Here we go! Second season tips tonight for Kansas!
I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday season! Now lets get back to the grind!
KUAD: Kansas vs Oklahoma pregame notes
During various speaking engagements and interviews during the preseason, Bill Self warned Kansas University basketball fans to be ready for ups and downs as his young Jayhawks aged during the 2013-14 campaign.
The person who knows him best reminded him of those sentiments Monday — a day after the Jayhawks fell to San Diego State, 61-57, in Allen Fieldhouse and finished the nonconference season with nine wins against four losses.
“I actually got a text today from my spouse (Cindy) reminding me I said, ‘Enjoy the process,’” Self said Monday night on his “Hawk Talk” radio show.
“I am frustrated. I am. I don’t think we are playing as well as we should be playing. I think every team has a ceiling. I am frustrated because in my opinion, which I’m sure all fans would agree, we’re operating well under that (ceiling) when you look at personnel individually.
“But I am not discouraged,” he quickly added, “because I think we can get there.”
…“I told our team this today. There are three seasons in every basketball season: nonconference season, conference season and postseason. I told our team, ‘I would never tell you nonconference is not important while we’re going through the nonconference.’ Reality is ... does everybody remember we won at Ohio State last year? I mean, no. They remember we lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16. That is the reality of it,” Self said.
“The big thing is, hey, we want to go win league and go compete for championships and have a chance to cut down nets. To be quite candid with you, you can’t do that in the first season. You can only do that in the second and third. We still have everything in front of us. Like every school in America, we’re starting 0-0.”
Self pointed out the Jayhawks went 12-1 nonleague last year, but hit a rough patch in the Big 12 slate when KU dropped three in a row — to Oklahoma State, TCU and Oklahoma.
“Basically, hopefully, and I’m believing it’s true ... because of the schedule we played we’ll be better prepared for conference season because things haven’t been masked, so to speak,” Self said. “That’s the positive spin I’m putting on it, but it’s the way I actually feel. I feel we could potentially get more out of our nonconference schedule than we did last year.”
“In this league — I don’t have a crystal ball,” Self said. “I’ll be shocked if we don’t play eight games out of our 18-game league schedule that doesn’t come to the last minute. So the team that executes best in the last minute will probably be the team that has the best chance to win the league.”
To this point, Self says the competition has kept KU from winning games when it didn’t play its best. You can build confidence in those games, Self says, and the Jayhawks are still searching for it. And it won’t be easy. In the next 12 days, beginning at Oklahoma, KU will play four more ranked teams in five games. The quest for a 10th straight Big 12 title is on, and the Jayhawks will have to do it the hard way.
“We can get off to a great start or we can play catch-up,” Self said. “So it’s certainly important that we play as well as we’ve played all year early on in our conference season.”
“I’m telling you what: Our guys try. They try, but there’s not that zest for playing that we’ve had,” Self said. “And it’s not because they don’t enjoy playing. It’s personalities. We’ve got some laid-back dudes. Really, really laid-back dudes that it’s so out of personality for them to show emotion that they don’t do it doing anything.”
Though Self didn’t mention any names, his top three scorers — Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid — all have displayed mostly quiet demeanors both on the court and during interviews.
“We’ve got to get out of character some on that,” Self said. “I think we’ve shown at times we can do it, but if you look back at our team, I really believe the only time we’ve shown unbelievable emotion was when we beat Duke. I really feel like that’s the only time where there was such a joy.
“But that’s not true. The guys love playing. They just don’t show it.”
And again, this is something that doesn’t normally happen at KU. One doesn’t have to think hard to come up with a handful of emotional leaders for the Jayhawks in past seasons, a list that would include Sherron Collins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor and even Kevin Young.
“We’re used to having some cocky dudes that when they make a play, they let everyone know they’re fired up,” Self said. “We don’t have that type of personality yet. Hopefully, we’ll grow into it a little bit.”
Silver Lake native Lon Kruger, who both played and coached at Kansas State, has kept a close eye on Kansas University most of his 61 years on the planet.
“They look very good, just like always,” Kruger, third-year head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners (12-2) said of the Jayhawks (9-4), who travel to Noble Center tonight for a 6 p.m. Big 12 Conference battle versus OU.
It’s the league opener for KU, while OU is already off to a 1-0 start, having won at Texas, 88-85 on Saturday. “They are big, athletic, do very well on both ends of the floor,” Kruger added, noting KU also has an intangible on its side today.
