As Self prepared to close out his weekly news conference, a reporter pointed out that Kansas has won 23 straight Big 12 openers, dating back to the 1991-92 season. We know, of course, that the Jayhawks have won at least a share of 10 straight Big 12 regular season titles. So perhaps the yearly success in the opener serves as a sort of harbinger for the rest of the conference schedule.
“Thanks,” Self said, dryly.
Yes, even after 10 straight Big 12 championships, Self is not above the simple rules of superstition. The first rule of a streak, of course, is do not talk about the streak.
…So, the first tweak: Self has tried to free up Ellis and Traylor by providing them more opportunities to drive from the perimeter. He has also empowered them to push the ball up in transition, hoping to speed up an offense that has sometimes plodded along with just one healthy point guard in Frank Mason.
…The second tweak is just as subtle: After 13 games, the Jayhawks rank just 288th in the country at forcing turnovers. So in an attempt to create more havoc on defense, Self re-tooled the way the Jayhawks guard ball screens, using more traps and pressure to create turnovers.
…The Jayhawks showcased the faster, more aggressive style in their last two games, and the tweaks led to a season-high 19 points in transition in each game. Now the goal is to translate the re-fashioned style — and the success — into Big 12 play.
Best game -- Kansas at Baylor (-2.5); 9 ET, ESPNU: The Jayhawks are absolutely one of the top six or seven most talented teams in the country, but they also still have some issues to work out in the rotation. However, slowly but surely things are coming into place. Kelly Oubre has taken over full-time at the small forward spot. Frank Mason has become completely comfortable in his role as lead guard. Cliff Alexander is getting more and more minutes. Plus, Perry Ellis is still one of the better players in America. This talented group will go up against the gritty, physical Bears, who are very well disciplined on defense and very tough on the boards. Also, they're 8-0 on the season at home. This game will tell us a lot about both teams. Do the Bears have the talent to keep up? And are the Jayhawks fitting into their roles and becoming better?
ABOUT BAYLOR (11-2, 0-1 Big 12): After starting 11-1, the Bears opened the Big 12 season with a 73-63 loss at No. 16 Oklahoma, a loss that looked even better after the Sooners beat No. 10 Texas 70-49 on Monday. Baylor, which finished 26-12 last season and advanced to the Sweet 16, have re-tooled under coach Scott Drew after losing big men Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin and sharpshooter Brady Heslip. The Bears are winning with an efficient and balanced offense and a defense that ranks 43rd in the country in defensive efficiency. Junior Taurean Prince is averaging 12 points per game and shooting 54 percent from three while coming off the bench. Junior big man Rico Gathers, who is listed at 6 feet 8 and 280 pounds, ranks second in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Senior point guard Kenny Chery should be an intriguing matchup against Kansas’ Frank Mason. Baylor is 2-3 in its last five games against Kansas, defeating the Jayhawks in the 2012 Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City and in the 2013 Big 12 finale in Waco.
Basketball handicappers have listed the Bears as slight 2 point home favorites for Wednesday’s showdown. This says quite a bit about how much oddsmakers respect Baylor as this line would’ve been much different had this been the first game of the season. Tune in for what promises to be a competitive battle that could send the winner on a run through the loaded Big 12 Conferernce.
The Ferrell Center has become a great home-court advantage as Baylor has reeled off 12 straight wins.
But even the most casual fan could guess which team last beat the Bears at home.
With Perry Ellis collecting 14 points and 10 rebounds, Kansas drummed the Bears, 69-52, on Feb. 4, 2014. The Bears finished off last season with four straight Big 12 home wins before winning eight nonconference games at the Ferrell Center this season.
The No. 21 Bears hope to kick start their Big 12 season with a win over the No. 12 Jayhawks at 8 p.m. Wednesday. That’s a lot easier said than done since the Jayhawks have won nine of 11 games on Baylor’s court.
“It would be a big win for us especially at home early in conference,” Baylor forward Royce O’Neale said. “They’ve been champions for numerous years and always have a good team. You’ve got to get early wins to build confidence.”
