Walk down the corridor and into Allen Fieldhouse, then gaze up to the rafters. Row upon row of championship banners stretch from one end to the other, with five large banners at one end for each of the national championships.
Expectations never really change at Kansas.
Some years, like this one, they are just augmented a bit.
The Jayhawks have hung 11 consecutive Big 12 championship banners in those rafters, and the minimum expectation is to make it a dozen this season. But it will have been eight years since they last hung a national title banner, and that is where expectations are hovering these days.
"I have a goal to go to the Final Four," senior forward Perry Ellis said. "We have been in the system and we know what the coaches are expecting. We feel really confident and I can see it."
…But unlike most years at blue-blood programs, whether the Jayhawks return to the Final Four for the first time since 2012 will not be defined by the play of their talented freshmen.
It will be the result of their returning core.
Few national championship contenders have as much experience as Kansas, led by Ellis, who can finish his career as one of the school's career scoring leaders. He could have declared for the NBA last season, but decided that he wanted to return for one more shot at glory.
Another pro prospect, Wayne Selden Jr., decided to stay, too. He'll be joined by a pair of veteran point guards in Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham, sophomore sharpshooter in Svi Mykhailiuk and lanky forward Brannen Greene in the backcourt.
"We've got 12 pretty good guys, and all 12 are not going to play. Ten may not play," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We have some nice pieces, but the thing I like about it as much as anything is if somebody is not doing what they can to help our team win, it's not going to be that difficult to try to give somebody else an opportunity to do that."
1. KANSAS JAYHAWKS
Yes, again: Kansas at the top. We can't move away from Bill Self finishing at the top of the Big 12 until he proves he can no longer do it. It's just one of those sports laws you abide by until the solar system flexes inwardly, shakes up the continuity of greater existence -- and only then do we adjust accordingly. Yes, Perry Ellis is still on this team. Yes, we know you have the obvious jokes about that. Know he'll again be very good, and so will point guard Frank Mason, Jr. Five-star freshman Carlton Bragg will probably be twice the player in March as what you see in November. Cheick Diallo, whose eligibility is still -- amazingly -- unknown, even at this point. The NCAA is napping on the availability of a handful of players still, and we're almost two weeks from the season starting. Curious about Wayne Selden's development. We left him off our list of the Top 100 (and one) players in the country, and got blowback for that. Selden needs to be consistent and avoid taking bad shots.
CBS Big 12 Preview
They banged into walls, tangled for loose balls and committed fouls without the whistle blowing to stop the action.
There is no denying the insane amount of depth and talent on the 2015-16 Kansas University men's basketball team. A legit argument could be made that KU's second five could finish in the top half of the Big 12 Conference, while the first five — which, at this point, we presume to be Frank Mason, Devonte' Graham, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis and, at least to start the season, Jamari Traylor — works toward winning a 12th consecutive conference title.
But there's one thing about this year's team that might be a getting overlooked. Sure, you've heard, written and read about the skills, returning experience and chip-on-their-shoulder mindset this team possesses. But for the first time in a long time, this year's squad seems to have a little more physicality behind it.
That was obvious during a recent practice, when guys not only looked bigger and badder, but also played like it. And that's the beauty of these practices. Bumps and shoves that almost certainly would get called during games are ignored completely. You either handle it and execute anyway or get exposed and lose reps because of it.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self walked through the northwest tunnel of Allen Fieldhouse toward the locker room with a frown on his face following Thursday’s 21⁄2-hour practice.
“We’re stale. We’ve been stale. We haven’t practiced very well the last week or so,” Self said. “We’re very careless. It’s hard to play when you turn the ball over every possession, it seems like. I don’t think anybody’s leaving out of practice thinking we’ve gotten better the last week. I don’t think that’s the case at all.”
Not every day the past week has been as sub-par as Thursday.
“We’ve had good days, but we’re too inconsistent,” said Self, whose squad has been practicing since Oct. 2. “We’ll have good days, then we’ll have days where we turn that ball over left and right. The biggest thing that’s disappointing to me is our decision-making.”
...Self said he’s not expecting any NCAA decision on Cheick Diallo’s eligibility case heading into the weekend.
One of Diallo’s former Our Savior New American High teammates, Kobie Eubanks, was cleared to play second semester of the 2015-16 season, Zagsblog.com reported Friday.
“I think things like that are positive. I’m unaware of any details on him,” Self said. This means all of Diallo’s teammates (from OSNA in Centereach, New York) to earn major-college scholarships have qualified for college scholarships.
