Consistently successful coaches sometimes get overlooked for these types of awards. But we're not taking for granted what Bill Self did this season. Not only did he lead the Jayhawks to their 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship, but he did it in the nation's toughest conference — and won the league by two whole games. Not to mention that this season's Big 12 is one of the toughest conferences in recent years. So, that's no easy feat.
It's even tougher when you don't have first-round draft pick level talent.
That's why this is likely Self's best coaching job yet, despite all those other league titles and the team that won it all in 2008. He has had to poke and prod and figure out lineups. He's found a winning formula even as he's limited minutes for highly touted freshmen Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg.
Self, who edged Xavier’s Chris Mack, Indiana’s Tom Crean, Oregon’s Dana Altman and Miami’s Jim Larranaga, has balanced it all and built a title contender in the process, the most complete team in the country heading into the NCAA tournament. It's not unusual that a Self-led team is peaking in March, but it is impressive that this particular one is playing at this high a level. For that, this honor goes to Self.
At one point this season, the streak looked to be in jeopardy. The Jayhawks lost three out of five games in January and were 5-3 in the league. They couldn't guard anyone, and they looked like they'd forgotten how to run good offense.
Then, as he usually does, Self got his team to buy into doing things his way, and the Jayhawks have been the best team in America since, winning 11 straight games. This isn't Self's best team—it's a ways down the list in terms of talent—but he has a veteran group who understands how he likes to do things.
And Self's way, 12 straight Big 12 titles says, is the right way.
Coach of the Year: Bill Self, Kansas
Self didn't even earn official Big 12 coach of the year honors from the league's coaches, as that award went to Texas Tech's Tubby Smith. It's not that Smith wasn't deserving; the Red Raiders went from totally off the radar to a likely NCAA Tournament bid. Still, Texas Tech is a seventh-place team that went 9-9 in the conference. Self has won 12 straight Big 12 regular-season titles, and the Jayhawks ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in the AP poll despite not having a likely first-round pick in their rotation. He is the best coach in the Big 12. He is regularly one of the best coaches in the nation.
Coach of the year awards can be strange, as they are awarded to coaches who most exceed preseason media expectations. Meanwhile, Mike Krzyzewski hasn't been voted ACC coach of the year since 2000. Urban Meyer has one Big Ten regular-season football loss in four seasons and yet hasn't won Big Ten coach of the year. Nick Saban has won four national championships since his last national coach of the year award.
Self, to be fair, did earn the AP's vote for Big 12 coach of the year for the second year in a row and the fifth time since his streak started.
In a season lacking dominant teams, Kansas has gone 27-4 and rides an 11-game winning streak into the Big 12 tournament. It extended its conference title streak in one of the most competitive years ever for the conference, sweeping Oklahoma and also notching wins over Kentucky, West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas, Vanderbilt and Oregon State for a resume that makes the Jayhawks the strongest candidate for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Sports on Earth
There was also a repeat winner for AP Coach of the Year, with Kansas' Bill Self winning for the fifth time in 11 seasons. He is the fourth coach in league history to be coach of the year in consecutive seasons.
Self received 12 of 20 votes for top coach after the Jayhawks won their 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title. Tubby Smith got six votes after Texas Tech finished 9-9 in conference play, and West Virginia's Bob Huggins got two from an AP panel of sports writers and sportscasters who cover the league on a regular basis. In voting by the Big 12 coaches, they tabbed Smith as their coach of the year.
Before last season, when Self became the first four-time winner, he also won the AP coaching award in 2006, 2009 and 2011.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self on Monday was named Associated Press Big 12 Coach of the Year for the second straight season and fifth time in 13 years.
An AP media panel also voted KU senior forward Perry Ellis a unanimous All-Big 12 first team pick and junior guard Frank Mason III a second-team selection. Junior guard Wayne Selden Jr., and sophomore guard Devonté Graham were listed as honorable mention.
“Certainly I understand all that is a reflection of having a good team and the guys win and certainly nobody’s had better players than we’ve had,” said Self, who received 12 of 20 votes for top coach after the Jayhawks wrapped up their 12th straight regular-season conference crown.
