Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”
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.”
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.
Sporting News College Hoops 2015-16 Preseason Top 10
3. North Carolina
7. Iowa State
9. Wichita State
Now more than ever, diehard KU fan and professional boxer Victor Ortiz wants another shot at Floyd Mayweather Jr.
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."
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:
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.”
“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.
New KU women's basketball coach Brandon Schneider introduced himself to the media and the Jayhawk fanbase this morning at a press conference.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 —
— 3:05 p.m. update —
— 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.
When March rolls around and the talk turns to NCAA upsets, you're liable to overhear conversations like this in Kansas basketball circles:
"Who was that shooter? Who was the little, um ... "
"He had a weird last name, right?"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. What was his name?"
"Uh, Farokhmanesh? Farokhma-something?"
"Yes. Yeah, I remember him just raining jumpers the whole game."
Now what happens when the conversation starter is that guy, the infamous hero/villain of Northern Iowa's 2010 upset of KU, Ali Farokhmanesh?
To find out, the Omaha World-Herald grabbed the now-Nebraska graduate assistant and brought him to CenturyLink Center, where the Jayhawks started their 2015 NCAA Tournament.
Omaha — Greg Gurley, attending Kansas University’s public practice, had just finished watching on a courtside computer UAB finish off an upset of Iowa State on Thursday in Lousiville, when he looked back on the first time he saw UAB coach Jerod Haase in a Kansas locker room.
“He was at Cal and we hated playing against him (in the 1993 NCAA tournament) because he was kind of that annoying guy,” Gurley said. “Then we beat him and he came into our uniform, full uniform on, and I remember I was with one of my teammates and I go, ‘Is that Jerod Haase?’ It was. He and coach (Roy) Williams talked and he basically told Coach Williams he wanted to transfer.”
Kansas went on to the Final Four.
“The next weekend after that he was in Lawrence on a visit,” Gurley said. “From that point on, he was attached to coach Williams, followed him to North Carolina and has done well.”
Haase, 40, played his final three seasons of college basketball for Williams at Kansas. He spent four seasons working under Williams at KU and eight at North Carolina. He is in his third season as head coach at UAB and coached in the NCAA tournament Thursday for the first time. Until that victory, the one that gained the most attention for Haase came when his Blazers upset mentor Williams' North Carolina squad Dec. 1, 2013, in Birmingham.
Haase has a 54-45 record at UAB. His Blazers advance to a Saturday game vs. UCLA.
The Big 12 went 0-3 Thursday, with Baylor (Georgia State) and Iowa State losing to No. 14 seeds and Texas losing to No. 6 seed Butler.
The NCAA Tournament already is in full swing in some cities, but in Omaha, Nebraska, the games don’t start until Friday. That means today at CenturyLink Center, players and coaches from Kansas University, New Mexico State, Wichita State and Indiana will only be talking basketball (and going through a pseudo practice which will be open to the public).
This will serve as your landing spot for the media day, and we’ll check in as we can to update you on what’s being said about Friday’s Round of 64 games — and the Sunday could-be game between KU and WSU, when that inevitably gets brought up.
Check back in throughout the day for updates.
— 7:43 p.m. update— By Matt Tait
Just filed this story about New Mexico State big man Tshilidzi Nephawe that includes where his nickname "Chili" came from, what he's playing for and why he's proud of his homeland of South Africa.
Had a lot of fun interviewing him and writing this one. Just a really, really good dude.
— 5:08 p.m. update—
KU sent sophomore Wayne Selden Jr. and freshman Kelly Oubre jr. to the bright lights of the stage for Thursday's press conference.
Said Oubre of his upcoming first tourney:
"Guys like Wayne, Perry, Jamari, they've pretty much just calmed me down throughout this whole process and told me to take every game, one game at a time, one possession at a time; don't take anybody for granted and pretty much just play with a free mind. Try to take care of business for the name across your chest."
