With Missouri no longer on Kansas’ schedule, Bill Self made it clear Saturday how he viewed Kansas State.
“It’ll always be our biggest rival from my standpoint for sure,” Self said after his team’s win over TCU. “I think the players probably feel the same way too.”
…“You’re playing a hungry team, I’m sure, because they’re a little wounded right now,” Self said. “And you’re playing in probably as tough a venue as we’re playing in, and you’re playing for the highest of stakes.”
…“They get fired up there, man,” KU forward Perry Ellis said. “They just have a great student fan base also. It’s just tough. It gets loud there.”
On the court, Self has an appreciation for how K-State plays. The 12th-year KU coach values toughness, and the Wildcats have had scrappy teams in the past under coach Bruce Weber.
“Their half-court defense is terrific, and they really rebound the ball well,” Self said. “They’re aggressive and they go after every ball.”
Though K-State picked up a home victory over KU last season, the Jayhawks still have dominated the recent series in Manhattan. KU has won 28 of its last 31 matchups on K-State’s home court, which includes a 23-3 mark at Bramlage.
When K-State is good, it is good. The Wildcats took Arizona down to the wire before losing and has victories over top 25 teams Oklahoma (twice) and Baylor as well as Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
When K-State is bad, it is bad. There have been some ugly losses, most recently on a two-game Texas swing that resulted in a 15-point loss at TCU and a 27-point drubbing at Baylor.
…“It gets old and it gets frustrating,” said sophomore point guard Jevon Thomas. “We’re going through growing pains. Everything is not going to be perfect. It’s basketball and you’re going to have down times but you have to learn from it.
“We don’t have anything to lose. Kansas is a big rivalry game that we take pride in so I think we’ll bring it all.”
It may be hard to believe, but just one scholarship player from the state of Kansas will represent Kansas University and Kansas State in the 281st edition of the Sunflower Showdown tonight.
“I didn’t know that,” said KU junior forward Perry Ellis of Wichita, informed he was the only Kansan with a full ride gearing for today’s 8 p.m. rivalry game in Bramlage Coliseum. “It means a lot to me being from Kansas. It puts a lot into the game.
“It’s just exciting,” added Ellis, who scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Jayhawks’ 68-57 victory over KSU on Jan. 31 in Allen Fieldhouse.
Kansans recruited to the two programs as walk-ons who will dress for the game are Evan Manning and Tyler Self of KU and Mason Schoen and Brian Rohleder of K-State. Manning, it should be noted, is on scholarship this semester since the Jayhawks did not fill their allotment of 13 scholarships for the 2014-15 season. K-State’s Nino Williams attended Leavenworth High but lists St. Louis as his hometown.
“It (Sunflower Showdown) definitely means a lot to everybody around here ... the players, the coaches, the fans. We definitely want to go out there and win,” said Jamari Traylor, a junior from Chicago who collected six points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in the first meeting in Allen.
Traylor sat out last year’s trip to Manhattan — an 85-82 K-State victory in overtime — while serving a one-game suspension for what coach Bill Self deemed “irresponsible behavior.”
“They got us on their home court last year. For me, it was a pretty tough game. I had to sit out that game. It was tough on me. This year I want to do good off the court so I can stay on the court,” he added.
For Kansas, of course, the stakes are easy to put in perspective. With four games remaining in the Big 12, the Jayhawks sit at 11-3 in conference play and need three victories to clinch at least a share of an 11th straight conference title. The formula could change if second-place Iowa State, 10-4, drops another game. But for now, the Jayhawks control their own destiny. And with a victory on Monday, the Jayhawks can finish the job at home with victories over Texas and West Virginia.
So, yes, K-State has lost seven of its last eight while battling a litany of off-court issues. Yes, this is not a marquee matchup — even by Sunflower Showdown standards. But for Kansas, this is still a rivalry game — and still a chance to score a victory inside Bramlage Coliseum.
“You can’t overlook any game in the Big 12,” Kansas freshman guard Devonte’ Graham said. “Everybody is coming to beat you, especially us. Winning the league 10 years in a row, people want to win and they don’t bow down to us.”
