When Self filled out his Big 12 preseason poll, he penciled in Baylor at the No. 1 spot. Self, of course, was prohibited from selecting his own team. So he had to pick someone.
But Baylor, featuring point guard Pierre Jackson, the preseason choice for Big 12 player of the year, fit the description. The Bears’ have Jackson, who is averaging more than 19 points per game — but they also have sharpshooter Brady Heslip and Austin, who was a consensus top-five recruit.
“He’s not their only weapon,” Self said of Jackson. “Good gosh, Heslip shoots it as well as anybody in our league; Austin is probably as highly touted as anybody our league has had in the last few years. And they’re good.”
After weeks of two-a-day practices and long film sessions over the holidays, Withey said the Jayhawks are ready to embrace the Big 12 grind and all its challenges. Last season, a January victory over Baylor on Big Monday was a catalyst in Kansas’ run to an eighth straight Big 12 title. For Kansas, the hope is that Baylor will bring out the Jayhawks’ best once again.
“It’s a big game,” Self said. “Anytime you play at home, you need to try to hold serve at home. This is a big game, without question. It’s one that our guys will look forward to playing, because Baylor has had great success the last few years.”
KUAD: Kansas vs Baylor pregame notes
1/13/13, 7:22 PM
Watching KU practice with legendary @sportsiren, Holly Rowe. Can't wait for Big Monday, KU vs @BUDREW and Bears!
When Baylor stepped into Allen Fieldhouse last season, the roar from the soldout crowd of 16,300 was so loud that players and coaches could hardly hear themselves speak.
The decibel level was so high at the Kansas Jayhawks’ historic home that it sounded like a Led Zeppelin reunion concert.
The Bears hope their ears and minds will be ready for another Allen Fieldhouse experience tonight when they face the No. 6 Jayhawks at 8 p.m. in an ESPN “Big Monday” game in Lawrence, Kan.
“We know what kind of environment we’re going into and I think we’ll be ready for it,” Baylor guard Pierre Jackson said. “I remember how loud it was (last year). They have a great fan base, and if you let them get any momentum at all the crowd will let you know about it.”
…“The good thing is we’re more used to it because we’ve had more ‘Big Monday’ meetings in the last three or four years,” Drew said. “That’s one of the best opportunities you can get for any team in college basketball. I think it will help the guys that were there last year. Unfortunately, we led to it getting loud by missing easy buckets and turning the ball over. So we have to do our job to keep it quiet.”
...Freshman center Isaiah Austin is averaging 14.6 points while Jefferson is averaging 14.3 points, and both are tied for second in Big 12 rebounding with 8.4 per game. Jefferson is anxious to play against Kansas’ strong frontcourt that’s led by Withey.
“They have one of the best centers in the Big 12, so I think it will be a good matchup,” Jefferson said. “We’ll try to get a win up there. We know it will be tough, but we’ll have a game plan and stick to it.”
It was just a basket, two of Kansas’ 92 points in the Jayhawks’ home victory over Baylor last season. And it came early, a few minutes into the game.
But in a season of defining triumphs and moments, Thomas Robinson’s soaring, one-handed snag of Tyshawn Taylor’s lob and authoritative slam that brought down the house stood for something more.
Kansas’ full finesse and power — qualities that drove the Jayhawks to the national championship game — were displayed in this snapshot. The Jayhawks went into that game against an undefeated Bears team still somewhat unsure of their potential.
Kind of like this Kansas team heading into Monday night’s home game against Baylor.
Momentum built from a December highlighted by a lopsided victory over Colorado and conquest at Ohio State has given way to some uneasiness in three January games.
This being Kansas, concern is relative. The Jayhawks take a 14-1 record and probably a top-five ranking when the latest polls are unveiled Monday night. There are 347 teams in Division I basketball, and about 344 of them would love to deal with Kansas’ problems.
…Since Ellis recorded a double-double against American on Dec. 29, he doesn’t have a field goal (zero for nine). Traylor has one basket in four attempts in the last three games. With Tharpe not shooting well and the big reserves not scoring, Kansas is getting scant production from the bench.
But there’s something else, something the numbers don’t convey. Last year’s Jayhawks played with bravado and an edge — some opponents would suggest nastiness — that this team hasn’t developed.
I ran that idea by Self, and he didn’t disagree.
“There’s nobody out there who says, ‘This is my show,’ ” Self said.
Except once — last week, when McLemore took over against Iowa State with 33 points, and Kansas needed every one of them to subdue the Cyclones. Self hasn’t had a player with McLemore’s skill set, and when the Jayhawks are on top of their game offensively, it’s as creative and fluid as any under Self.
What it appears to be missing, or at least since the calendar turned, is that edge, the stuff that was bubbling under the surface around this time a year ago and presented itself in one moment, against the same team that visits Lawrence tonight that looks plenty like last year’s.
