Entries from blogs tagged with “KU football”
Class of 2017 forward Billy Preston, the No. 8-ranked player in his class according to Rivals.com, learned Sunday night that he was selected to be a McDonald's All-American.
Preston joins a long list of current and former Jayhawks to earn a spot in the prestigious high school all-star game and was joined on the West squad by KU target Trae Young, one of the top point guards in the class who remains one of the Jayhawks' top targets in the current class.
Point guard Trevon Duval, who also remains undecided and on the Jayhawks' radar was named to the East squad.
Preston, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound five-star forward from Oak Hill Academy, chose Kansas over finalists Indiana, Syracuse and USC and did so on the strength of his stellar visit during Late Night in the Phog in early October.
He becomes the 41st Jayhawk to earn McDonald's All-American honors, a feat that also was accomplished by three members of the current roster — Carlton Bragg Jr. in 2015 and Udoka Azubuike and Josh Jackson in 2016.
While Preston — and potentially Young and/or Duval — was the only Jayhawk-to-be to land on this year's 24-player roster, a look at the 23 other names to earn the honor proves yet again just how strong KU's recent recruiting efforts have been.
Several players on the 24-man roster considered Kansas or had the Jayhawks on their final list, including center DeAndre Ayton, point guard Collin Sexton and small forward Troy Brown.
This year's McDonald's All-American game will take place March 29 at United Center in Chicago.
The Kansas Jayhawks will likely be ranked the No. 1 team in the country Monday and will be rewarded with a trip to Hilton Coliseum, a place they haven’t won in the last two seasons.
All of the Jayhawks, outside of senior point guard Frank Mason III, have never won in Ames and it’ll be one of the biggest challenges in a tough stretch of games when KU tips off at 8 p.m. Monday (ESPN).
“We’re going up against the No. 1 team, potentially,” ISU senior guard Nazareth Mitrou-Long said. “If you can’t get up to play for that, then this game’s not for you.”
The Cyclones, ranked 23rd by KenPom, rank among the Big 12 leaders in scoring defense during conference play, but they have their weaknesses. Big 12 opponents have shot nearly 50 percent against ISU because the Cyclones have trouble against ball screens with their four-guard lineup.
Plus they’ve been crushed on the glass during conference play with a rebounding margin of negative-10.4, nearly seven rebounds worse than any other team in the Big 12.
But then there’s all of their potential when they are playing at their best. The Cyclones have lost by two points against Baylor and Gonzaga while earning conference wins over Texas Tech, Texas and at Oklahoma State.
Iowa State lost on the road against TCU on Saturday, but with the rivalry between KU and ISU, that shouldn’t have any effect on the Cyclones entering Monday night. Matt Tait wrote about the rivalry Sunday.
Interesting note: Iowa State is 5-0 at home in the last two seasons following a road Big 12 loss.
Series history: Kansas leads 178-63. Jayhawks have lost the last two games in Ames, dating back to 2014.
Vegas says: Kansas by 2.
IOWA STATE STARTERS
No. 11 — G Monte Morris | 6-3, 175, sr.
Named the preseason Big 12 player of the year, Morris is averaging 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and a Big 12-leading 5.8 assists per game. He’s shooting 46.6 percent from the floor and recorded nine steals in the last three games.
One of the best ball handlers in the nation, Morris leads the country with a 5.8 assist to turnover ratio. He’s dished 93 assists and only turned it over 16 times. He only has two turnovers in the last 252 minutes on the court. The next closest mark in the country is a 4.92 ratio (P.J. Thompson, Purdue).
Morris is only 21 assists from tying ISU’s career assists record, set in 1983-86 by New York Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, a former star for the Utah Jazz.
In eight career games, Morris is averaging 9.9 points and 4.4 assists against Kansas. Last year, he averaged 17 points and 6.5 assists against the Jayhawks, shooting 10-of-24 from the floor.
According to hoop-math.com, Morris has attempted 63 shots around the rim this season and he’s converted on 44 of those layups/dunks (70 percent).
QUOTE: “I’ll tell you the most impressive stat from the Oklahoma State game was zero turnovers in 39 minutes against the way they play with full court pressure and ball denial in the half court,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “Just the character and toughness and attention to detail you’ve got to have on the floor was huge.”
No. 15 — G Nazareth Mitrou-Long | 5-11, 195, r-sr.
Missed most of last season (only played in eight games) because of hip surgery, which earned him a medical redshirt. He’s averaging a team-best 15.7 points, which ranks fifth in the Big 12. He’s shooting 48 percent from the floor and 37 from behind the 3-point arc.
He didn’t play against Kansas last season, but in his career, he’s averaging 5.9 points against the Jayhawks. In his last 3 games vs. KU, he’s scored 37 points in 88 minutes.
According to hoop-math.com, the left-handed Mitrou-Long doesn’t take many mid-range jumpers. Instead he stays behind the 3-point line (59 percent of his shots) or drives to the rim (31 percent).
Long known as Naz Long, he started going by his full name at the start of the 2015-16 season to honor his mother, Georgia Mitrou. When he sent a picture of his new name plate above his locker, his mom became emotional, “I cried and thanked him,” Mitrou told the Des Moines Register.
QUOTE: “That’s my game; being nasty,” Mitrou-Long said. “Getting after loose balls, doing the little things…. I take a lot of pride in that part of my game. I have to do that to separate myself.”
No. 30 — G Deonte Burton | 6-5, 250, r-sr.
A transfer from Marquette two years ago, the left-handed Burton leads the Cyclones with 6.9 rebounds per game, 18 blocks and 24 steals. He’s averaging 12.4 points on 43 percent shooting.
Burton was named the Big 12’s newcomer of the year last season. He’s posted four 20-plus point games this year, but has scored less than eight points in five games. At the beginning of the season, ISU coach Steve Prohm challenged him to average a double-double.
Despite standing at a listed 6-5, Burton has a 7-0 wingspan.
In two games against Kansas last season, Burton averaged nine points and four rebounds, shooting 6-of-10 from the floor.
QUOTE: “Basketball is like life,” Burton said. “You’ll always have ups and you’ll always have downs. You just have to try to make as many ups as you can and, when you’re having a down game necessarily, do something different.”
No. 21 — G Matt Thomas | 6-5, 193, sr.
Thomas has dealt with bone spurs this season, injuring his foot against Mississippi Valley State on Dec. 20. “Every type of movement, you kind of feel it,” he said.
Despite nagging injuries, Thomas has started in every game this season. He’s averaging 11.3 points on 43 percent shooting. He’s added 20 steals on defense. According to hoop-math.com, he’s taken a team-low 11 percent of his shots at the rim. Instead, he focuses on threes and mid-range jumpers.
Against Kansas last year, Thomas averaged 11 points and 4.5 rebounds. He shot 8-of-15 from the floor, including 4-of-9 from deep.
The Iowa State Daily wrote a story on Thomas’ background. His dad died when he was in the fifth grade. Another father figure died when he was 17. Then he spent a night in jail at 19.
QUOTE: “I’ve been really blessed when it comes to injuries and playing injury-free my career here,” Thomas said. “This is a minor injury right now that I’m dealing with and I’m just trying to stay positive when it comes to that.”
No. 10 — F Darrell Bowie | 6-8, 218, sr.
A transfer from Northern Illinois, he redshirted last season after undergoing shoulder surgery.
In 16 games (seven starts), Bowie is averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds in 21.4 minutes per game. However, his biggest weakness is at the free-throw line where he’s shooting 43 percent (21 of 49).
A lefty, Bowie has taken 43.3 percent of his shots around the rim, according to hoop-math.com. He’s one of the most likely players on the team to take a mid-range jumper (46 percent of his shots).
He wears the No. 10 in honor of his late father’s birthday, Darrell Bowie Sr. He died before his son’s birth, which is detailed in a story from the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
QUOTE: "We're going to need him down the stretch," Mitrou-Long said. "He's a senior. He's been through the waters.… We need it in the worst way."
IOWA STATE BENCH
No. 4 — G Donovan Jackson | 6-2, 175, jr.
In his first season with the Cyclones after transferring from Iowa Western CC, where he had his season shortened because of a broken wrist.
In 16 games off of the bench, Jackson is averaging 5.3 points on 38 percent shooting. He’s connected on 19 of his 49 attempts from behind the 3-point line, but doesn’t drive much and has only taken nine free throws.
Jackson is secure with the ball, dishing 26 assists (fourth on the team) to only 10 turnovers. But he’s best known for his defense in the four-guard lineup.
Played in high school at Pius XI in Milwaukee, the same school as former ISU guard Korie Lucious. He lost in the 2012 state semifinals against current teammate Matt Thomas.
QUOTE: “Defensively he’s been terrific for us,” Prohm said. “He’s really guarded and can guard the other team’s point guard. He’s a gnat on the ball and really, really active. That’s something I thought he could do and one of the things I really liked about him is A: his ability to shoot, but B: he can defend the way we want to.”
No. 1 — G Nick Weiler-Babb | 5-11, 175, r-soph.
Sat out all of last season after transferring from Arkansas. His older brother, Chris, played for the Cyclones.
