KUAD: Kansas holds St Louis practice/presser (Photos, transcript)
KC Star Photos: KU practice
LJW Photos: KU & EKU practice
KUAD: EKU vs Kansas pregame notes
Billy Burton and Daryl Dunagan know what’s in store for the Eastern Kentucky University basketball team when it faces Kansas today in St. Louis. They also know what it’s like to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Burton and Dunagan were members of the only EKU team ever to play Kansas — on Dec. 5, 1970, in Lawrence. They were also on the 1971-72 team that almost shocked eventual national runner-up Florida State in the NCAA Tournament.
Ever since Selection Sunday, the former roommates have been reminiscing. The Colonels’ second game of the 1970-71 season was at Kansas. They led 56-52 in the second half but lost 79-65 against a Jayhawks team that went on to reach the Final Four.
“We played them pretty tough,” said Burton, a Pleasure Ridge Park High School graduate. “We lost in the last three minutes. The gym, it was packed. We gave them all they wanted.”
Eastern Kentucky’s players said multiple times Thursday that they plan to use defense to make Kansas uncomfortable, but believing that can happen depends on which statistic is being examined.
The Colonels allow opponents to shoot 48.2 percent, 338th-best out of 345 NCAA Division I teams. EKU does, however, make it difficult for teams to shoot in the first place.
EKU is seventh nationally in steals, the product of a smaller lineup that relies more on quickness and good hands then physical play and favorable post matchups. Three Colonels average at least one steal and a fourth, Tarius Johnson, is just below that mark.
“We have to play our defense,” said Corey Walden, who leads EKU with 73 steals. “We have to steal the ball from them and just cause them to turn it over, and just be everywhere on the court and give effort everywhere.”
Kansas might be susceptible to such an approach because the Jayhawks rank 91st in turnovers per game and feature four players – three freshmen – with 64 turnovers or more.
“That’s the biggest focus when you come into any game, you don’t want to commit turnovers,” Kansas senior center Tarik Black said. “That’s been a big focus for us throughout the season, handling the ball, making smart plays with the ball.”
…EKU is in the top 50 nationally in turnovers at 10.7, and they rank fifth with 1.17 points per possession. Much of that comes from its 303 three-pointers, but the Colonels also rank in the top 20 in field-goal percentage and free-throw percentage.
“You have to take care of the basketball,” EKU coach Jeff Neubauer said. “All right, well, that’s one thing we do well also, one of the 10-best teams in the country at valuing the ball, but you cannot give them fast-break layups or dunks. We can’t afford to give them any of those.”
…The area where Eastern Kentucky’s post deficiencies show up most is rebounding, where it ranks 342nd out of 345 Division I teams at 26.2 per game. KU averages 26.3 defensive rebounds and the advantage is pronounced when factoring the Jayhawks’ 11.8 on the offensive end.
Limiting KU’s offensive rebounds could be a key to the Colonels staying close early.
“If we are playing from behind, that just takes so much energy, especially when it’s one-and-done time,” Neubauer said. “…Getting the lead, not only for us, but for all teams this time of year, is very important.”
With Eastern Kentucky cast in the role of David to the basketball Goliath that is Kansas, enquiring minds in the media were quizzing EKU players Thursday over their favorite all-time NCAA Tournament upsets.
EKU center Eric Stutz, a Newburgh, Ind., product, mentioned Butler's back-to-back runs to the 2010 and '11 NCAA title games.
Colonels guard Corey Walden went with Lehigh's stunner over Duke in 2012.
Eastern standout Glenn Cosey did not look backward. "I'm hoping we pull off (an upset), and that would be my favorite memory," Cosey said.
…Eastern Coach Jeff Neubauer noted there are very few programs that "live in Kansas' neighborhood. They are here every year. They are a one or a two seed every year. They understand what this is all about."
Yet, with all that, there are reasons to think that — if certain things happen — EKU can give the Jayhawks a battle.
The Colonels are making their third NCAA tourney appearance since 2005 because of three-point shooting and a ball-hawking, turnovers-forcing defense.