O’Neale was 10 years old the last time the Jayhawks didn’t win the Big 12 in 2003-04.
The Bears, who average 70.0 points a game and allow 56.1 (KU averages 71.2 and allows 64.5) have hit 86 of 231 threes for 37.2 percent.
“I think everybody shoots them. Even their big center has shot 12 of them,” Self said of Houston native Motley, who has made 3 of 12 threes. “We recruited Al Freeman and he has really gotten into the groove shooting from behind the arc. We know he’s a great shooter,” Self added of the 6-3 freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina who has made 11 of 38 threes and averages 6.5 ppg off the bench.
“They can all shoot. Prince is making threes (21 of 39) and they play him at the 4 (power forward). It obviously puts stress on your defense because they can stretch it.”
KU freshman guard Kelly Oubre Jr. — who averages 7.3 ppg after scoring in double digits three of the past four games — says he’s looking forward to tipping it up in conference action.
“It begins,” Oubre said. “It’s starting to get amped up. These teams are looking to have great teams, also. A lot of people do have doubts about us. That’s what I’ve been looking at,” he added of predictions. “It gives us a little bit of motivation to go hard and work our butts off to be the best team we can be. We need to continue to do what’s been working for us in previous years.”
Noted sophomore Wayne Selden Jr.: “It (conference play) is real different, the intensity, the fans, the away crowds, the home crowds. Everything about it is different. We’re just trying to keep the guys ... don’t let them go in blind. Some of us went in blind last year. Let them know every possession counts.”
Svi Mykhailiuk started driving before a ball screen had been set, so during Monday’s practice, Kansas coach Bill Self screamed out to tell him to hold the ball an extra second before dribbling.
The next time Mykhailiuk caught it, he went even faster than he did before.
“Svi, what do you not understand?” Self said. “You’ve got to listen.”
“Coach,” Mykhailiuk said, “you said I was holding it too long.”
Self immediately realized his message wasn’t getting through clearly to his Ukrainian player. It’s just one example of the learning process for player and coach as Mykhailiuk adjusts to basketball at KU.
“I’ve probably done a poor job coaching him because I think that he probably understands everything. When you get talking fast and that kind of stuff, there still is a little bit of a language barrier,” Self said Monday during his HawkTalk radio show. “So I’ve got to do a much better job with that.”
…“He’s really, really laboring right now,” Self said. “He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well. He’s lost a bit of his confidence and everything. But I still think from a prospect standpoint, he may be as good a prospect as we have.”
This game comes down to two questions for me: 1. How well will KU defensive rebound? 2. How well will KU share the basketball against BU's zone?
Both answers are tricky. KU has been a good defensive rebounding team most of the year, but it wasn't when it faced an elite offensive rebounding team in Kentucky. Add in the fact that KU's two best defensive rebounders in the post (Cliff Alexander and Landen Lucas) remain in a fight for playing time, and this feels like a game where KU could struggle on the defensive glass.
…Ferrell Center typically isn't one of the toughest places to play in the Big 12, and KU fans always seem to make their way in to provide some support.
Even with that, though, I think this is a tough matchup for KU, especially on short rest after a Sunday game and with limited depth in the backcourt behind Mason.
Final verdict: I'll take Baylor, but just barely.
Baylor 64, Kansas 60
What has been the tougher task: the process of establishing a program without a rich tradition into a tournament team and Top 25 program, or the process of keeping the program a perennial contender?
Both of them have their different challenges and both of them are hard to do because if it was easy, then everybody would have great programs that win all the time. We've been very blessed to have some outstanding players who have come to Baylor University, and at the same time they've put the team first and that's why we've been able to have the success, build a program and maintain it and be able to do what we've done.
If Baylor beats Kansas on Wednesday on a buzzer-beating shot, would you consider diving on the floor like Bryce did against Mississippi in the 1998 NCAA tournament?
Bryce was really smart, because he had a 6-6 player coming at him one way and his twin brother, a 6-6 player -- Bill and Bob Jenkins -- were both running head on, so if he didn't dive, he would have been dead by then. I'd be smart enough to let the players all rush on the floor, and jumping on top is always safe. So to answer the question, I'm not having two players running at me, so I'm not diving on the floor.
