KUAD Recap, Box Score, Photos, Notes, Quotes
KC Star Photos
Audio: Radio highlights
Bill Self still remembers the day Devonte Graham stepped foot on the Kansas campus, back when the point guard was trying to decide where he was going to play college basketball.
“I told him when he visited, ‘You’re going to own this place if you just come in and try hard,’ ” Self recalled with a smile. “His attitude is just a 10 and I think it’s rubbed off on others.”
His game has turned into a 10, too.
…With his infectious aura and devil-may-care attitude, Graham began to take over for the Jayhawks in the second half. He hit a 3-pointer immediately out of the locker room, then curled in two more in quick succession to give KU a 51-39 lead with just under 15 minutes to go.
West Virginia’s vaunted press, so effective early in the game, had been reduced to shreds.
Attrition and foul trouble also began to play a role. Williams appeared gassed in the closing minutes, and Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. had to play with four fouls apiece down the stretch.
The remarkable depth of the Jayhawks became apparent as Self kept sending wave after wave of long, talented players onto the floor. No matter what combination he used, KU never seemed to get too far out of rhythm, holding the Mountaineers at bay in the closing minutes.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Jayhawks celebrated in a businesslike manner — as if they had known all along the outcome was inevitable. They shook hands with West Virginia, gathered together in front of the bench and patiently awaited their coronation as the league’s best one more time.
On Saturday night, Kansas coach Bill Self stood outside the security perimeter during his team’s celebration of its Big 12 tournament title as Devonte' Graham held his MVP trophy on the stage nearby.
Self smirked at the sight of Graham, chased by only a handful of mid-majors during the initial phase of his recruitment in high school, accepting an award after recording 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals in an 81-71 victory over West Virginia in the Big 12 title game -- a performance that suggests the sophomore could push the Jayhawks to a national title, too.
“He’s gonna be great,” Self said. “How about that? Towson and Appalachian State.”
…Graham did not ask for that distinction this weekend in Kansas City, nor did he in earlier trips to Austin, Waco and Norman. He grabbed it. With every slick dish and disruptive steal, Graham told his teammates to follow him.
“He’s just in a different dimension,” Self said. “He’s playing with such a high confidence level.”
…Graham is not the only leader on Kansas. Mason III's grit carries this team some nights. Wayne Selden's offensive efforts -- he scored 21 points -- guide the Jayhawks, too. The steady play of Perry Ellis (17 points, five rebounds) keeps the Jayhawks calm, even in uncertain moments.
But Graham? He leads with his bounce. He leads with his hustle. He leads with the defensive attentiveness of a soaring falcon tracking a rabbit on the ground. He leads with the speed of a Black Friday crowd spilling into a department store once the doors open.
“His energy he brings each and every day,” Ellis said. "It really gets us going, defensively and offensively. It helps a lot because he’s definitely our most energetic guy. He really bought into that role, which really helps us as a team.”
…“It’s definitely been a process,” Graham said about his leadership role. “I’ve kind of grown into it. Trying to be more vocal. Doing all the little things on the court, just hustle plays, bringing the energy. I think that kind of helps me and guys follow.”
When Graham climbed the ladder to snip his piece of the net after the victory on Saturday, one Kansas fan squealed, “We love you!”
It was a hero’s reception for a young man few schools wanted.
As the games got bigger, so did the clocks. Kansas, a team whose veteran core is as stone-faced as it is talented— in order of most to least expressionless, that core is senior power forward Perry Ellis, and junior guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden Jr.—acquired a spirit animal en route to winning the Big 12 tournament.
He is Selden’s uncle, Anthony Pitts Jr. of Boston, and his gameday routine is to find a Family Dollar or similar discount retailer, purchase a clock, customize its face with a photo of Selden, and wear it on a chain around his neck, in the 1980s style of Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav.
…Pitts was feeling bullish enough on Saturday to more than triple his clock budget ($20 at a Kansas City Family Dollar, for grey plastic and chrome!), increase its size to the extent that it covered his entire torso, and paste a newspaper-clipped photo of his nephew’s Baylor dunk over the face. ESPN cameras cut to him numerous times during the Jayhawks’ 81–71, title-game win over the Mountaineers, and afterwards, Pitts was a selfie magnet. His new Twitter feed, @TheUncleAnthony, was less than 24 hours old and had tweeted just six times, but it already had more than 1,600 followers. Kansas is riding such a wave right now that even its peripheral-viral fans can become a big deal.
