Freshman forward Cliff Alexander was not with the Kansas basketball team Wednesday when the Jayhawks stepped off a bus at their downtown hotel, two days before their NCAA Tournament opener.
Alexander, who remains sidelined while the NCAA investigates his eligibility, was not expected to play this weekend, beginning Friday against No. 15 seed New Mexico State. But Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday that the school elected to keep Alexander at home in an effort to play it safe against NCAA rules.
“I think it was kind of left up to us to determine it, and based on prior history, the smart thing has always been to not travel,” Self said.
…“I hate it for Cliff, but it is the reality of it,” Self said. “So he’s not traveling in the tournament as long as he’s not cleared to play. That’s the way it usually works with all guys that are ineligible.”
More than two weeks later, Ellis is still immersed in the healing process. He returned to the floor last weekend at limited strength, playing in two games at the Big 12 Tournament. But as No. 2 seed Kansas prepares to open the NCAA Tournament against No. 15 New Mexico State on Friday in Omaha, Neb., the health of Ellis’ right knee remains a major concern.
Ellis will play, and he believes he will be effective — but how far can Kansas go if its leading scorer is at less than 100 percent?
“This is when it really matters,” Kansas guard Wayne Selden said. “And we really want Perry’s knee to get back to being 100 percent. But even if his knee’s not 100 percent, I just want his mind to be 100 percent.”
…“He’s not close to where he needs to be,” Self said Sunday. “So this next four days are real important for him to get that bounce back and that fire back in his jump and explosion.”
Three days later, after arriving at the Kansas team hotel in Omaha on Wednesday afternoon, Self said Ellis had practiced Tuesday andWednesday and was showing signs of measured progress.
“Perry looks really good in practice,” Self said. “He’s getting his explosion back.”
“We’ve had a good day,” Self said. His squad practiced on Wednesday in Allen before leaving Lawrence at 1:35 p.m. “We went very hard yesterday and backed off today. Perry (Ellis, slowed of late by sprained right knee) looks really good in practice. He’s getting his explosion back and he feels more and more confident each day on his knee. Obviously we’re not whole, but we’re as close as we’re going to be whole, more than likely.
“I like our chances. Our guys’ attitudes are very good. We’ve got a tough road here in Omaha. New Mexico State is very good. They are crazy athletic, freakish athletic.
“If we are fortunate enough to advance, the winner of the next game will also be a high-quality opponent (Wichita State or Indiana on Sunday). I’m excited and the guys seem to be focused.”
…Self would not comment about Internet rumors Alexander had a meeting with the NCAA on Wednesday. Alexander’s attorney did not return a text from the Journal-World asking for comment about that issue.
On Tuesday, Alexander had Tweeted: “At the end of the day I still have a smile on my face can’t nothing hold me back #bepatient.”
…Asked if he thinks KU fans will travel well to Omaha, he said: “I’d think our fans would have known for the last month or two there’s better than a 50⁄50 chance we’d be playing in Omaha in the first weekend. I hope they were able to secure tickets. If they haven’t got them, I’d think if they are creative they can still get them. Because I know Iowa State figured out a way to get them in Kansas City,” Self said. “I think our fans have always been creative and have always figured out ways to get them wherever we were playing. Hopefully Omaha will not be an exception.”
…Self on Iowa State scoring 47 points on KU in the second half of Saturday’s 70-66 win in the Big 12 title game.
“I wish I’d gone to zone earlier in the half instead of waiting until about six minutes left,” Self said. “I think it told some of our better defenders supposedly, ‘Hey we’ve got to turn it up some.’ Some of our better defenders got treated pretty poorly there in the second half. With that said, you’ve got to be able to guard the ball in the NCAA Tournament. A lot comes down to guard play.”
I came up with one more way to look at the unfairness of the NCAA tournament seeding to see if I could confirm my suspicions that the Midwest region is strangely stacked, so much more loaded than the others.
