KUAD KState vs Kansas pregame notes
Love being back in Lawrence can't wait to be in the field house … rcjh!!!
The pick: Kansas. At Allen Fieldhouse and the Jayhawks are hot. This KU squad is starting to fully find its identity and beating dangerous teams like K-State at home will be necessary to win another league title. And that's exactly what the Wildcats are: Dangerous.
Kansas State’s freshmen got their first taste of playing in Allen Fieldhouse a year ago, and nothing could truly prepare them for the electric atmosphere.
“It was hectic,” said Wesley Iwundu, one of four K-State freshmen who played in the 86-60 loss at Kansas. “The crowd was yelling loud the whole game, something I’ve never seen before. It was a fun experience.
“We know what to expect so I think we’ll be ready,” Iwundu said of his return trip when the Wildcats (12-9, 5-3 Big 12) face the No. 9 Jayhawks (17-3, 6-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
…“The past few games (at KU) we started off good, and around the second media timeout they got a pretty good lead on us,” said Wildcat senior Thomas Gipson. “We just have to maintain our style of play and don’t get off track from what we do.
“They are good, and the environment is crazy. Last year a lot of people weren’t used to that type of environment. They got a taste of it last year, so I think we’ll be ready for it this year.”
The Wildcats briefly held first place before losses at Iowa State and to West Virginia. Kansas State struggled with West Virginia's swarming full-court pressure defense. It's a defense few teams see any more, and the Wildcats know they'll see something today they don't often - a rowdy, energetic, pulsating crowd of more than 16,000 in one of the nation's toughest places to play.
"I guess you could compare the (Allen Fieldhouse) crowd to West Virginia's pressure," K-State forward Wesley Iwundu said. "You've just got to stay calm throughout the whole game and not get beside yourself.
"I guess just play for yourself, play for your team and you should be fine."
"It's something like you've never been a part of before," said sophomore guard Marcus Foster, who struggled in his first trip to Lawrence, scoring seven points on 3 of 12 shooting in an 86-60 loss. "I thought it was all jokes and I didn't think it was really all that hype as it was.
"But you get in there and the game is going and it's loud as ever and it's every possession. So it's something you've got to prepare for."
Wichita native Perry Ellis has followed the Kansas-Kansas State basketball rivalry — better known as the Sunflower Showdown — for a very long time.
“I remember in middle school watching a lot of them, early high school, too,” Ellis, KU’s junior forward from Brooks Middle School and Wichita Heights, said of games in a series that KU leads 187-92 entering today’s 1 p.m. clash in Allen Fieldhouse.
“Being a hometown kid, it puts a lot into the game, something you really get excited for. Intense games on both sides, away and home, it’s just exciting,” Ellis added.
KU, which takes a 17-3, 6-1 record and No. 9 national ranking into today’s game against the 12-9, 5-3 Wildcats, has steamrolled to 48 victories in the last 52 outings. The Jayhawks have won six of the last seven and 13 of the last 15.
KU is riding an eight-game winning streak over KSU in Allen and possesses a 44-18 all-time mark against KSU in the tradition-rich building.
LJW Smithology: Getting to know Kansas State
Kansas State at No. 9 Kansas, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN, Saturday: Kansas has some momentum now. The Jayhawks have won three in a row since losing to Iowa State in Ames on Jan. 17, a stretch that includes wins over Oklahoma and Texas (in Austin). “We just have to continue to get better,” Wayne Selden told ESPN.com this week. But the Jayhawks are elite now. They're playing top-15 offense and top-40 defense, according to Ken Pomeroy's efficiency numbers. Kansas State was on a four-game winning streak before losing two of its last three games. Marcus Foster connected on 36 percent of his shots and committed eight turnovers in those two losses. Frank Mason, Kelly Oubre, Selden and Devonte Graham will pressure Foster and that will cause problems for Bruce Weber's squad.
Prediction: Kansas 80, Kansas State 67
When Kansas plays with the right level of energy, it has proven it can play with just about any team in the country. When the Jayhawks don’t, they leave their head coach saying things like this.
“We were awful,” Self said of the TCU performance. “I don’t know if you can play less intelligently.”
So in the days after the close call at TCU, Self focused primarily on two messages at practice. He dialed up the physicality on rebounding drills, with coaches and managers using heavy pads to harass would-be rebounders. He also preached energy — the kind of enthusiastic focus that was lacking at TCU.
“(It’s) not that they’re not trying,” Self said. “But there is a difference between trying and competing. Part of competing is getting yourself mentally ready and energetic to go do it. That to me is the biggest thing. We’re not always going to play well, without question. We’ll turn it over or shoot a bad percentage or miss a block-out. We’ll do things. But when we play with energy, you can do those things (and still win).”
