They banged into walls, tangled for loose balls and committed fouls without the whistle blowing to stop the action.
There is no denying the insane amount of depth and talent on the 2015-16 Kansas University men's basketball team. A legit argument could be made that KU's second five could finish in the top half of the Big 12 Conference, while the first five — which, at this point, we presume to be Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis and, at least to start the season, Jamari Traylor — works toward winning a 12th consecutive conference title.
But there's one thing about this year's team that might be a getting overlooked. Sure, you've heard, written and read about the skills, returning experience and chip-on-their-shoulder mindset this team possesses. But for the first time in a long time, this year's squad seems to have a little more physicality behind it.
That was obvious during a recent practice, when guys not only looked bigger and badder, but also played like it. And that's the beauty of these practices. Bumps and shoves that almost certainly would get called during games are ignored completely. You either handle it and execute anyway or get exposed and lose reps because of it.
Whether the gains made from the physical practices — where teammates even have been known to get under each other's skin a little from time to time — carry over to game days and show up at Allen Fieldhouse remains to be seen. But Traylor, a senior who has been in Lawrence for five years and, because of his brawn, drawn comparisons to former KU standout Thomas Robinson, said he believed this year's team was more physical, throughout the roster, than the past couple of Kansas teams.
Asked to size up the guys who made the biggest jump in terms of their willingness to mix it up and play a more physical brand of basketball, Traylor focused on his fellow big men and a couple of perimeter players.
“Since Cheick (Diallo) has been here, he's gotten more physical,” Traylor said. “He's really been working hard. And Perry's a lot (emphasis on a lot) more physical. Carlton (Bragg is) getting better physically, and Svi, too. Just how they play and looks-wise. Guys are out there flying around, guys checking you all the time. They're getting you ready.”
Speaking of Ellis, he looks a lot leaner and a lot more athletic than in the past. Almost like a different player altogether. It should be fun to see what that does for his game.
Traylor said the trip to Korea, where the Jayhawks won gold in the World University Games and spent a couple of weeks battling with grown men, along with extra work in the weight room with Andrea Hudy — especially by Svi, who did not make the trip to Korea — has added an extra edge to the Kansas roster.
When that edge shows up in practice and teammates are battling each other like sworn enemies, it doesn't take long to realize how much that could help this team during the season.
This is nothing new, of course. When you battle the same guys day after day, week after week, and teammates begin to learn and understand each others' tendencies, frustrations can boil over from time to time. That happens at KU every year and, in many ways, is a good thing.
With the first exhibition game of the season a week away, Traylor said the Jayhawks were still feeling each other out and trying to fall into proper form for the upcoming season. Korea helped that, too, according to Traylor, who said the young guys appear to be ahead of the game because of their experience this summer, when freshmen Carlton Bragg and Lagerald Vick got regular minutes in KU's run to the gold medal.
Diallo, who hails from Mali, Africa, was not eligible to play for Team USA, but Traylor said he, too, has shown the ability to pick things up quickly.
“These young guys right here, they listen and they're coachable, so that's about the best thing,” he said. They have high accolades and stuff, they're McDonald's All-Americans, Jordan Brand guys, but they still listen. That's the main thing. And that's a good thing.”
Every year, no matter the identity of the players, it takes KU's freshmen and newcomers a little bit of time to adjust to the college game. Sometimes that lasts for a few weeks of practice and other times it can last until conference play begins. Traylor said this group has had its share of growing pains during the past couple of weeks, but added that most of those were from Diallo because Bragg and Vick gained such a head start by playing in Korea.
But whether you're a fifth-year guy like Traylor or a raw freshman like Diallo, basketball is still basketball. It's just getting comfortable with the demands of playing at Kansas and for Bill Self that can take time.
“The hardest thing to get is just all of the plays,” Traylor said. “It could be one play but there's like six variations to it and there could be 10 things to one play that you have to do and know. There's a lot going on in your head. I feel like your head's going 100 miles an hour. But you've just gotta slow down and just work on it.”
That's where Traylor, the veteran leader, has tried to impact this team the most during the preseason portion of the current season.
“I've been here for so long, I know about everything. I'm like another set of eyes out there for the coaches out there so I pretty much know when guys are doing something wrong. When I know they're gonna mess up, I try to step up before they mess up.”
Leading up to Monday's game at Kansas State, I told anyone who would listen that the outcome of that game would tell me a lot about this Kansas basketball team.
