Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”

The Day After: Advancement in the NCAA Tournament

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) lays in two of his 17 points in the Jayhawks' 75-56 win against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) lays in two of his 17 points in the Jayhawks' 75-56 win against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE. by Richard Gwin

It's been a while since I remember seeing the Kansas University basketball team play such a care-free first-round NCAA Tournament game.

Typically, in recent years, the Jayhawks have been a little tight and struggled to get going during the early rounds. But that was not the case during Friday's 75-56 victory over New Mexico State.

Following up a day in which upsets and lower seeds rocked the tournament, Kansas jumped out and set the tone early with some hot shooting and high energy and never gave New Mexico State a chance.

The Aggies' had enough elements and pieces to give KU trouble in some areas, but Frank Mason stepped up and led the way offensively and the rest of the team followed to move KU into the next round with relative ease.

Quick takeaway

Bottom line, that's as complete of a game as I remember this team playing in weeks. KU played with great energy and toughness, shared the ball, scored inside and out and played fantastic defense, particularly inside against New Mexico State's big front line. The whole thing seemed to be the result of a team that showed up loose and confident, ready to have fun. If the Jayhawks can keep that attitude from here on out, there's no telling how far they could advance.

Three reasons to smile

1 – KU's outside shooting returned with a vengeance. The Jayhawks' 9 of 13 shooting from three-point range marked the highest three-point percentage by a KU team since the 1996-97 team made 5 of 7 (71.3 percent) in a victory over Virginia in Maui. Five different Jayhawks made three-pointers in the win over NMSU, and four of those five made two triples. One of the most important people in that equation was Brannen Greene, who misfired on his first two attempts of the day and then drained a couple in the second half.

Jayhawk fans watch the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Jayhawk fans watch the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Richard Gwin

2 – Kansas continued to play aggressive offensively, with Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Frank Mason and even Jamari Traylor and Devonte' Graham attacking the paint with the dribble more often than not. That only led to 15 free throw attempts on Friday, but it opened up some other things in KU's offense, set the tone for the entire game and has to be the mentality Kansas has the rest of the way.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31), left, and Landen Lucas (33) right, go for a rebound against New Mexico State center Tshilidzi Nephawe (15) in the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31), left, and Landen Lucas (33) right, go for a rebound against New Mexico State center Tshilidzi Nephawe (15) in the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Mike Yoder

3 – KU's post defense was sensational. Every time the Aggies dumped it into to their big guys, the Jayhawks trapped the post with two big guys and that really forced NMSU out of its offense. NMSU coach Marvin Menzies said after the game that even though the Jayhawks aren't necessarily the tallest dudes, their length and active nature made it seem like the NMSU post players were being trapped by “two seven footers.”

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Perry Ellis was pretty quiet overall and only played 23 minutes. He looked fine at times and showed that nothing bad has happened to his jump shot. But his touch in close along with his ability to explode off the floor still seems a bit off. KU led by double digits for the entire second half, so maybe this was just a good time to rest Ellis a little in anticipation of Sunday's showdown. Ellis finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 turnovers and 1 steal, block and assist.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) is stripped of the ball by New Mexico State guard Daniel Mullings (23) and center Tshilidzi Nephawe (15) in the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) is stripped of the ball by New Mexico State guard Daniel Mullings (23) and center Tshilidzi Nephawe (15) in the Jayhawks second-round NCAA tournament game against New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Neb. by Richard Gwin

2 – New Mexico State's press and harassing D certainly had something to do with it, but the 14 turnovers for Kansas was a little higher than anyone in crimson and blue would like to see, particularly when you consider that nine of those 14 came from the guys who handle the ball the most.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) puts pressure on New Mexico State forward Remi Barry (3) in the Jayhawks win over New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) puts pressure on New Mexico State forward Remi Barry (3) in the Jayhawks win over New Mexico State Friday, March 20, 2015 at the CenturyLink Center, Omaha, NE. by Richard Gwin

3 – It's a pretty minor point and wasn't really a big deal, but a couple of guys picked up fouls a little too easily. Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis finished with four fouls apiece and KU will not be able to afford to have either guy hack too much against Wichita State on Sunday.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' solid, opening-round victory over New Mexico State:

• Made Kansas 27-8 on the season, giving KU 27 victories for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.

• Marked KU's ninth-straight NCAA Tournament first-game victory.

• Kept Kansas unbeaten against New Mexico State in three tries.

• Improved Kansas to 97-42 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

• Kept Kansas perfect in Omaha. Including Friday's win and appearances in Omaha during the 2008 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments, KU is now 5-0 in Omaha.

• Pushed Self to 352-77 while at Kansas, 37-15 in the NCAA Tournament and 559-182 overall.

• Made KU 2,153-830 all-time.

Next up

The win advanced the Jayhawks to Sunday's Round of 32, where they'll meet No. 7 seed Wichita State at 4:15 p.m. It's a game that everyone has been wanting to see for years now and one that will be as hyped up as any game the Jayhawks have played this season.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats New Mexico State, 75-56

By the Numbers: Kansas beats New Mexico State, 75-56

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The Day After: Edged out by Iowa State

KU coach Bill Self signals to the Jayhawks in the Jayhawk’s 70-66 loss to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament Saturday.

KU coach Bill Self signals to the Jayhawks in the Jayhawk’s 70-66 loss to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament Saturday. by Richard Gwin

We'll never know how Bill Self reacted behind closed doors but here's guessing he took Saturday's 70-66 Big 12 title game loss to Iowa State pretty hard.

Not just because KU lost and not even because it lost a game it probably should've won. But because for a half Self looked as proud of and pleased with this team as I'd seen him at any point all year — and we're talking by far — and then, poof!, just like that old KU nemesis, Mr. Inconsistency, reared his ugly head again and did the Jayhawks in.

Self has said that winning the Big 12 tournament is not the greatest feeling in the world and that losing it is not the biggest heartbreaker because Selection Sunday trumps everything the very next day.

But it sure looked like he was thrilled about the toughness and fight and signs of life his team showed in that sensational first half against a very good Iowa State team, and watching that disappear completely in the second-half collapse had to sting a little more than he might have let on.

Quick takeaway

If you've seen it once, you've seen it a thousand times with this team, so the extremes the Jayhawks delivered on Saturday evening at Sprint Center probably were not all that surprising to most. Sure, they won't last long in the NCAA Tournament if they can't fix that. And, yeah, they're probably a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight team at best if such issues continue to plague them. But those issues have plagued them all season and been a big part of the reason this has been such a wild and unpredictable season from a team that has struggled to find consistency and its identity. This is new territory for Self and the Jayhawks. Usually by now they've long known what kind of team they are and what they're going to get on most nights. Not with this group. It looks as if this team's best chance is to make the other team play ugly, and these guys are pretty good at that. How far that can take you in the Big Dance is anyone's guess, but I'm guessing we're going to find out.

Three reasons to smile

1 – That's two games in a row where things appeared to click for Wayne Selden and that's great news for Kansas. Even though it wasn't always pretty, Selden was terrific in the way he attacked during the Big 12 tournament and inspired others to follow his lead. The guy can be a match-up problem for opponents if he's locked in, and his ability to get to the rim and/or the free throw line could provide a huge lift for this team and an offense that at times looks incredibly passive and stagnant. Selden earned his spot on the all-tournament team in Kansas City. Now the challenge is to keep him playing this way while getting Perry Ellis, Kelly Oubre and Frank Mason going with him.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) tries to drive on Iowa State's Naz Long (33) in the Jayhawk’s 70-66 loss to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament Saturday in Kansas City, MO.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) tries to drive on Iowa State's Naz Long (33) in the Jayhawk’s 70-66 loss to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament Saturday in Kansas City, MO. by Richard Gwin

2 – Give KU credit for getting back into it and tying the game at 63 with about minute left after yet another insane Iowa State run brought the Cyclones all the way back from 17 down and put them up a few possessions in the blink of an eye. KU could've folded there very easily but didn't.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) shoots for a three-point basket over Iowa State's Jameel McKay during the Jayhawk’s loss to Iowa State Saturday.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) shoots for a three-point basket over Iowa State's Jameel McKay during the Jayhawk’s loss to Iowa State Saturday. by Richard Gwin

3 – Devote' Graham and Frank Mason are playing pretty well together right now. Both dished four assists vs. one turnover and both made some big shots for the Jayhawks en route to building that 17-point lead. KU is going to need both guys to continue to look to score but not at the risk of failing to get others involved. Having the both be able to run the point and attack with their own offense helps keep things balanced. It's a nice one-two punch for KU to have and those guys could be critical to KU's success in the next couple of weeks.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – I'm not sure if the psyche of this team is built for March. They're fantastic when things are going well. They play with good energy, play together and play hard. But as soon as things stop going well, they change their look completely. You can see it in their eyes and on their faces. I'm not saying it's easy to play through rough patches, but some teams flourish in those moments. This is not one of them. This group has been in and won a ton of close games and flashed some incredible comebacks — at Allen Fieldhouse, mind you — but it looks to me like a group that will need to start hot and fast in every game from here on out or risk going home no matter what round we're talking.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) grimaces on the bench during the Jayhawk’s loss to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament Saturday.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) grimaces on the bench during the Jayhawk’s loss to Iowa State in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament Saturday. by Richard Gwin

2 – Injuries. Nobody's “fresh” at this time of the season, but not everybody's as beat up as Kansas either. Self said he anticipated having everyone healthy and ready to go by Friday, when the Jayhawks are likely to open NCAA Tournament play in Omaha, but as much as a few days off will help, I'm not sure that's nearly enough time to get everybody back to full health. Perry Ellis is going to be playing through pain the rest of the way. It looks like the toll of unexpected heavy minutes has worn down Landen Lucas and limited his effectiveness and Frank Mason and Wayne Selden are both less than 100 percent. All the more reason for Self to at least consider giving a few more minutes here and there to guys like Hunter Mickelson and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who actually are fresh. Both played well as recently as this weekend and giving them 10-12 minutes a game to limit the wear and tear on KU's ailing rotation guys might help.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and Kansas Guard Brannen Greene (14) try defend Iowa State's Jameel McKay (1) from scoring in the Jayhawk's lost to ISU Saturday.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) and Kansas Guard Brannen Greene (14) try defend Iowa State's Jameel McKay (1) from scoring in the Jayhawk's lost to ISU Saturday. by Richard Gwin

3 – KU got beat on the boards — only by three (37-34) — and gave up two offensive rebounds at the most crucial time, with the game tied at 63 and after two Iowa State misses. It wasn't just that the Cyclones beat them to the glass in those instances as much as it was that they did it easily. Part of that was KU being beat up or short-handed, but those are just excuses. This team needs all five guys on the floor to box out and crash the glass in order to make up for some of its shortcomings in that area, and on Saturday, on perhaps the game's most critical possession, they came up short twice.

One for the road

KU's fall-from-in-front loss in the Big 12 title game:

• Handed the Jayhawks just their second loss in the Big 12 title game, and its first since 2002, when they lost the tournament to Oklahoma.

• Made Kansas 26-8 on the season and 11-8 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games and 6-2 on neutral floors).

• Dropped the Jayhawks’ record to 13-6 in conference tournament championship games. Overall, KU’s record is now 68-26 in conference tournament play and 38-10 in the Big 12's postseason event.

• Dropped Kansas’ record in Sprint Center to 27-6 all-time and 3-1 this season.

• Moved Self to 351-77 while at Kansas, 33-11 in conference tournament action (24-6 while at KU in the Big 12 Championship) and 558-182 overall.

• Made KU 2,152-830 all-time.

Next up

It's tournament time and Kansas will learn its fate just after 5 p.m. tonight when the CBS Selection Show unveils the bracket. KU will almost assuredly head to Omaha for its first two games, but whether those will be played as a No. 2 or a No. 3 seed, as well as which region the Jayhawks are in, remains to be seen.

At this point, there's more than a fair chance that KU will wind up in the same region as Kentucky. That's incredibly likely if they're a 2 seed. And while that will undoubtedly upset hundreds, if not thousands, of KU fans from coast to coast, there's one important thing to remember about being paired up with UK that might help — in order for that to matter, this team has to get to the Elite Eight first, and, although that's certainly possible, it's far from a lock, maybe not even likely.

It all will depend on match-ups and which Kansas team shows up. The Jayhawks should — SHOULD — win their first two games and reach the Sweet 16. Anything short of that would have to be viewed as a failure. Anything beyond that, though, might actually be this team overachieving. Should be fun to follow it and find out what happens.

Be sure to check back with KUsports.com this evening for all kinds of reaction and insight into KU's draw.

By the Numbers: Iowa State beats Kansas, 70-66, in Big 12 championship game

By the Numbers: Iowa State beats Kansas, 70-66, in Big 12 championship game

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The Day After: Battering the Bears

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) collects a rebound in the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) collects a rebound in the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. by Richard Gwin

Three games in three days... That's what the Jayhawks will have played following Saturday's Big 12 championship game against Iowa State, a destination they reached with a 62-52 victory over fourth-seeded Baylor in Friday's semifinals.

