Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

World conquered, nation on deck for Kansas basketball

Team USA coach Bill Self, center, hugs Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) as Frank Mason III carries an American flag after a Team USA double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea.

Team USA coach Bill Self, center, hugs Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) as Frank Mason III carries an American flag after a Team USA double-overtime win against Germany Monday, July 13, at the World University Games in South Korea. by Mike Yoder

First, the world title. Next challenge for the Kansas University basketball team, a tougher one, the national title.

In winning USA’s first World University Games gold medal in men’s basketball in 10 years, Kansas revealed so many positives about itself. The games also showed there is so much to like about international rules.

Seven quick takeaways from the World University Games:

1 - Thanks to Frank Mason, KU will be tough to beat in close games. Fearless Frank has the quickness, skill and boldness to get where he wants to go with the ball and finishes at the hoop and sets up teammates with equal effectiveness in the clutch.

2 - Even when Wayne Selden’s shots don’t drop, as was the case in the double-overtime, gold-medal-game victory vs. Germany, he has the confidence to come up with big plays late with the game in the balance. He’ll face more athletic players in the college game, but he’ll also be playing the right position this season and far more often than not will be at an athletic advantage against the opposing small forward.

3 - Hunter Mickelson, an active force at both ends, has earned a spot in the rotation with his shot-blocking, tip-ins and consistent energy. Energetic incoming freshman Cheick Diallo projects as the starter, but when he has his freshman moments, KU coach Bill Self has somewhere to turn for relief. Curiously, Self went more with Landen Lucas, the better rebounder but not the defender or scorer that Mickelson is, for most of the second half. Mickelson held German center Bogdan Radosavljevic scoreless in the first half. Radosavljevic awakened when Mickelson sat.

4 - Self had to have made a strong impression, setting himself up for bigger jobs on the international stage. There isn’t a better man to coach the Olympic team than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, committed through the 2016 Games in Rio. But Coach K isn’t going to want to do it forever. His outrageous success as coach of the national team has to increase the chances of the next coach also coming from the college game. Team USA’s performance — so strong on effort and team play — in South Korea should move Self to the head of the non-Coach K division of college coaches, even ahead of Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Kentucky’s John Calipari.

5 - The international shot-clock rules (24 seconds, a reset to 14 seconds after a missed shot rebounded by the offensive team, eight seconds to advance the ball past mid-court) eliminates dead seconds, forces players to make moves and puts the game more in the hands of the players. It would work great in the college game.

6 - The international timeout rules, including limiting each team to two in the final two minutes, keeps an exciting, close game from grinding to a halt. It would lead to quicker games on TV, so that instead of watching the end of a game that doesn’t interest the on-deck audience, viewers can watch all 40 minutes of the games that interest them. The sooner college basketball goes to this format, the better.

7 - The added practice time, overseas bonding, strong performances under pressure can only benefit the Jayhawks in their quest to win what would be Self's second national title and fourth NCAA tournament title for the school. The roster has depth, experience and a clutch performer with the ball in his hands at the end of games and a smart, driven, seasoned coach pulling it all together.

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Most Crucial Jayhawks 2015: No. 25 - WR Derrick Neal

Each summer, across the country, football fans spend time watching, waiting and anticipating the arrival of another college football season. And while that might not always be a favorite pastime of KU fans, many still get sucked in to the journey.

Will this be a better season? Is this the year that things finally get going in the right direction? Will Kansas at least be competitive therein making Memorial Stadium on Saturdays in the fall the place to be instead of a place to avoid? All are common questions KU fans wrestle with every year.

So in order to help you predict the answers to those questions and more, we set out to pinpoint the 25 players that could make the biggest impact for the Jayhawks this fall.

Big seasons from these guys — be them in the form of yards and touchdowns or just consistency and perhaps overachieving — could go a long way toward increasing KU's chances at success during the upcoming season.

This is not a list of the 25 best players on this year's team. That would be much easier to pinpoint and, while still key, would not exactly demonstrate the full value that each player has in regard to the 2015 season.

This is a list of the 25 players who need to have strong seasons in order for the Jayhawks to have a chance to compete.

Matt Tait and I came up with the list by each making our own list of 25 and then combining the results. We did the same thing last year, but most of the guys from that list are gone, which made this list much tougher to put together.