Go into Manhattan and win and life is good and the Jayhawks would be well on their way toward wrapping up another Big 12 title and positioned well for the postseason. Go in and lose, though, — in any manner — and I think you'd come away hard-pressed to make a case for this being a team that can expect to get past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Nothing about what I saw Monday night, during a 70-63 loss to K-State in which KU had a half a dozen opportunities to take control of the game made me change my mind.
I get the whole K-State was a desperate team, playing with passion against a heated rival. But they were also a team that just lost to TCU by 15 and Baylor by 27 and had lost seven of its last eight games. If you're a contender, you beat those teams. Home or away. If you're a contender, you don't let those teams grab on to a glimmer of hope that they can get you. If you're a contender, you find a way to win, pretty, ugly or otherwise.
KU did none of that and now enters the final three games of the conference schedule in a real dog fight for consecutive Big 12 title No. 11.
The odds are still very high that Kansas, which plays two of those three games at home, will win at least a share of the title and all will be well in the world of KU basketball. But even if that happens, I'm not sure that all is well with the Jayhawks. This team lacks mental and physical toughness and seems to be finding new ways to struggle just about every night out.
It's never easy to be the top dog that other teams hunt with reckless abandon. But if there's any team that should be used to that it's Kansas, and these Jayhawks too often look anything but comfortable out there on the floor.
I'm going to excuse Perry Ellis from the following commentary and also point out that there are times — minutes, halves even games — when a couple of other Jayhawks are the exception, as well. But it seems to me, now 28 games into the 2014-15 season, that this is a KU basketball team that lacks the necessary competitive juice to be a real contender. They don't play like they hate to lose. They don't compete to the point of exhaustion. They don't always lay it all on the line with the idea that, in any given moment, nothing else matters but getting a stop, grabbing a rebound or getting to the rim. I've said all season that this team lacks on-the-floor leadership and that's a big part of their struggles right now. It's probably too late to hope that emerges out of nowhere though, so the Jayhawks, and specifically Bill Self, are going to have to find a way around it. Ellis was a man on Monday and not just because he scored 20 points, hit 10 of 16 shots and was KU's only real offensive threat for most of the night. But also because he battled for rebounds, put the team on his back in the first half and even showed a little fire by trash talking a time or two. KU needs more of that from Ellis and others need to follow his lead.
Three reasons to smile
1 – Speaking of Perry Ellis, I thought the first half of this one was by far the best example we've seen of this team understanding that it should run every offensive possession through the junior forward from Wichita. It did not matter which players were on the floor with him, whenever they caught it, they looked at Ellis. If he was open, they passed it to him. And when he caught it, he usually got off a good shot or scored. That's a great sign for the future because this team has needed an identity all season and playing through your most experienced and probably most talented guy, who also happens to be as versatile as they come, is a pretty good identity to have.
2 – Props to Kelly Oubre for doing his best to compete. He didn't always score and it wasn't always pretty, but the freshman was aggressive when KU needed him to be and that's huge. There were times when it became way too easy for K-State to focus almost exclusively on guarding Ellis and dare other KU players to beat them. Oubre recognized that and went for it, he just wasn't quite as on as KU needed him to be. Still, he finished with 14 points, was aggressive in the half-court, took 13 shots (only two of which were three-pointers) and added seven boards in 28 minutes.
3 – Kansas did what it needed to do on the boards, out-rebounding K-State 37-28, including 14-7 on the offensive glass. A big reason that didn't matter more was because K-State shot so well, particularly in the second half, when they hit 56 percent of their shots and nearly hung 40 points. But KU held down the rebounding advantage, which led to more free throw attempts and more shots than the Wildcats.
Three reasons to sigh
1 – It didn't take a highly trained basketball eye to see which team wanted it more last night. KU battled and fought at times but the Wildcats battled and fought all the time. Even when KU hit K-State with runs, the Wildcats dug in and fought their way back. A couple of smaller areas where K-State had a subtle edge which can be huge in a two- or three-possession game included: deflections (5-4), charges taken (2-0), five-second calls forced (1-0) and, the big one, bench points (30-14).
2 – Not breaking any news here, but KU's on-the-ball defense was bad, particularly on Nigel Johnson, who played most of the second half with that look in his eye that told you he knew no one could guard him. K-State got way too many shots right at the rim and a good chunk of those were because of breakdowns in KU's man-to-man defense, which was so bad that Self even went to a box-and-one for a few possessions, something that K-State coach Bruce Weber said made him laugh because he thought his team was merely average offensively yet KU still struggled to stop them.
