Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

Mock spelling of Kentucky, North Carolina: NIT

Indianapolis — The final NCAA Tournament mock bracket completed this afternoon had the school with the second-most all-time college basketball victories among the field of 68. Kansas, seeded third in the South (Dallas) regional, faces Harvard in its first game in the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

The schools that rank first and third all-time did not make the field. Defending champion Kentucky and perennial powerhouse North Carolina are in the midst of off seasons and if they don’t get their acts together are in danger of missing the real tournament field as well.

After all the numbers were crunched, it came down to something simple. Two of the biggest names in the game fell short in the quality-victories department. North Carolina’s two best: At home against UNLV and on the road against Florida State.

Kentucky’s most impressive victory: At Ole Miss, 87-74. Wildcats freshman Norlens Noel had 12 blocked shots in that one. Noel’s gone for the season and most among us on the mock committee thought that Kentucky had a weak case even without considering that Noel’s injury weakens the defending champion even more.

The top four seeds in each region:

Midwest (Indianapolis): 1. Indiana, 2. Florida, 3. Louisville, 4. Kansas State.

South (Atlanta): 1. Duke, 2. Arizona, 3. Kansas, 4. Georgetown.

East (Washington, D.C.) 1. Miami (Fl), 2. Michigan State, 3. Syracuse, 4. Wisconsin.

West (Los Angeles) 1. Michigan, 2. Gonzaga, 3. Butler, 4. New Mexico.

The often referenced “S Curve” no longer is used by the committee. For example, Kansas was ranked No. 9 on the seed sheet but does not go to the region of the fourth No. 1 seed. Geography takes precedence.

Missouri? It’s seeded eighth in the South, meaning the earliest a fake Border War (squirt guns?) could take place would be in the Elite Eight.

Six Big 12 teams made the field, but it’s a no-no to mention conference affiliation in the committee room. Teams are treated as if all are independents, according to real NCAA selection chairman Mike Bobinski, and are evaulated on their merits. Here’s where the Big 12 teams other than KU landed:

Kansas State: Seeded fourth and faces, ahem, Bucknell in Austin and is in the Midwest (Indianapolis) region. Oklahoma State: Seeded fifth in the West (Los Angeles), facing Alabama in Salt Lake City. Oklahoma: Seeded sixth and plays San Diego State in Kansas City as part of the West regional. Baylor: Meets California in Dayton in a play-in game with the winner facing No. 5 seed Pittsburgh in Austin as part of the East regional.

Iowa State: Facing Virginia in Dayton in a play-in game with the winner facing No. 6 seed Oregon, also in Dayton as part of the East regional.

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Tension will mount in NCAA Tournament selection room

Indianapolis — For one more day of my charmed life I get to be Joe Lunardi with better hair. Except Lunardi just projects the NCAA Tournament field. In tandem with Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Dispatch, I get to be one of the 10 tandems filling in for one of the selection committee’s members.

Our final exercise Thursday night involved what's called, "scrubbing the seeds.”

The chairman starts with the No. 1 overall seed, in this case Indiana, compares it to the No. 2, Miami (Fla.), with their credentials put side-by-side on the wall. We didn’t go through the whole field that way, but the tournament committee, which has five days of meetings compared to our two, does. Duke, the third No. 1 seed, survived a comparison against Florida, the fourth No. 1.

After a comparison between Florida and the top No. 2 seed, Michigan State, those schools swapped places. Since Michigan State moved up a spot, it then was compared to Duke, but didn’t get moved past the Blue Devils.

During the scrubbing process, every team moved up a spot gets compared to the team now in front of it and every team that moves down a spot is compared to the team now behind it.

“Some years you’ll see a team just start dropping,” said tournament selection committee chairman Mike Bobinski, Xavier University’s athletic director. “One year a team dropped down an elevator shaft. It dropped about 20 spots.”

Kansas, seeded third, could move up or down during the scrubbing process. Also, since the fake conference tournament final isn’t until today (it’s a KU vs. Kansas State fake final), that result could rock the boat as well.

By the end of today’s session, in a window-less room full of snacks and hacks, we’ll have a mock tournament bracket.

If history is an accurate indicator, the room will grow most tense when the final spot or spots are debated.

Once shown how the bracketing process works, we will be armed to debunk myths, assured David Worlock of the NCAA.

For example, he said if a UCLA-Pittsburgh match-up happens at some point in the tournament, it won’t be because the bracket was rigged for the drama of control-freak (my words, not his) UCLA coach Ben Howland facing his former school.

“CBS does not have any input,” Worlock said. “TNT doesn’t have a say. It just doesn’t happen that way.”

They aren’t in the room.

For one more day, if only in fantasy land, I will have more power than TV networks. I’m in the room, encouraged to speak up. They’re on the outside, eating ice cream.

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Tentative Kansas seeding determined in NCAA Basketball Tournament mock selection exercise

Indianapolis — In this room without windows in the NCAA offices we have taken a first crack at the top three seed lines.

No. 1 seeds: Indiana, Miami, Duke and Florida. No. 2 seeds: Michigan State, Michigan, Arizona (shockingly) and Gonzaga. No. 3 seeds: Syracuse, Butler, Kansas and Louisville.

Now the mock committee breaks for dinner for 35 minutes. (You mean those Reese's bars weren't supposed to be dinner? Uh-oh.)

Interestingly, conference affiliation is not allowed to be mentioned when discussing teams. For example, you can say Gonzaga defeated Oklahoma by 15, Kansas State by 16, Baylor by 7 and Oklahoma State by 1, but pointing out that the Zags are 4-0 against the Big 12 is forbidden.

A tweaking of the seeds could be necessary based on various rules, such as the one that prohibits conference foes from facing each other too early in the tournament.

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Mock NCAA Tournament selection committee member weighs in

INDIANAPOLIS — I’m inside a conference room in the NCAA offices. No, I didn’t buy a car for a recruit, or even a tattoo. I’m not sweating. I’m pretending to be half of Ron Wellman, Wake Forest athletic director and of 10 NCAA Tournament selection committee members. Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Dispatch is the other half, the smart half.

We’re pretending the regular season has ended and 13 automatic qualifiers have joined the field, which is the case during the real selection week by Wednesday. We just finished “conference monitoring.”

Each tandem was assigned three or four conferences and you are called upon by the chairman you quickly discuss what teams you think are worthy of consideration. If the league is so weak you’re sure only the automatic qualifier will make the field, you say “AQ” or “one-bid league.” Anyone in the room might be challenged.

Our leagues: Atlantic 10, Big 12, Ohio Valley, Southern.

During the presentation, I suggested the Big 12 should be a six-bid league and that Kansas, Oklahoma State and Kansas State don’t need any discussion. Baylor, Oklahoma and Iowa State merit discussion.

The next step: Every tandem works together to fill out a ballot of all eligible teams, leaving blank teams that deserve no consideration, clicking the “AL” button, standing for at-large (or in slanguage, ‘a lock.’) We click “AL” next to 18 schools, “C” next to 37. The other nine tandems did the same and we’re taking a bathroom break, awaiting the results of which teams will gain entry based on getting enough votes, which schools passed the first cut. The rest hope to make the NIT.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 2/14/13

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

Texas looked good against Iowa State on Wednesday night. Having Myck Kabongo back makes a difference for Texas from a speed standpoint. Texas performed a lot better offensively. The Longhorns can play faster with Kabongo back. It gives UT another primary ballhandler.

• ESPN GameDay is great. It's an infomercial for your school. KU's fans do a great job of showing up for that. They get excited for this event.

Self was worried about his team's confidence before Monday night. The Oklahoma State shouldn't have shook KU, but it did a little bit. Usually when confidence is shaken, it's on the offensive end. Self saw his team's confidence was low when it couldn't get the lid off the basket in the first half against TCU. Against OU, KU played above average offensively, which was good for Self to see. The coach said he thinks KU fully got its confidence back against Kansas State.

Self says KU gets its leadership by committee this year. That's kind of like the 2007-08 team.

• Elijah Johnson hasn't played the way he knows he can play. A lot of that is making shots. If you make shots, a lot of things change. Johnson is a far superior shooter than what his stats show. Self thinks at the end of the year, his stats will be at a comparable level to last year. Self has confidence that will happen.

When asked if Naadir Tharpe's role will be increased, Self said Tharpe has a pretty big role already. Whether his minutes are 18 or 24 in a game ... that depends on situation. Tharpe has been inconsistent. He's been good one game and not as good the next. He needs to stay aggressive and drive it and let that set up everything else. He's become a good defender. He did a great job guarding KSU's Rodney McGruder in the first half.

Self hopes Mario Chalmers gets to meet with the team. He's not sure of Chalmers' exact plans yet. A lot of guys are coming back. Chalmers is scheduled to get to Lawrence on Friday.

Ben McLemore has been pretty good the entire year. Self would like him to get more looks, but teams are going to do things to try to limit his shots. Self thought McLemore looked terrific on Monday.

There's a reason why little quick guys have so many assists. It's because they force help. KU has to do a better job of doing that. Tharpe was great at it against KSU. Johnson has shown the ability to do that.

When KU recruited Chalmers, the coaching staff thought he was going to be great. That was a really special recruiting class. It took Chalmers a while to get on track and get used to Self. After Chalmers got comfortable, he was great.