Remember, this is not an exercise designed to identify KU's best players but an attempt to pinpoint which players, with standout seasons, could have the biggest impact for Kansas this fall.

Track the list every weekday at KUsports.com, where we'll unveil the list one-by-one in reverse order.

Kansas receiver Derrick Neal pulls in a catch during Fan Appreciation Day, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 at Memorial Stadium.

Kansas receiver Derrick Neal pulls in a catch during Fan Appreciation Day, Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 at Memorial Stadium. by Nick Krug

25. Derrick Neal, 5-foot-10, 170-pound Soph. WR

Week after week, Kansas will face football teams with superior size, experience and depth. The Jayhawks will need big plays to steal touchdowns to close the gap on more talented teams. On defense, that means forcing turnovers. On offense, that means players with game-breaking speed finding daylight via kickoff and punt returns, receptions, rushes to the outside and even trick plays.

Neal is one candidate to find the end zone in a variety of ways, thanks to his speed, accelleration and escapability. At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, Neal makes for a small target, which can be a good thing in that it can frustrate would-be tacklers into missing.

Neal played four games at last season, appearing at wide receiver, cornerback, and on special teams, until suffering a season-ending injury making a tackle against Baylor. He was used as a punt returner and could be seen there again this season. His size makes him a risky athlete to use as an every-down player, but his speed makes him a weapon that first-year coach David Beaty is going to want to use in a variety of ways.

Neal and twin brother, Erick, originally committed to play basketball at UT-Arlington, where Erick is a sophomore. Derrick changed his mind, orally committed to play football and Texas Tech and ultimately decided to accept a football scholarship at Kansas.


Gary Woodland aces makeshift hole at Byron Nelson

Course knowledge, evidently, can be overrated.

For example, former Kansas golfer Gary Woodland never had played the 100-yard No. 14 hole at TPC Four Seasons Resort until today. That's because the hole didn't exist until today. Heavy rains flooded the fairway so badly that tournament officials shortened the par 4 from 400-plus yards to a 100-yard par 3.

Woodland landed his tee shot just to the right of the cup, inches shy distance-wise. The ball rolled behind the pin and sucked back right into the hole.

Woodland was done in Thursday in the opening round by a triple bogey and a double bogey and was in 90th place heading into the day after a 2-over 72. He carded a 6-under 63 today.


Gary Woodland, on hot streak as golfer, a hot dog in hoops video

I knew that he was a good enough basketball player to earn a scholarship to Div. II Washburn University, but until browsing Youtube for golf videos, I never actually had seen former Kansas golfer Gary Woodland play basketball.

The video of his highlights playing for Shawnee Heights High revealed Woodland as a vocal leader, flashy ballhandler, strong finisher, sharp shooter and a bit of a hot dog.

Still, Woodland obviously made the right decision to transfer to Kansas to play golf after a basketball season that started with him making 1 of 7 shots and scoring three points in a 101-66 loss to Kansas in an exhibition game in Allen Fieldhouse in November, 2002. Woodland was matched up against Kirk Hinrich.

Nearly 13 years later, Woodland was matched up against Rory McIlroy in the final of the Match Play Championship, losing 4&2. Woodland played seven matches in five days and made some incredible shots along the way.

Woodland missed the cut in The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass, then bounced back this past weekend by finishing tied for fourth in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. He tied with wedge-magician Phil Mickelson and former Kansas State golfer Robert Streb, another of my favorite golfers to watch. Streb's father, Dave Streb, and I were teammates in Little League and on the freshman basketball team at Bishop Kearney High in Rochester, N.Y.

Anyway, Woodland's recent hot streak has vaulted him all the way to 13th on the PGA tour money list ($2,290,497.50), 17th in the Fed Ex Cup standings and 24th in the World Golf Rankings.

A native of Chickasha, Oklahoma, Streb ranks 10th in the Fed Ex Cup standings, 17th on the money list, 73rd in World Golf Rankings and is third with six top 10 finishes, behind Jordan Spieth with eight and Hideki Matsuyama with seven.)

It's nice to see two golfers from the two Big 12 universities in Kansas doing so well. One of these days, that might even translate to more TV coverage of them during tournaments.


