Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

Is Kansas the best team in the nation right now?

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shushes the crowd after hitting a three during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) shushes the crowd after hitting a three during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

Currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches polls, an argument could be made that Kansas is the best team in the country — no offense, No. 1-ranked Villanova.

During Wednesday night’s ESPN broadcast of Duke-UNC, analyst Jay Bilas said he fought the Jayhawks deserved the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament if you compare teams’ résumés at this point of the season, with less than two weeks left in February.

To Bilas’ point, KU (22-4 overall, 10-3 Big 12) has rattled off six straight wins since losing at Iowa State on Jan. 25, with victories over Kentucky, West Virginia and Oklahoma headlining that stretch.

The Jayhawks’ play hasn’t been lost on Sports Illustrated’s Luke Winn, either. In his latest College Hoops power rankings, Winn awarded Kansas the No. 1 spot.

Devonté Graham’s impressive afternoon at Oklahoma this past weekend propelled KU to the top, and Winn provides some statistical data on just how well Graham and the Jayhawks defended Buddy Hield in the road rematch.

— Check out Winn’s complete rankings here: Kansas rises to No. 1

Villanova, No. 2 in the power rankings and No. 1 in the polls, has a home game against Butler and a road trip to No. 8 Xavier on the horizon in the coming week.

The Jayhawks play at rival Kansas State — where they have lost two straight — on Saturday, then play at No. 25 Baylor on Tuesday.

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Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops holds key to stopping KU football coaching staff door from spinning

Kansas University defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux gets into a drill during a spring practice on Thursday March 26, 2015.

Kansas University defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux gets into a drill during a spring practice on Thursday March 26, 2015. by Richard Gwin

Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops comes from the tree of Kansas State’s Bill Snyder, so Stoops knows how to keep a secret.

That makes it difficult to gauge what Stoops will do to hire a defensive line coach for the third time in less than 13 months.

The last thing Kansas coach David Beaty needs is for Stoops to raid his staff and hire former Sooner Calvin Thibodeaux, one of two candidates who seem to make the sense. The other is Thibodeaux’s former teammate C.J. Ah You. Thibodeaux and Ah You roomed together when they were Oklahoma’s starting defensive ends.

Stoops likes to hire his former players, and in Thibodeaux and Ah You he has a pair of impressive candidates from which to choose.

Ah You knows what it's like to play and coach for Stoops, who lost Diron Reynolds on Feb. 10, the one-year anniversary of losing Reynolds' predecessor, Jerry Montgomery. Reynolds returned to Stanford to reunite with his family, which never made the move with him to Oklahoma. Montgomery left OU to work for the Green Bay Packers. Ah You spent the past two seasons on Stoops’ staff as quality control coach for defense and special teams.

Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason hired Ah You as his defensive line coach a few weeks before Reynolds left OU. Reynolds, who had worked with Mason as a defensive assistant with the Minnesota Vikings, recommended Ah You to Mason. So did Stoops, whose powerful backing of his former player is quoted in Ah You’s official bio on vucommodores.com.

“First and foremost,” Stoops said, “Vanderbilt is getting a great person in C.J. All of his former teammates and all of our current staff love and respect him. He was a great player for us and a valuable member of our staff.”

Stoops went on to say that Ah You “has tremendous knowledge of the game and relates so well with players. He’s got a bright future in the coaching world and I’m very happy for him.”

Ah You shapes up as KU’s best chance to avoid another hit to Beaty’s coaching staff.

Linebackers coach Kevin Kane left for a promotion to defensive coordinator at Northern Illinois. Recruiting coordinator/running backs coach Reggie Mitchell bolted over the weekend for Arkansas. Wide receivers coach Klint Kubiak left Tuesday for a job with the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.

Losing Kane, a KU alum with rich Kansas City recruiting ties, a great work ethic and a strong presence, hurt. Beaty hired former Southern Miss and Maryland defensive coordinator Todd Bradford, out of the game since 2012, to replace him. Finding someone with Mitchell’s natural recruiting instincts won’t be easy.

