Lagerald Vick swooped in from the wing inside and sprung from the Allen Fieldhouse hardwood, his go-gadget set of arms reaching skyward and waiting for the arrival of a spinning orange sphere. For a moment, Vick appeared to pause in mid flight, waiting for an alley-oop pass from guard Frank Mason.
One … two … three.
Finally, the delivery arrived, player and basketball meeting at the rim. Allen Fieldhouse awoke from a mild slumber in the final minutes of the first half, and Kansas had a signature moment in a 95-59 exhibition victory over Fort Hays State on Tuesday night, the Jayhawks’ final tuneup before the regular season opener on Friday night.
If you took a zoomed-in photograph of this moment, you saw one thing: Mason, a junior guard, finding Vick, a freshman swingman, in transition for a thunderous alley-oop. But if you zoomed-out, taking in the full panoramic view, you saw something even more interesting. There was junior Perry Ellis, watching the play from the wing as the Jayhawks’ three-man. There were forwards Hunter Mickelson and Landen Lucas, manning the paint in a lineup with three big guys.
“We were able to experiment some,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
…Now the Jayhawks can look forward, to the season opener against Northern Colorado on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse, to a date with Michigan State at the Champions Classic on Tuesday night in Chicago. When the Jayhawks take the floor at the United Center, a marquee matchup in the Windy City, some of these experiments will be a thing of the past. Self will find a rotation he likes — or at least a semblance of one — and he will ride his veterans.
“Coach (Bill Self) was like, ‘Keep shooting and making shots,’’’ Mykhailiuk said after hitting five threes in eight tries, good for 15 points (in 21 minutes) in Tuesday’s 95-59 victory over Fort Hays State in Allen Fieldhouse.
“He tells that to everybody: ‘If you are open you can shoot.’ He wanted me to be aggressive and keep shooting. The first game,” Mykhailiuk added, “I was kind of far from the three-point line and not open. This game Frank (Mason III, 14 points, six assists) and Devonté (Graham, 11 points, four assists) were driving the ball well, which led to the open shot for me.”
The best hustle play came from Selden, who dove into KU fans at a side table to save a loose ball and create a steal midway through the second half.
“The object is just to take the fan out. Nah, I’m kidding,” Selden said with a laugh. “I just reacted to the ball and just tried to save it. That was the biggest thing.”
“They just bring so many bodies at you,” Fort Hays State coach Mark Johnson said. “The size differential, athleticism and strength, it just kind of wears on you. You have such a small margin of error. Any time you have a bad couple of minutes, stretches, of basketball, they just get away from you so quickly.”
Senior forward Dom Samac, who scored a team-high 12 points, added: “They’re just really long. Really long and really athletic. They had a bunch of old guys, too. Three juniors and a senior in the starting five.”
Brannen Greene, who had offseason hip surgery, did not play. He suffered discomfort in his hip, back and legs at practice Saturday, describing it as his body locking up in those areas. He felt fine Tuesday until after warmups.
“He comes in after warmups and says he can’t move,” Self said. “Doctors don’t think it’s anything major but he’s going to go through phases where he’s up and down. I think it was a wise decision (holding him) because I don’t think he could have played effectively.”
…Bill Self during Tuesday’s 95-59 exhibition victory against Fort Hays State did not wear a tie with his suit jacket. The Kansas University men’s basketball coach said that’s a first in his coaching career.
“I thought it looked absolutely awful when I put it on. I picked it out in the dark,” Self said. “I thought I would get more comments on how bad it looked than questions about why I didn’t he wear a tie.”
Just under 10 minutes to go in the game, the student section's chants of “Free Diallo” rang through the 16,300 people of a full Allen Fieldhouse. At that point the Jayhawks led by 32 points. Kansas would go on to win the final exhibition contest 95-59 over Fort Hays State on Tuesday.
“There is no credible, legal basis for this thing to continue. It’s nothing more than a de facto suspension,” Jackson said. “Every game that (Cheick) misses as a result of this suspension is a game that can’t be replaced. And it appears to be an intentional effort to drag this case out.”
…While Jackson is representing Drame, he said he is not directly representing Diallo.
“Their interests are the same. I’ll put it that way,” Jackson said. “Their interests are the same.”
KU coach Bill Self said he wasn't surprised that Diallo’s guardian sought legal help to deal with the issue.
“We were all hopeful it wouldn’t come to this, but I wouldn’t blame (Drame),” Self said. “If I was a parent, I’d do the same thing.”
