PHILLIPS 66 BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Jeff Withey, Kansas, C, Sr., 7-0, 235, San Diego, Calif./Horizon
Withey averaged 17.5 points and 10.0 rebounds in two Jayhawk victories last week. The senior center opened with his third straight double-double, tallying 17 points and a season-high 14 boards in a double-overtime win at Oklahoma State. He then contributed 18 points and six rebounds against TCU. He shot 52.6 percent (10-of-19) in two outings and connected on 83.3 percent (15-of-18) of his attempts from the free throw line. Withey also had seven blocked shots last week, increasing his Big 12-leading career total to 272.
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Iowa State-Kansas basketball — it’s always a big deal regardless of the backdrop, but Monday night’s extravaganza at sold out Hilton Coliseum is huge.
It’s Big Monday — the real Big Monday.
Iowa State hasn’t been on this national platform since 2006, so yes, it’s a very big deal.
“As far as the game, they’re all big at this time of year,” Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said.
“We’re playing Kansas,” he went on. “It’s Big Monday.”
…A Who’s Who will be among 14,000-plus at what is certain to be a raucous venue.
Besides the high-profile announcing crew, and Iowa State all-American Gary Thompson sitting where he always sits during Hilton Coliseum games, Big 12 Conference commissioner Bob Bowlsby will be there, too.
You betcha — representatives from the Cavaliers, Pacers, Trail Blazers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Heat, 76ers, Mavericks, Suns, and Bulls focusing primarily on the Kansas guys.
Former Cyclone coach Johnny Orr might be there, too. He attended Saturday’s win against Texas Tech.
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KUAD: Kansas vs ISU pregame notes
Iowa State leads the Big 12 in free throw (.750) and field goal (.455) percentage and is second from three-point territory (.382). What’s amazing about the FG% mark is that Iowa State has attempted 84 more three-point shots than any of its league peers.
Usually, the best FG percentage belongs to a club with an inside presence and lots of shots close to the basket.
No school in Big 12 history has led the conference in FG% and three-point attempts in the same season. The closest to do so were the Cyclones last year (finishing fourth in percentage). In fact, the team with the most attempts from three has finished 10th or worst in overall shooting percentage 10 times in 16 seasons.
The Cyclones are averaging 10.08 three-point makes per game in Big 12 play. ISU has reached double figure three-pointers made in nine league games this winter. The rest of the league has combined to make at least 10 three pointers in a conference game just eight times.
You read that right. Oklahoma State has done it three times, West Virginia and Kansas State twice each and Baylor once. Neither Kansas nor Oklahoma nor Texas no TCU nor Texas Tech has reached double figures for 3’s in a game even once in league play.
“The one game I want to play is Iowa State at Iowa State,” Young said earlier in the year. “That loss still wakes me up at night.”
Kevin Young in UDK
As Kansas’ Ben McLemore released the shot, a pleasant thought crossed Iowa State point guard Korie Lucious’s mind.
“I was, like, ‘That’s off,’” said Lucious, who saw happiness turn to horror as the basketball smacked the the glass and found the bottom of the net, forcing overtime in the ninth-ranked Jayhawks’ eventual 97-89 win over the Cyclones Jan. 9 in Lawrence. “I knew he’d shot it hard … but it went in. It was tough.”
It’s a memory not easily erased for ISU’s players, coaches and fans alike — but a bright, fresh, buoyant one could displace it if the Cyclones (19-8, 9-5) upend Kansas (23-4, 11-3) in Monday’s ESPN-televised 8 p.m. Big 12 game at Hilton Coliseum.
“I think this is probably one of our biggest games of the year to keep in that hunt for the NCAA Tournament and the Big 12 (race),” said Cyclone guard Chris Babb, who is shooting 53 percent from 3-point range the past eight games. “We have to play a great game. We’ve got to come out with great focus and energy and continue to move the ball like we have been and get stops.”
Tall order against McLemore, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey and company?
Maybe, but a multi-faceted task ISU nearly accomplished the first time despite Lucious enduring the one of only two negative assist-to-turnover ratio games (two assists, three turnovers) in conference play.
