Entries from blogs tagged with “ku”

Cliff’s Notes: Turner Gill press conference, 9/6/11

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas football coach Turner Gill's comments at his weekly press conference today.

If you want to get live updates from each week's press conference, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@kusports).

Full audio has been posted.

• Gill says KU improved its speed and passion last week. "Passion" was the word of the week.

Gill was happy with his team's ball security offensively. The offense also got off to a good start.

Gill was pleased that his defense allowed just three points in the first half. He also was happy his defense tallied three sacks and held McNeese State to under 100 yards rushing.

KU's special teams won four out of six phases against McNeese State. KU did not win kickoff or kickoff return but won the other four.

Receiver Daymond Patterson is doubtful against Northern Illinois. Receiver Christian Matthews is out for violating team rules. Quarterback Jordan Webb is just fine and will play.

Gill says the keys against Northern Illinois are: 1) to be plus-two in turnover margin; 2) have a two-to-one ratio when it comes to 20-plus-yard plays; and 3) make sure KU wins four or more phases in special teams.

"Focus" is the word of the week. KU needs to key in on the small details.

• Running back Darrian Miller talked about committing to KU early, then backed off that for short time to weigh his options. He later gave his full commitment to KU. Gill says it's nice to have K.C. area players be part of Kansas football.

Gill thought linebacker Tunde Bakare showed his explosiveness against McNeese State. He made plays that some guys can't make. Gill also thought Darius Willis was steady.

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A fan first (in New Mexico), KU walk-on Shane Smith expected to play in first collegiate game Saturday

Kansas defensive tackle Shane Smith, second from right, takes instruction with the defensive line during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011.

Kansas defensive tackle Shane Smith, second from right, takes instruction with the defensive line during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2011. by Nick Krug

Shane Smith couldn’t keep his eyes open.

It was April 1, 1991. Shane — currently a sophomore Kansas University defensive lineman — was watching the men’s basketball national championship game between Kansas and Duke with his father, Terry, at their home in New Mexico.

There are times when Terry still blames his son for the loss. If only Shane wouldn’t have fallen asleep at halftime, the Jayhawks would have beaten Duke and won the title. Understandably, Shane never takes him too seriously.

“I was 5 months old,” Shane said with a smile. “He still likes to joke about it.”

Because of his dad — who grew up in Topeka — Shane was raised as a Jayhawk fan in Albuquerque, N.M.

On Saturday, Shane is expected to play in his first game for the school he’s always followed.

Smith, who has competed on KU’s scout team the last two seasons, has moved his way up the depth chart following some injuries on the Jayhawks’ defensive line.

The 6-foot-5, 280-pound defensive tackle played with KU’s first-team defense during its scrimmage on Aug. 20.

“I just want to be able to contribute,” Shane said. “That’s my goal: to get on the field and get some playing time in a Jayhawk uniform. Get my jersey dirty.”

So far in his career, he hasn’t gotten that chance.

After red-shirting his first season, Smith dressed out for home games last year but didn’t make it in for a single snap.

“You’ve got to keep the right mind-set is what it is,” Smith said. “If you’ve got the right mind-set, you’ll show up, you’ll put in the work and you’ll get something out of it.”

Smith's best attribute is his speed. Part of that stamina comes from playing for so long in the New Mexico altitude.

“I come down here, and I can run for days,” Smith said. “I just think that quickness factor is more my strength. I’m not the biggest, strongest, but I can move around a little bit.”

KU defensive coordinator Vic Shealy has praised Smith's improvement in the offseason, saying there have been times at practice he's impressed coaches by shedding a block then popping a ball-carrier in the hole.

For now, Smith will mostly be in during assumed rushing downs, as he projects more as a run-stopper.

He wouldn’t be the first KU football player on the roster to make the jump from preferred walk-on to contributor. KU senior linebacker and team captain Steven Johnson arrived at KU in 2008 without a scholarship before earning one prior to the 2009 season.

Smith admits that he recruited himself to KU after being named an all-state offensive lineman his senior year. He sent highlight tapes in to then-KU coach Mark Mangino, who offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on.

Though Smith had scholarship offers to Div. II schools and also interest from New Mexico, he picked the Jayhawks.

“I came up here and have been living the dream ever since,” Smith said.

As a child, Shane still remembers making a 5 1/2-hour trip to Lubbock, Texas, with his mother, Susan, to watch the Jayhawks’ basketball team take on Texas Tech.

Afterwards, Susan took Shane and his sister, Kaley, down to the locker room to where the Jayhawks were signing autographs.

A picture of Shane and former KU coach Roy Williams still hangs prominently in the Smiths’ house.

It’s not the only KU photo there.

Walk in the front door, and on the right side of a photo montage are pictures of Shane in his KU football uniform.

The left side has a photo from the day Terry and Susan's child committed to KU.

That side is Kaley’s. The high school senior is committed to KU’s soccer team; she’ll be joining her brother at KU next year.

“Everything about it up here just feels right,” Shane said. “That’s why I love it.”

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Cliff’s Notes: Turner Gill press conference, 08/30/11

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas football coach Turner Gill's comments at his weekly press conference today.

If you want to get live updates from each week's press conference, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@kusports).

Full audio has been posted.

• Gill's reasons that fans should be excited about this season: 1. Team speed and explosiveness; 2. More playmakers; 3. Being more physical.

Seven to 10 true freshmen will play in KU's first game. Gill later clarified and said that as few as six true freshmen could play in the first game, but at least eight will play in the first two to three games, based on different scenarios.

• Tight end Jimmay Mundine and receiver Erick McGriff have been suspended two games because of violation of team policies. Defensive end Tyrone Sellers has been suspended one game for violation of team policies.

Defensive tackle Pat Dorsey, linebacker Jake Farley and receiver Chris Omigie will be out the first game with injuries.

Darrian Miller has stood out the most out of the true freshmen. Gill won't list the other names just in case something changes between now and Saturday.

Freshman defensive end Pat Lewandowski will be available to play on Saturday. He suffered a leg injury on Aug. 9.

Gill said he's talked to his players about what they can learn from last year's North Dakota State loss. But the coaches have also shown the players on film how they have improved and how they are different from last year.

Receiver Kale Pick is a great example of how you would want a KU football player to be. He understands the game, is a team player and wants to be the best.

Gill said linebacker Toben Opurum is talking more this season. He sees now that he can make more plays. Gill likes his demeanor.

Kicker Alex Mueller is a guy that is consistent when he strikes it and gets the kick up quickly. He's been consistent. Ron Doherty might handle longer field-goal attempts. Coaches haven't determined who will handle kickoffs yet.

• Texas A&M and Big 12 speculation hasn't affected KU's football team. The biggest thing for Gill is that he has confidence in his chancellor and athletic director. He doesn't believe any potential changes in the conference would affect KU's recruiting.

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The Sideline Report with Jeff Spikes

This week's Sideline Report is with Painesville, Ohio, native and Kansas junior left tackle Jeff Spikes.

Jesse Newell: Do you remember the moment you decided to come to KU?

Jeff Spikes: I do. Actually I was on another recruiting visit, and a prior coach, Ed Warinner called me and he said, ‘I’ve made a transition to Kansas football, and we’re in the Big 12, and we’d like for you to come.’ At that moment, I realized, ‘Big 12 football is where it’s at.’ And that right there was when I decided to come.

JN: Where were you at? What visit were you on?

JS: I’d rather not say. (laughs)

JN: Just so they don't know that they failed, right?

JS: Oh no. They did a great job. It’s just, things seemed to fit better for me here.

JN: You remember your first day on campus?

http://www2.ljworld.com/photos/2010/aug/14/194071/

JS: I do.

JN: What was it like?

JS: I came a week later. In Ohio, we graduate a couple weeks after the southern schools. But everybody had friends, and I was just the weirdo. (laughs) The big weirdo.

I always talked on the phone. I had my little Bluetooth. And I just talked and talked and talked. Because I hadn’t been this far from home and was by myself with nowhere to swim, nobody close. So my first day on campus was foreign to me. And I was foreign to everybody else. I was different.

JN: So who talked to you first? Who friended you first?

JS: Isiah Barfield and Steven Foster.

The Jayhawk secondary, clockwise from center, are Isiah Barfield, Tyler Patmon, Keeston Terry, Corrigan Powell, Bradley McDougald and Greg Brown.

The Jayhawk secondary, clockwise from center, are Isiah Barfield, Tyler Patmon, Keeston Terry, Corrigan Powell, Bradley McDougald and Greg Brown. by Nick Krug

[Ed. note — Isiah's the one in the middle. And it's a cool pic by Nick.]

It was a break, and I couldn’t go home, because it was a short break and I lived so far away. But they were getting in this little bitty, old Mitsubishi car. A two-door car. And Isiah and Steve Foster were in there, and they were like, ‘Hey, yo. You want to go get something to eat?’ And I was like, ‘I ain’t got no friends. Why not?’ Ever since then, we’ve been good friends.

JN: Where’d you go?

JS: Steak 'n Shake.

JN: How was it?

JS: It was pretty good, but I haven’t been back since.

JN: So help me picture of this. You’ve got a big guy walking around campus. Did you have the Bluetooth on the whole time?

JS: I did. I had a Bluetooth on and I had my phone in my pocket, and I always tried to stay with my phone. I’ve got a big family. We’re very close. So talking to them just made me feel comfortable, even though I was in a foreign area. So, (my teammates) were just like, ‘Who are you talking to?’ but I was on the phone.

Or they were like, ‘You’re always talking on the phone and didn’t want to talk to anybody.’ I acted weird. I don’t think I did, but to them (I did). You know, everybody from here is either from Texas, Kansas or Oklahoma, and I was the only guy from Ohio — even the only guy from the northeastern area. So I just seemed weird to them. But we got past it. They understand me now, who I am and who they are.

JN: So you felt like an outsider for a while?

JS: Pretty much. I still kind of do, but I’m cool with myself. And I’ve got my little group of friends that understand me, so I’m not worried about it.

JN: What’s something interesting about you that not many people know about?

http://www2.kusports.com/photos/2010/apr/12/190177/

JS: I’m a very family-oriented guy. I’ve got four brothers and three sisters, an aunt. Without them, I don’t think I would be anywhere. I don’t think I would be happy without one of them in my life. That’s common to know I have that big of a family, but it’s crazy how close I am to them. I expect to talk to them every day, and if I don’t talk to them for a certain amount of time, it throws me off personally.

I try to talk to them every single day. I try to talk to my mother to see how her day’s going. I talk to my godfather. I talk to my brothers and sisters. I’m not the oldest one, but they do look up to me in that sense that I’m one of the older brothers, and I’m far away.

JN: Was it tough leaving your family in Ohio?

JS: It was definitely tough. I was really close. I am still close to them. It was just tough to know that I won’t be around to see them grow up. I knew that back then, but now, I really realize it.

