LJW: Photos from Des Moines
UDK: Photos from Des Moines
KUAD: Photos from Des Moines
KC Star: Photos from Des Moines
KUAD: Pregame Q&A
KUAD: Kansas vs Austin Peay Pregame Notes
Des Moines Register: Photos and videos from open practice, more
DMR: Your guide to March Madness in Des Moines
Kansas' Bill Self has been named one of four finalists for the Naismith Men's College Coach of the Year Award, the Atlanta Tipoff Club announced Thursday.
Joining Self, the 2012 Naismith Men's College Coach of the Year, is Jay Wright of Villanova, Tom Crean of Indiana and Chris Mack of Xavier.
The winner will be announced on Sunday, April 3, at the Naismith Awards brunch at the NCAA Men's Final Four in Houston.
Under Self, No. 1 Kansas (30-4, 15-3) won its 12th-straight, 16th Big 12 and NCAA-leading 59th overall regular season title in 2015-16. Kansas also won the Big 12 Postseason Championship and the 2015 Maui Invitational in 2015-16. Kansas' 30 wins heading into its NCAA Championship opening-round game against Austin Peay (3 p.m. Central on TNT) are the most in the nation.
“It’s cool that he picked us,” said junior forward Landen Lucas. “I know that he’s not always accurate, but I heard he got the first (bracket Obama picked as president) right, so if we can send him off getting the last one right too, that’d be pretty cool.”
Lucas, of course, had his own motives too as the Jayhawks enter the tournament on a 14-game winning streak after claiming regular season and tournament titles in the Big 12.
“It’d be even better if we could win it and get to the White House ourselves,” Lucas said. “We’re looking forward to the challenge, and it’s great he has the confidence in us that we have in ourselves. It would be awesome to go meet him at his place, especially after he picked us. We could go up there and be like, ‘We got it done for you.’ ”
The pick marked the last time Obama will fill out a bracket as president. His second term in the White House ends in January.
KU senior forward Jamari Traylor delighted in Obama’s pick while watching with teammate Wayne Selden, a junior guard.
“Wayne is my roommate,” said Traylor, “so when he showed me the video he was like, ‘Hey, the president knows my name!’ If he picked us, hopefully we don’t disappoint him.”
Selden shared his account as well.
“This morning I got a bunch of texts [from] my family excited that the President said our name,” Selden said. “To be where I come from and to be in this position is a blessing.”
But Selden wasn’t the only Jayhawk that Obama mentioned by name. Senior Perry Ellis, the Jayhawks leading scorer, also received some love.
“That’s an awesome feeling,” Ellis said. “Just knowing that he’s watching games and knowing things about different teams. That’s really cool. That’s definitely an honor.”
This will be the last time that Obama will make his picks as President of the United States, as he is in his eighth and final year of office.
The vocal leader of the Jayhawks made sure to note that, when delivering his message to the President.
“I appreciate you, President,” sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham said. “You [are] coming to the end of your term, but the team definitely appreciates it. We’re going to try and get it done for you.”
The more time Chris Horton got off, the more confident he felt about his injured ankle getting better.
When game time rolls around, Horton could even be back to normal as 16-seed Austin Peay takes on top-seed Kansas during the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on Thursday.
“It’s doing better right now,” Horton said. “I’m getting better day by day. Still sore. I’m still getting treatment. I’ll be all right, though.”
The Austin Peay player went down during his team’s’ 83-73 win over Tennessee-Martin in the championship game of the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament on March 5. Horton left the game, returned and finished with eight points and seven rebounds. It’s a drop-off from the 18.9 points and 12.0 rebounds he’s averaging this season.
As the only four-year player on Austin Peay’s current roster, today’s game means the most to Horton. It’s not that his teammates aren’t just as thrilled to be here, and they definitely want to win just as badly as he does. But none of them has put in the time and given as much to the university as Horton. What’s more, none of them has a father who did the same thing.
