Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

The Day After: Iowa State

Kansas guard Wayne Selden, middle, pulls a laugh out of teammate Andrew Wiggins late in the game against Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden, middle, pulls a laugh out of teammate Andrew Wiggins late in the game against Iowa State on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

There was no bank shot and no overtime in this one, but the Jayhawks' latest victory over Iowa State at Allen Fieldhouse certainly had plenty of drama.

A game that began with the look of a Kansas blowout turned into a one-possession game late, with the 16th-ranked Cyclones charging hard and the home crowd roaring to help keep No. 6 Kansas ahead.

In the end, a career-best performance by KU freshman Andrew Wiggins proved to be enough to give the Jayhawks their seventh win in a row and their second victory in two weeks over a tough Iowa State team.

While Wiggins stole the show with his scoring explosion, Perry Ellis' first half (15 points on 7-of-8 shooting) played a huge part in the victory, as did another fantastic game from point guard Naadir Tharpe.

Wednesday's victory pushed KU to 16-4 overall and 7-0 in Big 12 play and set the Jayhawks up with a golden opportunity to take complete control of the conference race heading into back-to-back road games at Texas (Saturday) and Baylor (Tuesday).

Quick takeaway:

I'm not sure enough credit is being given to what the Jayhawks have done this month against the Cyclones. Iowa State is darn good. They opened the season with 14 straight victories, can shoot from distance as well as just about any team in the country and can score from all five spots on the floor and create tough mismatches for opponents because of it. Despite all of that, the Jayhawks basically handled ISU for 80 minutes. Yes, the Cyclones made a couple of runs and looked sharp in doing it, but Kansas controlled the majority of both games and did so behind the strength of different players stepping up at different times. This team is gaining more confidence every time out.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – Andrew Wiggins is on a roll and only getting better. After going for a career-high 27 points in the victory over TCU, Wiggins one-upped himself with a 29-point outing against Iowa State. His shot looks good every time he lets it go and he's done a much better job of finishing during recent weeks. ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said after that game that Wiggins is oozing with confidence right now and went as far as to call that fact “scary.” Two of the best parts about Wiggins' 29-point night on Wednesday? He reached that number by taking just 16 shots and only went to the free throw line six times.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins slaps hands with the Jayhawk faithful as he leaves the court following a career high, 29 points against Iowa State in the Jayhawks' 92-81 win, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins slaps hands with the Jayhawk faithful as he leaves the court following a career high, 29 points against Iowa State in the Jayhawks' 92-81 win, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – The offense as a whole is playing so much off of instinct right now. Rather than thinking too much and worrying about where to be and when to be there, the Jayhawks are just being. Every player seems to know his role inside and out and, more importantly, appears to be comfortable playing to it. Passes are moving quicker and being thrown crisper and the offense has a real good feel for when to pull it out and reset and when to attack.

3 – Joel Embiid finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds and it seemed like he had a pretty ho-hum night. That's the sign of a big-time player. Two of Embiid's best plays of the night? In the first half, he grabbed a rebound, gathered to go up for the put-back, tripped over an Iowa State player laying in the lane and still managed to keep his balance enough to finish the play. Later, when ISU big man Georges Niang attacked the right side and ducked under the rim to try a reverse layup, Embiid, who was leaning to protect the right side, stopped on a dime and still managed to swat Niang's shot with his off hand. That's No. 1-pick type stuff right there.

Kansas center Joel Embiid lunges for a bucket after an Iowa State foul during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid lunges for a bucket after an Iowa State foul during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – Opponents' points at the rim (again)... Iowa State scored 28 of its 81 points on Wednesday on layups or dunks. That number (35 percent) wasn't quite as bad as the 43-percent mark that Kansas State enjoyed a couple of weeks ago, though it was a higher number of points (28 compared to 26). The Jayhawks have made progress in this department, but opponents too often continue to find it too easy to score inside.

2 – It looked, to me, like the Jayhawks might have momentarily thought this one was over when they went up 30-14 midway through the first half. As KU coach Bill Self said after the game, the Jayhawks played about as well as they could've during the game's first 10 minutes, but, after building that kind of lead there's no way that ISU should've been within three points at halftime. Don't get me wrong, the Cyclones deserve credit for battling back. But KU did its best to help them. The ill-advised Joel Embiid three-pointer, a few careless passes and too many quick shots come to mind.

3 – Thanks to 29 points from Wiggins and 20 more from Perry Ellis, KU did not need much from its bench in this one. Good thing, too, because it got next to nothing. Brannen Greene and Frank Mason each hit one three-pointer, which accounted for all of the bench scoring the Jayhawks got in this one. Fortunately for Kansas, the starters were sharp from start to finish in this one. Had all five guys not been, the outcome might have been different. To be fair, it's worth pointing out that KU reserves Tarik Black (ankle) and Conner Frankamp (knee) did not play.

One thought for the road:

The Jayhawks' second win over Iowa State in 16 days:

• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in Big 12 play at 7-0

• Made KU 7-0 in conference play for the third-straight season and the sixth time in the Bill Self era

• Gave the Jayhawks their fifth win over a top-25 ranked opponent over the last six games

• Made the Kansas-Iowa State all-time series 175-59 in favor of KU, including 49-9 in Allen Fieldhouse

• Gave Kansas its fifth-straight win versus Iowa State

• Made KU 9-1 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 170-9 under Bill Self and 708-109 all-time in the venue

• Made Bill Self 21-3 all-time against ISU (20-3 while at KU), 316-63 while at Kansas and 523-168 overall

• Made KU 2,117-816 all-time

Next up:

The Jayhawks will head out onto the road for the next two games, starting with Saturday's 3 p.m. tip-off at Texas. After that, they'll play Baylor at 6 p.m. on Feb. 4 before returning home to face West Virginia at 3 p.m. on Feb. 8.

Kansas center Joel Embiid battles for position with Iowa State defenders Georges Niang, left, and DeAndre Kane during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid battles for position with Iowa State defenders Georges Niang, left, and DeAndre Kane during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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Super Bowl smiles: Chris Harris, Steven Johnson fired up to represent KU at Super Bowl XLVIII

With the big game now just a few days a way, here's a quick look at the vibe surrounding former KU football players Chris Harris and Steven Johnson, members of the Denver Broncos, who will take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday evening.

Harris, a starter and arguably the Broncos most important defensive player this season, will miss the game because of a knee injury he suffered during Denver's second-round win over San Diego.

For a guy who has worked as hard as Harris has to get to this point, it's a major bummer to see him sitting on the sideline while his teammates play the biggest games of their lives. Still, true to Harris' form, he has kept an upbeat attitude about the whole thing and done his best to help the Broncos prepare for Sunday without him.

Johnson, who, like Harris, joined the Broncos as an undrafted free agent, will play in Sunday's game as a starter on all of Denver's special teams units. Johnson has traveled a long road to get to this point and he's soaking up every ounce of this experience.

Both seem thrilled to represent both Denver and KU in the big game and they're both working with the KU football offices to send back periodic sights and sounds from their time in New York.

Little known facts: There actually are a couple of other Jayhawk connections in this year's big game.

• Denver coach John Fox was an assistant at Kansas in 1983.

• Denver strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson has family ties to the Lawrence and Kansas City areas and was a strength & conditioning intern at KU in 1997. He also played football at KU from 1992-96.

• Current KU coach Charlie Weis coached a couple of Super Bowl competitors during their college careers. They are: Seattle WR Golden Tate and Denver DB David Bruton, who both played at Notre Dame.

Here's a look at the first two messages from Harris and Johnson:

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Cyclones vs. Jayhawks: Still a long way to go before calling this one a true rivalry

One of the best things about rivalry games is that every time the two teams involved take the floor or take the field, both have a legitimate chance to win.

While that certainly has been true in the recent match-ups between Kansas and Iowa State, a quick look back at their last 20 meetings shows that this series has been incredibly lopsided for one that many believe has developed into a solid rivalry.

Maybe it's because Missouri left the Big 12 and the Jayhawks are in need of a replacement. Maybe it's because the KU-K-State rivalry has not been real intense or exciting. Or maybe it's because a few of the most recent KU-ISU match-ups have been full of crazy drama and included a few overtime thrillers.

Either way, a lot of people want to paint this as KU's next great rivalry. In fact, on Tuesday, KU big man Landen Lucas was asked if the Cyclones had become a chief rival for the Jayhawks. His answer?

“I think so, yeah,” he said. “Whenever you've got a talented team that gives you a good game every time, it slowly becomes a rival. It's exciting. And we always look for something like that and I think Iowa State's definitely becoming something like that.”

Something like that, maybe. But a true rival? Not yet.

In the last 20 meetings between these two, the Jayhawks own an 18-2 record and have won those 18 games by an average score of 84-70. In the two games that Iowa State won during that stretch — 72-64 on Jan. 28, 2012 and 63-61 in OT on Feb. 19, 2005 in Lawrence — the average margin of victory was just five points.

There certainly is more to a rivalry than the final scores, but until the Cyclones can tip the scales of victory a little more in their favor, this potentially developing rivalry figures to continue to crawl along at a snail's pace.

The Jayhawks and Cyclones will get after it again at 8 p.m. tonight at Allen Fieldhouse.

As always, we'll have all kinds of live game coverage before, during and after the game, so be sure to stick with KUSports.com throughout the day and night.

While you wait for tip-off, here's a quick look back at those last 20 meetings:

2013-14:
Jan. 13 @ Ames – KU 77, ISU 70
Jan. 29 @ AFH – ?????