— Listen to what they had to say: Selden and Oubre discuss preparing for NCAAs
— 4:55 p.m. update —
At his press conference Thursday afternoon, Kansas coach Bill Self opened by talking about the excitement and urgency of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
"Obviously we're excited to play in another Tournament and something that we definitely do not take for granted, and the guys have worked real hard to put themselves in a position to be here. And, of course, being in Omaha is like a double bonus to us. It's certainly close for our fans. But even more importantly to us, it's a great venue, it's a great setup and a great city, and we have experienced a little bit of success the last couple of times we've been here, so we're very happy to be here in Omaha."
— Listen to the complete press conference here: Bill Self talks expectations, New Mexico State
— 4:47 p.m. update — by Matt Tait
The Jayhawks were in, by far, the smallest locker room I've seen them in during an NCAA Tournament (New Mexico State's was not any bigger) and it was incredibly packed during the entire open locker room session.
Jamari Traylor was so far back in the corner of the locker room that he just hung back in his locker and stayed out of sight. I was able to get back into the corner eventually and I asked him how the past four days had been for the health of the Jayhawks.
"We're good, man," Traylor said. "Everybody's healthy, feeling good and ready to go."
Down the row from Traylor, Brannen Greene held the edge and that made the access to him easy in and easy out. I talked to Greene a lot about the difference between the feeling he has this year at the tournament and the feeling he had last year, as a true freshman.
The basic answer was this: Instead of having his head on a swivel and being a little bit in awe of all that takes place here, from the media hype to the fan frenzy to the intensity of the games himself, Greene feels much more comfortable and enjoys that he knows what to expect.
"Your energy has to be at an all-time high at a tournament like this," Greene said. "And I think we all know that now. Instead of worrying about all of the things going on around us, we can focus more on basketball and getting ready to play."
— 4 p.m. update —
The Kansas locker room was crowded with working media Thursday afternoon, but our photographer Mike Yoder got in there for video.
— 2:20 p.m. update —
You can't tell a whole lot from these open "practices" that the NCAA Tournament holds for the fans, but Brannen Greene — just like his teammates — worked on his shot during the session.
Some fell, some didn't. But that's the way it goes when three or four players are shooting at once.
If KU wants to turn a corner and start playing at a higher level on offense, they'll need Green to find that shooting touch again.
Here's a look at all of the perimeter players going through drills Thursday afternoon.
— 1:33 p.m. update —
— 1:05 p.m. update —
— 12:53 p.m. update —
— 12 p.m., from Benton Smith —
Just got back from the New Mexico State locker room and the Aggies seem loose and confident.
They pride themselves on playing disruptive, turnover-focused defense and they hope that creates easy offense for them.
NMSU opponents average 13.2 giveaways a game this season, so it’s not a ridiculous number. But that mindset can get under opponents’ skin, and that can be just as beneficial.
Both point guard Ian Baker and sixth man D.K Eldridge talked about that peskiness and pointed to it as one of NMSU’s strengths.
Check back for video from the locker room and quotes from the Aggies (23-10).
I came up with one more way to look at the unfairness of the NCAA tournament seeding to see if I could confirm my suspicions that the Midwest region is strangely stacked, so much more loaded than the others.
I looked at the points each school received in the final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll and compared them, region-by-region. Sure enough, it confirmed the power of the Midwest regional.
Led by Kentucky’s 1,625 points, the Midwest has 6,014 AP poll points. The East finishes second with 5,527 points, the West (4,855) third and the South (4,824) fourth.
The top 25 ranking of Midwest regional teams: 1. Kentucky, 8. Notre Dame, 10. Kansas, 12. Maryland, 14. Wichita State, 20. West Virginia, 24. Butler.
Think about this for a moment: There are four regionals and the Midwest has five of the first 14 teams in the Associated Press poll. Not cool. Four East schools rank in the top 14: 2. Villanova, 6. Virginia, 11. Northern Iowa, 13. Oklahoma, three from the South regional (4. Duke, 7. Gonzaga, 9. Iowa State), just two in the West (3. Wisconsin, 5. Arizona), plus Nos. 15. North Carolina and 16. Baylor.
Oh well, the games begin in full today and tomorrow, so it’s probably time to focus on them and stop griping about the unbalanced brackets.