Posts tagged with Ku Basketball
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.
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.
President Barack Obama visited Kansas University this morning to visit with KU students and several Lawrence residents on the heels of this week's State of the Union address.
Obama, a huge and well-known college basketball fan, opened his speech at Anschutz Sports Pavilion by talking a little KU basketball.
He said he met with KU coach Bill Self and the men's basketball team just before taking the stage and added that he figured he might as well talk to some basketball players since he was in Lawrence already and everything.
Several Jayhawks instantly took to Twitter to share their thoughts about meeting the president and Obama, himself, kicked off his speech with talk about KU being back on top of the Big 12 Conference race and praised Self's streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles.
Known by many as a gifted and charismatic speaker, Obama then made a correlation between one of his streaks and KU's streak of Big 12 titles.
“Coach Self has won 10 straight, I lost two straight (in Kansas),” he said, referring to losing the state of Kansas in the general election during both of his presidential campaigns. “I might have won some sections of Lawrence. That might have happened.”
Obama's love for KU hoops came as no surprise and it made sense for him to kick off the day's festivities talking about the one thing that unites this town better than anything else.
Our own Gary Bedore talked with Self briefly after the speech and the KU coach told him that the team met with Obama in Hadl Auditorium and presented him with a personalized jersey and KU basketball.
There are few things that fix problems in sports like winning and, in that regard, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up a huge home victory, 78-62 over Kent State, on Tuesday night.
Still irked by their showing at Temple more than a week earlier, the Jayhawks came out with greater intensity and a sense of purpose that certainly was missing the last time they took the floor, and, really, has been absent from time to time throughout the season.
Call it youth, call it a learning curve, call it whatever you want. But it definitely is reality. So is the fact that, even though the Jayhawks held off a pretty stiff challenge from a decent Kent State squad, there were still almost as many bad moments as good. But, as you all know by now, those negatives don't show up nearly as much when a team wins, and Kansas (10-2) needed Tuesday night as much as a 9-2, Top-15-ranked team can need a victory at this point in the season.
Without question the most encouraging part about KU's 10th victory of the season was the fact that Frank Mason, who again was spectacular, looked around and got the help he needed on both ends of the floor.
Kelly Oubre was great — is anyone noticing a trend emerging here?
Perry Ellis was relentless even after a slow start.
And Cliff Alexander had enough positive moments in the second half to remind KU fans what the Alexander who showed up earlier this season then disappeared just as quickly as he arrived looked like.
All in all. The effort was better, the intensity was better and so was the result.
Offensively, Kansas has enough weapons, versatility and talent to find a way to score enough points to win games. There are going to be nights — and, really, there already have been — where this team will struggle, but breaking out of an offensive slump really can be as simple as one guy hitting a shot or making an extra pass that gets the ball rolling again. So there's really no reason to worry too much about KU's offense and Tuesday was a good illustation of this. It's defense that is a different story, and, what Self said about Cliff Alexander — how “he can play well if he's just active” — can apply to the entire team and really help KU's defense shine. In the first half, that really wasn't the case except for one or two guys. But in the second half, when Kent State shot 18 percent worse and scored just four points in the decisive first eight minutes, KU's defense dominated and won the game.
Three reasons to smile
1 – The Jayhawks played faster and reaped the benefits. Throughout the eight days between games, KU coach Bill Self stressed tempo and pace to his team during practice. And it was clear that KU really tried to turn things up a notch against Kent State. Not only were they willing to — which Self actually said was easier because Kent State was not afraid to run either — but they succeeded big time. KU outscored Kent State 19-0 in fastbreak points, and even when they weren't directly scoring buckets, they found themselves dictating play or getting the to free throw line, both of which serve as reminders of more ways KU can control games in areas other than the scoreboard.
2 – The opening few minutes of the second half were crucial and KU delivered. Not only did they score the first five points of the second half to push their six-point halftime lead to 11 just like that, but the Jayhawks did it by getting to the free throw line. Even though they didn't connect on all of their trips — and were an uncharacteristic 13-of-22 from the free throw line for the night — the fact that they were able to get there helped them establish control and gave them a chance to pick up some easy points.
3 – The KU defense recorded a season-high eight blocked shots, but the total number was not nearly as impressive as the way the Jayhawks got there. Seven different players swatted a Kent State shot attempt, with freshman Cliff Alexander being the lone KU player to pick up two blocks. The total marked the largest number of players to block a shot in the same game since 2010 and served as further proof that Bill Self's boys took their shortcomings against Temple to heart.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's first-half offense was merely OK and featured way too many possessions of one-on-five basketball. On a few occasions, that was because of the shot clock winding down. And there's definitely nothing wrong with a guy trying to be aggressive by making a play and attacking the rim. But Self's offenses have always flowed so well and the Jayhawks always have looked so much better when they achieve that flow. This team's still getting there in that regard.
2 – Wayne Selden continues to be a bit of a mystery and even Bill Self has started to acknowledge that. After the game, Self said Kelly Oubre had firmly locked up the 3 spot in the starting lineup but added that he'd love to see Brannen Greene or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — or both — elevate their games to the point where they're pushing Oubre. Self then went on to say that if either guy could do that, it would probably help Selden, too, and therefore would help the team. Selden made just 1 of 7 shot attempts with one of the misses coming on a perfectly drawn up lob out of a timeout. Instead of laying it in or throwing it down, Selden, who elevated above the rim, tried for the home run and wound up firing the ball over the iron and into the Kent State bench. Selden's 29 minutes marked the fourth time in the past five games that the sophomore guard has played fewer than 30 minutes.
3 – Brannen Greene played just four minutes in the first half and did not get into the game again until the final three minutes, when the outcome had been decided. The quiet night from the sophomore was merely the latest in the odd up-and-down trend from the sharp-shooter, who, just a few games again, was in position to lock up a starting spot himself. It's hard to say exactly what's going on with Greene, but Self briefly mentioned his inconsistent nature in the postgame. I'm sure the bulk of that inconsistency is showing up in practices, but KU needs Greene to figure it out as soon as he can. With Frank Mason taxed to the max at the point guard spot and Selden still struggling to produce himself, KU's going to need all the help it can get on the perimeter to survive Big 12 play.
One for the road
KU's 16-point squeeze job of the Golden Flashes...
• Made Kansas 10-2 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Kept the Jayhawks unbeaten all-time versus Kent State (2-0) and improved them to 12-1 against current membership of the Mid-American Conference.
• Pushed the Jayhawks to a 63-8 record in games following a loss under Self.
• Made Kansas 5-0 inside Allen Fieldhouse in the building's 60th season.
• Extended the Jayhawks’ win streak inside the Fieldhouse to 14-straight games.
• Made Kansas 718-109 all-time inside Allen Fieldhouse, including a 180-9 home mark under Self.
• Improved Self to 335-71 while at Kansas and 542-176 overall.
• Made KU 2,136-824 all-time.
The Jayhawks will close out the non-conference portion of the 2014-15 schedule on Sunday with a 3:30 p.m. tip-off against UNLV. UNLV already boasts a victory over Arizona and should pose a significant challenge for the Jayhawks. After that, KU heads to Waco, Texas, on Jan. 7 for the Big 12 opener against Baylor.
You all saw it, so there's no real reason to rehash the gory details of Monday nights' 77-52 KU basketball loss to Temple.
The Jayhawks were as bad in this one as they were in the loss to Kentucky in the second game of the season, and, in some areas, may even have been worse.
Clearly, very few people saw a loss like this coming, given the way the Jayhawks have played lately and shown steady growth over the course of the season. The bottom line, though, is this team is still relying on a lot of young players and many of those guys are still learning how to play at this level, how to play for Bill Self and how to fit into leadership roles.
Many believed that Wayne Selden was poised to step right into that role as the unquestioned team leader, but, even if he has shown areas of improvement in that department, he's still a work in progress there. So is Perry Ellis, who has shown flashes of brilliance and moments of complete struggle, the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows, all in the first 11 games.
Where Ellis and Selden go from here will be important, but clearly this team is in need of improvements in a bunch of areas and from a bunch of guys before Big 12 play gets started, which is now just two weeks away.
It'll be interesting to see how the Jayhawks respond to this loss, and I'm not just talking about how they play against Kent State next Tuesday. KU was exposed in some pretty important areas in the loss to Temple and there are teams in the Big 12 that have the right mix of personnel, swagger and talent to try to replicate what the Owls did to Kansas in this one. The easy thing to say is that KU will learn from this loss, work hard over the break and keep getting better. And I'm sure all of that is true. But KU's going to have to find a way to tweak what it does on both ends of the floor to prevent nights like this from happening again. We're not talking wholesale changes or anything drastic, but they have to find easier ways to score and also need to identify the right lineup that's willing to compete defensively every possession. The guys that will do that are the guys that will get the most minutes in the coming weeks.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Plenty has been said about Frank Mason's night and the guy deserves all the credit in the world for showing up to play on a night when most of his teammates didn't. Mason scored 20 points on 8-of-15 shooting — including 4-of-6 from three-point range — and added three steals and two assists. The most impressive number of them all, however, might have been the minutes played. Mason was on the floor for every second of the game, which only further proves (a) how valuable he is to this team and (b) how obvious it was that he was one of the few guys who was ready to battle.
2 – His numbers did not reflect it, but I thought Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk turned in a second straight game where he looked much more like the Svi we saw early in the season than the Svi we saw during a recent slump. He was aggressive and willing to compete, even if his shots weren't falling either.
3 – You hate to use the old “wake-up call” line for one of the reasons to smile, but there weren't many others in this one so we'll go with it. So much has been made about KU's ability to find ways to win so far this season even on nights when it didn't play its best. That's a good trait for a team to have, but it's not a given. I think there's a chance that some of these guys — especially the younger dudes — started buying into the idea that all they had to do was show up and they'd find a way to pull out a win. That kind of belief and confidence is a good thing, so long as the team executes the first part, which is to show up. KU did not do that against Temple, and that'll be the lesson it can take away from an awful nigh heading into January.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – OK, so there were more like 30, but if we're going to narrow it down to just three, we'll begin with KU's terrible start. That first 10 minutes (and maybe even the first 3-5) really set the tone for the entire night. The Jayhawks looked disinterested, lazy, sluggish and, simply put, like they didn't want to be there. Off nights are going to happen. But with a roster this deep, talented and versatile I didn't think we'd see a night where almost every player in crimson and blue failed to bring it. Monday was one of those nights and the Jayhawks got what they deserved because of it.
2 – While that start was a tone-setter, KU's defense was what cost them most and eliminated any chance KU had to stay in the game. That was particularly true in the first half, when Temple's guards drove to the rim at will and the Owls' crisp ball movement led to open shot after open shot. Long story short — Temple got whatever it wanted on offense and KU looked powerless to stop it.
3 – Cliff Alexander continues to be a work in progress and, in some ways, may even have taken a step or two backwards these past couple of weeks. Early in the season, Alexander was getting by on energy, effort and raw ability, but, today, he seems to be over-thinking things and looks flat-out lost at times, particularly on defense. One sequence Monday night showed that better than any other. With KU still hanging around early in the second half, Alexander fired a 16-foot jumper early in the shot clock. It's not a terrible shot, and it's one he can make, but there's no need to take it when he did. On the very next possession, Temple ran a high ball screen and Alexander left his man to go double team, which allowed the guy he was guarding to slip effortlessly to the rim, where he received an easy pass and finished a bunny to add to Temple's lead. Even after starting, Alexander only played 17 minutes, took just the one shot and scored 2 points. The big freshman needs winter break to arrive as much as anybody.
One for the road
KU's beatdown at the hands of Temple on Monday:
• Snapped an eight-game winning streak, which was KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made Kansas 9-2 or better for the fifth time in the Bill Self era.
• Dropped KU’s record away from Allen Fieldhouse to 5-2 this season and 1-1 in true road games.
• Made Kansas 8-4 all-time versus Temple and 60-17 against current members of the American Athletic Conference.
• Moved Self to 334-71 while at Kansas, 541-176 overall and 4-1 all-time against Temple.
• Made KU 2,135-824 all-time.
After going their separate ways for Christmas, the Jayhawks will return to action at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when they'll take on Kent State at 7 p.m.
Following Saturday's 96-69 victory over Lafayette — a game that was actually a much tougher battle than the final score indicates — Kansas University men's basketball coach Bill Self explained that he no longer would divulge his starting lineups after Cliff Alexander and Brannen Greene both were held out of the starting five just one day after it was announced that Alexander would join the group for the first time this season.
Greene was late to weights on Friday, Alexander had what Self called a bad day of practice that same day and Landen Lucas and Kelly Oubre slid into their spots.
I get where Self's coming from on this, but, after what we saw on Saturday it might not matter whether he announces his starters or not. It might just be that obvious. If Oubre continues to make the progress he's making and plays at all like he played on Saturday, he'll be in there. No questions asked.
After that it'll come down to the fifth spot, where Landen Lucas, Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander look like the top three options. Lucas and Traylor have had their chances. And they've been serviceable. But Alexander's the best of the three and the odds are good that he'll figure out how to handle his business away from game night sooner rather than later.
If he does, the starting five is easy to pick out — Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Kelly Oubre, Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander — and KU fans won't need to wait for it to be announced by Self or anybody else.
There were plenty of good things and a few bad things about Saturday's victory, but the fact that this team can throw so many good shooters on the floor makes them tough to handle. KU has shot the ball well from the outside through the first 10 games of the season and Self said before the season that he thought this group would be the best three-point shooting team he's had in a while. He was right. Mason, Selden, Oubre, Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk all can knock down the three if given room and, with Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander doing enough inside to occupy the paint, these guys are getting a lot of open looks and that should continue. KU is shooting just under 40 percent (62-for-157) from three-point range so far this season, and six different Jayhawks are shooting 34 percent or better from downtown. The Jayhawks were 12 of 23 from the outside against Lafayette and that clip helped keep the scrappy Leopards from creeping too close in the second half.
Three reasons to smile
1 – We already mentioned Oubre's big game, but it's worth mentioning again. The guy scored 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed 10 rebounds, blowing out of the water his previous career-highs in both areas. But it was not just the final numbers that made his day so impressive. It was the way he got them. Oubre was aggressive, smooth, confidence and cagey. And he picked up his big line in relatively easy fashion. In fact, a single play in the first half that delivered two of Oubre's six misses might have been one of his most impressive moments. After misfiring on a wide open three-pointer from the left wing, Oubre immediately followed the miss, caught the rebound in mid-air and went right back up for what looked like it would be an easy put-back. It wasn't, as Oubre's follow had a little too much behind it and the second shot came clanging off the rim. Rather than get discouraged, Oubre dug in, kept fighting and saw that mentality pay off. He seemed pretty matter-of-fact about the game afterwards and it should be interesting to see how he responds to the breakthrough on Monday night.