“Coming off an unusual, disappointing loss, I’m sure, at home to San Diego State, they’ll be ... they are always focused and play good basketball.”
He didn’t complete his thought, but the implication is the Jayhawks, who have won four of their last eight games — OU has won eight of nine — will be steaming mad and ready to take the court just three days after suffering a rare home defeat.
Oklahoma, which defeated the Jayhawks, 72-66, last season in Norman after falling to the Jayhawks, 67-54, in Allen, has been a pleasant surprise, bouncing back nicely from the loss of standout players Romero Osby, Steven Pledger, Amath M’Baye and Andrew Fitzgerald.
OU, in fact, is off to its best start in five years and second-best start since the 2004-05 season when the Sooners shared the Big 12 regular season title with KU. The Sooners rank fourth nationally and first in the Big 12 in scoring at 87.3 points per game.
Height is the most coveted trait in college basketball. Those who have it means they can play in space that cannot be defended.
If Oklahoma (12-2, 1-0 Big 12) is missing one desirable attribute, it is the lack of a true skyscraper who dominate the paint. Junior D.J. Bennett is listed at 6-foot-10, but he only averages 10.4 minutes a game. It means the Sooners, typically, spend three-fourths of a game with a size disadvantage.
They spent all of it with one last Saturday in 88-85 victory over Texas. Bennett did not play. For 40 minutes, the Sooners battled the Longhorns’ size in the post without flinching. In truth, they didn’t just battle it, they beat it. The scoreboard said so, but so did one other very important statistic — rebounding.
The Sooners walked out of Texas’ Erwin Center plus 11 (39 to 28) in rebounding margin.
It was dominant performance considering the Sooners have averaged a little less than four rebounds more than their opponents this season.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, who often talks about the importance of toughness, praised junior point guard Naadir Tharpe for playing, despite a nasty left-ankle sprain, on Sunday in Allen Fieldhouse.
“I was proud of Naadir. Statistically, he didn’t have a great game (five points, 2-of-10 shooting), but he turned his ankle so bad on Wednesday that he hadn’t practiced or done anything besides treatment six times a day,” Self revealed after the game. The injury was not made public in the days leading up to the contest.
“He was trying to put himself in a position to where he could play today. He went a little bit halfcourt yesterday and felt good, but even with that you are nicked up and don’t have a rhythm. He took a couple ill-advised shots when we had a chance to come back, tie or take the lead.”
Tharpe, who had five assists and no turnovers while playing 34 minutes in KU’s 61-57 loss to San Diego State, acknowledged he was not 100 percent.
“I sat out a couple practices. I couldn’t really move like I wanted to,” Tharpe said. “You’ve got to play sometimes when you are not feeling well. I should be fine. I’ve got to make sure I keep doing treatment, and it’ll get better.”
1. Kansas lost a nonconference home game for the first time in years and it's clear the Jayhawks have issues as they prepare to face Oklahoma. What's their biggest one?
Andy Katz: Youth. The Jayhawks are still young in key spots and that will cost them in critical moments. Kansas will need to settle on a point guard, too, and maybe live with the decision. The development of the top freshmen is still a work in progress and this team has title potential, but the journey will have bumps.
Eamonn Brennan: Offense generally. Against so-so teams -- and granted, there haven't been many of those on KU's schedule -- the Jayhawks can score by sheer force of talent. Against more athletic, well-coached teams (like, say, San Diego State) who pack in defensively and encourage Kansas to shoot 3s, KU grinds to a stand-and-put-your-hand-up halt. Andrew Wiggins has often scored his points in spite of Kansas' offense, not because of it, and if that clears up, the late-game issues will soon follow.
C.L. Brown: Kansas needs to learn how to close out tight games. Some of that is a by-product of being such a young team. The Jayhawks are just 1-4 this season in games decided by six points or fewer and have the same 1-4 record when trailing with five minutes left.
ESPN Daily Word
Failed big-man experiments litter the NBA unemployment line. Teams believe, perhaps rightfully so, if you're seven feet tall, can walk and chew gum at the same time, and have even the slightest idea how to play basketball, you have value.
It's why big men like Greg Oden get drafted over scorers like Kevin Durant: the shot at a player with that type of size and skill are exceedingly rare.
Oden, even for his failings in the NBA, provides a compelling historical example as to why Joel Embiid, the 7-foot, 250-pound freshman at Kansas, is being considered a dark horse candidate for the No. 1 overall pick in this spring's draft despite picking up the game of basketball just a few years ago.
