KUAD: Kansas at West Virginia pregame notes
WVUAD: Pregame Notes (Musburger, Fraschilla, Greenberg, Rowe)
LJW Smithology: Getting to know West Virginia
Bill Self devoted an entire practice to getting ready for West Virginia’s full-court press two weeks ago, having his five starters go against eight defenders.
The Kansas coach will have to hope his players remember what they were taught, as the No. 8 Jayhawks face the 21st-ranked Mountaineers on Monday with just one day of prep following Saturday’s win over Baylor.
“That’ll be something we haven’t seen yet,” Self said of WVU’s style.
Welcome to life in the Big 12. A game after facing NCAA basketball’s best offensive rebounding team, Self must get his guys ready to play the nation’s best in both defensive turnover percentage and steal percentage.
…“Our league is good for a lot of reasons, but one of the reasons is because you would think for postseason preparation, there’s not many things or many styles out there that people will throw at us that we haven’t seen,” Self said. “Even the Princeton style, we saw that with Georgetown. There’s been a lot of things that’s happened this year within our league that I think will help all teams moving forward.”
In some ways, the transition to a high-pressure style was as much about necessity as it was choice. West Virginia missed the NCAA Tournament again last season — the first time since 1989-91 that Huggins missed the tourney in consecutive seasons. And then the Mountaineers started losing players. Eron Harris, the team’s second-leading scorer, transferred to Michigan State. Terry Henderson left the program and landed at North Carolina State.
Huggins had a deep stable of athletes at his disposal, but the team’s skill level and offensive ceiling were questionable. Huggins needed something to close the gap against the Big 12’s elite teams. For the most part, the gambit has paid major dividends — though West Virginia does enter Monday having lost three times in four games.
For the Mountaineers, this Big Monday contest offers an opportunity for a signature win, something to strengthen their already strong resume. For Kansas, meanwhile, the Jayhawks can notch a road victory that would tighten its stranglehold on the conference race. The game, in other words, will be about pressure. And Self is hopeful his team can handle it.
“I hope our guys go in with the mindset to attack their pressure to score as opposed to just survive,” Self said. “Because if you do that, then they’ll smell blood.”
He’s fifth in the league in scoring (team-leading 14.3 ppg off 41.5 percent shooting) and second in assists (4.6). In league-only games, he ranks 12th in scoring (12.2 ppg) while remaining second in assists (5.0).
“It (preseason honor) has definitely brought a bigger target. It’s made me work a lot harder,” Staten told WVUsports.com. “I realize teams are coming at me harder. It’s made me prepare a lot more than I had to in the past.”
Staten’s role has changed a bit in his senior season for the Mountaineers (19-6, 7-5).
“He’s not playing the minutes he did a year ago (30.9 compared to 37.3) ,” coach Bob Huggins told WVUsports.com. “He doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much as he had it a year ago. He has it in his hands when we need a basket obviously. He’s gone out of his way to share the ball, gone out of his way to get other people involved. He is playing much harder on the defensive end, even though he was first-team all-Big 12 defensive team a year ago. He’s playing harder. He’s more mature.”
Things didn't look right on Jan. 5.
At the time, Kansas ranked 155th in defensive field goal percentage — a measure that just happens to be coach Bill Self's favorite stat.
KU had been in the top 13 in defensive field goal percentage in 10 of Self's first 11 seasons, so it seemed natural to ask him at the time how he felt about this year's prospects.
"We’re not that now, but I still think that we can get to the point where we can be a great defensive team,” Self said. “I still believe that.”
The coach, as you might guess, was exactly right.
As of Feb. 15, KU has moved from 155th to 52nd in field goal percentage defense.
The biggest reason for that? Big 12 teams have, for the most part, been unable to score inside against KU.
The numbers back that up.
KU leads the Big 12 in 2-point defense in league play, as opponents have made just 40.3 percent of their inside shots.
That number isn't just strong in these parts; it's one of the best conference marks in the nation.
Best game -- Kansas (-1) at West Virginia, 9 ET, ESPN: Kansas has pretty much taken control of the Big 12 with a two-game lead over Iowa State and three games or more over the rest. This is the first of two matchups between KU and WVU in the final month, and the Mountaineers are desperate for quality victories because their best two wins are over teams on the fringe of bubble consideration.
Matchup to watch -- Frank Mason vs. Juwan Staten: KU point man Mason has been one of the nation's most improved players this season, scoring in double figures in 21 straight games before Saturday's win over Baylor. And he's a really good, active defender who can stay in front of guards on the perimeter. He'll have his work cut out for him against Staten though, who has been pretty good as West Virginia's lead guard.