Sporting News moves Jayhawks to No. 1 spot in preseason Top 25

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

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

The hype for Kansas University’s 2015-16 men’s basketball season received another early boost to accompany the just-announced January showdown versus Kentucky, at Allen Fieldhouse.

With actual games still almost six months away, The Sporting News rolled out an updated preseason Top 25 and placed the Jayhawks at No. 1.

KU, of course, hasn’t advanced past the Round of 32 in the previous two NCAA Tournaments, so the selection might come as a surprise to some.

“When the best answer to the question of ‘Why Kansas?’ is ‘Why not?’, you’ve got yourself a pretty strange college basketball season on the way,” Mike DeCourcy wrote.

Between reliable senior-to-be Perry Ellis, the addition of incoming freshman big man Cheick Diallo and a number of Jayhawks capable of making significant strides in their development, The Sporting News likes KU’s potential rotation.

Still, attempting to predict next season’s elite teams, DeCourcy said on SportingNews.com, wasn’t as easy as it was in 2014-15, with Kentucky, Wisconsin and Duke leading the pack.

“What we have now are a lot of teams that have potential, but flaws,” he said, “and they’re gonna have to overcome those flaws in order to be champions.”

Settling on Bill Self’s Jayhawks, DeCourcy added, came with some trepidation.

“There’s just not any single player that says, ‘I’m your star,’ and usually you need someone to carry you to a title,” he indicated. “Nobody at Kansas at this point has emerged as that sort of player.”

DeCourcy questioned whether Ellis possesses headliner power and pointed to Wayne Selden Jr. as someone who hasn’t proven to look comfortable in that role. Diallo, he added, projects as “a great defensive weapon,” but might not be as reliable on offense.

“One of those guys has to be a star for us to be right,” he offered, “but we like them more than some of the other contenders.”

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) defends against a shot from Michigan State guard/forward Branden Dawson (22) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. Also pictured are KU guard Frank Mason, left, and forward Cliff Alexander.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) defends against a shot from Michigan State guard/forward Branden Dawson (22) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. Also pictured are KU guard Frank Mason, left, and forward Cliff Alexander. by Nick Krug

Ultimately, DeCourcy said The Sporting News staff believes in Self, and thinks the Jayhawks will play great defense in 2015-16.

The two teams immediately following the Jayhawks in the advance rankings have Kansas ties. Former KU guard Mark Turgeon’s Maryland Terrapins snagged the No. 2 spot and Self’s predecessor at Kansas, Roy Williams, leads No. 3 North Carolina.

Wichita State, which knocked the Jayhawks out of The Big Dance this past March and adds former KU guard Conner Frankamp to the roster this coming season, landed at No. 9.

The Big 12 earned four total spots in the rankings, with No. 7 Iowa State, No. 11 Oklahoma and No. 16 West Virginia joining KU.

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Sporting News College Hoops 2015-16 Preseason Top 10

1. Kansas

2. Maryland

3. North Carolina

4. Kentucky

5. Duke

6. Virginia

7. Iowa State

8. Arizona

9. Wichita State

10. Gonzaga

See the complete Top 25 at SportingNews.com.


Now more than ever, diehard KU fan and professional boxer Victor Ortiz wants another shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr.

WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz waves to the Hoglund Ballpark crowd after being introduced during KU's game against Wichita State on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.

WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz waves to the Hoglund Ballpark crowd after being introduced during KU's game against Wichita State on Tuesday, May 3, 2011. by Nick Krug

Remember the boxer from Garden City who wears Jayhawks on his trunks and lights up rooms with his smile?

His name is Victor Ortiz and, yeah, he watched the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight a couple of weeks ago — at least some of it — and came away less than impressed by Mayweather's easy victory.

See, Ortiz, who lost to Mayweather via a controversial knockout in September of 2011 that started with a dirty headbutt by the diehard KU fan and ended with Mayweather rocking him with a couple of shots that no one expected including the official in the ring, has not quite gotten over how the biggest bout of his life came to a close.

The fourth-round drama ended what was shaping up to be a terrific fight and left a bitter taste in Ortiz's mouth.

On Wednesday, Ortiz, 28, spoke out about the fight through a contributed piece on the web site theplayerstribune.com dubbed “Disputed.”

