KC Star photos: KU practice at Sprint Center
KC Star video: KU practice at Sprint Center
KU AD: #3 Kansas heads to KC for Big 12 Championship
Overall, KU is 13-3 overall in Sprint Center, claiming postseason tourney titles in the downtown K.C. arena in 2008, ’10 and ’11.
“I think it’s another chance for us to get better, to gain momentum going into the NCAA Tournament,” Releford said. “The conference tournament is important to us. It shows us what we’re getting better at and what we need to work on.”
...“A&M played well against us twice,” Self said. “A&M is finally healthy, and that adds to the equation. They play more like us, primarily all man defense. They run some different sets but certainly things our guys will remember because we played them a couple of weeks ago.”
…“We won the league, and the league is more important than the postseason tournament. I don’t care what anybody says. We are going to try to validate our championship. We are going to try to win it,” Self said. “I mean, if you play, you might as well try to win. There is no reason to play unless you play to win.
“It will be hard to win three days in a row. We don’t have depth, and we’re going to have to ride guys hard and play guys a lot of minutes if we are fortunate enough to advance. But it will be good for us. If we are fortunate enough to advance, we play Baylor/K-State. That’s a heck of a first two days.”
…Self said the players are well rested after getting a day off Sunday and having two consecutive days off each of the previous two weeks.
He indicated Taylor has been sick this week and Releford has been “nicked-up.” Releford said his left foot injury (stress reaction in January) has not been giving him any problems. Both Taylor and Releford practiced Wednesday.
Defense is the calling card for Releford, a 6-foot-6, fourth-year junior who played at Bishop Miege.
He can score. Earlier this season, Releford picked up a Big 12 player-of-the-week honor for setting career scoring highs in successive games with 16 points against Kansas State and 28 against Oklahoma.
But he’s taken great pride in building an identity as a stopper. Releford usually guards the opponent’s top wing scorer, and along with Jeff Withey’s shot-blocking prowess, Releford’s sticky defense is a major factor in Kansas’ lofty Big 12 rankings.
The Jayhawks lead the league in field-goal percentage defense at 38.2 percent and are second in scoring defense at 61.2 points allowed per game entering the tournament.
But last Saturday, Releford took his turn on Texas’ J’Covan Brown, who scored 29 of his 33 points in the second half. None of the Jayhawks could stop Brown.
KU coach Bill Self has issued the challenge.
“It’s time to get that back,” Self said. “And he can get in back in practice with his mind-set.”
That mind-set has to be to play defense before the opponent gets the ball.
“The key to being a good defender, in my opinion, is to limit good touches,” Self said. “When you let a player get good touches, the advantage goes to the offense.
“If a guy doesn’t shoot it, he’s probably not going to score.”
Self didn’t single out Releford, mentioning fellow guard Elijah Johnson as well.
But Releford accepted the coaching as it if was single-minded in purpose.
“He knows I can be that guy (defensive stopper), and like I said, I haven’t been doing that lately,” Releford said. “I need to step it up.”
RPI: Kansas 6, Texas A&M 172
BOTTOM LINE: The Aggies have played Kansas strong twice. A&M led at halftime at Lawrence and sliced a 21-point deficit to four in the second half in College Station. Both were low-scoring games and this one should be also with Kansas prevailing.
LJW: Gameday cram session
LJW: Another KU-MU could scramble seeding
In reference to an article linked in this blog yesterday…
English on Wednesday jokingly thanked KU and Kansas State fans for spending money in the state of Missouri while attending the 2012 Big 12 tournament. He also referred to K.C. as “our town.”
KU coach Bill Self was not bothered by English’s comments.
“He’s got a little Norm (Stewart, former MU coach) in him. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Self said after Wednesday’s short practice in Sprint Center.
“Everybody loves and respects Norm, especially after Norm retired,” the coach added with a laugh. “That’s one thing that does kind of crack me up. There’s been so many things that have been said innocently that aren’t stories that people can take the ball and run with because they are leaving (for SEC). I’ve not followed what everybody is saying. That’s a pretty good quote by Kim.”