“It is nice. I certainly appreciate it,” added Self, who also won the AP coaching award in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2015. He is 379-82 at KU, including a 206-9 record in Allen Fieldhouse.
The Big 12 coaches named Texas Tech’s Tubby Smith coach of the year on Sunday.
“If they (coaches) had a co-coach of the year, I think ‘Huggs’ would definitely be the other guy,” Self said of West Virginia’s Bob Huggins. “I don’t know if they fell out of the Top 15 the entire year.”
Nursing a five-point lead with 2:49 remaining, the Eagles ran into the same obstacle Self has seen his team struggle with over its last few contests.
“That was one of those games,” Self recalled Monday, “where free throws could have kept him from going to the NCAA Tournament.”
FGCU freshman Zach Johnson missed all three of his team’s free-throw attempts during a closing stretch that saw opponent Stetson force overtime, but made up for it with an athletic block on a last-second layup attempt that gave the Eagles an 80-78 victory. Dooley, the former 10-year assistant at KU, had his automatic tourney berth.
“Of course, the play that freshman made at the end was spectacular,” Self said, “and I’m really, really happy for Joe.”
The Eagles used their athleticism to overcome free-throw woes at the most inopportune time, and if that sounds familiar, it should. The No. 1-ranked Jayhawks (27-4, 15-3 Big 12) are riding an 11-game winning streak into postseason play, but if there has been one bugaboo bothering them of late, it is the charity stripe.
…“We’ve got to make them,” Self said. “You know what? We’ve been a good free-throw shooting team when it counted. We haven’t been a very good free-throw shooting team it seems to me when it didn’t count, so many that’s a positive sign.
“But certainly that could bite us.”
…Five games is admittedly a small sample size, but the struggles for Wayne Selden date back even further. The KU junior guard has made 12 of has last 28 free throws (42.9 percent) over the last 10 games. On the season, Selden is making 57.3 percent of his attempts at the line, the lowest total of his career by 5.6 percent.
KU forward Landen Lucas called the struggles at the line more mental than anything — not only for Selden but the team itself.
“I know Wayne’s a great free-throw shooter and he’ll get out there and think about it a lot,” Lucas said. “I know he’s frustrated with it, but it’s something I’ve seen all of us make. There’s not really one bad free-throw shooter on this team. It’s just carrying it over into the game that’s important.”
Near the end of our interview, I asked Golson about Traylor's emphatic dunk five days earlier in the second half of the Jayhawks' 86-56 rout at Texas. The slam, on a two-on-one fast break and from a lob by teammate Devonte' Graham, erupted on social media, with one Vine of the play amassing 300,000-plus loops alone. It was the No. 3 play on the SportsCenter broadcast that aired after the Big Monday clash.
Throughout the course of Saturday's game at Allen Fieldhouse, the dunk was shown at least three times, and likely more when taking into account my inattentiveness of the video board at times.
Golson said she hopes the play becomes a fixture at KU home games long after her son plays his final game.
"It was awesome. I'm just happy," Golson said. "You know, I hope it becomes part of the tradition video that they show."
…"When I first saw it, I was watching on my phone because I had to work," Golson said, "so I had to hurry up and get home when I got off and replay the game just to watch it on a bigger screen."
While Saturday's game was the first Golson had been able to see in person this season, she and Traylor said the team had become like an extended family. In fact, Traylor said she took off her belt Friday and threatened Graham, who Traylor said he views as a brother.
"She's actually given a couple of whoopins at Kansas," Traylor said with a grin. "She got Naadir (Tharpe) a couple of times, she got Kelly Oubre last year. So she's been getting some guys."
And why not? Golson should know more than anyone the wonders a little dosage of tough love can do.
Iowa State’s Georges Niang is used to getting cheers in Ames.
But the Iowa State star got a standing ovation from an unlikely fan base — Kansas.