It's a candid look at Ortiz's feelings about his lost shot at glory, his true feelings about Mayweather as a person and a fighter and a clear indication that he wants a rematch and believes he is owed one.

Here's a look:



In progress: Rory McIlroy, KU’s Gary Woodland battling for $1.5 million Match Play Championship purse on NBC

Tune your television sets to NBC right now if you want to see a former Kansas University golfer take his shot at bringing down the No. 1-ranked golfer in the world and earning $1.5 million in the process.

Gary Woodland, seeded 52nd in a field of 64 in The Match Play Championship, reached the final by defeating Jimmy Walker in 19 holes in the first round and won his next three matches before reaching the 18th hole. Woodland defeated Danny Willett, three and two, Sunday morning to advance to the final against the world's No. 1-ranked golfer, Rory McIlroy. Woodland trailed McIlroy by four holes at the nine-hole turn.

The event is taking place at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, a course he had said he thought would bring out the best in him.

"It sets up the treeline, just sets up well to my eye," Woodland said earlier this week. "That's the key. It's long, too. The fairways are pretty receptive as well. It widens the fairways for me. If I get driver down there far enough, I can get wedge on the green from about anywhere. I like the setup. The format allows me to play aggressive, which for me is key."


Cheick Diallo’s announcement had Twitter abuzz

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When one of the nation’s elite high school basketball prospects waits until late in the spring of his senior year to pick his future hoops home, the whole college basketball world takes notice.

Such was the case Tuesday, when Cheick Diallo tweeted out his decision to commit to Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks.

From college basketball reporters and analysts, to current and former Jayhawks, the news piqued the interest of many in the Twitterverse.

Here are some of the many reactions and story links:

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Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney shares insights on life as NFL draft prospect

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney is depicted as “The Diabolical Defender” in this superhero-style illustration from a KU football promotional website unveiled Friday, July 18, 2014.

Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney is depicted as “The Diabolical Defender” in this superhero-style illustration from a KU football promotional website unveiled Friday, July 18, 2014.

Seated in a comfortable chair in the chancellor’s lounge of the Anderson Family Football Complex, Ben Heeney flipped open the iPhone wallet case in his hand and reviewed his call history Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s only 12:57,” Heeney started. “I’ve gotten a text from the Saints, a call from the Jaguars, a call from the Seahawks. Who else have I gotten a call from? The Browns. I’ve gotten like five calls and one text just today from teams verifying information.”

He wasn’t complaining. Quite the contrary. He’s enjoying the inside look at how NFL teams peel back the layers of the onion that is a draft prospect.

“I mean, that’s just today,” Heeney said. “I’ve probably, in the past week, I’ve probably been in contact with close to every, if not every, team.”

At this point, what more do they want to know about Heeney, former star running back at Hutchinson High and two-time All-Big 12 player, second-team as a junior, first-team as a senior?

Heeney rattled off the typical questions: “Is this the best number to reach you on draft day? Can you give us a secondary number? Is your agent still the same? Any injuries since your pro day? Have you been in any trouble since the last time we saw you?”

Heeney said he interviewed with every NFL team either at the East-West Shrine Game, the NFL combine or pro day on campus. Two teams, the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, came to KU to work him out and the Buccaneers flew him to Tampa for a visit.

He said most of those interviews followed a similar pattern: “Have you ever been in trouble? What’s your family life like? Do you have a girlfriend? Do you have any kids? Are your parents still together? How many siblings do you have? Then all the football questions.”

Heeney said he answered all the questions honestly, including volunteering that he was charged with DUI and racing on a highway in the summer leading up to his freshman season and was granted a diversion.

“That’s not on my record anymore,” he said. “But this day and age everybody is going to know everything about you, so why lie about anything? I’m just straight-up with everybody. I learned from my mistakes and here we are.”

Heeney’s performance for Kansas, plus lobbying from former KU coach Charlie Weis, landed the 6-foot, 232-pound middle linebacker an invitation to the NFL combine. His test results there helped his case. Heeney’s 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash ranked fourth among 35 linebackers. His 11.06-second mark in the 60-yard shuttle was No. 1 and he also had the best times in the three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.