…As for McLemore — who could go high in this year’s NBA Draft if he declares, Lucious tips his cap.
“A good, lucky shot, man,” said Lucious, who was guarding the other side of the floor when McLemore delivered the off-by-just-enough heartbreaker. “Can’t take anything away from him. He made it.”
“I don’t think I’ll ever flush the memory of that three,” Hoiberg said.
Bill Self will attempt to win his 500th career game Monday night in Ames, Iowa, against Fred Hoiberg's Cyclones. The odds certainly say that Kansas' head coach will accomplish the feat against Iowa State -- since his record at Kansas is 292-57 and he's 135-27 in Big 12 contests (yes, I know Iowa State is undefeated at Hilton Coliseum this season).
Self turned 50 this past December, but he's a young 50.
He's averaged 33 wins per season over the past six years, more than anyone else in the nation. If he can go 15 more years and average 33 victories, that would put him in the 1,000-victory range. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski has 951 wins and just celebrated his 66th birthday earlier this month. He could go another five years and put his record out of reach in the 1,100 range. Jim Boeheim is 68 years old and recently surpassed the 900-win plateau, but could also wind up with more than 1,000 when he ultimately decides to call it a career.
Everyone wants to know who could challenge Coach K as the men's all-time winningest coach? A familiar name that surfaces is Butler's 36-year-old Wonder Boy, Brad Stevens. However, Stevens is still nearly 800 victories behind Krzyzewski. That's a lot of wins, folks.
Self is almost halfway to the 1,000 mark. It's still not exactly within spitting distance, but as long as Self remains at Kansas he'll have a chance to win 30 games just about every year -- and then it becomes a matter of longevity. His head coaching career began with a 55-54 mark in four seasons at Oral Roberts, but it was at Tulsa when he began to rack up wins. He won 74 games in three seasons with the Golden Hurricanes before leaving for Illinois, where he won 78 in three years.
Self has gone to the NCAA tournament in each of his last 14 seasons -- and has a national championship on his resume. He is a proven recruiter -- and also displayed he was more than just that when he took the Jayhawks to the national title game. I'm not sure how long Self will continue to coach. My guess is he doesn't have any idea, either. Some close to him feel there's no chance he'll still be roaming the sidelines when he is eligible to collect social security; others wouldn't be surprised if he goes well into his 60s.
However, he's in Year 10 in Lawrence, and continues to rack up the victories at an alarming pace. It's taken him 661 games to reach 500, which ranks as the ninth quickest in NCAA history (Adolph Rupp was first in 583 contests). However, while the focus will be on Self and 500 Monday night at Hilton Coliseum, the Jayhawks coach will be more concerned with another number: Nine.
One of the reasons may be that the milestone isn't all that elite: There are already more than 50 members of the club, though it encompasses some of the all-time greats. Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim and Bob Knight top the list, and it includes Phog Allen and Roy Williams, a pair of coaches who helped to establish and nurture the Kansas basketball tradition.
And Self would rather win championships.
"You go back through the years, he holds so many current records," Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger said. "If you were to ask him, though, he'd probably keep it inside."
Along with eight straight regular-season Big 12 titles, Self has guided Kansas to five Big 12 tournament titles. He won two regular-season Big Ten championships and the league tournament when he was at Illinois, and two regular-season WAC championships when he was at Tulsa.
He guided the Jayhawks to their fifth national championship in 2008 and nearly won another last season, when Kansas made the title game against Kentucky.
His winning percentage of .755 is among the best in college basketball.
"He's always going to be humble and take those things in stride," Zenger said, "but there are only a handful of guys in the country who can come close to comparing numbers with him."
Self's players insist that they have a vested interest in seeing their coach win his 500th game.
"We want that for him also," said Withey, who transferred to Kansas from Arizona. "He's done a lot for us, so if we can get that win for him, that means a lot to us and him."
Mario Chalmers believes a kinder, gentler version of Bill Self chases his 500th career coaching victory tonight in Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum.
“He’s a lot more mellow than when I played at KU. I was telling him that yesterday. He’s a lot different than he was with us,” said former Kansas University combo guard Chalmers of the Miami Heat after watching his mentor lead a two-hour practice in Allen Fieldhouse.
