“Air ball! Air ball! Air ball!”
Wayne Selden heard the chants. From the moment the Kansas basketball guard missed rim on a 3-point shot 51 seconds into Tuesday night’s game against Baylor, the Ferrell Center faithful were on him. Every time he got involved on offense.
“Air ball! Air ball! Air ball!”
Selden was having a miserable evening. Bill Self laid into his guard at halftime, only to pull him less than a minute into the second period. As Selden jogged to the bench, the KU coach did not acknowledge him.
“Air ball! Air ball! Air ball!”
But with the game on the line, and the Jayhawks nursing a one-point lead, Selden would take matters into his own hands.
There would be no more air balls. He made sure of it.
Selden threw down a thunderous dunk with 1:27 remaining, added a smooth layup with 28 seconds left, and KU got the separation it needed to close out a 66-60 victory over the Bears.
Landen Lucas and Wayne Selden felt the wrath of Kansas coach Bill Self at halftime, when the second-ranked Jayhawks trailed No. 19 Baylor.
"I got on them hard at halftime, probably too hard," Self said.
They made up for it down the stretch, and got Kansas a step closer to its 12th consecutive Big 12 title with a 66-60 victory Tuesday night.
Lucas had the tiebreaking layup with 3:03 left after one of his four rebounds down the stretch. Selden, who finished with six points, had four of those in the final 2 minutes, along with two offensive rebounds in that span that led to points.
"I was struggling all night, just trying to find a way to impact the game, and it was rebounding," Selden said. "Me and Landen, we had to get to the glass, so I just tried to crash the board, give us extra possessions."
The go-ahead putback by Lucas came after he rebounded a missed 3 by Selden.
After Selden rebounded a missed tip-in by Lucas with 1:40 left, Kansas (24-4, 12-3) called time out. They set up a play when Devonte Graham's lob pass to Selden resulted in a dunk.
"I wish we could do that final four minutes over again," Baylor coach Scott Drew said. "I don't think we executed as well as we would like."
…Baylor senior Taurean Prince offered a brutally honest explanation.
"They probably just wanted it more than we did. At least that's what it seemed like," Prince said. "Their guys were flying in and we weren't blocking out and doing our jobs. That's on us."
Dallas Morning News
A yellow brick road always leads to happiness in Kansas.
The No. 2-ranked Kansas Jayhawks again showed why their Big 12 trophy case is the biggest in the conference. The Jayhawks outscored No. 19 Baylor 13-5 in the final four minutes to snatch away a 66-60 victory over the Bears on Tuesday night before a crowd of 8,259 at the Ferrell Center.
…Kansas gathered five offensive boards before Perry Ellis finally scored. Drew objected to an apparent stray elbow by one of the Jayhawks, and official Mike Stuart didn’t hesitate, whistling Drew for a technical foul at the 18:19 mark.
“It sure wasn’t because I cussed,” Drew said of the technical. “It wasn’t because I was out of the box. So it had to be demonstrative. I was just trying to help them out.”
…So Kansas, the Big 12’s impossible-to-kill cockroach, moves a step closer to its 12th straight conference title, while Baylor is forced to try to learn from its mistakes.
“The last four minutes were just tough,” Freeman said. “I think it’s a great learning experience. When we go back and look at the film as a team, and we get in this position again at the end of the game, we’re going to remember this and put the next team away.”
Baylor’s most impressive statistic of the men’s basketball season, as well as any hope for drama during the final week of the Big 12 title race, disappeared Tuesday during a late flurry of clutch plays and offensive rebounds by No. 2 Kansas.
Until Tuesday, Baylor had been 20-0 in such situations, including a 16-0 mark when carving out a halftime lead. Both spotless marks disappeared against Kansas, which broke a 55-55 tie and took the lead for good on a follow shot by Landen Lucas with 3:03 remaining. The putback was part of a telling stretch in crunch time when the Jayhawks collected six consecutive rebounds despite being beaten on the glass 33-28 for the game.
…Kansas overcame a juiced crowd in Waco by shooting 50 percent from the field, including a 52.4 percent mark during its second-half rally. Most of the run came on the backs of Wayne Selden (19 points), Perry Ellis (15 points) and Devonte Graham (11 points), although Self wondered for much of the contest if his players would join the fray in a meaningful way.
“I wasn’t very pleased with some of our personnel the first 30 minutes of the game,” Self said. “But the last eight minutes, we guarded well and rebounded well. To control the glass for at least an eight-minute stretch when we hadn’t controlled it for the whole game was huge.”
“I feel like it’s to the point now where we’re a battle-tested team,” KU guard Wayne Selden said. “We’ve been through a lot as a group together, and I don’t really think we get rattled as much. I don’t think we get rattled at all actually.”
The rainbow ended a first half of defensive breakdowns for KU, and coach Bill Self in that moment turned his attention to Lucas, waiting three times for Lucas forward to catch up so he could chew him out with a security officer standing between them.
“He just let him catch it and shoot it,” Self said afterward. “I couldn’t believe it.”
