An Oklahoma State Win Would...
► Mark the Cowboys' fourth over Kansas since Travis Ford took over as head coach in 2008-09. No team has beaten the Jayhawks more than three times during that span.
► Be the Cowboys' second in their last three trips to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence. OSU was an 85-80 winner in 2013.
► Mark OSU's third road win over a ranked opponent under Travis Ford. The previous two were a 73-69 victory at No. 10 Kansas State in 2010 and an 85-80 triumph at No. 2 Kansas in 2013.
► Improve the Cowboys to 3-1 in Big 12 play with early wins over Kansas, Texas and Kansas State in a year when OSU was picked to finish eighth in the league in the preseason poll.
When Oklahoma State Has the Ball...
Oklahoma State Scoring Offense - 71.7 points per game (91st in the NCAA)
Kansas Scoring Defense - 63.1 points per game (120th in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State Field Goal Pct. - 45.6 pct. (81st in the NCAA) Kansas Field Goal Pct. Defense - 40.8 pct. (116th in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State 3FG Pct. - 34.8 pct. (146th in the NCAA) Kansas 3FG Pct. Defense - 33.8 pct. (188th in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State Free Throw Pct. - 69.6 pct. (153rd in the NCAA)
When Kansas Has the Ball...
Kansas Scoring Offense - 71.2 points per game (103rd in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State Scoring Defense - 58.6 points per game (27th in the NCAA)
Kansas Field Goal Pct. - 43.6 pct. (173rd in the NCAA) Oklahoma State Field Goal Pct. Defense - 37.2 pct. (20th in the NCAA)
Kansas 3FG Pct. - 39.5 pct. (23rd in the NCAA) Oklahoma State 3FG Pct. Defense - 31.0 pct. (87th in the NCAA)
Kansas Free Throw Pct. - 71.3 pct. (86th in the NCAA)
Other Key Stats
Oklahoma State Rebound Margin - +2.1 (138th in the NCAA)
Kansas Rebound Margin - +6.5 (33rd in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State Assist/Turnover Ratio - +0.98 (175th in the NCAA) Kansas Assist/Turnover Ratio - +1.13 (88th in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State Turnover Margin - +2.4 (49th in the NCAA) Kansas Turnover Margin - -0.9 (243rd in the NCAA)
Oklahoma State junior guard Phil Forte leads the Big 12 in scoring with 17.7 points per game, while senior forward Le’Bryan Nash is just a fraction behind at 17.6 points per game. The two players account for nearly half of Oklahoma State’s 71.7 points per game.
“We won’t be the only team that’s played them that’s said: ‘You know what? We should try to stop Forte and Nash.’” Kansas coach Bill Self said on Monday. “There’s a couple of other teams that have thought that, too, and haven’t been successful. The big thing is: Make sure you limit their good touches, but not at the expense of letting the other guys have big days.
“I’m OK with letting them get their averages or even more, if it means we shut down everybody else.”
Both Nash and Forte were recruited by Kansas, and Forte even had Jayhawk connections. His father, Phil Forte Sr., played football at Kansas, and Phil Jr., a native of Flower Mound, Texas, grew up a Kansas fan, traveling to NCAA Tournament games and taking in games at Allen Fieldhouse.
Self offered the younger Forte a scholarship, but he decided to accompany his high school teammate — guard Marcus Smart — to Oklahoma State. Smart became a NBA lottery pick after two years at Oklahoma State, while Forte has grown from a three-point specialist into a more complete player.
“I’d say he’s got as much range as anybody in the country,” Self said. “Against us last year, he made a couple, especially in the first game here, that were ridiculous.”
A year ago, Forte gave up several inches in guarding 6-5 Wayne Selden Jr.
“No question he’ll have to guard a taller guy. I don’t think that is something that will bother him. He’s been used to doing that his whole life,” Self said.
Of Forte, KU point guard Frank Mason III said: “You’ve got to stay locked in. It can’t be just one guy guarding him, even though it’s just one guy checking him. We have to do it as a team. We know he likes to run off a lot of screens, quick curl, things like that.
“He can shoot it from deep. He can shoot it with guys in his face, make contested shots,” added the 5-11 Mason. “You have to stay engaged and not give him the open looks.”
Nash, 6-7, 235 from Dallas, has averaged 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds versus KU in six games — two OSU victories.
“Staten (Juwan, West Virginia), maybe Buddy (Hield, Oklahoma) ... Le’Bryan may be frontrunner for Player of the Year, and deservedly so,” Self said. “Whether Jamari (Traylor), Perry (Ellis) or whoever it is has to do a terrific job on him.”