Beaty won’t need to hire a wide receivers coach because well before Kubiak left, Beaty already had recruited Jason Phillips to join Kubiak in coaching wide receivers. Phillips had worked at SMU (2012-14) under June Jones and for three different stints totaling eight seasons at Houston, including three years under Kevin Sumlin. A former NFL receiver, Phillips has experience as a recruiting coordinator, offensive coordinator and receivers coach. Beaty made room for Phillips on the staff by reassigning special teams coach Gary Hyman.

Beaty has flexibility in how to fill his two full-time coaching vacancies. For example, he could hire a running backs coach and a special teams coach and make one of them the recruiting coordinator or he could hire a second receivers coach and add recruiting coordinator to the duties of Phillips.

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Perry Ellis cracks 50 to watch in March list

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets in for a bucket past West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) and forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) gets in for a bucket past West Virginia forward Elijah Macon (45) and forward Esa Ahmad (23) during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Sports fans, myself included, absolutely love lists. They just can’t get enough of them.

From the Top 5 rivalries of all-time to the Top 10 power forwards in NBA history and Top 100 players of the century, the reason lists are so entertaining is because they spark immediate debate and also allow fans — or haters — to judge whether they deem the lists to be accurate or not.

Around here, few lists go over better than ones about Kansas basketball and, earlier today, I scrolled across a list at espn.com that I thought KU fans would love to hear about.

It’s in the Insider package so if you pay for such access, be sure to check it out here. If not, here’s all you need to know.

With March approaching (after today, there are just 12 days remaining in February) ESPN Insider’s John Gasaway put together a list of the 50 college basketball players who he believes could make “the most noise in March.”

Naturally curious, I clicked on it to see how many Jayhawks made the list. Somewhat surprisingly, there was just one, but that one came in at No. 3 on Gasaway’s list.

I’m sure by now you’ve already guessed who the one is, but I’ll go ahead and say I was a little surprised that at least one other Jayhawk did not make the cut, most likely Wayne Selden because of his great start to the season, big game against Kentucky and huge showing in Korea last summer.

After thinking about it, a Top 50 means that 18 teams that will make the field (many of which we don’t actually know yet) will not be represented on this list. And when you look at it that way, it’s hard to justify picking multiple players from too many teams. In fact, Gasaway did not double up on any teams, which may have been a rule he imposed to keep himself from loading up on the high-profile teams. If so, good for him. The list is full of lesser-known names and is definitely worth the read if you’re jonesing for an early start on your bracket.

As for the lone KU rep, here’s what Gasaway had to say about senior forward Perry Ellis:

“Ellis has been on a tear in Big 12 play, and the senior has been drawing more fouls this season than at any time in his career. For the better part of four seasons, Bill Self has been able to play the 6-foot-8 Ellis at power forward and get highly efficient scoring in an exceptionally low-foul, low-turnover and low-drama package.”

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A suggestion for reviving NBA All-Star Game

Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins (22) dunks on New Orleans Pelicans Omer Asik in the half of an NBA basketball game Monday, April 13, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves Andrew Wiggins (22) dunks on New Orleans Pelicans Omer Asik in the half of an NBA basketball game Monday, April 13, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Don’t forget to include never having coached an NBA All-Star at Kansas on your list of reasons you are grateful Bill Self is your school’s basketball coach.

After all, if a Kansas player participated in the game you might be tempted to watch it and your eyes might never recover.

The NBA All-Star Game, once a worthwhile exhibition, has gone the way of the Pro Bowl and the NHL All-Star exhibition. In a word, unwatchable. The West defeated the East, 196-173, Sunday, but the real victim was not a team, rather an important facet of basketball, defense.

It’s just as well that none of Self’s Kansas players has played in All-Star Game because they play defense and they wouldn’t know what to do in a game where it’s not allowed.

In the next year or two or three, second-year pro Andrew Wiggins, averaging 20.8 points per game for the Minnesota Timberwolves, likely will make the West roster. By then, he might have reason to show off his defensive skills. By then, maybe someone with influence will convince the NBA it needs to go the way of Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic and incentivize winning, the only way to resurrect the integrity of the game.