Kansas fans honored Niang in surprising fashion following then-No. 20 Iowa State’s loss to the top-ranked Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday.
“I never thought I’d be sitting in Allen Fieldhouse with people standing up clapping for me,” Niang said. “So that was really cool.”
Niang was sitting on press row for his postgame radio interview as Kansas went through its senior day celebrations. Then Kansas radio voice Bob Davis took a moment to honor the visiting senior who played his last game at the famed arena.
Niang, who has been a part of some memorable match-ups against Kansas, was surprised to see the type of warm reception he got.
“I watched the film on it and it looked like I was sort of like disrespecting,” Niang said. “I was sort of caught off-guard.”
Niang was thankful for it.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those people over there, especially coach (Bill) Self,” he said. “Obviously battling against Perry Ellis for so long, that was really great. That really meant a lot to me for them to do that.”
Des Moines Register
Kansas coach Bill Self has used all the motivational ploys before.
When his team has tied for a regular-season conference crown, he’s told his players that the Big 12 Tournament was the tiebreaker. When his team has won it outright, he’s talked about it being time to validate what had already occurred.
The coach admits it might be a little bit different this time
“Is it as important as the following week? No. Will we play injured guys to try to win? Absolutely not,” Self said. “But it is something that our guys will take seriously and know how important it is.”
It’s an interesting dilemma for sure.
Three years ago, KU researchers Matt Andre and Andrew Fry — with help from strength coach Andrea Hudy — conducted a study on KU basketball players’ stress levels throughout the season by testing the Jayhawks’ saliva. One interesting finding was that KU players’ testosterone-to-cortisol levels plummeted just before the NCAA Tournament — a potential sign that fatigue and stress were keeping the Jayhawks from their peak performance.
Could limiting minutes potentially help with that? Andre believed it was possible, and discussions about the benefits of additional rest also are circulating at the NBA level.
Golden State coach Steve Kerr limited the playing time of stars such as Stephen Curry late in last year’s regular season before a championship run, and he’s already promised to do the same this season, even if it costs the Warriors a chance at beating the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ record of 72 victories.
Self was asked Monday about how his plan for healthy players in the upcoming Big 12 Tournament.
“I’m not going to say we’re cutting minutes back. I’m not going to say that,” Self said. “But the ideal role if we could be successful would be to certainly not tax our guys 100 percent.”
…“If you get to the finals, then you’ve got to win,” Self said. “If you don’t get to the finals and win, you’re almost better off not getting to the finals (to) get an extra day of rest.”
Kansas University junior forward Landen Lucas, who was named honorable mention All-Big 12 by the league’s coaches on Sunday, has also earned a spot on Sports Illustrated’s 17th-annual All-Glue Team.
“It’s cool. It is a nice honor,” the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Lucas said of joining writer Seth Davis’ squad that honors players whose contributions do not necessarily show up in the stats, but in wins and losses.
“I guess that’s a form of being a team player, doing whatever it takes to help the team win. It’s a nice sign because it means you are helping this team and being a part of this team’s success. That’s all any player really wants, is to be on a successful team and help in any way possible, whether it is encouraging people or being on the court helping them. The fact I am able to do that is definitely nice and encouraging to me,” added Lucas.
…Lucas remembers Self telling him he’d start the Texas game — a 76-67 victory four days after the OSU rout.
“He pretty much said, ‘The guys have confidence in you.’ He was like, ‘Here’s what we can use from you.’ It was focusing on rebounding and defense. That’s what could help the team. We didn’t really talk about anything else. Since then, we’ve expanded that.
“It works,” Lucas added, “because it’s the stuff I like to do. I like to rebound. It kind of works out. It ended up being a pretty good fit.”
An injury to guard Terry Henderson, defensive shortcomings exacerbated by depth issues and scoring inconsistencies also helped land the Wolfpack (15-16) in this predicament. They must win five games in five days at the ACC tournament starting at noon Tuesday against Wake Forest (11-19, 2-16) in Washington, D.C. to return to the NCAA tournament.