3 – I gotta think there's a way to get Brannen Greene more than 11 minutes. Greene has now played fewer than 20 minutes in 10 of the past 14 games. He's too good of an offensive weapon to limit his minutes like that. And, going back to what I talked about above, he's one of the few guys on this roster who cuts through the all of the tough calls, unlucky bounces and bad breaks and tries to compete, especially on the offensive end. He showed that late in the game on Monday night and it almost helped bring KU back. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, he shot the ball from three-point range as badly as we've seen him shoot it, likely the product of either being too amped up or a little overwhelmed. Regardless, if it's me, I play him more not less.
One for the road
The Jayhawks' third road loss in the past four tries:
• Made KU 22-6 overall and 11-4 in Big 12 play.
• Dropped KU’s all-time edge in the series to 188-93, including a 23-4 mark in games played in Bramlage Coliseum and a 40-5 advantage in Big 12 games.
• Marked the first time that Kansas State has defeated Kansas in consecutive meetings in Manhattan since the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons (in Ahearn Fieldhouse).
• Made Self 347-75 while at Kansas, 24-5 against Kansas State (23-5 at Kansas) and 554-180 overall.
• Made KU 2,148-828 all-time.
The Jayhawks return home Saturday for another showdown with Texas at 4 p.m. at Allen Fieldhouse. KU played one of its best games of the season in topping Texas 75-62 Jan. 24 in Austin, Texas.
For roughly the first 15 minutes of the Iowa State-Oklahoma Big Monday basketball game in Norman, Oklahoma, the Cyclones looked like they were ready to put some real pressure on Kansas for the top spot in the Big 12 standings.
A victory by ISU would've pulled the Cyclones within a half game of the Jayhawks and put at least palpable pressure on the team that has ruled the conference for the past decade.
But OU, which trailed by as many as 10 late in the first half, closed the half with a monster run to tie the game at 46 and then shot lights out in the second half while building a 20-point lead en route to a 94-83 victory.
The win moved OU into second place at 8-4 in Big 12 play and dropped Iowa State to third at 7-4. With KU sitting at 8-2 heading into Tuesday's night's road battle at Texas Tech, the Jayhawks, once again, appear to be in great shape in the race to win their 11th straight Big 12 title, two wins clear of both teams in the loss column with eight games to play.
Here's the thing. Both Oklahoma and Iowa State are plenty talented enough to threaten KU's streak, but both teams are running out of time. The Cyclones don't play KU again and, therefore, will need some serious help to catch Kansas. Oklahoma has one more head-to-head match-up with KU on the schedule, but it's not until March 7. Given the way things have played out in the Big 12 Conference so far this season, is there anyone out there who thinks OU will avoid suffering another loss before then?
One thing that's important to remember is that these two teams play each other again — Monday, March 2 in Ames, Iowa — so at least one of them is guaranteed to finish with at least five conference losses.
West Virginia, at 6-4, is the only other team in the Big 12 with four losses, but the Mountaineers have lost two straight and still have to go to Ames, Lawrence, Stillwater and Waco. WVU has the most to gain in that it plays KU head-to-head two more times, but Bob Huggins' squad also has the toughest remaining schedule of the four Big 12 title contenders.
Real quick, let's take a look at KU's remaining road to Big 12 title No. 11 by examining the remaining schedules for all four teams and my guesses for the outcome of those games.