2 – Welcome back, Svi. After looking out of sorts during the past few games, Mykhailiuk regained his old form and again looked sharp on Saturday. He scored 11 points, made three three-pointers, played 22 minutes and appeared to be having fun again. He also dished two assists and picked up a steal and appeared to be thinking less and playing loose a lot more. There's no doubt that seeing his outside shot fall again lifted his confidence.
3 – A lot of KU fans want to talk about this team's tendency to let big leads slip away, but I don't think that's cause for concern, or at least not too much concern. Teams are going to make runs. Opponents aren't going to quit. In fact, they're probably going to play even harder when facing a big, double-digit deficit. That's to be expected. And the mark of a quality team, at least in my mind, is when it can watch a big lead slip away and find a way to dig back in and build it back up in the minutes that follow. KU did that a couple of times against Lafayette and these Jayhawks appear to be comfortable operating that way.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU has looked pretty good defensively when the games have gone up and down this year, but the Jayhawks struggled to keep the Leopards from finding their rhythm behind the three-point line in this one. The only reason this is worth sighing about is that it should have come as no surprise that Lafayette was going to fire away from the outside. KU's latest opponent came into Allen Fieldhouse shooting 42 percent from three-point range and had nothing even close to resembling an inside presence. Still, Lafayette knocked down 12 of 26 three-pointers (46 percent) and used the long-range bomb to crawl back into the game after KU looked to have put things away by halftime. With KU's depth, length and athleticism, there should not be too many teams that get as many easy and open looks from the outside as the Leopards did on Saturday.
2 – Landen Lucas may not only have lost his starting job, but he may also have lost a good chunk of his minutes. The big man who made a late start in place of Cliff Alexander played just six minutes and went from being in the starting lineup at the beginning of the day to being on the floor in the final two minutes when Tyler Self, Evan Manning, Josh Pollard and Christian Garrett were getting their time, as well. Lucas missed the only two shots he attempted, including a bad miss of a sweet dime from Selden, and grabbed just one rebound and picked up one foul. Self has said he'd like to play five perimeter guys — Mason, Selden, Greene, Svi and Oubre — and possibly four big men, with Ellis, Alexander and Traylor being locks. That leaves that final spot to a battle between Lucas and Hunter Mickelson. And I don't think you have to look any farther than Saturday to see who might be in the lead there. Oh, and that could quickly turn into six perimeter guys and three bigs if Devonte' Graham can come back healthy.
3 – It's a minor thing but I noticed it a few times during Saturday's victory. Jamari Traylor seems to have a hard time closing the door on the trap when the Jayhawks pick up with some full-court pressure. It's not something to be too concerned about given the fact that the other team's point guard should be quicker than Traylor and able to avoid getting trapped, but it just looked like Traylor struggled to execute when he was asked to do this. He didn't use the sideline to his advantage, got caught bouncing instead of closing out and put the Jayhawks at a numbers disadvantage by doing it.
One for the road
KU's victory over the visiting Leopards on Saturday:
• Extended Kansas’ winning streak to eight games, which is KU’s longest since an 18-game winning streak during the 2012-13 season.
• Made the Jayhawks 9-1 or better for the second time in the past three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self’s 12 seasons at KU.
• Pushed KU to 1-0 all-time versus Lafayette and 9-2 against current membership of the Patriot League.
• Made Kansas 4-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Made KU 717-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 179-9 under Self.
• Improved Self to 334-70 while at Kansas, 541-175 overall and 1-0 all-time against Lafayette.
• Made the Jayhawks 2,135-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks will travel to Philadelphia for their final game before Christmas on Monday against Temple at the Wells Fargo Center. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be shown on ESPN2. After that, KU will close out 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse on Dec. 30, when the Jayhawks welcome Kent State to town for a 7 p.m. game on Jayhawk TV.
Say what you will about the sluggish second half, the Kansas University men's basketball team on Saturday at Sprint Center again found a way to win a grinder, 63-60 over No. 13 Utah.
The game featured one of KU's best halves of the season and also one of its worst, as the Jayhawks (8-1) raced out to a 42-21 lead behind a strong first half and then saw that lead erased when a less-than-stellar second half.
Hot free throw shooting, more solid three-point shooting and that hard-to-describe quality that allows this team to scratch out a victory in the waning minutes all benefited the Jayhawks on Saturday in a game that featured a couple of teams that played incredibly hard but at different times.
KU was lights out in the first half. After struggling to get the offense going, the Jayhawks started making shots and never let their defense slip, suffocating the Utes into 35 percent first-half shooting and 10 turnovers.