Players leave early for the NBA or to transfer, as forward Kyle Washington did, to another school all the time. Good programs plan ahead and make adjustments.
Gottfried has been as efficient and flexible in this process as any coach in this transient era, but the timing of Lacey’s departure caught him flat-footed.
It wasn’t just the loss of a top player, it was the other guards N.C. State missed out on because, like Gottfried, they had assumed Lacey was going to be around for this season.
…N.C. State had also pursued former Broughton guard Devonte’ Graham, a high school teammate of Gottfried’s son Aaron. Graham had gone through a complicated breakup with Appalachian State and got his release from the school in April 2014.
Graham, a true point guard, had a choice between N.C. State, which had two guards in place, or Kansas, which had parted ways with starting point guard Naadir Tharpe.
Graham chose the Jayhawks and played 17.8 minutes per game and averaged 5.7 points per game as a freshman last season. His numbers have jumped to 11.2 points and 3.5 assists per game. Playing alongside point guard Frank Mason, Graham is a big reason the Jayhawks won the Big 12’s regular season and will likely enter the NCAA tournament as one of the favorites to win it all.
News & Observer
In the video above, Embiid is seen shooting free throws, jump shots and three-pointers. While he is unlikely to be pulling off any between the legs dunks anytime soon, it appears that the Kansas product with so much of the Sixers' fortunes tied to the recovery of a stress fracture in his foot is making progress towards an eventual return.
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!”
Big 12/College News
The Associated Press All-Big 12 men's basketball team for the 2015-16 season, as chosen by a panel of media representatives who cover the conference on a regular basis. Players are listed in alphabetical order by name, school, class, height, weight and hometown:
Perry Ellis, Kansas, Sr., 6-8, 225, Wichita, Kansas.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma, Sr., 6-4, 214, Freeport, Bahamas.
Monte Morris, Iowa St., Jr., 6-3, 175, Flint, Michigan.
Georges Niang, Iowa St., Sr., 6-8, 230, Methuen, Massachusetts.
Isaiah Taylor, Texas, Jr., 6-3, 185, South Hayward, California.
Rico Gathers, Baylor, Sr., 6-8, 275, LaPlace, Louisiana.
Frank Mason III, Kansas, Jr., 5-11, 185, Petersburg, Virginia.
Jaysean Paige, West Virginia, Sr., 6-2, 210, Jamestown, New York.
Taurean Prince, Baylor, Sr., 6-8, 220, San Antonio.
Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma, Sr., 6-8, 234, Bridge Creek, Oklahoma.
Devin Williams, West Virginia, Jr., 6-9, 255, Cincinnati.
(asterisk)Note: Six players due to a tie for the final spot.
HONARABLE MENTION: Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma; Devonte' Graham, Kansas; Lester Medford, Baylor; Aaron Ross, Texas Tech; Wayne Selden, Kansas; Jordan Woodard, Oklahoma.
COACH OF THE YEAR: Bill Self, Kansas.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Deonte Burton, Iowa St.
Voters: Tommy Birch, Des Moines Register; Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Chuck Carlton, Dallas Morning News; Mark Cooper, Tulsa World; Brian Davis, Austin American-Statesman; Guerin Emig, Tulsa World; Tim Griffin, San Antonio Express-News; Kevin Haskin, Topeka Capital-Journal; John Helsley, The Oklahoman; Justin Jackson, The Dominion Post; Tom Keegan, Lawrence Journal-World; Kevin Lyttle, Austin American-Statesman; Carlos Mendez, Fort Worth Star-Telegram; Randy Peterson, Des Moines Register; Soren Petro, Sports Radio 810; Krista Pirtle, Lubbock Avalanche-Journal; Kellis Robinett, Wichita Eagle; John Shinn, Norman Transcript; Mitch Vingle, Charleston Gazette-Mail; John Werner, Waco Tribune-Herald.
