Something old, something new, time to focus Crimson and Blue!
No. 1 Kansas at Texas Tech, 9 p.m. ET, ESPNU, Saturday: The Red Raiders pushed Iowa State in a road loss to the Cyclones earlier this week. They’re holding opponents to a 30.6 percent clip outside the arc. Kansas is second in the country at 45.7 percent from the 3-point line. If the Red Raiders turn Kansas into an average 3-point shooting team, they’ll have a chance to secure the upset. This will be a tough trip for the entire Big 12. Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders will push America’s top team to the brink in this one.
Prediction: Kansas 86, Texas Tech 84
Coach Self previews Texas Tech
KUAD: Kansas vs Texas Tech Pregame Notes
If you saw the Big Monday game this week, you know you saw an idyllic college basketball battle, an ode to the genre between No. 1 Kansas and also-No. 1 Oklahoma. It lasted three overtimes, and for 55 minutes was played with astonishing levels of effort and precision. Magic Johnson said it was one of the best college basketball games he’d ever seen.
You know what you saw.
You know that, by the second overtime, you knew these were the only two teams in the country that could have pushed each other to this level, absorbed this many blows, gotten up again this many times. It could be the greatest game in the history of either program, and remember: These two programs were once tied 50-50 at halftime of a national championship game.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield scored 46 points, but Kansas won anyway. And that’s how we know Kansas is the team to beat in March this year.
The Big Lead Tully Corcoran
You don’t need another person telling you how amazing Monday’s Kansas-Oklahoma, three-overtime epic was. Its status as the Game of the Season (to date) was sealed before the final buzzer. In my film review I focused on my favorite postgame quote, from Jayhawks coach Bill Self, in regards to their defense on Sooner star Buddy Hield: “We actually did a really good job holding him to 46 [points].”
In almost any context but this one, it’s a ridiculous quote, but in the context of this ridiculous game, it’s not. Hield probably could’ve scored 60 if not for all the ball-denial work by Frank Mason III (and early in the game, Wayne Selden).
For every possession Hield was on the floor, I charted who guarded him and the outcome. In the chart below, PPP is Hield’s points per possession on all the possessions he was guarded, not just the ones he attempted a shot or committed a turnover; the next column is the percentage of time he took a shot or drew a shooting foul; the final column is the percentage of time he committed a turnover. In regulation, Mason did the bulk of the work, and did it quite well, but it was Selden’s stretch of guarding Hield to open the game that was exceptional:
SI Luke Winn
Welcome to my regularly scheduled impossible task, listing a mere 25 great players and not fretting about the amazing talents found in Division I's "other" 99.4 percent.
So let us begin. This is a ranking of the nation's top players based on college production this season as opposed to professional potential. Sometimes those two criteria align more or less completely (see No. 1), and other times they are somewhat more contradictory (choose your own best example). When the latter case arises, I rule in favor of college production and rank accordingly. We also ranked the top 100 players before the season.
Based on this premise, these are my selections as the top players of 2015-16 so far:
3. Wayne Selden Jr., Kansas Jayhawks
Junior | Guard
You could feel a disturbance in the college hoops punditry force this past week, as a consensus formed suddenly, unmistakably and perhaps even irrevocably. The national player of the year race is now down to just four players: Ben Simmons, Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine. Period.
Great players all, but what, exactly, is going on here? Consider Selden, who has had a virtually perfect first nine weeks. Why is he not part of this discussion? Could it be because, a bit like the college football polls, where you were slotted on media day continues to matter well into the regular season? Let's hope not. A combo guard shooting 56 percent on 2s and 53 percent on 3s as a featured scorer for the nation's top-ranked team surely merits a seat at the table with Ben, Buddy, Kris and Denzel.
18. Perry Ellis, Kansas Jayhawks
Senior | Forward
I've already sung Wayne Selden's praises, and rightfully so. But without the possessions used and shots attempted by an efficient first option like Ellis, a season like Selden's very likely doesn't play out in the same statistically immaculate fashion. As usual, Ellis is converting his looks inside the arc and making just enough 3s (about one per game) to remind his coach that he can do so. What's new and unusual this season, however, is that the senior is posting career bests for both free throw accuracy (80 percent) and turnover rate (9.7 percent of possessions).
ESPN Gasaway ($)
This version of the Texas Tech basketball team is mentally tough
Last season, the Texas Tech basketball team lost six games by at least 20 points. When the opponent would go on a big run, especially in games away from Lubbock, the Red Raiders often became flustered, discouraged and unable to fight back.
