Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

Travis Releford gives complete effort in win over Kansas State

1. Travis Releford: Kansas coach Bill Self said afterwards that Releford had one of his best games as a Jayhawk. The senior darted through numerous screens to chase down Kansas State leading scorer Rodney McGruder, holding him to 13 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Releford also was his normal efficient self on the offensive end, making five of six shots (and two of three three-pointers) to lead KU with 12 points to go with three assists, one steal and no turnovers.

2. Jeff Withey: Playing with the flu, Withey hit what Self called the game's biggest shot, putting in a jump-hook over the top of Kansas State's Jordan Henriquez to push KU's advantage late in the second half. Withey also was the biggest reason KSU had one of its worst games on the offensive glass, pulling down seven defensive rebounds. Withey posted a double-double with 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting with 10 rebounds.

3. Ben McLemore: Though he sat out most of the first half with two fouls, McLemore took over a stretch in the second half, lifting KU with a three-pointer an a long two off scramble plays. McLemore finished with 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks and a steal to go with three turnovers.

4. Perry Ellis: Ellis helped save KU in the first half when Withey picked up two fouls. The freshman was aggressive in scrums and efficient with his shot, going 3-for-4 from the floor for eight points with four rebounds in 18 minutes. The only negative for him was the free throw line, where he made just two of six shots.

5. Naadir Tharpe: Hit the game's two biggest free throws, making both ends of a one-and-one with 22 seconds left to extend the Jayhawks' lead to five points. Though Tharpe made just two of seven field goals and missed all four of his three-point tries, he posted two assists against just one turnover with a steal in 18 minutes.

6. Kevin Young: Though his line was ugly, Young made two important plays. One was an offensive rebound around Shane Southwell, which led to a McLemore three, and the other was a stickback before the first-half buzzer that pushed KU's lead to four. Young missed too many bunnies, making just one of six field goals to end with three points, six rebounds, two assists and one turnover in 30 minutes.

7. Elijah Johnson: Though Johnson hit the game-clinching free throw with 3 seconds left, his struggles continue. The senior point guard had five of his team's 13 turnovers, which makes 25 turnovers in his last six games; in three of his last six games, he's had five turnovers or more. Johnson's shooting didn't help his line either, as he attempted a team-high 10 field goals while making just three (which included 1-for-3 accuracy from three-point range). Johnson added four rebounds, four assists and two steals in 35 minutes.

8. Rio Adams: Won the Gary Bedore coin flip to take eighth place. Played two minutes with no other stats.

9. Jamari Traylor: Lost the Gary Bedore coin flip to take ninth place. Played two minutes with no other stats.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (134 points)
2. Ben McLemore (131 points)
3. Travis Releford (128 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (103 points)
5. Kevin Young (96 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (87 points)
7. Perry Ellis (75 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (58 points)
9. Andrew White III (30 points)
10. Rio Adams (19 points)
11. Justin Wesley (9 points)


Can KU break its two-point jump-shooting slump against Kansas State?

Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder lofts a shot over Kansas center Jeff Withey during the first half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State forward Rodney McGruder lofts a shot over Kansas center Jeff Withey during the first half on Monday, Feb. 13, 2012 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Team: Kansas State
Record: 15-2
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 44

3 Strengths

• Offensive rebounding: The Frank Martin identity has not totally left the Wildcats, and that's most evident by their impressive offensive rebounding numbers. Kansas State grabs 40.8 percent of its missed shots, which ranks sixth nationally. New coach Bruce Weber never had a team at Illinois that ranked better than 44th in offensive rebounding, so it's a credit to him that he didn't entirely tear down a positive characteristic that the previous coach left with KSU. Kansas has been the second-best defensive rebounding team in Big 12 games this year, so this will be a matchup of strength versus strength.

• Turnovers: Kansas State has been good on both ends when it comes to turnovers, ranking 104th nationally in offensive turnover percentage and 61st nationally in defensive turnover percentage. Playing at a below-average pace, KSU has a plus-2.5 turnover margin per game while giving it away just 12.4 times per contest. The Wildcats are second during Big 12 play in both offensive and defensive turnover percentage and have turned it over just eight times in each of their last two games.

• Forcing teams into difficult shots: We've talked often about how KU does a poor job of limiting opponents' three-point attempts. KSU, on the other hand, is one of the nation's best, as only 25.5 percent of the field goals taken against the Wildcats are threes (13th-best split nationally). According to Hoop-Math.com, KSU is stingy at the rim as well, as only 28 percent of opponents' field goals are shots at the rim (NCAA average is 28 percent). Basically, KSU's defense has forced teams into a high number of two-point jumpers, which is statistically the worst shot in basketball. KU has struggled with its two-point jumpshots during Big 12 play, as the graph below shows (data from Hoop-Math.com).

KU's two-point jumpshot stats in Big 12 play.

KU's two-point jumpshot stats in Big 12 play. by Jesse Newell

3 Weaknesses

Free throw shooting: The Wildcats have made just 64.8 percent of their shots at the charity stripe, which ranks 283rd nationally. Most of this can be pinned on one player, though: 6-foot-11 senior Jordan Henriquez. The center has made just 11 of 38 tries for a miserable 28.9 percent. Take his numbers out, and KSU's free throw percentage improves almost five percentage points to 69.5 percent.

• Two-point shooting: Though the Wildcats do a great job of forcing others into two-point jumpshots, they also settle for too many jumpers themselves. According to Hoop-Math, 45 percent of KSU's field-goal attempts have been two-point jumpers, which is the 20th-highest split nationally. K-State is actually above the NCAA average when it comes to two-point jumper accuracy (38 percent compared to 35 percent), but taking that many tough shots has dragged the Wildcats' overall two-point percentage down; KSU has made just 45.9 percent of its twos, which ranks 224th nationally and is below the NCAA average of 47.3 percent.

• Defensive rebounding: Playing primarily with a four-guard lineup, KSU has struggled at times grabbing defensive rebounds. The Wildcats come down with 67.7 percent of their opponents' misses, which ranks just below the national average. Six-foot-7 Thomas Gipson and 6-6 Shane Southwell are KSU's best defensive rebounders, pulling down 17.9 percent of the available caroms each. KU is only middle of the pack when it comes to offensive rebounds in Big 12 play, so this weakness might not necessarily hurt the Wildcats too much on Tuesday night.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Rodney McGruder (No. 22) is Kansas State's best player and already has won Big 12 player of the week four times this season. He takes 30.1 percent of KSU's shots (94th nationally) and has still managed to keep up his efficiency by almost never turning it over (11.9 percent turnover rate, 121st nationally). McGruder scores a lot of points on two-point jumpers, as he takes 46 percent of his shots from that range while making an above-average 39 percent of those attempts. Though he's only made 35 percent of his threes (26 of 75), he was a 39-percent three-point shooter last year and a 41-percent shooter his sophomore year. McGruder doesn't get to the free throw line often, meaning KU shouldn't have too worry too much about him driving to get all the way to the rim. Most of McGruder's points should come on jumpshots.

Five-foot-11 guard Angel Rodriguez (No. 13) is responsible for the second-highest number of offensive possessions behind McGruder. The sophomore has a phenomenal assist rate (38.2 percent, 22nd nationally) while also standing out as KSU's best perimeter defender, coming up with steals on 3.3 percent of opponents' possessions (264th nationally). Rodriguez isn't without flaws, though. His turnover rate of 21.7 is higher than you'd like to see from a point guard, and his field-goal shooting has been awful. Rodriguez has made just 37 percent of his twos (23 of 63) and 32 percent of his threes (20 of 62). He's especially struggled at the rim, where he's made just 14 of 40 close-shot attempts (35 percent). His profile would appear to be that of a player that should be affected by a shot-blocker like KU's Jeff Withey.

Six-foot-6 hybrid-forward Shane Southwell (No. 1) deserves credit for improving from an offensive liability the last few years to an above-average contributor this season. Playing as an undersized 4, Southwell has taken advantage of his open looks, making 16 of 33 three-pointers (49 percent). He also has the team's second-best assist rate (21.2 percent, 405th nationally) while emerging as one of the team's best defensive rebounders (even at 6-6). Southwell turns it over a little too often and doesn't get to the free throw line much, but he's accurate when he does shoot it and can be a matchup problem for teams playing big because of his versatility.


I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: Bramlage Coliseum is the toughest place KU plays every year. With first place in the Big 12 on the line, I'd expect the Kansas State students once again to be in a frenzy Tuesday night. It's very hard for teams to get all road wins, but this one is especially tough for KU because of the atmosphere.

All along, I figured this would be the game where I'd pick KU to lose. Thing is, the Wildcats — despite being 15-2 — haven't been able to move up the KenPom rankings much, mostly because they have been in some close games that, on paper, never should have been close (a 52-44 home win against UMKC and 65-64 road victory over West Virginia come to mind).