I looked at the points each school received in the final 2014-15 Associated Press college basketball poll and compared them, region-by-region. Sure enough, it confirmed the power of the Midwest regional.
Led by Kentucky’s 1,625 points, the Midwest has 6,014 AP poll points. The East finishes second with 5,527 points, the West (4,855) third and the South (4,824) fourth.
The top 25 ranking of Midwest regional teams: 1. Kentucky, 8. Notre Dame, 10. Kansas, 12. Maryland, 14. Wichita State, 20. West Virginia, 24. Butler.
Think about this for a moment: There are four regionals and the Midwest has five of the first 14 teams in the Associated Press poll. Not cool. Four East schools rank in the top 14: 2. Villanova, 6. Virginia, 11. Northern Iowa, 13. Oklahoma, three from the South regional (4. Duke, 7. Gonzaga, 9. Iowa State), just two in the West (3. Wisconsin, 5. Arizona), plus Nos. 15. North Carolina and 16. Baylor.
Frontcourt: Few are as reliable — or skilled — as KU’s All-Big 12 forward Perry Ellis (13.8 points a game, 7.0 rebounds). A potential X factor, however, might be Landen Lucas, the 6-foot-10 sophomore who started all three Big 12 tournament games and averaged 7.7 points and 6.0 rebounds. New Mexico State goes 6-8, 6-9 and 6-10 in the back line, and its length can be troublesome defensively for opponents. That trio combines to average almost 37 points and 20 rebounds a game. Pascal Siakam is making better than 57 percent of his shots as a freshman. Edge: Even.
Backcourt: Kansas gets steady but not spectacular production from sophomores Frank Mason averaging and Wayne Selden. Mason handles the offense and is good for 4.1 assists per game while Selden is coming off a 25-point outing against Iowa State in the Big 12 final. New Mexico State guards Daniel Mullings and Ian Baker benefit from the Aggies’ inside presence, both offensively and defensively. They will need to take care of the ball vs. KU. Edge: Kansas.
Bench: The Cliff Alexander situation has left Kansas a body short, but they still go eight deep with Brannen Greene, Devonte’ Graham and Lucas all averaging 14 minutes or more. DK Eldridge contributes 8.1 points and 2.7 rebounds for the Aggies, and they can also bring in more size with 6-10 Jonathon Wilkins. Edge: Kansas.
Intangibles: KU has 26 straight NCAA appearances, and 21 of its past 43 have included the Jayhawks advancing to the Elite Eight. KU fans will take over the CenturyLink Center and Bill Self is one of the best in the business (11 straight Big 12 titles). New Mexico State is hardly an NCAA newcomer, but the Aggies haven’t seen anything like the competition KU faced. Edge: Kansas.
Unbreakable or broken
KU is unbreakable: Because it has a more talented roster that has been hardened by a schedule far, far tougher than anything New Mexico State has seen.
KU will be broken: Because what if it has trouble shooting the 3-pointer and the Aggies entice the Jayhawks to try a bunch of them? New Mexico State opponents make just 29.6 percent of their shots from behind the arc.
NMSU is unbreakable: Because it has the Texas-like size and length that could give Kansas trouble inside, especially when KU is without 6-8, 240-pound Cliff Alexander.
NMSU will be broken: Because it doesn’t consistently take care of the basketball (13.9 turnovers a game, No. 289 nationally), and it can’t afford to waste possessions against one of the nation’s best teams.
Kansas 67, New Mexico State 58: New Mexico State is 0-8 in NCAA tournament play since beating Nebraska in the first round in 1993. That doesn’t bode well against a program that just assumes it will advance through the first weekend every year.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt fired back at New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas after Balderas picked upsets of two Kansas schools in the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament.
Balderas picked the 15th-seeded New Mexico State men's team to go to the NCAA's Elite Eight, shocking Kansas, Wichita State and Butler before falling to unbeaten Kentucky in the men's tournament.
Schmidt responded Wednesday with a statement calling out Balderas' "baseless prediction."
