They met a few mornings ago, after the emotions of Senior Day had settled a bit, alone in the coach’s office. Over the last four years, Perry Ellis and Bill Self must have met in that big room dozens of times. In the calm before the postseason, this may have been the last one before Ellis is done as a Kansas basketball player.
So, Self wanted the message to be clear and direct. Ellis is a beloved figure even in one of the country’s most storied programs. Nothing can change that. He is mostly consistent, solid, born and raised in the state, and no matter what happens this postseason he will be remembered fondly.
But all of that is incomplete, because there’s another part of this that Self wanted to make sure Ellis heard: his record in the NCAA Tournament is fairly rotten. Ellis’ teams have been seeded no lower than second, and only made one Sweet 16. People will remember that, too.
“Oh, I know, Coach,” Self remembers Ellis saying.
“Good,” the coach replied, “because it’s time for you to lead us.”
KC Star Mellinger
The first thing he will you tell you is that he is here for two things - school and basketball. And he is not exaggerating. Freshman forward Cheick Diallo is known for his seriousness and dead-set determination to do the best he can on-and-off the court. Diallo said this drive and motivation derives from where he grew up and the way he was raised.
"In my country, whatever you are doing it is 100 percent serious because it is your life and you don't want to mess it up. That's why whatever I'm doing, I do it 100 percent," Diallo explained.
Diallo's journey to the United States, and ultimately to Allen Fieldhouse, has not been without its bumps along the way. But it is Diallo's tenacity and fight to achieve his goals that has allowed him to break those barriers. That, and his undying love for basketball, keep him going and have gotten him where he is today.
…"In the beginning, it was hard for me to speak English because English was my fourth language. It was very, very hard. Sometimes I would think that I couldn't do it and I wanted to quit," Diallo explained. "English is totally different. I just had to push myself every day to speak it. Even if people didn't know what I was saying, I was just forced to try and say it."
Although Diallo could speak three different languages, English presented new struggles for the Malian. Diallo's household alone spoke two different languages, Bambara – which is typically spoken in Mali – and a tribal language his mother frequently used. In school, Diallo was taught in French. English would be the fourth language Diallo would become fluent in with the help of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes that his high school provided.
Diallo would attend ESL classes at least once a day, sometimes even twice-a-day to get more comfortable using English in and outside of the classroom. In the summers of his freshman and sophomore years, Diallo would take summer school. Although classes helped, Diallo claims that basketball was the key to his success.
"I knew basketball stuff like the terminology, but I didn't know the way you talked to people. I would ask my teammates what things meant and they would explain it to me," Diallo said.
Diallo explained that basketball was a universal language itself that everyone could understand no matter where they came from. Playing basketball was a way for an isolated Malian boy to feel a part of something and develop a purpose for himself to be in the United States.
…"In the beginning, I wasn't even thinking about coming here. I was thinking to myself, 'do I want to come to KU?' At the end of the day though, you have to choose the best school for you. So I chose KU because a lot of big men come here to play. I picked KU because I trust Bill Self, and I think he can help me get to the next level," Diallo clarified.
Coming to Kansas was difficult for Diallo at first. He said that playing for a whole new team when you are the novice is difficult, on top of balancing practice and class. But Diallo believes that he has adapted well in the classroom and managed to learn how to compete at the collegiate level. He has used his teammates and coaches as a home away from home and is becoming more comfortable in his role with the team.
"I think he's adapted well to Kansas. He's adapted well to school. He's very responsible and driven. I think the only thing that hasn't happened well for Cheick, and he would be the first one to tell you, is that he hasn't played as much as he thought he would or what we thought he would. But it's certainly not from a lack of attitude or effort," Self reasoned. "He's just a little bit behind in some areas that he'll catch up on and get the last laugh. The biggest thing that he wants is to be great. He's always reaching out to ask and to try and learn how to become better and how to be more prepared."
Rock Chalk Weekly: Breaking Barriers (Cheick Diallo)
Virginia, the current No. 1 team on kenpom.com, would rank seventh in last year's ratings, and if the season were to end today, UVa would be the worst No. 1 in the history of the site, which dates back to 2002. In fact, the Cavaliers would rank in the top two only twice during that time span—2006 and 2011.
"Whoever the favorite is this year is probably going to have less of a chance to win than any other year in the past decade or so," Pomeroy told Bleacher Report.