There was some talk among fans about whether KU, which is banged up at a lot of different positions, would be better off to lose early in the Big 12 tourney so it could get some rest ahead of next week's NCAA Tournament run.

But I think this is the better outcome. KU's confidence has risen and Perry Ellis has returned and now knows what he can do with that knee brace. Both are great news for the Jayhawks, who more than any KU team in recent memory, need to have a lot of things lined up just right to play their best basketball.

Quick takeaway

It's very clear that this team understands the importance of defense. They're offensively challenged in a couple of ways and, unless they catch lightning in a bottle or enjoy a ridiculously hot shooting night (which could come) this group of guys really seems to have figured out the recipe they need to stir together to win games. It includes great effort and energy, a lot of toughness and some grind-it-out plays on both ends. It also includes mistakes, which are going to come, but if you think about it these guys actually do a pretty decent job of playing through those and moving on to the next play.

Three reasons to smile

1 – KU's defensive intensity and overall effort was fantastic from start to finish and the Jayhawks clearly answered the challenge laid out by Bill Self one night earlier. Now that Kansas is in the Big 12 title game and will be playing for its life in every game that follows it, it will be very interesting to see if this squad finally brings that energy to the table without being called out to do so. Perry Ellis' return certainly had something to do with lifting the entire team's intensity.

Perry Ellis (34) positions himself for a shot against Baylor's defense in the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday.

Perry Ellis (34) positions himself for a shot against Baylor's defense in the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday. by Richard Gwin

2 – KU's defensive game plan was so solid and so simple. It basically involved throwing bodies at players and doubling the post in an attempt to make Baylor over-think, over-pass and panic. I don't know if Baylor ever panicked, but they definitely were affected by KU's active defense and it showed up in the form of missed shots all over the place. Baylor made just 4 of 22 three-pointers, but also missed from point-blank range and did not convert very many of the 14 offensive rebounds it got. The fact that Kansas out-rebounded Baylor without Cliff Alexandder and with Perry Ellis at less than 100 percent shows you what kind of team effort Friday's victory was.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) reverses for two against Baylor Friday March 13, 2015 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) reverses for two against Baylor Friday March 13, 2015 at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Richard Gwin

3 – Hunter Mickelson continues to impress. He only played six minutes and was probably too overmatched physically to be out there for much longer than that, but you couldn't exactly tell that by watching him. All he did was score a bucket on a nifty reverse layup, block two shots — including Baylor big man Rico Gathers in a one-on-one situation — and snag two steals. He's playing in the NCAA Tournament. How much depends on how the other guys play.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Too many turnovers. And it was not really the number that was troubling, (though 18 is crazy high) it was the way many of them came. Too many times KU just coughed it up right to a Baylor defender or got too sped up and lost control. That can kill seasons from this point on. Luckily for Kansas, the Bears were equally as careless with the ball on Friday, and a good chunk of that had to do with the KU defense.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) lays in two of his 20 points in the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) lays in two of his 20 points in the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. by Richard Gwin

2 – KU's Wayne Selden was great in this one, especially in terms of just finding ways to put points on the board, but he was just 6-of-12 from the free throw line and the Jayhawks, as a whole, missed 10 free throws. The off night from the line never created grave danger, but Kansas would not have even had to sweat this one out at all had they just made five or six more from the line.

3 – Kelly Oubre and Perry Ellis knocked in the first two three-pointers Kansas attempted on Friday night but the Jayhawks finished just 1 for their next 10 and went home with a 3-of-12 shooting night from three-point range. Not awful. And you can bet these guys felt good about seeing a couple of them finally fall. But the problem is not fully fixed and probably won't be until Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene find their strokes again.

KU coach Bill Self talks to the team during a timeout in the closing minutes of the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday.

KU coach Bill Self talks to the team during a timeout in the closing minutes of the Jayhawk’s 62-52 win over Baylor in the semi-final of the Big 12 Tournament Friday. by Richard Gwin

One for the road

KU's semifinal victory over Baylor on Friday night:

• Made Kansas 26-7 on the season, giving the Jayhawks 26 wins for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.

• Improved KU to 11-7 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games and 5-1 on neutral floors).

• Jumped the Jayhawks’ record in the Big 12 Championship to 19-16 in conference tournament semifinal games (11-6 in the Big 12 era).

• Moved Kansas into the conference tourney finals for the 11th time in Big 12 history and 19th time overall.

• Pushed KU’s record in 68-25 in conference tournament play and 38-9 in the Big 12 Championship.

• Improved Kansas’ record in Sprint Center to 27-5 all-time and 3-0 this season.

• Moved Self to 351-76 while at Kansas, 33-10 in conference tournament action (24-5 while at KU in the Big 12 tournament) and 558-181 overall.

• Made KU 2,152-829 all-time.

Next up

KU will play in tonight's Big 12 title game against No. 2 seed Iowa State at 5 p.m. KU and ISU split the regular season and got both games out of the way by mid-January.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Baylor, 62-52, in Big 12 semifinal

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Baylor, 62-52, in Big 12 semifinal

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The Day After: Scorned Frogs

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) and Kelly Oubre (12) put pressure on TCU's Chris Washburn (34) in the Jayhawks 64-59 win over TCU Thursday.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) and Kelly Oubre (12) put pressure on TCU's Chris Washburn (34) in the Jayhawks 64-59 win over TCU Thursday. by Richard Gwin

There was very little pretty basketball involved in Thursday's 64-59 victory by top-seeded Kansas over No. 9 seed TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Missouri.

But even as hard as it was to watch the game through all of the whistles and mistakes, it was exactly the kind of game that makes March great.

A loss to the Horned Frogs would have been a bad sign for the Jayhawks — Perry Ellis or no Perry Ellis — and would've sent the Jayhawk Nation into the weekend searching for answers.

Instead, freshman Kelly Oubre stepped up and played like a veteran and sent the Jayhawks into the Big 12 semis with a career-high 25 points, including 15-of-19 shooting from the free throw line.

Aside from the long stretches of bad basketball from both teams, the game came with all of those feelings that normally accompany games at this time of year — clutch makes and crucial misses, anxious coaches, uneasy fans in the building and the general feeling that things could change completely at just about any minute.

While we wait to do it all over again tonight, when the Jayhawks take on No. 4 seed Baylor in the semifinals at 6 p.m., let's look back at some more of the highs and lows from Thursday.

Quick takeaway

KU won yet again despite not hitting a single three-pointer. That marks the second time in the past three outings that Kansas finished 0-for from behind the arc, yet the Jayhawks won both of those games. For all the talk earlier this season about this team's incredible three-point shooting and how it might need to consider shooting more three-pointers per game, these guys are absolutely desperate for one to fall. Three guys (Oubre, Brannen Greene and Svi) missed multiple three-point looks on Thursday and Selden missed the only one he attempted. One triple did go through for Kansas against TCU — a wing shot by Svi — but it came on a dead ball after a whistle. Kansas has proven that it can win games without the three ball, but doing so makes things much more difficult. And these guys don't want to see how long that luck can last.

Three reasons to smile

1 – It wasn't pretty — not by a long shot — but it also wasn't full of panic, like these March games between high seeds and low seeds tend to be. Kansas can thank Kelly Oubre for that. Every time TCU closed, tied or threatened to make it very interesting, Oubre put the ball on the deck and made his way to the free throw line. That not only led to easy points but also kept the pace calm and less frantic.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) blocks a shot by TCU's Kenrich Williams (34) in the first half of the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) blocks a shot by TCU's Kenrich Williams (34) in the first half of the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. by Richard Gwin

2 – Kansas blocked nine shots in this game, with Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas each recording three and Hunter Mickelson adding one. Considering those were the only big guys Self had to work with, the high number of blocks is pretty impressive. Clearly, having a short bench did not take away their defensive tenacity.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) talks to Frank Mason III (0) during the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. Thursday.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) talks to Frank Mason III (0) during the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. Thursday. by Richard Gwin

3 – Despite not doing or playing much in weeks, freshman Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk proved he might still be able to help this team before this season is finished. The Svi that took the floor against the Frogs on Thursday was the most aggressive and confident Svi I've seen in a while. Self liked what he gave the Jayhawks so much that he started him the second half. Even if the guy only plays a few minutes here and there the rest of the way — however long that winds up being — he should do so with a ton of confidence.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – The numbers just don't paint a five point victory over the ninth-seeded team in the Big 12. KU out-rebounded TCU by six, out-shot TCU 49 percent to 41 percent and only turned it over two more times. What's more, TCU made just 1-of-6 three-pointers on a day when KU missed all eight threes it attempted. There's no question that the Frogs came to fight, but just going off the numbers — although several other metrics would also work — the final score's a bit of a head scratcher.

Kansas coach Bill Self responds to a referees call in the second half of the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

Kansas coach Bill Self responds to a referees call in the second half of the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. by Richard Gwin

2 – Yes, KU won this game without Ellis, but, no, it wasn't easy. The Jayhawks desperately need Ellis back, not only because of the numbers he brings to the floor, but also because he changes the way this team runs offense and the way opposing teams defend. All that said, imagine what a lift it will be when Ellis does return, even if he's not 100 percent when he does. These guys, who have been grinding for everything they've gotten the past few games without him, will probably be so relieved they'll finally relax and light up the scoreboard.

KU's Devonte' Graham (4) losses the ball during the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO.

KU's Devonte' Graham (4) losses the ball during the Jayhawk’s 64-59 win over TCU Thursday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO. by Richard Gwin

3 – The bottom line with this team — still — is that you, me and especially Bill Self still just do not know what it is going to give. On any given night they could be locked in or spaced out, fired up or barely breathing, offensively efficient or offensively challenged, defensively dominant or a defensive doormat. That's not a good recipe for a team hoping to make some noise in March. And even though the talent and potential is still there for any kind of run imaginable, I think we'll know/learn all we need to about what lies ahead for this team based off of what kind of effort it puts forward in the semifinal game vs. Baylor. Self said after the loss that “it gets old” waiting for his guys to bring energy. If they don't respond to that — with a berth in the conference championship game on the line — by doing it in over-the-top fashion, I think you'll know what's coming in the next week or so.

One for the road

KU's Big 12 tournament victory over TCU:

• Made Kansas 25-7 on the season, marking the 10th-straight season that the Jayhawks have tallied 25 wins, beginning in 2005-06.

• Improved KU to 10-7 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games and 5-1 on neutral floors).

• Pushed the Jayhawks’ record in the Big 12 tourney to 18-2 in opening games (1-0 in first round and 17-2 in quarterfinals).

• Advanced Kansas to the conference tourney semifinals for the 17th time in Big 12 history and 35th time overall.

• Improved KU’s record in 67-25 in conference tournament play and 37-9 in the Big 12 tournament.

• Made KU 26-5 all-time at Sprint Center, including a 2-0 mark this season.

• Moved Self to 350-76 while at Kansas, 32-10 in conference tournament action (23-5 while at KU in the Big 12 Championship) and 557-181 overall.

• Made KU 2,151-829 all-time.

Next up

The win moved the Jayhawks into today's 6 p.m. semifinal, where they'll play Baylor, which knocked off West Virginia by 10 in Thursday's first game at Sprint Center. The Jayhawks swept the Bears during the regular season, winning a one-point dog fight in Waco and holding off a strong Baylor push in Lawrence in mid-February.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats TCU 64-59 at Big 12 Tournament

By the Numbers: Kansas beats TCU 64-59 at Big 12 Tournament

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The Day After: Almost at Oklahoma

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) guards Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) at the basket during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) guards Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) at the basket during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. by Mike Yoder

Whether you want to talk about the defensive breakdown in the final seconds or the fact that a short-handed KU team nearly walked out of Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday with a surprising victory, the so-called meaningless final game of the regular season gave us plenty of material.

The Jayhawks clearly are and should be proud of the effort they put forth without Perry Ellis (knee), Cliff Alexander (eligibility) and Brannen Greene (suspension), three regular rotation guys who missed the game. But one of the best signs for this up-and-down KU team was that no one walked out of there feeling too good about the moral victory.

Landen Lucas and Frank Mason, who both played fantastic games, focused on the bottom line — a loss — and Bill Self said he was pleased with the team's effort but not as pleased with its execution.

In many ways, that's a best case scenario right now. Had KU won, some of those execution breakdowns might have been easier to overlook or, at the very least, might not have had the same impact. Instead, the Jayhawks lost and came away from the game hellbent on tightening those areas up instead of feeling too good about coming oh-so-close in difficult circumstances.

That's the kind of adversity that tends to pop up from here on out, and this team, at least to me, seems as focused as it's been all season.

Quick takeaway

It remains to be seen how well the Jayhawks will play this postseason, but you can't question the fact that they're ready. The past three games — two victories and one loss — have all resembled Big 12 or NCAA Tournament games, with both teams fighting and scrapping for every possession, point or advantage they could get. The two victories were at home and the Jayhawks won't have that advantage the rest of the way. But Sprint Center is close to home and their showing at Oklahoma, without three regulars, has to at least be a little encouraging when they think about playing away from Allen Fieldhouse.