The two teams flipped roles in the second half, when KU shot just 26 percent and committed seven turnovers, which allowed the Utes to climb all the way back into it and set up the dramatic finish.
Heading into the opening game of the Orlando Classic, the Jayhawks knew that they were in for a rough stretch of games. Rather than giving in to the difficulty of the schedule or leaning on their youth and inexperience as an excuse, the Jayhawks pulled together, played tough and won six straight games in the face of just about every kind of adversity you could imagine. This team is still a work in progress and there remains a lot of room for improvement, but what they've been able to do during the past few weeks makes you believe that these guys are ready to defend their 10 consecutive Big 12 titles and go hunting for No. 11.
Three reasons to smile
1 – For the second game in a row, freshman Kelly Oubre looked comfortable and made some consistent positive contributions. Oubre scored nine points in 17 minutes and hit all five of his free throw attempts while also grabbing three rebounds. It's not the numbers that are worth noting, rather the way he looks a look more sure of himself and confident in what he's doing.
2 – One of these days, KU's free throw shooting will just be a given and won't qualify as a reason to smile. Today is not that day. The Jayhawks drained 21 of 23 free throws, including all 10 they attempted in the first half and needed just about every one of them to hold off the Utes. Brannen Greene, who stepped into the starting lineup for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk but didn't do much most of the game, knocked down four in a row in the final minute to help seal the victory. As a team, KU hit all eight of its free throw attempts in the final five minutes.
3 – Jamari Traylor came back with a purpose. Having a good game is no reason to excuse an arrest, but it was clear from the way he played that Traylor was trying to make up for his mistake. He still had a couple of inexplicable mistakes — a terrible pass here, a turnover there — but he hit 4 of 8 shots, all 5 of his free throws and finished with 13 points and 5 boards. The most impressive thing about Traylor's play to me was that he looked relaxed.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – KU's second-half offense was awful. Not only did the Jayhawks shoot just 26 percent and make just six field goals, but there were way too many one-on-five possessions, when the ball didn't move and the Jayhawks just threw up some wild shot or turned it over. With several guys on the roster feeling comfortable and looking locked in from three-point range of late, better ball movement and less pounding could lead to open three-pointers and better possessions. In short, pretty much what you saw in the first half.
2 – Landen Lucas' time in the starting lineup is probably pretty close to ending. Lucas missed his only two shot attempts — showing once again that he lacks the strength and explosion to finish at the rim — and the only other statistic he recorded was his two turnovers. No rebounds. No assists. No blocks. No free throws. Lucas has done an admirable job during the first nine games, but he's clearly not the guy the Jayhawks need out there and it seems the coaching staff gets that, as evident by his seven minutes against Utah.
3 – Remember that shoulder issue that once plagued freshman Devonte' Graham? It never really materialized into something to worry about, but the point guard's latest injury is. Graham is expected to miss four weeks — perhaps longer — with a toe injury and the news comes at the worst time. Graham played very good basketball in his past two games and really looked to be getting comfortable out there, both with his role on the team and with the jump to college basketball as a whole. His absence will be a blow to this team.
One for the road
KU's latest win in Kansas City...
• Extended its win streak to seven-straight games, matching its longest win streak of last season.
• Was the fourth-straight win for KU by six points or fewer.
• Made the Jayhawks 8-1 for the second time in the last three seasons and the sixth time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.
• Improved Kansas’ lead in the all-time series to 2-0.
• Improved KU's record to 5-1 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse this season.
• Upped the Jayhawks’ all-time record at Sprint Center to 25-5 and 210-79 in games played in Kansas City.
• Gave Bill Self his first victory against Utah, making him 1-1 vs. the Utes, 333-70 at Kansas and 540-175 overall.
• Made KU's all-time record 2,134-823.
The Jayhawks will get a break from their rough and rugged schedule, as they'll be off all week until next Saturday's 2 p.m. home game against Lafayette.
Wednesday night's 75-70 victory over Georgetown in Washington D.C., sure seemed like the most entertaining KU game of the year so far.
It featured two teams that each threw five guys onto the floor at pretty much all times who competed their butts off on every possession, for points, rebounds, loose balls and floor burns.
I'm sure for fans of both teams, there were plenty of moments when you wanted to pull your hair out or pound the table, but if you're just a college basketball fan and you flipped the TV to Fox Sports 1 last night, I'm guessing you were wildly entertained from start to finish.
For the Jayhawks, the game featured a little bit of everything – tough play, solid defense, three-point shooting and easy buckets at the rim. It also included a couple of tough moments in which the Jayhawks (7-1) were forced to withstand a couple of storms from the Hoyas and the home crowd.
I know KU fans expect the Jayhawks to win every time they hit the floor, but it's time to take a moment to appreciate what this team has done during the past couple of weeks. Victories over Rhode Island, Tennessee, Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown would make a pretty good tournament resume come March. The fact that KU won these games consecutively and so early in the season shows you just how talented this group could be by the end of the season.