2012-13:
Jan. 9 @ AFH – KU 97, ISU 89, OT
Feb. 25 @ Ames – KU 108, ISU 96, OT
March 15 @ KC – KU 88, ISU 73

2011-12:
Jan. 14 @ AFH – KU 82, ISU 73
Jan. 28 @ Ames – ISU 72, KU 64

2010-11:
Jan. 12 @ Ames – KU 84, ISU 79
Feb. 12 @ AFH – KU 89, ISU 66

2009-10:
Jan. 23 @ Ames – KU 84, ISU 61
Feb. 13 @ AFH – KU 73, ISU 59

2008-09:
Jan. 24 @ Ames – KU 82, ISU 67
Feb. 18 @ AFH – KU 72, ISU 55

2007-08:
Jan. 23 @ AFH – KU 83, ISU 59
Feb. 27 @ Ames – KU 75, ISU 64

2006-07:
Jan. 13 @ Ames – KU 68, ISU 64, OT
Feb. 24 @ AFH – KU 89, ISU 52

2005-06:
Jan. 28 @ Ames – KU 95, ISU 85
Feb. 11 @ AFH – KU 88, ISU 75

2004-05:
Jan. 12 @ Ames – KU 71, ISU 66
Feb. 19 @ AFH – ISU 63, KU 61, OT

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Former KU linebacker Steven Johnson’s journey from walk-on to the Super Bowl

Steven Johnson's player page heading from the Denver Broncos' web site.

Steven Johnson's player page heading from the Denver Broncos' web site. by Matt Tait

It's Media Day at Super Bowl XLVIII, so let's join the fun with a quick look at one of the two former Kansas University players representing the Jayhawks at this year's big game.


There are a million reasons to feel good about former Kansas University football standout Steven Johnson preparing to play in the Super Bowl in six days.

From all of the fight and resolve he showed just to be able to play college ball to the injuries he overcame, the couches he slept on before earning a scholarship and the losses that piled up faster than he could blink, even with Johnson giving everything he had to the program, each week, each game, each play.

"From everything I have been through from high school to prep school to Kansas and now with the Broncos, I have been truly blessed," Johnson said after Denver knocked off New England in the AFC championship game on Jan. 19. "I have so much more to accomplish and hopefully this is just the beginning of a great career in the NFL. I am so thankful to be a part of an amazing organization with the Broncos and I am proud to represent Kansas in the Super Bowl."

Despite a deck stacked against him most of his life, Johnson persevered. He made it into the NFL as an undrafted free agent after fighting his way through multiple cuts and dozens of nay-sayers to land on the Broncos' 53-man roster before the 2012 season. And during his first two seasons in the NFL, he has proven that he is not merely content to wear a uniform.

All of that and more provides plenty of reason to be pumped for Johnson and his chance to play in the Super Bowl in just his second season as a pro. From an 0-for-4 run at bowl games at Kansas to an appearance in the Super Bowl in two years. Not bad.

During his final two seasons at KU, Johnson became a sort of go-to guy for interviews, which was both a testament to his ability to offer insightful and entertaining answers to our questions and his self-confidence. Even when the Jayhawks were reeling, Johnson always pointed to what they still could accomplish, not what they missed out on. It's probably that mindset — and all of the practice he got — that provided him with the kind of toughness needed to make it at the highest level.

But we're not just talking about a guy who is on the sideline here and will piggy-back his way to a ring if his teammates perform well. Johnson plays. Although he's listed as a reserve linebacker on the roster, he's a starter on all of Denver's special teams units and has made a very noticeable impact on the punt return and kickoff units.

While that's where he hangs his hat for the moment, Johnson has filled in on defense during a couple of critical moments this season, most notably on a goal-line stand situation against Kansas City in Denver, where, on third-and-goal from the 1, Johnson filled the gap, blasted Jamaal Charles and forced the Chiefs to settle for a field goal. It was by far his biggest defensive play of his young career.

For all of his on-the-field accomplishments and those of his team, which enters Super Bowl XLVIII as the favorite, Johnson remains the same down-to-earth guy he was at Kansas.

Last spring, when Johnson was back in town to support his former KU teammates at their pro day, I caught up with him and we talked about his rookie season with the Broncos. He told me stories about notable teammates, meeting one of his idols, San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis, and all of the nerves that went into every cut-down day.

But the best story I remember had to do with a night out to dinner with his teammates.

One night, Johnson and a few Broncos went to eat at a Denver steakhouse where Broncos legend and current executive vice president of football operations John Elway happened to be eating with friends. Elway recognized his players, invited the crew to join his party and offered to pick up the tab.

By that point, Johnson had met Elway a couple of times and knew his spot on the squad was secure. But not wanting to rock the boat or take for granted his good fortune, Johnson ordered a salad. The gesture had no bearing on his spot on the team nor did it play a role in him getting to where he got. Except, of course, for the fact that operating that way his entire life — with humility, decency, class and appreciation — helped define who Steven Johnson was, which paved the way for him to achieve all of his dreams.

Even with a little fame, a nice chunk of money, a golden opportunity and a spot in the Super Bowl that others would kill for, Johnson has not changed.

That, above all the other worthy reasons, is the one that makes it so easy to feel so good for Steven Johnson.

"Winning this game and being able to go to the Super Bowl is a dream come true," Johnson said. "I have been playing this game since I was five years old and it has always been my dream."

Johnson and former Jayhawk Chris Harris, arguably Denver's most important defensive player this season who tore his ACL during the playoffs and will miss the big game, are the first Jayhawks to advance to the Super Bowl since Justin Hartwig picked up a Super Bowl ring in 2009 as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Johnson and Harris become the 26th and 27th Jayhawks all-time to reach the Super Bowl, with 20 KU players having won Super Bowl rings in the past.

Here are a couple of Johnson's signature moments from the 2013 season:

BLOCKED PUNT VS. PHILY

TACKLE WITH NO HELMET VS. ST. LOUIS PRESEASON

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The Day After: TCU

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins delivers on a lob dunk against TCU during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins delivers on a lob dunk against TCU during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

Andrew Wiggins was sensational (27 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds) and the KU bench stepped up, as well, to help lead Kansas to a 91-69 beating of TCU on Saturday night in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas came into the game at 5-0 in the Big 12 and the Horned Frogs entered the game at 0-6, so the outcome was far from a surprise. But given the fact that the last time the Jayhawks played at TCU they inspired KU coach Bill Self to mention past futile match-ups with Topeka YMCA, the victory registers as a positive step for a team that really seems to be hitting its stride.

Kansas has now won six straight games, has a stranglehold on the Big 12 Conference race and finds ways, big and small, to get better every time they take the floor.

Quick takeaway:

The bottom line about KU's latest victory demonstrates the maturity and developing killer instinct this team has. Although very few of the guys who contributed to this victory were there last year when KU laid an egg, they still treated the trip to TCU with a business-like mentality. The soaring Jayhawks nearly scored as many in the first half (53) as they did in the entire game last year (55) in Fort Worth. And it's clear that this group was determined to put to bed all of the talk about last year's meltdown. Road conference wins are never easy, but the Jayhawks made this one look like cake.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – How about Landen Lucas. With Tarik Black wearing a boot and unable to play, Lucas filled his spot in the rotation admirably. He finished with 7 points and 5 rebounds in just 13 minutes and hit 3 of 4 shots while displaying the belief that he belonged. Lucas has embraced his limited role on this team about as well as anybody, and his intelligence, maturity and team-first mentality ensure that he's already ready if needed.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas puts in a bucket over TCU guard Christian Gore during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas puts in a bucket over TCU guard Christian Gore during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

2 – Jayhawks attacked the rim. Whether it was Jamari Traylor, Perry Ellis, Joel Embiid or Wayne Selden, the Jayhawks chose the dunk as their weapon of choice to show that this year would be different. KU attacked the rim and finished with authority from the jump and seemed to look to drop the hammer whenever possible. You can see it in a lot of ways, and this is just one of them, but it's very clear that this team's confidence is sky-high right now.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor dunks over TCU guard Jarvis Ray (22) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor dunks over TCU guard Jarvis Ray (22) during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

3 – Post-entry passes on point. It's a small detail that plays a big role in the KU offense and the Jayhawks were fantastic feeding the post against the Horned Frogs. Whether it was the high passes to the corner of the backboard that only KU's post players could catch or zipped bounce passes to bigs who had their defenders sealed, KU made sure to take advantage of its opportunities and advantage inside, which showed when three TCU players fouled out

Three reasons to sigh:

(Disclaimer: This was a pretty clean game and these are a little nit-picky)

1 – They more than made up for it with a blistering 62 percent shooting performance and 21-point lead in the first half, but in the game's earliest moments, KU looked a little scattered, particularly on offense. To me, that was a sign of them pressing a little to make sure that what happened last year did not happen again this year. It didn't last long, and once they just settled down and played, they turned in one of their better offensive games of the season, so, again, hardly a big deal.

2 – Coaches get paid a lot of money to make good decisions and 99.9% of the time they do just that. But I've never understood why some coaches have key players on the floor late in blowouts. I'm sure they have their reasons and I'm sure those reasons are sound, but I was more than a little surprised to see Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins still on the floor in the final five minutes with KU leading by nearly 20 points. Selden and Wiggins checked out for good at the 1:56 mark and no harm was done. But, to me, it just hardly seems worth the risk of having a couple of key starters out there that late when the game is well in hand.

3 – Free throw shooting. The Jayhawks won by 22 and looked great doing it. But that easily could have been a 30-point spread if KU had hit its free throws. The Jayhawks missed 13 overall, with Joel Embiid missing nearly half of his trips (5 of 11). These weren't clutch free throws we're talking about, so all's well that ends well, but something like 30-of-38 would've looked a lot better than 25-of-38. Like I said, we're nit-picking a little here.