KSU appears to be a bit overrated — at least when you compare the polls to KenPom — because it has been able to win close games while also taking advantage of a generous early Big 12 schedule.

Even though KU has struggled as of late — and especially on the road — I think the Jayhawks are clearly the better of the two teams.

Because K-State doesn't draw many fouls, I don't see the free throw advantage swinging too much in the Wildcats' favor, even with the home crowd behind them. I think it also helps KU to have four seniors that have played in Manhattan before and know what to expect.

I'm expecting a close game, but I think KU will pull it out in the end.

Kansas 64, Kansas State 58

Hawk to Rock

KU forward Kevin Young seems like a good bounceback candidate after having a tough game at Texas on Saturday. Young appears to be one of KU's best defenders at getting out to three-point shooters, and that should help him guard a guy like Southwell on the perimeter. Not only that, Young should be able to hustle his way to offensive rebounds against a K-State team that has had its issues on the defensive glass. Put me down for double-figure points with at least four offensive rebounds for Young.

Predictions tally
16-1 record, 205 points off (12.1 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Average: 4.1st in KUsports.com ratings


A comparison of KU, K-State pregame videos; more on the ‘Aqib Rules’

A few links while wondering if there's a better nickname out there for the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry than Sunflower Showdown, which doesn't seem to capture the intensity of the contests (doesn't a sunflower invoke warm, fuzzy images?). Maybe Clash on the Kaw? Any other good ones?

I saw this was posted a few days ago on YouTube on the official YouTube station of K-State Athletics, so I can only assume this will be the pregame video before the KU-KSU game Tuesday night in Manhattan.

KSU's video folks were able to put a lot of highlights against KU in there, including a Bill Walker swinging elbow that catches Mario Chalmers' face at the 32-second mark (that may or may not be considered a highlight, depending on your affiliation).

The video follows the same basic theme as KU's, highlighting with bold numbers some of the school's best men's basketball statistics.

To compare, here's KU's pregame video against Baylor (skip ahead to the 1:14 mark for the start).

The Kansas City Star's Blair Kerkhoff reported that following Kansas State's 69-60 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday, KSU guard Rodney McGruder received some encouragement in the tunnel from an unlikely source.

"Good luck, keep it going, go get those 'Hawks,” is what OU coach Lon Kruger — a former player and coach at KSU — told McGruder.

Kruger didn't offer up his thoughts on the KU-KSU matchup after the game, according to Kerkhoff, as the Sooners have yet to play the Jayhawks this season.

• Kellis Robinett of the Wichita Eagle reports that KSU athletic director John Currie, when he was interviewing Bruce Weber for KSU's coaching opening, asked Weber directly if he really wanted to come to Manhattan to have to go up against KU coach Bill Self — the man he replaced at Illinois.

• The Manhattan Mercury's Joel Jellison talks more about KSU's success running a hybrid-forward position, putting undersized Shane Southwell and Nino Williams at the 4 spot. This switch definitely has helped Southwell, whose offensive struggles last year allowed KU to run a Triangle-and-Two defense while leaving him unguarded. The junior Southwell has made 16 of 33 threes this year (49 percent).

Earlier this week, KU was listed as one of five "Prime Time Contenders" to make the Final Four by SI.com's Luke Winn. To come to this conclusion, Winn compared this year's efficiency numbers with those of past teams that have made deep tournament runs. The fact that KU is balanced (top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency) makes it a team that is more likely to advance to later rounds.

KU is a No. 1 seed in the latest bracketology from CBSsports.com's Jerry Palm.

Here's a final look at video highlights from KU's victory over Texas on Saturday from KU Athletics.

KU signee Wayne Selden scored 24 points with six three-pointers and seven rebounds to help his Tilton School team to a 71-67 victory Sunday, according to Masslive.com.

• The Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd had a nice feature over the weekend on KU women's basketball standout Angel Goodrich and her journey to KU from the state of Oklahoma and Sequoyah High School.

Former KU guard Josh Selby was traded from the Memphis Grizzlies to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And finally, an insightful piece from the New York Times on former KU cornerback Aqib Talib. There are some great anecdotes from former KU coach Mark Mangino and current linebackers coach Clint Bowen about Talib, including this one from Judy Battista in the lede:

The Kansas football program had something called Aqib Rules, and they were simple: when Aqib Talib, their highly regarded cornerback, did something stupid — a not infrequent occurrence early on in an all-American career — his teammates could put a free body shot on him.

I'm guessing those kinds of rules don't fly in the NFL.


Jeff Withey’s defensive rebounding, passing stand out in win over Texas

1. Jeff Withey: Was efficient offensively and a big reason Texas posted a season-low offensive rebounding percentage (18 percent). The KU center also played a big part in getting KU easy buckets, blocking or altering shots before throwing the ball ahead to start KU's effective fast breaks. Withey posted 14 points on 4-for-6 shooting with nine rebounds (seven defensive) to go with four assists, three blocks, a steal and two turnovers in 32 minutes.

2. Ben McLemore: His defense was shaky at times, but the freshman came through with crucial baskets at important moments. McLemore finished with a team-high 16 points, knocking down six of 10 shots and two of three three-pointers (KU only had three treys as a team). McLemore also had six rebounds, two steals, an assist and block to go with four turnovers. After the first few minutes, he didn't appear to be hampered by his sprained right ankle in the least.

3. Travis Releford: The senior always seems to pick up his defensive pressure in the second half, and that happened against Saturday. Releford also hit four crucial free throws in the final minutes, including two with 7 seconds left that sealed the game. He finished with 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting with four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two turnovers.

4. Naadir Tharpe: The game changed late when KU coach Bill Self elected to go small, which moved Tharpe to the point-guard spot. KU's defense picked up the intensity after that, and KU allowed just 10 points in the game's final 10 minutes. Tharpe had five points — including a touch-all-of-the-rim-before-spinning-in three — on 2-for-6 shooting with an assist, steal and turnover in 17 minutes.

5. Kevin Young: Self said afterwards it was the worst game Young had played in a long time, and partly because of that, the senior was not in during the game's final minutes. The senior's stat line still looked good, though: six points, 2-for-3 shooting, three rebounds, two steals, one block and two turnovers in 22 minutes.

6. Perry Ellis: Gave KU some great minutes early in the second half scrapping for loose balls while muscling up against bigger players. Ellis had four points on 1-for-4 shooting but also grabbed six rebounds in just 12 minutes.

7. Andrew White III: Missed a three and grabbed two rebounds in four minutes.

8. Elijah Johnson: His wild shots in the first half almost single-handedly put KU in a hole, and the senior never came out of the funk, finishing 1-for-11 from the floor with six points. He did make four important free throws, but against a team that doesn't force many turnovers, the senior had more giveaways (three) than assists (two). KU's point-guard issue has certainly not resolved itself in the month of January.

9. Jamari Traylor: Missed both field-goal attempts, made one of two free throws and had two rebounds in eight minutes.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (125 points)
2. Ben McLemore (123 points)
3. Travis Releford (118 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (99 points)
5. Kevin Young (91 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (81 points)
7. Perry Ellis (68 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (56 points)
9. Andrew White III (30 points)
10. Rio Adams (16 points)
11. Justin Wesley (9 points)


Conner Frankamp suffers concussion after being undercut on layup (video links)

Wichita North senior and Kansas University recruit Conner Frankamp is pictured on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, at Pleasant Valley Middle School in Wichita, where he works out daily with his father, Marty Frankamp. Frankamp said that although he is looked at as a shooter, he is preparing to play the point if needed for KU.

Wichita North senior and Kansas University recruit Conner Frankamp is pictured on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012, at Pleasant Valley Middle School in Wichita, where he works out daily with his father, Marty Frankamp. Frankamp said that although he is looked at as a shooter, he is preparing to play the point if needed for KU. by Nick Krug

Kansas men's basketball signee Conner Frankamp had a scary moment Friday night when he was undercut by a Scott City player and landed on his face.

Video of the play from two different angles is available on KAKE TV's website. It also can be seen at the 2:13 mark of this video from CatchitKansas.com.

According to Joanna Chadwick of the Wichita Eagle, the game was delayed 10 minutes as a trainer tried to stop the bleeding on a cut on Frankamp's left temple. The senior was later removed from the court via an office chair.

Chadwick said Frankamp later received stitches for the cut and also was diagnosed with a concussion. Rivals.com's No. 31 player in the class of 2013 will not play in Saturday's championship game against Shawnee Mission South in the Dodge City Tournament of Champions.


Texas’ only hope for upset might be at free throw line

Kansas center Jeff Withey puts a shot over Texas defenders Jonathan Holmes (10) and Clint Chapman (53) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Frank Erwin Center.

Kansas center Jeff Withey puts a shot over Texas defenders Jonathan Holmes (10) and Clint Chapman (53) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Frank Erwin Center. by Nick Krug

Team: Texas
Record: 8-8
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 86
(All team statistics are from KenPom.com and only include numbers against Div. I competition.)

3 Strengths

Interior defense: Opponents have had problems scoring inside against Texas, shooting just 38.9 percent from two-point range this year (third nationally). Part of the reason for that is the Longhorns' shot-blockers, as UT rejects 14.2 percent of the opposition's two-point attempts (20th nationally). Opponents have made just 54 percent of their shots at the rim against Texas (NCAA average is 61 percent) and 28 percent of their two-point jumpshots (NCAA average is 35 percent). Because of this stinginess inside, the Longhorns lead the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage.

• Limiting opposition's three-pointers: The Longhorns do an above-average job of limiting three-point attempts, allowing them on 31.9 percent of opponents' field goals (132nd-highest split nationally). Also, only 22.4 percent of opponents' points against Texas are coming from three-point range, which is the 43rd-lowest split nationally. Texas also has been blessed with some good fortune, as other teams have made just 23.8 percent of their threes (first nationally). I'm a guy that believes defenses don't have a lot of control over that number, so playing Kansas will be an interesting one-game test study to see if UT can continue to keep opponents' three-point shooting down.

Drawing fouls: Texas has posted the nation's 76th-best free throw rate, which measures how often a team gets to the free throw line. Playing at a just-above-average pace, UT has attempted 23 free throws per game and 26 freebies per game at home while getting 22.4 percent of its points from the line (76th-highest split nationally).

3 Weaknesses

Shooting: Texas is a poor shooting team everywhere you look. Two-pointers? The Longhorns make just 43.4 percent of those (298th nationally). With threes, UT has just 30.2-percent accuracy (283rd nationally). The Longhorns also have been awful shooting team at the free throw line, making 63.8 percent of their tries (304th nationally). Part of Texas' problem is that it takes a high number of two-point jump shots (not including layups/dunks/tip-ins), as according to Hoop-Math.com, 42 percent of its shots come from that location (NCAA average is 33 percent). The 'Horns haven't shot well from there either, making just 32 percent of those attempts (NCAA average is 35 percent).

Turnovers: The Longhorns are extremely careless with the ball, turning it over on 23.2 percent of their possessions (294th nationally). Texas is averaging 16.3 turnovers per game while also not creating much havoc on the other end, forcing opponent giveaways on just 19.3 percent of possessions (230th nationally).

Experience: Texas can claim to be the youngest team in America, as the team ranks 347th (out of 347 teams) in KenPom's "Experience" measure. Texas coach Rick Barnes' nine-man rotation consists of six freshmen and three sophomores. The Longhorns have only two upperclassmen on the entire roster: senior Dean Melchionni, who averages 2 minutes per game, and senior Andrew Dick, who has played just two minutes.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Sheldon McClellan (No. 1) is the best of the bad options for Texas offensively. The sophomore takes 27.7 percent of his team's shots (205th nationally) while posting the team's best turnover rate. His best skill is getting to the free throw line, drawing 6.1 fouls per game (62nd nationally) while notching the nation's 168th-best free throw rate. He's strong at the stripe as well, making 79 of 98 shots (81 percent). McClellan doesn't do much else. He's a poor shooter from two-point range (40 percent) and three-point range (29 percent) while posting low assist, block and steal percentages.

Six-foot-3 guard Julien Lewis (No. 14) is Texas' secondary option offensively. He takes one-fourth of his team's shots when he's in and is the Longhorns' best shooter from three-point range, making 24 of 61 (39 percent). He's also UT's best two-point jump shooter, making 40 percent of those shots between the rim and three-point line. Because he settles for so many of those jump shots, though, that drags down his overall efficiency. Like McClellan, Lewis doesn't turn it over as much as many of his teammates, but he also doesn't provide much defensively in the way of steals or blocks.

Six-foot-7 forward Jonathan Holmes (No. 10) is UT's best defender in the starting lineup. The sophomore blocks 4.4 percent of opponents' twos (258th nationally) while also providing great production on the glass. He's an excellent offensive rebounder, grabbing 13.4 percent of UT's misses when he's in (74th nationally), and also is 180th in defensive rebounding percentage. Holmes converts on 76 percent of his shots at the rim but can't make much past that, putting in just 26 percent of his two-point jumpers and 29 percent of his threes.


Your view of this game basically comes down to one question: Do you think Texas will be able to score enough to win?

The Jayhawks enter as one of the nation's top defensive teams, while Texas has been just brutal offensively. Not only that, the Longhorns have gotten a high percentage of the points they do get from two-pointers — an area that KU dominates because of center Jeff Withey.

That leaves a hot three-point shooting day and a great day at the free throw line as the best options. No. 1 isn't likely, just because Texas doesn't appear to have the shooters. The Longhorns have shot a league-worst 25 percent from three in Big 12 games, and that's only slightly under the team's 30-percent accuracy from beyond the arc this season.

Getting lots of free throws, though, isn't out of the question. KU hasn't been a foul-prone team this year, but crazy things happen on the road in the Big 12, especially if a home underdog can stay close early.

Pay close attention to Texas' free throws and offensive rebounding. If the Jayhawks can limit those two areas, they should be fine even if they have a tough day against Texas' defense.

So to answer my first question: No, I don't think Texas will be able to score enough to win.

KU coach Bill Self likes when his team can grind out victories on the road by making the other team play poorly, and this feels like one of those games.

Kansas 62, Texas 50

Hawk to Rock

KU received good production Monday against Baylor out of Elijah Johnson, and the point guard appears to have a favorable matchup against Texas. The Longhorns' two guards don't force many turnovers defensively, meaning the sometimes-careless Johnson should be able to limit his giveaways while serving as the primary ballhandler. Mark me down for double-digit points for him, as I think he'll find some openings behind the arc to lead the Jayhawks in three-point scoring.

Predictions tally
15-1 record, 198 points off (12.4 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings


Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 1/17/13

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self's comments at his press conference today.

We'll work to get this fixed, but we had some major audio problems today with skipping. The audio is still available here now that you've been warned.

• Self says Ben McLemore is fine. He'll practice Thursday. He's a little tender and sore. The injury scared him more than anything, because he thought he heard something pop. He's going to be close to 100 percent Saturday against Texas.

To improve offensively, KU can shoot it better. Self thinks the ball is sticking a little bit. Sometimes, when other teams don't guard a certain position or player, the ball sticks, because that player feels like he needs to go make a play on his own. Self thinks the ball isn't moving as crisply as it was earlier in the year.

• Texas has missed Myck Kabongo for sure, but Javan Felix has had a good year. He can score, and he can shoot. He's a strong kid, especially in the upper body. Any time you lose a quality player, it hurts a team. His replacement has had a good year, though. Texas has one of the youngest teams in the nation. The Longhorns showed they could play against North Carolina.

• All Big 12 road wins are tough. KU went to Lubbock and was only up two at half. If you can go through this league with a good road record, you'll be battle-tested.

KU recruited Texas forward Ioannis Papapetrou, and he chose Texas. He's had a good year.

Forward Perry Ellis looked good the other night against Baylor, Self said. He just didn't make shots. It was good to see. He rebounded the ball rim-high. He's a terrific athlete. He can run like the wind. KU has three great sprinters at the 4-spot in Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Kevin Young. Those guys could run track. They're fast.

Self would prefer for KU to play at a fast tempo all the time. Every KU team in the last six years or so has played better when it has played fast. No one would accuse KU of playing slow this year. Self is a big believer that if you can't score fast, though, you need to work it side to side to wear down the defense.

Self thinks it's more important that Ellis becomes a better scorer than a better talker. Whether he talks much doesn't have any bearing on if KU wins. Self just wants him to be more aggressive. Self says Ellis is the best player KU has at the 4-spot to stretch the floor. Baylor was daring him to shoot, and if Ellis is on, he can make two of those three jumpers. That will open up room for Jeff Withey if Ellis can do that. Ellis came in with a lot of expectations coming in because he's local. It takes everybody a little bit of time. Ellis didn't come in with more accolades than Cole Aldrich, and it took Aldrich some time. Ellis is just going through the process. He's not going to be a good player; he's going to be a great player. There's a natural maturation process. Everyone goes through that. Ellis is right on schedule with where he needs to be. Now that he's playing to his skill set, he just needs to see the ball go in the basket.

KU has more guys challenging and being more aggressive on the defensive end with shot blocks. KU has some naturally gifted athletes. Traylor had a great block pinning the ball against the glass against Baylor.

• KU and Texas' defenses are about the same on field-goal percentage defense. Texas is kicking KU's butt in three-point field-goal percentage, though. The Longhorns have done a better job of guarding the arc.