KUAD: Postseason Information Hub
Prepaid Big 12 Tourney Parking Options (h/t jjbritton jayhawkslant.com)
https://kcmo.clickandpark.com (format issue, not clickable, have to cut and paste)
The 20th Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, and 15th in Kansas City, runs Wednesday, March 9 through Saturday, March 12 at the Sprint Center. Here is the schedule, with TV times.
Tickets: Call 888-929-7849 or go to SprintCenter.com. Tickets are limited. An online message said the tournament is not officially sold out and it is possible tickets will become available later.
Big 12 Fan Experience: The Big 12 will have a “GameDay Fan Experience” outside the Sprint Center. That will be Wednesday (3-7 p.m.), Thursday (2-7 p.m.), Friday (2-7 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.).
Bus service: The Main Street MAX Orange Line (map of stops and the route, which covers Brookside/Waldo, the Plaza, Midtown, River Market and the Sprint Center) will offer frequent service on game days. Fare is $1.50 per ride and an all-day pass is $3; both can be purchased on the bus. Three-day visitor passes are $10 and available at the KCATA offices, 1200 E. 18th Street.
▪ Iowa State: Pre-Tourney Party at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kelly’s Westport Inn (500 Westport Road). Tipoff rally three hours before Thursday’s quarterfinal game vs. Oklahoma at Room 1501 of the KC Conference Center (Wyandotte and 14th streets). More information here.
▪ Kansas: Pregame rally starting at 10 a.m. Thursday at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.
(Note: List will be updated as more information is released by alumni associations)
The following downtown Kansas City streets will be closed at times before and during the tournament.
▪ Grand Boulevard (between 13th Street and Truman Road): closed from 10 a.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Sunday
▪ 14th Street (between Walnut Street and Grand Boulevard): closed from 10 a.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Sunday
▪ Walnut Street (between 13th and 14th streets): closed from 9 a.m. Tuesday through 1 p.m. Sunday
▪ Truman Road westbound (between Grand Boulevard and Oak Street) will have lane closures from 10 a.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Sunday. Westbound Truman Road is limited to one lane between Grand Boulevard and Walnut Street because of building construction.
Additional streets will be closed for the Big 12 Run starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and through the conclusion of the race (about 12:30 p.m.). Here is a map of the 5K and 12K courses.
The Cyclones point guard said he’ll be good to go for the start of the Big 12 Conference tournament after suffering a strained rotator cuff in his team’s last game.
“When Thursday comes, I’m going to see the fans in there,” Morris said. “Adrenaline is going to be rushing. Even if I was in pain, my mom is going to be there, I’m going to tell her I’m 100 percent even if I’m 50. That’s just the love for this team and I’m going to lay it out all on the line, hurt or not.”
Des Moines Register
Texas center Cameron Ridley could return to the Longhorns' lineup as soon as this week's Big 12 tournament, coach Shaka Smart told ESPN.com, adding he is "really, really optimistic" that the senior will be back for the NCAA tournament.
"It depends on how he responds, but he's not definitely out [for the Big 12 tournament],'' Smart said. "It all depends on how he does and how he feels later this week."
Ridley has not played since breaking a bone in his foot during practice Dec. 28, missing the past 20 games.
After meeting with doctors Monday morning, Ridley was cleared to resume some basketball activities. Smart did not expect Ridley to jump directly into full practice but that doctors were positive with his progress.
If he was ever going to lead his team to the NCAA tournament, it was going to be on his terms.
FGCU coach Joe Dooley arrived in Southwest Florida one month shy of three years ago promising not to change the way Dunk City played basketball. He ended up changing the way Dunk City played basketball. It was not predetermined or malicious. He just couldn't help himself.
If you spend any time around Dooley you find the heart of his basketball philosophy is toughness.
Three minutes won't go by without him saying the word “tough” about a player or a team. Either they have it or they don't.
That's not to say Brett Comer, Chase Fieler, Bernard Thompson — the cornerstones of the 2013 Sweet 16 Dunk City squad Dooley inherited — and company were not tough, because they were. Just not Joe Dooley’s old school, New Jersey Catholic league tough. He needs to see that your intensity or commitment level is equal to his. If he doesn't see it or feel it, it’s not going to work with him.