So when Kansas and Austin Peay tip it off today, with history — and just about everything else — overwhelmingly on the side of the Jayhawks, Horton is going to make sure he takes seriously the opportunity to do what so many of his past teammates did not get the opportunity to do — take full advantage of playing in the NCAA Tournament and treat every moment like he’s going after a loose ball on the glass.
“Anybody can do my job,” Horton said. “But it just happens to be me right now, and it’s my time. I’m just happy I’ve got such a good group of guys around me supporting me.”
Never having spoken to a to a man who scored 100 points in a basketball game, tracking down a phone number for former Austin Peay great James “Fly” Williams and giving him a call seemed a timely thing to do.
“True,” Williams said Tuesday by phone from Brooklyn, N.Y. “I had 45 points in the first half, switched teams, and scored 55 in the second half.”
Fly’s 100-point outburst came in an organized playground league known as IS8 in Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., in the summer of 1978.
“You never heard the story about two left sneakers?” Fly wanted to know. “I had two left sneakers and scored 63 in a pro-am game in Rucker Park (in Manhattan, N.Y.). It was great.”
Known as a great character and scorer, Williams is the most famous player in the history of Austin Peay.
“He has had the type of career where he has put up big numbers,” teammate Landen Lucas said. “The only thing he is missing is a deep postseason run.”
Ellis is not afraid to admit he has played for teams that have lacked NCAA Tournament success. He describes early losses to Wichita State and Stanford the past two years as “a total shock.” Even a Sweet 16 loss to Michigan as a freshman still stings.
…“From the beginning of this year, it was definitely my goal to reach the Final Four,” Ellis said, “and, once I get there, to try and win it all. It is definitely a great accomplishment and something that I want.”
…“We aren’t going to take any plays off,” Ellis said. “I think that is the key message I have said to the guys. I have been through it when you lose and it is over. It is not a good feeling at all. ... You are just kind of sitting there and in a snap the season is gone. That is something we have all experienced. That will be good for us going forward. You don’t want to have that feeling again. I think it motivates a lot of us.”
“My goal is the Final Four, but I can’t focus on that right now. I have to focus on this one game, and then hopefully lead up to that.”
His teammates are listening.
“We talk about it every day,” freshman forward Carlton Bragg said. “One of Perry’s goals is to get past the Sweet 16 and to the Final Four. We are all going to help him, and I think we can do it.”
…“He deserves it,” Lucas said. “If we had any team that could get it done, it would be this year’s team. We have good maturity and balance, and we want to do it for him. It would be great to send Perry off like that.”
This is a different era. The last senior to lead KU in scoring was Sherron Collins in 2010. One-and-done phenoms command attention. Did so this season, in fact, when a pair of high-profile freshmen — Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo — were unable to blossom into full-time starters.
Obviously, KU is an elite program in the market for such talent, and recruits blue-chip players to new apartments with luxurious amenities.
A four-year standout, like Ellis, no longer receives the same respect as, oh, 11 years ago.
That was when Aaron Miles completed his KU career. The Jayhawks’ all-time assists leader now serves on KU’s staff and marvels at how this year’s 30-4 squad grew while forging its current 14-game win streak.
Miles occasionally reminds the Jayhawks about his last game — a first-round loss to Bucknell in the 2005 NCAA tourney.
“Even to this day it still hurts,” Miles said. “I can’t change it, but hopefully I can take the lessons I learned and mention it to the current players. My biggest message is you’ve got to take advantage of every day and never take your opponents for granted.”
Ellis nearly repeated that same line while fielding questions about the Jayhawks’ early exit each of the past two seasons.
History will be determined over time, and could include the name, Ellis, and his number, 34, up high on the south wall of Allen Fieldhouse.
Frankly, he deserves to have his jersey retired. Good player. Good teammate. Good student. Good Kansan. Hopefully, a place in KU hearts still exists for a four-year standout with those qualities.
Rest assured, though …
“A deep run in the tournament will definitely enhance his reputation,” Miles said. “I look back and it’s more important how you leave your senior year than it is the first couple of years.