Three reasons to smile

1 – You can't say enough good things about what Landen Lucas did on Saturday. He was a monster on the glass, he played tough on both ends of the floor and, seemingly out of nowhere, even gave KU an offensive presence in the post that was missing with Ellis out. Lucas' confidence and production are rising to new heights every time out, which can only help this team in the win-or-go-home weeks ahead. Lucas played a team-high 33 minutes in the loss to OU and showed, as long as he continues to play like that, that he can give productive minutes not just fill in as a stop-gap option.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a 2nd-half rebound during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Norman.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) grabs a 2nd-half rebound during the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Norman. by Mike Yoder

2 – KU's offensive rebounding was insane... at least early. The Jayhawks grabbed 16 offensive boards total in this one and had 14 of them by late in the first half. Landen Lucas grabbed six offensive boards by himself and Kelly Oubre (3) and Hunter Mickelson (2) also chipped in to give KU multiple extra possessions. OU coach Lon Kruger tweaked his rebounding match-ups in the second half, which emphasized big guys blocking out instead of helping on the drives of KU's guards, and that kept Kansas from adding to its total. Still, had the Jayhawks not done that kind of work on the glass, they probably would've been down double figures at halftime instead of just two.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot  attempt by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler during the Jayhawks game Saturday, March 7, 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) blocks a shot attempt by Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler during the Jayhawks game Saturday, March 7, 2015 against the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. by Mike Yoder

3 – Even though he wound up getting the game-winning tip-in, KU's guards did a good job of making OU junior Buddy Hield work for his 18 points. Hield shot just 6-of-20 from the floor and even though Wayne Selden did next to nothing offensively, his work, in limited time, guarding Hield was very valuable. Every shot Hiled took was contested — he was 2-of-7 from three-point range — and he only got to the free throw line five times, making four. If there was an issue here, it was the fact that Hield got seven boards, one of which won the game.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Brannen Greene's last-minute suspension is a real problem. Not only did it hurt KU's chances on Saturday — Greene likely would've gotten most if not all of the 13 minutes Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk played and given his experience may have knocked down an extra shot or two that Svi missed, which could have changed the outcome — but it's also a recurring problem. Self suspended Greene for “just being irresponsible,” and every time the guy has been in trouble during his two years at KU so far, that has been the basic reason behind it.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham (4) and Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) race to a loose ball in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Norman.

Kansas guard Devonte’ Graham (4) and Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard (10) race to a loose ball in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Norman. by Mike Yoder

2 – Those who want to will blame the ankle injury, and that's a legit excuse especially when you consider it limited him to just 18 minutes, but Wayne Selden's confidence has to be a concern right now. He missed all seven shots he took, including a pair from behind the arc, and did not score a point or grab a rebound. There are enough other options, especially when Ellis returns, for this team to overcome Selden's struggles, but one can't help but wonder what it would look like if he were clicking.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hits his 3rd free-throw in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) hits his 3rd free-throw in a row after being fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the Jayhawks 75-73 loss to the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. by Mike Yoder

3 – It's a shame that the Jayhawks' defense on Oklahoma's final possession took away from the fantastic play call and clutch free throws by Frank Mason that tied the game. After watching the replay a few times, several guys were way too passive on that final drive by Jordan Woodard. It's a tough spot to be in because you definitely don't want to foul, but you can't allow a guy to split two defenders and get an open look either. Mykhailiuk came over to challenge the shot after Woodard got by Mason and Oubre and that left Hield all alone to crash the rim for the game-winner. The only good thing to come from the failure to get a stop was that the Jayhawks were absolutely sick about it. That might be what it takes to help get it fixed.

One for the road

KU's loss at Oklahoma in the regular season finale:

• Marked the first time in 10 years that the Jayhawks dropped three-straight regular-season conference road games. In late 2005, KU lost at Texas Tech (80-79, 2OT, 2/14/05), at Oklahoma (71-63, 2/21/05) and at Missouri (72-68, 3/6/05).

• Made Kansas 24-7 overall and 13-5 in Big 12 play, its lowest conference win total since going 13-3 in 2005-06.

• Dropped KU's all-time series lead vs. Oklahoma to 142-66, including 50-42 in Norman.

• Moved Self to 349-76 while at Kansas, 14-5 against Oklahoma (14-3 while at KU) and 556-181 overall.

• Made KU 2,150-829 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks will head to Kansas City, Missouri, where they'll open play in the Big 12 tournament at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Sprint Center as the top seed against the winner of the Wednesday game between the conference's No. 8 (Kansas State) and No. 9 (TCU) seeds.

By the Numbers: Oklahoma beats Kansas, 75-73

By the Numbers: Oklahoma beats Kansas, 75-73

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Spring dates and other KU football notes

With temperatures warming and March Madness nearly upon us, those in the Kansas University football program have turned their eyes toward upcoming spring practices.

First-year KU coach David Beaty announced earlier this week that the Jayhawks would kick off their 15-practice spring schedule on March 24. Beaty's first spring in charge of the program will wrap up with the April 25 spring game, scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium.

Portions of the spring practices will be open to the media and both Beaty and his assistant coaches will be available for interviews. According to the schedule released by KU earlier this week, no players will be made available to the media this spring.

Beaty and the Jayhawks enter the spring will all kinds of questions to answer and holes to fill. Although quarterback Michael Cummings distinguished himself as the better option in 2014, the battle for the starting job in 2015 appears to be an open competition. In addition, KU lost nearly all of its pass catchers and questions remain about the make-up and talent of the offensive line.

Returning running backs Corey Avery, De'Andre Mann and Taylor Cox highlight the known commodities on the KU offense.

Defensively, the Jayhawks will be looking to replace three of the five starters in the secondary along with productive defensive linemen Keon Stowers, Michael Reynolds and Tedarian Johnson, and, of course, all-Big 12 linebacker Ben Heeney.

That leaves both questions and opportunities all over the field for Clint Bowen's defense.

Several KU assistant coaches have taken to Twitter recently to announce their excitement for the upcoming spring drills and the theme of the program, at least for now, seems to be "earn it" as several recent Tweets have been accompanied by the hashtag #earnit.

Shepherd honored again

Falling under the “stop me if you've heard this one” category, former KU cornerback JaCorey Shepherd is in line to collect some more hardware for his off-the-field efforts. Shepherd, a senior from Mesquite, Texas, has been named one of 15 KU Men of Merit for 2015.

According to the release, the group includes “students, faculty and staff positively defining masculinity through challenging norms, taking action and leading by example while making contributions to university and/or the community.”

Shepherd is on schedule to graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in management and leadership with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.

He is a three-time Academic All-Big 12 Second Team honoree and a four-time Athletic Director's Honor Roll member. He recently was named the Lee Roy Selmon Community Spirit Award and Haier Achievement Award winner and was a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award. He took home the Rock Chalk Choice Award for Best Jayhawk in a Supporting Role and was the KU nominee for the 2013-14 Big 12 Conference Male Sportsperson of the Year. Shepherd is also active in the community through Big Brothers, Big Sisters where he has established a relationship with a "little brother" Christopher and at local schools where he volunteers as a reader and at carnivals, field days and football clinics.

A reception celebrating this year's Men of Merit honorees will take place Monday from 5-6:30 p.m. in the Big 12 Room of the Kansas Union.

McDougald inks with Bucs Former KU safety Bradley McDougald, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2013, has re-signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the team announced Wednesday.

McDougald, who became a starter for Tampa Bay toward the end of last season, logged 42 tackles (36 solo) during the final six weeks of 2014. New Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith raved about McDougald down the stretch last season and several outlets who cover the Buccaneers believe McDougald is in position to enter 2015 as the team's starting strong safety.

McDougald is one of four former KU defensive backs making significant contributions for their current NFL teams. Chris Harris and Aqib Talib are starting cornerbacks in Denver and Darrell Stuckey, a back-up safety and special teams captain in San Diego, just earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

Powlus back at Notre Dame Former KU quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus, who once starred and later coached at Notre Dame, has returned to his alma mater in an off-the-field role on Brian Kelly's staff.

Powlus, earlier this week, was named the Fighting Irish's director of player development. Before coming to Kansas to work for former KU coach Charlie Weis, Powlus was an assistant at Notre Dame and Akron.

During his playing days at Notre Dame, he set 20 school records from 1994-97.

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Former KU pole vaulter Jordan Scott going for gold… and green

Jordan Scott competes in the pole vault event during the Kansas Relays Friday at Memorial Stadium.

Jordan Scott competes in the pole vault event during the Kansas Relays Friday at Memorial Stadium. by John Young

For most people, the next summer Olympics, set for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, remain in the distant future.

But not for former Kansas University pole vaulter Jordan Scott, a Watkinsville, Georgia, native and 2011 KU grad who hopes to make the U.S. Olympic team for the first time.

Scott, who recently stepped away from his full-time job in the KU Athletics IT department in order to focus all of his time on training for the Olympic trials, currently is in the middle of a fund-raising effort similar to the Kickstarter campaigns used by musicians, filmmakers, artists, designers and actors.

Through rallyme.com, Scott hopes to raise $20,000 by March 17 that will aid his training expenses for the next year or so — $12,000 for travel expenses for practice and competitions, $5,000 for monthly training trips to work with his coach in Knoxville, Tennessee, and $3,000 for training equipment, which includes turning his garage in Lawrence into a weight room.

Scott came across the rallyme.com idea with help from AthleteBiz, an organization that helps promote and support track athletes across the country.

“It's such a different sport than football or basketball,” Scott said of track and field. “We're not really part of teams, but that's an organization that tries to rally support. The rallyme.com idea is for athletes and teams in sports. It's relatively new and I don't know many other track athletes who have done it.”

As of Thursday morning, Scott had reached 27 percent of his goal.

Finding the money for proper training is only half of the battle. After that, Scott would still have to make the team. He reached the final round of Olympic qualifying in both 2008 and 2012 but came up just short in the finals. However, he spent the past year ranked in the Top 5 nationally among all male pole vaulters and believes he's in the best vaulting shape of his life. Twenty-four vaulters are selected for the qualifying round and 12 of those go on to the finals. From there, the top three make the Olympic team and two others sign on as alternates.

“My goal is to win a medal in the Olympics,” Scott said. “But obviously my first goal is to get there.”

Kansas pole vaulter Jordan Scott had a special hairdo for the Kansas Relays on Friday, April 22, 2011.

Kansas pole vaulter Jordan Scott had a special hairdo for the Kansas Relays on Friday, April 22, 2011. by Kevin Anderson

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The Day After: Revenge against West Virginia

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) hoists a Big 12 championship t-shirt after the Jayhawks defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor (31) hoists a Big 12 championship t-shirt after the Jayhawks defeated the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said it best when trying to explain how his Mountaineers lost Tuesday night's game at Allen Fieldhouse, 76-69 in overtime to a Kansas team that did not lead one time in the entire second half.

Forearms on the table, shoulders slumped, head staring down, Huggins said simply, “There's just some things that happened that you can't explain.”

Several of the “things” Huggins was referencing were miscues by his team. Missed free throws in crucial moments, the full-court pass that went out of bounds late, an air-balled three-pointer in transition when the right play would've been to milk the clock and others. Huggins lamented all of those hiccups and more after watching his team cough up an 18-point lead to Kansas that helped the Jayhawks clinch Big 12 title No. 11 in a row outright.

But there was another part of Tuesday's game that no one in the West Virginia locker room wanted to talk about, and it's the one thing that has been consistent for this inconsistent Kansas team all season long — the Jayhawks benefited from playing in an incredible atmosphere full of fans who did their part to will the team to victory.

Generally speaking, I'm a believer that it's the players — and to a lesser degree the coaches — who decide the outcome of games and nothing else. But it's hard to argue with the fact that the noise, intensity and intimidation that bounced off the Allen Fieldhouse walls in those final frenzied minutes had to have at least some kind of impact on West Virginia letting its lead slip away. Huggins did not buy that either, saying, “I don't know what the building has to do with anything to be honest with you,” but whether he agreed with it really did not matter.

You could see it on the faces of the West Virginia players. The impact showed up in the plays they made and did not make down the stretch. And, as Huggins mentioned, that might be one of the only ways to explain some of those “things” that cost the Mountaineers, who played an incredible game and did so without two veteran starters.

West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins reacts to turnover near the end of regulation during the Jayhawks win against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia coach Bobby Huggins reacts to turnover near the end of regulation during the Jayhawks win against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Quick takeaway

This is a weird team with a lot of holes, a couple of significant issues and less depth than anyone expected it would have when the season began. But confidence can be a funny thing, and the way the Jayhawks won the last two games — down-to-the-wire home wins over Texas and West Virginia — has to have this team feeling good about its chances to find a way to win against anybody. KU showed more toughness in closing out both of those games than it has at just about any point this season. More important than that, the Jayhawks won Tuesday's game without getting much from injured leading scorer Perry Ellis. KU has trailed at halftime in 12 games this season, including the past three. But the Jayhawks have found a way to win most of those, with toughness being the key ingredient in all three comebacks. KU is a much different team at home than it is anywhere else, but with the rest of the season — however long it goes — coming away from Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks will have to channel the fight and ferocious play that they put forth to win the past two games to help get them through the next couple of weeks. Luckily for the Jayhawks, those two games, what worked and what didn't and the confidence and pride that came from both results will be fresh in their minds.