So it only seems appropriate that redshirt freshman Zach Johnson, who took over the second half with gritty drives to the hoop and clutch free throws, made the game-saving block in overtime to preserve an 80-78 Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament title and secure the school's second berth into the NCAA tournament.
Last year FGCU was eliminated in the A-Sun semifinals at home after a 63-62 loss to USC-Upstate. Afterward Dooley harped on a loose ball that two Eagles players did not aggressively go after in the final seconds of the first half, but one Spartans player did. He was the one to get the ball and score as the half ended. A pretty big two points as it turned out.
Six weeks later I ran into Joe. At some point we end up talking about the 2015 season and the first thing he brings up was the loose ball at the end of the half of the Upstate game. The FIRST thing!
A loose ball. The other team wanted it more than his team did, and it killed him. Another team hits shots, he'll shake their hand and be fine with it. Get out-hustled or as he ultimately sees it, out-toughed, and he'll never understand. Ever. When that game was over Joe was done with that group (and truth be told, they were done with him too).
Dooley was offered a top assistant's job at a Power 5 school for double his current salary after last season. He thought long and hard about leaving. I asked him why he didn't. He said simply, “I really like these guys.”
Translation: I don't know if this 2016 team will ever be as good as the last group, but they'll get me that loose ball, and I can coach that.
The old school part of Joe Dooley is how stubborn he is. Case in point has been on display all season. While the rest of the Atlantic Sun got smaller and shot a bunch of 3-pointers, Dooley made sure the Eagles got bigger and shot the least number of 3s in the league. Why? Because his other basketball belief is you work inside-out. The whole sport is becoming a game of horse and he would rather go 0-30 than go along with it.
There were times during the regular season where it looked like Joe's young squad was going to lose by not conforming. In the A-Sun tournament however, Dooleyball won out. FGCU was the best rebounding and defensive team in the league. Now you can call them CHAMPIONS of the league.
Another good read on Coach Dooley and FGCU
See stats below:
Sporting News Coach of the Year = Tubby Smith (also Hield POY)
ESPN First Team
Buddy Hield, senior, Oklahoma Sooners
Buddy Buckets. The Bahamas native has cooled off lately, but he was sensational this season. He was shooting more than 50 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 and 90 percent from the line well into February -- and wound up averaging more than 25 points per game.
Denzel Valentine, senior, Michigan State Spartans
Valentine and Hield should be unanimous first-teamers. Valentine is the most versatile player in the country, averaging more than 19 points, seven boards and seven assists while also shooting 45 percent from 3.
Jakob Poeltl, sophomore, Utah Utes
The Austrian big man gets the slight edge over North Carolina's Brice Johnson due to his consistency. Poeltl averaged 17.5 points and 9.1 boards this season and was the best big man in the country.
Tyler Ulis, sophomore, Kentucky Wildcats
Sure, he's small at 5-foot-9. But the kid can play. Ulis battled an elbow injury early in the season that hindered his shooting, but he made plenty of shots -- big ones -- once he got healthy. In fact, he did absolutely everything for this Wildcats team: scored, distributed, led and defended.
Malcolm Brogdon, senior, Virginia Cavaliers
He's not flashy, and maybe that's why he doesn't receive as much attention as the others in this group. However, he averaged 18.4 points, shot 41 percent from deep and is a terrific defender.
Why: Hield and Valentine were no-brainers, and have been since conference play began. Hield captivated the nation with his 46-point effort against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 5, and Valentine has done it all for Tom Izzo, even running the point for much of the season.
Ulis supplanted Providence's Kris Dunn and Maryland's Melo Trimble as the top point guard in the country sometime in the middle of SEC play, and Brogdon just did what he does -- produces just about every night. The toughest call on the first team came in the middle, with a decision between Utah's Poeltl and North Carolina's Johnson. Poeltl just hasn't gotten the accolades he deserves, largely because he plays out west.