Even without injured 7-foot freshman center Joel Embiid (back), the Jayhawks will be far larger than Eastern. The Jayhawks starters will go 6-foot-8, 6-8, 6-9 across the front line and 6-5 and 5-11 in the backcourt.
EKU essentially plays four guards and Stutz, a 6-8 center.
Led by its standout guards Cosey (18.8 points) and Walden (14.1), Eastern has shot better than 50 percent in six of its last seven games. "If we have any chance of staying in a game with Kansas, we have to shoot threes and make threes," Neubauer said.
…Kansas under Self has been a boom or bust tournament program. Besides the 2008 NCAA championship, KU also lost to Kentucky in the 2012 national title game.
Yet, in the Self era, Kansas has also lost to a No. 14 seed (Bucknell in 2005), a No. 13 (Bradley in 2006), a No. 11 (VCU in the 2011 round of eight) and a No. 9 (Northern Iowa in the 2010 round of 32).
Last year, as a No. 1 seed, Kansas trailed No. 16 Western Kentucky at halftime and led by only four inside the last 30 seconds before pulling out a tense 64-57 victory.
The longer EKU can keep it close, the more Kansas could face some negative memories.
"What we do is the right equation, the right formula for beating somebody like Kansas," Neubauer said. "... We just have to do what we do — we just need to do it incredibly well."
“We said all along he would be the longest of the longshots for this weekend,” Self said, “but that hasn’t by any stretch ruled out next weekend. He’s made progress in rehab.”
The 7-foot freshman center attracts attention and sparks fascination unlike any other player in the land because of his nimble feet on offense and his outstretched paws on defense.
He was on the floor Thursday during the public practice/funfest the Jayhawks conducted. Embiid took a few post feeds, but moved deliberately and never jumped an inch.
No dunks, no blocks, no real activity. Still, it seemed appropriate to monitor Embiid’s every move.
“It’s crazy that he gets so much attention,” teammate Jamari Traylor said. “He’s such a great player and everything, but I was watching TV the other day and President Obama was even talking about him. That’s a crazy thing right there.”
…Tarik Black is as influential as any of the KU bigs at trying to overcome Embiid’s absence. He was the starting center before Embiid cracked the lineup, and as a senior who transferred from Memphis, Black has as much NCAA experience as any of the Jayhawks.
If Black stays out of foul trouble — an enormous if — he can be a load on either end.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches. You’ve got someone who is potentially a No. 1 draft pick,” Black said. “If he’s out, obviously there is going to be talk about him not playing.
“But it’s nothing personal. It’s not like we feel some other way about JoJo. We love him to death. We want him back, but it’s a situation where we have to move on because we don’t have him.”
…“We feel like we’re an underdog now,” Traylor said. “People weren’t even picking us, so that takes a lot of pressure off you.
“Usually they have us up in the top spot and everybody’s gunning for you, so this is a different feeling. We’re just going to go out there and let it all loose.”
After receiving a text from KU assistant coach Norm Roberts earlier in the week, Andrew White III knows he’ll be needed on the red scout team to help prepare the starters for an EKU squad with a lot of shooters.
Thirty minutes before practice, Roberts — the man responsible for the EKU scouting report — teaches the red team players the offense that KU is going up against.
This is also the day KU’s players receive their scouting report packet, which is a stapled booklet that lists each opponent’s stats and tendencies, along with their picture and number.
Later, the Jayhawks gather in the film room to watch the scouting report video for the first time.
After the final 30-minute dress rehearsal before practice, the scout team is ready for its first performance.
KU’s starters are drilled against EKU’s offensive actions, with Roberts calling out a play and the Jayhawks’ scout team running it after the short training.
It’s the first time White has been placed on scout team this year, and though it takes him a little longer to learn the actions than the red team veterans, he’s still able to pick it up quickly.
The offense immediately reminds White of another team KU faced earlier this year: Georgetown, which used similar motions while also relying heavily on backcuts.
White’s job in practice is to keep Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden Jr. sharp. Any time White is open, he’s instructed to shoot it, simulating how EKU’s players will react in the same situation.
“I try to give them as many problems as possible,” White said, “so the games are as easy as possible for them.”
At 10 p.m., the team gathers in a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency to go over the film for a second time.