Three reasons to smile

1 – For the second game in a row, KU coach Bill Self turned the Jayhawks' offense into the simplest possible style when he told his team to just drive it, just drive it. Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Kelly Oubre and even Jamari Traylor did just that and the Mountaineers struggled to stop it. That style, which led to 42 points in the paint (on 21 total field goals) and 43 free throw attempts, helped KU get easy points — and I say easy because they were close to the rim, not because they were wide-open, uncontested shots — and cut into the Mountaineers' lead both with high-percentage plays and with the clock sopped in crucial moments.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives around West Virginia forward Devin Williams (5) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) drives around West Virginia forward Devin Williams (5) during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Mike Yoder

2 – I'm not sure KU would've won this game without Hunter Mickelson. His numbers were modest, though very solid and unexpected for him, but it was his energy, effort and fearless attitude early that helped keep KU in the game. With the rest of the team struggling with turnovers, missed jumpers and frustrated by West Virginia's tough, physical and intense defense, Mickelson picked up a couple of loose balls for buckets, grabbed a a couple of rebounds and even blocked a shot to help show the rest of the Jayhawks the way. He finished with 8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 steals in 13 minutes and just might have made a case for a little more playing time in the near future. He's still a step slow at times, but he's long, athletic and moves well. I can't help but think those traits for a handful of minutes will come in handy against at least one or two of KU's next few opponents, perhaps starting with Saturday at Oklahoma.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) knocks the ball loose to create a steal against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Hunter Mickelson (42) knocks the ball loose to create a steal against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

3 – There was a significant mental edge gained by the Jayhawks on Tuesday night that could help this team big time in the near future. After Devonte' Graham hit 2 free throws to tie the game at 59 with 11.5 seconds to play, West Virginia had the ball and a chance to win. A couple of weeks ago, when KU was in the same position against this same team — needing a late stop for a shot at victory — Juwan Staten got to the rim and hit the game-winner. Staten was not in uniform on Tuesday night, so there's no telling what would've happened if he had been out there. But KU's defense came up with the stop in the final seconds this time, thanks to a big-time contest of a three-pointer by Frank Mason and a blocked shot by Landen Lucas on the rebound. Coming through in that situation not only helps build KU's confidence but also can essentially wipe out or at least make the failed first attempt a wash.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – There's no two ways about it: The Perry Ellis injury is a major concern for this team. KU coach Bill Self sounded encouraged that Ellis would be able to return in time for the Big 12 tournament next week, but will he be 100 percent? Even though KU is saying it's just a sprained knee, Ellis' return to the lineup, whenever it comes, does not necessarily mean he'll pick up where he left off when he injured the knee. The only hint of a silver lining here is that KU will have a couple of games under its belt without him to get used to not being able to count on the Wichita junior for everything the way they had in the previous three or four games prior to Tuesday night.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor, right, celebrates a late basket in overtime against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Jamari Traylor, right, celebrates a late basket in overtime against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

2 – Because of their versatile collection of talented athletes, the Jayhawks can play a number of different styles. But it seems clear that the one style this team does not enjoy is the physical, in-your-face style that the Mountaineers hit them with on Tuesday night. That's not to say KU can't get physical, it just doesn't seem like it likes to play that way. Given that the Big 12 tournament figures to be a dogfight and the NCAA Tournament features physical, all-out intensity from start to finish, KU's going to have to find more comfort in playing that way if it hopes to make a run, and, again, the result of these past two games could and should go a long way in helping them get there.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for a rebound during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) battles for a rebound during the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

3 – Wayne Selden and Brannen Greene continue to struggle offensively. Selden, who shot just 2-for-7 and finished with 4 points on Tuesday night, has done enough away from the offensive end to make up for his shortcomings there throughout the season. But Greene's s struggles with his outside shot stretched into another game and have to be a concern. Greene is 0 for 11 from three-point range in the past three games and 2 for 19 in past six games. Even with that being the case, he still possesses that kind of shot that you think is going in every time if he gets an open look. He got a few of those on Tuesday and looked much less rushed and forced in putting up his shots. KU needs him to get going again, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time until he does.

One for the road

KU's crazy comeback victory over West Virginia on Tuesday:

• Clinched the Jayhawks’ 11th-consecutive Big 12 Conference regular-season title outright. Kansas now has a two-game lead in the conference race with just one game remaining.

• Made Kansas 24-6 overall, giving KU 24 victories for the 10th-straight season.

• Bumped KU's record to 13-4 in Big 12 play, marking the 10th-consecutive season that the Jayhawks recorded 13 league wins, beginning in 2005-06.

• Earned Kansas the No. 1 seed in the 2015 Big 12 Championship. KU will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday, March 12, at 1:30 p.m. on ESPN2. The Jayhawks will face the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 seed game to be played March 11. This is the seventh-consecutive year (beginning in 2009) that KU will enter the event as the No. 1 seed and the 12th time in the 19-year history of the Big 12.

• Extended Kansas’ winning streak in home finales to 33-straight seasons, which began in 1983-84.

• Pushed KU's edge in the Kansas-West Virginia series to 4-2 in favor of KU, including 3-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse.

• Marked the 24th-straight victory inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 15-0 record in the venue this season. Overall, the Jayhawks are 728-109 all-time inside their storied venue and 190-9 at home under Bill Self.

• Improved Self to 349-75 while at Kansas, 4-2 against West Virginia and 556-180 overall.

• Made KU 2,150-828 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks close out the regular season at 3 p.m. Saturday in Norman, Oklahoma, where they'll look to hold off the Sooners in the season finale. KU knocked off OU, 85-78 Jan. 19 at Allen Fieldhouse.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats West Virginia, 76-69, in overtime

By the Numbers: Kansas beats West Virginia, 76-69, in overtime

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The Day After: Out-toughing Texas

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Now that's the kind of basketball game you expect to see in March, and the Jayhawks and Longhorns brought it to us a day early.

Tough, physical basketball. A lot at stake for both teams. Pressure mounting with every tick. Multiple guys making a variety of plays on both ends of the floor, with mistakes and miscues having as big of an impact as perfectly executed offense.

I realize that most of you reading this probably did not like several aspects of Saturday's 69-64 victory by Kansas over Texas, but that's exactly the kind of basketball I love to watch so sign me up every time for a game like that.

Quick takeaway

Frank Mason said after the game that the Jayhawks had won games like that before. And while I respect what Mason probably meant — close, down-to-the-wire, make-a-big-play-late games — I don't think Kansas has won a game like that this season. That was by far the toughest I've seen this Kansas team look and the hardest I've seen them compete. The officiating was inconsistent and non-existent at times, in both directions, and, for the most part, instead of whining about the whistles or lack thereof, KU simply kept playing. Despite being without one of their bigger bodies, they battled Texas' big front line for everything they got and often did so with smaller, quicker perimeter players mixing it up. The game was far from perfect. Perry Ellis was sensational, KU's defense was solid and the Jayhawks showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that the game meant something to them. That mentality combined with someone else emerging as a second offensive weapon to Ellis just could be the recipe for a deep run later this month.

Three reasons to smile

1 – This whole Perry Ellis plays the role of Superman thing is getting out of control. The guy is in one of those zones where he pretty much outdoes what he did the game before every time out. Three straight games of 23 points or more. Carrying Kansas on offense. I Tweeted this during the game and I'll say it again here just because Ellis was that good — I think that was probably the best all-around game of Perry Ellis' career. He was a manchild on both ends of the floor and looks more confident than ever. Not to mention more capable than ever. Ellis' versatile offensive game features so many different weapons and, at times, he flashes all of them during the same possession. The guy is a beast and he's definitely in play for Big 12 player of the year honors.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) delivers a dunk against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) delivers a dunk against Texas center Prince Ibeh during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Texas' 14 blocked shots established a new school record, but the Jayhawks blocked a few shots, too. KU finished with 10 blocks — three each for Ellis and Kelly Oubre — and did so with the supposed best option at protecting the paint (Cliff Alexander) sitting on the bench in street clothes. Just another sign of how locked in these guys were defensively and how hard they competed.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) comes down from a dunk over Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) comes down from a dunk over Texas forward Myles Turner (52) during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – With Cliff Alexander stuck on the bench because of questions about his eligibility, Landen Lucas was forced to play 25 minutes and played them well. His stat line (5 points, 4 rebounds, 4 fouls) won't wow you — it pretty much never does — but the fact that he was on the floor for twice as many minutes as Jamari Traylor, who started, tells you all you need to know about how Lucas played.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Kansas made just one three-pointer and Brannen Greene missed all three shots he attempted. Just a few weeks ago, the buzz surrounding this KU team was that they were the best three-point shooting team known to man. Today, they look a little more human and seem to be consistently providing proof for why KU coach Bill Self said it's a dangerous idea to rely on three-point shooting to win games. KU was 1-for-8 from behind the arc against Texas, but the one was huge. Frank Mason drilled a three from the top of the key to put Kansas up two right after Texas had reclaimed a lead it let slip away. Eight attempts is a surprisingly low number for this team, but Self gave credit to UT coach Rick Barnes for forcing the Jayhawks to play inside the arc, which definitely had something to do with it.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Neither team reached 40 percent shooting in either half. A lot of people will call that kind of game ugly basketball. But I call it a war. Kansas shot 36.2 percent from the floor — and somehow won — and Texas shot 37.7 percent. Beyond that, the two teams who did their best to beat each other up all afternoon combined to shoot 50 free throws. If you're someone who likes to watch wide open offense and points scored in bunches, this wasn't the game for you. Credit KU's free throw shooting (26-for-32) and defense for allowing Kansas to win despite making just 21 of 58 shots.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham looks for a loose ball with Texas forward Myles Turner (52) and teammate Perry Ellis during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham looks for a loose ball with Texas forward Myles Turner (52) and teammate Perry Ellis during the first half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Just a couple of games ago, Devonte' Graham scored 20 points and looked like a completely new player bound to spend the rest of the season attacking and helping the Kansas offense reach a new gear. On Saturday he played just seven minutes and did not record a single meaningful stat. Perhaps Texas' size and style of play simply did not suit Graham's game or maybe the experience factor was the reason. Either way, Frank Mason was back to the early-season role of playing nearly the entire game (39 minutes) and there's no doubt that he took a beating while doing it. KU's gotta get more from Graham no matter who the opponent.

One for the road

Kansas' boxing-match-style victory over Texas on Saturday:

• Made the Jayhawks 23-6 overall, giving KU 23 victories for the 26th-consecutive season, beginning in 1989-90.

• Pushed KU’s record to 12-4 in Big 12 play, marking the 15th-consecutive season that the Jayhawks recorded 12 league wins, beginning in 2000-01.

• Extended KU’s all-time series advantage to 25-8, including a 13-1 mark in games played in Lawrence and an 11-1 advantage in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Marked the 23rd-straight victory inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 14-0 record in the venue this season. Overall, the Jayhawks are 727-109 all-time at AFH and 189-9 at home under Bill Self.

• Improved Self to 348-75 while at Kansas, 15-8 against Texas (15-6 at Kansas) and 555-180 overall.

• Made KU 2,149-828 all-time.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds the crowd as he leaves the floor following the Jayhawks' 69-64 win over Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self applauds the crowd as he leaves the floor following the Jayhawks' 69-64 win over Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Updated Big 12 Standings

Here's a quick look at the conference race. A KU win on Tuesday over West Virginia would guarantee the Jayhawks at least a share of consecutive Big 12 title No. 11. A loss on Tuesday, combined with an Oklahoma victory over Iowa State on Monday, would make KU's March 7 game at OU a winner-take-all contest.

Kansas 12-4
Oklahoma 11-5
Baylor 10-6
West Virginia 10-6
Iowa State 10-6
Kansas State 8-9
Oklahoma State 7-9
Texas 6-10
TCU 4-12
Texas Tech 3-14

Next up

The Jayhawks return home Tuesday for a rematch with West Virginia at 8 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU fell to the Mountaineers 62-61 two weeks ago in Morgantown. Tuesday also will be Senior Night at the Fieldhouse, where Christian Garrett will be honored for his four years with the program.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Texas, 69-64

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Texas, 69-64

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Time frame for Cliff Alexander’s return remains a mystery

Very little public information has been released about the situation surrounding Kansas University freshman forward Cliff Alexander, who sat out of Saturday's 69-64 victory over Texas at Allen Fieldhouse after the NCAA made KU officials aware of an eligibility concern surrounding Alexander.

Following Saturday's game, KU coach Bill Self admitted to having little knowledge about the situation — though it seems highly likely that Self has learned a ton more in the 24 hours since first hearing about it — but Self also made it clear that he did not believe the issue had anything to do with something the school, the coaches or the basketball program had done wrong.