While never admitting to becoming a softie — oh, how KU’s 10th-year coach hates “soft” basketball teams — Self acknowledges he’s a different “cat” (one of his favorite words) in Year No. 20 of his career than Year No. 15.
“I don’t know if I’ve changed from a philosophical standpoint or how we teach things. I think I’m more understanding, more patient,” said the 50-year-old Self, who takes a 499-162 record (292-57 at KU) into today’s 8 p.m. battle between the Jayhawks (23-4, 11-3) and Cyclones (19-8, 9-5).
“Previously, I’d worry about things that had nothing to do with winning,” he said. “I believe I am able to see the big picture better than I used to. I probably understand more about kids and how to deal with them than five years ago.”
Self, whose current players insist he remains plenty tough — evidenced by preseason Boot Camp, time on the treadmill and fieldhouse stairs at practice — certainly has evolved over the years.
His burning desire to win.
“One thing he does that is very good … he knows every win is a big win no matter what,” said KU assistant Norm Roberts, who has worked with Self two seasons at KU and also at previous stops Illinois, Tulsa and Oral Roberts. “It doesn’t matter if we are playing Southeast Missouri to start the season or playing Oklahoma State in the conference. He understands you have to go for every single one because it’s so hard to win at this level on a consistent basis.”
…“It’s been a humbling and great privilege to work at Kansas and work for Bill,” Dooley said. “He’s a Hall of Fame coach and better person.”
“He’s more than a friend. We’re family. We’ve always been family,” Roberts said.
“He never changes day to day. He’s considerate of everybody. I hope I can be like him if I’m ever a head coach,” Townsend noted.
“He’s remained one of the most humble people I’ve ever come across. That’s a credit to him, an unbelievable quality. He’s always a guy you can pick up the phone and call and he’ll always be that way,” said Sadler.
Kansas coach Bill Self is a man with a near mastery of his sport’s history. Self, for instance, can tell you that neither former KU coach Larry Brown nor All-American Danny Manning ever won inside Iowa State’s Hilton Coliseum.
In other ways, though, Self can claim ignorance. Like the fact he needs just one more victory to reach 500 for his career.
“I don’t even know how many I got,” Self said on Saturday, after posting career win 499. “But I’d like to win the next game.”
Those two story lines will intersect on Monday night at Hilton Coliseum, when Kansas (23-4 and 11-3 in the Big 12) faces Iowa State in a Big Monday matchup in Ames, Iowa.
The Cyclones have compiled a 15-0 record at home, with third-year coach Fred Hoiberg rekindling some of that old “Hilton Magic”. For years, Self was mostly been immune to the building’s powers. The Jayhawks had won seven straight in Ames before falling last season, a day that ended with Iowa State’s students flooding onto the floor in a raucous court-storming.
“It’ll be packed,” Self said. “And it’s loud. A lot like our place in a lot of ways.”
...“I don’t believe anybody’s won in Ames yet,” Self said, “so if we’re able to go up there and pull one off, we would have done something that no one else has done yet.”
It would also mean this Kansas squad accomplished something that last year’s team couldn’t. Kansas senior Kevin Young can still remember what it felt like to watch Iowa State’s student storm the court. And Withey says Kansas knows what is at stake tonight.
“This is for a conference championship,” Withey said. “I think that if we win our next couple road games, we’re fine. So this is a huge game coming in for us, and we gotta come ready to play.”
Does McLemore expect the Hilton denizens to try to rattle him?
“I’m sure they will,” McLemore said, smiling. “I’ll listen to my teammates like I always do, and we’ll try to play the best we can.”
ISU’s fans chanted “We Want Kansas” during the final two minutes of an 86-66 home victory over Texas Tech on Saturday.
“I remember it,” ISU coach Fred Hoiberg said to the Associated Press of McLemore’s shot. “I don’t think I’ll ever flush the memory.”