K-State has won three of its last seven games against Kansas at home. Weber continues to shuffle K-State’s starting lineup, so it’s difficult to know whom he will use against the Jayhawks. Guard Marcus Foster may play a big role in the game plan after logging 29 minutes against Baylor.
Pick of the night -- Kansas -6.5 over Kansas State: The Jayhawks are simply in much better form than Kansas State is. There's no way around it. Even though the Wildcats have played really well at home this season, I think the Jayhawks do what Oklahoma could not, and go into Manhattan and win comfortably.
The Wildcats can hang their hat on the “Octagon of Doom,” though. K-State has lost just four times at home this season, and the margin of victory between K-State and Kansas in Bramlage in the last three seasons has been 4.3 points a game. Last season it was three points, and K-State was the team that came out on top.
Monday will be a test for K-State. A test of mental toughness, willpower, adversity and all the words and phrases that led off this preview. If the K-State team that knocked off No. 17 Oklahoma shows up to play, fans may be in for a treat and a possible court storming. If the team that lost by double-figures to TCU and Baylor steps on the court, it may not be pretty.
K-State must win its final three games — in Bramlage Coliseum tonight vs. Kansas, Saturday in the same building vs. Iowa State and at Texas on March 7 — to avoid its first losing record in Big 12 play since going 6-10 in the 2005-06 season, when Jim Woolridge was the coach. The Wildcats have lost seven of their past eight games. Worse, it feels more like a downward trend than a down year.
On paper, this should be a blowout, with the team fighting to hold onto a one-game lead in the Big 12 hammering divided Team Turmoil.
All of the evidence that adds up to a blowout also could lead Kansas State to pull itself together for one night and play its best.
Basketball games aren’t played on paper with numbers and streaks. They’re played on hardwood. In rivalry games, they’re played with emotion. The crowd injects wild energy into the home team, at the expense of the visitor.
The K-State students bring a ton of energy and creative humor. They just might make the Wildcats channel the negative energy they waste disliking each other and aim it at the rock-star enemy.
Collegian: What’s your favorite moment from the Sunflower Showdown over the years? Favorite matchup to watch?
Dodd: I covered the 2008 game at Bramlage Coliseum — the night K-State ended “The Streak” — as a student journalist. I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a game in a more emotionally-charged environment. It was wild. Kansas would go on to win the NCAA title that year, but even that Kansas team couldn’t deal with Bramlage that night. It was something else. Also, Michael Beasley was really good.
Collegian: What must Kansas do to earn a win? What about K-State?
Dodd: If Kansas makes shots and plays with solid energy on defense, they should probably win. If Marcus Foster gets hot and Bramlage starts going wild, it’ll probably be close.
Collegian: One matchup fans should keep their eyes on?
Dodd: Wayne Selden vs. Marcus Foster.
Q&A with Rustin Dodd
2H, 9:14, to Devonte' Graham: "Devonte', go ball side! Don't piggyback!"
This is an example of a small mistake that ruined an entire defensive possession.
Graham (circled in video) is guarding TCU's Trey Zeigler away from the ball. When Fields sets a down screen, Graham trails (or piggybacks) the screen, following Zeigler to the outside.
After getting hung up in traffic, Graham allows Zeigler a driving lane through the middle where he's eventually fouled by Jamari Traylor.
The whole situation could have been avoided if — as Self points out immediately — Graham would have correctly gone around the screen to the ball side, which would have put him in better position to defend once Zeigler caught the pass.
…This is a simple defensive error that Self spots immediately and works to get fixed.
It's worth noting that his message seemed to get through. Notice how Graham cuts ball side defensively TCU's next time down.
…So much goes on during a game that our eyes might not catch the first time.
Self is a master at spotting the tiny details and working to get his team to pay attention to them — something that's helped him earn the reputation as one of the game's top coaches.
TCJ: What Bill Self says (and sees) during a game
When Kansas forward Perry Ellis started against Baylor on Valentine’s Day, he knew what benchmark was at his fingertips: 1,000 career points.
