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And while I'm here I want to thank our fans for another great home season, for bringing support & energy every night. Best in the country.
Every so often, Jeff Withey’s phone will signal a text has arrived and many times what is communicated might be considered more a warning than a message. It is a reminder of the importance of winning the Big 12 regular-season championship, and it comes from someone who contributed to one of the program’s many recent titles.
Every Kansas basketball player carries this burden now, but it has become one of the most precious privileges of being a Jayhawk.
Withey, KU’s 7-foot senior center, has heard from recent stars such as Thomas Robinson, Sherron Collins and the Morris twins.
“Everybody kind of says the same thing,” Withey told Sporting News on Thursday. “When we went through the three-game losing streak, they’d text me. All the older guys that have been here, they always come back, aren’t afraid to tell us we have to win the conference.”
…If the Jayhawks had won there, they’d have clinched the Big 12 title Monday on Senior Night. They’ve won eight consecutive titles. This would be title nine.
It sounds almost routine, and it can feel that way, too. But the next-longest current streak is only three consecutive titles, and there have been only four in Division I history that were longer, including UCLA’s record 13 and the Gonzaga’s streak of 11 that ended last year.
This would be an astounding achievement, and winning it might be enough to escape the stench of the TCU game.
“We came out thinking we were going to win. We kind of took them for granted,” Withey said. “It was kind of dead, our energy level. I’d say we just weren’t fully prepared for them. Since then, we’ve made sure we’re ready for every team. Everybody knows we can lose on a given night, so we’ve got to come ready to play.
“Losing three in a row kind of knocked sense in us, and we can’t lose from here on out. We’ve come ready to play ever since.”
…“We had that one awful stretch,” Kansas coach Bill Self told Sporting News, “but we kind of got our mojo back.”
...Every huddle since the team began practicing back in October has been broken with the chant, “Big 12 champs.” The Jayhawks weren’t speaking of the title they won last year, or the seven before that. They were pointing toward the one they planned to claim in 2013. And now it is at hand.
“You don’t get a ring for getting in the NCAA Tournament,” Self said. “You get a ring if you win a championship.
“It’s something that’s ingrained in our minds. Nobody wants to be the team that doesn’t do it.”
KUAD: MBB previews Baylor
KUAD: Kansas vs Baylor pregame notes
“I remember Wayne talking to us before we came out here (for practice one day in Allen Fieldhouse). He said, ‘We lost three games my senior year (2004-05), too, and we pulled it out. Anything is possible,’” KU senior forward Kevin Young said Thursday.
“It gave us a lot of hope. We knew we’d be all right if we kept working hard.”
A month after Simien, who serves as the team chaplain, provided some words of wisdom, the Jayhawks are in the hunt for a ninth-straight Big 12 regular-season title.
…“I’ve always been selfish. I’m trying to be selfish again, trying to take it all,” KU senior point guard Elijah Johnson said. “I want to own it. I don’t want to split it.”
KU coach Bill Self said he hadn’t decided if he’d let his players watch the K-State game in their Waco, Texas, hotel rooms.
“I don’t want them to burn energy worrying about K-State,” Self said. “All we need to do is burn energy worrying about us and Baylor. That is hard to do sometimes. You watch a game that has implications on your season, and it’s hard not to get emotionally invested in a game like that. If I was picking one of the two, I’d rather play the first game than the second, but I don’t think it makes any difference.”
…Self said one of four players — KU’s Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey, KSU’s Rodney McGruder, OSU’s Marcus Smart — should win big 12 player-of-the-year honors.
“If they (McLemore, Withey) split the vote, then that could hurt both of them for their chances to be named Player of the Year. To me, I would not say who I think deserves it, I want to wait until the end of the season is here,” Self said. “You could make a strong case, if you look at statistics and all that stuff, that Ben or Jeff could be Big 12 Player of the Year. All are worthy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the four got it.”
Self’s coach-of-the-year vote goes to KSU’s Bruce Weber.
“I think the best job this year has been done from a coaching standpoint in Manhattan, Kan. That’s one guy’s opinion,” Self said, also citing OSU’s Travis Ford and Oklahoma’s Lon Kruger. “They (Wildcats) have given themselves the best chance to have a great year because they’ve been able to find ways to win games that were maybe a coin-flip game.”