In 16 games off of the bench, Weiler-Babb is averaging 5.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 20.3 minutes. He’s shooting 50 percent from the floor, despite making just 4 of 15 of his 3-pointers.
After scoring 15 points in his first four Big 12 games, Weiler-Babb scored 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting against TCU on Saturday with two steals.
No. 33 — F Solomon Young | 6-8, 240, fr.
A freshman out of Sacramento, Calif., Young has played in 12 games and is averaging 4.5 points and 2.8 rebounds. He missed four games with a hand injury.
Young is shooting 63 percent from the field (22 of 35) and has added six blocks in 138 minutes this year.
QUOTE: “The second half of the year — we’re looking for great things for him later down the line,” Morris said.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 87-80 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Too many missed free throws and a really rough start to the game, both from the floor and behind the three-point line, pulled this usually excellent offensive team down to the B range. The Jayhawks were not their typical lights-out selves from three-point range (5-of-20) in this one from start to finish.
Oklahoma State did whatever they wanted to do in the first half and KU had a tough time stopping Mitchell Solomon of all people in the second half.
KU got next to nothing from the bigs on the offensive end, but, led by Landen Lucas, got enough on the glass to out-rebound the Cowboys 45-36 overall after being out-rebounded in the first half.
Mason and Graham were so tough and so clutch so many different times during this one. It was far from a perfect game for the KU backcourt, but they were good when they needed to be. Same goes for Josh Jackson, who delivered a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds.
At some point we’re going to have to start grading the KU bench on a curve, one that begins with low expectations. Another quiet day from the two Jayhawks who came in, though both Vick and Bragg did a few things to aid KU’s victory.
Historically speaking, trailing at halftime has not been good news for the Kansas men’s basketball team under Bill Self, who has just a .500 record in games in which the Jayhawks have trailed at the half.
Self, as you all surely know by now, racked up his 400th victory as the head coach at Kansas on Tuesday night in Norman, Oklahoma. And it took a second-half comeback to make it happen.
Trailing by a season-high nine points at the break, KU outscored the Sooners by 20 in the second half en route to the 11-point victory that featured, arguably, KU’s best half of the season.
The win moved second-ranked Kansas to 15-1 overall and 3-0 in games when they were trailing at halftime. Earlier this season, KU also beat Duke, which led 34-29, and Davidson, which led 43-42, despite trailing after the game’s first 20 minutes.
The win pulled KU teams coached by Self to a 55-55 record in games in which they trailed at the break, compared to a 333-25 mark in games in which Kansas has led at halftime. Self’s Jayhawks are 12-4 in his 13-plus seasons when tied at halftime.
While KU’s 3-0 mark this season after trailing at halftime, though a small sample size, seems to be a sign of overall mental strength of this year’s squad, KU senior Landen Lucas said the opportunity to face that kind of adversity was great for this team, which, in some ways, is still finding itself and coming together.
“I think it’s good, as a team, to kind of get that mindset back and, moving forward, you can always use those experiences, especially if you end up getting the (win),” Lucas said.
Asked if trailing at halftime triggered any sort of muscle memory moments from having found ways to come back in the past, Lucas said there was an element of battling back from halftime deficits that was like riding a bike but added that finding ways to get it done was different for each team.
“It’s something that you do have to work towards again,” he said. “We have to kind of relearn that. We had it down pretty good last year, how to not panic, how to put teams away when we’re ahead, different things like that. So we just gotta kind of relearn that and get our confidence back, knowing that we can do that.”
KU’s most recent victory (81-70 over OU) should go a long way toward delivering that confidence. Not only did the Jayhawks erase the nine-point halftime lead in impressive fashion, but they also followed up their lowest offensive output in a single half this season (27 points) by delivering their highest points in a half (54).
No. 2 Kansas is 12-1 when leading at the half this season — KU led Indiana 46-42 at the break in the season opener — and has yet to be tied at the break during the 2016-17 season.
Next up: KU will play host to 10-6 Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
For more about KU’s upcoming clash with Oklahoma State:
Weather permitting — and, at this point, that’s a fairly big question mark — the Kansas men’s basketball team will have an important visitor in the building this weekend when they take on Oklahoma State on Saturday at 1 p.m.
With Trae Young, the No. 14-ranked player and one of the top point guards in the 2017 recruiting class, potentially closing in on a decision about where he will play his college basketball the Jayhawks have turned up their recruitment of the star guard, who officially visited KU’s campus in October.
Trae's father, Rayford Young, told Matt Scott of TheShiver.com that the family would make the trip to Lawrence this weekend as long as travel conditions allow them to do so.
Kansas, which has always been at or near the top of Young’s list, remains very much in the running and many recruiting analysts believe that the battle to land the Norman, Oklahoma, native is a two-school contest between KU and Oklahoma.
Rivals.com’s Eric Bossi said Monday night that he did not expect a decision real soon and also recently added that, in his opinion, KU has at least pulled even with the Sooners in pursuit of the talented point guard.
Young was not in attendance at the KU-OU game in Norman on Tuesday night, but KU’s coaches have maintained tight contact with the 6-foot-2, 170-pound, five-star prospect throughout the winter. KU coach Bill Self traveled south a couple of weeks ago to watch Young light up an opponent for 40 points, 5 assists and 11 steals. And assistant coach Norm Roberts was in attendance on Monday night, when Young went for 43 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals in a win.
Young said last Fall that he was eyeing a January decision date, which leaves him still almost three weeks to make a decision. Of course, should he need it, Young has every right to take as much time as necessary and, although it’s not likely, the possibility exists that he could take this thing well into March or April as the spring signing period does not open until April 12.
It’s looking more like a decision could come in late-January or early February and Young’s visit to KU’s campus this weekend, should he be able to travel, or at a later date if a reschedule is necessary, could play a huge role in the timing of Young announcing his decision.
It may still be early — although the halfway point of the 2016-17 regular season has arrived — but Kansas senior Frank Mason III has put himself in position to do something generally considered unthinkable under Bill Self at Kansas.
And he’s doing it in a way that is getting a lot of national pundits and die-hard college basketball fans to take notice.
He has become a regular fixture in national player of the year conversations around the country and seems to get more and more serious consideration for first-team All-American honors by the game.
Sixteen games into his senior season, Mason is averaging 20.4 points per game for the 15-1 Jayhawks, who have raced out to an early lead and 4-0 record in the Big 12 Conference title race.
If Mason is able to hold that average — or perhaps even improve upon it — he would become just the second Jayhawk during the Bill Self era to average more than 20 points per game during a single season. The first? Former All-American Wayne Simien, who averaged 20.3 points per game during Self’s second season in town.
Simien also led Self’s first KU team (2003-04) with a 17.8 points-per-game average, which still ranks as the third highest single-season total during Self’s 14 years at Kansas.
The average of the eight different players who have led KU in scoring during Self’s first 13 seasons in charge is 16.3 points per game, a number that KU’s leading point producer topped during just seven of those 13 seasons.
While nothing is guaranteed for Mason or the Jayhawks the rest of the way, topping 16.3 ppg seems likely and his pursuit of a 20-point season or better also seems well within reach given the way this team plays and the make-up of the supporting cast around him.
The Jayhawks were led in scoring by a big man five times during that 13-season stretch. But with no real offensive threat in the post to throw the ball into and run offense through, this team’s action will continue to go through its guards. More often than not that will mean Mason, who has the ball in his hands more often than any player on this team and also is the player the Jayhawks automatically look to late in the shot clock, late in games and with the game on the line.
He beat Duke with his game-winning jumper in New York City and was the No. 1 option in the final seconds against K-State.
Self has had a true point guard lead his KU teams in scoring just twice during his first 13 years in Lawrence — Sherron Collins did it in back-to-back seasons in 2009 and 2010. In addition, KU’s lead guard has finished in the top two on KU’s season-scoring list twice, Tyshawn Taylor in 2012 and Mason as a sophomore.
None of this matters, of course, to KU’s bottom line, which is winning and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. Heck, if Self and the Jayhawks could find a way to ensure victory by getting freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot 25 points a game, they’d do it — in a second.
The unselfish nature of the players on the Kansas roster and the win-at-all-costs mentality of the man leading them make this about more than any one player or specific agenda.
But that unselfish tone, which has been a core principle of Self’s Kansas teams and a big reason why each season’s leading scorer has averaged in the low-to-mid-teens more often than not, is also the same thing that makes Mason a candidate to challenge the 20-point mark by season’s end.
His teammates are smart. They know he’s locked in right now and, more importantly, that few people in the country can stop him. So electing to get the ball to their senior leader is an easy choice and an often profitable decision.
No one, least of all Mason, is going to force the action to try to get his. But the way this season is playing out and the way Mason is performing, his may come one way or the other.
