Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

KU’s Wayne Selden attempts to conquer Mamadou Ndiaye and lives to tell about it

In this shot from Nick Krug from underneath the basket, you can see the aftermath of Wayne Selden's challenge of 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye during the first half of Tuesday night's 78-53 KU victory over UC-Irvine.

In this shot from Nick Krug from underneath the basket, you can see the aftermath of Wayne Selden's challenge of 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye during the first half of Tuesday night's 78-53 KU victory over UC-Irvine. by Matt Tait

It was a subtle play that, to my knowledge, did not show up on any of the highlights, but it also was one that told you a lot about one of second-ranked Kansas' most important players.

Less than two minutes into Tuesday's 78-53 victory over a good Cal-Irvine team, KU junior Wayne Selden found himself with the ball on the right wing and nothing between him and the hoop but 7-foot-6 mountain of a man, Mamadou Ndiaye, the starting center for UC-Irvine.

Although the Jayhawks, as a whole, lacked aggression and looked out of sorts offensively in the first half, on this particular play, they did not. Check that; Selden did not.

Instead of backing it out, waiting for reinforcements and moving the ball around to get a better and easier shot, Selden, while dribbling, took a quick glance up ahead at Ndiaye, shortened his steps to announce he was actually going to go for it and then exploded with all he had right into the body of Ndiaye, who sat back and waited for Selden to attack while protecting the rim.

I had a great angle of the play and, at the time, I actually thought Selden was going to try to dunk OVER Ndiaye. That would've been a huge mistake and could've ended in injury. It also is exactly the play Selden might have tried to make a year or two ago. But this time around, he made the smart play. There was no machismo involved in the decision. It was not a look-at-me moment. Instead, it was the right play and it was Selden's attempt at setting the tone for his team and drawing a foul on one of Irvine's most important players.

As Selden flew through the air and closed in on contact with Ndiaye, he briefly closed his eyes, perhaps bracing for the contact that was sure to come. It did, at least a little bit, but neither Selden nor Ndiaye created the kind of force that could have led to a violent collision.

Instead, Selden merely bounced off of Ndiaye's chest, maintained his path to the basket and finished the lay-up to give KU a 4-0 lead.

Let's be honest, the photo below could easily have been the result of Selden's decision, so he deserves credit for showing the bravery to attack.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is sent to the floor after a block by UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) is sent to the floor after a block by UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Jayhawks did not really follow Selden's lead in attacking the big man, especially in the first half. But for a guy who has struggled to finish at the rim in the past, it was a heck of a play and one that showed just how far he has come.

We all saw his huge summer in Korea and the steps forward that he has taken in the past month or so, but this, at least to me, was as big of a sign of any that Selden is full of confidence and playing for the right reason — to help his team win.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and forward Hunter Mickelson (42) knock the ball loose from the grip of UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and forward Hunter Mickelson (42) knock the ball loose from the grip of UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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The Day After: Climbing Anteater Mountain

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) work for position during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) work for position during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye and the rest of the UC-Irvine big men came to Lawrence hoping to put a scare into the second-ranked Jayhawks.

And, for a half, they did just that. But KU's superior talent and overall depth won out and the Jayhawks emerged with a 78-53 victory that pushed their record to 11-1 and paved the way for a possible jump to No. 1 in the nation thanks to Michigan State's Tuesday night loss to Iowa.

The Jayhawks may have played 14 guys in this one, but that was mostly a result of the final score and KU having the game well in hand in the final 10 minutes.

Just six guys — Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Brannen Greene and Landen Lucas — played 15 minutes or more and it's clear that Self, though still searching for the move that makes the KU big man rotation click, has found the lineup he likes.

That should come as no surprise as late December typically has been the time when Self has pared down the rotation to give more minutes to the guys playing at the highest level.

A couple of key reserves certainly have carved out nice roles for themselves in that department and now, with the Big 12 opener coming Saturday, you can expect to see a lot of what you saw Tuesday night the rest of the way in terms of how the minutes are divided up.

Quick takeaway

KU's final tune-up before a nasty start to conference play could not have gone much better from the tune-up standpoint. The Jayhawks were not on top of their game in this one yet found a way to make adjustments and grind out a good win against a good team. KU coach Bill Self said after the victory that he'd be surprised if UC-Irvine didn't win its league and the Anteaters' size, experience and nothing-to-lose mentality gave Kansas a perfect final test heading into the meat of its schedule.

Three reasons to smile

1 – KU's game plan against Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye was fantastic. Ndiaye is not the kind of guy who's going to go off like Wayne Selden is capable of, but, with that size and that touch from the free throw line, he's definitely a guy who could dominate the offensive end with relative ease. That's if you let him get comfortable. And KU never did. The bigs leaned and pounded on him all night and the guards helped down from the perimeter just about every time he touched it. Even if they didn't come up with a steal, just that extra presence caused enough havoc and forced Ndiaye to either turn it over or kick it out.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and forward Hunter Mickelson (42) knock the ball loose from the grip of UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and forward Hunter Mickelson (42) knock the ball loose from the grip of UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye (34) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – After a pretty ho-hum first half, the Jayhawks really turned it up in the second half. There wasn't a soul in the Fieldhouse who did not expect to see that given the way KU slept-walked through the first half, but even knowing that Bill Self would light a fire under his guys at halftime, I was not so sure the Jayhawks could get it together in time to look as good as they did. UC-Irvine really had KU out of sorts on offense in that first half, but a couple of nice adjustments and increased energy and effort on defense helped KU roll to a 50-27 second-half advantage and a 25-point win. It wasn't just one or two guys, either. Every KU player on the floor defended with a sense of urgency and purpose during the final 20 minutes, getting chest to chest with the Irvine players and making them sweat for every pass, dribble and shot.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket past UC Irvine guard Aaron Wright (32) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) gets to the bucket past UC Irvine guard Aaron Wright (32) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Believe it or not, Brannen Greene was one of the few Jayhawks who showed great effort in the first half. He only scored once in that first 20 minutes, but you could tell he was engaged and did not fall victim to the lack of focus and intensity that usually plagues him but seemed to get his teammates in the first half. It's just another example of the new Brannen Greene, a guy who maybe has finally “got it.” He plays hard every time on the floor now and does so without losing the flare and cockiness that he's known for. Who knows if or how long it will last, but give the young man credit for responding to a bad situation with a great stretch.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – We know why Cheick Diallo has struggled to both produce and gain playing time, but now Carlton Bragg is in danger of falling into the same trap. Playing basketball in the Big 12 for Bill Self is not easy and I don't care how talented you are as a freshman, you're going to take your lumps and have growing pains. Both guys are dealing with that right now and even though Self urged KU fans to not give up on the two crazy-talented freshmen, it's hard to envision them getting a ton of minutes the rest of the way unless they take drastic steps in all areas of the game.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets an earful from head coach Bill Self after a quick foul during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets an earful from head coach Bill Self after a quick foul during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Svi is headed in the wrong direction. Maybe it's just because Mason, Graham, Selden and Greene have been so good lately, but after a promising start to the 2015-16 season, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has taken a step back toward irrelevance. He played just 10 minutes on Tuesday night — finishing 0-for-1 from the floor with 1 rebound and 3 fouls — and has not even logged 40 minutes in the past four games combined. The return of Greene, along with his increased effort and strong shooting, has knocked Svi back a bit in the rotation, but his recent slump can't be blamed entirely on opportunity. Svi checked into Tuesday's game at the same time Greene did. He just didn't do as much with his minutes and is starting to look a lot more like the Svi from 2014-15, who blended in and disappeared at times rather than the Svi we saw in Maui who asserted himself and looked to be gaining confidence.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and forward Jamari Traylor (31) try to trap UC Irvine forward Mike Best (33) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) and forward Jamari Traylor (31) try to trap UC Irvine forward Mike Best (33) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – There was a brief moment when Wayne Selden lost his cool. Midway through the first half after getting hip-checked and knocked to the floor, Selden, turned around, scoured at the referee and yelled, “What the (bleep).” Less than five seconds later, Selden was whistled for a foul after he retaliated by shoving the UC-Irvine player while setting a screen. Now, those types of shoves happen every game and nearly on every possession, but it's not a good idea to execute one right after drawing that kind of attention to yourself. The momentary gaffe was about the only lowlight from an otherwise terrific game by Selden.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' 25-point pounding of UC-Irvine....