One for the road:

The Jayhawks' dominating road win over TCU:

• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 6-0 for the third-straight time and the sixth time in the 11-year Bill Self era.

• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 6-1 all-time against the Horned Frogs, including a 2-1 advantage in Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 10-4 all-time against TCU, 315 63 while at Kansas and 522-168 overall.

• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,116-816.

Next up:

The Jayhawks return home Wednesday, Jan. 29, for a rematch with Iowa State at 8 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU knocked off Iowa State 77-70 Jan. 13 in Ames, Iowa. 

Kansas center Joel Embiid stuffs a shot by TCU center Karviar Shepherd during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas center Joel Embiid stuffs a shot by TCU center Karviar Shepherd during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

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Embiid, Wiggins crack blogger’s list of today’s Top 25 college players

In a recent blog ranking the 25 best players in college basketball today, ESPN.com's John Gasaway placed two Jayhawks on his list but perhaps not as high as many of you might expect.

Because the blog falls under the ESPN Insider pay wall, I can't link to it here because I don't want to send those of you who aren't "Insiders" to a link you cannot access.

But we can still discuss Gasaway's rankings.

First thing's first: He put freshman center Joel Embiid at No. 9 and freshman wing Andrew Wiggins at No. 21.

The top five looked like this: 1. Doug McDermott (Creighton), 2. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), 3. Lamar Patterson (Pitt), 4. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and 5. Julius Randle (Kentucky).

I have to admit I was a little surprised not to see Embiid and/or Wiggins higher on the list and also surprised that Duke's Jabari Parker did not crack the Top 5. For what it's worth, Gasaway ranks Parker sixth, so that's not a huge slight. And, really, if you read his explanation for the rankings, putting Embiid and Wiggins where he did is not a knock either.

Those of you who can check out the full blog should go take a look. In it, Gasaway explains that the entire exercise was done to give a better indication of the top college players who impact the college game better than anyone else. He acknowledges that often — perhaps too often — college players are judged and ranked based on their potential impact in the NBA and using that as a filter for current collegiate players often skews the process of identifying the top college players.

No one better backs up that theory than McDermott, who is as good as it gets at the college level but may not project to be quite the pro of Parker or Embiid or Wiggins.

It's an interesting concept and, for those of you out there who may consider yourselves college basketball purists, probably one that's rather refreshing.

Even if it's not, I don't think you should take it as a slight toward Embiid or Wiggins. Landing in the Top 25 is solid no matter where you are and Gasaway's explanations for both players point out that he is very aware they're likely to be among the top picks in the June draft. Again, though, for this blog, he's looking purely at how they impact the college game.

Here's a look at what he said about the two Jayhawks in his Top 25:

9 - Joel Embiid, Kansas Jayhawks
Embiid may well be the first player taken in the 2014 NBA draft, so what's he doing way "down" here at No. 9? I see no contradiction here. The NBA is correctly registering that players of Embiid's height and ability are exceptionally rare. This list is attempting to correctly measure Embiid's impact as a college player over his first 409 minutes.

Clearly, that impact has been huge. Embiid makes 70 percent of his 2s as a supporting player in a Jayhawks offense centered on Wiggins and Perry Ellis. He also blocks shots and cleans the glass at both ends. On the other hand, Embiid is still averaging more than six fouls per 40 minutes, and he has recorded four or more fouls in four of his past six outings. His minutes are limited (and that lowers the benefit KU draws from his shot-blocking), but when he's on the floor Embiid changes the game dramatically. I don't blame the NBA one bit for being keenly interested in the young man.

21 - Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks
Wiggins will be one of the first two or three players selected in the 2014 NBA draft based on an expectation of what an 18-year-old (he'll turn 19 next month) this skilled might become in the very near future.

Meantime, he also happens to be one of the best college players in the country, one who carries a larger workload than any teammate on the offense of a national title contender. Wiggins' shooting percentages from the field are, as yet, just fair, but he takes care of the ball, draws fouls and shoots 76 percent at the line. Don't be surprised if his ranking improves on future versions of this list.

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The Day After: Baylor

Fans react as Kansas guard Wayne Selden crashes into the seats after saving a ball that was tossed to teammate Joel Embiid for a bucket during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Fans react as Kansas guard Wayne Selden crashes into the seats after saving a ball that was tossed to teammate Joel Embiid for a bucket during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The feat the Kansas University basketball team just pulled off cannot be overlooked. Not only did the Jayhawks just rip off four consecutive victories against ranked teams for the first time in school history — and the first time for any program since North Carolina did it in 1997 — but they did so by rising to the occasion each time with incredible energy, confidence and poise at once.

The cherry on top of the four-game sweep came Monday night, as the Jayhawks — and the home fans — got right back up for one more big game and knocked off a scrappy Baylor squad, 78-68, at Allen Fieldhouse.

I'll be the first to admit that the game was tougher for the Jayhawks than I expected it would be, as Baylor controlled most of the first half and made KU work for everything it got. But then that signature Fieldhouse run came in the second half and the Jayhawks took control and hung on down the stretch.

Give Wayne Selden's highlight-reel save credit for really sparking the run.

Although the victories at Iowa State or home against Oklahoma State — both top 10 teams at the time — were more impressive, Monday's victory was solid given the fact that KU was forced to get up for yet another big game and did and the fact that the Bears came in a little bit desperate.

Kansas now controls the Big 12 race even more at 5-0 and, perhaps more importantly, gets a few days off before its next action Saturday at TCU.

Quick takeaway:

The mere fact that KU's most recent opponent nailed 8 of 10 three pointers in the first half alone yet still somehow trailed No. 8 Kansas by two points at the break is one of the more remarkable things I can remember seeing. It was particularly impressive given the fact that KU did not play all that well in the first half on offense and really labored for everything it got. The Jayhawks' defense in the paint really stepped up in the first half to keep KU right there and a better defensive effort on the perimeter in the second half put the offense in position to deal that knockout blow.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – Free throw shooting has long been a sore subject around these parts, as fans of KU basketball — and probably the coaches, too — expect high percentages every time out. For whatever reason, that doesn't always happen, but it did on Monday, as KU drained 26 of 29 free throws, which may very well have been the difference. Three Jayhawks (Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden and Jamari Traylor) were perfect from the foul line and Perry Ellis missed one in the final minute. The only guy to miss more than one was Andrew Wiggins, who was given a pass because his two misses came in 12 trips. Free throw shooting is as much about confidence as anything and these guys really seem to feel as if they're getting free points when they toe the line.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins pulls up for a shot before Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins pulls up for a shot before Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Given how red hot Naadir Tharpe has been of late, playing without him for large stretches of Monday's victory was critical for the Jayhawks' psyche. Forced to the bench with two fouls in the first half, Tharpe scored just six points and took three shots in 29 total minutes. He did play the entire second half and never picked up that third foul, but what a nice thing for the Jayhawks to see they could have a little success without their floor leader in the lineup.

3 – A big reason for that success was the play of freshman point guard Frank Mason, who once again asserted himself offensively and was a huge reason the Jayhawks were leading at halftime. Mason showed some of this early in the season but took a step back during the past couple of weeks. It looks as if that attacking mentality is once again at the front of his mind, another good sign for KU, given the fact that Mason is as good as it gets on this team at making something happen when the shot clock is winding down.

Kansas guard Frank Mason swoops in to the bucket against Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason swoops in to the bucket against Baylor forward Rico Gathers during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – There's no doubt in my mind that KU coach Bill Self emphasized over and over before this one what a talented outside shooter Baylor's Brady Heslip is. So when you see that Heslip got loose for 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range, including 4-of-4 in the first half, it doesn't take a genius to realize that Self probably was not too happy about that. Four guys tried their luck on Heslip, with Selden and Wiggins having more luck than Tharpe and Mason. Still, all four struggled at times, whether it was going under screens instead of over or losing him altogether. Nothing alarming and and there aren't many better shooters out there than Heslip, but it's definitely a sigh moment given how much it was probably emphasized before the game.

Baylor guard Brady Heslip celebrates after a three against the Jayhawks during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Baylor guard Brady Heslip celebrates after a three against the Jayhawks during the first half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Baylor entered Monday having forced just 177 turnovers in 17 games, good for a little more than 10 per night. Yet in the first half alone Kansas turned it over nine times. The Jayhawks tightened it up a little in the second and finished with 16 for the game, but far too many of them were just careless mental lapses, magnified by the fact that they came against a team that really doesn't force turnovers that often.

3 – KU's size and length made things tough for the Bears initially inside, but the Jayhawks were outfought for some loose balls around the Baylor rim. The Bears ripped down 20 offensive rebounds and scored 15 second-chance points, most of them coming in the paint. Isaiah Austin is long, Rico Gathers is wide and the Bears' guards did a great job of attacking the offensive glass.

One thought for the road:

KU's hard-fought victory over Baylor on Monday night, which marked its fifth game in 12 days:

• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in Big 12 play at 5-0.

• Marked the Jayhawks’ fourth-straight win over a top-25 opponent (No. 25 Kansas State, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Baylor). The last school to win as many as four-consecutive regular season games, all against schools ranked in the AP top 25 was when North Carolina did so in February/March 1997. The Tar Heels beat No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 14 Maryland, No. 12 Clemson, and No. 7 Duke in four-consecutive games. Since then, there have been 58 schools to play at least four-consecutive regular-season games against AP-ranked opponents with none of them winning all four games.

• Pushed KU’s record on Big Monday to 50-16 overall, 27-1 in Allen Fieldhouse and was the 21st-straight Big Monday win at home.