“It’s important for Perry. His legacy really speaks for itself. He’s done a good job. But obviously if he does go far, it will enhance it.”
“Coach always says, ‘Be patient, be patient.’ I listen to him, do whatever he says. When my number gets called, I’m going to play. I’m a team player,” Diallo said before practice Wednesday, adding that he is extremely excited to be in the NCAA Tournament with a team that has a chance to win it all.
…“To go to the Final Four and win a national championship, that is my goal,” said the forward who came to Long Island from Mali when he was 15.
He was Newsday’s Long Island Player of the Year, then the Most Valuable Player in the prestigious McDonald’s High School All-Star Game and East team MVP at the Jordan Brand Classic.
…“It’s true, but college is different too. In high school, you can do whatever you want. In college, you have to exactly follow the system,” he said.
He came along slowly, as freshmen often do, only to find that the team had become hot, leaving little room for him to do anything but be patient.
“We’re roommates so we talk a lot about it with each other, just staying positive about it,” said Carlton Bragg Jr., his fellow McDonald’s All-America, who also plays sparingly. “He’s handled it pretty good. He has his moments, it will come along, though.”
Self said, “Cheick is as good a kid as we’ve ever had in our program. He works hard and he tries hard and he has been a 10 as far as adjusting to a role that he obviously did not anticipate. And to be candid with you we didn’t anticipate it either.”
The coach said Diallo is still “raw,” but realizes that once Diallo comes home to Long Island after school is out, he might yet decide to enter the NBA draft. “But I think he’s going to be great. Who knows if that will be with us or if he’ll take the jump,” Self said, “but his future is very bright.”
…But if he had it to do over again, might Diallo take one of his other offers, such as joining high school teammate Kassoum Yakwe at St. John’s?
As of Wednesday, he just smiled and said, “I’d choose Kansas, no matter what.”
Devonte’ Graham tugs down at his blue practice jersey, running his fingers across the words that have helped shape his life.
On a Wednesday in early March, the Kansas sophomore guard leans forward in the front row of the Jayhawks’ film room, explaining why two words — “Forever grateful” — are tattooed across his chest.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to look at it from a different perspective,” Devonte’ says, “and just realize how blessed you are to be in a situation.”
While growing up in North Carolina, Graham would sometimes pout, wondering why he couldn’t go somewhere or asking why he had to clean his room. His mother, Dewanna King, would always give the same response: “You’re being ungrateful.”
Devonte’ soon learned she was right. And he certainly has a lot to appreciate now.
…When it came time to get back on the bus, he gave his mom one final hug. She could feel the tears welling up when she told him goodbye. She had a flight back to Raleigh the next day.
“It’s hard,” Dewanna said. “It’s hard probably because I’ve had him my whole life. I know how important I am to him, but I think he knows he’s just as important to me.”
Dewanna didn’t know when she was going to see her son again. She told him that he had to keep winning, because she likely wouldn’t be able to afford the expected trips to Des Moines, Iowa, and beyond.
There was one exception, though. Win enough games, and the NCAA helps cover a family’s expenses for travel.
After making his way back to the bus, Devonte’ Graham sent his mom one final text.
“Don’t cry,” it said. “I’ll see you at the Final Four.”
KC Star (click to read a very powerful story of a young mother, family support, and being grateful.)
Kansas has one of the nation's most daunting home-court advantages, at Allen Fieldhouse.
Come Thursday, the Jayhawks are hoping to turn Wells Fargo Arena into another friendly environment.
Top-ranked and top-seeded Kansas will take the floor Thursday in what is expected to be a Jayhawk-heavy crowd against Austin Peay at 3 p.m.
“I think we will have a great following,” Kansas coach Bill Self said Wednesday. “I don’t know if it will feel like a home game or not, but certainly it is nice to go get on a bus and play rather than having to go get on a plane.”
…They aren’t the only ones expecting to be beaming with blue. Wells Fargo Arena general manager Chris Connolly said Kansas used its allotment of 450 tickets. Iowans who purchased tickets in advance of the draw had the opportunity to sell hot commodities with such well-followed schools as Kansas, Connecticut, Indiana, and Kentucky in Des Moines this week.