• Bill Self’s best
The top two scorers from each of Self’s first 13 seasons at KU
|2003-04||Wayne Simien, 17.8||Keith Langford, 15.5|
|2004-05||Wayne Simien, 20.3||Keith Langford, 14.4|
|2005-06||Brandon Rush, 13.5||Mario Chalmers, 11.5|
|2006-07||Brandon Rush, 13.8||Mario Chalmers, 12.2|
|2007-08||Brandon Rush, 13.3||Mario Chalmers, 12.8|
|2008-09||Sherron Collins, 18.9||Cole Aldrich, 14.9|
|2009-10||Sherron Collins, 15.5||Xavier Henry, 13.4|
|2010-11||Marcus Morris, 17.2||Markieff Morris 13.6|
|2011-12||Thomas Robinson, 17.7||Tyshawn Taylor, 16.6|
|2012-13||Ben McLemore, 15.9||Jeff Withey, 13.7|
|2013-14||Andrew Wiggins, 17.1||Perry Ellis, 13.5|
|2014-15||Perry Ellis, 13.8||Frank Mason, 12.6|
|2015-16||Perry Ellis, 16.9||Wayne Selden, 13.8|
One of the biggest questions when the Kansas football program entered the offseason was whether head coach David Beaty would continue calling plays.
It appears there's finally an answer after Doug Meacham was announced as offensive coordinator Thursday after he spent the past three seasons in a co-offensive coordinator role at TCU alongside Sonny Cumbie.
Before TCU, Meacham was the co-offensive coordinator at Houston in 2013.
One way to judge offensive coordinators is the play of quarterbacks during their tenure. Kansas will head into the spring with a likely quarterback battle between junior college transfer Peyton Bender and incumbent starter Carter Stanley.
Here’s a look at the quarterbacks that Meacham worked with in the past few years, though it’s a little harder to evaluate because he wasn’t the only person directing the offense:
John O'Korn | Houston | 2013
As a freshman, O’Korn was a 58 percent passer, throwing 28 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He threw for 3,117 yards and was picked as the AAC freshman of the year.
After Meacham departed for TCU, O’Korn eventually lost the starting job (to Greg Ward Jr.) because of turnovers and a change of offenses. He transferred to Michigan where he was a backup this season.
"He had kind of a cut loose type of attitude, where they just opened the playbook up and let him learn on the fly and adjust,” O’Korn’s personal QB coach Ken Mastrole said.
O’Korn was more of a true pro-style quarterback and probably is the closest comparison to Bender and Stanley. Freshman Tyriek Starks probably fits the mold of the next two quarterbacks that Meacham worked with.
Trevone Boykin | TCU | 2014-15
There’s plenty of stories about Boykin’s rise from his sophomore season to his junior year when he finished fourth in Heisman voting. Boykin transformed into a dual-threat quarterback that threw for 33 touchdowns and 3,901 yards on his way to Big 12 offensive player of the year honors. He ran for 760 yards and nine touchdowns.
During Boykin’s magical 2014 season, the Horned Frogs installed an Air Raid offense.
“The biggest thing that both of those guys (Meacham and Cumbie) gave him was more from a confidence standpoint,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “It was saying to him and giving him a chance to show to himself, ‘This is what you can be.’”
Expectations were higher in 2015 for Boykin, but he dealt with injuries and an in-season arrest. He improved his completion percentage (64.8 percent from 61.2 percent), yards per attempt (9.0 from 7.9) and quarterback rating (161.6 from 145.9).
The Frogs were a top-five offense in the country during both seasons, setting school records in several categories.
Kenny Hill | TCU | 2016
The Texas A & M transfer started for the Horned Frogs last season and had his ups and downs. A dual-threat quarterback, Hill completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,208 yards and 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. On the ground, Hill ran for 609 yards and 10 scores.
When TCU escaped Memorial Stadium with a 24-23 victory, Hill threw for 203 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions against the Jayhawks. One of the low points in TCU’s season was a 31-6 loss to Oklahoma State, the fewest points scored in the Gary Patterson era.
“Shoot, maybe we’ll be changing offenses again,” Patterson said after the loss to the Cowboys. “You have to be able to run the football. Definitely how we practice and do things in the spring and in two-a-days, I can tell you that. … My guys downstairs know I love them, but the bottom line is we had two weeks to prepare.”
Meacham added last month: “I think once you look back and kind of reflect and absorb and digest what happened last season, I think it will motivate you, if you want to play this game of football. I know for us as coaches it does. It rejuvenates your mindset toward improving and just getting better in every aspect. It regenerates that.”
On the first day following the end of the college football season (and another title game classic), college basketball reintroduced itself with one of its biggest days of the season.
With three top-15 matchups (and of course, another Grayson Allen mini-controversy), it was easy to get lost in all of the hype. That’s where this blog comes in with the latest look at the blue bloods across the country. Here’s a look at the top 10 teams:
Baylor earned its first No. 1 ranking in program history and was destroyed in a 21-point loss against West Virginia in Morgantown. The Bears started slow and never recovered, turning the ball over a season-high 29 times — only two shy of a school record. "They just took us out of everything," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "We weren't overconfident. They just kicked our butt.”
Of course, this doesn’t diminish everything Baylor accomplished on its way to a No. 1 ranking. The Bears were a five or six point underdog heading into Tuesday’s matchup. Prior to the loss, Jonathan Motley was named Big 12 player of the week after posting back-to-back double-double performances. And just as remarkable is the rise that Scott Drew has brought the Baylor program within the last decade.
Record: 15-1. Next: Saturday at #25 Kansas State.
Stat of the day: Frank Mason is making 54.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He’s one made 3-pointer shy of qualifying on the national list, but he would rank second in the country. In his last three games, Mason is shooting an astounding 12-of-15 from deep (80 percent). Benton Smith wrote about KU’s 3-point prowess on Wednesday afternoon.
In a story from Matt Tait, KU coach Bill Self argues that the Jayhawks don’t deserve to be the top ranked team in the country following their 81-70 road victory at Oklahoma.
Record: 15-1. Next: Saturday vs. Oklahoma State.
Villanova was expecting a dogfight against Xavier and it ended in a smack down. The Wildcats won 78-54, matching a school record with their 46th straight win at the Pavilion — their last home loss was in February 2013. “The annual Villanova ass kicking. I'm getting really tired of it,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said afterward.
The Wildcats held Xavier to 29-percent shooting from the floor, including 6-of-32 from deep. Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart both scored 20 points apiece. ESPN’s Dana O’Neil wrote a story on Jenkins becoming a more complete player this season, which has only made the guy who made “The Shot” even better.
Record: 16-1. Next: Saturday at St. John’s.
After losing on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Dillon Brooks on the road at Oregon, the Bruins have responded with three straight wins, including a 14-point home win over Stanford on Sunday. Perhaps the only concern for the Bruins is a couple of second-half letdowns. It hasn’t cost them a win, but they’ve had to sweat at some points in games they should’ve put away.
Bryce Alford, known more for being a coach’s son than star player, is actually climbing up the school record book in career points. He’s averaging 16.3 points this season and could put himself inside of the top five of a historic program. “Those people who say those negative things about me, that I play just because my dad’s here or whatever, I’m not going to be able to change those voices regardless of what I do,” Alford told the LA Times in a story about his success.
Record: 16-1. Next: Thursday at Colorado.
Gonzaga owns wins against Florida, Iowa State and Arizona, but there will always be those who don’t believe the hype until the Zags reach the Final Four. But perhaps, the toughest task to keeping their perfect season alive — the last unbeaten team in the country — will be Saturday’s upcoming matchup against No. 21-ranked St. Mary’s. They lost both regular season games against the Gaels last year.
The Zags earned a 15-point road victory against San Francisco last week, then had a game against Portland postponed because of a winter storm. The Spokane Spokesman-Review had a nice story on freshman Zach Collins, the next forward in a strong pipeline of talented big men.
Record: 15-0. Next: Thursday vs. Loyola Marymount.
There’s always a few SEC games that give the Wildcats some trouble and Vanderbilt nearly gave them everything they could handle Tuesday, before Kentucky pulled away in the final minute for an 87-81 win. Isaiah Briscoe scored a game-high 23 points while De’Aaron Fox added 22. "We still don't trust each other because guys aren't doing their job defensively, what they're supposed to do," UK coach John Calipari said.
The Wildcats added Hamidou Diallo on Wednesday, a 5-star recruit that was ranked highly in the Class of 2017. He enrolled at Kentucky and will practice with the team but is expected to redshirt for the remainder of the season. Diallo, who was playing at a post-graduate school, is eligible for the upcoming NBA draft, but all indications say he will play at Kentucky next year. Will this be a new trend for some college basketball players?
Record: 14-2. Next: Saturday vs. Auburn.
Playing without Amile Jefferson (foot injury), the Blue Devils didn’t have much of a post presence in an 88-72 road loss at Florida State. That seems weird to say when a team has star freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, along with sophomore Chase Jeter, but none of them proved to be ready for the big stage. Giles and Bolden combined for five points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. "Obviously, size they can throw it up there and hurt you on the glass. They throw guys on you and wear you out,” interim coach Jeff Capel said.
As briefly mentioned above, there was another faux Grayson Allen controversy when he dove after a loose ball into Florida State’s bench, and he appeared to shove an assistant coach as he fell down. Apparently trying to catch your balance is the same thing as tripping now. Of course, Allen is going to be under extra scrutiny because of his tripping incidents, but it’s time to put down the pitchforks. Dennis Gates, the FSU assistant coach, said Wednesday that it was simply a great hustle play, “nothing more, nothing less.”