ESPN Q&A with Scott Drew
Former Baylor center Isaiah Austin thought he lost his dream last summer. He thought it was stolen from him by doctors discovering his Marfan Syndrome.
But, in the midst of that tragic moment, he found another dream instead. Instead of playing in the NBA, he'll be working for the organization.
In the interim, Austin returned to Waco to complete the remaining classes needed for his degree and serve as an assistant coach for his team.
Baylor will honor Austin's contributions to the university and recognize his "Dream Again" movement during the Bears game against Kansas on Wednesday night.
The first 4,000 fans in attendance will receive a shirt emblazoned with Austin's motto and silhouette.
Austin will be honored at halftime alongside his parents.
Oh, sure, the cool kids doubt them. It's hip and rad and all those other pimply hyperboles. When Kansas wins, it wins, same as it ever was. Not news. When the Jayhawks lose, ah, there you go -- it leaves a mark, a hot iron brand in the back of the cortex. Kentucky. Temple. For all the acres upon acres of armor, the focus is on the chinks.
Sorry. Not sold yet. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 10 times, shame on Ken Pomeroy.
No. 12 Kansas opens pursuit of Big 12 conference title No. 11 (in a row) on Wednesday night in Waco, and the narrative creeping into the conversation locally is that the Jayhawks might be as vulnerable as they've ever been under coach Bill Self.
Maybe so. But we're going to double down on 11 anyway.
…1. Expect the unexpected. Over a 10-year span ranging from 2004-05 through '13-14, eight different schools have finished among the league's top four slots -- and that's not counting former conference stalwarts such as Missouri and Texas A&M.
2. Expect the Jayhawks, somehow, some way, no matter the bumps along the road, to wind up with some silverware once the dust finally settles.
"Here's what's impressed me most of all, and I think what separates our league," Barnes continued. "I don't know if it's ever fair if you've got divisions (like the) ACC. That (KU has) won it since we've gone to a round-robin format, that's what's impressed me more than anything.”
Fox Sports Keeler
As the buzzer sounds on a 10-point loss for Bnei Herzliya, guard Josh Selby shakes his opponents' hands, turns around and heads towards the locker room, exasperation written all over his face.
But instead of heading toward the locker room after another November loss, he beelines toward the mob of fans waiting on the court to take selfies with him. He stays 10, 20, 30 minutes — with a huge smile on his face. He makes time for everyone.
Selby talks with adults, jokes with teenagers and crouches down for little kids. He motions off the team official who urges him toward the locker room. He's not leaving until all of his fans get a picture with him.
…During the past two years, Selby has been with eight different teams as he has seen the rapid decline of his stock continue since being the No. 1 rated high-school prospect in the class of 2010 by Rivals.com. He has spent four months in Herzliya, the longest he's been with any team during that time.
For Selby, it's been a rejuvenating few months on his journey back to the NBA. Though the team has struggled early in the season, Selby has done his part to keep the team afloat.
The 6-foot-2 guard is one of the top scorers in the Israeli basketball league, averaging 16.4 points a game to go along with 3.4 assists. Once considered a weakness of his when he was in the NBA, his 44.8% three-point shooting ranks him among the league leaders.
"He's a young, talented guard, who is strong and has great size," Bnei Herzliya coach Muli Katzurin said. "And he gives it his all every game. No days off for him, not even in practice."
…He's stronger around the rim and has turned his shooting into a strength. And the lightning-quick first step that made him a highly-touted prospect is still there.
Selby speaks with the perspective of an aging veteran, a byproduct of his tumultuous past few years. He understands the odds are stacked against him in his quest to get back to the NBA.
"Of course I want to be in the NBA, but right now I'm just focusing on this season and this team," Selby said. I just want to prove to myself that I've still got it. Whatever happens after the season is out of my control."
No chance of a letdown for the Phoenix Suns.
Markieff Morris scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Suns to a 102-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.
