After their first Big 12 loss Saturday, the Jayhawks are looking to rebound this week behind their star-studded lineup. However, with the Mountaineers currently playing their best ball all season, neither team will have an easy victory come Saturday.
Both teams average nearly the same points per game this season, differing only by .3, with the advantage going to the Jayhawks, 79.2-78.9.
The Mountaineers managed a win over the Sooners with poor shooting in the second half, but Huggins said he knows this is something that will quickly put them behind this Jayhawk team.
“We didn’t guard very well in the second half and we didn’t make a whole lot of shots in the second half, but we hung on,” he said.
Andrew Wiggins, the freshman phenom, has been on a dry streak the past couple of games, with only seven points coming in the loss against Texas and 14 points to a struggling Baylor squad earlier this week. If Wiggins continues this recent trend, the other playmakers on this Jayhawk squad will need to step up in order to come away with a victory.
Harris said he knows the potential this young Mountaineer squad has and has never been more motivated going into a game.
“This is probably the first big win of my life,” Harris said. “We were in some of these games last year, but we never got the big win.”
It wasn’t pretty for the Mountaineers the last time they faced the Jayhawks. Kansas ran away with a 91-65 triumph in Lawrence with WVU struggling throughout the game.
Eron Harris found himself in a familiar place during the first half of West Virginia's victory over Oklahoma this week: the team bench.
A recent habit of first half foul trouble limited the sophomore guard to just two points in eight minutes of action as he picked up his second personal in the early stages of the game. Just as he said after a loss to Oklahoma State and a win over Baylor in which he dealt with foul trouble, Harris says he maintained confidence in his teammates that they would pick up the slack in his absence.
"My mentality the whole first half was just to cheer my teammates on and I knew whether I was playing or not, we were going to get the win," Harris said on this week's episode of The Bob Huggins Show. "I just knew that I was going to get another opportunity to play in the second half and when I get out there, I'm going to make the best of it, try not to foul so that I can stay in there and contribute."
Contribute is a severe understatement. Harris played out of his mind in knocking down six 3-pointers on his way to pushing WVU into overtime and ultimately to the upset victory. His 28 points led all scorers.
In truth, Harris' performance was like the third act of the game. Terry Henderson was the warm-up routine, tallying 13 of his 17 points in the first half, before Juwan Staten took the stage for his 20 points and 10 rebounds and then Harris played the role of the headliner.
When the three-guard attack is clicking on all cylinders, these Mountaineers can be a handful for any defense they go up against.
"I don't know how hard we are to guard because I'm not everybody else, but I feel like the way we've been playing lately, we're one of the hardest teams to guard not only in the Big 12, but in the country, too," said Harris.
…On Saturday, he gets a chance to put his game up against the top team in the league, No. 8 Kansas.
Harris was about as dejected as he has been since joining the Mountaineers when his squad dropped a 91-65 decision at Allen Fieldhouse last season and his belief is that a vastly improved bunch is heading into Lawrence with a far more positive result on the horizon.
"We're going to go into this game like we are a top 10 team in the country and go in here with confidence that we can win this game," said Harris. "It's a battle. Everything else that happened in the past is the past, so we're not going to worry about that, we're going to worry about what we can do now and we're a different team from last year, so we have a chance."
Growing up in Indianapolis, Harris watched the environment at "The Phog" and knew it was a dream to one day play within its walls. Last year's game was more of the nightmare variety, but he's young and he gets another crack at it.
"It's what you live for as a college basketball player, it's what you live for as a person. You want to be better than the next," Harris said. "If we go in here and give these guys our everything, I feel like we can win. If we don't, I'll be satisfied if we gave it our all."
Beating Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma is nice. Beating Kansas at the Phog (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN) would be even bigger for both the Mountaineers' résumé and their return to the national conversation. It's the first of a torturous run for the Mountaineers -- the Jayhawks are the first of six ranked teams with which WVU will finish -- but the Mountaineers will need to gain some name brand wins to really make something happen.
Might as well start with the first.