Potential upset: West Virginia can certainly win its game against Kansas, although I'd still lean toward the Jayhawks.
Pick of the night -- Kansas -1 over West Virginia: This one could go either way, but there isn't another line that particularly sticks out, and I think the Jayhawks pull this one out. West Virginia hasn't been great against tough competition and has lost 3 of 4, so let's lay the point and go with the Jayhawks.
CBS viewers guide
He ranks tied for sixth in the nation with a 50 percent three-point accuracy rate, second to Ohio State’s Marc Loving (.525) among top 25 schools. In conference games alone, Greene has made .568 from three, best in the Big 12, despite making just 1 of 5 threes in the comeback victory in Allen Fieldhouse vs. Baylor.
In the previous four games, Greene nailed an amazing 17 of 24 three-pointers.
He’ll test his three-point touch in a tough environment tonight against a West Virginia team that applies serious defensive pressure and a crowd intent on rattling the visitors.
Greene’s not the first name that comes to mind when thinking about players suited to handle such hostile surroundings, but he actually has been among the team’s best road performers.
In eight true road games, Greene has averaged 9.4 points in 18.5 minutes and has made 17 of 24 (.708) three-point shots and 14 of 16 free throws. Not surprisingly, Frank Mason has been the team’s best road performer, averaging 14.3 points, shooting .506 overall, .500 from the three), except at the free-throw line (.565).
Too often, it seems, this Kansas team settles for three-point jumpers. But in the case of Greene, it’s not settling. The more open threes teammates can deliver to him, the better for Kansas.
On a team with balance, Ellis is the leading scorer and rebounder for the nation’s eighth-ranked team. Yet Ellis isn’t on any watch lists or in the mix for All-America honors.
The guy doesn’t get the respect he deserves as one of the nation’s most important players. Self is bringing along a young team, a job made easier by Ellis’ veteran presence.
He’s a rock and he always has been. There are no wild fluctuations in Ellis’ game. He’s not prone to disappearing or to mood swings that can take his attention from where it should be. He always plays the same and he always looks the same.
So what if Ellis, an honor student who had a 4.0 GPA at Heights, appears uncomfortable when he talks to the throng of media that often accumulates around this team? So what if he chooses his words carefully, then rushes to say them so he can be finished with the part of being a college basketball player that is most awkward for him?
“I think Perry has had a great run here,” Self said. “If he were to stay all four years, he’d put himself in a situation where he could be one of the 15 leading scorers in the history of the school. That’s pretty significant and I’m happy for him.”
Wichita Eagle Lutz
JO JO WHITE [Player] – White is a seven-time NBA All-Star (1971-1977) and two-time NBA Champion with the Boston Celtics (1974,1976). He earned NBA All-Rookie Teams honors in 1970 and All-NBA Second Team in 1975 and 1977. White was named the NBA Finals MVP in 1976 and averaged 17.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game in 12 NBA seasons. He played for the University of Kansas from 1965-69, earning The Sporting News and Converse First Team All-America in 1969. In 1968, White won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic team.
Jo Jo White is a finalist for the Basketball Hall of Fame
Kansas coach Bill Self tried hard to keep White, but understood how a lack of playing time — 5.4 minutes a game on average over two seasons — would lead White to look elsewhere. And he looked long and hard, not committing to Nebraska until a week before the fall semester started.
White said he has zero regrets about choosing the Huskers over Notre Dame and Maryland.
“Nebraska basketball has been everything I hoped for, and then some,” he said. “In sitting out, I looked to see which head coach, which staff and which strength coach were going to make me better.
“Coach Miles and I are on the same page. He expects a lot out of me, and I expect him to get me better.”
White offered special praise for NU strength coach Tim Wilson and graduate assistant Ali Farokhmanesh.
Wilson hasn’t changed White’s already sculpted 220-pound physique. Instead, the emphasis has been on flexibility, mobility and explosion.
“I’ve never seen one coach spend so much time individually with one guy,” White said. “He’s personally invested in getting me better. My experience in the weight room has been amazing.”
Farokhmanesh, a former star guard at Northern Iowa, is White’s workout buddy.
“Ali’s been all that and some more,” White said. “I don’t have to do any workout by myself.”
In practice, White has honed his skills while facing Nebraska’s top player — All-Big Ten wing Terran Petteway.
“It’s competitive, and I really like that because practice is my game day,” White said. “Terran and I are both strong guys and we get after it. Somebody has to push Terran to make him better.”
For all the positives White has taken from his transfer season, he admits to difficulty on game day.
“When I’m in a shirt and tie,” he said, smiling wryly. “There are times Coach Miles looks down the bench and calls for somebody, and I swear he’s calling me.”