...Self today welcomes about 150 coaches to Lawrence for his annual coaching clinic.
ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla, former head coach at St. John’s, New Mexico and Manhattan, will be in town to speak to the coaches as well as Self and all members of his staff.
For most frequent fliers and Major League stars, Lawrence isn't exactly a destination. For college basketball fans, however, this is a mecca. And there are few big league baseball players who follow college hoops like Granderson.
…None of this, obviously, explains Granderson's love for Kansas basketball. That has a deeper history, going back to watching the Jayhawks face Duke the NCAA championship game in 1991. It was the game after Duke had upset then-unbeaten UNLV.
"That was probably the first time I was able to sit and watch a full game," he said. "I was 10 years old. I could understand everything that was going on. And I was like, 'Wow, I like this team.' There was something about them.
"That was the reason I ended up pulling for them. I don't know why, but that game ended up doing it."
From there, Granderson was hooked. To hear him describe it, he bought jerseys, the pullover jacket, wore Kansas gear to school to his fellow students' surprise. When Jacque Vaughn starred as the Kansas point guard in the mid-90s, Granderson tried to emulate his game.
"I had the Sports Illustrated [issue] with him on the cover," he said. "I still have that at home somewhere. I've yet to meet him, but he was definitely my favorite."
One can only imagine his happiness, then, when he found out that Kansas' draw in this year's NCAA Tournament aligned the Jayhawks to play in the Midwest regionals in Detroit at Ford Field, a short walk across Brush Street from Comerica Park.
It took some doing, but Granderson managed to secure tickets for Sunday's regional final, conveniently scheduled for late afternoon after the Tigers worked out earlier in the day. Moreover, he ended up close to the court near the baseline, behind the Kansas cheerleading section.
“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
Trey Lewis and Damion Lee, Louisville's two graduate transfers, have yet to play an official game with the Cardinals' logo on their chest, yet on Wednesday they were the only mouthpiece at ACC media day for a program in the middle of one of the most shocking scandals in recent memory in college sports.
Lewis and Lee, to their credit, handled the situation like champs. Both players were calm and composed, taking question after question about the Louisville sex scandal and offering their best answers.
Rick Pitino wasn't at the ACC's media day, advised not to particpate by the university's lawyers in the process of an ongoing investigation. His absence created a losing situation for Lewis and Lee, as an entire league's worth of media surrounded the Louisville table looking for any nuggets related to the scandal after an ex-Louisville staffer was accused of paying escorts to have sex with recruits.
"It doesn't involve us, so I'm not really worried about it," Lewis said. "Plus, I can't really speak on it. I came here to talk some basketball and have some fun, and so far I have."
Big 12 Composite Schedule
Although De’Aaron Fox cemented his status among the elite prospects in the 2016 class this past summer, he has been a national name since the spring of his freshman season. SMU, Texas and Baylor were among the early high-majors that offered Fox, although none would end up being major factors in the latter stages of his recruitment. Fox would trim his list to seven schools in August, and then ended up setting five official visits -- before canceling a trip to Arizona that was planned for early November. Fox has said he will decide before the end of the early signing period (Nov. 11-18).
Earlier in the recruiting cycle, the Jayhawks seemed like the odds-on favorite to land Fox. He visited Lawrence during his junior year for Late Night in the Phog, and could have been the next Texas native to be pulled out of the state by Bill Self, following in the footsteps of Kelly Oubre. Once Kentucky made its push, though, the Wildcats pulled into pole position. With that said, Self and the Jayhawks are not giving up. Fox is still the top guard on Kansas’ board, and he recently visited Lawrence again for "Late Night in the Phog." He would form a dynamic backcourt duo with Frank Mason for the Jayhawks; defenses would have a really tough time guarding that attacking tandem. One thing to note is Fox publicly discussing how he and fellow uncommitted guard Malik Monk (No. 5) would fit together at the next level -- the two visited both Kansas and Kentucky together.
Schnider Herard, a 6-foot-10 center from Plano (TX) Prestonwood Christian, will announce his college choice Nov. 4, according to multiple reports.
Roy Williams says the fake-class scandal has hurt recruiting.
“We’ve already lived with it for two years,” he said Wednesday on ESPNU as part of ACC media day. “It’s hurt us in recruiting, it’s hurt us in several different ways. We’re mad, we’re sad, we’re disappointed that it happened but we gotta play basketball. We’ve gotta try to control the things that we can control and our kids out there on the court, they’re going to be playing, they’re not going to be thinking about this stuff that we’ve got going on.”
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2015-16)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube