready to play. He didn’t know the Jayhawks would have to count so much on them. All three of them played well in spurts in that game to help KU win. Guys will get an opportunity to play and need to stay ready. Lucas will be good enough to be a starter at Kansas — that’s his next step in his progression as a player. Every coach would like to have eight or nine guys who are good enough to start.

Next year the Big 12-SEC Challenge will be at the end of January. Self thinks the challenge is good for the league, but the timing is bad. It will bring exposure to the league, which is good. There is so much competition in the world of sports in December they decided to move it. This will be different. It’s fine, but it’s certainly not the best.

Sophomore point guard Frank Mason III didn’t do great at TCU, but he did a good job on Kyan Anderson, who can really score. Self hopes the team has multiple leaders, but Mason is the guy everybody knows needs to be on the court.

The way KU has gotten to this point as a team is a little different than what Self anticipated. The Jayhawks aren’t far off from where he’d like them to be, it just hasn’t been a smooth road getting to this point.

Kelly Oubre Jr. “was out of it” at TCU, because he wasn’t feeling well. They could tell he didn’t feel well at all, and that had a lot to do with his lack of production.

KU doesn’t have any separation yet in the Big 12 title race. When KU has been behind two games late in the season, there has been pressure on them. He doesn’t know how much pressure other teams feel right now, with Kansas at the top of the standings alone. But there is no separation yet.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden floats into the lane for a shot before Kansas State defenders Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden floats into the lane for a shot before Kansas State defenders Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

KU’s players know K-State’s players. They work with each other at camps in the summer and that sort of thing. They are rivals, but they are respected rivals. Missouri was a more hated rival.

K-State has had enough success vs. Kansas of late, the Jayhawks definitely think of the Wildcats as formidable rivals.

Everybody likes waking up in the morning disliking somebody, from that standpoint it hasn’t been great to lose one of your longtime rivals. KU is fortunate and glad to have K-State around as a rival.

Kansas has played a lot of close games, and up until the TCU game the Jayhawks had been good at the free-throw line late. You have to win some games where you don’t play well — the players must be taking that to heart, Self joked.

• Self pays attention to successful NFL coaches, but probably more so in the regular season than the week of the Super Bowl. You have to get your guys’ heads right. That’s a part of it as much as X’s and O’s.

Given the TCU performance, Self would like to see better energy every single game out of his players. Some games it hasn’t been there. You get to defensive position half a step late when you don’t have the mental energy and approach you need. KU can make some mistakes and make up for it with athletic ability when energy is there.

• Wayne Selden Jr. can play better, and Selden knows that. Every player can play a lot better, too. Even Mason and Ellis. KU isn’t going to play great every night. The Jayhawks are young and sometimes people forget how young they are. Selden just needs to see some shots that haven’t been going in fall through the hoop.

When the Chicago Bulls went 72-10, there were a lot of nights they didn’t play well but they had a guy who could bail them out. Everybody struggles with maintaing a high level of play. KU has done a decent job with it. When there are less great players and more good players the playing field gets leveled out.

— Listen to the entire press conference: Bill Self talks Sunflower Showdown rivalry and absence of Missouri

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Getting to know TCU

TCU head coach Trent Johnson lays into an official during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

TCU head coach Trent Johnson lays into an official during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

After a perfect 13-0 start to the season, Big 12 play hasn’t gone quite as well for Trent Johnson and his TCU Horned Frogs (14-5 overall, 1-5 Big 12).

Still, TCU has competed, with two of its losses coming in overtime, including a wild, near-upset at West Virginia.

Johnson, who is 2-3 all-time vs. Kansas, including a December 2003 win when he coached at Nevada, is turning things around for the program, which last advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 1998. Remember: Last season TCU went 0-18 in the Big 12 and 9-22 overall.

Entering Tuesday night, TCU ranked third in the nation in field-goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 35.1% shooting. The two teams ahead of the Horned Frogs? Undefeated Kentucky (31.7%) and Virginia (34.1%).

In Big 12 play, TCU leads the league in FG% defense at 37.4% (ahead of second-ranked KU’s 38.6%), as well as 3-point FG% defense (25.3%).

Part of TCU’s success on the defensive end comes from its shot-blocking — 5.8 denials a game, which ranks 12th in the nation. On the season, the Horned Frogs are allowing 57.3 points a game (15th nationally). In Big 12 games, the Horned Frogs rank sixth in blocks (4.3) and are tied for fifth in scoring defense (66.0).

Defense has allowed TCU to battle better than its Big 12 record indicates. In four of its five losses in the league, the Horned Frogs either led or trailed by single digits in the final five minutes of the game.

TCU has lost its last 17 games against ranked opponents, with its last top-25 win coming in February of 2013 against Kansas — the infamous “Topeka YMCA” game.

So between the way their road trip to West Virginia ended and their eagerness to prove they can beat a ranked team, expect nothing to come easy for No. 9 Kansas (16-3, 5-1) at Wilkerson-Greines Athletic Center.

Here are the Horned Frogs the Jayhawks will have to worry about Wednesday night at Fort Worth, Texas.

HORNED FROGS STARTERS

No. 5 — Kyan Anderson, 5-11, senior G

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe defends as TCU guard Kyan Anderson pulls back for a shot during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe defends as TCU guard Kyan Anderson pulls back for a shot during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

TCU’s leader in points (13.7) assists (3.9), and steals (1.4), his scoring actually has dipped from last season (17.0 points), but that’s a good thing for the Horned Frogs and Anderson, because it means he isn’t being forced to do so much on his own.

Still, he has scored in double figures in 14 games this season — not surprising, considering his name, face and efforts have been the most consistent thing about TCU the past few seasons. Anderson ranks in the program’s top five in career games started, minutes played and steals. He’s top-10 in TCU history in scoring, 3-pointers, free throws made and assists.

His 30 3-pointers this season lead the team — by 16 — but he only hits 32.3% from long range.

The Horned Frogs visit the charity stripe 27.9 times a game, and Anderson is a big part of that. He shoots 89.2% at the foul line (tops in the Big 12) on 83 attempts (4.4 tries a game).

Unfortunately for TCU, he’s the only reliable free-throw shooter on the team — more on that to come.

Anderson put up 22 points at West Virginia, bouncing back from a 2-point night in a loss to Texas.

hoop-math.com nugget: While the rest of Anderson’s teammates don’t shot the ball from deep too often, he more than makes up for it, taking 52.5% of his shots from 3-point range. 73.3% of his 3-point makes have been assisted.

No. 32 — Trey Zeigler, 6-5, senior G

An explosive guard, he has upgraded TCU’s experience this season. Zeigler played at Central Michigan and Pitt before landing in Fort Worth. He has posted more than 1,300 points and 500 rebounds in his career.

Averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds this season, Zeigler has facilitated TCU’s offense of late, leading the team in assists in six of the last eight games. In Big 12 play, he’s averaging 11.3 points and shooting 46% from the floor.

The veteran guard knocked in clutch jumpers at the end of regulation and in overtime at WVU.

Zeigler had a season-high 19 points at Kansas State, hitting 7 of 14 shot attempts.

Though he plays in the backcourt, he has not made a 3-pointer and attempted just 5 all season. Likewise, he isn’t a good free-throw shooter. While he has taken 81 attempts (just behind Anderson’s 83), Zeigler has connected on just 58% of his tries.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Zeigler, obviously not much of a shooter, takes 60.2% of his shots at the rim, which leads TCU. He has made 59.7% of his 77 attempts.

No. 34 — Kenrich Williams, 6-7, sophomore F

The second-year small forward chips in 8.4 points a game and leads the Horned Frogs with 6.6 rebounds.

His 11-point outing at West Virginia marked his ninth time in double figures this season. TCU is 7-2 when he scores 10 or more.

A junior-college transfer, Williams leads TCU with 50 offensive rebounds (2.6 a game).

Like Zeigler, he is a poor free-throw shooter: 33 of 56 (58.9%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: Here’s another Horned Frog who knows where he needs to be shooting. Williams takes 56.5% of his shots at the rim and makes 67.2% at that distance.

No. 33 — Chris Washburn, 6-8, sophomore F

A transfer from UTEP, the son of the No. 3 overall pick in the 1986 NBA Draft, Chris Washburn Sr., was a four-star prospect coming out of high school.

The younger Washburn is averaging 6.8 points and 5.7 rebounds in his first season playing for TCU.

His eight dunks lead the Horned Frogs this season, but he is active defensively, too, averaging 1.53 blocks and 1.0 steals. Washburn had 3 steals against Baylor and blocked 2 shots at Texas Tech and at West Virginia.

He has missed both of his 3-point tries this season. And, guess what, he also stinks as a free-throw shooter: 38 of 57 (49.1%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: While Washburn has taken 53 shots at the rim this season, making 66% of those, he has only connected on 16 of his 48 2-point jumpers. … His 15 put-backs on the offensive glass lead TCU.

No. 14 — Karviar Shepherd, 6-10, sophomore C

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor gets a bucket past TCU center Karviar Shepherd during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor gets a bucket past TCU center Karviar Shepherd during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The big man has only contributed 6.7 points this season, which has a lot to do with him making just 48 of his 109 field goal attempts (44%).

The highest-rated prospect (No. 46 in Class of 2013 by Rivals.com) ever to choose TCU, Shepherd has just three double-digit scoring games this season after accomplishing that feat 16 times as a freshman.

The center had 15 rebounds last season against Iowa State, but this year he is averaging just 6.2 boards (5.5 in Big 12 games).

He has 17 blocks in 19 games and leads TCU with 52 personal fouls.

Compared to TCU’s other top rotation players, he’s not atrocious at the free-throw line: 31 for 49, 63.3%.

— hoop-math.com nugget: The majority of his shots — 58.7% — have come on 2-point jumpers, and Shepherd has made only 24 of 64 (37.5%).

HORNED FROGS BENCH

No. 4 — Amric Fields, 6-9, senior F

None by NCAA Colleges news

Contributing 7.1 points and 3.1 rebounds off the bench in just 16.2 minutes, Fields takes smart shots and makes them. He’s hitting at a 60% clip on the season — 42-for-70.

Six times last season, he led the Horned Frogs in scoring and reached double digits in 14 of the 18 games he played in, averaging 13.8 points.

Now that he’s in a backup role, it hasn’t affected Fields’ approach on offense. He scored 11 points and hit all 5 of his shots at West Virginia.

While he is typically efficient within the flow of the game, he too struggles at the foul line: 19 for 41 (46.3%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: Fields is actually the team’s most effective shooter. His eFG% of 62.1% leads the team.

No. 11 — Brandon Parrish, 6-6, sophomore F

Kansas defenders Tarik Black, left, and Wayne Selden try to smother a shot by TCU forward Brandon Parrish during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas defenders Tarik Black, left, and Wayne Selden try to smother a shot by TCU forward Brandon Parrish during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The second-year forward had a career-high 22 points back in November against New Orleans. He blocked five shots in December vs. Texas-San Antonio.

On the season, Parrish averages 5.9 points and 2.3 rebounds.

He spent 16 games as a starter before Williams replaced him in the top five.

In his three appearances off the bench, Parrish had 0 points at Texas Tech (3 minutes), 5 points vs. Texas and 3 points at West Virginia. He has only made 2 of 9 shots as a backup.

His 14 3-pointers this season ranks him second on TCU, and he has made 38.9% from long range.

Oh, year. Parrish is 23 of 40 at the foul line (57.5%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: Parrish has taken 37.1% of his shots at the rim and 37.1% from 3-point range. He has made 18 of 36 inside.

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Kansas jumps two spots to No. 9 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas guard Brannen Greene throws up three fingers after sinking a three against Oklahoma to reclaim the lead late in the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene throws up three fingers after sinking a three against Oklahoma to reclaim the lead late in the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

A turnover-free second half in Austin made enough of an impression on Associated Press college basketball voters that Kansas moved up two spots to ninth in the poll released today.

The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 25, 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 (64) 19-0 1,624 1
  2. Virginia (1) 19-0 1,561 2
  3. Gonzaga 20-1 1,476 3
  4. Duke 17-2 1,402 5
  5. Wisconsin 18-2 1,351 6
  6. Arizona 18-2 1,300 7
  7. Villanova 18-2 1,187 4
  8. Notre Dame 19-2 1,139 8
  9. Kansas 16-3 1,120 11
  10. Louisville 16-3 1,027 10
  11. Utah 16-3 996 12
  12. Wichita St. 18-2 893 14
  13. North Carolina 16-4 878 15
  14. VCU 16-3 734 16
  15. Iowa St. 14-4 719 9
  16. Maryland 18-3 715 13
  17. West Virginia 16-3 558 18
  18. N. Iowa 18-2 440 20
  19. Texas 14-5 431 17
  20. Baylor 15-4 407 _
  21. Georgetown 14-5 334 25
  22. Indiana 15-5 165 23
  23. Miami 14-5 164 _
  24. Oklahoma 12-7 90 19
  25. Butler 15-6 70 _

Others receiving votes: Colorado St. 57, Arkansas 54, Ohio St. 43, SMU 43, Providence 29, Dayton 28, Georgia 28, Stanford 16, Wyoming 14, LSU 10, Seton Hall 10, San Diego St. 4, Texas A&M 2, Tulsa 2, Davidson 1, Green Bay 1, Saint Mary’s (Cal) 1, Stephen F. Austin 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: Every time I tune in the radio or turn on the TV, it seems, somebody’s clucking about what’s wrong with the Wildcats or about how Kentucky’s going nowhere unless coach John Calipari turns over the reins to freshman point guard Tyler Ulis and plays him 30 minutes a game. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats take a 19-0 record into Columbia on Thursday night.

2 - Virginia: Smooth 6-foot-6 junior guard Justin Anderson drills three-pointers at a .526 clip and averages 14.1 points.

3 - Gonzaga: The best way to remember how to pronounce the school’s name: It’s the Zags, not the Zogs. Best way to slow down the Zags: Nobody knows.

4 - Duke: Coach 1K’s riding a three-game winning streak, bouncing back from back-to-back losses to North Carolina State and Miami.

5 - Wisconsin: Frank Kaminsky, preseason All-American, is playing up to expectations with 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.7 blocks and a steal per game. Reminds some of former Lakers multi-skilled big man Vlade Divac.

6 - Arizona: Freshman Stanley Johnson leads experienced team in scoring and rebounding with 15 points and seven boards a game.

7 - Louisville: Players steadily improve under Rick Pitino. Case in point: Sophomore guard Terry Rozier. He averaged seven points as a freshman, 12 points in the first six games of this season, 20 points in the past 12.

8 - Notre Dame: Irish are No. 1 in the nation in effective field-goal percentage, which gives 1.5 credits for three-point field goals, compared to two-pointers, and therefore is a far better indicator of shooting efficiency. ND ranks No. 1 in the nation in that category and No. 2 in ball security, turning it over on just 13.8 percent of their possessions, so it’s no surprise kenpom.com calculations rank ND the most efficient offense in the nation.

9 - Kansas: Brannen Greene’s shooting range gives everyone on the court with him more breathing room. Greene made 7 of 9 three-pointers in his past two games, averaging 13 points in 17.5 minutes.

10 - Villanova: Hammered 78-58 by Georgetown in D.C., a chance for revenge comes Feb. 7 in Philly, a must-watch.

11 - Utah: Utes have gone 9-1 since losing to Kansas by three points and all 10 games have been margins of 13 points or greater.

12 - North Carolina: Marcus Paige is shooting better of late, nailing 11 of 21 three-pointers in his past four games.

13 - Iowa State: Texas Tech’s 78-73 home victory vs. Iowa State proves anybody can beat anybody in the Big 12. At least any team that makes 6 of 31 three-pointers can be beaten by any other Big 12 team.

14 - Maryland: Full-court pressure enabled Mark Turgeon’s Terps to come back from an 11-point deficit in final 3:21 to edge Northwestern by a point. The Texas A&M fan base never really got into the habit of calling him Turge, so he’s better off at a school where basketball’s a bigger deal the fans call a Terp a Terp and a Turge a Turge.

15 - Wichita State: Average margin of victory in eight conference games is 16.125.

16 - Miami: Four-point victory vs. Syracuse at Carrier Dome pushed Hurricanes to 4-2 in ACC and only losses were to No. 2 Virginia in double overtime and No. 8 Notre Dame by five points on the road.

17 - Baylor: Rico Gathers played 28 minutes in game against NAIA school Hutson-Tillitson, time enough to score 25 points and gather 28 rebounds.

18 - Georgetown: Here come the Hoyas. First came a 20-point victory vs. Villanova and then 350-pound center Joshua Smith dropped 18 and 15 in overtime victory at Marquette.

19 - Virginia Commonwealth: Rams alone atop Atlantic 10 are 6-0 in league and riding an 11-game winning streak.

20 - Oklahoma: No better indicator of quality of the Big 12 exists than Oklahoma losing four of its past five games. Sooners just as easily could respond by winning four of their next five.

21 - Texas: Size matters, but can be overrated. Longhorns haven’t figure out how to translate length advantage into a lot of hootin' and hollerin' at Erwin Center.

22 - West Virginia: Not a great week for Mountaineers. Hammered 77-50 in Austin and then won by one point in overtime against visiting TCU on a controversial call. Kay Anderson was whistled four fouling Jevon Carter with one second left and Carter made them both.

23 - Ohio State: Buckeyes were eight-point favorites vs. Indiana, yet because Indiana was ranked and Ohio State was not, many called Ohio State’s 82-70 victory Sunday an upset. Absurd.

24 - Providence: Friars won’t have any issues in the quality-victories department come judgment day, aka Selection Sunday. Notre Dame, Miami and Georgetown among their victims.

25 - Northern Iowa: A six-point victory at home vs. Indiana State and a one-point survival at Illinois State made for unimpressive week.

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Getting to know No. 17 Texas

Texas head coach Rick Barnes has harsh words for Demarcus Holland during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Texas head coach Rick Barnes has harsh words for Demarcus Holland during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

More often than not, Kansas University’s basketball team has found success against Texas.

All-time, KU is 23-8 against the guys in burnt orange.

But winning in Austin, Texas, hasn’t come as easily for the Jayhawks. UT has prevailed six times in 12 tries.

It so happens the Frank Erwin Center is the site of Saturday’s showdown between two of the Big 12’s most talented teams.

You might remember last season Kansas hit a major road block at said arena, losing 81-69 as the Longhorns swatted 12 KU shots.

Dating back to last season, No. 17 UT (14-4 overall, 3-2 Big 12) has won 17 of its last 19 at home.

What’s more, Texas has a history of success against Top-25 teams under coach Rick Barnes at home. The Longhorns are 34-19 vs. AP ranked teams at the Erwin Center.

This season, UT is second in the Big 12 in scoring defense (56.3 points allowed) to TCU (55.7 allowed), and leads the league in field-goal percentage defense (34.4%) and blocked shots (7.7 a game).

No. 11 Kansas (15-3, 4-1) will increase its chances of winning on the road Saturday afternoon if the Jayhawks can make at least 40% of their shots. In the Barnes era, Texas has held 276 opponents to below 40% shooting, and the Longhorns are 249-27 (.902 winning percentage) in those games. This season, UT is 12-1 when holding foes below 40%.

With all of that in mind, here are the Longhorns KU has to worry about in Austin.

LONGHORNS STARTERS

No. 10 — Jonathan Holmes, 6-8, senior F

An interior veteran for the ’Horns, he averages 11.4 points and 6.7 rebounds while hitting 46.5% of his shots.

However, Holmes has been off at times this season, including in a few recent Big 12 games:

  • 0-for-10, 0 points in 34 minutes, in a loss at Oklahoma State (Jan. 10)

  • 2-for-9, 4 points in 30 minutes, in a loss to Oklahoma (Jan. 5)

  • 3-for-5, 9 points in 23 minutes (4 fouls), in a win at TCU (Jan. 19)

Maybe his most productive game of the season came in a Jan. 17 win over West Virginia: 16 points, 11 rebounds. But he only made 2 of his 6 field goals in that one, while cashing in at the foul line (11-for-12).

The lone scholarship senior for Texas, Holmes hit a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds left in the Longhorns’ November win at Connecticut. The big man doesn’t mind stepping outside, and has hit 24 of his 65 3’s this season (36.9%).

hoop-math.com nugget: Not only does Holmes not take many shots at the rim (33.6% of his 152 attempts have come at that distance), he doesn’t shoot a great percentage there (49%).

No. 1 — Isaiah Taylor, 6-1, sophomore G

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe defends against a drive by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe defends against a drive by Texas guard Isaiah Taylor during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

An injury to his left wrist in late November forced him to miss 10 games this season, but Texas managed to go 8-2 without its floor general.

Taylor returned just in time for Big 12 play. In his eight games this season, he’s averaging 11.4 points, 3.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals, while making 39% of his shots and 6 of 18 from 3-point range.

He’s not a pass-first point guard. Despite the time he missed, he is sixth on the team in field goal attempts (82) and averages 10.3 shots a game.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Taylor shoots more 2-point jumpers than he does shots at the rim or 3-pointers. 41.5% of his shots have come in that in-between range, and he’s only made 9 of 34.

No. 55 — Cameron Ridley, 6-9, junior C

Kansas forward Perry Ellis pulls a rebound from Texas center Cameron Ridley during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis pulls a rebound from Texas center Cameron Ridley during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The guy is a load in the paint: 6-foot-9, 285 pounds. When he gets position, look out.

Ridley made 8 of his 10 shots and scored a season-high 19 points in UT’s 27-point victory over West Virginia last week. And he added six rebounds and four blocks to his stat line.

In his last two games, he’s averaging 14.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, while hitting 70.6% of his shots.

The big man has a team-high 38 offensive rebounds (2.1 a game) and averages 8.7 points and 4.8 boards.

In the NCAA Tournament last season, his last-second put-back beat Arizona State and sent Texas to the Round of 32.

Defensively, he turns away 1.8 shots a game (third in the Big 12).

— hoop-math.com nugget: 62.6% of his shots come at the rim and he has made 74.2% of them this season. His 18 put-backs lead Texas.

No. 2 — Demarcus Holland, 6-2, junior G

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts up a three over Texas guard Demarcus Holland during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins puts up a three over Texas guard Demarcus Holland during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

He earned the team’s defensive player of the year award in each of his first two seasons in Austin, Texas. His ability doesn’t show up in his individual stats (9 steals, 3 blocks). Holland just has a tendency to lock down the man he’s guarding and work hard to be in the right spot defensively.

That’s part of the reason he leads Texas in minutes played (30.0 a game).

Holland averages 7.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists, and he’s a selective 3-point shooter (10-for-22) who also makes 49.5% of his total field goals.

He contributed 10 points, 4 boards (3 offensive), 5 assists and 2 steals in UT’s most difficult game of the season, at No. 1 Kentucky.

In his last two games, though, Holland hasn’t generated many points: 4 vs. WVU and 2 at TCU in a combined 63 minutes. He did set up teammates for 4.5 assists in that two-game span.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Keep him mid-range and you should be OK defensively. Holland has only hit 3 2-point jumpers in 20 attempts, while he converts 64.2% of his shots at the rim and 45.5% of his 3’s.

No. 21 — Connor Lammert, 6-9, junior F

Oklahoma State post Kamari Murphy (21) holds his head and Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) applauds after Murphy was called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma State post Kamari Murphy (21) holds his head and Texas forward Connor Lammert (21) applauds after Murphy was called for a foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Stillwater, Okla., Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) by Sue Ogrocki

A role player in the starting unit, he averages just 5.1 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Lammert’s one double-double this season came against Long Beach State, and he had 9 rebounds (4 offensive) in UT’s loss at Kentucky.

He has tried to be a spot-up 3-point shooter for Texas but has little success doing so: 12-for-42 (28.6%). He has scored 6 points or fewer in seven straight games.

In Big 12 games, Lammert is only averaging 3.8 points in 15.2 minutes and shooting 35.7% from the field.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Lammert actually leads UT rotation players in FG% at the rim: 77.8%. He has made 14 of 18 with 8 coming via assists.

LONGHORNS BENCH

No. 52 — Myles Turner, 6-11, freshman F

In this Nov. 16, 2014, file photo, Texas’ Myles Turner defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alcorn State in Austin, Texas. Texas basketball is rolling _ both the men and the women _ and making a splash among the nation’s best just two seasons after both had seemed to hit bottom. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

In this Nov. 16, 2014, file photo, Texas’ Myles Turner defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Alcorn State in Austin, Texas. Texas basketball is rolling _ both the men and the women _ and making a splash among the nation’s best just two seasons after both had seemed to hit bottom. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Finally, we get to the most talented player on the Texas roster.

Perhaps the Longhorns’ biggest name, Turner comes off the bench but leads UT in scoring (11.8 points) and rebounding (6.8 boards) while playing just 22.4 minutes a game.

The freshman big man, who chose Texas over Kansas, also leads his team in blocks (2.7) and personal fouls (2.5).

His knack for swatting foes’ shots puts Turner atop the Big 12 in blocks per game.

Barnes experimented with starting him for a three-game stretch that included UT’s first two Big 12 games, but the 6-foot-11 freshman only scored 8 points at Texas Tech and 4 against Oklahoma.

In Turner’s last three games, back in his reserve role, he scored 18 at Oklahoma State, 16 vs. West Virginia and 11 at TCU.

Turner not only gets to the free-throw line, he makes his trips count. His 77 attempts lead UT and he shoots a team-best 88.3% at the line.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Almost half (47.9%) of Turner’s attempts are 2-point jumpers. He has hit 26 of 68 (38.2%).

No. 3 — Javan Felix, 5-11, junior G

Kansas guard Frank Mason hoists a three over Texas guard Javan Felix during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason hoists a three over Texas guard Javan Felix during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Another highly productive sub, he scores 10.5 points a game.

Felix led Texas with 15 points against TCU, and has made at least one 3-pointer in all 17 games he has played in this season. He made 2 of 5 from long range in the road win and has hit 30 of 81 on the season (37%).

In Big 12 play, he leads the Longhorns in scoring (11.6 points) and has connected on 11 of 25 3-pointers (44%).

Felix has scored in double figures in 7 of his last 10 games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Tied for the team lead in field-goal attempts (152), Felix takes the majority of his shots (53.3%) from 3-point range. Only 15.8% of his attempts have come at the rim, where he has made 13 of 24 (54.2%). But he does make 44.7% of his 2-point jumpers.

No. 0 — Kendal Yancy, 6-3, sophomore G

When Taylor was out, Yancy averaged 7.2 points, and 4.4 rebounds in 27.2 minutes. He started and scored 14 points on 6-for-10 shooting in 34 minutes against Stanford (an overtime loss).

On the season, he averages 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 19.4 minutes.

Yancy has struggled as a 3-point threat, making just 7 of 26 attempts (26.9%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: All 11 of his 2-point jumpers have been unassisted.

No. 44 — Prince Ibeh, 6-10, junior C

Kansas forward Perry Ellis turns for a shot against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis turns for a shot against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 at Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

The backup big man only plays 10.4 minutes and scores just 2.4 points a game, but he’s the kind of defensive rim protector KU has struggled against.

Ibeh ranks 10th on UT’s all-time career swat list, with 122 and has 21 blocks this season.

He had a season-high 7 rebounds in just 13 minutes at TCU.

— hoop-math.com nugget: As you would expect, Ibeh doesn’t venture outside of the paint often. 78.8% of his shots come at the rim and he makes 65.4% of them,

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Kansas drops two spots to No. 11 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) loses the ball as it is stripped by Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue (22) and guard Monte Morris (11) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Hilton Coliseum.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) loses the ball as it is stripped by Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue (22) and guard Monte Morris (11) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Hilton Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Kansas dropped from ninth to 11th in the Associated Press college basketball poll, released today. Arizona, Notre Dame and Iowa State moved ahead of the Jayhawks and Utah dropped behind them.

The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 18, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

  1. Kentucky (63) ‡ 17-0 1,623 1
  2. Virginia (2) ‡ 17-0 1,562 2
  3. Gonzaga ‡ 18-1 1,467 3
  4. Villanova ‡ 17-1 1,429 5
  5. Duke ‡ 15-2 1,345 4
  6. Wisconsin ‡ 16-2 1,282 7
  7. Arizona ‡ 16-2 1,228 10
  8. Notre Dame ‡ 17-2 1,055 12
  9. Iowa St. ‡ 13-3 1,004 11
  10. Louisville ‡ 15-3 1,003 6
  11. Kansas ‡ 14-3 943 9
  12. Utah ‡ 14-3 940 8
  13. Maryland ‡ 17-2 937 14
  14. Wichita St. ‡ 16-2 857 13
  15. North Carolina ‡ 14-4 803 15
  16. VCU ‡ 15-3 670 17
  17. Texas ‡ 13-4 554 20
  18. West Virginia ‡ 15-3 501 16
  19. Oklahoma ‡ 12-5 445 18
  20. N. Iowa ‡ 16-2 387 23
  21. Baylor ‡ 13-4 260 22
  22. Dayton ‡ 15-2 241 _
  23. Indiana ‡ 14-4 93 _
  24. Seton Hall ‡ 13-4 91 21
  25. Iowa ‡ 13-5 85 _

Others receiving votes: Oklahoma St. 47, Miami 41, San Diego St. 34, Georgetown 33, Stanford 31, Saint Mary's (Cal) 18, Providence 17, Colorado St. 16, Arkansas 15, Georgia 13, Butler 11, SMU 11, Michigan St. 8, LSU 6, Old Dominion 5, Wyoming 4, Ohio St. 3, Louisiana Tech 2, Tennessee 2, George Washington 1, St. John's 1, Washington 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: Those back-to-back overtime games seem to have scared Wildcats into tuning back in. Hammered Missouri, 86-37, then a decent Alabama team on the road, 70-48.

2 - Virginia: Only 3 of 17 opponents have scored more than 57 points against Cavaliers.

3 - Gonzaga: Three of Zags five top scorers are 6-foot-10 or taller: 6-10 Kyle Wiltjer (16.6), 7-1 Przemek Karnowski (10.6), 6-10 Domantas Sabonis (9.9).

4 - Duke: Excedrin Headache No. 998 ­– back-to-back losses to Norther Carolina State and Miami after Coach K earned career victory No. 997 at Wake Forest – forced Mike Krzyzewski to reach way out of his comfort zone to use a zone vs. Louisville and it worked, producing a 63-52 victory. Actually, Louisville’s lousy outside shooting prompted the change. Coach K could win No. 1,000 as soon as Sunday at Madison Square Garden against St. John’s.

5 - Wisconsin: Badgers 7-footer returned from concussion that kept him out of loss at Rutgers by scoring 22 points and making 4 of 5 three-pointers vs. Nebraska.

6 - Villanova: It might not get any tougher for the Wildcats in the deep Big East than tonight’s game at Georgetown.

7 - Arizona: The Pac-12 had not had a conference game between top 10 teams in seven years and Arizona left no doubt as to the team to beat, abusing Utah, 69-51. Utes do-it-all guard Delon Wright scored seven points in the first 4:07. With T.J. McConnell hounding him, Wright had just three points the rest of the way.

8 - Louisville: Worst-shooting good team in America: .427 overall, .665 from the line, .294 from three.

9 - Notre Dame: Irish are best shooting team in America. They shoot .401 from three and .610 from two, a blend that adds up to them having an effective field-goal percentage of .607.

10 - Maryland: Turge’s Terps completed season sweep of Michigan State in convincing fashion. They’re ninth-tallest team in nation (per kenpom.com), which has helped them compensate for a lack of experience (No. 257 in nation). They get fouled a lot and make their free throws at a high rate (.755).

11 - Utah: Almost daily, I am asked how I can rank Utes ahead of Kansas when Jayhawks beat them by three points on the, ahem, “neutral” Sprint Center court. My response often results in a change of subject: How can I rate Kansas ahead of Temple?

12 - North Carolina: Heels grab 44.5 percent of their misses, second-best in nation, per kenpom.com, and limit opponents to 27.2 shooting from three, sixth-best.

13 - Iowa State: Sophomore point guard Monte Morris hasn’t found his three-point touch yet (.406 last season, .289 this), but he does have a 5.5-to-1 assists/turnover ratio and he did come three rebounds shy of a triple-double vs. Kansas.

14 - Kansas: In past 10 games, Landen Lucas has played 100 minutes and has more fouls (19) and turnovers (12) than points (11).

15 - Virginia Commonwealth: Coach Shaka Smart set career assists records at his high school (Oregon High in Wisconsin) and college (Kenyon College) and knows how to get his players to practice unselfish basketball. They work well together at both ends, but when they stand alone at the free-throw line, the Rams are among the worst in the nation, making just 62 percent.

16 - Oklahoma: In conference games only, Buddy Hield leads the Big 12 in scoring (22.4) and made three-pointers per game (3.4) and ranks second in three-point percentage (.486), third in field-goal percentage (.552), sixth in free-throw percentage (.840), tied for fifth in offensive rebounds (2.4), tied for seventh in rebounds (seven) and fourth in minutes (35).

17 - Wichita State: Shockers road winning percentage of .827 since 2010-11 is best in nation.

18 - Texas: Cameron Ridley and Jonathan Holmes combined for 35 points in 20-point victory vs. West Virginia. They combined for seven points in 21-point loss to Oklahoma and four points in 11-point loss to Oklahoma State.

19 - Miami: Predictable, Hurricanes are not. Dangerous they are. In span of 25 days, they lost to Eastern Kentucky by 28 points and slammed Duke by 16, which makes Eastern Kentucky 44 points better than Blue Devils. Colonels lost to East Tennesee State by three points and ETSU lost to UNC Greensboro by one point, making UNCG 48 points better than Duke. So why do I rank Duke fourth and don’t rank UNC Greensboro at all? Because Duke beat Furman by 39 points and Furman beat UNCG by 19, which makes Duke 58 points better than UNCG.

20 - Northern Iowa: If Panthers and Wichita State both can win next three games, UNI will carry eight-game winning streak into Jan. 31 showdown in Cedar Falls, Wichita State a nine-game winning streak.

21 - Baylor: Bears are middle-of-the-pack Big 12 team. Since the difference between top and bottom teams isn’t as great as in most conferences, it stands to reason Baylor should play a lot of close games. Past four games: One-point loss, overtime victory, one-point victory, two-point loss.

22 - West Virginia: Hammered Oklahoma by 21 points, and four days later lost to Texas by 27, which makes UT 48 points better than OU, except that the Sooners beat the Longhorns by 21 points. I’m confused.

23 - Georgetown: If nice guy Joshua Smith demanded the ball more, he would score more and Georgetown would become a better team. As it is, he still has scored in double figures in seven of Hoyas’ last eight games.

24 - Dayton: Tied with VCU for first in Atlantic 10 with 5-0 record. The conference co-leaders don’t meet until Feb. 28 in Richmond.

25 - Michigan State: Just when you think Spartans have it figured out (20-point victory vs. Indiana followed by 14-point triumph at Iowa), they return to mediocrity (overtime victory vs. Northwestern, 16-point loss at Maryland).

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Getting to know No. 18 Oklahoma

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger pleads to an official during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger pleads to an official during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

As Bill Self mentioned following Kansas University’s Saturday night loss at Iowa State, the Jayhawks don’t have much time to recover and prepare for another solid offensive team in Oklahoma.

The Sooners (12-5 overall, 3-2 Big 12) head to Allen Fieldhouse for Big Monday coming off an 82-65 dismantling of rival Oklahoma State. It was just what OU needed, having lost in overtime to Kansas State and by 21 at West Virginia in its previous two league games.

Only two opponents this season — Butler and Wisconsin — have held Oklahoma below 60 points. The Sooners average 73 points a game (third in the Big 12) and have shot 44.6% from the field (fourth in Big 12).

But Lon Kruger’s team knows how to defend, too. OU has held its competition to 36.9% shooting (third in the Big 12).

Meet the six Sooners KU (14-3, 3-1) has to worry about on Big Monday.

SOONERS STARTERS

No. 24 — Buddy Hield, 6-4, junior G

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins collides with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield as the two vie for a loose ball during the second half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured are KU forward Jamari Traylor, left, and guard Brannen Greene.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins collides with Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield as the two vie for a loose ball during the second half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. Also pictured are KU forward Jamari Traylor, left, and guard Brannen Greene. by Nick Krug

Just a fraction of a point behind Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash (17.7 points) for Big 12 leading scorer honors, Hield averages 17.6 points. Unlike his rival from OSU, he can torch opponents from long range.

His 40.8% 3-point shooting ranks fifth in the conference, and he is always ready to fire. HIeld already has made 51 3’s this season — to lead the Big 12 — on 125 hoists.

He’s no one-trick Sooner, either. Hield leads OU with 22 steals, averages 5.6 rebounds and makes 81.8% of his free throws (sixth in the Big 12).

Hield destroyed Oklahoma State on Saturday, nailing all 10 of his field-goal attempts, including four 3-pointers, on his way to 27 points.

He scored 31 in a loss to Kansas State and is averaging a Big 12-best 22.4 points in conference games.

hoop-math.com nugget: Good luck coaxing Hield into taking 2-point jump shots, a range at which he only makes 25.8% of his attempts. He takes less than two of those a game and only 13.6% of his 228 shots have been on 2-point jumpers. Hield basically lives downtown, and at the rim.

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

Kansas guard Wayne Selden defends a drive by Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins during the first half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden defends a drive by Oklahoma guard Isaiah Cousins during the first half on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Though he doesn’t jack as many 3-pointers as backcourt mate Hield, Cousins actually shoots the deep ball at a higher percentage. He has nailed 32 of 72 3-pointers (44.4%, third in the Big 12).

Cousins hit 4 of 8 3-pointers against Baylor, 3 of 5 at Texas and 3 of 5 at West Virginia.

He averages 12.5 points and 5.7 rebounds, but does turn the ball over more than any of his teammates (2.4 a game). His carelessness has picked up since the start of Big 12 play, too. Cousins has averaged 4.3 giveaways in the past three games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: 34.1% of Cousins’ shots have been 2-point jumpers. He has made 20 of 59, and they primarily come one-on-one. Only three of his 2-point jumpers have been assisted.

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

None by CBS Sports Radio

The former Houston big man has added some power to the Sooners’ rotation after learning 17 hours before the season opener the NCAA had granted him a waiver to play.

He entered the season with 34 career double-doubles on his resume and has averaged 11.5 points and 5.9 boards as a Sooner, while leading OU with 1.5 blocks.

Both of Thomas’ double-doubles this season have come in Big 12 play: 12 points/11 boards at Texas, 14 points/11 boards vs. K-State.

He blocked three shots at West Virginia and two vs. OSU in his last two games. In the non-conference, he swatted five shots against Missouri.

To open conference play, Thomas lit up Baylor, making 11 of 17 shots and scoring 24 points.

— hoop-math.com nugget: As you might’ve guessed, Thomas mostly operates inside, with 57.2% of his shots coming at the rim. He’s not too bad in short- to mid-range, either. His 40% shooting (24-for-60) on 2-point jumpers leads OU’s rotation players.

No. 00 — Ryan Spangler, 6-8, junior F

Again one of the top rebounders in the conference, Spangler averages 8.2 boards a game (second to Rico Gathers’ 11.2).

When the OU defense gets stops, he’s usually the guy finishing them off. He leads the Big 12 with 6.2 defensive boards a game.

Spangler contributes 9.5 points a game, too, and makes 55.4% of his shots. Since he transferred to Oklahoma from Gonzaga, he has hit 50% or better in 38 of his 50 games, all of which he has started.

The rugged forward went for 11 points and 11 rebounds against OSU, his fifth double-double of the season.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Even though most of Spangler’s boards come on defense, he averages 2.0 a game on offense and has 15 put-backs this season. 25% of his shots at the rim have been on the offensive glass. Spangler shoots 73.3% at the rim (44 of 60).

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

None by Ryan Aber

The least likely scorer in OU’s starting five, the second-year guard scores 7.9 a game.

The Sooners need Woodard to set things up on offense, and he averages 4.5 assists a game (second in the Big 12 to Monté Morris’ 5.9).

He has started all 50 games of his OU career and has shot 82.4% at the foul line this season.

Woodard shot 5-for-7 vs. OSU, scored 13 points and dished four assists.

— hoop-math.com nugget: The point guard can get to the rim on his own. Of his 19 field goals at the rim this season, only one came via a teammate’s assist.

SOONERS BENCH

No. 2 — Dinjiyl Walker, 6-1, junior G

None by Justin Hite

Kruger barely uses his bench, with OU’s five starters all playing 28 minutes a game or more. Walker is the one Sooner backup earning consistent minutes (13.7 a game).

The former junior-college guard averages 5.4 points a game on 39.8% shooting.

Walker’s season-high is 13 points, against Northwestern State, but he also scored 10 points against both Wisconsin and Texas.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Walker hasn’t been great from 3-point range (25%), but 43.4% of his 83 shot attempts have come from deep.

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Getting to know the No. 11 Cyclones

Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg watches late in the second half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg watches late in the second half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Having “The Mayor” back in Ames, Iowa, has done wonders for Iowa State’s basketball program.

Fred Hoiberg, who averaged 17.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in nine games against Kansas as a player, now coaches the Cyclones, and has helped them earn three straight NCAA Tournament berths.

ISU (12-3 overall, 2-1 Big 12, ranked No. 11 in the nation) is well on its way to a fourth March Madness appearance in a row. Few things give The Mayor’s constituents at Hilton Coliseum more joy than beating Kansas (14-2, 3-0, No. 9) — something Hoiberg did in uniform four times in nine games between 1992 and 1995.

But the fifth-year coach enters tonight’s primetime showdown with the Jayhawks holding a 2-7 record against the team he loved to beat as a player.

Iowa State is 8-0 this season at Hilton Coliseum, including wins over Arkansas (currently No. 19) and Oklahoma State (No. 24). The Cyclones have won 15 in a row at home, dating back to last season.

Since Hoiberg began manning ISU’s sideline, the Cyclones resurgence has thrived because of his free-wheeling offense. Iowa State averages 79.9 points a game this season and has put up 90 or more points 25 times in the Hoiberg era.

Five Cyclones average double figures in scoring, and ISU’s effective field-goal percentage (which takes into account 3-point shots being worth more than 2-pointers) of 55.8 is 12th nationally.

With all of that in mind, here are the Cyclones KU has to worry about as it tries to stay unbeaten in Big 12 play.

CYCLONES STARTERS

No. 31 — Georges Niang, 6-8, junior F

Iowa State forwards Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim celebrate the Cyclones' win over Kansas State on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. They will face Kansas in the semifinal round of the Big 12 Tournament on Friday.

Iowa State forwards Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim celebrate the Cyclones' win over Kansas State on Thursday, March 13, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. They will face Kansas in the semifinal round of the Big 12 Tournament on Friday. by Nick Krug

The Big 12’s fifth-leading scorer (14.9 points per game) can play inside and outside, making him a difficult matchup for many teams, and Hoiberg uses him in a variety of ways.

Niang averages 5.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists, making him one of 20 players nationally to average at least 14 points, five boards and three assists.

Since the start of Big 12 play, the forward has only scored 10 vs. Oklahoma State, 16 at West Virginia and 10 at Baylor.

The preseason All-Big 12 selection averages 17.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists in six previous meetings with Kansas.

Plus, Niang might have even more incentive to torment KU, considering what happened to him the last time ISU faced the Jayhawks:

Iowa State forward Georges Niang lies on the floor bleeding from a gash above his eye suffered late in the second half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Iowa State forward Georges Niang lies on the floor bleeding from a gash above his eye suffered late in the second half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

hoop-math.com nugget: As a team, the Cyclones really finish well inside (74.2% on FGs at the rim, third in the nation). They’re so good, in fact that Niang’s 64.4% shooting at the rim is one of the worst among rotation players. Niang has converted 29 of 45 from point-blank range.

No. 13 Bryce Dejean-Jones, 6-6, senior G

A graduate-transfer from UNLV, he is yet another example of an experienced college veteran plugged in as a difference-maker by Hoiberg.

The Big 12’s preseason Newcomer of the Year is eighth in the league in scoring (12.9 points) and leads Iowa State in rebounding (5.9). Like Niang, though he plays off the ball, he can set other Cyclones up, too (3.1 assists).

Dejean-Jones scored 14 points in ISU’s loss at Baylor, giving him a double-figure outing for the first time in five games.

He’s the only Cyclone with more than one double-double this season (two, vs. Oakland and Lamar).

Connecting on 48.8% of his shots, he’s one of three ISU players in the top four of the Big 12 in field goal percentage.