Ben Simmons, freshman, LSU Tigers
I'm not sure anyone has had to do more for their team than the highly touted Aussie. He has basically had to run the point for the Tigers, and was also the team's top post presence. Simmons isn't included on the first team because LSU didn't win enough games -- but it wasn't because of Simmons. He averaged 19.6 points, 11.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
Georges Niang, senior, Iowa State Cyclones
The guy does it all on the offensive end. Niang is a point forward who scores, rebounds and makes his teammates better -- and has also grown in the leadership department. He averaged 19.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists while shooting 54 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3 and 81 percent from the line.
Brice Johnson, senior, North Carolina Tar Heels
He has been a bit of an enigma for Roy Williams during his first three years in Chapel Hill, but Johnson averaged a double-double (16.8 points per game, 10.8 rebounds per game) this season and had some monster performances: 39 points and 23 rebounds against Florida State, and 29 points and 19 boards against Duke.
Yogi Ferrell, senior, Indiana Hoosiers
He has been the catalyst for the Hoosiers' resurgence in Big Ten play. Ferrell averaged 17.1 points, 5.5 assists -- and did some of the same things Ulis did for Kentucky (everything).
Grayson Allen, sophomore, Duke Blue Devils
He quickly emerged as the Blue Devils go-to scorer, and has sustained his production all year long. Allen averaged 21.2 points, but was more than just a scorer. He also gave Duke much-needed toughness on the court.
Why: Johnson was an easy call in the middle, and Ferrell led his Hoosiers squad to a Big Ten regular-season crown. Niang was a no-brainer for the most part since he does it all for the Cyclones. I went with Simmons (barely) over Uthoff because he had to do everything for the Tigers. Allen and Jamal Murray was a toss-up, but Allen was more consistent.
Jarrod Uthoff, senior, Iowa Hawkeyes
Yes, I know the Hawkeyes fell off toward the end of the season, but not because of this guy. He proved the skeptics wrong that he wasn't tough enough. Uthoff was more than just a face-up four man. He was one of the nation's top shot-blockers and also scored off the bounce and around the basket.
Josh Hart, junior, Villanova Wildcats
He hasn't gotten the credit he deserves, but he's the best player on a team that won the Big East regular-season title. Hart is ultra-versatile, and averages 15.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and can also defend multiple positions.
Perry Ellis, senior, Kansas Jayhawks
The No. 1 team in the country has to be represented -- and who better than its steady rock. Ellis isn't flashy, but he gets the job done. He's efficient, averaging 16.5 points on 11.5 shots per game. Ellis is a weapon on the perimeter (46 percent from 3) and also in the paint.
Kris Dunn, junior, Providence Friars
His team has tumbled in the second half of the season, but Dunn and Ben Bentil just didn't have enough talent around them. Dunn isn't a great shooter, but he filled the stat sheet (16.3 PPG, 6.4 APG, 5.7 RPG) and is one of the best perimeter defenders in the country.
Jamal Murray, freshman, Kentucky Wildcats
Ulis and Murray have been the best backcourt in the country. Murray was inconsistent and passive at times early in the season, but he has been on a tear in SEC play. He's putting up 20 points per game and shooting 42 percent from 3.
Why: Hart and Ellis deserve a spot because they are the best players on arguably the two best teams in the nation. Uthoff was terrific for much of the season, and while his Iowa team has struggled a bit, the Hawkeyes have still overachieved this year. Dunn's stock has dipped a bit, but he's still arguably the best two-way point guard in the country -- and Murray has been one of the most potent scorers in the country this season.
Denzel Valentine, Michigan State Spartans
This was a brutal decision between Hield and Valentine. Hield was the better scorer; Valentine was the better overall player, and he finished the regular season averaging 19.6 points, 7.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game.
Coach of the year
Chris Mack, Xavier Musketeers
There were a ton of quality candidates (i.e. Kansas' Bill Self, Oregon's Dana Altman, Wisconsin's Greg Gard, Indiana's Tom Crean), but no one anticipated Mack would take this Musketeers team to a top 10 ranking for most of the season.