And, no, in case you’re wondering, White wasn’t initially aware of the connection Farokhmanesh, who played at Northern Iowa, has with White’s former school.
“I was here for a while before I knew who Ali was,” White said, smiling. “I did not know the legend of Ali until about three or four weeks in, when I had figured out what he had done.”
Which, of course, was hitting a late three-pointer to seal Northern Iowa’s upset of No. 1 seed Kansas in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
“We were sitting at the water cooler, and Coach Miles came over, and I don’t remember what, but he made a slick remark about where I was before and what Ali had done,” White said. “That’s how we got into that conversation. It’s kind of ironic that’s where I came from.”
“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
And even as the Division I women’s basketball committee just took the unprecedented step of releasing its current top 20 seeds, the men’s committee has one overriding notion holding it back until Selection Sunday.
One that’s hard to argue against.
“There are some traditions that are so good that we want to make sure we don’t adversely affect them. And the waiting until Selection Sunday afternoon/evening to find out who’s in the tournament and where they’re going, how they’re seeded, is part of the allure of this tournament,” said Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione, who will become the committee chair next season.
“I wasn’t the first to come up with this, but it’s akin to trying to open some of your Christmas presents on the 10th of December. You could do it, but …
“I could see perhaps something at the mid-point to give people insight, but we’d have to put all kinds of caveats on it: ‘This is not to lead anybody to believe it will work out this way.’”
So maybe next year we’ll see some sort of asterisk-riddled mid-term report that likely would closer resemble projections of an election than an election itself, because so few precincts would have been closed by then.
In the meantime, about the closest we can get to understanding how it all goes down is the mock bracket exercise the NCAA has conducted with media members since 2007.
Shepherded by infinitely patient and good-humored NCAA director of media coordination and statistics David Worlock, the latest version was Thursday and Friday.
After dozens of votes, hours of debate and eyes gone blurry staring at endless metrics on each school available by a keystroke, our process produced Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Wisconsin as No. 1 seeds, Kansas as the No. 2 seed in the South and Wichita State as No. 6 in the East.
KC Star Gregorian
Sitting next to his coach explain what happened that led to Saturday’s 59-56 loss to Kansas State, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield kept his head in his hands.
Hield looked like he was still in disbelief that Marcus Foster had once again sent the Sooners to a stunning upset.
Hield didn’t say much.
“They outhustled us,” Hield said. “They got there quicker than us.”
But the look on his face said it all.
Oklahoma’s five-game winning streak came to a crashing halt as Foster, coming off a three-game suspension, played hero once again.
TCU had been close so many times in the closing 5 minutes of Big 12 games.
This time, the Horned Frogs didn't falter down the stretch.
Amric Fields had 12 points and a big part in an upset-sealing run as last-place TCU beat No. 21 Oklahoma State 70-55 on Saturday after the Cowboys had won three consecutive Big 12 games against ranked teams.
"Guys were locked in," Trey Zeigler said. "To be able to close out a game like that was really good."
Oklahoma State (17-8, 7-6 Big 12) was within 56-53 when Anthony Hickey found a wide-open gap and drove for a layup high off the glass with 4:52 left. But the Cowboys then went nearly 3 1/2 minutes without scoring as the Horned Frogs (15-10, 2-10) went on their second 10-0 run of the second half.
"It's pretty simple, but it's something we haven't been doing very well," third-year TCU coach Trent Johnson said. "We made some shots, we got some key stops. ... We continue to grind."
As Oklahoma State’s winning streak came to an end Saturday in the unlikeliest of places, a high school gym serving as TCU’s temporary home, Travis Ford turned to his assistants in disgust.
“Nobody showed up. Nobody showed up ready to play,” he said.
Well, nobody in orange.
TCU 70, No. 21 OSU 55.
The Horned Frogs, the last-place team in the Big 12 entering the day, outscored the Cowboys 22-7 when the game mattered most, over the final eight minutes, ending OSU’s three-game winning streak.
The Cowboys fell to 17-8 overall and 7-6 in the Big 12, losing to an unranked team for only the second time in conference play.
TCU snapped a seven-game losing streak to improve to 15-10 and 2-10.
After the game, the Cowboys were at a loss for words and absent an explanation for what happened, other than they arrived flat.
Since joining ESPN in 1979, Vitale has called every single Duke-North Carolina game the network has aired. More than any other college game or rivalry, Vitale is known for Duke-North Carolina.
But not this week. The streak is coming to an end.
Vitale has not been assigned Wednesday's Duke-North Carolina game. He used to be the lone analyst on the game, but over the past few years, Vitale has called the game with play-by-play announcer Dan Shulman and analyst Jay Bilas. Wednesday the game will be handled by just Shulman and Bilas.