LJW Smithology: Getting to know the No. 24 Cowboys
Kansas is 7-point favorite
Now for an updated question: can the Cowboys be Big 12 contenders?
OSU coach Travis Ford doesn’t go for such long-term vision, not with this team, which mixes equal parts defense and toughness and a deep desire to prove it’s much better than anyone expected when the conference coaches picked them eighth in the 10-team Big 12.
Ford preaches an every-day focus with this bunch, which is cliché, yet probably also advisable considering OSU’s grinding style.
Still, Ford admires what his Cowboys are becoming.
“I like our team's effort,” Ford said. “I like the fight we have and I like the edge that we play with. We're not going to win every game, but I like how they're playing right now.”
Across the board, OSU’s profile is rising.
Along with their first ranking of the season, the Cowboys sit at No. 27 in the latest RPI. CBSSports.com bracketologist Jerry Palm has them in his latest NCAA Tournament projection – as a No. 5 seed. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Cowboys in, too, although not as lofty.
Oklahoma State ended a 16-game losing streak at Allen Fieldhouse with an 85-80 win Feb. 2, 2013. The Jayhawks (13-2, 2-0) have won 28 of 29 at home since that defeat, including an 80-78 victory over the Cowboys on Jan. 18 in the last matchup in Lawrence.
"It's not an easy place to play," Ford said. "You've got to be focused. I can go on and on, but (we just have to) go in and play hard. They have a combination of great guards and great big men. You go down the line, they're just very talented and can score from every position."
ABOUT OKLAHOMA STATE (12-3, 2-1 Big 12): The post-Marcus Smart era has been good to Oklahoma State — perhaps better than expected. After losing Smart, the mercurial All-Big 12 point guard, to the NBA Draft, the Cowboys have regrouped around senior forward Le’Bryan Nash and junior gunner Phil Forte. Nash, who once upon a time was recruited by Kansas and figured to be on a college campus for just a few years, is averaging 17.6 points per game, which ranks second in the Big 12. Who’s first? That would be Forte, who was once thought to be a second piece in a package recruiting deal with Smart, his former high school teammate. Forte has been lighting up opposing defenses all season, averaging 17.7 points per game. He’s shooting 41 percent from three-point range, and his range extends out to 30 feet. The Cowboys defeated Texas 69-58 on Saturday in Stillwater and have lost just three times — at Iowa State, at South Carolina and at home against Maryland. While the Cowboys rely heavily on Nash and Forte on offense, their defense ranks 21st in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. One reason: Senior big man Michael Cobbins is healthy again after suffering a season-ending foot injury last year.
Self thrives on adaptability — always has, really — and his teams do the same. But in the eternal search for a malleable offense that can score against any defense, Self also believes that teams must carve out a true identity — something like a calling card.
So if you were to step into a Kansas basketball practice at the right moment, say, a Tuesday in November, you might see a rather strange image. The Jayhawks will be scrimmaging, just like normal, offense vs. defense, the same plays with the same options. But you will realize very quickly that something is different. The Jayhawks are only throwing lob passes, only trying to score at the rim, only trying to finish the possession with basketball’s most beautiful play: the alley-oop.
“We actually have drills in practice where the only passes we can throw are lobs,” Self says, “we spend a lot of time emphasizing that.”
…There are, Self says, physical reasons why the Kansas team has struggled to play above the rim this season. It is difficult to throw alley-oops over opposing defenses when you’re throwing it to 6-7 and 6-8 post guys. It’s harder still when your backup point guard is sidelined for a month, and your starting point guard must play 35 minutes per game.
Alexander, meanwhile, has been Kansas’ most exciting finisher, accounting for 16 of Kansas’ 34 dunks during his freshman season. But for now, Alexander is still coming off the bench as No. 9 Kansas, 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the Big 12, prepares to face No. 24 Oklahoma State, 12-3 and 2-1, tonight at Allen Fieldhouse.
On paper, the Jayhawks are not a team that will overwhelm Big 12 opponents with size and athleticism in the frontcourt — as they have for a decade. But the return of Graham and the continued development of Mason could unlock certain areas of the floor and spur the offense.
“The bottom line,” Self said, “is we’ll be a much more exciting team to watch play.”
Kelly Oubre committed at the last second, rotating his body away from the man he was guarding to turn toward Texas Tech’s Aaron Ross.
After swiping for the ball with his left arm, Oubre headed down court as teammate Svi Mykhailiuk picked off the deflected ball. A few seconds later, Oubre was finishing a tomahawk slam that led to a Red Raiders’ timeout.
The play from this past Saturday was just one example of a recent uptick for Oubre defensively. The freshman has at least one steal in each of his last six games and also tied Kansas’ season high with four in the Jayhawks' road victory last Wednesday against Baylor.
“I think he’s, without question, the most active starter we’ve had,” KU coach Bill Self said. “I think he has done a good job, and hopefully, it’s become a little contagious with the others.”
Perhaps most importantly, Oubre is helping to bring back the steal as a defensive weapon for KU basketball.
Let’s all congratulate Kansas guard Kelly Oubre on his induction into the Inexplicably Photogenic Athlete Hall of Fame.
Notre Dame RB Cam McDaniel finally found a basketball counterpart when Oubre flashed a charming smile during a slam dunk against Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oubre finished with 14 points en route to an 86-54 Jayhawks victory. None were prettier — literally — than these two.
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For the first time this season, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft is now atop Ranking the Rookies.
Andrew Wiggins struggled a bit early in his rookie year. In his first 15 games, he struggled adjusting to the league, only scoring 11.6 points per game on 40 percent shooting from the field. It was a feeling-out process early on, even if some didn't see it that way and compared him to James Posey.
Well, comparisons such as those have fallen by the wayside over the last two weeks. Wiggins has flown right past "playing well for a 19-year-old rookie," and veered straight into "borderline all-star" level play. Over his past 10 games, Wiggins has averaged 21 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists with a 57.5 true-shooting percentage.
To take into account that he's doing this on a team where he has very minimal help on offense? That's incredible production. Then also considering that he also expends quite a bit of energy on defense, taking on the opposing team's best wing player for a substantial amount of time now that Corey Brewer is gone? That's extraordinarily impressive.
And that 10-game run deservedly moves him to the top of the rookie rankings for this week.
Big names who make big shots get the most recognition, but they rarely account for the best of the league's crunch-time performers. NBA closers are much like their MLB counterparts: specialists who are simply comfortable in the clutch.
This season is no different. Only two All-Stars (James Harden, Marc Gasol) rank among the top 10 in total points scored in one-possession games with two minutes or less remaining (hereinafter referred to as "1P2M").
Efficiency also comes into play. A lot of players want the ball with the game on the line, but do they know what to do with it? Is the shot they take a good one? Even if/when it is, do they make it?
In crunch time volume and efficiency, Markieff Morris is one of the best.
The Suns forward ranks seventh in the league in total points scored in the 1P2M window. More importantly, he tops the list in accuracy, hitting a exactly two thirds of his shots (12-of-18) in those situations.
Most impressive of all, Morris has been clutch from nearly everywhere on the floor. Just check out his ridiculous 1P2M shot chart (spoiler: green means above league average).
“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
Eight days ago, advanced stats expert Ken Pomeroy was nice enough to run 10,000 simulations of the Big 12 basketball season for us to give an idea of what each team's chances were to win at least a share the conference title.
Obviously, a lot has changed in the last eight days, and some fans asked me if we could get an update. Direct from Pomeroy, here are the updated Big 12 percentages, based on 10,000 simulations.
Now that the college football season is officially in the books, there figure to be some more casual fans turning their attention to the hardwood as conference play heats up. The deepest league in basketball's top division will be the subject of ongoing debate, but the Big 12 has the best argument at this stage.
The Large Dozen-minus-two now boasts seven teams in the USA TODAY Sports coaches poll, with No. 24 Oklahoma State joining the rankings this week. That number will be put to an immediate test as the Cowboys pay a visit to Allen Fieldhouse to take on No. 10 Kansas (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
The trip to Lawrence is just a continuation of a challenging stretch for Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys battled to a two-point loss at Iowa State and upended then-No. 10 Texas to earn their poll spot. But snapping the Jayhawks' 15-game home winning streak figures to be a tall order. KU played its smoothest offensive game in some time against Texas Tech in its most recent outing as Perry Ellis appeared to snap out of a slump with a 15-point, 5-for-7 shooting performance.
Days until Selection Sunday: 61.
The Big 12 is the No. 1 conference in the latest RPI. Seven teams are among the top 31 of the latest rankings. No other league has more than four.
The Big 12 non-conference winning percentage (.825) is the best by any league since the 2004-05 season and only the second time that any conference has been over .800.
Big 12 men’s basketball has the nation’s best non-conference record (104-22, .825). The Big 12 is the only conference in the nation that is at .800 or better this season.
Six Big 12 teams are ranked in the top 25 - more than any conference in the nation. A league-record seven league teams were nationally ranked for the first time in conference history the week of Dec. 22.
1/12/15, 6:09 PM
Wheels down in...Pennsylvania. 2nd straight year diverted from WV to another state b/c of weather. Starting 90-minute drive to Morgantown.
1/12/15, 3:48 PM
UAB basketball coach Jerod Haase gets 2-year extension that forbids him from criticizing school, administrators apne.ws/14MBFVm
1/12/15, 10:49 AM
Kentucky's Platoon T-shirts will be a collectors item one day. Long live the Platoon. Fortunately I purchased 52 of them.
Complete ESPN Networks schedule
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
Ferguson's mother, Rachelle Holdman, told The Courier-Journal at last week's McCracken County Mustang Madness that U of L is recruiting her son harder than any other team over the past month or so. The Cards made a strong impression on her and Ferguson during a visit to Louisville for last month's home victory over Ohio State.
"Oh my God, it was amazing," Holdman said before her son's game with his Prime Prep team on Saturday night. "I never really did know a lot of Midwest basketball because I grew up in Big 12 country (in Oklahoma). So being out here where basketball is like the main thing going - unlike Oklahoma and Texas where it's football first - the atmosphere at Louisville was amazing. The fan base is crazy, which that is one of the (areas Ferguson) looks for.
"And their style of play that they do, he loves it. The way Pitino coaches, I think personally would be a good fit for him. We just had an amazing time at Louisville."
...After playing a game at Seneca High last month – the day before he attended the U of L-Ohio State game – Ferguson told The Courier-Journal his top three, in order, are Baylor, U of L and Arizona, but his mom said Saturday he prefers none of the schools recruiting him are over the others at this point.
Villa Angela-St. Joseph jumped 15 spots from No. 26 to No. 11 in the Jan. 12 edition of the USA TODAY High School Sports Super 25 following a 72-59 defeat of Mentor on Jan. 10.
The latest honor for the Vikings comes days after being ranked No. 2 in the Ohio Division III Associated Press poll behind defending champion Lima Central Catholic, which defeated VASJ, 64-62, in the 2014 D-III championship game.
“Winning is objective, subjective is someone’s opinion,” VASJ coach Babe Kwasniak said. “But when you get a national ranking, and for the first time in about 25 years, it is special.”
The 8-0 Vikings will travel to Springfield, Mass., on Jan. 19 to square off with No. 6 Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy (21-1) in the Spalding Hoop Hall Classic. The game will be televised on ESPNU when it tips off at 1 p.m.
News Herald (Carlton Bragg)
Having officially visited Arizona earlier this month, Ivan Rabb is now working on visits to UCLA, Kansas and Cal, his mother told SNY.tv.
The 6-foot-10 forward out of Oakland (CA) Bishop O’Dowd was to visit UCLA Jan. 31, but that date could shift.
“We have a tentative date for UCLA on the 31st but we may have to use that date for Kansas due to scheduling issues,” Tami Rabb told SNY.tv.
Kansas landed 6-8 Ohio forward Carlton Bragg last week, but is still pursuing Rabb.
“We are looking forward to visiting,” Tami Rabb said. “Kansas is still very much in our list of top five schools. We are just trying got find a date that works well with all of us.”
Michigan's home game against Wisconsin in a little over two weeks just got that much more important.
Scout.com director of basketball recruiting Evan Daniels reported Monday night that 2015 five-star forward Jaylen Brown of Marietta, Georgia will take an official visit to Ann Arbor on Jan. 24, the same weekend U-M hosts the Badgers.
A 6-foot-7 small forward, Brown previously took official visits to Kentucky, Kansas and UCLA, and most recently visited North Carolina for its game against Louisville last weekend.
Coaches John Calipari of Kentucky, Bill Self of Kansas and Mark Gottfried of North Carolina State all came here to watch Callaway (Miss.) guard Malik Newman play. They are three of many schools recruiting him.
Newman had 35 points, 14 rebounds and four assists in a win Saturday over Huntington Prep with Calipari and Gottfried watching. On Friday, he had 34 points in a win over Chicago Currie with Self watching.
Newman, the top-ranked guard in the senior class, said he didn’t have a final recruiting list yet.
“Everyone is just out there,” he said. “I am not sure when I will make a list. I may not even make a list.”
However, then he revealed he would take his first official visit to Ohio State Jan. 24.
He said he didn’t know what other official visits he might take.
“Maybe Kentucky, N.C. State, Kansas. I don’t know who else,” he said.
He said there was no school recruiting him the hardest. He did reveal that Louisville recruited him “in the beginning” but backed off and has not since then.
He also said he would have “no interest” in Louisville trying to re-recruit him.
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