Entries from blogs tagged with “Tale of the Tait”
Every so often, the stars align, one's path becomes clear and a magical moment appears before them.
For lifelong Kansas University basketball fan Jamie Taylor, that moment came Monday night at Allen Fieldhouse.
The origin for Taylor attending what many people are openly calling the greatest game in Allen Fieldhouse history dates back to Christmas, when her brother, Todd Mathews, surprised her with tickets to a January game against Oklahoma at Allen Fieldhouse. The timing of the gift, which was actually for her birthday — midnight the night of the game — gave Taylor time to clear her schedule so she could make her first ever trip to Allen Fieldhouse.
Both siblings knew then that the Big 12 clash would be a good game because the Sooners and Jayhawks, but there's no way either of them could have predicted it would be anything like it was.
“I've always wanted to go to a game,” said Taylor, a Topeka native who has lived in Overland Park for years. “But mostly with my brother. So when he moved back home after 15 years of living on the east coast, we talked about all of the things we needed to do to catch up on being brother and sister and going to a game was at the top of the list.”
Already overjoyed about her chance to final see the inside of Allen Fieldhouse, or, “walking into that church everybody talks about,” Taylor's excitement only grew in the days before the game when it became clear that KU and OU would square off as the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the nation.
Sitting in her seats, with one of the greatest games in recent memory unfolding in front of her, Taylor could not help but marvel at how lucky she was for THIS game to have been her first and on her birthday, no less.
Asked how the experience compared to what she envisioned all these years, the birthday girl who has spent most of her life working weekends, which made it hard to get to a game, explained with three short words: “It exceeded it,” she said. “It was so cool.”
Her favorite part of the 109-106, triple-overtime thriller — other than the KU victory, of course — was getting to watch two great teams play at such a high and intense level for so long. “I just loved how hard both teams fought,” she said. “It was dog eat dog out there.”
Not long ago, as the Kansas City Royals were wrapping up the regular season and beginning to make their push toward the franchise's first world championship since 1985, Taylor thought she had hit the jackpot by taking her brother to one of KC's final home games. This gift, however, far surpassed that and now Taylor is looking for a way to one-up her brother somewhere down the road.
“I'd love to go again,” she said. “But I doubt anything will ever equal that, especially being there with my brother and the noise in there. It was so loud. My brother's not going to be able to top this gift ever and now it's up to me to try to outdo him.”
According to ESPN, KU's 109-106, triple-overtime thriller over Oklahoma came back with an overnight rating of 1.9, making it the highest Big 12 Big Monday game on record since the network started keeping track in 2002.
That certainly should come as no surprise given the fact that Monday's showdown was a clash of the top two teams in the polls played on a night that has become synonymous with thrilling college basketball.
What's more, even those people who did not shape their entire night around the game — no one around here, of course — surely felt compelled to tune in when they heard No. 1 vs. No. 2 was headed to overtime or double overtime or perhaps even triple-OT.
I've never really tried to understand what the ratings are all about all these years. I've just trusted that the people who are sending out that information know what they're talking about and when they say a number like 1.9 is high, I believe 'em.
But this game. This epic game that still will be talked about decades from now, piqued my interest so I made a quick call to inquire what the rating means.
Here's what I got:
According to Nielsen, which keeps track of the ratings, there are 123.2 million viewing households in the United States. When they say that the game received an overnight rating of 1.9, that simply means that 1.9 percent of 123.2 million — or roughly 2.34 million — households watched last night's game.
A KU administrator I talked to about the ratings explained that while the ratings are not an exact science they are detailed enough for Nielsen to confidently say that 2.34 million households actually watched the game. So this isn't just a situation where someone who was channel surfing got credit for watching the KU-OU game even when they were only on ESPN for about 3.2 seconds.
The administrator told me to view the ratings kind of in the same way we view political polls. They're far from exact but they give you a pretty good indication of the overall landscape and viewing statistics.
In addition, I was told that the game likely peaked with a rating of 2.6 but did not stay there long enough to pull the overall number above 1.9. I'm guessing that's because a ton of people tuned in for all or part of the overtimes.
Here's a little more: Last night's game delivered a 16.79 rating in the Kansas City demographic, the highest for a KU game since the Jayhawks and Kansas State Wildcats squared off on Feb. 11, 2013.
Again, in all, 16.79 percent of the KC households (923,290) watched last night's game, putting that number at a national high of 150,945.
Curious who else was watching the game last night?
Here's a quick look at the Top 5 markets that tuned in.
- Kansas City — 150,945
- New York City — 89,000
- Oklahoma City — 74,804
- Dallas/Fort Worth — 74,098
- Chicago — 57,689
What's more, it was the highest-rated regular season game in Oklahoma City demographic since Texas-OU in 2009.
Clearly, those who tuned in got their money's worth and although the 1.9 ESPN rating might not put KU-OU in the same context as popular sitcoms MASH or Cheers in their heydays, putting the game in the context of Big Monday and college basketball shows you precisely just what a big time event this was.
Not that you needed a television rating to tell you that.
If you're still buzzing about Monday night's triple-overtime thriller between No. 1 Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma, you're definitely not alone.
The Internet, literally every nook and cranny of it, is full of people talking about the Jayhawks' 109-106 victory over the Sooners for which both teams deserve a ton of credit.
Typically, this blog is designed to provide a specific and detailed look at the previous game played by the Jayhawks, dissecting the ins and outs of what Kansas did well and did wrong before moving on to the next game.
But last night was so good, so memorable, such a well played basketball game by two incredibly talented teams, that I've decided to give the game its proper respect. After all, it's not every day that you hear the words “best game in the history of Allen Fieldhouse” get tossed around and think that people may be using them in the right context.
It was an unbelievable game, one that those who were there and the millions more who watched on television, won't soon forget. And the best part about it was it wasn't one those “great games” that gets that tag just because it included a great finish or a remarkable comeback. This one was great from start to finish on both sides and, outside of the players who might not have survived it, I'm guessing there are more than a few people out there who wish it was still being played, heading into its 27th overtime.
You can talk about all of the great individual plays, the good moments and the bad, the questionable calls and the wild finish, but the easiest way to sum all of that up into one simple phrase is to put it like this: Both teams played their asses off. I already thought Buddy Hield was the best player in the country and came away even more in awe of his all-around game. And, in case you didn't pick this up, OU is absolutely, 100 percent a real live national title contender. As for the Jayhawks, they showed something that they've had a hard time delivering these past couple of years from time to time — heart, grit, toughness and an unwavering desire to win at whatever cost. Both teams laid it all on the line and both teams deserve a ton of credit for their effort and the dazzling display of basketball they gave us. But make no mistake about it, keeping that Big 12 title streak alive means the world to the Jayhawks and their pride, passion and team-first mentality delivered a huge victory that could wind up going a long way toward making that happen.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Because it happened and games like this are so rare that, regardless of who won or lost, you just have to appreciate the opportunity to see such quality basketball in such an incredible environment. One of the most remarkable things to me was that in 55 minutes of hard-nosed basketball that featured all kinds of scrums, just one player fouled out and the teams combined to commit just 30 turnovers. In a game played at this level, with so much on the line, both feats are absolutely incredible.
2 – I'll be the first to tip my cap to Buddy Hield for his incredible 46-point effort, which came on 13-of-23 shooting, 8-of-15 from three-point range, but even though the Jayhawks did not have ONE player who got into one of those epic, anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better wars with the potential national player of the year, they got by because they had THREE guys who did. In his younger days, Wayne Selden would've tried to match Hield shot for shot, big play for big play and possibly hurt his team in the process. On Monday, Selden continued to play his game, attacked when he could and deferred to teammates when it wasn't there. Selden finished with 21 points on 9-of-17 shooting. When he couldn't find a shot, Perry Ellis did what senior leading scorers are supposed to do and found a way to score. There were stretches where Ellis, who finished with a team-high 27 points and 13 rebounds (side note: Ellis scored 27 on 28 shots and Hield scored 46 on 23 shots. Incredible.) absolutely took over the game and kept Kansas in it. And then, when neither of those guys could find a way to get something going, ever-improving sophomore Devonte' Graham did. Graham finished with 20 points, 7 rebounds and made 6 of 7 free throws. In short, it took all three Jayhawks to help Kansas survive a magical night from Hield. And all three delivered.