Record: 14-3. Next: Saturday at #14 Louisville.
After a 10-point home loss against Villanova on New Year’s Eve, the Blue Jays get another chance to make a statement — this time against No. 12-ranked Butler. Creighton rolled to a 14-point road win over Providence last weekend behind an 11-point, 14-assist performance from point guard Maurice Watson.
But beyond Watson driving the Ferrari that is Creighton’s offense and the scoring from Marcus Foster, the Blue Jays are receiving a lift from 7-foot freshman center Justin Patton, who is averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds. And it appears, from this Omaha World-Herald column, that has landed in the discussion for a potential lottery pick.
Record: 15-1. Next: Wednesday vs. #12 Butler.
9. Florida State
If it wasn’t for another Grayson Allen controversy, maybe people would take notice of this Florida State team, which is no longer under the radar. The Seminoles, who own ACC wins over Duke, Virginia Tech and at Virginia, won’t get to celebrate for long with a looming road matchup at North Carolina.
But in the top 10 rankings for the first time since 1993, the Seminoles felt that they had something to prove in their 16-point home win over Duke, their first sellout at the Tucker Center since 2013. "This one was personal for me. Ever since he did that, I've been waiting a long time to see him again," said Xavier Rathan-Mayes, who scored 21 points and was actually tripped by Allen last year. "It was good to finally see him again."
Record: 16-1. Next: Saturday at #11 North Carolina.
10. West Virginia
Press Virginia came to life Tuesday, forcing 29 turnovers in a 21-point demolition over top-ranked Baylor. According to KenPom, West Virginia entered the game forcing opponents to turnovers on 32.8 percent of possible possessions, the highest number ever recorded. And that was before Baylor had 16 turnovers in the first half and West Virginia turned a close game into a laugher.
“Press Virginia is for real,” said Baylor guard Jake Lindsey. “They do a good job executing and knowing our personnel and they come at you in waves.”
Record: 14-2. Next: Saturday at Texas.
Three teams trending up
1. Minnesota: After opening Big 10 play with a one-point overtime loss to Michigan State, the Golden Gophers have won three straight, including road games at Purdue and Ohio State. They have a talented backcourt with Nate Mason and Amir Coffey.
2. Oregon: On a 13-game winning streak, the Ducks have opened Pac-12 play with wins against UCLA, USC, Washington and Washington State. Three of those victories are by at least 19 points.
3. Nevada: If you missed it, Nevada completed one of the biggest comebacks in college basketball history. The Wolf Pack rallied from a 25-point deficit for a 105-104 overtime win at New Mexico, their first win at the Pit in school history. Nevada trailed by 14 with less than 70 seconds left.
Three teams trending down
1. Georgetown: The Hoyas beat St. John’s on Monday, but they opened Big East play with an 0-4 record, the first time they’ve done that since 1998-99.
2. Michigan State: Facing Penn State in Philadelphia, more than 200 miles from campus, the Spartans didn’t play well in a 9-point loss at the Palestra on Saturday with 17 turnovers. Tom Izzo called it an “effortless approach.”
3. Virginia Tech: After demolishing Duke on New Year’s Eve, the Hokies couldn’t take advantage of any of that momentum with blowout road losses to North Carolina State and Florida State.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 81-70 victory at Oklahoma on Tuesday night.
It might be best to break the grades for this game into two halves and would be fairly easy to do — F for the first half, A for the second. KU’s offense, which missed 14 of its final 17 shots in the first half, was lights out to open the second and looked much more like the Kansas offense we’ve become used to seeing, fast, free, unselfish and scary.
The Jayhawks battled in both halves but looked much better — and played with more of a purpose — in the second half. The Sooners got whatever they wanted at times in the first half and out-toughed the Jayhawks on the glass.
This one’s all Lucas and he was darn good. 10 points, 13 rebounds and all kinds of effort. He’s still limited in some ways, but does what he does best as well as anybody.
Mason’s the man. What more needs to be said? He finished two points off of a career-high and knocked in 11 of 19 shots and 5 of 6 from three-point range. Jackson, Graham and Mykhailiuk chipped in 38 points to back up their leader.
Vick and Bragg did little and Lightfoot and Coleby weren’t in long enough to do much. When they were, though, neither player looked all that comfortable or impressive.
On a six-game losing streak, including the first three games of Big 12 play, the Oklahoma Sooners look like a much, much different team than the Final Four squad last year.
The Sooners, playing without star point guard Jordan Woodard (leg injury), rank at the bottom of the Big 12 in several categories, including scoring offense and scoring defense heading into Tuesday's matchup against Kansas at 8 p.m. (ESPN 2).
In their three conference games (Baylor, at TCU, at Kansas State), the Sooners have lost by an average of 14.7 points. Oklahoma, ranked 75th in the KenPom rankings, doesn’t shoot the ball well as a team (44 percent) and hasn’t had much success on the defensive end.
Then there’s the issue of playing without Woodard, which has forced players to step into uncomfortable roles over the last four games.
“I think some guys individually are battling some confidence factors,” OU coach Lon Kruger said. “We have to keep pushing and keeping working every day and stay positive.”
Interesting note: With a win, Kansas coach Bill Self will win his 400th game with the Jayhawks, becoming the third coach in school history to reach that milestone. Roy Williams had 418 wins and Phog Allen had 590.
Interesting note, part II: Self notched his 600th win of his career in early December. Kruger will likely become the next coach to pass the milestone, sitting four wins away at 596.
Series history: Kansas leads 144-66. The Jayhawks won both matchups last year, including the three-overtime classic in January at Allen Fieldhouse.
Vegas says: Kansas by 10.5.
No. 0 — G Darrion Strong-Moore | 6-1, 180, jr.
A transfer from Coffeyville CC, Strong-Moore is averaging 4.6 points and 1.9 assists through 14 games (one start). He’s shooting 25-of-54 from the floor (46 percent) and 14-of-32 from deep (44 percent). He’s dished 27 assists to 21 turnovers.
According to hoop-math.com, Strong-Moore avoids the mid-range jumper. He’s only taken 6.6 percent of his shots in that area this season, the second-lowest mark on the team.
His father, Adrian Moore, played basketball at Iowa State. But in a story from the Oklahoman, the two didn’t have a relationship until he was a teenager, which eventually prompted the addition his hyphenated last name.
In his first start Saturday against Kansas State, Strong-Moore scored 10 points with four assists and one turnover in 27 minutes.
QUOTE: “We’ll get there. It’s all about staying in the gym and listening to coach and doing what he wants,” Strong-Moore said.
No. 3 — G Christian James | 6-4, 218, soph.
Played 17 minutes against Kansas last season, scoring seven points with four rebounds.
With Johnny Woodard sidelined, James has struggled with his shot. In the last four games, James is shooting 9-for-32 from the floor (28 percent) and 5-for-16 from deep (31 percent). The Oklahoman said he’s working through a hitch in his shot.
Throughout the season, he’s averaging 10.9 points on 48 percent shooting from the 3-point line.
According to hoop-math.com, James takes 34 percent of his shots at the rim, converting on 51 percent of those layup/dunk attempts.
QUOTE: “Lot of people say me and Buddy (Hield) play alike, but I think our games are totally opposite,” James said. “I think we just shoot the ball whenever we’re able to shoot the ball and knock down shots.”
No. 1 — G Rashard Odomes | 6-6, 212, soph.
From Copperas Cove High in Texas, Odomes is the first player in school history to play in a Div. I basketball program.
A left-handed slasher, Odomes is averaging 9.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 14 games. He’s shooting 47 percent from the floor, 61 percent from the free-throw line and has only attempted three 3-point attempts.
Odomes has attempted 83 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com, by far the highest mark on the team. He’s converted on 52 percent of those attempts.
His mother, Donna Stewart, is a retired Army first-class sergeant. His brother, Raheem, played at Sterling College in Kansas.
QUOTE: “Each game we come out confident,” Odomes said. “I feel like we have confident players that are working to try and get it done. Game after game we try to improve.”
No. 11 — F Kristian Doolittle | 6-7, 236, fr.
The Edmond, Okla. native, from the same high school as Bill Self, Doolittle is averaging 7.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game. He has 12 steals and 15 assists.
In three of the past four games, Doolittle has scored at least seven points and grabbed six rebounds.
According to hoop-math.com, 48 percent of the shots that Doolittle takes are mid-range jumpers and only 38 percent are at the rim.
Won a high school state title during his freshman season alongside teammate Jordan Woodard. His older brother, Kameron, was a wide receiver for Oklahoma State.
QUOTE: “He’ll get more comfortable as we go,” Kruger said. “He’s got such a good skill set and good feel for the game. He’ll make a ton of progress with every game.”
No. 12 — F Khadeem Lattin | 6-9, 212, jr.
In two games against the Jayhawks last year, Lattin scored 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting and grabbed 19 rebounds with seven blocks in 76 minutes.
Lattin — and his 7-foot-2 wingspan — is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds this season in 23.4 minutes per game. He leads the Sooners with 26 offensive rebounds, 27 blocks and 23 steals.