But against Iowa State, Texas Tech showed the poise and resilience that the program has been devoid of for some years.
With 8:30 left to play in the first half, Texas Tech trailed 31-13 invoking memories of last year’s 45-point loss in Ames. But Tubby Smith’s Red Raiders would go on a 10-0 run to get back into the game.
Still, the Red Raiders trailed by 10 points at halftime. In the second half, Texas Tech pulled to within four points of Iowa State by the 14:58 mark following a jumper by Norense Odiase.
The game would remain close for the majority of the night with Iowa State finally separating from Texas Tech in the final two minutes. But the encouraging news for Texas Tech is that the team went into one of the most difficult environments in the country and did not fold despite facing an up hill battle for the entire evening.
TT Fansided Blog
About 15 minutes after the ninth game of his freshman season — a three-hour, three-overtime epic inside Allen Fieldhouse — Cheick Diallo pushed through a locker room door and bounced across the room, jumping in the air as the party raged.
Diallo, a 6-foot-9 freshman, had played just five minutes, relegated to a cameo amidst the plot twists and drama. He had collected just one rebound and didn’t score. But as the Jayhawks celebrated inside the locker room, his head coach said, Diallo could hardly be contained.
“He was jumping around, all in the locker room, jumping over everybody,” sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham said. “We were trying to tell him to calm down. He was way too excited.”
…For the moment, Diallo has remained positive and focused — and an active presence during practice. It’s a point, Self says, driven home by his enthusiasm after Monday’s victory.
“Nobody was happier after the game than him,” Self said.
… In recent weeks, Self has maintained that Diallo and fellow freshman Carlton Bragg could play a crucial role at some point during the Big 12 season. The Kansas staff, in essence, is just waiting for the light to come on.
…“This is what I told (Diallo) the other night, and I mean this,” Self said on Thursday, two days before No. 1 Kansas travels to Texas Tech for its first Big 12 road game. “I’d love for him to play a lot. The other night, there was no doubt that Jamari and Landen gave us a chance to win the game.
“It’s hard to put freshmen that really don’t have any experience in any real big games or anything like that — (it’s hard to) put them in the game when you’re down 10 to the No. 1 ranked team in the country at home. You don’t say, ‘Go win the game for us, you’ve never been here, go do that.’”
…For the moment, Self and teammates say Diallo is still engaged at practice, still working hard to shorten the learning curve. In recent weeks, Diallo has watched extra film with assistant coach Norm Roberts, who coaches the Jayhawks big men. He’s also tried to make progress in the weight room.
“He’s definitely learning,” Graham said. “He watches film. He works hard. He’s always in the weight room, asking different questions. You can tell in practice how he’s learning.”
Graham’s value goes far beyond anything any traditional stat-line will tell you. Look a little deeper and you’ll see that he’s only turning the ball over .9 times per game. His assist to turnover ratio is a very good 3.69. Not quite Monte Morris territory, but still a great number.
Look just a little bit deeper, and you’ll notice that he’s averaging 1.9 steals per game.
Ok, so what?
Well, recently, Kansas has had a bit of trouble forcing turnovers. Whether it’s a coincidence or not, they have failed to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in both of the past two seasons. In 2012-13, they lost in the Sweet 16.
In all three of those seasons, they also failed to crack the top 90 in the country in turnovers forced. This year, the Jayhawks sit at 48th in turnovers forced, mostly thanks to Graham and his thievery.
Even better: the last time the Jayhawks cracked the top 50 in turnovers forced? 2011-12, when they made a run all the way to the National Championship Game before ultimately losing to Kentucky.
Not to mention that Graham’s 1.9 steals per game is much better than any KU guard in recent history. You would have to go back five years to 2010-11 to find the last Kansas guard to average 1.5 steals per game, and that was Tyrel Reed.
The last time a Kansas guard averaged over 1.5 steals per game was the devilish championship backcourt of Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson, who both did so (Graham’s backcourt mate Frank Mason is also averaging 1.9 steals per game this year).
KU Fansided Blog
Ben McLemore scored 16 points with four rebounds, one assist, one steal and one 3-pointer in 25 minutes against the Lakers on Thursday.
Big 12/College News
The college basketball season's first 1 vs. 2 matchup did not disappoint, and it was another signal of the quality found in the Big 12 Conference.