Give the home-court advantage in the NBA Finals to the winner of the All-Star Game. Please!

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WATCHETOLOGY: KU a No. 1 seed in the Midwest in latest Bracketology update

The Jayhawks huddle up during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla.

The Jayhawks huddle up during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla. by Nick Krug

Propped up by its big win at Oklahoma over the weekend, the Kansas University men’s basketball team jumped back onto the No. 1 seed line in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology update.

KU, a No. 1 seed in the Midwest, where it would play the first two rounds in Des Moines and then move to Chicago if it advanced, joins Villanova (East), Oklahoma (West) and North Carolina (South) as Lunardi’s current No. 1 seeds.

Four days ago, prior to the big win over OU, Lunardi had Kansas as a No. 1 but sent the Jayhawks to the west regional.

Three days before that, KU was a No. 2 seed in the west, with North Carolina as the No. 1 seed in that region. We’ve seen that before. 2012 ring a bell?

KU currently has more wins over the RPI Top 50 (9) than any other team in Lunardi’s projected field. And the Jayhawks also benefit from having just one loss (at Oklahoma State) come from outside of the RPI Top 16.

Thanks to KU’s huge week last week, when it went 2-0 with wins over West Virginia (a No. 3 seed in the East) and Oklahoma (No. 1 West), the Jayhawks have put themselves in position to control their own destiny the rest of way.

Not only does KU’s play from here on out determine whether Bill Self and company make it Big 12 title No. 12 in a row, it also will go a long way toward determining whether KU enters March Madness as a No. 1 seed once again.

Winning the Big 12 and taking care of business in the Big 12 Tournament — even with a loss in the championship game — might be good enough to deliver a No. 1 seed for the Jayhawks during a year when it looks like there are 6-10 teams worthy of being in that No. 1 seed conversation.

We’ll try to update this as regularly as Lunardi updates his field, so fasten your seat belts and get ready for a wild few weeks.

As if you weren’t already.

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Bill Self breaks down the KU-Oklahoma rematch

Before No. 6-ranked Kansas travels down to Oklahoma for a Saturday rematch with the No. 3 Sooners — with first place in the Big 12 on the line — KU coach Bill Self addressed the road challenge and much more at his Thursday press conference.

— Catch the highlights from the Q&A, over at KUsports.com’s live page.

— Listen to the full press conference: Bill Self on playing OU on the road, greatness of Buddy Heild

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David Beaty discusses latest KU football signees

Beginning at 2 p.m., Kansas football coach David Beaty will meet with members of the media to discuss National Signing Day and the newest additions to the KU program.

Watch the press conference live right here, or come back and check it out later in the day.

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Marlins Man calls Allen Fieldhouse ‘best basketball experience’

Baseball fan Laurence Leavy, right, watches during the 12th inning of Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Baseball fan Laurence Leavy, right, watches during the 12th inning of Game 1 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

If you kept up with either of the Kansas City Royals’ back-to-back trips to the World Series, surely you’re aware of “Marlins Man,” the fan in the orange visor and Florida Marlins jersey that inevitably showed up in some choice box seats to watch Major League Baseball’s championship.

Well, the super fan, whose real name is Laurence Leavy, made his way to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for some college basketball. Marlins Man might not have constantly appeared on TV for Kansas vs. Kentucky, but he sat courtside and apparently left blown away by the KU experience.

Here is the video Marlins Man posted on his Facebook page:

I need to tell everyone that last Saturday night was probably the best basketball experience I have ever been to.I have been to a LOT of basketball games. 70 NBA Finals games and over 200 NBA playoff games. This was non stop energy, passion, excitement. And throughout the game the fans acted like fans might do at the end of a classic game.These fans acted that way the ENTIRE night. Never ever seen that before.Plus it's an old school stadium. No chair back seats. Simply bench seats throughout.I was so excited that I forgot to make a Marlins Man Media Moment. Never happened before.Just watch this small video clip. No imagine it was like this for 3 solid hours. Plus the game went into overtime. ALLEN FIELD HOUSE ROCKS. I can't wait to back again.Btw, I never knew that basketball was invented in Mass., and then the inventor became the coach of Kansas, and he wrote the Rules of Basketball, and that someone paid over 4 million dollars for them. They were returned to Kansas that night at a ceremony. AMAZING

Posted by Laurence Leavy Marlins Man on Saturday, January 30, 2016

As for his commentary on the fieldhouse? This is what the almighty Marlins Man had to offer in his post:

I need to tell everyone that last Saturday night was probably the best basketball experience I have ever been to.