• Made KU 5-0 in conference play for the third-straight season and the seventh time in the Bill Self era.

• Made the Kansas-Baylor series 20-4 in favor of KU, including 18-4 in the Big 12 era and 11-0 in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Made KU 707-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 169-9 in the Bill Self era and 8-1 this season.

• Made Bill Self 12-4 all-time against Baylor, 314-63 while at Kansas and 521-168 overall

• Made KU 2,115-816 all-time.

Next up:

After a wild stretch against ranked opponents, the Jayhawks will take a few days off and jump back into action on Saturday, when they play at 8 p.m. at TCU.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some direction to Andrew Wiggins during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gives some direction to Andrew Wiggins during the second half on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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Selden save worth watching over and over and over…

It's a play that everyone was talking about (and probably still is) and one of the finest displays of all-out hustle I've ever seen in person.

So why not take another look (or 10) back at the spectacular save made by KU freshman Wayne Selden during Monday's 78-68 victory over Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse.

Sure, it appears that Selden may have stepped on the line before making the save. But it wasn't called, it still goes down as a fantastic effort and even the Baylor players were not bent out of shape about the no-call following the loss.

Here's the video replay of the SportsCenter play of the night, along with a detailed description of everything that went into the save from our own Tom Keegan.

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The Day After: Oklahoma State

Kansas forward Tarik Black delivers on a dunk before Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Tarik Black delivers on a dunk before Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Behind another monster scoring day from junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up its third consecutive victory over a ranked team on Saturday, 80-78 over No. 9 Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.

As expected, the game featured a wild — and loud — atmosphere and plenty of highlight plays on offense and defense from both teams.

The Jayhawks raced out to a 19-point first-half lead and then hung on for dear life down the stretch, as the Cowboys played more like a team worthy of a Top-10 ranking in the second half.

The victory moved KU to 4-0 in Big 12 play and further strengthened its position as the favorite to win this year's conference title. Other than Kansas State, which sits at 4-1, every other team in the Big 12 already has at least two losses and the Jayhawks handed the Wildcats their lone loss.

Anyway, as KU coach Bill Self said, it's still far too early to be talking about the conference race. Self said leading the Big 12 now is like leading in the second inning in baseball.

With that in mind, let's take one more look back at Saturday's Oklahoma State victory.

Quick takeaway:

Forget the near collapse and forget all of the technical fouls and intensity, in terms of basketball only, this was a huge victory for the Jayhawks. Remember, this was an Oklahoma State team that Kansas lost to at home and needed a wild finish to knock off in Stillwater a season ago. Getting over the mental hump of handling the Cowboys plus getting a bonus dose of confidence from beating a Top 10 team in the process figure to keep the Jayhawks on the path they currently are enjoying.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – When things got nasty and tempers on the floor flared up, the Jayhawks stood tall, puffed their chests out and pushed back. It's a pride thing when that kind of scrum ensues and, especially because they were playing in their home building, it's clear that, although young and relatively new to town, these guys have plenty of pride in how they represent Kansas and they were not about to get punked by any Oklahoma State intimidation tactics.

Kansas players celebrate as Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown breaks into their huddle during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. Brown was issued a technical foul during the incident.

Kansas players celebrate as Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown breaks into their huddle during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. Brown was issued a technical foul during the incident. by Nick Krug

2 – How about the continued steady play of Jamari Traylor. In just 19 minutes against Okie State, Traylor scored nine points by hitting all three of his shot attempts and all three of his free throw attempts. To me, the thing that has made the biggest difference in Traylor's recent emergence is the fact that he simply looks comfortable when he's on the floor. He knows what he's doing, has embraced his role and is never asked to do things he's not capable of doing. When asked about his impact after the game, Traylor said he just simply tries to bring energy, rebounding and defense to the floor every time out. And he knows if he's successful, that will give KU an edge. That kind of knowledge is powerful and can create confidence in a hurry. Traylor is a living, breathing example of that right now.

3 – Self pointed this out after the game but it's worth repeating because it shows just how talented and deep this team is and what a luxury that can be. Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis played three of the worst games of their careers and definitely their worst game collectively and yet KU found a way to win. The trio combined to shoot 6-of-22 from the floor and played an average of less than 25 minutes per man against a Top-10 opponent. While three of KU's top four scorers struggled, Naadir Tharpe, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor more than made up for it, combining to shoot 19 for 22 for 51 of KU's 80 points. It's this sort of depth and offensive flexibility that makes KU so tough to game plan for and defend.

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – It's been a rough few games for KU forward Perry Ellis, who finished with just six points and four rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting in 18 minutes against the Cowboys. You can see in Perry's body language that something's not quite right and I think one of the biggest issues right now is his inability to finish at the rim. Since Big 12 play began, Ellis has been getting bumped often near the rim and that contact has thrown off his shot and his confidence. Ellis is an even-keel dude so you won't see crazy mood swings or displays of emotion from him no matter what's going on out there. But if you look closely, you can see that the sophomore is playing frustrated right now.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis floats in for a bucket past Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis floats in for a bucket past Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – That's three consecutive games with a technical foul for Joel Embiid and, although fans and Jayhawks might not like it that this story will now linger, it has to be talked about and it has to be at least a bit of a concern. Embiid was asked about it after the game and it's very clear that he understands what he needs to do. He just needs to keep his cool and cut out the extra-curricular antics. But knowing that and saying that and then actually doing it in the heat of battle are two different things. Embiid's a nice young man and it's clear that he's not a punk and not trying to establish a reputation as one of the Big 12's bad boys. The easy way to get past this is for him to take the advice of teammate Wayne Selden, who came up to him after the incident that earned Saturday's technical and said just one word: “Stop.”

3 – It's tough to sustain a big lead against a good team, particularly when you throw in a halftime break. But the Jayhawks made getting back into the game way too easy for the Cowboys at the start of the second half. OSU played much better and came out with a looser mentality that served them well, but the Jayhawks failed to match the intensity and emotion and allowed the Cowboys to get up off the mat. KU responded to OSU's surge with a nice run of its own, but there's no question that, after the way the first half unfolded, this should've been a much bigger victory than two points. KU survived and may actually be able to learn a lot from nearly blowing it.

One thought for the road:

The Jayhawks' two-point thriller over Oklahoma State:

• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 4-0 for the third-straight time and the seventh time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Gave KU its third-straight win over a ranked opponent in as many games
• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 108-54 all-time against the Cowboys, including a 19-7 advantage in the Big 12 era.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 12-8 all-time against Oklahoma State, 313-63 while at Kansas and 520-168 overall.
• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,114-816.
• Improves KU’s record to 706-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 168-9 at home under Self.

Next up:

The Jayhawks will dive back in with another big-game atmosphere at 8 p.m. Monday, when the Baylor Bears come to town for Big Monday.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden (1) goes up to block a shot by Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (33) in the Jayhawks win against Oklahoma State, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is KU's Joel Embiid (21).

Kansas guard Wayne Selden (1) goes up to block a shot by Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (33) in the Jayhawks win against Oklahoma State, Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is KU's Joel Embiid (21). by Mike Yoder

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Bill Self press conference notes: Jan. 16

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self spoke with the media at Allen Fieldhouse today about No. 15 Kansas' upcoming showdown — 3 p.m. Saturday — against No. 9 Oklahoma State.

Self broke down the Cowboys' team and talked about last year's home loss to OSU.

Here's a brief look as well as links to the complete audio:

Bill Self

Andrew Wiggins

Wayne Selden

• Self says Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash's decision to try to get more into the 15-18 foot range to score instead of relying on the three-point shot has made Nash a more dangerous player and made a positive impact on OSU's entire offense.

• Regarding OSU's dribble penetration, Self says it's critical to be good guarding the ball. He says KU cannot be tempted to play off of point guard Marcus Smart and fade toward OSU's perimeter shooters and adds that the key is to get good help and make Smart feel like he's got one and a half guys guarding him on every possession no matter which way he goes when screens come.

• Self said Smart has not hurt himself at all by staying in college and he's had a good year. It was probably a good decision for him to come back and I know it's been great for their program.

• Self on whether Smart's backflips last year bothered him: What bothered me is that we played like crap. If we'd have played better, that wouldn't have happened. Of the flip: I thought it was beautiful form, I thought he tucked just at the right time and got full extension. I thought it was very impressive.

• Self said the 3-0 start in Big 12 play was big for this team because two of them came on the road. Self said the team needed confidence because it did not get much of it during the non-conference schedule and added that the team is probably as confident as it has been all year right now.

• Self said Andrew Wiggins has played most of his best games in the team's biggest games of the season. From his point of view, that's probably what the NBA scouts want to see from him — how does he play against the best of the best?

• Self said if Wiggins had made more layups this year he probably would be averaging 20 points per game. Says the misses may have been because of avoiding contact early but he's finishing better now and not worrying about contact.

• Self said Joel Embiid is probably not as impressed and surprised about his success as everybody else. One thing that's so great about Embiid is how honest he is and how high of a standard he sets for himself. Self said that's a real rarity for players.

• Self said he's not worried at all about Embiid's technical fouls during each of the last two games. The one at Iowa State was not a big deal. Only was called a technical because of the way the rules are written about dead ball contact fouls. When that occurs, they have to call it a technical.

• Self said Embiid has a chance to be an NBA All-Star. Five or 10 years from now he could be in that elite group of being considered one of the 24 best players in the world. But he's not anywhere close to that yet and has a lot of work ahead of him to get there.

• Self said it's way too early to be talking about his players' upcoming NBA decisions, but he can't see telling 'em to return. What he would tell 'em is to do what's best for their lives and weigh the pros and cons and act on that. Says he wouldn't hold his breath if he were a Kansas fan.