1st. Dustin Hogue, ISU, 60.4%

2nd. TaShawn Thomas, OU, 56.5%

3rd. Bryce Dejean-Jones, ISU, 53.3%

4th. Naz Long, ISU, 48.8%

5th. Frank Mason III, KU, 48.2%

Inside the 3-point line, he’s a 63.3% shooter, thanks in part to 14 dunks. Dejean-Jones has hit 14 of 41 3-pointers. And he’s the Cyclones’ third-best free-throw shooter (79.6%).

— hoop-math.com nugget: His scoring versatility shows in his shot selection. 33.3% of Dejean-Jones shots have come at the rim, 32.5% on 2-point jumpers and 34.2% from 3-point range.

No. 15 — Naz Long, 6-4, junior G

As he showed in Iowa State’s loss at Baylor — 5-for-5 3-point shooting — Long has the perfect last name, because he’s the team’s best outside shooter.

Long has knocked in 43 of his 101 3-point attempts (42.6%), which makes him all the more difficult to keep in check on the perimeter. He’s fourth in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage, and second in 3-point makes, behind Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield (47).

He’s knocked in five or more 3-pointers in a game four times this season.

Last season, as a backup, he proved critical in crunch time, with a 3-pointer at Oklahoma State that sent the game to double-overtime, and another vs. OSU at Hilton Coliseum that forced OT.

— hoop-math.com nugget: He has been Iowa State’s most effective shooter. Long’s eFG% is 65.5%, leading ISU’s rotation players.

No. 22 — Dustin Hogue, 6-6, senior F

Kansas forward Perry Ellis defends against a shot from Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis defends against a shot from Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Last season, his first at ISU, he averaged 10.7 points and 8.0 rebounds against Kansas.

Hogue doesn’t often take 3-pointers, but he makes his attempts count when he does. The forward has made 9 of 18 from deep on the season, as well as 4 of his last 6.

When ISU beat Oklahoma State, he scored all 17 of his points in the second half, went 7-for-7 in the final 20 minutes, scored Iowa State’s final seven points and blocked a 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds left to give the Cyclones a 63-61 win in their league opener.

Hogue’s 24 offensive rebounds lead the team.

He only scored 5 points and had 5 rebounds in ISU’s loss at Baylor.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Somewhat surprisingly, Hogue only has 7 put-backs this season. And just 4.9% of his attempts at the rim have come on the offensive glass.

No. 11 — Monté Morris, 6-2, sophomore G

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe looks to strip the ball from Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe looks to strip the ball from Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

No one playing college basketball right now is better at taking care of the rock than Monté Morris. His 5.6 assist-to-turnover ratio is best in the land.

Averaging 5.6 assists a game, he has relinquished possession just 15 times in 490 minutes. Nine different times in his career, the sophomore has dished at least five assists without turning it over.

He has never had back-to-back games with two or more giveaways.

Last year in three games vs. Kansas, the then-freshman ball-handler had 1 turnover in 98 minutes and averaged 7.3 points.

Defensively, Morris leads Iowa State, with 24 steals (Dejean-Jones has 22 in one less game played).

ESPN’s Seth Greenberg recently named him the best point guard in the nation.

— hoop-math.com nugget: As good as the point guard is at running the team and setting others up, Morris also can score inside. He has shot 31-for-41 on shots at the rim (75.6%).

CYCLONES BENCH

No. 1 — Jameel McKay, 6-9, junior F

Another transfer (from Marquette, where he never played a game after joining the program as a junior college recruit), McKay gained eligibility on Dec. 20 and has averaged 8.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks in six games since.

Despite his brief time in the lineup, he’s the only Cyclone with double-digit blocks (16). He has swatted 3.7 blocks in Big 12 games, to lead the conference.

In ISU’s win at West Virginia, McKay turned back five Mountaineers shots.

— hoop-math.com nugget: He’s the only guy who will play meaningful minutes and not take a 3-pointer (0 attempts this season). McKay primarily lives in the paint, with 69.7% of his shots coming at the rim. He makes 69.6% of them.

No. 2 — Abdel Nader, 6-6, junior F

After back-to-back scoreless outings, Nader busted out at West Virginia, with a 19-point night and 7 rebounds.

A former leading scorer at Northern Illinois, the Cyclones are deep enough to bring him off the bench, and he averages 6.1 points in just 16.5 minutes.

He made a season-high 4 3-pointers on 6 tries in ISU’s at Iowa.

— hoop-math.com nugget: He’ll settle for 3-point shots (44.1% of his attempts come from long range) and so far he has only made 3-pointers (6 of 30) when a teammate assists him.

No. 21 — Matt Thomas, 6-4, sophomore G

With 15 3-pointers this season, he has one more outside make than Dejean-Jones in 9.4 fewer minutes a game.

Thomas only played seven minutes and scored 1 point at Baylor. But two games earlier, he scored 10 in 22 minutes against Oklahoma State, when he made 2 of 3 from 3-point range.

The sophomore averages 5.8 points in 18.3 minutes a game, and only has 7 turnovers in 238 minutes. He’s no Morris, but that’s not too shabby.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Only Long is more likely to take 3-pointers than Thomas. 66.7% of his 69 shot attempts this season have come behind the arc. All but one of his 15 makes have been assisted.

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Big game, environment awaits KU

Kansas players, from left, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor watch a pair of free throws from Kelly Oubre with head coach Bill Self after a flagrant foul by Baylor during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2014 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

Kansas players, from left, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Jamari Traylor watch a pair of free throws from Kelly Oubre with head coach Bill Self after a flagrant foul by Baylor during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2014 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. by Nick Krug

It’s only mid-January, but the No. 9-ranked Kansas University basketball team is about to play one of its biggest games of the regular season.

No. 11 Iowa State (12-3 overall, 2-1 Big 12) is hosting not only KU, but also ESPN’s College GameDay, Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.

Coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks are 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference, spoke with media members Thursday about what could be KU’s most difficult road test to date.

Here are some of the highlights:

It’s hard to recall other coaches who have had as much success with transfers as Fred Hoiberg has at Iowa State. They’ve been “right on point” on how they’ve conducted their recruiting. You’re looking at a lot of states in the Midwest that don’t produce great numbers of elite athletes. It’s a smart way to conduct business with having older guys play against a lot of freshmen and sophomores. … Style, playing time and other reasons factor into guys transferring. Those players who sit out might end up being more locked in once they’re eligible.

Self likes playing on the ESPN GameDay showcase. Even away from Lawrence. It ends up being an infomercial for your school and program when you host one. It’s a game that deserves national attention. He wishes KU was hosting one this season.

Self saw some of Iowa State at Baylor Wednesday night, while watching video from some of the other games. The Bears won 74-73. ISU played fabulous down the stretch, and Baylor might not have ever played better this season.

• There have been numerous games when KU hasn’t shot a large amount of free throws — unlike the game against Oklahoma State. Because of the "chippiness” of the last game, the refs ended up calling it closer. Self thinks refs have done a good job with the emphasis on freedom of movement of late. Watching video, you see refs get a lot more right than you would in their position.

Scoring is way down in college basketball. In KU’s three Big 12 games, the Jayhawks are averaging 69.7 points, which is third in the league. The players’ skillsets aren’t quite as good in college basketball as in years past, because “none of them” stay past their sophomore year. … He doesn’t think the product is down at all. … There appears to be less transition than in years past in college basketball. … The rules committee has done a good job of putting offense in a good spot.

You can control defense and rebounding a lot more than execution and making shots.

A lot of coaches are not in favor of shot-clock reduction. Self thinks the clock should be reduced, because coaches would adjust to it. A lot of coaches across America think it would lead to worse half-court offense if there were less time to execute. Self doesn’t agree.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) swats a shot from Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash (2) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) swats a shot from Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash (2) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

KU’s defense has improved with better activity with their hands, more blocking and contesting shots, since the start of Big 12 play. Some of that started in late December, before conference play. Self thought they would be decent at contesting shots. Junior Jamari Traylor and sophomore Wayne Selden Jr. have gotten better at blocking shots from behind. KU doesn’t have a great shot-blocker. But there are more guys contesting and blocking shots.

• Junior forward Perry Ellis is just “a fraction away” from doing the things the coaches envisioned he could do. He needs to believe he’s the best player on the floor every night, because when he plays well he is. Maybe the situation for him is KU is winning so he thinks he can be just as productive as he was in past years. That’s not what the coaches want. They want Ellis to play assertively. He needs to be KU’s go-to guy. Self doesn’t think he’s far away. … Ellis remembers his misses and screw-ups. That’s something he has to get better at. He’s sometimes too nice a kid and rationalizes that KU is doing fine.

• Self doesn’t think the whole team has had great body language this season. That’s something they need to work on.

Kelly Oubre Jr. doesn’t remember missed shots. He could miss three or four in a row, then knock the ball away and feel better and think the next shot or play he makes is the one that won the game. He has adjusted since his early-season slump. The schedule was a negative from that perspective, because guys could struggle and get down on themselves — because they’re so young.

• ISU’s Georges Niang is “terrific.” But you can’t focus on him, because the whole team can score. The Cyclones have eight players who are natural scorers and Monte Morris doesn’t turn it over (15 all seasons). “It’s gonna be, ‘Guard your man.’” Iowa State is very creative on offense.

Last year, KU played really well at Ames. The year before Elijah Johnson was “off the charts.” It’s as good an atmosphere as KU will play in on the road this year.

Winning this one and staying unbeaten would be important but it’s early in the season. And every game is going to impact the race for the conference championship. It would be way premature to think anybody would be in the driver’s seat after that win.

— Listen to the complete press conference here: Bill Self says every game impacts Big 12 race

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Getting to know the No. 24 Cowboys

Just a few days ago, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self called Oklahoma State one of the surprising Big 12 teams this season.

The Cowboys — 12-3 overall, 2-1 in league games and now ranked No. 24 in the nation — come to Lawrence having just handled Texas in an 11-point home win this past weekend.

KenPom.com ranks the Cowboys at No. 22, and their only losses have come to teams in Pomeroy’s top 40:

  • at South Carolina (No. 37 KenPom), 75-49, on Dec. 6

  • to Maryland (No. 14 AP, No. 20 KenPom), 73-64, on Dec. 21

  • at Iowa State (No. 11 AP, No. 19 KenPom), 63-61, on Jan. 6

Not much was expected of coach Travis Ford’s squad this year, what with the departure of Marcus Smart and Markel Brown.

That hasn’t seemed to bother returning veterans Phil Forte III (17.7 points per game) and Le’Bryan Nash (17.6 ppg), who head into their showdown at No. 9 Kansas (13-2, 2-0) as the Big 12’s top two scorers.

OSU can play some defense, too:

  • 8.9 steals/game (17th in NCAA)

  • 37.2 FG% defense (20th in NCAA)

  • 58.6 ppg scoring defense (27th in NCAA)

  • 5.2 blocks/game (35th in NCAA)

Meet the Cowboys the Jayhawks will have to worry about while attempting to open conference play with three straight victories.

COWBOYS STARTERS

No. 13 — Phil Forte III, 5-11, junior G

None by OSU Sports Extra

The undersized guard with seemingly unlimited range hits on 41.2% of his 3-pointers: 42-for-102. And he fires, on average, 6.8 attempts from behind the arc each game.

Forte gives the ball up every once in a while (1.8 assists) but is more interested in getting it back (2.6 steals, tops in the Big 12).

In each of his last four games — against Missouri, Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas — the gun-slinging junior guard has scored 20-plus points. He has nailed 55% of his shots and 55.2% of his 3-pointers in that stretch.

Forte has 17 20-point games in his career — second among active Big 12 players to his teammate, Nash.

He hit just 1 of 8 3-pointers in his first trip to Allen Fieldhouse, in 2013, but hit 7 of 10 from deep at KU and scored 23 points last season.

hoop-math.com nugget: Sure, Forte can drill the long ball. But he also drains jumpers inside the arc. He shoots 51.2% on 2-point shots away from the rim and has made 22.

No. 2 — Le’Bryan Nash, 6-7, senior F

Kansas guard Frank Mason tries to hook a pass around Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash during the second half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kansas guard Frank Mason tries to hook a pass around Oklahoma State forward Le'Bryan Nash during the second half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

With 26 career outings of 20-plus points, Nash is the only active Big 12 player with more of those than Forte.

Nash has made 47.9% of his shots this season, a number hurt a little by his 2-for-12 3-point shooting.

The athletic senior from Dallas has scored in double figures in every game he has played this season, but also contributes 6.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 block.

Over the past two seasons, Nash has scored more points each time he gets another crack at Kansas: 7, 8, 10, 16 and 19 in the last five meetings between the two programs.

He gets to the foul line better than anybody in the Big 12 — 85-for-112 — and makes 75.9%, eighth in the league.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Nash takes just more than half of his shots on 2-point jumpers and has hit 44% from that range. He’s better when he gets to the rim — 57.7%.

No. 12 — Anthony Hickey Jr., 5-11, senior G

After starting three years at LSU, Hickey (9.3 points) has fit in well in OSU’s three-guard lineup

The guy is a pest on defense, too, with 246 career steals (fourth among active Div. I players) and 2.0 swipes a game this season.

Hickey sets up the Cowboys offense often, and leads the team with 3.3 assists a game.

He had 10 points, nine boards, seven assists and one turnover in OSU’s win over Texas.

With a 2.26 career assist-to-turnover ratio, Hickey ranks 10th among active NCAA players (minimum 400 assists).

— hoop-math.com nugget: Almost half (48.5%) of Hickey’s shots have come from 3-point range (21-for-63). But he’s not just a catch-and-shoot guy. Nine of his three-pointers have come without an assist.

No. 20 — Michael Cobbins, 6-8, senior F

Kansas center Jeff Withey is fouled by Oklahoma State center Michael Cobbins during the first overtime on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kansas center Jeff Withey is fouled by Oklahoma State center Michael Cobbins during the first overtime on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

An injury limited his junior season to just 13 games, but now Cobbins is back and giving Oklahoma State a much needed interior presence.

He has blocked 15 shots in the last six games and averages 2.2 swats on the season. Plus, Cobbins leads OSU with 6.3 rebounds a game.

The Cowboys are 21-4 in the last 25 games in which Cobbins has played.

In his last two games against KU, he has averaged 11 rebounds.

The big man averages 7.2 points on the season and has hit 61.1% of his shots.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Cobbins has converted 27 of his 32 shots at the rim this season, but only five of those buckets have come on put-backs, via the offensive glass.

No. 22 — Jeff Newberry, 6-2, junior G

The least productive member of the starting five, Newberry only scores 5.8 points and averages 16.3 minutes.

He spent 11 games coming off the bench before Ford turned him into a starter. Since the move, he has averaged 7.3 points on 9-for-23 shooting (39.1%), while making 5 of 12 3-pointers (41.7%) and passing out 2.3 assists.

The former Mississippi and junior college player scored 10 points and had two steals in a win over Kansas State.

— hoop-math.com nugget: When opponents coax him into 2-point jumpers he has only made 7 of 24 (29.2%).