No. 21 WEST VIRGINIA (18-5, 6-4)
Wednesday, Feb. 11 — vs. Kansas State (W)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — at Iowa State (L)
Monday, Feb. 16 — vs. Kansas (W)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — at Oklahoma State (L)
Tuesday, Feb. 24 — vs. Texas (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — at Baylor (L)
Tuesday, March 3 — at Kansas (L)
Saturday, March 7 — vs. Oklahoma State (W)
No. 17 OKLAHOMA (17-7, 8-4)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — at Kansas State (W)
Tuesday, Feb. 17 — vs. Texas (W)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — at Texas Tech (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — vs. TCU (W)
Monday, March 2 — at Iowa State (L)
Saturday, March 7 — vs. Kansas (W)
No. 14 IOWA STATE (17-6, 7-4)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — vs. West Virginia (W)
Wednesday, Feb. 18 — at Oklahoma State (L)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — at Texas (W)
Wednesday, Feb. 25 — vs. Baylor (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — at Kansas State (W)
Monday, March 2 — vs. Oklahoma (W)
Saturday, March 7 — at TCU (W)
No. 8 KANSAS (19-4, 8-2)
Tuesday, Feb. 10 — at Texas Tech (W)
Saturday, Feb. 14 — vs. Baylor (W)
Monday, Feb. 16 — at West Virginia (L)
Saturday, Feb. 21 — vs. TCU (W)
Monday, Feb. 23 — at Kansas State (W)
Saturday, Feb. 28 — vs. Texas (W)
Tuesday, March 3 — vs. West Virginia (W)
Saturday, March 7 — at Oklahoma (L)
As you can see, even if you call KU's game at OU a loss, I've got the Jayhawks winning the league with 4 losses. And I don't think that's a stretch by any means. Remember, KU has just nine home losses in the Bill Self era at Allen Fieldhouse. Because of that, you won't have any luck convincing me that any of KU's four remaining home opponents will leave Allen Fieldhouse with a victory.
That leaves it up to KU's performance on the road, where the Jayhawks have won and looked good at Baylor and Texas and lost and looked lousy at Iowa State and Oklahoma State.
Speaking of Oklahoma State, how about that team. They're arguably the hottest team in the conference right now and playing with a ton of confidence. I can't wait for the Big 12 tournament!
Three of KU's four road games could and probably should be legitimate tests. West Virginia is tough at home and a bad match-up given how effective the Mountaineers' pressure defense is. Kansas State, despite the current turmoil in Manhattan, will clearly be fired up for Round 2 of the Sunflower Showdown. And Oklahoma is talented, tough and not afraid to play fast.
Texas Tech on Tuesday night, despite that old saying about how hard winning on the road in the Big 12 is, should be no problem for an angry KU team still reeling from Saturday's upset loss in Stillwater.
Tough or not, the odds are long that KU will lose all three of those other road games. So, let's say they win one, lose two, beat Texas Tech and take care of business at home.
That puts the Jayhawks at 25-6 overall and 14-4 in Big 12 play and puts the creative minds inside the KU athletic department on notice to start brainstorming T-Shirt-worthy ways to celebrate title No. 11.
With the calendar turning to February in just a few days, and March being the month that follows February, it doesn't seem all that ridiculous to start looking ahead at the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
While ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi and others do this year round, even in the offseason when no games are being played and coaches are still putting together their recruiting classes, several other college basketball analysts start to fire up their serious thoughts right around now.
Toss ESPN's Jay Bilas into that mix. I realize that Bilas probably was asked for and gave his Final Four picks during some kind of season preview a few months ago. No harm in doing that. But the input he can provide today, now that he's seen a ton of games and a ton of teams is much more valuable.
On Wednesday, Bilas, with a little help from John Gasaway, posted his Top 68 teams in college basketball rankings on ESPN.com's Insider page, and, not-so-surprisingingly, the former Duke player and current face of college basketball broadcasting had eight of the Big 12's 10 teams ranked in his Top 68. Whether they'll all stay there or get into the tournament remains to be seen. (For what it's worth, Lunardi currently has the same eight IN the tournament in his latest Bracketology projections).
Anyway, as is the case in the Big 12 standings, the Jayhawks are the top Big 12 team listed on Bilas' rankings, with KU coming in at No. 13.
Here's what Bilas has to say about KU:
Bill Self and his staff have done a marvelous job winning with this team and, while there is a long way to go, KU seems on the way to its 11th straight Big 12 title. Self has had to push a lot of different buttons, and call a lot of different players into action to piece together wins. The Jayhawks have lost only three games, and have won against a very solid schedule. While rated No. 1 in the RPI (which tells you all you need to know about the RPI), Kansas is rated 18th in offensive efficiency and 39th in defensive efficiency. The key has been the play and steadying influence of Frank Mason solidifying the point guard slot. The development of Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander will be the difference going forward. -- Jay Bilas
As for the rest of the conference, Bilas & Gasaway break the Big 12 down like this, at least today…
16 - Iowa State
18 - Oklahoma
20 - Texas
22 - Baylor
23 - West Virginia
49 - Oklahoma State
55 - Kansas State
For those of you who are "ESPN Insiders" and would like to look at Bilas' entire Top 68, the complete list can be found here.