He’s off to a slow start in Big 12 play, averaging six points and 4.3 rebounds in the last three games.
His mother, Monica Lamb, played college basketball at Houston and USC before playing in the WNBA for the Houston Comets. His grandfather, David “Big Daddy” Lattin was a starter on the famed Texas Western team that beat Kentucky in the 1966 NCAA title game.
QUOTE: “It’s just our overall play,” Lattin said. “We can’t blame a specific play or a specific player or anything like that. It’s just we have to figure out what it takes to figure out these games and we’ve got to figure it out ASAP.”
No. 20 — G Kameron McGusty | 6-5, 191, fr.
A freshman from Sunrise Christian Academy near Wichita, McGusty is averaging 7.1 points on 42 percent shooting (34 percent from deep) in 14 games off of the bench.
He scored a season-high 20 points in Saturday’s loss at Kansas State. It was the fourth time he’s scored in double figures this year.
His father, Kerol, played college basketball at Stephen F. Austin.
QUOTE: “I’ve been picking and choosing my spots very well. So have my teammates," McGusty said. "We’ve just been doing a good job of swinging the ball and, at this point, it’s all about hitting shots. We have a lot of guys on the team stepping up and hitting shots.”
No. 4 — C Jamuni McNeace | 6-10, 215, soph.
McNeace is only averaging 15.9 minutes per game, but he ranks second on the squad with 18 blocks, third with 21 offensive rebounds and third with 39 personal fouls. He’s averaging 3.9 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Only started playing organized basketball during his sophomore year of high school. He was cut from his school’s freshman team, but grew from 5-10 his freshman year to 6-7 by the end of his sophomore year.
He only played three minutes against Kansas last year, missing two free throws and grabbing an offensive rebound.
No. 13 — G Jordan Shepherd | 6-2, 180, fr.
A freshman out of Asheville, N.C., Shepherd averages 4.2 points and 1.6 assists in 14.6 minutes per game. He’s made four starts this year.
He’s shooting 45 percent from the floor (20 of 44). According to hoop-math.com, he only takes 24 percent of his shots at the rim.
Originally committed to James Madison, but reopened his recruitment after a coaching change prior to signing with Oklahoma.
No. 5 — F Matt Freeman | 6-10, 224, r-fr.
The New Zealand native redshirted he second semester last season after enrolling in January 2016. He enrolled late because the New Zealand school system ends in November.
Averaging 4.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 14 games (two starts). Primarily a 3-point shooter, Freeman is 14-of-32 from deep.
He landed on the radar of many college basketball programs after averaging 17.8 points at the 2015 Adidas Global Nations in California.
QUOTE: “I think all New Zealanders who have any potential to be good at basketball are going to be compared to Steve Adams, just because he's the New Zealand god of basketball,” he said.
No. 10 — G Jordan Woodard | 6-0, 187, sr.
Woodard has missed the last four games with a leg injury. Lon Kruger told reporters on Monday that he returned to practice but won’t be available against Kansas.
Averaging 17.6 points and 5.2 rebounds through 10 games while shooting 43 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
Against KU last year, Woodard scored 37 points on 12-of-32 shooting in 80 minutes with 11 assists.
It’s easy to gloss over a victory as historically significant as all-time win No. 2,200 when you consider the fact that the most experienced players on the current roster who delivered it only have been around for an average of less than 100 of those and the coach leading the way only 400.
But just because two of the players wearing KU uniforms today have been a part of just 14 of those 2,200 victories does not mean that the win — 85-68 over Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse — was not a major milestone to the thousands and thousands of KU fans who have screamed, yelled, cheered and rejoiced about more than half of those wins during their lifetimes.
Give the current Jayhawks credit for both recognizing the significance of Saturday’s 2,200th win and for having the respect to realize it’s not in any way about them and only them. And give senior point guard Frank Mason III major credit for offering the following four words as his final comment on the matter: “there’s more to come.”
Talk about a guy who gets it. Sure, being a part of win No. 2,200 was nice and likely will be something these guys look back on — many years from now — as one of the many, many cool parts of their Kansas careers.
But the objective today, as it has been year in and year out, week in and week out, for as long as anyone can remember is to find a way to bring more victories not celebrate wins gone by.
Bill Self now has been around for four milestone victories and if he's still the Kansas coach when the Jayhawks reach win No. 2,300, he'll tie Phog Allen and Roy Williams as the head coaches to deliver the most milestone wins in Kansas history.
With that in mind, here’s a quick look back at the major milestone wins, from 1 to 2,200, that Kansas basketball has achieved in the past 118 years.
|1||Feb. 10, 1899||Lawrence||James Naismith||31-6 vs. Topeka YMCA|
|100||Jan. 15, 1910||St. Louis||W.O. Hamilton||34-13 vs. Washington (Mo.)|
|200||Jan. 24, 1917||Lawrence||W.O. Hamilton||27-19 vs. Kansas State|
|300||Feb. 9, 1925||Lawrence||Phog Allen||33-18 vs. Iowa State|
|400||Jan. 2, 1933||Lawrence||Phog Allen||34-28 vs. Stanford|
|500||Jan. 18, 1939||Lawrence||Phog Allen||37-32 vs. Missouri|
|600||Jan. 30, 1945||Lawrence||Phog Allen||39-36 vs. Kansas State|
|700||Dec. 29, 1951||Kansas City, Mo.||Phog Allen||75-65 vs. Missouri|
|800||March 15, 1957||Dallas||Dick Harp||73-65 vs. SMU|
|900||Dec. 1, 1964||Fayetteville, Ark.||Ted Owens||65-60 vs. Arkansas|
|1,000||Feb. 3, 1969||Lawrence||Ted Owens||64-48 vs. Oklahoma State|
|1,100||Jan. 25, 1975||Lawrence||Ted Owens||71-60 vs. Oklahoma State|
|1,200||Dec. 1, 1980||Lawrence||Ted Owens||81-67 vs. Pepperdine|
|1,300||Dec. 3, 1985||Lawrence||Larry Brown||86-71 vs. SIU-Edwardsville|
|1,400||Feb. 25, 1989||Lawrence||Roy Williams||111-83 vs. Colorado|
|1,500||Jan. 16, 1993||Louisville, Ky||Roy Williams||98-77 vs. Louisville|
|1,600||Nov. 27, 1996||Maui, Hawaii||Roy Williams||80-63 vs. Virginia|
|1,700||Jan. 8, 2000||Boulder, Colo.||Roy Williams||84-69 vs. Colorado|
|1,800||March 29, 2003||Anaheim, Calif.||Roy Williams||78-75 vs. Arizona|
|1,900||March 3, 2007||Lawrence||Bill Self||90-86 vs. Texas|
|2,000||March 11, 2010||Kansas City, Mo.||Bill Self||80-68 vs. Texas Tech|
|2,100||March 24, 2013||Kansas City, Mo.||Bill Self||70-58 vs. North Carolina|
|2,200||Jan. 7, 2017||Lawrence||Bill Self||85-68 vs. Texas Tech|
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 85-68 victory over Texas Tech at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
The Jayhawks shot better than 50 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three-point range and made five consecutive shots during the decisive run that put the game out of reach with around five minutes to play.
The effort, activity and tenacity were all there and Kansas also limited the Red Raiders to 41 percent shooting from the floor. The only reason for the minus was KU’s inability to keep Tech from getting open looks from three-point range. Overall, though, a much, much better effort on the defensive end of the floor.
None of KU’s big men — all two of them — did much in this one. Bragg and Lucas combined for 11 points and 12 rebounds but also had a few forgettable moments, especially Bragg who struggled inside and occasionally got lost on defense.
Devonte’ Graham (20 points) was hot early, Mason (26) was hot late and the Jayhawks got a big time effort from the three-headed monster of Graham, Mason and Jackson (63 of 85 points). Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk did not have much of an encore performance to his game-winner against K-State on Tuesday, finishing with five points and four rebounds before fouling out in 21 minutes.
Neither Bragg nor Lagerald Vick did much to write home about and both sent Bill Self looking to the bench to plug a starter back in a few too many times throughout this one.
Sam Cunliffe, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound shooting guard who was ranked No. 36 overall in the Rivals.com recruiting class of 2016, was in Lawrence this week to visit Kansas and left with a great feel for the KU program.
"It was amazing," Cunliffe told TheShiver.com's Matt Scott following his visit, which included a trip to the KU-K-State game on Tuesday night. "That game was insane!!!! I loved every minute of it."
So much so that Cunliffe, who started 10 games for Arizona State this season but decided at semester to transfer, has chosen to shut down his recruiting.
"No more visits," Cunliffe told Scott on Wednesday. "Deciding real soon. No more than 3 days," he added.
If that timeline holds, Cunliffe should have a decision by the end of the week and the whole situation certainly has the feel of the young man picking Kansas.
Named the Seattle Times’ State Basketball Player of the Year following his senior season at Rainier Beach High, Cunliffe picked Arizona State from serious interest from California, Colorado, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Oregon, UNLV, Utah, Washington, Washington State and others.
A Seattle native who was the highest rated recruit landed by the Sun Devils since James Harden, announced in December that he was leaving ASU despite starting the first 10 games of his freshman season and averaging 9.5 points in 25.4 minutes.