Roberts talks over the clips, which include the Colonels’ transition game, out-of-bounds plays and player highlights.
After that, KU's players are given a nighttime snack (this can range from burgers to chicken wings) before heading back to their rooms.
The Jayhawks go through a light shoot-around during an open practice at Scottrade Center, but that doesn’t mean the prep work is over.
KU will go over its scouting report video at least twice more, and outside of that, players are expected to continue their studying on EKU.
Ellis often sees players glancing at the scouting report on the bus, or even trying to read it a few extra times before bed.
On Friday, right before the team leaves the tunnel to go onto the court, Self will solidify all the defensive assignments to make sure each player is clear who they’re starting out on defensively.
From there, it’s up to the player to bring the energy — and translate what they’ve learned into success on the court.
In front of his locker, Tharpe is asked if he considers preparing for an opposing team much like preparing for a test in college.
Tharpe nods before breaking into a wide smile.
“Yeah,” he says, "but it’s a test you’ve got the answers for.”
KU coach Bill Self outlined why Eastern Kentucky was a dangerous opponent for his team during Thursday’s media session at Scottrade Center.
“Defensively they play a little different, because they play very, very high on the floor, probably higher on the floor than anybody we played in recent memory,” Self said. “And certainly they turn you over with their quickness.”
The Jayhawks’ biggest weakness offensively this year has been giveaways, as they ranked 232nd nationally in offensive turnover percentage.
EKU also should test KU’s perimeter defense, as the Colonels have made 39 percent of their 3-pointers.
“Those are two areas that we haven't been great at, defending the (3-point) line and certainly taking care of the basketball, and that's probably the two things they do the best,” Self said. “So obviously reason for us to be concerned and know those are areas we need to be good at.”
Freshman jitters? When asked if he was worried about how his freshmen might respond in their first NCAA Tournament game, Self said “a little bit,” but he quickly qualified that by saying he’s always worried about how each of his guys will respond under pressure.
“I just want our guys to be loose, carefree and go have fun,” Self said. “The hay’s in the barn, so to speak, so just go out and have fun.”
'Bruise' banter — KU forwards Jamari Traylor had some fun on the podium when asked about their similar facial hair, as both were sporting short goatees.
“We don't plan it. We don't go to the barber shop,” Traylor said. “I don't know. I think I look pretty good with this.”
“I definitely did it first,” Black said later. “I guess he saw me come in the locker room and was like, ‘Hmm, that looks, kind of spiffy,’ so (he) started doing it himself.”
“No chance,” Traylor replied.
The two have been given the nickname “The Bruise Brothers” by some fans because of their physical style of play.
“All jokes aside, we have a great bond on and off the court,” Black said. “That's why we play so well together because of our chemistry off the court. We are good friends. We relate to each other very well, and we're similar players, too.”
He’d say it all the time. When the shots weren’t falling, when the legs looked heavy, when his little brother needed a reminder.
Tishaun Jenkins would pull Naadir Tharpe, his youngest brother, to the side and say the same six words.
Shoot the ball to the ceiling.
“Just make sure it has a chance to go,” Tharpe says, sitting in the Kansas locker room at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. “The higher I get my arch, the better chance it has to go in.”
One day before No. 2 seed Kansas was set to open the NCAA Tournament against No. 15 seed Eastern Kentucky at 3:10 p.m. on Friday, Tharpe was thinking about his brother. This is how it always is, of course.
When Tharpe’s father, Ronald, died of lung cancer in 2006, it was Tishaun who stepped in to serve as a father figure. When Tharpe needed somebody to talk to, Tishaun listened. When Tharpe needed somebody to push him, Tishaun did the shoving.
So when Tharpe returned home for Christmas in December, he knew he needed another talk with Tishaun.
His junior season had been erratic, and he was struggling to lead a young team. For two games in early November, he lost his starting spot to freshman Frank Mason.
The two brothers bonded over basketball again.
“He said: ‘As long as I have confidence in myself, and do as much as I can for the team, the dudes are going to follow,’” Tharpe says. “And it’s going to show.”