COWBOYS BENCH

No. 5 — Tavarius Shine, 6-5, freshman F

He’s the only backup Cowboy who has played double-digit minutes off the bench in each of OSU’s three Big 12 games.

Shine only averages 3.5 points and 1.7 rebounds on the season. But in conference play his numbers read: 7.0 points, 50% shooting.

He scored eight points against both K-State and Iowa State. Shine, who has hit 8 of 26 3-pointers on the season, made two 3’s apiece against the Wildcats and Cyclones.

— hoop-math.com nugget: 66.7% of his shots have come from 3-point range, but he’s better off attacking, with a 84.4% success rate on shots at the rim (9-for-11).

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Kansas moves up three spots to No. 9 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas recruits Carlton Bragg, Tyler Dorsey, Stephen Zimmerman and Brandon Ingram watch the action during Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas recruits Carlton Bragg, Tyler Dorsey, Stephen Zimmerman and Brandon Ingram watch the action during Late Night in the Phog on Friday, Oct. 10, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

After surviving Baylor on the road and thrashing Texas Tech at home, Kansas moved up three spots to No. 9 in the Associated Press college basketball poll. Six of last week's top 10 teams lost, including Texas, which lost twice.

The top 25 teams in the AP college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 11, 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<br>
  1. Kentucky (63) 15-0 1,623 1
  2. Virginia (2) 15-0 1,561 3
  3. Gonzaga 16-1 1,446 6
  4. Duke 14-1 1,432 2
  5. Villanova 15-1 1,358 8
  6. Louisville 14-2 1,264 5
  7. Wisconsin 15-2 1,200 4
  8. Utah 13-2 1,185 9
  9. Kansas 13-2 1,100 12
  10. Arizona 14-2 1,037 7
  11. Iowa St. 12-2 922 17
  12. Notre Dame 15-2 903 13
  13. Wichita St. 14-2 832 15
  14. Maryland 15-2 801 11
  15. North Carolina 12-4 719 18
  16. West Virginia 14-2 627 14
  17. VCU 13-3 578 20
  18. Oklahoma 11-4 485 16
  19. Arkansas 13-2 431 23
  20. Texas 12-4 345 10
  21. Seton Hall 13-3 298 19
  22. Baylor 12-3 278 21
  23. N. Iowa 14-2 212 _
  24. Oklahoma St. 12-3 132 _
  25. Wyoming 15-2 71 _

Others receiving votes: Ohio St. 70, Michigan St. 67, Dayton 55, Providence 17, Indiana 15, LSU 12, St. John's 10, Alabama 7, Georgetown 7, NC State 6, Green Bay 3, Syracuse 3, Butler 2, Oregon 2, San Diego St. 2, TCU 2, Colorado St. 1, Davidson 1, Hofstra 1, Old Dominion 1, SMU 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: John Calipari plays the college basketball villain well. His team’s quest for an undefeated season has given the vast majority of the nation’s college basketball fans a reason to tune in and that reason is to root against the Wildcats. That’s why the Kennedys just might be more popular than at any time since the ‘60s. Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy’s squad took Kentucky to overtime. Texas A&M’s Billy Kennedy coached his team into double overtime. The Kennedys lost but a nation of basketball fans thanks them for coming so close.

2 - Virginia: Cavs play with remarkable poise at both ends at home and on the road. They used nine-point run that spanned from 3:48 to 0:03 to win at Notre Dame, 62-56.

3 - Duke: Blue Devils lost in Raleigh to North Carolina State despite 23 points, 12 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals from national player of the year candidate Jahlil Okafor. NC State doubled him throughout the game and he didn’t make them pay with quick recognition and a pass to the open man. Look for that defensive strategy to be duplicated and the adjustment to be made quickly.

4 - Gonzaga: Freshman guard Silas Melson is showing signs of coming on, making the Zags an even deeper team. He had hit just 3 of 16 threes coming into the week’s two road games and he hit 4 of 6. Zags have won five conference games by average of 17 points. It’s possible Gonzaga could enter NCAA Tournament with one loss, in overtime at Arizona.

5 - Louisville: Two shots before the buzzer went off missed and the Cardinals lost by a point at North Carolina, which came back from a 13-point deficit. “It stings as much as any game I’ve coached,” Cards coach Rick Pitino said. “Our players are very hurt by it.”.

6 - Villanova: Daniel Ochefu, a 6-11 junior from Baltimore, had a recent four-game stretch in which he averaged 13.8 points and 14 rebounds. Not bad for a guy who a year ago averaged 5.7 points and 6.1 rebounds.

7 - Utah: Utes are 6-0 since losing to Kansas by three points in the Sprint Center and the victories have come by an average margin of 24 points. Against Pac-12 competition that margin increases to a 27-point average in three games.

8 - Wisconsin: Leading scorer and first-team All-American candidate did not play Sunday at Rutgers and starting guard Traevon Jackson left the game with a leg injury early int eh second half. The Badgers missed them so much they were stunned by the Scarlet Knights, 67-62.

9 - Arizona: Two players in Oregon State basketball history have recorded a triple-double in a game. Gary Payton and Gary Payton II. The nine-time All-Star’s son, a 6-3 junior guard in his first season at his father’s alma mater after two seasons in junior college, did not have a triple-double Sunday night, but he did contribute 10 points and nine rebounds to the Beavers’ upset victory at home vs. Arizona.

10 - Notre Dame: It looks as if Mike Brey’s 15th season in South Bend will be his best. Irish road upset of North Carolina gave them 15 victories, matching last season’s total.

11 - North Carolina: The Tar Heels were favored by three-and-a-half points at home, so their one-point victory vs. Louisville should not be termed an upset.

12 - Kansas: It’s been several days since high school power forward Carlton Bragg committed to Kansas, disappointing Kentucky coach John Calipari. Shockingly, I haven’t seen a single bumper sticker that reads, “Bragg Says No to Braggart.”

13 - Iowa State: Cyclones won close ones against West Virginia and Oklahoma State and would have lost both without such a terrific week from Dustin Hogue, who averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds, made 11 of 14 shots and 4 of 5 threes. He had a huge blocked shot with two seconds left in the Oklahoma Stage game.

14 - Maryland: Terps coach Mark Turgeon hit the road for a pair of Big Ten games, won one and lost one, but didn’t have as good a week as former KU teammate Danny Manning, first-year Wake Forest coach. Wake lost by nine to Louisville and eight to Duke before capping strong week with seven-point victory over Georgia Tech. Devin Thomas, Demon Deacons 6-9 junior forward, is responding well to Manning’s coaching. Thomas averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds in the three games.

15 - Oklahoma: The Sooners slammed Texas by 31 points in Austin and five days later lost in overtime to Kansas State in Norman. Think about that and then think about the eternal mystery of what came first, the chicken or the egg. Alternate thinking about only those two things and see which one drives you nuts first.

16 - West Virginia: Mountaineers are 2-0 on the road in the Big 12 and 0-1 at home, which says more about their opponents (TCU and Texas Tech on the road) and Iowa State in Morgantown.

17 - Wichita State: Shockers aren’t quite as good as last year, but they take good shots, never turn the ball over and have one of the nation’s best backcourts with Fred VanVleet feeding Ron Baker.

18 - VCU: Rams rank ninth in nation, per kenpom.com, with just 15.2 percent of their possessions ending in a turnover. Opponents turn it over on 25.9 percent of possessions, placing Rams fifth in the nation in that category.

19 - Arkansas: Hogs, riding a seven-game winning streak, getting huge production out of 6-11 sophomore Bobby Portis (18.1 points and 17.8 rebounds per game).

20 - Ohio State: As freshman D’Angelo Russell goes, so go the Buckeyes. In 13 victories, he has averaged 19.3 points and shot .537 overall, .556 from three. In four losses, he has averaged 13.5 points, shot .250 overall, .172 from three. The Buckeyes don’t have enough scoring punch to overcome a bad night from Russell.

21 - Seton Hall: Once in a while you hear the term “power five conference,” used in college basketball. That has to stop. It only applies to football. There are six power conferences in basketball and the Big East is one of them.

22 - Oklahoma State: Senior Le’Bryan Nash and junior Phil Forte scored 20 points apiece in an 11-point victory against Texas. Forte averages 17.7 points, Nash 17.6 and ultra-quick point guard Anthony Hickey, a three-year starter for LSU, creates opportunities for both scorers.

23 - Baylor: To watch Rico Gathers, generally listed at 6-8, is to wonder if the NFL could find a place for him. The 280-pound junior averages a double-double (10.1, 11.3).

24 - Northern Iowa: You think UNI, you think three-point shooters, but these Panthers can defend. Drake made just three field goals in the entire second half in Saturday’s 64-40 loss.

25 - Alabama: Crimson Tide head into South Carolina for a Tuesday night game with a 2-0 record (Texas A&M, at Tennessee) and average margin of victory of 19.5 points.

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Getting to know the Red Raiders

First-year Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith pleads with a game official during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

First-year Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith pleads with a game official during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, as any coach in the Big 12 would, says there are no automatic wins in this very deep and talented league.

Even if that is the case, Saturday should be about as automatic as it gets for the No. 12 Jayhawks (12-2 overall, 1-0 Big 12), who welcome Texas Tech to Allen Fieldhouse for a 2 p.m. game on ESPNU.

The Red Raiders are one of two Big 12 teams not ranked in the top 55 by KenPom.com. Texas Tech (10-5, 0-2) is nearly 100 spots behind, at 151. The only other conference team lagging is Kansas State (8-7), at No. 104.

Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith is a highly respected coach with 535 career victories. In his 24 years as a head coach, he has won .682 of his games. However, three of his five starters are freshmen and the Red Raiders have the sixth-youngest starting lineup in the nation.

Texas Tech ranks last in the Big 12 with 4.87 3-pointers made per game and is ninth in scoring (68.3 points). The Red Raiders at least hold opponents to 38.5% shooting — better than KU’s 41.4% — and average 7.27 steals (fourth in the Big 12).

Here are the Red Raiders KU has to worry about as it seeks a 2-0 start in conference play.

RED RAIDERS STARTERS

No. 0 — Devaugntah Williams, 6-4, junior G

Tech’s leading scorer (11.7 points) has, by far, the most 3-pointers on the team, as well. Williams is shooting 39.7% from long range, with 25 makes on 63 tries.

A junior-college transfer, he worked his way into Smith’s starting lineup.

Williams struggled in his Big 12 debut, making just 1 of 4 shots and scoring 3 against Texas. However, he followed that up with a 21-point showing and 3-for-4 shooting from downtown against West Virginia.

— hoop-math.com nugget: On 22 of his 25 3-pointers, Williams’ teammates have set him up with an assist. But he can get to the rim on his own, with 32 field goals there (only 10 assisted on).

No. 14 — Robert Turner, 6-3, senior G

Kansas guard Conner Frankamp blocks a shot from Texas Tech guard Robert Turner during the first half on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Conner Frankamp blocks a shot from Texas Tech guard Robert Turner during the first half on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The only senior in Tech’s top seven, he was named to the Las Vegas Classic All-Tournament team, earlier this season.

But his shooting has failed him often.

Turner scored a season-high 19 points against Air Force when he routinely visited the free-throw line and went 8-for-9 — a rarity for the 63.4% free-throw shooter.

What’s more, he has only made 5 of 14 field goals in two Big 12 games.

On the season, Turner has hoisted 50 3-pointers and made just 12.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Turner has only made 8 of his 29 2-point jump shots (27.6%).

No. 32 — Norense Odiase, 6-9, freshman F

The 270-pound big man gives Texas Tech some legit size in the paint.

Odiase’s 5.1 rebounds a game lead the team and he has exactly as many boards on defense as on offense this season: 38 on each end of the floor.

Offensively, the young big has been held to single-digit points in seven straight games. But he did put up 9 and pass out 3 assists against West Virginia.

He gets to the charity stripe more often than any of his teammates — 63 attempts — but shoots just 57.1% at the foul line.

— hoop-math.com nugget: As you might expect, Odiase leads Texas Tech with 14 put-backs on the offensive glass. That’s how 26.2% of his shots at the rim are generated.

No. 5 — Justin Gray, 6-6, freshman G/F

Part of the freshman invasion project at Texas Tech, the long guard has struggled of late:

  • scoreless against Houston

  • 2 points vs. North Texas

  • 4 points vs. Texas

  • 2 points vs. West Virginia

His minutes also have dropped significantly in this slump, after he scored 17 points in 35 minutes against Loyola Chicago.

Gray averages 7.1 points a game and shoots 50.1% from the floor.

— hoop-math.com nugget: When Gray gets to the rim, he is at his best, making 23 of 30 (76.7%).

No. 11 — Zach Smith, 6-8, freshman F

Yet another fresh face, the athletic big man doesn’t score much (eighth on Texas Tech, with 5.2 points a game), but he has blocked 23 shots (1.6 a game) and is on pace to set a program record for freshmen in that category.

Coming off a 3-point/3-rebound game against West Virginia, in 36 minutes, Smith has scored in double figures just once this season (13, at LSU).

At least he hits his free throws: 31 of 44 (70.5 percent).

— hoop-math.com nugget: 28 of his 47 2-point attempts have come at the rim, where Smith has converted 64.3% of his point-blank looks.

RED RAIDERS BENCH

No. 20 — Toddrick Gotcher, 6-4, junior G

None by Daily Toreador Photo

Hey, a returning player.

Capable of playing PG, SG or SF off the bench for Texas Tech, he is a valuable player.

Gotcher is averaging 6.9 points and has made 16 3-pointers (second on Texas Tech) in 43 attempts (35.7%).

Against West Virginia, the junior played 34 minutes — essentially replacing Gray — and scored 14 points by getting to the foul line (8-for-10) on a night he shot 2-for-7 from the floor.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Most of his shot attempts (56.6%) come from long range and teammates have set Gotcher up for all 16 of his 3-pointers.

No. 3 — Randy Onwuasor, 6-3, sophomore G

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe and Texas Tech guard Randy Onwuasor chase a loose ball during the first half on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Naadir Tharpe and Texas Tech guard Randy Onwuasor chase a loose ball during the first half on Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

On the season, gives Tech nearly as much offense as Gotcher by scoring 6.4 points.

Onwuasor was one of Smith’s first recruits and played in all 32 games as a freshman.

His minutes have nearly doubled this season to 21.0 a game, but he played just 13 minutes vs. West Virginia and scored 3 points to go with 4 rebounds.

He’s only shooting 36.7% from the floor this season, though he is third on the team in attempts (79).

— hoop-math.com nugget: Onwuasor isn’t helping his shooting percentage with his shot selection. He has made just 5 of 22 2-point jumpers.

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Getting to know No. 21-ranked Baylor

Baylor head coach Scott Drew watches from the sideline during a Jayhawk run in the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Baylor head coach Scott Drew watches from the sideline during a Jayhawk run in the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Given the depth and quality of the Big 12 this season, it somehow seems appropriate Kansas will begin its conference title defense on the road against a top-25 team.

These are the exact types of games the Jayhawks will have to win in order to extend their regular-season championship run to 11 years in a row.

