Visions of Marcus Smart’s acrobatic cartwheel and backflip on the center-court Jayhawk logo have been dancing in the heads of Kansas University’s basketball players the past few weeks, ever since OSU’s 85-80 win over KU on Feb. 2 in Allen Fieldhouse.
“If their coach allowed that, then that’s up to them. If we go and get a victory there, you won’t see us doing backflips or flips on their court. We are just going to walk out in style,” KU senior guard Travis Releford said Tuesday, before today’s much-anticipated rematch against the Cowboys.
“We’ve got a few guys who can definitely flip and do backflips. If we win, you definitely won’t see any backflips or anything like that,” Releford added.
Tip for today’s game between the No. 9-ranked Jayhawks (21-4, 9-3 Big 12) and No. 14-rated Cowboys (19-5, 9-3) is 8 p.m., in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“From a competitive standpoint, we did find that sort of disrespectful,” said KU junior forward Justin Wesley. “At the end of the day, that was a good team. They did deserve the win. Hopefully we can keep the backflips from coming this time.”
…Junior guard Markel Brown leads OSU in scoring at 15.8 points per game. He averages 17.3 ppg in league play. Smart leads the Big 12 with 2.9 steals per game to go with his 15.0 ppg scoring average. Sophomore Le’Bryan Nash averages 13.3 points and 4.3 rebounds. Brown had 22 points in the first half of OSU’s win over KU in Allen.
“He came off a lot of screens,” Releford said, noting, “I didn’t start off on him. I was guarding someone else. He got going early. By the time I got on him he had a rhythm and was already doing well. Hopefully we’ll come out this game and make him uncomfortable and not have him get open looks.”
…KU’s Harlem Shake video had over 1,600,000 views on YouTube as of Tuesday night.
“I didn’t know it’d blow up like that,” said Wesley, the organizer of the video. “I think we were all happy how it turned out. Everybody looked silly. I was more excited for Drew (Andrew White III) and Perry (Ellis). They are the quiet ones on the team. They looked like they had a lot of fun with it.”
Of Self’s role writing the words, Harlem Shake on the chalkboard to open the video, Wesley said: “We told him it was an educational video. When he showed up he said, ‘I’m not doing this.’ We said, ‘You can have a serious part but you’ve got to be in it.’ He was cool doing it.”
Self joked: “I’m sure that will get nominated for many awards on YouTube awards. I’d think I’d get best supporting actor for the huge role I played. I’m just glad I spelled the two words right.”
If McLemore is Muhammad Ali minus the boastfulness, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee, Smart is Joe Frazier, a relentless, thickly built, in-your-face buzz saw, leading with his chin and never retreating.
The long McLemore stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 195 pounds. The strong Smart checks in at 6-4, 225.
Smart shoots a little too often at times, McLemore too seldom.
Smart’s Cowboys defeated Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse last month because Smart refused to let them lose. He celebrated with a stunning double backflip. McLemore drops jaws with his flashy dunks, but the closest he comes to celebrating is spontaneously flashing a grin.
They have turned the Big 12 Freshman of the Year award into a two-man race and are lead cars in the only slightly more crowded Big 12 Player of the Year derby.
Smart leads the conference in steals and ranks fifth in scoring, sixth in assists, 14th in blocked shots and 16th in rebounding. McLemore leads the conference in free-throw percentage, ranks second in scoring, third in effective field-goal percentage, 12th in blocked shots and 18th in rebounding.
For all their differences, McLemore and Smart have one thing in common: The more talented the competition, the more points they tend to score. McLemore scored 33 points against Iowa State, 30 vs. Kansas State, 23 against Oklahoma State and 22 at Ohio State. Smart stung chief rival Oklahoma with 28 points, had 25 at Kansas (plus eight second-half offensive rebounds), 25 vs. K-State, 23 against Gonzaga, 21 vs. Iowa State and 20 against North Carolina State.