• Self said Embiid has become more physical and has already gotten stronger. He said he doesn't know if Embiid enjoys the contact but he's gotten to the point where he doesn't mind it.

• As for handling the fiery nature of some of these guys, Self said he'd much rather calm a guy down than turn a guy up.

• Self said the non-conference schedule doesn't matter any more. Might have helped KU win a couple of games on the road early in conference play, but now it's those conference games that will prepare KU for the rest of conference play.

• Self said he'd like to see Naadir Tharpe shoot more when he's open. Also said he's been playing at a really high level lately and has been a great leader, a rock out there, for the young guys.

• As for reaching this level and playing with confidence, Self said Tharpe probably needed to know again that Self liked him. Self added that he loves him and Tharpe knows that.

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Oklahoma State has chance to achieve rare feat of back-to-back wins at Allen Fieldhouse

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/photos/2001/02/06/sportsKUHinrichBobble_.jpg

We all know that losing at Allen Fieldhouse is a rarity for the Kansas University men's basketball team, but Saturday's opponent, ninth-ranked Oklahoma State, has an opportunity to do something even more rare than just beat the Jayhawks.

The Cowboys (14-2) have a chance to beat No. 15 Kansas (12-4) on its home floor for the second time in a row, when the two preseason Big 12 Conference favorites square off in a highly anticipated showdown at 3 p.m. on CBS.

Behind a breakout game from guard Marcus Smart, the Cowboys' upended Kansas at home a season ago, 85-80 on Feb. 2. The loss was the first in a three-game losing streak for the Jayhawks, who snapped out of the funk and went on to win their ninth consecutive Big 12 title even with the hiccup along the way.

A quick check of the KU basketball media guide shows that the last team to accomplish back-to-back wins in Allen Fieldhouse was Iowa State, in 2000 and 2001 (shown above). To find the unlikely feat before that, you have to go back to 1989 and 1990, when Missouri knocked off the Jayhawks twice in a row in Allen Fieldhouse.

In the 116-year history of Kansas basketball, the Jayhawks have lost back-to-back games or worse at home just 34 times. Not surprisingly, most of those losing streaks came against conference foes, with Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all knocking off the Jayhawks in back-to-back trips to Lawrence at least once.

Still, very few of those teams did it more than once and the fact that it has only happened 34 times in nearly 3,000 games is just another remarkable element of the storied tradition of Kansas basketball.

A few more facts about KU's rare home losing streaks:

• Missouri's stretch of 10 straight victories in Lawrence from 1917-1922 is the longest in history.

• Kentucky won five straight in Lawrence from 1975-83; Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Mizzou all have won four straight games in Lawrence; Nebraska and K-State also enjoyed a stretch of three straight victories.

• Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville and Notre Dame are the only non-conference programs to win back-to-back games or better in Lawrence.

• A couple of teams, who, like Oklahoma State, are currently sitting on the potential to start a winning streak include: Oral Roberts, which last won in Lawrence in 2006 and has not been back; Vanderbilt, which last won in Lawrence in 1972 and has not been back; Duke, which won in overtime in Lawrence in 1988 and has not been back; Iowa, which won in Lawrence in 1998 and has not been back; Louisville, which won in Lawrence in 1992 and has not been back; Nevada, which won in Lawrence in 2005 and has not been back; North Carolina, which won in Lawrence in 1960, has not been back and won't be coming back as long as Roy Williams is still the Tar Heels' head coach; Northwestern, which won in Lawrence in 1964 and has not been back; and, of course, San Diego State, which won in Lawrence earlier this season.

• Current Big 12 Teams and their total victories in Allen Fieldhouse all-time: Baylor (0), Iowa State (9), Kansas State (18), Oklahoma (7), Oklahoma State (9), Texas (1), Texas Tech (0), TCU (0) and West Virginia (0).

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The Day After: Iowa State

Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe huddles his teammates in the first half against Iowa State on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas point guard Naadir Tharpe huddles his teammates in the first half against Iowa State on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

As it turns out, road losses in tough environments like Colorado and Florida may have paid off for the Kansas University men's basketball team, which went into arguably the toughest place to play on its entire schedule Monday night — Hilton Coliseum — and knocked off Iowa State, 77-70.

KU took charge with great starts to each half and got superb play from Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Naadir Tharpe, each one taking a different moment to shine.

It's still early, there's no doubt about that. But KU has taken as much control of the Big 12 Conference race as a team can take in three games, based largely on the strength of its two road victories.

Success in the Jayhawks' next two games — 3 p.m. Saturday vs. Oklahoma State and 8 p.m. Monday vs. Baylor — could make it an all-out stranglehold.

**

Quick takeaway:

**

It baffles me that Iowa State, which lost to KU three times last season and had every reason in the world to take the floor with more hunger, anger and intensity than the visiting Jayhawks on Monday night, actually got out-hungered by Kansas. Credit KU coach Bill Self and veteran point guard Naadir Tharpe for explaining to the young guys on this roster just how hostile Hilton would be and for preparing them to feel like the underdog with everything to prove. It worked brilliantly and KU got one of its best games of the season in terms of pure effort.

**

Three reasons to smile:

**

1 – Naadir Tharpe, the guy some KU fans said they wanted to see thrown off the team for missing shots earlier this season, showed that none of the negativity around his play has had a negative impact on his ability to develop his game and lead this team. Games like Monday can only make Tharpe's confidence soar and a more confident Tharpe is a more comfortable Tharpe, which is a great thing for Kansas.

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Iowa State during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Iowa State during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks were sensational out of timeouts Monday night, whenever Iowa State showed signs of making a run. I can recall at least three or four times when Iowa State closed the gap to six or so points and appeared to be poised for a big run, only to watch Kansas calmly call timeout and respond by getting an easy bucket right at the rim, most often from Embiid. That's clearly solid coaching but it also showed incredible poise by Self's players.

3 – In back-to-back games to open Big 12 play, freshman guard Wayne Selden finished among the Jayhawks' leading scorer and looked great doing it. Monday, Selden had an off night offensively — finishing with just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting — but more than made up for it by leading the team with six assists in 33 minutes.

**

Three reasons to sigh:

**

1 – Perry Ellis definitely did not have one of his best nights. Forget the 4-of-13 shooting or the 0-of-3 mark from the free throw line, the thing that surprised me the most about Ellis' sluggish night was how he let a bad play on one end lead to another on the other end. I can remember one time specifically where Ellis missed an easy shot in close and then went down and committed a silly foul. As he went to the bench, Self uttered something to the effect of “It's OK to miss the shot but don't make it worse on the other end.” We've become so used to Ellis being so steady that we sometimes forget that he's in his second season of college ball and still developing in his own right.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis battles for the ball with Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. At left is ISU forward Georges Niang.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis battles for the ball with Iowa State guard Monte Morris during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. At left is ISU forward Georges Niang. by Nick Krug

2 – If you would've said before the game that KU would turn it over 24 times and Iowa State just 8, nobody would've guessed that KU would have come out on top. Iowa State swiped a dozen steals but the rest of the turnovers were the result of sloppy ball-handling. The Jayhawks got away with it because they dominated on the glass — which only came because Iowa State was so cold from the floor — but they can't make a habit of giving it up that many times, especially on the road.

3 – For the second game in a row, Joel Embiid got busted for retaliating after bodies got tangled up and was hit with a technical foul for a little extra physical contact. Against K-State, the incident cost Embiid the rest of the game and against the Cyclones it forced him to the bench for a five-minute stretch in which ISU turned a 15-4 KU lead into a 21-19 KU advantage. Embiid's an emotional guy out there and that's good when it leads to him aggressively taking the ball to the basket on offense or feeling like nobody in the gym can stop him. But these extra-curricular fouls can't become a regular part of his ever-advancing game.

**

One thought for the road:

**

The Jayhawks' impressive victory over an angry Iowa State team on Monday: • Kept Kansas the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 3-0 for the eighth-straight time and the 10th time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Extended Kansas' win streak over Iowa State to four-straight.
• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 174-59 all-time against the Cyclones, including a 30-8 advantage in the Big 12 era and 24-19 in Hilton Coliseum.
• Marked KU’s 50th victory on ESPN’s Big Monday. The Jayhawks are 50-16 in Big Monday games since the start of the Big 12 era.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 20-3 all-time against Iowa State, 312-63 while at Kansas and 519-168 overall.
• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,113-816.

Next up: The Jayhawks continue their crazy stretch against ranked teams when they return to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against No. 9 Oklahoma State.

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The Day After: Kansas State

Kansas guard Wayne Selden celebrates a Jayhawk run against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden celebrates a Jayhawk run against Kansas State during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Prior to Saturday's 86-60 beat-down of Kansas State, the Kansas University men's basketball team struggled in its last home game and the Wildcats came in ranked for the first time all season and riding a 10-game winning streak.

Didn't matter.

It was business as we've come to know it in the Sunflower Showdown hoops rivalry on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, with the Jayhawks handling everything KSU could throw at them and delivering the knock-out blow early to improve to 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play.

If you've seen any of the previous Sunflower Showdown match-ups at Allen Fieldhouse, you can guess how it went. But in case you want more details, here's our latest installment of “The Day After.”

Quick takeaway:
The KU offense really looks like it's starting to click. Wayne Selden has put back-to-back solid games together and is smiling more than ever, Joel Embiid is hitting jumpers and Andrew Wiggins looks more comfortable pulling the trigger when it's there. Even if the KU defense never quite comes around, if the offense can continue to play like this, the Jayhawks will have the chance to make a serious run.

