“@BeauchampKyle: @AaronRodgers12 whose cutting down the nets in mens basketball this year?” Kansas. #rockchalk
There is a clear point where the territorial dispute between Kansas and Kansas State is hotly contested.
All that separates a keen display of billboard banter is four lanes of interstate.
Where? Smack dab in Topeka.
What better place? One, because it is the state capital. Two, because our city sits between the two Big 12 schools, which are set to renew their basketball rivalry as ESPN brings its Big Monday production into Manhattan for an 8 p.m. clash in Bramlage Coliseum.
If you live here, you know where two billboards designed to interest westbound travelers stand side by side in Topeka’s downtown corridor along I-70. One touts KU. The other touts K-State. Choose one and you’ll miss the other — unless you want to swap paint or scrape concrete.
This is a stretch of road where out-of-state visitors accustomed to urban life, but unable to board a plane and execute a Midlands flyover, think that, “Hey, there is life in Kansas.”
…Suddenly, you’re struck by the contrasting billboards … which provide a sense of the athletic allegiances, and loyalties, predominant (sorry, Wichita State) statewide.
On the south side, Kansas is observed — a simple, yet powerful, message as the rings symbolizing the Jayhawks’ nine consecutive Big 12 basketball championships are displayed on the fingers of a KU player.
On the north side, Kansas State is observed — a salute to the conference basketball championship the Wildcats shared with the Jayhawks last season, along with a phone number to order tickets.
…This was particularly important for KU, which has around 25 billboards it has purchased to gain more visibility throughout the state. It is the flagship school, yet the perception KU fights, and actually created to some extent, is it only cares about one particular corner — with Topeka representing the western boundary of that footprint.
Now, for the toll you pay to drive the turnpike, you get a lot of KU material along the roadside. Actually, billboards promoting KU stretch across much of the state’s 82,276 square miles.
“It’s more of a brand-awareness issue than it is a measurable entity,’’ Marchiony said. “It’s an effective way, we believe, to keep the KU brand in people’s minds.’’
K-State is not quite as demonstrative, but it targets high-traffic areas.
“It is important for us to continue promoting our brand in Kansas City, Topeka, Wichita and western Kansas,’’ Lannou said. “We try to do that in a cost-effective manner, so the billboards are strategically placed rather than buying as many as possible. We also invest in short-run billboard ads to celebrate significant achievements.’’
The level of achievement in basketball is strong for both schools — historically and in real time. KU leads the Big 12. K-State just ended a seven-game win streak for second-place Texas.
For Big Monday, the nation will be tuned to Sunflower hoops.
KUAD: Kansas vs KState Pregame Notes
KSUAD: Pregame Notes
Brent Musburger (play-by-play) >> Fran Fraschilla (analyst) >> Holly Rowe (analyst)
Fran's coming? I hope Andrew Wiggins packed his "focus on the rim" eyes.
See the rim Andrew. Be the rim Andrew.
While the upperclassmen on this K-State roster were around for K-State's 2011 win over KU, the freshmen weren't, and creating a memory like that for themselves is something they strive for.
"We want one of those moments," explained Foster. "Shane (Southwell) was talking in the locker room about how they beat KU and the (fans) rushed the court and how they got to stand on the scorer's table. It was just an amazing moment, and all us freshmen talked about how we want to be a part of that too."
Tonight at 8 p.m., they have the opportunity to do just that.
The last college rivalry standing in Kansas City is more like a food fight between siblings than a border war between sworn enemies. It is more of a complicated brotherhood than fundamental hatred. It is coaches and administratorswho have often worked at both places, rather than coaches and administrators who close their eyes and cover their ears and swear off playing that other school.
The last rivalry standing is a Powercat and Jayhawk license plate meeting at a bar to watch the game and make fun of each other. Kansas vs. Kansas State. Snob Hill vs. Silo Tech. This scene will take place across the metro area and throughout Kansas when the schools play basketball for the 279th time in Manhattan on Monday night.
“Growing up in that area,” says Steve Henson, the former K-State basketball star from McPherson, “it’s all you knew. It’s just something that was right there in front of us at all times.”
It is omnipresent but still a bit cool, at least when compared with Louisville-Kentucky or Alabama-Auburn or some of the nation’s other great rivalries.
The Sunflower Showdown lacks a lot, starting with a better name — and don’t underestimate that in a modern college sports world that’s all about branding and marketing. The athletic competition dates to at least 1898, but really, to the 1860s when the governor (who was from Lawrence) vetoed a bill that would’ve put the state university in Manhattan.