…After three leads changes and a tie to start the fourth quarter, the Suns went ahead for good when Markieff Morris kept an offensive rebound alive and tipped it in and Marcus Morris converted a three-point play for an 81-76 lead early in the quarter.
One of the biggest knocks on McLemore’s game coming out of college was that he didn’t have a tight enough handle on the basketball when trying to make plays for his teammates or create offense for himself.
Too many times at Kansas he relied upon others to set him up for shots or easy lay-up or dunk opportunities, which should not have to be the case given his crazy speed and jumping ability. Many scouts said that if he ever got a good handle on the ball that he could turn into a special scorer at the next level.
In his second season, we are beginning to see flashes of just that.
McLemore has decided to be more aggressive with the basketball in his hands and has not backed down from any defensive stance. Whether it has been creating a pull-up shot or driving towards the basket in the half-court or transition, McLemore has looked like a completely different player from his earlier playing days.
His confidence is through the roof right now, something that will only help Sacramento going forward.
The Lakers have until 2 p.m. PST on Wednesday to decide on the contracts of Wayne Ellington, Ronnie Price and Tarik Black.
All NBA players on nonguaranteed contracts become locked in if not placed on waivers by the Wednesday deadline.
Ellington is under contract for $1.1 million, of which $581,692 is guaranteed. Price's contract is $1.3 million, with $658,405 guaranteed.
Black, who was claimed off waivers from the Houston Rockets in late December, is earning a nonguaranteed rookie minimum of $507,336. He's also under contract next season, at a nonguaranteed $845,059.
Rolling Stone: In Defense of Andrew Wiggins’ Beautiful, Barely Begun Career
“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
"Everyone that is a fan of college basketball is tuned into ESPN all day," Iowa State basketball coach Fred Hoiberg said in a statement released by the athletic department. "They are watching the show to see how great of an atmosphere you have, and that's just in the morning leading up to the game.
"I know our fans will probably fill Hilton Coliseum in the morning, and hopefully we'll go out and have a great game Saturday night."
But why Ames?
Because Kansas is that day's 8 p.m. opponent, and this Cyclones-Jayhawks rivalry is becoming appointment viewing for college basketball fans.
Remember the time two refs got publicly reprimanded by the Big 12 Conference for making bad decisions in an Iowa State-Kansas game in Ames?
Remember the buzzer-beaters?
Placing this popular show in Ames for a day was a slam-dunk decision, Iowa State having won last season's Big 12 Conference tournament — defeating the Jayhawks in the semis — and facing a Kansas outfit that has won outright or shared the past 10 regular-season titles.
It's a public relations coup for Iowa State — camera cutaways will highlight Cyclone life away from the athletics side of campus. It's a chance for someone to further promote Iowa State being one of the top land-grant universities in the country.
Des Moines Register
The Sooners went to Austin and dismantled 10th-ranked Texas. Beat the Longhorns 70-49 for their first road win over a top-10 team in 22 years. Lon Kruger’s squad showed that it is capable of a deep March run. Suddenly, you have to rank OU first in the Big 12 rankings — the Sooners have a road win at a fellow conference contender.
A day later, OSU went to Ames and played Iowa State to the wire. Lost 63-61 and had a shot to tie or win in the final possession. It’s a disappointing defeat for a Cowboy program in desperate need of good times, but it’s a great sign that this OSU team will be competitive in the Big 12. Good enough to rally and make the NCAA Tournament? That will require a lot of work. But the Cowboys showed they are at least capable, playing even with the 17th-ranked Cyclones.
College basketball doesn’t really begin around here — or most places — until January, thanks to the sport’s incessant desire to shoot itself in the foot. It goes against football for the first six weeks of the season and plays its marquee games off campus, which is OK for television but kills any enthusiasm for a home crowd to rally around the squads.
That means you have to wait until conference play to really gain momentum, but OU and OSU have done that. The Sooners beat Baylor at Lloyd Noble Center on Saturday, when OSU beat Kansas State in front of a good crowd at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Then came the promising road trips to Austin and Ames.