For me, Wednesday's victory was not just about Brannen Greene going bananas from downtown to lead the Jayhawks to victory. It was about the Jayhawks' ability to respond. It seemed like every time Georgetown threw a punch, the Jayhawks threw one back and regained control of the game. After watching their 13-point first-half lead disappear, KU responded with a strong finish to the half when Frank Mason drove hard to the rim in the waning seconds and hit a tough layup to put Kansas up two at the break. Later, after Georgetown tied the game at 58 with a three-pointer, Mason immediately answered on the other end with a three-pointer to put KU ahead again. And, of course, there was the stretch early in the second half when the Hoyas built a three-point lead and looked to be on the brink of taking control only to see KU respond with a Greene three-pointer, a tough defensive stand and another Greene trey in the next three trips. Those were just a few examples of how KU showed its resolve all night. And that could have been, by far, the most important thing this young team gained from its latest victory.
Three reasons to smile
1 – How about KU's three-point shooting? Led by Greene's 5-of-5 showing, the Jayhawks finished 10 of 17 from downtown, with five different players knocking down at least one shot from behind the arc. Consistent and quality three-point shooting has been missing for Kansas during the past couple of seasons, and, at least lately, this team has shown it has the ability to light it up from the outside in its arsenal.
2 – Overall, I thought KU's defense was pretty good. Frank Mason played one of his best defensive games of the season — all on a bum ankle — and the Jayhawks held Georgetown to 40 percent shooting, 39 percent in the second half. Georgetown's starting back court shot just 4-of-17 from the floor and the Hoyas coughed it up 16 times while Kansas out-rebounded the physically imposing home team by two. KU also swiped nine steals by five different players and many of those led to transition opportunities, which should be a huge part of the winning recipe for a team this deep, athletic and talented.
3 – Perry Ellis did not lead the Jayhawks in scoring, but he sure was fantastic. He finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 boards in 39 minutes and shot just 4-of-15 from the floor, but was aggressive all night and just missed on so many shots that would've turned that pointed total into 25 in a hurry. What's more impressive is that played all those minutes and grabbed all those boards while fouling just once. Ellis also added three steals and two blocks to his stat line and his minutes, boards and smaller stats more than made up for the missed shots.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – Whether it's been a six-point lead, a 10-point lead or the 13-point lead we saw in the first half against Georgetown, the Jayhawks have shown an ability to get complacent at times and watch control of the game slip away. Clearly, KU was able to grind this one out, but there's no way that a 28-15 lead in the first half should have been 34-32 at the break. Turnovers, missed shots and Georgetown waking up all contributed to the slip, but this team still needs to learn how to turn that 13-point advantage into a 20-point lead while going for the knockout blow instead of allowing the opponent to crawl back into it. A lot of that comes from leadership and experience, both of which are works in progress on this roster.
2 – The Jayhawks made just eight field goals in the second half and shot 33 percent for the half and 38 percent for the game. A big reason for that was Ellis' 11 misses and a big reason it didn't kill them was the red-hot three-point shooting and 32 trips to the free throw line. Five of KU's eight second-half field goals were three pointers and the Jayhawks made 20 of 24 free throws in the second half. Even though they survived, though, the poor shooting in the second half is worth noting because it — along with those three-point tries — points to KU still struggling a little to get good shots in its halfcourt offense.
3 – Brannen Greene was celebrated from coast to coast for the way he shot the ball and he definitely should've been, but imagine what the guy could do if he played just a little better defense and didn't foul quite so easily. There's still time for improvement in both of those areas, and, if it comes, Greene's 18 minutes against Georgetown could easily have turned into 25 or more and there's no telling what kind of point total that would've led to the way he was shooting the ball.
One for the road
KU's hard-fought road win in the nation's capital...
• Extended its win streak to six-straight games.
• Made the Jayhawks 7-1 for the second time in the last three seasons and the seventh time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.
• Improved Kansas’ lead in the all-time series with Georgetown to 3-1.
• Kept Self unbeaten against Georgetown (3-0) and made him 332-70 at Kansas and 539-175 overall.
• Improved KU's all-time record 2,133-823.
The Jayhawks return to the area this weekend and will take on No. 13 Utah at 2:15 p.m. at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. The Utes (6-1) are off to one of the best starts in school history and figure to be yet another solid challenge in a stretch of tough games for Kansas.
KU fans joked across Twitter that newly named football coach David Beaty deserved at least some of the credit for inspiring the Jayhawks' comeback victory over Florida at Allen Fieldhouse on Friday night, and why not?
Until Beaty took the floor at halftime to say hello to the KU fan base, the Jayhawks (6-1) looked pretty awful in falling flat and behind by 15 to the Gators as the teams entered the locker room at halftime.