Self considers this version of the Jayhawks one of his best title shots. In a perfect world, he said in an interview with SI last week, he’d have slightly more talent in the mix—they don’t have any sure-fire NBA lottery picks in their core rotation—and better rebounding, as they rank 92nd in offensive-board percentage and 127th in defensive-board percentage. But the big-picture analytics show that Self is right in being optimistic. Compare his 2016 team against the 12 previous ones and it comes in third in overall efficiency, as just one of three KU teams to enter an NCAA tournament ranked in the top 10 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency: (See link for charts/data)
…It’s possible that Kansas won’t have to rely exclusively on Uncle Anthony as its spirit animal. The Jayhawks are in the process of grooming one from within their own roster, because they do have a guard capable of leading with boundless emotion: Graham, the guy who skipped down the court on Saturday night after hitting a big three with 15:27 to go in the second half against West Virginia, which put Kansas up nine—and the same guy who did a low-armed, airplane-style glide, 38 seconds later, after another three that put KU up 12. Graham was a game-changer. He made shots when the Jayhawks’ offense was otherwise stale in the first half; he (often singlehandedly) broke the Mountaineers’ intense press with his unflappable ballhandling; he altered the momentum in the second half. On a night where his co-point guard, Mason, was slowed by a bruised left foot and scored just four points, Graham more than delivered.
…Self believes that maintaining a certain degree of looseness around this team is a key to it avoiding an early-round knockout in the NCAAs, and Graham is the Jayhawk who truly exudes looseness. He bounded around the court against West Virginia with a smile on his face and a shrub of spiky braids atop his head, and in the postgame celebration, he took a bucket of confetti, pretending it was water, and dumped it out over Self’s head. Graham was also named the Big 12 tournament’s MVP, which gave him the right to make the final scissor-snip of the net at the Sprint Center, and wear it around his neck—and the credibility to make a convincing argument of why Kansas can win it all.
For the team, one of the biggest things to come out of those meetings was an emergence of leadership, something Graham said the team lacked previously.
"We needed a leader," Graham said. "We didn't have that leader earlier in the season."
Asked who the new leader was, Graham failed to come up with a single name.
Instead, he came up with eight.
"You can't have just one guy that leads. Everyone does in their own way," Graham said. "Frank, me, Wayne, Perry, Jamari and even Carlton. Ty and Evan — they lead from the bench as well."
With the new leadership, Graham said his teammates began to hold each other accountable. He said guys started to coming to practice prepared and would call others out when they weren't ready to go, something that wasn't the case early on.
And the results were clear.
In the next game, the team's big four all scored in double-figures. It seemed like Kansas might have regressed, falling to Iowa State a few days later, but Lucas wrote that game off, saying Kansas really controlled it, letting it slip away at the end.
The evidence seems to support that assertion.
One game after that, Selden carried the team to a win over Kentucky. Then Ellis started to pick up the slack, with three-straight games scoring 19-or-more points.
One game later, Graham scored 27 in a win over Oklahoma. Then Lucas led the team to victory over Oklahoma State. Mason was next, helping the team overcome some injury and foul problems against the Wildcats in Manhattan.
It seemed like each night a different player stepped up, even if sometimes it was just for spurts, like in each of Kansas' first two games at the Big 12 Tournament, where freshman forward Carlton Bragg Jr. posted double-digits in scoring.
Afterward, just before he orchestrated a team dance on the platform, Graham was named most valuable player of the tournament.
That’s a distinction befitting the single player most responsible for KU coming to life from its mid-season doldrums.
By sheer force of personality.
Unlike silent senior Perry Ellis and junior Wayne Selden, whose big celebration after a momentous dunk on Friday had been to keep a straight face, unlike steely junior Frank Mason and mannerly junior forward Landen Lucas, Graham had it in him to be the animated energizer but was holding back because he didn’t want to overstep with his elders.
“ ‘You’ve just got to get outside that comfort zone,’ ” Self told him.