Self said most of his frustration came from the NCAA’s slow timetable.
“We’re November the 10th, and there’s some things that obviously, under most normal circumstances, this is handled Sept. 10 at the latest,” Self said. We’ve just got to go by what they tell us and fight for him.
“We have representation that’s fighting for him hard, but now, he’ll get double representation. It’ll get pretty interesting.”
…Jackson reiterated that Diallo should be cleared to play.
“I’ve been involved in a number of cases over the years, and you see this repeated pattern of investigations lingering, lingering, lingering unnecessarily,” Jackson said. “And it seems to be an intentional effort to keep this young man off the floor.”
“Obviously our goal is for the young man to be cleared,” Jackson said, noting he could ultimately get involved in the academic side of the case.
“There’s nothing to it at all,” he added of Diallo’s relationship with Drame. “More than one player is involved in the NCAA investigation, another man from Mali as well who is at St. John’s, attended the same high school and is going through, to some degree, the same thing at this point.”
“Tidiane obviously has connections in Mali, assisting kids in coming to the U.S. to attend school here. He has a relationship with this young man’s family and has had a relationship a number of years,”
Asked if he will get involved in the academic side of Diallo’s case, Jackson said: “We’ll see. Hopefully he will be cleared at some point in the not so distant future.”
As far as the NCAA Eligibility Center having yet to clear Diallo, Jackson, who has experience in these cases said: “Candidly, this time of year there’s no credible explanation. I have been involved in literally dozens of these kind of cases including several now. There’s no credible explanation the Eligibility Center has to drag an investigation that started in June and is now in November. If they had not found any justifiable basis in keeping the young man off the floor, they should leave him alone. When these investigations occur, it’s a de facto suspension to keep the young man off the floor when there’s no finding of improper conduct.”
Based on Self’s latest comments and the involvement of Jackson, it appears the prospects of a positive resolution have dimmed. Diallo, a 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American, was supposed to be the centerpiece of Kansas’ 2015 recruiting class, a high-motor big man who could anchor the middle and serve as a productive sidekick for junior forward Perry Ellis. Instead, Diallo has spent most of the last four months in limbo, waiting to hear his fate.
6. Can anyone in the Big 12 dethrone Kansas?
The quick answer is probably not. In a sport in which parity makes consistency even more difficult, Bill Self's program has defied the norm by winning 11 consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles. While the story line — who will challenge the Jayhawks? — is similar to years past, the conference as a whole should have a much different look from 2014-15, when seven teams reached the NCAA tournament but No. 3 seeds Iowa State and Baylor suffered dramatic upsets. Basically, there were a lot of good Big 12 teams last season but no great ones, as the tournament revealed. In 2015-16, three teams are poised to be great. Kansas is returning seven of its top nine and replacing two key departures with a stellar recruiting class; Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg will make an immediate impact alongside vets Perry Ellis and Frank Mason III. KU might be the early favorite, but Oklahoma and Iowa State have the pieces to end one of college basketball's most memorable streaks. Buddy Hield's return gives the Sooners Final Four potential, while new ISU coach Steve Prohm inherits a top-10 team from Fred Hoiberg.
USA Today: Top 10 Storylines
So, as the season's start nears, we project the 2016 NCAA Tournament field, ranking all 68 predicted teams, including the 32 automatic bids and 36 at-large choices. Not included is SMU, who might be a top 25 team but is ineligible for the postseason because of NCAA sanctions.
1. Kansas (Big 12 champion). The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the Big 12 title in 12 straight seasons. They've finished ranked in the top 10 of the AP poll eight of the last nine years, and Bill Self has taken them to two Final Fours and with a national championship. This season, Kansas has the depth and talent to shake off the last two disappointing NCAA Tournament results -- Round of 32 exists -- to make a run at the national title. In a wide-open season nationally, the Jayhawks boast proven veterans in senior forward Perry Ellis and junior guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden, and while Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are gone, the veteran core is bolstered by a top-five recruiting class that features five-star forwards Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg. The big question is the eligibility of Diallo, as he has yet to be cleared by the NCAA. This is a top-10 team even without him, but if and when Diallo does get cleared, it's possible that no team can match Kansas' combination of both experienced and young talent.
Sports on Earth
The new college basketball season begins with a number of amazing streaks intact.
In two seasons, Kansas is likely to surpass North Carolina (27, from 1975 through 2001) for the most consecutive NCAA tournament appearances. The Jayhawks sit at 26 and show no signs of slowing down.