I have been to a LOT of basketball games. 70 NBA Finals games and over 200 NBA playoff games.

This was non stop energy, passion, excitement. And throughout the game the fans acted like fans might do at the end of a classic game. These fans acted that way the ENTIRE night. Never ever seen that before.

Plus it’s an old school stadium. No chair back seats. Simply bench seats throughout. I was so excited that I forgot to make a Marlins Man Media Moment. Never happened before.

Just watch this small video clip. (Now) imagine it was like this for 3 solid hours. Plus the game went into overtime.

ALLEN FIELD HOUSE ROCKS. I can’t wait to back again. Btw, I never knew that basketball was invented in Mass., and then the inventor became the coach of Kansas, and he wrote the Rules of Basketball, and that someone paid over 4 million dollars for them. They were returned to Kansas that night at a ceremony. AMAZING.

Maybe on his next visit he’ll buy up some seats behind the Kansas bench — easier to be seen that way.

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Bill Self on KU’s defensive issues, facing K-State and more

Coming off a memorable overtime victory against Kentucky, the Kansas Jayhawks return to Big 12 play on Wednesday night, when they host in-state rival Kansas State.

KU coach Bill Self discussed the Sunflower Showdown, the Jayhawks’ issues on defense and much more at his weekly press conference on Monday afternoon.

— Check out the highlights from the Q&A from KUsports.com’s live coverage.

— AUDIO | Bill Self talks (some more) about UK win, looks ahead to K-State

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Udoka Azubuike a legitimate center

Watching video clips of the 6-foot-11, 260-pound Udoka Azubuike, calls to mind Cliff Alexander dominating Chicago high school competitors with a series of dunks, plus three inches in height, 20 pounds in weight, less body fat, and broader shoulders.

In other words, he is tall enough, big enough and aggressive enough to give Kansas what it hasn’t had since Joel Embiid’s back injury ended his college career late in his freshman season: A legitimate center.

It’s easy to picture Azubuike playing alongside Cheick Diallo and/or Carlton Bragg. Either 6-10, 250-pound center Marques Bolden (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) of DeSoto, Texas (ranked No. 16 by Rivals) or 6-9 forward Jarrett Allen (ranked 20th) of Austin could be added to a recruiting class that started with 6-8 forward Mitch Lightfoot (No. 117) of Gilbert, Ariz. Strong rebounder Landen Lucas also returns for Kansas.

As Alexander and Diallo illustrated, high school dominance doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing as a freshman, but physically, at the very least, Azubuike looks like more advanced than most teenage post players.

Azubuike chose Kansas over North Carolina, which puts a premium on a big man’s ability to run the floor, so he should fit KU’s desire to pick up the pace as well.

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Bill Self on the allure of Kansas vs. Kentucky

Before Kansas takes on Kentucky Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, KU coach Bill Self meets the media to talk about the Big 12-SEC Challenge, and the Jayhawks' season, as they're coming off a road loss at Iowa State.

Get the recap from KUsports.com's live coverage.

AUDIO | Bill Self on taking break from Big 12 to face Kentucky

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Bill Self addresses KU’s lethargic play of late

During his weekly press conference on Thursday afternoon, Bill Self answered questions about the No. 3-ranked Jayhawks, who are coming off a loss at Oklahoma State, and play host to Texas on Saturday, at Allen Fieldhouse.

Self opened the Q&A by addressing what the team talked about when they got together the day after KU lost at OSU.