In other recruiting news... Scott and other recruiting analysts are reporting that KU coach Bill Self will travel to Oklahoma today to watch Class of 2017 point guard Trae Young, who remains one of the top targets in KU's current class.
Young said last Fall that he wanted to take his time with the decision and get an opportunity to see each team in the mix play and watch how their seasons play out a little bit.
“I’m getting near to the end of my recruitment and I’m starting to look at these teams play and come to a conclusion what school I want to choose so it was a really big thing for them to come out and I’m really happy for that," Young told A Sea of Blue, SB Nation's Kentucky site, in late November.
Asked when he might announce, Young said, “Probably early January. Don’t have a date set yet, but probably early January.”
Other programs remain in the mix, but most analysts believe Young's recruitment is a hot contest between Kansas and in-state school Oklahoma.
Tuesday night, following KU’s thrilling, 90-88 victory over Sunflower State rival Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse, one thing rattled around inside my brain about junior guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk’s game-winning shot at the buzzer.
Yes, Svi traveled. Nobody’s disputing that. The closest anybody even came to doing so on Tuesday night were those who said they hadn’t seen it yet.
So, we know Svi traveled. We know, travel or not, that it was still a pretty impressive play to get a layup despite having to go the length of the floor in five seconds. And we know that, again, travel or not, Svi’s hanging scoop shot was no easy play, especially with the game on the line.
But none of that was what stuck with me following Tuesday’s game.
What stuck with me was the fact that, for the last time, travel or not, the shot was probably one Svi would not even have attempted a couple of months ago.
That’s how much confidence can help a player, and few players are playing with as much confidence right now as KU’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who, on Tuesday, reached double digits in scoring for the eighth consecutive game and 10th time overall this season.
Let’s take another quick look at the play and see what route a less-confident Svi could have taken instead of the one he chose, which won the game.
Svi wins it for KU at the buzzer -- with contact. It is near-impossible to steal one from Kansas at the Phog. pic.twitter.com/b85I4ttPt1— Matt Norlander (@MattNorlander) January 4, 2017
There’s a point, just across halfcourt, when K-State’s Wesley Iwundu is closing in and, under different circumstances, easily could’ve been enough of a bother to coerce Svi into getting rid of the ball, especially when you consider that his only option from this position would’ve been to toss it back and to his right to Frank Mason III, who was crossing the mid-court stripe at about the same time and has a recent history of hitting game winners.
Mason even put his hand up briefly, calling for the ball. But Svi either never saw it or disregarded it because he felt good enough about his own ability to go win the game.
Let’s keep moving.
Once Svi reached the free throw line, where two KSU defenders greeted him and two others trailed closely, it would have been easy for him to (a) decide to throw a lob to Landen Lucas on his left or (b) zip a pass to Josh Jackson on the right for a baseline jumper to win the game.
A pass to Lucas would have made sense given the fact that the Jayhawks love lobs and Lucas delivered a career-high 18 points against the Wildcats. But it also might have taken too much time and there’s a chance Svi sensed that, with his internal clock surely a half-second or so ahead of the actual game clock thanks to adrenaline and the chaotic nature of those final few seconds.
Finding Jackson, who was more in Svi’s line of sight, also would have made sense because the KU freshman is known as a terrific scorer and has a knack for getting to the rim. That, too, might have taken a tad too long and such a decision could’ve cost the Jayhawks their shot to win it in regulation.
That’s three separate options — all of which would have made sense — that Svi passed up in order to put the game on his shoulders.
Again, there’s little-to-no chance he makes that decision a couple of months ago.
And the fact that he made it (both the shot and the decision) on Tuesday night should be viewed as perhaps the best news of all to come out of a game that people will be talking about for quite some time.
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has finally become a player. And I can’t help but get the feeling that the best is yet to come for KU’s most recent hero.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s thrilling, 90-88 victory over Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.
They scored 52 points in the first half and, somehow, led by 10 after the Wildcats shot 54 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three-point range during the same 20-minute period. It’s to the point now where it’s newsworthy if the Jayhawks’ offense isn’t an A.
The Jayhawks had plenty of opportunities to bury the Wildcats but kept letting them off the hook by breaking down against dribble penetration and good ball movement. KU did grind out just about every possession and that saved them from getting a C-minus here. Some of the credit for this effort has to go to K-State's players for being absolutely fearless all night.
Lucas was so good yet again (18 points and 12 rebounds) and delivered some of his biggest buckets and rebounds when the Jayhawks needed them most.
Jackson was sensational in the first half and Frank Mason was Frank Mason. But the big bucket came from Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk at the buzzer and the Jayhawks would’ve been blown out of not for their backcourt. Such is life.
Vick and Bragg were merely average — good moments mixed with bad — and Lightfoot did not play enough to factor too heavily into this grade.
After a break for the holidays, college basketball returned with a weekend full of great games featuring top teams in the country playing against each other.
The conference season is underway and that means flurries of upsets, tough road games and separating the pretenders from the contenders. Last Saturday, five teams in the top-25 suffered a loss and thankfully for all those watching, it’s only the beginning.
Here’s a look at all of the top-10 teams in the country:
If there’s the notion that 2016 was a terrible year, it doesn’t apply to Villanova. The Wildcats capped one of the best calendar years in college basketball history, finishing with a 38-3 record (and a national title) after a thrilling 10-point road win over Creighton in a raucous environment on New Year’s Eve.
Of course, Villanova has to lose at some point in the Big East (right?), but it showed why it’s the No. 1 team in the nation. First, the Wildcats have so many scorers with Jalen Brunson, Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart. Brunson led with 27 points against Creighton. Then there’s the defense that always tightens in the final minutes. Plus, the championship experience. "If you are not going to get rattled when the score was 24-14, then you aren't going to get rattled because they won't play in a tougher environment all year,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said.
Record: 14-0. Next: Wednesday at Butler.
Baylor jumped the Jayhawks in the AP poll after opening Big 12 play with a 76-50 road victory over Oklahoma, which was playing point guard Jordan Woodard. But that doesn’t take away from how well the Bears played in their dominant victory — earning the highest ranking in program history. Of course, conference play is a different animal, but let’s remember that Baylor has a pretty nice resume with wins over Louisville, Oregon, Michigan State and Xavier.
Tom Keegan wrote in Monday’s column that Baylor and West Virginia are the biggest threats to end KU’s string of Big 12 titles. And if there was somebody who wasn’t surprised that the Bears leapfrogged the Jayhawks, it was Bill Self: "I anticipated that," he said. ”... That didn't surprise me at all. They deserve where they're at."
Record: 13-0. Next: Wednesday vs. Iowa State.
Following a break for the holidays, the Jayhawks returned for a six-point road victory over TCU. Landen Lucas earned Big 12 player of the week honors for his 15-point and 17-rebound performance. I thought Matt Tait did a nice job of looking at the schedule over the next few weeks and determining the toughest stretches for KU.
And in case you missed it, Benton Smith had a nice roundup on former KU players Thomas Robinson and Tarik Black teaming up off of the Los Angeles Lakers’ bench. Plus the Ringer had a story about Josh Jackson's chances of becoming the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft are tied to his jump shot.
Record: 12-1. Next: Tuesday vs. Kansas State.
UCLA’s loss against Oregon was one of those games that introduces the world into conference play. Sure, UCLA was the higher ranked team, but it wasn’t necessarily a game that the Bruins were expected to win. Actually, credit UCLA for putting itself in position to win the game before Dillon Brooks connected on a game-winning 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds remaining.
The Bruins followed up their first loss of the season with a 13-point road win over Oregon State. Lonzo Ball, the phenomenal point guard, scored a career-high 23 points in the victory with seven assists and six rebounds. He’s shooting the ball well after deciding to stop messing with his unorthodox shooting motion. The loss to Oregon was actually the first loss for Ball since his junior year of high school.
Record: 14-1. Next: Thursday vs. California.
Gonzaga finished the non-conference portion of the season with a perfect 12-0 record and now the real hype train has left the station. In a story from ESPN’s Myron Medcalf, he asks the question whether the Zags can complete an undefeated regular season.
It seems like every year Gonzaga’s expectations grow a little bit and are better than before, which is a tough thing to do in a really successful program (outside of Final Four appearances). The Zags opened conference play with a 30-point win over Pepperdine and a 20-point road win over Pacific.
Record: 14-0. Next: Thursday at San Francisco.
After a ridiculously tough stretch against North Carolina and Louisville, the Wildcats head into SEC play as a heavy favorite to win the conference — and only Florida seems in position to provide much of a challenge. The Wildcats crushed Ole Miss by 23 points, led by a triple-double from Isaiah Briscoe (19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds). Before this year, only one player in program history had recorded a triple-double. In 31 days, De’Aaron Fox and Briscoe have achieved the feat.
In the win over Ole Miss, the Wildcats showed how fast they can score and how dominant their offense is with such a talented group of guards. They scored 60 points in the first half and only turned the ball over eight times throughout the game.
Record: 11-2. Next: Tuesday vs. Texas A&M.