A Lawrence man undercut Manhattan, but with KU-MU you had ancestors who killed each other. In modern terms, KU vs. K-State could use more competition and a few more moments — and would it be too much to ask for a few vocal villains?
…In real-world terms, of course, academics and student life are more important than a basketball game. But both schools also understand the money and prestige at stake in sports. Inherent in that is the need to catch up to the school 80 minutes down Interstate 70, which is at least part of why K-State built that basketball practice facility and KU has spent so much money on football infrastructure and (over)paying its football coaches.
But until and unless those investments show up in competition, this remains a somewhat peculiar rivalry when compared with others nationally: most heated around academics, and decidedly one-sided in each of the two sports people care about most. It will simmer like that, then — ready to blow when the holds of power change, neither fan base pouring too much of their hearts into the games so long as the status quo maintains.
“In my career, I did a lot of K-State games and had many, many close K-State friends,” says Max Falkenstien, who broadcast 60 years of the rivalry on KU’s radio network. “Still do, too. We golf together. They put their K-State bag on the cart, I put my Jayhawk bag on the cart, and we take off and there we go together.”
Falkenstien is asked if he ever golfs with Missouri fans.
“No, never do,” he says. “Just doesn’t ever work out that way.”
You could do worse to describe the state of the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry. Friendly enough to golf together, competitive enough to take pride in dominating a sport, and devoid of the sort of outward and mutual hatred that always defined the KU-MU games.
KC Star Mellinger
The greatest Kansas State basketball player of the last quarter century leaped on the scorers' table to celebrate and avoid the crush of student humanity that flooded the floor.
Three years later, the program's career scoring leader played the game of his life and dropped in 38 points.
There you have it. The greatest player, Michael Beasley, and the greatest scorer, Jacob Pullen, were required to overtake the Wildcats' biggest rival - Kansas - in Bramlage Coliseum. It hasn't happened otherwise in the last 25 years in the building, and the previous five years in the Little Apple before then.
There's nothing else like it in major-college basketball, Kansas' command of Kansas State on the Wildcats' floor.
…The moments ticked away Saturday and Kansas State had done the Jayhawks a huge favor. Entering the weekend, Texas stood one game behind Kansas, and nobody else was closer than three games.
The Wildcats gave their rival more space in the standings after the Jayhawks put away pesky West Virginia later in the day. But Kansas State can yank the cushion right back with a victory on Monday.
Could it happen? The teams met in January and produced the most lopsided margin for both teams this season, a business-as-usual 26-point Kansas triumph in Allen Fieldhouse.
The transitive property has made one round - Kansas beat Kansas State, which split with the Longhorns but walloped them Saturday, and Texas whipped the Jayhawks - and maybe that bodes well for the Wildcats.
But anybody with purple in their veins knows the math has worked for them on the home floor only in the most extreme, with Beasley and Pullen's best.
Maybe Foster and Kansas State have something left from Saturday. After all, he and the other freshmen have never lost at home to the Jayhawks. They've seen the photo of Beasley celebrating, and they know of Pullen's accomplishment. K-State has needed to be that good to walk off its home floor with a triumph over its rival. And as good as the Wildcats were on Saturday, they'll need to be better on Monday.
KC Star Kerkhoff
In a lot of ways, of course, history — recent or otherwise — is pretty irrelevant for this Kansas team in regards to Monday's matchup.
Not that the game matters any less for the fans, or — most importantly — the Big 12 standings. But consider this: the most experienced player on the roster, Naadir Tharpe, has played at Bramlage twice. The junior played for just one minute during KU’s win in Manhattan his freshman season and 18 in last year’s game. As for the other “veterans,” Perry Ellis played 18 minutes in last year’s clash while Jamari Traylor logged just a two-minute stint.
As if those numbers don’t say enough, the Jayhawks overall inexperience with their in-state rival was made abundantly clear when it was senior transfer Tarik Black and freshmen Wayne Selden and Andrew Wiggins doing the chatting about what to expect in a game they’ve only taken part in once … less than a month ago.
“I feel like we go in expecting the worst,” Selden said. “Expecting a hostile environment, expecting to not get any calls, expecting things to not go our way … but battling through it.”
“We’ve been war-tested,” offered Black. “We’ve been tested very well up to this point. It’s very personal, it’s an in-state rivalry and probably will be one of our best games, but at the same time, we’ve been in some pretty hostile situations.”
They’ve got the right idea, of course: another road test in the Big 12. Never easy, as even Black acknowledged he’s already accustomed to.
But as for all the other stuff? Pay it no mind … for now, anyway.