Anybody who remembers watching Heeney as a gunner on special teams as a freshman for Kansas was not surprised that his speed stood out at the combine. Somewhere rests a stack of T-shirts that could have gone to teammates. Heeney remembered Aaron Stamn, tight ends and special teams coach at Kansas under Turner Gill, speaking after a game, offering a free T-shirt to anyone who could beat Heeney down the field on a coverage team when he was a freshman restricted to special teams.

“It never happened,” said Heeney, a three-year starter for Kansas. “No one ever beat me down on kickoff the whole year.”

That’s because he’s really fast. That’s listed as one of his strengths on the endless thumbnail sketches of NFL draft prospects from various media outlets. Heeney reads as many as he can get his hands on and disputes some of the listed weaknesses.

“There are people who really like me and there are people who think I’m just a terrible player,” Heeney said. “The one that I think is the least accurate is that I’m undersized to play in the NFL.”

He shared an anecdote from his visit to the Buccaneers complex to demonstrate that he’s not the only one who views it that way.

“When I went down to Tampa Bay and I visited with Lovie Smith, who is the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first thing he asked me when I walked in his office was, ‘Now ,do you think you need to gain or lose weight?’ I said, ‘I think I’m good where I’m at. I don’t need to gain or lose.’ He said that’s a perfect answer,” Heeney said. “They think that anything from 225 to 230 is perfect for their system.”

Heeney cited and disputed one more criticism he has read.

“Another one I think is a bogus stat is that I’m the leader in missed tackles in college football,” Heeney said. “I mean, they don’t have Joe Johnson going through every single game of every single team of every single player counting every single player’s missed tackles. So I think it’s a BS stat to me.”

Its origin?

“That’s a good question. I think someone just stated it one time and it caught on like wildfire,” he said. “It’s not even a stat that’s kepty by anyone. The Big 12 doesn’t keep that as a stat. The NCAA doesn’t keep that as a stat. There is no way to determine what a missed tackle is.”

Heeney shared his view of what a missed tackle is not.

“There were numerous times on the field where there was no way I was going to be even close to getting a tackle and I would just lay out and dive and kind of sweep at someobdy’s feet and try to grab them by their shoestrings and don’t even touch them,” he said. “I would just lay out and sacrifice my body. Does that count as a missed tackle?”

Heeney said he has “no idea,” what team or at what stage in the draft he would be selected. He guessed he would hear his name somewhere in the “third to fifth or sixth range.”

The first round of the NFL draft, carried by ESPN and the NFL Network, starts at 7 p.m. today. Rounds 2 and 3 are at 6 p.m. Friday. Rounds 4 through 7 start Saturday at 11 a.m.

Heeney will watch coverage at his parents Overland Park home with friends and family. “Hopefully, I can get drafted so it’s not a waste of a party,” he said.

It would be a shocker if seven rounds passed without Heeney’s name being called, but getting drafted is just a step toward an NFL career and guarantees nothing.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in the sport of football,” Heeney said. “Hopefully, I can get a little slice of the cake.”

Staying healthy and making a team’s roster would be the next steps to earning a living playing football, so Heeney hasn’t shopped for luxury automobiles and bling just yet.

“I’m going to try to invest my money, man, just keep stacking it and hopefully in a couple of years I’ll be a lot more wealthy than I am right now,” Heeney said. “Only time will tell. Who knows?”

At this point, nobody knows. The NFL draft is cloaked in secrecy, one of many qualities that make it so compelling.


Looking back on new KU women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider addressing fans in wake of winning national title at Emporia State

Kansas has decided that Brandon Schneider is the coach needed to pump life into a joyless women's basketball program that had trouble generating fan interest, particularly among students.

Schneider left the Emporia State women's program after winning the Div. II national championship in 2010, his 12th season at the school. He comes to Kansas from Stephen F. Austin, where his Ladyjacks won a share of the Southland Conference title in 2014 and won it outright last month in his fifth and final season at the school in Nacogdoches, Texas.

It will be interesting to see how far Schneider has come as a public speaker in the past five years. You can do so by taking a look at the video below of Schneider addressing Emporia State fans in the wake of the school's first national championship in any sport and then watching his 10 a.m. press conference by clicking on our All Eyes on KU blog.


Watch KU introduce women’s basketball coach Brandon Schneider

New KU women's basketball coach Brandon Schneider introduced himself to the media and the Jayhawk fanbase this morning at a press conference.