• Gave KU its 10th consecutive win, which is the longest winning streak since the 2012-13 season, when KU won 18 in a row.


• Gave KU its 10 consecutive wins for the 13th time in the Bill Self era.


• Gave KU its 30th consecutive win in Allen Fieldhouse, including a 6-0 record this season.
 Kansas is 196-9 in Allen Fieldhouse during the Bill Self era, including a 97-5 record against non-conference opponents. 734-109 all-time in the venue.


• Improved Bill Self's record to 363-79 (.821) while at Kansas and 570-184 (.756) all-time.


• Made KU 2,164-832 (.722) all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday to kick off Big 12 Conference play against No. 23 Baylor at 3 p.m. After that, the Jayhawks have a quick turnaround for a Big Monday game against No. 3 Oklahoma.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. UC Irvine


— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage

By the Numbers: Kansas 78, UC Irvine 53

By the Numbers: Kansas 78, UC Irvine 53

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Big 12 about to enter a big couple of weeks

Call it a complex, a curiosity or a downright fear.

Whatever you choose, there's something about the word “realignment” that grabs my attention like few things on this planet, so much so that I get a little frightened when it's time to take my car in to balance and rotate the tires.

A little more than four years ago, the word “realignment” rocked the world of college athletics, as schools jumped from conference to conference like a game of musical chairs, sometimes freely and sometimes amid pages and pages and days and days of legal attention.

After a couple of wild summers, things calmed down considerably during the next few years. And even though talk of a changing landscape down the road has continued to be a part of the regular conversation when it comes to college athletics and the current make up of the conferences we know and (used to) love, things have been pretty stable overall, especially compared to the chaos that brought all of this into play in the first place.

At the center of that has been the status of the Big 12. While the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and even the ACC entered into an arms race and tried to stockpile schools the way people preparing for a disaster stockpile food and water, the Big 12 held its ground, determined to prove that after adding TCU and West Virginia to replace Missouri and Texas A&M — the two former Big 12 schools that followed Colorado and Nebraska out the door — it was fine with 10 schools and didn't need to grow larger to be relevant.

But then last year happened, both Baylor and TCU were left out of the first college football playoff and the idea of expansion, stability and change for the future came roaring back to the forefront for the conference that has seemed to be in a constant of self-evaluation and survival for the past handful of years.

A huge question surrounding the idea of expansion — and probably the biggest reason the Big 12 has yet to do it — centers on the concept that there are really no attractive options that make sharing the revenue pie with two more teams worth it.

In a terrific state-of-the-conference type story, Pete Thamel of SI.com recently talked with a dozen Big 12 sources and examined all of the issues facing the conference, from expansion and which teams might be most attractive to the petitioning of the NCAA for a title game with just 10 teams in football — that vote is January 15, by the way — and the overall vibe of the conference's future in the changing world of college athletics.

It's as good of an analysis of the state of the Big 12 as I've seen in a long time and 100 percent worth the read for anyone with even the slightest interest in realignment, Big 12 expansion and the conference's chances for survival.

For those of you who don't have time to read the story or just aren't big on clicking on links, here's a little spoiler: According to Thamel, if the Big 12 were to expand, BYU and Cincinnati seem to have emerged as the top two options.

But the article also lists six other schools Thamel has heard mentioned in expansion talk, including Houston, which, for my money, would be a fantastic addition because of the market and incredible potential the evolving school delivers.

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The Day After: A big win in sunny San Diego

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) floats in for a bucket over San Diego State forward Zylan Cheatham (14) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) floats in for a bucket over San Diego State forward Zylan Cheatham (14) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University men's basketball team's 70-57 victory over San Diego State on Tuesday night capped the pre-Christmas portion of the Jayhawks' schedule and put Kansas on the brink of closing out non-conference play.

Kansas will face UC-Irvine at home on Dec. 29 and then jump into Big 12 play from that point on.

Perry Ellis was incredibly efficient offensively for the second game in a row, Jamari Traylor (6 points and 6 boards (4 offensive) in 21 minutes) came back from the dead and the Jayhawks shot it well from the outside and the free throw line once again.

Given the potential trap game talk because of the upcoming holiday break, this was a pretty solid effort against a good team in a true road environment.

Second-ranked Kansas now sits at 10-1 and, in all reality, should be 11-0 and ranked No. 1. Not a bad non-con stretch.

Quick takeaway

If nothing else, this victory was a big confidence boost for these Jayhawks. Don't get me wrong, this was not a team lacking confidence in any way, but there's always something different — not to mention extremely validating — about going on the road into a hostile environment and coming out with a victory. With Big 12 play right around the corner, that kind of confidence and proof that they can get the job done is just what the Jayhawks needed right now. And, remember, KU has built that incredible streak of 11 straight Big 12 titles largely because it has been able to win conference road games and others have not.

Three reasons to smile

1 – You can say what you want about this team's depth and talent and, while those things are huge advantages for Kansas, Bill Self is still only going to play the guys he trusts in big moments. And, based on his 26 minutes despite shooting just 1-of-4 for the night, it's clear that Self trusts Brannen Greene, the basketball player. Greene, who uncharacteristically contributed to the stat sheet in other ways than shooting on Tuesday was one of just six Jayhawks to play double-digit minutes. Jamari Traylor (21) was another. There are players on this team with more upside and more complete games than both of those guys, but Greene and Traylor have been around Self as long as anyone and, clearly, that means something at this stage of the season.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) celebrates after a dunk during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. At right is San Diego State forward Malik Pope (21).

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) celebrates after a dunk during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. At right is San Diego State forward Malik Pope (21). by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks recorded seven blocks in this game and I think that's something that has been a little underrated about this team. It's obvious that this group does not have a Cole Aldrich or Joel Embiid, but it doesn't necessarily need one. The 7 blocks KU picked up on Tuesday night came from five different players, with Perry Ellis and Hunter Mickelson each blocking two and Jamari Traylor, Brannen Greene and Carlton Bragg picking up one apiece. Just about anyone KU puts on the floor has the athleticism, size and ability to alter and/or block shots, even junior point guard Frank Mason, who, though short in stature, has incredible hops. Mason already has a pair of blocks this season. Even though the leaders in this category come from the places you'd most expect — Mickelson leads with 15, Traylor has 8 and Diallo, in just six games and limited minutes, has 7 — just about everyone in the lineup can contribute a blocked shot because of his length or athleticism. That's a big reason this KU defense is limiting opponents to 39 percent shooting and why SDSU shot just 37 percent on Tuesday night.