They’re going to prom and junior prom and going to high school, and my sister started walking when I came. It’s just things I miss like that. I had a little nephew ... he cried the first couple times I would go home, because he was like, ‘Oh my God. This is the biggest dude I’m ever going to see.’ But we got past it, and I still try to stay close.

Every time I go home, I’m in the house. I make sure I’m there, so whenever somebody’s walking around, they’re talking to me or seeing me there. I want them to see my face.

JN: What was your favorite game since you’ve been here?

JS: The Missouri game.

We were down, and the pass from Todd Reesing to Kerry Meier was the best moment of my life. It was. It was like ... I don’t know. I couldn’t even explain it. It was like, maybe, the first time you’ve seen fireworks. It’s like, ‘Wow, this is real? Does it really exist? Does something this beautiful exist?’

And when that pass happened, it was like, ‘This is what we have practiced for every single day. This is what we live for.’ It’s that feeling. That feeling was amazing.

JN: Did you get to see it? Were you on the ground?

Kansas receiver Kerry Meier flashes a smile as he runs in what proved to be the winning touchdown against Missouri late in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas receiver Kerry Meier flashes a smile as he runs in what proved to be the winning touchdown against Missouri late in the fourth quarter Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium. by Nick Krug

JS: I was on the field, and I was blocking somebody. As soon as I saw the pass go up, and I saw he caught it and just ran into the end zone ... all I did was stop, throw my hands in the air and was like, ‘Thank you, Jesus. Thank you.’ It was an amazing feeling.

JN: Do you tell people that was your best moment ever?

JS: Oh yeah. That was the greatest moment ever. Like, the greatest moment, the greatest feeling. I was just happy to be a part of it, to be honest.

Kansas head coach Mark Mangino laughs with his team after its 40-37 win over Missouri Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Kansas head coach Mark Mangino laughs with his team after its 40-37 win over Missouri Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 at Arrowhead Stadium. by Nick Krug

There’s a lot of younger guys now who are like, ‘I watched that game,’ and it was exciting for them, knowing they were coming to Kansas. But to know that I was there and I was a part of it, and I was on the field at that moment, is just amazing. It was a great feeling.

JN: What was your favorite TV show growing up?

JS: Cartoons. Boomerang (TV channel). I would say Boomerang. The Cartoon Channel. I’ll watch Tom and Jerry, The Jetsons, the Smurfs. Everything. Looney Tunes. I just love cartoons.

JN: You still watch them?

JS: I do. Every day. I don’t really watch too much regular TV. You don’t have to focus, but it’s entertaining to me. Not in a kiddie way, but I still enjoy watching cartoons.

JN: Do people give you crap about it? Or are you too big?

JS: They can’t really do that. Because I know, one of my best friends, he still watches Dragon Ball Z.

And that’s Anthony Davis, No. 30.

Cornerback Anthony Davis watches as receiver Christian Matthews comes away with a pass for a touchdown during the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Kivisto Field.

Cornerback Anthony Davis watches as receiver Christian Matthews comes away with a pass for a touchdown during the Kansas Spring Game on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at Kivisto Field. by Nick Krug

He’s got DVDs of Dragon Ball Z. I don’t have DVDs of cartoons, but I definitely watch them. Like I said, we know each other, and we crack on each other for everything. But they’re going to have to accept that.

JN: What’s the toughest part about KU?

JS: Originally, the toughest part was just learning the game of football, and then driving to get that mentality that you’ve got to play every play for that play. And I say that in two ways, in the fact that, if you messed up the last play, you’ve got to continue to fight through the next play. You can’t worry about the last play. Then you’ve got to also realize, this play right here, you’ve got to play like your last play.

For me, overall, that’s been the biggest thing is actually just learning the game of football and trying to play every play like your last play, or have that mind-set. And also trying to forget the last play so you can get better.

JN: What is the best meal that you can cook? Are you a chef?

JS: My family’s pretty much the chef. But I can cook. I can do a little bit of something. I’ve been learning to cook an omelet. I cook a mean omelet right now.

JN: An omelet?

JS: An omelet. I whip it up and put the meats in it and the cheese. I’m not a vegetable-eater, but I’ll put some green onions in there. Ham, turkey, bacon ... whatever I have. I really like spicy foods, so Polish sausage, things like that. Crack three eggs, cheese. Just whip it up.

JN: Did you have to tell the coaches about your Achilles injury in the offseason last year?

JS: Yeah. Whew, it was stressful. I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like you broke your mother’s last China plate, and it was passed down from generation to generation. That’s how I felt. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should tell them I was doing this or I told them I was doing that or I should tell them I’ll be OK.’ I didn’t know what to tell them. I just had to break the news, like, ‘I messed it up.’

JN: What are you most looking forward to this year?

JS: I’m looking forward to just playing the game. Like that feeling when we come out, we warm up, and the crowd is getting in the stadium. Then as we go in the locker room, we get our motivation. We look at each other in the eyes, like, ‘We’re about to bleed today. We’re about to grind today. We’re about to win today.’ Then we come back out, and the crowd is just ready to see us.

http://www2.kusports.com/photos/2009/oct/24/180014/

I’m looking forward to that moment, because it’s a goosebump feeling. Like Jake Sharp told me, after he left, he always came back to every game the season after he left. He was like, ‘I miss it so much, just playing in front of this many people and getting that feeling when you come out. It’s something you can’t find doing a 9-to-5. You can’t find it really doing any other aspect of your life, because this is what it is now.

I want to live that up as much as I can, because I know eventually, there will be a time that I won’t get that feeling. I’m just trying to learn to soak it in, because this is all we got. Twelve games, and trying to go for 13.

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Cliff’s Notes: Turner Gill at KU football media days, 8/9/11

Here is the Cliff's Notes version of Kansas football coach Turner Gill's comments at KU football media days today.

If you want to get live updates from each week's press conference, be sure to follow us on Twitter (@kusports).

Full audio has been posted.

Gill likes the speed he's seen on offense. He also likes the body language of his quarterbacks. That tells him that they have confidence.

Gill has seen more speed and physicality on defense.

There's been a better approach with the football team this year. The coach gives a lot of credit to the seniors, who have been leaders. KU only has 15 seniors, including walk-ons.

• On defense, Steven Johnson has stood out. He's running well from sideline to sideline. Bradley McDougald has stood out as well after five practices. He's been around the ball and has tackled well.

On offense, Tanner Hawkinson has stood out. He's a leader on the offensive line. D.J. Beshears has been good as well. He's moved more to the receiver position this year. He has good hands and is very fast.

Cornerback Dominic Foreman, originally from Coffeyville Community College, has been added to the roster to take D.J. Marshall's spot.

Coaches will have a better feel after Saturday's scrimmage of who might play as a true freshmen. Gill guesses that eight or nine true freshmen will play this year.

• James Sims is KU's best running back at this point in time.

Coaches and players have been a lot more relaxed in Year Two. A lot of coaches last year were waiting to see how Gill would respond to certain situations. Gill feels a lot less tension in the room.

• Gill says there's a definite gap between KU's top two quarterbacks (Jordan Webb and Quinn Mecham) and its next two quarterbacks (freshmen Mike Cummings and Brock Berglund).

• Gill repeated his stance on Brock Berglund, saying he is still a part of the football team. "When he's around, he's around," Gill said. Gill is going to let the court system play out.

(Note: I did see Berglund walk by today, so he's here now.)

Darrian Miller is right in the thick of the running back race. The coaching staff still needs to see if he will be able to take the hits, bounce back and get up for the next play. He has big-play potential.

Gill says he understands his football team a whole lot better. He also understands KU and the fans a lot better.

After five days of practice, Gill would say that KU is a better offensive team than defensive team. It depends on the day, though. Part of that, too, is because new defensive coordinator Vic Shealy is still working on implementing some of his defensive schemes.

The coaches anticipate that freshman defensive lineman Pat Lewandowski will be available for the first game following his injury.

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Congratulations to Meghan Kinley, 100 Degree Contest winner!

It's hot. There's no denying it.

In fact, according to the AP, Kansas was home to the hottest place in the country on Sunday.

No, it wasn't Lawrence.

But we did top 100 degrees for the first time all year, and that means it's time to announce the winner of our Ron King Agency Guess the First 100-Degree Day contest.

As it turns out, according to the National Weather Service, the arbiter of all things temperature and precipitation, we officially hit 100 in Lawrence at 4:15 p.m. (We topped out at 101 at 6 p.m., they said).

So, that means it's time to announce our winner. We had hundreds and hundreds of entries and out of all of them, our winner was just 45 minutes off.

Meghan Kinley of Lawrence guessed we would hit 100 degrees at 3:30 on July 10. Well, it was 4:15, but that's close enough to win the prize.

So, congratulations Meghan! Meghan claimed a prize package that included:

• Four tickets to a T-Bones game • Over-the-shoulder bag cooler • Giant beach towel • 16-inch flying disk toy • Toy sand shovel and molds • Neutrogena spray-on sunscreen • Roll-up picnic blanket tote • EZ-Freeze water bottles • Fruit Burst drink syrup

Special thanks to Ron King Agency for being the presenting sponsor for our contest, and also to the Kansas City T-Bones for the baseball tickets.

Also, if you'd like to get severe weather information via cell phone or email, sign up for our severe weather alerts.

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‘Coach’ breaks down KU’s wide receiver screens, gives out grades

After talking with new/old Kansas receivers coach David Beaty in the spring, I could tell one area that he especially wants to stress is blocking.

Kansas University wide receivers coach David Beaty, right, delivers instructions to KU wideout D.J. Beshears on April 18 at the KU practice field. Beaty rejoined the Jayhawks’ staff after serving as offensive coordinator at Rice last season.

Kansas University wide receivers coach David Beaty, right, delivers instructions to KU wideout D.J. Beshears on April 18 at the KU practice field. Beaty rejoined the Jayhawks’ staff after serving as offensive coordinator at Rice last season. by Kevin Anderson

In Beaty's two previous seasons with KU in 2008 and 2009, much of the Jayhawks' success offensively came because of well-executed wide receiver screens.

For this blog, I wanted to get a little more into wide receiver blocking, an area many of us overlook while watching the games because we tend to follow the football.

I once again have consulted a Div. II offensive assistant coach, someone we'll just call "Coach" in this blog.

After going through film, I pulled out each of the Jayhawks' wide receiver screens from last year's Colorado and Missouri games and also this year's spring game.

I then had Coach grade each play.

With his receivers, Coach reviews film of every play, giving a grade of either 0, 1 or 2.

Here's a look at how Coach would have graded each of KU's receivers on the following seven plays. Use the video clip above each breakdown to follow along with Coach's assessment.

Coach's words: "No. 83, the receiver on the outside (Chris Omigie), he doesn’t initially take a very good angle to make sure and cut off the cornerback. You see how he lets the cornerback get inside of him right there? He’s really pretty lucky that that cornerback didn’t really get a big hit on his slot receiver right there.