Self said earlier in the week that “Kansas City is more of a K-State, KU town than it is a Missouri town, at least the way we see it.”
On Wednesday, Self said: “I actually had people do some research. If you add K-State and KU alums that have graduated and alums that did not graduate but at least went to school there for a brief period of time, they’re not close,” he said of fans of the three schools that live in K.C.
“I don’t know what I said that is even remotely controversial. I always thought controversial statements were things that could be taken one way or another. To me, if it’s fact, I don’t see what’s controversial.
"I don’t think the numbers lie. We are only 45 minutes from here. We have 88,000 alums that live in the five-county area. This is a big deal to come play in Kansas City. That’s why the tournament will be great here no matter what.
... We need to sell it. That’s all I’m trying to do is sell it. This is the place to have the Big 12 tournament, period.
“If Kansas and Missouri are not playing Saturday, it’ll still be a full house. That’s why the tournament always needs to stay here.”
The chancellor of The University of Kansas expressed determination Wednesday to develop an academic profile sufficient to retain membership in the elite Association of American Universities.
KU has been a member of AAU for more than 100 years, but Kansas' lone representative in the 61-university group could be threatened if improvements can’t be made in student retention, graduation rates and scholarly productivity. In 2011, the University of Nebraska was expelled from AAU.
"We are intent on maintaining our stature as a national research university," KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little told a Senate subcommittee on higher education. "We have many things that we're doing. There are things that we want to do. All of them require resources."
Obtaining a National Cancer Institute designation from the federal government for the KU Cancer Center and embarking on dramatic expansion at the School of Engineering are part of the plan to strengthen the university's standing among premier research universities in AAU, she said.
The engineering school is adding to its academic buildings, enrolling more students and hiring 30 new faculty members over the next six years.
"The engineering expansion is coming at just the right time," the chancellor said. "Engineering is one of the areas that have been identified as a growth area, where there are more jobs than there are graduates."
Gray-Little said a $3 million request pending in the Legislature to hire "foundational" professors would enable KU to attract more faculty members worthy of membership in national academies. The proposal earned the support of Gov. Sam Brownback, she said.
"That would benefit our standing in AAU," Gray-Little said.
She said the university was dedicated to increasing the first-year student retention rate to 90 percent and push the six-year graduate rate to 70 percent. The university's general education curriculum is undergoing overhaul and will be implemented in fall 2013, she said.
"It is a multiyear process," Gray-Little said. "There are a lot of moving parts that are to be addressed."
By topping the Sooners last weekend in Norman, Okla., Henrickson’s Jayhawks earned the No. 6 seed and a first-round bye. Their reward? A date with No. 3 seed Texas A&M at 7:30 tonight at Municipal Auditorium. The Aggies enter the tourney ranked 22nd in the country.
Then again, the opportunity to take on the Aggies presents the Jayhawks (19-11 overall, 8-10 Big 12) with their best shot at making one final statement to the tournament selection committee. That’s the way Henrickson prefers to view it.
“It’s (a chance to get win) No. 20, it’s a quality win against a high RPI and a ranked team on a neutral floor, so another great opportunity has arisen,” she said.
In order to turn that opportunity into something more, Henrickson said her team had to understand how important each postseason possession could be.
“We’ve gotta take care of the ball,” Henrickson said.
In two games against A&M this season — both 11-point losses — the Jayhawks turned it over 23 and 20 times. Not only did the turnovers lead to empty possessions for the Jayhawks, but they often led to easy layups for the Aggies as well.
“There is no scout-team defense for that,” Henrickson said. “They’re gonna make those.”
Big 12/College News
Big 12 Conference Tournament guide: Schedule, stats, media
KC Big 12 Tournament guide: Ticket, parking, lodging, entertainment info
To win the Big 12 tournament this week -- assuming the seeds hold to form -- the Baylor basketball team will have to beat Kansas State, Kansas and Missouri.
All in Kansas City.
"We'd like to have it in the state of Texas," Bears coach Scott Drew chuckled, and although the wish is understandable, even Drew knows that no potential tournament site can match the atmosphere that will exist inside the Sprint Center.