While such a stance undoubtedly was refreshing for KU fans to hear, it did not erase the fact that Alexander is out indefinitely and there's no telling at this point when or even if he might return.

Sunday morning, SI.com's Brian Hamilton got in touch with the attorney helping Alexander work through the situation, Washington D.C.-based Arthur McAfee, and even McAfee was unable to shed much light on any kind of time frame.

“I can’t handicap it for you, it wouldn’t be fair to either side to do so,” McAfee told Hamilton. “Our goal is to make sure there is clarity with whatever issue [the NCAA] may have. We’re always confident that whatever information [it is] looking for is in favor of Cliff. These things take time to develop. [It has] procedures [it] must follow, and I think there’s an attempt to do it fairly quickly. We will see here in short order, I hope.”

These things certainly are not new to college athletics or college basketball or even KU, but given the fact that this one has popped up in March, with just two games remaining in the regular season, one can't help but wonder if things can and will be resolved in time for Alexander to return to the Jayhawks' lineup this season.

Despite being unable to predict how long the ordeal would last or how long Alexander would be sidelined, McAfee seemed confident that things would move quickly one way or the other.

“I would assume that [the NCAA] understands the pressures of the current basketball season,” McAfee told Hamilton, “and I’m sure [it] will try to do [its] job in a thorough fashion, to cause the least amount of harm to Cliff and the university.”

Whenever these situations arise, information can be tough to come by because everyone involved typically wants to say as little as possible as to not interfere with the process. Self said following Saturday's game that Alexander would be able to practice while things played out, but until more is known or things are resolved, that's likely all Alexander will be able to do and we probably won't be hearing from him until KU knows his status for the rest of the season.

The good news, from a Kansas perspective, is that the university acted fast in sitting Alexander and has made it clear that it is 100 percent willing to cooperate with whatever the NCAA needs. It certainly would be foolish for them not to do so, but such swift action often is looked upon favorably by the NCAA.

Stay logged on to KUsports.com for any information we or others are able to learn about the Alexander situation.

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A tip of the cap to KU’s Jamari Traylor for role in Monday night’s court-storming fiasco at K-State

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security.

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security. by Nick Krug

Lost, at least to some, in the aftermath of K-State's latest court-storming frenzy and all of the opinions and hot takes that followed it, was the admirable restraint shown by Kansas University forward Jamari Traylor.

I like Traylor. He's a friendly guy who has his limitations as a basketball player but also genuinely seems to be trying his best whenever he's on the floor.

All of that said, my respect for the Chicago junior sky-rocketed Monday night, after watching him get unnecessarily bumped and blindsided by a Kansas State fan who rushed the floor. Rather than adding a horrendous layer of nastiness to an already ugly scene, Traylor acted with intelligence.

Judging by the photograph captured by Journal-World photographer Nick Krug — which Kansas State police used to help successfully identify and find the young man who I can only assume is a K-State student — I'm guessing that the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Traylor had at least 4 or 5 inches and 50 or so pounds on the guy.

Add to that the fact that Traylor is a finely tuned, ripped Div. I athlete and the K-State student is, well, not, and it's easy to conclude that if Traylor had felt like it — or even if he simply had been in a frame of mind to react and retaliate without thinking — he could have sent the young man to the hospital in a matter of seconds.

But he didn't. After initially reacting the way any of us would've — with shock, anger and frustration over something he never saw coming — Traylor walked away and did nothing.

I'll admit my surprise. Traylor is an emotional dude and an even more emotional player and it's easy to envision a scenario in which he might have taken the other path and created an even greater mess. That's especially easy to do when you consider the fact that the incident took place mere moments after a tough loss to a heated, in-state rival.

As for the incident as a whole, I don't have much to say about it other than to point out the obvious that the situation needs to be fixed.

Players and coaches from visiting teams cannot continue to be put in harm's way — no matter how serious the threat — when home fans storm the floor to celebrate an emotionally charged upset. It's a recipe for disaster and one that hopefully will be addressed and taken care of up front before someone unable to control himself the way Traylor was goes crazy and injures someone in response to the storming.

I'm certainly not condoning it, but you'd be hard pressed to find me passing judgment on any athlete who reacted negatively when put in a situation like the one Traylor was in. Sure, you'd like to think that all athletes could see the bigger picture, realize it's just a game, just walk away and all of those other buzz phrases that sound good, but in the heat of the moment that's not so easy to do and Traylor deserves a ton of credit for handling it the right way instead of making things worse.

8:34 p.m. Update:

In related news, the young man who bumped Traylor came forward with an apology letter in the K-State Collegian.

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The Day After: Punked by the Purple People

Leading up to Monday's game at Kansas State, I told anyone who would listen that the outcome of that game would tell me a lot about this Kansas basketball team.

Go into Manhattan and win and life is good and the Jayhawks would be well on their way toward wrapping up another Big 12 title and positioned well for the postseason. Go in and lose, though, — in any manner — and I think you'd come away hard-pressed to make a case for this being a team that can expect to get past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Nothing about what I saw Monday night, during a 70-63 loss to K-State in which KU had a half a dozen opportunities to take control of the game made me change my mind.

I get the whole K-State was a desperate team, playing with passion against a heated rival. But they were also a team that just lost to TCU by 15 and Baylor by 27 and had lost seven of its last eight games. If you're a contender, you beat those teams. Home or away. If you're a contender, you don't let those teams grab on to a glimmer of hope that they can get you. If you're a contender, you find a way to win, pretty, ugly or otherwise.

KU did none of that and now enters the final three games of the conference schedule in a real dog fight for consecutive Big 12 title No. 11.

The odds are still very high that Kansas, which plays two of those three games at home, will win at least a share of the title and all will be well in the world of KU basketball. But even if that happens, I'm not sure that all is well with the Jayhawks. This team lacks mental and physical toughness and seems to be finding new ways to struggle just about every night out.

It's never easy to be the top dog that other teams hunt with reckless abandon. But if there's any team that should be used to that it's Kansas, and these Jayhawks too often look anything but comfortable out there on the floor.

Quick takeaway

I'm going to excuse Perry Ellis from the following commentary and also point out that there are times — minutes, halves even games — when a couple of other Jayhawks are the exception, as well. But it seems to me, now 28 games into the 2014-15 season, that this is a KU basketball team that lacks the necessary competitive juice to be a real contender. They don't play like they hate to lose. They don't compete to the point of exhaustion. They don't always lay it all on the line with the idea that, in any given moment, nothing else matters but getting a stop, grabbing a rebound or getting to the rim. I've said all season that this team lacks on-the-floor leadership and that's a big part of their struggles right now. It's probably too late to hope that emerges out of nowhere though, so the Jayhawks, and specifically Bill Self, are going to have to find a way around it. Ellis was a man on Monday and not just because he scored 20 points, hit 10 of 16 shots and was KU's only real offensive threat for most of the night. But also because he battled for rebounds, put the team on his back in the first half and even showed a little fire by trash talking a time or two. KU needs more of that from Ellis and others need to follow his lead.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Speaking of Perry Ellis, I thought the first half of this one was by far the best example we've seen of this team understanding that it should run every offensive possession through the junior forward from Wichita. It did not matter which players were on the floor with him, whenever they caught it, they looked at Ellis. If he was open, they passed it to him. And when he caught it, he usually got off a good shot or scored. That's a great sign for the future because this team has needed an identity all season and playing through your most experienced and probably most talented guy, who also happens to be as versatile as they come, is a pretty good identity to have.

2 – Props to Kelly Oubre for doing his best to compete. He didn't always score and it wasn't always pretty, but the freshman was aggressive when KU needed him to be and that's huge. There were times when it became way too easy for K-State to focus almost exclusively on guarding Ellis and dare other KU players to beat them. Oubre recognized that and went for it, he just wasn't quite as on as KU needed him to be. Still, he finished with 14 points, was aggressive in the half-court, took 13 shots (only two of which were three-pointers) and added seven boards in 28 minutes.

3 – Kansas did what it needed to do on the boards, out-rebounding K-State 37-28, including 14-7 on the offensive glass. A big reason that didn't matter more was because K-State shot so well, particularly in the second half, when they hit 56 percent of their shots and nearly hung 40 points. But KU held down the rebounding advantage, which led to more free throw attempts and more shots than the Wildcats.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – It didn't take a highly trained basketball eye to see which team wanted it more last night. KU battled and fought at times but the Wildcats battled and fought all the time. Even when KU hit K-State with runs, the Wildcats dug in and fought their way back. A couple of smaller areas where K-State had a subtle edge which can be huge in a two- or three-possession game included: deflections (5-4), charges taken (2-0), five-second calls forced (1-0) and, the big one, bench points (30-14).

2 – Not breaking any news here, but KU's on-the-ball defense was bad, particularly on Nigel Johnson, who played most of the second half with that look in his eye that told you he knew no one could guard him. K-State got way too many shots right at the rim and a good chunk of those were because of breakdowns in KU's man-to-man defense, which was so bad that Self even went to a box-and-one for a few possessions, something that K-State coach Bruce Weber said made him laugh because he thought his team was merely average offensively yet KU still struggled to stop them.

3 – I gotta think there's a way to get Brannen Greene more than 11 minutes. Greene has now played fewer than 20 minutes in 10 of the past 14 games. He's too good of an offensive weapon to limit his minutes like that. And, going back to what I talked about above, he's one of the few guys on this roster who cuts through the all of the tough calls, unlucky bounces and bad breaks and tries to compete, especially on the offensive end. He showed that late in the game on Monday night and it almost helped bring KU back. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, he shot the ball from three-point range as badly as we've seen him shoot it, likely the product of either being too amped up or a little overwhelmed. Regardless, if it's me, I play him more not less.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' third road loss in the past four tries:

• Made KU 22-6 overall and 11-4 in Big 12 play.

• Dropped KU’s all-time edge in the series to 188-93, including a 23-4 mark in games played in Bramlage Coliseum and a 40-5 advantage in Big 12 games.

• Marked the first time that Kansas State has defeated Kansas in consecutive meetings in Manhattan since the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons (in Ahearn Fieldhouse).

• Made Self 347-75 while at Kansas, 24-5 against Kansas State (23-5 at Kansas) and 554-180 overall.

• Made KU 2,148-828 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks return home Saturday for another showdown with Texas at 4 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU played one of its best games of the season in topping Texas 75-62 Jan. 24 in Austin, Texas.

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The Day After: Punked by the Purple People

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and guard Frank Mason III leave the floor following the Jayhawks' 70-63 loss to the Wildcats, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) and guard Frank Mason III leave the floor following the Jayhawks' 70-63 loss to the Wildcats, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Leading up to Monday's game at Kansas State, I told anyone who would listen that the outcome of that game would tell me a lot about this Kansas basketball team.

Go into Manhattan and win and life is good and the Jayhawks would be well on their way toward wrapping up another Big 12 title and positioned well for the postseason. Go in and lose, though, — in any manner — and I think you'd come away hard-pressed to make a case for this being a team that can expect to get past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Nothing about what I saw Monday night, during a 70-63 loss to K-State in which KU had a half a dozen opportunities to take control of the game made me change my mind.

I get the whole K-State was a desperate team, playing with passion against a heated rival. But they were also a team that just lost to TCU by 15 and Baylor by 27 and had lost seven of its last eight games. If you're a contender, you beat those teams. Home or away. If you're a contender, you don't let those teams grab on to a glimmer of hope that they can get you. If you're a contender, you find a way to win, pretty, ugly or otherwise.

KU did none of that and now enters the final three games of the conference schedule in a real dog fight for consecutive Big 12 title No. 11.

The odds are still very high that Kansas, which plays two of those three games at home, will win at least a share of the title and all will be well in the world of KU basketball. But even if that happens, I'm not sure that all is well with the Jayhawks. This team lacks mental and physical toughness and seems to be finding new ways to struggle just about every night out.

It's never easy to be the top dog that other teams hunt with reckless abandon. But if there's any team that should be used to that it's Kansas, and these Jayhawks too often look anything but comfortable out there on the floor.