"Now obviously, this slot receiver (Daymond Patterson) doesn’t do a good job of catching this ball on the first try. But really, that wide receiver, No. 83 up there, needs to step inside first to protect against the inside from this corner right here. Then, if the corner does come back outside, then he can get back and return to his original aiming point. Footwork first."

Grades: "I’d probably give them both zeroes, No. 83 (Omigie) for his technique, and then the slot receiver (Patterson) for a drop."

Coach's words: "This is an outside receiver screen right here. The two inside receivers (Tim Biere and Patterson) both do a pretty good job of keeping two of the defenders away from their outside receiver right here. They both go to cut, and neither one of them actually gets their guy down on the ground, but they do an OK job at occupying them long enough to give their other receiver time enough to make a good catch and get a first down here.

"If you’re going to go cut a guy, you definitely want to get them down on the ground. Some keys to a cut block are making sure you don’t try to cut too early. You need to have very little space between you and the defender.

"And a lot of times, you’ll see guys making mistakes in cutting. They try and cut down around the shins or down around the ankles when really their aiming point when they go to cut should be at the thigh level. And (they need to) run through their cut, not just dive at them and dive straight down into the ground — really run through when you go to cut. Now eventually, you will dive and end up on the ground, but you really want to have a lot of momentum going so that you can take their legs out from under them."

Grades: "I would grade all those guys ones right there. There was nothing spectacular that really went on, but they all pretty much got the job done and they ended up getting a first down out of the play."

Coach's words: "No. 86 (Biere), he’s the one on the line. He initially doesn’t do a great job right there. Notice how he kind of takes too wide of a step with his first step and allows that defender to go directly inside of him right there? That could have caused a big problem for KU if that defensive back would have looked up and saw the ball. He could have had an easy interception and return for touchdown right there. He almost overruns the play.

"He needs to be a little more patient and let the guy come to him so he can keep him covered up right there. Now, he does come back and gets a nice knockdown on the play when No. 17 reverses his field. That’s good.

"The No. 3 receiver, the slot receiver (Kale Pick), when he goes to cut this guy, he doesn’t really run through it. He kind of just dives down at the guy’s ankles.

"See, he needs to continue to run his feet and run through his cut right there and really try to work to get the guy down on the ground. Now, he does occupy the guy long enough, so if the ball would have been caught, he would have technically had the guy blocked. He kind of just stuffs his face right down into the ground."

Grades: "The outside receiver (Chris Omigie) is going to get a zero for a drop. I’d probably end up giving (Biere) a one on that play, just because he comes back and makes a nice play and gets a knockdown. I’d probably give (Pick) a one. If the outside receiver makes the catch there, he probably would have had long enough to run by that corner."

Coach's words: "81 (Johnathan Wilson) probably just could have ran through his hit a little bit harder. See how when he goes to hit him on the 20-yard line how his feet get stuck in the mud right there? He could have really ran his feet and shot his hands through the guy’s chest and really just continued to run his feet, instead of having his feet and hands kind of go dead right there. See how he kind of gives him the chicken wing instead of putting his hands right into his breastplate and really running his feet?"

Grades: "(Colorado's) No. 3 doesn’t make the tackle, and 81 (Johnathan Wilson) does a good enough job to allow 15 (Daymond Patterson) to get upfield a little ways, so I’d give him a one right there.

"I would have given 15 (Patterson) a one right there. Probably would have given him a two if he would have ended up getting by ... see how he makes No. 19 miss originally and then No. 19 comes back in and makes the tackle? If he would have been able to get away from him and get 5 or 10 more yards, I probably would have given him a two for a great move, but that’s pretty much a one.

"I expect most of my guys to be able to make that move right there. He didn’t stand much of a chance, obviously, because there were two or three defenders out there. That was an overall productive play right there, though, by the receivers."

Coach's words: "Really good job by 81 (Johnathan Wilson). See how No. 81 has a nice aiming point and basically has his nose on the corner’s outside number? And really, No. 15 should continue to chase the numbers, see, because 81 has the corner blocked.

"81 has a nice aiming point. He’s using his hands well.

"If No. 15 continues to chase the bottom of the numbers to the outside here, they’re probably going to have a lot bigger play than what they ended up having, because he cut back into trouble.

"You teach your guys on bubble screens like this to chase the numbers and really continue to work outside, because all the defense is coming from the inside. And he cuts right back into trouble here. Trust your outside receiver to continue to work this guy up the field and go outside and try to get some big yards here."

Grades: "81 could do a little better job. See how he’s giving a bunch of ground right here?

"He could really drop his butt and try to drive this corner back more and give 15 a better angle to run, but he really does a good enough job right here. I’d give both receivers a one."

Coach's words: "The No. 2 receiver, 43 (Ted McNulty), does a good job. He gets his hands on the defensive back. He could have his butt down a little more and drive his feet a little bit harder.

"Again, with the No. 3 receiver (Pick), he could do a better job with his cut. See how he dives at the defender’s ankles right there? He could really do a better job, take two more steps upfield, and make sure that he’s trying to cut the guy at thigh level instead of just trying to cut his ankles right there."

Grades: "I’d probably give (Pick) a zero right there. I’d probably give the slot receiver (McNulty) a one. I’d give the outside receiver (Omigie) a one. Overall, pretty productive by the No. 1 and No. 2 receivers right there."

"I believe it’s No. 46 right here (Jimmay Mundine), his guy makes the play.

"The No. 1 receiver (Erick McGriff*), I think he’s doing an OK job here. I think he realizes that the defense is playing man-to-man, and he’s just going to run the corner off, which is totally fine as long as the corner continues to run with him. See how the corner turns a man turn to him?

"A man turn is turning toward the receiver. Zone turn would be turning to the inside of the field. The cornerback doesn’t take a zone turn; he takes a man turn to that receiver. And the receiver just runs him off.

"If you can tell the guy’s going to play man-to-man by reading the coverage and reading the defense, then yeah, just go ahead and run the guy off."

* — It's hard to tell which receiver this is from the film, though it looks to me like it's McGriff.

Grades: "That’s a good job by the No. 1 (McGriff). I’d just give him a one right there.

"(Mundine), zero. His man makes the play. The No. 2 receiver (Connor Embree), I’m going to give him a one, because he really didn’t stand a chance because his No. 3 receiver didn’t get it done for him right there."

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San Diego State sources fire back at KU, Kevin Young

Kevin Young is still making headlines in San Diego.

Kevin Young watches the alumni scrimmage during the Bill Self basketball game on Wednesday at Horejsi Center.

Kevin Young watches the alumni scrimmage during the Bill Self basketball game on Wednesday at Horejsi Center. by Richard Gwin

The 6-foot-8 forward, who originally signed a grant-in aid with San Diego State eight months ago, reconsidered and committed to Kansas University on Friday.

Evidently, people close to SDSU are still fuming.

On Tuesday, the San Diego Union-Tribune posted another story about Young, this time disputing KU coach Bill Self's assertion that Young decommitted from SDSU before taking a campus visit to KU.

The story is definitely interesting. Here's part of what the Union-Tribune's Mark Zeigler wrote:

Two sources close to the situation, speaking on the condition on anonymity, say it went like this:

The SDSU coaches got wind about Young’s trip to Kansas the week before and phoned him to confront him about it. And even then, the sources said, Young never formally decommitted from SDSU before taking the trip — wanting to keep his options open.

Zeigler also makes mention of Young’s AAU coach, Elvert “Kool-Aid” Perry, saying he "is believed to have been influential in the decision behind the switch."

Don't think we'll ever know exactly what happened with Young's recruitment, but so far, that hasn't stopped both schools from trying to convince others that their version of the story is correct.

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In case you missed it … Morris twins, KU football player videos sweeping Internet

If you're a KU fan, you'll probably want to check out these videos featuring Jayhawk athletes that first appeared online Wednesday.

The first video is of Marcus and Markieff Morris on ESPN's Sport Science set. The brothers have their basketball skills broken down scientifically and also have their skills compared to some current NBA players. Definitely worth a look.

The next video from KU Athletics, featuring football players Daymond Patterson and A.J. Steward challenging the KU soccer team to a shootout, evidently is so good that it's going to be featured on ESPN's SportsCenter.

I'm not going to ruin the surprise, but let's just say, you'll want to watch until the very end.

DP & AJ TAKE ON KU - WOMENS SOCCER from Kansas Jayhawks on Vimeo.

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Analyzing the Danny Manning Effect

Danny Manning has often been praised for his work with the Kansas University big men since being hired on as an official KU assistant before the 2007-08 season.

Kansas University assistant coach Danny Manning starred on the 1987-88 Jayhawks, who won the national championship, 83-79 against Oklahoma.

Kansas University assistant coach Danny Manning starred on the 1987-88 Jayhawks, who won the national championship, 83-79 against Oklahoma.

But exactly how much have KU's big men improved?

Let's take a look.

For this blog, I will be looking at offensive rating, which basically tells us how many points an individual player produces per 100 possessions.

First, I wanted to take a look at the big men that Manning inherited when he became an assistant coach in 2007: Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun. Manning had each of these players one season.

See larger graph.

Before working with Manning, the three players averaged an offensive rating of 108.1; after, they averaged 116.1.

As you can see, each player improved offensively under Manning, with Kaun (9.1 percent improvement) and Jackson (11.6 percent improvement) making the biggest leaps*.

* — A note on offensive ratings: The numbers above don't necessarily mean Darnell Jackson was a better offensive player in 2007-08 than Darrell Arthur. To compare different players, you also need to look at their usage percentage — the percentage of possessions they consume on the floor.

In that year, Arthur's usage percentage was 24.8 percent, while Jackson's was 19.9 percent. Because Arthur was more of a go-to player with KU and took more shots (and tougher shots), it would be expected that his offensive rating might be a touch lower than Jackson's.

Because in all these graphs we are comparing each player to themselves, I didn't include usage percentages. All the usage percentages are listed in parentheses here if you want to see them.

Manning also has worked with six different scholarship big men from their first year at KU (I'm counting Mario Little, who played the four position during most of his time at KU).

Here is what their progression looks like.

See larger graph.

OK, there's a lot to get to here.

First off, there have been 12 instances in these two graphs when a player has spent an additional year at KU under Manning.

In 11 of those 12 instances, that player's offensive rating improved.

Sounds like a potential recruiting tool to me.

Cole Aldrich's junior season is the only time under Manning that a KU big man's offensive rating has gone down from the previous season. And even then, it went from an off-the-charts 124.3 his sophomore year to a still-all-league-like 116.8 his junior season.

Here are the average offensive ratings for KU players in each playing year under Manning:

Year 1 — 102.1
Year 2 — 115.0 (12.6 percent increase)
Year 3 — 118.9 (3.4 percent increase)

From looking at this, KU's big men are making a huge jump between year one and year two. I was a little surprised that the offensive ratings for KU first-year big men were so low. This would seem to indicate that even though KU isn't bringing in elite freshmen big men that can dominate immediately (think Jared Sullinger and DeMarcus Cousins), it is getting great production out of them after a year in the program.