“I think there were several things, but I think that the big thing is you don't go from being a really good team to a bad team overnight. You have bad days,” Self said.

— Check out the highlights from the presser at KUsports.com’s live site.

— AUDIO | Bill Self: Going to be ‘wild’ year in Big 12.

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Hunch says Bragg best of bunch today

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) puts up a three against Baylor forward John Heard (13) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) puts up a three against Baylor forward John Heard (13) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Skid row brims with men who relied too heavily on hollow hunches, so when I tell you I have a hunch, wish me luck. But I do have a strong one heading into today’s basketball game between Kansas and TCU, a 1 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse.

Something tells me freshman forward Carlton Bragg will get a long run today, make the most of it and produce his first double-figures scoring game.

For one thing, the opportunity likely will present itself since not one of the other four big men vying for playing time alongside senior Perry Ellis has established himself as the unquestioned leader of the pack.

In the loss at West Virginia, Cheick Diallo, Landen Lucas, Hunter Mickelson and Jamari Traylor combined for 35 minutes, six points, 13 rebounds, nine personal fouls and two turnovers.

In his four Big 12 games, Bragg has combined for 33 minutes, 15 points, 10 rebounds, four fouls and five turnovers.

The most skilled of the bunch, Bragg sometimes looks a little too eager to make something happen right away and ends up rushing himself into a bad pass or a missed shot from close range.

If Kansas can take control of today’s game early, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound Bragg might be allowed to play through a mistake or two, get a good sweat going, compete with a free mind, settle down and not look so much like he's rushing to make it somewhere on time. It's tough to imagine any more welcome development for the Jayhawks than Bragg emerging.

Ellis could use the help. As the season wears on and the aches and pains mount for the players, it wouldn’t hurt for Ellis to get more rest. Bragg by far is the best option to replace Ellis’ scoring punch when he rests, so a breakthrough performance for the freshman could be a big step forward for the team.

Whereas Diallo is relatively new to the game, hasn’t yet developed a great feel, and sometimes finds himself in the wrong spot to lend help defensively or space the floor properly offensively, it’s clear Bragg knows how to play the game. He just too often plays it sped up. The latter takes less time to fix with experience than the former.

Among the five bigs not named Ellis, Bragg ranks third in minutes (174), behind Traylor (215) and Lucas (190), first in points (70), fourth in rebounds with 45, behind Lucas (68), Traylor (54) and Mickelson (46) and first in turnovers with 17.

My very specific hunch says Bragg will produce 12 points and six rebounds to send 16,300 home happy while they put the pedal to the metal to try to settle in front of their TV sets in time for the Chiefs' 3:35 p.m. kickoff.

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Kansas hires Todd Bradford to coach linebackers

Kansas University head football coach David Beaty has chosen Todd Bradford, former defensive coordinator at University of Maryland, to replace Kevin Kane as the Jayhawks’ linebackers coach.

Kane left for the defensive coordinator job at Northern Illinois, where he had worked before coming to Kansas.

Bradford, 52, last worked in college football as DC at Maryland in 2011. After one season with the Terps, Bradford was bought out of the remaining two years of his contract for $300,000.

Bradford had put his career on hold to focus on caring for his mother, Sandra Hampshire, who died Jan. 3, in St. George, Utah, after suffering for seven years from multiple myeloma.

Bradford has worked 25 years in college football, including three as defensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi (2008-10). Working under current North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, Bradford guided the 2010 Southern Miss defense to a 31-16 victory against Kansas and a No. 13 national ranking (113 yards allowed per game).

At Maryland, his defense was ranked last in the ACC.

Bradford last worked in the Big 12 for Oklahoma State (2005-07) when he coached linebackers.

He also worked at his almater mater, Southern Utah, as well as New Hampshirie, Lehigh, Eastern Michigan, Louisiana Tech, Wisconsin, Middle Tennessee State and BYU (his only job on the offensive side).