A proposed $17.5 million apartment complex, to be located on the west side of Naismith Drive, will house up to 32 Kansas University men’s and women’s basketball players as well as 34 other students, who will not be athletes and must have at least 30 credit hours, KU associate AD Jim Marchiony confirmed on Tuesday.
One estimate indicates the cost comes out to about $265,000 per apartment. Some apartment rooms will be two bedroom; others four bedroom. Lounges will be on each floor with meeting rooms as well as a courtyard.
“Our goal is to provide the best living environment in the country and the quality of the complex give us a chance to provide that,” Marchiony said. “That type of quality costs money and we have donors who recognize this and are willing to help.
“We are out to provide a high-quality living experience that is important for us to be able to continue recruiting the level of student athlete that has kept us among the elite programs in the nation,” Marchiony added.
Some schools, such as Kentucky, have upgraded living quarters for athletes. A dormitory for UK basketball players, which opened in 2012, cost $7 million to build and was privately funded.
“More than half of the apartments will house students of the general student body,” Marchiony said.
“We have very nice living arrangements at Jayhawker Towers for student athletes and the general student body,” he noted. “The Towers has had a waiting list for quite a while. We know there is demand for more high quality on-campus apartments. This will help with that demand.”
Enough time left before the tourney for KU to become elite?
The answer is yes, Brandon, but as Yogi Berra might put it, it's starting to get late a little early around here. Even with their four losses, the Jayhawks are still ranked No. 18 in this week's AP poll. That's hardly falling on hard times. But it was rather striking to see them get shoved around their own court by San Diego State on Sunday. This is a consistent theme in college basketball this season: Just because you have two of the top five picks in the NBA draft doesn't mean you have the best team.
If Kansas' main problem is lack of experience, that problem will recede over time. The question is whether this team has bigger problems -- namely, a lack of toughness or a collectively low basketball IQ -- that can't be overcome with a few more reps. I still think this will be a dangerous team in March, but it has a long way to go, and not a whole lot of time to get there.
SI Seth Davis
In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, the Wiggins boys pulled aside the curtain on their Canadian upbringing, what has driven them to succeed and what their ambitions are for the future. All of them talked about the close bond they share, one that’s helped them to deal with the pressures of being the first family of the Canadian hardwood.
“We don’t only talk about basketball,” said Andrew, reclining in a room just down the corridor from the fabled court at Allen Fieldhouse, a few days before joining his brothers and three sisters — Taya, Angelica and Stephanie — back home for a brief Christmas break.
“We talk about basketball sometimes,” Andrew explained, “but mostly we talk about our lives, me and Nick here in Kansas, Mitchell’s in Florida. We talk about life, if you go out, how’s the social life. We’re all good at talking, making each other feel comfortable.”
…Mitchell and Andrew are the most alike in terms of personality. Both inherited the low-key, reserved nature of their mother. That’s part of the reason why Andrew eschewed a glitzy, made-for-TV announcement when he committed to Kansas for a modest news conference.
Only a couple of reporters were even allowed in the room that day.
“He didn’t tell nobody, not even me,” Nick said, standing in the hallway near the Shockers’ locker room at Koch Arena. “He’s really laid back, you know?”
As for Nick, well, that’s another story.
“Nick was always the more social one,” Andrew said, “always the more outgoing one. He had that kind of personality where if he walked into the room, everyone knew who he was. He kind of took after my dad, a personality like that.”
The three brothers insist that it’s easy to keep in touch, even as their lives have picked up speed. They snap off text messages after games, or message each other via social media, and rarely does a day go by that one doesn’t hear from another.
Mom and dad may have the toughest job trying to keep track of everyone.
There’s so much interest in Andrew’s budding career that every game Kansas plays this season is being aired on TSN. It’s the first time that’s happened, and so far he hasn’t disappointed. He’s averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds for a team loaded with NBA talent that has started 8-3 during a brutal non-conference schedule.
Wichita State also has become a regular on the ESPN family of channels, thanks mostly to its Final Four run and lofty national ranking. Nick is averaging a career-best 5.1 points while helping the Shockers (12-0) to one of the best starts in school history.
Mitchell Jr. averaged 15 points for the Fire last season. He’s nearly recovered from his injury and will be joining a Southeastern team that’s 10-2 and has national title aspirations.
Their parents have planned several trips for the new year, hoping to catch as many games as they can in person. It’s quite a juggling act, to be sure, but one they happily accept.