Three reasons to smile:
1 – The fact that Selden and Wiggins are starting to feel more comfortable asserting themselves on the offensive end is really good news for point guard Naadir Tharpe. Early on, I think Tharpe felt the burden — real or imagined — of needing to be a scorer, but he's always been at his best as a facilitator. Never was that more evident than Saturday, when Tharpe dished nine dimes and had zero turnovers. That's 17 assists and 1 turnover in his last three games. Speaking of turnovers, how about the team going 23:16 without a turnover against a good defensive club? Very good sign for the young squad.

Kansas forward Tarik Black flexes after a rebound and put-back bucket by teammate Perry Ellis during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Tarik Black flexes after a rebound and put-back bucket by teammate Perry Ellis during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – The chemistry between big men Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor is an incredible luxury for this team. The two combined for 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists in limited minutes. That kind of performance on a consistent basis will keep Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid from feeling too much of the burden inside. Plus, Traylor and Black both bring a more physical edge to the floor.

3 – KU's three-point shooting is really on the rise of late. The Jayhawks hit 8 of 18 threes against K-State and have hit 32 of 78 three-point attempts (41 percent) dating back to the Georgetown game. Three-point shooting was a big concern early in the season, but with Wiggins, Selden and even Conner Frankamp looking more comfortable with the deep ball, KU's offense is benefiting tremendously. KU's six second-half threes tied a season high.

Three reasons to sigh:
1 – It hardly mattered, but K-State got a ton of points at the rim on Saturday. 43 percent of KSU's points (26 of 60) came from point-blank range, a fact that points to both the absence of a Jeff Withey type guy in the paint and KU's struggles with on-the-ball defense. Self said they were good for 30 minutes in this one, but there's no question that they still need to get better.

2 – It was masked a bit by KU's offensive explosion, but the Jayhawks continue to struggle with takeaways. KSU committed just 10 turnovers in the game and only four of those were true take-aways by the Jayhawks. It's nit-picking a little, but for a program so used to forcing turnovers and getting steals, it's a little odd. KU has fewer steals (83) this season than its opponents (90).

3 – Naadir Tharpe, whom players and coaches insist is a good shooter in practice, made just one of seven attempts during the run-away victory over K-State. I trust his teammates and I like the way Tharpe's shot looks, it's just a matter of shot selection that continues to be an issue. KU coach Bill Self will be the first to let you know that, as he's never shy to tear into Tharpe after he pulls the trigger on a bad thought. Even with that, Self seems to think Tharpe is doing most things right these days and he has been awfully complimentary of his point guard's recent toughness and ability to close.

One thought for the road:
KU's most recent convincing victory over K-State...
• Gave Kansas its eighth-straight, home-conference-opening win and its 30th league home-opening victory in the last 31 seasons.
• Made Kansas 2-0 in conference play for the 10th time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Extended Kansas’ win streak over Sunflower Showdown rival K-State to six games.
• Improved the Jayhawks to 44-18 all-time against the Wildcats in Allen Fieldhouse, including the last eight meetings.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 23-3 all-time against K-State, 311-63 while at Kansas and 518-169 overall.
• Pushed KU’s all-time record to 2,112-816.

Next up: The Jayhawks will travel to Ames, Iowa, on Monday for a Big Monday, 8 p.m. match-up with No. 9 Iowa State, which lost at Oklahoma on Saturday for its first loss of the season.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins battles for a rebound with Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins battles for a rebound with Kansas State guard Jevon Thomas during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

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Former Jayhawks, teammates and roommates to face off Sunday in NFL playoffs

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When the San Diego Chargers visit the Denver Broncos at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, the game will pit three former Kansas University football players vying for a spot in the AFC championship game.

The meeting between San Diego's Darrell Stuckey (25 above) and Denver's Chris Harris (16 above) and Steven Johnson represents arguably the biggest NFL game in quite some time that features former Jayhawks on both sides.

And the reunion is made even cooler by the fact that the trio of KU alums played on the same Jayhawk teams for two seasons and even lived together for a short time during their college careers.

Although Sunday's meeting brings the three former teammates together at the same key point in time, their paths to get there were significantly different.

Stuckey was the first of the three to reach the NFL, drafted by San Diego in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

During his first four seasons in the league, the Kansas City, Kan., native has made a name for himself as a special teams standout. His 12 special teams tackles in 2012 were tops on the team and his total of nearly 40 special teams tackles during the past three seasons rank in the Top 10 in the NFL despite Stuckey having played in fewer games than most players on the list above him.

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Of late, Stuckey has begun to make a greater impact on defense, as well, finishing last week's playoff victory over Cincinnati with a career-high five tackles and two passes defended. His 26 tackles this season came through both defense and special teams, where he has garnered mention for a spot in the pro bowl during the past couple of seasons.

"Stuck might be the best I've seen in my 11 years," San Diego punter Mike Scifres said in a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Some of the things he can do, the way he can change games, it's almost second to none right now."

Added Chargers place kicker Nick Novak: "He's virtually unstoppable because his technique is that good. He's such a student of the game. He just has, it seems, a counter move for every move they're bringing at him. Of course, he's human, but sometimes you think he's made for special teams."

Harris followed Stuckey into the league in 2011 but went the route of joining the Broncos as an undrafted free agent following the NFL lockout. Like Stuckey, the Bixby, Okla., native first made his mark on special teams, but when the Broncos' secondary endured key injuries, Harris was tossed into the lineup on defense and quickly became one of the team's top utility men, thanks largely to the many roles he played while at Kansas.

He has been referred to by some as the NFL's best coverage guy on slot receivers and his intelligence, physicality and tackling ability have made him one of the most valuable defensive players on the AFC's top seeded team that finished 13-3 during back-to-back seasons.

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Harris' contributions to the Mile High City have reached far beyond the field. He's one of the team's most active members in the community and, recently, was given the Darrent Williams Good Guy award by the Denver media.

"He’s a stand-up guy even when times aren’t going real well," Denver coach John Fox said of Harris. "He’s, I think, mature beyond his years. I think he’s done a tremendous job just where he came from and what he’s accomplished in a short time here with the Broncos. It doesn’t surprise me.”

Johnson, who, like Stuckey, was invited to the NFL combine, went undrafted but quickly agreed to a free-agent deal with Denver following the completion of the 2012 draft.

The former Jayhawk, who led Kansas in tackles during his junior and senior seasons, said Harris' trailblazing paved the way for him to land in Denver.

“It actually meant a lot,” Johnson told the Journal-World at the time. “He was the one who called me and told me they were trying to draft me. He called me and told me all about Denver and told me they were a team on the rise, and I wanted to go to a team that could contend and win Super Bowls and stuff like that.”

Johnson spent his early days at Kansas as a walk-on desperate for an opportunity. He spent a chunk of time living on teammates couches and had to overcome a couple of major injuries prior to college that slowed his development. Despite all the adversity, Johnson stuck it out and wound up becoming one of the top tacklers in the Big 12 before leaving college.

That relentless style and attitude seems to be serving him well in the NFL, too.

"He's the guy that if anything happens, he's so into the game he's like, 'Now, Coach? I'm ready,' " Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio told the Denver Post.

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Sunday is not the first NFL meeting between these three former Jayhawks. The Broncos and Chargers played twice during the regular season in 2012 and twice this season, as well. Denver won three of the four meetings, but San Diego emerged victorious during the most recent match-up, which has added significant intrigue to the showdown between the AFC's top-seeded and bottom-seeded teams this weekend.

Because of each team's Jayhawk ties, that showdown figures to be even more interesting for Kansas football fans.

As an appetizer, former KU All-American Aqib Talib and the New England Patriots will face the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night in the weekend's other AFC playoff game. If Talib and the Patriots prevail, they'll play the winner of the San Diego-Denver game on Jan. 19 for the right to go to the Super Bowl, and the book of biggest pro football games between former Jayhawks will include another chapter.

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The Day After: Oklahoma

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor celebrates a steal by the Jayhawks before Oklahoma forward D.J. Bennett during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor celebrates a steal by the Jayhawks before Oklahoma forward D.J. Bennett during the first half on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

The beginning of Big 12 Conference play is as good a time as any to roll out this new feature. So, just as we did with our new pregame feature from Benton Smith, here's a little postgame flavor for those of you who wake up still thinking about KU's latest game.

We won't go into intense detail or labor over this stat or that one, but we will give you a few things to chew on before you move past the latest game and onto the next one.

Obviously, by now, you're well aware of how big KU's 90-83 victory at Oklahoma on Wednesday was for this team, especially when you consider it came on the heels of its first non-conference home loss since 2006 just a few days earlier.

KU coach Bill Self said the victory was KU's second best of the season — right behind Duke — and seemed pleased with the way a couple of his younger guys stepped up when KU really needed them to.

That leads perfectly into the meat of this feature, so, without further ado, I give you the first installment of “The Day After.”

Quick takeaway:
If nothing else, KU proved, once again, that it is capable of responding to a setback with a solid effort. The Jayhawks really needed a good showing at OU and they got it. If this win goes down as the game that jump-started solid seasons for Wayne Selden (24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-10 from downtown) and Conner Frankamp (5 points on 2-of-3 shooting in 13 minutes), the Jayhawks just got a lot better.

Three reasons to smile:
1 - There were still a couple of times when KU let OU push them around, but, for the most part, the Jayhawks were much better inside in this one, out-rebounding the Sooners by 14 and limiting OU to several one-and-done possessions. OU had out-rebounded its previous six opponents by an average of 10 boards per game.

2 - Freshman Conner Frankamp proved that he could be a reliable and productive option at point guard when Naadir Tharpe was forced to sit with three first-half fouls. I'd say giving Frankamp an excessive amount of credit here could be making too much of it, but you've gotta consider all of the factors. The guy did it on the road, against a good team with tough, experienced guards despite entering the night averaging less than seven minutes per outing.