Perry Ellis needs to see the ball to go in. He's trying hard, and his attitude is great. If he keeps going like he's going, he'll start making shots.

Self isn't putting pressure on his guys to win the league. He's putting the pressure on the guys to get better.

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Ben McLemore with more dancing on his birthday; Should KU recruit this 2-year-old?

A few links for your Wednesday ...

Kansas guard Ben McLemore has perfected his own dance, showing if off once again in the locker room following the Jayhawks' 83-62 victory over Kansas State on Monday.

Here's the never-ending GIF for those wanting to watch it non-stop, while the clip first appeared in this highlight video from KU Athletics.

• Speaking of KU Athletics, the latest edition of the department's popular series "Pay Heed" is now available online. It's especially interesting to be able to hear what KU coach Bill Self says in the locker room after wins over Texas and at Kansas State.

Oh, and there's another McLemore dancing clip at the very end (6:37 mark) if you're interested.

• More from Monday's game ... FoxSports.com's Sean Keeler says KU looked like a better team when Naadir Tharpe was running the point, making him wonder if KU found its mojo and its point guard in the same game.

ESPN.com's Jason King said KU's win over K-State "was about a mentally fragile team regaining its moxie" at a crucial time.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins was watching Monday's game, and he used it as an opportunity to challenge his own students on Twitter:

Mountaineer fans check out Allen Fieldhouse on Big Monday.. great atmosphere.. students - how we need our student section all the time

For those who haven't been to the Fieldhouse lately, our own Matt Tait put together a sight-and-sounds video that takes a look at the buzz in the barn before the KU-KSU game Monday.

An amazing trick-shot video here ... from a two-year-old in Derby named Titus Ashby.

KAKE TV had more info on Ashby in this report, with Titus' father saying his son hasn't shown any affiliation toward KU, KSU or Wichita State ... as Titus is still too young to understand those sorts of things.

Have schools ever sent binkies along with recruiting letters?

From last week, this is great stuff from FoxSports.com's Jeff Borzello and Jeff Goodman, who talked to four anonymous coaches who have played KU this season to get their honest takes on the Jayhawks.

There's some really good information in there ... and also a coach who can't stop cursing when talking about KU.

The Kansas City Star's Rustin Dodd gives some insight into the relationship between Ben McLemore and his brother, Keith, who is serving time in a maximum-security prison in Missouri.

FoxSports.com's Reid Forgrave has an interesting feature up about stats expert Ken Pomeroy, who has quit his job as a meteorologist to focus full-time on his basketball statistics. The article also says that Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg uses Pomeroy as a consultant.

Here's one final shameless plug for Monday's feature on Jeff Withey, who made his grandmother proud and proved to Self that he could play at KU.

And finally, this has nothing to do with basketball or KU, but your life will be better (I promise) once you meet Oklahoma's Sweet Brown.

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Hot-shooting McLemore edges out Withey, Tharpe for top spot

Kansas guard Ben McLemore puts up a three over Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder during the first half on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore puts up a three over Kansas State guard Rodney McGruder during the first half on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. by Nick Krug

1. Ben McLemore: Kansas coach Bill Self said afterwards that McLemore was more aggressive both shooting and penetrating, and the freshman's line was impressive because of it. McLemore scored 30 points on just 13 field-goal attempts, going 9-for-13 from the floor and 6-for-10 from three. He added seven rebounds and a team-high three steals to go with three turnovers.

2. Jeff Withey: Withey's best moment came after an emphatic slam, as he yelled to the air before tugging at his jersey in a Superman-like pose. The fans went nuts, as they hadn't seen that kind of fire from Withey in his last few games. The senior posted 17 points (5-for-10 shooting) to go with 10 rebounds while adding five blocks to set a new KU career record. Withey added two steals and had no turnovers in 30 minutes.

3. Naadir Tharpe: Self called Tharpe's first half the best half of his career. Not only was the sophomore making great plays off the dribble to post seven first-half points with six assists and no turnovers, he also stuck to KSU's Rodney McGruder defensively to keep him from open shots. Tharpe's second half wasn't as good, but his final total of seven points on 3-for-9 shooting with eight assists, one turnover and one steal in 27 minutes is the best line KU has gotten from a point guard in weeks.

4. Kevin Young: Had a knack for finding the open spaces around the basket to get layups. When he did have some room off the dribble, Young also made the right decision most of the time, pulling up for short jumpers or passing back out when an opening wasn't available. The senior finished with 13 points on 6-for-9 shooting and also had a huge impact on the boards, grabbing nine rebounds (eight defensive) in his 29 minutes. Young also had two assists, a block and steal to go with a turnover.

5. Travis Releford: Looked much more comfortable in a wide-open game. His best move was an old-man drop-step on Will Spradling in transition, with the senior twirling around the KSU guard for a layup with a foul. Releford had 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting with two assists and one turnover. He was limited to 22 minutes because of first-half foul trouble.

6. Jamari Traylor: Missed all three of his field goals, but he also gave KU a couple extra possessions, pulling down three rebounds (two offensive). He had one point and one assist with no turnovers in 12 minutes.

7. Perry Ellis: One rebound, one steal and one turnover in six minutes. The freshman played just one minute in the second half.

8. Andrew White III: Won the coin toss to take eighth over Justin Wesley. Played one minute without recording a statistic.

9. Justin Wesley: Lost the coin toss. Part of the trillion club with one minute and nine other zeroes on his stat line.

10. Elijah Johnson: Once again was a negative-value player for KU. Johnson scored five points on 1-for-6 shooting (0-for-4 from three) and now has shot over 50 percent in just one of KU's 24 games this season. The senior added two rebounds and three assists to go with a team-high four turnovers. His starting spot should be in jeopardy, especially with Tharpe's strong effort Monday.

11. Rio Adams: Didn't play well in a five-minute audition for future minutes. He had a steal and played decent on-ball defense, but he also committed a foul and had two turnovers.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (188 points)
2. Ben McLemore (187 points)
3. Travis Releford (173 points)
4. Kevin Young (139 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (123 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (121 points)
7. Perry Ellis (101 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (80 points)
9. Andrew White III (41 points)
10. Rio Adams (26 points)
11. Justin Wesley (15 points)

Big 12 Standings
1. Ben McLemore (98 points)
2. Jeff Withey (97 points)
3. Travis Releford (87 points)
4. Kevin Young (80 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (60 points)
6. Perry Ellis (49 points)
7. Elijah Johnson (47 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (39 points)
9. Andrew White III (18 points)
10. Rio Adams (11 points)
11. Justin Wesley (8 points)

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Friendly fire puts KU basketball 24th on one Associated Press ballot

The man among the 64 Associated Press voters who put Kansas lowest isn’t afraid to acknowledge he has a rooting interest in the Jayhawks. Jason Franchuk has covered BYU for the Provo Daily Herald the past nine seasons and is part of the KU Class of 2001. His wife, Audrey Hickert, is an '02 graduate.

Normally, Jason and Audrey will DVR the KU games and watch them together. Since nothing was normal about KU’s Wednesday visit to Forth Worth, Franchuk didn’t wait. A friend had texted him wondering what was going on in the TCU game.

“I figured Kansas was up 30 and I turned it on to see what was going on,” Franchuk said. “I was shocked. I covered BYU for six years (against TCU) and BYU never came close to losing to TCU.”

Interestingly, Franchuk this season often has voted KU lower than its ranking, which during one long week toppled from fifth to 14th. On his ballot, the Jayhawks fell all the way to 24th. Franchuk’s doubts predated the TCU clunker.

“I think it started with the Iowa State game,” said Franchuk, who loves the form of Ben McLemore's jumper. “They made it to overtime because McLemore banked in a three. I thought, ‘I’m not going to reward a team for a little bit of luck.’ And the Oklahoma State game ... The pass that made me jump out of my seat was when McLemore stood flat-footed and threw it to one of their guys and he took it in for a dunk.”

Franchuk said he was surprised KU’s losing streak didn’t drop the Jayhawks all the way to No. 20. He even ran his ballot by his wife before e-mailing it. Her response: “Oh yeah. The TCU game. You’ve got to penalize them.”

No. 10 Kansas State, four spots ahead of KU in the AP poll, was No. 11 on Franchuk’s ballot and mine. I put KU 16th.

For the most part, polls are a reflection of what has happened so far with stronger emphasis placed on recent results. Las Vegas oddsmakers are concerned strictly with what they think will happen now. Kansas is favored by eight for today's 8 p.m. tipoff in Allen Fieldhouse. That ought to ease some worried minds around here.

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Will Kansas State be able to avoid turnovers in Allen Fieldhouse?

Kansas State guard Shane Southwell signals "three" after hitting one over Kansas forward Kevin Young during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas State guard Shane Southwell signals "three" after hitting one over Kansas forward Kevin Young during the first half on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Team: Kansas State
Record: 19-4
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 31
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted

3 Strengths

Turnovers: Kansas State has been the Big 12's best team in offensive turnover percentage (16.6 percent) and third-best team in defensive turnover percentage (21.4 percent) during league play. Meanwhile, turnovers on both ends have been especially costly for KU during conference play, as the Jayhawks are seventh in the Big 12 in offensive turnover percentage and eighth in defensive turnover percentage during that time. In the first meeting, KU had 13 giveaways to KSU's 10, which was a significant difference considering the game was played at a slow pace (60 possessions).