“The boys, they believe in each other. They believe in their ability. We just try to support and encourage whenever they get down,” Mitchell Sr. said. “Everybody here in the country knows our story. It gives so many other kids back here, where they’re from, the area, and also the country, hope they could get it done.”
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KUAD: Once A Jayhawk, Always a Jayhawk - Bill Hougland
Big 12/College News
Oklahoma State isn't invincible. The Cowboys face Texas on Wednesday. Are the Cowboys still your pick to win the Big 12?
Katz: No. Losing Michael Cobbins changes the dynamic for the Cowboys. Kansas is young and inexperienced in key spots, but the Jayhawks are still the team of record in the Big 12. If I have to pick a non-Kansas team right now, it's Iowa State. The Cyclones have the rugged, veteran, salty players in the key spots. Let's see how ISU handles the road in the Big 12, but the Cyclones appear to be the possible team to beat outside of the annual champ Kansas.
Brennan: I'd have to check the archives (shudder), but I'm pretty sure I picked Kansas to win the Big 12 -- after nine straight Big 12 titles, someone has to beat the Jayhawks before I think twice in October. Still, this season is clearly the most obvious chance for the league to end Bill Self's reign of terror and Oklahoma State and Iowa State are Nos. 1 and 1A in that discussion.
Brown: The Cowboys are still my pick because Marcus Smart and Markel Brown are still the best backcourt duo in the league. But it's by a precariously narrow margin because of the way that Iowa State is playing and the potential of Baylor, Kansas and Kansas State to put it all together.
ESPN Daily Word
Add Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour to the list of those taking advantage of a rigged labor market.
A database of contracts between college athletic departments and apparel makers Nike (NKE), Adidas, and Under Armour recently made available by the Portland Business Journal is a great resource for anyone interested in the inner workings of big-time college sports. Nike owns exclusive rights at 12 of the top 20 programs (ranked by size of the equipment allowance), followed by Adidas with seven, and Under Armour (UA) with one: Auburn University, which should provide a good return when 25 million-plus people tune into the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night.
PBJ estimates the three companies combined spend more than $250 million a year. The University of Kansas has the most lucrative agreement, at $4.6 million in equipment and apparel and $1.5 million in cash annually from Adidas.
Three players for UTEP's men's basketball team bet on at least one sporting event, a university official said Tuesday, and they are no longer enrolled at the school.
It doesn't appear that the players bet on UTEP games or participated in point-shaving to influence the outcome for bettors, said Richard Adauto, the university's executive vice president. He said university officials did not suspect anyone else on the team of gambling.
''We think we have cleaned up what we found and heard,'' Adauto said.
The three players are McKenzie Moore, Justin Crosgile and Jalen Ragland. Adauto said they are no longer enrolled at the school.
Big XII composite schedule (includes results, highlights, stats)
ESPN College GameDay Schedule
2013-14 TV Schedule
Somewhere in the Chicago area, sometime soon, a backboard is coming down.
It won't be the first one Cliff Alexander breaks.
The specimen of humanity who plays center for Curie dunks with more power and frequency than any high school player I've seen.
What he does isn't just unusual for a high school player.
He has the space to dunk as often as he does because his quickness, both vertically and laterally, and nose for the ball are as special as his brute physicality.
He's become so good, he's almost worthy of the Illini-fan recruiting silliness. Almost.
In the first few weeks of the season, several people asked me if the stats being reported from Curie games were true. I admit there were times I had my doubts.
After witnessing his 37-point, 26-rebound, 5-block virtuoso in Curie's 74-73 overtime victory over West Aurora in the Pontiac semifinals, I will not doubt a single Alexander statistic again.
Five blocks actually seemed light, perhaps because he swatted a couple of them all the way to Streator.
The last two points and two rebounds won Curie the game. Alexander rebounded a missed free throw, threw a quick outlet and kept pace with the streaking guard all the way down the court to dunk home his miss just before the overtime buzzer.
It was a true "wow" moment, one that, in my mind anyway, removed any doubt about Alexander's ability to ultimately become an NBA star.
In terms of the big picture, if Alexander were to fail to win Mr. Basketball it would hardly be a big deal as far as we are concerned. After all, some of the best players in the history of Illinois high school basketball failed to win the award, the most recent example being Anthony Davis in 2011. Does anyone think that he is the least bit upset about it?