On this episode of the College Basketball Madness Podcast, Nicole Auerbach and Scott Gleeson dissect Oklahoma-Kansas and much, much more.
USA Today podcast
College basketball enters its next chapter as more meaningful, entertaining conference play begins.
The list below features a multitude of squads that should remain relevant on the national scene through March.
Certain elements of their respective journeys, however, suggest that a cautious approach to any projections is prudent.
Here are 10 teams you shouldn’t trust yet:
This team’s victory over Louisville, achieved in part by UK’s 48 percent clip from beyond the 3-point line, masked Kentucky’s ongoing challenges on offense. The Wildcats failed to register more than a point per possession in losses to LSU (86th in adjusted defensive efficiency) and Ohio State (35th). Per hoop-math.com, the Wildcats are ranked No. 202 on 2-point jump shots (35.1 percent) and No. 279 in 3-point shooting (31.6 percent). Kentucky is still an SEC contender with a high ceiling. Beyond that? We’re not sure.
It’s really simple for Scott Drew’s team. We all know the Bears are talented. The foursome of double-figure scorers Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince, Al Freeman and Johnathan Motley should keep them in most games. But the Bears are just a different team away from Waco, Texas. They’ve lost their three road games against opponents ranked in the top 25 when they played them (Oregon, Texas A&M and Kansas) by 54 points combined. The Bears must prove they can handle the road in Big 12 play.
SMU's bittersweet season remains perfect.
The Mustangs rallied late at home on Thursday night to beat Cincinnati, 59-57, in a thrilling AAC game between, arguably, the two best teams in the conference. The Mustangs had four players hit double figures in scoring, led by Ben Moore's 15.
Southern Methodist and South Carolina, which won on Tuesday night, are the only teams left in Division I without a loss. That's 14 up, 14 down for Larry Brown's boys. This is the best start in the history of the program.
It's all the team has, considering it's not eligible for the postseason -- and is now playing without Keith Frazier, the central figure of the NCAA case that led to such circumstances.
The win was even more impressive considering SMU closed the contest out with six scholarship players. Sterling Brown was ejected with 7:09 remaining in the first half, and the score knotted at 21.
Bryce Alford scored 25 points, hitting a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left that gave UCLA an 87-84 victory over No. 7 Arizona on Thursday night in Los Angeles for the Bruins' first Pac-12 win after opening league play with consecutive road losses.
Aaron Holiday added 15 points, Isaac Hamilton had 14 points, and Tony Parker had 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Bruins (10-6, 1-2). They lost to the Washington schools last weekend.
"A huge game," Alford said. "If we lose this, we're 0-3 to start the year and that's a hard hole to come out of."
Alford hit five 3-pointers, and Hamilton added three of UCLA's 11.
Ryan Anderson had 15 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Wildcats (13-2, 1-1), who had their eight-game winning streak snapped.
Bryn Forbes has been a good player for No. 5 Michigan State.
Tom Izzo, though, is not satisfied with that.
Forbes scored 17 points to help the Spartans rout Illinois 79-54 on Thursday night for their second straight victory without Denzel Valentine.
"He's got to become a great player," Izzo said.
Forbes made more than half of his 13 shots, connected on three 3-pointers, and had three assists, one rebound, one steal and one turnover.
"I didn't think Bryn had his best game," Izzo lamented. "He has been playing a lot better defensively."
The Spartans (15-1, 2-1 Big Ten) missed Valentine for a fourth straight game. The senior guard participated in pregame warmups and might play at Penn State on Sunday, nearly three weeks after having surgery on his left knee.
"Could've played, wanted to play, but he wasn't quite there yet," Izzo said.
Remember how it was supposed to take a couple of years to adjust? The way the mighty NBA needed a few seasons to knead out its slogging tendencies after the turn of the century? Yet here's college basketball, a sport with worse athletes and plenty more challenges, seemingly flipping a switch overnight and masterly adjusting to the greatest offseason amendment to the sport's rulebook in the modern era.
There is something amiss. One of the most powerful men in the sport, Dan Gavitt, knows it and is uneased with one major facet of the overhaul. Fouls are still not being called consistently and correctly across the board
"Where I'm a little concerned that we may not be where we need to be is reducing physical play area," Gavitt, who is the VP of men's basketball championships, said. "There haven't been as been as many fouls as we figured there would be. On the surface, maybe that's a good thing, but on the curve, tracking this year versus the past few years, there's a natural progression to fewer foul as the season goes on. We're actually tracking right now behind where we were a few years ago."