Quick takeaway

I'm going to excuse Perry Ellis from the following commentary and also point out that there are times — minutes, halves even games — when a couple of other Jayhawks are the exception, as well. But it seems to me, now 28 games into the 2014-15 season, that this is a KU basketball team that lacks the necessary competitive juice to be a real contender. They don't play like they hate to lose. They don't compete to the point of exhaustion. They don't always lay it all on the line with the idea that, in any given moment, nothing else matters but getting a stop, grabbing a rebound or getting to the rim. I've said all season that this team lacks on-the-floor leadership and that's a big part of their struggles right now. It's probably too late to hope that emerges out of nowhere though, so the Jayhawks, and specifically Bill Self, are going to have to find a way around it. Ellis was a man on Monday and not just because he scored 20 points, hit 10 of 16 shots and was KU's only real offensive threat for most of the night. But also because he battled for rebounds, put the team on his back in the first half and even showed a little fire by trash talking a time or two. KU needs more of that from Ellis and others need to follow his lead.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Speaking of Perry Ellis, I thought the first half of this one was by far the best example we've seen of this team understanding that it should run every offensive possession through the junior forward from Wichita. It did not matter which players were on the floor with him, whenever they caught it, they looked at Ellis. If he was open, they passed it to him. And when he caught it, he usually got off a good shot or scored. That's a great sign for the future because this team has needed an identity all season and playing through your most experienced and probably most talented guy, who also happens to be as versatile as they come, is a pretty good identity to have.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) puts a shot up against Kansas State forward Nino Williams (11) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis (34) puts a shot up against Kansas State forward Nino Williams (11) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

2 – Props to Kelly Oubre for doing his best to compete. He didn't always score and it wasn't always pretty, but the freshman was aggressive when KU needed him to be and that's huge. There were times when it became way too easy for K-State to focus almost exclusively on guarding Ellis and dare other KU players to beat them. Oubre recognized that and went for it, he just wasn't quite as on as KU needed him to be. Still, he finished with 14 points, was aggressive in the half-court, took 13 shots (only two of which were three-pointers) and added seven boards in 28 minutes.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

3 – Kansas did what it needed to do on the boards, out-rebounding K-State 37-28, including 14-7 on the offensive glass. A big reason that didn't matter more was because K-State shot so well, particularly in the second half, when they hit 56 percent of their shots and nearly hung 40 points. But KU held down the rebounding advantage, which led to more free throw attempts and more shots than the Wildcats.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – It didn't take a highly trained basketball eye to see which team wanted it more last night. KU battled and fought at times but the Wildcats battled and fought all the time. Even when KU hit K-State with runs, the Wildcats dug in and fought their way back. A couple of smaller areas where K-State had a subtle edge which can be huge in a two- or three-possession game included: deflections (5-4), charges taken (2-0), five-second calls forced (1-0) and, the big one, bench points (30-14).

Kansas State forward Nino Williams (11) pulls a rebound away from Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. At right is Kansas State guard Nigel Johnson (23).

Kansas State forward Nino Williams (11) pulls a rebound away from Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the second half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. At right is Kansas State guard Nigel Johnson (23). by Nick Krug

2 – Not breaking any news here, but KU's on-the-ball defense was bad, particularly on Nigel Johnson, who played most of the second half with that look in his eye that told you he knew no one could guard him. K-State got way too many shots right at the rim and a good chunk of those were because of breakdowns in KU's man-to-man defense, which was so bad that Self even went to a box-and-one for a few possessions, something that K-State coach Bruce Weber said made him laugh because he thought his team was merely average offensively yet KU still struggled to stop them.

Frustrated, Kansas head coach Bill Self wipes his face after a late Kansas State bucket during the second half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Frustrated, Kansas head coach Bill Self wipes his face after a late Kansas State bucket during the second half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

3 – I gotta think there's a way to get Brannen Greene more than 11 minutes. Greene has now played fewer than 20 minutes in 10 of the past 14 games. He's too good of an offensive weapon to limit his minutes like that. And, going back to what I talked about above, he's one of the few guys on this roster who cuts through the all of the tough calls, unlucky bounces and bad breaks and tries to compete, especially on the offensive end. He showed that late in the game on Monday night and it almost helped bring KU back. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, he shot the ball from three-point range as badly as we've seen him shoot it, likely the product of either being too amped up or a little overwhelmed. Regardless, if it's me, I play him more not less.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' third road loss in the past four tries:

• Made KU 22-6 overall and 11-4 in Big 12 play.

• Dropped KU’s all-time edge in the series to 188-93, including a 23-4 mark in games played in Bramlage Coliseum and a 40-5 advantage in Big 12 games.

• Marked the first time that Kansas State has defeated Kansas in consecutive meetings in Manhattan since the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons (in Ahearn Fieldhouse).

• Made Self 347-75 while at Kansas, 24-5 against Kansas State (23-5 at Kansas) and 554-180 overall.

• Made KU 2,148-828 all-time.

A lone Kansas fan watches the scoreboard in the middle of a raucous sea of purple during the second half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

A lone Kansas fan watches the scoreboard in the middle of a raucous sea of purple during the second half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

Next up

The Jayhawks return home Saturday for another showdown with Texas at 4 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU played one of its best games of the season in topping Texas 75-62 Jan. 24 in Austin, Texas.

By the Numbers: Kansas State beats KU, 70-63

By the Numbers: Kansas State beats KU, 70-63

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K-State court-storming drawing reviews from several organizations

The Big 12 Conference, both Kansas University and Kansas State University, as well as the K-State Police Department all have spent the early part of Tuesday reviewing the court-storming scene that turned wild following the K-State men's basketball team's 70-63 upset victory over No. 8 Kansas Monday night at Bramlage Coliseum.

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security.

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security. by Nick Krug

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security.

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security. by Nick Krug

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security.

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security. by Nick Krug

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security.

In this sequence of images a court-rusher checks Kansas forward Jamari Traylor on his way toward the Kansas players before being temporarily stopped by security. by Nick Krug

Early Tuesday morning, K-State athletic director John Currie released the following statement about the incident:

"On behalf of President Schulz and K-State Athletics, I apologize to Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, Coach Bill Self and the KU basketball team for the unfortunate situation in which they were placed last night at the conclusion of our basketball game. "Our security staff, which in similar past postgame celebrations has, according to our procedures and rehearsals, provided a solid human barrier to allow the teams to conduct a postgame handshake and safely leave the court, was unable to get into proper position quickly enough last night and was overwhelmed by the fans rushing the floor. "K-State prides itself on providing a great game atmosphere in a safe environment and did successfully execute our security plan when we defeated KU last year in Bramlage as well as in 2011. Although no one was hurt last night, we fell short of our expectations for securing the court and escorting KU to its locker room without incident. We are disappointed that we did not do better for the KU team. "We are reviewing our procedures internally and consulting with our law enforcement partners to determine any steps necessary to improve our gameday security. "Additionally, we are actively reviewing video and working in concert with law enforcement to identify any fan who intentionally touched visiting players or personnel. We will take appropriate action with such identified persons, including turning over all evidence to law enforcement so that any applicable charges can be filed. "Early this morning I met with Student Governing Association President Reagan Kays and Vice-President for Student Life Pat Bosco who are supportive of these steps. While we are proud of the incredible atmosphere of Bramlage Coliseum and the passion of K-State students and fans, we are saddened by the insistence of some fans to sully the image of our great institution with audible profane chants. We will continue to work with our student leadership to provide a better example of sportsmanship for our audiences. "Congratulations are still in order for our coaches and student-athletes for their tremendous effort last night, and we look forward to Saturday’s home finale against Iowa State."

A short while later, the Big 12 Conference also released a statement that explained it was reviewing the actions of all of those involved.

"The Big 12 Conference office and the two schools are reviewing the postgame celebration that occurred at the conclusion of last night's Kansas at Kansas State game. In accordance with Conference policy, home team game management is responsible for the implementation of protocols to provide for the safety of all game participants, officials and fans."

The incident, which included K-State fans slamming into KU players and coaches, KU assistant Kurtis Townsend forcefully restraining a KSU fan from taunting KU players and general chaos and pandemonium, has become a hot topic nationally, as several media outlets have made this latest incident of college-celebrations-gone-wild the focal point for renewed debate on whether there is a place for such scenes in college athletics.

In addition, K-State police are looking for the public's help in identifying the fan who slammed into Jamari Traylor shortly after the storming began.

None by K-State Police

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Former KU LB Ben Heeney shines at NFL Combine

Kansas University linebacker Ben Heeney jumps during a drill at the NFL football scouting combine Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, in Indianapolis.

Kansas University linebacker Ben Heeney jumps during a drill at the NFL football scouting combine Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, in Indianapolis.

During the several weeks he spent in Florida training for the NFL scouting combine, former Kansas University linebacker Ben Heeney's main goal was to prepare himself to run a 40-yard dash time in the 4.6-second range.

Sunday, on the Lucas Oil Stadium turf in Indianapolis, Heeney did one better by setting a new top mark for linebackers in the 60-yard shuttle drill with a time of 11.06 seconds. That time was the fastest by a linebacker at the combine in at least the last decade and highlighted a stellar day for the Hutchinson native.

"Ben Heeney's Spiderweb is going to be pretty awesome," Tweeted Mike Loyko, a New England Patriots and NFL Draft Analyst and Head Scout and Editor at NEPatriotsDraft, a USA Today Digital Media partner. "Perhaps the best agility performance in at least 10 years."

Heeney also showed well in the 40, cracking the 4.6 mark with an official 40 time of 4.59 seconds, the fourth fastest among all linebackers in Indianapolis.

Heeney's time was just seven-one-hundredths slower than big-time names like Oregon quarterback and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota (4.52), Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon (4.52) and even faster than Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon (4.61) and UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley (4.63), all players expected to go much higher in the upcoming draft than Heeney.

Heeney's fast sprint accounted for just part of what turned out to be a fantastic all-around day for the former KU captain who was among the Big 12's top defensive players during the past three seasons.

Heeney also earned top-performer billing among all linebackers in attendance by finishing first in the three-cone drill (6.68 seconds) and 20-yard shuttle drill (4.0).

Add those performances to his 10-foot leap in the broad jump (14th place), 19 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press (24th) and 33.5-inch vertical jump (19th) and Heeney likely did nothing but help himself in the eyes of the dozens of NFL scouts and coaches in the building on Sunday afternoon.

Heeney will return to Florida tonight and be back in Kansas on Wednesday. From there, he'll continue training for KU's upcoming pro timing day — where he may elect to attempt to improve any of those marks — and prepare for the NFL Draft.

Former KU cornerback JaCorey Shepherd will be on the field in Indy on Monday, going through the same tests and drills that Heeney and the linebackers went through on Sunday. Like Heeney, Shepherd has spent a lot of the past several weeks hoping to fine-tune his 40 time, but there's a chance that a tweaked hamstring that kept him out of the Senior Bowl might keep him from running at the combine.

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The Day After: Taking down TCU

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) gets to the bucket against TCU center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas forward Jamari Traylor.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) gets to the bucket against TCU center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. At right is Kansas forward Jamari Traylor. by Nick Krug

There was nothing about Saturday's match-up with TCU that made the excite-o-meter go off.

It wasn't a big game against one of the top challengers in the Big 12, it wasn't hyped up national showdown against a Top 25 team and it wasn't even a game that included a revenge angle or any kind of venom that would have the Fieldhouse faithful in a frenzy. Instead, it was just another late-February, Saturday afternoon home game that everyone expected KU to roll in.

The Jayhawks didn't exactly roll — winning 81-72 — but they did play well enough to prevent the Frogs from ever throwing a serious challenge at the Jayhawks and their one-game lead in the Big 12 race.

If there was one moment that stood out to me more than any other, it was the ovation Perry Ellis got during pregame introductions. Ellis took a ton of heat for missing a makable game-winner last Monday at West Virginia. He was trashed on message boards and Twitter, blasted by KU fans everywhere who like to believe that it's easy to just dunk everything and left Morgantown feeling down on himself for the miss.

Clearly, the 16,300 fans at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday didn't care. Ellis got the loudest ovation I've heard a KU player get during intros this season. And he responded by making 9-of-10 shots and scoring a game-high 23 points.

It's a small detail and one that probably didn't have a whole lot to do with the outcome of the game, but it was definitely cool to see a fan base rally behind their guy.

Quick takeaway

TCU showed up to compete and easily could have given the Jayhawks a little more of a scare than they did based on the way they played. TCU senior Trey Zeigler said he thought the Horned Frogs played better in Lawrence than they did in Fort Worth, even though the final score was closer in the first meeting between these two. Thankfully for the Jayhawks, who saw starters Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden and Cliff Alexander combine for just eight points on two made field goals, the Jayhawks' defense was up to the challenge. KU limited TCU to 41 percent shooting from the floor and held smooth guard Kyan Anderson, who has had a history of playing very well against KU to 14 points on just 4-of-14 shooting. TCU coach Trent Johnson talked about KU's defense making opposing offenses feel like they have to be perfect on just about every possession, and that burden ultimately led to a few turnovers and missed opportunities that wound up being the difference.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Every once in a while the two best dudes on a team step up and have the two best games on a given day. Saturday was one of those days for Kansas, as freshman point guard Devonte' Graham and junior forward Perry Ellis both eclipsed the 20-point mark and missed just one shot between them while tallying more than half of KU's 81 points. Graham was ultra-aggressive and played with toughness and confidence. Ellis played like a man who knew he couldn't be stopped — again. If either guy comes close to matching that performance the rest of the way, this team will be a tough out for just about anybody.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) puts up a shot over TCU guard Trey Zeigler (32) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) puts up a shot over TCU guard Trey Zeigler (32) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – How about Brannen Greene's work on the boards? The guy known mostly as a deadly three-point marksman nearly led the Jayhawks in rebounds, with six (one behind Ellis' seven), and he did his work in a number of ways, which included mixing it up with bigger bodies, crashing the offensive glass and cleaning up the easy board and kick-starting a fast-break. Greene is long enough and athletic enough to be a factor on the glass. It all just comes down to mindset for him. And, clearly on Saturday, he was ready to rebound.