"My friend and colleague Attorney General Balderas is obviously pandering his home-state crowd with his baseless prediction that New Mexico State will defeat both KU and Wichita State in the NCAA basketball tournament," Schmidt said.
"As a new attorney general, Mr. Balderas clearly has much to learn about Kansas basketball. I wish him all the best in pondering these philosophical matters at length during the free time he will have next week after his team has departed the tournament this coming weekend in Omaha.”
Best Case: After a perfunctory punking of New Mexico State, the Jayhawks tell Wichita State, “Careful what you wish for.” Kansas beats down the uppity Shockers, putting them back in their place for the foreseeable future. In the Sweet 16, Bill Self’s hammer-it-in offense mauls Notre Dame inside to set up a date with Kentucky. Cocky after beating Kansas by 32 in November, the Wildcats aren’t ready for the challenge of a drastically improved team. Jayhawks don’t shoot 20 percent this time, battle admirably inside and Bill Self hands John Calipari another soul-crushing NCAA tournament defeat. Not finished there, Kansas marches into the Final Four and beats Wisconsin and Duke to win it all. Self signs 20-year contract extension and all underclassmen stay in school. Meanwhile, Iowa State loses early and Kim Anderson is still the coach at Missouri.
Worst Case: Locked in an unexpected battle with dangerous No. 15 seed New Mexico State, Jayhawks get that familiar, throat-tightening sensation – you know, the Bucknell, Bradley, VCU, Stanford sensation. Trailing by three late in the game, Self hits the cliché button and runs “Chop.” On the other bench, Marvin Menzies says, “Duh,” and orders his team to foul. Aggies win, having outplayed Cliff Alexander-less Kansas inside. Six players go pro early, led by Alexander, whose parents are seen signing with an agent 30 seconds after the final horn. Meanwhile, Iowa State wins it all.
Yahoo Forde Best Case/Worst Case Midwest Region
1. Kansas – 68 Points
I’ll admit, I was even surprised. UNC, Duke, Florida and UConn have all won more championships this century than Kansas, so how could the Jayhawks come out on top? Consistency. Kansas has reached four Final Fours, winning the 2008 national title and finishing as the runner up in both 2003 and 2012. The Jayhawks also have three more Elite Eight appearances, making it seven years in which they’ve won at least three games. Like Duke, there are only two years (2005 & 2006) in which they didn’t win an NCAA Tournament game. When all the numbers were tallied, it was clear that Kansas is the team that has performed (statistically) the best in NCAA games since 2000. Rock Chalk.
collegespun: Top 25 Most Successful College BBall Teams since 2000
Baylor, he thinks, is a prototypical Tournament team: three-point shooting, tough zone defense, and good guard play. Kellogg sees Baylor as a near lock for the Sweet Sixteen. I asked him what he thinks Baylor's chances are against Arizona; 60/40, he said. I know, I was surprised, too! In his estimation, Baylor's defense will give Zona's offense, which already goes through its dry spells, some trouble. Mix in the potential for Baylor to bomb threes like they did against Iowa State, and that's a recipe for Baylor to make their third Elite Eight in six years.
On the Big 12
Kellogg was not as high on the Big 12 generally. He thinks Kansas will meet their end in the first weekend against Wichita State, that Buffalo will upset West Virginia in classic 12-5 style (I sort of like this theory myself), and that Iowa State will have trouble getting past Gonzaga, though it's a possibility that they give Duke a tough game in the Elite Eight. Here's the real kicker, though. I had to remind him about Oklahoma. In his opinion the Sooners are ripe to be upset by Dayton, one of his sleeper teams to make a deep run (Note: Dayton is in the 1st half of its First Four game against Boise State as of the writing of this post). When I pushed back a little, Kellogg agrees that Oklahoma is a very good team, but he really likes the Flyers.
Q&A with Clark Kellogg by Baylor site
Kelly Oubre Sr. was determined to make it to Memphis, though it was taking a little longer than planned.