There were times in the first half when Self called to switch ball screens, and his players would immediately hedge instead. At one point, Self seemed to run out of ways to show his frustration on the sideline, running his fingers through his hair on one possession before turning his palms to the sky on the next.
…It led to a joyous locker room, with KU’s players discussing how far they’d come.
“We were like, ‘A month ago, we would have lost this game,’ ” KU guard Devonte’ Graham said. “It just shows how we’ve grown as a team and how we keep progressing.”
…“I certainly hope our fans appreciate what these kids have done the last month,” Self said. “What is that, eight (wins) in a row, against unbelievable competition?
“When we didn’t play well, when we did play well, when we made free throws, when we didn’t, when we rebounded, when we didn’t … it’s still been guys toughing it out.”
“Just a couple weeks ago we were in fourth place. People had us out of this race. I kept telling the guys, ‘Believe, believe. Keep your confidence in yourself. Come out and practice hard and do your best to prepare for every game,’’’ KU junior guard Frank Mason III said after the Jayhawks’ 66-60 victory over Baylor on Tuesday in Ferrell Center.
The resilient squad’s never-say-die attitude — KU (24-4, 12-3) trailed by eight points with 14:38 to play against a Baylor (20-8, 9-6) squad that was dominating the backboards — has resulted in seven straight victories in conference action, and counting the ‘W’ against Kentucky, eight in a row overall.
It’s all vaulted KU from fourth to first in the league.
…“It means a lot, man,” KU senior Perry Ellis said Tuesday after scoring 15 points with two rebounds, three assists and two blocks despite playing with 12 stitches in his head and a glassy right eye. He was injured in Saturday’s victory at Kansas State.
“We never gave up on each other. We knew we’d have to keep fighting game by game and it’d fall in our favor,” Ellis added.
…The KU effort means Saturday’s game could be a red-letter day in fieldhouse history, with 12 titles in a row on the line still with three games remaining.
“It’s awesome, especially since we could do it at home in front of our fans,” Lucas stated. “About a month ago a lot of people were doubting us. To do it with a couple games left would be special.”
"You knew it was going to be a war coming down here," Kansas coach Bill Self said in his postgame radio interview with the Jayhawk IMG Sports Network. "Somehow [we] just competed and got it done."
…Mason led the way for the Jayhawks with 19 points, and senior Perry Ellis added 15 points. Most importantly, both of them carried the Jayhawks with 11 points each in the first half, while nobody else had more than three.
"There is no one more valuable than Frank," Self said in the University release. "He makes tough plays."
Playing with a watery right eye and 12 stitches in his head, Perry Ellis responded with 15 points, three assists, two blocks and two rebounds in 36 minutes on Tuesday at Ferrell Center.
Ellis’ steady play helped the Jayhawks notch a 66-60 victory over Baylor just three days after his head took a pounding in a win at Kansas State.
“It felt good. It’s getting better and better, vision-wise. They said it heals fast. It should be good,” Ellis said of his eye. “Overall it was great. I had no problems with it tonight.”
Kansas men's basketball seniors Perry Ellis and Evan Manning, and sophomore Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk have been named to the Academic All-Big 12 First Team, announced by the league office Wednesday.
Kansas' three first-team members are the most of any Big 12 school this season, adding to KU's league-leading 54 all-time Academic All-Big 12 honorees since the inception of the conference in 1996-97. Texas is second with 53. KU has 41 Academic All-Big 12 First Team honorees and 13 second-team selections. In the Bill Self era, Kansas has had 31 student-athletes named Academic All-Big 12, including 23 first-team honorees.
Unfortunately, Kansas happens to be an unfeeling basketball goliath that dissembles its enemies in ruthless, methodical fashion. Self's team averaged 1.20 points per trip Tuesday in Waco, Texas. It generated good looks against man defense and picked apart Baylor's zone. Perry Ellis, the quietest All-American in the country, was key on that front; point guard Frank Mason III had his typically solid all-around game; and Devonte Graham continued his emergence as a crucial dual-point threat.
It was close throughout, sure, but never felt out of the Jayhawks' hands. As the possessions grew tighter and tighter down the stretch, Kansas' fundamental defensive solidity (smart help, good rotations, maintaining shape) and angular offense carried it to the finish.
Which was fitting, because -- save a few recent tweaks -- that's how Kansas always wins.
And it does always win. It's almost impossible to consider Kansas' reign in the modern college basketball context. That goes double for modern high-major leagues. When KU reached consecutive conference title No. 8 in 2012, and Gonzaga's streak was ended by St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference, Kansas' became the longest active streak in any conference in all Division I. Even then, it was a marvel. The WCC is one thing. But the Big 12? Over that large of a sample? How is that even possible?
That was four years -- and four titles -- ago. Yes, four.
Because here's the deal: Kansas -- now 24-4, unbeaten in the month of February, and playing the most well-rounded, comprehensive basketball of any team in its league -- would have to finish the regular-season 0-3 to lose its share of the 2015-16 Big 12.
Two of its last three games are at home. In the last 12 years, the Jayhawks have lost at home 10 times.
They've won 11 Big 12 championships.
So no, it's not official. Not yet. But let's just call it 12.
What could've been a rocky boat and the end of conference dominance a month ago has instead turned into Self's finest work at Kansas.
He's had more talented starting lineups and more capable depth. But in one of the toughest league races ever—in depth, experience and especially coaching—Self has nonetheless molded a group into one of his own. Tough, suddenly consistent, winners.
The latest win at Baylor puts the Jayhawks in perfect position to win at least a share of their 12th consecutive Big 12 Championship Saturday.
That's at home, in vaunted Allen Fieldhouse, with Texas Tech visiting Lawrence.
…Kansas had lost at Oklahoma State on Jan. 19 and at Iowa State six days later. Those two setbacks came after a one-sided defeat at West Virginia on Jan. 12. Following those three consecutive road losses—when Kansas fizzled and hardly showed the toughness Self commands, Pomeroy's math said the Jayhawks were doomed.
As in, 90 percent doomed.
Kansas received 10 percent odds to either win or share the Big 12 title, while Iowa State was at 12 percent. (This was based on 10,000 simulations.)
West Virginia came in second place (30 percent) and Oklahoma, as expected, ruled at 70 percent.
…Kansas controlled the defensive glass in the second half against the nation's third-best offensive-rebounding team, as noted by KenPom.com stats. The Bears have been beaten at home this year, but not quite like this.
Players make plays. But sometimes a coach deserves his due.
Self may not get National Coach of the Year. Having Selden, Ellis and guard Frank Mason III on the roster may convince voters he has too much talent at his disposal. There are other great candidates out there, and Kansas won't be on any shortlists.
But doing his own best work, even when only compared to his own collection of hits, is a pretty solid runner-up award.
No. 2 Kansas is so close to its 12th straight Big 12 title that it can almost taste it.
The Jayhawks went on the road to Waco on Tuesday to take on No. 19 Baylor, and passed their toughest remaining road test of the season with a 66-60 win. And as Bill Self's group so often has this season, they showed resilience to get it there.
…The Jayhawks have home games against Texas Tech and Iowa State remaining as well as a road game against Texas. If they win one of those games, they will clinch at least a share of the Big 12. Win two, and they'll be the outright champion.
Given that Kansas rarely loses at home and they have two home games remaining, it's fair to say that the Big 12 title is practically in the palm of their hand.
They just have to grab it.
BR Ric Bucher
VOTE daily for Perry for Senior CLASS Award
“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 Big 12 is in the middle of a landmark season and currently has 70.0 percent of its teams in position to earn at-large bids to the field of 68.
But will the Big 12 perform better in the NCAA Tournament than it did a year ago?
That's to be determined.
The Big 12 looked like it was on par with the ACC as the best conference in college basketball for most of last season, but that perception changed in March.
Four of the Big 12's six teams that reached the bracket in 2015 -- Kansas, Baylor, Iowa State, and Texas -- didn't advance to the field of 68's second weekend while Oklahoma and West Virginia were knocked out in the Sweet 16.
The ACC, meanwhile, had three teams -- Duke, Louisville, and Notre Dame -- play in the Elite Eight last season.
Will the Big 12 have a different outcome next month?
It all depends on how much this league wore down its teams during the regular season's double round-robin.
If seven Big 12 teams wind up making the NCAA Tournament, then each of those teams will have played at least 12 games against tournament-caliber teams before starting the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
That's the epitome of brutality.
…Oklahoma's Buddy Hield hasn't shot over 50.0 percent from the field in a game since Feb. 2 at TCU and hasn't shot better than 50.0 percent from 3-point range in a game since Jan. 30 at LSU. Hield is terrific, but he's not nearly as efficient offensively as he was earlier in the season.
Days after he strongly refuted speculation that he might consider retiring after this season, North Carolina coach Roy Williams said he’d have a “hard time” leaving amid an unresolved NCAA investigation that continues to drag on.
“I don’t ever want to leave when things – when I leave I want it to be in good shape,” Williams said Tuesday. “And for me, this would have been a very hard time to leave.”
Williams, 65, spent part of his press conference after UNC’s 96-71 win over Miami on Saturday admonishing Doug Gottlieb, a CBS college basketball analyst, after Gottlieb speculated during a national broadcast that Williams could be on the verge of retiring amid health problems and the ongoing NCAA infractions case.
Gottlieb suggested during a CBS pregame show that Hubert Davis, one of Williams’ assistant coaches, could be in line to become Williams’ successor. Williams called Gottlieb’s commentary “sinful.”
“You have no freakin’ idea what you’re talking about,” Williams said, referencing Gottlieb, after Saturday’s game.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Williams elaborated on his future and explained why he reacted so strongly to Gottlieb’s commentary. Williams viewed it as one more piece of speculation he’d have to fight against, after years of doing the same with the uncertainty surrounding the NCAA investigation.
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
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