To put it another way: Self wouldn’t mind if the tenets of Traylor Ball rubbed off on the rest of his roster. At times, it’s not pretty. There are body parts flying, and there are awkward movements, and sometimes you wonder if what you’re watching is actually basketball. But at its core, Traylor says his style is about one: Energy.
“I feel like I uplift everybody else to play a little bit harder,” Traylor said. “And when I start games off playing hard, I feel like that affects the game.”
After his team surrendered 26 offensive rebounds against TCU, coach Bill Self seems determined to not let that become a frequent issue.
Traylor said Self had harped often on the “box out” message in practice while also singling out players who weren’t doing it well.
“We just put more focus on it,” Traylor said, “because we’ve been kind of lacking.”
In addition to rebounding out of the shell drill — a common Self practice routine where guys practice man defense with the ball swinging from side to side — the big men also were subjected to an extra rebounding session with assistant coach Norm Roberts.
After a shot missed, KU’s players had to go grab the rebound and secure it while getting hit with the pads by team managers.
“It’s good,” KU forward Perry Ellis said. “It’s great drills, and I feel like they’re helping.”
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (12-9, 5-3 Big 12): The Wildcats may have to play this game without one of their top scorers, senior forward Nino Williams. Coach Bruce Weber says Williams is doubtful to play because of a sprained left knee. If he is unable to go, K-State will have to get creative with its lineup and substitutions. On Tuesday against West Virginia, Weber went primarily with Malek Harris at power forward, but that was against a small, quick opponent. Kansas boasts more size, which could make 6-foot-11 forwards Stephen Hurt and Brandon Bolden better options. Hurt stepped outside and made several key jumpers when K-State won at Oklahoma. He would give the Wildcats a boost by doing the same Saturday.
K-State's team personality appears to be one that should be hurt quite a bit by playing at Allen Fieldhouse.
A few examples:
• K-State gets fouled often, but it probably won't get as many whistles at the Fieldhouse
• K-State has issues with turnovers, and that trait is often exacerbated in front of a frenzied KU crowd
• K-State fouls often, and KU often gets the benefit of the doubt on calls in its home gym
The Wildcats are definitely playing better in Big 12 play, but the three characteristics above are all reasons to like the Wildcats' chances more when they play the Jayhawks at home ... and less when they're playing the Jayhawks on the road.
Weber has lost his last two games in Lawrence by 21 and 26. I don't think this one will be that bad ... but I also don't see it as being close late either.
Kansas 78, Kansas State 61
Jesse's pick to cover spread: Kansas
▪ Kansas State at Kansas on Saturday afternoon. No chance for the Wildcats, right? Especially if senior forward Nino Williams can’t play because of a sprained right knee. Right now, Williams is doubtful. And a Kansas State win is doubtful, obviously.
▪ There was a time this season when I would have picked against Kansas winning an 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season championship. And I don’t think I’m alone. When will we learn? When will we understand that Bill Self is a master of making a team better as the season goes on and that the rest of the Big 12 is intimidated as heck by the Jayhawks? KU has already won at Baylor, at Texas and at TCU. The Jayhawks are, once again, sitting pretty.
▪ Prediction: Kansas 75, Kansas State 65.
Wichita Eagle Lutz
All things being equal, Self says he is not wild about the new date of the Big 12/SEC Challenge, which is slated to take place Jan. 30 next season. The challenge, which will feature all 10 games on one day, will interrupt the first month of conference play for all teams involved. Still, Self is a fan of the annual event.
“It’s good for our league,” Self said. “It forces everyone to schedule a hard game. (But) the timing is bad. So what you have to look at is, ‘Does the good offset the negative?’ I think the answer is yes.”
Kansas played a home-and-home with Florida during the first two years of the challenge. KU officials said Friday that they have been given no indication as to the next opponent in the series. But one obvious option would be Kentucky. KU faced Kentucky in the Champions Classic this year, giving the programs a two-year window to play a possible home-and-home before matching up again in a future Champions Classic.
Cliff Alexander - Kansas
After a slow start, KU has slowly risen to the top of the Big 12 ranks and is hitting the mid-season stride of a team capable of capturing it’s 11th straight conference crown. Improvements on the defensive end, spreading the ball around, and cutting down on mistakes is a huge part of the Jayhawks’ recent winning streak, but another part of this success stands about 6’9’’ and weighs in at 255 pounds. Chicago freshman, Cliff Alexander, has been a real interior force for Kansas and has provided much improved minutes off the bench for KU.
Alexander has hauled in misses at a jaw dropping rate, in part due to his 7’3’’ wingspan and hands that seem to rival vice grips as he often grabs loose balls with his fingertips or with only one hand. Saturday versus Texas, Cliff went off for 15 points, and 9 rebounds less than a week after tallying a 13 point 13 rebound double double versus Oklahoma. Even against the size of Texas, Alexander kept going at the massive Longhorns even if he had gotten blocked the time before. This relentless effort eventually wore down Texas, shredded the Longhorns’ zone with dunk after dunk, and fouled out fellow freshman, Myles Turner. In a reserve role, Alexander has averaged 14 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a block in the two games since Kansas lost to Iowa State on the road. Cliff has had some moments this season, but nothing to this date has rivaled the production and impact he had this past week.
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Big 12 / College News
A new athletic director is coming to Missouri.
One of the first moves that person should make is to add a number into the cell phone that Mike Alden did not dial of late.
Hit those digits and get Sheahon Zenger on the horn.
Many Mizzou fans probably bristle at that suggestion. They blame Kansas, and its athletic director, for the current ceasefire in the Border War. Zenger declared, with no uncertainty, that KU was no longer interested in scheduling Missouri after the Tigers left for the SEC.
This is the third athletic season since that tumultuous move. At the time, Kansas was justified in not wanting to schedule Missouri. Alden had given signals, both as the chair of a Big 12 committee and in a letter he wrote supporting MU’s affiliation, that the Tigers were satisfied with their conference affiliation. Then the SEC called and Mizzou bolted.
Kansas sensed an act of betrayal … as much as such a transgression can be pinned on a bitter rival.
Now three years have passed. With Alden stepping down effective Aug. 31, new leadership awaits MU. The possibility exists to revive any contempt for KU with something more than a Twitter account, a message board or liquid courage.
An end to the competitive ceasefire should be pursued.
The final buzzer sounded late Thursday, at which point Kevin Ollie strolled to midcourt like college basketball coaches do. He shook hands with Cincinnati's Larry Davis and various players, then made his way to the locker room in possession of the worst record through 19 games of any leader of a reigning national champion in the past 25 years.
That's not hyperbole, by the way.
Connecticut's loss at Fifth Third Arena dropped the Huskies to 11-8, which is undeniably disappointing for a team that was ranked 15th in the preseason coaches poll. Independent of that, though, is this: UConn's record is historically dreadful for a reigning champion, proof being that the last reigning champion to be this bad or worse through 19 games was the Louisville team that started 9-10 in ... 1986-87.
Seriously, it's been nearly three decades since a reigning champ struggled to this extent.
Actual headline in Friday's Hartford Courant: What a mess ... Is NIT Looming?
On Jan. 4, UCLA was outclassed in a 32-point blowout at Utah. It marked the Bruins’ fifth consecutive loss, a streak that also included a 39-point defeat to Kentucky, in which UCLA was held to just seven first-half points, and a double-digit loss to Gonzaga. The Bruins had hit rock bottom.
Less than a month later, on Thursday night at Pauley Pavilion, UCLA stunned the 11th-ranked Utes 69-59. This is one of the more shocking results we’ve seen since conference play began around the turn of the New Year.
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“I’ve been to Tuscon, I’ve been to Kentucky, I still want to take my other three officials, it’s a long process but I want to get it out of the way as soon as possible, once I know where I want to go I’ll end it,” he said.
An Oakland native, Cal presents a unique pitch to Rabb in that he could stay close to home and be a hometown hero of sorts. He visited for their game against Arizona earlier this week, and despite the Golden Bears losing, enjoyed the visit.
“I have a great relationship with Coach Martin,” he said. “I can go up there and workout, talk to the players, basically whatever I want to do up there, it’s 15 minutes away from home,” he continued.
The Golden Bears staff has been aggressive in trying to garner a commitment from him and fellow California standout Tyler Dorsey, but will have to hold off the big boys to do so.
Wheeler was in front throughout the fourth quarter Friday night, but Walton wasn’t about to give in.
The Wildcats’ 13-point lead nearly fell into jeopardy, with the Raiders chipping it away to seven, but Jaylen Brown stepped up with some crucial shots to keep Walton at bay in a 76-61 road win.
Brown was consistent throughout the game, finishing with 26 points. The recently minted McDonald’s All-American was at his most efficient midway through the fourth, after Demetrius Richardson hit a layup to bring Walton (10-13, 6-9 Region 5AAAAAA) within seven at 56-49.
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