Right now, OU looks to have at least a shot at ending Kansas’ 10-year reign of terror on winning Big 12 championships.
The Cyclones and Cowboys only seem to play close games in recent years. They teams played two games and four overtimes — both in ISU wins — last season.
In their last eight meetings, the contests have been decided by an average of 4.5 points and have included five overtimes.
The 63-61 final score is about as low-scoring as ISU fans have seen in the Hoiberg era. Instead of a game-winning three-pointer by Scott Christopherson or an overtime-forcing three-pointer by Naz Long, Iowa State relied on defense to win the game this time around.
“The thing that I told those guys in the locker room after the game is we wouldn’t have won this game last year if we shot the ball like this,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “Our defensive effort, putting Jameel out there on Nash made him work a lot harder.”
But even more than defense, the Cyclones needed Dustin Hogue. The senior scored the team’s final seven points and finished with 17, the team high, as well as pulling down eight rebounds.
And, of course, when they needed him most, he delivered with a block that ISU fans and OSU fans won’t forget for a while.
While Hogue flourished against the Cowboys, team leaders Georges Niang and Bryce Dejean-Jones struggled. The Cyclones started the night 0-for-8 from the three-point line before Matt Thomas came off the bench to drain back-to-back threes. Niang and Dejean-Jones, however, shot 5-for-19 from the floor, all but disappearing at times in the last few games and seeing the bench longer than some bench players.
Iowa State Daily
The College Football Playoff will help pay for the parents and guardians of Ohio State and Oregon football players to travel to the national championship game in North Texas on Monday.
The NCAA granted a waiver Tuesday that allows the College Football Playoff to provide a reimbursement of up to $1,250 per parent or guardian that will cover hotel accommodations, travel and meals.
"This will really help because parents really want to go out and see their kids play," said Ohio State safety Von Bell, who is from Rossville, Georgia. "They make a lot of sacrifices and there's a lot of money spent. Traveling from the South, because they come up here for every game, is a lot. The gas and everything. It's really a blessing to hear that."
Ohio State played last week at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans in the first College Football Playoff semifinals. Oregon played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
The NCAA also announced it will provide a similar reimbursement to the families of athletes who compete in the men's and women's basketball Final Fours as part of a pilot program.
The NCAA will pay up to $3,000 total in travel, hotel and meal expenses for family members of student-athletes who compete in the Final Four. The NCAA will pay up to $4,000 for each of the student-athletes who compete in championship games.
In the midst of an 11-2 season, the second straight 11-2 start Mike Anderson's had, Arkansas announced Tuesday morning that it's extended the contract terms with its coach.
This means the new deal runs through March of 2020 for Anderson, who has a 70-41 record with the Razorbacks since becoming coach in March of 2011.
"The two-year extension includes new incentive compensation based on the men's basketball program's graduation success rate," per Arkansas' release, which cites six players being part of "graduation ceremonies" last year.
Anderson has yet to reach the NCAA Tournament with Arkansas.
Arizona freshman Craig Victor, a top-50 recruit coming out of high school, is transferring in search of more playing time.
"We wish Craig and his family well," Wildcats coach Sean Miller said in a statement released Tuesday.
Victor was ranked 37th by ESPN in the Class of 2014. However, the 6-foot-7 New Orleans native -- who played prep school ball at Findlay Prep in Las Vegas -- was able to get on the court in only eight games.
When Ole Miss pushed the University of Kentucky to overtime Tuesday night, it was perhaps the first sign that the road to an undefeated regular-season record wouldn't come so easy for the Wildcats.
It's up to the Southeastern Conference's Mark Whitworth to ensure the league is competitive down the road, too.
In a lengthy piece published before UK's close call Tuesday night, CBS Sports' Gary Parrish pointed out ways in which the SEC is trying to improve its on-court product with the on-football field version so far ahead.
"I wake up every day trying to figure out what we can do to get better," Whitworth told Parrish. "We're working much more closely with our coaches now. Everybody is really engaged."
And, according to the article, it's not as if SEC athletic departments don't care about college basketball. Nine schools are ranked in the top 40 of Division I men's basketball budgets, led by UK at No. 4.