It may not sound like such a milestone, but in an era of one-and-done players and early entries for the NBA draft, it has become rarer for a player to reach it at blue-blood programs.
But there he was, just three points away. Midway through the first half, Ellis drove through the lane and pulled up for a contested jumper, making the memorable shot while getting fouled.
“It wasn’t the prettiest shot,” Ellis said later in a moment of reflection. “I was thinking about everybody who has played here and only 55 or 56 players have done that. You think about how many years KU has had basketball. It’s just a blessing.”
…Ellis soon made the radar of the high school coach at Wichita Heights. Joe Auer introduced the youngster to Darnell Valentine, a former All-American at Kansas who also played at Heights.
“I was thinking that maybe someday Perry, if he worked hard, would be our next McDonald’s All-American,” Auer said, “and have a chance to be a pretty special player.”
By the time Ellis had reached eighth grade, word had gotten out. His middle school games were being moved to the high school gym so more people could watch. Sports Illustrated for Kids came in for a photo shoot, and college coaches started to take notice.
When most high school kids were hitting the snooze on their alarm clocks, Ellis had been awake for hours, often showing up at the local YMCA to shoot baskets by 5:30 a.m.
“Most people judge from the neck up, so when you watch Perry from the neck up, you think he’s not passionate or he’s not going hard. Then you look at the stat sheet and he had a double-double or 14 points and eight rebounds,” Auer said.
…In his first game in high school, with Kansas coach Bill Self watching, Ellis decided to wear a mouth guard for the first time. He had so much trouble breathing that he nearly passed out.
…“It was never his goal to score points,” Auer said. “From a young age, he understood that he was going to get the most from basketball if his team accomplished the most.”
…He poured in 23 points in Saturday night’s victory over TCU, which helped Kansas (22-5, 11-3) keep its one-game lead on Iowa State in the Big 12 race. And when he suits up Monday night against Kansas State, he will do so for the 100th time.
After that is the stretch run to what he hopes is the Jayhawks’ 11th straight conference title, and then the Big 12 tournament and NCAA tournament. And while Ellis has NBA aspirations, there is a good chance he’ll be back next year for his senior season.
“I think I still can get better,” Ellis said. “Even ball handling and shooting. I feel like I can improve on that more. I feel like there’s still more to learn. I can still get better.”
It became as necessary as a pair of gym shorts on the practice court after, on more than one occurrence, he found the Cadillac hood tagged with streaks of spray paint.
The anger likley emanated from Lucas' decision to leave Sunset High School following his sophomore year. He departed for Findlay Prep, a high school basketball program in Henderson, Nev. that competes at the national level.
He returned to Oregon as a senior and joined Westview, Sunset's rival, earning what he attributed to scorn from some supporters of his past school.
"It wasn't the best welcome back," Lucas, now a redshirt sophomore forward at Kansas, said by phone in an interview with The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Lucas, the son of former University of Oregon basketball player Richard Lucas, has yet to find a consistent role three years into his time with the Jayhawks. In high school he sacrificed consistency for the chance to improve his game - and endured a turbulent final two seasons.
That experience is now crucial as Lucas continues his search for identity on a national stage for one of the country's premier teams.
…This season he is averaging 2.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 11.7 minutes per game, all improvements from his first year on the active roster. Coaches laud his passing ability, his physicality and his improved lateral quickness.
But for each Jeff Withey that graduates, there is a Tarik Black to transfer into the program or a freshman sensation like Joel Embiid to gobble up valuable minutes.
The question becomes whether Lucas - who twice left for a change of scenery in high school - will finish the final half of his college basketball career where he started.
Lucas, his family and the Kansas coaching staff iterated the redshirt sophomore's commitment to the program.
"He's happy there," Richard Lucas said. "I think he's going to stick it out unless something dramatic happens."
For now, Lucas will remain ready for anything as the Jayhawks charge toward a Big 12 title and a shot at the Final Four. His decision to leave for Findlay Prep in high school may have improved his game. But the decision's greatest impact could be the familiarity with the struggle that is defining his college career.