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My Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

My baseball Hall of Fame ballot:

Two of my nine choices, Ken Griffey, Jr. and Mike Piazza, received the required 75 percent of votes to gain enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The players for whom I voted, listed in the order of how easy it was to put an X next to the name:

1 - Ken Griffey, Jr.: A Hall of Fame baseball player asked me in 1999 in Fenway Park which hitter I thought would win the Home Run Derby the day before the All-Star Game. Since Mark McGwire had hit 13 home runs to take a big lead after the first round, I gave the obvious answer: “Mark McGwire.” The Hall of Famer shook his head. “Why not?” I asked. I’ll never forget his answer: “Too long a wait (between sessions at the plate). The steroid guys tighten up when the sit down. The natural guys stay loose. Junior will win it.” Sure enough, Griffey won it. The identity of the accurate forecaster? Sorry. It was off the record then and off the record then equates to off the record forever.

2 - Barry Bonds: Did steroids inflate his numbers? Yes, greatly. Was he the best hitter in the game before the juice increased his head size, his muscles, his power? You better believe he was. This is not a tough call. Keeping players who sought an edge through performance enhancing drugs strikes me as short-sighted as not deflating the numbers of those I believe juiced. A Hall of Fame ballot does not equate to a juror’s vote in a court of law. It requires an informed opinion, so I do my homework with the help of former players, managers, coaches, etc. and then decide to deflate the numbers of those I believe cheated and then decide whether they deserve induction. Bonds requires no thought whatsoever.

3 - Roger Clemens: See Bonds explanation.

4 - Mike Piazza: Always suspected of using steroids but never directly linked, Piazza was such a gifted hitter his numbers still stand up even after deflation.

5 - Mike Mussina: Other than having won 54 more games, why Mussina and not Curt Schilling. Mussina was at the top of his profession for a longer period of time. He ranked in the top six in Cy Young Award voting nine seasons, Schilling in four seasons.

6 - Mark McGwire: His blasting of writers who called into question home run numbers, stated with such moral indignation, was a low point, but the guy hit 49 home runs as a rookie well before his muscles grew muscles. Steroids inflated his numbers, which makes him less than an easy call, but I believe he would have been one of the game’s top power hitters if steroids never became all the rage and nobody did them. He’s a 12-time All-Star.

7 - Tim Raines: Always a tough call, Raines knew how to get on base and steal bases as well as anybody of his era not named Rickey Henderson.

8 - Edgar Martinez: I went back and forth on Edgar and then I pictured the prettiest right-handed swing rapping doubles in big spots over and over and I put an X next to his name.

9 - Alan Trammell: The toughest call of all, he was such a good hitter for a shortstop that it sometimes overshadowed just how slick he was with the glove.

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Traylor carries big load in triple-overtime thriller

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31), forward Cheick Diallo (13) and forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) react to an and-one bucket by guard Devonte' Graham (4) to tie the game during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31), forward Cheick Diallo (13) and forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) react to an and-one bucket by guard Devonte' Graham (4) to tie the game during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Crowded out of prominence by the drama that unfolded over and over and over again later in a Big Monday night, Jamari Traylor’s terrific stretch at the opening of the second half of a 109-106, triple overtime victory over Oklahoma was not lost on his coach.

“I thought Mari was great,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of the fifth-year senior from Chicago. “Second half, he was about the only one playing start of the second half, and of course Landen (Lucas) down the stretch was awesome.”

Traylor came off the bench in the first half and started the second. It’s a good thing he did because without him using his explosive leaping ability near the hoop, the game could have gotten away from the Jayhawks.

Kansas made just four field goals in the opening 7:19 of the second half and Traylor had two of them. Traylor’s biggest contributions weren’t the points he scored. They never are. He’s a limited offensive player, but has a tendency to make defensive plays that fire up the crowd.

For sheer out-of-nowhere shock value, Traylor had the game’s two most amazing plays. Ninety seconds into the second half, Oklahoma’s Jordan Woodard drove to the hoop for a bucket that would have given the Sooners a nine-point lead. Traylor somehow snatched the shot out of mid-air with two hands and came crashing to the floor, landing on his back, where he stayed for a nervous moment.