3 – Both teams shot better than 48 percent from three-point range, with Kansas knocking down 11 of 22 three-point tries (50 percent) and OU making 16 of 33 (48.5 percent). Hield himself made 8 of 15 and the Jayahwks had four players make at least two triples, but the lost hero in this one had to be Oklahoma's Jordan Woodard, who matched Ellis with 27 points and made 6 of 9 from downtown. With so much attention paid to Hield — rightly so — the Jayhawks allowed Woodard to get loose a few too many times and the guard almost made them pay. The deep balls were not the only shots that impressed. Guys finished at the rim, hit mid-range jumpers and little floaters and this was about as well played of an offensive basketball game as I can remember. Guess that's why both teams cracked the 100-point mark.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Because it's over. If not for deadline and the rules likely fouling everyone out, I would've sat and watched that game for another two hours. Easily. And I don't think I'm alone. Every once in a while you watch those games that you just don't want to end and this was certainly one of them. It's funny because every game ever played in Allen Fieldhouse is guaranteed two 20-minute halves. There've been a handful of overtimes, but, for the most part, the games are 40 minutes. Some nights, when the game's a dud and neither team is playing that well or the opponent is just that overmatched, the clock just crawls by and it seems like we'll never get out of there. And then there are nights like last night, when a game that you wish would last forever just flies by. Think about that: 55 minutes of basketball seemed like it went by in a flash.
2 – I don't do this very often, if at all, but I thought the officiating was pretty awful, both ways in this one. It obviously didn't negatively impact the game and, in spite of the bad calls and look-at-me-moments from the officials, this one still will go down as an all-time classic in a building where that tag doesn't get tossed around every year, but the officials were far too inconsistent for my taste and made and missed bad calls both ways. In a way, I guess that means everything evened out. But I'd give the players and coaches the credit for that and tell the refs, better luck next time.
3 – For this last reason to sigh (of relief), I'd like to give a special shout out to OU's Khadeem Lattin for missing the front end of a one-and-one at the end of regulation with 2 seconds left that, in all likelihood, would have ended the game. It still would've been a fantastic game. And we'd still be buzzing about it a little bit. But had Lattin made just one of those free throws given to him after Landen Lucas went over his back on a rebound attempt on the other end, there would've been no overtimes. There would've been no 46-point night from Buddy Hield or heroics from Selden, Ellis, Graham or Frank Mason. That was not Lattin's only contribution of the night. The long forward finished with a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds and gave KU problems at the rim. But his biggest contribution was easily that missed free throw that gave us the joy of watching three OTs and one of the best games Allen Fieldhouse has ever seen.
One for the road
KU's epic, three-overtime thriller over No. 2 Oklahoma...
• Made Kansas 13-1 and extended the Jayhawks' win streak to 12 games, the longest since the 2012-13 squad won 18 straight.
• Bumped KU's winning streak inside Allen Fieldhouse to 32 games, including an 8-0 mark this season. Kansas is 198-9 in The Phog under Bill Self and 736-109 all-time in the venue.
• Made Kansas 16-9, 6-2 under Bill Self, as the No. 1-ranked team in the Associated Press Poll.
• Moved Self to 365-79 while at KU and 572-184 all-time.
• Improved the Jayhawks to 2,166-832 all-time.
The Jayhawks (13-1 overall, 2-0 Big 12) will get a much needed week to recover before hitting the floor again. They'll play Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Texas Tech on ESPNU.
More news and notes from No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Oklahoma
- Unbelievable: No. 1 Kansas outlasts No. 2 Oklahoma in triple OT
- Keegan: Epic Big 12 Showdown one for ages
- Jayhawks thrilled to be back on top of AP poll
- Notebook: Bunch of firsts set stage for KU’s triple-OT win over OU
- More game notes from the KU-Oklahoma thriller
- Buddy Hield scores 46 for OU in losing effort
- No. 1 Jayhawks win 3OT instant classic vs. No. 2 Sooners
- Keegan Ratings: Perry Ellis shows heart, leads Kansas to huge win over OU
So, yeah. Tonight's game between top-ranked Kansas and No. 2 Oklahoma is a pretty big game.
Like, one of the biggest Allen Fieldhouse games in a number of years. Yeah, the Missouri win was huge and, sure, there have been a few others along the way. But very few have been this big on the national stage.
No. 1 vs. No. 2. One-loss Kansas vs. unbeaten Oklahoma. KU's balance vs. OU's Buddy Hield.
Regardless of the outcome or how it all goes down, this one figures to soon be included in the chapter of classic showdowns between the two former Big Eight foes who have waged war against one another for nearly 100 years. KU won the opening game between the two schools, 33-28, back in 1920.
The Jayhawks lead the all-time series with the Sooners 142-66, including an a mark of 72-16 in games played in Lawrence and 45-7 at Allen Fieldhouse.
Here's a quick look back at seven of the most recent memorable KU-OU meetings:
1988 — National Title game — Kansas 83, OU 79: I won't insult you all by rehashing the details of a game I'm sure you're very familiar with. Tied at 50 at halftime, KU, led by Danny Manning, knocks off Billy Tubbs and the Sooners, who easily beat KU twice during the regular season. It still stands as one of the most surprising upsets in NCAA Tournament history and is one of the most cherished games in KU basketball history.
1998 — Senior Night at Allen Fieldhouse — In late February of the 1997-98 season, junior Paul Pierce single-handedly took over the spotlight in what wound up being his final home game as a Jayhawk, as well. Pierce caught fire in the second half and turned a close battle into a KU run-away. Pierce's performance included 31 points and a second-half stretch of 15 straight points that put the game away.
2006 — February 5, 2006 — Despite getting dominated — Bill Self's words, not mine — for the game's first 32 minutes, the Jayhawks dug deep and pulled out a one-point victory over No. 18 OU. Led by 14 points and 8 rebounds from Julian Wright, 12 points from Brandon Rush and 10 points from Mario Chalmers, the Jayhawks fought their way to a 59-58 way despite not taking their first lead of the second half until a bucket by Wright with 53 seconds remaining.
2009 — February 24, 2009 — In one of the most anticipated battles of the season, the Jayhawks and Sooners were robbed of a potentially epic showdown when OU star Blake Griffin missed the game because of injury. Even without the future NBA All-Star out of the lineup because of a concussion, OU built an early 22-8 lead. But Kansas responded with a monster run and eventually turned the 14-point deficit into a 20-point lead before winning 87-78 on Big Monday in Norman. Griffin also missed his match-up with Kansas a year earlier, going down with a spained MCL in the opening minutes of KU's 85-55 blowout during the Jayhawks' national title year.
2014 — February 24, 2014 — There were not many individual moments in this one that stood out, but the final result, an 83-75 KU victory, gave the Jayhawks a guaranteed share of Big 12 title number 10 in a row. Naadir Tharpe led KU's effort with 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting and, according to KU coach Bill Self, “closed the game the way point guards are supposed to close.”
2015 — January 19, 2015 — Despite building a 19-point halftime lead behind the strength of a school-record nine three-pointers, the Jayhawks saw that lead completely disappear in the second half and had to come from behind to top OU, 85-78, on Big Monday. KU got surprisingly big games from freshmen Cliff Alexander (13 points, 13 boards) and Kelly Oubre (19 points, 9 boards) to help hold off the upset bid.
2015 — March 7, 2015 — With a share of Big 12 title No. 11 in a row already wrapped up, KU went down to Norman, Oklahoma, with nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Jayhawks, missing three regulars from their rotation, played very well at times and appeared to send the game to overtime on three made free throws by Frank Mason in the final five seconds. But a tip-in by OU's Buddy Hield with two-tenths of a second remaining gave OU the victory.