…“Good point guard play,” sophomore forward Jamari Traylor says, “that’s what you really need to get to the championship game.”
Traylor is Tharpe’s roommate and knows him better than anyone else on the team. And despite the recent struggles, Traylor believes Tharpe can rise to the moment in March.
“That’s just basketball,” Traylor says. “You’re going to have some good games, you’re going to have some bad games.”
Two years ago, Traylor and Tharpe both watched as senior Tyshawn Taylor drove the Jayhawks all the way to the NCAA title game in New Orleans. Tharpe was a little-used freshman; Traylor was a redshirt. They both saw the same things.
Taylor had struggled that season, too. During the NCAA Tournament, he couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from three. But he was there it meant the most. The Jayhawks kept grinding, kept advancing.
“It starts off with the point guard,” Tharpe says, “so I got to be as aggressive as I can, defensively and offensively, and just gather the troops.”
Tharpe has spent a lot of time this week working on the minds of KU’s freshmen.
“I’ve been talking to them, out of practice, in practice,” Tharpe said, “to make sure they are focused, ready and excited. They should be excited about this because it’s a one-time thing a lot of these players will get to play in. They shouldn’t be worried at all. We’ve all played in a lot of big games. We all play in the (Allen) fieldhouse. That’s a lot of nerves right there. This shouldn’t be anything different.”
As far as the technical aspects of today’s game ... Eastern Kentucky (24-9) likes to shoot a lot of threes on offense (303 of 776 on season; KU is 184 of 533) and pressure on defense with its smaller, scrappier lineup.
“We’ve been working on getting the ball up the floor and being aggressive,” Tharpe said. “If they are going to pressure us, coach (Bill Self) wants us to be aggressive and attack. Once the pressure occurs, we should be able to score by attacking it and getting layups.”
Center Tarik Black says the Jayhawks welcome pressure.
“To be honest, as a big man, especially a 5-man (center), we love seeing that. When our guards handle the ball, come down the floor, that’s easy backside lobs and dunks for us,” Black said. “That’s points on the board going up for us. Honestly I can’t wait.”
On a team full of shooters, Eastern Kentucy forward Eric Stutz is the one guy the Kansas University basketball team probably won’t have to worry about behind the three-point line during today’s second-round NCAA Tournament game at Scottrade Center.
It’s not that the 6-foot-8 junior from Newburgh, Ind., can’t shoot, rather that he chooses not to. Stutz was responsible for just three of the 776 three-point attempts the 15th-seeded Colonels (24-9) fired up this season, the 13th-highest number in college basketball.
He missed them all, remembers each one and says it really doesn’t bother him that he went from scorer in high school to scrapper in college.
“I like to think I’m still a pretty good shooter,” Stutz said. “In practice I can hit ’em. It’s just not something I needed to do this year.”
Stutz actually has become one of EKU’s best facilitators. His 59 assists rank third on the team and complement his 8.4 points-per-game and 4.7 rebounds-per-game averages nicely. With an offense that uses at least four shooters at all times, Stutz has found that driving and kicking to open teammates is a better use of his skills. So he does it. His teammates respond by knocking down shots. All within the offense, though.
“We just run plays and make the right passes,” said senior guard Glenn Cosey, who drained a team-best 110 of 259 three-point attempts this season. “Most of the time we’re open for threes because teams have to help in, and we just kick it out.”
Q: Eastern Kentucky’s guard play was good in the OVC Tournament. What about them concerns you?
“There are a lot of things that concerns me. Offensively they don’t turn it over. They shoot a ton of threes and shoot it very, very well. And they have — it’s not like you can key on one or two or three guys that shoot the threes. They have eight guys that can shoot threes. Their bench can all shoot it as well.
“So offensively they spread you. And then their 5-man is obviously one of the better passing big men in the country. So they’re good. They are very, very good. And defensively they play a little different, because they play very, very high on the floor, probably higher on the floor than anybody we played in recent memory. And certainly they turn you over with their quickness.
“Those are two areas that we haven’t been great at, defending the line and certainly taking care of the basketball and that’s probably the two things they do the best. So obviously reason for us to be concerned and know those are areas we need to be good at.”