What is far more consequential at this time is that over the course of the past month Alexander has been playing as if he is on a mission. And make no mistake about it--he is. The mission is quite simple, as Alexander himself laid out to everyone at his Twitter account: 1) win the City championship 2) win the State championship 3) win the Player Of The Year Award.
At the present time, Alexander has done everything within his power to achieve all three of those goals and it is quite realistic to think that all of them are well within reach. Team-wise, Curie is currently 10-0 and ranked either #1 or #2 in the Chicago area depending on what poll you put stock in. They defeated defending state champion Simeon in the championship game of the prestigious Pontiac Holiday Tournament and have also beaten St. Rita and national powerhouse Bishop Gorman from Las Vegas.
Individually speaking, Alexander's dominance started with him totally outplaying Bishop Gorman's pair of heralded big men from the 2015 class--7'0 Stephen Zimmerman and 6'10 Chase Jeter. But Alexander was even better at Pontiac--with his signature performance being one for the ages--37 points and 22 rebounds along with the game-winning dunk at the buzzer in a semifinal win over West Aurora. Alexander ended up winning the tournament's A.C. Williamson Award in the process.
While some fans at Pontiac questioned whether Alexander would win the award given his past character flaws the truth is that the only way he was going to lose it was if he ended up doing something crazy, which he didn't. Not only that, but he earned it with his outstanding performance.
And here's the thing--this is not an aberration. In fact, Alexander has posted similar numbers in virtually every game in-between.
Congrats to Kansas commits Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre
McD game nominees announced (Complete list)
Even after national basketball powerhouse Findlay Prep had Phoenix Pinnacle in a 30-point hole midway through the final quarter, most of the standing-room only crowd at Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep remained Friday night.
That is how riveted it was with the display of alley-oop dunks, put-back dunks, fast-break dunks and a total domination of the lane by the Henderson, Nev., team of high school all-stars.
Kelly Oubre, Findlay’s top scorer at 22 points a game, kept getting loose inside, either scoring or getting fouled. He finished with 23 points.
Leading the charge for the Pilots Saturday was Kansas commit Kelly Oubre. The senior guard/forward tallied 16 points and six rebounds.
Oubre was 8 of 12 from the field and seemed to be able to create his own shot when he wanted to Saturday.
Findlay Prep vs DeLaSalle (12/28/13)
JaQuan Lyle, a 6-foot-5 senior guard from Huntington Prep in West Virginia, will attend Saturday’s KU-Kansas State game as part of his official recruiting visit to KU. Lyle, who is rated No. 22 nationally, told Rivals.com he has visited UConn, Memphis and West Virginia.
“I don’t know,” he said, asked by Rivals.com if this is his final visit. “If I get to Kansas and I think it’s the best place, there won’t be any more visits. If it’s something I’m not sold on and I’m not ready to decide, I’ll take my final visit.”
Lyle is good buddies with KU signee Cliff Alexander, 6-9 from Chicago Curie, who is ranked No. 4 nationally. They’ve talked repeatedly about attending the same school.
At the end of Saturday's game, Huntington Prep had earned an 81-46 boys basketball win over Faith Baptist Christian (Ga.) in the Ironton Classic.
But you'd have never known it from the tone of the words of head coach Rob Fulford.
With a team featuring six players ranked in the national top 50 in their respective classes, Fulford knows the potential of his Irish.
And he knows the team is nowhere near reaching it.
…JaQuan Lyle left the game late in the first half after rolling an ankle. The injury is not thought to be serious and Lyle did not play the second half as a precautionary measure.
I caught up with ESPN 100 No. 2 overall Myles Turner (Euless, Texas/Trinity) on Saturday in Houston before his game against ESPN 100 No. 14 Justise Winslow (Houston/St. John’s) at the Fonde Hall of Fame games to get a recruiting update and see how the season was going.
Turner, the top uncommitted/unsigned player in the land, is considering Oklahoma State, Texas, Ohio State, Duke, Kentucky, Arizona and Kansas. The center has officially visited only Ohio State and had to cancel an official visit to Oklahoma State several weeks ago because of weather.
"Oklahoma State will definitely be my next official visit. We are working on a date possibly in early February," Turner said. "I will try to fill in visits between my game schedule.”
The Longhorns have received some valuable time from the state’s top player.
"I’ve been to Texas a few times,” the youth said. “I checked out the Michigan State game."
Turner is averaging nearly a triple double according to high school coach Mark Villiness.
"Myles is averaging around 23 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks with his best stat line to date being 29 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks." Villiness said.
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