The player whose team wins tonight will move into the lead for freshman honors and will join KU center Jeff Withey at the front of the pack for the top player hardware.
Regardless of what happens tonight, McLemore has the best shot among Big 12 players of becoming the top pick in the NBA draft. If he is, he’ll become the first shooting guard taken with the first overall pick since Notre Dame guard Austin Carr in 1971.
If Wednesday’s game were simply about pride, Kansas would have plenty of fuel. The Jayhawks haven’t been swept in conference play since 2001, when Iowa State pulled it off, and how often must the Jayhawks go on the road to avenge a loss at Allen Fieldhouse?
But this trip to Gallagher-Iba means more than all that. No. 9 Kansas (21-4, 9-3 Big 12) is tied with No. 14 Oklahoma State (19-5, 9-3) a half-game back of Kansas Sate, which beat West Virginia on Monday night. If the Jayhawks have visions of a ninth straight Big 12 title, those dreams could die a Cowboy death in Stillwater, where Self once went to school.
“They wanted it more than us when they came in our house,” Releford said, “and that’s unacceptable. So we just gotta come ready to play from the jump.”
I hope my Jayhawk friends take this the right way. I hope they know it's nothing personal.
The Jayhawks won the league in 2012. And 2011. And 2010. And 2009. Four straight outright titles, and the Jayhawks have finished no worse than in a tie for first eight straight years.
Not since Eddie Sutton's great Cowboy team of 2004 has Kansas been relegated to as low as second place.
And now another OSU team can do something about it. Travis Ford's Cowboys host KU on Wednesday night, and the winner lands the catbird seat for the 2013 Big 12 championship.
It's about dang time someone besides Kansas sported the trophy.
“I think it's time for us to win it,” said OSU's Markel Brown.
Nothing against Kansas. The Jayhawks have been worthy champions. Over the years, they have been splendid representatives of Big 12 hoops. Annually a ballteam you can cheer for.
Likable coaches, be it Roy Williams or Bill Self. Stars you can embrace, from Nick Collison to Thomas Robinson. Fans you can stand to live with. The best venue in college basketball. The best tradition in American sport.
We don't pound our chests with conference pride in this part of the country, but who among us doesn't pull for the Jayhawks every March? Kansas basketball is pure class.
I'm just tired of KU winning the league every year, and the Big 12 ought to be really tired of it. It's holding back the conference.
No other league has such domination. No ACC school has won four straight league titles since Duke in 1997-00. No Pac-12 school has done it since UCLA's reign of terror in the ‘60s and ‘70s. No SEC school has done it since Kentucky in 1968-71. No Big Ten or Big East school ever has done it.
But here come the Jayhawks, floating along. Heck, even when the Big 12 is loaded, KU is undeterred. In 2002, OU made the Final Four. But Kansas won the league and made the Final Four itself. In 2003, Texas made the Final Four. But Kansas won the league and made the Final Four itself.
And even that parity has flown the coup. KU has failed to finish first only once in the last 11 years, that 2004 season. And now the Jayhawks have made the Big 12 Tournament their domain, too. Oklahoma schools won five straight Big 12 Tournaments, 2001-05, but KU has five of the last seven.
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So imagine the surreal feeling when Forte stood waiting to run on the floor in Lawrence 2 1/2 weeks ago, and the sounds started to stir inside The Phog.
“I heard the KU fight song and thought, ‘God, I've heard this a thousand times. Now I'm going to take the court against them,'” the Cowboys freshman said this week.
Not just take the court against them, but help slay them, scoring six points in the final 30 seconds of an 85-80 Oklahoma State upset that ended KU's 33-game home winning streak and made a race of the Big 12 regular season.
“Never would I have ever thought I'd be at the free throw line,” Forte said, “trying to ice the game at Allen Fieldhouse. It was just a great experience.”
Even for dad, although not without a few jabs from his pals.
“They told me, ‘Now Phil, don't you be wearing that orange and black in Allen Fieldhouse,'” said Phil Sr. “Of course, I wore it right on in there.”
Still, the scene took some getting used to, for dad and almost anyone who knew the family's life-long allegiances.
“Just before that game, Phillip's middle school coach, whom I'm still friends with today, sent me a text,” said Phil Sr. “He said, ‘I'm watching the little kid who came in to school every day wearing a Kansas Jayhawk t-shirt. And now I'm watching him today wearing orange and going to Allen Fieldhouse to play KU.'”
Analysis: If there's one hangup in the Jayhawks' bid to remain elite, it's the point guard spot, where Johnson has struggled to the point of being called out by KU coach Bill Self. In the first meeting, Johnson went 3-of-14 from the floor and committed four turnovers in the loss, prompting Self to say afterward: “We don't have a point guard.” Smart dominated that game — as he has many in OSU's seven-game winning streak. Sophomore Naadir Tharpe has been getting more exposure at the point, providing positive results. Still, this is a matchup the Cowboys can and must exploit.
OSU's Markel Brown vs. KU's Ben McLemore
Analysis: McLemore, along with OSU's Smart, is a front-runner for Big 12 Player of the Year. And there's mounting evidence that Brown deserves consideration, too. The Cowboys junior was the firestarter in Lawrence, providing early energy and confidence with a 3-point barrage. He finished with seven 3s and a game-high 28 points in OSU's win at Allen Fieldhouse. McLemore, a projected high NBA Draft pick, can take over games as a shooter or a slasher. He averages 16.7 points to Brown's 15.8 and is also a strong perimeter shooter.
OSU's Le'Bryan Nash vs. KU's Travis Releford
Analysis: Nash is coming off his best game of the season, a 26-point performance against Oklahoma that also featured his hard work on defense and around the basket. While the points aren't a necessity, the effort is against a fundamentally sound team like KU. Releford is a seasoned vet who provides steady production and leadership. He leads the Big 12 in field-goal percentage at 59.9 percent and has shot 71 percent or better in 11 games.
OSU's Michael Cobbins vs. OU's Kevin Young
Analysis: A senior getting his first opportunity at full-time duty, Young is an energetic forward who gives the Jayhawks solid work on the boards. He had 12 points and seven boards in the earlier loss to the Cowboys. Cobbins has been a valuable cog in OSU's streak — scoring, rebounding, defending and blocking shots. His eight points and eight rebounds were big in complementing the rest of the Cowboys in the win at KU.
OSU's Philip Jurick vs. KU's Jeff Withey
Analysis: Withey ranks among the nation's top centers and is a projected first-round draft pick. He can dominate games in the post, particularly on defense, where he's already the KU and Big 12 all-time blocked shots leader with 265. He's tied for second in the conference with nine double-doubles. Jurick isn't flashy, but he's fundamentally sound and has given other traditional big men troubles. And he helped contain Withey in the first meeting, when the KU center managed 11 points and eight boards.
OSU's Phil Forte vs. KU's Naadir Tharpe
Analysis: Tharpe's role has increased, and he's been a calming influence, handing out 13 assists with just two turnovers in the past three games. As a scorer, however, he's unreliable, shooting just 33.8 percent in conference play. Forte averages 11.4 points off the bench, mostly as a perimeter threat who stresses defenses and opens up opportunities for teammates. He was clutch down the stretch in Allen Fieldhouse, making critical free throws to keep the Cowboys ahead.
OSU's Kamari Murphy, Brian Williams and Kirby Gardner vs. KU's Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor
Analysis: Williams didn't play in the first game. He was held out as he was still gaining comfort in the system following offseason wrist surgery. He's progressing and should be more of a factor this time. Murphy is again providing quality minutes, and Gardner is good for giving Smart a rest. The Jayhawks are uncharacteristically thin. Beyond Tharpe, Ellis is the only KU reserve who averages double-digit minutes. An elite recruit, Ellis hasn't made a major impact as a freshman, averaging 4.5 points and 3.5 rebounds. Traylor is a bit player, but a bulky body at 6-8 and 220 pounds.
OSU's Travis Ford vs. KU's Bill Self
Analysis: Ford is in the conversation for Big 12 Coach of the Year, having guided a young team through some early conference rough patches to a seven-game winning streak and contention for the conference crown. Self, a five-time Big 12 Coach of the Year, has led the Jayhawks to eight straight Big 12 regular-season championships, a 290-57 record and the 2008 national championship.
A mere 25 days ago, fans were calling for the head of coach Travis Ford, a refrain heard often the past few seasons.
The winning streak has been impressive; OSU has won the games by a little more than nine points, on average. The team that could never win on the road has three straight during the stretch. Fans are finally packing the arena again. What could go wrong?
Kansas comes out pissed off that this perennially underachieving team beat it in the legendary Phog, where KU hadn't lost in 33 games, and hands OSU a double-digit defeat.
Fans, deflated from the loss, do what they are known to do — not come to the next games.
The team, with its aura of invincibility shattered, goes back to its ways and loses to West Virginia on the road. After a win at TCU, Texas comes to Stillwater and takes advantage of a team that’s season is in the midst of a collapse and scores a road upset.
Back on the road, Iowa State forces OSU into enough mistakes for the Cowboy's fourth loss in five games. Then, in the season finale, Kansas State comes to Stillwater with its eyes on the Big 12 Championship. With more to play for, the Wildcats win easily.
Suddenly, the team that won seven straight and was a top-15 team has now lost five of six. Instead of finishing first in the conference, the team dropped to six.
Therein lies the importance of this game to a young team and a coach whose seat can heat up faster than a summer day in Stillwater.
OSU has a rare opportunity in front of it. When a Big 12 school knocks Kansas down, it gets revenge. No team has won both regular season games against the Jayhawks since Iowa State did in 2004.
There's that year again.
OSU has 11 players who have appeared in at least nine games this year. Ten of those 11 players were not yet teenagers in the late winter of 2004.
A win today, and the past nine years are nothing but a bad dream.
Once again, Gallagher-Iba-Arena will be known for its noise and the Cowboys will be poised for a run in the NCAA Tournament, and while we're on the topic of 2004, maybe another Final Four appearance.
Nash is still a lightning rod for criticism. Students and alumni alike attack his body language and question his motivation. They even go as far to humiliate him on Twitter.
The latter caused Nash to boycott the social network site for a while. He was tired of the negativity.
“I don’t like being around negative people, but there are people like that in life,” Nash said. “My whole life I have tried to stay positive. Negativity is going to come so you just have to be prepared for it.”
Last Saturday, 13,611 people witnessed first-hand why Nash is a special basketball talent.
In the most hyped Bedlam game in recent memory, Nash shined. Nash played one of the best games of his career, scoring a season-high 26 points, 23 of which were in the second half or overtime. In fact, Nash outscored the entire OU team in the extra period. Nash let his game speak for itself and silence the critics.
“(The criticism) motivated me for the game against OU,” Nash said. “I knew a lot of people were going to watch that game because it’s Bedlam.
“Hopefully I can do the same things for Kansas.”
According to police, after a 9-year-old boy told a classmate in school that he roots for OU not OSU, the boy's father, Gannon Mendez, then allegedly beat the boy at home with a wooden paddle.
Investigators also claim the alleged beating in the home was not a one time crime.
Prosecutors claim Mendez would repeatedly take the boy to a football field and make him run until he puked.
An affidavit details in addition to being routinely spanked with a paddle, the suspect chopped up soap and pushed it into the victim's mouth.
The victim also reported Mendez squeezes his nose until it bleeds, tells him he will end up in hell and would wake him up every 30 minutes through the night to do push ups.
Mendez had previously been accused of providing money and other stuff to Oklahoma State football players. He refused to cooperate with the school's investigation and has been banned from associating with OSU athletes. Mendez's attorney told KOCO that Mendez intended to surrender to police this afternoon.
Kansas University women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson had a simple message for her team following its 81-71 home victory over No. 22 Oklahoma on Saturday: Don’t become complacent.
“I thought for a stretch we fell in love with being happy,” Henrickson said Sunday. “I’m not the fun-hater here. I’m the realist. We need to enjoy (the win) for the rest of the day, but (Monday), ... shine your goggles and be ready to go.”
The Jayhawks boosted their case for a second-straight NCAA Tournament berth with a win over the Sooners, but they’ll also need to add a few more victories to end up on the correct side of the NCAA bubble.
KU’s best chance at adding another road victory will come at 7 tonight, as the Jayhawks face the Texas Longhorns at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
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While it doesn’t carry the cache of KU-OSU, Iowa State at Baylor on Wednesday (8 p.m., ESPNU) will be important in re-establishing flagging NCAA tournament credentials for these two.
Both have fallen out of some national brackets, and they have suspect RPIs (Iowa State 47, Baylor 56). The Bears are 2-7 vs. the RPI top 50; the Cyclones 2-5.
“We had the 10th-toughest non-conference schedule, that should help us,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said.
Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg said: “We’ve been so close, but we haven’t found a way to bust through with a great road win yet.”
Kansas State has taken the league lead from Kansas in scoring defense at 59.5 points a game. … Iowa State still leads in team offense at 79.0. Baylor is second at 75.0.
Florida let Missouri hang around just long enough for the Tigers to finally take advantage.
The fifth-ranked Gators lead most of the game and held a 13-point advantage in the second half before the Tigers rallied for the win.
Trailing by three, Florida had one last chance, but Mike Rosario's 3-pointer from the corner missed and Missouri walked away with the 63-60 victory Tuesday night.
Rosario finished with 14 points and Florida led for more than 30 consecutive minutes before the Tigers' Phil Pressey gave his team its first lead of the night with a three-point play with 2:51 remaining.
Coach Billy Donovan thought Rosario had a good look, unlike Kenny Boynton's 3-point attempt with Florida down a point and about a minute to go.
"No, did not want that at all," Donovan said. "I would have liked to have had some action driven to the basket. When you're down one, you at least want to create some penetration."
Pressey added 10 assists, seven points, six rebounds and three steals for Missouri (19-7, 8-5 SEC). Pressey, whose wild play has contributed to the Tigers 1-5 road record, was conscious about distributing the ball instead of doing it all himself and didn't take a shot the first half.
A person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press about the lack of institutional control charge, and that several former members of Miami coaching staffs are named in the notice of allegations, including Missouri basketball coach Frank Haith, who was with the Hurricanes from 2004-11.
"I did get a notice of allegation," Haith said after Missouri beat Florida Tuesday night. "Contrary to what was reported (weeks ago), there was no unethical conduct in my notice of allegation. And it is just an allegation, so we get a chance to defend ourselves."
Next up: The sanctions phase, where Miami's penalties will be decided.
Haha. Bill Pope, one of our assistant coaches (1988 kU grad) put this GARBAGE in my locker. #Mizzou pic.twitter.com/MhNGWHhg
Victor Oladipo shook off a sprained left ankle with a spectacular performance to lift top-ranked Indiana to a 72-68 victory against No. 4 Michigan State on Tuesday night.
Oladipo's go-ahead putback, dunk and free throws in the final minute gave him 19 points to go along with nine rebounds, five steals and a block. Not bad for a guy who didn't play after halftime of his previous game, just three days earlier, because of the injury.
Hoosiers coach Tom Crean insisted that the junior shooting guard "wasn't even close" to 100 percent healthy.
Did Cody Zeller and Derrick Nix exchange groin shots, or did they fake it?
The Big Ten Conference has "picked up" the pace of its pursuit of North Carolina, going so far as to offer membership to the university, 247Sports.com's Jeff Ermann reported Tuesday via Twitter.
It's not clear as to whether UNC has received a formal invitation to join the conference.
Ermann -- who correctly reported that Maryland was moving to the Big Ten in 2014 -- tweeted that in addition to UNC, the Big Ten is still pursuing Virginia and Georgia Tech. UVA, according to Ermann, is considered "likely" to join, while Georgia Tech is also "in the mix."
Adding two of those three Atlantic Coast Conference schools would bump Big Ten membership to 16. Rutgers, currently in the Big East, is scheduled to come in with Maryland in July of '14.
North Carolina has not commented publicly on Ermann's report; however, USA Today's Dan Wolken, who was in Atlanta for the Heels' men's basketball game against Georgia Tech, tweeted that "after talking with UNC officials tonight the idea they have anything going on with the B1G seems far-fetched."
An annual Dayton festival planned around the start of the NCAA men's basketball tournament has been canceled this year.
Organizers said it was necessary because the NCAA is no longer permitting local sponsorships of public events surrounding the tournament.
The Dayton Daily News (http://bit.ly/Zf0znW ) reports that the First Four Festival in the city's historic Oregon District was planned for March 17. The University of Dayton Arena is the annual site of the tournament's opening game, a "play-in" contest between the two lowest-seeded teams.
Former Texas basketball player Gary Johnson fractured his skull during a game in Israel on Tuesday and was placed in a medically induced coma, his marketing representative said.
Johnson suffered the injury when his head hit a backboard, according to Christine Krzyzanowski, a friend of Johnson’s who’s been doing marketing work for him through Philadelphia-based Two Affix.
Krzyzanowski said one of Johnson’s agents was with him at a hospital in Tel Aviv, and reported he had not yet undergone surgery as of late Tuesday night.
Johnson, who played four years at Texas from 2007-’11, spent much of this season with Hapoel Galil Elyon of the Israeli league. He had been playing with a stress fracture in his foot, and expected to return to the United States after Tuesday’s game, Krzyzanowski said.
Johnson, a Houston native and former Aldine standout, has endured medical scares before. His college basketball career was put on hold before it began when doctors discovered he had a rare heart condition. After passing months of tests, he was cleared to play in late 2007.
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Julius Randle, a 6-9 senior forward from Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, who visited KU last weekend, tells Eric Bossi of Rivals.com he will pick a school “between now and the middle of March.”
Randle, who has a final list of KU, Florida, Kentucky, N.C. State and Texas, said he had a great time on his visit to KU.
“It was my fourth time there, but I feel like I know a lot more now,” Randle told Bossi. “I really got to see everything that goes into the program. Like when they get a big-time player, everything that goes into developing that player on the court, in the weight room. It’s top notch for real.”
Randle said Self told him he fits the system.
“The spots he put them in at around 15 feet or catching in the post or isolated on the side, he thinks I can excel in all those areas,” Randle said. “He feels what I can do differently than any other player that he has had is get the ball off the glass and bring it up. If I don’t get the rebound, he feels I should be the first person up the floor and get to my sweet spot. As long as I defend and rebound, he’ll let me play with as much freedom as I want.”
If losing can be enjoyed, JP Macura experienced a hint of that Tuesday night at Apple Valley High School.
The Lakeville North junior guard begrudgingly took pleasure in watching Apple Valley's Tyus Jones guide the Eagles' 95-78 runaway. Jones shut down Macura's hot offensive night and at the other end finished with 25 points and five assists to push Class 4A's No. 1-ranked Eagles (22-1) past the No. 9-ranked Panthers (18-5).
Minn Star Tribune
A high school basketball player died after collapsing during a game Tuesday night at Quality Education Academy in Winston-Salem.
Josh Level, a junior at New Garden Friends School in Greensboro, died at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, David Tomlin, head of New Garden, said in a statement.
Counselors will be at New Garden Wednesday to talk with students, officials said.
RIP to one of my Team Loaded Family Members, Josh Level, Collapsed and Passed playin the game he Loves. Sad story
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