Hoiberg’s Cyclones “are good and they score easier than anyone in our league,” KU coach Bill Self said. ISU hit 14 threes in that OT meeting in Allen. “We have to do a great job individually, defensively, and our ball-screening has to be great. We were fortunate to get a win the first time. I think we have a great opportunity going there to beat a dangerous team. We are going to have to play our best game away from home.”
7. Kansas Jayhawks (Previous ranking: 8)
The Jayhawks wore throwback uniforms against TCU and threw down the Horned Frogs, dispatching them in the first four minutes. Kansas has won four in a row since the three-game slide that caused widespread panic in the greater Midwest, even though Bill Self has 499 wins and is the most reliable conference champion since John Wooden. Kansas now has double-digit conference wins for the 19th straight season, and is working on its ninth straight conference crown.
The Jayhawks guard the lane and funnel all action to Jeff Withey, who protects the rim better than any big man in America. Although Kansas lacks rock-solid guard play, the KU guards are good. While America salivates over Victor Oladipo, and rightfully so, let us not forget that Travis Releford leads the nation (Oladipo included), in true shooting percentage at 71.5 percent. Releford, a lockdown defender, is having an outstanding season and has been incredibly efficient on the offensive end as well, averaging 12 points per game and leading the Big 12 in field goal percentage at 60.4 percent.
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Monday's slate is sparse, with only four games involving projected NCAA tournament teams.
One, though, presents a massive opportunity for Iowa State.
Under former Cyclones star Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State reached the NCAA tournament last year and remains in contention this year. Alas, the man dubbed the Mayor has not done much to extend his rule beyond the city limits of Ames.
Iowa State can't solve its road-court shortcomings (3-7) on Monday, but it can collect its biggest victory of the season when Kansas pays a visit to Hilton Coliseum. A triumph would even the Cyclones' record against top-100 teams (6-6) and give them wins in back-to-back seasons against the Jayhawks for the first time in eight years.
Oh, and it would provide Iowa State a much-needed cushion entering the final three weeks of the season.
The Cyclones could still play their way out of the field of 68 even if they beat Kansas, but it would take a much more substantial collapse than would otherwise be the case. That gives them as much to gain as anyone in Monday's action.
Number of the day: 500. Kansas coach Bill Self goes for his 500th career victory tonight. It doesn't figure to come easily as the No.9 Jayhawks head to Iowa State (9 p.m. ET, ESPN). The Cyclones have won 22 in a row at Hilton Coliseum, and a 23rd would give their postseason profile a healthy boost.
"Kansas has bounced back strong following its three-game skid to open the month of February. The Jayhawks are the vastly superior defensive team, and their low post duo of Jeff Withey and Kevin Young should help them win the battle of the boards just like they did in the first meeting. But given their struggles with the Cyclones in recent meetings, Iowa State's strong home-court advantage and their legitimate revenge angle, I'm expecting an Iowa State victory tonight."
ATS Pick: Take Iowa State
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After Indiana, then what?
With less than three weeks until selection Sunday, at least 10 teams harbor realistic hopes of joining the top-ranked Hoosiers as No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
The combination of Miami's loss at Wake Forest, Georgetown's victory at Syracuse and Kansas steering its season back on course in recent games has clouded the picture near the top of the seed lines.
"I don't think there's that much difference between the best teams and others," Kansas coach Bill Self said.
If Indiana is one No. 1 seed, in alphabetical order, the top contenders for the other three slots:
For: The Jayhawks are 10-3 against top-50 RPI teams and 8-3 record in road or neutral-court games.
Against: It is only one game, but the loss at TCU stands as one of the more jaw-dropping upsets by any team in recent years.
Dashing end to end with the ball and attacking the basket from the Longhorns’ half-court offense, Myck Kabongo showed the talent that he once used to become a big college basketball recruit and a first-round NBA draft prospect.
But it didn’t matter enough to the Longhorns.
Kabongo, a sophomore, scored a career-best 24 points, but the Longhorns lost to 13th-ranked Kansas State 81-69 Saturday night in front of 8,106 fans at the Erwin Center.
The 6-foot-1 guard hit 8 of 12 shots, including 2 of 4 3-pointers, in his fourth appearance since returning from a 23-game NCAA suspension.