1 – KANSAS WINNING A SHARE OR MORE OF THE BIG 12 IN 11 STRAIGHT SEASONS
This is the kind of accomplishment which speaks for itself and needs no embellishment. What perhaps puts this feat in perspective is how often other coaches and programs have failed to seize their moment of opportunity.
Oklahoma with Blake Griffin couldn’t overthrow Kansas.
Texas with Kevin Durant couldn’t stage a palace coup.
Iowa State had a great chance last season… and then lost to Baylor at home.
Frank Martin left Kansas State, perhaps halting the Wildcats’ run at Big 12 supremacy. (The word “perhaps” is used in the sense that while KSU has in fact ceased to excel in the league, it’s unclear as to whether Martin leaving was or is the primary source of that drought. It’s debatable.)
West Virginia and Bob Huggins could not build on the 2010 Final Four appearance.
Oklahoma State — where Bill Self might be coaching today had Roy Williams remained in Lawrence — has annually squandered talent under Travis Ford.
In many ways, the experiences of other Big 12 programs do the best job of magnifying what Self and Kansas have accomplished.
As usual, several Kansas University basketball players figure to be in the Horejsi Center stands tonight when the Jayhawk volleyball team meets Texas in a 6:30 p.m., match. The winner moves into sole possession of first place in the Big 12.
Svi Mykhailiuk usually sits next to Devonté Graham at the matches.
“It’s going to be a pretty big game,” Mykhailiuk said of KU-Texas. “Texas and KU they are in first place. We’re going to win. They (Jayhawks) will be champions in the Big 12. It’s a pretty big game for KU volleyball.
“Yes,” Mykhailiuk added, asked if he loves attending the volleyball contests. “We go to all matches like football, soccer, volleyball, (women’s) basketball. I played soccer (in Ukraine). Volleyball is pretty famous, too.”
The Miami Heat’s assault against the NBA’s punitive “repeater” luxury tax has begun, as has a changing of the guards, with the Heat on Tuesday trading guard Mario Chalmers and forward James Ennis to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Beno Udrih and forward Jarnell Stokes.
“Rio can hold his head high, leaving on a great note here,” (Erik) Spoelstra said. “He’ll always be remembered as a two-time-champion point guard here in Miami, always welcome here in Miami from here on out. And he can be proud of his time here.”
“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
ESPN has announced their commentating lineup for the 2015-2016 season and Bristol returns a very strong lineup for the campaign. The last couple years has seen quite a few major moves with College GameDay ushering new faces like Seth Greenberg and Jay Williams while the lead analyst torch was passed from Dick Vitale to Jay Bilas.
ESPN has made just a couple of changes to this year’s lineup, most noticeably Doris Burke replacing Painfully Awkward Shane Battier as Sean McDonough’s partner for ACC Big Monday action. Burke is a great analyst and she and McDonough should form a very good partnership.
Dan Shulman, Bilas, and Shannon Spake remain the Saturday primetime team while Dick Vitale calls Saturday games with Dave O’Brien. Jim Calhoun also steps into the broadcast booth as he partners with Rece Davis for Thursday Big Ten games.
Now that the network is no longer in the NASCAR business, Allen Bestwick joins the play by play roster to call American games with Tim Welsh while Brad Daugherty partners Beth Mowins for WCC contests on Saturdays.
Overall, this is a Michigan State team that may actually could be deeper and more talented than last year. However, the question will be whether the team's top players can be good enough to carry the Spartans to that next level. Regardless, this looks like a talented Michigan State team that should make plenty of noise in the Big Ten.
With that, let's take a look at the Spartans.
MSU Season Preview
SI: Michigan State Preview
Maryland sophomore guard Dion Wiley is expected to miss the 2015-16 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right meniscus.
"I am really disappointed for Dion because he worked so hard in the offseason and was playing at a very high level," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said in a school release. "This is a big loss for our team as Dion was expected to be our starting shooting guard. Our doctors were encouraged about the surgery and we know that Dion will work tirelessly to return to the court."
SI: Final Four Picks, National Champs predictions
ESPN: Final Four Picks, National Champs predictions
Big 12 Composite Schedule
Signing period begins
Mitch Lightfoot, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound senior forward from Gilbert (Arizona) Christian High, who orally committed to Kansas University on Oct. 24, is expected to sign his letter-of-intent on Thursday, the second day of the week-long early signing period. Lightfoot, who is ranked No. 117 nationally by Rivals.com, tells Jayhawkslant.com that his school is not in session today, hence his signing ceremony will be held Thursday.
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2015-16)
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