KUAD: Coach Self’s weekly presser
KUAD: Kansas vs TCU pregame notes
One year later, the Ghost of the Topeka YMCA still lingers.
…“Bizarro,” Self said on Thursday during his weekly news conference. “That was one of the strangest games we’ve been a part of, because I was reminded today, by one of our coaches, saying, ‘Bill, I don’t know if you remember, that’s the most ready to play (we were) all year. Best practices, most intense warm-up, everybody focused, all that stuff, and we came out and laid an egg.
“I don’t know if there’s really a correlation — over time it’s how you practice will be how you play, but sometimes it can jump up and shock you, and that was one of those times that shocked us.”
If there’s a lesson to be learned heading into Saturday, it’s this: You can’t take anything for granted in the Big 12, even as KU prepares to face a TCU squad that is 9-9 and dropped to 0-6 in the Big 12 after a loss at Oklahoma on Wednesday.
“They beat us,” Self said of last year’s game. “We had two teams whip us last year: TCU and Baylor. Everybody else was a one-possession game, of our other four losses. They handled us, so there was nothing taken away from them.”
…College basketball recruiting can be a crapshoot, and Self on Thursday offered an example of how luck and timing can affect a recruiting class. In 2012, Kansas was recruiting big man Karviar Shepherd, a Texas native, rather hard out of high school, offering him a scholarship. If Shepherd would have accepted, Self said, KU probably would have backed off recruiting current freshman Joel Embiid.
But Shepherd chose to play closer to home at TCU, and the rest was history.
“It’s weird how things work out,” Self said. “We offered Karviar a scholarship, and we only had one to give, and if he’s have taken it, then we would have been out on (Joel).
“But he committed to TCU, and Karviar Shepard is going to be a good player. There’s no question he’s going to be a good player, and he’s getting better all the time.”
…On Thursday, Self added to those comments, saying he believed Wiggins was just a few plays per game from averaging closer to 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“I talked to him about it with his dad afterwards,” Self said, mentioning a conversation he had with Andrew and his father, Mitchell. “He had 17 points the other night. If he’s strong with the ball after he rebounds it, he scores 20 or 21 because they strip him or whatever, and that would be a foul if you are more aware and if you’re stronger.
“It’s not that I want him shooting it more. I just want him to have more of a presence because there’s not too many guys out there that you look at and you say, ‘Ok, yeah, he got 20 but it could have been 28, or he got 16 but it could have been 22, or he had eight rebounds but it could have been 14. And that’s what I talk about by — I think his numbers should be in the vicinity of 20 and 10 every game.
“But that’s not going to happen like that, and I know that, and sometimes you don’t make shots. But I think just like the other day, he didn’t put his head down and drive it at all the first half. The second half he drove it every time and got fouled like on three or four straight possessions. Well, to me those are free points, and he’s got to be more aggressive doing things like that. But he’s done well.”
Though his Kansas team ranks at the top of nearly every statistical measure in Big 12 play, Bill Self says there is still room for his team’s offense to grow.
“I feel like our offense hasn’t been so good,” the KU coach said during his weekly news conference Thursday. “I think our numbers have been good. Our numbers are misleading.”
Let’s start with those numbers.
In league play, the Jayhawks rank first in the conference in 2-point percentage (60.6 percentage), 3-point percentage (41 percent) and overall efficiency (1.18 points per possession). For the season, KU has the 12th-best offense according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, which take into account schedule adjustments.
And here’s the scary part for KU’s opponents: The Jayhawks are last in the conference when it comes to turnovers, giving it away on 22.8 percent of their possessions. The next-worst team, Texas Tech, has turned it over on just 19.5 percent of its possessions.
“I would rather shoot 48 percent and turn it over 12 times a game than shoot 51 percent and turn it over 16,” Self said. “Although (the offense) has been good, it hasn't been like what it can be, and so I'm not too excited. I'm glad we're shooting a decent percentage because we're taking the ball inside, but we’re wasting way too many possessions.”
…Something else that could be hurting KU’s turnover numbers: a lower amount of opportunities in transition.
According to Hoop-Math.com, just 21 percent of KU’s shot attempts this year have come in transition. That’s below the NCAA average and also a drop from last year (22.7 percent).
As Self suggests, sometimes shooting it quickly can reduce giveaways, as a team has less time in a possession to throw it away.
“We're probably scoring the ball better in the half court than what our other teams have, but we're not scoring it as well in the open court,” Self said, “and that's something that we certainly need to improve on.”
Kansas freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins have been named to the Oscar Robertson Trophy Midseason List, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) announced Thursday.
Kansas is one of six schools that have multiple student-athletes on the 23-member midseason list. Members of the USBWA's board of directors chose the players to be included on the list as contenders for the 2014 Oscar Robertson Trophy.