Watch here:

KUsports.com's Matt Tait was tweeting from the room:

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Danny Manning, Paul Pierce share their ‘Tales of Madness’

Danny Manning and Larry Brown embrace after clinching the 1988 Men’s NCAA Basketball title.

Danny Manning and Larry Brown embrace after clinching the 1988 Men’s NCAA Basketball title. by Mike Yoder

The spectacle of March Madness entertains and amazes the nation each and every year. But for the vast majority of the players out there deciding whose brackets get framed and whose get tossed in the recycling bin, the win-or-go-home tournament ends in pain.

Only a select few can survive The Madness and call themselves champions of the NCAA Tournament.

Over at The Players’ Tribune — a website designed to let professional athletes share their first-person accounts of athletic triumphs and trials — there is a series called “Tales of Madness,” in which former college hoops stars detail all that is great (and devastating) about The Big Dance.

Wouldn’t you know it, you can read about an early exit and "one shining moment" from the Kansas perspective, thanks to entries from a couple of all-time greats.

Paul Pierce shares his memories of a painful loss to Arizona — in the Sweet 16, in 1997 — in a piece titled “One Bad Game.”

On the polar opposite end of the NCAA Tournament experience, KU legend Danny Manning describes the joy of winning the 1988 national championship.

“I played in four NCAA tournaments at Kansas, but that 1987-88 team was a special group,” Manning says. “Whenever a team wins a championship, everything has to fall into place. The coach has to have the right gameplan, coaches have to implement it and the players have to buy in and execute it. You have to catch some breaks along the way, but you also have to be dedicated and disciplined in your actions.

“In that 1988 NCAA Tournament, we weren’t the most talented team. We weren’t the most athletic team. But as anyone who’s ever watched the tournament knows, once you’re in, everyone’s record is 0-0. It’s all about which team can get hot at the right time.”

Pierce and his fellow Jayhawks from that 1996-97 KU team know that better than just about anybody who put on a college basketball uniform. Kansas entered the NCAA Tournament with just one loss, and it came in double overtime at rival Missouri.

KU’s previous dominance that season didn’t matter against No. 4 seed Arizona, which, much like Danny and The Miracles, started clicking at just the right time and won a national title.

“Arizona was good — they had a tremendous backcourt comprised of Mike Bibby and Jason Terry — but I didn’t have much doubt that we would win,” Pierce says. “Honestly, I thought we would crush them. Our team was stacked with NBA talent. The expectation was that we were going to bulldoze through the early rounds of the tournament. I had my sights set on the Final Four, where I figured we’d probably meet Kentucky, the defending national champs. That was the game we were all looking forward to.

“But Arizona came to play, and we weren’t at our best.”

Nine years earlier, Kansas entered the postseason as a No. 6 seed with 11 losses. Manning says coach Larry Brown’s unwavering belief in the Jayhawks helped them overcome what had at times been a bumpy regular season — the Jayhawks were 12-8 at one juncture.

Manning admits no one outside of the program expected KU in the Final Four, but there the Jayhawks were, playing in nearby Kansas City, Missouri, against fellow Big Eight program Oklahoma in the title game.

In the final seconds of a one-possession game, Manning hit two clutch free throws to push Kansas to an unlikely national title.

At The Players’ Tribune, Manning says his favorite memory from that magical ride actually came after the final game ended.

“Sitting in the locker room with my teammates after winning the national championship, we talked about our season, which was my senior season. We talked about the tournament. And that’s when it hit us: That was the last time we’d ever be together on the court as a team. It was a somber moment for me, but also a very satisfying one knowing that I was a part of a group that was able to win a national championship. A lot of hard work, sweat and tears went into it. A lot of guys made huge sacrifices for our team and for each other. We’d been through such uncertainty and endured so many tough losses, and here we were, reaping the benefits together — as a team.”

Obviously, Pierce recalls a far more agonizing feeling permeating the Kansas locker room when the season ended in 1997.

“The tournament is unforgiving,” Pierce says. “If you have one bad game, that’s it. Throughout my career I’ve had many losses, but all these years later, this is one that still stings.”

Other “Tales of Madness” from The Players’ Tribune include accounts from Ali Farokhmanesh, Mateen Cleaves, Baron Davis, Kenny Lofton, Jameer Nelson, Jalen Rose, Jason Kidd and more.