A couple of minutes later, the Sooners’ high-flying Khadeem Lattin went in for a dunk that would have given OU a 12-point lead. Traylor had the body control to go up with Lattin, and without touching the would-be dunker, put his hand on the ball to block the shot and snuff the bucket. This time, Traylor landed out of bounds, near the stanchion and Lattin had the harder crash. Incredible play.

A couple of Kanas possessions later, Traylor caught a pass in the lane and decisively drove right, throwing a shot off the glass for a bucket that drew Kansas within seven points. After OU pumped it back to a nine-point lead, Traylor shaved it to seven again, crashing the glass from straight on to put back a Wayne Selden miss.

Traylor’s minutes are down a little this season (14.8 average, compared to 20.4 as a junior and 16.1 as a sophomore), but his spirits seem up. His body language is better and he has been a consistent positive, energetic force.

Tensions ran high in a game that both sides badly wanted.

"Some of those loose balls, diving, sacrificing bodies, that was two teams really, really competing,” Self said.

In other words, the game was right in Traylor's wheelhouse.

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Jayhawks, Sooners make most of national spotlight

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) strips a ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) strips a ball from Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) during the second half, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Any time Kansas basketball plays, it’s a big deal in Lawrence. But the Big Monday, triple-overtime instant classic between the No. 1 Jayhawks and No. 2 Oklahoma was something else entirely.

With no Monday Night Football or major college bowl game to distract the nation’s sports fans, anyone in need of some cheap entertainment found it easily on ESPN, as two of the nation’s elite teams traded big-time shot after big-time shot and combined to score 215 points in a marathon of a Big 12 basketball showcase.

The entertaining performance had the Twitterverse buzzing about the Jayhawks and Sooners, during and after KU’s frantic victory.

Some former Jayhawks, of course, showed their love for the program.

None by Paul Pierce

None by Kelly Paul Oubre Jr.

None by Cole Aldrich

None by tyshawn taylor

None by Joel Embiid

None by Mario Chalmers

None by keith langford

None by keith langford

But really, anyone who cares about college basketball couldn’t stop themselves from chiming in on this classic.

None by ESPN

None by SI College Hoops

None by Ryan Fagan

None by Pat Forde

None by Jay Williams

None by Kyle Tucker

None by Andy Katz

None by Myron Medcalf

None by Dana O'Neil

None by Eamonn Brennan

None by Fran Fraschilla

None by Cyclone Basketball

As much as everyone loved watching the Big 12 thriller, the game even had a little controversy — in overtime, no less.

None by Luke Winn

None by Doug Gottlieb

None by Doug Gottlieb

None by CollegeBasketbllTalk

None by Jeff Goodman

None by Ken Pomeroy

The way this game was played neither team was leaving Allen Fieldhouse feeling bad about itself. And since KU won, maybe (just maybe) Jayhawk fans would be interested in watching Buddy Hield score each of his 46 points all over again.

None by CollegeBasketbllTalk

None by ESPN College BBall

None by Oklahoma Basketball

No matter who you were rooting for, this one was just a pleasure to watch.

None by NCAA March Madness

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Two feel-good KU sports moments in 2015

Sometimes the best moments at sporting events take place before the main attractions start.

The worst moment of the Kansas spring football game happened when Michael Cummings suffered a career-ending knee injury. The best came on the last play of the annual alumni football game. World War II veteran Bryan Sperry, 89, found the holes and sprinted to glory for a touchdown captured by the KU athletic department's talented video team. Sperry and brother Kenneth Sperry played Kansas football from 1946-48.

The presence of UC Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye made Tuesday night more interesting than the average nonconference basketball game in Allen Fieldhouse. But even he couldn't steal the show because the show had been stolen before the opening tip by Kurtis Townsend's daughter, Myka, shown above in a photo snapped by the Journal-World's Nick Krug.

Myka didn't miss a note and to the amazement of the customary crowd of 16,300 belted out a really strong version of the Star Spangled Banner. I kept waiting for her dad to break into tears, but all he broke into was a huge smile as his daughter triggered a huge ovation from the crowd and Fred Quartlebaum, director of student-athlete development for the basketball program, pinned a bear hug on the proud father.