Embiid leads Kansas in rebounds with a 7.4 per game average, good for eighth in the Big 12. The 7-0 Yauonde, Cameroon, center is tied for the conference lead with 2.8 blocked shots per game. A two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, Embiid's 50 blocked shots this season are already third on the all-time KU freshman list and his eight against Oklahoma State (1.18.14) broke his own KU freshman record of seven set against UTEP (11.30.13). Embiid leads KU with four double-doubles this season.
Wiggins leads Kansas with a 15.2 scoring average, which also leads the Big 12 freshman class and is 10th overall in the conference. The 6-8 Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, guard has five games of 20-plus points and pulled down a season-high 19 rebounds at then No. 8 Iowa State (1/13). Wiggins is 50-of-59 (84.7 percent) from the free throw line in his last 10 games after hitting 10-of-12 charity shots during his 17-point effort in the win versus No. 23 Baylor on ESPN Big Monday (1/20). He has made 20 threes this season, leads KU with 17 steals and his 6.1 rebound average is third on the team.
For fans and media, it is that expectations can completely warp how we see things. Wiggins’ skills and confidence — and especially his aggressiveness — have not caught up with his ability, but this is still a potential NBA superstar we are watching at the college level.
He scored 26 points at Florida, perhaps the best team KU has faced. He had a double-double in his first road game against a top 10 team — before halftime.
Basketball people talk about his second jump the way teenage boys talk about Mila Kunis. Watch Wiggins closely, and you will see the talent that would have already made him rich if not for the NBA’s age restriction. The spin move that’s as quick as your blink. The maestro confidence in transition. The 6-foot-8 height and the 7-foot wingspan and the point guard’s speed.
The other day in practice, Wiggins jabbed to his right, drove hard to his left around his defender, picked up the dribble and carried his momentum through a second, then elevated off his left foot, finishing with his right hand over a third defender. He was fouled at least twice, but this was a part of practice where it’s not a foul unless the cops are called. The whole thing took, maybe, a second and a half.
There are not many human beings who can do what Wiggins did, and when the ball went through the hoop, practice just sort of stopped for a second, like everyone wanted to remember what just happened.
…“Andrew’s going to have to get 22 and 12 for them to talk about him in the same breath they’re talking about Joel’s 15 and eight,” Self says.
So that’s the first lesson, and it’s for fans and media: remember perspective.
…“As good as he’s been,” Self says, “he’s the one area where we can get a lot better. We tell him that. ‘You can get better, you can make us a much better team.’”
Wiggins can do this in a lot of ways. The quickest would be to make layups. He has missed far too many shots around the rim, especially for a player with his length and athleticism. And this is a good way to get into the second way he can improve both his NBA scouting report and the team around him: take advantage of that athleticism.
Wiggins is hampered by not having a play-making point guard to get him easy shots. But Wiggins is talented enough that he should be able to do plenty on his own against college players. He is getting better, but he is still too focused on fitting in instead of standing out.
That moment in practice? The jab-right, go-left, finish-high move that went around, through or over three defenders? Coincidence or not, it came after a considerable riding from Self. The new basketball world Wiggins is still adjusting to does not want to see a player with that kind of talent need any extra motivation.
Wiggins did not create this situation, and he did not choose it.
But he can choose to rise up to it.
KC Star Mellinger
Wiggins? Well, he’s got a long way to go to get there, but there are times that he makes plays that just leave you scratching your head in bewilderment at what he just did. His athleticism is off the charts and there’s a fluidity to his movement that makes some of his most ridiculous plays look almost nonchalant.
You don’t need to be an NBA scout to see his potential. All you need is two eyeballs. But after seeing Wiggins get dragged through the mud after back-to-back unimpressive performances over the long weekend, I was curious: Why can’t he consistently dominate at this level?
So I went back and watched every second that Wiggins was on the floor of every Big 12 game he has played, and this is what I came away with:
1. He can’t penetrate against a set defense: Wiggins is just unstoppable in transition. His strides are so long that when you let him get a full head of steam going towards the rim, you just don’t have a chance. His height and jumping ability allow him to finish over anyone. There was one play in the first half against Iowa State that Wiggins caught the ball at half court and needed just two dribbles to lay the ball in. It’s incredible.
But in the half court, Wiggins really struggles beating his man off the dribble. In half court sets, he’s basically turned into a spot-up shooter, which is where 24.3% of his possessions are used. According to Synergy, 58.5% of Wiggins’ shots are jump-shots. By comparison, 21.9% of Aaron Gordon’s shots were jump shots. Last season, 66.5% of Ben McLemore’s shots were jumpers.
Part of this is that defenses are conscious of his ability, meaning helpside rotations get there a step quicker than when, say, Naadir Tharpe decides to try to put the ball on the floor. But it’s still alarming how uncommon it is to see someone as explosive as Wiggins square a defender up, beat him to the rim and score. There are three things at play here:
• It doesn’t seem like Wiggins has all that powerful of a first step. The long strides that allow him to roast defenders in transition get choppy in the half court.
• Wiggins is not a great ball-handler, and he seems to be aware of this. Everything time he penetrates it’s a straight-line drive at the rim, and he has an awkward habit of picking the ball up after one dribble. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t really have a feel for being able to drive-and-kick when help defenders show up.