For one reason more than anything else:
“ ‘Your personality needs to be the personality of our team,’ ” Self recalled saying as he stood on the court just after Graham dumped a bucket of confetti on him. “And I think he’s kind of let it go since then.”
And it’s been contagious, so much so that as Graham dribbled out the clock near game’s end on Saturday, even Mason had loosened up and come over to pretend to guard him.
“He gets guys going, you know?” Mason said. “He’s always smiling and having fun, and we feed off that. A lot of guys don’t really have much personality on the team.”
Hopefully, Mason just meant that in the sense of on the court.
But that’s where Graham has become the most profound difference in this team from last year’s KU squad that was knocked out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
Graham’s exuberance and energy were crucial on Saturday, when virtually every KU starter appeared fatigued either physically or emotionally.
KC Star Gregorian
Four rows back of the Kansas bench, Dewanna King stands in anticipation, her hands curled around a No. 4 Devonte' Graham jersey from the World University Games this summer, that spent most of the night on her torso.
She waits for the official confirmation. Then, finally, it comes. Named to the All-Tournament Team:
That's all she needs to hear.
Before the PA announcer can say Graham, King hoists up the jersey and begins to jump up and down, screaming with excitement for her son’s latest athletic accomplishment.
“I was thinking we have to win this thing. I wasn’t thinking MVP. I wasn’t thinking anything like that,” King said.
But as it turned out, the two were related. No. 1 Kansas needed an MVP-level performance from Graham to top No. 9 West Virginia 81-71 on Saturday, clinching a win in the Big 12 Tournament final.
Graham led the Jayhawks with 27-points on 6-of-10 shooting, knocking 5-of-6 from beyond the arc.
…But what made Saturday’s game even more meaningful, was the two fans a couple rows behind the bench sporting No. 4 jerseys: Graham’s mother and grandmother.
“It was special. You can’t put it into words,” Graham said. “It’s a good feeling when they get to come out here because we don’t get to go home much. Them being out here for this tournament, it’s just been fun seeing them at games.”
However, the game may have meant more to his mother who has watched her son over the course of his basketball career. She has seen the growth in a player that was once committed to Appalachian State, to being the leader of a blue blood program.
“It means the world. He struggled to get here, the whole App State story,” King said. “And now he’s on a big stage, and he’s performing big time.”
Guard Frank Mason was dealing with a pair of injuries during Kansas’ 81-71 Big 12 Tournament championship victory over West Virginia on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.
For one, the junior was favoring his right hip in a physical game.
“It’s pretty sore right now. I fell on it a couple times,” Mason said. “At one point in time in the game, I wanted to tell Coach to take me out, because it was hurting, but the moment was too big at the time. I had to kind of tough it out and stay in there.”
West Virginia’s press defense continued to create chaos, as Kansas coughed up several turnovers. Often times, just breaking the press wasn’t enough; the Jayhawks were rushed in their half court offense.
"It is a dangerous group. You know, the way they press, it's really unconventional, but it works for them," junior guard Wayne Selden Jr. said. "And they could be really dangerous in the tournament."
One example of this was with less than 11 minutes to go in the first half. Senior forward Perry Ellis spun out of control and knocked a West Virginia defender to the ground. Rather than call a block or a charge, the referee called Ellis for a travel. Ellis looked around and disbelief, and began shaking his head.
Kansas coach Bill Self did not take his animated response lightly, barking at him to “quit moping around and be a man.”
Ellis answered with an aggressive mindset, taking a jumper from the left side early in the next possession. It was Ellis’ first field goal from the floor, extending the Jayhawks lead to four.
"It probably wasn't the most artistic game since both teams had a lot of turnovers, but both teams competed hard," Self said. "But it was a good game and a game which was tough, and certainly very proud of our team and how they competed and how they played."
…"There's been other years that we've been on rolls. We're the No. 1 overall seed a year and a couple other No. 1s, and I don't know if it exactly equates to guaranteed success," Self said. "But if our guys can keep playing loose and free, but still with a purpose, I would think that that would give us some much better chance to be successful."
The game's hero echoed Self's comments.
"We have to just keep playing the way we're playing. Actually, we have to play better," Graham said.