Especially this season.
"This," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said, "could end up being the best Big 12 tournament ever."
Third-ranked Kansas and fifth-ranked Missouri are both Final Four threats while No. 11 Baylor is enjoying the best season in school history. Kansas State has spent time in the Top 25 and enters the tournament having won four of its last five games. One season after going 3-13 in league games, Iowa State experienced a huge resurgence and finished in a tie for third place in the Big 12 standings.
Other than Baylor, all of the aforementioned schools will bring huge followings to Kansas City this week. Tickets for the semifinals and finals have already sold out. Bars and restaurants in the Power & Light District across the street from the arena are preparing for rowdy crowds.
Here's a quick glimpse into what may be in store in the days ahead.
ESPN Jason King
Of all the schools on the Big 12 tournament's fight card this week, Texas is the one with the most to lose. Drop Thursday's second-round matchup with No 25 Iowa State, and the Longhorns (19-12, 9-9 Big 12) can probably kiss an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament — and a streak of 13 straight visits to Bracketville — good-bye. It's that simple.
"I don't know where we are with the NCAA," offered Barnes, who's never missed the Big Dance since taking over the program in 1998. "I don't listen to any of the people here, because I don't think people here really know. I don't even think they really understand what weighs into it. And the reason I know that is I have a lot of people that I respect that have been on the committee for a long time, and that's what they tell me. So, I just believe in the integrity of the committee.
"But in terms of us, you've got to earn your way there. And I believe the teams that get there, they've done what they've need to do. So, it's pretty simple. You do your job, you'll be there. If you don't, you won't."
Texas wasn't supposed to be here — that is, teetering on the proverbial fence. Programs that swim in cash and bask in the glow of their own television networks are designed to be too big to fail. Barnes was supposed to spin so-called "down years" or "transitional rosters" into contenders for Big 12 championships, the way Bill Self did this winter at Kansas.
Maybe Texas isn't Kansas. Or maybe Barnes isn't Self. Whatever the cause, this Bubble thing is virgin territory for the folks in Austin, some of whom wouldn't mind seeing their coach — who flirted with the North Carolina State job a year ago and wound up with a $200,000 raise — run out on a rail.
"No one has set the expectations higher than we have," Barnes said. "Fans are fans. Really, I'm not concerned about that. I'm concerned about our team. (Fans) have no clue. They have no idea what goes into teams winning at any level in any sport. They have absolutely no clue. Now they think they do, obviously, but they don't. And that's why you respect consistency in programs. You respect that, because if you've ever been in it, (you understand)."
Oklahoma State freshman Le'Bryan Nash plans to return for his sophomore season.
Many expected the highly touted forward to leave after one year in Stillwater, but Nash said after the Cowboys' 76-60 win over Texas Tech in the Big 12 tournament Wednesday night that he'll return for another season.
Nash has missed four straight games after hurting his non-shooting hand. He'll have to wear a cast for about three more weeks before a month of rehab.
Nash was averaging 13.3 points and five rebounds in just over 30 minutes when he went down with the injury. He acknowledged that he "didn't have a great year" and believes he can improve his game -- and his draft stock -- by returning for another season with Oklahoma State.
The Cowboys play second-seeded Missouri in the Big 12 quarterfinals Thursday night.
While John Calipari has experienced remarkable success at the University of Kentucky, it’s hardly a secret he would leave the Wildcats for an NBA coaching position.
The latest rumor making the rounds is that Calipari is in the crosshairs of New Jersey management. Calipari coached the Nets from 1996 until 1999.
KC Star Mellinger performs mental gymnastics to claim his favorite college player Marcus Denmon as one of KC area's greatest ever
Mizzou isn't going to leave the Big 12 without setting some small fires to its bridge with the Big 12.
On Wednesday, the university released a new SEC promotional video featuring several athletes playing their various sports against a black backdrop. In the background, a voiceover makes sure to let everyone know how much better Missouri's new conference is compared to its old one.
"They say you rise to the level of competition ... That playing great teams only makes you better ... We're counting on it."