It's not a terrific matchup. West Virginia simply doesn't have much to matchup with Kansas' inside game, but if the Mountaineers backcourt combo of Eron Harris and Juwan Staten can play as they have been, that's a pretty good equalizer.
Harris scored 28 in the OT win against the Sooners, his sixth consecutive double-figures game.
Then there's Staten. Few are playing better -- and more -- than the Dayton transfer. In that three-game win streak, Staten has played all but two minutes and is averaging 23.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists.
He and Harris will need everything they have to win at Kansas, but if West Virginia wants to be more than a curiosity, this is the time to turn some heads.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say the Big 12 was just as good and exciting as the Big East used to be. I don’t think I can ever enjoy a conference as much as I did when West Virginia played teams like Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville.
When the conference change took place, I knew things would be different. While the Big 12 produces a different level in football, the product in basketball wasn’t supposed to be as good or even remotely close to it.
In the first year as a member of the Big 12, you could say basketball wasn’t the most exciting. In the 2013-14 season, however, we’ve seen that these teams can play against some of the best teams in the country, and the conference is simply a step up from years past.
For West Virginia to remain in the middle of the pack or better, that says wonders about where the program is headed. It is going in the right direction. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the program becomes relevant again.
With the possible exception of (maybe) TCU, guaranteed wins aren’t much of a thing in the Big 12 this season. WVU has done a good job of taking the next step to getting to where it wants to be. West Virginia has struggled with winning close games and making the necessary plays to come away with the victory.
To some degree, the Mountaineers have improved in that area. Against Baylor in Waco, Texas, Staten was able to make a late layup to give West Virginia a much-needed upperhand.
In the following game against Kansas State, WVU was up by 10 points at one time, but the Wildcats kept fighting back. Then, when up by one point late, West Virginia was able to make the necessary plays once again to earn the 10-point victory.
In arguably the best conference in the country, West Virginia has been consistent. Ultimately, that is the best sign for the Mountaineer faithful.
West Virginia gets its third straight win over a quality opponent.
Well, at the very least, the Mountaineers are playing spoiler. But could this be a sneaky bubble team? WVU's now beaten Baylor, Kansas State, and on Wednesday night it was Oklahoma. The Sooners fell 91-86 in overtime at Morgantown. Eron Harris was absolutely huge. He had 28 points, 26 of which came after the halftime break.
It was a crazy game in that WVU got up to 14 points at one point, then went down by three, but a 3 from Harris with 24 seconds to go to forced OT.
CBS Night Court
KUAD: WVU vs Kansas pregame notes
An imposing 6-foot-9, 260-pounder who likes to rebound, but also possesses a soft shooting touch around the rim, Tarik Black figures to make some money next season playing basketball in Europe, if not the NBA.
“If I was him, I’d try out for an NFL team, though,” KU coach Bill Self said Wednesday on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show.
“Aaron Rodgers told me when he was here, ‘I promise you he has a tryout with us,’” Self added of the Green Bay Packers quarterback who attended KU hoops practice on Jan. 17 and the KU-Oklahoma State game a day later.
“He said, ‘I want to try that guy at tight end,’” Self added of Black, KU’s senior pivot from Memphis. “I said, ‘Tight end? He can’t go across the middle and get hit.’ But then I started thinking about it ... they (NFL teams) love to have basketball players. He (Rodgers) said, ‘I want to throw balls at him and see what he can do.’ Certainly (Black) is a phenomenal athlete for his size.”
…KU red-shirt freshman center Landen Lucas reported on Twitter that he had an MRI on Wednesday. Self said Lucas’ back has been sore, but he shouldn’t miss any practice time. Self said Lucas was available to play against Baylor. ... KU senior forward Justin Wesley figures to miss about a week because of a sprained knee, Self indicated.
…KU thus far has signed big man Cliff Alexander and wing Kelly Oubre in recruiting. “They are as good of prospects as we have in America. They will come in and impact it (program),” Self said. “We always think about next year from a recruiting standpoint, but I believe this ... if things fall right, I think we’ll be better next year than we are this year. That’s exciting to me because we have so many young kids.”