For Thursday's Kansas game, the short trip might be a bigger selling point than the opponent, the 16th-seeded Governors. Kansas players are expecting their fans to buy in.
“Our fans travel very well and this is a close destination,” said Kansas’ Landen Lucas. “So I’m looking forward to seeing them out in full effect.”
…“It should be great,” said Kansas’ Perry Ellis. “Hopefully we have a lot of fans out there to come watch us. They always give us so much energy. It should be good.”
Minutes after arriving for practice Wednesday at Wells Fargo Arena, Landen Lucas had a reunion of sorts.
The Kansas basketball forward was on his way to the interview room for a media availability when he ran into Westwood One radio broadcaster Mike Montgomery, the former California coach who recruited him heavily when he was in high school.
“Rebounder supreme, huh?” Montgomery asked Lucas.
“That’s what I do,” Lucas replied with a smile.
In a way, that exchange represents the mentality that turned a once shaky season for the Jayhawks into a top-overall seeding in the NCAA Tournament, which KU will open at 3 p.m. Thursday against Austin Peay.
Virtually from top to bottom — from Frank Mason (33.3 minutes per game) to Tyler Self (2.2) — these Jayhawks know their roles, Lucas said.
“Every team needs people who understand their roles and take pride in those roles,” Lucas said. “If you’re a point guard that distributes the ball, you take pride in it. That’s great. That’s what you do. Just like me and rebounding: That’s what I do.”
…Before Montgomery and Lucas parted for the day, the former Bears coach made sure to ask if the Portland, Ore., native’s mother Shelley would be in attendance for the opening weekend. Later, Montgomery recalled a phone conversation he had with Shelley Lucas during his heavy recruitment of her 6-foot-10, 240-pound son that gave him a good indication of how the process would turn out.
“We’re going to visit Kansas,” Shelley Lucas said.
“Well,” he replied, “that’s that.”
Direct link to above video
VIDEO: Picking brackets with Gooden, Morris, and Oubre. (VCU is “shady, janky” lol)
Kansas junior guard Wayne Selden Jr., has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.
Kansas senior forward Perry Ellis has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
VOTE HERE DAILY!
“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
California starting guard Tyrone Wallace has suffered a fractured bone in his right hand, multiple sources told The Vertical.
Wallace will undergo further evaluations on his non-shooting hand before Cal's NCAA tournament opener against Hawaii on Friday, sources said, but his status for the tournament has been placed in jeopardy.
He sustained the injury during practice Wednesday, sources said.
Wallace is a unique point guard at 6-foot-6, and averaged 15.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 28 regular-season games this season. Wallace broke a bone in his right hand in January and missed nearly one month.
Wallace is ranked No. 17 among seniors in the 2016 NBA draft, according to Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com and The Vertical.
“If our league is as good as what people have said it is and as good as what we know it is,” Bill Self said Monday, “then you gotta have some teams obviously perform well in the postseason.”
The basketball struggles resemble the football problems. The Big 12, despite its thrilling style, has put one team in the college football playoff in two years (Oklahoma 2015) and it got torched.
With a conference this good, you shouldn’t have to worry about March narratives. The winning should take care of itself. But there’s too much history here to call it a fluke.
The Big 12 better show up this weekend or outsiders are going to start looking at the league like Bret Bielema looks at Art Briles' offense.
NCAA Tourney Tips
KUAD: Postseason Information Hub
ncaa.com: 2016 NCAA Tournament Schedule w/game times
Announcing crews, etc
Find out the tournament history for specific seeds, teams, coaches or conferences.
NCAA Tournament Brackets and History interactive tool
CBS Interactive Tool: Pick two teams to compare record, RPI and SOS details head to head. By default, the top two teams in RPI are shown.
According to Jack Ebling, the host of The Drive with Jack Ebling, Josh Jackson has told a reliable source of his that the Spartans are his leader at the moment:
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