Also, the jump isn't as significant from year two to year three. Part of the reason for this, of course, is that KU's big men had such high offensive ratings in their second years, many times it was hard to improve much.

This also might be a good time to temper expectations in the first year for incoming freshmen Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor. Recent history would tell us that KU's big men aren't usually offensive studs as freshmen (though as sophomores, they often are).

Jeff Withey also is an interesting case study here. He had one of the highest offensive ratings from a big man during his first year at KU (109.0) but didn't have a significant increase following his sophomore season like most of the other Jayhawks have had (109.8). I'm sure injuries and limited playing time had something to do with this, along with the fact that Withey's offensive rating his freshman year was pretty darned good for a part-time player.

Just for fun, here's a look at how KU's Manning-led big men compare to other schools' big men over the same time period.

For the schools below, I pulled players out based on three criteria:

  1. Players had to be 6-foot-7 or taller
  2. Players had to join their schools in 2007-08 or later
  3. Players had to play at least 10 minutes per game in their final season

I compared those players' offensive ratings with those of KU's big men from 2007-present under Manning. In each graph, the dark blue lines represent KU players.

Because of the small sample size we can't take too much from these graphs, but I still thought they were interesting to look at. Manning's big men seem to fare pretty well compared to recent big men from other schools.

See larger graph.

See larger graph.

See larger graph.

See larger graph.

See larger graph.

Note: Reader avaholic below requested a graph of KU's guards in the last four years to compare to the graphs above. Here is that graph. Please note that Tyrel Reed played just six minutes per game his freshman year, and his offensive rating is a bit inflated because of that.

See larger graph.

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This and that: Here’s how much KU fans care about DeAndre Daniels

A few notes for a rainy Friday ...

So just how much do Kansas fans care about recruit DeAndre Daniels' decision?

DeAndre Daniels, the No. 10-ranked player according to Rivals.com in the class of 2011.

DeAndre Daniels, the No. 10-ranked player according to Rivals.com in the class of 2011.

Quite a bit, if you only go by the KUSports.com traffic reports.

Only three times during the 2011 calendar year has KUSports.com had more than 100,000 visits in one day. Those days are:

  1. Mon., Feb. 21 (Tyshawn Taylor suspended; 120,250 visits)
  2. Sun., March 27 (KU loses to VCU; 124,122 visits)
  3. Thurs., May 19 (Daniels, um, doesn't make a decision; 107,409 visits)

That's a lot of refreshing back to KUSports.com, especially on a day when no new story was posted on Daniels.

In case you're wondering, the latest news I've seen on Daniels comes from Inside Texas Magazine's Blake Munroe, who Tweeted, Just spoke to IMG Academy's Andy Borman who told me he has "no clue" when DeAndre Daniels' decision will be made.

I was trying to figure out which KU player will be affected most by Daniels' decision, and the one I keep coming back to is Travis Releford.

Kansas guard Travis Releford soars in for a windmill dunk in front of UMKC defenders Trinity hall, left, and Bakari Lewis during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Travis Releford soars in for a windmill dunk in front of UMKC defenders Trinity hall, left, and Bakari Lewis during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The junior-to-be was having a solid season last year until a severe sprained ankle kept him out five games. After he returned, he never was able to fully regain his explosiveness, and KU coach Bill Self seemed to lack confidence in him during games late in the season.

Releford's offensive numbers from last year suggest that he was helping the Jayhawks while he was in. His offensive rating (basically, point produced per 100 possessions) was 119.5 according to Statsheet.com, which was fourth-highest in the Jayhawks' rotation behind Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Tyrel Reed.

Releford wasn't a huge go-to guy offensively, putting up 17.9 percent of KU's shots while he was in, but these numbers indicate that he was providing a positive contribution offensively when he was in.

Without Daniels, Releford would appear to be the Jayhawks' starter at the small-forward position, where he would have a huge jump in minutes and also would most likely be the Jayhawks' best on-ball defender, taking that role from the graduated Brady Morningstar.

With Daniels, though, I'm not sure where Releford would squeeze in. Most likely, Daniels would take a majority of the minutes at small forward, leaving Releford as a backup at that position.

Releford did play some at the four position last year, but he's undersized there and would at best be a reserve there competing with Braeden Anderson and Jamari Traylor to be one of the first guys off the bench. Playing at the four also takes away one of Releford's greatest strengths, which is his ability to shut down a perimeter player defensively.

There are other ways this could play out, too. If Daniels came to KU, he could transition to power forward, leaving the three spot open for Releford.

Either way, I'm interested to see what a healthy Releford can do both offensively and defensively in 2011-12. His numbers would suggest that he's ready to handle an increased role.

Even with Daniels stealing the headlines, KU fans shouldn't overlook the importance of signing forward Jamari Traylor.

Jamari Traylor, the No. 141-ranked player in the class of 2011, according to Rivals.com.

Jamari Traylor, the No. 141-ranked player in the class of 2011, according to Rivals.com.

Every time I went back to look at KU's rotation for next year, I kept seeing one glaring weakness: post depth.

Before Traylor signed, here were KU's options in the post:

Thomas Robinson
Jeff Withey
Braeden Anderson
Travis Releford (not his natural position)
Justin Wesley (walk on)

With even one injury next year (and remember, three of the guys on the above list missed some of last season because of injuries), KU would have been down to a scary-thin big-man bench.

During Spodcasters earlier this week, JayhawkSlant.com's Shay Wildeboor compared the 141st-ranked Traylor to Darnell Jackson — a hustle guy and a good rebounder.

And though it's impossible to know how good Traylor will end up being, here's a list of players I found ranked between Nos. 140 and 150 on the Rivals150 in past years who were productive players during college:

2004 — DeMarre Carroll, Missouri (148th)
2005 — Taylor Griffin, Oklahoma (141st)
2006 — Desean Butler, West Virginia (147th)
2006 — Dexter Pittman, Texas (150th)
2007 — Lavoy Allen, Temple (142nd)
2008 — Jio Fontan, USC (147th)
2008 — Marcus Denmon, Missouri (150th)
2009 — Khris Middleton, Texas A&M (140th)

For KU football fans, this link is a couple weeks old, but it's still a good one if you haven't seen it.

Owen Kemp at the blog Rock Chalk Talk once again sat down with someone "close to the program" to get his post-spring thoughts on the Jayhawks. That person "close to the program" has enough insight in the blog that I would assume it's a current player.

The most interesting thing that I saw was that, so far, KU's vocal leaders have been the offensive linemen and not the quarterbacks. Sounds like a good thing, and a bad thing, for KU.

Finally, I had to laugh when I stumbled upon Statsheet.com's new site Statsmack.

Basically, the site is set up to help you prove to your friends that, statistically, your college is better than theirs.

I was curious about the site, so I went ahead and typed in the biggest rivalry around this area: Kansas vs. Missouri.

The Kansas student section waves the wheat as Missouri forward Laurence Bowers walks to the bench after fouling out in the second half on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas student section waves the wheat as Missouri forward Laurence Bowers walks to the bench after fouling out in the second half on Monday, Feb. 7, 2011 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Statsmack listed 45 reasons KU is better than MU. Here are a few of the basketball ones:

• AP Voters think Kansas is better than Missouri (Latest AP Poll: #2 vs Not Ranked)

• Computers think Kansas is better with an RPI this season that is better than Missouri (RPI: #1 vs #37)

• Kansas is a better shooting team (51.4% vs 46.1%) than Missouri this season

• Kansas has been the favorite 32 out of the 35 times (i.e. everyone expects KU to win)

• Over the past 10 years Kansas has had more players drafted by the NBA than Missouri (13 vs 4)

And also a few of the non-basketball ones ...

• More violent crime happens per capita in Columbia so be careful if you visit (when compared to Lawrence (according to the FBI)

• More property crime happens per capita in Columbia so you better protect your valuables if you visit (when compared to Lawrence -- according to the FBI)

• Lawrence isn't as congested as Columbia (population is significantly lower)

• The Kansas basketball team is smarter with a better graduation rate than Missouri (80% vs 44%)

OK, fair enough. So I went ahead and flipped it around.

The site only came up with 10 reasons MU was better than KU. And those reasons weren't the strongest, either. Here are the first three:

• Missouri has an average margin of victory of 7 over Kansas in 24 wins since 1980

• Missouri has come back to win after being down at half against Kansas 4 times since 1996

• The Missouri blocks leader (Laurence Bowers) has more blocks than the Kansas blocks leader (Markieff Morris)

New MU coach Frank Haith has some work to do if that's some of the best Statsmack his fans can claim against their biggest rival.

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World Company, community partners earn grant to develop regional news network

An innovative partnership between The World Company and four independent, online local news providers has been awarded a grant by J-Lab at American University in Washington, D.C.

PVPost.com, EudoraReporter.com, GardnerEdge.com and KansasCityKansan.com have all agreed to participate in a cooperative with The World Company that allows each partner to use content from one another. The partners, known as the Northeast Kansas News Network, will also explore collaborative marketing, linking and will investigate whether the partnership could form the basis of a regional advertising network.

The grant, which is part of J-Lab's Networked Journalism project, provides $50,000 to be split between The World Company and the partners. That money is expected to be spent on equipment, promotion, marketing and staff time to develop the partnership and also to help improve the quality and amount of content being generated by the independent partners. Jonathan Kealing, assistant director of media strategy at The World Company, is coordinating the project.

“For us, this is a chance to help really develop the regional news ecosystem,” Kealing said. “These partners represent a wide variety of communities and all have as a goal to better inform their communities.”

Kealing said he hoped the grant and the partnerships that come out of it will enable these independent news sites to grow and thrive.

EudoraReporter.com is run by John Schulz, PVPost.com is operated by Jay Senter, KansasCityKansan.com is owned by Nick Sloan and GardnerEdge.com is run by Joel Johns. The partners are using StoryMarket, a new content syndication platform developed at The World Company, to share their content with each other, as well as to make it available to other publishers.

Other news companies that have been awarded J-Lab Networked Journalism grants include the Miami Herald, The (Portland) Oregonian and TucsonCitizen.com.

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Get ready to vote for the KUSports.com All-Decade Team

Who's the best starting five for the Kansas men's basketball team in the last decade?

KU fans will get the chance to decide that over the next two months, as starting Monday, we will open voting for the KUSports.com All-Decade Team.

Here are the details: After consulting with KUSports.com staffers Gary Bedore, Tom Keegan and Matt Tait, we put together a bracket and seedings to rank the top eight KU players at each position* over the last 10 years. To qualify, KU players simply had to play any time from the 1999-2000 season on.

* — Each player was placed in his "best-fit" position, or the one that we most associated him with during his time at KU.

The brackets are below.