His 2001 Toyota Sequoia wasn’t running normal. The vehicle’s oil light was flashing, and he noticed at one point that he’d passed the same dog on the side of a road three different times.
“I was going around in circles, I was so tired,” Kelly Sr. says, “but I was so driven.”
The seventh-grade AAU nationals were in Memphis, and Kelly had already told his son he couldn’t afford to go and watch. But after quietly saving up enough gas money, Kelly headed out of Houston immediately after a shift at work.
As Kelly took his seat in the stands and began cheering for his son’s Houston Hoops team, his son immediately recognized his voice.
Kelly Jr. looked up to the stands and smiled at his father.
Kelly Sr. only had enough money for the gas back home, so on the first night, he found an apartment tenement around the corner from the FedEx Forum. He parked right outside the project, sleeping in his truck while a security guard made his rounds nearby.
Kelly Jr.’s team went on to win the national championship that week.
“That was life-changing for us,” Kelly Jr. says, “because I saw that he supported me no matter where I was.”
Kelly Sr. remained a primary source of support even when he didn’t have the means to travel with his son.
While Kelly Jr. played for Houston Hoops, his father would drop him at the airport nearly every weekend — more than 100 times in all — to send him on his way to another tournament.
On one trip, Kelly Jr. remembers a particular message from his father: “I have no more tears to cry. You’re not here during the weekend, so it’s your time to go shine.”
Kelly believed his father was joking. Despite the struggles, he’d never seen his father sad — let alone tear up.
“He never saw me cry,” Kelly Sr. says, “but I cried my butt off.”
…“Kansas was perfect,” Kelly Sr. says. “I can’t look at any college — all the people that recruited him — I can’t see Kelly fitting in on any of those teams other than Kansas. I really can’t.”
…Through it all, Kelly’s greatest support will continue to come from his father, whose daily message remains the same whether it comes via text, phone call or FaceTime.
Kelly Sr. — now a special education teacher in Houston — likes to end his conversations with his son with the same thought.
Be the person you’ve always been. Don’t let people change you.
“Be Kelly Oubre,” he says.
VIDEO: The Road To The Final Four
Big 12 / College News
Remember the Big Eight? Two coaches facing each other in the NCAA Tournament squared off a generation ago in what has become the Big 12.
The game between third-seeded Iowa State and No. 14 UAB on Thursday features a rematch of sorts between two talented former guards; Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg and Blazers coach Jerod Haase.
Haase was the Big Eight's Newcomer of the Year and a second-team all-league performer for Kansas in 1995, Hoiberg's senior season with the Cyclones.
On a January night in Ames, Iowa, 20 years ago, Hoiberg got the best of Haase.
Hoiberg scored 32 points, including 17 in a row in the second half and with Haase guarding him much of the game, to help Iowa State rally for a 69-65 win. Hoiberg went on to be named a third-team All-American pick that year, and his performance against the Jayhawks was a big reason why.
"I've always had a great deal of respect for Jerod, the way he played. He was one of the hardest working guys and very talented. A guy that was very tough to guard. His team, you can tell they take on the personality of him because of how hard they play," Hoiberg said. "That's a tough draw for us."
Today, Grimm enjoys relative anonymity, running an embroidery shop with his wife in their hometown of Morton, Illinois, though as a 6-9 former basketball star in a town of less than 17,000, "most of them know that I was in that UCLA game and Tyus shot it over me," Grimm said. "But it doesn't come up often with the local folks."
Edney became an instant UCLA hero whose legacy owes in large part to the fact he and the Bruins wound up completing what remains UCLA's most recent championship run. And after a 15-year professional career that began in the NBA (with the Sacramento Kings) and ended in Poland, Edney returned to the campus that adores him. Since 2010 he's served as the Bruins' director of basketball operations, first under Ben Howland and now Steve Alford. His duties are mostly administrative, though he often serves as a mentor to UCLA's players. He doesn't need to tell them about The Shot; they usually know before they arrive.
Meanwhile, random UCLA fans approach him "about once or twice a week" to relive the play. He says it never gets old.