"We just have to keep the confidence that we have, try to keep this momentum going, keep playing together and keep having fun."
After the net had been cut down, and forward Perry Ellis had made the final cuts, Graham approached Ellis in the locker room after being chosen Big 12 Tournament MVP.
“Yo, P., let me get this one,” Graham said to his teammate.
“Yeah, you can have it,” Ellis said, turning the net over to Graham after keeping the first net from Allen Fieldhouse for himself.
“I appreciate him for that,” Graham said with a smile, wearing the net around his neck during postgame interviews.
Of course, the team that is 30-4 and accomplished all it has set out to do has its greatest obstacle coming up.
The Jayhawks, who almost certainly will be the No. 1 overall seed when the brackets are released Sunday, haven’t advanced past the NCAA Tournament’s first weekend in two years. They also haven’t made it past the Sweet 16 since 2012.
“You come here to make Final Four runs, to make deep runs in the tournament, to win national championships,” KU forward Landen Lucas said. “The Big 12 is awesome, and it’s something that I love being a part of. But it’s that next level that you come here to these prestige schools like a Kansas to do.”
KU’s players, winners of 14 straight, sense something different about this year’s team. That includes Lucas, who was one of the most distraught Jayhawks in the locker room following last season’s 78-65 season-ending defeat to Wichita State.
Lucas believes goals were different a year ago. The team would set some, but if it didn’t follow through, it wasn’t a world-ender. The team simply tried to move on.
“We’re not doing that any more,” Lucas said. “We’re getting each one, and we’ve got one more left.”
Self’s message was similar in the team’s postgame meeting.
He told his players he was proud of them, especially with the way they had come out and fought.
Of course, it’s what’s ahead that will forever define how the 2015-16 Jayhawks are remembered.
“We did what we wanted,” Traylor said, “and now, the real fun’s going to start.”
Devonte’ Graham couldn’t stop smiling.
Not as the Kansas basketball guard skipped, hopped and jumped back on defense after draining his fourth of five 3-pointers in Saturday night’s Big 12 Tournament championship game against West Virginia at Sprint Center.
Not as he was named the tournament’s most outstanding player in the aftermath of the top-seeded Jayhawks’ 81-71 victory, a game in which he tied a career high with 27 points.
And not as he stood motionless on the platform at center court, being covered in streamers by teammate Wayne Selden moments before Graham would lead his teammates in a “Hit Them Folks” dance.
Graham had his coming-out party four weeks ago in Norman, Okla., but this tournament? This tournament where the sophomore averaged 17.3 points, 6.3 assists and 3.7 steals? This was so much more.
…“I think Devonte’ has always had confidence and knew he was good,” Self said, “but I think that (Oklahoma game) gave him confidence that he was a bad boy and he could play with anybody.”
Devonte’ Graham, Kansas
The sophomore guard was the Jayhawks’ go-to player in the title-game victory over West Virginia. He finished with 27 points, matching his season high. He finished with a career-best four steals. In the first two victories, over Kansas State and Baylor, Graham had 16 assists. Graham was voted the tournament’s most outstanding player and averaged 17.3 points for the event.
Perry Ellis, Kansas
Saturday marked the only day Ellis wasn’t the Jayhawks’ scoring leader. He still had a solid game with 17 points and five boards after scoring 21 against Kansas State and 20 against Baylor. It’s the second time Ellis has made the Big 12 All-Tournament team. He also made it as a freshman in 2013, the last time KU won the Big 12 Tournament.
Devin Williams, West Virginia
Williams saved his best game for the championship, powering to 31 points and 10 rebounds. The point total was a career best and it marked his 15th double-double of the season, the most of any Big 12 player.
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
What if that last-season shot against West Virginia had counted? Hield might have been the tournament’s MVP no matter what happened on Saturday. His 39 points against Iowa State was his second-most productive game this season and second-highest total for a Big 12 Tournament game.
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Niang played only one game but it was terrific. He scored 31 in the quarterfinal loss to Oklahoma. In the process he became the second-leading career scorer in Big 12 Tournament history. It marked the third time that Niang was chosen to the All-Tournament team.