• Q. Because Eastern Kentucky does play aggressive and up high, how do you look to combat that? Is it on the back end?
“Well, you know, it has been our experience that usually when teams pressure like that, that there’s, you know, reason why they are playing to their strengths or, you know, their skill set or whatever it is.
“But we’re a team that likes to play through our bigs, so somehow we need to negate the pressure so we don’t forget about playing through our bigs. That’s easier said than done.
“Hopefully when teams pressure like that, we have some things we can do to try to make them pay for pressuring like that. Just like if teams play soft, you have things you can do to try to, you know, maybe shoot the ball behind the arc or things like that. So we’ll hopefully be prepared to combat how they play.”
KC Star Q&A with Coach Self
There's plenty of familiarity in the Scottrade Center locker rooms this week in St. Louis. Between the Kansas and Wichita State practices, two of the Wiggins brothers, freshman Andrew of KU and senior Nick of the Shockers, met in the Shockers’ room.
(Another brother, Mitchell Jr., will be in Missouri on Saturday: He plays for Southeastern (Fla.) and is scheduled to compete in the NAIA slam-dunk contest at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.) Although their teams will play in the same arena Friday, the only way Andrew and Nick Wiggins could face off in the NCAA Tournament is if both advance to the national championship game. Kansas coach Bill Self said that’s probably a break for their parents, Mitchell Sr. and Marita.
“The fact that they’re not playing each other (in St. Louis) will probably be better for them,” Self said. “It would be something that everybody in our state would probably think was a dream matchup. For the family, it probably played out perfectly.” Oh, and KU and K-State were assigned the same locker room. The Jayhawks get it for the first session; the Wildcats, the second.
“Here’s what I can tell you about those guys,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “They really love each other. They are like best friends.”
A few other Shockers stopped to say hello to KU’s Wiggins, who has made trips to Wichita to see Nick play. Nick has been to Lawrence to watch Andrew.
When somebody asked Andrew if he thought Kansas fans in Scottrade Center would be cheering for the Shockers, he didn’t pretend to be a mind-reader.
“I’m going to root for them regardless,” he said. “I want them to go as far as possible. That’s my brother’s team. I want them to keep winning.”
Nick expressed the same sentiment and even allowed himself to look down the road, all the way to the final exit ramp. The only way the schools could meet in this tournament would be to play in the national-title game.
“That would be amazing, something the world would not want to miss,” Nick said. “It would definitely make Canada proud.”
Then and only then would the brothers put their love aside and treat each other as enemies. Might a little trash talk even flow back and forth?
“Definitely,” Nick said. “There’s always trash talk. There’s trash talk when we play video games, so I know there’ll be trash talk when we’re out on the floor. It wouldn’t be him as my little brother. I’d look at him as being a Jayhawk until the final buzzer sounded, and then we’d speak our words to each other. It would be a great atmosphere.”
Houston Chronicle: Ex-Rocket Wiggins tries to steer son clear of pitfalls along NBA path
On a scale of 1 to 10, Andrew Wiggins rates his one-and-done season at Kansas University a “10.”
“I loved it,” Wiggins said Thursday.
What has been the best part?
“The whole experience. Never a dull moment,” said Wiggins, who enters the 2014 NCAA Tournament as KU’s leading scorer (17.4) and third-leading rebounder (6.0).
“I had fun the whole year. Every time I was in Kansas, it was fun.
“It did,” he added of his year in Lawrence exceeding his expectations. “(There’s) nothing like college, sharing moments with your brothers you’ll never experience again.”
…As reported in the Journal-World last weekend, Ellis spoke up in the locker room after KU’s loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament.
“I wish I could have recorded that. I didn’t hear it,” Self said. “Somebody said Perry was getting after everybody. I’d have given anything to see that. We’ve been begging for that for two years now. I think he’s taken on more of a leadership role, not much vocally but (setting) an example standpoint. He’s still young.”
Before the game, there are rituals.
They begin with a hymn, fans at Allen Fieldhouse draping their arms around each other, and then comes an incantation, drawn out like a Gregorian chant: “Rock. Chalk. Jayhawk. K.U.”
The noise builds ahead of tipoff on a Saturday evening in February in Lawrence. In this church of U.S. college basketball, a video extols history – James Naismith, Wilt Chamberlain, national championships – and celebrates the promise of the present.
“From Ontario, Canada,” the announcer bellows, and Andrew Wiggins, 6-foot-8, with wisps of hair on chin and lip, bounds onto the court.
Wiggins is the most-hyped Canadian basketball player in history, a startlingly athletic kid who sprang from the Toronto suburb of Vaughan onto the covers of ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated, the latter likening his arrival in Kansas to that of the great Chamberlain more than a half-century ago.
…But Bill Self, the broad-shouldered head coach who recruited Wiggins, made clear where the newcomer would stand at one of the most-storied basketball schools in America. “There’s not going to be any billboards about you,” Self told Wiggins. “You’re never going to be the best player who played here. Wilt Chamberlain played here. You’re going to be part of something bigger than yourself.”
Thus began the education of Andrew Wiggins, who quickly ran smack into the reality of his own unmistakable shortcomings. His shooting needed work, as did his ball-handling. His aggressiveness came and went – he seemed almost too willing to fit in, to be just one of the guys. He wasn’t shy, but he didn’t lust for attention. “He’s got zero aura about him,” an unidentified NBA voice said in an ESPN report last fall. “People are making far more of this kid than they should.”
…Jeff Forbes, the Jayhawks video co-ordinator, gets the new recruits right away. He wants them to study and learn, as if they’re in the NBA. While Wiggins has often been likened to LeBron James, Forbes had him parse film of Tracy McGrady, the now-retired NBA star who is the same height as Wiggins, was similarly talented, and played the same position, the wing – a blend of shooting guard and small forward.
Even practices were filmed and assessed. There were many adjustments: When guarding right-handed shooters, Wiggins was instructed to get his left hand up, his right arm free to make trouble. In team sessions, studying opponents, Forbes assembled 200 clips and banged them out in fractions of three or four seconds over 15 minutes, demanding the concentration of a game. Wiggins was fast to memorize all aspects.
“Andrew has learned how to be a professional,” Forbes says. “Once he was here, and the car got driving, it just took off.”
In the weight room, there was Andrea Hudy. She has been called Kansas’s secret weapon and numerous NBA players credit her tutelage for making the leap to the pros. “She made me a lot stronger,” Wiggins says. “She works miracles.”
Some of the principal work was on what’s called anterior chain strength – power through the knees, flexible calves and strong quads, the basis of lateral movement. It’s the strength to stay with an opponent driving to the hoop, or to burst past a defender. One exercise was jumping off an object, down about 75 centimetres, and up immediately as high as the athlete could manage. “Ground reaction forces,” Hudy says.
On her iPhone, she charted progress, the gauges of load, explode, drive, measured by the latest technology.
“In basketball, you never run in a straight line,” Hudy says. “Andrew is an exceptional athlete. But he wasn’t exceptionally versed in basketball movements. We emphasize basketball movements, to make him a better basketball player.”
…On the east side of Lawrence, a city of about 90,000, the rolling lawn of Memorial Park Cemetery is an expanse of dead brown and vacant yellow. There is a breeze and sun; the earth smells of promise, the coming spring. Near the back, near two tall oaks and a small obelisk, lies a modest grave marker. A small Canadian flag, fluttering, is planted in the moistened earth.
This is the final resting place of James Naismith, the Almonte, Ont.-born inventor of basketball who nailed up the famous peach basket in 1891 while working at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass.
Seven years later, a former boss pushed him for a job at Kansas. “Recommend James Naismith,” a telegram read, “inventor of basketball, medical doctor, Presbyterian minister, teetotaller, all-around athlete, non-smoker, and owner of vocabulary without cuss words.”
Naismith planted basketball in the Kansas soil. In 2010, David Booth, a Kansas grad, bought Naismith’s original 13 rules of the game for $4.3-million (U.S.) at auction; they will be housed this fall in a new addition to a large museum that bears his family’s name and is attached to Allen Fieldhouse.
“Basketball, here, is really a way of life,” says Booth, who became a billionaire in mutual funds. “You know, those of us who like basketball, there’s almost a ballet to it, when it’s done right. Watching Andrew, he’s one of the people who make you think of that.”
Globe and Mail feature: Is Wiggins too nice to be an NBA superstar?
Gov. Sam Brownback on Thursday declared Kansas the "Cradle of Basketball" in issuing a proclamation praising the three teams from the state playing in the NCAA men's tournament.
Brownback signed the proclamation a day before Kansas, Kansas State and Wichita State all were to play their opening games in St. Louis. The document designates Friday as "Cradle of Basketball" Day.
The governor planned to travel to St. Louis to cheer for the state's teams. He wore pins for each of the three on the lapel of his jacket.
"I think most of the state of Kansas is going to be watching," Brownback said before signing the proclamation at the Statehouse.
Many Kansas residents like to think of basketball as being perfected in their state.
James Naismith invented the game in Springfield, Mass., in 1891, but arrived at the University of Kansas in 1898 to teach physical education and serve as the university's first basketball coach.
"This is really taking advantage of the situation we have and really pointing out that this is the place where the sport grew up," Brownback said after issuing the proclamation.
But while Turgeon was turning the program into a more appealing destination, he butted into the same old roadblock at the Wichita city border. All that work, and he still couldn’t get KU on the Shockers’ schedule.
He remembers calling his old boss, Williams, hoping to play host to KU when Wichita State christened its overhauled arena. The discussion went nowhere. He would later have some informal talks with current coach Bill Self during Self’s first years at KU, but those never progressed, either.
“I’ll speak for Bill and say it’s probably not in Kansas’ best interest to play Wichita,” Turgeon says. “But when I was there, I certainly wanted to.”
Today, Turgeon is the head coach at Maryland, and it has been 21 seasons since KU and Wichita State last met in a college basketball game. In the past 108 years, in fact, the schools have played just 14 times. K-State, meanwhile, played Wichita State 19 times from 1986 to 2003, but even those two haven’t played since.
For many fans in this city, particularly those who align with the Shockers, this is the type of sore that can fester.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” says Joe Auer, the head basketball at Wichita Heights High, a school with former players on both the KU and Wichita State programs. “There’s a little bit of a chip on the shoulder in this community.”
In the mid 1980s and early 1990s, the schools played each other nine times in 10 years. The Jayhawks won eight of those games, often by double digits. The Shockers won just once, in Turgeon’s senior season of 1987.
These days, KU coach Bill Self would prefer to schedule nonconference games against high-profile opponents in places where KU can expand its brand. Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall, in turn, has said he won’t come to Allen Fieldhouse for a one-off — he’d only play KU as part of a home-and-home arrangement.
For now, the Shockers’ program is ascending, but there’s still little incentive for KU to play Wichita State.
After all, what if the Jayhawks lost?
“I think it was great for Wichita State,” Turgeon says of the old series. “I don’t think it was that good for Kansas. They played nine times; in Wichita, they just remember the one (that the Shockers won).”
This is how you start a riot in an NBA locker room:
Break out a bracket. Sure enough, just as I slipped the blank sheet to Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, the lobbyists infiltrated his locker space, school pride in tow.
"How far you got Baylor?" Quincy Miller wanted to know.
"North Carolina?" Ty Lawson hollered from across the room.
Aaron Brooks ducked over with his inquiry: "Where's Oregon at?"
"They're up here against BYU," Arthur said, pointing to the West Region of the NCAA Tournament. "They lost already. Sorry, they're done."
"Wowww," Brooks said, shooting a glance of disapproval. "You did that?"
He did that.
My man Darrell Arthur has the chops to do that. He actually won the bracket. Not an office pool, the Warren Buffet $1-billion shindig or a random online challenge.
Arthur won the real bracket. He's an NCAA champion, a member of the 2008 champs from Kansas. Along with Carolina's Lawson, Arthur was one of two national champs in the Nuggets locker room prior to Wednesday's game against the Pistons.
This assignment might be tougher than winning a title was: build the perfect bracket for The Gazette. The NCAA Tournament erupts today. "Let's do this," Arthur said.