San Diego State guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) puts a shot over Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

San Diego State guard Jeremy Hemsley (42) puts a shot over Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

3 – The Jayhawks again shot the ball well from three-point land — 8 of 19 for 42.1 percent — and remain above 46 percent from downtown for the season. So much has been made about this team having some of the best shooters a KU squad has had in a while, but it's definitely the flow of the offense, the ball movement and the fact that those shooters are often getting wide open looks that is keeping that percentage so high so far.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – With Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Cheick Diallo combining to play just 40 minutes, the Jayhawks were out-rebounded by the Aztecs, 35-33. Because of the lineups Self used, that's no reason to sound the alarms. But giving up 15 offensive boards might be.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and San Diego State guard Dakarai Allen (4) battle for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and San Diego State guard Dakarai Allen (4) battle for a loose ball during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks forced 15 turnovers, including nine steals, but scored just 15 points off of those SDSU miscues. It didn't hurt them in this one, but capitalizing on opponents' mistakes is something the Jayhawks are going to have to fine-tune if they want to make it 12 in a row in Big 12 play.

Kansas head coach Bill Self turns in frustration during a run by the Aztecs in the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Kansas head coach Bill Self turns in frustration during a run by the Aztecs in the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. by Nick Krug

3 – After building a 12-point halftime lead, KU had a couple of opportunities to go for the knock-out blow in the second half and missed each time. Kansas eventually pulled away and San Diego State never led — in fact, the game was only even tied for 1:42 — but I'm sure Self and company would've much preferred the kill shot to come much earlier in the second half, particularly in a game played on the road in front of a rocking crowd.

One for the road

KU's road win at San Diego State...

• Gives KU nine consecutive wins, which is the longest winning streak since the 2013-14 season, when KU won 18 in a row.

• Gives KU its first true road win of the season (1-0) and a 5-1 record in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.

• Ties the series with San Diego State at 2-2. Kansas is 26-8 all-time against current Mountain West Conference teams.

• Improves Bill Self's record to 362-79 (.821) while at Kansas and 569-184 (.756) all-time.

• Gives KU an 83-38 (.686) road record under Self.

• Makes KU 2,163-832 (.722) all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse next Tuesday at 8 p.m. for a match-up with UC-Irvine that will close out non-conference play. After that, Kansas will play host to both Oklahoma and Baylor in the first week of January, kicking off the Big 12 portion of its schedule in style.

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, San Diego State 57

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, San Diego State 57

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Former Jayhawks Harris, Talib picked for second straight Pro Bowl

A pair of former Kansas University cornerbacks became the first NFL teammates to be selected for back-to-back Pro Bowls in 25 years.

Denver Broncos Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, who helped the Broncos field one of the league's top ranked defenses this season, earned the Pro Bowl nod for the second year in a row, the league announced Tuesday night.

Harris, the un-drafted free agent who has gone on to become one of the most productive and stingy cornerbacks in all of football, has started all 14 games for the Broncos this year and has totaled 52 tackles (43 solo), two interceptions (94 yards), four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

He becomes one of just five un-drafted cornerbacks in NFL history to make multiple Pro Bowls with his original team.

Like Harris, Talib, now in his second year with Denver, also has started all 14 games for Denver and has totaled a team-best three interceptions (123 yards, 2 TDs) and 13 passes defensed to go along with 38 tackles (33 solo).

Talib was picked to the Pro Bowl for a third consecutive season, as he also earned the honor in 2013 as a member of the New England Patriots. During his three-year run as a perennial Pro Bowler, Talib is tied for fourth at his position with 11 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns.

After having a league-best nine players selected to last year's team, Denver (10-4) had just four this season — pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware also earned the nod — and the once powerful Broncos' offense was shut out of the all-star showcase.

After another hot start, Denver has dropped two games in a row and seen its lead in the AFC West shrink to one game over the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs with two games to play.

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) and Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) celebrate after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Denver. The Broncos won 29-10 to improve to 7-0. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris (25) and Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib (21) celebrate after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in Denver. The Broncos won 29-10 to improve to 7-0. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

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The Day After: Clawing the Grizzlies

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) and the Jayhawk bench react to a bucket by forward Landen Lucas during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) and the Jayhawk bench react to a bucket by forward Landen Lucas during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University men's basketball team had no trouble rolling past an overmatched Montana team on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Jayhawks (9-1) were bigger, stronger, faster, more skilled and more organized and all of that — and more — showed in KU's 88-46 victory over the Grizzlies.

Offensively, Saturday's effort was one of the more balanced outings by this year's squad. KU got production from a number of places and, once again, was able to spread out the minutes and allow some of the younger guys to get extended action.

The more they can do that the more that will pay off when conference play rolls around in just a couple of weeks.

Quick takeaway

There's really not a whole lot you can learn from this game that you didn't already know. KU was simply way too talented for Montana and the Grizzlies, though willing to battle, simply had no answer for a much better Kansas team and did not put up much of a fight. There were individual moments and individual efforts that stood out, but, overall, the Jayhawks used Saturday's win as little more than a scrimmage against someone other than themselves.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Perry Ellis showed everyone that he is listening and he's just fine. As aggressive as he's looked in weeks, Ellis didn't always score, but he did always go hard to the rim and that led to a game-high 18 points and 10 trips to the free throw line. That's the Ellis that this team is going to need in conference play and his night was made all the more impressive by the fact that he led all scorers after taking just seven shots. Ellis is not a volume guy. But he does need to be involved as often as possible when KU gets in the half-court.

Kansas players Perry Ellis, left, Evan Manning and Tyler Self have a laugh late in the game.

Kansas players Perry Ellis, left, Evan Manning and Tyler Self have a laugh late in the game. by Nick Krug

2 – KU has not shot that well at the free throw line for much of the season, but that was not the case on Saturday. The Jayhawks, led by Perry Ellis' 10-of-10 showing, were 15-of-19 from the free throw line for 79 percent, 11 percentage points better than their season average. With conference play right around the corner, free throws are going to become a much bigger part of the game and it's good to see KU trending in the right direction here.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) fights for a loose ball with Montana guard Michael Oguine, left, and center Bryden Boehning (35) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) fights for a loose ball with Montana guard Michael Oguine, left, and center Bryden Boehning (35) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Give Devonte' Graham credit for not making any excuses about his oversleeping issue. Self made sure to point that out — saying that Graham did not blame it on his alarm clock not going off — and then went out and played hard and did the things we've become accustomed to seeing from him. He finished 4-of-7 from the floor with 9 points, 2 rebounds and an assist. It wasn't his best game by any means, but he did not look like a guy who was sulking over the 7-minute suspension.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – The big man rotation continues. None of KU's five other big guys have emerged as the obvious answer to team with Perry Ellis inside for this team. Self talked about the quandry after the game and said it was nice to have a bunch of good players that he could choose from there, but added that he'd much rather have one Joel Embiid, whom he could play 40 minutes a night and not have to worry about it. KU doesn't have that. And unless someone really takes a significant step forward very soon, this rotation of able bodies is going to be something Self deals with all season. The good news? The bodies are there. The bad news, it will be hard for KU to develop much chemistry and know who it can count on.

Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) grabs a pass inside as he is guarded by Montana forward Jack Lopez (31) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) grabs a pass inside as he is guarded by Montana forward Jack Lopez (31) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Cheick Diallo just can't get going. And he looks 100 percent inside his own head about it. It's not that he's not trying. He is. He's just still behind and it looks as if he's still pressing too hard when he's out there. He fouled out of Saturday's game and scored four points, grabbed three boards, turned it over twice and blocked one shot. You can just tell by the look on his face most of the time that he believes he can and should be doing better and more. It'll come. But only if he relaxes, continues to work hard and lets the game come to him.

Kansas University sophomores Kelley Sharp, left, and her twin sister Amanda Sharp, Olathe, and Taylor Horvat, Olathe junior, put on their game faces for an ugly Christmas sweater group photo by Jordan Bosch, Clay Center, Kan. junior, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas University sophomores Kelley Sharp, left, and her twin sister Amanda Sharp, Olathe, and Taylor Horvat, Olathe junior, put on their game faces for an ugly Christmas sweater group photo by Jordan Bosch, Clay Center, Kan. junior, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Congrats to KU, I guess, for setting the ugly sweater record, but I just don't get it. I don't know who's running things over there at Guinness, but is this really a record that we need to have or one that anyone needs to know about? Oh well. I guess it gave people a reason to have some holiday fun, so no harm no foul. And, I only included it here because KU played pretty darn well and I couldn't find a third reason to sigh.

One for the road

KU's win over overmatched Montana...

• Gave KU eight-straight wins, which tied the longest winning streak from 2014-15

• Made the series with Montana 2-0 in favor of the Jayhawks

• Made Kansas 98-4 against non-conference opponents in Allen Fieldhouse during the Bill Self era

• Gave KU its 29th-straight win in Allen Fieldhouse, which is the seventh-longest streak in school history

• Made KU 733-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 195-9 under Self

• Improved Self 361-79 while at Kansas and 568-184 all-time

• Made KU 2,162-832 all-time

Next up

The Jayhawks will head to the west coast for their final game before Christmas, Tuesday night at 10 p.m. at San Diego State. The game will be shown on CBS and will be KU's second-to-last game of 2015. The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse for a Dec. 29 game against UC-Irvine and then will open Big 12 play on Jan. 2 at home against Baylor.

By the Numbers: Kansas 88, Montana 46

By the Numbers: Kansas 88, Montana 46

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VIDEO: Gameday in Omaha - Let the wait begin

Here's a quick, on the road version of KU Sports Extra from the NCAA Final Four in Omaha, where Kansas will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska tonight at 8:30.

We'll have more blogs and videos throughout the day right here at KUsports.com so be sure to check out all of our coverage while you wait for tonight's match, which will be shown live on ESPN2 and live blogged right here on our site.

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VIDEO: Sights & sounds from the KU Volleyball Experience in Omaha

Here's a quick look at the venue and some practice scenes at the NCAA Final Four in Omaha, where No. 9 overall seed Kansas (30-2) will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska (30-4) tonight at 8:30 in the second national semifinal.

We'll have more blogs and videos throughout the day right here at KUsports.com so be sure to check out all of our coverage while you wait for tonight's match, which will be shown live on ESPN2 and live blogged right here on our site.

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VIDEO: KU volleyball fitting right in at Final Four in Omaha

Here's a look back at what we learned on Day 1 of the NCAA Final Four in Omaha, where Kansas will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska tonight at 8:30.

We'll have more blogs and videos throughout the day right here at KUsports.com so be sure to check out all of our coverage while you wait for tonight's match, which will be shown live on ESPN2 and live blogged right here on our site.

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Penn State match in early 2014 gave KU volleyball first-hand look at what it takes

Kansas head coach Ray Bechard speaks with the team during a timeout Friday night in San Diego.

Kansas head coach Ray Bechard speaks with the team during a timeout Friday night in San Diego. by Megan Wood/Special to the Journal-World

Early last season, while several of this year's Final Four-bound Kansas University volleyball players were still freshmen figuring out how to adjust to the college game, the Jayhawks met up with defending national champion Penn State and 2013 NCAA tournament MVP Micha Hancock during a tournament in Philadelphia.

The Jayhawks lost, three sets to none, that day, but after being swallowed whole during the opening set, 25-10, did more than an admirable job of bouncing back and competing, falling in the next two sets, 27-25 and 25-23.

No one remembered the match as a close one — 3-0 sweeps are rarely viewed in that manner. But hanging in there with one of the nation's truly elite programs proved to be another mini-milestone on a wild ride that the Jayhawks have enjoyed during the past few seasons.

A little more than three months after that loss to Penn State, KU watched as Hancock and the Nittany Lions repeated as NCAA champions.

Today, just one year down the road, it's the Jayhawks who are two victories away from a national championship and that fact, given the context of having played Penn State a few months before they were crowned, has created a surreal vibe around the KU program all week.

“Oh, absolutely,” junior libero Cassie Wait. “That's been our word, surreal. Not that you never believed that you could do it, but each point even, each set, each game, it just gets that much more real — this is what we're doing, this is where we're headed, this is what our program stands for, this is who we are.”

A big part of the reason these Jayhawks have replaced Penn State in this year's Final Four — other than the fact that Hancock graduated and ended her run as one of the most dominant players in college volleyball — is the growth that those younger girls have experienced.

Setter Ainise Havili, though sensational as a freshman, is a much more mature, experienced and steady presence this season. Monster right-side hitter Kelsie Payne has transformed herself from a player with great potential into a player who can take over a match. And the girls who, as sophomores and juniors, were asked to be veterans a year ago — Wait, Tayler Soucie, Tiana Dockery, Janae Hall, etc. — actually are veterans this season.

Kansas players come together in celebration after scoring a point during their volleyball match against Kansas State on Wednesday evening at Ahearn Field House. The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats in four sets to improve their record to 25-2 on the year.

Kansas players come together in celebration after scoring a point during their volleyball match against Kansas State on Wednesday evening at Ahearn Field House. The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats in four sets to improve their record to 25-2 on the year. by John Young

That rapid growth, incredible chemistry and blatant talent inspired Havili to change her thinking from “maybe getting to the Final Four is something we could do junior or senior year” to “maybe this is something we can do now.”

“I remember playing Penn State really clearly,” Havili said. “And I remember looking at Micha Hancock and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this girl is so scary.' But a year later, I'm here, and it's not that scary any more. It's crazy to think how far we've all come and how much we've grown in one year.... All these games, how we practice every day, how we build together, it all adds up to what we're doing right now.”

Added Wait, when asked what she and the team learned from the experience of being on the same court as Penn State a season ago: “If we play for each other, if we're willing to make all of the sacrifices, then you give yourself the best chance of achieving big things. If you can take that on and truly play as a team, I think that gives you the best shot, and, one year later, look where we are.”

Kansas junior Cassie Wait dives to make a dig  during Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Missouri on Friday night at the Horejsi Center. The Jayhawks sent the Tigers packing with a three set sweep.

Kansas junior Cassie Wait dives to make a dig during Kansas' second round NCAA volleyball tournament match against Missouri on Friday night at the Horejsi Center. The Jayhawks sent the Tigers packing with a three set sweep. by John Young

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Unprecedented KU volleyball success a few years in the making

Kansas University volleyball players rush the court after their Elite Eight victory over USC.

Kansas University volleyball players rush the court after their Elite Eight victory over USC.

One of the coolest things about Saturday night's thrilling Kansas University volleyball victory over top-seeded USC in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament was the aftermath that followed.