Pomeroy's logic goes beyond the top teams not being up to the usual standard. While there aren't any elite teams, there are a lot of really good teams, and the numbers back that up as well.
The teams from around No. 13 to 25 this season are stronger than they are in most years, according to the data, and the gap between No. 1 and 20 is as small as it has ever been.
"I think that is a hidden point that a lot of people aren't talking about," Pomeroy said. "I think that explains why so many teams have so many losses."
…Kansas, the team currently No. 1 in the polls, as well as possible No. 1 seeds Virginia and Villanova have similar rosters to that of the 2013-14 Gators.
"Kansas doesn't have a surefire first-round pick on their team and they definitely don't have a first-round pick in their starting lineup," an NBA scout told B/R. "Villanova and Virginia have nice players, but there isn't clear high-level NBA talent on any of those teams."
Michigan State has two players who could be first-round picks, Denzel Valentine and Deyonta Davis, but Davis is more of a project and only the fifth-leading scorer on the team.
"The thing you have to remember is it's a weak draft, and not only did the teams last year have high first-round picks, it was a better draft," the scout said. "Karl Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky are probably going to have decade-and-a-half careers in the NBA.
"The only guy [who will be in the NCAA tournament] that's a potentially great player—when I say great, I mean an elite NBA player—is maybe [Duke's] Brandon Ingram, and he's so young."
Ingram is also on a team that lacks the depth and interior defense to win a title. The Blue Devils are one of the only teams that have multiple first-round prospects. Outside of Michigan State, the others with multiple projected first-rounders (Maryland, California and Kentucky) have other issues that have kept them from looking anywhere close to elite.
KU's rotation is full of borderline pros and Bill Self has arguably the deepest team in the country, but in terms of raw talent, this group is not even in the top five in the Self era. The current Jayhawks have elevated themselves to one of Self's favorites and that's because, as the coach openly admits, they've done more with less.
"I'm more proud of this team," Self said. "I've been proud of teams before, but...if you've got lottery picks or something like that, you know you have better players. If better players perform at a fairly high level, the chances are pretty good that you'll be successful. This team, I think we've got terrific, good players."
BR CJ Moore
“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
As Oklahoma State played its final home game Friday, seats once filled by rabid fans were unoccupied as young children raced each other back and forth through empty 300-level rows.
There was no denying it: Gallagher-Iba Arena had transformed from one of the rowdiest arenas in the country into a playplace.
Full rows and sections of the upper level were vacant. Patches of lower-level seats were empty as well. And Senior Night ended empty for the Oklahoma State players, too, as they walked off the court with a 19th loss to No. 23 Texas in front of a season-worst crowd.
The lingering question: How can it change?
Speculation is rampant about coach Travis Ford’s future as Oklahoma State travels to Kansas City to open the Big 12 tournament on Wednesday against Kansas State.
People around the program believe it is likely a change will be made. Athletic Director Mike Holder has the final say, but he will not comment on the basketball program until after the season.
If the Big 12 tournament is ultimately Ford’s final act after eight seasons, the nosedive in attendance is an instrumental factor. So let’s unpack it.
Oklahoma State’s average attendance this season — 5,857 — ranked 58th of 65 Power-5 teams. And in just the past two seasons — from Marcus Smart’s sophomore year to this 12-19 campaign — attendance has plummeted 43.7 percent.
The difference in ticket sales revenue from Ford’s first season, 2008-09 to last year, 2014-15, is nearly the equivalent of the coach’s yearly salary. Ticket sales revenue has declined for eight consecutive seasons (not including this current year), according to the OSU’s NCAA membership financial reports. Attendance this season has declined by more than 2,000 fans per game compared to last year, so that trend could continue.
It would appear then that if a coaching change is made, a coach who can help galvanize the fan base to return to 2009-type levels would mitigate the $7.2 million Ford is owed on the 10-year contract he and OSU agreed to in 2009. Ford’s contract runs through 2019.
…Gallagher-Iba Arena holds 13,611, which means Oklahoma State’s average attendance filled just 43.03 percent. That number is fourth-worst among Power-5 teams.
Only Missouri (41.8 percent), Boston College (39.65) and Washington State (24.48) were behind OSU. Not coincidentally, all three finished in last place in their respective conferences and combined for four conference wins.