BOTTOM LINE: It’s still early, but Baylor is one of the few teams that has the talent to knock KU from its’ Big 12 perch. But the Bears can be maddeningly inconsistent. And back inside Allen Fieldhouse, KU can regain some momentum while picking up an early game in the Big 12 standings.
Self no longer has to worry about forwards Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy, who are now in the NBA after helping the Bears defeat Kansas 81-72 in the Big 12 conference tournament semifinal last March, but Baylor again has two of the top big men in the conference to complement senior guard Pierre Jackson, the league's top scorer with 19.2 points per contest.
Junior forward Cory Jefferson, who is shooting a Big 12-best 63.4 percent, is averaging 14.3 points and 8.4 rebounds, while 7-1 freshman center Isaiah Austin is fifth in the league in scoring (14.6 ppg) and third in rebounds (5.9)
The Bears are outscoring their opponents in the paint by an average of 9.4 points, and they set a team record for fewest points allowed in a Big 12 game in Saturday's 51-40 victory over TCU.
…Kansas is 18-3 all-time against Baylor.
@JohnGasaway &@kenpomeroy will be delighted to know that Bill Self was lamenting KU's poor Defensive Rebound Rate at halftime yesterday.
PHILLIPS 66 BIG 12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Ben McLemore, Kansas, G, Fr., 6-5, 195, St. Louis, Mo./Christian Life Center [Texas]
McLemore averaged 21.5 points and 3.5 rebounds as Kansas won its first two games in Big 12 play with a 97-89 overtime win over Iowa State and a 60-46 victory at Texas Tech. The freshman guard opened the week by scoring 33 points in the win over ISU on 10-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-6 from 3-point range, along with 7-of-7 from the free throw line. He scored 13 of KU's final 23 points in the final seven minutes, including the game-tying 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds remaining to send the contest to overtime. It was the most points by a Jayhawk freshman since Danny Manning in 1985 (35 vs. Oklahoma State). McLemore shot 63.2 percent for the week and 60 percent from beyond the arc, while connecting on 86.7 percent of his free throws. He ranks second in the Big 12 in scoring with 16.4 points per game.
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In a span of five days, all four of the remaining unbeatens lost -- capped off by Michigan's 55-52 setback at Ohio State on Sunday afternoon.
So for the first time all season, we have a real debate about who should be No. 1 in the polls. We asked four of our writers to make the case for a team that has a legitimate claim to the top spot.
…Making the case for: Kansas (Andy Katz)
Kansas hasn't played its best basketball of the season in recent games, but the Jayhawks have found a way to win, either at the end of regulation or in overtime. KU has made winning plays when it matters most, reeling off 13 straight wins -- a streak that includes an annihilation of Colorado, a victory at Ohio State (where Michigan couldn't win) and a triumph over a Temple team that Syracuse could not beat in New York City.
The Jayhawks are one of the top defensive teams in the country, especially on 2-point field goals. They are one of the most offensively efficient teams as well. Of all the one-loss teams who are in the discussion -- Duke, Indiana, Louisville, Arizona, Michigan, Syracuse, Gonzaga and Creighton -- the Jayhawks shouldn't take a backseat to any of them. It's why I've had Kansas No. 2 in my ESPN.com Power Rankings for several weeks now.
I know the arguments this week are valid for Duke based on the overall strength of schedule and that Louisville's only loss was shorthanded to Duke or that Indiana lost to Butler at the buzzer in overtime. Still, KU has been on a roll since its only loss and certainly is a worthy candidate for No. 1.
All-American Brittney Griner scored 33 points as top-ranked Baylor used a big first half to defeat Kansas, 82-60, in front of a season-high 6,923 fans Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse.
Baylor (14-1, 4-0 Big 12) surged to a 31-13 lead with 8:45 left in the first half and held off multiple attempts by No. 17 Kansas (11-4, 2-2 Big 12) to come back and avoid its second consecutive loss to a ranked opponent. No. 21 Oklahoma State beat the Jayhawks, 76-59, Tuesday in Stillwater, Okla.
Junior guard CeCe Harper came off the bench to score a career-high 21 points for the Jayhawks, more than doubling her previous best of 10 against a team that held a 40-game win streak early in the season. Harper joined four other Jayhawks (seniors Carolyn Davis, Angel Goodrich, Monica Engelman and sophomore Chelsea Gardner) who have scored 20 points in a game during their KU careers.
Only four other Baylor opponents have scored 60 points or more this season. Two of those teams were ranked in the top five nationally.
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When No. 15 Ohio State held off a late rally by No. 2 Michigan for a 56-53 victory on Sunday, college basketball had no more unbeaten teams.
The first of the last three unbeaten teams to go down was No. 4 Arizona on Thursday night at Oregon, 70-66. Then No. 1 Duke was knocked off, 84-76, at No. 20 North Carolina State on Saturday.
On Monday, when the Associated Press releases its weekly poll, there probably will be a new No. 1 team.
Well, No. 3 Louisville would be the most likely candidate. The Cardinals defeated South Florida and Seton Hall this week to move to 15-1 on the season. The one loss, though, was to Duke.
There's No. 5 Indiana, also 15-1, which just defeated No. 8 Minnesota, 88-81. The Hoosiers' loss was very Hoosiers-like -- 88-86 to tiny but powerful No. 14 Butler in overtime.
And then there's No. 6 Kansas (14-1) and No. 7 Syracuse (16-1). The Jayhawks lost two months ago to No. 22 Michigan State while the Orange took a not-so-good loss to Temple last month.
In other words, the new No. 1 college basketball team will come with a blemish.
Might as well be Louisville, the highest-ranked one-loss team that kept winning this past week.
Derrick Nix made two free throws with a minute left and finished with 17 points to help No. 22 Michigan State pull away for a 66-56 victory over visiting Nebraska last night.
The Spartans (14-3, 3-1 Big Ten) have won three straight. David Rivers had 18 points and Ray Gallegos 12 for Nebraska (9-8, 0-4).
Spartans reserve Adreian Payne had 14 points and Branden Dawson added 12.
Michigan State — and Dawson in particular — got a scare early in the second half when he was fouled and grabbed his surgically repaired left knee after tumbling to the court. Dawson walked slowly off the court toward the locker room and was cleared to return much to the delight of the fans, who gave him a standing ovation. Dawson, a sophomore, showed his knee was very healthy in the final seconds, soaring to dunk an alley-oop pass from Keith Appling for the final basket.
Two people close to the NCAA case involving former University of Miami booster Nevin Shapiro told The Miami Herald on Saturday that they, and others as well, were told to be available near their phones Monday to discuss allegations against them in the case.
“The beginning of the end” of the long ordeal, as one person put it, is about to unfold at UM.
Another source would only say, “It’s imminent,” regarding Miami receiving its notice of allegations.
This March will mark two years since the NCAA launched its investigation into Shapiro’s relationship with the school and more than 100 former athletes — most of them football players — to whom he said he provided thousands of impermissible benefits from 2002 through 2010.
Several former football and basketball assistants were also implicated by Shapiro, now serving a 20-year prison sentence for a $930 million Ponzi scheme.
Shapiro said that among the impermissible benefits he provided were cash, prostitutes, entertainment in his multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to expensive restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play and travel to athletes — all first documented in a Yahoo! Sports report in August 2011.
Shapiro submitted to the NCAA a list of 114 UM players, including stars such as Vince Wilfork, Kellen Winslow, Jon Vilma, Willis McGahee, Devin Hester — and dozens more.
Before the 2011 season, eight football players were suspended for receiving benefits from Shapiro. The men’s basketball team also suspended players before they were cleared and allowed to return.
The complete notice of allegations will go to the university, and individuals who are alleged with committing NCAA violations will receive their own notices pertaining to their specific allegations.
The notice of allegations, according to the NCAA, outlines the rules that the institution is alleged to have broken and describes the facts of the case.
UM, being a private school, is not required to make public the NCAA’s findings. It is possible, however, that the university could reveal parts or all of the allegations.
“We just want to receive the notice,” UM football coach Al Golden told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “The day we do that is the day we take a big step forward. I don’t think there’s any question that will be a release. And the good thing there is we don’t anticipate any shock or any surprise.”
After a hard foul and bizarre injury to Butler star Rotnei Clarke, the Bulldogs have now announced that there is no timetable for his return to the court.
Clarke suffered a sprained neck when he landed awkwardly against the bottom of the hoop in Saturday’s win over Dayton. The Bulldogs, who improved to 14-2 overall with this past weekend’s victory, are prepared to host Richmond on Wednesday, while an intriguing non-conference date with Gonzaga is scheduled for Saturday.
Butler head coach Brad Stevens will hold out optimism that Clarke could play on Saturday, depending on his comfort level during the week, but there are no guarantees.
Butler’s head athletic trainer Ryan Galloy had this to say in a school release on Sunday, “The MRI confirmed the presence of a significant neck sprain. His spinal cord and cervical discs were viewed normal. Right now, he’s sore and stiff, but he’s out of the collar. The next question is when he can resume contact.”
ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale is adding a place in the sportscasters and sportswriters Hall of Fame to his already-esteemed resume.
Vitale, a 2008 inductee into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, will be honored in June as part of the 54th annual National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Awards weekend in Salisbury, N.C., making him a member of 12 Halls of Fame.
Detroit Free Press columnist and author Mitch Albom will also be honored as the Hall's sportswriter inductee.
"I can't tell you how blessed I've been in my life and career," Vitale said. "A loving mom and dad, a fantastic wife of 42 years and two tremendous daughters. I've been lucky to work with a fantastic team at ESPN that includes announcers; reporters; researchers, led by my guru Howie Schwab; producers and all the behind-the-scenes people."
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