They talk all year — literally, 365 days a year — about what winning the Big 12 title means to this Kansas University men's basketball team.
On Saturday afternoon against 23rd-ranked Baylor, the Jayhawks showed they mean it. In what was by far the most intense, focused and locked in I've seen this team all season, the Jayhawks (12-1) overwhelmed the Bears (10-3) with a monster start that put the game away before it ever really got going.
KU was fantastic on offense, draining outside shots and getting out in transition to score with ease. But the intensity showed up on defense. There were no sly grins, no wandering eyes, nothing but intense focus on the man three inches in front of them.
That, along with the fact that KU's offense remained hot, kept Baylor from having any hope of getting back into it after digging a 24-4 hole during the game's first six minutes.
As if there were any doubt about which team was the team to beat for the 2015-16 Big 12 title, the Jayhawks got their quest for a 12th consecutive conference championship off to a fantastic start, spanking a ranked team at home, where it's going to be awfully difficult for anybody to come in and have success. That gives KU a huge advantage on the field every year and that advantage could grow big time if KU is able to knock off likely No. 2 ranked Oklahoma at home on Monday night. KU has won this thing in a number of different ways over the years, but any time the Jayhawks have gotten out to an early and significant lead it has been awfully tough for anyone to catch them. That's what makes Monday night's game so big, if No. 1 vs. No. 2 wasn't already big enough.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Hunter Mickelson will never be confused for Wilt Chamberlain, but he could be KU's most important big man the rest of the way. It's not that he puts up big time numbers or blocks a ton of shots. Heck, he doesn't even play big time minutes. But the more he plays like he did on Saturday, the more his minutes will increase. And the more his minutes increase, the more the Jayhawks will benefit from his ability to alter shots even if he's not blocking them. Perhaps the best part of his performance on Saturday — 7 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks in 17 minutes — was that it came against Baylor, which is full of long, athletic bigs who can create match-up problems for a lot of teams. Mickelson held his own when he was out there and he shouldn't see too many tougher match-ups, in terms of athleticism, the rest of the way.
2 – Perry Ellis, once again, was among the Jayhawks' leading scorers (17) and rebounders (6) in this one, but it was his aggressive play that stood out the most. Early in the game, Ellis crashed the boards hard, collected a missed shot and laid it back in all in one motion. Later, he showed a desire to hammer home a dunk instead of shooting a floater while getting fouled. He didn't flush it, but that mindset is exactly what the Jayhawks need and want to see from Ellis.
3 – He made just 2 of 6 shots, 1 of 2 from three-point range, but junior Brannen Greene showed another glimpse of his willingness and ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. No longer is Greene just a spot-up shooter and that fact is putting a lot of pressure on opposing defenses and giving KU another big time advantage on offense.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Foul trouble and silly fouls was a little bit of a concern. Because the game was out of reach, the fouls really never threatened to hurt the Jayhawks. But Frank Mason sat early in the second half after picking up No. 3 and KU's 23 fouls led to 31 trips to the free throw line for the Bears, who made 25 of those attempts. The free throws helped keep Baylor somewhat close and kept KU from slamming the door much earlier.
2 – The Jayhawks gave up 32 points in the paint, which included far too many drives to the bucket for layups. This has plagued the KU defense a little bit during the past three or four seasons and certainly is not what you expect from a Bill Self team. KU made a few adjustments and the guards — Mason, Graham and Selden — were pretty good here. But the overall team defense could continue to get tested on drives to the rim, starting Monday night when OU and its dynamic backcourt led by Buddy Hield comes to Lawrence.
3 – Cheick Diallo continued to show he's not progressing. The freshman forward's potential is unquestioned. But he's not making the kinds of strides necessary to merit more minutes. What's worse, he's not making many good decisions and positive plays with the minutes he is getting. Sure, he had the big block and a couple of flashy plays against Baylor, but those did not make up for the three herky-jerky and contested jumpers (one of which he made) or the half a dozen times teammates or coaches had to tell him where to be on offense or defense. There's still time for him to make an impact, but if he's going to, it's going to have to start in practice because there just aren't minutes for a guy who makes that many mistakes at this point in the season.
One for the road
KU's 25th consecutive victory in a conference opener...
• Made Kansas 12-1 on the year and a perfect 8-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Gave Kansas its 11th-straight win, the longest streak at KU since the 2012-13 season, when the Jayhawks won 18 in a row.
• Improved Bill Self's record to 364-79 while at Kansas and 571-184 all-time. Also moved Self to 197-9 in Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made KU 2,165-832 all-time and 735-109 all-time in the venue.
The Jayhawks, most likely ranked No. 1 in the nation, will return to Allen Fieldhouse for a showdown with likely No. 2 team, Oklahoma, at 8 p.m. on the first of four Big Monday games on ESPN.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Baylor
- Wayne Selden Jr. maturing as mother, brother watch from fieldhouse stands
- Keegan: Devonté Graham deserves some credit for KU’s success
- Scott Drew: KU clearly nation’s top team
- BIG Monday: Kansas, OU should enter showdown as top 2 teams in nation
- Notebook: Jayhawks made everything early to set up rout
- Jayhawks put up 102 in Big 12 opener
- Keegan Ratings: Wayne Selden helps Jayhawks cruise against Bears
It was a subtle play that, to my knowledge, did not show up on any of the highlights, but it also was one that told you a lot about one of second-ranked Kansas' most important players.
Less than two minutes into Tuesday's 78-53 victory over a good Cal-Irvine team, KU junior Wayne Selden found himself with the ball on the right wing and nothing between him and the hoop but 7-foot-6 mountain of a man, Mamadou Ndiaye, the starting center for UC-Irvine.
Although the Jayhawks, as a whole, lacked aggression and looked out of sorts offensively in the first half, on this particular play, they did not. Check that; Selden did not.
Instead of backing it out, waiting for reinforcements and moving the ball around to get a better and easier shot, Selden, while dribbling, took a quick glance up ahead at Ndiaye, shortened his steps to announce he was actually going to go for it and then exploded with all he had right into the body of Ndiaye, who sat back and waited for Selden to attack while protecting the rim.
I had a great angle of the play and, at the time, I actually thought Selden was going to try to dunk OVER Ndiaye. That would've been a huge mistake and could've ended in injury. It also is exactly the play Selden might have tried to make a year or two ago. But this time around, he made the smart play. There was no machismo involved in the decision. It was not a look-at-me moment. Instead, it was the right play and it was Selden's attempt at setting the tone for his team and drawing a foul on one of Irvine's most important players.
As Selden flew through the air and closed in on contact with Ndiaye, he briefly closed his eyes, perhaps bracing for the contact that was sure to come. It did, at least a little bit, but neither Selden nor Ndiaye created the kind of force that could have led to a violent collision.
Instead, Selden merely bounced off of Ndiaye's chest, maintained his path to the basket and finished the lay-up to give KU a 4-0 lead.
Let's be honest, the photo below could easily have been the result of Selden's decision, so he deserves credit for showing the bravery to attack.
The Jayhawks did not really follow Selden's lead in attacking the big man, especially in the first half. But for a guy who has struggled to finish at the rim in the past, it was a heck of a play and one that showed just how far he has come.
We all saw his huge summer in Korea and the steps forward that he has taken in the past month or so, but this, at least to me, was as big of a sign of any that Selden is full of confidence and playing for the right reason — to help his team win.
7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye and the rest of the UC-Irvine big men came to Lawrence hoping to put a scare into the second-ranked Jayhawks.
And, for a half, they did just that. But KU's superior talent and overall depth won out and the Jayhawks emerged with a 78-53 victory that pushed their record to 11-1 and paved the way for a possible jump to No. 1 in the nation thanks to Michigan State's Tuesday night loss to Iowa.
The Jayhawks may have played 14 guys in this one, but that was mostly a result of the final score and KU having the game well in hand in the final 10 minutes.