Just to recap, the SEC has great teams, the Big 12 does not. I just want to make sure no one missed the not-so-subtle message there.
Meanwhile, Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel is convinced the Kansas series will continue and just to make sure, he gave a jumbo-sized (geez, that's never going to get old) shout-out to the rivalry.
"I wish the Big 12 luck. I'd never wish Kansas luck. I can't do that. That's against my principles," Pinkel told 610 AM sports in Kansas City. "But certainly I hope the Big 12 does really, really well. Let's just move on. Gosh darn, it's not that complex."
Yahoo (video at the link)
It looked like Arizona freshman guard Josiah Turner was figuring things out.
He had cut down on his turnovers and was playing more consistently for the Wildcats. In fact, he had a 15-point, six-assist, zero-turnover performance in a win over USC two weeks ago.
Now, though, comes the news that Turner has been suspended indefinitely and did not make the trip to the Pac-12 tournament on Wednesday.
“I am disappointed in Josiah for his actions,” head coach Sean Miller said in a release. “Unfortunately this suspension comes at a time of great excitement and opportunity for our team. However, the standards of our program will not be compromised under any circumstances. Hopefully, Josiah will learn a valuable lesson from this experience.”
Turner had previously been suspended this season, on December 7, after “violations of team policy.” He also missed a game against Ball State and was late to a pregame shootaround prior to an early November contest against Duquesne.
The 6-foot-3 guard is averaging 6.8 points and 2.4 assists this season.
At least one anonymous Big Ten coach recently told college basketball writer Seth Davis of SI.com that he didn’t like the way Wisconsin plays basketball.
"I don’t really respect the way they play," the coach (either an assistant or head coach) told Davis. "Jordan Taylor likes to run and grab you, then throw his head back and try to get a call. If you set a pick, they take a dive. They cheat the game."
Coach Anonymous questioned the Badgers’ reputation as a good defensive team and said they "mug you out of the building." He said their offense was to wind the shot clock down to six seconds and give the ball to Jordan Taylor. "That’s their offense," said Coach Anonymous.
On Wednesday, we talked to ESPN game analyst Dan Dakich (left), who has been with the network for two seasons. Before that he worked for the Big Ten Network. Dakich was an interim head coach at Indiana, a head coach at Bowling Green, an assistant to Bob Knight at Indiana and a former player under Knight.
We asked Dakich if he agreed with anything Coach Anonymous had to say about the Badgers.
"There is a dumbass assistant coach somewhere opening up his mouth, I mean if you want to know the truth," Dakich said. "Because anyone who has ever been a head coach and take what Bo Ryan does every single moment of every single minute of every single day – when you are an assistant coach you think you know everything. So you open your mouth. So my comment is, who cares what some dumbass assistant coach cares about Wisconsin’s style of play? The dude’s won more games than that guy will ever think about winning. Whoever that guy is."
Dakich said basketball is not just offense.
"You’ve got be able to guard, you have got be able to pass, you’ve got to catch," Dakich said. "There is a skill level there. That’s what Wisconsin does. Now, I do think they do go to Jordan Taylor late in the clock. I have thought that for a couple of years. So I’ll go along with that part. I will say that in the last couple of games, I thought they have moved the ball better. They move people better.
"But in terms of cheating the game, are you crazy?" Dakich said. "Bo Ryan does the exact opposite. Watch a warm-up. They pass, they catch, they work on skill. That’s not cheating the game. They guard you. That’s not cheating the game. They don’t grab people. I’ve been to a million of their games. They don’t grab people. I don’t walk away from a Wisconsin game saying, ‘Dang did they just mug their opponent?’ I’ve done a million games and I promise you this. I promise you that whatever assistant coach was stupid enough to say that, I promise you – I’m not even in the league, but I’ve watched more of Wisconsin than that guy does – and what he said about them is complete crap. Is that strong enough for you?"
Jordan Tebbutt, a 6-5, 230-pound small forward from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., attended Saturday’s Senior Night game against Texas as part of an unofficial recruiting visit. Tebbutt, who is originally from Tualatin, Ore., has received scholarship offers from USC, UCLA, Virginia, Oregon State, Portland, Virginia, Washington and Washington State.
“I loved it and the fans at Kansas are amazing,” Tebbutt told Rivals.com. “It was a fun night and a great atmosphere.”
The high school basketball career of Perry Ellis is coming to an end. I’m sure the coaches at the other City League and Class 6A schools in the state are really sorry to hear that.
Ellis and the Heights Falcons have had a vise grip on the state tournament for three years and begin their pursuit of a fourth consecutive championship Thursday night at Koch Arena in a 6:30 game against Olathe East.
The 6-foot-8 Ellis wants this.
“It was a goal when I came to Heights,’’ he said. “I wanted to come in and win one each year. Now we have a chance to do it. This is a different team than last year. There are new challenges.’’
While Ellis has done everything but have the state tournament named in his honor, North junior guard Conner Frankamp — the other 2011-12 City League star — is making his state tournament debut at 8:15 Thursday night against Blue Valley North.
Frankamp and Ellis, Ellis and Frankamp — they’re forever linked to one of the most interesting seasons of City League basketball.
In the past few weeks, Ellis has become the City League’s career scoring leader and Frankamp has established himself as next in line for that accolade. Both players are headed for Kansas — Ellis next season and Frankamp in 2013.
They are the most heralded duo to come along in the City League since Aubrey Sherrod and Greg Dreiling were McDonald’s All-Americans at Heights and Kapaun Mount Carmel in 1981.
And in back-to-back games, they will attempt to lead their teams to victories that would assure a Heights-North semifinal Friday night.
“It means a lot to me to be playing in a state tournament,’’ said Frankamp, who is averaging a ridiculous 33.1 points. “I was pretty antsy about getting a chance like this. I don’t know if we were expecting to make it this year, but we were hoping to. I think we’ve done better than people expected us to do.”
Ellis has been a household name for high school basketball fans since he was in middle school. KU coach Bill Self hurried to Wichita after the Jayhawks had played an afternoon game so he could watch Ellis play his first game for the Falcons in December 2008.
…Frankamp could only sit and the stands and watch the 6A tournament during his first two years of high school, wondering what it must feel like to be out there and watching Heights and Ellis win one game after another.
“It’s crazy to think of a team winning four in a row,’’ Frankamp said. “But if we happen to lose, I’ll be rooting for Perry.’’
Ellis can’t fathom losing, especially since he’s near the end of his high school career. This is it.
“It’s definitely kind of sad,” Ellis said. “I’ve gotten to play with a lot of my high school friends. But you’ve got to move on. Time doesn’t move backward, so it’s going to be time to go on to that next step in life.”
He would like it to be with one more state championship in tow.
Brewster Academy 87, Hargrave Military Academy 76
The National Prep Championships started with eight of the nation’s top programs on Tuesday morning and by 7:30p.m. on Wednesday we were down to just two. Brewster Academy and Hargrave Military Academy were set to square off in what had to be considered the dream matchup when the brackets were released. The game lived up to the hype and served as a fitting finish to an incredible two days of prep school basketball.
This was the 2nd game of the day for both teams which while commonplace on the summer AAU circuit is very unusual during the prep school season. The energy level to start the game quickly erased any questions about whether the teams would any form of hangover from their morning games. Ryan Taylor opened things up with a 3-pointer from the wing and Brewster quickly responded with 4 loud dunks to take an early 8-3 lead. Seemingly everyone who entered the game made contributions for Brewster none more significant than uncommitted senior Jakarr Sampson.
Sampson finished off his MVP tournament with 22 points in the final on a series of rim rattling dunks. Hargrave’s front line had dominated in their first 2 victories and Sampson seemed determined to send a message from the opening tip. The paint was going to belong to him in this game and he made sure everyone on the Hargrave roster was well aware of that. Once Sampson established himself around the rim he also stepped out and knocked down midrange jumpers even tossing in a shot clock beating 3-pointer late in the game to seal the victory. He was a very deserving MVP both based off his performance in the title game and throughout the week.
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