No, I'm not talking about the eruption on the floor, the celebration in the locker room that included head coach Ray Bechard getting drenched with water or the looks on the faces and sounds in the voices of the girls who made history.

Don't get me wrong; those moments and so many others were all incredibly cool. What was even cooler, at least to me, was the outpouring of love that Jayhawks past and present showered this team with on Twitter and via text messages.

Former KU football standout Ben Heeney, not long after touching down in Denver for Sunday's Broncos-Raiders game, gave a shout-out to the volleyball team on Twitter. And several other former and current KU football players did the same. The official KU football Twitter account even acknowledged the team's intentions to show up for this evening's 5 p.m. homecoming celebration at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.

In the basketball world, KU junior Wayne Selden on Twitter posted a photo of him watching the KU-USC match on his iPad on the bus ride home from the his team's own comeback victory at Sprint Center in Kansas City.

Several other KU athletes, from golf and baseball to track and tennis, also took time to congratulate the KU volleyball team on its historic accomplishment.

Lost in the euphoria, however, might have been the experience of a few former KU volleyball players who helped make a night like Saturday happen.

Former Jayhawks Bri Riley, Erin McNorton, Chelsea Albers and Jaime Mathieu, who not long ago were the toast of the KU volleyball world for becoming the first crew to reach a Sweet 16, watched Saturday's upset of USC together and celebrated every point as if they were on the court or bench in San Diego. In many ways, they were.

See, those girls, along with about a dozen others, were the ones who made Saturday night possible. That's to take nothing away from the current team or coaching staff that went out and did the deed. This year's team, in just about every way, is more talented than that first Sweet 16 team of trailblazers who played every night with the kind of grit and joy you saw on display throughout the season from this year's squad.

Hmm. Wonder where this group of girls learned to play like that?

Not everyone on this year's team played with the Riley, McNorton, Albers, Mathieu, Caroline Jarmoc, Sara McClinton, Catherine Carmichael crew that broke through and put Kansas volleyball on the map to stay. But a few did. And that's what adds an extra dose of family feels to this incredible achievement.

Junior libero Cassie Wait learned from Riley and is now playing a lot like her. Junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie, as a freshman, played a huge role on that Sweet 16 team and learned the ropes while those girls were on their way out. Senior Tiana Dockery was a consistent part of the rotation for that team, and juniors Maggie Anderson and Janae Hall were around that group long enough to understand that Kansas volleyball had entered a new era.

Kansas University senior Tiana Dockery lets her emotions out after the Jayhawks' five-set victory over Southern Cal on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in San DIego.

Kansas University senior Tiana Dockery lets her emotions out after the Jayhawks' five-set victory over Southern Cal on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in San DIego.

“I think our class really set the new standard for Kansas volleyball,” Riley said Sunday while still buzzing over Saturday's result. “We all had the mindset that we wanted to make a difference for this program and not only leave our mark but also create a legacy of consistent dominant teams to follow and this year's group has certainly lived up to that standard.

“There is such a great sense of pride knowing that the success and hard work we put in and the coaching staff has put in is being carried through by this year's amazing team that has had a remarkable season. Everyone associated with the program is just so thrilled to watch the run these girls are on right now.”

Thanks to Saturday's stunner, that run is still going, and regardless of what happens in the next week, it figures to extend well into the future because of this team, the teams that came before it and the sky-high standard this program now holds.

The No. 9 overall seed Jayhawks (30-2) will play No. 4 seed Nebraska at 8:30 p.m. (central) Thursday in the Final Four in Omaha, Nebraska.

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Bledsoe decision similar to past KU football great Gilbert Brown

LHS senior Amani Bledsoe gives his signature salute (the Moose) after a sack in a 63-7 victory over Olathe South on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, at LHS.

LHS senior Amani Bledsoe gives his signature salute (the Moose) after a sack in a 63-7 victory over Olathe South on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015, at LHS. by Richard Gwin

When news broke Friday morning that four-star Lawrence High defensive end Amani Bledsoe was making an official visit to the Kansas University football program this weekend, the question begged, how much of a shot do the Jayhawks really have at landing him?

Kansas coaches can't talk about Bledsoe — or any other recruit — in any way, shape or form, so we'll have to lean on a little history to examine the odds.

Should Bledsoe pick Kansas, he would become the highest rated recruit to ever sign with Kansas football. That alone would make him a part of KU history for life. From there, anything he did on the field simply would add to his legacy.

After looking at it a little closer, I can't help but see strong comparisons between Bledsoe and former KU great Gilbert Brown.

Like Bledsoe in Kansas, Brown was one of the most highly decorated players during his senior season at Detroit's Mackenzie High. Named Michigan's Gatorade Player of the Year, the defensive tackle easily could have gone to in-state power Michigan or any number of other big time programs. Instead, he picked Kansas, where he helped build one of the best defenses in school history, was a part of the 1992 Aloha Bowl championship team and started all but two games during his four-year Kansas career before going on to enjoy a 10-year career in the NFL, where he won Super Bowl XXXI with the Green Bay Packers after being selected in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft, No. 79 overall, by Minnesota.

Gilbert Brown, left, and Khristopher Booth helped lead the 1992
Jayhawk defense.

Gilbert Brown, left, and Khristopher Booth helped lead the 1992 Jayhawk defense. by J-W file photo

Brown was in town for a KU game during the 2015 season, and I remember then asking KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen about his former KU teammate's path to Kansas.

Bowen said he used to ask Brown all the time why in the heck he chose to come to Kansas instead of joining the Wolverines and playing in front of 100,000 fans every Saturday. The answer, according to Bowen, was simple: Brown wanted to play for a program where he thought he could make a more immediate and meaningful impact and help build something out of nothing.

There isn't a more nothing program out there right now than Kansas, which just wrapped up an 0-12 season, and Bledsoe picking the Jayhawks could have the kind of impact that Brown choosing Kansas did for Glen Mason.

There's no doubt that the tall, lean and athletic 6-foot-5, 272-pound D-End would be in line for some serious playing time right away at KU. Heck, he probably could have logged some serious snaps for KU in 2015 as a high school senior.

Bledsoe has a final five of Baylor, Kansas, North Carolina State, Oklahoma and Oregon. And he already has visited the other four programs. The fact that he chose Kansas as the place to take his fifth and final official visit — instead of picking some place like UCLA — shows just how serious he is about the Jayhawks. The fact that it is believed Bledsoe will be the only official visitor in town provides KU coach David Beaty and company a golden opportunity to put on the full-court press to convince Bledsoe that staying home is the right move for him. They might not fly planes around town pulling signs with Bledsoe's name and jersey number in crimson and blue, but you can bet that the 2015 all-state selection, Sunflower League MVP and recent Buck Buchanan Award winner will have the full and undivided attention of every KU coach and staff member in town this weekend.

From the sound of things, Oklahoma appears to be KU's biggest competition for Bledsoe. And isn't OU an awful lot like Michigan?

The only question left to answer now is whether Bledsoe is an awful lot like Brown.

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Former Jayhawk Darrell Stuckey lands on prestigious list

Current San Diego Charger and former Kansas great Darrell Stuckey recently was named San Diego's nominee for the 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award.

Current San Diego Charger and former Kansas great Darrell Stuckey recently was named San Diego's nominee for the 2015 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award. by Matt Tait

The NFL finally has caught up with what fans of Kansas football have known for years — Darrell Stuckey is one hell of a guy.