7. West Virginia
Remember when there was the idea that the Big 12 might be in for a down year outside of Kansas. Now there’s three teams ranked inside of the top seven in the country. The Mountaineers rolled into Stillwater and won 92-75 in their Big 12 opener. "They're very good, that was on full display,” Oklahoma State coach Brad Underwood said. “Their press makes the game ugly, it's never going to be pretty against them.”
One of the most impressive things about the Mountaineers is they rank fifth in the nation with 91.8 points per game. But they don’t have a true go-to scorer. Esa Ahmad, their leading scorer, averages 12.6 points per game, but hasn’t scored more than 19 in a game. Of course, their “Press Virginia” style leads to a lot of different players scoring, but most of the top scoring teams in the country have at least one dominant scorer.
Record: 12-1. Next: Tuesday at Texas Tech.
The big news that was released Monday morning was coach Mike Krzyzewski will be out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery following Wednesday’s game. He’s removing a fragment of a herniated disk. Jeff Capel, a former coach at Oklahoma, will become the interim coach for likely the next several weeks. For Capel, it could be a quick test whether he could one day inherit the team from Krzyzewski, who is turning 70 next month.
The news comes at a critical time for Duke, which was crushed in its ACC opener at Virginia Tech, 89-75. The Blue Devils didn’t have Grayson Allen (suspended, stripped of captaincy) in their loss, but they haven't been playing good basketball for the past few weeks. "We haven't played well for three straight games, and that's disconcerting," Krzyzewski said. "But that's the way it is."
Record: 12-2. Next: Wednesday vs. Georgia Tech.
Speaking of tough schedules, the Cardinals are nearly finished with a slate that included home games against Kentucky and Virginia, a neutral site game against Indiana (in Indianapolis) and a road game at Notre Dame. The Cardinals beat Kentucky and Indiana, earning a 15-point victory over the Hoosiers on Saturday. Leading scorer Donovan Mitchell responded to his benching by scoring 25 points.
In the eight-point loss to Virginia, which never looked as the final score indicated, the Cardinals showed it’s much harder speed up a team to your tempo than slow one down. “Virginia seems to be our kryptonite,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said, who owns a 1-4 record vs. Virginia since both teams started playing each other in the ACC. In those four losses, the Cardinals are averaging 48 points.
Record: 12-2. Next: Wednesday at Notre Dame.
Creighton coach Greg McDermott admitted on Twitter that he was anxious prior to the New Year’s Eve matchup against Villanova — the first matchup of top 10 teams in school history. Of course, we all know that the Blue Jays fell a little short in a 10-point home loss, which was much closer until the final minute when Nova made some big shots and hit free throws.
Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel argues this Creighton team has shown something special, even in a loss against Villanova.
Record: 13-1. Next: Wednesday at St. John’s.
Usually we look at teams trending up and down, but with the new year beginning, here’s a look at some of the top contenders for the national player of the year:
- Josh Hart, Villanova: Best player on the best team in the country. Averaging 20.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He’s scored at least 18 points in his last six games.
- Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Mentioned above, the freshman point guard has transformed the Bruins into a high-scoring machine. He’s averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 assists and 5.7 rebounds.
- Luke Kennard, Duke: Everybody figured it would be Grayson Allen to lead the Blue Devils, but the sophomore guard has been the most consistent player for Duke. He’s averaging 21.4 points and 6.0 rebounds on a team full of top talent. He’s scored 20 or more points in six of the last seven games.
- Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Leading Purdue to a 12-3 start, Swanigan has turned into one of the most unstoppable players in the Big 10. He’s averaging 18.5 points and 13.0 rebounds, which includes three 20-20 performances in his last four games.
- Frank Mason, Kansas: Off to an incredible start in his senior season, Mason is averaging 19.8 points and 5.9 assists, leading the Big 12 in both categories. He’s dished at least seven assists in four straight games.
It hasn’t mattered who was on the team, what the rotation looked like or how deep and talented the Kansas men’s basketball team has been.
Almost every year, without fail, there has been a small but impactful stretch, usually during conference play, when the Jayhawks have struggled and KU fans has questioned what in the heck was going on.
Last year, a team that gave eventual national champion Villanova an absolute street fight in the Elite Eight lost three of five games during mid-to-late January, all on the road and all by double digits.
One year before that, the Jayhawks lost three of six, including twice in a seven-day span, before bowing out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round.
And three seasons ago, the Jayhawks lost three of four early in the season — including back-to-back games at Colorado and Florida — and finished the season losing two of their last three to close the regular season and four of its final seven overall.
Heck, even the 2007-08 team, which finished 37-3, dropped two of those three in a 12-day span in February, right around the time when you want to start building momentum for a postseason run.
Each of those teams won the Big 12 Conference and one of them won the national championship. The point? Good teams lose games. Heck, even great teams lose games or have lulls or struggle through adversity. It’s part of what makes college basketball so great and part of what makes what the Jayhawks have done in winning a dozen straight Big 12 titles so impressive.
Before we tip things off for Game No. 2 of 18 in the Jayhawks’ quest to make that 13 straight — 8 p.m. tonight vs. Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse — let’s just take a moment to accept and embrace that this team is probably going to have its rough patch, too.
If you’re the type of fan that would rather know when these stretches are coming instead of being blindsided by a loss you never expected, continue reading.
The Jayhawks’ conference schedule this season is pretty well set up, with KU two in a row on the road just one time — Monday, Feb. 6 at Kansas State and Saturday, Feb. 11 at Texas Tech. Back-to-back home games ease the Jayhawks into that doubleheader and a follow-up home game against West Virginia sits on the back end.
But it’s that fairly lengthy period, beginning Jan. 16 and ending Feb. 18, that actually presents a couple of stretches in which the Jayhawks could be bitten by the loss bug more than once.
The first and most obvious stretch is a five-game run that starts in Ames, Iowa, includes road games at West Virginia and Kentucky (not a Big 12 team, but still) and ends with Baylor at home on Feb. 1.
Tom Keegan wrote Monday that Baylor and West Virginia pose the biggest threats to KU continuing its Big 12 title streak, so having to play one of them away and the other at home around the same time as the always-tough trip to Iowa State and an unknown journey to Kentucky very well could present the Jayhawks with their toughest challenge of the season.
Right after that run is another sequence that features three nasty games in a four-game stretch, with the fourth and seemingly easiest game of the group still coming on the road.
KU plays at K-State on Feb. 6, travels to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech five days later and follows that week up by hosting West Virginia and traveling to Baylor.
There’s no way the Jayhawks will lose all of those, but a case could be made for dropping two or perhaps even three of them, especially because West Virginia seems, at least to me, to be the Big 12 team most poised to come into Allen Fieldhouse and leave with a victory.
Don’t worry. I’m not predicting doomsday for the Jayhawks here. I still think they’ll go undefeated at home and I also still think they’ll win the Big 12. The biggest reason? It’s not because Baylor and West Virginia aren’t worthy challengers but more because of the overall strength of the league and the much higher likelihood of Baylor or WVU slipping up in a game they shouldn’t instead of Kansas doing the same.
Either way, it should be a fun couple of months and if you’re one of those KU fans that doesn’t handle losses very well, keep an eye out for the two stretches in the schedule that I mentioned above.
Recruiting never stops in the fast-moving world of college basketball. And during the same week that the Kansas men’s basketball team learned it was losing a player, when former transfer Evan Maxwell announced he was leaving the program, the Jayhawks also surfaced as potential landing spots for a couple of transfers.
The first, Arizona State shooting guard Sam Cunliffe, was expected to arrive in Lawrence on Monday evening and will be in attendance at Allen Fieldhouse for the KU-K-State game on Tuesday night.
Cunliffe recently told Shay Wildeboor of JayhawkSlant.com that he was “beyond excited for the Kansas visit.”
A 6-foot-6, 195-pound Seattle native who was the highest rated recruit landed by the Sun Devils since James Harden announced recently that he was leaving ASU despite starting the first 10 games of his freshman season and averaging 9.5 points in 25.4 minutes.
"The current speculation about Me leaving ASU is just that,” Cunliffe Tweeted on Dec. 12. “I'm coming home to Seattle for personal and family reasons. Any decisions about my future beyond coming home right now have yet to be made. I understand the current media interest, but I ask that you respect the privacy of me and my family right now."
Named the Seattle Times’ State Basketball Player of the Year following his senior season at Rainier Beach High, Cunliffe picked Arizona State from serious interest from California, Colorado, Gonzaga, Minnesota, Oregon, UNLV, Utah, Washington, Washington State and others.
According to Wildeboor, Cunliffe, Rivals.com’s No. 36-ranked player in the Class of 2016, does not yet have any other visits lined up and it will be worth keeping an eye on him during the next couple of days to see how his visit with the Jayhawks went.
Cunliffe already has been removed from the Arizona State official roster and been granted a release.
Another potential transfer worth tracking is Georgetown’s Isaac Copeland, a 6-9, 220-pound forward who was ranked No. 23 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com and spent one season at famed Brewster Academy a la current Jayhawk Devonte’ Graham and former Jayhawks Thomas Robinson and Naadir Tharpe.