• Self would have said on Jan. 1 that his team was ahead of schedule. Now, he'd say that the team is about where he thought it would be. Self doesn't think his team has done anything in January to make him think it is way ahead of schedule. Self thinks he has a nice team that tries pretty hard and is learning how to win ugly when it's not making shots. Those are all very positive things. KU is right where Self hoped the team would be but definitely not ahead of schedule.

• To Self, there's only one stat that matters with point guards, and that's wins and losses. Self thinks Elijah Johnson has done a really good job there. Johnson hasn't made shots yet. Take that away, and he's been pretty sound. When he's been matched up against other great guards, he's done a nice job in those matchups.

Self thinks the "muddier the track," the better off his team is. He thinks that sometimes the games that have rhythm are not best for his teams, because his teams never have the mindset to outscore folks; his teams instead take pride in keeping other people from scoring. Self is a believer that, especially away from home, you don't want the other team to get rhythm. If you look at last year's NCAA Tournament, most of KU's games had no rhythm. Self likes games when he thinks his team is not playing that well and he looks up, and the Jayhawks are up five.

• KU has high-tech equipment that shows if players are fatigued when they are working out. KU strength and conditioning coordinator Andrea Hudy can tell fatigue factors based on exercises. Self thinks having a couple extras days between games has helped his team. KU took Tuesday off, and on Wednesday, it had a 35-minute shooting practice. KU will get back to business today.


Waco Tribune writer awed by Fieldhouse; KUsports.com men’s basketball wallpapers available

A few links to start off your Thursday ...

Better late than never, right?

We now have 2012-13 Kansas men's basketball desktop wallpaper schedules available, featuring some of the top photos of the year by Journal-World photographer Nick Krug.


McLemore by Jesse Newell

There are also some iPhone schedule wallpapers available at the same link as well.

• The Waco Tribune's John Werner is the latest writer to praise Allen Fieldhouse.

Here's a snippet from his Wednesday column:

With 16,300 fans jammed into the bleachers, the night begins with a loud, rousing pregame introduction video that shows Jayhawk legends like Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. The noise hits a crescendo when the big screen shows Mario Chalmers hitting the game-winning 3-point shot against Memphis to win the 2008 national championship.

Then you look down the Kansas bench and see one of the best teams in college basketball and one of the premier coaches in Bill Self.

Intimidated yet?

It all got to me, and I was just there to write about it.

Speaking of the Fieldhouse, ESPN.com's Jason King ranked it as the top college basketball home-court advantage in his latest "King's Court" column.

Also, in King's weekly straw poll (which surveys five ESPN writers), KU coach Bill Self ranked as the second-best X's and O's coach in the nation behind Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. Self received one of five first-place votes.

• The Austin American-Statesman's Kevin Lyttle says KU men's basketball is "most successful brand name in the Big 12."

Here's more from Lyttle ...

Sure, Oklahoma wins a lot in football. And Texas is a marketing giant. But nobody dominates like Bill Self’s Jayhawks. Through the Big 12 years, they have the most of everything, including victories, star players and fans.

In case you weren't at Monday's game, this YouTube clip shows both the KU introduction video (1:13 mark) and pump-up video (3:49 mark) before KU's contest against Baylor.

• KU has moved up to No. 2 in Luke Winn's Power Rankings at SI.com.

Winn also puts together an interesting chart, showing that KU guard Ben McLemore's freshman-year numbers compare favorably to those of Ray Allen when he was a freshman at UConn.

• KU 2013 commit Brannen Greene tied a career-high with 37 points in his high school's 87-77 victory Tuesday night.

Greene's effort included six three-pointers, five dunks, and eight rebounds.

Here's what the Albany Herald's Mike Phillips said about Greene in the game story:

Greene plays the game as if he is ready for Division I right now. Greene, a 6-foot-7 forward, can play outside and is dangerous at the wing and deadly from 3-point range. He opened the game by hitting back-to-back 3s and just kept coming.

Greene is averaging 26 points and five rebounds this season.

• St. Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova had one of the best buzzer-beaters of the year last night ... and one you probably missed if you went to bed at a decent hour.

• Ben McLemore has moved up to No. 2 in Jeff Borzello's freshman of the year rankings on CBSSports.com.

And finally, this is not KU related, but I promise you this is the funniest video you will see today.

Just watch. I promise it's worth it.

Reply 1 comment from Roger Tarbutton

A look at where KU’s offense is better — and worse — than a year ago

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson takes off up the court past Baylor guard Brady Heslip after a steal during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson takes off up the court past Baylor guard Brady Heslip after a steal during the first half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Kansas men's basketball team ranks 17th in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency — a measure that takes into account a team's points per possession while adjusting for schedule strength. A year ago, the Jayhawks finished 19th nationally in the stat.

So the Jayhawks are following the same offensive formula for success, right?

Actually, what's interesting is that this year's team varies greatly from last year's in the way it produces offense.

Let's take a look. The following chart takes a look at 10 advanced statistical measures: adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field-goal percentage (shooting), turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, free throw rate (the frequency a team gets to the free throw line), two-point percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage, three-point attempt percentage (the percentage of field goals shot that are three-pointers) and assist percentage.

The red line is the 2011-12 season (final stats), while the blue is 2012-13. The higher up the dot, the better the team's national rank in that category.

All statsitics from KenPom.com.

KU's offense: 2012-13 vs. 2011-12

KU's offense: 2012-13 vs. 2011-12 by Jesse Newell

Enlarge graph

Let's start with the positives for KU: The Jayhawks are a much better shooting team this year, which makes some sense considering they are more balanced offensively compared to a year ago.

What is surprising — especially after I watched passes sail into the stands more than once while covering the team during its August exhibition trip in Europe — is how well the Jayhawks have taken care of the ball. KU has only turned it over on 18.8 percent of its possessions so far, and if that number holds up, it would tie the best mark for a Bill Self team at KU (2007-08 also turned it over on 18.8 percent of its possessions).

Though the Jayhawks' shooting is better — especially on three-pointers and free throws — that hasn't made as much impact as it could because of the team's struggles with offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line.

KU has grabbed just 32.5 percent of its missed shots this year. If that number stands, it'll be the lowest percentage by a Self team at KU (last year's team was second-lowest at 34.6 percent).

The Jayhawks' free throw rate (37.0) also is on pace to be the lowest in the last five seasons.

Two numbers that remain mostly unchanged from a year ago are three-point attempt percentage and assist percentage. KU once again does not rely a lot on three-point shots, and that's a good strategy to have as an elite team in the NCAA Tournament, as two-point shooting is much more consistent game to game compared to three-point shooting.

Meanwhile, the Jayhawks continue to be a team that shares the ball well, though part of that high assist percentage this year might speak to the fact that the Jayhawks don't have many players that can create for themselves off the dribble.

In the end, KU is having similar offensive success this season compared to last while producing those points in an entirely different fashion.

Though this team doesn't get offensive rebounds or to the free throw line like a typical Self team, it has made up for it by shooting a high percentage while taking care of the basketball better than any Jayhawks team in the past decade.


Bill Self’s locker room speech after ISU win; Thomas Robinson uninjured following car accident

A few links following Kansas' 61-44 victory over Baylor on Monday night ...

Pay Heed: Episode 10 was released Monday by KU Athletics, and once again, it provides a look inside the locker room, this time following KU's 97-89 overtime victory over Iowa State on Wednesday.

KU coach Bill Self's postgame talk begins about the four-minute mark, as he tells his team it's one of the best three or four wins he's had in the Fieldhouse in his 10 years coaching there.

"I don't know if you guys realize," Self tells his players in the video, "we were dead. Dead."

KU Athletics also has started an "AirMcLemore" website to promote freshman guard Ben McLemore.

Former KU forward Thomas Robinson was involved in a car accident Monday night, according to the Sacramento Bee. Robinson was not injured in the crash.

The blog Rock Chalk Talk takes a funny look at conclusions we can make about each KU basketball player based on what they are doing in the now-famous Ben McLemore dancing GIF.

Some highlights from KU's win over Baylor from KU Athletics.

The Waco Tribune's John Werner started his game story talking about KU's 13 blocks:

With 16,300 fans cramming into Allen Fieldhouse for Monday’s Baylor-Kansas showdown, the ones sitting closest to courtside found themselves in grave danger.

Hard hats and protective vests would have been in order.

The Jayhawks swatted away Baylor shots at an alarming rate, leaving balls flying everywhere.

ESPN's Jason King talked about Allen Fieldhouse — one of the loudest gyms in college basketball — becoming silent after McLemore's injury.

FoxSports.com's Sean Keeler was so impressed with KU's defense that he believes it's almost time to start engraving the Big 12 trophy.

This from Keeler's column:

If this is the second best the Big 12 has to offer (and that's up for debate), then it's high time we put a bow on this bad boy, once and for all, and wrap that puppy up tight. Here you go, Bill Self. League Title No. 9. You're going to need a bigger shelf, buddy.

