Kansas men's basketball senior Perry Ellis has been named to the John R. Wooden Award presented by Wendy's Late Season Top 20 List, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced Wednesday.
Chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts, the list is comprised of 20 student-athletes who are the frontrunners for the John R. Wooden Award, based on their performances during the 2015-16 season.
Ellis has scored 19 or more points in five of his last six games, including four 20-point efforts. The Wichita, Kansas senior forward is averaging 19.5 points and 6.6 rebounds during Big 12 play, and 16.9 points and 6.5 rebounds overall. Ellis is the only player in the Big 12 to rank in the top-seven in scoring (third) and rebounding (seventh). He has three double-doubles on the season with all coming in conference action. The 2015 Big 12 Men's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year, who was an All-Big 12 First Team selection as a junior, also ranks among the Big 12 leaders in field goal percentage (fifth at 53.0) and free throw percentage (14th at 76.1).
Wayne Selden may not be in the same stratosphere as Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield -- few have been this season. But Kansas basketball coach Bill Self says there is one big similarity between the two players as the No. 6 Jayhawks and No. 3 Sooners prepare for Saturday’s pivotal Big 12 clash in Norman, Okla.:
Both have shown the ability to completely take over a game.
“The reality of it is,” Self said Wednesday night in an interview on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt, “Wayne Selden is a guy that can carry us like he did the Kentucky game.”
Self, who was responding to a question about his team possibly lacking a go-to threat like Hield, also called senior Perry Ellis his team’s most consistent player and “… a guy that can get 20 most every night if he plays well.”
“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
Even in the relatively immediate aftermath of Kansas State toppling then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Saturday, coach Bruce Weber apparently simply couldn’t please, or even appease, some people.
That’s why if you tried to get on the Internet on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum, one of the network options was, in fact, a profanity attached to his name.
Another was called “Fire Bruce.”
This is the work of a few, or perhaps but one, detractor. And both the volume and scope of those complaining about Weber to the K-State administration has ebbed notably this season.
At least before a sense of momentum was punctured with an 82-72 loss to No. 21 Baylor.
From the top of the world, Weber said, to “lower than a snake belly.”
Buddy Hield is better (than everyone else). More folks would pay attention to Simmons and the impact he has made in his first year at LSU if Hield weren't compiling one of the most impressive seasons we’ve ever seen. He could become the third player in NCAA history (and first since Salim Stoudamire in 2004-05) to shoot 50 percent from the 3-point line, 50 percent inside the arc and 90 percent from the free throw line. Also, Hield is leading a Sooners program fighting for a No. 1 seed. That’s a large shadow for any player in America to overcome -- even one as talented as Simmons. Hield’s “I’m the man” finish in Oklahoma's victory over LSU didn’t help. Jermaine Jackson was nominated for a Grammy, and he made No. 1 hits in the 1980s. But he had a brother named Michael. That’s the situation Simmons is in right now.
All shooters in this era must bow to Stephen Curry, for he is the god and the revolution. The NBA's reigning MVP is on pace to obliterate the league's single-season records for three-point makes and attempts. Curry's Warriors and the analytically savvy Rockets are the radicals pushing the NBA to new heights of three-point reliance; in 2014–15 the Rockets set the standard for three-point attempts, and Houston, Charlotte and Golden State lead the NBA this season in three-point rate, taking 37.9%, 34.8% and 34.8% of their shots as threes, respectively.
While several college coaches postulate that D-I's rising reliance on the three is due to a "Curry Effect"—a natural desire to mimic the greatest show on hardwood—it is worth a reminder that college is the true home for long-range extremism. NBA teams' three-point rate is 28.2%, compared with college's 35.2%. What's more, at week's end 106 of the 351 D-I teams had a higher three-point rate than do the pioneering Rockets or Warriors. One of those teams is Hield's Sooners. Another is Curry's alma mater, Davidson. The Wildcats took 39.2% of their shots as threes during Curry's breakout sophomore campaign of 2007–08 but have ramped that up to 45.6% and 45.1% over the past two seasons. It was not that Curry was restricted as a collegian; his coach, Bob McKillop, grants players "licenses" to shoot, and says that "Steph had a truck license from the day he walked in." As a sophomore Curry set the NCAA single-season record for threes, with 162, and when Davidson's almost-completed practice facility needed to be christened last September, a visiting Curry took the first shot, banking in a three from 30-plus feet while wearing a hard hat. It's just that Davidson now has two three-point-gunning guards, Jack Gibbs and Brian Sullivan, and uses lineups with four players licensed to take threes.
…That brings us to an ominous question for the NCAA's three-point extremists. Can one of these teams actually win a title, in a championship format that requires six consecutive victories, on three neutral courts? It has only happened once, and that was 15 seasons ago, when 2000–01 Duke had a three-point rate of 41.8%—but that was a juggernaut with five future NBA players in its rotation. The average three-point rate for title teams over the past decade is 31.2%—lower than the 33.4% rate for all teams during that span. While there have been 380 college teams over the past decade with three-point rates higher than 40%, only one of them, '10–11 VCU, reached the Final Four, and that was as a wildly improbable 11th seed.
A few Hall of Famers have yet to embrace the revolution. John Calipari's 2011–12 Kentucky team had the lowest three-point rate (26.5%) of any title winner in the past 10 seasons, and his 2014–15 juggernaut had a similar profile (27.1%). Roy Williams's 2008–09 North Carolina team had a three-point rate of just 23.2%, and his current, No. 9–ranked Tar Heels have taken 26.6% of their shots from deep, the 15th-lowest rate in the nation. "The No. 1 thing you have to have is balance," Williams says. "The biggest reason I don't ever want to be the one shooting 25 threes per game is you never get the other team in foul trouble. When the other team's best players are on the bench at the end of the game, you have an advantage." The Tar Heels' most frequent three-point shooter over the past two seasons, senior guard Marcus Paige, says he's ever-conscious that "the three takes a backseat to getting transition baskets and throwing the ball inside." Assistant coach Hubert Davis even encouraged Paige to set a goal that he take fewer than 50% of his attempts from deep, though Paige isn't there quite yet (55.3%).
Top-ranked Villanova, on the other hand, operates under a starkly different philosophy: that its players should always be hunting in-rhythm threes. Coach Jay Wright says that in 2013, a study written by then-assistant Billy Lange (who's now with the 76ers) swayed Wright on the "value of three-point attempts"—that focusing on limiting opponents' volume and increasing Villanova's volume was more important than focusing on three-point percentage. Over the next three seasons ('13–14 to the present) the Wildcats have ranked seventh, 22nd and 16th nationally in three-point rate, taking an average of 44.2% of their shots from deep. This has corresponded with a career-best run of success for Wright—an 83–11 record, a No. 1 and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament—but Villanova has also been upset on the first weekend of both Big Dances. While Wright is aware of the volatility of three-point reliance, he didn't take either loss as an indictment of his strategy. "If you don't have personnel and length like a Kentucky, your best way of getting to the Final Four is by using the three," he says. "If you try to follow a Kentucky formula and you don't have that personnel, you'll get killed."
…Hield and the rest of the Sooners have poured it in on everyone this season, but can they defy the data that show heavily three-point reliant teams rarely, if ever, win a national title? They have unprecedented long-range accuracy, a multitude of options and no fear of history. "If you're telling me it can't be done," Kruger says, "we're not going to change. This team was made to shoot the three." And this could be the team that truly shoots its way to a championship.
SI: Why college basketball contenders are shooting threes at historic rate
The NCAA has eliminated confusion surrounding how the games of its men's basketball tournament's first weekend are referenced.
The first round will again simply mean the round of 64, or the Thursday and Friday games that many still view as the beginning of the tournament.
…"The Thursday-Friday games will be known as first and second rounds, so there's no more, quote-unquote, third round," NCAA spokesman David Worlock said. "So Thursday and Friday is the round of 64, Saturday and Sunday is the round of 32, and then obviously the Sweet 16 and Final Four hasn't been changed."
Since the expansion of the tournament to 68 teams five seasons ago, the Tuesday and Wednesday games played in Dayton, Ohio, were called the opening round. Now those games will simply be called the First Four.
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60 Years of AFH Celebration
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2011-12 Final Border War
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