Jayhawks travel to fort worth To Kick off Second Half of Big 12 Play
No. 7/6 Kansas (18-4, 6-3) hits the road to TCU (10-12, 1-8) for a morning contest on Saturday, Feb. 6, at 11 a.m. on ESPN at Schollmaier Arena. Kansas is coming off a 77-59 win against in-state rival Kansas State on Wednesday in Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks are looking to end a three-game Big 12 road losing streak. After defeating Tennessee, 75-63, in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Jan. 30, TCU the lost at No. 1/1 Oklahoma, 95-72, on Feb. 2. The Horned Frogs have lost six straight conference contests, including two at home.
KUAD Pregame Notes
Injuries have set back Johnson’s attempts every year. This year, he is playing without his top returning rebounder, Kenrich Williams, who is out for the year recovering from knee surgery performed at the end of last season. And junior forward Chris Washburn missed the first 11 games of the season with a hand injury.
The Frogs have had a full roster for only four games. Still, they are 1-3 in those games. Even at full strength, the Frogs were 13 points worse than Iowa State, 17 worse than Texas, needed a big comeback to defeat Tennessee after trailing by 14, and lost by 23 at OU.
The second half of the league schedule begins with No. 7 Kansas visiting Fort Worth on Saturday.
Last week, Johnson said his team needed “long and hard practices” now that it was healthy. Maybe that will have an effect on the second half of the season.
…“It’s real tough,” Brodziansky said. “Every night you have to go 100 percent or you will lose. You have to put everything you have out there and try to compete as much as possible and try to win every night, step by step.”
The Big 12 itself is unforgiving. It’s a hard place to try to raise a basketball program. Five teams are in the top 17. The league is No. 1 in RPI. It’s home to the leading contender for national player of the year, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, and its .820 nonconference win percentage this year is the highest by any league in 12 years.
…The only thing that bothered Self more than rebounding Wednesday was Brannen Greene’s unsportsmanlike behavior at the end of the game.
“We handled it in-house,” Self said Thursday, indicating Greene, “was not suspended or anything.”
…KU senior forward Hunter Mickelson, who has not played in the last four games, remains hobbled by a high ankle sprain. “He practiced today. We only went 45 minutes. He did go some but he is not 100 percent,” Self said.
Thursday marked six weeks until the first full day of the NCAA Tournament. That’s roughly six weeks longer than I care to wait, but what the heck — it’ll be here before we know it. This week’s Bucket List: 10 observations on the college basketball season.
1. Go on, just try to name a better team streak on our sports landscape than Kansas’ 11 consecutive Big 12 regular-season championships. And you’d better think fast, because that streak is getting ready to end. Maybe.
The Jayhawks are 6-3 in league play this season, tied with Baylor and Texas behind Oklahoma and West Virginia, both of which are 7-2. That’s a serious snarl of traffic for Bill Self, his staff and their players to navigate. KU still has to go on the road and face three of those contenders, including the top-ranked Sooners. The whole situation screams “take the field.”
This is how it goes in 2015-16. Just when you like someone, they grow a wart on their forehead. Basketball beauty is fleeting.
…The Jayhawks might have had a launching-pad victory Saturday over Kentucky – but that won’t be known until Kansas goes on the road again, where it has lost three straight. That has jeopardized the Jayhawks’ crazy, 11-year Big 12 championship streak. The next road test is at TCU, worst team in the league, but after that trips remain to No. 1 Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas. The Minutes fully expects Kansas to be in the title mix by month’s end, but it has forfeited the margin for error.
…Join The Minutes in a round of applause for Southern Illinois (36), which has returned from the dead in its fourth season under Barry Hinson. For the first time in eight seasons, the Salukis (18-5) are guaranteed a winning record.
From 1989-2007, SIU had 13 20-win seasons under four different coaches. There were nine NCAA tourney appearances and five NIT trips in that time, and the program seemed self-sustaining as a Missouri Valley Conference power.