With the Kansas University football team knocking off West Virginia last week to snap its 27-game Big 12 losing streak, a lot of the talk early this week was much different than it has been in past weeks.
Here's a look back at the past couple of days worth of Twitter activity, which includes some KU hoops and volleyball chatter, as well.
RT ICYMI: Iona’s Armand: ‘I’m expecting to beat Kansas’ http://zagsblog.com/articles/ionas-armand-im-expecting-to-beat-kansas/
RT Kansas keeps climbing! Up to No. 11 in the RPI this week. #RockChalk
RT “@KUsports: Tom Keegan thinks it's time for Ben Goodman to give Benny Goodman a listen: http://bit.ly/1bzZ2Nq ” @B_Good_Man #KUfball
RT Hey KU fans, u've got to do better than this for your favorite volleyball/chem engineering major, Ms. Jarmoc. Vote? http://www.seniorclassaward.com/vote/volleyball_2013/
#KUfball Monday Rewind: The day almost crept by without me getting this in; Credit Weis for changing w/ times… http://ljw.bz/IdBrue
Weis said Tony Pierson is questionable and we'll get a new update tomorrow after Weis talks with team doctors again… #KUfball
Weis said there's no update on Darrian Miller's status… And that Brandon Bourbon should get some more carries again this week #KUfball
Weis said Gavin Howard was looking for help to dump the Gatorade bucket on him and couldn't find many volunteers… #KUfball
Weis said winning vs. WVU was nice hurdle to clear & he wants to go get a road win… Adds: It's gonna be tough sledding up there… #KUfball
Weis said it's an easy week for him b/c he can criticize players w/o worrying about them getting too low… #KUfball
Weis: it was Ben Goodman who blocked the WVU field goal… Official stats gave it to Agostinho & I heard @ least 1 other guy credited #KUfball
Weis said Sims wasn't just running hard on Saturday, "He was trying to punish people." Great way to put it… #KUfball
Weis said the high for Saturday in Ames is supposed to be 23º… Added: Factor in the wind chill and it'll probably be 0º at kickoff #KUfball
Weis said #KUfball will continue to add to passing game, but said: "If the line's continuing to control the line, there's no reason to do it
Weis said C Gavin Howard likes to talk a lot of trash on the field & had a lot of fun last week b/c can't talk trash when losing #KUfball
Weis: Damon Martin has really come along lately and looked good; Ngalu Fusimalohi has been #KUfball's most consistent lineman all season…
RT Athlon Sports and the @Big12Conference honor James Sims for his record-breaking performance: http://kuathne.ws/1aCe8of #kufball
RT It's a good week to be James Sims. @ESPN names Sims Big 12 Player of the Week http://kuathne.ws/17GO7pI #kufball pic.twitter.com/IzYcBy0bfW
Weis says scrimmaging other teams in off/preseason would be nice. Said ideal scenario would be #KUfball vs. MU at Arrowhead for charity...
"Better." #KUfball coach Charlie Weis on Hawk Talk radio show when asked by Bob Davis: How was your weekend?
RT Tyshawn Taylor puts up numbers for Brooklyn, Chalmers' elbow meets Dirk's face & more from Hawks in NBA blog #kubball http://ljw.bz/I1zcej
If you haven't heard: Kickoff for #KUfball vs. K-State on Nov. 30 is set for 11 a.m. Game will be shown on Fox Sports 1...
Bill Self audio from today's #KUbball press conference… http://ljw.bz/IcTUY1
Career day for #KUfball RB James Sims lands Player of the Week honors; sights now set on career mark… http://ljw.bz/17EbD1e
Weis: For the future of the program, you can't just say we're gonna win our home games. We know it'll be tough in Ames... #KUfball
Weis: Our defense, all year long, has played good enough to have won games. With Cozart on Offense, everything changes. #KUfball
Weis on Heaps: He's been great w/ Montell, but Jake is one of the most unselfish people I've ever been around… He's a competitor… #KUfball
Weis on Cozart: His athleticism helps hide some of our deficiencies… Montell's got a bright future & this was a good first step #KUfball
Weis: We still have 2 more opportunities to get rid of a couple other things on that list of things that could change the program #KUfball
Weis: Having won that game (WVU) helps us going forward and now we gotta focus on snapping road losing streak… #KUfball
Weis: As a coach, you learn that you can't have highs & lows… you gotta stay even keel. Just like players, though, you get a lift. #KUfball
Weis: Psychologically, I think WVU victory is a very, very big lift for our players. #KUfball
#KUfball RB James Sims named Big 12 co-offensive player of the week for his 211-yard, 3 TD performance vs. WVU... Shared w/ Baylor QB Petty
Didn't Tweet during the game but can't let tonight pass w/o props for former #KUfball LB Steven Johnson. Played big in a huge moment...