Kabongo did not receive nearly enough help. Kansas State (22-5, 11-3 Big 12) led by 19 midway through the second half.
“If I were Myck, I’d be upset with the post players,” coach Rick Barnes said.
Sophomore guard Sheldon McClellan, sentenced by Barnes to the bench at TCU Tuesday after playing for just one minute, returned to full-time duty in his role as a reserve. McClellan scored 15 in 28 minutes, proving that he is capable of success and providing further evidence that sometimes he needs a shove to shift out of neutral.
Back on Jan. 12, Barnes used McClellan for one minute during a defeat at Iowa State. He scored 18 the next game, when the Longhorns played competitively during a 64-59 loss to Kansas.
“It’s not anything that really motivates me,” McClellan said. “I put that in my past.”
Barnes suggested that McClellan is not that different from other Longhorns.
“That’s kind of our team,” Barnes said. “You look at the way certain guys played tonight, we should re-do the lineup again. Guys get complacent, they think they’ve arrived.”
The Ohio State Buckeyes needed a win at home on Sunday afternoon, that much was known.
No, the Buckeyes are not a bubble team or anything of that sort, but entering the contest, Ohio State was carrying a 2-3 mark over the course of their previous five games. With Michigan State in town on Sunday, the Buckeyes were searching for a top five victory and their tenth conference win of the season.
Well, it was ugly at times, especially with the early shooting struggles of junior forward Deshaun Thomas. However, when head coach Thad Matta and the Buckeyes needed plays the most, it was their point guard who stole the show.
Aaron Craft scored a season-high 21 points on Sunday, adding six assists in addition to his scoring output. Not only were his numbers crucial in the team’s 68-60 victory, but it was the countless amount of hustle plays that kept the pressure on the Spartans. From taking charges to forcing turnovers, the reigning Big Ten Conference Defensive Player of the Year from a season ago, truly paced the tempo and game for the Buckeyes.
Thomas finished the contest with 14 points, but needed 16 shots in order to do so. Craft was an efficient 7-of-12 from the field overall, getting to the rim with ease at times in the second half.
Blake Griffin had an opportunity to leave college after just one season, but opted to stick around in Norman, Okla., for his sophomore season and it's paid off for the NBA All-Star. Griffin said the one-and-done rule might work for guys like Kevin Durant, but his advice to young players looking to fast-track themselves to the league as quickly as possible: Don't rush.
"I felt like staying another year was the right move for me," Griffin told me on SiriusXM's Inside College Basketball. "It was one of the best decisions I ever made. It enabled me to mature and get better as a basketball player. If I came out after my freshman season, it would have been a different story."
…"Everyone's in kids' ears for a payday," Griffin said. "The chance to get paid and take care of your family. … But it's about being ready, not necessarily about taking that big payday right away, but giving it time. You might drop a few spots, but you might end up with a team that's a better fit -- and end up making more money in the long run."
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Andrew Wiggins is the Naismith High School Player of the Year. Just confirmed with the good folks at the Atlanta Tipoff Club.
Do you think he’s interested in announcing at the McDonald’s All-American Game on April 3 or anything like that?
I think he has absolutely zero interest in doing that. … He honestly just does not like that (sort of attention). He just feels awkward.
What do you think of the notion that it’ll be Florida State or Kentucky as the favorite, as opposed to Kansas and North Carolina?
No, they’re all still in it. I think whoever wins the visits is going to have a one-up. Then after, they sit down and evaluate rosters. I think deep down he wants to win a national championship. I can’t figure any kid wouldn’t, but he has to evaluate the fit, style of play, how everything works for him in a team aspect with all rosters. Right now with Kentucky, for example, they have a lot of kids coming in, and they have a lot of kids that I’m not sure are ready for the draft. But Andrew, I point-blank asked him, ‘If Julius Randle commits to Kentucky, are they out?’ He said, no. So it’s not going to be who’s where. It’s going to be who’s where with the team. He’s not going to eliminate Kentucky because the Harrison twins are there; I mean that’s crazy. That’s been made too much about not only about Andrew but also Julius. I mean they’re great players. They’re pros.
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