“I think I grew up a lot,” Wiggins said after KU’s 69-52 victory against Baylor on Tuesday. “A couple weeks ago, when I would play bad, I would get all down on myself. But I know scoring’s not everything.
“You can still do stuff to open up for your teammates, get rebounds. You can still do stuff to affect the game in different ways. And that’s what I’m learning now.”
Tuesday was a perfect example of Wiggins using his diverse talents to help KU win.
Though the 6-foot-8 guard didn’t have his best shooting night (14 points on 4-for-13 accuracy), he added seven rebounds and tied his career highs in assists (five), steals (three) and blocks (two).
Wiggins especially took pride in his passing, as he knew after the game that he’d had “five or six” assists.
“When I see an open man, I’ll always pass it. That’s what my teammates would do for me, too,” Wiggins said. “Getting teammates involved is always good, especially when people are keying on you. If you create for other players and other players start scoring, then the pressure off you will release.”
…“I’m learning a lot now in college,” Wiggins said. “For me, I’m getting better each week.”
CBS Video: Should Embiid stay or declare?
SI: Should Embiid defer the NBA draft?
The discussion: Which team is the nation's most talented?
Jeff Goodman: It's not all that long ago that some were debating whether Kentucky's highly regarded freshman class should be put in the same conversation with the Fab Five (I was not one of those people), but the group as a whole has been somewhat disappointing. Julius Randle has been as good as advertised, James Young and Aaron Harrison both have been fairly consistent scoring threats, but Willie Cauley-Stein has been up and down and Andrew Harrison has rarely looked like one of the top point guards in the country. Alex Poythress has been effective at times, but he is hardly the lottery pick that some predicted a little more than a year ago.
Even with all of that, I'm still giving Kentucky the clear nod over Kansas, despite the fact the Jayhawks may boast the top two picks in the NBA draft come June with Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins.
Kentucky has three guys who likely will go in the top half of the first round: Randle, Young and Cauley-Stein. The Wildcats also have five more players who could wind up playing in the NBA: the Harrison twins, Poythress, Dakari Johnson and even seldom-used freshman big man Marcus Lee.
If I'm choosing the top three players head-to-head, I'm taking Kansas with Embiid, Wiggins and fellow freshman Wayne Selden. But Kentucky has more overall depth in terms of talent, with eight players who could wind up earning paychecks in the NBA.
Jay Bilas: Kentucky and Kansas are the two most talented teams, with a nod to Kentucky for sheer number of potential NBA players. Kansas has a No. 1 overall NBA draft selection in Joel Embiid, whenever he decides to come out. I believe Embiid is the real thing, and there is no "have to" with the real thing. He doesn't "have to" go (before he's found out and his "stock drops") or "have to" stay. The real thing can do whatever he wants.
In addition to Embiid, Kansas has a lottery pick in Wiggins and another potential first-round selection in Selden. Kentucky has more bodies who are highly rated and have a legitimate shot of someday playing in the NBA, whether a lengthy career or a cup of coffee. With Randle, Young, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Cauley-Stein, Johnson, Poythress and Lee, Kentucky has more size, athleticism and pure talent than any other team.
But Kentucky's talent is really young, and everybody is really young at the exact same time. Kansas is fighting youth, too, but has a senior point guard and more players with a season or two under their belts.
I know it's difficult to fathom, but we're just 40 days away from Selection Sunday. With so little time remaining, the NCAA tournament field -- minus a few bubble teams here and there, naturally -- will now solidify rather quickly.
And it's these tournament teams that interest me. Last week I looked at the most perimeter-oriented offenses from this group of likely tournament teams. (Creighton, Duke, Iowa State -- the usual suspects.) Now I want to shift the focus to the paint and look at the most interior-oriented teams currently being projected as making the field of 68. Will these offenses have an advantage because they're less subject to the whims of outside shooting? Or is their interior-orientation just one stylistic marker among many?
Let's look at these teams, from most to least interior-oriented.
(Note that, as with last week's story on perimeter-oriented teams, these percentages for shot attempts are taken from conference play, because season-to-date numbers can be influenced by a coach's nonconference scheduling preferences).
…Kansas Jayhawks 72.1 percent of attempts are 2s
In the spirit of my comments on Syracuse, when an offense is scoring 1.17 points per possession in conference play it's doing something right. Kansas has posted that impressive mark against Big 12 opponents by draining shots from both sides of the arc, even if the 3s are fairly rare. With a big three of Perry Ellis, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, Bill Self has every reason to attack the paint. (Do keep an eye on Wiggins, however. The future lottery pick is just 3-of-20 on his 2s over the past two games.)
ESPN ($) Gasaway
In 22 games, Kentucky’s crop of McDonald’s All-Americans have played 74.6 percent of the minutes for John Calipari. That is, quite simply, taking freshmen dependence to the extreme. (In a preseason study, Sports Illustrated found only two teams that have relied that much on freshmen: Michigan’s Fab Five, which played 68.5 percent of the minutes; and Texas in 2006-07, which was Kevin Durant’s class.)
Meanwhile, in Lawrence, Bill Self’s freshmen have played nearly 57 percent of the minutes — a profile much closer to Anthony Davis and Co. than the Fab Five. So while we’ll likely spend the next few months gauging the development of Wiggins and Embiid, maybe we should remember this: The emergence of junior guard Naadir Tharpe has been just as key to the Jayhawks’ 8-1 record in the Big 12.
Here it comes, the same question for the next two months: Is Kansas too young to do damage in March? It’s a worthwhile debate, but it also obscures this point: If you’re going to win with freshmen, you need the right freshmen, of course. But you also need the right mix.
So while KU’s freshmen play 57 percent of the minutes, the Jayhawks’ tourney prospects could hinge on the veterans — the other 43 percent.
Here’s a look at the percentage of minutes freshmen played for the last 10 NCAA champions:
• 2013: Louisville, 8.1 percent
• 2012: Kentucky, 54 percent
• 2011: Connecticut, 47 percent
• 2010: Duke, 14.8 percent
• 2009: North Carolina, 16.8 percent
• 2008: Kansas, 6.9 percent
• 2007: Florida, 7.8 percent
• 2006: Florida, 13.7 percent
• 2005: North Carolina, 14.0
• 2004: Connecticut, 21.3 percent
Grantland Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings
Ben McLemore will be participating in the NBA All-Star Dunk Contest
NBA Video of McLemore dunks
Kansas University senior guard CeCe Harper missed a last-seconds layup to tie the game against Oklahoma State on Wednesday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena, giving the No. 12 Cowgirls a 76-74 victory over the Jayhawks.
Ten seconds earlier, Harper pulled KU within a point on an and-one layup and foul shot against OSU’s Tiffany Bias. Kansas immediately fouled to force free-throws by Brittney Martin, who missed the first and made the second. Harper raced up the court and put up a shot with two seconds left, and time expired as the teams tried to corral the rebound.
The Jayhawks (11-12 overall, 4-7 Big 12) trailed, 37-34, at halftime before outscoring the Cowgirls (19-3, 8-3) in the second half. Fresh off a career-high 34 points against Texas Tech on Saturday, junior forward Chelsea Gardner led KU with 25 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. Harper finished with 15 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Four Jayhawks — Gardner, Harper, Natalie Knight (12 points) and Asia Boyd (13) — scored in double-figures.
KUAD: WBB falls in final seconds at #12 Ok State 76-74
You saw her on American Idol on Thursday night. Caitlin Davis is a University of Kansas student who looks like most other students on campus. She recently was accepted into the KU School of Nursing. She said she loves nursing, but if she had to choose, singing would be her absolute favorite thing to do.
“It’s a huge part of my life. I listen to music every day so I don’t know what my life would be without music,” she said.
…So while her classmates will be chanting “Rock Chalk Jayhawk,” Davis will be singing her own tune, she hopes on her way to international stardom. Davis got her golden ticket, and she’s headed off to Hollywood!
VOTE for Kansas fans at the NCAA 6th Fan Contest
“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
Most wins since 2000 per ESPN: 1-Kansas, 2-Duke, 3-Memphis, 4-Gonzaga, 5-Syracuse
2/6/14, 5:51 PM
I couldn't get over a) how nice (George) Clooney was and b) how much he knows about college hoops. Big UK fan, impressed w Cincy and Kansas
Interactive map showing the geography of college hoops
Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart is frustrated with his growing reputation but told ESPN he's not the only one flopping.
"I've probably built up a little reputation, and I'm not questioning that," Smart said after the Cowboys' latest loss -- at home in triple overtime Monday to Iowa State -- the team's fourth defeat in its past five contests. "But I'm not the only one flopping. Every team and every player does it to make sure you get the call."
…One reason for Smart's dissatisfaction lately is what he considers inconsistency with officiating. He said the emphasis on handchecking rules, which went into effect prior to the season, has played a significant factor.
"It's so inconsistent," Smart said about the new rules. "We have no idea what to expect. And as a player, it messes with your mind.
"It's incredible how inconsistent the new rules have been. If they call it on one end, they have to call it on the other end. I don't blame it on anyone. It's a big adjustment for the refs also. They're learning just like us."
Smart's production is similar to that of a year ago. He is averaging 17.3 points per game, up from 15.4 as a freshman. He told ESPN before the season that two key reasons for returning were to improve his perimeter shot and his ability to play point guard.
He is shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc, down slightly from a year ago, but he is averaging nearly one turnover fewer per contest.
"I started the year well, but I haven't been playing to the best of my ability lately," he said.
Added senior teammate Markel Brown: "It's been tough for him. Everyone's out to get him, and he's still young and learning."
Oklahoma State's next game is Saturday at Texas Tech, and Smart said he will have a different mindset.
"I know players are going to go out and take shots at me," he said. "Starting this game, I'm putting it in the back of my mind. If that's how it's going to be played, that's how it's going to be played. If they can do it to me, I can do it also. That's my mindset from here on out. Physically, there's going to be nothing easy."
Wichita State has just enough to hold off Indiana State.
The Shockers led pretty much for the entire game. Indiana State made it closer near the end. But a 3-point play by Cleanthony Early -- who led the Shockers with 19 points -- to make it 61-56 was the deciding play down the stretch. Chadrack Lifile hit some big free throws down the stretch to secure the W.
…San Diego State still just with one loss after terrific comeback on the road.
It was the second-largest comeback for SDSU under Steve Fisher. Playing at a Boise State team in desperate need of a really good win, the Aztecs trailed by 14 points in the second half, a 57-43 deficit. Then Xavier Thames went nuts, Boise State couldn't hit a shot, and the Aztecs roared back like the No. 1 or No. 2 seed it is right now.
CBS Night Court
SI Magazine feature: DeAndre Kane making the most of second chance
Jason King: The Adreian Payne Story
If not for that closed scrimmage against Colorado, Doug McDermott was going to redshirt. Greg McDermott, Doug's coach and dad, saw how thin Doug was, and remembered how Greg himself could have benefited from a redshirt year when he was Doug's age, playing at Northern Iowa in the mid-1980s. So Creighton's getting ready to play this exhibition against Colorado, and turns out one guy on the team's sick. Plus, then-freshman Ethan Wragge was injured with a bad foot. Needing bodies, Greg allowed Doug to play. He scored 16 points and snagged seven rebounds against a major-conference team that would go on to win 24 games that season.
That performance, seen by maybe 50 people total, put McDermott on a course to start as a freshman, and eventually carve out one of the greatest careers in college basketball history. Thanks to a dash of injury and illness back in October 2010, McDermott's now on the precipice of passing the supreme 3,000-point plateau as one of college basketball's best seniors in a generation.
kenpom.com: What makes defenses slow?
DG: Several different things. This year, Turner takes a larger role in the tournament. Turner will broadcast, on TBS, two regional finals, those Saturday night of Elite Eight games. It's the first time they've broadcast games from that round of the tournament. They'll also broadcast the national semifinals. A really creative idea for the national semifinals. They're going to have three broadcasts available: a traditional broadcast on TBS, and on truTV and TNT, they'll broadcast from the perspective of the two teams playing. It'll be a specific bent for Arizona if it's Arizona and Wichita if it's Wichita State. With graphics and commentary that's specific to the teams. That should be exciting for fans to watch.