For No. 12 KU, the journey begins Wednesday night at No. 21 Baylor.

Scott Drew, who is 3-13 against Bill Self’s Jayhawks since taking over in Waco, Texas, has coached BU to 12 straight victories at the Ferrell Center. Wouldn’t you know it, the Bears’ last home loss came to Kansas on Feb. 4, 2014.

Baylor has only surrendered 56.1 points a game this season (13th in the nation) and has a field-goal percentage defense of 37.7% (28th nationally). What’s more, the Bears have held their opponents to an average of 13.0 points below their season scoring averages.

In BU’s Big 12 opener, though, the previously stingy Bears lost 73-63 at Oklahoma (2-0 in Big 12 after throttling Texas 70-49 on Big Monday).

It’s time to meet the Baylor players Kansas will have to hold back.

BEARS STARTERS

No. 35 — Jonathan Motley, 6-9, freshman F

The 230-pound redshirt freshman is a load inside and capable of doing serious damage on the offensive glass (see: 8 offensive boards vs. Texas A&M on Dec. 9).

Motley is said to have added 20 pounds of muscle while sitting out the 2013-14 season — a year he spent battling Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson and Rico Gathers at Baylor practices.

The strategy (one rarely seen in major Division I college basketball) seems to have paid off. The first-year forward averages 10.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks on the season. But he has come on much stronger of late, leading Baylor in scoring in four of the last five games. In that five-game stretch, Motley is averaging 17.6 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.2 blocks.

This followed back-to-back games in early December when he fouled out and went scoreless.

In his Big 12 debut this past weekend, Motley scored 24 points and hit 9 of 12 field goals in a loss at Oklahoma.

hoop-math.com nugget: Motley loves finishing inside, where he has 37 field goals at the rim. Keep him away from point-blank range and he makes just 24.4% of his 2-point jumpers and 25% of his 3-pointers.

No. 00 — Royce O’Neale, 6-6, senior F

None by NCAA Tourney

Both Baylor and O’Neale benefited when the forward decided to transfer and become a Bear after playing two seasons at Denver.

He has scored 1,069 points in his career, with 676 rebounds, 329 assists and 134 steals.

As a junior, O’Neale became the first player in Baylor history to produce 200-plus rebounds and 100-plus assists in the same season, and though he doesn’t play in the backcourt he ranked second on the team with 2.9 assists.

Speaking of guard skills, he has made four or more 3-pointers in three games this season.

Just over a week ago, O’Neale (10.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.3 assists) went for a career-high with 23 points on 7-for-9 shooting (5-for-6 from deep) against Norfolk State.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Gathers scores mostly at the rim (20 field goals) and from downtown (19 3-pointers). He makes 66.7% of his takes to the rim.

No. 2 — Rico Gathers, 6-8, junior F

Baylor forward Rico Gathers blocks a shot from Andrew Wiggins, but got called for a foul during the second half of the Jayhawks' win over the Baylor Bears Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.

Baylor forward Rico Gathers blocks a shot from Andrew Wiggins, but got called for a foul during the second half of the Jayhawks' win over the Baylor Bears Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014 at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas. by Mike Yoder

No, that’s not a Baylor football defensive end. That’s BU’s powerfully-built, 275-pound power forward.

Gathers nearly averages a double-double — 9.6 points, 10.6 rebounds — now that he’s a Baylor starter, as a junior. A monster in the paint, and at times impossible to block out, he’s averaging 4.9 offensive rebounds a game — second to Stony Brook’s Jameel Warney in that category.

According to sports-reference.com, the beastly forward controls 20.3% of available offensive rebounds. That’s second in the nation, to Nevada’s AJ West (22.2%).

Gathers’ six double-doubles this season lead the Big 12 and he averages one rebound every 2.8 minutes in his career.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Little surprise here, but Gathers leads Baylor in put-backs. He has scored 27 times on the offensive glass this season (Motley has 15 put-backs) and makes 50% of his put-back tries at the rim.

No. 11 — Lester Medford, 5-10, junior G

None by Baylor Basketball

A junior-college transfer, Medford is similar in size and ability to fellow backcourt mate Kenny Chery. He started five games for Chery when the incumbent guard hurt his foot and dished 30 assists, against seven turnovers.

The combo guard averages 4.1 assists per game (fifth in the Big 12) to go with his 8.3 points.

A double-digit scorer in six games this season, Medford also mixes it up defensively, with 1.7 steals (tied for fifth in the Big 12 with Frank Mason III).

He has hit 17 of his 50 3-point attempts this season (34%), but is coming off a 3-for-6 outing at OU.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Of Baylor’s rotation players, Medford spends the least time taking shots in between the rim and the 3-point arc. Just 14.8% of his shots have been 2-point jumpers, while 35.2% have come at the rim and a whopping 50% have come from long distance.

No. 1 — Kenny Chery, 5-11, senior G

Kansas players Joel Embiid (21) and Wayne Selden defend against a three from Baylor guard Kenny Chery during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas players Joel Embiid (21) and Wayne Selden defend against a three from Baylor guard Kenny Chery during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Baylor’s primary distributor dishes 4.6 assists per game to go with 8.2 points.

Since missing five consecutive starts (coming off the bench in one) with planter fasciitis, the senior from Montreal has set up his fellow Bears to the tune of 6.8 assists a game in his last four starts, compared to 2.0 turnovers a game.

The point guard channeled his inner scorer at South Carolina, where he poured in 18 of his 20 in the second half to help Baylor win on the road.

Last season, Chery’s .879 free-throw percentage led the Big 12, and he has made 12 of 15 (80 percent) so far as a senior, playing in nine games.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Just 18.1% of his shots so far have come at the rim. Chery has taken 25 2-point jumpers and is making just 28.6% of those tries. He’s 12-for-34 from deep.

BEARS BENCH

No. 21 — Taurean Prince, 6-7, junior F

None by Baylor Basketball

A starter for five games this season while Chery recovered, he has easily transitioned into a stellar sixth man. Prince’s 12.0 points per game and 21 3-pointers lead the Bears. He has made that many bombs on just 39 attempts — giving him the Big 12’s top percentage of 53.8%.

With nine double-digit scoring games, he leads Baylor (Gathers, Medford and Motley all have six such performances).

Prince played 30 minutes at Oklahoma, and shot the ball well — 6-for-12 from the floor, including 4-for-8 from 3-point range.

Overall, he has made 50 of 104 shots (48.1%) while providing instant offense.

— hoop-math.com nugget: He can create his own easy points. Only 50% of Prince’s shots at the rim come off assists. His method? Crashing the offensive glass. He has 11 put-backs.

No. 25 — Al Freeman, 6-3, freshman G

Another redshirt freshman (he missed eight weeks with a broken wrist last year), Freeman has scored double-digits off the bench in three of BU’s past five games.

But at Oklahoma, Drew only played Freeman 16 minutes and he went 0-for-3 with one point.

He has yet to start, but averages 6.5 points in 19.3 minutes and has reached the foul line (20-for-29) more often than starting guards Medford and Chery.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Most of his shot attempts, 55.2% actually, come from long range. However, Freeman has connected on just 29.7% of his 3-pointers.

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One voter’s Hall of Fame ballot

Hall of Fame pitcher Walter “The Big Train” Johnson was born in Humboldt, roughly 90 miles south of Lawrence and that’s about as close as the Kansas University baseball program has come to Cooperstown.

One day, a KU baseball player will get drafted, work his way swiftly through the minor leagues, develop into a perennial All-Star and thousands of Kansans will sit on the lawn in Cooperstown and take in his induction ceremony.

That day could be a long way off, so for now we’ll look at the candidates to gain induction today at 1 p.m. Below is my ballot, No. 608. But first consider how I weigh steroids.

It strikes me as silly to ignore that Barry Bonds was a Hall of Fame ballplayer before his muscles swelled to the size of his ego. He had Hall of Fame written all over him before he started to break rules that weren’t enforced when he was breaking him. The rules were in the books starting in 1991, but testing didn’t take root until 2003. Bonds gets my vote every year.

It strikes me as equally silly to ignore that Sammy Sosa didn’t perform like a Hall of Famer before and after he looked like a body builder. When he looked like a baseball player he was a good one, but not a great one. Sosa never will get my vote.

Keeping a cheater out of Cooperstown, even if he was worthy of induction before cheating isn’t fair to a ballplayer who was doing what more than half of his competitors did. Allowing a cheater into Cooperstown, even though he wouldn’t have reached there without cheating, isn’t fair to the guys who got there based on credentials, not chemistry.

How do I know who cheated? I don’t, in most cases, so I guess, based on off-the-record conversations I had with players, managers, coaches, front-office officials whose opinions I trusted. A Hall of Fame election is a court of public opinion, not a court of law, so “proof” of ballplayers using performance enhancing drugs is not the issue.
I vote with my conscience at the moment I’m voting, same as any election in which I participate.
I voted for the maxium 10 this year. Five players — Bonds, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Mike Piazza — required no thought. John Smoltz, Mike Mussina, Mark McGwire, Don Mattingly and Craig Biggio, in that order, rounded out my ballot, which didn’t quite have room for Tim Raines.

My guess as to which players will gain the required 75 percent of the votes to gain induction, from highest to lowest: Big Unit, Pedro, Smoltz and Biggio. Piazza inches closer but falls just short.

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Kansas one of handful of teams capable of winning Big 12

Kansas head coach Bill Self and official Gerry Pollard have a disagreement during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self and official Gerry Pollard have a disagreement during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The non-conference schedule finally has ended for Bill Self’s Kansas University basketball team, now ranked No. 12 in the nation, so coach Self and his Jayhawks have turned their attention squarely toward the Big 12 grind.

Before KU (11-2) begins conference play, Wednesday at Baylor (11-2 overall, 0-1 Big 12), Self met with the media Monday afternoon to talk about the loaded league and where the Jayhawks stand entering the home stretch.

Here are some of the highlights from the coach’s Q&A:

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) blocks a shot by UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn (1) against the backboard during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) blocks a shot by UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn (1) against the backboard during the second half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Freshman Cliff Alexander is the best candidate to be an enforcer on the defensive end. Self thought he played really well against UNLV. KU needs him to be that guy. Even if he’s not starting, as is the case right now, he’s still their best low-post physical presence.

Frank Mason III, hands down, has been the most consistent player for Kansas and the team’s MVP. When Devonté Graham went down, that put even more on him, and Mason has been consistent.

Now that the non-conference is over, Self thinks KU at least has improved a lot since the Kentucky loss. Although KU has been inconsistent at times, they’ve played good enough to win — with the exception of the Temple game.

Kansas has rebounded the ball pretty well, but Self can’t say the defense has been good. KU played a pretty good non-con schedule but their activity level on defense hasn’t been there for the most part. On offense, execution has gotten better since November. Looking at their stats, Kansas is last in the league in field-goal percentage (.426) and eighth in field-goal percentage defense (.419). But he doesn’t like to look at stats until teams have played four or five games in the league.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) swoops in to the bucket after a steal from UNLV guard Cody Doolin (45) in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) swoops in to the bucket after a steal from UNLV guard Cody Doolin (45) in the first half on Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks had a two-hour meeting the other day, when Self “wasn’t real happy with them,” and asked them what they can hang their hat on. What they came up with: they’ve won some games when they didn’t play so well. … They’ve met a lot since the team got back from the holiday break.

Stats can sometimes be very overrated, but the reality is they’re not way off regarding field-goal percentage. It’s fairly accurate. The difference between shooting 43% and 48% isn’t what they’re running, it’s energy level.

Lsat year was similar in terms of room for improvement at this time of year, entering Big 12 play. KU has improved with some individuals playing better.

In Self’s opinion, there are probably five teams in the Big 12 that have a legitimate chance of winning the league. And if one of the other teams gets on a roll, they might have a chance. From what he’s seen, there are some really good teams out there. Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas all could win the league. Texas might be able to win it all, or at least make the Final Four. Watching OU and Baylor, those are two really good teams. And West Virginia is forcing 22.6 turnovers a game. … Self predicts injuries and timing of things will play as much a role in winning the Big 12 as anything else. You lose a key player during a really tough stretch and you could end up in a hole.

Every year, at least privately, Self has wondered if his team has been good enough to win the Big 12. He thought there was no way KU would win the league by two games last year, following the loss to San Diego State. KU started off 1-2 when Mario Chalmers, Julian Wright and Brandon Rush were freshmen.

Your non-conference schedule should put freshmen in position to be prepared for league play.

Self looks at field-goal percentage defense, field-goal percentage and rebounding as being the stats that show how good you are as a team.

Self would be disappointed every year if they weren’t a top-10 defensive team and they aren’t there this year. There is a lot of room for improvement on that end of the floor. KU can still become a great defensive team.

With Baylor, every guy on the floor shoots 3-pointers. So the Jayhawks have to keep that in mind.

There aren’t always plays in games where you get a chance to dive on the floor for a loose ball or jump to save a ball from going out of bounds. But as a coach you have to have your guys prepared to make those types of plays.

Graham is doing some light running and cutting. This has just started and Self is hopeful they can put him in some kind of practice situation later this week. He’s in “terrible” shape right now. But he could be back to playing spot minutes pretty quickly. He’s progressed nicely. He hasn’t done anything full-speed. If it turns out he can’t be 100 percent or close a medical redshirt remains a possibility.

KU’s bigs did a pretty good job on ball screens the past couple of games.

— Listen to the complete press conference here: Self discusses depth of Big 12, how often he has thought KU would win it

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Kansas moves up one spot to No. 12 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas State head coach Frank Martin yells at KSU guard Chris Merrieweather for his defensive play during the second half Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City.

Kansas State head coach Frank Martin yells at KSU guard Chris Merrieweather for his defensive play during the second half Thursday, March 18, 2010 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. by Nick Krug

Six Big 12 teams rank from No. 10 (Texas) through No. 21 (Baylor) in the Associated Press college basketball poll released Monday, an indication of just what an entertaining race awaits. Kansas is second among Big 12 schools at No. 12.

The top 25 teams in the AP college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Jan. 4, 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 (64) 13-0 1,600 1
2 - Duke 13-0 1,535 2
3 - Virginia 13-0 1,446 3
4 - Wisconsin 14-1 1,397 4
5. Louisville 13-1 1,322 5
6. Gonzaga 14-1 1,275 7
7. Arizona 13-1 1,260 8
8 -Villanova 13-1 1,089 6
9 - Utah 12-2 1,059 10
10 - Texas 12-2 976 11
11 - Maryland 14-1 966 12
12 - Kansas 11-2 884 13
13 - Notre Dame 14-1 775 14
14 - West Virginia 13-1 712 17
15 - Wichita St. 12-2 686 16
16 - Oklahoma 10-3 674 18
17 - Iowa St. 10-2 663 9
18 - North Carolina 11-3 591 19
19 - Seton Hall 12-2 448
20 - VCU 11-3 311

21 - Baylor 11-2 186 22
22 - Ohio St. 12-3 184 20
23 - Arkansas 11-2 103
24 - St. John’s 11-3 92 15
25 - Old Dominion 12-1 80

Others receiving votes: N. Iowa 72, Iowa 63, Butler 53, LSU 50, George Washington 39, TCU 33, Temple 33, Colorado St. 31, Stanford 29, South Carolina 16, Washington 13, Wyoming 11, Indiana 9, Oklahoma St. 9, Georgetown 7, Cincinnati 6, Dayton 5, BYU 3, Xavier 2, Davidson 1, Hofstra 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: It’s conceivable Kentucky could run the table and not have a single double-figures scorer. Aaron Harrison (10.3 points per game) and Willie Cauley-Stein only Wildcats scoring in double figures.