…Young, who has an expansive afro hair style, reports that he had his hair cut last Friday. “I got a little trimmed up and shaved up a little bit. Coach said I didn’t get my money’s worth,” Young said, laughing.
…KU point guard Johnson was asked if he learned anything from Tyshawn Taylor about handling criticism. “Yeah, I learned don’t tweet it,” he said with a laugh. “Just handle it like a man. (I’m) not a little boy any more.”
“Could K-State only have three (Big 12) losses without McGruder having a big year? Could Oklahoma State be ranked in the top 15 in the country without Marcus Smart having a big year?” Self said. “You can spin it whatever way you want to spin it, but I know from my biased perspective, I believe it’s one of my two.”
McLemore is the leading scorer of the group at 16.5 points per game and ranks third in the Big 12 at 42.5 percent from 3-point range.
Smart ranks among the Big 12 leaders in points (14.9), rebounds (5.7), assists (4.3) and steals (3.0) per game, though he’s only a 40-percent shooter from the floor.
McGruder, who averages 14.8 points, had a player-of-the-year moment with his buzzer beater at Baylor, while Withey leads the Big 12 with 120 blocks — more than double the next closest player — to go with 13.8 points and 8.6 rebounds per game.
Former coach Fran Fraschilla has spent the season on Big 12 sidelines, serving as an analyst on ESPN’s Big Monday broadcasts. He has seen all four players, and his answer is rooted less in team success and focused more on impact.
“I’ve said since (December) that McLemore has a good chance of being the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and I stand by that,” Fraschilla said. “Jeff Withey dominates games defensively. I have been a huge fan of Rodney McGruder and what he has done. But I would lean toward (Smart), because there is no way Oklahoma State has made the jump they have without him in the lineup.”
For now, with the season still incomplete, there are no perfect answers. Withey can still make good on his goal if he dominates against Baylor. And McGruder and Smart will match up in Stillwater.
DVR Alert: Monday Mar 11 8PM ET on CBS Sports Network
SLAM Q&A with TRob
Kansas point guard Angel Goodrich received First-Team All-Big 12 Conference honors Thursday, as voted on by the league's head coaches. Fellow senior Carolyn Davis also earned second-team all-league accolades.
Goodrich, who earned first-team honors for the first time in her career, was a 2012 Second-Team All-Big 12 selection. The 5-foot-4 guard led the conference with 3.0 steals per game, while ranking second in the league with 6.9 assists per contest. Goodrich is second on the Jayhawks with 14.1 points per game and leads the team with 50 three-point field goals.
This season, Goodrich became a member of KU's 1,000-point scoring club and also became the all-time career assist leader in Kansas history. She has 201 assists this season, along with 87 steals.
Davis, who battled back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament and dislocated knee that ended her junior season, was a two-time first-team All-Big 12 selection in 2011 and 2012. Davis leads KU in scoring with 15.8 points per game and rebounding with 6.7 boards per outing. She also tops on the team in field goal percentage (.550).
Goodrich, Davis and the rest of the Jayhawks will be back in action Friday night when Kansas faces TCU in the second first-round game of the 2013 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship at 8:30 p.m., in the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
TCJ: KU seniors Goodrich and Davis develop winning relationship
VOTE for Wooden Award nominees McLemore & Withey
VOTE for Kansas players, team, and moment in NCAA 75th Anniversary of March Madness (Vote for Wilt, Clyde, Danny, 51-52 Kansas, Mario's Miracle)
Big 12/College News
Big 12 Sports: Big 12 Championship Seeding and Tiebreaker Procedures
Gallagher-Iba Arena is sold out again this season, this time without Boone Pickens’ help.
The men’s basketball game this Saturday versus Kansas State has all 13,611 tickets in the arena sold, sales and marketing representative in the OSU ticket office Christina Earl said.
This season, Pickens has picked up the tab for unsold tickets to two men’s basketball games, Gonzaga and Kansas. In total he bought 4,500 tickets to be handed out for free by the ticket office, Associate Athletic Director Adam Haukap said.
The ticket office and Pickens representative would not give a number on how much he spent. Vice President of Public Affairs for Pickens, Jay Rosser, said he bought the tickets all at “various price points.”