Enlarge point guards bracket

Enlarge shooting guards bracket

Enlarge small forwards bracket

Enlarge power forwards bracket

Enlarge centers bracket

Voting will begin on Monday with the point guards. We'll open voting for two matchups per day until we reach the semifinals.

To vote, you'll only need your KUSports.com username. You can sign up here if you don't have one.

KUSports.com users will only be allowed one vote per matchup per day, meaning if eighth-seeded Christian Moody is your guy, you might be best recruiting a few friends to help his cause.

Here's the schedule for voting on the KUSports.com All-Decade Team:

Mon., May 9: Sherron Collins vs. Brett Ballard; Russell Robinson vs. Tyshawn Taylor
Tues., May 10: Aaron Miles vs. Jeff Hawkins; Kirk Hinrich vs. Elijah Johnson
Wed., May 11: Mario Chalmers vs. Josh Selby; Kenny Gregory vs. Tyrel Reed
Thurs., May 12: Jeff Boschee vs. Michael Lee; Keith Langford vs. Luke Axtell
Fri., May 13: Brandon Rush vs. Alex Galindo; Brady Morningstar vs. J.R. Giddens
Mon., May 16: Nick Bradford vs. Travis Releford; Xavier Henry vs. Bryant Nash
Tues., May 17: Nick Collison vs. Christian Moody; Darrell Arthur vs. Julian Wright
Wed., May 18: Marcus Morris vs. Darnell Jackson; Wayne Simien vs. Thomas Robinson
Thurs., May 19: Drew Gooden vs. Jeff Carey; Sasha Kaun vs. Jeff Graves
Fri., May 20: Markieff Morris vs. Eric Chenowith; Cole Aldrich vs. David Padgett
Mon., May 23: Point guard semifinal No. 1
Tues., May 24: Point guard semifinal No. 2
Wed., May 25: Shooting guard semifinal No. 1
Thurs., May 26: Shooting guard semifinal No. 2
Fri., May 27: Small forward semifinal No. 1
Mon., May 30: Small forward semifinal No. 2
Tues., May 31: Power forward semifinal No. 1
Wed., June 1: Power forward semifinal No. 2
Thurs., June 2: Center semifinal No. 1
Fri., June 3: Center semifinal No. 2
Mon., June 6: Point guard final
Tues., June 7: Shooting guard final
Wed., June 8: Small forward final
Thurs., June 9: Power forward final
Fri., June 10: Center final

Once KUSports.com users have selected the All-Decade Team, we'll take the winners at each position, put all five names in one poll, and have a two-day voting period on June 13-14 to determine the KU Player of the Decade.

So, who's the best starting five for the Kansas men's basketball team in the last decade?

Starting Monday, it'll be up to you guys to let us know.

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KU football still desperately needs breakaway running back

The other day, I stumbled upon this video of Kansas freshman running back Darrian Miller's 40-yard touchdown run during a KU scrimmage this spring.

SPRING PRACTICE - PLAY OF THE DAY # 6 from Kansas Jayhawks on Vimeo.

There was a reason it caught my attention: We haven't seen that type of run from KU in the last two seasons.

In 2009, KU's longest run by a running back was just 30 yards by Jake Sharp. That was the lowest mark in the conference, and Colorado (36) was the only other team whose longest running back run was in the 30s.

Amazingly, in 2010, KU was worse when it came to big runs. As Tom Keegan wrote earlier this week, the Jayhawks' longest run by a running back was just 28 yards by James Sims — again the worst mark in the conference.

To put that in perspective, Kansas State's Daniel Thomas had nine, 30-plus-yard runs all by himself last year.

KU's only run of more than 30 yards came from receiver Daymond Patterson, who had a 51-yard run way back in the first game against North Dakota State.

Daymond Patterson (15) finds an open hole for a 51-yard dash in the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 in the home opener Kansas against North Dakota State at Kivisto Field.

Daymond Patterson (15) finds an open hole for a 51-yard dash in the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010 in the home opener Kansas against North Dakota State at Kivisto Field. by Kevin Anderson

According to cfbstats.com, there were 22 Big 12 players that had two or more 30-yard runs last season.

Also, KU was one of only six Div. I teams (Bowling Green, Buffalo, KU, Minnesota, Washington State, New Mexico State) to have one 30-plus-yard run or fewer last season.

Those six teams, not surprisingly, combined to go 14-58.

Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, the answer for a breakout running back doesn't appear to be someone who played last year.

Last year, we looked at a statistic called "Highlight yards" to identify which KU backs were best at breaking long runs.

The statistic is created by Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall.

Here's a brief explanation.

In general, an offensive line is mostly responsible for the rushing yards near the line of scrimmage. After all, linemen can only move so far in a short period of time and can't continue their blocks way downfield.

Connelly created "highlight yards" to help take the offensive line's impact out of a running back's rushing totals. For "highlight yards," a running back is given no credit for a run of 0-4 yards, half-credit for any yards gained 5-10 yards downfield and full credit for any yards gained 11 yards or further downfield.

For example, a three-yard run gets no highlight yards. A 70-yard run gets 63 highlight yards (3 highlight yards for yards 5-10 of the run, then 60 highlight yards for yards 11-70 of the run).

Highlight yards, then, are a good judge of how explosive a back is and how much of his production came without the help of the offensive line blocking for him.

So how did the Jayhawks fare in 2010?

Connelly posted the final highlight yard totals over at Football Study Hall, and from there, I pulled out only the Big 12 players.

The list below is all the Big 12 non-quarterbacks ranked by highlight yards per carry (only rushers with at least 50 carries are included; the first number is the player's national rank in highlight yards/carry).

2010 Big 12 non-quarterback highlight yards/carry
22. Roy Helu Jr. Nebraska 3.19 highlight yards/carry
31. Jay Finley Baylor 2.99
50. Kendial Lawrence Missouri 2.75
62. Henry Josey Missouri 2.60
78. Cyrus Gray Texas A&M 2.43
124. Kendall Hunter Oklahoma State 2.09
129. Eric Stephens Texas Tech 2.07
130. Daniel Thomas Kansas State 2.06
132. Rex Burkhead Nebraska 2.05
133. De'Vion Moore Missouri 2.04
157. Joseph Randle Oklahoma State 1.87
162. Alexander Robinson Iowa State 1.85
208. Christine Michael Texas A&M 1.60
228. Roy Finch Oklahoma 1.49
244. Rodney Stewart Colorado 1.42
246. Foswhitt Whittaker Texas 1.39
260. Baron Batch Texas Tech 1.31
261. Cody Johnson Texas 1.31
270. DeMarco Murray Oklahoma 1.27
271. Mossis Madu Oklahoma 1.27
283. James Sims Kansas 1.22
290. Jeremy Smith Oklahoma State 1.20
324. D.J. Beshears Kansas 0.84
330. Deshaun Sands Kansas 0.76
343. Tre' Newton Texas 0.63
344. Angus Quigley Kansas 0.55

(347 Div. I players had at least 50 carries)

Amazingly, out of the 26 Big 12 running backs that had at least 50 carries, KU's backs took up four of the last six spots in highlight yards per carry.

Running back Deshaun Sands (36) leaps over Missouri's Andrew Gachkar (6) for some short yards in the second half. Kansas and Missouri met at Arrowhead Stadium Saturday for the 119th game in the rivalry series.

Running back Deshaun Sands (36) leaps over Missouri's Andrew Gachkar (6) for some short yards in the second half. Kansas and Missouri met at Arrowhead Stadium Saturday for the 119th game in the rivalry series. by Richard Gwin

Take out freshman James Sims, and KU's other three running backs all finished in the bottom 25 nationally in highlight yards per carry.

I asked Connelly to try to make sense of the numbers above.

"Well, the good news is, Beshears was young and Sims and Sands were super-young," Connelly said. "That said, the fact that they were so much lower than the rest of the conference is a warning sign.

"Looking at the last couple years of data, the only player I saw who averaged 1.20 highlight yards per carry or lower who ended up turning out all right was Tennessee's Montario Hardesty. But even he only averaged 1.52 per carry the next season.

"It's certainly a legitimate concern, as are most concerns regarding the Kansas offense."

Sims, who enters the spring as KU's top running back, appears to be a guy that gets a few more yards than you would expect on each play, though he probably doesn't have the speed to break away for 40- and 50-yard runs.

Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David stops Kansas running back James Sims during the third quarter, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln.

Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David stops Kansas running back James Sims during the third quarter, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2010 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. by Nick Krug

That means players like Miller, Rell Lewis, Brandon Bourbon (now injured), Dreamius Smith and even Anthony Pierson should come into fall camp trying to win the position of breakaway running back for the Jayhawks.

Two years already is too long to go without one.

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Recap: Startling numbers about KU’s recent losses as a double-digit favorite in the NCAAs

Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

It's two days after VCU's 71-61 victory over Kansas in the Elite Eight, and honestly, the longer I think about it, the worse I think this loss was for KU.

Because it was the Elite Eight and not the first or second round, most KU fans I've read on here have been pretty forgiving and have seemed to shrug off the defeat as "one of those days."

It's just tough for me to see it that way when KU had probably the easiest path in history to the national championship game (KenPom had KU with a 49-percent chance to win the whole thing before the VCU game) before failing to even make the Final Four.

Let's start with this: KU coach Bill Self is a victim of his own success. He took a top-15 preseason team and molded it into one of the best in the country. He won at least a share of his seventh straight Big 12 title and also led his team to a 35-2 record before its final loss.

But that amazing success in the regular season just boosts expectations for the postseason. He's his own worst enemy in that regard.

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs the offense against Virginia Commonwealth during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self directs the offense against Virginia Commonwealth during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Having said all that, KU should have cakewalked to the Final Four after getting by Illinois.

I know I bring up KenPom a lot, and his projections gave KU an 88-percent chance of winning the game against VCU on a neutral court. And trust me, the Alamodome was anything but neutral, as KU fans outnumbered the other fans about 10-to-1.

The percentages for KU losing by 10? I can't think that would be better than 1 in 100.

But let's forget KenPom for a second and just look at the Vegas lines. KU was an 11-point favorite over VCU.

I've heard the argument that these same types of upsets in the NCAA Tournament have happened lately at the other big-name schools as well.

I did some research, and that simply isn't true.

Since the 2003-04 season (Self's first at KU), I looked back at all the NCAA Tournament games for the four biggest name college basketball programs: Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina.

During that time span, those four teams have gone a combined 31-4 in games where they were favored by 10 points or more in Vegas.

The four losses? Take a look below.

2004 — Kentucky favored by 10 (loss to UAB)
2005 — Kansas favored by 13.5 (loss to Bucknell)
2010 — Kansas favored by 11.5 (loss to Northern Iowa)
2011 — Kansas favored by 11 (loss to VCU)

As a double-favorite in the NCAA Tournament in the last eight years, North Carolina is 10-0. Duke is 9-0. Kentucky is 4-1.

And Kansas is 8-3*.