“Everybody doesn’t have to play great for us to play great, if that makes any sense,’’ said junior guard Wayne Selden, who added 21 points. “The pieces fit so well. The group of guys we’ve got around us, we’re happy for each other and we just want to see each other do good. We have one common goal.’’
And, one common theme: Let the pleasure exceed the pressure.
KU coach Bill Self repeated that message enough that players steadily sprinkled it into interviews during the three-game salvo in KC.
Rate the catchphrase however you want — from prescient to corny — but the statement does apply to Kansas and its storied program.
Several hundred fans seated behind the basket chanted, “MVP, MVP,” at Kansas University sophomore guard Devonté Graham as he stepped to the free-throw line with 1:33 left in the Jayhawks’ 81-71 Big 12 Championship victory over West Virginia on Saturday in Sprint Center.
“That’s crazy. It’s a good feeling,” Graham said after the people’s choice indeed was named tourney most valuable player after scoring a career-high-tying 27 points with four steals, five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers against the Mountaineers’ pesky full-court press.
“I don’t really think about things like that (during the game). I just try to play hard, play my heart out,” added Graham, who hit five threes in six tries and went 10-of-10 from the foul line.
…One person in the stands wearing Graham’s World University Games jersey No. 4 wasn’t surprised Devonté took the lead in the confetti dumping prank.
That would be Graham’s mom, Dewanna King, who attended along with Devonté’s sister, Shamaria, and his grandmother, Doris.
“I saw him do that. We’ve got it on film. He’s silly. He’s the class clown,” Dewanna said, smiling.
“I would say I’m one of the biggest kids on the team even though I’m 21 now. Me and Jamari (Traylor, one point, one rebound, three turnovers, 12 minutes) are two of the biggest clowns. I enjoy doing stuff like that,” Graham said.
…“Devin had a great game, congratulations to him,” Graham said. “Lando (Landen Lucas, six points, seven boards) was down in the first half (after Williams’ 18-point effort). We kept trying to talk to him, tell him he’s one of the biggest pieces on our team. We need him. He got a big and-one and hit some big free throws for us (two of two),” Graham added.
Also, Graham said he was “proud of Frank (Mason III, who had four points, seven assists playing 38 minutes on a sore left foot; he suffered a bad bruise in Friday’s semifinal win over Baylor). This time of year nobody is 100 percent healthy. You will have to fight through injuries and put your heart out for the team like he did.”
Graham was joined on the all-tourney team by KU’s Perry Ellis (17 points, five boards), West Virginia’s Williams, Iowa State’s Georges Niang and Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield.
“It’s special. I’m grateful for it. There are so many good players in the conference. For me to win it is a big deal. I will remember it forever,” Graham said.
From there, though? Everything is on the table, including trips to Chicago or Louisville, Ky., for the Sweet 16.
“I think if Michigan State is a one, they could take us out (of Chicago), and I don’t know which is closer to us, Louisville or Chicago,” Self said. “Who knows where we’ll go? But I’m really confident that we’ll be a one seed, though.”
…KU sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham, who scored a career-high 27 points in the Jayhawks’ victory over the Mountaineers, said his team’s winning streak is essentially meaningless come March Madness.
“It’s a nice little run,” Graham said. “We’re going in the right direction. We just gotta keep it going. Now it’s win or go home.”'
For what it's worth, Louisville (545 miles) is 3.4 miles closer to Lawrence than Chicago (548.4), according to Google Maps.
MASON DINGED — Frank Mason was perhaps the Jayhawks’ most high-profile casualty of the Big 12 Tournament, though the guard did play Saturday against the Mountaineers, going 2 for 8 with four points and seven assists.
Mason, who had an X-ray on his foot after the Jayhawks’ semifinal victory against Baylor on Friday, was a game-time decision.
“I wasn’t feeling well and I got treatment on it,” Mason said. “I took some meds and the X-ray didn’t look bad; it was only a bruise. I gave it a chance in warmups and I was feeling pretty decent.”
Mason, who played 38 minutes against West Virginia, admitted his foot is “definitely pretty sore right now,” but is hopeful it won’t be an issue when his team begins its NCAA Tournament run.
“I’m going to have to keep getting some treatment this week,” Mason said.
Bench players Tyler Self and Evan Manning weren’t interviewed often in the team’s locker room following the championship victory, but they made sure their voices were heard when it came to one very important piece of carpet.