I'm sure our own Gary Bedore is all over this and will have more throughout the week, but since he's in his hometown of Chicago getting ready for tomorrow night's KU-Duke game, I figured I'd post this quickly so you guys were in the loop.
It looks like Friday will be a huge day for KU basketball recruiting, as three of the top prospects in the Class of 2014 reportedly will be announcing their decisions at 3 p.m.
They are Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Cliff Alexander. KU is in the running for all three of them and each made a visit to KU's campus at some point during the process, with Alexander being the most recent to hit Lawrence, as he was here this past weekend.
The announcements will take place at their respective high schools and, as always, we'll have all kinds of coverage and reaction right here at KUsports.com when the deals go down.
It's hard to say exactly what will happen here. Okafor and Jones have spoken often of wanting to play college ball together and Alexander's as talented as anyone, but it's hard to imagine all three of them will pick the same school. Then again, you never know. And the timing of their announcements — same time, same day — certainly adds to the intrigue around their decisions.
Okafor, a 6-10, 270-pound center from Whitney Young High in Chicago, is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the class. Jones, a 6-1, 171-pound point guard from Apple Valley (MN) High is ranked fifth and the potential packaged deal represent two of KU's top targets.
Alexander, a 6-8, 240-pound forward from Chicago's Curie High, is ranked 4th in the class and has a final five of Kansas, Illinois, Michigan State, DePaul and Memphis.
Okafor's final four is believed to be Baylor, Duke, Kansas and Kentucky, while Duke, Kansas and several others are in on Jones, as well.
All three are five-star prospects.
Last night, while covering the KU volleyball game (which the Jayhawks lost in five sets to Iowa State), I sent out quite a few Tweets about this week's KU football match-up with Baylor.
I, like much of the rest of the world, have found Twitter to be an incredibly useful tool in getting quick nuggets of information about the teams I cover to the fans who care most about them.
A lot of the time that's done through stories, notebooks, blogs, videos and podcasts here on our site, but, occasionally — quite often, actually — I find myself using Twitter to share little notes, stats, facts and opinions about KU sports. Almost as often, I forget to throw those same things on the site.
It's obviously not a major deal and a lot of them eventually wind up finding their way into my stories or coverage somehow. But in an effort to continue to bring you the most KU coverage you can possibly want, I've decided to start this little "Tweetcap" blog, which I'll post semi-regularly on days when I drop a lot of Twitter knowledge.
More often than not, it'll be short and sweet and simply be me copying and pasting the stuff I put on Twitter throughout the day. But I didn't want you guys to miss any of that stuff either so I dreamt up this idea.
I'm sure a good chunk of you already are following me on Twitter anyway, so for you guys this won't really do much — other than bring those words to one place where you can comment on them and discuss the content with others.
For those of you not following me, that's always an option, too.
But if Twitter isn't your thing, this blog will cover that.
So, without further ado, here's the first installment of my Tweetcap from Wednesday, Oct. 23.
#KUfball CB Shepherd praised senior Darius Willis during player interviews today. Said Willis is a big-time leader & "just loves the game."
Credit #KUfball QB Heaps for his attitude. Mired in worst slump of his life, Heaps said only thing he can do is keep working & stay positive
I asked #KUfball LB Jake Love why he played like such a maniac last week (8 tackles, 1 for loss) & the Okie native said it was b/c it was OU
#KUfball CB Shepherd also credited TE Jimmay Mundine for developing into a quality leader, saying, "I like Jimmay, too. Jimmay shows a lot."
Baylor has an incredible offense and they're fast as heck, but #KUfball CBs JaCorey Shepherd & Dexter McDonald can't wait for the challenge…
#KUfball QB Jake Heaps said he's not worried about a repeat of last week's effort (5-13, 16 yds) b/c last week was "as low as you can get."