Stuckey, the sixth-year NFL pro and 2010 KU graduate who starred in KU's secondary and helped the Jayhawks win the 2008 Orange Bowl, recently was named the San Diego Chargers' representative for this year's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.

Each year, one player from all 32 NFL teams is nominated and this year the Chargers made Stuckey their selection.

Recognition and praise for his efforts beyond football certainly is nothing new for Stuckey. Since high school, the Kansas City, Kansas, native has done his part to give back to his community with particular interest paid to helping children and religion.

In 2010, Stuckey was named the Big 12 Sportsman of the Year for the 2009-10 seasons.

In addition to participating in numerous community outreach programs like visits to children's hospitals and free football clinics, Stuckey also started an organization known as "Living4One," an organization that aims to "help people discover that they were created to influence the world in a positive way" through living for Jesus."

Being nominated for an award as prestigious as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, however, takes things to a new level even for Stuckey.

Established in 1970 and attached to the late Chicago Bears running back's name since 1999, The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award is given annually by the NFL to honor a player's volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.

Each of the 32 team nominees receives a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice. The two runner-ups will receive an additional $6,000 donation, and the winner will receive an additional $50,000 donation. Donations will be courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.

"Serving their communities and philanthropic causes is a strong and long-standing tradition of NFL players," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a release. "These outstanding young men embrace and represent that important commitment of giving back to our communities. We salute and thank our players for their leadership."

Stuckey has chosen the organization "Teammates for Kids," founded by country star Garth Brooks, as his charity.

"The organization doesn't limit itself to helping one specific charity but branching out to help as many as possible," Stuckey said in a Chargers promotional video. "I've been involved with that cause, off and on, for the last three or four years and it's been an awesome opportunity."

Fans interested in helping Stuckey reach the finals can simply use the hashtag ‪#‎StuckeyWPMOYChallenge‬ on social media sites.

Finalists will be announced in January and the winner will be announced during the fifth Annual NFL Honors awards show, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50 on CBS.

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The Day After: Passing the Harvard test

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) swoops in for a bucket between Harvard center Zena Edosomwan (4) and guard Agunwa Okolie (35) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) swoops in for a bucket between Harvard center Zena Edosomwan (4) and guard Agunwa Okolie (35) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Saturday afternoon, the Kansas University basketball team jumped out to a 32-16 lead over Harvard, saw that lead trimmed to nine points by halftime and, eventually, found itself tied with the Crimson at 56 with 7 minutes to play.

While a lot of the things that led to Harvard climbing back into the game were not good — missed free throws, losing the battle on the glass, a disappearing Perry Ellis — the fact that the Jayhawks (6-1) were forced to play in a pressure-packed environment and asked to make some clutch plays to win can only help this team down the road.

Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham were both great when it counted and, especially when you consider the fact that their minutes were up because of Wayne Selden's foul trouble, you have to be impressed by the games those guys played.

Harvard is not exactly a top-tier non-conference foe, but they are a well-coached, fundamentally sound club that proved to be a good test for the Jayhawks in a season when the non-con schedule does not have many of them.

Quick takeaway

Credit the Harvard defense and scrappy play for taking Kansas out of its offensive flow, but I don't think it was a coincidence by any means that Kansas struggled when Wayne Selden sat with four fouls. KU coach Bill Self said he talked to Selden near the end of the first half about being smart and not picking up No. 3 before the half. But that didn't happen. And when Selden picked up No. 4, he sat for a long portion of the second half. When he sat, KU lost its hottest offensive player and the offense suffered. We all know how well Selden played in Korea, how he finally reached that level again in Maui and how good he was the last time out against Loyola. But now we have a better understanding of just what good Selden means to this loaded KU team. It's not just his scoring and three-point shooting that matters. It's also his attitude, demeanor and the way he opens things up for the rest of his team.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Self talked all offseason about how excited he was to put Graham and Mason in the starting lineup together. This was exactly why. Both guys pushed the tempo on offense, got after it on defense and scored when Kansas needed them to score. Their best moment came when Mason pushed a pass ahead to Graham, who got up in a hurry and threw it down with two hands. Before he even landed, Graham was smiling and the two guards banged shoulders to celebrate. After the win, I asked Graham why he was so jacked after that and he said it was because he told Mason earlier in the day that he was going to get a dunk. A point guard and a prophet.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) celebrates with Kansas guard Devonte' Graham after Grahams' dunk during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) celebrates with Kansas guard Devonte' Graham after Grahams' dunk during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – We won't do this every week, but the Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk maturation project took another step forward. Svi's numbers were not great but he did show continued growth in terms of aggressiveness by taking the ball to the rim when KU needed a spark offensively with Selden sitting on the bench with four fouls. Each moment like that makes Mykhailiuk even more dangerous the next time out because it makes him that much more comfortable both with the game and his role on the team.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) pulls up from the corner for three against Harvard guard Patrick Steeves (10) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) pulls up from the corner for three against Harvard guard Patrick Steeves (10) during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – You don't have to love how many minutes he played (24) or that he took time from Cheick Diallo, but you do have to give Landen Lucas credit for his defense on Harvard's best player. Lucas did not do anything special and was not all of a sudden some amazing highlight machine. Instead, he used his size and length to bother Zena Edosomwan and allowed the rest of the defense to attack based off of that. Lucas finished with five points and eight boards and was 2-of-2 from the field. The only thing keeping it from being a great night was his 1-of-3 showing at the free throw line.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – After breaking onto the scene in his debut last Tuesday, Cheick Diallo played just seven minutes in this one. Bill Self had his reasons for the limited minutes and, as much as the Twitter dwellers might disagree, they are legit. But you can tell that Diallo is dying to be unleashed. And the fact that KU couldn't get ahead enough to allow him to play more minutes and that Diallo was not get enough defensively to earn more minutes seems like a wasted opportunity. Self warned about this the other night. He said Diallo won't score 13 every night and added that the young man still has work to do. That's obvious. He's still a little weak around the rim and clearly needs to get stronger on both ends to become a bona fide weapon.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) and the Jayhawk bench celebrate a bucket and a foul by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) and the Jayhawk bench celebrate a bucket and a foul by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – KU's free throw shooting was awful for the second straight game. The Jayhawks made just 13 of 25 from the line, including 9 of 17 in the tighter-than-necessary second half. No magic words or fixes here. They just have to be better. Or it's going to bite them.

Kansas head coach Bill Self yells at his bench during a Harvard run in the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self yells at his bench during a Harvard run in the second half, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Harvard had just three guys 6-foot-9 or taller — only two of which played any real minutes — and yet they still out-rebounded the Jayhawks by eight. There was no real panic in the KU camp about this fact, and, hey, they won the game. But I was incredibly surprised that the Jayhawks and Self were rather matter-of-fact and did not seem much more bothered by this.

One for the road

KU's win over Harvard....

• Kept Kansas undefeated in 15 games against the Ivy League.

• Made Kansas 96-4 against non-conference opponents in Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era.

• Gave KU its 27th-straight win in Allen Fieldhouse, which is the eighth-longest streak in school history.

• Moved KU to 731-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 193-9 under Self.

• Improved Self to 358-79 while at Kansas and 656-184 all-time.

• Advanced KU to 2,159-832 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tilt with Holy Cross. The game will be shown on Jayhawk TV and ESPN3. For those wondering, the Dec. 19 home game vs. Montana will be KU's final game on the Jayhawk Network this season.