An interesting stat in C.J. Moore's latest blog post: KU is plus-259 with Jeff Withey on the court this year and only plus-20 when he's on the bench.

Here's more on Self's Oklahoma Hall of Fame induction from The Oklahoman's Jenni Carlson.

KU has moved up to a No. 1 seed in Joe Lunardi's Bracketology on ESPN.

And finally, a picture from our own Nick Krug that might just win an award in the near future. Just wanted to make sure you didn't miss it.

Kansas guard Travis Releford comes away with the ball as both Baylor center Isaiah Austin and teammate Jamari Traylor lock their arms around him during the second half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford comes away with the ball as both Baylor center Isaiah Austin and teammate Jamari Traylor lock their arms around him during the second half on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug


Baylor’s best basketball coach answers to the name Kim, not Scott

Monday night was far from the first time Baylor looked like a collection of talented basketball players thrown together at the last minute and sent to the lions to play against a highly organized, disciplined, talented Kansas team.

It was, however, the first time while I was watching a true team play against an All-Star squad that a thought pitched a tent in my cloudy head: Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, a driven, smart (high school valedictorian), intense leader who commands so much respect from peers and players, could get the Bears to play better basketball and win more games than Scott Drew wins.

No Division I school ever has hired a woman as head coach of its men’s basketball team. Tennessee did once discuss the men’s job with its women’s coach, the legendary Pat Summitt, who retired after last season and is in the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. During an interview on ESPN Radio in New York City a decade or so ago, I asked Summitt why she did not want to make the jump to the men's game. She said she seriously considered it, but thought she could do a better job of promoting women’s basketball by staying put. We’ll never know if Summitt’s opinion on that matter was on target.

But if Drew decides to take his considerable recruiting talents elsewhere, Baylor would be wise to try what Tennessee tried with Summitt, as classy a coach as there is in basketball.

The women’s game has grown since Summitt decided to stay in it, but its popularity still lags. Something needs to happen to jolt it. UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s recent suggestion to lower the hoops to bring dunking into the game didn’t gain much traction. (He’s not the first one to make such a suggestion, just the smartest). Should Mulkey coach a talented group of men into a national powerhouse, that would gain respect for the women’s game.

It’s no insult to Drew to suggest that Mulkey could do a better job with his players than he does. Mulkey has a great basketball mind, knows how to communicate what she knows in understandable fashion and holds her players accountable without coaching the joy out of the game. Her players show steady improvement.

In fairness, Drew’s recruiting has elevated the program. He has reached the Elite Eight twice, which suggests his laid-back style might result in his teams playing less tight than others during the NCAA Tournament. But his players are not dragged out of their comfort zones often enough to stay on a rapid improvement curve. Still, Drew’s recruiting touch makes him a hot coaching prospect. If he bolts for a fatter wallet, Baylor doesn’t need to leave the building to find his replacement.

As a player, Mulkey won four Louisiana state high school titles, two national titles for Louisiana Tech and an Olympic Gold Medal in 1984. As a coach, she has won two national titles (2005, 2012) and has a team that has a good shot to win a third.

It would take a woman unburdened by insecurity to crash the men’s gate and Mulkey certainly qualifies. She doesn’t shy from the big stage.

A year ago at Big 12 Media Day, the fiery, stylish Mulkey grew her considerable fan base when asked if she would continue to schedule Texas A&M after it left the Big 12 for the SEC, a move A&M’s president compared to a divorce. (Mulkey is divorced).

“My feeling is this: If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him and then asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is, ‘No,’ “ Mulkey said.

Talk about a memorable moment.

Mulkey loves her current job so much she might never want to change it. But if she ever decides to blaze a trail, stand back and watch her shoot to the top.


Ben McLemore gives complete performance against Baylor

Kansas guard Ben McLemore holds up a three before Baylor guard A.J. Walton after hitting one late in the second half to widen the Jayhawks' lead on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore holds up a three before Baylor guard A.J. Walton after hitting one late in the second half to widen the Jayhawks' lead on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

1. Ben McLemore: The freshman stood out for more than just his offense Monday. McLemore led KU in points (17), rebounds (eight), steals (three) and was one off the team lead in blocks (two). He was tough inside, hustled for rebounds and wasn't afraid to scrap in the pile for loose balls. KU coach Bill Self said McLemore should only be out a few days with his sprained ankle, which is obviously good news for the Jayhawks going forward.

2. Elijah Johnson: The best game the senior has had in quite a while. After picking up two early fouls, Johnson found a rhythm Monday, scoring 12 points on 4-for-8 shooting (1-for-3 from three) with three rebounds in 25 minutes. He was aggressive on drives when he needed to be, which included a late-clock drive, layup and subsequent three-point play. He also defended well, serving as the primary defender that held BU's Pierre Jackson to a 2-for-12 shooting night. Johnson added an assist and steal to go with two turnovers.

3. Travis Releford: Very active defensively while shutting out BU's Brady Heslip on 0-for-3 shooting (0-for-1 from three). Releford had a pair of steals and was solid offensively, posting 10 points on 2-for-6 shooting with 6-for-6 accuracy from the free throw line. The senior added five rebounds, two assists and a block to go with two turnovers.

4. Jeff Withey: Didn't have a great game offensively, but he helped set the tone defensively by blocking shots and challenging everything at the rim. The senior posted eight points on 3-for-10 shooting to go with three blocks (seemed like more), one assist, one steal and two turnovers in 33 minutes.

5. Kevin Young: Couldn't get any of his close shots to go, but he still hustled his way to seven rebounds in 19 minutes. His high energy also forced at least two turnovers, as two Baylor players carelessly stepped out of bounds while Young was challenging them for rebounds. The senior had four points on 2-for-8 shooting with two blocks and a steal.

6. Perry Ellis: KU coach Bill Self was happy with the freshman's aggressiveness Monday. Ellis made just three of nine shots, but he still had six points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. Because Ellis can score — off jump shots or the dribble — opponents have to come out to guard him, which means more open space for Withey when Ellis plays. The Wichita native added two assists, two blocks and a steal with two turnovers.

7. Jamari Traylor: The freshman somehow racked up three blocks in just seven minutes. He also had two points (1-for-1 shooting) with three rebounds.

8. Naadir Tharpe: Not his best game offensively, but he still deserves credit for playing good defense on Jackson, especially in the first half when Johnson went out with two fouls. Tharpe had two points on 1-for-6 shooting, missed all four of his threes and added just one assist with three turnovers.

9. Andrew White III: Had one rebound in three minutes.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (115 points)
2. Ben McLemore (114 points)
3. Travis Releford (110 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (96 points)
5. Kevin Young (85 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (74 points)
7. Perry Ellis (63 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (54 points)
9. Andrew White III (26 points)
10. Rio Adams (16 points)
11. Justin Wesley (9 points)


KU’s interior defense will be tested against Baylor

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends as Baylor forward Cory Jefferson scoops a shot from behind the backboard during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Jeff Withey defends as Baylor forward Cory Jefferson scoops a shot from behind the backboard during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Team: Baylor
Record: 11-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 29

3 Strengths

Inside shooting: Baylor is most efficient offensively inside, where it's made 53.4 percent of its two-point attempts (25th nationally). Part of the reason for this high success is that the Bears almost never have their shots blocked; just 6.5 percent of their twos have been swatted (19th nationally). BU has lots of size at its two forward positions, ranking 43rd nationally in KenPom's "effective height" measure. This should be one of the biggest keys for both teams in Monday night's game, as KU enters with the top two-point percentage defense in the nation (37.1 percent).

Ball security: Much like Temple, Baylor rarely turns the ball over, giving it away on just 17.4 percent of its possessions (31st nationally). The Bears are helped in this aspect by having two players that are in the top seven nationally in turnover rate: guard Brady Heslip (No. 1, 5.5 percent of ended possessions) and Cory Jefferson (No. 7, 7.1 percent of ended possessions). Playing at an above-average pace, BU has turned it over just 12 times per game and hasn't given it away more than 14 times in any of its last eight contests.

Foul avoidance: Baylor has done a great job of keeping teams off the free throw line, as its defensive free throw rate ranks 36th nationally. Opponents have averaged just 10.2 made free throws per game against the Bears, with BU fouling just 15.5 times per game. Though KU has averaged 32 free throw attempts in its last two games and is playing at home, don't expect the Jayhawks to have as many opportunities at the line against Baylor on Monday night.

3 Weaknesses

Drawing fouls: Conversely, Baylor isn't a team that gets fouled often. The Bears' free throw rate ranks 222nd nationally, and only point guard Pierre Jackson (94) and Jefferson (64) have more than 40 free throw attempts. BU averages just 20 free throws per game and most likely won't get much help from an Allen Fieldhouse crew. KU, meanwhile, has done a nice job of avoiding fouls on the defensive end, ranking 60th nationally in defensive free throw rate.

• Defensive rebounding: Despite having good size, Baylor has struggled on the defensive glass this year, pulling own just 66.9 percent of opponents' misses (218th nationally). This has long been a weakness of coach Scott Drew's teams at BU, as the Bears have ranked in the top 100 of defensive rebounding percentage just once in his 10 seasons (93rd, 2010-11). KU has been poor on the offensive glass so far, though, bringing down just 32.1 percent of its misses (171st nationally).

Forcing turnovers: Baylor has been only an average team at taking the ball away, creating turnovers on 20.9 percent of its defensive possessions (165th nationally). Almost all of BU's steals come from the perimeter, as senior A.J. Walton (89th-best steal rate nationally) and Pierre Jackson lead the team with 30 and 29 steals, respectively. Pay close attention to KU guard Elijah Johnson, who will be going against those BU guards. The senior has been careless of late, turning it over 15 times in his last three games.

3 Players to Watch

Kansas guard Travis Releford wrestles on the floor for a loose ball with Baylor guard Pierre Jackson during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford wrestles on the floor for a loose ball with Baylor guard Pierre Jackson during the first half on Monday, Jan. 16, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Five-foot-10 point guard Pierre Jackson (No. 55) is Baylor's best player and a surefire All-Big 12 first-team selection provided he stays healthy. The senior takes on a huge scoring responsibility for the Bears, shooting 27.5 percent of his team's shots when he's in (225th nationally). He's good inside, where's he's made half of his twos, and capable outside, where he's a 36-percent three-point shooter. He's especially dangerous off the bounce, drawing 5.8 fouls per game (114th nationally) while racking up more than six free throws per contest. Jackson also is a gifted passer (34th nationally in assist rate) and a strong defender, coming away with steals on 3.4 percent of opponents' possessions (241st nationally). With the struggles KU has has had keeping opposing guards out of the lane, Jackson could be in for a huge offensive game. Is he too quick for Travis Releford to guard? I'm not sure KU has any good answers (short of playing zone) to counter Jackson's speed and driving ability.

Six-foot-9 forward Cory Jefferson (No. 34) continues to improve and is one of the nation's best scorers in the paint. Hoop-Math.com's latest numbers have Jefferson as an 86-percent shooter on dunks, layups and tipins, which has to be among the highest percentages in the nation in that category. The junior has made 64 percent of his twos (83 of 129) and also is a good free throw shooter, connecting on 49 of 64 shots there (76.6 percent). As mentioned before, Jefferson almost never turns it over, posting just 10 giveaways in 455 minutes. He's also BU's most consistent rebounder — ranking 237th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 246th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage — and is a defensive presence, blocking 7.1 percent of opponents' two-point attempts (103rd nationally).

Seven-foot-1 Isaiah Austin (No. 21 with goggles) is tall, but his numbers look more like that of a small forward than a center. The freshman, who is No. 6 in DraftExpress' latest 2013 NBA Mock Draft, actually is a good jump-shooter, making 57 percent of his twos (73 of 128) and 36 percent of his threes (13 of 36). Hoop-Math's numbers indicate he has a decent mid-range game, as he's made a team-high 44 percent of his two-point jumpshots (does not include shots at rim). Austin is not a threat to get to the free throw line, attempting just 39 freebies in 14 games. Austin is also BU's second-best rebounder behind Jefferson, but he's not much of a shot-blocker, rejecting just 3.3 percent of opponents' twos (420th nationally).

(• I'm only supposed to list three players to watch, but not mentioning 6-2 junior guard Brady Heslip [No. 5] would be a glaring omission. He's made just 35.7 percent of his threes (30 of 84) this year after making 45.5 percent (100 of 220) last season, but I'd still consider him as dangerous as they come as far as three-point shooting goes.)


There's a lot to like about this Baylor team, especially with Jackson, who should cause all sorts of problems for KU defensively on the perimeter.

It's still hard for me to think the Bears will keep this one close.

BU just hasn't performed that well recently at Allen Fieldhouse. Add to it that this game — an important one in the Big 12 standings — is on ESPN's Big Monday, and this feels like a night where KU should be charged up, even during a four-game-in-nine-days stretch.

The Bears' strength offensively is inside, and if KU center Jeff Withey stays out of foul trouble like he has all season, that obviously provides a huge obstacle.

KU will have to find some way to score in transition, though. As mentioned above, Baylor doesn't turn it over much and also doesn't get many shots blocked, and those are the two main ways KU has started its fast breaks this year.

I think the Jayhawks will find a way, and after watching Baylor play at Allen Fieldhouse in previous years, I'm hesitant to pick a close score until the Bears prove that they're capable of producing one in Lawrence.

Kansas 73, Baylor 58

Hawk to Rock

After playing two games in a row where teams tried to pull him to the perimeter, Jeff Withey will be able to stay in the paint defensively against a team that will try to go big-on-big against him. The Jefferson-Withey battle should be a fun one to watch, but I think Withey will win it, registering a few blocks that will help lead to transition points for KU. Give me a double-double for Withey to go with a strong performance on the offensive glass.

Predictions tally
14-1 record, 196 points off (13.1 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings


Best-selling author John Feinstein explains why he voted Kansas No. 1

Best-selling author and GolfChannel and ESPN regular John Feinstein always has the most interesting, independent ballot in the weekly Associated Press poll.

Every voter claims to not care what the nation thinks in filling out his or her ballot. Feinstein proves it weekly with votes that often are quite different from the consensus. This week, Feinstein stands alone in putting Kansas at the top of his ballot. Sports Illustrated's Seth Davis is the lone voter to rank Kansas second.

"Kansas has the most impressive win of the year: At Ohio State, as Michigan found out," Feinstein told me in an e-mail exchange. "Bunch of one-loss teams. I give them the edge because of that."

Nineteen of us put Kansas third and fifth was the most common Kansas ranking, appearing on 26 ballots.

No. 1 Louisville received 36 first-place votes, No. 2 Indiana 13, No. 3 Duke 14 (including mine). Kansas is ranked fourth and Michigan, with one first-place vote, fifth.

Feinstein has written several best-selling sports book, the most famous "A Season on the Brink," a fascinating all-access look at a season of Indiana basketball under Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight.

The book ended a friendship but led to a priceless exchange between men at the top of their professions.

Knight, upset with his foul language being used verbatim, referred to Feinstein as "a pimp and a whore." With a counter-punch better than any Ken Norton threw in upsetting Muhammad Ali, Feinstein retorted: "I wish he would make up his mind so I'd know how to dress."

I don't know any Knight fan who read the book and didn't think even more highly of Knight after reading it, four-letter words notwithstanding.


Andy Katz says KU should be No. 1; video of KU-MU brawl from 1961

A few links to start off your Monday ...

After both Duke and Michigan fell last week, ESPN writers made their arguments for who should be No. 1 this week.

Andy Katz chose KU, saying:

Of all the one-loss teams who are in the discussion -- Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Arizona, Michigan, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Creighton -- the Jayhawks shouldn't take a backseat to any of them.

Other candidates for the top spot in the article included Louisville, Indiana and Duke.

On Saturday, former KU guard Mario Chalmers knocked down 10 three-pointers in a victory over the Sacramento Kings, tying the franchise record set by Brian Shaw in 1993.

The 10 threes also is the most made by a player in the NBA this season.

It's interesting to watch both LeBron James' and Dwyane Wade's reaction to Chalmers' performance. Though Chalmers has often gotten the "little brother" label in Miami, the Heat's two biggest stars seemed to be genuinely happy for him Saturday.

• If you haven't heard it yet, Bob Davis' radio call of Ben McLemore's game-tying three against Iowa State is definitely worth a listen.

ESPN.com's Jason King has more on Jamari Traylor's back story, which includes sleeping in an abandoned Buick on the south side of Chicago after he was kicked out of his house during high school. A couple weeks ago, CJonline.com's Austin Meek also wrote a feature story on Traylor's struggles.

• A final look at some highlights from KU's 60-46 victory over Texas Tech, from KU Athletics.

Here's another insightful blog from C.J. Moore, who shows how opponents sagging defensively off Kevin Young is hurting the Jayhawks' ability to get the ball to Jeff Withey.

• KU basketball's favorite courtside couple — Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Wilde — have gone public with their engagement.

Actor Jason Sudeikis and actress Olivia Wilde watch the video board during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Actor Jason Sudeikis and actress Olivia Wilde watch the video board during the second half on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

As you probably remember, the two sat behind the bench for KU's 89-57 victory over American late last month.

• Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal says NBA general managers "would be foolish not to at least consider McLemore at No. 1."

• I saw this posted on another site, and it was too interesting to not share.

The video below is of a KU-Missouri men's basketball brawl from 1961. I guess not much has changed in 50 years.

With KU taking on Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse on Monday night, here's a quick look back at the biggest highlight from last year's KU-BU game in Lawrence.

And finally, this isn't sports-related, but LJWorld.com's Chad Lawhorn wrote a tremendous piece over the weekend on an abandoned baby, a dime and a Lawrence laundromat.


Kevin Young edges out Travis Releford for top honors

Kansas forward Kevin Young soars in for a reverse jam before Texas Tech guard Ty Nurse during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas forward Kevin Young soars in for a reverse jam before Texas Tech guard Ty Nurse during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

1. Kevin Young: The senior was Kansas' spark plug in the second half, lifting the team's energy with his hustle and also his up-and-under, fast-break dunk with 14:15 left. Young led KU with 14 points on 7-for-9 shooting, adding four rebounds, two steals and no turnovers in 24 minutes. He also showed increased range on his jump shot, as Tech was the second team in a row to sag off him defensively.

2. Travis Releford: After not posting a steal in four straight games, Releford led KU with three steals against Tech. Not only that, he allowed only one three-pointer to Tech's Dusty Hannahs, who entered as the Red Raiders' only real three-point threat. Releford was great in transition, scoring 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting while also making all four of his free throws. He also had three rebounds, an assist and no turnovers.

3. Jeff Withey: The big man rebounded much better in the second half, grabbing five of his seven caroms after the break. His aggressiveness also was rewarded on the offensive end, as he earned 10 free throw attempts (making eight) while attempting just three field goals. Withey's final line was 12 points, seven rebounds and one block with two turnovers in 31 minutes.

4. Ben McLemore: McLemore once again struggled to free himself for shots while also settling for some out-of-rhythm jumpers. He scored well in transition, though, and made it to the line eight times. The freshman posted 10 points on 2-for-7 field-goal shooting (0-for-4 from three) with four rebounds, two assists, two blocks, a steal and turnover.

5. Naadir Tharpe: He made two difficult threes for his only six points, but both were crucial shots that helped KU keep a comfortable lead. In the first half, KU looked better offensively with him at the point, and after playing 19 minutes Saturday, he now has played between 15 and 20 minutes in each of KU's last eight contests. Tharpe finished 2-for-5 from the floor with an assist and a steal to go with two turnovers. He also appeared to work hard this game to pressure his man defensively.

6. Elijah Johnson: Another high turnover game for Johnson, who continued his recent stretch of rough games. With his four-turnover performance Saturday, the senior now has 15 turnovers in his last three games. Johnson played better in the second half, ending with five points on 2-for-6 shooting (1-for-3 from three) with four assists to go with his four giveaways in 35 minutes.

7. Jamari Traylor: The freshman has a knack for getting steals from the forward spot, and that continued Saturday, as he grabbed two steals in his 10 minutes. He missed both of his field goals but added three rebounds without turning it over.

8. Perry Ellis: He has to lead KU in layups that go around the rim before spinning out. Ellis went 0-for-3 from the floor and 1-for-2 from the free throw line to finish with one point. He also had two rebounds and a steal in 13 minutes.

9. Justin Wesley: In his first action since breaking his finger last month, Wesley played two minutes in garbage time.

10. Andrew White III: Missed a three in two minutes.

11. Rio Adams: Had a foul in two minutes.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (108 points)
2. Ben McLemore (104 points)
3. Travis Releford (102 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (87 points)
5. Kevin Young (79 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (71 points)
7. Perry Ellis (58 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (50 points)
9. Andrew White III (24 points)
10. Rio Adams (16 points)
11. Justin Wesley (9 points)


Texas Tech doesn’t have the shooters to bomb away against KU

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets up to block a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena.

Kansas center Jeff Withey gets up to block a shot by Texas Tech forward Jaye Crockett during the first half Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, at United Spirit Arena. by Nick Krug

Team: Texas Tech
Record: 8-5
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 253

3 Strengths

• Forcing turnovers: Texas Tech has done a great job of pressuring defensively, creating turnovers on 24.1 percent of opponents' possessions (31st nationally). The Red Raiders get most of those turnovers off steals, as 13.1 percent of their defensive possessions end in steals (26th nationally). Josh Gray (No. 5) and Daylen Robinson (No. 10) are the two best swipers, as both rank in the top 65 nationally in steal percentage. Kansas has done a good job of avoiding turnovers this year (89th nationally), but it is of note that the Jayhawks' worst turnover contest came in its only true road game of the year against Ohio State.

Offensive rebounding: Like Iowa State, Texas Tech has excelled on the offensive glass this season, grabbing 38 percent of its missed shots (32 percent). Some of that strength has fallen off in Big 12 play, where the Red Raiders are pulling down just 31 percent of their misses. This strength matches up with another KU strength, as the Jayhawks rank 53rd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.

Interior scoring: Tech has shot a great percentage from two-point range, making 52.4 percent of its inside shots (33rd nationally). Nine of the Red Raiders' 11 rotation players are shooting 50 percent or better from two-point range, including Jaye Crockett (No. 30), who has made 65 of 105 twos (61.9 percent). Once again, though, this lines up directly with a KU strength, as the Jayhawks lead the nation in two-point percentage defense (37.3 percent).

3 Weaknesses

Three-point shooting: The Red Raiders have been dreadful from long range, making just 67 of 247 threes (331st nationally). Only one player — reserve Dusty Hannahs (No. 2) — has made more than 32 percent of his three-point tries this year. Texas Tech doesn't shoot a lot of threes, but it doesn't avoid them, either; thirty-two percent of the Red Raiders' field-goal attempts have been threes (217th-highest split nationally).

• Turning it over: While playing at a fast tempo, Texas Tech has a tendency to be careless, giving it away on 21.4 percent of its possessions (217th nationally). Tech averages 15.3 turnovers per game, with the highest turnover rates coming from guards Gray and Robinson. KU's guards haven't shown much ability to turn people over in the last few games (Fun stat: In the last five games, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young and Jamari Traylor [nine] have more combined steals than Elijah Johnson, Naadir Tharpe and Travis Releford [eight]), but they should be able to pick up at least a few Saturday afternoon.

Competition: Texas Tech has faced one of the worst schedules in the nation so far, with its slate ranking 346th (out of 347 teams) according to KenPom.com. The Red Raiders have only played one road game (at TCU) and have taken on five teams ranked 313th or worst in KenPom's standings. Tech hasn't played well when it has faced top competition at home, losing by 28 to Arizona and 34 to Baylor.

3 Players to Watch

• As mentioned earlier, 6-foot-1 guard Josh Gray (No. 5) has been great on the defensive end, coming away with steals on 4.8 percent of opponents' possessions (32nd nationally). Offensively, though, he's been a huge liability, taking on a lot of offensive responsibility while producing an inefficient line. The freshman is extremely turnover-prone, giving it away on 28.6 percent of the possessions he ends. He's also a miserable three-point shooter, going 9-for-41 (22 percent). Gray takes a team-high 25.9 percent of his team's shots when he's in the game, but KU shouldn't be too worried when he has the ball in his hands.

• Six-foot-7 forward Jaye Crockett (No. 30) is Tech's best scoring option, but for some reason, he doesn't start. He's a great finisher at the rim and also can get to the free throw line, drawing five fouls per game while shooting a team-high 53 free throws. The junior also is a gifted rebounder, bringing down 23.9 percent of the available defensive rebounds (67th nationally) and 13 percent of the available offensive rebounds (95th nationally). Crockett takes 24.4 percent of Tech's shots when he's in, and he's the main guy that the Jayhawks should key on defensively.

Six-foot-11 forward Dejan Kravic (No. 11) has performed well when he's out there, though he's played less than half of Tech's minutes. The junior has three main strengths: inside shooting, where he's made 56 of 98 shots (57.1 percent); offensive rebounding, where he's grabbed 11.9 percent of his team's misses when he's in (156th nationally); and shot-blocking, as he's swatted 8.8 percent of opponent twos (56th nationally).


The biggest challenge for KU in Lubbock usually is bringing its own energy. Typically, United Spirit Arena is the emptiest gym that the Jayhawks play in front of all year.

Other than that, there's really not many reasons to think KU will struggle. Tech's strength offensively is inside, and KU has center Jeff Withey to clean that up. Another strength for Tech is offensive rebounding, and the Jayhawks do a nice job on the defensive glass.

If KU can somehow find a way to get turnovers, this one could get ugly quickly. Even if the Jayhawks don't, though, I still don't think they'll be challenged against one of the Big 12's two worst teams.

Kansas 86, Texas Tech 56

Hawk to Rock

After his 33-point game against Iowa State, guard Ben McLemore said KU coach Bill Self talked to him about working harder without the ball while also looking for his shot more. This game should be the perfect test run to see if McLemore can start to be more aggressive.

I think he will be. Put me down for 20-plus points with at least four three-pointers from the talented freshman.

Predictions tally
13-1 record, 180 points off (12.9 points off/game)

Hawk to Rock
SE Missouri: Perry Ellis (2nd in KUsports.com ratings)
Michigan State: Jeff Withey (4th)
Chattanooga: Andrew White III (10th)
Washington State: Ben McLemore (4th)
Saint Louis: Perry Ellis (7th)
San Jose State: Travis Releford (2nd)
Oregon State: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Colorado: Elijah Johnson (4th)
Belmont: Kevin Young (6th)
Richmond: Jeff Withey (1st)
Ohio State: Ben McLemore (1st)
American: Jeff Withey (5th)
Temple: Kevin Young (2nd)
Iowa State: Travis Releford (4th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings


Charlie Weis goes wild over Ben McLemore 3; Bill Self compared to Vince Lombardi by unlikely source

A few links and videos following Kansas' 97-89 overtime victory over Iowa State on Wednesday ...

I know you've probably seen KU guard Ben McLemore's game-tying three already, but you'll want to look in a different spot the next time you play it.

If you look on the baseline under the basket, KU football coach Charlie Weis (dressed in black) is watching the game from a courtside seat.

And his reaction to the three is pretty spectacular. Definitely worth a look.

• Speaking of the game-tying three, is it possible that McLemore was fouled on the play?

Good nugget from Randy Peterson in the Des Moines Register.

Tyrus McGee did foul Kansas’ Ben McLemore with just more than a second to play Wednesday night.

“The ref just didn’t call it,” Iowa State’s energizer guard said after sixth-ranked Kansas’ super shooter sent the Big12 Conference game into overtime. “I got him on the bottom of his hand. I should have smacked him in the head.”

A lot of talk in Iowa about whether ISU coach Fred Hoiberg should have told his team to foul up three with just over eight seconds left.

The Register's Bryce Miller says he agrees with the decision to not foul, partly because former coach and ESPNU announcer Matt Doherty said he wouldn't have fouled in that situation either.

There's also this snippet:

Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg decided to play on. Then, Kansas did what Kansas does — in soul-crushing fashion on a banked 3-pointer by Ben McLemore with one second dangling on the clock.

Peterson also has an interesting take in his postgame blog, wondering how the game would have changed if Georges Niang hadn't picked up a technical foul in the first half.

Niang later fouled out in the last minute of regulation.

"And if he’s not sitting the bench on Kansas’ last-second possession," Peterson writes, "coach Fred Hoiberg orders an intentional – non-shooting—foul.

Blogger C.J. Moore does a great job here of diagramming KU's "chop" play, which KU coach Bill Self runs at the end of close games when he needs a three. Moore shows why KU has so many options on the play, and even points out that Mario's Miracle in 2008 was probably the worst-executed chop play of the bunch.

ESPN.com's Jason King was at Allen Fieldhouse, and he left wowed by McLemore's performance.

No KU player under Self -- and, heck, none since Pierce in the late 1990s -- has ever been pegged as a “star." Until now.

King also bumped McLemore up to No. 4 on his latest Wooden Watch player of the year ballot.

A few more highlights of the game from different angles, from KU Athletics.

NBADraft.net was so impressed with McLemore's 33-point performance that the site moved him to No. 1 on its newest 2013 Mock Draft board.

• And finally, KU's late-game execution was enough to even get Self some praise on Twitter from former Missouri forward Kim English.

Hand off, ball screen, flare screen... Bill Self is like Vince Lombardi. You know what's coming end of game. But it somehow always works.

Reply 1 comment from Pwopellewcap

Ben McLemore gives Pierce-ian performance against Iowa State

1. Ben McLemore: Was it the best individual performance in Allen Fieldhouse since Paul Pierce scored 31 against Oklahoma? The freshman hit the game's biggest shot — a banked-in three with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to tie it — and ended with 33 points on just 12 field-goal attempts, making six of six threes and seven of seven free throws. That was the most posts by a KU freshman since Danny Manning had 35 on March 2, 1985.

2. Jeff Withey: Made the most of a tough matchup and played a big role in keeping Iowa State below its season average percentage-wise in offensive rebounds. Withey posted 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting with 12 rebounds and three blocks in 38 minutes. The senior also had a crucial steal in the second half that helped end a long KU field-goal drought.

3. Kevin Young: Like Withey, he battled hard on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. He also had 10 points on 5-for-10 shooting to go with an assist, steal and two turnovers.

4. Travis Releford: His biggest play was setting a solid screen in the final seconds of regulation to free up McLemore, who knocked in the game-tying three. The senior wasn't great defensively — posting no steals against a team that was careless coming in — but he did have 12 points on 3-for-6 shooting with 6-for-8 accuracy from the free throw line.

5. Elijah Johnson: Made great decisions to keep KU in it late, driving hard to the rim to get fouled with 21 seconds left then putting in a short shot with 14 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. It's time to start getting concerned about his turnover numbers, though. Johnson had six of KU's 14 giveaways against ISU, which makes 11 in his last two games and 16 in his last four. For a guy that doesn't have the ball in his hands as much as someone like Tyshawn Taylor, that number needs to come down. The senior added 12 points on 4-for-10 shooting (2-for-6 from three) with 10 assists and three steals.

6. Jamari Traylor: Provided crucial scoring in his nine minutes, contributing five points on 1-for-1 shooting with 3-for-4 accuracy from the free throw line. He also had two rebounds to go with an illegal screen foul.

7. Naadir Tharpe: The sophomore took one very ill-advised three that stands out, but I thought many of his field goal tries in the lane were aggressive plays where he didn't make the shot. The final line still looks pretty ugly: eight points, 2-for-11 shooting, 0-for-5 shooting from three with one turnover and one steal in 23 minutes.

8. Perry Ellis: Missed both field goals but made both free throws in his eight minutes.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (100 points)
2. Ben McLemore (97 points)
3. Travis Releford (93 points)
4. Elijah Johnson (82 points)
5. Kevin Young (69 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (65 points)
7. Perry Ellis (55 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (46 points)
9. Andrew White III (23 points)
10. Rio Adams (16 points)
11. Justin Wesley (7 points)


Voters cheat cheater Barry Bonds out of Hall of Fame

Steroids are germane to the question of whether Barry Bonds belongs in the all-time outfield, but not to whether he belongs in the Hall of Fame. He belongs in Cooperstown, but the steroid rage of non-users kept him out.

The Hall of Fame election results were just announced on MLB Network and for the eighth time, nobody was elected. An elector for the 16th year, I voted for a personal-record eight players.

Craig Biggio was the leading vote recipient, appearing on 68 percent of the ballots. A player must be on 75 percent of the ballots to enter the Hall of Fame.

Back to Bonds. He doesn’t belong in the all-time outfield because with Willie Mays in center, flanked by Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron, there simply isn’t room for Bonds, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb or Oscar Charleston. If Bonds’ numbers were not steroid-inflated, they would merit him a spot in the all-time lineup.

Keeping Bonds out of Cooperstown because he juiced so mightily his head swelled and made it look as if he were auditioning for a part as a Klingon in the next Star Trek flick ignores what a great ballplayer he was before cheating.

A lousy baseball player, I learned to trust my ears more than my eyes when covering the game and did have a skill for knowing where to go to get the unvarnished truth. Bobby Cox was one such source of knowledge. The guy doesn’t have time for nonsense. I’ll never forget the Bonds conversation I had with Cox, one of my favorite managers in his dugout.

I asked him if I were correct in my belief that Ken Griffey Jr. ranked No. 1 in the game at the time. He held up two fingers, meaning someone ranked ahead of him.

“Griffey’s great,” Cox said. “But if you put it in just the right spot, you can get him out. Bonds doesn’t have a spot. The best pitchers in the game can throw pitches exactly where they want them and he’ll go down there and get them. I don’t know how he does it.”

This was before Bonds’ cap grew three sizes. The only fair way to vote is to make as informed a guess as possible as to whether a player juiced — a Hall of Fame ballot is an opinion document, not a legal one — deflate the numbers of those you think cheated and go from there. But automatically ban them because they were doing what at least half the hitters and many pitchers were doing? Please.

Keeping Bonds out of Cooperstown because he grew modern muscles in the latter stages of his career is even more foolish than keeping John Hadl out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame because of his poor play with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Oilers after having an exceptional career with the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Rams.

Bonds was the first name I checked on my Hall of Fame ballot and Roger Clemens was the second, not just because that happens to be the alphabetical order of the (personal-high) eight players for which I voted.

The others: Edgar Martinez, Mark McGwire (first time), Jack Morris, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines (first time) and Curt Schilling. Every one with the exception of Piazza was a tough call. So were exclusions Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio.

Sammy Sosa? Easy call. He was one player when his body called to mind the Michelin Man, a much weaker force when he looked like an old-fashioned ballplayer.