Self and Manning protected a mangy, white, rectangular rug like hawks, policing media members who unknowingly walked across it.
The rug, which has a slightly-off Jayhawk logo in the center and a blue border around, has special meaning to the team, Tyler Self explained. Before the team’s home locker room was renovated, it had a larger Jayhawk logo in the middle that players would avoid stepping on. On road games, the players brought the rug along as a bit of a taste of home.
“They made the locker room theirs, and nobody would step on it,” Self said. “So it just has carried on with us.”
Self called the policy a tradition, and clarified the matter for any media members who might’ve been upset.
“It’s not just (a policy) for media,” Self said. “It’s for anybody.”
With the Sprint Center only 42 miles east of Allen Fieldhouse, KU fans made up a large majority of the crowd.
“They went an hour away from home, so, you know, it was a homecoming for them more than it was for us,” West Virginia forward Devin Williams said. “But that ain’t have nothing to do with the loss.”
…In the final matchup between the Jayhawks and Mountaineers, KU came in the consensus No. 1 team in the country, and, as winners of 13 straight, the hottest.
Huggins said that the biggest difference for KU is the improved play of Landen Lucas. He said the junior forward’s inside presence and ability to stay within himself has added a much needed defensive threat down low.
“He just does what he's really good at doing,” Huggins said, “which I think fits in very good with what they do. And he gives them an inside presence.”
This Kansas team can finish.
The top-ranked Jayhawks, who once stood 5-3 in Big 12 play as people penned eulogies about their streak of regular-season conference titles, won their 14th straight game Saturday and their 10th Big 12 tournament title in the 20-year history of the event. For the second straight night, Kansas went into the locker room trailing at halftime and came out with a performance that blew away the opposition.
Kansas made 7 of 10 shots and outscored WVU by 13 points in the first 5:11 of the second half and again cut down the nets at the Sprint Center with an 81-71 victory against the 10th-ranked Mountaineers.
…“We did a bad job letting them get open shots and letting them get in a rhythm,” Carter said. “It’s as simple as that. We gave them too many open looks, and they were knocking them down.”
…Kansas is 10-2 in the Big 12 title game and won for the first time since 2013. The Mountaineers stayed on the court to watch the Jayhawks celebrate with a crowd that was heavily in favor of the champions.
“Seeing all that blue, man, it made me sick,” Williams said. “Sick.”
CBS Dodd: Expectations are going to be even higher for No. 1 Kansas
First, the Kansas University basketball team conquered the world in South Korea. Next came the island of Maui. The grueling Big 12 regular season, a marathon in which the Jayhawks fell behind for a blink, proved a particularly gratifying championship.
Saturday, Kansas claimed the Big 12 Tournament title in Sprint Center, with an 81-71 victory against relentlessly physical West Virginia.
Four championships down, by far the biggest to go. So far, whatever it has taken, Kansas has known how to deliver in the clutch. When a team has rotating stars as does this one, that generally indicates nobody cares who deserves the credit and that’s the way Kansas has played to win its four titles.
Wayne Selden Jr. earned World University Games MVP honors in July, and Frank Mason III stood out, as well. Selden and Mason shared the honors in the Maui Invitational in November. Perry Ellis was the lone Jayhawk to earn All-Big 12 first-team recognition for his exceptional regular season. So naturally, it was Devonté Grahams’ turn to take home the hardware in Kansas City, Mo.
…“Distractions are a major key,” Mason said. “They can hurt teams. That’s the main thing we preach about in meetings. We don’t want any distractions. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. Everyone’s focused on the big picture and that’s winning.”
Said Lucas: If you would’ve told us that we’d be Big 12 champs, Big 12 tournament champs, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and on a 14-game winning streak heading into it, we would’ve taken that in a second.
Now, he added, it’s just about handling business.
The 30-4 Jayhawks have handled a lot of business during the second half of their season and did so on Saturday night. It’s not like Saturday’s game was easy, by the way. Far from it. West Virginia missed shots but still stayed within striking distance for most of the game. Every time the Mountaineers tried to threaten, KU got a big play from one of its many playmakers. Often that was Devonte’ Graham, who played out of his mind, but Wayne Selden and Lucas both made their share of big plays, as well.