…"We want fouls called that are fouls," Gavitt said. "The only other explanation is that coaches and players have adjusted so significantly, and maybe some of that is going on, but not to the level of 15 percent. My sense is we're doing a pretty good job on the perimeter and illegal screens. If there's areas for improvement, it's low-post play, contact off the ball — cutters — because those are harder plays to call."
Fouls happening at nearly the same rate on a per-possession basis is an indication for some that officials are not being diligent enough with new customs. More evidence of that? Coaches aren't complaining -- mostly. A Big 12 coach did supply this quote, but wanted it off the record as to not publicly come off as petulant.
"I still don't think they're calling it the way they said they're going to call it," the coach said. "If there's 100 calls a game, everyone's gonna bitch, people are gonna foul out and it's bad for TV. Go back to the national championship last year. If Wisconsin is allowed to play the way they did all year long in the Big Ten, they probably win the game, but the game was called tighter. Ask Bo Ryan. It was called differently then."
In speaking with more than a dozen prominent coaches around the sport for this story, their two biggest gripes were not being able to call live-ball timeouts and the elimination of the five-second count for closely guarding a dribbler.
Complaints with the calls? Resistance to the new whistle? Not really.
How low did he go? Once, while teaching a basketball class at Cincinnati, Hmiel says he assigned an athlete in another sport a D grade for B-quality work to accommodate a coach eager to free up a scholarship. Another time, as the basketball team's academic adviser, Hmiel deliberately overscheduled a player until he became academically ineligible and transferred.
Now 63, Hmiel says he was finally moved to admit his many ethical lapses out of empathy for Andre McGee, the former University of Louisville director of basketball operations, and from the concern that McGee may be scapegoated in the U of L sex scandal being investigated by the NCAA. Recently retired after nearly 30 years at Procter & Gamble and far removed from college basketball, Hmiel says he has never met McGee, but he is intimately familiar with the plight of a young coach on the bottom rung of the career ladder.
"He's a go-fer," Hmiel said of McGee. "He's a janitor in an office building of a major corporation. He's keeping the floors clean. He's keeping the windows nice and shiny. ... He's a part of it, but he's not mainstream. He's trying to be a mainstream-type guy, but he's a peon."
…Hmiel says the decisions he made turned him into a "charlatan." As a result, he has steered his son Jason away from coaching college basketball.
"I refuse to let (him) get into that cesspool of slime," Hmiel said. "A college basketball coach could take three showers and put on a new set of clothes and still stink."
USA Today: Confessions of a hoops ‘slime ball’
Tuesday night at the Colonnade Hotel is your chance to enjoy “An Evening with Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer John Calipari.” For a mere $300, you can rub elbows with Coach Cal and listen to stories of the golden days of UMass basketball, when Calipari took the Minutemen to the Final Four. That was one of the more thrilling sports stories of 1996 and it remained a wonderful memory right up until it was learned that star player Marcus Camby already had turned professional while he was still playing for UMass. Camby had a couple of agents and had been the recipient of cash, thousands of dollars worth of jewelry, and the services of prostitutes while he was playing for coach Cal (Camby’s jersey number already is retired at UMass, so go figure).
There was more. UMass players’ transcripts obtained by the Globe in 1994 indicated that there was a significant problem in the classroom: Camby and three teammates played while they were on academic probation. Last March, Steve Satell, a former tutor for the UMass basketball program, told the New York Times, “Coach Calipari could have created a great academic program, but he ruined it. And the university was absolutely complicit.’’ A Connecticut AAU coach who delivered many players to Calipari at UMass told the Times that Coach Cal’s recruiting philosophy was, “If you qualify, we want you. If you don’t, we still want you.’’
After the Camby disclosures, the NCAA spanked UMass, fining the school $151,000 and forcing UMass to erase its Final Four appearance. In NCAA parlance, UMass’s Final Four appearance was “vacated.’’ It never happened. Cal was long gone when the sanctions came down. After the Final Four, he bailed on UMass, signing a $15 million contract to coach the New Jersey Nets.
None of this is problematic at UMass. Here they are, 20 years later, raising money for the basketball program with a “night” for Coach Cal, which will be followed by a halftime ceremony Wednesday when Calipari’s name will be raised to the rafters at the Mullins Center on campus in Amherst.
ICYMI from the Boston Globe
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