Freshman of the year
Ben Simmons, LSU Tigers
He gets the slight nod over Kentucky's Jamal Murray due to the fact that he did just about everything for the Tigers.
Joe Castiglione, in his first year as chairperson of the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Committee, will have the duty of answering tough questions after Sunday’s 68-team tournament field is revealed.
Why was this program left out? How come this team is seeded so high? Why are these schools facing each other so early?
Castiglione, Oklahoma’s director of athletics, hopes to answer many of those questions this week. He’s already in New York City — where the selection committee will meet for the first time after years in Indianapolis — and will do a number of interviews to explain the decision-making process for Sunday’s bracket, which will be released at 4:30 p.m. on CBS.
“Part of the reason I’m going to New York (early) is to create more understanding of the process and open the process up to members of the media who are talking to college basketball fans,” Castiglione said. “There’s even going to be a time during selection week where we’re going to invite members of the media to come and visit with us inside the selection room itself.”
Castiglione is in his fifth year on the selection committee and was voted to be chairperson two years ago. He, along with nine other members on the committee, has spent many hours evaluating teams during the regular season. Each member, besides Castiglione, is responsible for seven conferences as a primary or secondary monitor.
Shielding their decisions behind closed doors isn’t what Castglione wants to happen. He craves transparency, which has been labeled an impressive trait by the NCAA.
“He’s very fair through this whole process in working with the committee and integrity … the integrity and respect that people have for him as the chair really comes out with the committee,” said JoAn Scott, managing director of the NCAA men’s basketball championship. “He has the incredible ability to bring everyone together and get to the room and talk and express opinions. Two words come to mind with him: Fair and integrity.”
The Horizon Tournament game between Green Bay and Valparaiso got a little weird on Monday when a referee ejected the Green Bay announcer. Yes, that's right, the announcer got ejected.
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Katina Powell, the self-described former escort at the center of the Louisville men's basketball recruiting scandal, met for a second time Monday with NCAA investigators, her attorney told Outside the Lines.
"Ms. Powell was contacted by the NCAA to meet to answer questions that have arisen during the course of the investigation," attorney Larry Wilder said. "It seems that the NCAA is looking to close some of the newly opened doors."
Powell first spoke with NCAA investigators in mid-November and has allowed them to review her personal journals and phone records, which served as the foundation for her tell-all book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen."
"When the NCAA met with Ms. Powell, initially she gave them access to her journals in order to corroborate her prior statements," Wilder said.
Monday's meeting lasted 2½ hours, her attorney said.
The book details almost two dozen stripping and sex parties from 2010 to 2014 inside Louisville's Billy Minardi Hall, the on-campus dorm for athletes and other students named for the late brother-in-law of Cardinals basketball coach Rick Pitino.
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Five-star guard Rawle Alkins committed to Arizona and head coach Sean Miller on Monday, concluding a patient recruiting process that now sends the Brooklyn native across the country. During a live spot on ESPNU, Alkins, clad in a light-grey suit, stood up and unbuttoned his jacket to reveal an Arizona tie.
…“I don’t want to be one of those freshmen on the bench cheering,” Alkins said. “I want to be one of those impact freshmen you guys [the media] talk about.”
…It’s a huge win for Arizona, which got back in on Alkins late in the game and will send off senior Gabe York after the NCAA tournament. After initially leaving the Wildcats off his final list, Alkins changed his mind in late December after speaking at length with Miller and assistant Book Richardson. A February visit to campus sealed the deal. The program’s history of developing wing scorers and the opportunity for immediate playing time make it a natural fit.
…“I hate when colleges try and talk to me about their past, and when they used to win and how all the great players came from their school,” Alkins told SI.com during his recruitment. “I’m the type of person that thinks anywhere I go, we’re gonna win. I don't care about the past … [we’re] not in that era.”
If the Wildcats can also land the biggest domino left on the board, five-star small forward and No. 2 national player Josh Jackson, they could potentially field one of the most athletic lineups in the nation, combining all four freshmen on the court.
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