Bill Self wants his team to do more than break the press, though. The coach says it’s important to get transition points when WVU commits multiple defenders to the backcourt.
In the first meeting, KU struggled in this area. One 3-on-1 break ended with a lob sailing out of bounds. Another 3-on-2 became an empty possession when a WVU player rotated to take a charge.
“We got numbers,” Self said, “and didn’t make them pay at all.”
A quick glance shows just how important this week is for KU.
Self talked to his team after Saturday’s TCU game about this being the biggest week of the season thus far.
“It’s exciting, because every year I feel like there’s been a time where it’s like a gut-check time,” Lucas said. “This is what separates those teams that do win the (league) championship and the teams that don’t.”
WVU, which is 0-3 all-time at Allen Fieldhouse, led KU by 18 in the building last season before eventually falling, 76-69, in overtime. That was before this year’s meeting when the Mountaineers held a lead for the game’s final 31 minutes.
“To our players, I want it to be a big game, because the last time we played these guys, they whipped us,” Self said. “We don’t need to think about Oklahoma. We’ve got our hands full with West Virginia. We know that.”
Holton’s absence is a large one, for the senior was in the midst of his best season. He was providing a key figure in the “Press Virginia” defense at the head of the pressure as well as guarding the inbound passer following made baskets or timeouts.
He also is probably the best offensive rebounder in the league and a complementary force to Devin Williams on the boards in general.
Most important, however, is that he is the battery that provides the energy and enthusiasm with which the Mountaineers have played.
The Mountaineers first played without him in a 17-point loss at Florida, a lackluster performance, but seemed to adjust as they went to Iowa State and won in one of the toughest venues in the conference, and came home and overpowered Baylor.
Certainly, it makes a difference to Kansas coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks lost in Morgantown earlier this year to WVU while Holton underachieved, hitting just 1-of-7 shots, if Holton is part of the equation. Yet Self says it is not necessarily because of his scoring or rebounding.
“(If he doesn’t play) it may change matchups, but that’s not his value,” Self said. “His value is his energy, keeping balls alive and getting possessions. To me he’s as good as anyone in league at that.”
The tricky part of it is that WVU seemed to adjust rapidly, with Nathan Adrian benefitting most by his increased playing time, providing double-figure scoring and being a force on the boards, actually leading WVU in rebounding against Baylor with nine.
Still, Kansas is acknowledged as one of the toughest places to win in college basketball, wild and crazy fans on top of the court in a building now 50 years old that intimidates visiting teams.
Going in there at less than full strength just complicates matters, although Self’s respect for Huggins and his coaching philosophy diminishes any confidence he may draw from not facing Holton.
The Exponent Telegram (WV)
Kansas didn’t look ready a month ago for West Virginia’s unconventional brand of basketball, which entails crashing the offensive boards and then, if failing to get the rebound, immediately pressuring the defensive rebounder.
“A lot of times when you can’t simulate pressure or athletic ability in practice sometimes things actually do look better and you get a false sense of what’s good,” Self said.
Now that Kansas has experienced it firsthand, that alone should take away the shock value and enable the Jayhawks to perform much better this time.
“We didn’t attack it very well, and the times that we did, we didn’t score,” Self said. “The three-on-twos or the four-on-twos or the four-on-threes or the two-on-ones, we didn’t take advantage of them. That’s something you have to do against West Virginia because you have to make them pay for extending, and if you don’t make them pay, they just get hungrier and hungrier.”
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (19-4, 8-2 Big 12): The 10th-ranked Mountaineers arrive as the Big 12’s first-place team, and they’re looking to defeat three ranked teams in succession for the first time since 1957. The game marks Bob Huggins’ 300th as West Virginia’s coach. He took the job after a one-year stint at Kansas State in 2006-07. Forward Jonathan Holton has missed the last two games because of a suspension and there is no word on his availability for the Jayhawks. Leading scorer Jaysean Paige, 14.2 points per game, usually comes off the bench.
“Mentally, they get in your head a little bit,” KU junior forward Landen Lucas said of the No. 10-ranked Mountaineers (19-4, 8-2), who enter today’s 6 p.m. game in Allen Fieldhouse a full game ahead of No. 6-ranked KU (19-4, 7-3) in the Big 12 race.
“Even at practice (against six, seven defenders at a time), we say, ‘OK now we’re going to work on them trapping,’ and as soon as that is said, everybody is looking for the trap instead of running your own stuff,” Lucas added.
“All the plays you work on, you get out there, you’ll be in the middle of a play looking for somebody to come trap you. They might not even be near you or about to trap you. Because of all the hype that gets put out there, you are expecting one to come. Sometimes that will throw you off your game. If we play our own game, play tough and the way we should play, then we’ll be just fine.”
…Self said Selden apparently is over his bout with the flu. He said Mason was not injured when he appeared to tweak his ankle late in Saturday’s win at TCU. And he said Hunter Mickelson (high ankle sprain) should be available tonight but is not 100 percent.
When these clubs first met Jan. 12 in Morgantown, KU guards Wayne Selden and Frank Mason were unable to swat away the bees. The duo, responsible for 13 of the Jayhawks' 22 turnovers, were repeatedly stung in the 11-point defeat. Vengeance is on the mind, but given WVU's ability to neutralize the paint, extend on D and flat out frustrate, it will be extremely difficult to dispose. Take the points.
Prediction: Kansas 78 West Virginia (+7) 75
6. One of the greatest streaks in all of sports could be coming to an end.
You can be forgiven for not knowing about Kansas’s run of 11 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles under Bill Self. Casual fans are so focused on the postseason that the regular season can get lost. And hey, it’s Kansas, aren’t they supposed to win every year?
Well, when a school loses as many underclassmen to the NBA as the Jayhawks have over the last decade, the answer is no. Think about this: Three times during this run, Self has had to replace his entire starting lineup. Throw in the transfer craze and the consistent strength of the Big 12, and you have one of the most significant and underappreciated feats you will find anywhere.
That’s why it will be so riveting to watch the Jayhawks try to keep that streak going during these final four weeks. That starts tonight, when they will host West Virginia, which has a one-game lead over Kansas and Oklahoma in the league standings. And then on Saturday, the Jayhawks play at Oklahoma. If KU can get a split, it will be in good position to keep this streak going. Lose both, and this thing could be coming to an end. Given the turbo-charged roster turnover in college basketball, I highly doubt we will ever see a streak like this again.
SI Seth Davis: Football fan’s guide to the college basketball season
Nebraska is working to renew a Big Eight Conference rivalry and its oldest series in men’s basketball.
The Journal Star has confirmed that Nebraska and Kansas have agreed to play a home-and-home series beginning next season, although no contract has yet been signed.
Kansas would become the first team from the former Big Eight or current Big 12 to visit Pinnacle Bank Arena in the 2017-18 season.
First, under terms of the contract, Nebraska would play Kansas at historic Allen Fieldhouse next season.
Dates aren’t yet known.
Lincoln Journal Star
LJW: Phog Allen’s letters to Bob Dole on display
“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
The results have been mostly good. Scoring is up slightly compared with a year ago, and players are learning how to defend on the perimeter without contact. Eventually, Shaw hopes officials can clean up post play, as well. He wants the traditional box-out to return and for rebounding to once again be a matter of position and skill, not brute strength.
“We cannot stop,” Shaw said. “We have to understand there are going to be growing pains. We are going to get coaches who complain. We are going to get some nationally powerful coaches who complain. But this is for the good of the game. It is above any one coach or any one style of play. We have to continue with this this year. We grasped all of the things we need to change, not just one little point.
“We said up front, ‘We know this is going to be hard and people aren’t going to like it, but we have to do this this year and in years to come.’ We have had better leadership ,and it has helped us stay consistent throughout the year.”
But to hear Shaw and his arrogance, the same arrogance shown on court nightly by the officials throughout America, talk about how they have been charged with “changing the game” … well, who in the name of Jerry West are they to think they are in the center of anything.
First off, Shaw said they needed to get “freedom of movement” into the game because it had “become pretty ugly.”
Well, my friend, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and because the defenses had begun to dominate college basketball — far less because of the rules, mind you, than because the most talented players were forever skipping off early into the NBA or Europe to earn a living — they felt that it had become “pretty ugly.”
It was much the same as what was done in football, where they altered the rules to restrict what the defense could do to get more offense into the game.
Now what did Shaw say that was so objectionable?
“We really are trying to change the game and the direction college basketball is going,” he said. “We are not finished. We have five years to go.”
This is just wrong. The game should not be changed by the suits in Indianapolis or the striped shirts on the gymnasiums floors.
The Exponent Telegram (WV)
The Big 12 has turned the corner on its conference season, leaving teams one month to jockey for conference tournament position and build postseason credentials.
To date, the conference has plenty to crow about.
Nearly a quarter of the teams in the major wire service polls — six of 25 — are from the Big 12 with Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia the current holders of top 10 status. The Sooners and Jayhawks have been ranked first this season.
The conference has the nation’s No. 1 RPI on the strength of its success against nonconference competition, and it has delivered plenty of dramatics with five league games going into overtime.
The final month before the Big 12 Tournament runs March 9-12 at the Sprint Center holds plenty of intrigue, starting with Kansas’ run of 11 straight regular-season conference championships at stake. Is this the year for a new team at the top?