It’s been the epicenter of the revival of Iowa State men’s basketball program the last two years. The confetti falling from the rafters reinforcing the Cyclone celebration that has taken over the Sprint Center.
The Big 12 tournament is back, and ISU is looking to make it a trio of titles on its resume in the ultra-competitive conference free-for-all.
“We’re planning on trying to do it three times in a row,” ISU junior Monte Morris said. “We do that, it would be very special.”
A title this year might be the most meaningful and hardest to get for the 21-st ranked Cyclones with six teams in the league in The Associated Press Top 25 and seven likely headed to the NCAA tournament.
…“We want to leave our mark doing that,” Morris said, “just try to set us up for getting our mojo and keeping our mojo through the tournament. Nobody likes losing. If we can do this, it would be special to a lot of people in many different ways.”
I've named Bill Self my choice as national coach of the year, and I've wondered aloud whether Buddy Hield's season can even be possible. In other words, Kansas and Oklahoma are hardly lacking for acclaim -- either nationally or from yours truly.
When it comes to West Virginia, though, it seems like maybe the word still has not sunk in with the general college hoops public. Perhaps it's a style thing, and a team that's (correctly) understood as going for takeaways and committing its fair share of fouls is just more likely to be underrated.
Whatever the reason, Bob Huggins' guys are getting slightly less than their due.
Start with the fact that this was the Big 12's No. 1 defense in conference play, a ranking helped along by the fact that this was also by far the league's best defensive rebounding team. In other words, West Virginia forces a high number of turnovers, but Huggins' group doesn't necessarily have to force turnovers in order to win. On offense, Jaysean Paige is arguably Division I's most important bench player, and what the Mountaineers lack in shooting accuracy they more than make up for in ferocious offensive rebounding. Make no mistake: This team can stand comfortably alongside the justly celebrated likes of KU and OU.
In addition to the Big Three lauded above, the Big 12 also figures to send Iowa State, Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech to the field of 68. Think of this quartet as a study in superlatives. No offense in the league scores points at a higher per-possession rate than Steve Prohm's Cyclones. Few teams nationally can match Scott Drew's Bears on the offensive glass. No defense in the Big 12 limits opponents' 3-point attempts anywhere near as well as Shaka Smart's Longhorns. And Tubby Smith has one of the nation's most turnover-averse players in Toddrick Gotcher. Superlatives come naturally to D-I's strongest conference.
ESPN ($) Gasaway
The 20th Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, and 15th in Kansas City, runs Wednesday, March 9 through Saturday, March 12 at the Sprint Center. Here is the schedule, with TV times.
Tickets: Call 888-929-7849 or go to SprintCenter.com. Tickets are limited. An online message said the tournament is not officially sold out and it is possible tickets will become available later.
Big 12 Fan Experience: The Big 12 will have a “GameDay Fan Experience” outside the Sprint Center. That will be Wednesday (3-7 p.m.), Thursday (2-7 p.m.), Friday (2-7 p.m.) and Saturday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.).
Bus service: The Main Street MAX Orange Line (map of stops and the route, which covers Brookside/Waldo, the Plaza, Midtown, River Market and the Sprint Center) will offer frequent service on game days. Fare is $1.50 per ride and an all-day pass is $3; both can be purchased on the bus. Three-day visitor passes are $10 and available at the KCATA offices, 1200 E. 18th Street.
▪ Iowa State: Pre-Tourney Party at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Kelly’s Westport Inn (500 Westport Road). Tipoff rally three hours before Thursday’s quarterfinal game vs. Oklahoma at Room 1501 of the KC Conference Center (Wyandotte and 14th streets). More information here.
▪ Kansas: Pregame rally starting at 10 a.m. Thursday at No Other Pub in the Power & Light District.
(Note: List will be updated as more information is released by alumni associations)
The following downtown Kansas City streets will be closed at times before and during the tournament.
▪ Grand Boulevard (between 13th Street and Truman Road): closed from 10 a.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Sunday
▪ 14th Street (between Walnut Street and Grand Boulevard): closed from 10 a.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Sunday
▪ Walnut Street (between 13th and 14th streets): closed from 9 a.m. Tuesday through 1 p.m. Sunday
▪ Truman Road westbound (between Grand Boulevard and Oak Street) will have lane closures from 10 a.m. Monday through 6 a.m. Sunday. Westbound Truman Road is limited to one lane between Grand Boulevard and Walnut Street because of building construction.