Vitale wouldn't comment on it, but he surely must be devastated by not being able to call the game for which he is best known.
ESPN isn't forcing Vitale out of the network. His contract is expected to be extended, and ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said Sunday that Vitale remains an integral part of the network's basketball coverage. However, this reminds me a little of what happened to Brent Musburger.
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VASJ senior guard Simon Texidor poured in 25 points, including seven 3-pointers, and Brian Parker scored 19 points to lead the Vikings to a 76-57 nonleague win Saturday over the host Wildcats.
Bragg: He was limited to 13 points, but did grab eight rebounds, collected three steals and had rim-rocking dunk to close the scoring for the Vikings.
Isaiah Briscoe and Ben Simmons both want to see Malik Newman land in the SEC next season.
The 6-foot-3 Briscoe wants Newman to join him at Kentucky, and is confident that will happen.
“He’s coming to Kentucky,” Briscoe said confidently after scoring 18 points in a 71-64 loss to Simmons and Montverde (FL) Academy in the Metro Classic at Kean University. “It ain’t a done deal but I’m going to try to get him to come down to Kentucky with me.”
The 6-10 Simmons hopes Newman chooses LSU, and says they could form a devastating recruiting class along with Antonio Blakeney.
“Definitely, he would be a great pickup but that’s a personal choice for him,” Simmons said. “If he doesn’t want to go that’s cool, but if he wants to come I think it would be great.”
Diallo is down to Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa State, St. John’s and Pittsburgh and will commit in the spring.
“Don’t sleep on Kentucky. Kentucky is calling Cheick every day,” a source close to him told SNY.tv. “Kansas is calling Cheick every day. Iowa State is working hard for Cheick. It’s going to be very hard for Cheick.”
The source said Diallo is waiting to see which front court players leave and which stay from Kentucky. Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles are all projected first-round picks by DraftExpress.com, while Dakari Johnson is a borderline first-round pick.
…Kassoum Yakwe, a 6-7 2016 forward who went for 9 points in the Linden game, is a tremendous athlete who is being pursued by many of the same schools targeting Diallo.
St. John’s, Syracuse, Iowa State, Villanova and Kansas are working hardest for Yakwe, the source said.
Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress.com was at the Our Savior-Linden game and came away impressed by Yakwe’s athleticism.
“He’s a freak athlete,” Givony said. “HE guards, he rebounds, he blocks shots. He has an amazing body with a long wingspan. There are not many guys in college with those physical attributes. If he develops a reliable corner 3, he is going to be an NBA player.”
Under the basket near Iowa State's bench were 6-foot-8 forward Tyler Cook, of St. Louis, and 6-foot-4 guard Mitchell Ballock of Eudora, Kan.
Ballock, a Rivals four-star guy, already has been offered by Creighton, Kansas and Kansas State, according to various websites.
"First time here," Ballock said before Saturday's 79-59 victory against West Virginia. "I hear Hilton Magic is crazy."
According to ESPN.com, Ballock "is a long, lean lefty that is a true shooting guard. He has deep three-point range, and a quick confident trigger."
"Style of play is important," Ballock said. "Getting up and down the floor, playing fast, and shooting and running in transition."
Iowa State entered the weekend averaging 80.0 points, eighth nationally.
Cook, a four-star guy according to Rivals, also has offers from Florida, Florida State, Iowa, Kansas, Marquette, Michigan and Miami (Fla.), among others.
"I'll probably make a decision before my senior year," Cook said. "Right now, I'm just trying to go around, see programs."
Ballock is a 6-foot-4 guard who is ranked 24th nationally by Rivals and spends his summers with the Run GMC program out of Kansas City.
“(My recruitment) is starting to pick up a lot,” he said. “After last summer, I played pretty well so the recruitment started to pick up a lot.
“It’s just kind of crazy but it’s also fun at the same time to experience it all.”
Ballock, whose primary ISU recruiter is assistant Charlie Henry, was making his first visit to ISU Saturday, got the tour and met coach Fred Hoiberg.
“It’s a nice facility and nice campus, for sure, “ he said. “I just met (Hoiberg) today for my first time and he’s a nice guy.
“He played in the league for 10 years and had a pretty successful career and grew up here, went to school here. He’s a pretty great guy.”
Kansas, Oklahoma, Creighton, Kansas State and Florida are the other school Ballock said are on his radar.
“I’m just kind of feeling it out and playing it by ear, just trying to figure what’s best for myself and what situation is best for me,” he said.
“In the head coach, I’m looking for a good relationship between me and him and a good relationship with him and the players. Playing style, just get up and down, fast and shoot, run in transition.”
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