Shooting confidence: K-State has greatly improved its accuracy in the last month under new coach Bruce Weber. The Wildcats, who rank 218th nationally in two-point percentage (46.4 percent), have made 49 percent of their twos in conference play (second in Big 12). The Wildcats also lead the league in three-point shooting during league play, making 38.6 percent of their long-range shots. Rodney McGruder (45.3 percent), Shane Southwell (39.5 percent) and Will Spradling (38.9 percent) have all posted impressive three-point shooting percentages in their last 10 games.

Limiting three-pointers on defense: KSU continues to be a team that does a good job of preventing three-pointers defensively. Only 27.3 percent of opponents' field goal attempts against KSU are threes (29th-lowest split nationally), while according to Hoop-Math.com, 42 percent of the shots taken against the Wildcats are two-point jumpshots — statistically the worst shot an offense can take.

3 Weaknesses

Drawing fouls: Kansas State has posted the top offensive efficiency in Big 12 play (1.09 points per possession) while getting almost no production from the free throw line. The Wildcats rank last in the conference in offensive free throw rate and have averaged just 15 free throw attempts through 10 league games. With Weber's motion offense, KSU is reliant on jumpshots to score, as 43 percent of its field goal tries are two-point jumpers (NCAA average is 33 percent).

Interior defense: KSU has not challenged inside shots well during Big 12 play. Opponents have made 47.9 percent of their twos in league games (eighth in conference). Part of the reason for this is the undersized lineup that the Wildcats play. Shane Southwell, who played as a guard a year ago, plays most of the team's minutes as an undersized 4, which also creates mismatches for KSU on the offensive end with his ability to shoot.

Fouling too often: KSU has especially struggled in this area in its last 10 games, ranking seventh in the conference in defensive free throw rate. While playing at the second-slowest pace in the conference, the Wildcats have allowed 19.3 free throws per game. KU dominated this facet in the first matchup, shooting 21 free throws to KSU's seven.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Rodney McGruder (No. 22) remains as K-State's go-to guy offensively. The senior does a great job of working off screens to get open (ESPN's Seth Greenberg has a nice video breakdown of McGruder doing that here), and if he does get free, he's a great spot-up jump-shooter. While taking 28.1 percent of KSU's shots while he's in (173rd nationally), McGruder has kept his efficiency in an elite range by limiting his turnovers (204th-best turnover rate) while making 36 percent of his threes and 49 percent of his twos. KU's Travis Releford did a nice job of chasing McGruder down in the second half of KU's 59-55 victory in Manhattan, and the senior should have the same defensive assignment Monday night.

• KU fans should remember from the first matchup how dangerous 6-foot-6 Shane Southwell (No. 1) can be. The undersized power forward made KU regret leaving him open on the perimeter, as he made five of 11 three-pointers to finish with a team-high 19 points. Southwell is not a threat to score at the rim (only five percent of his shots are from close range), but his strong shooting is not a fluke. Southwell has made 43 percent of his two-point jumpshots this year (NCAA average is 35 percent) and 42 percent of his threes (27 of 65). Southwell also is a good defensive rebounder for his size, ranking 462nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage.

Five-foot-11 point guard Angel Rodriguez (No. 13) has improved his play recently by limiting his turnovers. The sophomore has just 11 giveaways in his last eight games after turning it over at least twice in his 10 contests before that. Though Rodriguez is still struggling from three-point range (26 of 88, 30 percent), he's been better around the rim, raising his close shot percentage from 35 percent to 41 percent since his team's last game against KU. Rodriguez also remains as an elite passer (27th in assist rate) and strong perimeter defender (261st in steal percentage).

Prediction

So I've been wrong three games in a row, picking the Jayhawks to win against Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma.

It's going to be hard to sound more foolish than that, but I guess I'll try anyway: I think KU will win this one going away.

I probably shouldn't overestimate the advantage the Allen Fieldhouse crowd will give KU, but it's hard not to considering the circumstances. The Jayhawks have lost three straight, KU students have been camping for the game for over a week, and the team's biggest rival is coming to Lawrence.

I'm not sure KSU will be able to avoid an early run from KU. The stats say KSU isn't likely to turn the ball over, but when things get crazy in the fieldhouse, sometimes teams play away from their tendencies.

I'm expecting early defensive energy from KU, a couple of loose-ball steals, a few transition dunks, lots of free throws, and the Jayhawks building a double-digit lead that they don't relinquish.

But hey, I've definitely been wrong before.

Kansas 76, Kansas State 62

Hawk to Rock

In the first game, KSU's guards overplayed defensively, which worked out well because KU didn't attack that pressure well off the dribble. KU's best option to dribble-drive is Naadir Tharpe, so I'll take him as my Hawk to Rock. I'll say Tharpe posts a career-high in points (11 is his high now) while adding four-plus assists for KU.

Predictions tally
19-4 record, 280 points off (12.2 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)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (5th)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

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Ben McLemore gives top performance in loss

1. Ben McLemore: The freshman finished with an efficient line, posting 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting (2-for-6 from three). Opponents seem to have picked up on his weaknesses, though, covering him up on the perimeter to force him to drive. McLemore added three rebounds, three assists and a steal to go with two turnovers.

2. Jeff Withey: Didn't appear to be his springy self defensively, as Withey challenged few of OU's shots at the rim. The senior still was KU's best option inside, posting 14 points on 5-for-8 shooting, and came away with three of KU's five steals. Here's a stat for you: In KU's 10 Big 12 games, Withey has more steals (12) than Elijah Johnson (11) and Ben McLemore (10) and double the steals of Naadir Tharpe (5). Withey had six rebounds but also posted a season-high five turnovers.

3. Kevin Young: Young provided the Jayhawks with energy and is a much more valuable player when he makes his layups. The senior went 4-for-5 on layups/dunks against OU and finished with eight points on 4-for-7 shooting overall. He added five rebounds and a steal with no turnovers, but he was limited to 18 minutes with foul trouble.

4. Naadir Tharpe: Tharpe gave KU hope just before the end of the first half, putting in a pair of shots to cut OU's lead from eight to four. He finished with seven points on 3-for-5 shooting (1-for-2 from three) with two assists and one turnover in 22 minutes. If KU coach Bill Self wants to make a change in the starting lineup, this is where he should start.

5. Travis Releford: Releford has gone from one of KU's most consistent players to one of its least consistent in recent games. He let OU's Steven Pledger wiggle free too often in the first half and missed crucial free throws, including one that would have tied the game at 60 with 4:13 left. Releford contributed eight points on 3-for-7 shooting (1-for-2 from three) while making just one of four free throws. Serving as a post defender in KU's Triangle-and-2 setup, Releford notched a season-high nine rebounds to go with one assist and two turnovers.

6. Elijah Johnson: What should Self do? Johnson's play is leaving the coach few other options other than to try something — anything — to get better production from the point-guard spot. This wasn't as bad as the TCU performance for Johnson, but it was another stinker in a conference season full of them. Johnson scored 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting (2-for-6 from three). He continues to struggle with layups, as he was 0-for-2 Saturday, with both of them coming in the final 1:15. Johnson added four assists to go with three turnovers.

7. Perry Ellis: He played aggressively, with his hard-charging drives drawing enough attention to allow KU to get opportunities for offensive rebounds on the weak side. He also came through with a pair of hustle plays to steal KU a pair of extra possessions. Like Johnson, though, he couldn't convert on his layups. Ellis was 0-for-4 overall, 0-for-3 on layups and ended with two points and two rebounds in eight minutes.

8. Jamari Traylor: Made one of his two shots and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 in seven minutes.

9. Justin Wesley: Had two rebounds in four minutes.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (179 points)
2. Ben McLemore (177 points)
3. Travis Releford (167 points)
4. Kevin Young (132 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (122 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (113 points)
7. Perry Ellis (97 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (75 points)
9. Andrew White III (38 points)
10. Rio Adams (26 points)
11. Justin Wesley (13 points)

Big 12 Standings
T1. Jeff Withey (88 points)
T1. Ben McLemore (88 points)
3. Travis Releford (81 points)
4. Kevin Young (73 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (52 points)
6. Elijah Johnson (46 points)
7. Perry Ellis (45 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (34 points)
9. Andrew White III (15 points)
10. Rio Adams (11 points)
11. Justin Wesley (6 points)

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Winning turnover battle Oklahoma’s best chance at upset

Kansas guard Ben McLemore loses a rebound to Oklahoma forward Romero Osby, right, during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is Oklahoma guard Je'lon Hornbreak.

Kansas guard Ben McLemore loses a rebound to Oklahoma forward Romero Osby, right, during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is Oklahoma guard Je'lon Hornbreak. by Nick Krug

Team: Oklahoma
Record: 14-7
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 57
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted

3 Strengths

Avoiding fouls: Oklahoma enters Saturday's game as the top team in Big 12 play when it comes to defensive free throw rate, as opponents have averaged just 16 free throws per game against the Sooners in conference play. This will be an interesting subplot to watch, as KU has the Big 12's best offensive free throw rate in league play while averaging 25 free throws per game. KU could definitely use chances to score at the line with the offense struggling the way it has recently.

Turnovers: Oklahoma continues to be above-average in both forcing and limiting turnovers. The Sooners are 100th nationally in offensive turnover percentage and 139th in defensive turnover percentage. Turnovers have been one of KU's biggest weaknesses in Big 12 play, as the Jayhawks rank seventh in the conference in offensive turnover percentage and eighth in defensive turnover percentage. If OU wins, it'll probably because the Sooners took advantage of getting extra shots they received by dominating in this area.

Offensive rebounding: Though this aspect hasn't been as good in the last month or so, OU still is strong on the offensive glass. The Sooners grab 34.7 percent of their missed shots, which ranks 81st nationally. OU showed its potential on the glass in its last game against Iowa State, notching 22 offensive rebounds and 23 second-chance points in an 83-64 road loss. KU did a nice job of defensive rebounding in its first matchup against OU, as the Sooners grabbed offensive rebounds on 28 percent of their missed shots.

3 Weaknesses

Drawing fouls: OU ranks eighth in Big 12 play in offensive free throw rate, averaging just 18 free throw attempts per game. This makes sense considering the fact that the Sooners shoot a lot of jump shots. According to Hoop-Math.com, 39 percent of OU's field goal attempts are two-point jumpers, which is well above the NCAA average of 33 percent. Unless the Sooners have a wide-open layup, they're often hesitant to attack the rim, instead settling for many short jumpers.

• Three-point shooting: Oklahoma doesn't rely much on three-point shots, and there's good reason for that: The Sooners don't have many gifted outside shooters. OU has made just 30.9 percent of its threes this year (281st nationally), and that number looks even worse when realizing the Sooners are choosy with the outside shots they take. Only two OU players have attempted more than 50 threes this year: Steven Pledger (40 of 115, 34.8 percent) and Buddy Hield (19 of 65, 29.2 percent).

• Blocking shots: Though OU has good size, it's not a team that challenges inside shots well. Part of this could go back to the defensive strategy of avoiding fouls. The Sooners have blocked just 7.1 percent of opponents' twos in Big 12 play, which ranks ninth in the conference.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-8 forward Romero Osby (No. 24) remains the best player in the conference that nobody talks about. The senior hasn't played as well since his 12-point, 4-for-16 performance against KU on Jan. 26, but he still is easily the Sooners' best offensive weapon. Osby does a great job of using pump-fakes to get defenders in the air, drawing 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes (63rd nationally) while posting the nation's 104th-best free throw rate. He's a 79.8-percent free throw shooter, so fouling him often results in two points. Osby almost never turns it over (105th in turnover rate) and is a solid offensive and defensive rebounder and an above-average two-point jump-shooter. Osby struggled going against KU center Jeff Withey's length in the first matchup, so I'm guessing we see him try to attack Withey a different way Saturday.

Six-foot-9 forward Amath M'Baye (No. 22) is an athletic post player who thrives at the rim. According to Hoop-Math, M'Baye has made 84 percent of his close shots this year, which dwarfs the NCAA average (61 percent). M'Baye also thrives on the offensive glass, where he pulls down 9.7 percent of the available offensive boards (381st nationally). M'Baye does have some flaws offensively, though, turning it over at a high rate while making a below-average number of his two-point jump-shots. M'Baye also has clanked nearly all of the limited three-pointers he has taken (2-for-15 accuracy, 13 percent).

Six-foot-4 guard Steven Pledger (No. 2) is OU's only real threat from the outside. As mentioned above, he's made 35 percent of his threes this year, though that's probably below his true talent level, as he was a 42-percent three-point shooter a year ago. Pledger is purely a spot-up shooter behind the arc, as 89 percent of his threes this year have been assisted. He's struggled in his last two games, combining to go 0-for-7 from three against Kansas State and Iowa State. Pledger also rarely turns it over, which makes him a solid offensive player for the Sooners.

Prediction

I was off by a mere 32 points with my last prediction, so yeah, there's that.

I do think KU will win this game, though. Though the Jayhawks didn't play well against TCU, a huge issue was simply shooting. KU made 11 of 27 layups against TCU (41 percent), a number that will be tough to replicate the rest of this season.

The Jayhawks' interior defense bothered the Sooners in the first matchup, and I'm not sure what OU can do to overcome that. The Sooners aren't a team that can rely on outside shooting to beat KU, and because they don't draw many whistles, it's unlikely they'll be able to pull Withey out of the game with foul trouble.

Most likely, OU will pull up for a lot of two-point jump-shots, hoping that an above-average number of those attempts go in.

KU should feel good about its chances if it can keep turnovers down to force OU to run its offense with Withey inside.

From there, it'll be up to the Jayhawks to make those layups that they missed against TCU. The law of averages (KU has made 64 percent of its close shots this year) would suggest a bounceback is likely.

Kansas 66, Oklahoma 59

Hawk to Rock

After struggling with his last two defensive matchups, this feels like a game where Travis Releford will thrive. Not only does he have a history of big games against OU (28 points in his last game at Lloyd Noble Center), but he also should be focused on his important defensive assignment, which will be to limit the shot attempts and makes of OU's Pledger. Look for Releford to get back to scoring in transition as well, as he's averaged just 4.5 points and three field goal attempts in his last two games. I'll say the senior gets back to double-figure scoring against OU on Saturday.

Predictions tally
19-3 record, 267 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)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
TCU: Kevin Young (3rd)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

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Jeff Withey tops ratings against TCU

1. Jeff Withey: The senior had a hard time getting shots up against TCU's physical post players, but he still was easily KU's best performer. Withey posted 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor and 4-for-5 shooting from the free throw line. He also added eight rebounds and three blocks to go with two turnovers in 33 minutes.

2. Ben McLemore: After lifting KU out of so many scoring droughts this season, McLemore couldn't bail out the Jayhawks in the first half, scoring two points on 0-for-6 shooting. McLemore bounced back with a solid second half, ending with a team-high 15 points (6-for-16 shooting), though he still missed all six of his three-point tries. He also had nine rebounds, three assists and one block to go with a team-high-tying three turnovers.

3. Kevin Young: KU coach Bill Self said Kevin Young's benching in favor of Perry Ellis didn't affect the outcome — a point I disagree with. Young had a favorable matchup against TCU but only played 14 minutes, with Self many times choosing to play small with two guards that combined to go 5-for-27 from the floor. Young was productive during the time he was in, posting six points (2-for-7 shooting) with nine rebounds, which included four offensive boards. He also added a steal with no turnovers.

4. Travis Releford: The senior was burned on the defensive end by Garlon Green, who scored a game-high 20 points, and was a no-show on the offensive end, attempting just one field goal. Through all that, he still ranks fourth because everyone else stunk worse than he did. Releford added six rebounds and four assists to go with one turnover before he fouled out after 36 minutes.

5. Jamari Traylor: Scored KU's first and only basket in the game's first 12 minutes. That basically was his entire line. The freshman played seven minutes, scoring two points with one rebound and two fouls.

6. Naadir Tharpe: The good news? He hit all six of his free throw attempts, which pushed his point total to 11 points. The bad news? The sophomore was just 2-for-15 from the floor and 1-for-6 from three-point range, which included crucial misses late in the second half when KU still was within striking distance. Though Tharpe's confidence is admirable, his decision-making has to be questioned if those quick-trigger shots early in the shot clock aren't falling. Tharpe posted two assists and two turnovers in 25 minutes.

7. Perry Ellis: Started for the first time since the Michigan State game because Self wanted to shake things up. Ellis did almost nothing in his 10 minutes, picking up a rebound and missing one field goal.

8. Rio Adams: A member of the 3 trillion club; he played three minutes with no other statistics. That put him ahead of three other Jayhawk scholarship players.

9. Justin Wesley: Had a rebound, a foul and a turnover in three minutes.

10. Elijah Johnson: Self had to know his critical comments about Johnson after the Oklahoma State game was going to force him in one of two directions: Either the guard was going to be fired up to prove his coach wrong, or he was going to play like a guy whose confidence had been shaken. Obviously, Self made the wrong call after Saturday's loss, as Johnson is playing with hesitation and shooting like a player with a bad case of the yips. Johnson was 3-for-12 from the floor and 2-for-8 from three, once again missing too many open jumpers while also failing to convert those opportunities he had at the rim. He had eight points, three assists, one block and tied a team-high with three turnovers before he fouled out after playing 31 minutes.

11. Andrew White III: Missed a three-pointer, airballed a three-pointer, posted a turnover and had three fouls in his two minutes.

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (170 points)
2. Ben McLemore (167 points)
3. Travis Releford (161 points)
4. Kevin Young (124 points)
5. Elijah Johnson (117 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (106 points)
7. Perry Ellis (93 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (72 points)
9. Andrew White III (38 points)
10. Rio Adams (26 points)
11. Justin Wesley (11 points)

Big 12 Standings
1. Jeff Withey (79 points)
2. Ben McLemore (78 points)
3. Travis Releford (75 points)
4. Kevin Young (65 points)
5. Naadir Tharpe (45 points)
T6. Elijah Johnson (41 points)
T6. Perry Ellis (41 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (31 points)
9. Andrew White III (15 points)
10. Rio Adams (11 points)
11. Justin Wesley (4 points)

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Slow pace, bad offense means TCU unlikely to hit 50 against KU

TCU head coach Trent Johnson reacts to his team's play during the second half of a game against West Virginia on  Jan. 23, 2013, in Morgantown, W.Va.

TCU head coach Trent Johnson reacts to his team's play during the second half of a game against West Virginia on Jan. 23, 2013, in Morgantown, W.Va.

Team: TCU
Record: 9-12
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 278
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted

3 Strengths

Forcing turnovers: TCU is a rare team that creates a lot of giveaways without getting many steals. Opponents turn it over on 22.1 percent of their possessions against the Horned Frogs (82nd nationally) despite the fact that the Horned Frogs rank 250th nationally in steal percentage. Defensive turnover percentage is one of the few statistics that TCU has performed well in during Big 12 play, as the Horned Frogs rank second in the league in the statistic (22.2 percent).

Drawing and avoiding fouls: TCU ranks 88th nationally in offensive free throw rate and 103rd nationally in defensive free throw rate. The result is a team that averages 19 free throws attempted per game compared to 16.3 for its opponents, which isn't insignificant considering the Horned Frogs' slow tempo.

Playing a slow pace: With a team that lacks talent, TCU coach Trent Johnson has reduced the tempo to give his team the best chance to compete against more talented opponents. The Horned Frogs rank 335th in KenPom's adjusted tempo rank and should attempt to limit the possessions again Wednesday against KU.

3 Weaknesses

Shooting: TCU ranks among the worst shooting teams in the nation this year. The Horned Frogs rank 293rd in three-point shooting (30.3 percent) and that's the highest they're ranked in any shooting category nationally. TCU is 320th in two-point shooting (42.5 percent) and 340th out of 347 teams in free throw shooting (340th nationally). It shouldn't be surprising that TCU's shot selection is out of whack, as 48 percent of its field-goal attempts are two-point jumpshots — the 10th-highest split nationally according to Hoop-Math.com. TCU has made just 32 percent of those jumpers.

Poor ballhandling: Many times, TCU doesn't get to showcase its poor shooting because it turns the ball over first. The Horned Frogs have given it away on 22.5 percent of their possessions this season (281st nationally) and 22.8 percent of their possessions in Big 12 play (ninth in league).

Defensive rebounding: TCU is much better defensively than it is offensively, but its biggest weakness on that end is finishing possessions. The Horned Frogs grab just 66.4 percent of the available defensive rebounds, which is 249th nationally. KU isn't a great offensive rebounding team, but it is coming off its best offensive rebounding performance in Big 12 play. Against Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks grabbed 46.1 percent of their missed shots — the second-best mark this season behind the Richmond game.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-7 forward Garlon Green (No. 33) takes the most shots for TCU (26.1 percent, 328th nationally) but he's still far from a good offensive player. His strength is his three-point shooting, as he's made 41 percent of his limited tries (16 of 39). He rarely gets to the free throw line, though, settling for too many two-point jumpers (63 percent of his field goal attempts are two-point jumpers). Because of that, Green is shooting just 39 percent from two-point range while not offering much defensively or on the glass.

Five-foot-11 guard Kyan Anderson (No. 5) is TCU's second-most frequent shooter (23.9 percent shot percentage), and though he's more efficient than Green, he still has limitations. The sophomore is TCU's best distributor, handing out 26.6 percent of his team's assist when he's on the floor (195th nationally). He's also the team's best on-ball defender, ranking 329th in steal percentage. He's not a great three-point shooter, though (28 of 82, 34 percent), and his turnover rate is crazy-high for a starting point guard. Like Green, Anderson isn't much of a threat to get all the way to the rim, as only 20 percent of his field goals have been close shots.

Six-foot-8 forward Adrick McKinney (No. 5) stands out as TCU's best rebounder. He's solid on both ends, ranking 120th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 107th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. McKinney also is one of the Horned Frogs' best offensive threats because of his ability to get to the free throw line. He ranks 25th nationally in free throw rate while drawing 5.8 fouls per 40 minutes (103rd nationally). He's not a good free throw shooter (50 of 93, 53.8 percent), but this TCU team will gladly take one point per possession considering the other options it has.

Prediction

This TCU team deserves to be in the discussion for worst Big 12 team of all time. The Horned Frogs should finish the conference season 0-18, and through eight Big 12 games, they have only lost one game by single digits (a 62-53 home loss to Texas Tech).

TCU is especially helpless offensively. The Horned Frogs rank 330th in adjusted offensive efficiency and have not scored more than 56 points in any conference game. According to the KenPom rankings, TCU also ranks as the second-worst team that KU has played this year.

If the Jayhawks struggle in this one, it will rightfully be time for fans to panic. I don't think KU will, though. After a humbling home loss to Oklahoma State, I see the Jayhawks taking advantage of TCU mistakes to score some easy points in transition in front of a pro-KU crowd in Fort Worth.

Not only that, TCU should find it difficult to score against KU's strong interior defense. I'll be surprised if the Horned Frogs crack 50.

Kansas 69, TCU 44

Hawk to Rock

This seems like a Kevin Young-type game. The Jayhawks should have opportunities for steals, transition points and offensive rebounds, and Young excels in all three areas. Give me double-digit points and at least three steals and three offensive rebounds for the KU senior.

Predictions tally
19-2 record, 235 points off (11.2 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)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Oklahoma State: Ben McLemore (1st)
Average: 3.9th in KUsports.com ratings

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Close shots partly to blame for Elijah Johnson’s offensive struggles

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson is defended by Texas players Cameron Ridley, left, and Julien Lewis during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson is defended by Texas players Cameron Ridley, left, and Julien Lewis during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

This has been a tough season for Kansas senior guard Elijah Johnson, who is trying to make the transition from off-guard a year ago to full-time point guard this season. Not helping him is the fact that he still appears to be hampered by a knee injury (though to his credit, he didn't use it as an excuse Monday and even described his knee as "100 percent.").

For most of the season, Johnson has held back the Jayhawks offense. The offensive rating statistic (using a long but trusted formula) tells us how many points a player produces per 100 possessions on his own. This number is used with usage percentage, which tells what percentage of a team's possessions a player ends (average is 20 percent).

The following chart shows the top six KU players' offensive ratings compared to their usage percentages. Players toward the right are the most efficient, while the players toward the top are taking the biggest offensive roles for KU.

KU efficiency

KU efficiency by Jesse Newell

The graph shows that Johnson has been KU's most inefficient player by a wide margin. Compounding the problem is that he has the second-highest usage percentage, meaning lots of KU's possessions are ending in the hands of its worst offensive player.

Johnson's numbers also don't compare well to other starting point guards under KU coach Bill Self*.

* — I picked Sherron Collins as KU's point guard in 2009-10 over Tyshawn Taylor, though you could make an argument either way.

Point guard efficiency

Point guard efficiency by Jesse Newell

In the last nine seasons, no starting point guard at KU has produced less than a point per possession. Right now, Johnson is at 0.94 PPP.

So what issues is Johnson having offensively? Let's start by looking at his shooting breakdown, with information coming from Hoop-Math.com.

Elijah Johnson shot breakdown

Elijah Johnson shot breakdown by Jesse Newell

Yes, Johnson is shooting a few more two-point jumpers this year, which will bring down his efficiency some. And while shooting fewer three-pointers, his accuracy from long range is still below the NCAA average.

But the glaring number here is Johnson's field-goal percentage on close shots. While shooting a similar percentage of dunks, tipins and layups, Johnson's shooting percentage is down 19 percentage points from a year ago.

What's the reason for this?

It could go back to the position he's playing. Because he's the point guard and not a shooting guard, he's on the delivering end of fast breaks instead of the receiving end.

Here's a comparison of the close shots Johnson has been assisted on this season compared to last.

Close shots assisted.

Close shots assisted. by Jesse Newell

Johnson doesn't appear to be getting many of the easy baskets he did last year because of his change in roles. Because most assisted baskets come without a dribble, this might also hint that Johnson is more comfortable scoring without putting the ball on the floor.

The switch to point guard also has sapped another part of Johnson's offensive game from a year ago: alley-oops.

According to the KU Athletics game notes, Johnson had 15 dunks in 2011-12. This year, he has three.

Self likes to talk about how players get shooting confidence by making easy shots, and Johnson hasn't had many chances for those as the primary ballhandler. We did see the Jayhawks try to get Johnson an alley-oop on the first possession against Oklahoma State, but Jeff Withey's pass was knocked away for a turnover.

There might be another reason for Johnson struggling on close shots: He might be trying to avoid contact.

Johnson was just 2-for-6 on layup and dunk tries against OSU, and in this video and also this one, he appears to be shying away from contact* as he gets to the rim while also worrying too much about shot-blockers.

Compare those clips to the first 1 1/2 minutes of this video, which shows Johnson's confident drives from the NCAA Tournament last year.

* — I also can't help but think of the Oregon State game, when Johnson went aggressively to the basket before getting fouled and knocked on his tailbone. A play like that could (for good reason) make someone less likely to be aggressive at the rim.

Johnson's efficiency also has been negatively affected by turnovers.

We can see this best if we look at his turnover rate, which measures what percentage of his ended possessions that are used on turnovers.

Johnson appears to especially be struggling with turnovers since his switch back to point guard. Let's compare his turnover rate numbers to those of Tyshawn Taylor, who also was widely criticized for giving the ball away too often.

Turnover rates

Turnover rates by Jesse Newell

Taylor — a more gifted ballhandler — had his turnover numbers bounce up and then down again during his four-year career, with his second-best turnover rate coming in his final year.

Johnson, meanwhile, has struggled most during his freshman and senior seasons — the two years when he's been asked to play primarily on the ball instead of off it*.

* — Keep in mind we're dealing with a small sample size his freshman year, when he played just 151 minutes.

Playing off the ball last year, and serving primarily as a spot-up shooter, Johnson had the lowest turnover rate of his career.

This year, though, his mind-set has changed as point guard. You can see it in the final quote of this Kansas City Star story, when Johnson says, " ... as a point guard, you have to make sure that all five people are in order." Or in this quote from Bleacher Report, when he says, "I base my stats on how everybody else plays."

Johnson has made assists his primary focus this season. And while that sounds like the right thing for a senior leader to do, that way of playing seems to bring out the worst with his turnovers.

For comparison, here's a look at Taylor's assist rate (the percentage of his teammates' assists he contributes while he's on the floor) compared to his turnover percentage over his four-year career.

Taylor comparison

Taylor comparison by Jesse Newell

The two numbers don't appear to be related, as Taylor was able to raise his assist total without affecting his turnovers.

That has been more difficult for Johnson.

Johnson comparison

Johnson comparison by Jesse Newell

Johnson's assist rate has spiked this year (he's 136th nationally), but it has come at a steep price, as his turnover rate has soared as well.

Unfortunately for KU, there doesn't appear to be an easy solution.

Tharpe's efficiency numbers are better than Johnson's, but not by a lot. Playing Tharpe more often would result in better offense for KU now, but it also could result in dwindling confidence for Johnson, who was one of KU's best two players (along with Withey) during last year's run to the national championship game.

Self also could put Tharpe in at the 1 and move Johnson back to his natural position at the 2, but that would mean he would have to take one of his two best players off the floor (Ben McLemore or Travis Releford) or he'd have to play Releford out of position at the 4. Doing that would mean Releford — a talented on-ball defender — would have to guard a big man inside.

Because McLemore and Releford are not good ballhandlers — and because KU's ceiling remains highest with Johnson on the floor — Self appears to be ready to stick Johnson back in there with the hope he turns things around.

If he does, it'll most likely be because he increases his efficiency on close shots or limits his turnovers to the point that he once again becomes a valuable player for KU.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 2/4/13

Before we get started, here's what Kansas coach Bill Self said about point guard Elijah Johnson during the Big 12 teleconference this morning:

You know what ... you get back and reevaluate it. You take a deep breath and everything. We are 19-2 and the players that have been playing the majority of minutes have performed at a reasonably high level for the most part. We've had some guys play unbelievably well in some situations. Some haven’t. We’ve found a way to kind of piece it together. We haven’t got consistent guard play. I have to do a better job of helping Naadir and Elijah; but Elijah is my guy. He is my guy; we have the best chance to win with Elijah in the game. ... That is the horse we are going to ride. I believe that will be best for our team.

Here is the Cliff's Notes version from Self's comments at his press conference today.

Full audio has been posted.

Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart dominated the game physically. Not very often does a point guard score 25 points and make one shot outside of two feet, and that's what he did. He just whipped KU going after the ball. KU did a great job on the offensive glass in the first half against a really good Oklahoma State defensive rebounding team. That faded in the second half.

It's too early to tell if Oklahoma State is the second-best team in the Big 12. It has a lot of talent. OSU has played the toughest schedule in the conference so far. Athletically, the Cowboys have got some guys that can play.

Self has been on Johnson pretty good, because he hasn't played as well as he can play. Self is not pleased with how he's playing. Johnson's not pleased either. But most quarterbacks are judged by their record more than their stats. It should be that way with Johnson. Self says for KU to have any chance to compete at the highest level, it has to have its best players play the best. Johnson is one of KU's best players. Self is going to ride Johnson. But that's his guy.

Self knows what gives KU the best chance to win is not being emotional about what happened in a certain situation. Doing that might not be the best thing for the long term prospects of his team.

Self thinks when you worry about shooting, everything else goes haywire. When Johnson starts caring about, "I don't care about my shooting percentage. What can I do to get our team the best shot?" he'll be better off. Sometimes, Johnson puts too much pressure on himself to make shots. He needs to focus more on being a player and not just a shooter. Once he does that, he'll make more shots.

Jeff Withey's stats are fine. Self says lots of players played under their ceilings against OSU. Withey has done pretty well. It's a long season, and it's a physical season for a guy that has a lot of guys leaning on him. He's done a great job, though.

Withey has pleasantly surprised Self more than anybody he's had at KU. Withey is stronger, which brings confidence. The biggest thing with him is he's fallen in love with basketball. Self thinks that has as much to do with his progress as anything.

Self joked there's a chance he might mention the word "toughness" in practice today. Self is upset because he thought his team stood there and took it. KU allowed OSU to take the game. When things were going bad, KU's body language wasn't good. It was almost a mind-set that you might take for granted that other teams can beat you. Self thought his team looked like a spoiled team on Saturday. It's not broken. It's not panic time. But it is a wake-up call to fix some things. The Baltimore Ravens lost a lot of games this year, but they didn't bench quarterback Joe Flacco. Losses are OK if you get better from them. Self says losing at home was good for his team. He would take a home loss over a road loss at this point, because it humbled his team more.

TCU will be competitive. Coach Trent Johnson is just in his first year. He's building for the future. Johnson knows what he's doing. It's just a matter of time. Self thinks TCU is good for the league, as having a Big 12 team in Dallas is good for recruiting. Self hopes for a good KU turnout in Dallas. The Jayhawks will be happy to play again.

Does Andrew White III deserve to play more with his talent? Absolutely. But the need of the team is ballhandling and passing, and he doesn't fit that need. Self said truthfully, if KU had better ballhandlers and passers, White would be playing more. KU has always played with multiple guards. It's not doing that as much this year because the team needs Travis Releford and Ben McLemore on the floor at the same time.

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Ben McLemore tops ratings against Cowboys

1. Ben McLemore: Took over the game for stretches offensively to help KU erase a 14-point, first-half deficit. His three-pointer with 15:16 left in the second half gave KU a 46-45 lead and was the first of seven straight points for the freshman. McLemore finished with 23 points on 9-for-17 shooting with 3-for-6 accuracy from three-point range. He also added five rebounds while tying a season-high with four turnovers in 33 minutes.

2. Kevin Young: As he often does, Young provided KU with a surge of energy in the first half, slamming in a poorly thrown lob by Naadir Tharpe to get the crowd going and force an OSU timeout. Young tied a career-high with four steals while also posting an efficient line: 12 points, 3-for-5 shooting, 6-for-8 free throw shooting with seven rebounds and just one turnover in 24 minutes.

3. Travis Releford: His second-half defense was part of the reason OSU's Markel Brown didn't score 50 points instead of 28. Releford had three steals and three assists with no turnovers. His eight points came on 2-for-5 shooting, though he did make both of his three-point attempts. It was the first time in 17 games that Releford failed to score in double figures.

4. Jeff Withey: It wasn't a typical Jeff Withey performance, especially with as much as KU has relied on him defensively this year. The senior posted 11 points (4-for-8 shooting) and made all three of his free throws, but he didn't seem to have as much defensive impact against an athletic OSU team. The senior added eight rebounds, one assist and three blocks to go with four turnovers in 30 minutes.

5. Andrew White III: White III played only one minute, but man he did a lot in that time. He hit a deep three, picked up a steal, was fouled twice and hit three of four free throws to finish with six points. KU coach Bill Self hinted after the game that he should be playing the freshman more, but unfortunately for Self, White isn't a ball-handler, which is what his team needs most right now.

6. Naadir Tharpe: The sophomore made some shots to bail out KU when it was running poor offense in the second half. Tharpe scored eight points on 3-for-7 shooting (2-for-4 from three) with four assists and one turnover. Self wasn't happy with any of his guards' defense, though, and that's an area where Tharpe still needs improvement.

7. Jamari Traylor: Performed well during limited playing time. The freshman missed his only field goal, but in eight minutes, he grabbed five rebounds (three offensive) with a block and a steal. He didn't appear to be overmatched athletically against OSU's talented players.

8. Perry Ellis: Played a better first half than second half. With Self giving Withey one final breather around the seven-minute mark, the freshman had a horrible stretch, failing to grab two defensive rebounds while also picking up a foul. Self was forced to go back to Withey probably a minute quicker than he wanted to. Ellis missed all three of his field goals but still contributed four points (4-for-6 free throw shooting) to go with six rebounds in 13 minutes.

9. Elijah Johnson: After the game, Self said this about Johnson: "We were definitely a better team with him over there sitting down next to us and putting somebody else in the game." Just last week, Self defended Johnson, saying he was doing a good job based on KU's record. Self has reversed course now, as the above quote appears to be a pretty clear challenge to the senior. Johnson posted eight points on 3-for-14 shooting, making one of seven threes. He also had six assists to go with four turnovers and was beaten badly on the boards by OSU's Marcus Smart (eight offensive rebounds).

KUsports.com Season Standings
1. Jeff Withey (160 points)
2. Ben McLemore (158 points)
3. Travis Releford (154 points)
T4. Elijah Johnson (116 points)
T4. Kevin Young (116 points)
6. Naadir Tharpe (101 points)
7. Perry Ellis (89 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (66 points)
9. Andrew White III (38 points)
10. Rio Adams (23 points)
11. Justin Wesley (9 points)

Big 12 Standings
T1. Jeff Withey (69 points)
T1. Ben McLemore (69 points)
3. Travis Releford (68 points)
4. Kevin Young (57 points)
T5. Elijah Johnson (40 points)
T5. Naadir Tharpe (40 points)
7. Perry Ellis (37 points)
8. Jamari Traylor (25 points)
9. Andrew White III (15 points)
10. Rio Adams (8 points)
11. Justin Wesley (2 points)

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Why Oklahoma State center Philip Jurick will play a big role in Saturday’s game

West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli (13) drives between Oklahoma State's Philip Jurick, left, and Marcus Smart during Saturday's game in Stillwater, Okla.

West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli (13) drives between Oklahoma State's Philip Jurick, left, and Marcus Smart during Saturday's game in Stillwater, Okla.

Team: Oklahoma State
Record: 14-5
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 21
All statistics from KenPom.com unless otherwise noted

3 Strengths

Interior defense: The Cowboys have done a nice job of limiting opponents' easy shots, posting the nation's 16th-best two-point defense (41.2 percent). A big reason for that is shot-blocking, as OSU swats 13.6 percent of its opponents' two-point tries (27th nationally). Unlike Kansas, which gets most of its blocks from one source (Jeff Withey), OSU has three players (Philip Jurick, Michael Cobbins, Kamari Murphy) that are all in the top 220 nationally in block percentage. According to Hoop-Math.com, opponents have made just 53 percent of their shots at the rim against the Cowboys — a number much lower than the NCAA average (61 percent).

• Turnovers: Oklahoma State is solid with turnovers on both ends, taking the ball away on 22.7 percent of its possessions (61st nationally) while giving it away on 18.9 percent of its own possessions (96th nationally). The first number should be what KU is most worried about, as the Jayhawks rank eighth in the Big 12 in offensive turnover percentage since the conference season started (20.6 percent).

Defensive rebounding: OSU actually is a much better defensive team (eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency) than offensive team (79th in adjusted offensive efficiency). Part of the reason for that has been the Cowboys' ability to end defensive possessions with rebounds. OSU ranks 57th nationally in that stat, pulling down 71.3 percent of the available caroms. The Cowboys have been even better in conference play, leading the Big 12 with a 77.4-percent defensive rebounding rate.

3 Weaknesses

• Offensive rebounding: OSU doesn't get many second chances offensively, grabbing just 32.2 percent of the available offensive rebounds (160th nationally). There's a huge dropoff when the 6-foot-11 Jurick is not in, as the senior center pulls down 16 percent of the available offensive rebounds when he's in (20th nationally). The Cowboys actually have been worse as of late, posting the Big 12's worst offensive rebounding percentage since league play began (28.4 percent).

• Three-point shooting: OSU has been a below-average team from beyond the arc, making 33.1 percent of its three-point tries (189th nationally). Because of that, the Cowboys aren't overly reliant on threes for scoring, getting only 25.3 percent of their total points from treys (226th-highest split nationally). Phil Forte (49 of 127, 39 percent) is the only OSU regular that has shot better than 35 percent from three-point range this season.

• Allowing three-pointers: If you're looking to pinpoint a weakness with OSU's defense, you'd most likely look to the perimeter. Opponents have gotten 32 percent of their scoring against the Cowboys from three-point range (20th-highest split nationally), while 34.8 percent of the field goals taken against OSU have been threes. KU has not been a team that has taken many threes (29 percent of shots are threes, 274th nationally), but it appears there should be some opportunity for open ones against the Cowboys defense.

3 Players to Watch

Six-foot-4 guard Marcus Smart (No. 33) has been given a lot of credit for OSU's improvement this year, as the former McDonald's All-American is often lauded for his leadership and energy. Statistically, he's pretty good too, boasting a skill set that allows him to contribute over a number of categories. He's especially dangerous on the defensive end, where he's 18th nationally in steal percentage while posting a top-450 block percentage. Offensively, he's a great distributor (123rd in assist percentage) and best when instigating contact, drawing 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes (195th nationally) while also ranking the top 200 nationally in free throw rate. The freshman does have some holes in his offensive game, though, if an opponent can force him to shoot. He settles for too many two-point jumpshots, where he's a below average shooter (32 percent; 35 percent is NCAA average). Smart also has made just 22 of 73 three-pointers (30.1 percent) and will turn it over on occasion.

• Though 5-foot-11 guard Phil Forte (No. 10) is often overlooked because of Smart, he has provided the Cowboys a nice boost offensively with his efficient play. As mentioned before, Forte is OSU's best three-point shooter, and he isn't hesitant to put shots up, ranking third on the team in shot percentage (23.5 percent). More than three-fourths of the shots he takes are threes, and 87 percent of those makes are assisted, meaning KU should be prepared to chase him around screens as he fights to get open. The freshman also is valuable because he never turns it over; he has the nation's seventh-best turnover rate, giving it away just 12 times in 514 minutes. Defensively, he's OSU's second-best perimeter defender behind Smart, creating steals on 3.3 percent of his defensive possessions (255th nationally).

Six-foot-7 guard Le'Bryan Nash (No. 2) has been able to reduce his offensive role with the addition of Smart, but the sophomore still hasn't been able to up his efficiency to become a valuable offensive player. Nash's best skill is getting to the free throw line, as he draws 5.2 fouls per 40 minutes (223rd nationally) while posting the nation's 235th-best free throw rate. Nash also is a good shooter at the line, making 78 percent of his tries there (76 of 97). Other than that, there's little to like from his offensive game, especially considering he takes 23.6 percent of his team's shots when he's in. Nash shoots way too many two-point jump shots (48 percent of his field goal attempts), and while he's an above-average shooter from that range (37 percent), that kind of shot selection is going to drag down anyone's efficiency. He's also more turnover prone than a year ago and has continued to be a dreadful three-point shooter (9-for-36, 25 percent, after shooting 24 percent last year). Nash also provides next to nothing when it comes to steals, blocks and rebounding, making him a player that appears to be getting a lot of his playing time based on hype instead of actual performance.

Prediction

KenPom has Oklahoma State as the second-best team in the Big 12, making this the toughest game left at home for KU this season.

Though KU hasn't played well lately, especially on the offensive end, I think there are some reasons for optimism against Oklahoma State.

  1. The Jayhawks have had five days off since playing West Virginia on Monday.

  2. KU is playing at home, where it is 102-1 in its last 103 games.

  3. OSU has played the Big 12's fastest tempo in Big 12 play, and the Cowboys don't strike me as a team that will want to change its style against KU. For one, OSU has athletes that can match up with KU's, and for two, the Cowboys don't have the outside shooters to try to take advantage of the Jayhawks' vulnerable perimeter D.

Pay close attention to OSU's Jurick, who has been an elite rebounder (top 20 nationally on both ends) and strong shot-blocker (113th nationally). Look for KU to attack him early, as he is foul prone, picking up 5.7 whistles per 40 minutes.

If Jurick is out, the Cowboys lose a lot defensively, and the Jayhawks should be able to take advantage by getting good shots inside.

I think this formula will play out. Jurick gets in early foul trouble, KU scores easier inside, OSU plays fast and the Jayhawks are able to get some transition baskets to come through with their best offensive performance in the last few weeks.

Kansas 72, Oklahoma State 59

Hawk to Rock

I think KU freshman Ben McLemore will prove himself to be the best player in a game filled with gifted athletes. Where he has the potential to really thrive, though, will be getting free for three-pointers. OSU hasn't done a good job of preventing shots on the perimeter, so the freshman should be able to find creases Saturday that he might not have seen in previous games. Give me 20-plus points with at least four three-pointers from the 45-percent long-range shooter.

Predictions tally
19-1 record, 217 points off (10.9 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)
Texas Tech: Ben McLemore (4th)
Baylor: Jeff Withey (4th)
Texas: Elijah Johnson (8th)
Kansas State: Kevin Young (6th)
Oklahoma: Travis Releford (3rd)
West Virginia: Jeff Withey (2nd)
Average: 4.1st in KUsports.com ratings

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Charlie Weis deserved one more year at Notre Dame

He never says anything around which quote marks could be placed to prove it is so, but KU football coach Charlie Weis appears to harbor bitterness toward Notre Dame, his alma mater.

He uses phrases such as “another institution where I worked,” or “while working at another school.” If he says “Notre Dame,” it’s only in a printed release. Nobody actually hears the words roll off his tongue. The question is not whether Weis harbors resentment toward Ole Notre Dame, rather why?

The answer: Because he’s human.