* — It's worth noting that Kentucky and North Carolina both failed to make the NCAA Tournament during certain seasons in that stretch — something else to keep in mind. Self gets KU to the Tournament every year, which is a credit to him.

When favored by 10-12 points in the last two seasons, KU is 10-0 before the NCAA Tournament. And 1-2 during the NCAA Tournament.

It's something that can't be ignored.

The Kansas Jayhawks sit in a somber locker room following their 71-61 loss to Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The Kansas Jayhawks sit in a somber locker room following their 71-61 loss to Virginia Commonwealth on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

On Sunday, much of KU's improbable loss was blamed on its shooting.

The best shooting team in the nation (KU had a 57 percent effective field-goal percentage* coming in) posted an eFG% of 37.1 percent — the worst shooting performance by the Jayhawks in the last two seasons.

* — eFG% takes into account the extra value of three-pointers by giving them 1.5 times the credit of twos.

KU also made just 2 of 21 threes (9.5 percent), also its worst mark in the last two years.

How bad was it for KU? Here's a typical shot chart for KU, this one from the first half against Richmond. The circled numbers mean a shot was made, while the numbers to the side of the baseline are layups.

Now, look at KU's second half against VCU.

That's right. The Jayhawks made just one true jump shot in 18 second-half attempts (5.6 percent).

Can this be explained? The best shooting team in the nation making one jump shot in an entire half?

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed attempts a shot under the outstretched arm of Virginia Commonwealth guard Bradford Burgess during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed attempts a shot under the outstretched arm of Virginia Commonwealth guard Bradford Burgess during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

You can call it a bad shooting day, but uncanny poor shooting is becoming a pattern for KU in its recent Elite Eight games.

Below are KU's effective field-goal percentages from Self's four Elite Eight appearances, along with KU's season average for eFG% that year.

2004 vs. Georgia Tech — 44.6 eFG% (season eFG% of 51.4%)
2007 vs. UCLA — 44.6 eFG% (season eFG% of 54.5%)
2008 vs. Davidson — 49.0 eFG% (season eFG% of 56.7%)
2011 vs. VCU — 37.1 eFG% (season eFG% of 57.0%)

The point here isn't that KU shot worse than its season average. That's most likely going to happen against a tough opponent in the NCAA Tournament.

In almost all the games, though, KU's shot significantly worse than its season average.

I looked up free-throw percentages from the Elite Eight games, and KU shot below its average in each of those four games as well.

Again, it's something worth exploring for Self. What's the reason for his team's tight play, especially in that Elite Eight round?

"It's amazing to me that we're 6-1 in Sweet 16 and 1-5 in Elite Eight games," Self said Tuesday. "That's the kind of stuff. I need to look at. ... This was the loosest we've ever been going into a game. Even our coaches said, 'Gawdang, if you're tight, no one knows it.' The loosest we've been, so that doesn't guarantee anything either."

It sure appeared to be a different Self once he stepped on the sideline.

One national media member, after watching Self on the bench during the VCU game, told me it almost seemed to him like Self was strangling his team on the sidelines with quick subouts and sharp words, and his team seemed to respond negatively because of it.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks the sideline during the second half of KU's loss to Virginia Commonwealth Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

Self can't shoot shots, but he can affect the mindset of his team during those games.

Some of these NCAA occurrences don't look like flukes any more. They're starting to look like patterns.

And Self — as he promised Tuesday — will surely do some self-examination to see how his team could be better prepared in future years.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

Only two KU players can even be considered for this award, and though Marcus Morris played harder, Tyshawn Taylor earns the M.O.J. for being a little bit better.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor defends a drive by Virginia Commonwealth guard Darius Theus during the second half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor defends a drive by Virginia Commonwealth guard Darius Theus during the second half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Amazingly, the junior guard was the only player on the Jayhawks’ roster to post better than 1 point per possession used against VCU. Taylor notched 1.23 PPP used while ending 17.8 percent of KU’s possessions. His floor percentage (the percentage of possessions he ended where KU scored at least one point) was a team-high 61.3 percent.

Taylor also led KU in effective field-goal percentage (66.6 percent, no one else shot above 46 percent) and assist percentage, contributing 24.6 percent of KU’s assists when he was in.

He just didn’t get help offensively from anyone besides Marcus (0.94 PPP used, 28.6 percent possessions ended).

Room for Improvement

VCU came in scoring 35.4 percent of its points from three-pointers. On Sunday, the Rams scored 50.7 percent of their points from threes.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar defends a three-pointer from Virginia Commonwealth forward Bradford Burgess during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Brady Morningstar defends a three-pointer from Virginia Commonwealth forward Bradford Burgess during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Yes, VCU did hit some tough threes, but it also hit some wide-open ones as well.

Whether it was poor execution of the gameplan or a bad gameplan, KU unnecessarily helped way too much on dribble penetration, allowing the Rams to kick out for open shots.

It was a drastic two-game turnaround for KU’s perimeter defense. After holding 40-percent three-point shooting Richmond to 4-for-26 outside shooting on Friday (15.4 percent), KU allowed 37-percent three-point shooting VCU to hit 12 of 25 threes on Sunday (48 percent).

Coming in, three-point defense hadn’t been a KU weakness. Opponents had made just 29.8 percent of their threes against KU.

That didn’t matter much to VCU, which made 9 of its first 15 threes during the decisive first half.

Here’s a stat I picked up from John Gasaway on Twitter: In five NCAA Tournament games, VCU has made 43.8 percent of its two-pointers. And 43.8 percent of its three-pointers.

I’m not sure why KU’s defenders were so worried about helping out on drives at the risk of giving up open threes, but it definitely cost the Jayhawks.

Tough-Luck Line

In a game full of bad performances, Josh Selby’s was the worst.

The freshman posted just 0.57 points per possession used while ending 11.7 percent of KU’s possessions. In 15 minutes, he also had no rebounds, no assists, no steals and no turnovers.

There’s some debate on the usefulness of the plus-minus statistic, but Selby’s was so bad on Sunday that it’s hard to ignore.

During his 15 minutes on the court, KU was outscored 35-15. That also means, in his 25 minutes off the court, KU outscored VCU by 10.

The play-by-play makes things look even worse.

Selby checked into the game at the 13:38 mark of the first half with KU trailing 12-10. When he left the court at the 9:48 mark, KU trailed 20-10.

Then, in the second half, Selby checked in at the 13:11 mark with KU trailing 46-44. When Selby checked out at the 8:48 mark, KU trailed 57-47.

That’s not all on Selby, obviously. He was part of some funky rotations then, and he was one of only five players out there.

That doesn't change the fact that he was on the court for two of the most important stretches of Sunday’s game. And during those nine minutes, KU was outscored 19-3.

The VCU bench celebrates a turnover against Kansas on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

The VCU bench celebrates a turnover against Kansas on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

I often talk about players’ points per possessions used. Multiply this number by 100, and you have the statistic known as a player’s offensive rating.

Here are the final offensive ratings for KU’s rotation players this season, along with their percent of possessions ended, from KenPom.com:

Brady Morningstar 122.7 (14.9 percent)
Marcus Morris 122.1 (26 percent)
Tyrel Reed 122.1 (13.1 percent)
Markieff Morris 120.4 (25 percent)
Travis Releford 118.4 (17.1 percent)
Elijah Johnson 114.9 (13.7 percent)
Mario Little 114.0 (18.6 percent)
Jeff Withey 110.0 (20 percent)
Thomas Robinson 109.0 (26.5 percent)
Tyshawn Taylor 104.2 (21.3 percent)
Josh Selby 94.2 (23.8 percent)

Not only Selby the worst offensive player efficiency-wise for KU, he was the worst player by a good margin. He also was the fourth-highest usage player on the team, meaning oftentimes he was taking offensive possessions away from more efficient players.

When Selby became eligible in December, many wondered how much better he could make KU’s offense.

The numbers would tell us that he only made it worse.

Bottom Line

KU scored just 0.9 points per possession, the second-worst offensive performance of the season for the Jayhawks behind the Texas loss.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris pleads to Markieff Morris and Brady Morningstar to get it together against Virginia Commonwealth during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris pleads to Markieff Morris and Brady Morningstar to get it together against Virginia Commonwealth during the first half on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Though KU's offensive rebounding was well above season average (42.2 percent offensive rebounding percentage, compared to season OR% of 36.7 percent) and its turnovers weren't bad (20.6 turnover percentage, which is a good number against VCU), it didn't matter because of the difference in the teams' shooting percentages.

VCU's eFG% of 50.9 percent was just above its season average, while KU's eFG% of 37.1 percent was its worst this season by a mile.

The Rams — coming in not even as a top-100 team in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency metric — held KU to the 17th-worst shooting game from a Big 12 team this entire season.

If that's a coincidence, then some pretty unnatural forces were at work Sunday.

There's no doubt Self did a good job this year of learning from the Northern Iowa loss to become a better Tournament coach. He was more focused on dictating tempo this year, pressing Boston and Richmond to speed them up, which helped the Jayhawks pull away during both games in the second half.

The growth should continue after this game.

Kansas head coach Bill Self, left, and Thomas Robinson (0) watch from the bench as the VCU Rams jump to an early lead on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self, left, and Thomas Robinson (0) watch from the bench as the VCU Rams jump to an early lead on Sunday, March 27, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

I heard someone say that this isn't the worst Tournament loss for KU under Self, but it was the biggest blown opportunity. And I agree with that. To make the Final Four, KU had to win four games when it was favored by at least eight points in each game. Then, to make the championship game, KU would have to had beat Butler —  a game where it once again would have been about an eight-point favorite.

KU will never, in any year, have an easier road than that.

Self still seems to become a different coach in NCAA Tournament games: His screams are louder, his rants to the officials are longer, his sideline demeanor is more animated and his yanking of bench players is quicker.

I'm not sure why it's necessary when something else has led you to a 32-2 record.

After the Jayhawks scored the first six points on Sunday, VCU went on a 39-15 run. Think about that. How many times this season has KU allowed a team to show that kind of dominance over it?

During the stretch, KU's players looked tight. And nervous. And panicked.

No team can get to 35-2 unless it follows its coach's lead.

KU's players might have been doing that again — only this time, to their detriment.

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Cliff’s Notes: Bill Self press conference, 3/29/11

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

Full audio has been posted.

• Self says he has no idea how next year’s roster is shaping up. The guys need some time to unwind and figure out their future plans. It wouldn’t surprised Self if a couple guys or more put their name in the NBA Draft hat, but it wouldn’t surprise Self if they didn’t. It’s a situation where KU needs to have a great spring recruiting class. KU needs to sign between 2-4 kids.

KU needs to sign a couple of guards/wings.

Self hasn’t talked to the Morris twins about whether they’re going to the NBA yet.

Self talks to NBA GMs for his players. The big thing is to have an open line of communication with his players and their families. Self doesn't care either way. Obviously, selfishly he wants them to return, but they have to do what’s best for their families. That might mean leaving.