"I think I needed to go through that because it definitely helps with situations like I'm in at a school like Kansas," Lucas said. "It's always nice to know that I've been through it before."
Elden Tefft’s Academic Jay stands alert in front of Strong Hall, and his monolithic Moses kneels outside Smith Hall, across from the Kansas Union. Another Tefft sculpture is not as well-known yet but should be soon — a larger-than-life bronze of James Naismith seated with peach baskets is set to be placed outside the DeBruce Center, being built to house Naismith’s original rules of basketball.
“Elden’s pieces are such an integral part of Mount Oread — pieces such as ‘Moses’ and ‘Academic Jay’ — that it’s nearly impossible to imagine our campus without them,” KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement. “The university is privileged to be a home for these iconic works and to have had Elden as part of our Jayhawk community.”
Great game of our #YouFirstClients @Next718star and @HarlemT2 Congrats for the Polish Cup Championship! @Zastal #Hosley #Robinson
“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
Some 700 miles away, Iowa State was putting the sleeper hold on another underachieving Rick Barnes team in another underachieving Rick Barnes season, the real Big 12 challenger (the Cyclones) sending the paper challenger (the Longhorns) to bed.
…Saturday was a wing nut kind of game, with the volume of talent and The Ghosts of The Phog again pulling the sled across the finish line. More often than not -- West Virginia providing another exception of note -- this Self team somehow finds a way to do just enough.
Of course, just enough may not be enough to see the season's baseline prize -- an 11th straight Big 12 title -- through to the end. A loss in Morgantown is forgivable and understandable, but it also dared the 14th-ranked Cyclones to claw their way back into this conversation, if they could do it the hard way.
Which they did.
…"With the stakes high," Self said, "(Iowa State) had probably the best week anybody has had all year long in our league."
Fox Sports Keeler
The incredible decade of titles is part of the program’s lore, and those charged with adding another layer understand the responsibility.
“It’s really meaningful,” Traylor said. “All the tradition. You don’t want to be on that team that ends the streak. I want to win. But at the same time I don’t want to lose. I think that’s even worse.”
Winning road games will decide the Big 12. It always has, and it makes Monday’s trip to Kansas State vital to the Jayhawks’ quest.
Consider the streak. Entering this season, Kansas has posted a winning record in road conference games in each of the previous 10 years. No other Big 12 team had a winning road mark in more than five years.
Nobody wins at home like Kansas. Saturday’s victory kept the Jayhawks unbeaten at Allen Fieldhouse (12-0) and improved the record to an unfathomable 188-9 at home in Self’s 12 seasons.
But all winning teams dominate at home. None in the Big 12 with Kansas’ consistency, but for others that have tied KU for the title or won a championship before KU’s streak began in 2005, those teams protected their home floor.
Kansas is 4-3 in road conference games this season and ends the year at Oklahoma. Tough as TCU has been lately, Iowa State would seem to have an advantage here with games at Manhattan and Fort Worth.
Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and West Virginia each have two games remaining against teams that were in last week’s top 25, and the Sooners finish against the Cyclones and Jayhawks. The race is on and multiple teams could have say on final day, March 7.
It would be a fitting conclusion to this Big 12 season.
KC Star Kerkhoff
Less than a week ago, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg lamented the way his team handled the challenges presented by close games on the road.
He's thrilled now.
Georges Niang and Matt Thomas scored 17 points each to help No. 14 Iowa State beat Texas 85-77 on Saturday.
Iowa State (20-6, 10-4 Big 12) won its second straight Big 12 road game, something the Cyclones had not accomplished since the 2005-06 season. They had lost six straight at Texas since their only victory over the Longhorns in Austin in 2005.
The Cyclones, 7-0 at home in the conference, improved to 3-4 on the road. After suffering tough losses at Kansas and Oklahoma, they beat Oklahoma State and Texas in a span of four days.
It’s become an all too familiar pattern for Kansas State: Fall behind, make a nice rally, fade away.