3 - Top-three scorers Andrew Wiggins (1st at 15.3 ppg) and Joel Embiid (3rd at 10.5 ppg) had off nights offensively — combining to shoot just 4-for-13 — yet the Jayhawks still managed to put up 90 points. All of that quality depth that we've talked about all season finally showed up when it truly mattered.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis fights for a rebound with Oklahoma defenders Tyler Neal (15), Buddy Hield and Cameron Clark during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis fights for a rebound with Oklahoma defenders Tyler Neal (15), Buddy Hield and Cameron Clark during the second half on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2013 at Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:
1 - If not for 55 percent shooting for the game, including 64 percent shooting in the first half, KU probably would've lost this one. The reason? Defense. Oklahoma got into the paint way too easily and got a lot of open three-point looks. In addition, the Sooners turned it over just nine times. KU isn't going to be able to outscore everybody it plays and the Jayhawks are going to have to toughen up defensively, particularly on the ball, if they want to resemble the teams we've gotten used to seeing around here.

2 - After a breakout game against Georgetown in late December, senior forward Tarik Black has not taken the next step. In the three games since his 17-point, 6-rebound, 20-minute effort against the Hoyas, Black has played just 18 minutes combined and committed six fouls in that time.

3 - Things don't get any easier at any point in the near future. KU returns home for three of its next four games, but those three games come against in-state rival Kansas State (Saturday), No. 11 Oklahoma State (Jan. 18) and No. 7 Baylor (Jan. 20). Sprinkled in between there is a trip to No. 9 Iowa State on Monday.

One thought for the road:
A few quick records of note following Wednesday's victory, which: • Extended KU’s conference-opening winning streak to 23 games dating back to the 1991-92 season
• Made the Kansas-Oklahoma series 140-65 in favor of KU
• Gave the Jayhawks the 18-16 edge over the Sooners in games played in the Lloyd Noble Center
• Improved Bill Self to 12-4 all-time against Oklahoma, 310-63 while at Kansas and 517-169 in his 21st season overall
• Made KU 2,111-816 all-time

Next up:
KU plays host to K-State at 1 p.m. Saturday in what promises to be another fun and exciting edition of the Sunflower Showdown.

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Oddsmakers still believe in Kansas, Wiggins

For all of the struggles that the non-conference schedule brought — four losses, tough road environments, a month away from Allen Fieldhouse — the folks in the betting industry still seem to have a great deal of faith in the Kansas University basketball team.

According to a press release sent out by Bovada.com, the Jayhawks currently sit as the fourth favorite to win the 2014 national championship.

KU registers as a 15-2 favorite, down slightly from the 11-2 mark they held in May.

Arizona, which opened the season as a 15-1 favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas, currently is the top favorite at 11-2. Michigan State (6-1) and Kentucky (7-1) are second and third and Louisville and Syracuse are tied at 10-1 to round out the top five.

KU's place in the Top 5 certainly suggests that the Jayhawks have the potential for plenty of good days ahead. And, really, I don't think the non-conference results are an indication of rough days behind. KU lost to four ranked teams, two of them on late three-pointers and two in hostile environments.

Sure KU's players and head coach Bill Self might feel better about themselves heading into Big 12 play — 6 p.m. tonight at Oklahoma — if they had one or two fewer losses. But with the Big 12 possibly as good as it's ever been, there's still plenty to gain in the weeks ahead.

Beyond KU's standing with oddsmakers as one of college basketball's favorites is the presence of freshman forward Andrew Wiggins as a Top 6 favorite for national player of the year. Wiggins, who leads KU in scoring at 15.8 points per game on 45 percent shooting (and also is third on the team in rebounding at 5.4 boards per game), is a 10-1 favorite to win the award, behind only Duke's Jabari Parker (4-1), Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (7-1), Kentucky's Julius Randle (8-1), Creighton's Doug McDermott (8-1) and Louisville's Russ Smith (8-1).

These Jayhawks have flaws and are far from a polished product. But with a legitimate player of the year candidate who figures to continue to improve and a veteran coach like Bill Self, it's easy to see why Kansas remains one of the favorites for big things come March.

Before we get to that point, the Jayhawks will begin their quest for a 10th straight Big 12 title tonight in Norman, Okla. If they get it, their odds of winning it all figure to be even better than they are today.

Here's a quick look at the both lists sent out by Bovada.

In the first list of national championship favorites, the second column lists each team's odds as of May 15, 2013 and the third column is the current odds.

Odds to win 2013-2014 National Championship:

Arizona           —              15/1      —                        11/2
Michigan State       —        12/1         —                      6/1
Kentucky            —           5/1             —                    7/1
Kansas                 —         11/2          —                     15/2
Louisville                 —      17/2           —                    10/1
Oklahoma State      —       50/1           —                    10/1
Syracuse            —           25/1        —                       10/1
Duke                   —          14/1        —                       12/1
Ohio State         —            20/1           —                    12/1
Wisconsin              —        50/1        —                       16/1
Florida                 —          18/1             —                  20/1
North Carolina     —           16/1            —                   25/1
Wichita State      —            66/1             —                  28/1
Iowa                 —             50/1              —                 40/1
Pittsburgh        —              50/1           —                    40/1
UCLA                  —           40/1              —                 40/1
Villanova        —                66/1                —               40/1
Colorado          —             40/1                  —             50/1
Connecticut         —           33/1                  —             50/1
Iowa State      —                100/1              —               50/1
Memphis          —              33/1                —               50/1
Michigan            —            33/1                  —             50/1
Oregon             —             100/1                 —            50/1
San Diego State    —         100/1           —                  50/1
Creighton       —                50/1              —                 66/1
Gonzaga          —              50/1              —                 66/1
Missouri       —                  50/1            —                   66/1
VCU              —                50/1                 —              66/1
Baylor             —               50/1               —                75/1
Cincinnati         —              100/1             —                100/1
Georgetown      —             50/1                 —              100/1
St. Louis         —               50/1               —                100/1
Virginia          —                66/1                —               100/1
UMass              —             Off the Board        —         100/1
Florida State       —           75/1                   —            150/1
Illinois               —             66/1                —               150/1
Indiana            —               33/1                —               150/1
Kansas State       —          100/1                —             150/1
New Mexico        —           50/1                —               150/1
Oklahoma          —            200/1              —               150/1
Tennessee        —             66/1               —                150/1
LSU                 —              150/1              —               150/1
Butler              —               66/1                —               200/1
Harvard           —               200/1             —                200/1
Minnesota       —               66/1               —                200/1
Texas             —               100/1              —               200/1
Xavier              —              200/1                 —            200/1
George Washington   —     Off the Board      —           200/1
Boise State          —         150/1                 —           250/1
Dayton              —            150/1                —             250/1
Marquette          —            50/1                —               250/1
Notre Dame        —           75/1                 —              250/1
Ole Miss             —           100/1                —             250/1
Arizona State     —            100/1              —               300/1
Clemson             —           250/1               —              300/1
NC State             —           50/1                  —             300/1
St. John's          —            66/1                —               300/1
St. Mary's            —          150/1                   —          300/1
Stanford              —          100/1                   —          300/1
Texas A&M           —         200/1                  —           300/1
Wake Forest         —         250/1                   —          300/1
Alabama              —          100/1              —               500/1
Arkansas            —           150/1                —             500/1
BYU                    —          100/1                 —            500/1
California            —           100/1               —              500/1
Maryland             —           200/1               —              500/1
Miami Florida       —          100/1                  —           500/1
Purdue                 —          100/1                —             500/1
UNLV                  —           66/1                    —           500/1
USC                   —           150/1                    —         500/1
Vanderbilt           —           100/1                  —           500/1
Virginia Tech       —           250/1                —             500/1
Washington           —         200/1                —             500/1
West Virginia        —          100/1                 —            500/1
George Mason        —       Off the Board       —          500/1
Boston College        —      500/1                 —            1000/1
Colorado State      —         150/1                 —            1000/1
Georgia                —         200/1                —             1000/1
Georgia Tech       —          200/1                 —            1000/1
Northwestern      —            500/1              —               1000/1
South Carolina     —          250/1               —              1000/1
St. Joe's            —            250/1                —             1000/1
Temple              —            150/1               —              1000/1
Washington State    —       200/1               —              1000/1
La Salle          —               Off the Board      —           1000/1
Richmond          —            Off the Board     —            1000/1
St. Bonaventure    —         Off the Board       —          1000/1
Rhode Island      —            Off the Board     —            1000/1
Fordham            —            Off the Board      —           1000/1
Davidson             —          250/1                —             2000/1
Mississippi State   —         500/1              —               Off the Board

Odds to win 2013-2014 Associated Press Player of the Year:
Jabari Parker (Duke)               —                4/1
Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)     —         7/1
Julius Randle (Kentucky)                —         8/1
Doug McDermott (Creighton)    —              8/1
Russ Smith (Louisville)          —                 8/1
Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)      —                 10/1
C.J. Fair (Syracuse)              —                  12/1
Shabazz Napier (UConn)      —                   12/1
Aaron Craft (Ohio State)        —                 15/1
Chaz Williams (UMass)          —                 15/1
Aaron Gordon (Arizona)             —             15/1
Keith Appling (Michigan State)     —           20/1
Nick Johnson (Arizona)          —                 20/1
Cleanthony Early (Wichita State)      —        20/1
Gary Harris (Michigan State)        —            25/1
Kyle Anderson (UCLA)              —              33/1
Marcus Paige (North Carolina)       —          33/1
Casey Prather (Florida)            —               33/1
T.J. Warren (N.C. State)          —                33/1
Adreian Payne (Michigan State)        —       33/1

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In case you missed it: KU coach Charlie Weis joined Keith Olbermann to break down national title game

Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis joined ESPN analyst Keith Olbermann, in studio, last night following the national championship game to break down the big moments and major adjustments delivered by Florida State and Auburn in the final game of the BCS era.