"She told me she wasn't nervous, so I wasn't nervous," Townsend said. "She did great."

That she did. Kurtis bears a facial resemblance to one of music's most talented stars, peerless guitarist Carlos Santana. Myka is a talented star in the making. Advantage Myka on the music front.

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KU volleyball, Royals ride to rescue for last-minute shoppers

Last-minute Christmas shoppers seeking ideas to put a smile on the faces of sports fans on their lists ought to think Kansas volleyball and Kansas City Royals because everybody loves a winner.

1 - Two season tickets for Kansas volleyball, 2016: After becoming the first in the program’s history to make it to the Elite Eight, the Jayhawks (shown above in John Young photo from NCAA tournament victory against Furman) then became just the 18th school in the history of the NCAA tournament to reach a Final Four. Both of KU’s All-American selections, setter Ainise Havili and right-side hitter Kelsie Payne, have two remaining years of eligibility and just two seniors participated in KU’s five post-season matches.

The Final Four is scheduled to take place at Sprint Center in 2017, when Havili and Payne will be seniors. Might as well catch their junior seasons, learn the nuances of the sport as I plan to do, and enjoy watching as exciting a spectator sport as there is.

Watching women’s college basketball doesn’t do justice to the athleticism of the players because the game is played below the net. Volleyball is played above the net Kansas plays an exceptionally exciting brand of it.

If season tickets aren’t for sale yet, I’m sure someone can put your name on a list and call you when they are available. It’s dollar-for-dollar the best sports entertainment in Lawrence.

Denny Matthews points to the radio booth at Kauffman Stadium during
his induction into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. Matthews,
the voice of the Royals since the club's inception in 1969, was
honored Saturday in Kansas City, Mo.

Denny Matthews points to the radio booth at Kauffman Stadium during his induction into the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame. Matthews, the voice of the Royals since the club's inception in 1969, was honored Saturday in Kansas City, Mo. by AP Photo

2 -A CD of highlight calls by Denny Matthews, Voice of the Royals: Pat Huges, voice of the Chicago Cubs, has done a series of “Commemorative Audio Tributes to Baseball’s Greatest Announcers.” His latest is on Matthews. Hughes narrates it, interviews Matthews about big moments and runs unedited clips of calls from famous moments in Royals history.

I wrote the biography of the late, great Ernie Harwell, long-time voice of the Detroit Tigers and it was a great experience getting to know such a kind, talented man. But the problem with a book about a broadcaster is that it’s impossible to capture the voice in the printed word. This format does a better job telling the story of a broadcaster’s career.

Hughes’ series also includes compact discs (and digital downloads) on the careers of Mel Allen, Red Barber, Marty Brennaman, Jack Buck, Harry Caray, Milo Hamilton, Russ Hodges, Lon Simmons, Harry Kalas, Dave Niehaus, Bob Prince, Ron Santo, Chuck Thompson and Bob Uecker.

The series is a cool idea well executed by Hughes.

Shop at www.baseballvoices.com or call (847) 867-3682.

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KU volleyball getting red-carpet treatment

The Kansas volleyball team fueled itself for tonight's 8:30 tipoff in a national semifinal vs. Nebraska with a 4:30 meal at the Embassy Suites, the team hotel. The athletes filled their plates by choosing from: salad, roasted-potato wedges, small sirloin strips, small chicken breasts, mixed vegetables (squash, zucchini, carrots), wild rice and dinner rolls.

The close-knit group of competitors began boarding the team bus outside the hotel at 5:45. Two police squad cars — the first a sedan, the second an SUV — turned their lights on at 5:53 and as the lead car turned onto 10th Street its siren began to blare and the six-block, six-minute police escort to the CenturyLink Center began.

The Jayhawks then went from the bus into the arena and onto a red carpet to start a walk (that Journal-World photographer Richard Gwin captured with above photo) to their locker room to get ready for to play a volleyball match in front of a standing-room only crowd in excess of 17,000 people. The winner advances to Saturday's national-championship match. The loser goes home after an outstanding season.

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