“Boone is a big fan of Oklahoma State basketball, and of Travis Ford,” he said. “Boone believes the ticket giveaways definitely increased the crowd sizes and helped win games.”
With the team ranked and on “the hunt for a conference championship,” he doesn’t think buying anymore tickets this season will be necessary, Rosser said. Now that the K-State game is sold out, he may be right.
This season, Pickens isn’t the only one to attempt to bring the rowdy back to GIA. Keiton Page made an appearance in the Student Union to hand out some of the free Kansas tickets, along with Travis Ford and other players, Matt Fletcher student athletics marketing representative said.
“It’s good for them to see that [Ford] is a real guy and he appreciates them coming,” Fletcher said.
Barring something improbable, KU will end up with at least a share of its ninth straight Big 12 title, so the rest of the league still has that albatross to carry. But the last time KU entered its final game with the title still up for grabs was 2008, which also was the last time the Big 12 awarded a split championship.
And, remember, this is happening in what was supposed to be a down year for the Big 12. No one can say the Jayhawks have underachieved -- they're 26-4 and ranked No. 4 in the country -- so the competitive race says more about the rest of the league than it says about KU. Maybe Bill Self had it right when he predicted the Big 12 would be better than its nonconference performance suggested.
"A lot of people thought it was Kansas and everybody else for the league race," Self said, "and those people that thought that didn't really get it."
It's interesting that the top five teams in the Big 12 standings -- Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State -- are the five holdovers from the old Big Eight. Having all five in NCAA contention has rekindled old fires and created some cozy rivalries up and down the I-35 corridor.
And even though TCU and West Virginia haven't added much to the Big 12 in Year One, you could make the case that TCU's upset of KU was the best thing to happen to the Big 12 hoops this season. KU's loss in Fort Worth ensured there was something at stake every night in Manhattan, Ames, Lawrence and Stillwater, and those games usually didn't disappoint. That's about all you can ask from a conference race.
The current No. 1 team in college basketball will play Kansas State at Wichita’s Intrust Bank Arena next season.
Other guys kill their teams, going nutty; I'll take responsibility. The issue sometimes is my guys are agreeing with me (grinning). They're agreeing with me. The other team, the guy (coach) kills them: 'They got no heart. They got none of this. The worst team in history.' And all the sudden the team comes out and plays well. I probably should do that. But it's not in me. It's not in my bones to go that way. I'm not going to blame a kid. At the end of the day, it's my job to get them to play right. And they're not playing right."
Louisville CJ: Calipari post-loss press conference (Hmmm, I wonder whom he could be referencing?)
Since the group of basketball schools known as the Catholic 7 will be taking the name Big East with them to their new conference, that leaves the conference currently known as the Big East in search of a new name.
According, to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, while the name isn't by any means official, the early favorite for the Big East's new name is the America 12 Conference.
Which is a name that explains itself as the conference will have 12 schools that are all currently located within the borders of the United States. Though that could change when countries begin realigning the same way that college conferences do.
That's right, Buffalo, Canada's coming for you.
Big 12 Tourney Info for KC Visitors
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
RPI and SOS Team Comparison Calculator
From many, there will be one. And while there’s still no guarantee contending athletes will win their own state at this point in the season, a number of elite performers are making a case for Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year consideration. Here’s the scoop on the latest top candidate.
Senior guard/forward, Tilton School (Tilton, N.H.)
Greatness Present: In a Boston Globe feature last week, Tilton head coach Marcus O’Neill said of Selden: “Athletically, he makes probably the most spectacular plays of anybody we’ve had.”
That’s no small feat considering Tilton produced University of Kentucky freshman phenom Nerlens Noel, who was the projected No. 1 pick in this June’s NBA Draft until his season-ending ACL injury.
But all you have to do is take one look at Selden’s YouTube highlight reel (see above) to get an understanding of what O’Neill means. Selden, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound senior swingman, averaged 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists per game this season, leading Tilton to the NEPSAC Class AA semifinals.
His 29-point, 20-rebound performance in a 108-105 quadruple-overtime win over Lawrence (Wolfeboro, N.H.) Academy on Jan. 22 wasn’t so bad, either.