But the listing also includes schools known more for their football — Auburn (No. 17), South Carolina (No. 34) and Alabama (No. 39). This, while coaches such as Bruce Pearl and Frank Martin are in the league and recruiting seems to have turned the corner for programs other than UK. Just last week, LSU's commitment from Antonio Blakeney gave the SEC more top 20 recruits than any other conference, Parrish pointed out.
Cameron Indoor turns 75
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Carlton Bragg, a 6-9 senior forward who is ranked No. 14 nationally by Rivals.com, will choose either KU, Kentucky or Illinois at a 1:45 p.m., Central time, news conference Thursday at Villa Angela St. Joseph High in Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated Bragg had initially planned to announce his choice on his school’s Senior Day in late February, but apparently has settled on a school and wants to be focused the rest of his final high school campaign.
“I don’t think Carlton Bragg picks UK,” writes Matt Jones of kentuckysportsradio.com. “He has moved his decision up earlier in the process than a lot of people expected and with the timing, I just don’t think Kentucky is going to be the selection. UK has a lot of big men irons in the fire (Caleb Swanigan, Stephen Zimmerman still deciding and 6-11 Skal Labissiere has committed), along with the uncertainty of who will return from this team ... after talking with some folks, I just don’t think the timing works for Bragg right now. I suspect he picks Kansas or Illinois.”
1/6/15, 5:35 PM
'Arizona is a great option for Ivan,' Ivan Rabb's mom tells @SNYtv after visit. Tentative visit set for UCLA 1/31 & setting up Kansas.
Zimmerman has narrowed his list to five schools — UK, Arizona, Kansas, UCLA and UNLV — and has already taken official visits to all of those campuses. He is not expected to make a college decision until after his senior season and could wait to see which players from the teams on his list decide to enter the NBA Draft.
Bishop Gorman's coaches did not want Zimmerman fielding recruiting questions following Saturday's loss, but it's unlikely he would have said anything to tip his hand even if he is leaning in a certain direction.
Meyer is predicting that Zimmerman will commit to UCLA but told the Herald-Leader that he would rank UK as the next likely landing spot.
The player himself hasn't really given any hints about his college destination, and all five of the programs left on his list seem like legitimate options to land his commitment.
"Zimmerman is a very difficult read," Meyer said. "I wouldn't rule anyone out."
Jaylen Brown knew there was an important visitor watching from the bleachers on Saturday night: John Calipari, coach of the nation's top-ranked college basketball team, was there to see what the No. 2 player in the Class of 2015 has to offer.
The senior small forward knocked down 25 points as he led Wheeler (Marietta, Ga.) to an 83-35 win. The most impressive, by far, was this dunk.
Here's another angle:
He also helped a few teammates show off their skills, setting them up with perfect assists.
Brown visited Kentucky in October but has yet to announce where he'll play next year. He's also visited UCLA and Kansas.
Yahoo Sports (vid clips at the link)
Through 11 games, Morgan Park senior guard Marcus LoVett is averaging all-state-type numbers: 24 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 3 steals per game.
His coach, Nick Irvin, thinks he can do even better.
"I expected more assists and rebounds," Irvin, whose team has won the last two IHSA Class 3A state titles, said matter of factly. "I expect him to average a triple-double by the end of the year, but he's getting there."
…LoVett, a 6-foot-1 left-handed sharpshooter, hasn't made his college decision. He has offers from several schools, including St. John’s, Kansas, Illinois, DePaul, UC-Irvine and Tennessee. LoVett has made an unofficial visit to DePaul and has yet to plan any official visits.
LoVett said he's already built a "good relationship" with Illini head coach John Groce.
"I'm still getting to know him, but I feel we're building [the relationship], and he keeps in contact with me every week," LoVett said of Groce. "We're going in the right direction, and we need to keep bonding with each other."
LoVett also noted he can see himself "going to DePaul as well."
"It's a Chicago thing," LoVett said. "Honestly, I love this city already — that has a lot to do with it."
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