Yes, let's do this. Here's how a bracket is done, according to a bracket champion.
The No. 1 seeds — Florida, Virginia, Arizona and Wichita State — will avoid the all-time upset. "I don't see a 16 seed beating a 1 seed — yet," Arthur said.
"Some day, it's going to happen. But I don't see it happening this year."
Stick with the chalk in these Thursday-Friday games, he advised. His early upsets are limited to Stanford over New Mexico ("They played a tougher schedule") and BYU over Oregon ("Just to make Aaron Brooks mad").
Take back all those mean things you say about Kansas, Buffs fans. Arthur likes Colorado to beat Pittsburgh. Alas, the road ends Saturday against Florida.
For a Kansas guy, Kentucky-Kansas State is the toughest pick. Old rivalries die hard. "I can't like either one of 'em," Arthur said. Forced to choose, he rolls with K-State.
"I won't be rooting for that game, though," he said.
On their national championship run in 2008, Arthur's Jayhawks withstood the brilliant Davidson squad led by Steph Curry in the Elite Eight.
"He was a monster," Arthur said. Yes, Nuggets fans would agree.
So how does he choose an upset special — such as Davidson — in his bracket?
"Try to see who's hot. Who shoots it well?" Arthur said. "That's a big thing, who can shoot the 3. The team that shoots well can become the Cinderella story."
With that mind, his bracket advice is to steer clear of teams that depend heavily on the 3-point shot. As the tournament moves forward, their shooting legs can wilt.
"That's happened with Duke before, a team with great shooters," Arthur said. "But you've got to have some interior guys, too."
After Arthur scraps my Zags in the third round — "Arizona's defense is crazy," he said — we're on to the Sweet 16. This is where the contenders separate from the cool stories. "The pressure goes up the further you play," he said. "Guys start to get tight."
In the Sweet 16, Arthur likes Arizona over Oklahoma, Wisconsin over Creighton, Louisville over Wichita State, Duke over Michigan, Villanova over Iowa State, Michigan State over Virginia, Florida over VCU and Kansas over Syracuse.
"When you go against that (Syracuse) zone, you just have to attack that middle," he said. "Once you attack that middle, everything else opens up."
As Arthur continued to study his bracket, the locker room continued its bracket trash talk. Lawson said his Tar Heels are a Sweet 16 team. Brooks said his Ducks are bound for the Final Four. Russia's Timofey Mozgov searched for goofy YouTube videos.
"Watch out for Baylor," Miller warned. "We're going to the Final Four."
Old allegiances die hard, too. Arthur's Final Four: Michigan State, Louisville, Arizona and, yes, Kansas. What's the secret to becoming an NCAA champion?
"You have to play defense. You have to lock up," Arthur said. "And you've got to have great possessions offensively. You can't waste possessions."
And the secret to a perfect bracket?
"It's a bunch of luck, honestly," he said with a laugh. "I had a bunch of teams last year that I felt great about. And then by the end of the first weekend, they're all at home."
Ignoring the bracket banter around his locker, Arthur settled on the 2014 national champion. He likes Kansas and Arizona in the title game. Kansas cuts the nets.
Rock, chalk it up.
The bracket champ has spoken.
The Philadelphia 76ers have lost 22 straight games, and may not win another the rest of the season.
But you'll never believe this. It could be because they're trying to get a high draft pick. Just call it a hunch, I guess.
Question is, if the Sixers were to land a top one or two pick, who might they be trying to get?
According to ESPN.com, it's Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins.
In the midst of a 20-game losing streak, the Sixers have had Wiggins atop their board all year, and believe he'd be the perfect complement to Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, and Thaddeus Young. The athleticism on that team would be crazy.
No big surprise the 76ers would target Wiggins, because basically every other lottery team in the league is targeting him. But there are other options, like Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Julius Randle.
The Sixers clear line of thinking, if they are in fact targeting Wiggins, is to add to their athleticism and length. Embiid is emerging as maybe the consensus No. 1 overall pick, but the Sixers are likely in search of starpower, and that often comes with a wing player. The potential of Wiggins exploding into an NBA superstar makes him incredibly intriguing for a building team like Philly.
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