2 - Duke: Holy cow is freshman Justise Winslow fast with the ball for a guy who’s 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds. Lefty has a nice three-point stroke (39 percent) too.

3 - Virginia: When pressure reaches a boiling point at your job, channel Virginia junior Justin Anderson. Helped his team overcome four-point deficit in final 20 seconds of regulation, when he made all three free throws after getting fouled launching a long one and then drilled a three with 15 seconds left for the final points of regulation. That shot equaled his three-point production from a year ago, when he was 30 for 101. This season, he’s 30 for 51.

4 - Wisconsin: Nice line for Badgers senior 7-footer Frank Kaminsky in rout of Northwestern: 16 points, 10 rebounds, six assists.

5 - Louisville: Montrezl Harrell showed again why he’s an All-American, dropping his sixth double-double of season (25 points, 13 rebounds) on Wake Forest. But he could be an even better player if he swore off shooting threes. He made 3 of 4 in the season-opener against Minnesota and 2 of 3 vs. Wake Forest. But in every other game combined he has made 1 of 17 three-pointers.

6 - Arizona: Mobile guys with size tend to make good defenders and Arizona has plenty of those. In Pac-12 opener, a blowout of Arizona State, the Sun Devils had 22 turnovers and just 14 field goals.

7 - Gonzaga: Three starters can get hot from three: Kevin Pangos (.462), Kyle Wiltjer (.411), Gary Bell (.407).

8 - Maryland: Dez Wells isn’t one of those guys who disappears on the court. His stamp is all over the box score with good numbers and bad. In a huge double-overtime victory at Michigan State in the Terps’ Big Ten opener, Wells had 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and seven turnovers.

9 - Villanova: Coach Jay Wright’s 300th victory for the Philadelphia school was delayed because the Wildcats kept firing up bricks in overtime loss to Seton Hall, shooting .310 overall, 208 from three and .571 from the line.

10 - Utah: Utes humiliated UCLA 71-39 Sunday night in Salt Lake City. Utes defended so well that Bruins starting guards Bryce Alford, the coach’s son, and Isaac Hamilton combined to shoot 1 for 17 from the field, 0 for 7 from three, didn’t attempt a free throw and scored two points in 61 minutes.

11 - Texas: Point guard Isaiah Taylor is back from a wrist injury, but is his wrist all the way back? In Big 12 opener against Texas Tech, Taylor made 2 of 10 shots, scored eight points, had two assists and six turnovers. He had more of an impact defensively, picking up four steals.

12 - North Carolina: Heels will try to push winning streak to six games today at 6 p.m. on ESPN against Notre Dame, winner of 10 in a row.

13 - Kansas: Kelly Oubre averaging 16 points and 8.5 rebounds in past four games with two double-doubles.

14 - Iowa State: Really good defense doesn’t always beat a really good offense, but it did Saturday at the Barclays Center when the Cyclones lost to South Carolina, 64-60. A team that relies on threes as much as Iowa State does is going to have off nights. Cyclones made just 1 of 18 from three.

15 - Oklahoma: Big Monday matchup today at 8 p.m. at Texas shapes up as potential thriller between schools that used to be better at football than basketball.

16 - Notre Dame: Jerian Grant (17.9 points, 6.2 assists) and North Carolina’s Marcus Paige (13.7 points, 3.7 assists), two of the nations better guards, makes for entertaining possibilities in tonight’s game.

17 - West Virginia: Leading Big 12 player of the year candidate Juwan Staten missed the game with an illness and the Mountaineers still went on the road and handed TCU its first loss, 78-67. Guard Gary Browne scored all 16 of his points in the final 11 minutes.

18 - Wichita State: Junior Ron Baker making 40 percent of his threes and averaging 17.1 points.

19 - VCU: Rams riding six-game winning streak and two of the three losses came to highly ranked Villanova and Virginia, so I’m thinking they’re underrated.

20 - Seton Hall: Huge four-day span featured upset victories against St. John’s and Villanova, a pair of top 15 teams. Junior guard Sterling Gibbs averaged 22.5 points, six assists and 1.5 turnovers in the two big victories that established the Pirates as a bona fide contender in the deep, underrated Big East.

21 - Temple: Once upon a time, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, P.R. stood for public relations. Now too often those in the profession take the initials to mean prevention of reporting. And then there is Larry Dougherty, senior associate athletics director/communications at Temple. Dougherty served his employer and AP voters well by distributing the following information under the heading, “Temple Transformation Through Transfers”: Since transfers Jesse Morgan (UMass) and Devin Coleman (Clemson) joined the lineup the Owls are 5-0 with victories against Kansas and at UConn and have averaged 9.6 three-pointers made, compared to 4.5 before the players joined them. Scoring margin has improved from minus-0.6 to plus-13.2 and turnovers are down from 11.0 to 8.6. You never want to lose by 25 points, as Kansas did to the Owls, but it clearly was a top-25-worthy team that did it.

22 - Ohio State: Buckeyes don’t have firepower to overcome big hafltime deficits. In their three losses, they trailed Louisville by 17, North Carolina and Iowa by a dozen. The good news: Hardly anybody noticed because the school plays Oregon for the national title in football.

23 - Baylor: Bears lost to Oklahoma by 10, but Rico Gathers was there doing what he almost always does, which is dominate the boards. He reached double figures in rebounds for the 11th time in 13 games.

24 - Xavier: Muskateers looked so big and explosive in taking down Georgetown by 17 points, only to lose on the road by three points against DePaul.

25 - South Carolina: The Gamecocks have embraced the reality that it’s easier to defend great scorers than it is to defend themselves against the menacing glare of their coach, former Kansas State boss Frank Martin. South Carolina held Iowa State to .259 shooting and limited hot-shot transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones to three points, a dozen below his average to score the school’s first victory over a top 10 team in five years. The Gamecocks have won seven in a row.

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Getting to know the Runnin’ Rebels

UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn celebrates a 71-67 victory over Arizona after an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)

UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn celebrates a 71-67 victory over Arizona after an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison)

There is a reason the same UNLV team that defeated Arizona (12-1, now ranked No. 8) also lost to unranked Arizona State (8-5) within a 20-day span.

Youth.

The Runnin’ Rebels (9-4 overall, 0-1 Mountain West) lost all five starters from last season. Four of their top seven players are freshmen. Their two best players are a freshman and a sophomore. One of their two starting seniors is a transfer. There are eight new players on the roster.

Sometimes UNLV looks great. Other times the team’s collection of young talent just looks inexperienced.

Coach Dave Rice hopes the Rebels’ skills show up more often than their teenaged tendencies Sunday afternoon at Kansas.

Between a Dec. 20 loss to Utah (then ranked No. 14), a Dec. 23 upset victory over Arizona (then ranked No. 3) and Sunday’s trip to Allen Fieldhouse to face No. 13 Kansas, UNLV finds itself in quite the non-conference stretch. It marks the first time the Rebels have played three top-15 teams in such a short amount of time.

Another marquee win for Vegas (9-4, ranked No. 113 in the nation by KenPom.com) would do wonders for the Rebels’ résumé, and KU coach Bill Self, of course, isn’t taking them lightly.

UNLV blocks 7.2 shots a game (fifth in the nation) and holds opponents to 37.5-percent shooting (29th, nationally).

If the Rebels can keep it close, they’ll at least feel comfortable. UNLV is 5-1 this season in single-digit decisions. Kansas is 5-0 in games decided by 9 points or less, with wins over Rhode Island, Michigan State, Florida, Georgetown and Utah.

Let’s meet the Runnin’ Rebs Kansas (10-2) will have to hold back to end its non-conference schedule with a win.

RUNNIN’ REBELS STARTERS

No. 1 — Rashad Vaughn | 6-6, freshman G

The youngster leads Vegas, and the Mountain West Conference, in scoring (17.9 points).

Though UNLV lost its MWC opener, 76-71, at Wyoming Wednesday, Vaughn hit his first six shots (including three 3-pointers) and finished with 16 points.

He was the No. 8 player in his class and a recruiting target of Self and the KU staff. Named the preseason MWC Freshman of the Year, Vaughn lit up Arizona for 21 points — one of five 20-plus point performances for the fab frosh.

hoop-math.com nugget: When Vaughn has the ball in his hands, he is comfortable scoring from anywhere. 30.6% of his shots have come at the rim, 33.9% have been on 2-point jumpers and 35.6% of have been taken from 3-point range (22-for-64).

No. 5 — Christian Wood | 6-11, sophomore F

With eight double-doubles, the talented young big man ranks fifth in the nation.

Wood leads UNLV with 9.8 boards and 3.0 blocks, and he puts up 15.7 points per game.

At Wyoming, the sophomore set a new personal best with 29 points. He has scored 20 or more in three straight outings and was named National Player of the Week by CBS, NBC and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association.

Wood’s 39 denials this season rank 10th in the country.

— hoop-math.com nugget: As a 3-point shooter (10-for-32), Wood is at his best when benefiting from a teammate’s assist. Nine of his made 3-pointers came on a dish. … His 19 putb-acks on the offensive glass leads UNLV.

No. 45 — Cody Doolin | 6-3, senior G

Not only does one of the team’s rare elder statesmen handle the rock and distribute, he can score in the clutch.

Doolin hit UNLV’s game-winner in overtime against Portland.

His 4.6 assists a game and assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.0 lead the MWC.

Doolin broke the 1,000-point barrier at San Francisco before transferring to Vegas.

He hits 60.5% of his two-point shots, which leads the team.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Though he isn’t the tallest Rebel, Doolin attacks with a purpose, and has taken 29 of his 38 two-point attempts at the rim. His 20 field goals at the rim put him only behind Wood (48) and Vaughn (29).

No. 22 — Jelan Kendrick | 6-6, senior G

The team’s leading returning scorer, UNLV doesn’t exactly need him for his offense (5.0 points, 40% field goals).

Kendrick scored a season-high 13 points against South Dakota but hasn’t broken double-digits in any other game. Arizona held him scoreless and he only took one shot.

He made two free throws in the final 35 seconds to help UNLV beat Temple, on Nov. 22, in Brooklyn.

Against Southern Utah, the veteran guard had career-highs with 11 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks, while avoiding turning the ball over — even once.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Kendrick’s seven field-goal makes at the rim is the fewest among UNLV’s core players.

No. 11 — Goodluck Okonoboh, 6-10, freshman F/C

Good luck to the KU bigs finishing over this freshman. The 6-foot-10 swatter blocks 2.8 shots a game (4th in MVC; third nationally, among freshmen).

Okonoboh denied seven shots against Morehead State and six apiece vs. Sam Houston State, Saint Katherine and Utah. This season, he has blocked a team-leading 10.4% of opponent two-point shots when he’s on the floor.

His free throw with 4:47 left vs. Arizona gave the Rebels their first lead since early in the first half.

— hoop-math.com nugget: 61.5% of his 52 field-goal attempts have come at the rim, and 68.8% of Okonoboh’s makes have been assisted. When someone drives looking to dish, the big man cashes in.

RUNNIN’ REBELS BENCH

No. 2 — Patrick McCaw, 6-6, freshman G

None by MWCConnection.com

Providing some scoring punch off the bench, the first-year guard’s 7.4 points a game rank third on the team, and he does it in just 26.0 minutes.

McCaw’s 15 3-pointers and 50 3-point attempts rank second on the team to Vaughn (22-for-64).

The St. Louis native chased down a loose ball and scored a layup to put UNLV up five points in the final minute against Temple.

In a rare start vs. St. Katherine, McCaw distributed nine assists.

He hit two free throws with less than a second left in the Rebels’ four-point win over Arizona.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Though McCaw has only made 30% of his 3-pointers, that’s where 55.6% of his shots come from.

No. 15 — Dwayne Morgan, 6-8, freshman F

Yet another key UNLV freshman, he sent the Portland game to OT when Doolin found him for a wide-open layup.

In just 18.6 minutes, Morgan grabs 4.0 rebounds and scores 5.8 points.

He went for 13 points and 14 boards against Florida National.

— hoop-math.com nugget: Morgan (20 offensive rebounds) has 11 put-backs this season, but he has only made 37.5% of his second-chance shots at the rim.

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Getting to know Kent State

Call it a holiday gift.

After playing one of the most challenging non-conference schedules in the nation — the fifth-most difficult according to KenPom.com — Kansas University’s basketball team should get a bit of a reprieve Tuesday night, when the Jayhawks play host to Kent State (8-3).

The Golden Flashes are ranked No. 133 in the country in the 2015 Pomeroy Ratings, far below the majority of KU’s other opponents to date.

KenPom.com rankings for KU’s non-conference opponents

(Through Dec. 28)

No. 1: Kentucky (13-0)

No. 15: Florida (7-4)

No. 21: Utah (9-2)

No. 22: Michigan State (9-4)

No. 28: Georgetown (8-3)

No. 50: Rhode Island (7-3)

No. 67: Temple (9-4)

No. 83: UC Santa Barbara (5-6)

No. 95: Tennessee (7-4)

No. 113: UNLV (9-3)

No. 133: Kent State (8-3)

No. 142: Lafayette (8-3)

No. 182: Rider (6-6)

The No. 13 Jayhawks (9-2) need a get-right game after losing by 25 points at Temple prior to the holiday break. Playing Kent State, out of the Mid-American Conference, could be exactly what Bill Self’s team needs, with the brutal Big 12 schedule beginning very soon.

KenPom.com rankings for the Big 12

(Through Dec. 28)

No. 10: Texas (11-2)

No. 12: Oklahoma (8-3)

No. 16: Kansas (9-2)

No. 17: Baylor (10-1)

No. 19: West Virginia (11-1)

No. 20: Iowa State (9-1)

No. 25: Oklahoma State (9-2)

No. 47: TCU (12-0)

No. 96 Kansas State (7-5)

No. 146: Texas Tech (9-3)

Kent State coach Rob Senderoff’s team ranks 38th in the nation in 3-point shooting (39%), but KenPom.com ranks the Golden Flashes 170th in adjusted offensive efficiency (Kansas is 17th).

Let’s meet the Kent State players KU will have to hold back to get back in the win column.

GOLDEN FLASHES STARTERS

No. 35 — Jimmy Hall, 6-7, soph. F

None by KentStMBB

A transfer from Hofstra, the Golden Flashes’ leading scorer (13.7 points) and rebounder (7.3) became the program’s first player to produce at least 10 points in his first eight games at Kent State since Jay Peters in 1986-87.