By the Numbers: Kansas 75, Harvard 69

By the Numbers: Kansas 75, Harvard 69



More news and notes from Kansas vs. Harvard


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Seven 2015 KU football red-shirts to watch next fall

Every season at just about every school, one of the most-asked questions around football programs is about red-shirts.

Who are they? How many will there be? Which ones will help most in the future? And have you told them yet?

It may be handled differently at different places and at some of the power programs that have guys lined up down the block to come play, they probably do tell kids before the season begins that they're going to red-shirt.

Not at Kansas. At least not with head coach David Beaty.

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely a few guys who Beaty and his coaching staff targeted with the idea of red-shirting them. But if any of them could have helped the Jayhawks on the field at all during the 2015 season, the red-shirt would've come off in a hot minute. Beaty said as much throughout the season while also saying, at times, that there were specific guys he would've liked to red-shirt.

He didn't always name names, but would say something like, “We'd like to keep the shirt on one of the two freshmen QBs.” It worked. Ryan Willis played. Carter Stanley did not. Willis has three years left. Stanley has four.

There were other instances along those same lines, but now that the season is officially over and the red-shirts are official, here's a quick look at seven guys who saved a season of eligibility that could help this program as soon as 2016.

• WR LaQuivionte Gonzales — “Quiv” (who really should be nicknamed “Speedy”) sat out due to NCAA transfer rules after coming to KU from Texas A&M, but there's no doubt he'll have a major role on this team next fall. Beaty has said Gonzales is as fast and dynamic as any player on the roster and he should help immediately in the return game as well as on offense, where KU rolls seven, eight and nine receivers onto the field throughout each game.

• WR Chase Harrell — Don't forget about this kid. He graduated early and came with some serious hype so the fact that he did not become an immediate star turned some people off. But he made serious strides toward building his body and learning the offense and should not only be more ready to compete for a role in the offense but also more driven after watching other true freshmen take snaps ahead of him. The future is still bright for Harrell.

• LB Keith Loneker Jr. — Local prospect from Free State High who transferred to KU before the season after a freshman All-American year at nearby Baker University. Loneker's name kept coming up for his work on the scout team and there is no doubt that this fast, tough, instinctual football player will have a big time chance to play a huge role at a thin position for KU next season. Don't be surprised for a second if he's out there starting alongside fellow former Firebird Joe Dineen Jr.

• OL Mesa Ribordy — Walk-on and in-state prospect from Louisburg High, Ribordy was one of those names I kept hearing when I went out to practice as an O-Lineman who could have a bright future and get into the mix quickly. KU needs as much help as it can get up front and Ribordy, an athletic 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman who moves well and is getting stronger, could compete for a spot up front at least as a part of the regular rotation.

• DB Shaq Richmond — Cornerback from Grand Prairie, Texas, was very well thought of by the KU coaching staff when he committed — recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell landed him — and his natural skills and increased bulk and speed should give him a shot at cracking the field at a position of great need. KU will continue to address the cornerback position in the 2016 recruiting class, both through high school and juco players, but Beaty is big on development and this is a guy who is already a year into his.

• QB Carter Stanley — Here's another guy you should not write off yet. I know the focus is on Ryan Willis being the QB of the future, and that is well deserved given the way Willis competed, performed and led the offense as a true freshman. But he's not going to be handed the job without others coming after it. And Stanley, who knows the offense and desperately needed a year to get bigger and stronger, could still be Willis' biggest competition heading into spring football. A more mobile QB than Willis, Stanley has a good arm and should feel more comfortable competing for the job in Year 2.

• TE Jace Sternberger — This guy is a beast. He has great size (6-4, 225) and good hands but still looks ultra-athletic all over the field. It won't be easy to crack the lineup given the fact that both Ben Johnson and Kent Taylor will be back. But Sternberger's one of those guys who will find a way to make the coaches play him. At worst, he'll play a complementary role to those other tight ends next season. But you can bet you'll see him on the field in some capacity.

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KSU coach Bill Snyder sends KU QB Ryan Willis a note of encouragement

Say what you will about Kansas State coach Bill Snyder and his dominance of the Jayhawks over the years. That has not taken away from the man's ability to operate as a classy individual.

We've seen plenty of instances of this throughout the years and we recently got another one when KU quarterback Ryan Willis, who just wrapped up his freshman season as KU's all-time leading freshman passer, posted to Twitter a note he got from Snyder following last week's 45-14 K-State win in the season finale.

Here's the note:

Now before you go off about the purple ink or the fact that Snyder should stick to worrying about his own players, remember that Willis' dad, Steve, is a former K-State football player and the young man, though not seriously, was recruited by K-State out of Bishop Miege High School.

The Snyder way has long been synonymous with "family" and this kind of gesture shows what that's all about.

Like it or hate it — like him or hate him — you have to at least tip your cap to Snyder's sportsmanship and the fact that receiving the note clearly meant a lot to one of the KU football program's most promising young players.

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The Day After: Grinding past the Greyhounds

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) hangs on the rim after delivering a dunk against Loyola during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) hangs on the rim after delivering a dunk against Loyola during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Cheick Diallo Show did not disappoint.

KU's freshman forward who sat out the first five games of the season while awaiting clearance from the NCAA poured in 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 16 minutes in his debut and brought all kinds of excitement and energy to an otherwise ho hum night.

KU coach Bill Self said Diallo would not score 13 points every night, but the raw material appears to be there for that to be possible. Diallo is so active, so aggressive and so athletic.

KU's not going to have to run plays for him to score, nor will they, but it does not seem like a stretch to think that hitting the glass and being set up for easy buckets by his teammates could easily produce double-digit nights quite often for the 6-9 freshman.

Diallo's addition only makes Kansas more dangerous by giving the Jayhawks another incredible athlete to throw into the rotation and his teammates a versatile option to go to in transition and in the half-court. What's more, the attention he'll draw, at least for a while, will take just a little more pressure off of the rest of the lineup.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) delivers on a lob jam during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) delivers on a lob jam during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Quick takeaway

Perhaps lost in the Diallo debut was the fact that the Jayhawks once again topped the 90-point mark and really appear to be clicking on offense. KU needed a 54-point second half to get there, but it did not look all that difficult as the Jayhawks scored in transition, hit from the outside and got balance throughout the lineup. Self said in Maui that he thought — and hoped — his team could be a heck of a lot better offensively in a month than it is today. But if this team can continue to take strides on the defensive end, the ease and versatility with which it can score on offense, will make the Jayhawks a very tough team to beat.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Forget the stats, if you can. Cheick Diallo brings more to this Kansas team than just numbers. His energy, emotion, smile and passion for the game bring a dimension to this team that has not been seen around here in the past couple of years. A few guys have tried to be “that guy” but no one has been able to do that consistently since Thomas Robinson. It's just one game, but if this is the Diallo KU is getting — good stat night or bad — that will go a long way toward elevating the play and intensity of everyone on the roster and should make the 2015-16 a heck of a lot of fun for all involved.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) celebrates a Loyola turnover during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) celebrates a Loyola turnover during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – KU coach Bill Self said he was very displeased with the way Svi played in the first half. That's what makes the sophomore's line — 10 points, 2 assists, 1 rebound in 16 minutes — all the more impressive. Instead of sulking, pouting or letting his rough first half ruin his game, Svi bounced back in the second half, played much harder and put up a decent line to help KU cruise to the easy victory. That would not have happened last year. And what you're seeing is the continued maturity from this guy. That can only be a good thing for Svi and the Jayhawks.