Copeland, a junior who started five games and appeared in seven for the Hoyas this season, is hoping to have two years of eligibility remaining following his transfer. He will apply for a medical red-shirt for this season and plans to have back surgery, which will keep him out of action for the next two to three months.
“Yes, the coaching staff at Kansas is trying to figure out a good time to visit if possible,” the former five-star prospect recently told Wildeboor via text message. “If everything works out, I am going to visit Kansas. I am looking to find out if I can make it out to Kansas for a visit. When I make my decision on a school, I plan to enroll at the beginning of the spring semester.”
For his career, Copeland has appeared in 73 games, averaging 8.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.
According to Wildeboor, Copeland recently narrowed his list of schools down to Arizona State, Cincinnati, Illinois, Kansas, NC State, Nebraska, Texas and Connecticut.
At the beginning of the season, not many people predicted Kansas State would emerge as a team that could earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament — let alone a leader in the Big 12 Conference.
But a few months into the season and the Wildcats have posted a 12-1 record heading into the Sunflower Showdown matchup against Kansas at 8 p.m. Tuesday (ESPN 2).
“They are off to a great start, not pretty good,” KU coach Bill Self said. “They’re better than they were last year.”
Ranked 33rd by KenPom, the Wildcats don’t have any signature wins from a soft non-conference schedule, but they earned a three-point win over Texas in their Big 12 opener.
The Wildcats, off to their best start since 2009-10, feature a balanced offense with six players averaging at least 9.5 points and a defense that’s tough to score against.
If you didn’t see it beforehand, KUSports.com’s Matt Tait is hosting a gameday chat prior to the Sunflower Showdown at 3:30 p.m. You can submit questions beforehand.
Interesting note: With a strong emphasis on defense, the Wildcats rank seventh nationally in scoring defense (58.8), 15th in field goal percentage defense (37.7), 27th in steals (8.5) and 35th in turnovers forced (16.1).
Series history: Kansas leads 191-93. The Jayhawks have won the last three matchups. Their last loss in Allen Fieldhouse was in 2006.
Vegas says: KU by 12.5.
KANSAS STATE STARTERS
No. 3 — G Kamau Stokes | 6-0, 165, soph.
Stokes missed the final 12 games of last season after suffering a partially torn patellar tendon in his left knee. The Wildcats had a 4-8 record when he was sidelined.
He’s transformed from a scoring point guard into a true point guard. He’s averaging 4.38 assists with only 27 turnovers this season. Plus, he’s scoring 10.7 points per game on 41 percent shooting from behind the 3-point arc.
The Baltimore native only takes 21 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. That’s the lowest percentage among any of players averaging more than six minutes per game.
In the past three games, he’s averaged 14.3 points and 6.0 assists.
QUOTE: “If you look back at his history, and probably why he wasn’t recruited at a higher level, he was more of a shooting guard than a point guard,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “Slowly but surely, he’s trying to figure that out.”
No. 5 — G Barry Brown | 6-3, 195, soph.
In three games against Kansas last year, Brown scored 27 points on 9-of-32 shooting (5-of-18 from deep) with five steals and five assists.
Brown is much more efficient this season, averaging a team-best 12.1 points on 42 percent shooting. He’s shooting 32 percent (16-of-50) from the 3-point line, but only 60 percent from the free-throw line.
A quick defender, Brown has recorded 30 steals through 13 games. None of his teammates have more than 17.
His father, Barry Sr., played two seasons at Jacksonville and was a two-time All-Sun Belt pick.
QUOTE: “He’s been the most consistent,” Weber said earlier this season. “He’s been in the gym the most. I don’t know if he’ll be in there tonight but he’s in there almost every night and that’s why he’s making shots.”
No. 25 — F Wesley Iwundu | 6-7, 205, sr.
A stat stuffer, Iwundu is averaing 11.9 points with 5.4 rebounds on 46 percent shooting. He’s added 40 assists and 13 steals, averaging 28.5 minutes per game. He’s a much more efficient shooter, as detailed in this Draft Express video, which projects him as a second-round pick.
He’s 52 points from crossing the 1,000-point plateau and becoming the 27th player to reach that milestone.
According to hoop-math.com, Iwundu is converting on 63 percent of his shots at the rim for layups or dunks.
Pronunciation: Ah-one-DOO. Against KU last year, Iwundu totaled 33 points (11-of-20 shooting), 12 assists, 11 rebounds and 13 turnovers in 101 minutes.
QUOTE: “Even on his high school team his senior year, he’s never been ‘the guy,’” Weber said. “He’s always been ‘the other guy.’ Somebody used the analogy of Batman and Robin, and he’s never been Batman. He’s always been the sidekick.”
No. 32 — F Dean Wade | 6-10, 230, soph.
A former prep star at St. John, Kansas, Wade is averaging 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds on 54 percent shooting, including a 42 percent mark from deep. Wade has added 27 assists to 11 turnovers, 13 blocks and 11 steals. He’s posted a double-digit scoring total in five of the last six games.
According to hoop-math.com, Wade is converting on 77.4 percent of his shots at the rim for layups and dunks. About 39 percent of his shots this season are at the rim, which makes him a difficult matchup with his ability to stretch to the 3-point line.
Wade struggled against the Jayhawks last year, scoring 11 points (3-of-11) with 6 rebounds in three games. Of course, most of the time he was matched up against Perry Ellis.
He was the first in-state signee for Bruce Weber and the first in-state KSU player since 2010.
QUOTE: “We want him to shoot the ball,” Stokes said. “We want him to be aggressive. A lot of people can’t guard Dean because of his size and versatility. When he’s aggressive on offense, that helps us a lot.”
No. 4 — F D.J. Johnson | 6-9, 237, sr.
A bruiser in the paint, Johnson leads the Wildcats with 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s averaging 11.8 points on 66 percent shooting, adding a team-best 23 blocks after only swatting 29 shots last year. He ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 1.8 blocks per game.
He’s recorded two double-doubles this season and ranks among the Big 12 leaders in several categories: field goal percentage (first), rebounding (8th), offensive rebounding (7th).
Against KU last season, Johnson had 30 points (8-of-17 shooting), 10 rebounds and two blocks in 52 minutes.
He missed the 2014-15 season because of a broken foot, which required two surgeries.
QUOTE: “Johnson is one of my favorite players in the league,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I love his energy and how he plays.”
KANSAS STATE BENCH
No. 20 — F Xavier Sneed | 6-5, 210, fr.
A freshman from the St. Louis area, Sneed is averaging 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 13 games off of the bench. He’s shooting 49 percent from the field and 38 percent from deep.
Sneed converts 71.4 percent of his shots at the rim — which accounts for 25.3 percent of the total shots he takes, according to hoop-math.com.
A highly considered football player, Sneed caught 38 passes for 717 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior in high school to help his team to an 11-1 record. He didn’t play in his senior season, opting to focus on basketball.
QUOTE: “Sneed, I think, is a guy that gives them a lot, because it gives them a lot more depth off of the bench,” Self said.
No. 1 — G Carlbe Ervin II | 6-3, 202, sr.
Averaging 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.9 minutes per game. He’s shooting 52 percent from the floor, including 4-of-10 from deep. A strong passer, he’s dished 27 assists to 15 turnovers, adding 12 steals.
He transferred to Kansas State last year after playing for two seasons at Connors State College.
Pronunciation: CORE-bee. He’s been held scoreless in three of his last five games.
No. 11 — G Brian Patrick | 6-5, 200, fr.
A freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Patrick hasn’t played in more than 10 minutes in any game this season. He’s averaging 2.1 points in 5.2 minutes on 41 percent shooting (9-of-22).
He’s from the same high school as former K-State standout Mitch Richmond. His mother, Kim, played at Bethune-Cookman.
No. 10 — F Isaiah Maurice | 6-10, 225, fr.
He was suspended indefinitely in the middle of December for violations of departmental policy. Weber said in a press release that he hasn’t lost faith in him and could return this season.
In 10 games, Maurice was averaging 2.6 points and 2.5 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game. He’s added seven blocks with his height in the post.
Quick grades for five aspects of KU’s 86-80 victory over TCU in the Jayhawks’ Big 12 opener Friday night in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Jayhawks topped 80 points, saw five players reach double figures and shot 80 percent from the free throw line. But a miserable 1-of-9 stretch to open the game and 43 percent shooting overall balanced out those positive numbers.
TCU controlled portions of this one offensively and Kansas was never able to put the Horned Frogs away because TCU simply kept scoring, most of it coming at the rim or behind the three-point line.
Only two true big men played and those two players combined for 20 points and 26 rebounds in 46 minutes. Landen Lucas (17) and Carlton Bragg Jr. (9), were both terrific on the glass from start to finish.
KU coach Bill Self referred to his guards as one-dimensional players on Friday night, good on offense and not-so-good on defense. But the good side far outweighed the bad side on a night when the Jayhawks needed every point they scored.
Carlton Bragg Jr. still looked off offensively, but he played hard, grabbed nine boards and hit a big bucket late to help the Jayhawks hang on. Lagerald Vick, meanwhile, poured in 17 points and was huge in the first half as KU crawled out of a 10-point hole and led by four at the break. No other KU bench players entered Friday’s game.