In just 25 minutes against UTEP, Hall went for 20 points and 10 rebounds.

He does plenty of damage on the offensive glass, grabbing 3.1 of his 7.6 boards a game on that end.

While Hall gets to the free-throw line (46 attempts) as much as any player on the team, he only shoots 50% at the charity stripe.

The Blue Ribbon College Basketball yearbook named him Preseason MAC Newcomer of the Year.

No. 0 — Devareaux Manley, 6-4, sr. G

This is one of the Golden Flashes who can’t be left unattended behind the 3-point line.

Manley (11.7 points per game) shoots 45.6% from long range and has already drained 36 3-pointers.

In December, he’s leading Kent State with a 14.2 points per game average.

Five times this season, Manley has hit four or more 3-pointers, including an incredible 7-for-10 outing vs. North Carolina A&T.

No. 23 — Derek Jackson, 6-1, sr. G

Like Manley, he is a 3-point threat, having converted on 43.2% of his attempts this season — 19-for-44.

Jackson made a season-high four from downtown against UTEP.

But the senior guard can set up his teammates, too (3.3 assists). And he’s the team’s most successful ball hawk, averaging 2.0 steals a game.

The little guy even ranks second on the team in dunks this season, with four, trailing only big man Khaliq Spicer’s 12.

No. 21 — Khaliq Spicer, 6-9, jr. F/C

Speaking of the dunking big man, that’s about all he has to his offensive game. He has only made 19 shots this season.

Spicer at least averages 5.8 rebounds for Kent State. Twice this year, he has pulled down double-digit boards.

Twice last season, he blocked four shots in a game.

No. 13 — Gary Akbar, 6-5, jr. G/F

While he has bounced between a starting role and a bench role, he has barely registered on offense for Kent State, scoring only 2.6 points a game.

More of a ball-mover for the Golden Flashes, he set a career high with four assists vs. N.C. A&T.

Akbar has made just 10 of 30 shots since arriving from San Jacinto College.

GOLDEN FLASHES BENCH

No. 1 — Kris Brewer, 6-3, sr. G

Kent State’s third-leading scorer does his damage as a reserve. Brewer has made 16 of 41 3-pointers and averages 10.8 points, while leading the team with 3.3 assists.

A 71.7% shooter at the foul line, he made the game-winning free throw with 2.9 seconds remaining against North Dakota State.

Last season, he tied a MAC record for most 3-pointers in a game without a miss, going 7-for-7 at Miami (Ohio).

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Jayhawks have to learn and improve from Temple ‘beatdown’

Kansas coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks suffered a 77-52 loss to the Temple Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Kansas coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks suffered a 77-52 loss to the Temple Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

A week removed from his team’s second loss of the season — a poor showing at Temple — Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self hadn’t put the 77-52 “beatdown” behind him yet, when he met with the media Monday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse.

Self, whose No. 13 Jayhawks (9-2) return to the court Tuesday night against Kent State (8-3), often used the pre-Christmas embarrassment as a reference point while discussing where KU is at right now, with two non-conference games remaining before Big 12 play begins Jan. 7, at Baylor.

Here are the highlights from the Q&A:

Watching tape of Kent State, they almost won at UTEP. They’re quick on the perimeter and play around a big guy who can score.

Frank Mason III has been KU’s best player and most consistent player to date. And the sophomore point guard still hasn’t played to his full capabilities. Mason also is KU’s best perimeter defender and because he plays so many minutes he isn’t as turned up on that end as he could be. Self is really pleased with him and his toughness.

Coming off a one-sided loss at Temple: “Losses suck and you obviously learn from them and get better.” This loss, like the Kentucky setback, was a “beatdown.” The Jayhawks played tired and didn’t come to play in Philadelphia. There are things KU could learn from losing to Temple. Kansas didn’t play at the same level as the Owls.

KU used to play a cupcake after Christmas, before going into Big 12 play, but they haven’t done that as much lately. It’s probably not the same formula a lot of teams have used… But, in late December/early January, you can’t determine this will be the springboard for the rest of the season. It’s too early to do that. But KU needs to be good these last two non-conference games (Kent State and UNLV, both at Allen Fieldhouse).

Freshman big Cliff Alexander hasn’t “been active at all” of late. A lot of it is health-related. He has a bone bruise on his shin and turned an ankle, and that is slowing him down. Alexander needs to score off other people’s misses.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets boxed out on a rebound during the Jayhawk's game against the Temple Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis gets boxed out on a rebound during the Jayhawk's game against the Temple Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

By the end of the year, Alexander could be the guy KU throws it to inside to score. Perry Ellis could be that guy, too. The bottom line: Kansas has good guards, but no backcourt is going to carry you through the Big 12. The Jayhawks need to deliver inside with their big men. … KU scored two baskets on the block at Temple, and neither of those came off back-to-the-basket touches. In all the years Self has coached, his teams have played inside-out.

On KU’s offensive sets: Basketball is an uncomplicated game. It’s about players. You run stuff and hopefully put them in places where they take advantage of their skillsets. There are a lot of little things to improve, and KU’s timing can become better. They can also tweak some things. But you can’t coach enthusiasm and energy — speaking of the Temple game, only. It’s not like it’s totally busted. KU is No. 2 in RPI. But KU was broke at Temple. Energy finds the ball. That’s where it starts. Teams that win are turned up all the time. “We played like a bunch of duds” at Temple, and the Owls were “really good.”

Self didn’t take Mason out vs. Temple as a statement to the rest of the guys. That was his way of telling them what he thought of how everyone played. … Wayne Selden Jr. might need to play less with Mason so he can replace him as a point guard. And hopefully they’ll get some good news on Devonté Graham’s toe.

Kelly Oubre Jr. plays with a swagger and personality even when he isn’t shooting the ball well. He should be as good an offensive rebounder on the wing as there is in the country. Oubre can get confidence on offense by playing with energy and getting deflections on defense.

Graham can’t do anything in terms of physical activity right now, until doctors re-examine his injured toe. That will happen this week.

There needs to be something the staff does to promote energy with this team, but the players have to get to a point where they generate that on their own, too. Self said it was his fault they played Temple two days after a game and headed into the holiday break… The thing that bothered Self most about Temple? “They’re no bigger than we are and they blocked eight shots.” And KU blocked two. Self said he has to do a better job coaching them. Kansas has talented kids, but they’re “ridiculously” young. You get off to a rough start and they’re down 11-2. “Now do we have the toughness to come back without a home crowd?” KU came back from a huge deficit vs. Florida, but the crowd won the game. “Individuals aren’t gonna beat a team any day of the week.”

Young guys don’t remember, that’s a good thing. But coaches don’t forget. The players should be fine now that the Temple game is behind them.

“My stress level has probably been a little higher this year,” Self said. But that’s not about the kids, that’s on him. He needs to enjoy the process and not worry about the expectations of the team. He has never understood with preseason media polls and picks if that’s where they should be right now or when the season is over. Based on right now, KU isn’t where they should be. The Jayhawks are young and going through some pains. The schedule has exposed them and prepared them for the Big 12, which is important, too.

— Listen to the full press conference here: Bill Self: Jayhawks need to play with more energy

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Kansas drops to No. 13 in Associated Press college basketball poll

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) tries to power his way to the goal past Temple defenders against the Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) tries to power his way to the goal past Temple defenders against the Owls Monday at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA.

In the wake of a 77-52 road loss to Temple, Kansas dropped from 10th to 13th in the Associated Press college basketball poll released Monday. Six of the 10 Big 12 schools are ranked in the top 25, with Kansas State, Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech being the lone exceptions. TCU remained undefeated but dropped from 25th to first among others receiving votes. Georgetown's overtime victory against Indiana vaulted the Hoyas past the Horned Frogs and into the No. 25 slot.

The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 16, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:

           Record Pts Prv
  1. Kentucky (65) 13-0 1,625 1
  2. Duke 10-0 1,559 2
  3. Virginia 11-0 1,457 5
  4. Wisconsin 12-1 1,395 6
  5. Louisville 11-1 1,327 4
  6. Villanova 12-0 1,316 7
  7. Gonzaga 12-1 1,249 8
  8. Arizona 12-1 1,243 3
  9. Iowa St. 9-1 1,005 12
  10. Utah 9-2 956 14
  11. Texas 10-2 903 9
  12. Maryland 12-1 869 15
  13. Kansas 9-2 775 10
  14. Notre Dame 12-1 709 16
  15. St. John's 11-1 690 17
  16. Wichita St. 10-2 630 11
  17. West Virginia 11-1 584 18
  18. Oklahoma 8-3 530 19
  19. North Carolina 9-3 483 20
  20. Ohio St. 11-2 435 21
  21. Washington 11-1 253 13
  22. Baylor 10-1 238 22
  23. N. Iowa 11-1 216 23
  24. Colorado St. 13-0 194 24
  25. Georgetown 8-3 140 _

Others receiving votes: TCU 132, VCU 101, San Diego St. 40, Arkansas 27, George Washington 7, LSU 7, Old Dominion 7, Penn St. 5, UNLV 5, Indiana 4, Florida 2, Minnesota 2, Stanford 2, Army 1, California 1, Davidson 1.

My AP top 25 ballot:

1 - Kentucky: Defense doesn’t hit slumps to the extent offense does, one reason to believe John Calipari’s team loaded with nine McDonald’s All-Americans can run the table. Backed by the home crowd, Louisville managed just one assist and shot just .259 in an eight-point loss to the Wildcats.

2 - Duke: Michigan State, Wisconsin and Connecticut all lost to the Blue Devils by 10 points, the smallest margins of victory for undefeated Duke. Freshman point guard Tyus Jones has averaged 20 points, four rebounds, 3.8 assists and shot .593 in those three games. His averages in the other seven games: 7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and .351 shooting. Those numbers suggest that the more Jones shoots, the better he shoots. It also suggests that he only shoots a lot when he senses his team needs another scorer. In short, he has a perfect point-guard mentality and plays well in the clutch.

3 - Virginia: The Cavaliers have allowed more than 57 points in a game once, in a 76-65 victory against Maryland, which shot 40 percent from the field in the loss.

4 - Wisconsin: The Badgers played two games and won both, at California and at home vs. Buffalo, by a 68-56 score. The Buffalo victory came on the one-month anniversary of a 69-56 victory vs. Oklahoma. The Badgers are nothing if not consistent.

5 - Louisville: Coaches named Pitino are 22-3. Father Rick is 11-1 and son Richard is 11-2 with Minnesota and one of his losses came to his father.

6 - Arizona: Not many schools can hang with Sean Miller’s team in the paint, but UNLV was able to pull off the four-point upset by dominating the boards, 46-33. Vegas sophomore Christian Wood (24 points, 10 rebounds) produced one of his eight double-doubles. Rebels freshman Goodluck Okonoboh of Woburn, Mass., had nine rebounds, compared to three for Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski. With a first name like that, Okonoboh was destined to make his way to Las Vegas eventually.

7 - Gonzaga: Kenpom.com ranks Bulldogs second-most efficient offensive team in nation, behind only Duke, and third-tallest team behind just Kentucky and Florida State.

8 - Villanova: Playing without leading scorer Darrun Hilliard, ‘Nova trailed giant-killer N.J.I.T. by three at halftime, but won the second half by 28 points. Villanova coach Jay Wright said he doesn’t expect Hilliard (concussion) to miss any more time.

9 - Maryland: Terps went 6-1 without senior forward Dez Wells (15.2 points per game). Now that he’s back, Terps are even deeper, better.

10 - Texas: Center Cameron Ridley, not the player he was last season as a sophomore, had another lackluster performance in overtime home loss to Stanford. He blocked four shots in 17 minutes, but contributed just six points and three rebounds.

11 - Iowa State: Georges Niang, a 6-foot-8, 230-pound bundle of basketball skill, shoots .509 overall, .394 from three and .880 from the line. He averages 16.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He’s a scoring and passing threat on the perimeter and interior. He’s good.

12 - Utah: Crafty, quick guard Delon Wright averaging 19.3 points in last seven games, 16.4 points on the season.

13 - North Carolina: Coach Roy Williams was nice enough to schedule a home-and-home with UAB, coached by his former Kansas sharp-shooter Jerod Haase, who thanked him last December with a big upset victory. Williams paid him back Saturday with an 89-58 rout in Chapel Hill.

14 - Kansas: Shooting percentages of KU’s four McDonald’s All-Americans: Wayne Selden .347, Perry Ellis .406, Kelly Oubre .457, Cliff Alexander .531.

15 - St. John’s: Fortunately, Nigerian center Chris Obekpa’s retro fashion statement has not triggered a national trend. Obekpa wears short shorts that call to mind a bygone era. Actually, he has said the decision to go short is not fashion-based. He said he wears short shorts because when the long ones become sweaty, they grow heavy.

16 - Oklahoma: Sooners set an NCAA-record with 39 consecutive points in 85-51 rout Monday of Weber State. The run gave Oklahoma a 49-4 lead late in the first half.

17 - Ohio State: It’s always a good thing when the Buckeyes allow 55 points in a game, as they did twice last week. Their scoring totals in four games in which the opponent scored 55 points: 92, 97, 93, 100.

18 - Wichita State: In a 60-54 loss to George Washington in the title game of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Shockers guard Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker combined to make 8 of 27 field goals, 4 of 13 threes.

19 - Notre Dame: Only loss for Fighting Irish came by one point to Providence in November. That’s impressive, even if ND’s schedule has not been.

20 - West Virginia: Big 12 preseason Player of the Year Juwan Staten heating up after a statistically so-so start to the season. Had 24 points vs. North Carolina State and followed it up with a 17-point, 10-rebound effort against Wofford.

21 - Washington: Home game, up 16 points against Stony Brook. Yogi Berra, who knows it ain’t over until it’s over, might have been the only one still watching. The Seawolves, who had lost six times, including to Hofstra and Canisius, came back to win Sunday night, 62-57. Stony Brook finished the game on a 17-2 run. Stony Brook, on the north shore of Long Island, competes in the America East Conference and never had a victory that could compare with giving the Huskies their first loss.

22 - Virginia Commonwealth: In three games since edging Northern Iowa in overtime, Rams have won by an average margin of 24 points vs. Belmont, Cincinnati and East Tennessee State.

23 - Baylor: Taurean Prince, a 6-7 junior, leads Bears in scoring (11.4) and three-point percentage (571) but scored just seven points in past two games and made 2 of 11 field goals. Red-shirt freshman Johnathan Motley has picked up the slack, averaging 19 points in Bears last three games.

24 - Northern Iowa: Whatever became of Ali Farokhmanesh? Glad you asked. He played professionally overseas (Switzerland, Austria, Holland) for four seasons and is in his first year as a graduate manager on the staff of Nebraska coach Tim Miles. Teddy Owens, son of former KU coach Ted Owens, is in his second season working for the same staff as director of basketball operations.

25 - TCU: Horned Frogs finished last season on a 19-game losing streak, all against Big 12 schools. They opened this season with 12 consecutive victories, none against Big 12 competition.

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