CBSSports.com: Regarding transparency, or lack thereof, with the selection process for the NCAA tournament, is it going to be same ol' same ol' going forward? The process has grown and the public has learned more about the experience, but will there be more tweaks in transparency?
DG: I think it'll be very similar to the last couple of years. We constantly try to look for ways to increase the level of transparency and communicate as openly as we can while still protecting the integrity of the process. The one very different aspect is the new bracketing principles and procedures in place.
CBSSports.com: And what are those, specifically?
DG: Last summer the committee voted to essentially open up the bracketing principles to be a little more flexible in terms of permitting teams from the same conference to play each other earlier in the bracket, if they'd only played each other once or twice during the regular season and conference tournament. Before last year, teams from the same conference couldn't meet before regional finals. The committee thought what that had done over the years, is it had forced teams to be moved up or down a seed line frequently: an average of 10 times per bracket. So, in order to be able to protect that seeding process integrity, now, if teams in the conference only play once in the regular season or conference tournament, they could play as early as the third round (Round of 32), and if they play twice, they could play as early as the Sweet 16. What that will essentially do is allow the committee to keep teams on their seed lines and not have them be forced up or down.
CBSSports.com: It'll become a cliche in no time, but this is essentially about “bracket integrity.” It's vital to keep a team as a 10 when it is a 10, where in the past that team was easily slotted into a 12 only due to rules reasons.
DG: I think that's a good way to put it, definitely. As conferences have grown over the last 10-15 years, and more teams from larger conferences have populated the field, it's really restricted the bracket. You've been through the process, and bracketing, almost up unti this year, was like a process of elimination. It became somewhat restrictive.
CBS: A conversation with vp of the NCAA tourney, Dan Gavitt
The suggestion of shadowy forces trying to thwart his efforts is a common theme in Calipari's career. From Massachusetts, where he debuted as a head coach at age 29, through time with the New Jersey Nets, Memphis and now Kentucky, he's compiled an enemies list that would make Richard Nixon proud.
The Boston Globe, which reported on classroom performance by UMass players. The Nets' front office, which supposedly planted listening devices in his office. The Ratings Percentage Index, which did not give Memphis its due. The E.W. Scripps Company, which is headquartered in — aha — Cincinnati, home city of a Memphis rival. The Southeastern Conference, which sought to snuff out competition from Memphis. And, most recently, media types that wish UK and its coach ill.
Even his greatest professional achievement, guiding Kentucky to the 2012 national championship, failed to dull Calipari's sense for subterfuge.
"There's a lot of people not rooting for us and me, would you agree?" Calipari asked reporters in the summer of 2012. "Am I paranoid or is that the truth?"
Even Calipari's friends say he's paranoid in the sense of perceiving many threats to his own and his teams' success.
"I always tell John this: Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean people are not out to get you," said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla, a Calipari friend for decades. "John operates best when he feels people are out to get him. ... It's what drives him."
Lex HL: Caliparanoia
Big XII composite schedule (includes results, highlights, stats)
ESPN College GameDay Schedule
2013-14 TV Schedule
2/5/14, 7:55 PM
Shoutout to Oklahoma St, Kansas, Memphis, Cincy, and Providence for all coming to the game tonight..
JaQuan Lyle is planning to visit Providence in early March, his mother told SNY.tv following a home visit in which she hosted head coach Ed Cooley and assistant Bob Simon at her home in Evansville, Ind.
“We plan on making a visit to Providence on March 3rd or 4th,” Lumecha Garrett told SNY.tv. “I work on the weekends so we’re trying to make some visits during the week if we can.”
West Virginia is no longer recruiting @JMamba5 , per a source. Kansas, Ok State, Providence among those still in mix
Daniel Giddens @DGOOD__
Grandstaff de-commit confirmed with his father Wes. More coming soon. Grandstaff still very interested in OSU.
My Late Night in the Phog videos, KU Alumni games videos, 2011-12 Border War videos, Legends of the Phog videos, KC Prep Invitational, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos and more now on YouTube