There are plenty of people out there who will say that taking such a long winning streak into the Big Dance is a dangerous thing. But I don’t think that’s the case with this KU team. This group has gained confidence by the day, swagger by the second and really seems to believe it can still play better.
Self has said it, Lucas said it again Saturday night and it’s clear everyone on this team believes it.
Can you imagine if they actually do it?
LJW Tait: The Day After
Kansas junior guard Wayne Selden Jr., has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.
Kansas senior forward Perry Ellis has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
VOTE HERE DAILY!
“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
In this season of the ever-changing No. 1 team, it's tough to figure out whether there truly is a favorite heading into the NCAA tournament.
With that in mind, we reached out to more than 75 college coaches and asked them the following question: "What team do you not want to play in the NCAA tourney?"
Below is a list of those teams in the order of how many votes they received, including a sampling of responses from coaches polled, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Kansas (22 votes)
The Jayhawks are the No. 1 team in the land, and won their 12th consecutive Big 12 title. They may not have a superstar, but they have Perry Ellis and plenty of depth, especially on the perimeter.
Coaches' takes on the Jayhawks:
- "They play fast, play hard, they can shoot it, and they expect to win."
- "Veteran guards, they can score in and out. They take away your first option. I definitely wouldn't want to play them on the first day of the weekend because of their prep work."
- "They have the experience and talent."
- "Really good, athletic guards."
Kentucky (10 votes)
The Wildcats struggled for a bit, but John Calipari boasts the nation's top backcourt in Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray -- and the insertion of Derek Willis into the lineup has made a difference, giving UK a skilled frontcourt guy who can stretch the defense.
Coaches' takes on the Wildcats:
- "They are going to be under-seeded, and if [Derek] Willis gets back to 100 percent, they are a nightmare."
- "No one is playing better right now. No one."
North Carolina (nine votes)
The Tar Heels finished 25-6 and won the ACC regular-season title with a 14-4 mark. Brice Johnson has been one of the best big men in the country, but fellow senior Marcus Paige has been rather ordinary for much of the season.
Coaches' takes on the Tar Heels:
- "They have everything. Good guards, big men and they can really run."
- "If Marcus Paige finally gets going, they are the best team in the country. I'm not sure that will happen, but if it does, watch out."
“I think we are the most criticized really good basketball team I've ever coached and least appreciated,” Williams said.
The Tar Heels should be prepared to keep wearing the black hats at the NCAA Tournament, even though they're one of the most dangerous teams that could cut down the nets. To most of the public, the Tar Heels are the team the NCAA wouldn't investigate for decades of academic fraud involving athletes in fake classes. Yet here they are as a hot team headed into March Madness.
The NCAA case is still pending. North Carolina faces multiple charges of serious misconduct, including lack of institutional control, for impermissible extra benefits over nine years that the NCAA said “seriously undermined or threatened the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model.”
The scrutiny is only going to get ratcheted up again for North Carolina over the next three weeks. The Tar Heels are about to enter college basketball's highest-profile stage with the NCAA case still looming over their heads.
After a semifinal win over Georgia, Calipari called the members of the selection committee "good people," but he could not resist a less subtle jab.
“My biggest concern is my own team and our path,” Calipari said. “Now, our path, as you know, because you followed us every year, will be the hardest path of anybody in the NCAA tournament. Sometimes they stick the Lakers in there to get that going. Somebody told me they're going to put Louisville back in the tournament in our path. That's how it is.
“We get a tough path, and that's fine. It hasn't hurt us. It's been kind of exciting. Made the games good, but we will see.”
At least three former University of Louisville men's basketball recruits have confirmed to NCAA investigators that they attended parties inside an on-campus dorm where strippers danced for them and prostitutes were paid to have sex with them, a source close to the NCAA investigation told Outside the Lines.
The source said the three former Louisville recruits met with NCAA investigators in October and November. Chuck Smrt, the person hired by the University of Louisville to monitor the progress of the NCAA's investigation, also attended those meetings.
"There's no question this stuff happened," the source said. "There's no question the people at the University of Louisville know this happened. Katina Powell is not an admirable person, but she told the truth."