Kansas guard Tyler Self (11) pulls up for a three over Loyola forward Cam Gregory (22) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Tyler Self (11) pulls up for a three over Loyola forward Cam Gregory (22) during the second half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Say what you will about his ability, his place on the team or him as a person, regardless of whether you're the biggest Tyler Self fan on the planet or can't believe he's on the team, you'd have to pretty much be heartless to not at least crack a smile after the young man made the first three-pointer of his career late in the blowout. The release looked good and Tyler has put in a lot of work during the past few years. He deserved the moment. And so did his dad.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – KU's free throw shooting was atrocious. The Jayhawks made just 6 of 13 from the line in the opening 20 minutes and 6 of 12 in the second half to produce a game total of 12-of-26 for 46.2 percent. KU cannot afford to have that become a trend because, with the new emphasis on calling fouls, KU figures to get to the line a lot this season. It's hard to roast a team for an off night at the line in a game they won by 33, but against tougher competition nights like that will cost Kansas.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) puts his shoe back on after losing it during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) puts his shoe back on after losing it during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Carlton Bragg just never looked in sync during this one and I can't help but wonder if Diallo sliced into his role a little bit. They play different positions and do different things, but it may take the two of them a little time to get used to playing together. Nothing wrong with that, though. That's what non-conference play is for.

Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) extends to defend against a shot from Loyola forward Jarred Jones (21) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Hunter Mickelson (42) extends to defend against a shot from Loyola forward Jarred Jones (21) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Kansas did not defend the three-pointer well at all in the first half, allowing the Greyhounds to hit 42 percent (5-of-12) en route to trailing by just four at the break. At one point, Loyola drained three straight threes to turn a nine-point Kansas lead into a tie ballgame. Things improved in the second half and Loyola misfired on all seven three-point attempts it tried in the final 20 minutes, but that likely was the result of Self emphasizing better effort on the perimeter to his defense at halftime.

One for the road

KU's run-away victory over the Greyhounds...

• Made KU 8-2 all-time against current membership of the Patriot League • Gave KU its 26th straight win in Allen Fieldhouse, which ties for the eighth-longest streak in school history • Made KU 730-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 192-9 under Bill Self • Made Self 357-79 while at Kansas and 564-184 all-time • Made KU 2,158-832 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will be back on the Allen Fieldhouse floor at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, when they play host to Harvard.

By the Numbers: Kansas 94, Loyola 61

By the Numbers: Kansas 94, Loyola 61

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Richt to Kansas? You must be out of your minds

Kansas head coach David Beaty gives quarterback Ryan Willis a pat after a three and out during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 at T. Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla.

Kansas head coach David Beaty gives quarterback Ryan Willis a pat after a three and out during the second quarter on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015 at T. Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla. by Nick Krug

It's probably just a small number of people out there on Twitter, and I realize that social media sites can be dangerous places to do any kind of real research.

But I'm going to head down that path anyway because I just don't get it.

During the past 24 hours I've seen more than a few dozen KU fans — I think they are, anyway — jump on Twitter and various message boards claiming that KU absolutely should go after former Georgia head coach Mark Richt, who was fired by the Bulldogs this weekend after a 9-3 season that looked much better on paper than it actually was. Georgia beat just one FBS team with a winning record all season and, once again, fell short of the enormous expectations people have for that program.

So Richt, the 55-year-old veteran head coach who compiled an overall record of 145-51 in 15 seasons, including SEC championships in 2002 and 2005 and runner-up trophies three other times, is out of a job and UGA is moving on.

That doesn't mean KU should be.

Whether you're a David Beaty believer or you think he's the latest in a long line of KU coaches who will go down having got his shot and failed, the one thing I think all supporters and followers of KU football can agree on is that this program is in no position to continue changing head coaches.

What in the world about fielding five head coaches in the past eight seasons sounds so appealing that you'd want to make it six in nine?

As long as he shows progress, for better or worse, Beaty is going to and should get the length of his five-year contract. Giving him — or anyone — that kind of time is the only way to really see if something of substance can be built here. And it's the only way to find out, yet again, if, when something substantial is built, it can be sustained for any real length of time.

So while Richt, who would be a fine choice to lead any program, will go on to find another job, there's no reason for anyone around here to think that it will or even should be at Kansas.

For the first time in a long time, it can be said with certainty that KU has its head coach and he's a guy an overwhelming majority of the fan base has gotten behind.

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Jayhawks in Maui: Hoisting the trophy

Thanks to a pair of blowouts in the opening rounds and a hard-fought 70-63 victory over 19th-ranked Vanderbilt in Wednesday's title game, the Kansas University men's basketball team hoisted some hardware in paradise.

Taking the Maui Invitational was the first step in what fifth-ranked Kansas (4-1) hopes will be a handful of celebrations like it during the 2015-16 season.

Here's a quick look at some of the fun on the floor following KU's Maui Invitational triumph.

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Jayhawks in Maui: Chaminade not afraid to score points

During Friday's long flight over the Pacific Ocean, I spent some time looking over the stats for the Chaminade Silverswords, KU's first opponent at the 2015 Maui Invitational — 8 p.m. central Monday night — and a couple of things jumped out immediately.

The biggest, by far, had to do with Chaminade's scoring.

Despite dropping their first two games of the season, the Silverswords have averaged 96 points per game. Six Chaminade players have averaged double digits in scoring to start the season, with Oscar Pedroso (20), Kuany Kuany (16) and James Harper (15) leading the way.

A closer look at how those points have come created a bit of a head-scratching moment until I got to one key statistic.

Chaminade has scored the exact same number of field goals as its opponents — 61-of-122 shooting vs. 61-of-133 shooting — and even outshot opponents, 28-21, behind the three-point line.

Those numbers, especially this early in the season, likely would lead one to believe that the Silverswords had won both of their games instead of losing them.

But that's where that key stat comes in. During losses to Alaska Anchorage (92-90) and at Alaska (112-102), Chaminade surrendered 75 trips to the free throw line and got to the line just 55 times. Those numbers led to a 61-42 free-throw-shooting advantage for the two Alaska schools and ultimately led to both losses.

Chaminade has out-fouled its opponents 55-46 and had three players foul out, including junior guard Kiran Shastri, who started one of the two games and fouled out of both of them.

Without having seen the Silverswords play, it's hard to know exactly what kind of team they field and how they run offense and play — or don't play — defense. But based on the stats, it looks like they're a fast team that likes to chuck up three-pointers and doesn't worry too much about defending.

It will be interesting to see if the Jayhawks get caught up in that style and try to run up and down with the Silverswords or if KU coach Bill Self elects to make this more of a half-court game, perhaps in response to KU's struggles in the half-court in last week's loss to Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Chicago, where KU senior Perry Ellis led Kansas with 21 points but did not get nearly enough touches in the paint, especially in the second half.

The nice thing about Ellis' game and the Wichita native's versatility is that it allows KU to play just about any style necessary without having to worry about him being taken out of the game. Ellis seems to be equally comfortable doing work inside, both on the block and out of the high post, or running the floor, leading the break and knocking down outside jumpers.

Either way, you can bet that he'll be a huge point of emphasis for Kansas (1-1) in Maui, against Chaminade in the opener, simply because it's the next game after Michigan State, and as the Jayhawks try to run past the rest of the field to deliver Self his first Maui title in four tries.

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