Carlton Bragg’s windmill jam highlights future Jayhawk’s McDonald’s experience

East forward Dwayne Bacon, left, of Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., shoots against West forward Carlton Bragg of Villa Angela-St. Joseph of Cleveland, during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game in Chicago on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. The East won 111-91. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

East forward Dwayne Bacon, left, of Oak Hill Academy, Mouth of Wilson, Va., shoots against West forward Carlton Bragg of Villa Angela-St. Joseph of Cleveland, during the second half of the McDonald's All-American boys basketball game in Chicago on Wednesday, April 1, 2015. The East won 111-91. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) by Nam Y. Huh

Almost every spring, just before the Final Four, Kansas basketball fans get a sneak preview — courtesy of the McDonald’s All-American game — of who’s coming to Lawrence in the fall to help KU in its continuous chase of national championship banners.

Wednesday night in Chicago, 6-foot-9 forward Carlton Bragg, who committed to Kentucky … err, make that Kansas … was the latest “next big-time player” on display.

Bragg, a five-star recruit from Villa Angela-St.Joseph in Cleveland, scored nine points and hit a 3-pointer for the West.

The Jayhawk-to-be also delivered one of the top plays of the prep all-star showcase, jumping into the passing lane for a steal, on his way to a windmill jam.

It came right after his West teammate, Kansas recruiting target Stephen Zimmerman, threw one down.

Here are a few other angles at the back-to-back, highlight-reel slams:

Want to hear something crazy? Bragg actually considered taking his uncontested jam to the next level.

“I was thinking about going between my legs, but I wasn't quite warmed up,” Bragg told Cleveland.com. “The windmill I felt like I could have got it, so I just did it."

His team lost, but really, participating in the game is a huge deal in itself, and the smiling young big man spoke about that with Cleveland.com.

He also had a message for Kansas fans:

“It’s coming, baby. Just be ready.”

Cleveland prep forward Carlton Bragg — who has committed to Kansas University — poses for a photo prior to Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.

Cleveland prep forward Carlton Bragg — who has committed to Kansas University — poses for a photo prior to Wednesday’s McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago.

Before the game, PrepHoops Illinois caught up with Bragg, who declared his love for pick-and-pop sets, explaining why he is considered a stretch-4.

Don’t worry, though. Bragg hasn’t abandoned playing in the paint. In fact, he said that’s one area of his game that he made a point to improve upon in his senior season.

“My post game got a lot better and I’m more aggressive.”

Bragg said KU’s style of play led to him choosing Bill Self’s program as his college team of choice.

“They run up and down, play the pick and pop, the pick and roll.”

With the expected departure of Cliff Alexander, Bragg could make an immediate impact for KU next season, providing the Jayhawks with another long body to man the paint with Perry Ellis, Landen Lucas and Hunter Mickelson.

If Bragg can score in the post at the college level, that would make KU’s offense — which often lacked that ability in 2014-15 — more complete and dangerous.


Women’s basketball coaching search: Hutchinson County Community College head coach John Ontjes

Four consecutive Final Fours. Three national-title games in four seasons. A coach can't accomplish those feats without having the ability to recruit, develop and make the right moves in close ballgames against strong competition.

John Ontjes has accomplished those feats as head coach of the Hutchinson County Community College women's basketball program. He starred as a player for two years at Hutch before starting at point guard for Billy Tubbs for a year and Kelvin Sampson for a year at Oklahoma. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 assists during his Sooners career. He was better than solid as a player and is a way better coach than player.

His team, noted for tenacious defense, held 14 of its final 15 opponents to fewer than 60 points. The Blue Dragons took a 36-0 record into the national title game March 21, a 54-46 loss to Chipola.

Brad Hallier of the Hutchinson news recently wrote a column endorsing Ontjes for the KU job and expressing the opinion that the coach is too good for any level but high Div. I. In it, Hallier cited an amazing statistic in the column: The Blue Dragons have built a home-court winning streak of 117 games for their ultra-competitive coach.

Six of the 13 players on this season's Hutch roster played high school ball in Kansas.

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger has not shared the names of his 15 finalists on a list that started with 60 names, but he did say he has explored coaches from all levels, including junior college. Given that, it's difficult to imagine Ontjes at the very least was not on the original list and very well could be among the final 15.