Tryin to find out how many times & when #KUfball has been bigger underdog than this week's 35.5-point line vs Baylor… Know there are several
In 1985, Oregon St was 38-point underdog vs Washington & won 21-20. Biggest underdog to win up to that point… Still searching… #KUfball
Thanks to some Twitter help, it looks like 2007 was the year and USC was favored by 41 over Stanford but lost 24-23… #KUfball
At KU volleyball tonight, Caroline Jarmoc recorded block No. 515 for her career tonight, making her the all-time leader in KU history. Stud.
Appropriately, the awesome KU volleyball band broke into "Sweet Caroline" after the announcement. In related news, Boston leads StL 5-0…
RT: Elijah Johnson signs on to play with Rosa Radom, a Polish basketball team http://kuathne.ws/18mWswu #kubball
Note: We're working on a way to make this format more visually appealing, i.e. Storify or something of the like, but, at the moment, our blog tool does not support the embedding of things like that. Bear with me for now. Thanks!
Let me start out by saying that the whole idea for this blog entry was born from the simple belief, of this writer at least, that North Carolina coach Roy Williams is a good person.
Having grown up in Lawrence and hung around with his son, Scott, I know this to be true. He’s a kind, compassionate, genuine man with an intense love of basketball and a highly competitive spirit.
Fans of Kansas University basketball know this, whether they’ve spent the past 10 seasons rooting against him or not. As the old saying goes, or at least went, Ol’ Roy had more desire to win in his little finger than all of the Kansas basketball fans in the world combined. Before the divorce, KU fans loved that about him. As time goes by and more distance is put between his 15 seasons in Lawrence and the present day, I think KU fans will slowly begin to remember that.
The scene at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., on Thursday certainly made that seem possible. With thousands of KU fans in the stands waiting for the Jayhawks, Williams was cheered when UNC took the floor for its open practice session.
So what does any of this have to with Caronlina’s first-round match-up against Villanova on Friday at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.? That, too, is simple. It’s my contention that the basketball gods simply are not that cruel to put one man through losing to his former school on the biggest stage in the world twice in the past 12 months and three times in the past five years. It was cruel enough of the committee to put the potential match-up out there, but the gods will intervene.
Roy left. He did what he had to do for himself and his family. And, truth be told, had most of you been in his position, you would’ve done the same thing, whether you’re willing to admit it or not.
But he has paid his debt to the Jayhawk Nation. After getting drubbed by Kansas in the national semifinals in 2008, Williams stuck around for the title game against Memphis and wore a Jayhawk sticker on his shirt. For that he was crushed by the UNC fans, and when the two schools met again in last year’s Elite Eight in St. Louis, he had to relive the whole experience while suffering through another heartbreaking loss to his former school at the same time.
Every time he's been asked, Williams has had nothing but positive, heart-felt things to say about KU and his time here.
So when is enough enough?
North Carolina, which enters the game as a four-point favorite, may have more talent than Villanova. The Tar Heels may be a bit under-seeded — third in the ACC and a berth in the conference tournament title game usually gets you more than an 8 seed — and may have the luxury of having at least a few players who have experienced the NCAA Tournament and its intense pressure in much bigger games and venues. But I don’t think they’ll win.
Forget just playing the hunch, though. Villanova has real talent. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was a unanimous selection on the Big East’s all-rookie squad and the Wildcats have a size advantage inside, led by senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou (6-foot-10, 255 pounds) and sophomore bruiser JayVaughn Pinkston (6-7, 260). In addition, the Wildcats are the better defensive team, are better free-throw shooters and have a more quality wins. Forget about the 20-13 overall record. In the past 59 days alone, ‘Nova knocked off Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games and also snagged victories over Marquette and Georgetown. That’s victories over a No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament and 11 total games (4-7) against NCAA Tournament teams. UNC? Not a single victory against a team currently in the Top 25.
I think Villanova wins. I think Roy goes home sad. But, when it’s all said and done, I don’t think it hurts as bad as losing to Kansas — again.
Having trouble filling out your bracket?
Maybe this can help. I stumbled upon it the other day via Twitter — where else? — and I've probably tried it four or five different times since discovering it.
In a word, it's awesome. But in greater detail, it's the Wall Street Journal's Blind Bracket exercise. To the best of my understanding, it's an actual bracket pool, with prizes available and the whole bit. I haven't actually entered it yet, but it seems like an interesting way to increase your odds of winning something this March.