Of course, there's no doubting that Bill Self and what he said to the KU players during the break had more than a little to do with the Jayhawks' roaring comeback, but most of Friday belonged to Beaty and if KU fans are half as kind to the new coach when football season rolls around, the program might actually be headed somewhere positive.
Until then, there's a whole lot of basketball left to be played and if the Jayhawks more often look like the team they were in the second half and less like the team that sputtered up and down the floor in the first, there figure to be some great days ahead in the immediate future.
Coming off of a pretty solid showing in the Orlando Classic, I wondered how the Jayhawks would respond against a tough Florida team and an even tougher coach in Billy Donovan. Initially, things looked good and the Jayhawks stormed out of the gates and to an early lead. But Florida kept fight, kept its composure and then put a heck of a scare into Kansas. It might not have been much fun for KU fans while it was going down, but that might go down as one of the best things to happen to this team. They played well in Orlando and looked good doing it. That wasn't the case for the full 40 minutes on Friday, but these guys now know they can fight back and pull themselves out of trouble. Being down by 18 at home early in the second half probably qualifies as a little more than “trouble,” and you can bet that Self and the veterans on this club will make sure every player on the roster remembers exactly how that felt so they won't find such
Three reasons to smile
1 – Wayne Selden got back on track in a big way and did it with what Self called “real points.” Selden looked to be in as much of a zone as I remember seeing him in since he lit up Oklahoma in Norman last season and he scored from inside and outside with the look of a guy who knew success was coming. It was only a matter of time for Selden to get going again and now that he has, maybe he'll be able to play with an ever clearer head the rest of the season. One thing to note about Selden's big scoring night, though: He finished with zero rebounds, one assists, one block and zero steals. At least when he wasn't shooting it well, he was still contributing in other areas. And I thought it was interesting that his game against the Gators was almost all about scoring. Something to keep an eye on.
2 – What can you say about the fight the Jayhawks showed in the second half? They were intense, hungry, passionate and, well, just better. The players fed off of each other's energy and seemed to really ramp it up after each made bucket or each forced turnover. The fans were fantastic in doing their part to help the cause and the whole thing was pretty impressive to watch.
3 – KU's free throw shooting was fantastic. And the way Florida closed the game, the Jayhawks needed every one of them. Four guys missed just one or no free throws, led by Cliff Alexander's 8-of-8 showing and Devonte' Graham's 9-of-10 clip. Not bad for a couple of freshmen in clutch moments.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – On a night when the building was as fired up as it had been all season and a day when KU named a new football coach, the Jayhawks struggled to match that intensity in the first half. After a decent start, they shut it down and looked slow, sluggish and disinterested, which probably had a little something to do with the way Florida was taking it to them. KU responded with incredible energy in the second half — and the Fieldhouse faithful continued to urge the Jayhawks on — so the first-half funk is not reason to panic.
2 – KU coughed it up nine times in the first half and almost all of them were simply careless mistakes. The Jayhawks telegraphed passes, were lazy with the basketball and, perhaps worst of all, seemed to really try to press after making a mistake. They cleaned it up considerably in the second half, but their first-half issues were a good reminder that this is still a young team learning how to play for Self and how to play together.
3 – I hate to keep picking on the guy, but somewhere along the line, Jamari Traylor lost his confidence and that is really affecting his play. Against Floriday, Traylor missed two easy shots, committed two pretty bad turnovers and played his second lowest number of minutes (15) this season. It's not just that Traylor has lost confidence that's a concern. It's the fact that (a) he's still too important to this team to sit completely and (b) you can really see that every little mistake he makes bugs the heck out of him and that seems to add to the problem.
One for the road
KU's spirited come-from-behind win over the Gators...
• Made Kansas 6-1 or better for the third-straight season and 10th time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at KU.
• Gave Kansas a 1-1 record in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with both games against Florida.
• Made Kansas 4-2 all-time versus Florida.
• Made Kansas 3-0 in Allen Fieldhouse this season, 178-9 in AFH under Self and 717-109 all-time in the venue.
• Improved Self to 331-70 while at Kansas, 538-175 overall and 2-1 all-time against Florida.
• Made KU 2,132-823 all-time.
The Jayhawks continue their stretch of tough games, when they travel to Georgetown on Wednesday for a 6 p.m. tipoff with the Hoyas. The game will be shown on FOX Sports 1.
The Kansas Unviersity men's basketball team picked up some Orlando Classic hardware over the holiday weekend, with three victories in three days over Rhode Island, Tennessee and No. 20 Michigan State.
More important than anything that will end up in KU's trophy case, however, was the chance for the Jayhawks to play big-time minutes together in a short period of time, which allowed the players to bond, the coaches to feel out what they've got and the product as a whole to look a lot different — and better — than it did in the week that led up to the early-season tournament.
Kansas was sharp in many different ways during its three victories, with different players stepping up at different times and different aspects of the Jayhawks' style coming through at the exact right times. Perhaps more important than any of that was the fact that the tournament title came with victories over three pretty good teams. That experience and the confidence that comes from it, no doubt will do wonders for this team as it continues to grow and come together.
Don't get me wrong, winning three games in four days against good competition is no easy feat, but, the way I see it, the best thing for the KU men's basketball program is that the victories came without the Jayhawks playing their best basketball. They were plenty good, of course. And a couple of individuals — namely Perry Ellis, Frank Mason and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk — delivered pretty solid performances day in and day out, but, for the most part, the Jayhawks still showed some room to improve in plenty of areas. Most notable among them were KU's transition offense, freshmen still trying to find their way. It's early, so that's to be expected. But if/when the Jayhawks start to put those things together and stack them upon their already solid foundation, this team has a chance to be scary good.
Three reasons to smile
1 – It may still change, but it sure looks like Bill Self has figured out his starting lineup. Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas have been pretty solid together to start games and they bring different styles and skills that really complement one another while allowing Self to still leave plenty of firepower on the bench. I've been skeptical of Lucas' role on this team, but if he plays all season like he played in Orlando, his role will be there and it will be important.
2 – Forget Perry Ellis' actual numbers. They were great. But forget that he averaged 19 points and 9 rebounds in the three wins in Orlando and focus more on how he got them. Ellis was aggressive throughout all three games and he attacked the rim, scored in a variety of ways and operated with an attitude that Self has been looking for for quite some time — the mindset that when the ball comes off the rim on the opponent's end, Ellis should have as much right to the ball as anyone on the floor. That was, by far, the most impressive part of Ellis' MVP performance in Orlando and if he can keep that up and perhaps even improve upon it — and there's no reason to think he won't now that he's done it and seen the reward — Ellis is going to be even more of a nightmare for KU's opponents than people already thought.
3 – Plenty was made about Frank Mason's 10 rebounds in the victory over Michigan State, but this was not just a one-game thing. Mason was great on the boards all weekend and, at 5-foot-11, brings something to the floor that very few people expect. KU's starting point guard has ripped down 24 rebounds and ranks as the team's fourth leading rebounding, just one board behind Jamari Traylor. It's easy for guards to want to leak out and get going toward the offensive end when shots go up, but Mason clearly does not think that way. He almost always stays back to crash the defensive glass and the Jayhawks are better because of it.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – It's no secret that freshman Kelly Oubre is still trying to figure things out. It's also no secret that KU is just six games into the season and people should probably let him do just that. Still, Oubre struggled in Orlando and continued to look lost out there at times. He moves as if he's thinking about every step and has not yet allowed himself to play free and loose, which has even created problems for him as an offensive player, which was supposed to be his strength coming into college. Oubre was not the only one who looked a little lost last weekend. Jamari Traylor also had plenty of forgettable moments, most of them coming in the form of those 'Why did he just do that?' or 'Did he really just do that?' plays that cause you to forget how athletic and powerful he is and force you to wonder where his mind is at times?
2 – When Wayne Selden went scoreless in KU's 27-point win over Rider earlier this season, KU coach Bill Self barely blinked because Selden finished with nine assists, made a conscious effort to get others involved and took just four shots. Still, Self said there probably can't be too many games in the future where the team's starting two guard goes scoreless. Selden was not scoreless against Michigan State — he hit 5 of 6 free throws — but he did miss all 10 shots he attempted and, at this point, that has to be at least minor cause for concern. So far this season, Selden is hitting just 27 percent of his shots (13-of-49) and has struggled to finish in the paint and from distance (he's just 5-of-19 from three-point range). It's not time to panic yet, but it's obvious that coming up empty is bothering Selden and the longer this goes the more it becomes a concern.
3 – He played through it and claimed to be fine, but the lingering shoulder issues plaguing freshman point guard Devonte' Graham are not exactly great news. Graham played just 27 minutes all weekend and had at least a couple of moments where he got hit or tweaked the shoulder that caused KU fans to hold their breaths. KU has the depth to weather an injury like this, but, more for Graham's sake, you have to wonder just how bad it is and how long it will stick around.
One for the road
KU's championship-game victory over Michigan State:
· Made the Jayhawks 5-1 for the third straight season and the 10th time in Bill Self's 12 seasons at Kansas.
· Brought KU to a 45-26 record against ranked teams in the Bill Self era and 1-1 against top-25 squads this season.
· Cut Michigan State’s lead in the all-time series to 6-5 and snapped KU’s three-game losing streak to the Spartans.
· Improved Kansas to 3-1 this season in games played at neutral sites.
· Improved Self to 5-6 against Michigan State, 330-70 at Kansas and 537-175 overall.
· Pushed KU’s in-season tournament record to 35-6 under Self.
· Made KU's all-time record 2,131-823.
After a few days off early in the week, the Jayhawks will return to action at home on Friday, when they take on Florida at 8 p.m. Think about this: By Friday night, Self will have squared off against John Calipari, Tom Izzo and Billy Donovan in the first seven games of the 2014-15 season. You gotta love college hoops.