Kansas team manager Chris Huey checks into the game with less than a minute left, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas team manager Chris Huey checks into the game with less than a minute left, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – This last one is easy. That whole team manager Chris Huey suits up for the first and only time in his career and plays 35 seconds was way too cool. The fact that the kid got this chance is a real credit to both him and what he's all about and KU coach Bill Self, who did not have to even think about doing something like that. Neat moment, one you can't help but feel good about no matter who you cheer for.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – KU's first-half offense was pretty sloppy. Even Perry Ellis, who looked locked in from the jump on Saturday, only took four shots. The Jayhawks did shoot 54 percent from the floor in the first half, but that was more a product of how they scored — nearly half of their points came in the paint — and not how they ran offense. It improved in the second half, as the ball movement got better and KU continually worked through Ellis in the post.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) catches a pass in the paint before TCU forward Amric Fields (4) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) catches a pass in the paint before TCU forward Amric Fields (4) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Twice during Saturday's victory the Jayhawks turned it over on inbounds plays following timeouts. One led to an easy dunk for the Horned Frogs and the other prevented KU from padding its lead. They may have been able to survive such mental lapses this time around — largely because they were at home and TCU is not quite ready to compete on the same stage as Kansas — but those are the kinds of things that will kill a team when the games start to really count.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) hangs for a shot between TCU forward Kenrich Williams (34) and forward Chris Washburn during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) hangs for a shot between TCU forward Kenrich Williams (34) and forward Chris Washburn during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – It was another rough day for Cliff Alexander, who made his fourth consecutive start but didn't do much more. Alexander made just one of four shots and finished with 2 rebounds and 3 fouls while playing just 11 minutes overall and only 3 minutes in the second half. I've been asked a ton during the past few weeks if it seems like it's time to concede that Alexander just might not become the player people thought he could or would become this season. Each time, I said no. It was too early to claim that, I thought. I'm not so sure any more, though. And this has nothing to do with motor, effort or desire, which were Alexander's issues midway through the season. He just too often looks a little lost out there and a step or two slow because of it. Maybe that's because he's had more trouble adjusting to the college game or Bill Self's coaching than people expected. Maybe it's just who he is. Either way, I don't think Alexander's a guy KU should expect a ton from the rest of the way. Does that mean he can't have some big games? Of course not. He absolutely can. But those games, if they come, will likely be the result of one thing and one thing alone — Alexander's ability to rebound and get points that way. All of that said, he's still this team's best option at altering shots in the lane, so the Jayhawks need to find a way to keep him involved enough for him to fulfill that role. Tough spot for everyone involved right now.

One for the road

KU's blue-collar victory over an improved TCU team:

• Made the Jayhawks 22-5 overall, marking the 26th-straight season that they have won 22 games.

• Improved Kansas to 11-3 in league play, giving KU 11 or more conference victories for the 21st-consecutive season.

• Extended KU’s home-court winning streak to 22 games, making KU 726-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including 188-9 under Bill Self.

• Pushed KU’s edge in the all-time series vs. TCU to 9-1, including a 4-0 mark in games played in Allen Fieldhouse.

• Improved Self to 347-74 while at Kansas, 13-4 against TCU (7-1 at Kansas) and 554-179 overall.

• Made KU 2,148-827 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks head west for a Big Monday match-up with Kansas State at 8 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. KU knocked off K-State 68-57 Jan. 31 in Lawrence, in a game that KU led 20-5 and never looked back.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats TCU 81-72

By the Numbers: Kansas beats TCU 81-72

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The Day After: Another battle with the Bears

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1), forward Perry Ellis, center, and guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrate with Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) after Lucas took a charge from Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1), forward Perry Ellis, center, and guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrate with Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) after Lucas took a charge from Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The Kansas University men's basketball team took an important step toward wrapping up Big 12 title No. 11 in a row on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, with a 74-64 victory over 16th-ranked Baylor.

The reason the victory was important — other than the fact that they're all important — is that Baylor played well enough and was tough enough to win Saturday's game, yet Kansas didn't let that happen.

The Bears did everything they could to take control of the game early and had Kansas on its heels. But the Jayhawks never panicked — credit Bill Self and his icy cool demeanor for a lot of that — and cut into the lead by halftime, stormed back into it to start the second half and finished with the kind of run you typically see Kansas start games with.

Credit Baylor for preventing that run from coming until the final few minutes, but credit Kansas for playing at such a high level and getting quality and clutch performances, big and small, from multiple players.

The second hard-earned victory of the season over Scott Drew and company improved the Jayhawks to 21-4 on the season and 10-2 in Big 12 play with six games to go.

Given that Oklahoma and West Virginia — both losers on Saturday — now each have five losses in conference play, it looks as if the only team that can catch KU is Iowa State, which sits at 8-4 in Big 12 play and still has to play at Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State and home vs. Oklahoma.

Quick takeaway

So much has been made lately about KU's three-point shooting — do they do it too much, do they do it enough, should they do it more, can they keep it up at their current pace — but Saturday's game was won in a much more conventional manner. KU's offense displayed good ball movement, players big and small got touches in the paint and the Jayhawks made a more normal 6 of 18 (33 percent) from three-point range. Considering it came against a quality team that will fight you for 40 minutes, I'm guessing this only elevated KU's confidence as a whole. Now the Jayhawks have a fresh reminder that, even if they're not shooting a ridiculous percentage from three-point rang, they can knock off a good team and win in other ways. Now the next step is to do it on the road and no place will provide a better test than Morgantown, West Virginia on Monday night.

Three reasons to smile

1 – Kansas closed the game like champions. Not only did KU's defense step up and make life miserable for the Bears in the final few minutes, but the Jayhawks also made shots and refused to leave the door even slightly cracked for a possible BU comeback. KU hit 6 of its final 10 shots, while limiting Baylor to just 2 makes in its final 10.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) soars in to the bucket as he is fouled by Baylor guard Kenny Chery (1) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr. (1) soars in to the bucket as he is fouled by Baylor guard Kenny Chery (1) during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Wayne Selden did what leaders do to open the second half. After doing next to nothing to speak of during 18 minutes in the first half, Selden exploded out of the locker room with seven straight points to put the Jayhawks right back into the thick of the game and breathe some life into an uneasy Allen Fieldhouse crowd. Selden played with energy, aggression and in attack-mode during those first few minutes of the second half, when he scored 12 points and went to the free throw line nine times.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) claps after forcing a turnover by Baylor guard Kenny Chery (1) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham (4) claps after forcing a turnover by Baylor guard Kenny Chery (1) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

3 – Devonte Graham's line won't knock your socks off, but he made a couple of big plays when he was in there. The most obvious was his forced five-second call on Kenny Chery, who inexplicably kept pounding the ball despite being hounded by Graham near mid-court. Another came just moments before that when Graham alertly tried to dive in for the steal when Chery allowed his eyes to leave the ball while looking back to the Baylor bench for instructions. The officials ruled that Graham knocked the ball out of bounds, but KU coach Bill Self did not care. He went nuts, jumping up and down while elebrating Graham's hustle play. Those were two big plays during KU's fabulous finish, but the more important element was that they provided proof that Graham is not allowing his offensive struggles to affect his overall game. The freshman point guard has made just two shots and scored eight points in KU's last five games.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – Bill Self said Cliff Alexander played fine in this one, but his second half was certainly not part of that equation. The big man who made his second consecutive start played just seven minutes in the second half and did not score while grabbing three rebounds, picking up one foul and coughing up one turnover. Self said Baylor's zone defense was tough on Alexander and that's why Landen Lucas, who was great, got the bulk of Alexander's minutes in the second half. The fact that Lucas remains ready is a huge luxury for this team. The fact that Alexander, now 25 games in, still has moments out there where he doesn't quite know what's going on, is a huge concern.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) celebrates after hitting a three against Baylor during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) celebrates after hitting a three against Baylor during the second half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

2 – Brannen Greene made just 1 of 5 three-pointers in 20 minutes. The only reason that his off shooting night falls in the category of “reasons to sigh” is because Greene has been so hot during Big 12 play that you legitimately think every shot he takes is going in. He rushed a couple in this game — can you blame him? — and probably just never found his rhythm. I wouldn't look into it any deeper than that.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) tosses a pass around Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (35) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2).

Kansas guard Frank Mason III (0) tosses a pass around Baylor forward Johnathan Motley (35) during the first half, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. At left is Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2). by Nick Krug

3 – Just when you want to say that Frank Mason had an off night, you look down at the stat sheet and see that he had 8 assists, 4 rebounds and played 31 minutes. However, because he shot just 1-of-5 from the floor and finihshed with just five points, that qualifies as off for the KU sophomore who has had a fantastic and remarkably consistent season. Mason missed the only two three-pointers he tried and turned it over twice. He did hit 3 of 4 free throw attempts, though, so to call his night a reason to sigh is a bit of a stretch unless you are specifically talking about his scoring.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' come-from-behind victory over Baylor:

• Made Kansas 21-4 overall and gave Kansas 21 victories for the 26th-straight season.

• Pushed KU to 10-2 in league play, giving KU 10 or more conference victories for the 20th-consecutive season.

• Pushed KU's edge in the all-time series vs. Baylor to 23-4, including a 13-0 mark in games played in Lawrence.

• Marked KU's fourth-straight win against Baylor.

• Extended KU’s win streak inside Allen Fieldhouse to 21 games, the 11th-longest home winning streak in KU history.

• Improved the Jayhawks to 12-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 725-109 all-time in the venue and 187-9 under head coach Bill Self.

• Improved Self to 346-73 while at Kansas, 15-4 against Baylor (15-3 at Kansas) and 553-178 overall.

• Made KU 2,147-825 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks head to West Virginia for a Big Monday showdown with one of the best pressure defense teams in the country. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. on ESPN.

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Baylor, 74-64

By the Numbers: Kansas beats Baylor, 74-64

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The Day After: A three-point takedown at Texas Tech

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) shoots a three-point basket against Texas Tech during the first half Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) shoots a three-point basket against Texas Tech during the first half Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Judging by the response on Twitter, our live game blog and the comments section below the stories from last night's 73-51 victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas, we may have entered the point in the season where three-point lovers have separated themselves from three-point likers.

Tuesday night in its trouncing of Texas Tech, the Kansas University men's basketball team, once again, was red hot from three-point land, finishing with 11 makes in 20 attempts, including 6 of 7 in the second half.

The Jayhawks made 10 of 20 in Saturday's loss to Oklahoma State and, for the season, now have made eight or more threes in a game 11 times in 24 tries and are shooting .409 from three-point range as a team. In case you're unaware, that's damn good.

The question that has popped up — and in some ways divided the KU fan base — is should KU shoot more three-pointers because the team has proven to be so effective from behind the arc? KU coach Bill Self doesn't think so, calling such a high percentage from three-point land “fool's gold.”

I happen to agree with Self and think it's risky business to become so reliant on the three-point shot, regardless of a team's percentage from deep or the fact that three is worth more than two.

Either way you slice it, this team appears, at least for now, to be most comfortable hanging out behind the line and firing away. Because the Jayhawks don't have a dominant (or even reliable) low post presence, this, to many, seems to be the best way for KU to run offense. But as Self pointed out in his postgame comments, there are plenty of ways to score outside of the post and inside of the three-point line. Transition buckets, 15-footers, drives to the basket that produce layups, dunks or free throws. All are viable options that well-rounded offensive teams routinely employ. This team has not consistently shown it understands that and until it does, it looks like it'll be a live-by-the-three-die-by-the-three scenario for the Jayhawks.

Time will tell how that works out, but at 20-4 on the season and 9-2 in Big 12 play, it's hard to argue too strongly against it, regardless of your basketball philosophies.

Quick takeaway

Cliff Alexander made just his second start of the season in this one and he looked much better against the Red Raiders than he has in a number of games. Alexander was active in the paint, both in protecting the rim and cleaning up the glass, and, although he proved over and over that he still has a long way to go in terms of playing fast and free and avoiding silly fouls or bad mistakes, what Alexander offered was much better than what Jamari Traylor has brought to the floor in recent games. Traylor still played 19 minutes and has a role on this team. But if the Jayhawks want to be true contenders, they need to bring Alexander along to the next level and Tuesday night was a good step toward that progress.

Three reasons to smile

1 – After firing up 13 three-pointers in the first half, the Jayhawks heeded their coach's words in the second half and put greater emphasis on scoring inside the arc. Fans don't have to like it, players don't have to like it, but if Self says they need to do it, they probably should find a way to do it. KU made 6 of 7 three-point shots in the second half but also scored 28 points inside the three-point line, one more than the Jayhawks scored in the entire first half. Nobody here is arguing against the three-point shot as an offensive weapon, but, at least to me, it's clear that this team is best when it finds balance.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) dunks off a pass from Frank Mason III, in the second half of the Jayhawks 73-51 win over Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) dunks off a pass from Frank Mason III, in the second half of the Jayhawks 73-51 win over Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

2 – Even though it didn't last, I thought KU delivered a great response to a crappy start to Tuesday night's game. Credit two Cliff Alexander blocks and a pair of three-pointers, along with better overall urgency than we've seen of late, for putting the Jayhawks up 8-2 and eventually 15-4 when they easily could have been trailing during the first few minutes given the number of turnovers and missed shots they had in the initial stretch of the game.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) left attempts a block on  Texas Tech guard Robert Turner (14) during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) left attempts a block on Texas Tech guard Robert Turner (14) during the first half on Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

3 – I already mentioned Alexander's solid game, but I think the one aspect of it that stood out the most was his defensive presence in the paint. Alexander finished with four of KU's seven blocks and each one of them brought back oh-so-subtle visions of Jeff Withey — dare we call it a Cliffy Block Party? — in that Alexander didn't just try to block the shot, he tried to humiliate the guy taking the shot. That kind of edge and presence could be huge for the Jayhawks down the stretch.

Three reasons to sigh

1 – As good as the Jayhawks were during that opening stretch of the game, they were equally as bad in allowing the Red Raiders to tie the game at 20 and be in the game at the half. I realize that no matter how good you are, you can't just blow everybody out, but had Wayne Selden not knocked down that three from the corner — which Frank Mason should get most of the credit for after making a tremendous play and pass to get him the ball — KU would have led by just two over a lousy team after jumping out to a 15-4 lead. The strong second half made that a mere afterthought, but it speaks further to this team's inconsistency.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III, (0) passes from beneath the basket during the Jayhawks 73-51 win against Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Frank Mason III, (0) passes from beneath the basket during the Jayhawks 73-51 win against Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena. by Mike Yoder

2 – We've already talked a lot about three-pointers in this Day After and I don't want anyone to think that I'm anti-three-pointer by any means. But when you see a team get three three-pointers blocked in a single half, I think you're looking at a team that has fallen a little too in love with the long-range bomb. In at least two of the three situations where Tech blocked a KU trey, a simple shot fake followed by two dribbles and a pull-up would have produced a wide open 15-foot jumper. I know that sounds a little too Bob Knight for some of you, but doesn't it also sound better than getting a three-pointer blocked? I'm all for the three-pointers if they come within the flow of the offense, are a result of good ball movement and are open looks. Anything else, though, seems like lazy, selfish basketball.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) heads to the basket for two points on a fast break against Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas guard Brannen Greene (14) heads to the basket for two points on a fast break against Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

3 – Piggy-backing on the three-point theme of this blog, I'd really like to see Kelly Oubre be one of the guys who attacks the rim more. I think his frame, length and general good size are all ideal for a guy who could slash to the rim and, at the very least, draw some more fouls. Oubre finished with just six points — on two made three-pointers and zero attempts from inside the arc — and has looked a little out of sorts offensively for the past few games. I know people didn't always think Andrew Wiggins was all he should have been offensively, but that guy knew how to attack the paint and get to the free throw line and KU would definitely benefit from someone on this team filling that role, as well.

One for the road

The Jayhawks' second rout of the Red Raiders this season...

• Marked the 26th year in a row that Kansas has tallied 20 or more wins, the longest active streak in the NCAA. (North Carolina holds the record with 31-consecutive 20 win seasons from 1970-71 to 2000-01).

• Guaranteed KU at least a .500 record in conference play, which is also the 26th-consecutive season that KU has posted a .500 or better record in league action (beginning in 1989-90), tying the third-longest active streak in the NCAA with Kentucky and behind only Xavier (32) and Murray State (27).

• Extended KU’s win streak against Texas Tech to 12 in a row and improved KU’s all-time series advantage against Texas Tech to 29-4, including a 22-4 mark in Big 12 games.

• Marked the fifth straight win for KU against TTU inside United Supermarkets Arena (formerly United Spirit Arena), and improved Kansas to 11-4 against Tech in Lubbock (7-3 in Tech's current arena).

• Improved Self to 345-73 while at Kansas, 16-6 against Texas Tech (15-3 at Kansas) and 552-178 overall.

• Made KU 2,146-826 all-time.

Next up

The Jayhawks return home Saturday, when they'll take on No. 21 Baylor at noon at Allen Fieldhouse. The last time these two faced each other,the Jayhawks beat the Bears 56-55 Jan. 7 in Waco, Texas, in a hard-fought Big 12 opener for Kansas.

By the Numbers: Kansas wins at Texas Tech, 73-51

By the Numbers: Kansas wins at Texas Tech, 73-51

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Talent in Kansas? Big 12 football programs found plenty

With national signing day now in the rearview mirror, ESPN.com Big 12 blogger Jake Trotter recently scoured the conference's recruiting classes and found that 115 of the 229 players who signed with Big 12 schools this February were from Texas.

Big surprise, right? Of course not. But the state that ranked third on the list just might be.

Kansas, that's right the Sunflower State you all know and love, ranked third in the 2015 class with 13 athletes signing national letters of intent with Big 12 schools this season.

The Jayhawks, who finished with 24 players in their 2015 class, picked up two of those, with three-star Bishop Miege quarterback Ryan Willis and three-star Butler C.C. offensive lineman Will Smith inking with Kansas. Not surprisingly, Kansas State picked up the lion's share of that group, with six of the 20 signed players in K-State's 2015 class coming from Kansas.

All six of those — along with three others who Rivals.com lists as committed but not yet signed — are Kansas high school prospects, including Lawrence's own Scott Frantz, a Free State High offensive lineman, who had offers from Iowa State, Kansas, Miami (Florida), Minnesota, Missouri and Purdue among others.

Outside of those two Big 12 schools, Oklahoma State (3) and Iowa State (2) also plucked a few players out of the Sunflower State, with all five of their signees coming from the Kansas juco scene.

Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Boise State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and roughly two dozen other schools also signed Kansas kids, most of those from the juco ranks. The combination of the prominent place in the Big 12 standings along with the attention given to Kansas prospects from conferences around the country only adds clarity to the reason first-year KU coach David Beaty and his staff are striving to make in-state recruits a big-time priority for the future of Kansas football.

"We want to do a good job of keeping the best players in the state of Kansas right here at home at their university. That is top priority for us, and we do that by building relationships not only with them but with their coaches and their parents and the families and the fans. We want to develop a walk-on program because we only get so many scholarships a year, and there's a lot of guys out there in the state of Kansas that want to be a part of their great program, and that walk-on program can be powerful. We want it to be the most powerful walk-on program in the country, and that's a goal of ours. We want to open the doors to more than just 25 a year of the great athletes that there are here in the great state of Kansas. We truly want this to become a Kansas identity football team. We're going to hit the state of Texas, we're going to hit the state of Oklahoma, we're going to hit the state of Missouri, but make no mistake, it'll be a Kansas identity football team." — DAVID BEATY, Dec. 8, 2014

Here's a look at Trotter's per-state break down of recruiting in the Big 12 in 2015:

  1. Texas — 115
  2. Florida – 19
  3. Kansas – 13
  4. Georgia – 11
  5. Louisiana – 11
  6. Oklahoma – 10
  7. California – 8
  8. Mississippi – 6
  9. Maryland – 5
  10. Ohio – 4
  11. Illinois – 3
  12. Iowa – 3
  13. Missouri – 2
  14. New Jersey – 2
  15. Virginia – 2
  16. West Virginia – 2

Alabama, Arizona, Hawaii, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Canada all had one each.

For a complete look at some more interesting recruiting trends in the Big 12 this year, including how the conference's football programs are expanding their recruiting into new territory, check out Trotter's blog.

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Iowa State’s Big Monday loss at Oklahoma a big development in Big 12 race

Kansas head coach Bill Self grins as he waves to the fans following the Jayhawks' 89-76 win over Iowa State on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self grins as he waves to the fans following the Jayhawks' 89-76 win over Iowa State on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For roughly the first 15 minutes of the Iowa State-Oklahoma Big Monday basketball game in Norman, Oklahoma, the Cyclones looked like they were ready to put some real pressure on Kansas for the top spot in the Big 12 standings.

A victory by ISU would've pulled the Cyclones within a half game of the Jayhawks and put at least palpable pressure on the team that has ruled the conference for the past decade.

But OU, which trailed by as many as 10 late in the first half, closed the half with a monster run to tie the game at 46 and then shot lights out in the second half while building a 20-point lead en route to a 94-83 victory.

The win moved OU into second place at 8-4 in Big 12 play and dropped Iowa State to third at 7-4. With KU sitting at 8-2 heading into Tuesday's night's road battle at Texas Tech, the Jayhawks, once again, appear to be in great shape in the race to win their 11th straight Big 12 title, two wins clear of both teams in the loss column with eight games to play.

Here's the thing. Both Oklahoma and Iowa State are plenty talented enough to threaten KU's streak, but both teams are running out of time. The Cyclones don't play KU again and, therefore, will need some serious help to catch Kansas. Oklahoma has one more head-to-head match-up with KU on the schedule, but it's not until March 7. Given the way things have played out in the Big 12 Conference so far this season, is there anyone out there who thinks OU will avoid suffering another loss before then?

One thing that's important to remember is that these two teams play each other again — Monday, March 2 in Ames, Iowa — so at least one of them is guaranteed to finish with at least five conference losses.

West Virginia, at 6-4, is the only other team in the Big 12 with four losses, but the Mountaineers have lost two straight and still have to go to Ames, Lawrence, Stillwater and Waco. WVU has the most to gain in that it plays KU head-to-head two more times, but Bob Huggins' squad also has the toughest remaining schedule of the four Big 12 title contenders.

Real quick, let's take a look at KU's remaining road to Big 12 title No. 11 by examining the remaining schedules for all four teams and my guesses for the outcome of those games.

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins stews on a stool during a stretch of bad play by the Mountaineers in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins stews on a stool during a stretch of bad play by the Mountaineers in the second half on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

No. 21 WEST VIRGINIA (18-5, 6-4)

Wednesday, Feb. 11 — vs. Kansas State (W)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — at Iowa State (L)
Monday, Feb. 16 — vs. Kansas (W)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — at Oklahoma State (L)
Tuesday, Feb. 24 — vs. Texas (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — at Baylor (L)
Tuesday, March 3 — at Kansas (L)
Saturday, March 7 — vs. Oklahoma State (W)

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) celebrates during the Sooners' comeback against Kansas during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield (24) celebrates during the Sooners' comeback against Kansas during the second half on Monday, Jan. 19, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

No. 17 OKLAHOMA (17-7, 8-4)

Saturday, Feb. 14 — at Kansas State (W)
Tuesday, Feb. 17 — vs. Texas (W)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — at Texas Tech (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — vs. TCU (W)
Monday, March 2 — at Iowa State (L)
Saturday, March 7 — vs. Kansas (W)

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay (1) questions a foul called against him during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay (1) questions a foul called against him during the second half on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

No. 14 IOWA STATE (17-6, 7-4)

Saturday, Feb. 14 — vs. West Virginia (W)
Wednesday, Feb. 18 — at Oklahoma State (L)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — at Texas (W)
Wednesday, Feb. 25 — vs. Baylor (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — at Kansas State (W)
Monday, March 2 — vs. Oklahoma (W)
Saturday, March 7 — at TCU (W)

No. 8 KANSAS (19-4, 8-2)

Tuesday, Feb. 10 — at Texas Tech (W)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — vs. Baylor (W)
Monday, Feb. 16 — at West Virginia (L)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — vs. TCU (W)
Monday, Feb. 23 — at Kansas State (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — vs. Texas (W)
Tuesday, March 3 — vs. West Virginia (W)
Saturday, March 7 — at Oklahoma (L)

As you can see, even if you call KU's game at OU a loss, I've got the Jayhawks winning the league with 4 losses. And I don't think that's a stretch by any means. Remember, KU has just nine home losses in the Bill Self era at Allen Fieldhouse. Because of that, you won't have any luck convincing me that any of KU's four remaining home opponents will leave Allen Fieldhouse with a victory.

That leaves it up to KU's performance on the road, where the Jayhawks have won and looked good at Baylor and Texas and lost and looked lousy at Iowa State and Oklahoma State.

Speaking of Oklahoma State, how about that team. They're arguably the hottest team in the conference right now and playing with a ton of confidence. I can't wait for the Big 12 tournament!

Three of KU's four road games could and probably should be legitimate tests. West Virginia is tough at home and a bad match-up given how effective the Mountaineers' pressure defense is. Kansas State, despite the current turmoil in Manhattan, will clearly be fired up for Round 2 of the Sunflower Showdown. And Oklahoma is talented, tough and not afraid to play fast.

Texas Tech on Tuesday night, despite that old saying about how hard winning on the road in the Big 12 is, should be no problem for an angry KU team still reeling from Saturday's upset loss in Stillwater.

Tough or not, the odds are long that KU will lose all three of those other road games. So, let's say they win one, lose two, beat Texas Tech and take care of business at home.

That puts the Jayhawks at 25-6 overall and 14-4 in Big 12 play and puts the creative minds inside the KU athletic department on notice to start brainstorming T-Shirt-worthy ways to celebrate title No. 11.

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