Greatness Past: Rated the No. 12 recruit in the Class of 2013 by ESPN, Selden led the Boston Amateur Basketball Club to the 2011 15U AAU National Championship, scoring 20 points with five assists in the title-clinching victory.
On Twitter, Brewster Academy head coach Jason Smith called Selden “the most ready guard/wing I have seen in prep school basketball in a LONG time.”
Greatness Future: Selden, a McDonald’s All-American and Jordan Brand Classic selection, will play for Kansas.
How will Frankamp do at Kansas? Now that his North career is finished, that’s the most-asked question of the day. Some think he’ll ultimately be a role player in the Tyrel Reed mold. Others think he’ll be an All-American. It’s tough to predict, but I think Frankamp will be an outstanding KU player. I know this: Bill Self is excited to have him. I’ve talked to Self three or four times about Frankamp and every time he finds another part of Frankamp’s game to anticipate. We never saw everything Frankamp can do while he played at North. We saw it in bits and pieces, but he was so counted upon to score a massive amount of points that his passing ability rarely came to the forefront. This kid can pass. He can handle the basketball. He is an offensive force of nature who will flourish under Self, a brilliant coach who will find ways to utilize Frankamp that no one has even thought about yet.
I think Frankamp will be an All-Big 12-caliber player at KU by his junior year. There will be an adjustment period. He has to get bigger, stronger, faster. But because of a thin group of returnees next season, Frankamp will get significant time as a freshman.
Wichita Eagle Bob Lutz
Last week, following significant pushback from several coaches and athletic directors, NCAA vice president David Berst told USA TODAY Sports the national organization would "modify as necessary" parts of the package. Thursday, the NCAA officially acknowledged that the two most controversial changes — one that eliminated rules on size of recruiting staffs, one that eliminated restrictions on printed recruiting materials — would be put on hold and reworked before the next Board of Directors meeting May 2.
Just like Emmert's $2,000 "full cost of attendance" stipend he got passed by the Board last year, in the hands of the larger membership, it was dead on arrival.
Any proposal adopted by the Board can be defeated by 75 override votes. Berst said some of the rules had already received override requests and that the NCAA would get feedback from those opposed before massaging the controversial parts of the package.
What's most striking, though, is the opposition leading to Thursday's announcement didn't come primarily from the leagues without the mega-TV dollars. It came from some of the biggest voices within the Big Ten, the SEC and Texas, who saw Alabama assembling an NFL-style personnel department and wondered how they could make up ground with financial restraints taken off the best program in America. They saw an arms race escalating in college athletics and suddenly worried about their ability to keep pace, though the truly meaningful stuff like 85-scholarship limits and practice time on the field never changed.
And for all the criticism the NCAA has taken this year, it illustrates just how difficult it is to get everybody in college athletics on the same page and institute meaningful reforms.
VOTE for Kansas and Julius Randle
What getting Andrew Wiggins would mean for Kansas
The Jayhawks already own ESPN's No. 3 recruiting class, and the thought of Wiggins in that picture would possibly mean another Big 12 title and a run at a national championship. With four seniors leaving and Ben McLemore likely to enter the NBA draft, the timing for Wiggins couldn't be better at Kansas. The Jayhawks have a very good group of recruits coming in but no top-10 prospects. Wiggins would give them a superstar in the class and significantly impact the Jayhawks as they continue their dominance in the Big 12 and nationally.
What getting Julius Randle would mean for Kansas
The Jayhawks have been on Randle since the beginning, and they've been on him hard. The returning squad at Kansas has good young size with upside around the basket, and Randle would fit like a glove. He would be an impossible matchup in the high-low game driving from the top or posting up down low. His versatility would allow him to be utilized in ball-screen actions where he can either roll to the rim or pop out for jumpers. With a strong core of perimeter players coming in to surround him, Randle would be the perfect exclamation point to an already monster class at Kansas. The offense in the frontcourt would go through him along with Perry Ellis, which would be a hard matchup for opponents to handle.
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3/7/13, 2:57 PM
S/O to @TakeMyTalent for the new mixtape of me. Check it out... youtu.be/NIyn3FPsb2k
My 2012 KU Alumni games, 2011-12 Border War, Legends of the Phog, KC Prep Invitational, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos, Late Night in the Phog, and more now on YouTube