…A person familiar with the NCAA enforcement process told Outside the Lines that, based on the statements from the three players to the NCAA, the Louisville program might have violated NCAA rules on impermissible benefits to players and/or shown a lack of institutional control. "If you've got three [recruits], that's a slam dunk" to put together a case, the source said. "That's the enforcement staff's dream."
Both sources spoke to Outside the Lines on the condition of anonymity, citing the on-going NCAA investigation.
…"It's a pathetic story," the source said. "McGee gave the players a stack of dollar bills ranging from $200 to $500. Everybody in the room got the money -- the recruits and the current members of the team. Not only that, but McGee himself had his own stack of dollar bills. If this guy's spending $2,000 to $3,000 on a recruiting weekend, where's this money coming from?"
Outside the Lines spoke briefly this month with McGee in Kansas City, where he is working as a driver for the car service Uber.
When asked where the money came from to pay for the recruiting parties, McGee responded by saying, "You can talk to my lawyer for any questions."
When asked if there was anything he wanted to say to clear his name, McGee added: "My name will be cleared. I just need you to talk to my lawyer."
If you’ve always wondered why a No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament, then one of the top analytics minds in sports and politics is right there with you.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver spoke in a 1-on-1 panel Saturday with Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey at the 2016 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, and he didn’t have a solution as to why none of the lowest-ranked teams have ever made it past the first round. In fact, Silver thinks it should have happened by now.
“In the men’s tournament, it hasn’t happened of course,” Silver said. “I think it’s actually kind of a fluke that it hasn’t happened yet actually. We’ve gone back and tried to kind of retrocast every NCAA Tournament, and typically 16 seeds would have somewhere between a .5 percent and a 5 percent chance with about 2 percent on average. I forget how many trials there have been, but you would have expected there to be some upset at one point in time.”
Overall, a No. 16 seed has only beaten a No. 1 seed in a Division-I NCAA Tournament once, when Harvard’s women’s team beat the top-ranked Stanford team 71-67 in 1998. And Silver thinks it’s only a matter of time before it happens for the men. “Parity is getting — the one seeds aren’t as dominant as they used to be,” Silver said. “You’re not UCLA in the 1960s. So we’ll see that sooner or later.”
The opening rounds of the NCAA tournament aren’t just the biggest basketball games of the season, they’re also one of the biggest gambling events of the year. The state of Nevada even handles more money for college basketball’s postseason than it does during the Super Bowl. From the first game of the first round until the title game 20 days later on April 9, thousands flock to Las Vegas and put their money on the line.
Most of the betting is concentrated to the first two rounds of the tournament, during which five-figure bets are common, as is consuming alcohol. The Cosmopolitan said they went through 36,000 beers during the first three days of last year’s tournament.
To get a feel for how Vegas handles the Big Dance, Sports Illustrated spoke with three casino executives: Johnny Avello, executive director of race and sports operations at the Wynn Las Vegas; Brian Benowitz, senior vice president of casino operations of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas; and Jason Simbal, vice president of risk management for CG Technology, which operates The Cosmopolitan’s sportsbook.
Dan Pizzuta, managing editor of TiqIQ operations, explained that compared to professional sports, ticket prices for college basketball games are much more varied. This is at least in part because the number of tickets can fluctuate widely as the sizes of arenas vary. Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium, for example, has a capacity of just 9,314 seats. Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, in contrast, can seat 23,000 people. Scarcity can drive up prices.
While small stadium sizes can drive ticket prices higher, so can an exciting opposing team. “Teams like Kansas and North Carolina and Duke are going to be expensive no matter who or [where] they are playing,” said Pizzuta. When looking at the most expensive game each of the 25 teams had this year, Kansas, arguably this year’s best team, was the opponent in three of these games — the most of any team.
Although better teams tend to draw more fan interest and are more likely to drive up ticket prices, it is clearly not the only factor. The average ticket price of the No. 2-ranked school, Michigan State, was just $36 this season. Tickets for No. 16-ranked Kentucky, meanwhile, cost $167.20 on average — well over four times as much.
KUAD: Postseason Information Hub
ncaa.com: 2016 NCAA Tournament Schedule
Announcing crews, etc
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
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