A closer look at his Notre Dame career suggests 2010 very well could have been a turning point season so successful that if he had been allowed to stay one more year it’s entirely possible he would have been on the job for the duration of his 10-year contract.

Think I’m crazy? By that I mean do you think that even more so than usual? Think again.

Weis got shafted by his school, the very same university at which he used to sit in his dorm room and second-guess every move made by then Notre Dame coach Dan Devine. Never mind that Devine won a national title Charlie’s senior year. Weis was a football-crazed college student. What’s the point of investing your emotions into a football team if you can’t second-guess the coach?

To understand what must boil inside Weis’ belly every time he thinks about what might have been in 2010 requires a close look at his fifth and final season at Notre Dame. The 2009 Fighting Irish went 6-6, not a record that sits well with alumni from a school with such a rich football tradition. But look closer. Not one of those six losses was by a margin of greater than a touchdown. Add up the margin from all six losses and it’s a paltry 28 points.

If Weis had returned, it requires no great leap of faith to believe quarterback Jimmy Clausen would have delayed his NFL career by a year and would be a better NFL quarterback today for having done so. Clausen’s improvement each year under Weis was significant. Plus, he could have contended for the Heisman Trophy. With Clausen and Weis back, maybe receiver Golden Tate returns as well. Both players announced they would forego their senior seasons six days after Weis was fired.

An additional year of experience from countless returning players easily could have turned most of those close losses into close victories. No need to venture outside KU football history books for evidence of a 6-6 football team plagued by close losses bouncing back with a 12-1 team driven to the top by coming out on top in the close ones.

Mark Mangino’s sixth Kansas football team went 6-6. Two of the losses (Toledo and Nebraska) came in overtime, two others (Baylor and Texas A&M) by a combined margin of four points. A year later, Mangino was holding up an orange with that signature semi-smile, an image that represents what is possible when a stubborn football coach is given time to do it his way.

That doesn’t mean Weis would have executed a similar leap forward under the Golden Dome, but the similarities between KU in 2006 and ND in 2009 certainly tickle the imagination. Weis’ first KU season included five losses by margins of seven points or less. That doesn’t exempt the coach. Sometimes close losses can be traced to the head coach’s decision-making.

In the home loss to Rice, the Owls never could have closed the 11-point deficit if Weis, who doubles as offensive coordinator, had stayed with the run. The Jayhawks’ offensive line was manhandling the visitors. Not yet aware he did not have an accurate passer in the huddle, Weis mixed in too many passes instead of staying with the run and opened a door through which Rice stormed.

In the overtime loss at Texas Tech, a surprising pass-play call on second and five at the Tech 15 predictably failed and took the momentum right out KU’s upset bid. Kansas had started that fourth-quarter drive on its 11 and gained 75 yards on six plays, all runs. A Nick Prolago field goal tied the score with 45 seconds left. Nothing suggested Tech was going to keep KU from getting five yards on two more running plays. By then, Weis had changed quarterbacks and knew accurate passing was not Michael Cummings’ forte. It was a strange call in a game Kansas might have won had Charlie called a run play there.

With promising Brigham Young transfer Jake Heaps at quarterback the next two seasons, Weis’ team has a chance to perform better in close contests. Even if it doesn’t, that won’t change the reality that Weis deserved one more year on the job at ND, a year that might have been so successful it earned him many more.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 1/31/13

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

Self says he thinks there are lower scores in college basketball this year partly because of greater physicality in college basketball. The officials are calling it just fine, but there's more contact than there used to be. Self thinks across America there are more good defensive teams than offensive teams. National scoring averages being down a point per game is a pretty big number, but Self isn't as concerned with that number being down as some others are.

• Self believes Travis Releford might do as much as anyone in the country as far as helping a team win. He's great with intangibles. Releford is shooting well in Big 12 play, and part of that is because he shoots a lot of layups. Self wants him to be aggressive offensively, though that doesn't always means shoot more.

• Self thinks Ben McLemore and Releford ... those wings go from defense to offense better than any other wings in the country.

• Releford is smart defensively. He's a bright kid and knows how to play the scouting report well. Self gets upset when Releford makes a mental mistake, because he doesn't think that should happen with him.

• Self believed before the year that his team had the potential to be great defensively. Self thinks his team can still improve in some areas. Not many teams have Releford- and Jeff Withey-type defensive players. Self says this team is good defensively, but the 2007-08 team was his best defensively. That team had a lot of pieces. It didn't help the helper defensively; it helped the helper's helper. Self hopes this year's defense can get to that level.

Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart has good size. What Self likes most is how he has changed OSU's personality as a program. He's going to be a pro.

Oklahoma State made a lot of plays late to beat Iowa State on Wednesday. Self also saw that OSU scored easy late. That doesn't normally happen in late-game situations, where it's usually tougher to get easy shots.

Self says OSU has four guys that can "go off" on any night offensively: Markel Brown, Le'Bryan Nash, Phil Forte and Smart. Self picked OSU second in the league. From a talent standpoint, OSU might be the best team in the league. It also probably is the most athletic team in the league.

Ballhandling is a concern for Self. He even joked later, saying, "Hell yes," it was a concern. Self thinks his team sometimes is just careless and lazy. KU has to handle trapping situations better. KU has always been a team that has wanted teams to press it, because it had good guards in the past that loved to break that to get numbers on the other end. To be fair, Self said KU doesn't have the number of ballhandlers this year as it's had in the past. KU needs to a better job of relieving pressure with its bigs. Everyone also needs to be less careless moving forward.

Self hasn't mentioned the 18-game win streak to the guys. He mentioned the team's national ranking to the guys the other day, telling them to not try to go into protect mode because of it.

• Self is believing that Jeff Withey is starting to get the national attention he deserves. KU has two players at their respective positions (Withey and McLemore) that are playing as well as any players in the country at their positions. One reason Withey's block numbers are going down is because teams aren't attacking him. Teams are taking longer shots, which is fine with Self.

Self said you have to respect what Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder has done. He's happy that Snyder picked up a five-year contract extension. Snyder's getting stronger as he goes. He's better now than he ever has been.

• The Big Ten is great this year. Self says that league has five of the top 15 teams or so. Self thinks Michigan has been the most impressive team to date. Indiana has had great stretches as well. You're going to lose games in that league because of the competition in that conference. Self thinks there are a lot more really good teams overall in college basketball than maybe we thought a month ago.

Self doesn't buy into the Big 12 being down. He thinks the league had some bad non-conference losses. Conference RPI ranking is determined only in non-conference play. In Big 12 play, it's hard to win on the road. Self thinks the Big 12 does a great job of preparing its teams for postseason play.

Self doesn't keep track of his team's win streak. He says he would love for KU to get to a 23-game win streak, which would break the school record. But he wants that because it would mean that his team has improved to 12-0 in the league.

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Online reaction to KU’s alternate jerseys; Baylor coach Scott Drew takes a funny spill

A few links for your Thursday morning ...

Kevin Young (40) drives the baseline on Deniz Kilicli (13) in the Jayhawks 61-56 win against the Mountaineers Monday night at West Virginia University.

Kevin Young (40) drives the baseline on Deniz Kilicli (13) in the Jayhawks 61-56 win against the Mountaineers Monday night at West Virginia University. by Mike Yoder

As you might have expected, the postgame Facebook reaction to the Kansas men's basketball team's alternate, monocromatic uniforms from Monday was not great.

My take: They look good on a poster but are terrible for TV viewing purposes. Somehow, adidas needed to come up with a way to make the numbers to pop out a little bit more.

We've known that Kansas guard Travis Releford has been spectacular in transition this season, but SI.com's Luke Winn reports that Releford is the fourth-most efficient transition scorer in the nation in his latest Power Rankings. Interestingly, Travis' brother Trevor, who plays for Alabama, is ninth in the nation in transition efficiency.

By the way, Winn dropped KU from No. 1 to No. 2 in his rankings.

This has been mentioned before, but here is KU director of basketball operations Doc Sadler's half-court shot video if you haven't seen it yet:

A good feature here from JayhawkSlant's Bryan Cisler, who talks about how KU — and specifically KU assistant athletic director for sports performance Andrea Hudy — is using cutting-edge technology to help prevent injuries while targeting areas of strength improvement for each athlete.

Baylor coach Scott Drew took a funny spill during the last seconds of his team's home loss to Oklahoma on Wednesday night, falling to the floor as BU guard Brady Heslip's potential game-tying three rattled out.

A few more video highlights from KU's win over West Virginia from KU Athletics:

Colorado coach and former KU player Tad Boyle has a talented 10-year-old son, Pete, who loves to dance during the Buffaloes' home games as a floor sweeper. Video is from Fox 31 in Denver.

After suffering a concussion last week, KU signee Conner Frankamp returned to the floor Tuesday and scored 29 points in Wichita North's 64-29 victory over Wichita Northwest.

And finally, a blast from the past: Here's a December 1996 article from SI.com's Vault that talks about the Jayhawks' high expectations for the 1996-97 season. Included topics are Jacque Vaughn's injured wrist (and quoting of poet Robert Frost), Jerod Haase's offseason work on his shooting and Paul Pierce's insistence that he wouldn't be afraid to take the big shot at the end of games.

As you'll remember, KU finished 34-2 that season, falling in the Sweet 16 to eventual national champion Arizona.

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