United Spirit Arena Is Closing In On Its Second Sellout Of The Season
TV: Dave Armstrong, Reid Gettys
In Texas Tech's seven Big 12 losses this season, the Red Raiders have lost by an average of 6.6 points per game. Last season, in 15 conference losses, Texas Tech lost by an average of 21.4 points.
TTAD: Pregame Notes
KUAD: Pregame Notes
Although the Jayhawks are ranked in the top ten and have two losses in conference play, the Red Raiders have won three out of their last four games, and Tech junior forward Jordan Tolbert said Tech will approach Kansas just like any other game.
“We don’t really get excited as we used to,” he said. “Coming off these past games, we kind of got sucked into the reality that we can be one of the best teams in the Big 12. Jayhawks coming in here is just like any other game and we’re ready for them.”
Tech coach Tubby Smith knows he is the underdog on paper, but said he expects to win every game and said he believes his team can beat the Jayhawks.
“I never look at games as upsets,” he said. “I expect to win every game. Unfortunately, we don’t. That’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it. If we win, I’m expecting to win. That’s just the way I approach it. If you want to call it an upset, that’s what it is. But we expect to go in and play our best, and that’s the mindset you have to have.”
Tech sophomore guard Toddrick Gotcher agreed with Smith, and said the team believes it can compete with anybody.
“We think we can play with any team in the country,” he said. “We may be underdogs, but we think we can play the game right and get the win. Coach Tubby believes in us and we believe in ourselves. We have to come out and play hard, listen to coach and we can get the job done.”
…Smith emphasized the importance of the crowd, saying a sold-out arena is important.
“I know our players appreciate it and I can see that it raises our level of play when we have the arena full,” he said. “If we could get a sellout, that would mean a lot.”
After a broken student record in the last home game against Oklahoma State, Smith made a challenge for 5,500 students to attend the Kansas game and Tolbert said he expects the record to be broken.
“I just want them to be here,” he said. “I want them to be hyped with their Guns Up, standing up making noise all game.”
This Red Raiders team is coming off one of its worst defensive efforts, forcing only seven turnovers and letting then-No. 11 Iowa State shoot 51.9 percent Saturday. Texas Tech lost 70-64 and had a three-game winning streak snapped.
However, that game came on the road. The Red Raiders have won three of their last four home games with two of those victories coming against ranked opponents.
They're 10-4 at home and 2-4 overall against Top 25 foes. Beating a top-10 team, though, has been more of a chore with 17 straight losses dating to a January 2009 win over Kansas. Three of those defeats came last season to the Jayhawks.
“They’re a lot better,” KU coach Bill Self said. “Tubby’s done a fabulous job, he and his staff. They’re playing hard. They are on a roll right now. They are playing great. What they did in Norman (68-60 win), having them down 20 in the second half, was certainly impressive. We know how easily OU scores.”
Self expects a tough game tonight.
“We know how hard it is to win there,” Self said.
KU has won the last three trips to United Spirit Arena after losing the previous three.
“Early in the season, they may have been drawing 4,000 to 5,000 (fans),” Self said. “Now they’ll probably have 13,000 or whatever the sellout would be (15,098 in United Spirit Arena). I’m excited about our guys going into a good environment playing a good team. We’ll have to be better to win down there.”
…“The next three games obviously will probably determine the league race in a lot of ways,” Self said. “We have a chance with two of three at home (Texas on Saturday, Oklahoma on Monday) and a tough road game to maybe create some serious separation or get a chance to maybe not be where we want to be. It’s a great opportunity for us. Texas Tech counts just as much as the Texas game.”
…Tubby Smith on tonight’s game: “They are the best team in the Big 12 and one of the best teams in the country. It’s a very talented team from top to bottom, not only guys in the starting lineup but guys who come off the bench. It’ll be our toughest task yet. They have one of the premier players in the country in Andrew Wiggins. Perry Ellis is playing great. Naadir Tharpe is a great leader, an exceptional point guard. We tried to recruit him at Minnesota,” added Smith, who coached six seasons at Minnesota before taking the Tech job.
“If we can recover from a poor defensive effort Saturday (at Iowa State), I think we’ll give Kansas a good run.”
ABOUT TEXAS TECH (13-12, 5-7 Big 12): Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith has engineered a feel-good turnaround in his first season after some years of turmoil in Lubbock. On their fourth coach in four years, the Red Raiders have won three of four and own Big 12 victories against Oklahoma State (the Marcus Smart fan incident game) and Oklahoma. It was the first such stretch for Texas Tech since 2011. Nearly as impressive: Texas Tech lost by just six at Iowa State on Saturday. Smith, who spent the previous six seasons at Minnesota, is the only other Big 12 coach beside Bill Self to own an NCAA title. Smith led Kentucky to a championship in 2008. The Red Raiders drew 15,098 fans (a sell-out) at United Spirit Arena for Oklahoma State and a similar crowd will be expected on Tuesday.
BOTTOM LINE: A victory will give Kansas 20 victories for the 25th straight season. The Jayhawks will then return home to face Texas on Saturday and Oklahoma next Monday.
KC Star Preview
LJW Smithology: Getting to know Texas Tech
Tarik Black carried a bag of fresh food as he moved through a hallway inside Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday evening. It was nearly an hour and 15 minutes after Kansas’ 95-65 blitzkrieg of TCU, and the postgame autograph line outside the Jayhawks’ locker room was still two or three people deep. Most of the Kansas players were long gone, their dinner in tow, but for the last 20 minutes Black had been sidled up next to a reporter from Sports Illustrated.
The conversation was supposed to last five minutes, but it kept dragging on, more and more questions about KU freshman center Joel Embiid. National magazines don’t come to Kansas to write stories about Black, of course. They come to see Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, two Jayhawks freshmen who could go No. 1 and 2 in the NBA Draft. But they still want to talk to Black, the thoughtful transfer who arrived at KU after graduating from Memphis in three years.
…Black transferred to play a prominent role on a KU team that had a solid opportunity to be an NCAA contender. But life has a funny way of working out sometimes. Through 26 games, Black is averaging just 4.3 points and 11.2 minutes per game, nearly half of what he averaged last season at Memphis. He has battled injury and foul trouble, and you’d expect Black to feel disappointed to leave his hometown school (Memphis) to play behind a freshman star (Embiid). But Black doesn’t see it that way.
“If we’re winning, the pie is big enough for everybody,” Black says. “And if we’re losing, there’s no pie to be eaten.”
…But while Black’s numbers have been pedestrian, those inside the KU locker room say his impact has been deeper. After starting the season as a starter, he moved seamlessly into a backup role behind Embiid.
“Every practice that we’ve had, I’ve never seen him come in with an attitude,” junior guard Naadir Tharpe said of Black. “(He’s never) down on himself or worrying about himself or not trying to be a good teammate to the younger dudes. He still comes into practice everyday with energy.”
…“I think Tarik is playing the exact way we envisioned him playing when we first got him, maybe even a little better actually,” Self said. “He’s doing a lot of good things. He’s very vocal. He coaches through his voice, especially defensively. And he’s getting a lot more confidence offensively.”
…On a team rife with underclassmen, the Jayhawks are a few weeks away from the unknowns of March. And a few years from now, when an older Black looks back at his time at Kansas, he says he’ll look back at March the most. That month, he says, is how he’ll judge his impact at Kansas.
“I just want to help us win games,” Black says, “and help us win it all.”
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Big 12 / College News
I spent my Valentine's Day in a windowless conference room with a few dozen college hoops aficionados -- mostly grown men who can argue for hours, coherently and vociferously -- over why the Kansas Jayhawks' historically difficult schedule (by far the toughest in the past two decades of college hoops), means they are under consideration for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Or why St. Louis and its 23-2 record get a lower seed than a seven-loss Michigan team. Or why Colorado might end up the single most difficult-to-seed team come March Madness.
…Last week was my first time going through the mock NCAA tournament selection process in Indianapolis. In that conference room, NCAA officials and tournament selection committee members put a handful of college basketball writers through a sped-up version of the five-day process from which 68 college basketball teams are selected, seeded and then sent around the country in what I'd argue is the best event in American sports, Super Bowl be damned.
The point of the exercise seemed to be to show the massive amount of detail and care the committee takes in putting together the bracket. But the point easily could have been to teach the media -- and, by extension, college basketball fans -- to not be so quick to throw stones after the pairings are released on Selection Sunday on March 16.
Because despite the massive amount of mathematical comparisons that goes into the selection process -- weighing RPI and SOS and BPI and Sagarin and KenPom and good road wins versus bad road losses -- it really all struck me as so damn subjective.
You could argue Michigan, which has beaten five teams in the top 40 in the RPI rankings, deserves a higher seed than St. Louis, which has beaten only one team in the top 40. I could argue -- in fact, I did argue -- that St. Louis has only two losses compared to Michigan's seven and that those two losses were by a combined 11 points to two teams, Wisconsin and Wichita State, that are in the top 10 in RPI. (I'd also bring up that St. Louis, starting five seniors, is the most experienced team in the likely tournament field and that experience ought to matter when we look at seedings.) We could talk in circles for hours and never come to an exact resolution.
…Conference strength is not a measurement. I kept wanting to bring up things like the Big 12 being tops in the country in conference RPI, or the ACC ranking a surprisingly low fifth in conference RPI. That's not a metric. Each team is judged on its own merits. Of course a team like Kansas will have its strength of schedule, a vitally important metric, boosted by playing in the strong Big 12, but conference affiliation in and of itself is not part of the process.
…The process reminded me of going to the optometrist for an eye test. "Which one is better, this one -- or this one?" And what might have been a valid argument on Friday might not be one on Monday. We spent a good amount of time debating whether Kansas and its brutal strength of schedule deserved a 1-seed over Florida. After Florida's road win against Kentucky on Saturday night, I can't imagine we would have even debated that.
…People are going to argue against Wichita State being a 1-seed, even if the Shockers make it to the NCAA tournament undefeated. Those people are wrong. As longtime Sporting News college basketball writer Mike DeCourcy put it, "You can't fake undefeated." He's right. As of now the Shockers are absolutely a 1-seed. You can't hold it against them for trying to schedule a difficult nonconference schedule, then having a few of those nonconference opponents underperform.
Fox Sports Forgrave
As his teammates were trying to salvage their once-promising season during an overtime loss at Baylor on Monday night, Marcus Smart was chastising an Oklahoma State blog for being too negative about the struggling Cowboys.
"Yo dude," Smart tweeted. "Listen no one is forcing u to watch the game or watch us play. If [you're] a Osu cowboy, act like it. I'm tired of seeing your negativity towards the team and the coaches. [These] aren't shots fired or any disrespect. Just saying."
Pistols Firing, a popular Oklahoma State blog, has been critical of coach Travis Ford as a Cowboys team expected to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title has instead plummeted from the top 10 in the polls to the fringes of the NCAA tournament picture.
…It's understandable Smart would want to stand up for his teammates and coaches when he believes the criticism they've received is unjust, but the timing of his tweets wasn't all that wise.
Why send those tweets during the first half of a critical game for your team? And why risk further negative publicity when you're barely a week removed from publicly apologizing for losing your cool in the middle of a game and going into the stands to confront a fan who taunted you?
Michael Beasley wonders where his statistics might stack up if he had remained at Kansas State longer than his freshman year, when he averaged 26.2 points and 12.4 rebounds.
But Beasley did what everyone anticipates Kansas' Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Duke's Jabari Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle will do after this season — go pro after one year in college.
Now with the Miami Heat, Beasley's second stop in a six-year career with the team that took him No. 2 overall in the 2008 NBA draft, he has already been cut once, traded twice and played for three teams. He has also been arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession. And he's only 25.
Asked if he had advice for the four freshmen — and perhaps four other freshmen who could be lottery picks in June — Beasley gets to the heart of the dilemma for these talented teens.
"If I could tell them one thing, it would be, 'It's your life, it's what you make it,'" Beasley told USA TODAY Sports. "I think my only regret, and not just with college, is trying to make other people happy all of the time. If I could do everything over, I'd do it for me."
"I can't say I would have stayed another year. I grew up poor, dirt poor … Everybody is different. Me? If I came from a better financial situation, I could have been there two, three or four years."
…Since 2006, 57 players who were one year out of high school have been drafted by NBA teams. There have been stars such as Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose, and others who have struggled to stick in the league, including Tiny Gallon and Josh Selby.
"I had a family, and it was a decision to take care of my family," says Gallon, who played at Oklahoma and was selected 47th overall by the Milwaukee Buck in 2010. "I was at Oklahoma for the money. I had to take care of my family. I felt I was ready, so I came out.
Now 23 and suiting up for the NBA Development League's Delaware 87ers, Gallon insists he wouldn't change a thing.
"No, it hasn't turned out how I thought it would, but that's the whole process — you never know how the future looks. When I made my decision, I was comfortable with it."
…Many coaches have espoused the benefits of a rule similar to baseball's, where players could get drafted out of high school, but if they choose to go to a four-year college they must stay at least three years.
Krzyzewski, Florida coach Billy Donovan and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, among others, have been proponents of that type of a system. They point out that there are no rules holding a tennis player back from going pro at a young age. Or a golfer. This argument gets made any time an elite young college player gets injured and potentially costs himself thousands or millions of dollars.
But the realists in the college game know that allowing 18-year-olds to go straight to the pros is not likely to happen. The NBA doesn't want its scouts in high school gyms, Krzyzewski says.
"The NBA will not take kids out of high school; that's a no-go," Boeheim says. "It's foolish to think about that, because the NBA doesn't want those guys. The union, the player reps, they don't want two years; they want to get them out as soon as they can. It's just not a solvable problem."
Roy Williams earned his 300th win at North Carolina when the Tar Heels won 81-75 Monday at Florida State, rallying from a 15-point first-half deficit to record their seventh consecutive victory.
Williams passed former Tar Heels coach Dean Smith for the lead among Atlantic Coast Conference coaches in reaching 300 wins in the fewest games. Williams did it in 386, Smith in 406.
“I’ve lived a blessed life on the basketball court,” said Williams, who won 418 times while coaching at Kansas. “It’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully I’ll have another win.”
The victory came in North Carolina’s biggest comeback of the year.
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