Self has spoken to GMs and owners in the business, and most of them think some sort of NBA lockout is likely.

The twins did great this year. They both improved so much. To Self, it was the best frontcourt in the country. Marcus can stil get better. He thinks those kids are good and can play at the next level.

Self doesn’t know if you get over losses immediately. Kids do better than adults do with getting over that stuff. With coaches, it’s just a way of life. Your whole family throws itself into the Tournament. It’s a tough deal for everybody. Most disappointing for Self is that the Tournament was set up for KU. The Jayhawks were the better team, in his opinion, but it wasn't on that day. That’s tough to stomach. You have to take advantage of opportunities in life. Self won’t get over this one for a long time, nor should he.

Self reiterated that he thought the Tournament set up well for KU. He really thought the Jayhawks would play in the national championship game.

Self says KU was tight against Boston. Against Illinois, KU wasn't tight. Against Richmond, KU didn't look tight. KU played pretty well in the Tournament. The last game, Self thought the more shots KU missed the harder his players tried. There are a lot of things that happened should have went the other way, like a three-second call on a lob dunk or a block/charge on Tyshawn Taylor. VCU's defense had something to do with KU's poor shooting, but it didn't have anything to do with KU's missed open shots in the first half. KU just missed them.

Self says KU wasn't a good free-throw shooting team all year long, and it didn't cost the Jayhawks a game until the very end. If KU was 10-for-12 from the line in the first half, the game has a totally different feel.

Thomas Robinson has as much room to improve as anybody. When he plays well, he's terrific, but he can be inconsistent. He needs to take a step like Markieff did this year. He's a terrific player, but he can become a much better player, and Self thinks he will. It's amazing to Self the type of year Robinson had with the year he went through.

Josh Selby is a talented kid. Primarily due to injury, he wasn’t as effective late. He's a terrific talent. He’ll be fine. He’s a guy moving forward that can be a pro-type guard. This was a tough year for Josh with all the stuff he went through.

Self feels like right now, in Selby's development, he's more of a two-guard. He has to become more comfortable with that. Many of the guards in the Final Four have experience. Selby hasn't had many reps. He hasn't had a chance to develop.

If people use the word "choke," it bothers Self. But the reality is, KU didn't play well, for whatever reason. You've got to win a lot of big games to go 35-3. The bottom line is KU lost to a team it was favored to beat. KU just blew a great opportunity.

• This year's team played closer to the ceiling than last year's team, and last year's team was 33-3.

Self doesn't know if he'll do anything differently in the Tournament against mid-majors. KU has had good success there over time. KU has won the most games in the NCAA Tournament the last 10 years. When you're a high seed, you're going to play teams you're favored against.

It amazes Self that he is 6-1 in Sweet 16 games and 1-5 in Elite Eight games. That's the stuff Self says he needs to look at. It's what happened in that 48 hours to give KU a better chance in that one game. When KU has plenty of days to prepare, it hasn't been an issue. IS KU too film intensive? Does it get enough rest? That, to Self, is what needs to be evaluated.

This is the loosest that KU has ever been heading into a game. Self's assistants even said to him, "If you're tight, nobody knows it." That doesn't guarantee anything either. The coaches are thinking about things that don’t have to do with the game. Maybe the coaches don’t let the players watch TV. Maybe the team goes to a movie. It’s one of those things KU has to do a better job of. But players have to play. KU’s whole deal was to attack and be the aggressor.

USC approached KU to ask if it would be interested in playing the Trojans’ home game in Wichita for financial reasons. USC will get all the gate receipts. It will not be KU’s home game.

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VCU’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

All advanced statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 26.

Team: VCU
Record: 27-11
Seed: 11
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 58

Strengths

VCU's offense is its strength, as it shoots the ball well while also avoiding turnovers.

The Rams make a high percentage of three-pointers (36.7 percent, 62nd nationally), which is more impressive considering they take a lot of shots from beyond the arc (41.1 percent of their shots are threes, 23rd nationally).

VCU also makes a high percentage of its free throws (71.5 percent) while turning it over on just 17.1 percent of its possessions (25th-best nationally).

Defensively, the Rams do one thing really well: force turnovers. VCU's defense comes away with turnovers on 22.4 percent of its possessions (51st nationally) and creates steals on 12.7 percent of its possessions (11th nationally).

The Rams don't foul much defensively, posting a defensive free-throw rate that ranks 84th nationally. They've also been playing their best defense lately, as three of their last four opponents have been held under 1 point per possession; before that, 13 of VCU's 14 opponents had topped the 1 PPP barrier.

VCU is a veteran group, with its average player having 2.16 years of experience (49th nationally).

Weaknesses

VCU just isn't a good defensive team.

Virginia Commonwealth guard Joey Rodriguez defends Florida State guard Derwin Kitchen's shot during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Virginia Commonwealth guard Joey Rodriguez defends Florida State guard Derwin Kitchen's shot during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

The Rams rank 106th in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency; if you placed VCU in the Big 12, the Rams would rank ninth in that statistic.

The team's biggest problem is its inability to keep opponents away from the offensive glass. VCU's opponents have grabbed 36.2 percent of their missed shots this year, which ranks the Rams 318th nationally in that category.

VCU isn't good at forcing missed shots either. Opponents make 49 percent of their twos (47.8 percent is NCAA average) and 34.4 percent of their threes (34.4 percent is NCAA average).

The Rams' struggles inside also show up in the offensive statistics. VCU pulls down just 31.3 percent of the available offensive rebounds (213th nationally) while getting 11.4 percent of its two-pointers blocked (306th nationally). VCU's free-throw rate also is just below NCAA average, meaning the Rams aren't a good foul-drawing team.

VCU also has a thin bench, as only 27.1 percent of the team's minutes come from reserves (258th nationally).

Players to Watch

You'll hear a lot about 5-foot-10 senior guard Joey Rodriguez, but he's far from VCU's most efficient player.

Six-foot-9 senior forward Jamie Skeen is better, as he is a great shooter inside (56.3 percent from two-point range) and outside (38.9 percent from three-point range on 72 attempts) while also getting to the free-throw line more than anyone else on the team (free-throw rate ranks 74th nationally).

Six-foot-5 junior Bradford Burgess also is a dual-threat, as he's made 117 of 217 twos (53.9 percent) and 60 of 149 threes (40.3 percent) while turning it over just once every 22.9 minutes.

Rodriguez's strength is his passing, as he's contributed 29.7 percent of his team's assists while he's been on the floor (87th nationally). Still, he's turnover prone (committing a turnover every 15 minutes of gametime) and has been awful inside the arc, making just 65 of 192 shots (33.9 percent).

Also watch for 6-2 guard Brandon Rozzell, who provides VCU with an offensive lift off the bench.

Virginia Commonwealth guard Brandon Rozzell fires a pass over Florida State defenders Chris Singleton (21) Jon Kreft (50) and Michael Snaer (21) during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Virginia Commonwealth guard Brandon Rozzell fires a pass over Florida State defenders Chris Singleton (21) Jon Kreft (50) and Michael Snaer (21) during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Rozzell's usage is high (he ends 26.9 percent of the Rams' possessions when he's in), but he's been productive by making 71 of 179 threes (39.7 percent) while keeping his turnovers way down (one every 30.1 minutes). He's also quick defensively, coming away with steals on 3.4 percent of opponents' possessions (103rd nationally).

Bottom Line

Statistically, this appears to be the second-easiest team KU has faced in the NCAA Tournament, behind Boston in the Round of 64.

Though the Rams have been better defensively as of late, their season-long numbers resemble that of a lower-level BCS conference team.

Virginia Commonwealth guard Ed Nixon defends a drive by Florida State guard Derwin Kitchen during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Virginia Commonwealth guard Ed Nixon defends a drive by Florida State guard Derwin Kitchen during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

VCU's biggest weakness will be going against one of KU's greatest strengths, as the Rams struggle with defending the interior and also haven't been able to put up much of a fight on the offensive or defensive glass.

If the Rams hope to have any shot, they'll need to try to play even with the Jayhawks rebounding-wise. Even if they do that, they'll most likely need to hit a lot of three-pointers to win (which they're capable of) while slowing down KU's frontcourt scoring.

VCU does throw a lot of different defenses at teams to try to get steals, and this might not be a bad time for the Rams to try a packed-in zone. Because the Rams are so overmatched inside, that kind of defense would force KU to hit open three-pointers to win.

It might be a long shot, but at this point, so are the Rams.

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Recap: Bill Self, coaching staff deserve credit for shutdown of Richmond offense

Note: Here is a listing of definitions for some terms used in this blog. Also, feel free to ask questions in the comments section below if something doesn't make sense.

After Kansas' 77-57 victory over Richmond on Friday, KU fans should take a second to appreciate just how well KU coach Bill Self and his staff prepared the Jayhawks.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino picked Richmond to beat KU, in part because he said that a few days was not enough time to prepare for the Spiders' unusual style of play.

Self and his coaches proved otherwise.

Richmond had scored 1.30 and 1.20 points per possession in its first two games of the tournament. Though the Spiders played slowly, they still were a highly effective offensive team.

That's until they ran into Kansas, which held Richmond to 0.90 PPP — its second-worst mark of the season.

Tom Keegan goes into some of the changes KU made defensively, which included playing defense a different way than it had all season.

The result was a flustered Richmond team.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris and Richmond forward Justin Harper battle for a loose ball during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas forward Marcus Morris and Richmond forward Justin Harper battle for a loose ball during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

The Spiders' effective field-goal percentage of 36.9 percent was its second-lowest percentage of the year.

Perhaps most impressive for KU was its ability to shut down Richmond's assists.

The Spiders, who averaged assists on 59.4 percent of their field goals coming in, had assists on just 31.8 percent of their field goals Friday night. Not only was that the team's lowest assist percentage this year, it was by a large margin; UR's previous low assist percentage this season was 43.5 percent against Charlotte.

The Jayhawks' defense also pressured Richmond. After posting just nine combined turnovers in its previous two games, the Spiders had 11 turnovers against KU.

Over the past week, the Jayhawks' coaching staff did a great job with preparations for the Richmond game, and it showed Friday.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds his offense during the first half against Richmond on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds his offense during the first half against Richmond on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

In an Elite Eight filled with big-name coaches (Roy Williams, John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Jim Calhoun, to name a few), KU fans should take comfort in knowing they might just have the best of the bunch.

M.O.J. (Most Outstanding Jayhawk)

In a close race between Brady Morningstar, Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor, Morningstar takes M.O.J. after his efficient night.

The senior posted 2.00 points per possession used while ending 13.8 percent of KU's possessions. When he ended a KU possession, the Jayhawks scored at least one point 66.9 percent of the time.

Morningstar's effective field-goal percentage of 81.8 percent was highest on the team for among who took more than two shots. He finished with 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-7 shooting from three-point range.

The senior also contributed 23.5 percent of KU's assists while he was on the floor and came away with steals on 3.9 percent of his defensive possessions.