Weis was introduced as the head coach at the University of Kansas and he wore a crimson and blue Jayhawk tie.

These types of things are not necessarily life-altering but they definitely do not hurt the KU program and, believe it or not, can do wonders for recruiting. Weis appeared to be very comfortable breaking down the game that he had just seen live one time and flashed his vast knowledge of offense, schemes and adjustments. He also knew and discussed many players and coaches by name, which showed that he either (a) did his homework or (b) simply knew a lot of these guys to begin with. Perhaps both.

Either way, he definitely represented himself and KU very well.

Among the topics Weis touched on were:

• Halftime adjustments by FSU, which looked shell-shocked in the first half.

• The flag thrown on an FSU player that forced the Seminoles to kick an extra point at 21-19 instead of attempting a two-point conversion to tie.

• Breakdown of Tre Mason's touchdown run that gave Auburn a lead with less than two minutes to play.

• The big pass play from Jameis Winston on the final drive that turned a five-yard slant into a 40-yard gain.

• How Auburn's defense bottled up FSU in the first half and what Winston and the Seminoles did to overcome it.

• His views on the end of the BCS era and the ushering in of a playoff system.

Here's the full video, if you're interested.

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Mark Mangino back in the Big 12

According to a report from Bobby LaGesse, of the Ames Tribune, Iowa State is poised to announce the hiring of former Kansas coach Mark Mangino as its new offensive coordinator under head coach Paul Rhoads.

A press conference is set for 4:30 p.m. today.

“I am beyond thrilled to welcome Coach Mangino to the Cyclone football family,” Rhoads said in a press release. “He has an imaginative offensive mind, an ability to play to his players’ strengths, a track record of winning and a tremendous familiarity with the Big 12 Conference. In terms of calling plays and executing a game plan, he is top shelf. He has learned from a ‘Who’s Who’ of college coaches, effectively led his own championship program and is respected throughout the coaching ranks.”

Mangino, who was the head coach at Kansas from 2002-09 and led the Jayhawks to a 12-1 record and Orange Bowl victory in 2007 while being named national coach of the year, spent the past year working at Youngstown State and has long been rumored to want back into coaching.

His Jayhawk teams were 50-48 overall, played in four bowls and won three. He is the only coach in KU history to win bowls in consecutive seasons (2007 and 2008). Kansas was ranked a school-record 19 straight weeks between 2007-08, set home attendance records five years in a row and produced the top three total offenses in school history.

He left Kansas as the result of an internal investigation into improper treatment of players carried out by former KU athletic director Lew Perkins. He spent three years out of coaching before returning to YSU, his alma mater, for the 2013 season.

Before coaching at KU, Mangino worked on Bob Stoops' staff in Oklahoma and also on the staff of Bill Snyder at Kansas State.

Mangino's first year back in the Big 12 also will signal a return to Lawrence as the Cyclones are schedule to play at KU on Nov. 8.

Stay right here for more on the move to bring Mangino back to the Big 12.

The following link takes you back to August, when Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan caught up with Mangino at Youngstown State.

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Charlie Strong a rock solid hire for Texas

I have to admit when I first heard the reports that Texas had zeroed in on Louisville's Charlie Strong as its new football coach, I was a little surprised.

Not because I don't think Strong is a fantastic coach, an energetic dude and a great face for any program. He's all of those things and more. My surprise stemmed from the fact that, in comparison to Nick Saban, Jimbo Fisher, Jim Harbaugh, Art Briles and others, Strong's name doesn't carry the weight I would've expected UT to want— perhaps even demand — in a successor to Mack Brown.

Maybe I just can't get the idea out of my head that at one point, not that long ago, Strong was on the list of potential replacements for Mark Mangino. Think about that. In late 2009, Strong, then an assistant at Florida, was on KU's radar and today he's the head coach at Texas. Wild stuff.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Strong was that close to being a finalist for the job that went to Turner Gill — and then Charlie Weis two years later — but he was a hot target at the time and there's no doubt that KU kicked the tires.

In Strong, who went 37-15 in four seasons at Louisville and 23-3 during the past two seasons, UT is getting everything I think KU fans were told they were getting in Gill. A player's coach who would do things the right way. A great recruiter. A man of strong morals and values. An intelligent football mind with the capability of putting together a top notch staff around him.

We all know how that played out with Gill and Kansas but I see no reason at all to think anything close to the same will happen for Strong and Texas.

This seems like a fantastic hire for the Longhorns and an absolute nightmare for the rest of the Big 12. Strong will get players. At Texas they always do. And I believe under his leadership the best of the best will again have UT as an automatic entry on their recruiting lists.

More than that though, Strong will evaluate, develop and motivate those players at a level Texas hasn't seen in quite some time. The man radiates pride, intensity & character all at once. Now that he's taking over a blueblood program he'll get a great opportunity to show just how talented he really is.

There are questions about Strong. He doesn't love dealing with the media and may not be the perfect fit to handle the insane exposure that comes from The Longhorn Network. But in terms of football acumen, Strong is everything you could want.

Credit the UT administration for ultimately understanding that a big-time name was not needed to replace Brown. A big-time coach was. And, in Strong, I think they found exactly that.

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KU basketball press conference notes: Jan. 3

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and a couple of KU players will talk to the media at 2:30 p.m. today.

Stay logged in right here for a blow-by-blow account of what Self and the Jayhawks have to say about this weekend's match-up with No. 21 San Diego State — 3:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS — and the current state of the program.


Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor will talk before Self....

Ellis up first:

Perry Ellis says KU knows that San Diego State is really solid defensively and that one of the big focal points this week has been on handling the press.

Ellis says that KU will get a lot better defensively itself when the young guys don't worry as much about messing up. He went through that his freshman year and he sympathizes.

Ellis said Naadir Tharpe is so critical to this team as a vocal leader and from the standpoint of getting everyone ready every day, every game. Not a lot of people know that.

Ellis says he's much stronger this year than he was last year. That came from hard work during the summer and he said it has brought more confidence because he feels more explosive.

Ellis is 3-of-6 from three-point range this season. He said he's been working a lot on shooting those, especially as a trailer on the break, but that he's easing into the idea and making sure that he doesn't force them up.

Ellis said the team had some great practices over the break and that they've been playing great defense in practice. He's hoping it carries over to what's next on the schedule.

Ellis said he's still a little numb from the blow to the head he took against Georgetown but he's not worried about it because it doesn't impact how he feels or plays.

Ellis said the non-conference portion of the schedule has gone by incredibly fast but that he's really looking forward to the Big 12 games.

Traylor's turn:

Traylor says the biggest key for KU's defense going to the next level is finishing possessions all the way through the box out and the rebound. No fouls, stay down, work hard and finish.

Traylor said KU should use its energy to inspire the crowd to help them create turnovers by their opponents.

Traylor said the past couple of days of practice haven't focused much on offense at all. All defensive drills and a lot of them. He said the split was 80 percent defense, 20 percent offense. And the 20 percent number might be high.

Traylor said Ellis was in the weight room a lot throughout the offseason. Every time he went to the gym Perry was in there and he thinks that might be why Ellis has been so much more effective at the rim this season.

Traylor said he doesn't guard Joel Embiid much in practice and he doesn't mind that one bit.

Traylor said the versatility of KU's bigs is huge for this team and makes it hard on Self to figure out a way to divvy up the minutes.

Traylor, like Ellis, said a lot of good things about SDSU's defense and said they're really, really athletic.

Traylor said the tough non-conference schedule should pay off now that conference play is here.

Now Self:

Self backs up his players' claims that defense has been the focal point lately but added that defense is always an emphasis.

Self also said getting better on defense is not something that you just decide to do and then go up and make it happen in a day or two. It takes time. It's a process. And he's pleased with how KU has handled the process this season.

Self said the players have not really been out of position during defensive breakdowns, more that their mindset and intensity have allowed opponents to get things easier than they should.

Self said he has not gone to drastic measures like practicing without a ball. He's done that before but not this year. "I figured out practices can be more game-like when you use a ball."

Self said SDSU is one of the premier defensive teams in the country and that's where they hang their hat. Largely because they're athletic and well coached.

Speaking of coaching, Self said the tiff between he and SDSU coach Steve Fisher over the recruitment of Kevin Young is water under the bridge and he has nothing but respect and admiration for Fisher, who he says is an outstanding coach who has proven it for a long time. He added: In recruiting, those things happen. You don't always get what you deserve. And the things that happen to you in a negative way often happen in a positive way at some point down the road. Self thinks that's the case with Fisher but says he understands the disappointment because it always hurts when you lose a kid you put so much time into recruiting.

Self said SDSU's defensive switches will be good prep for Oklahoma, which also switches a ton on defense. Reinforces that non-conference schedule is played to prepare teams for conference play so he loves how the timing worked out with this one. KU opens Big 12 play at OU on Jan. 8.

Self said Perry Ellis' strong season down low is due mostly to him being a year older. He said Ellis is stronger and more aggressive than he was as a freshman but added that he's still not quite as aggressive as they'd like him to be.

As for Ellis from three-point land, Self said he's never told Perry that he does or does not have the green light to shoot those but added that he wouldn't mind seeing Ellis average one or two a game because he's a good shooter.

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