• Wiggins lacks upper body strength, which brings me to my next point …
2. Wiggins needs to get in the weight room: One of the major criticisms I’ve read of Wiggins is that he’s soft. I don’t necessarily think that’s the right way to term it. He’s weak. His upper body is slender. He gets knocked off balance too often. When he gets a defender on his hip, he can’t get all the way by him. When he’s going to the rim, he can’t use his front shoulder to absorb contact; he just bounces off.
This is part of the reason that he’s not finishing above the rim. For a guy as athletic as Wiggins is, we almost never see him on Sportscenter Top Ten. He hasn’t posterized anyone yet this season. He’s all about the floaters and the finger-rolls. His is a finesse game around the basket, not a power game.
3. He’s a streaky jump-shooter: Wiggins has a pretty nice release. When he sees one jumper go down, he can reel off three or four in a row. But when they aren’t going in, he’s got a tendency of to throw up some bricks. When he’s on balance and he’s got his legs underneath, Wiggins isn’t a bad rhythm shooter. He just seems to rush some of the looks that he gets.
4. He coasts: It’s not just offensively, either. Wiggins is an excellent rebounder. He’s got the length and the athleticism, and he seems to have a feel for where a rebound is going to come off, but he’s not always crashing the glass. He’s got the tools to be a terrific defender — in fact, I was pleasantly surprised at just how effective he has been chasing people around screens — but he can also be slow on a close-out or get beat off the dribble. The reason that he was benched in the second half against Oklahoma State wasn’t simply because he was struggling offensively, it was because Markel Brown was lighting him up on the other end of the floor.
5. Confidence: This is my biggest takeaway. I just don’t think that Wiggins believes that he’s as good as he is. I think that he’s cognizant of what his limitations are as a basketball player, and more than anything, this is what prevents him from taking over games. He’s not aggressive in the biggest moments of the biggest games.
Wiggins isn’t the superstar that we all expected him to be this season. He’s got a long way to go to fulfill the expectations he had coming out of high school, and he’s got plenty of time to get there.
None of that changes the fact that he’s been a very good player for Kansas this season.
So while we can lament that the ‘Next Big Thing’ won’t live up to his potential as a collegian, we should at least recognize that fact.
1. Joel Embiid, Kansas
The rumblings that Embiid may be outshining his other great freshman teammate have been going on for several weeks, but Saturday was the breakout. Embiid came two blocked shots short of a triple double against Oklahoma State with 13 points, 11 rebounds and eight blocks. In one game, he proved he can not only finish, but start, an alley-oop.
Athlon Freshman 15
"We never thought Joel was a project," Roberts said. "From a skills standpoint, he was farther along than most big guys."
Embiid's coaches say his soccer and volleyball experiences left him more flexible than most basketball players, not to mention big ones. Kansas conditioning coaches have also added 12 pounds of muscle to him, even if Embiid prefers feasting on ice cream and brownies.
Despite his inexperience, Embiid's game already compares favorably to other big men. As a college freshman, he has attempted shots on 57 possessions after posting up near the basket and is averaging 1.3 points on those trips, according to Synergy Sports Technology. The last eight college centers taken as NBA draft lottery picks averaged only .91 points per possession on their post-ups.
Large players often require time to develop. Olajuwon, for example, spent four years in college.
Embiid hasn't even played the game for three full years. But he might not need that long.
"I think he could play in the NBA right now," Mbah a Moute said.
Wall St. Journal
The Wooden Award released its midseason list of 25 players on Wednesday, and the most surprising thing about it to most people was that Kansas freshman Joel Embiid was nowhere to be found even though he's spent the past two weeks playing a huge role for a team that's topped four straight nationally ranked opponents.
That's what folks were asking on Twitter.
Why isn't Joel Embiid on this Wooden Award list?
The answer is rooted in the fact that ballots for that list that was published Jan. 22 were actually due Jan. 10 -- otherwise known as a time when KU was 10-4 and only two games removed from a home loss to SDSU. It should also be noted that Embiid finished with just six points and six rebounds in a game against Oklahoma two days before ballots were due, and all of that, I think, played a role in his omission that seemed reasonable at that time.
But a lot has changed since Jan. 10.
Kansas, again, has won four straight, and Embiid has scored at least 12 points and grabbed at least nine rebounds in three of those games, one of which was the 13-point, 11-rebound, eight-block performance last Saturday against Oklahoma State. Suddenly, the Jayhawks are great and Embiid is tremendous. But the Wooden Award list couldn't take either of those things into account because that list was compiled nearly two weeks ago.
This CBSSports.com List of National Player of the Year Candidates is fresh, though.
So it includes Joel Embiid.
Check it out.
Back on Dec. 21, Pfeiffer caught Embiid's act on television as Kansas hosted Georgetown, Pfeiffer's alma mater. The big man had 17 points and eight rebounds in the 86-64 win. If upside and wow factor were numeric, they would have made the actual stats seem pedestrian.