Just six guys — Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis, Brannen Greene and Landen Lucas — played 15 minutes or more and it's clear that Self, though still searching for the move that makes the KU big man rotation click, has found the lineup he likes.
That should come as no surprise as late December typically has been the time when Self has pared down the rotation to give more minutes to the guys playing at the highest level.
A couple of key reserves certainly have carved out nice roles for themselves in that department and now, with the Big 12 opener coming Saturday, you can expect to see a lot of what you saw Tuesday night the rest of the way in terms of how the minutes are divided up.
KU's final tune-up before a nasty start to conference play could not have gone much better from the tune-up standpoint. The Jayhawks were not on top of their game in this one yet found a way to make adjustments and grind out a good win against a good team. KU coach Bill Self said after the victory that he'd be surprised if UC-Irvine didn't win its league and the Anteaters' size, experience and nothing-to-lose mentality gave Kansas a perfect final test heading into the meat of its schedule.
Three reasons to smile
1 – KU's game plan against Irvine's 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye was fantastic. Ndiaye is not the kind of guy who's going to go off like Wayne Selden is capable of, but, with that size and that touch from the free throw line, he's definitely a guy who could dominate the offensive end with relative ease. That's if you let him get comfortable. And KU never did. The bigs leaned and pounded on him all night and the guards helped down from the perimeter just about every time he touched it. Even if they didn't come up with a steal, just that extra presence caused enough havoc and forced Ndiaye to either turn it over or kick it out.
2 – After a pretty ho-hum first half, the Jayhawks really turned it up in the second half. There wasn't a soul in the Fieldhouse who did not expect to see that given the way KU slept-walked through the first half, but even knowing that Bill Self would light a fire under his guys at halftime, I was not so sure the Jayhawks could get it together in time to look as good as they did. UC-Irvine really had KU out of sorts on offense in that first half, but a couple of nice adjustments and increased energy and effort on defense helped KU roll to a 50-27 second-half advantage and a 25-point win. It wasn't just one or two guys, either. Every KU player on the floor defended with a sense of urgency and purpose during the final 20 minutes, getting chest to chest with the Irvine players and making them sweat for every pass, dribble and shot.
3 – Believe it or not, Brannen Greene was one of the few Jayhawks who showed great effort in the first half. He only scored once in that first 20 minutes, but you could tell he was engaged and did not fall victim to the lack of focus and intensity that usually plagues him but seemed to get his teammates in the first half. It's just another example of the new Brannen Greene, a guy who maybe has finally “got it.” He plays hard every time on the floor now and does so without losing the flare and cockiness that he's known for. Who knows if or how long it will last, but give the young man credit for responding to a bad situation with a great stretch.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – We know why Cheick Diallo has struggled to both produce and gain playing time, but now Carlton Bragg is in danger of falling into the same trap. Playing basketball in the Big 12 for Bill Self is not easy and I don't care how talented you are as a freshman, you're going to take your lumps and have growing pains. Both guys are dealing with that right now and even though Self urged KU fans to not give up on the two crazy-talented freshmen, it's hard to envision them getting a ton of minutes the rest of the way unless they take drastic steps in all areas of the game.
2 – Svi is headed in the wrong direction. Maybe it's just because Mason, Graham, Selden and Greene have been so good lately, but after a promising start to the 2015-16 season, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has taken a step back toward irrelevance. He played just 10 minutes on Tuesday night — finishing 0-for-1 from the floor with 1 rebound and 3 fouls — and has not even logged 40 minutes in the past four games combined. The return of Greene, along with his increased effort and strong shooting, has knocked Svi back a bit in the rotation, but his recent slump can't be blamed entirely on opportunity. Svi checked into Tuesday's game at the same time Greene did. He just didn't do as much with his minutes and is starting to look a lot more like the Svi from 2014-15, who blended in and disappeared at times rather than the Svi we saw in Maui who asserted himself and looked to be gaining confidence.
3 – There was a brief moment when Wayne Selden lost his cool. Midway through the first half after getting hip-checked and knocked to the floor, Selden, turned around, scoured at the referee and yelled, “What the (bleep).” Less than five seconds later, Selden was whistled for a foul after he retaliated by shoving the UC-Irvine player while setting a screen. Now, those types of shoves happen every game and nearly on every possession, but it's not a good idea to execute one right after drawing that kind of attention to yourself. The momentary gaffe was about the only lowlight from an otherwise terrific game by Selden.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' 25-point pounding of UC-Irvine....
• Gave KU its 10th consecutive win, which is the longest winning streak since the 2012-13 season, when KU won 18 in a row.
• Gave KU its 10 consecutive wins for the 13th time in the Bill Self era.
• Gave KU its 30th consecutive win in Allen Fieldhouse, including a 6-0 record this season. Kansas is 196-9 in Allen Fieldhouse during the Bill Self era, including a 97-5 record against non-conference opponents. 734-109 all-time in the venue.
• Improved Bill Self's record to 363-79 (.821) while at Kansas and 570-184 (.756) all-time.
• Made KU 2,164-832 (.722) all-time.
The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday to kick off Big 12 Conference play against No. 23 Baylor at 3 p.m. After that, the Jayhawks have a quick turnaround for a Big Monday game against No. 3 Oklahoma.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. UC Irvine
- Big deal: KU front court delivers late to beat UC Irvine
- Keegan: Bill Self too secure to worry about freshmen minutes
- Notebook: No. 1 versus No. 2 on Horizon?
- Jayhawks harass 7-foot-6 Mamadou Ndiaye in win
- Hunter Mickelson shows off moves in victory
- Top recruit Josh Jackson still considering KU
- Jayhawks open both halves strong to beat Anteaters
- Keegan Ratings: Speedy Frank Mason once again leads Jayhawks
— See what people were saying about the game during KUsports.com's live coverage
Call it a complex, a curiosity or a downright fear.
Whatever you choose, there's something about the word “realignment” that grabs my attention like few things on this planet, so much so that I get a little frightened when it's time to take my car in to balance and rotate the tires.
A little more than four years ago, the word “realignment” rocked the world of college athletics, as schools jumped from conference to conference like a game of musical chairs, sometimes freely and sometimes amid pages and pages and days and days of legal attention.
After a couple of wild summers, things calmed down considerably during the next few years. And even though talk of a changing landscape down the road has continued to be a part of the regular conversation when it comes to college athletics and the current make up of the conferences we know and (used to) love, things have been pretty stable overall, especially compared to the chaos that brought all of this into play in the first place.
At the center of that has been the status of the Big 12. While the Big Ten, SEC, Pac-12 and even the ACC entered into an arms race and tried to stockpile schools the way people preparing for a disaster stockpile food and water, the Big 12 held its ground, determined to prove that after adding TCU and West Virginia to replace Missouri and Texas A&M — the two former Big 12 schools that followed Colorado and Nebraska out the door — it was fine with 10 schools and didn't need to grow larger to be relevant.
But then last year happened, both Baylor and TCU were left out of the first college football playoff and the idea of expansion, stability and change for the future came roaring back to the forefront for the conference that has seemed to be in a constant of self-evaluation and survival for the past handful of years.
A huge question surrounding the idea of expansion — and probably the biggest reason the Big 12 has yet to do it — centers on the concept that there are really no attractive options that make sharing the revenue pie with two more teams worth it.
In a terrific state-of-the-conference type story, Pete Thamel of SI.com recently talked with a dozen Big 12 sources and examined all of the issues facing the conference, from expansion and which teams might be most attractive to the petitioning of the NCAA for a title game with just 10 teams in football — that vote is January 15, by the way — and the overall vibe of the conference's future in the changing world of college athletics.
It's as good of an analysis of the state of the Big 12 as I've seen in a long time and 100 percent worth the read for anyone with even the slightest interest in realignment, Big 12 expansion and the conference's chances for survival.