This time K-State faced a 14-point halftime deficit against No. 20 Baylor, came charging out of the gate the second half to pull within six points but then disappeared.
After scoring the first eight points of the second half, the Wildcats were outscored 30-9 the rest of the way in a 69-42 smackdown by the Bears on Saturday at Ferrell Center.
“It’s not running out of gas — we’re just not mentally tough to push through and make plays to get us in the lead and win the game,” K-State senior forward Thomas Gipson said. “That’s what it boils down to: We’re not tough enough.
“It’s frustrating that we lost, period, but you lose by 27 points and just lay down at the end and let them do whatever they want to do to us. That’s not good. That’s not how K-State basketball does it.”
The Wildcats have three games remaining in the regular season, starting with a Big Monday matchup against Kansas at Bramlage Coliseum.
“We have to do something,” Gipson said. “Hopefully the crowd will be there and we can feed off the energy of the crowd.
“I’m confident in it but it’s not just me, everybody has to be confident in it. It has to be the center, the point guard and everybody who comes off the bench.”
The Wildcats beat the Jayhawks on Big Monday last year at Bramlage, but that seems a distant memory.
“That was last year, but this is another year,” Gipson said. “We’ll probably lose by 27, who knows? We just have to come out and play hard.”
As the winds of change continue to blow around college athletics, a return to freshmen ineligibility is a topic tumbling onto the national scene in recent days.
The Big 12, PAC-12 and Big Ten have all expressed some interest in reinstating the rule that barred true freshmen from competition until 1972.
Count Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard as one of those intrigued by the possibility.
“I’m a proponent of it,” Pollard said Saturday ahead of ISU’s men’s basketball win at Texas. “I just believe that if we want to send a message as an industry that we’re about higher education and the collegiate model, than I think that’s one of many ideas that need to be seriously considered.”
Pollard said he’s only interested in implementing the rule on football and men’s basketball players. The impact would be felt the greatest on the hardwood, where many of the best players in the country are freshmen who spend just one year on campuses before heading to the NBA after satisfying that league’s minimum-age requirement.
“We’ve got a huge intersection of this perception of they’re professional athletes and they should be paid,” Pollard said, “yet the majority of student-athletes aren’t that and so when our industry is being attacked for that, why can’t we say, ‘Fine, let’s be a collegiate experience and if you want that (professional) experience, go have it somewhere else,’ and that’s a way to kind of eliminate some of those young men that truly don’t care about getting a college education.
“And I’m not faulting them either. That’s their choice. But right now, they’re doing that in our world and they’re causing havoc for all the other student-athletes.”
Pollard’s star player and a near posterboy for the four-year collegiate athlete has a different opinion.
“I don’t like that idea at all,” junior Georges Niang said. “I feel like more kids are just going to go overseas and really not try to get an education. I feel like if you let freshmen be eligible, they can go along the process and wherever it takes them, at least they get some work with classes and stuff like that rather than just completely disregarding college because they know they can’t play.
“It just doesn’t seem right.”
The Chris Jones saga is over at Louisville, and so is his career there. The Cards' third-leading scorer was abruptly dismissed from the team Sunday. Obviously, that could impact how the Cardinals play down the stretch of this season, and that could impact their seed.
Typically, where roster issues are involved, the committee will put a little more weight on how a team did with the roster a team is taking into the tournament than otherwise, but they don't overdo that. Rarely is there more than a one-seed line difference between what the profile might merit and the actual seed.
Complete ESPN Networks schedule
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
Perhaps Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak put it best after St. Vincent-St. Mary picked apart the state’s top Division III team in an 89-76 victory on Sunday afternoon.
“There’s a lot of scenarios that I had in my head and that was not one of them — us getting lambasted the way we did,” Kwasniak said. “That never occurred to me that that could happen.”
It was supposed to be the game of the year for high school basketball in the state of Ohio. The Irish (20-0) are the state’s top-ranked Division II team, undefeated and ranked third in the nation. The Vikings (17-3) were ranked ninth in the country and are led by Carlton Bragg, who is committed to play at Kansas next year.
Box Score (Bragg 23 pts)
Brown, one of the nation’s premier recruits, led a relentless Wheeler attack, and the Wildcats overwhelmed a quality Douglas County team, 87-68, Saturday in the second round of the AAAAAA state tournament.
Wheeler will host Newton next week. Newton advanced with a 58-54 win over Dacula.
Brown, a 6-7 senior guard wanted by all the big colleges, did a little bit of everything, scoring 32 points, grabbing 17 rebounds and blocking multiple shots. He hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter and helped the Wildcats build a 22-point lead, 45-23, at intermission. He closed out the game with back-to-back highlight dunks.
…The gym was packed and raucous. North Carolina coach Roy William was sitting along the baseline and looked impressed as Brown flipped in one of multiple acrobatic shots.
Thon Maker says he’s “pushing toward” reclassing to 2015 and mentioned Kentucky and Kansas as two of the schools recruiting him the hardest.
“It’s very tough but it’s doable,” the 7-foot Maker told Olgun Uluc of Pickandroll.com at the La Lumiere Classic where he averaged 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds through three games. “I’m still pushing for , then at the same time I’m getting the support from teachers and my teammates – they’re helping me stay focused so I can get the whole thing finished.
“[Graduation] might lean toward June, but I’m trying to push for  and get it done as soon as I can but also knowing that I can still either stay [in 2016] or go. I’m looking forward to pushing toward 2015.”
…“I [visited Kansas] in the summer, I got to visit them a little bit and got to watch some tape of the [Morris] twins. I also got to see their weight room facility and how they work, they have a pretty good setup also. That was a good visit. I also sat down with Coach [Bill] Self and that was a great conversation that we had, that was a comfortable visit also.”
It’s possible Maker could end up in China or Europe next season if he isn’t eligible but he prefers to play college ball in America, a route that NBA scouts would be his best option.
“Right now it’s really just trying to finish my credits and the next step is college but really, as soon as I finish my credits, I’ll make the decision,” he told Uluc.
I managed to speak with Ed Smith earlier in the day, with Smith mentioning that the Maker brothers were planning to visit Sydney, Australia in a few months. Thon hasn’t been back to Sydney since 2013 so it’s something he’s looking forward to, especially to get away from the intense Canadian winter.
“I’m pretty excited. I go back every now and then, it’s always a nice place to go back to. 2013 was the last time I went back.”
An interview and highlights of 6-10 Finnish PF Lauri Markkanen from the 2015 Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in New York City during NBA All-Star Weekend.
Markkanen, whose father played under Roy Williams at Kansas, was the breakout performer of the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp. Tall and mobile, with an excellent frame that should fill out nicely in time, he impressed with his extremely high skill-level and basketball IQ throughout the weekend.
While he needs to get tougher and stronger, and become a much better rebounder and defender down the road, he looks like he has plenty of room to continue to develop in the next few years. He showed nice footwork, a solid feel for the game, and proved to be more than just a one-dimensional shooter at the Camp, putting the ball on the floor at times and make some smart passes.
2/21/15, 8:49 PM
6-9 soph & Calif. transfer Billy Preston (@nolimitbill) with behind-the-back dribble in traffic, drive, finish. Reason #kubball is looking.
McDONALD’S ALL-AMERICAN GAME
April 1, United Center, Chicago
ESPN NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL CHAMPIONSHIP
April 2-4, Christ the King, Queens, N.Y. & Madison Square Garden
NIKE HOOP SUMMIT
April 11, Moda Center, Portland
KENTUCKY DERBY FESTIVAL
April 11, Freedom Hall, Lexington, KY
JORDAN BRAND CLASSIC
Friday April 17, Barclays Center 7p.m,
Regional Games (4:00 pm) All times Eastern
My Late Night in the Phog videos, 60 Years of AFH Celebration videos, KU Alumni games videos, 2011-12 Final Border War videos, Legends of the Phog videos, KC Prep Invitational, Jayhawk Invitational Videos and more, now on YouTube