But then Chris Lowery lost momentum, and SIU kept him on through four straight non-winning seasons. Since 2012, Hinson has been slowly building the product back up. SIU is no match for league heavyweight Wichita State and probably not Evansville, either, but the Salukis are certainly in the Valley’s second tier – a place they haven’t occupied in a while.
But if you are measuring importance by the burden endured — the foundational pillar that supports your structure — the most important player on the Timberwolves is Andrew Wiggins.
Start with the raw numbers. Wiggins has played 1,761 minutes thus far in the 2015-16 season, eighth-most in the NBA and 240 minutes ahead of anyone else on the team through the first 51 games. He has attempted 177 more field goals and 177 more free throws than any of his teammates.
Since he entered the NBA at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, only one player, James Harden of Houston, has logged more playing time than Wiggins. That’s a heavy load for someone who is listed at less than 200 pounds and has yet to celebrate his 21st birthday (which will come on February 23).
“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
“We’ve asked (all of our) consultants to provide data by May,” Bowlsby said. “We have firms looking at adding members with and without a conference title game, as well as remaining at 10 members, with and without a title game.”
…Added Zenger: “Our ADs have always said that we enjoy our group of 10 (and) the round-robin (schedule) that we play. That doesn’t mean you don’t consider new options moving forward.... I’m open to thoughtful discussion about anything, but enjoy what we have right now.”
Bowlsby declined to say if the Big 12 has talked with broadcast partners ESPN or Fox Sports about a network, but called it "an enormously complex process." He pointed out that all 10 schools have third-tier rights deals with different providers. It's not just Texas and the Longhorn Network, identified by Boren as a key stumbling block.
For example, Kansas has a lucrative seven-year deal with ESPN and Time Warner and AD Sheahon Zenger said his school was "very neutral" on a network.
Dallas Morning News
Partially in jest, someone asked Texas athletic director Mike Perrin on Thursday what the headline from the meeting of Big 12 athletic directors should be. Perrin paused for a moment, and then said:
“There is no headline.”
Sorry to disappoint you – and this means fans of schools hoping to get a call-up to the Big 12 in expansion, or fans of Big 12 schools who want a conference championship game or anyone hoping for a Big 12 network – but there was no real news from the meeting Thursday of the league’s athletic directors. Unless, that is, it was the continued grappling with an underlying question:
Is there something fundamentally flawed about the Big 12?
Asked specifically if he believed the league was “psychologically disadvantaged,” which was the contention of Oklahoma president David Boren contention last summer, and again last month – Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby listed several reasons why it wasn’t so.
“We’ve got the No. 1 basketball league in the country,” he said. “We had a team in the College Football Playoff. We had a team in the national championship game in volleyball.”
He went on to mention volleyball and even research being done at Big 12 institutions, and wrapped it all up with: “I think we’re enjoying substantial prosperity.”
Because the cat is out of the bag with respect to UC pursuing membership in the Big 12 Conference, I am not too proud to beg on behalf of my alma mater, especially if it helps repair any damage caused by an untimely Freedom of Information request.
Mr. Bowlsby and other esteemed decision makers of the Big 12, please admit the University of Cincinnati to your athletic conference. Our vibrant university and beautiful city can offer your members the following:
With all respect and as much groveling as necessary, please, please, please, admit UC to your conference. We promise to view you and your fellow decision makers the same way Parisians viewed US soldiers after WWII. You will be our liberators.
Jevon Thomas, a guard on the Seton Hall men’s basketball team, was allegedly at the center of an altercation in the Richie Regan Recreation Center on Thursday night.
Multiple witnesses said they saw Thomas choking Kevin Matthews, a graduate assistant working in the campus’ recreation center as an intramural basketball referee. The incident began after Thomas took issue with a call Matthews made in the game he was reffing. The South Orange Police Department and paramedics were called to the scene where Seton Hall assistant coaches also eventually showed up. Matthews was left with red marks around his neck, but no serious injuries.
…Thomas, who transferred from Kansas State University prior to the season, has not been eligible to play for the Pirates this year. He has two years of eligibility left.
Wednesday night, Oklahoma's Ryan Spangler and Buddy Hield were in front of their televisions watching Kansas State play Kansas.
For two of the three players — Isaiah Cousins is the other — credited by Sooners coach Lon Kruger with establishing the work ethic of the nation's No. 1 team, it was equal parts entertainment and study session.
Oklahoma faces Kansas State on Saturday (5 p.m., ESPNU) in Manhattan.
The Sooners beat the Wildcats 86-76 in Norman on Jan. 9 but haven't defeated Kansas State in Manhattan since 2012, before any of the players on this year's team were on campus.
“It's going to be loud,” Hield said. “Everybody wants to play us now. We've got big targets on our backs. We've got to go out there and play as hard as we can, eliminate easy shots for them, don't give them transition buckets and don't let their home crowd give them a lot of momentum.”
The increase of graduate transfers in football and men's basketball - and the lack of players earning second degrees - has prompted the NCAA's academic committee to look for ways to hold those athletes more accountable.
One possibility is getting rid of the automatic retention point on the Academic Progress Rate grad transfers are automatically awarded under the current system. Instead, the committee is considering making grad students earn those points. No changes would take effect until at least the fall of 2017.
Team APR scores are calculated by awarding each athlete one point per semester if they remain academically eligible and another point per semester if they stay in school.
The committee also recommended changing the academic misconduct proposal to apply penalties only if an ineligible athlete competed in contests and narrowing the definition by applying the rule only to student tutors employed by the athletic department.
Entering Thursday night, Vanderbilt had 13 chances to beat a ranked team since knocking off Kentucky -- the Anthony Davis-led team on their way to bringing a title back to Lexington -- in the 2012 SEC title game. Each time, the Commodores lost. That changed with a 77-60 upset of No. 8 Texas A&M.
Vanderbilt hasn't gotten enough victories on a tough schedule to be one of the four SEC teams Jerry Palm currently has in his projected field of 68, but Kevin Stallings got a huge win, the biggest of the season, with the Aggies in town.
An official I know said he believes the work he and his colleagues are doing is “making strides to improve our game.” He contends contact against ballhandlers along the perimeter has been effectively eliminated and that there has been considerable progress in minimizing bumping and holding players making cuts.
“But it needs improvement,” he said. “Our biggest challenges are post play and rebounding. We don’t do a good job of officiating first contact/displacement in the post. Most times it is the offense that is causing our problems.”
…There are only five weekends — four full weeks — left in the regular season. So much progress has been made. The officials have done an excellent job of changing the way they call the game. They must be careful not to accede to coaches who try to inject physicality back into the game as it suits their teams, particularly when those coaches and teams are playing at home.
The game is better, though. Is it everything the folks around the rules committee hope it will be?
Certainly not. They expected the transition away from physical defense to take some time. But it’s better. They’re actually enforcing the rules.
The Sporting News DeCourcy
Since the first jump ball of the season rose from their hands, the 1,000 or so referees who work men's Division I college basketball games have been trying to turn heads and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
Like the teams they officiate, the refs are being judged and graded to see if they're worthy of March Madness. Only 100 of them will make it that far, and only 10 will get to work the Final Four. Just like the teams, they're judged by their consistency and excellence under pressure in every step of a long season.
Every ref has to earn a spot each year.
"It's a very big deal," said Ted Hillary, who officiated for 37 years and worked four Final Fours. "It's a recognition for your year's work. If you get selected to move on, I guess you're doing something right."
Three years after retiring as a referee, Hillary is one of four NCAA regional advisers who attend games and grade officials with an eye toward picking the tournament crews.
Awww, still thinking of what could have been.
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