"I love hearing peoples' stories, peoples' faces," he says. "I've heard some good stories, people yelling so loud and waking up their kids, or destroying some of their property."
Grimm's random encounters aren't nearly as frequent — or wistful.
"Usually only my buddies bring it up, just to razz me about it," he said. "No one [else] remembers who Tyus shot over. I guess some people do; you're calling me. And Missouri fans do, that's for sure."
Burrell, now an assistant coach for Quinnipiac, was checking into a golf course in Augusta, Georgia, during a recruiting stop one summer when the club pro did a double take.
"You're not the one who threw that pass against Clemson?" he asked. Told yes, he reluctantly replied: "I went to Clemson."
"It definitely breaks the ice," Burrell says now of his role 25 years ago in one the most transcendent plays in NCAA tournament history. He would go on to play alongside Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls' 1998 NBA title team and spend 13 seasons in professional basketball but says he never again played a part in such a dramatic ending.
"I was watching from the bench when Jordan won a championship" he jokes, referring to MJ's Game 6 jumper to beat the Utah Jazz.
For a quarter-century, George's shot has held much the same lore in college annals. It didn't win a championship -- in fact, cruelly, UConn lost to Duke two days later on Christian Laettner's own buzzer beater -- but it marked the first seminal moment in the Huskies' rise to national prominence.
Unfortunately, "The Shot" may now be tainted by its hero's aftermath. In September 2013, a federal court in New Jersey found George, 46, guilty of running an alleged $2 million real estate Ponzi scheme. The one-time Nets first-rounder, whose defrauded investors included NBA players Brevin Knight and Charlie Villanueva, has been in prison ever since.
"Ever since that happened," said Burrell, "they didn't show [The Shot] at all last March. It used to be played every NCAA tournament. I don't know if the NCAA sponsors don't want to play it, but it definitely changed things."
Coach Jim Boeheim has been a mainstay at Syracuse University for more than one-third of our entire 144-year history. He enrolled as a student here in 1962 and has never left. Among the many roles he has held at Syracuse are student-athlete, graduate assistant, teacher, assistant coach, head coach, community stalwart, philanthropist, U.S. Olympian coach, and Hall of Fame member. In these roles, he has been the embodiment of Orange Pride.
I have also had recent discussions with Coach Boeheim about the Infractions Committee Report, and the future of his team and program. Coach Boeheim has assured me that he will respond thoughtfully and appropriately to the serious findings of the Infractions Committee Report. Coach Boeheim has also told me that he intends to retire as Head Coach in three years. His goal in making this decision and announcement now is to bring certainty to the team and program in the coming years, and enable and plan for a successful, longer-term transition in coaching leadership. Coach Boeheim’s commitment to ensuring that the men’s basketball program remains strong even after his tenure is just one more example of his deep loyalty to our University.
Syracuse press release
The payout rules are complicated but enticing. Even if your college basketball team doesn’t win a game, you win $1.67 million. A round-of-16 appearance rakes in almost $5 million. A Final Four run? $8.3 million.
What sounds like the country’s most lucrative office pool is actually how the NCAA splits up much of the $700-plus million dollars its men’s basketball tournament makes each year. The competitors in this pool are collegiate sports conferences, and this month a large chunk of money — nearly $220 million, according to NCAA projections — is up for grabs.
The “basketball fund,” as it’s simply labeled, is the largest pool of money the NCAA doles out to schools and the only one allocated according to competitive sports success. A closer look at where the money goes illuminates the stratified economic landscape of college sports, where the rich schools get richer and the players remain amateurs.
The NCAA “urges” — but does not require — conferences to share this money equally among their member schools. Of the 32 conferences that participate in the tournament, 15 agreed to answer basic questions about how they use the basketball fund. Those conference officials said that, while specifics vary from conference to conference, they expect their peers use the money similarly.