“I’ve thought that before and it didn’t happen,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Until somebody actually beat Kansas (out), they’re the champs.”
The final four weeks should be the league’s competitive best. Here’s what to watch...
Perhaps the home-court advantage is a little more pronounced in the Big 12 than elsewhere.
"Well, for us it's been hard to win at home," Horned Frogs coach Trent Johnson said, jokingly.
"You can't argue with going to Lawrence. Hilton Coliseum is tough. Gallagher-Iba is legit. The home-court advantages in this league are exceptional," said Johnson, who has also coached in the Pac-12 and SEC, among other leagues. "But I go back to the Big 12 Tournament, our first year, we were the first game against Texas Tech and there were 8,000 people there. That speaks volumes to the fan base."
Indeed, the feverish fan bases are a big reason Big 12 environments are so tough. But there are others, from the coaches — five have been to the Final Four — to the veteran players lining up each night.
…The Big 12 had a cumulative home record of 106-22 heading into Monday night's games, putting it in a near-deadlock with the Pac-12 for the best home winning percentage of any Division I conference.
And since league play began, Big 12 teams were just 17-33 on the road against each other, according to STATS. That's a winning percentage of .340, worse than all but five of 32 conferences.
By comparison, Big Ten teams were 34-43 on the road against each other.
"We've been fortunate to win our last three on the road," said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm, who is in the midst of his first trip through the Big 12 grinder. "But I haven't been to Kansas — my players have, and they talk about what a great experience it is. We haven't been to West Virginia and Baylor. All I know is the atmospheres are great and we have really good players, and that makes it really tough."
Iowa State basketball starting center Jameel McKay won’t play Wednesday at Texas Tech, coach Steve Prohm said at his weekly press conference Monday.
“He’ll practice (Monday), but he’s still suspended,” Prohm said.
When asked what McKay has to do to become eligible, Prohm said:
“Basically just doing the right things and what I expect each and every day,” Prohm said. “I love
Jameel. We need Jameel for us to max out, and he knows that.
“Me and him are continuing to communicate, and hopefully he can have a good week this week.
“He’ll practice (Monday) because I want him in practice, but game-wise, he’s still suspended.
“My hope is that he will be with us Saturday. That’s my plan.”
Oklahoma (5). First significant hiccup of the season for the Sooners came Saturday, and the 11-point loss to Kansas State knocked them off the top of the polls. But they bounced right back Monday with a last-second win over surging Texas and there are plenty of other credits on the Oklahoma balance sheet: road/neutral wins over Villanova, Baylor, LSU and Creighton; home wins over Iowa State, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Lon Kruger’s team is one of the most entertaining in the country – they shoot it very well, pass it adeptly and play at a fast pace.
Yahoo Big Board seeding: No. 1.
The problem: Under Kruger, Oklahoma is 1-4 in the Big 12 tournament and 2-3 in the NCAAs. Kruger hasn’t taken a team past the Sweet 16 in 22 years.
Coach’s Final Four experience: One, in 1994, while at Florida.
Trust Meter reading, on a scale of 1 to Politician: Friend who says, “Call you later” and never does.
…Sometimes, one red-hot player can take a team a long way in tournament play. The Minutes lists a few explosive, dominant types to keep an eye on:
Buddy Hield (11), Oklahoma. If you saw the Buddy Show Monday night, you know: he cannot be stopped. Hield’s 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left beat a valiant and improving Texas team in Norman, the exclamation point on a 27-point night – 21 of those coming in the second half. He is the current king of clutch, the sultan of streak shooting, the most relentless worker on the offensive end – and the nation’s leading scorer on top of it all. If Kruger can keep him fresh enough for tournament time, he could take Oklahoma to Houston. At least.
When you hear Pitino declare the NCAA justice system is broken, which he did in a postgame press conference following Saturday’s victory over Boston College and again in an interview with Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports, know that he is correct.
When he says the way to fix it is with million-dollar fines, he could not be more wrong.
His solution effectively would allow colleges to pay for cheating.
There is plenty wrong with “NCAA justice” for which there is no easy solution, whether it’s the often overmatched — and sometimes overly aggressive — enforcement division that investigates cases or the infractions committee that pays too little attention to precedent and continues to employ penalties that punish non-involved student-athletes or prospective student-athletes.
But there’s an easy fix that will lead to fewer innocent athletes from being punished and that, quite possibly, will frighten coaches, assistant coaches and boosters away from casual rule breaking: the Near-Death Penalty.
That’s what I’m calling my proposal regarding future postseason bans. Instead of allowing — and encouraging — offending schools to self-impose tournament sanctions, choosing the convenience of immediate punishment in order to preserve the future success of the program, the Near-Death Penalty puts the power into the hands of the infractions committee.
The Sporting News DeCourcy
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube