Poeltl Putting Up Big Numbers
Jakob Poeltl has burst on to the scene this season for the Utes, leading the Pac-12 by shooting 75 percent from the floor.
Defensively, he is also having an impact, ranking third in the Pac-12 in blocks and fourth in rebounding. The Utah freshman records for field goal percentage (58.8) and blocks (44) are each well within the 7-footer's reach.
Back in his native Austria, Poeltl captained the U-18 national team at the European Championships.
Utah AD: Pregame Notes
KUAD pregame notes
Pumped about Utah at KU in KC Saturday. Since beginning of last season, Utes making about 62% of their twos. That's real good!
Utes' frosh sensation Jakob Poeltl has 34 field goals this year but only 3 on pure post ups (all vs. Alabama State). Has an Omer Asik game.
12/12/14, 1:27 PM
Utah Utes practicing @ Sprint Center. They thought this was neutral site game. Not with that Jayhawk logo in middle
Try telling the Runnin’ Utes this isn’t a true road game.
They may not be playing under the national championship banners and the honored jerseys of All Americans past, but the No. 10 Jayhawks and the No. 13 Utes will likely play on a Sprint Center court surrounded by a sea of fans singing "Crimson and Blue," Kansas’ alma mater.
…Kansas’ enormous stature in college ball is so self-evident that coach Larry Krystkowiak sees no need to talk about it with his players.
"It’s still very much of a road game for us, but I gotta believe that we’re talking about not getting caught up in emotion and some of the tradition Kansas has," he said. "Hopefully we don’t have to visit about something that’s kind of a foregone conclusion with our guys."
Since the season started, Krystkowiak has seen signs that he doesn’t need to worry about the crushing force of an opponent’s prestige or the chaos of a hostile crowd. It’s a factor, but one that has been somewhat mitigated by the standout play of his freshmen’s poise.
Take Brekkott Chapman, who scored eight first-half points and four first-half rebounds in his first game at a rocking Marriott Center. He also had some high points in an otherwise frustrating outing at San Diego State, helping develop plays down the stretch that made an ugly game at least close.
"That feels great to have the team have that confidence in you to go to you over and over, especially as a freshman," Chapman said. "It’s great to get that kind of confidence in yourself."
For Kansas, the trip to Kansas City concludes a grueling non-conference stretch that began with a trip to the Orlando Classic and featured games against Michigan State, Florida, Georgetown and Utah — all teams currently ranked in the top 25 of KenPom.com’s computer rankings.
As final exams loom, the Jayhawks will receive a six-day break after Saturday. So Self is using the Utah game as an artificial end point for the first part of the non-conference slate. The Jayhawks will have four non-conference game remaining, beginning against Lafayette on Dec. 20, but the schedule should soften considerably after this weekend.
“We can catch our breath before finals week,” Self said.
If the Jayhawks (7-1) can survive Utah and win their seventh straight, they should have a respectable chance to finish the non-conference season with just one loss — an idea that seemed unlikely following a 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky in the season’s second game.
“We’ve become more of a team,” Self said, “but we’ve learned how to win when we’re not playing great offensively.”
Even now, Kansas’ players will point to the Kentucky loss as an pivotal wake-up call. In the days after the humbling loss, the team met and talked about what it would take to come together as a team.
“It was some heart-to-heart stuff,” sophomore guard Wayne Selden said. “And we really buckled down.”
Last year, with three freshmen in the starting lineup, the Jayhawks suffered four losses during the non-conference season, losing three of those games in the final minutes. The Jayhawks had last-second losses to Villanova and Colorado, setting the tone for the rest of the season. This year, the Jayhawks have found ways to win those games, and Selden is still trying to single out a reason for this.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s a totally different team than last year,” Selden said. “Those games last year, we didn’t pull through. We won a lot of games last year on just our skill — our skill level and just being better than people individually.”
ABOUT UTAH (7-1): The Utes’ only meeting with Kansas also came in Kansas City, on Nov. 25, 1995, at Kemper Arena. The Jayhawks won 79-68 in a matchup that featured seven future NBA first-round picks, and the programs haven’t played since. For Utah, this will be the first time they’ve played a top-10 team while ranked in the top 15 since facing Kentucky in the 1998 NCAA championship game. The Utes have already proven they can beat a top-10 team, defeating then-No. 8 Wichita State at home Dec. 3. The Utes’ only loss came at then-No. 16 San Diego State on Nov. 18. Utah senior guard Delon Wright, whose brother, Dorell, plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, is on the watch list for the Wooden Award, given to the nation’s best player. The Utes are solid on both offense and defense, but not elite in either category. They rank 36th nationally in offensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com, while ranking 28th in defense.
Utah's shot-blocking ability makes it a scary matchup for KU's offense. As I've written before, the Jayhawks seem to have a bit of a blind spot against rim-protecting teams, and it's likely they will continue to try to force it inside even if the Utes have early success blocking shots.
Some other factors are working against KU as well: 1. A quick turnaround from the Georgetown game meant the Jayhawks had only one day to prepare for Utah following an off day (though to be fair, the Utes had a game Wednesday as well); 2. Devonte' Graham is questionable with a toe injury, and he is the player that would potentially have the best chance of exposing Utah's weakness of turning it over too often; 3. The Jayhawks' "home" game is at Sprint Center — an atmosphere that never will be as daunting (or loud) as Allen Fieldhouse.
I said before KU's game against Georgetown that I believed the wrong team was favored, and I have the same feeling for this contest as well. If the Utes are able to avoid defensive fouls — they've done a good job of that so far this year — I like their chances of being able to shut down KU's inside-out offense.
Utah 63, Kansas 59
Thank goodness for coaches like Bill Self. He has to rebuild his roster every season, yet while everyone else is eating cupcakes this time of year, he takes his team to play a true road game at Georgetown and then a neutral/home game against a surging Utah team. I love the Utes’ freshman center, Jakob Poeltl, but given that his team just won an emotionally draining game at BYU, it’s too much to ask for them to refill their tank so quickly.
Kansas 74, Utah 68
SI Seth Davis
What does it take to get to the Big Dance? For one thing, a tough schedule which Utah is playing right now. With wins over ranked Wichita State and bitter foe BYU on the road, the Utes already have a pair of non-conference signature wins that are the building blocks of any tourney win. Beating No. 10 Kansas would be quite a coup indeed in Kansas City, but the point has already been made so far: Utah is for real.
…ESPN says the Utes are eyeing their place among college basketball's best as they keep winning:
This team is starting to have the look and feel of the Utah teams during the Rick Marjerus [sic] era: a superstar talent in Delon Wright, who posted a double-double 18 points and 11 rebounds against BYU; a workman-like big man in freshman Jakob Poeltl; and an understated toughness that they are going to keep battling.
So far, Utah is winning the pressure games it wilted under last season.The Utes lost eight games by four points or fewer last season -- including three in overtime -- which contributed to keeping them from receiving an at-large NCAA bid.
ESPN also put Delon Wright in its Wooden Watch at No. 4 this week, a significant bump after the senior guard scored 18 and added 11 rebounds in an all-around strong performance on Wednesday night.
• Sports Illustrated moves up Utah to the No. 11 spot in its weekly power rankings, riiiiight behind next opponent Kansas after the Jayhawks scored a big win against Georgetown on Wednesday. The secret, Luke Winn writes, is that Utah gets to the line as much as anyone — and a lot more than opponents:
Utah's climb towards the top 10 has been aided by massive free-throw advantages over its opponents. In four of eight games this season, the Utes have enjoyed a +19 or better margin in free-throw attempts -- and the only game they lost, to San Diego State, is the only game they've been in the red.
Salt Lake Tribune
But Larry Krystkowiak prefers to see his team act like they’ve won nothing.
He sees the mistakes from the BYU game: the poor free throw shooting (19 for 30), the offensive malaise (nine minutes without a field goal), the turnovers (15). The victories make those problems easier to digest, but no less critical to correct.
"Winning is a really good medicine, it helps a lot of things," he said. "But I think it’s very important that we had a number of things that were broken in Wichita State game and the BYU game that we need to get better at. And that’s what’s fun. You get better, hopefully you can learn through some wins, work through some of those mistakes. It makes it a little more palatable."
Of particular concern this week: How to score on a zone. For long stretches at a time, Utah couldn’t seem to find the ways to puncture BYU’s scheme. They didn’t penetrate particularly consistently, they didn’t hit many 3-pointers, and they didn’t find entry passes to their bigs.
Salt Lake Tribune
If you include Kansas’ free-throw performance against UC-Santa Barbara in the season opener (23 of 33), the Jayhawks shot just 63 percent from the line in their first two games. Since then: KU has shot 76 percent during its six-game winning streak.
Even freshman forward Cliff Alexander is suddenly a free-throw jedi. And this, more than anything, could be pivotal for Kansas. Alexander is proving to be one of the best in the country at getting to the foul line, and he is now 11 of his last 12 at the line after going three of four against Georgetown. For the season, Alexander is shooting 70 percent from the line.
So far, the Jayhawks have made 171 free throws in seven games; their opponents have attempted just 153. As a result, the Jayhawks rank sixth nationally in free throw rate, according to KenPom.com.
LJW Smithology: Getting to know the Utes
Analyst Chad Ford of ESPN sees the 19-year-old Poeltl as a “potential top 10” pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
“Vienna, Austria ... I’ve actually visited there. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but I didn’t know there’s a lot of great players coming from there. This cat is really good. I mean, he’s good,” KU coach Bill Self gushed of Poeltl (pronounced pur-tle).
Playing before 20 NBA scouts, the 72.3 percent shooter (only 44.9 from line) scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and had three blocks in a 69-68 overtime victory over Wichita State on Dec. 3 in Salt Lake City.
“He’s got great feet, (and) he’s big,” Self added of Poeltl, who has a 7-foot-3 wingspan and mom and dad who both played for Austria’s national volleyball teams.
…Poeltl may be one of two current Utes in the NBA next season. Delon Wright, 6-5 senior returning first-team All-Pac 12 player, averages 15.4 points a game off 58.1 percent shooting. He averages 5.5 rebounds per contest and has dished 39 assists to 16 turnovers with 14 steals and 10 blocks.
“They’ve got a good guard,” KU’s Wayne Selden Jr. said Friday, hours before receiving the official scouting report.
“He’s a pro,” Self said.
Brandon Taylor, a 5-10 junior, averages 10.3 ppg. He has hit 14 of 39 threes (35.9 percent). Jordan Loveridge, who has averaged 11.5 points in four games, is out because of injury.
“I really believe this could be as tough a nonconference game we played other than obviously Kentucky,” Self said.
…Sophomore guard Brannen Greene, who hit five threes and scored 19 points in Wednesday’s win at Georgetown, will start in place of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk today, Self said. The other four starters — Frank Mason III, Selden, Perry Ellis and Landen Lucas — remain the same. “If he’s open, I’m tallying it,” Selden said of Greene from long distance.
Graham hobbled: Freshman Devonté Graham is “questionable at best” because of a sore toe, Self said. He said if Graham played, it’d likely be limited duty. Graham had the toe taped after hurting it with 10 minutes left against Georgetown. Originally it was thought he had a sprained ankle.
Traylor returns: Jamari Traylor, who served a one-game suspension following last weekend’s arrest for interfering with the duties of an officer, will play today, Self said.
Second-best game -- Utah at Kansas; 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN: This is an interesting game that should continue to tell us more about the Jayhawks. Kansas at times this season has struggled to initiate offense, and that often happens when a longer athlete can cause problems for Frank Mason. Well, Delon Wright has the kind of defensive ability and length to cause all kinds of problems for the Jayhawks. The Utes are solid enough defensively that Kansas will need get something from the freshmen they have. If that doesn't happen, the Utes can pull off the massive road upset. However, I think we see a Kansas win here behind a solid performance from Perry Ellis.
CBS viewers guide
1. Who should be on upset watch this weekend?
Andy Katz: Kansas. Utah gets the Jayhawks in Kansas City -- not Allen Fieldhouse. San Diego State even beat Kansas in the Phog a year ago, so it's not unheard-of lately. The Utes are finally playing their best basketball of the season. Now, of course, Kansas is coming off a huge road win at Georgetown. But the Utes are at least up for the challenge.
3. While the bulk of attention will be on UNC-Kentucky, there's another big game this weekend. What is the most important thing to keep an eye on in Utah-Kansas?
Katz: Utah must limit the possessions in this game, keep the Jayhawks from transition shots and play the type of defense that stymied BYU's high-powered offense in Provo on Wednesday night.
Brennan: I think it's how 7-foot center Jakob Poeltl matches up against Kansas' frontcourt. Delon Wright will do his thing, but Poeltl is the Utes' well-kept secret -- a 7-foot center grabbing the highest percentage of available offensive rebounds of any player in the country.
Brown: Even in its wins, Utah has played somewhat clumsily down the stretch. That has to change for the Utes to have a chance against the Jayhawks, who finished strong in a pair of close wins over Florida and Georgetown.
ESPN Daily Word
The call came from Kansas coach Bill Self. He offered the 6-foot-4 guard a chance to walk on to Kansas with the possibility of earning a scholarship to one of the winningest college basketball programs ever. To that point, then 18-year-old Pollard had no inkling that the Jayhawks knew his name, much less wanted to add him to the roster.
One tiny hang-up: "I told him I was going on my [LDS Church] mission, and he said, 'What's that?' I don't think he had ever dealt with that before."
Things worked out: Pollard went on a Spanish-speaking mission to Los Angeles a bit ahead of schedule, came back four months ago and had a short break before shipping out to Lawrence, Kan., for his shot at the big time. He'll be on the opposing bench this Saturday when he faces the Utes team he grew up near, and the program his grandfather played for.
The Orem high school grad won a 4A title with the Tigers on a celebrated team in 2012, one that included Dalton Nixon, Zach Hunsaker and a few other local stars. Pollard averaged 8.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game, one of the glue guys on a very good team. But he never really expected that he would be suiting up for the Jayhawks one day, scholarship or not.
"It was a culture shock for sure," he said of arriving on campus. "I kind of wish I had come here for a year before my mission so I would have known what I was getting into. The players are some of the best in the country, and everything here is intense and physical, definitely a lot different from high school."
Pollard got hooked up at Kansas in part thanks to his uncle Scot Pollard, an 11-year NBA vet and
onetime Jayhawks star who was born in Murray. Josh Pollard wanted to go to an invitation-only camp on the campus, so he called up uncle Scot (who lives in Lawrence) and got an invite.
Apparently his skill set was good enough for Self and the coaching staff to take interest in him as a walk-on player, and even waiting for two years for him to arrive.
Josh said his uncle is beaming with pride that another Pollard gets to experience Kansas basketball like he did.
"I think he's excited for someone else to experience what it is to play here," he said. "The fans really turn into your family. When his career was over, he stayed out here in Lawrence. He always comes back to be a part of it."
Pollard himself has taken some time to acclimate. He mostly plays on the scout team, which he expected. It took a while to even dribble with his former precision and have the same touch on the ball. He acknowledges that he barely thought about basketball at all on his mission, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
But the work was worth it, he said, when he came out for his first game at Allen Fieldhouse.
"I was so nervous, my legs were shaking for that first game I got in," he said. "It's the most amazing venue I've been at. The fans are amazing, just so loud. There's been so many great players that played there."
Pollard still holds plenty of Utah ties: His grandfather Pearl Pollard played at Utah, a 6-foot-8 center who was a scoring and rebounding leader on the 1958-59 team that went 21-7. Pollard also is friends with Jordan Loveridge through AAU basketball, and the two sparred in a memorable 2011 game at Orem in the Great Western Shootout right after the Tigers had upset Lone Peak.
Many of Pollard's closest basketball friends are still on missions, and he said he's not sure folks in the state know that he's on the Kansas roster. That may just change this weekend when his mug pops up on ESPN with Utes fans tuning in.
"It's going to be fun," he said.
2014 Holiday Jayhawks Basketball Clinic 12/28/14
The full-length DVD of the #Phog60 event is now available at Lawrence @HyVee locations or at: http://kuathne.ws/ZTYRxF
SD: It has been 31 years since you hired Ed Manning, who at the time was working as a truck driver, to be your assistant at Kansas. His son, Danny, came the next year and eventually led your team to an NCAA championship. All these years later, every time a college coach hires an assistant who is connected to a player, that gets brought up. How do you feel about that?
LB:It pisses me off, because it’s been done a hundred times. People don’t know that I coached Ed Manning [in the NBA] for two years. We became real close. He had triple-bypass surgery and was driving a truck. A mutual friend said, “If you get the Kansas job, you should hire Ed.” So this was not me hiring a truck driver. This was me hiring a guy that I coached. I was close to him. When people asked me about Danny, I said, “If Ed can’t recruit his son, that’s a real problem, ’cause he’ll know whether I’m good or bad, right?” But if we don’t get Danny, we’d still have a hell of a guy on our staff.
SD: But let’s be honest. If there were no Danny, you wouldn’t have hired Ed, right?
LB:Obviously, when you consider the kind of player that Danny was, that has to come into it, but I really don’t know. I hope I would have, because my whole life I’ve hired guys I coached, but that’s a hard one to answer.
SI: Q&A with Larry Brown
UDK Videos: Interviews with Drew Gooden and Pual Pierce about life as a Jayhawk
And much like everything involving the Morris twins, their deal was unique. Rather than being worked out individually for each player, the Suns effectively approached the brothers in tandem, placed $52 million dollars on the table and politely asked them to divvy it up however they saw fit.
"I did something I've never done before," Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said. "Once we agreed on the amount of money, I gave them first crack at how to divide it up."
With no apparent ill will, Marcus and Markieff came to a brotherly agreement. Markieff would get $8 million per year for four years, while Marcus would get $5 million per year for four years. This leads to a rather obvious question: If they didn't split it evenly, how did they come to an agreement to give more to Markieff?
"Keef played really well last year. Coming off the bench he was a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate. So I think he deserved for his number to be higher than mine," Marcus says. "He's one of the great power forwards in the league. If he was by himself he would've gotten way more than that. I just wanted personally for his number to be higher.
"We look at it as a number for the household, you know?" he continues. "$13 million a year for our family. Whatever it broke it down to, we didn't really care."
The twins' contract extension was also unique for another reason: its length. The NBA recently secured a gargantuan increase to its yearly take for television rights. Beginning in 2016, TNT and other networks will begin paying the league $2.7 billion per year for the right to broadcast games. That's almost three-times the current rate, and the NBA's collective bargaining agreement ensures that player contracts will see a corresponding bump.
That's why recent free agents have elected to take shorter deals. Most famously, LeBron James only signed a two-year contract this summer when committing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, secure in the knowledge that he can ink a longer contract with an absurdly large annual salary in the summer of 2016. Marcus and Markieff Morris did the opposite. They signed a four-year extension that will keep them locked in at a total of $13 million per year until 2018, when they will be 30 and likely approaching the twilight of their prime earning years.
The reason they made this decision – one that could very possibly end up costing them tens of millions of dollars – is the same reason they make many of their decisions: they believed it gave them the best chance of staying together for as long as possible.
“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 yet the Ferrell Center was nearly half-empty for a game involving two teams that competed last March in the NCAA Tournament. Announced attendance: 5,503.
There are some who would have you believe this is all because of football.
The alleged logic of this equation is never quite explained, but Monday on the Big 12 basketball coaches teleconference there was a lot of discussion about how the popularity of college football is draining the attention from early season college hoops.
So we’re supposed to believe 5,000 Baylor fans were home on Monday night doing what?
…Baylor coach Scott Drew was among those on the Big 12 call who agreed “It makes sense to move it back.” Meaning the start of the season. To mid-December, perhaps.
“It can work,” Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith said. “That might be something we need to look at. I think it would be positive, being a one-semester sport.”
College basketball coaches, as a group, are wonderful at coaching college basketball. They routinely take players who’ve had minimal exposure to the game’s finer points and turn them into polished performers who run sophisticated offensive and defensive schemes.
When it comes to matters such as this, however, of the game’s business, it’s hard not to wonder if some of them might run a sidewalk lemonade stand into the ground.
…The cost of starting the season a month later is it would need to end a month later. Which would mean March Madness would be wiped off the calendar.
It might be easy enough to rename it “April Anarchy” – hey, maybe I should jump on the trademark for that (Ed. note: I'll go half on this)– but not so easy to rearrange the television contracts that make those NCAA Tournament games so incredibly lucrative.
See, the Baylor-SFA game in November right now might not be worth what it should be. But play it in the NCAAs and it literally is worth $11.5 million — before a single ticket or box of popcorn is sold.
There are 67 games in the NCAA Tournament, and to televise the lot of them CBS and Turner Sports will combine to pay more than $770 million each year until the middle of next decade.
There are not a lot of other sports going on in any given March. The Super Bowl is over by early February, the big bowl games even earlier. There’s spring training in baseball; those aren’t even real games.
By April, though, the Stanley Cup playoffs begin and hockey. And then there are the real issues: CBS’s blissful relationship with The Masters, which in 2015 will be contested April 9-12, and Turner Sports’ investment in the NBA, whose playoffs begin April 18.
Those networks wrote the big checks for a tournament in March because it provides attractive programming in calendar position otherwise mostly vacant. Why would they want to crowd their own schedules?
…If college coaches want to make their game more popular, they could start by making their game better.
They griped so much that after a single season a change designed to make it more difficult to draw a charging foul was reversed, and now we again see the spectacle of gifted athletes regularly rewarded for falling down backward – and negating the work of other gifted athletes making meaningful efforts to score.
Indeed, college basketball could be more popular than it is — with fewer elbows, more elbow jumpers. Fewer flops, more flushes. Fewer patsies on the schedule, more powers.
Sporting News Mike DeCourcy
The one-game suspension for star Bryce Dejean-Jones was handed out just a day before Iowa State’s biggest game so far.
The Cyclones responded to their first dose of adversity with their best win of the season.
Naz Long scored a season-high 21 points and 14th-ranked Iowa State pounded Iowa 90-75 on the road Friday night without Dejean-Jones.
Reserve Abdel Nader scored 19 points and Georges Niang had 16 with seven assists for the Cyclones (7-1), who opened the second half on a 21-2 run to pull away from the rival Hawkeyes.
“This defined us. It showed character. You know, all the guys in there before the game were saying ‘Let’s do this for Bryce,’” Long said.
Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg suspended Dejean-Jones, the team’s second-leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, after he was arrested Thursday on a marijuana charge and noise violations. The pot charge was quickly dismissed by a judge, but the noise charges are pending.
Alex Poythress tore the ACL in his left knee during Thursday's practice and will miss the rest of the season for top-ranked Kentucky, the school announced Friday morning.
Complete ESPN Networks schedule
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
A cross-country visit to the nation's No. 1-ranked high school boys basketball team ended in defeat for Bishop O'Dowd.
The defending Northern California Open Division champions lost 78-64 on Friday to Montverde Academy (Florida) in a matchup that featured two of the nation's top college prospects -- the Eagles' Ben Simmons and the Dragons' Ivan Rabb in a game broadcast on ESPN2.
The LSU-bound Simmons, the top-ranked player in the country, had a triple-double to hold off O'Dowd (2-1), ranked No. 7 in the nation by MaxPreps.com. The 6-foot-9 forward finished with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Montverde (7-0), which took the lead for good in the second quarter.
Rabb, the Dragons' 6-foot-10 star, was in foul trouble much of the game but still had 22 points and eight rebounds. He picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and a 22-21 O'Dowd lead turned into a 37-30 halftime deficit with him on the bench.
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