…The so-called “Power Five” conferences — the Pacific-12, SEC, ACC, Big 10 and Big 12 — sit at the top of the college athletics financial stratosphere. Each has large amounts of television income (much of it associated with football) able to cover conference costs and send large annual payments back to their schools. They also typically are the highest basketball fund earners, but because they have so many other revenue sources, their cuts of the “basketball fund” represent a smaller percentage of their income.
In 2013, for example, the Big 12 earned $20.6 million from the basketball fund, more than every conference but one. But that money was just about 10 percent of the annual income for the Big 12, which made more than $130 million that year from TV, so the conference was able to simply split it up and send it back to its schools.
Washington Post Fund and Games
ESPN Experts Final Four and National Champs picks
CBS Tournament Predictions
NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament History: A Searchable Database of March Madness
On March 18 at Canton Memorial Fieldhouse, VASJ’s regional semifinal opponent, Massillon Tuslaw, did not slow-play the Vikings. The game got away from the Mustangs quickly, as they eventually succumbed to the Associated Press’ No. 1 team in Division III, 88-48.
…VASJ looks to secure its third straight trip to Columbus when they square off with Ursuline on March 21 at 7 p.m. The Fighting Irish defeated Canton Central Catholic, 55-45, in their regional semifinal game prior to the Vikings’ win.
It’s nearly impossible to separate Chase Jeter and Stephen Zimmerman. Both play essentially the same position for the same high school basketball team.
Both are considered top-10 recruits in the senior class. Both have been selected to play in the McDonald’s All American game.
And in the end, they were named co-players of the year to highlight the Review-Journal’s all-state boys basketball team.
“They were both so valuable for our team in different ways,” Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “They’re different, but they’re both so important.
“Once those guys really realized to appreciate each other and both use their strengths for the good of the team, it became an unbelievable dynamic duo.”
Kansas spends more money recruiting men's basketball players than any other public school in Division I, about $2.1 million over a recent five-year span. Louisville, at $2 million, and Kentucky, at just under $2 million, are right behind. That makes sense. Each is a name-brand powerhouse with national championships of recent vintage.
…Recruiting is the lifeblood of college sports and a USA TODAY Sports analysis of 214 public schools found a correlation between schools that spend big on recruiting and schools that had success making the NCAA tournament from 2010 to 2014. (The one-year lag accounts for the time it takes for recruiting classes to enter school.)
…Recruiting costs, by the NCAA's definition, include transportation, lodging and meals for prospective student-athletes and institutional personnel on official and unofficial visits, as well as telephone call charges, postage and such. The costs also include the value of use of an institution's own vehicles or airplanes as well as the in-kind value of loaned or contributed transportation.
Kansas' recruiting spending is driven in part by the program's use of private aircraft, mostly university-owned. For example, according to data published earlier this month by the Lawrence Journal-World, KU's basketball program spent nearly $275,000 on private aircraft for recruiting during the 2013 fiscal year. That accounts for just more than half of the nearly $515,000 the school reported spending on men's basketball recruiting that year.
"We trust Bill Self to know what he and his staff need to keep our men's basketball program among the very elite programs in the nation," Kansas athletics director Sheahon Zenger said Tuesday in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. "It would be difficult to overstate what Kansas basketball has meant to this athletics department, our university, the City of Lawrence and the state of Kansas."
McDONALD’S ALL-AMERICAN GAME
April 1, United Center, Chicago
ESPN NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP
April 2-4, Christ the King, Queens, N.Y. & Madison Square Garden
NIKE HOOP SUMMIT
April 11, Moda Center, Portland
KENTUCKY DERBY FESTIVAL
April 11, Freedom Hall, Lexington, KY
JORDAN BRAND CLASSIC
Friday April 17, Barclays Center 7p.m,
Regional Games (4:00 pm) All times Eastern
My Late Night in the Phog videos, 60 Years of AFH Celebration videos, KU Alumni games videos, 2011-12 Final Border War videos, Legends of the Phog videos, KC Prep Invitational, Jayhawk Invitational Videos and more, now on YouTube