For those of you who don't have time to read the story or just aren't big on clicking on links, here's a little spoiler: According to Thamel, if the Big 12 were to expand, BYU and Cincinnati seem to have emerged as the top two options.
But the article also lists six other schools Thamel has heard mentioned in expansion talk, including Houston, which, for my money, would be a fantastic addition because of the market and incredible potential the evolving school delivers.
The Kansas University men's basketball team's 70-57 victory over San Diego State on Tuesday night capped the pre-Christmas portion of the Jayhawks' schedule and put Kansas on the brink of closing out non-conference play.
Kansas will face UC-Irvine at home on Dec. 29 and then jump into Big 12 play from that point on.
Perry Ellis was incredibly efficient offensively for the second game in a row, Jamari Traylor (6 points and 6 boards (4 offensive) in 21 minutes) came back from the dead and the Jayhawks shot it well from the outside and the free throw line once again.
Given the potential trap game talk because of the upcoming holiday break, this was a pretty solid effort against a good team in a true road environment.
Second-ranked Kansas now sits at 10-1 and, in all reality, should be 11-0 and ranked No. 1. Not a bad non-con stretch.
If nothing else, this victory was a big confidence boost for these Jayhawks. Don't get me wrong, this was not a team lacking confidence in any way, but there's always something different — not to mention extremely validating — about going on the road into a hostile environment and coming out with a victory. With Big 12 play right around the corner, that kind of confidence and proof that they can get the job done is just what the Jayhawks needed right now. And, remember, KU has built that incredible streak of 11 straight Big 12 titles largely because it has been able to win conference road games and others have not.
Three reasons to smile
1 – You can say what you want about this team's depth and talent and, while those things are huge advantages for Kansas, Bill Self is still only going to play the guys he trusts in big moments. And, based on his 26 minutes despite shooting just 1-of-4 for the night, it's clear that Self trusts Brannen Greene, the basketball player. Greene, who uncharacteristically contributed to the stat sheet in other ways than shooting on Tuesday was one of just six Jayhawks to play double-digit minutes. Jamari Traylor (21) was another. There are players on this team with more upside and more complete games than both of those guys, but Greene and Traylor have been around Self as long as anyone and, clearly, that means something at this stage of the season.
2 – The Jayhawks recorded seven blocks in this game and I think that's something that has been a little underrated about this team. It's obvious that this group does not have a Cole Aldrich or Joel Embiid, but it doesn't necessarily need one. The 7 blocks KU picked up on Tuesday night came from five different players, with Perry Ellis and Hunter Mickelson each blocking two and Jamari Traylor, Brannen Greene and Carlton Bragg picking up one apiece. Just about anyone KU puts on the floor has the athleticism, size and ability to alter and/or block shots, even junior point guard Frank Mason, who, though short in stature, has incredible hops. Mason already has a pair of blocks this season. Even though the leaders in this category come from the places you'd most expect — Mickelson leads with 15, Traylor has 8 and Diallo, in just six games and limited minutes, has 7 — just about everyone in the lineup can contribute a blocked shot because of his length or athleticism. That's a big reason this KU defense is limiting opponents to 39 percent shooting and why SDSU shot just 37 percent on Tuesday night.
3 – The Jayhawks again shot the ball well from three-point land — 8 of 19 for 42.1 percent — and remain above 46 percent from downtown for the season. So much has been made about this team having some of the best shooters a KU squad has had in a while, but it's definitely the flow of the offense, the ball movement and the fact that those shooters are often getting wide open looks that is keeping that percentage so high so far.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – With Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor, Hunter Mickelson and Cheick Diallo combining to play just 40 minutes, the Jayhawks were out-rebounded by the Aztecs, 35-33. Because of the lineups Self used, that's no reason to sound the alarms. But giving up 15 offensive boards might be.
2 – The Jayhawks forced 15 turnovers, including nine steals, but scored just 15 points off of those SDSU miscues. It didn't hurt them in this one, but capitalizing on opponents' mistakes is something the Jayhawks are going to have to fine-tune if they want to make it 12 in a row in Big 12 play.
3 – After building a 12-point halftime lead, KU had a couple of opportunities to go for the knock-out blow in the second half and missed each time. Kansas eventually pulled away and San Diego State never led — in fact, the game was only even tied for 1:42 — but I'm sure Self and company would've much preferred the kill shot to come much earlier in the second half, particularly in a game played on the road in front of a rocking crowd.
One for the road
KU's road win at San Diego State...
• Gives KU nine consecutive wins, which is the longest winning streak since the 2013-14 season, when KU won 18 in a row.
• Gives KU its first true road win of the season (1-0) and a 5-1 record in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Ties the series with San Diego State at 2-2. Kansas is 26-8 all-time against current Mountain West Conference teams.
• Improves Bill Self's record to 362-79 (.821) while at Kansas and 569-184 (.756) all-time.
• Gives KU an 83-38 (.686) road record under Self.
• Makes KU 2,163-832 (.722) all-time.
The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse next Tuesday at 8 p.m. for a match-up with UC-Irvine that will close out non-conference play. After that, Kansas will play host to both Oklahoma and Baylor in the first week of January, kicking off the Big 12 portion of its schedule in style.
A pair of former Kansas University cornerbacks became the first NFL teammates to be selected for back-to-back Pro Bowls in 25 years.
Denver Broncos Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, who helped the Broncos field one of the league's top ranked defenses this season, earned the Pro Bowl nod for the second year in a row, the league announced Tuesday night.
Harris, the un-drafted free agent who has gone on to become one of the most productive and stingy cornerbacks in all of football, has started all 14 games for the Broncos this year and has totaled 52 tackles (43 solo), two interceptions (94 yards), four passes defensed and two forced fumbles.
He becomes one of just five un-drafted cornerbacks in NFL history to make multiple Pro Bowls with his original team.
Like Harris, Talib, now in his second year with Denver, also has started all 14 games for Denver and has totaled a team-best three interceptions (123 yards, 2 TDs) and 13 passes defensed to go along with 38 tackles (33 solo).
Talib was picked to the Pro Bowl for a third consecutive season, as he also earned the honor in 2013 as a member of the New England Patriots. During his three-year run as a perennial Pro Bowler, Talib is tied for fourth at his position with 11 interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns.
After having a league-best nine players selected to last year's team, Denver (10-4) had just four this season — pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware also earned the nod — and the once powerful Broncos' offense was shut out of the all-star showcase.
After another hot start, Denver has dropped two games in a row and seen its lead in the AFC West shrink to one game over the red-hot Kansas City Chiefs with two games to play.
The Kansas University men's basketball team had no trouble rolling past an overmatched Montana team on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks (9-1) were bigger, stronger, faster, more skilled and more organized and all of that — and more — showed in KU's 88-46 victory over the Grizzlies.
Offensively, Saturday's effort was one of the more balanced outings by this year's squad. KU got production from a number of places and, once again, was able to spread out the minutes and allow some of the younger guys to get extended action.
The more they can do that the more that will pay off when conference play rolls around in just a couple of weeks.
There's really not a whole lot you can learn from this game that you didn't already know. KU was simply way too talented for Montana and the Grizzlies, though willing to battle, simply had no answer for a much better Kansas team and did not put up much of a fight. There were individual moments and individual efforts that stood out, but, overall, the Jayhawks used Saturday's win as little more than a scrimmage against someone other than themselves.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Perry Ellis showed everyone that he is listening and he's just fine. As aggressive as he's looked in weeks, Ellis didn't always score, but he did always go hard to the rim and that led to a game-high 18 points and 10 trips to the free throw line. That's the Ellis that this team is going to need in conference play and his night was made all the more impressive by the fact that he led all scorers after taking just seven shots. Ellis is not a volume guy. But he does need to be involved as often as possible when KU gets in the half-court.
2 – KU has not shot that well at the free throw line for much of the season, but that was not the case on Saturday. The Jayhawks, led by Perry Ellis' 10-of-10 showing, were 15-of-19 from the free throw line for 79 percent, 11 percentage points better than their season average. With conference play right around the corner, free throws are going to become a much bigger part of the game and it's good to see KU trending in the right direction here.
3 – Give Devonte' Graham credit for not making any excuses about his oversleeping issue. Self made sure to point that out — saying that Graham did not blame it on his alarm clock not going off — and then went out and played hard and did the things we've become accustomed to seeing from him. He finished 4-of-7 from the floor with 9 points, 2 rebounds and an assist. It wasn't his best game by any means, but he did not look like a guy who was sulking over the 7-minute suspension.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – The big man rotation continues. None of KU's five other big guys have emerged as the obvious answer to team with Perry Ellis inside for this team. Self talked about the quandry after the game and said it was nice to have a bunch of good players that he could choose from there, but added that he'd much rather have one Joel Embiid, whom he could play 40 minutes a night and not have to worry about it. KU doesn't have that. And unless someone really takes a significant step forward very soon, this rotation of able bodies is going to be something Self deals with all season. The good news? The bodies are there. The bad news, it will be hard for KU to develop much chemistry and know who it can count on.
2 – Cheick Diallo just can't get going. And he looks 100 percent inside his own head about it. It's not that he's not trying. He is. He's just still behind and it looks as if he's still pressing too hard when he's out there. He fouled out of Saturday's game and scored four points, grabbed three boards, turned it over twice and blocked one shot. You can just tell by the look on his face most of the time that he believes he can and should be doing better and more. It'll come. But only if he relaxes, continues to work hard and lets the game come to him.
3 – Congrats to KU, I guess, for setting the ugly sweater record, but I just don't get it. I don't know who's running things over there at Guinness, but is this really a record that we need to have or one that anyone needs to know about? Oh well. I guess it gave people a reason to have some holiday fun, so no harm no foul. And, I only included it here because KU played pretty darn well and I couldn't find a third reason to sigh.
One for the road
KU's win over overmatched Montana...
• Gave KU eight-straight wins, which tied the longest winning streak from 2014-15
• Made the series with Montana 2-0 in favor of the Jayhawks
• Made Kansas 98-4 against non-conference opponents in Allen Fieldhouse during the Bill Self era
• Gave KU its 29th-straight win in Allen Fieldhouse, which is the seventh-longest streak in school history
• Made KU 733-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 195-9 under Self
• Improved Self 361-79 while at Kansas and 568-184 all-time
• Made KU 2,162-832 all-time
The Jayhawks will head to the west coast for their final game before Christmas, Tuesday night at 10 p.m. at San Diego State. The game will be shown on CBS and will be KU's second-to-last game of 2015. The Jayhawks return to Allen Fieldhouse for a Dec. 29 game against UC-Irvine and then will open Big 12 play on Jan. 2 at home against Baylor.
Here's a quick, on the road version of KU Sports Extra from the NCAA Final Four in Omaha, where Kansas will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska tonight at 8:30.
We'll have more blogs and videos throughout the day right here at KUsports.com so be sure to check out all of our coverage while you wait for tonight's match, which will be shown live on ESPN2 and live blogged right here on our site.
Here's a quick look at the venue and some practice scenes at the NCAA Final Four in Omaha, where No. 9 overall seed Kansas (30-2) will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska (30-4) tonight at 8:30 in the second national semifinal.
We'll have more blogs and videos throughout the day right here at KUsports.com so be sure to check out all of our coverage while you wait for tonight's match, which will be shown live on ESPN2 and live blogged right here on our site.
Here's a look back at what we learned on Day 1 of the NCAA Final Four in Omaha, where Kansas will take on No. 4 seed Nebraska tonight at 8:30.
We'll have more blogs and videos throughout the day right here at KUsports.com so be sure to check out all of our coverage while you wait for tonight's match, which will be shown live on ESPN2 and live blogged right here on our site.
Early last season, while several of this year's Final Four-bound Kansas University volleyball players were still freshmen figuring out how to adjust to the college game, the Jayhawks met up with defending national champion Penn State and 2013 NCAA tournament MVP Micha Hancock during a tournament in Philadelphia.
The Jayhawks lost, three sets to none, that day, but after being swallowed whole during the opening set, 25-10, did more than an admirable job of bouncing back and competing, falling in the next two sets, 27-25 and 25-23.
No one remembered the match as a close one — 3-0 sweeps are rarely viewed in that manner. But hanging in there with one of the nation's truly elite programs proved to be another mini-milestone on a wild ride that the Jayhawks have enjoyed during the past few seasons.
A little more than three months after that loss to Penn State, KU watched as Hancock and the Nittany Lions repeated as NCAA champions.
Today, just one year down the road, it's the Jayhawks who are two victories away from a national championship and that fact, given the context of having played Penn State a few months before they were crowned, has created a surreal vibe around the KU program all week.
“Oh, absolutely,” junior libero Cassie Wait. “That's been our word, surreal. Not that you never believed that you could do it, but each point even, each set, each game, it just gets that much more real — this is what we're doing, this is where we're headed, this is what our program stands for, this is who we are.”
A big part of the reason these Jayhawks have replaced Penn State in this year's Final Four — other than the fact that Hancock graduated and ended her run as one of the most dominant players in college volleyball — is the growth that those younger girls have experienced.
Setter Ainise Havili, though sensational as a freshman, is a much more mature, experienced and steady presence this season. Monster right-side hitter Kelsie Payne has transformed herself from a player with great potential into a player who can take over a match. And the girls who, as sophomores and juniors, were asked to be veterans a year ago — Wait, Tayler Soucie, Tiana Dockery, Janae Hall, etc. — actually are veterans this season.
That rapid growth, incredible chemistry and blatant talent inspired Havili to change her thinking from “maybe getting to the Final Four is something we could do junior or senior year” to “maybe this is something we can do now.”
“I remember playing Penn State really clearly,” Havili said. “And I remember looking at Micha Hancock and thinking, 'Oh my gosh, this girl is so scary.' But a year later, I'm here, and it's not that scary any more. It's crazy to think how far we've all come and how much we've grown in one year.... All these games, how we practice every day, how we build together, it all adds up to what we're doing right now.”
Added Wait, when asked what she and the team learned from the experience of being on the same court as Penn State a season ago: “If we play for each other, if we're willing to make all of the sacrifices, then you give yourself the best chance of achieving big things. If you can take that on and truly play as a team, I think that gives you the best shot, and, one year later, look where we are.”
One of the coolest things about Saturday night's thrilling Kansas University volleyball victory over top-seeded USC in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament was the aftermath that followed.
No, I'm not talking about the eruption on the floor, the celebration in the locker room that included head coach Ray Bechard getting drenched with water or the looks on the faces and sounds in the voices of the girls who made history.
Don't get me wrong; those moments and so many others were all incredibly cool. What was even cooler, at least to me, was the outpouring of love that Jayhawks past and present showered this team with on Twitter and via text messages.
Former KU football standout Ben Heeney, not long after touching down in Denver for Sunday's Broncos-Raiders game, gave a shout-out to the volleyball team on Twitter. And several other former and current KU football players did the same. The official KU football Twitter account even acknowledged the team's intentions to show up for this evening's 5 p.m. homecoming celebration at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
In the basketball world, KU junior Wayne Selden on Twitter posted a photo of him watching the KU-USC match on his iPad on the bus ride home from the his team's own comeback victory at Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Several other KU athletes, from golf and baseball to track and tennis, also took time to congratulate the KU volleyball team on its historic accomplishment.
Lost in the euphoria, however, might have been the experience of a few former KU volleyball players who helped make a night like Saturday happen.
Former Jayhawks Bri Riley, Erin McNorton, Chelsea Albers and Jaime Mathieu, who not long ago were the toast of the KU volleyball world for becoming the first crew to reach a Sweet 16, watched Saturday's upset of USC together and celebrated every point as if they were on the court or bench in San Diego. In many ways, they were.