Women’s basketball coaching search: Notre Dame assistant Niele Ivey

As Angel Goodrich demonstrated when she took Kansas to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, nothing is more important than a terrific point guard.

Notre Dame assistant coach Niele Ivey (first name pronounced by saying the word “knee” and the letter “L”) was one herself and during her eight seasons as an assistint has mentored others.

A native of St. Louis who graduated from ND in 2000 with a history degree, Ivey also has been Notre Dame’s recruiting coordinator since 2012. The Fighting Irish, who rank second nationally in field-goal percentage (49.8) and fifth in scoring (80.9), face South Carolina in a 5:30 CT semifinal in a game televised on ESPN. This is Notre Dame's fifth consecutive Final Four.

Ivey has received praise for her work with ND point guard Lindsay Allen and with Skylar Diggins before that. She also has had a hand in the Irish ranking in the top five nationally in each of the past three recruiting classes.

After her All-American career at Notre Dame, Ivey spent five seasons playing in the WNBA.

“Niele is really a rising star, a rock star if you will, in the coaching profession,” Notre Dame head coach Muff McGraw said in the Niele bio on the school’s website. “... She’s got to be known as one of the best recruiters in the country and certainly with our point guards, she does just a phenomenal job.”

Ivey made the 2001 Final Four all-tournament team by averaging 16.5 points and 5.5 assists in leading Notre Dame to its first national title.

Ivey keeps the public up to date on Notre Dame basketball and on her son Jaden’s budding hoops career with the Twitter handle @IrishCoachIvey.


Women’s basketball coaching search: Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart

Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger started his search for a new women’s basketball coach by compiling a list of 60 names. At least 59 of them were not named by Fortune Magazine as one of the “World’s Greatest Leaders.”

On a list that ranked Pope Francis fourth, LeBron James 31st and Jimmy Fallon 45th, Princeton eighth-year women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart checked in at No. 43. The Tigers went 31-1 this past season, losing to Maryland, 85-70, in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

“Banghart, who has a master’s degree in leadership development, expects more of her players than great play: They must adhere to Princeton’s tough academic standards too,” Fortune wrote of the Dartmouth graduate.

Banghart’s team plays an up-tempo style and led the nation in three-point accuracy this season, which is fitting considering that in 1999, Banhart led the nation in three-point field goals per game.

Seeded eighth in the NCAA tournament, the Tigers posted the second Ivy League victory in tourney history (Harvard 1998 was the first), defeating Wisconsin-Green Bay, 80-70, in the round of 64. Before hiring Banghart, Princeton never had been to the NCAA tourney. This was the fourth trip in five seasons for the Tigers, whose season included a 30-point victory at Michigan.

Banghart’s turn-around at the Ivy League school didn’t take long. She went 21-37 in her first two seasons, 148-30 in the next six.


KU football coach David Beaty “Mic’d Up” for first practice

Throughout the past few years, the video crew at KU has done a fantastic job of capturing what goes on both on the field where everyone can see and behind the scenes of the program.

Whether you're talking practice or game highlights, players of the day video or the former feature known as The Gridiron, produced by former Jayhawk Micah Brown, there has been no shortage of entertaining video to watch about the KU football program.

That trend appears to have continued under the direction of first-year coach David Beaty, who was mic'd up by KU's video crew during the opening practice of the spring.

The video gives you a great look at the constant energy and urgency that Beaty operates with during practices. This was not just him putting on a show because he knew the mic was on. In fact, a good guess would be that he forgot he was wearing the thing about 10 minutes into practice.

This is just how the guy works on a daily basis and the hope, with the coaching staff, the KU administration and in the locker room, is that this kind of always-on attitude will become the norm for the Jayhawks in the near future.

Here's a look.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

— 4:54 p.m. update —

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

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

— 4:49 p.m. update — By Matt Tait—

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

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

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

Great idea. Needs to happen.

— 4:30 p.m. update — By Matt Tait

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— 4:09 p.m. update —

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

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

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

— 3:58 p.m. update —

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

— 3:42 p.m. update —

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

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

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

— 3:15 p.m. update —

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— 3:05 p.m. update —

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— 2:20 p.m. update —

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

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


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