Even in defeat, the Georgetown alum appreciated the basketball goods.
“I appreciate all the love,” said the 6-foot-9, 260-pounder from Memphis, who was hurt when BU’s Rico Gathers landed on Black’s ankle in a scrum for a rebound.
“I got a message on Twitter saying, ‘We pray for you and your ankle, your leg ... hoping you get better.’ It’s obviously been working because I’m here walking around now. I saw the replay of what happened. I know it could have been much worse so the prayers have worked. I’m blessed to be standing here right now. I’m progressing at a fast rate. I can’t complain at all.”
Black was able to practice in non-contact drills on Thursday and is expected to play in Saturday’s 8 p.m. contest at TCU.
“It’s really cool and one of the reasons I came here in the first place,” Black said of the interest of fans about all matters involving KU hoops. “I felt the family atmosphere the first time I came here on my visit. I felt it was really caring, felt it was a trustworthy program. It started with the coach (Bill Self). It’s how it is.”
…“I’m blessed beyond measure to be out here playing for this program,” he said. “I’ll do anything to help this team win. That’s my role on this team. That should be everyone’s role. We are all here to help this team win.”
…All KU players are eligible second semester: “Everybody took care of their business,” Self said of grades. “I was pretty proud of how they did, especially (because) that was a bad travel first semester. We never miss school like that, especially leading right up into finals.”
Won't find a bond better than #KUCMB !
During his first semester on campus, Brannen Greene’s role at Kansas basically amounted to this: Andrew Wiggins’ Practice Defender.
…It’s not exactly what Greene, a freshman small forward, envisioned when he signed with KU in the fall of 2012. He was one of the top 30 recruits in the country, a small forward with length and skill, and four-star prospects never really plan on sitting the bench.
But this is the way it can work at Kansas. Greene may have been a blue-chipper, but he was also just the fourth-highest ranked recruit in Kansas’ loaded freshmen class.
“It’s been tough,” Greene said on Thursday. “But I know that my time is coming. History just shows that here at Kansas, your time comes. So I’m just trying to contribute in whatever way I can.”
…“I’m a confident player,” Greene said. “So when I come in, I just shoot the ball.”
It’s that confidence — and a 6-foot-7 frame combined with solid athleticism — that makes Greene an intriguing talent moving forward. For now, though, he’s still behind Wiggins and Wayne Selden at the wing position. But if playing alongside Wiggins and Selden means being squeezed out of the rotation, Greene also has the luxury of testing himself daily against future pros. So on most days, he takes on the task of guarding Wiggins at practice.
“It’s definitely helped me improve defensively and offensively,” Greene said. “Because he also guards me, and he’s such a great athlete. You learn to score over long arms and an athlete like that.”
…“I told our guys yesterday,” Self said. “We’re still a team that hasn’t figured it out yet. If we’ve figured it out yet, then why are we playing 10 guys? You don’t need to play 10 guys, or need to play nine guys.
“Right now we’re kind of in a situation where we haven’t quite figured it out yet. One day seems like Conner gives us a spark, another day it’s Brannen that gives us a spark. And trust me, those kids would rather know going in, ‘I’m going to get these minutes and I know I’m going to be his sub.’ But there’s some things that we haven’t quite figured out yet.”
“I think he’s handling it great,” Greene said of Embiid. “He’s a fun kid. He just likes to have fun. He’s enjoying being here at Kansas.”
Watching others play while he sits is as new to Greene as fame is to Embiid. Does he feel as if he is KU’s overlooked freshman?
“No, not all,” Greene said. “Look at our players. We’ve got Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden. I’m not overlooked. I’m here. I’m doing my thing. I’m fine.”
An agile 6-foot-7, 215-pound small forward with a beautiful jumper and nice spring to his body, Greene endured a recent six-game stretch in which he totaled 17 minutes and missed his only two field-goal attempts. But in the past two games, the serious talent has scored eight points in 11 minutes, making three of four field goals and two of four three-pointers. He cited his need for defensive improvement for the bench time. The positive side of coming off the bench is that it means he gets to sharpen his game going against big-time talent daily in practice.
The Jayhawks' overall "body of work" is so superior that it can no longer be ignored. They have also won nine of their last 10, suggesting any early-season inconsistency was as much a product of the nation's toughest schedule as anything else.
In Bracket Math on Monday, I put Villanova ahead of Kansas as the fourth No. 1 seed because the Wildcats had knocked off KU on a neutral floor. Today, with Villanova not in the picture for a top seed, the competition for that spot is essentially between Kansas and Wichita State. And I am going against type here and elevating the four-loss "major" over the undefeated mid-major.
It's not because the Shockers aren't good enough. Clearly they are. And it's not because they haven't done enough, although the Winning Points standings suggest they are a little light in that department. The main reason is the Kansas schedule has been so outrageously hard -- and the Jayhawks so impressive against it -- that it's nearly impossible not to evaluate KU at this moment as one of the nation's four best teams.
At the same time, I can hear all the echoes from a decade ago, when I stridently supported unbeaten (and then once-beaten) Saint Joseph's as a No. 1 seed. "What about your Hawks, Joe? You couldn't be unbiased then, and you want to preserve their legacy now."
But we're not talking apples and apples. Those Hawks played the nation's No. 1 nonconference schedule. Wichita State (currently at No. 55 in that category) has played a good schedule, but not close to the 2003-04 Saint Joseph's team. The Hawks also went undefeated in a four-bid Atlantic 10 with two Elite Eight teams. If the Shockers sweep the Missouri Valley this year, it will be a one-bid league.
Finally, although I didn't keep the stat at that time, the Hawks had 30.5 Winning Points on this date in 2004. Like Kansas this season, it led the nation.
ESPN($) Why Kansas deserves a No. 1 seed
#4 Kansas Jayhawks (14-4)
The guys from Group Stats, an analytics outfit that specializes in lineup efficiencies, were kind enough to send over full-season data on Kansas following its Monday win over Baylor. The guy making the biggest overall impact, as you might expect from any recent eye-testing of the Jayhawks, is freshman center Joel Embiid, who makes their offense score at a championship-level 1.21 PPP, compared to 1.07 PPP when he's on the bench. (Much of this is because Embiid lifts their offensive rebounding percentage to 42.2 percent, compared to 28.7 percent without him.) And when the Jayhawks have the super-frosh duo of Embiid and Andrew Wiggins on the floor together, their efficiency margin is twice that (+0.20 PPP) of other lineup combinations (+0.10).
SI Luke Winn Power Rankings
Jeff Withey didn't spend the first 2 ½ months sulking and withering away at the end of the New Orleans Pelicans' bench.
The rookie center who entered the season stuck behind four veterans in coach Monty Williams' post rotations, stayed focused and studied from the sideline.
Withey's mental reps from the bench and work in practice sessions could be paying off now.
With the knee injury that'll sideline starting center Jason Smith for an indefinite period and ineffective play from Greg Stiemsma, Smith's top backup, Withey saw his most significant playing time of the season in Tuesday's 114-97 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
And he responded with a season-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, while adding five rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
"As a rookie, I've been watching where everybody is going and how other guys play, so now the game is slowing down for me a little bit when I'm out there," Withey said. "In the beginning of the year I would go out there and just run around like my head was cut off. Now I know the plays and where to be and now it's making things a lot easier."
Since being selected with the 13th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Markieff Morris has slowly, steadily improved as a pro.
Primarily coming off the bench for the Phoenix Suns, Morris has played well enough to earn regular minutes, but has not been good enough to be thought of as someone who could be a go-to player on a good team.
Obviously he's not there now, but with averages of 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game on .475 shooting -- and with point totals of 24, 23, 16 and 20 over his last four games -- the third-year pro appears to have turned a bit of a corner and may be heading in that direction.
"He's setting a high standard for himself," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby told the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Thursday. "It's getting to the point now where if he doesn't play well, we're all disappointed. That's a great sign of his development."
KUAD: KU WBB heads to Manhattan for Sunflower Showdown
KUAD: KU WBB Tons of Pink on tap for annual ‘Jayhawks for a cure’ game
VOTE for Kansas fans at the NCAA 6th Fan Contest
VOTE for Coach Self & his Assists Foundation (currently 22nd out of 48 coaches!)
“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
The NCAA Tournament men’s selection committee is acutely aware of the conference and is already taking notes. Committee chairman Ron Wellman acknowledged this week that the Big 12 is a different sort of animal with less than two months to Selection Sunday.
“The committee reviews what their regular-season format is,” Wellman said. “The Big 12, they play a double round-robin. I don’t know of another conference that does that.”
When the committee looks at most conferences, it breaks down teams that play opponents just once in the regular season as opposed to twice and the quality of those opponents, Wellman said.
In the Big 12, everybody plays everybody, home and home, 18 games. This season, the impact has been clear.
Iowa State and Baylor compiled solid top-10 résumés in nonconference play. Now each is under .500 after struggling starts in the league. Baylor (1-4) and Iowa State (2-3) have each lost three straight conference games.
“Everybody in the Big 12 is a good team,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Yes, the conference is simply that tough, maybe as deep as it has ever been, including when it had 12 members until 2011.
The conference is ranked No. 1 this season in overall RPI — up from fifth last season — and strength of schedule.
Teams have won 79.7 percent of their nonconference games and nearly broke even against Top 25 opponents.
Jerry Palm of CBSSports .com and Joe Lunardi of ESPN each projected seven Big 12 teams into the NCAA Tournament this week. None was on the bubble, although that could change.
If those predictions hold true, the Big 12 would have two more teams in the tournament than last season and equal its all-time best total, set in 2009-10.
Dallas Morning News
The Longhorns have exceeded expectations thanks in large part to their defense. Texas held both Iowa State and Kansas State to around 1.00 point per possession, (below their averages of 1.05 and 1.07 during conference play, respectively) and ranks fifth in the Big 12 in defensive efficiency against league opponents. It is blocking a higher percentage of opponents’ two-point field goal attempts than all but one team in the conference and opponents are taking just 28.5 percent of their shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com, good for 31st in the country.
This team lacks the offensive firepower to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title – though the strides its made on offense and rebounding should not be dismissed – but the Longhorns have cemented their identity as a tough defensive team that deters opponents from scoring in the paint. They rank 46th in the country in two-point field goal percentage defense, are blocking 17.6 percent of shots at the rim, per hoop-math, and Big 12 opponents are launching 38 percent of their field goals from three-point range, the highest rate in the conference.
The saga surrounding heralded Florida forward Chris Walker is more than a month old, with the school still unsure when, or if, the freshman McDonald's All-American forward will step on the floor for the Gators.
On Tuesday, Florida coach Billy Donovan denied a report that Walker will be eligible for UF's next home game Saturday against Tennessee. Walker has yet to be cleared by the NCAA for competition since joining the Gators at practice on Dec. 16.
“We're hopeful he gets back soon, but there's been no indication that there's any truth to that at all,” Donovan said.
According to multiple reports, including one by Yahoo.com's Jeff Eisenberg, Walker has not been cleared by the NCAA yet due to impermissible benefits he received in high school. Donovan would not confirm or deny knowledge of Walker receiving impermissible benefits.
“In terms of all the details and hang-ups, I don't know all those details because when there's something going on like this, there's ethical conduct forms that are signed,” Donovan said. “That stuff has to be kept confidential, be kept between Chris and the NCAA, kept between our administration and the NCAA. I'm not involved in any of those conversations.”
In 2012, Walker played for a travel-league team (the Florida Rams) that was shut down by the NCAA due to ties between its coach, Matt Ramker, and sports agent Andy Miller. Current UF freshman point guard Kasey Hill and Kansas freshman guard Brannen Greene played for the same team, and both have been cleared by the NCAA.
“I trust our administration and what they're doing,” Donovan said. “Hopefully it will be resolved in a timely fashion. I know everyone involved one way or another wants to know what's going to happen.”
At times the new rules/emphasis boil down to: Run and jump into that defender. Foul will be on him.
The News and Observer Publishing Co. sued UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt on Thursday, seeking access to a spreadsheet or database with information that could offer a link to the origins of lingering athletic and academic scandals.
The lawsuit was filed in Wake County Superior Court the same day that Folt publicly accepted the university’s responsibility for bogus classes benefiting student athletes that were offered through the African and Afro-American Studies Department. She also acknowledged a failure of academic oversight.
Internal and external investigations have shown that about 200 lecture-style classes were offered in that department, dating to the mid-1990s, in which there is little or no evidence of any instruction. Investigations also have found that roughly 500 grade changes were suspected or confirmed to be authorized through the department.
Since June, The N&O has requested data that UNC sent to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges about the bogus courses.
On March 8, a SACS report to UNC stated that 173 of the 384 students signed up for those classes were student-athletes.
A member of the Kentucky basketball coaching staff was arrested on Thursday morning, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal and an NBC affiliate in Lexington.
Brian Shorter, 46, was charged with fourth-degree assault and first-degree wanton endangerment at his home. Shorter is an assistant strength coach for the Kentucky basketball team.
According to LEX 18 in Lexington, Shorter locked his wife in an unheated garage and then returned 40 minutes later to throw water on her. She escaped to a hotel and Shorter was arrested at his home.
Kentucky basketball spokesman John Hayden told media outlets that the school is “aware of the situation” and “gathering information.”
Shorter, who was recruited to play at Pittsburgh by then-assistant John Calipari in the late 80's, starred for the Panthers from 1988 to 1991. Shorter averaged 17.8 points per game during his three-year career at Pitt.
Shortly after he began searching for a house to rent in Tucson for the 2013-14 school year, Arizona guard Nick Johnson became worried he wouldn't find what he wanted.
Johnson envisioned a house spacious enough for him and most of his teammates because he believed living together would help the Wildcats build the chemistry they lacked the previous year, but the few seven- or eight-bedroom houses on the market were each too expensive.
Just as Johnson was ready to scrap his idea, his girlfriend urged him to check out a duplex someone she knew was building less than a mile from campus. Johnson and Arizona center Kaleb Tarczewski were ready to sign a lease on the spot after their tour revealed two generously sized yet reasonably priced four-bedroom, five-bathroom houses separated only by a courtyard. There was even a Wildcats logo painted on the floor in the living rooms of both houses.
"Kaleb and I immediately knew it was perfect," Johnson said. "We picked out our bedrooms right away. It's hard to find a house in Tucson that can fit seven or eight guys, but that's really what we wanted to do. We had it in our minds from the start. If it didn't work out, we'd have broken up into groups of two or three, but I'm thankful we found what we wanted."
SI: How shoes united two Nigerian-born basketball players
Big XII composite schedule (includes results, highlights, stats)
ESPN College GameDay Schedule
2013-14 TV Schedule
1/23/14, 7:34 PM
F Cliff Alexander (@humblekid11): 25 PTS, 12 REB for Curie in a win over Kenwood
Kansas basketball commitment Cliff Alexander, the fourth-ranked player in the class of 2014 according to Rivals.com, might not be done making his way up the recruiting rankings.
Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi says there’s a possibility the 6-foot-8 power forward could leap up to the top spot when the final rankings are released in April.
“He’s got to be in the mix,” Bossi told The Capital-Journal on Wednesday. “He’s been putting up these crazy numbers all year, and Curie hasn’t played the national-type schedule that other teams have played, but they’ve played a very good schedule. He’s put up really good numbers against good players.”
…“He dunks everything. He plays a very fan-pleasing style of basketball,” Bossi said. “But to see it in person is another different thing because he takes what’s a pretty good team around him — but not great — and because those kids know that they’ve got the baddest dude on the block on their team, they play at an entirely different level.
“It’s not often you see a guy raise the level of play of the other guys around him, and it’s simply because they know that any fight they go in, they’ve got the guy who nobody can beat up.”
…Bossi also was impressed with Alexander’s effort last month against Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, which features a pair of five-star junior forwards in Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter. In a 66-62 win, Alexander notched 22 points, 20 rebounds and 5 blocks.
“I don’t want to say people are scared of him, but it sure looks awfully close to it at times,” Bossi said. “I’ve been doing this for a while now and watching a lot of people, and I’m just having a hard time remembering a big guy who not only was just that physical and that confident in what he can do, but who guys really seem to just shy away from. You don’t see many people get back in his face.”
Those qualities would seem to make Alexander a great fit for KU coach Bill Self, who puts an emphasis on toughness.
“I think the biggest upside is, at the end of the day, he’s still a relatively raw player. As big and strong as he is, he doesn’t look like a kid who’s spent much, if any, time in a weight room,” Bossi said. “It’s just all natural. So combine that with the coaching he’s going to get, and a real asset they have at Kansas in their strength and conditioning program, and I’m interested to see what that does for him going down the road.”
…KU’s other commitment, 6-foot-7 shooting guard Kelly Oubre, is seeing his stock rise as well.
“He’s an athlete. He can shoot it from deep,” Bossi said. “He seems to show a little bit more game each time out, and all of this is with … he still doesn’t even have much of a right hand yet.”
Bossi said Oubre started opening eyes in October when he was one of the best performers at the USA Basketball developmental national team’s mini-camp. He’s currently ranked as Rivals’ 12th-best player in the class of 2014.
“There’s no question he’s going to be in the top 10,” Bossi said. “It’s just a matter of how far in the top 10 he goes.”
…“Even more important than having big-time talent coming in is having talent that is not only physically but mentally ready to step in and fill the void,” Bossi said. “And I think that’s the biggest key about Alexander and Oubre is both these guys have the mindset that they’re here to take over. I think they’re ready for it, and I think they have the skill to help them accomplish that as well.
“If I were a Kansas fan, I’d be really excited about these two guys.”
While Embiid and Alexander are bound both by their position and college choice, they’re otherwise vastly different prospects. In fact, Alexander is almost the antithesis of Embiid in some ways. So, with that, it was ironic that the growing case for Alexander’s spot atop the national recruit rankings coincided with the realization that Embiid, while far from the overnight star many sensationalize, is even better than we might have realized last year when he finished ranked No. 6 overall in the ESPN 100 in one of the strongest classes in recent memory.
The major difference between Embiid and Alexander lies in potential vs. production. There was no denying that Embiid had incredible talent last year, and the rapid rate at which his tools evolved was why he climbed the rankings more than any other prospect in the Class of 2013. At the time, however, Embiid lacked the sheer production of guys like Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle or even Andrew and Aaron Harrison, and likely wouldn’t have been capable of putting a team on his back to upset the top team in the country as Alexander just did at Hoophall.
One of the hardest parts about evaluating is not making too much of one performance, like Alexander’s on Monday, especially when your evaluations are based on long-term projections.
In Alexander’s case, he was far and away the most dominant prospect in the Hoophall field and turned in a performance that perhaps no player in the country could have duplicated, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the top prospect.
…If I was coaching a high school game this weekend and got to pick one big man to start my team with, Alexander would be the guy. He’s currently more impactful than Turner and less dependent on his guards. Alexander can go get his own on the offensive glass more so than he will rely on a post-entry pass. Physically, he’s a fully grown man and an almost impossible matchup at this level because of his sheer power and explosiveness. His infectious energy and leadership skills, not to be overlooked, were certainly proved this weekend.
ESPN ($) Comparing prospects of Alexander, Okafor and Myles Turner
The rivalry renews at 2 p.m. Saturday at the South Point Arena, promising to feature elite prospects on both teams and a closely contested game. Findlay Prep has won every game in the series, which dates back to 2008.
In the aftermath of the back-and-forth 2011 game, and with each team having major UNLV recruiting targets, the 2012 contest was arguably the most-hyped high school game in Las Vegas history. Tickets were sold at online broker sites for $200, it was scouted by major college coaches and local dignitaries were front and center.
That forced organizers to move the game starting in 2013 to the South Point. It’s called the Findlay Big City Showcase and includes a noon game featuring Liberty and Arbor View highs.
“For the city of Las Vegas and the fans, it’s great,” Gorman coach Grant Rice said. “Some people who don’t go to many games, this is something they put on their calendars. It’s exciting. It’s something our players look forward to being part of.”
Findlay Prep is housed in Henderson, taking players from all over the world and playing for a national high school championship each year. They don’t have local players and don’t play for a state championship.
The Pilots' schedule this season includes games in Ohio, Massachusetts, Canada, Texas, Tennessee and Hawaii. The South Point is a 10-minute drive from their campus.
“Only having to go down the street to play a high-caliber basketball team is music to our ears,” Findlay Prep coach Jerome Williams said. “But it’s never going to be a home game for us.
Historically, 90 percent of the fans there will be cheering for Bishop Gorman. Our Findlay Prep fan base is growing. Even though our players aren’t from here, they are doing charity work and helping others in the city. People are starting to notice.”
…Findlay’s roster is again loaded with major college prospects, including Kansas commit Kelly Oubre and Arizona commit Craig Victor. Senior shooting guard Rashad Vaughn might be the biggest attraction, though. Vaughn, the nation’s No. 7 overall recruiting prospect according to rivals.com, is considering UNLV.
Las Vegas Sun
Cliff Alexander, 6-8, F/C, Curie (IL), 2014: It isn’t often that a single performance can make such an impact that it’ll move a prospect up to the top spot in the rankings. But that’s exactly what Cliff Alexander potentially did on Monday when he put up 30 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks to upset Montverde Academy. And that was just after posting 30 points, 26 rebounds and 14 blocks in his previous game. He’s been on a tear all season long. On MLK Day, he had at least six dunks, with one almost shattering the backboard, which he’s already done in the past. Constantly crashing the boards, Alexander had three put-back dunks, including one where he posterized Montverde’s Keenan Robinson. And as if he hadn’t punished Robinson enough, on the very next possession he once again dunked on him off a pass after cutting to the rim. That was all after teammate Joshua Stamps dunked on Robinson in the first half. Not only did Alexander dominate the paint, his shooting stroke was a perfect eight-for-eight from the free throw line. The Kansas-bound big man was just as aggressive on the defensive end, even blocking a dude’s three-point shot attempt. He’s explosive and assertive. He moves superbly for his size. His physique is NBA-ready. He’s the real deal.
…Kelly Oubre, 6-7, Wing, Findlay Prep (NV), 2014: The last sentence should honestly be replaced with the statement: “much due to Kelly Oubre’s suffocating defense.” After Pinson dropped 14 points in the first quarter, Oubre was given the defensive assignment of guarding the UNC-bound wing in the second quarter. The result? Pinson was only able to score four points in that time period, and then five more points the entire second half. The entire Welsleyan team only scored 11 points in the second half, for that matter. Oubre, headed to Kansas in the fall, is relentless on both ends of the floor and thus fills up the entire stat line on most nights. His intensity on the defensive end led to him getting out on transition in offense. He does a great job moving without the ball and cutting to the paint, which led to a couple of alley-oop dunks for him in the second half. He’s also terrific in protecting the ball when driving inside and in absorbing contact. If left open, he also demonstrated the ability to sink in jumpers from behind the arc. The versatile wing’s stat line demonstrated his well-rounded game, finishing with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals.
…JaQuan Lyle, 6-4, SG, Huntington Prep (WV), 2014: Lyle is a combo guard with a wide frame and deep shooting ability. He has a quick release running off screens, can shoot with his feet set, or off the dribble. A “wide trunk” allows him to create separation and get his shot off. However, he tends to jack up shots early in possessions, and he doesn’t contribute besides scoring. The next step is for him to impact the game in other ways.
SLAM 2014 Hoophall Classic Top Performers
The combination of Turner’s size, athleticism, and performance at camps this past summer has elevated him all the way to the number two spot in the 2014 ESPN 100 rankings. He is now the top unsigned player in the country and has only taken one official visit, which was to Ohio State in October.
Arizona, Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma State, Texas , and SMU are all in the mix for Turner’s services, too. According to recruiting analyst Reggie Rankin, the center has said his next official visit will be Oklahoma State. Turner also mentioned that he’s “been to Texas a few times,” including the Michigan State game.
So where does Turner end up? My prediction is the Pokes. Travis Ford is a pretty good recruiter and has done well in the Dallas area recently with All-American Marcus Smart (Flower Mound Marcus), Phil Forte (Flower Mound Marcus), and LeBryan Nash (Dallas Lincoln). The Cowboys will also need a big man next year and someone to fill the void Smart leaves with his expected decision to enter the NBA Draft.
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