See, those girls, along with about a dozen others, were the ones who made Saturday night possible. That's to take nothing away from the current team or coaching staff that went out and did the deed. This year's team, in just about every way, is more talented than that first Sweet 16 team of trailblazers who played every night with the kind of grit and joy you saw on display throughout the season from this year's squad.
Hmm. Wonder where this group of girls learned to play like that?
Not everyone on this year's team played with the Riley, McNorton, Albers, Mathieu, Caroline Jarmoc, Sara McClinton, Catherine Carmichael crew that broke through and put Kansas volleyball on the map to stay. But a few did. And that's what adds an extra dose of family feels to this incredible achievement.
Junior libero Cassie Wait learned from Riley and is now playing a lot like her. Junior middle blocker Tayler Soucie, as a freshman, played a huge role on that Sweet 16 team and learned the ropes while those girls were on their way out. Senior Tiana Dockery was a consistent part of the rotation for that team, and juniors Maggie Anderson and Janae Hall were around that group long enough to understand that Kansas volleyball had entered a new era.
“I think our class really set the new standard for Kansas volleyball,” Riley said Sunday while still buzzing over Saturday's result. “We all had the mindset that we wanted to make a difference for this program and not only leave our mark but also create a legacy of consistent dominant teams to follow and this year's group has certainly lived up to that standard.
“There is such a great sense of pride knowing that the success and hard work we put in and the coaching staff has put in is being carried through by this year's amazing team that has had a remarkable season. Everyone associated with the program is just so thrilled to watch the run these girls are on right now.”
Thanks to Saturday's stunner, that run is still going, and regardless of what happens in the next week, it figures to extend well into the future because of this team, the teams that came before it and the sky-high standard this program now holds.
The No. 9 overall seed Jayhawks (30-2) will play No. 4 seed Nebraska at 8:30 p.m. (central) Thursday in the Final Four in Omaha, Nebraska.
When news broke Friday morning that four-star Lawrence High defensive end Amani Bledsoe was making an official visit to the Kansas University football program this weekend, the question begged, how much of a shot do the Jayhawks really have at landing him?
Kansas coaches can't talk about Bledsoe — or any other recruit — in any way, shape or form, so we'll have to lean on a little history to examine the odds.
Should Bledsoe pick Kansas, he would become the highest rated recruit to ever sign with Kansas football. That alone would make him a part of KU history for life. From there, anything he did on the field simply would add to his legacy.
After looking at it a little closer, I can't help but see strong comparisons between Bledsoe and former KU great Gilbert Brown.
Like Bledsoe in Kansas, Brown was one of the most highly decorated players during his senior season at Detroit's Mackenzie High. Named Michigan's Gatorade Player of the Year, the defensive tackle easily could have gone to in-state power Michigan or any number of other big time programs. Instead, he picked Kansas, where he helped build one of the best defenses in school history, was a part of the 1992 Aloha Bowl championship team and started all but two games during his four-year Kansas career before going on to enjoy a 10-year career in the NFL, where he won Super Bowl XXXI with the Green Bay Packers after being selected in the third round of the 1993 NFL Draft, No. 79 overall, by Minnesota.
Brown was in town for a KU game during the 2015 season, and I remember then asking KU defensive coordinator Clint Bowen about his former KU teammate's path to Kansas.
Bowen said he used to ask Brown all the time why in the heck he chose to come to Kansas instead of joining the Wolverines and playing in front of 100,000 fans every Saturday. The answer, according to Bowen, was simple: Brown wanted to play for a program where he thought he could make a more immediate and meaningful impact and help build something out of nothing.
There isn't a more nothing program out there right now than Kansas, which just wrapped up an 0-12 season, and Bledsoe picking the Jayhawks could have the kind of impact that Brown choosing Kansas did for Glen Mason.
There's no doubt that the tall, lean and athletic 6-foot-5, 272-pound D-End would be in line for some serious playing time right away at KU. Heck, he probably could have logged some serious snaps for KU in 2015 as a high school senior.
Bledsoe has a final five of Baylor, Kansas, North Carolina State, Oklahoma and Oregon. And he already has visited the other four programs. The fact that he chose Kansas as the place to take his fifth and final official visit — instead of picking some place like UCLA — shows just how serious he is about the Jayhawks. The fact that it is believed Bledsoe will be the only official visitor in town provides KU coach David Beaty and company a golden opportunity to put on the full-court press to convince Bledsoe that staying home is the right move for him. They might not fly planes around town pulling signs with Bledsoe's name and jersey number in crimson and blue, but you can bet that the 2015 all-state selection, Sunflower League MVP and recent Buck Buchanan Award winner will have the full and undivided attention of every KU coach and staff member in town this weekend.
From the sound of things, Oklahoma appears to be KU's biggest competition for Bledsoe. And isn't OU an awful lot like Michigan?
The only question left to answer now is whether Bledsoe is an awful lot like Brown.
The NFL finally has caught up with what fans of Kansas football have known for years — Darrell Stuckey is one hell of a guy.
Stuckey, the sixth-year NFL pro and 2010 KU graduate who starred in KU's secondary and helped the Jayhawks win the 2008 Orange Bowl, recently was named the San Diego Chargers' representative for this year's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.
Each year, one player from all 32 NFL teams is nominated and this year the Chargers made Stuckey their selection.
Recognition and praise for his efforts beyond football certainly is nothing new for Stuckey. Since high school, the Kansas City, Kansas, native has done his part to give back to his community with particular interest paid to helping children and religion.
In 2010, Stuckey was named the Big 12 Sportsman of the Year for the 2009-10 seasons.
In addition to participating in numerous community outreach programs like visits to children's hospitals and free football clinics, Stuckey also started an organization known as "Living4One," an organization that aims to "help people discover that they were created to influence the world in a positive way" through living for Jesus."
Being nominated for an award as prestigious as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award, however, takes things to a new level even for Stuckey.
Established in 1970 and attached to the late Chicago Bears running back's name since 1999, The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award is given annually by the NFL to honor a player's volunteer and charity work as well as his excellence on the field.
Each of the 32 team nominees receives a $5,000 donation to their charity of choice. The two runner-ups will receive an additional $6,000 donation, and the winner will receive an additional $50,000 donation. Donations will be courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
"Serving their communities and philanthropic causes is a strong and long-standing tradition of NFL players," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a release. "These outstanding young men embrace and represent that important commitment of giving back to our communities. We salute and thank our players for their leadership."
Stuckey has chosen the organization "Teammates for Kids," founded by country star Garth Brooks, as his charity.
"The organization doesn't limit itself to helping one specific charity but branching out to help as many as possible," Stuckey said in a Chargers promotional video. "I've been involved with that cause, off and on, for the last three or four years and it's been an awesome opportunity."
Fans interested in helping Stuckey reach the finals can simply use the hashtag #StuckeyWPMOYChallenge on social media sites.
Finalists will be announced in January and the winner will be announced during the fifth Annual NFL Honors awards show, a two-hour primetime special airing nationally on Feb. 6, the night before Super Bowl 50 on CBS.
Saturday afternoon, the Kansas University basketball team jumped out to a 32-16 lead over Harvard, saw that lead trimmed to nine points by halftime and, eventually, found itself tied with the Crimson at 56 with 7 minutes to play.
While a lot of the things that led to Harvard climbing back into the game were not good — missed free throws, losing the battle on the glass, a disappearing Perry Ellis — the fact that the Jayhawks (6-1) were forced to play in a pressure-packed environment and asked to make some clutch plays to win can only help this team down the road.
Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham were both great when it counted and, especially when you consider the fact that their minutes were up because of Wayne Selden's foul trouble, you have to be impressed by the games those guys played.
Harvard is not exactly a top-tier non-conference foe, but they are a well-coached, fundamentally sound club that proved to be a good test for the Jayhawks in a season when the non-con schedule does not have many of them.
Credit the Harvard defense and scrappy play for taking Kansas out of its offensive flow, but I don't think it was a coincidence by any means that Kansas struggled when Wayne Selden sat with four fouls. KU coach Bill Self said he talked to Selden near the end of the first half about being smart and not picking up No. 3 before the half. But that didn't happen. And when Selden picked up No. 4, he sat for a long portion of the second half. When he sat, KU lost its hottest offensive player and the offense suffered. We all know how well Selden played in Korea, how he finally reached that level again in Maui and how good he was the last time out against Loyola. But now we have a better understanding of just what good Selden means to this loaded KU team. It's not just his scoring and three-point shooting that matters. It's also his attitude, demeanor and the way he opens things up for the rest of his team.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Self talked all offseason about how excited he was to put Graham and Mason in the starting lineup together. This was exactly why. Both guys pushed the tempo on offense, got after it on defense and scored when Kansas needed them to score. Their best moment came when Mason pushed a pass ahead to Graham, who got up in a hurry and threw it down with two hands. Before he even landed, Graham was smiling and the two guards banged shoulders to celebrate. After the win, I asked Graham why he was so jacked after that and he said it was because he told Mason earlier in the day that he was going to get a dunk. A point guard and a prophet.
2 – We won't do this every week, but the Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk maturation project took another step forward. Svi's numbers were not great but he did show continued growth in terms of aggressiveness by taking the ball to the rim when KU needed a spark offensively with Selden sitting on the bench with four fouls. Each moment like that makes Mykhailiuk even more dangerous the next time out because it makes him that much more comfortable both with the game and his role on the team.
3 – You don't have to love how many minutes he played (24) or that he took time from Cheick Diallo, but you do have to give Landen Lucas credit for his defense on Harvard's best player. Lucas did not do anything special and was not all of a sudden some amazing highlight machine. Instead, he used his size and length to bother Zena Edosomwan and allowed the rest of the defense to attack based off of that. Lucas finished with five points and eight boards and was 2-of-2 from the field. The only thing keeping it from being a great night was his 1-of-3 showing at the free throw line.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – After breaking onto the scene in his debut last Tuesday, Cheick Diallo played just seven minutes in this one. Bill Self had his reasons for the limited minutes and, as much as the Twitter dwellers might disagree, they are legit. But you can tell that Diallo is dying to be unleashed. And the fact that KU couldn't get ahead enough to allow him to play more minutes and that Diallo was not get enough defensively to earn more minutes seems like a wasted opportunity. Self warned about this the other night. He said Diallo won't score 13 every night and added that the young man still has work to do. That's obvious. He's still a little weak around the rim and clearly needs to get stronger on both ends to become a bona fide weapon.
2 – KU's free throw shooting was awful for the second straight game. The Jayhawks made just 13 of 25 from the line, including 9 of 17 in the tighter-than-necessary second half. No magic words or fixes here. They just have to be better. Or it's going to bite them.
3 – Harvard had just three guys 6-foot-9 or taller — only two of which played any real minutes — and yet they still out-rebounded the Jayhawks by eight. There was no real panic in the KU camp about this fact, and, hey, they won the game. But I was incredibly surprised that the Jayhawks and Self were rather matter-of-fact and did not seem much more bothered by this.
One for the road
KU's win over Harvard....
• Kept Kansas undefeated in 15 games against the Ivy League.
• Made Kansas 96-4 against non-conference opponents in Allen Fieldhouse in the Bill Self era.
• Gave KU its 27th-straight win in Allen Fieldhouse, which is the eighth-longest streak in school history.
• Moved KU to 731-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 193-9 under Self.
• Improved Self to 358-79 while at Kansas and 656-184 all-time.
• Advanced KU to 2,159-832 all-time.
The Jayhawks will be back in Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tilt with Holy Cross. The game will be shown on Jayhawk TV and ESPN3. For those wondering, the Dec. 19 home game vs. Montana will be KU's final game on the Jayhawk Network this season.
More news and notes from Kansas vs. Harvard
- Real-game pressure: Jayhawks handle Harvard’s heat
- Column: Perry Ellis hasn’t been himself
- Banged-up Perry Ellis keeping head up
- Notebook: Wayne Selden Jr. plagued by fouls
- Composed Harvard comes close in upset bid
- Jayhawks survive scare from Harvard
- Keegan Ratings: Mason leads Kansas past Harvard
Every season at just about every school, one of the most-asked questions around football programs is about red-shirts.
Who are they? How many will there be? Which ones will help most in the future? And have you told them yet?
It may be handled differently at different places and at some of the power programs that have guys lined up down the block to come play, they probably do tell kids before the season begins that they're going to red-shirt.
Not at Kansas. At least not with head coach David Beaty.
Don't get me wrong, there are definitely a few guys who Beaty and his coaching staff targeted with the idea of red-shirting them. But if any of them could have helped the Jayhawks on the field at all during the 2015 season, the red-shirt would've come off in a hot minute. Beaty said as much throughout the season while also saying, at times, that there were specific guys he would've liked to red-shirt.
He didn't always name names, but would say something like, “We'd like to keep the shirt on one of the two freshmen QBs.” It worked. Ryan Willis played. Carter Stanley did not. Willis has three years left. Stanley has four.
There were other instances along those same lines, but now that the season is officially over and the red-shirts are official, here's a quick look at seven guys who saved a season of eligibility that could help this program as soon as 2016.
• WR LaQuivionte Gonzales — “Quiv” (who really should be nicknamed “Speedy”) sat out due to NCAA transfer rules after coming to KU from Texas A&M, but there's no doubt he'll have a major role on this team next fall. Beaty has said Gonzales is as fast and dynamic as any player on the roster and he should help immediately in the return game as well as on offense, where KU rolls seven, eight and nine receivers onto the field throughout each game.
• WR Chase Harrell — Don't forget about this kid. He graduated early and came with some serious hype so the fact that he did not become an immediate star turned some people off. But he made serious strides toward building his body and learning the offense and should not only be more ready to compete for a role in the offense but also more driven after watching other true freshmen take snaps ahead of him. The future is still bright for Harrell.
• LB Keith Loneker Jr. — Local prospect from Free State High who transferred to KU before the season after a freshman All-American year at nearby Baker University. Loneker's name kept coming up for his work on the scout team and there is no doubt that this fast, tough, instinctual football player will have a big time chance to play a huge role at a thin position for KU next season. Don't be surprised for a second if he's out there starting alongside fellow former Firebird Joe Dineen Jr.
• OL Mesa Ribordy — Walk-on and in-state prospect from Louisburg High, Ribordy was one of those names I kept hearing when I went out to practice as an O-Lineman who could have a bright future and get into the mix quickly. KU needs as much help as it can get up front and Ribordy, an athletic 6-foot-4, 270-pound lineman who moves well and is getting stronger, could compete for a spot up front at least as a part of the regular rotation.
• DB Shaq Richmond — Cornerback from Grand Prairie, Texas, was very well thought of by the KU coaching staff when he committed — recruiting coordinator Reggie Mitchell landed him — and his natural skills and increased bulk and speed should give him a shot at cracking the field at a position of great need. KU will continue to address the cornerback position in the 2016 recruiting class, both through high school and juco players, but Beaty is big on development and this is a guy who is already a year into his.
• QB Carter Stanley — Here's another guy you should not write off yet. I know the focus is on Ryan Willis being the QB of the future, and that is well deserved given the way Willis competed, performed and led the offense as a true freshman. But he's not going to be handed the job without others coming after it. And Stanley, who knows the offense and desperately needed a year to get bigger and stronger, could still be Willis' biggest competition heading into spring football. A more mobile QB than Willis, Stanley has a good arm and should feel more comfortable competing for the job in Year 2.
• TE Jace Sternberger — This guy is a beast. He has great size (6-4, 225) and good hands but still looks ultra-athletic all over the field. It won't be easy to crack the lineup given the fact that both Ben Johnson and Kent Taylor will be back. But Sternberger's one of those guys who will find a way to make the coaches play him. At worst, he'll play a complementary role to those other tight ends next season. But you can bet you'll see him on the field in some capacity.