Here's how it works:
Just as you do in a normal bracket, you pick each round, game by game, but instead of knowing the identity of the teams you're picking, you're simply given two profiles and asked to pick one. The profiles, which come complete with fake names such as “Boom Boxes” or “The Ice Cube Trays,” include six categories, a brief summary, seed and RPI ranges and vague conference affiliation, such as mid-major or high major.
Values are assigned to each of the six categories — basically, the 1-5 star system, with five being the best — and that's how you determine which team you're picking.
You go through blindly the entire way, picking 32 games in Round 2, 16 games in Round 3, 8 games in Round 4, 4 games in Round 5, 2 games in Round 6 and, of course, the title game.
After it's all over, your picks are recorded and the site spits out the completed bracket.
The first one I did yielded the following results: Final Four – Duke, Gonzaga, Florida and Indiana, with Duke topping Florida in the title game. I'm not crazy about those picks, considering none of them are in my actual bracket picks, but maybe that's a sign that I should reconsider before making it official. As for KU, I picked the Jayhawks to the Elite Eight in my blind bracket and had them losing to Florida. Not bad.
Anyway, if you want to try your luck, here's the link. Enjoy!
By now, you’ve probably read about, or at least heard about, the contract extension that Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self agreed to recently.
The extension, which, if fulfilled, will guarantee Self just over $53 million over the next 10 seasons, locks up the KU coach through the 2021-22 season and further cements him as not only one of the best coaches in college basketball but also one of the most highly-compensated coaches in all of sports.
I’m sure you’d be hard-pressed to find a person around here — whether they’re a KU fan or not — who believes that Self is not worth that kind of money.
• It should be noted, that the previous statement was made assuming you’re talking about people who already have accepted that contracts for both coaches and players are what they are and, outrageous or not, represent the going rate.•
OK, so back to the contract. Like most contracts these days, Self’s new ink includes all kinds of incentives.
• Regular-season conference championship ($50,000)
• Conference postseason tournament championship ($25,000)
• AP Coach of the Year ($100,000)
• Final Four appearance ($150,000)
• NCAA Championship ($200,000)
You know what else it includes? Thanks to a Tweet sent out by ESPN’s Darren Rovell, who was at least the first to announce that he did the math, it includes Self making $14,978 per day. Per day!!! Rovell also pointed out that for the cost of Self’s contract, the folks at KU could build 2.5 Allen Fieldhouses. I’m not exactly sure where those numbers came from, but they sound about right and they put the value of Self’s contract into even greater perspective.
You know what else puts it in perspective? Seeing where Self now ranks among college basketball’s highest-paid coaches.
According to this USA Today data base, Self is now the fourth highest paid college hoops coach in the country, trailing only Kentucky's John Calipari, Louisville's Rick Pitino and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski. The top of the board has changed a little since this report from Forbes Magazine was released last March.
Here’s the current list:
• John Calipari, Kentucky — $5.38 million
• Rick Pitino, Louisville — $4.81 million
• Mike Krzyzewski, Duke — $4.69 million
• Bill Self, Kansas — $3.85 million
• Billy Donovan, Florida — $3.64 million
Talk about some heavy hitters and some big-time programs. Again, no surprise there, but it still is interesting to see how things sit. One other interesting note from that March article was the fact that, 31 college basketball coaches — including five in the women’s ranks — make at least $1 million per year. The information came from data compiled by USA Today and other sources, the article said.
Something else the Forbes article pointed out that I thought was pretty interesting was that college coaches, especially the good ones, often are paid such high salaries because they are the marquee names at their schools year in and year out.
Sure you get the guys like Thomas Robinson or Mario Chalmers or Paul Pierce coming through for a few years at a time, but they come and go. The coaches stay (at least the winners) and, therefore, compensating them at a high level is easier to do and more beneficial for the universities than it would be for NBA franchises, which are driven by the salaries and superstardom of their top players.
So what does all this mean? Not a whole lot, I guess. Self made a lot of money before this weekend and he still makes a lot of money now. But it certainly is interesting to see how it all breaks down, where it all comes from and where it puts Self in the ultra-competitive coaching world. You think these guys are only competitive during games and in recruiting? No way. You can bet this news opened more than a few eyes at other schools around the country, especially those where the coaches in place wear national championship rings and hang Final Four banners.
Oh yeah, it should also be pointed out that it was a nice move by the KU athletic department to announce this news during a weekend when football wasn’t playing. Not only did that give the Self extension its own spotlight, but it also was a classy gesture toward the football program, especially considering we are still in football season.