Additional streets will be closed for the Big 12 Run starting at 10 a.m. Saturday and through the conclusion of the race (about 12:30 p.m.). Here is a map of the 5K and 12K courses.
KUAD: Postseason Information Hub
Sports Betting Experts asked more than 100 fans in each state which school they think will win the NCAA title. KU was the pick in 18 states, more than double amount of the second-place team, Villanova (seven). Virginia “won” six states, Michigan State was top dog in five states and North Carolina was No. 1 in two states.
Sports Betting Experts said it found its survey respondents by using targeted Facebook ads (which it says can be targeted by location and interest.
Now, fans have all the control. They have the ability to watch every single NCAA Tournament game live, simultaneously, and in 2016 will be provided the sleekest way yet to do it. I attended CBS and Turner's annual NCAA Tournament media day in Manhattan on Tuesday. The companies unveiled their latest streaming services with the NCAA March Madness Live app, and they look really good.
Here's a photo I took of how watching the NCAA Tournament will look like if you have an Apple TV.
…It's simple, strong, easy to use. And it's not just Apple TV; Roku and Amazon Fire TV are all new to the streaming experience this year. Google Chromecast is an option again, too.
"However a fan wants to experience and watch the Tournament, we try to make sure there is an opportunity for them to do that," McManus said. "We've helped navigate what games are where. If he wants to wants to watch at a restaurant on his phone, he can. If he wants to watch one game on his television and the second game on his laptop, third game on his tablet and the fourth game on this phone. However a person wants to consume it, it's available."
If you're wondering on bit rate, a 720p TV will stream at 4,500 kbps, while tablets and phones will run at 1,200.
There's a lot of elements at play here. One really good feature: There will be no spoilers. If you're watching one game, you can switch over to another one and not have the score ruined for you as you're doing it. This is cool, and plus, if you really want to know the score before you switch, you can get that information in a hundred other ways.
The redesign is simple and strong. Any and all games broadcast on CBS can be watched on NCAA March Madness Live without login. (The Turner, TBS and truTV games will require a login with a cable provider)
ncaa.com: 2016 NCAA Tournament Schedule
The announcing crews are as follows. They will be assigned to specific venues after the Selection Show on Sunday night (5:30 p.m., CBS).
- Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Bill Raftery (color analyst), Grant Hill (color analyst) and Tracy Wolfson (reporter)1 2
- Brian Anderson (play-by-play), Steve Smith (color analyst) and Dana Jacobson (reporter)1
- Verne Lundquist (play-by-play), Jim Spanarkel (color analyst) and Allie LaForce (reporter)1
- Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Reggie Miller (color analyst), Dan Bonner (color analyst) and Lewis Johnson (reporter)1
- Ian Eagle (play-by-play), Chris Webber (color analyst), Len Elmore (color analyst) and Evan Washburn (reporter)
- Spero Dedes (play-by-play), Doug Gottlieb (color analyst) and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude (reporter)
- Andrew Catalon (play-by-play), Steve Lappas (color analyst) and Jamie Erdahl (reporter)3
- Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Mike Gminski (color analyst) and Jamie Maggio (reporter)4
1 - Broadcasters for regional weekend games
2 - Broadcasters for the Final Four and national championshp game
3 - Broadcasters for Tuesday's opening round games
4 - Broadcasters for Wednesday's opening round games
The studio crews are:
New York: Ernie Johnson, Greg Gumbel, Charles Barkley, Clark Kellogg and Kenny Smith
Atlanta: Matt Winer, Wally Szczerbiak, Seth Davis and various college coaches; Swin Cash joins for the opening-round games
Saturday, March 26
This is where things change a bit from recent years. CBS has the entire coverage window in prime time. Studio coverage starts at 5 p.m. There is no late-night wrap-up show.
Sunday, March 27
Here's another big change from past years, when CBS had these two regional finals in the afternoon and was done with room for 60 Minutes. This time, the games are on TBS and in prime time. Pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m., and the late-night wrap-up show concludes at midnight.
Find out the tournament history for specific seeds, teams, coaches or conferences.
NCAA Tournament Brackets and History interactive tool
CBS Interactive Tool: Pick two teams to compare record, RPI and SOS details head to head. By default, the top two teams in RPI are shown.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
Naismith Trophy Boy’s HS AA Team announced (HM Udoka Azubike)
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