It was only the second time all season that Morningstar led KU in scoring (19 points at Nebraska on Feb. 5).

Room for Improvement

KU was awful on the defensive glass.

Kansas players Mario Little (23) and Josh Selby (32) wrestle for a loose ball with Richmond players Derrick Williams, left, and Cedrick Lindsay during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas players Mario Little (23) and Josh Selby (32) wrestle for a loose ball with Richmond players Derrick Williams, left, and Cedrick Lindsay during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

Richmond came into the game as a terrible offensive rebounding team, grabbing just 28.5 percent of its misses (288th nationally).

On Friday night, the Spiders corralled 36.4 percent of their misses — their sixth-highest mark of the season. Richmond's 16 offensive rebounds also were its second-highest total of the entire year.

For KU, neither of the Morris twins was their normal rebounding self. Marcus' 9.7 percent defensive rebounding percentage was his third-lowest since Big 12 play began, while Markieff's 5.3 percent defensive rebounding percentage was his fourth-lowest mark of the season.

Thankfully for KU, Thomas Robinson posted some ridiculous rebounding numbers, grabbing 29.4 percent of the offensive rebounds while he was in (yep, that's a higher number than Richmond's team averaged coming into the game, and he's only one guy) and 56.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds. So if Richmond missed a shot, more than half the time, Robinson was going to be the person coming away with the ball. Crazy stuff.

KU plays another weak offensive rebounding team in VCU on Sunday, so look for the Morris twins to rebound better after an off night on the glass.

Tough-Luck Line

After picking up two quick fouls, Markieff Morris never quite looked like himself on Friday.

The junior forward posted a team-low 0.80 points per possession used while ending 22.4 percent of KU's possessions during his 17 minutes. He made just 2 of 8 shots while posting a team-worst effective field goal percentage of 25 percent.

Markieff did have an impact on the offensive boards (grabbing 34.6 percent of KU's missed shots while he was in), but as mentioned above, he was nearly invisible on the defensive glass, which is usually his strength. Markieff, whose 25.5 percent defensive rebounding percentage ranks him 26th in the nation, grabbed just 5.3 percent of the defensive boards Friday.

Still, Markieff fired the Jayhawks up before the game then helped teammate Josh Selby clean up during the game, so the forward probably had more of an impact than the stat sheet recognized against Richmond.

Bottom Line

Though KU didn't perform as well as expected on the defensive glass, the Jayhawks did dominate the offensive glass against Richmond.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris (21) dunks on Richmond in the second half Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas forward Markieff Morris (21) dunks on Richmond in the second half Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Mike Yoder

The Jayhawks pulled down 44.1 percent of the available offensive rebounds — the third-best mark posted against the Spiders this year.

KU also did a good job of limiting its turnovers offensively, giving it away on just 14.3 percent of its possessions — its lowest mark of the NCAA Tournament so far.

The Jayhawks' 1.22 PPP was its best in its last three games, but it still was tough not to come away more impressed with the team's defense.

KU allowed just 0.69 PPP to Richmond in 32 first-half possessions. To put that in perspective, there was only one game during the entire Big 12 season where a team was held under 0.69 PPP (though that was for an entire game).

The Jayhawks now have outlasted all the other No. 1 seeds, and no matter which team KU plays the rest of the way, it will be the Vegas favorite in that game.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed celebrates a three by teammate Josh Selby against Richmond during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Kansas guard Tyrel Reed celebrates a three by teammate Josh Selby against Richmond during the first half on Friday, March 25, 2011 at the Alamodome in San Antonio. by Nick Krug

That has to be an encouraging thought for KU fans, along with knowing that the Jayhawks have a coach who can prepare his team for any style that might come its way.

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Richmond’s strengths, weaknesses and players to watch

All statistics courtesy of KenPom.com and are current as of March 23.

Team: Richmond
Record: 29-7
Seed: 12
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy) Ranking: 37

[Ed. Note — Cool documentary-style video. It's a long video, but worth watching if you have the time.]

Strengths

Though Richmond has pretty good balance offensively and defensively, its greatest strength is its ability to shoot from anywhere on the court.

Richmond’s effective field-goal percentage (which gives 1.5 times credit for three-pointers, because they’re worth 1.5 times the points) of 53.6 percent ranks 20th nationally and is especially boosted by strong three-point shooting.

The Spiders have made 39.9 percent of their threes this year (ninth nationally); their three most frequent three-point shooters all are better than 41 percent from beyond the arc. Richmond also makes each possession count, turning it over on just 16.4 percent of its possessions (11th nationally).

Defensively, Richmond thrives by forcing poor shooting percentages and avoiding fouls.

Morehead State guard Terrance Hill (11)goes up for a shot against Richmond guard Kevin Anderson (14) in the first half of a Southwest regional third round NCAA tournament college basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Denver.

Morehead State guard Terrance Hill (11)goes up for a shot against Richmond guard Kevin Anderson (14) in the first half of a Southwest regional third round NCAA tournament college basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2011, in Denver.

The Spiders’ effective field-goal percentage defense of 44.8 percent is 16th nationally, while its defensive free throw rate (a measure of how often a team gets to the free-throw line) of 29.7 is 33rd-best in the country.

Richmond also guards three-pointers well, with opponents making just 30.1 percent of their treys (12th nationally).

The Spiders are a tall team, ranking 19th nationally in effective height (which takes into account the average height of its top two players on the court). They also are an older team, as their players average 2.32 years of college experience (28th nationally).

One final strength for Richmond is its pace. The Spiders play extremely slow, ranking 318th out of 345 NCAA teams in pace. In fact, in its first two games of the NCAA Tournament, Richmond had just 54 possessions each game. To put that in perspective, KU’s lowest possession total all season was 59 against Texas A&M. The lower the possessions, the better chance the Spiders have of pulling off an upset against a more talented Kansas team.

Weaknesses

Richmond’s offense is relatively simple: Get a shot every possession, and be sure to make it. The Spiders’ biggest weaknesses come into play when they aren’t making those shots from the floor.

Richmond's Cedrick Lindsay, center, takes a shot against Vanderbilt during a Southwest regional second round NCAA tournament college basketball game, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Denver.

Richmond's Cedrick Lindsay, center, takes a shot against Vanderbilt during a Southwest regional second round NCAA tournament college basketball game, Thursday, March 17, 2011, in Denver.

Richmond is a poor offensive rebounding team, grabbing just 28.5 percent of its misses (288th nationally). It also hardly ever gets to the free-throw line, with a free-throw rate of 32.8 — 294th-best in the NCAA.

The Spiders’ rebounding woes also are reflected in their defensive stats, as they are a slightly below average defensive rebounding team; opponents are grabbing 32.8 percent of their misses against Richmond, which is slightly above the 32.3 percent NCAA average.

Richmond doesn’t force a lot of turnovers, taking the ball away on 19.7 percent of its defensive possessions (195th nationally).

The Spiders also aren’t a deep team, as only 27.3 percent of their minutes come from their bench (253rd nationally).

Players to Watch

Six-foot guard Kevin Anderson has received most of the headlines following a 25-point effort in the Round of 64 against Purdue, but 6-10 senior forward Justin Harper is easily Richmond’s best player.

I heard Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy describe Harper as a less physical Marcus Morris, and from the numbers, it’s easy to see why. Harper is tremendously efficient, posting 1.21 points per possession used while ending a large number of Richmond’s possessions (24.6 percent). Marcus’ numbers look awfully similar: 1.22 PPP used while ending 26 percent of KU’s possessions.

Harper is a great shooter, making 58.5 percent of his twos and 45.2 percent of his threes (and he’s attempted 162 three-pointers). His effective field-goal percentage of 62.0 percent ranks 23rd nationally. Though the senior doesn’t get fouled much, he is a 79.3 percent free-throw shooter when he does get to the line.

Harper doesn’t turn it over often, averaging a turnover every 21.5 minutes of gametime. He’s also a presence defensively, where he blocks 4.2 percent of the opposing team’s two-pointers.

Anderson’s scoring is just behind Harper’s (16.7 points per game, compared to 17.8) but he’s not nearly as efficient.

Richmond coach Chris Mooney, left, talks with guard Kevin Anderson against Morehead State on Saturday, March 25, 2011 in Denver.

Richmond coach Chris Mooney, left, talks with guard Kevin Anderson against Morehead State on Saturday, March 25, 2011 in Denver.

Though Anderson’s three-point shooting is impressive (71 of 168, 42.3 percent) his two-point percentage isn’t (135 of 309, 42.3 percent). The KU guard assigned to him — most likely Tyshawn Taylor — would do well to stick close to him on the perimeter to force him to drive, as his assist rate is OK but not spectacular (he’s averaging a shade over three assists per game). Anderson is definitely less dangerous inside the arc than outside it.

Six-foot-9 senior forward Dan Geriot is best from three-point range, where he’s 42.3 percent this season.

Also, watch for 6-5 forward Kevin Smith, who turns it over often but makes up for it by shooting well. He’s made 55.6 percent of his twos and also is Richmond’s biggest threat to get to the free-throw line, as his free-throw rate of 63.0 ranks 106th nationally.

Bottom Line

Richmond’s KenPom rank of 37th lies exactly between two KU opponents earlier this season: Arizona (30th) and Missouri (44th). While this won’t be an easy game for KU, it is a game where the Jayhawks will be heavily favored (10-10.5 points) and one they should be expected to win.

Much like the Boston game, KU should hold a huge advantage inside against Richmond. If the Jayhawks play to that strength and dominate the glass, then there’s no reason to think that the Jayhawks won’t beat the Spiders by double digits.

If Richmond can stay close on the boards, though, it appears that, statistically, it can compete with KU in most other areas. The Spiders’ slow-tempo and three-point-jacking style also is a good formula to win as a heavy underdog.

Perhaps the most similar team KU has played this year to Richmond was Michigan (lots of threes, slow pace, zone defense), and the Jayhawks struggled in that game before coming away with an overtime victory.

I’d expect to see the Jayhawks pressing at every opportunity, trying to speed up the game and tire out the Spiders, especially with their thin bench. The same strategy helped KU in the second half against Illinois on Sunday, as the Jayhawks outscored the Illini, 17-8, in the game’s final 6 1/2 minutes.

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The “Wild Card”

Kansas Women's Basketball had another disappointing season. We have been waiting until next year for a long time so you may be surprised that I am excited. Did you know that KU's recruiting class is, according to "HoopGurlz", ranked 29th? The incoming class includes two four-star and two three-star prospects as rated by "HoopGurlz". This will be Coach Henrickson’s best incoming class. Add the newcomers to a good core of returners and they should finally have their breakout season. The "wild card" will be the coaching. Can Coach Henrickson elevate her coaching to the caliber needed to challenge for a Big 12 title? She now has a chance to prove herself with a more level playing field. The only acceptable outcome next season is success in the Big 12 that will earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

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