“It’ll be a great test for our young kids to go over there and see how tough they are,” Self said. “I’m going to approach it like we need to put blinders on, and not look left or right and only look straight ahead.”
Kansas State’s Bruce Weber told his team it would need a little something special Saturday to turn back a red-hot Texas team at Bramlage Coliseum.
The Octagon Of Doom provided plenty of what Weber wanted as the Wildcats fed off 12,171 fans en route to a 74-57 win against the No. 15 Longhorns, snapping their seven-game Big 12 winning streak.
“I (told them), ‘We need some Bramlage magic this weekend,’” Weber said. “It’s really the energy, the excitement and the passion. We played off the crowd.”
The Wildcats extended their home winning streak to 12 games, putting Weber’s record in Bramlage at 29-2, including 13-1 in Big 12 play.
But is playing in front of 12,000-plus fans at home all it takes to get K-State playing at an elite level?
“I think it’s that simple. We feed off Bramlage here,” forward Thomas Gipson said. “The best we can do is come out and play hard in front of them.”
K-State avenged its 67-64 buzzer-beating loss to the Longhorns in Austin, Texas, by shooting 53 percent from the field, including 8 of 16 from beyond the arc. The Wildcats’ defense overwhelmed Texas, holding the Longhorns to 33 percent shooting.
…With No. 8 Kansas coming to town Monday for the final regular-season Sunflower Showdown, the dominant display against Texas allowed Weber to limit major contributors’ minutes with no player registering more than 29.
“I think the minutes were good; we had balanced minutes,” Weber said. “We didn’t have to extend ourself at the end. Kansas is the same. They have a 3 p.m. game, and they won’t get done until later, and they have to travel here.
“It’ll be important Monday to turn around and have the legs and the energy we had today.”
K-State will need a heftier point swing for redemption on Monday against the Jayhawks, who dominated K-State 86-60 on Jan. 11 in Lawrence.
“In Lawrence, we didn’t play how we play,” freshman Marcus Foster said after scoring a career-high 34 points against Texas. “Shane (Southwell) was talking in the locker room about how they beat KU (in 2011), and the fans rushed the court, and they got on the scoring table.
“All the freshmen talk about how we want to be a part of that, too.”
Other than a season-opening hiccup to Northern Colorado, Bill Self’s Jayhawks are the only team to beat K-State at home since Weber arrived.
“Oh, really?” Weber said sarcastically, obviously aware of the previous statement. “They’re a top-rated team. They’re first in the league.”
“They said, ‘We need somebody to step up or else our season is going to crumble,’ ” Gipson said. “They told me I had to be a leader. I didn’t want my season to crumble and I didn’t want to let the seniors down, so I said, ‘OK, I will be a leader.’ ”
He has lived up to that promise. Gipson become the team’s most vocal player and has improved in many ways.
His scoring (12.2 points) has nearly doubled, his rebounds (6.3) have increased, his field-goal percentage is up (59.1), he is making more free throws (68.1 percent) and his playing time (25.5 minutes) has spiked.
Most importantly, he has helped K-State win 13 of 17 games since a 2-3 start.
“When he is locked in like he has been this season, we are really tough to deal with,” K-State associate head coach Chris Lowery said. “He makes you defend him at a high level with double-teams and that makes everyone around him better. When you look at the run we got on after Puerto Rico, you can tell Thomas set the foundation. He got us going.”
Someone had to. K-State is a young team, and leaning on freshmen wasn’t working.
“From the start of the season to now, Thomas has become a lot more vocal,” freshman forward Wesley Iwundu said. “We hear him after every play. He always has something to say. We appreciate that. He has been a good leader.”
Indeed, Gipson has set quite an example for his teammates to follow.
Outside of a preseason concussion, which forced Gipson to stay home for 10 days and miss two games, little has fazed him. Not even facing taller and deeper frontcourts on a regular basis.
While other teams have 7-footers and multiple post options, the Wildcats prefer to spread the floor with guards and let Gipson patrol the paint on his own — without a trusted backup. If he plays poorly or encounters foul trouble, K-State often struggles. In many ways, he is the team’s most important player.
Understanding that, Gipson limits aggressive plays and relies on precision. He has an above-the-rim game, but he mainly scores with pump fakes, spin moves and hook shots. He wants to stay on the court for 30-plus minutes, which he has done nine times this season. He did so twice as an underclassman.
“It’s real hard,” Gipson said. “But at the end of the day it has been good for me. I’m staying patient, I’m not taking 15 shots and I am letting the game come to me instead of chasing shots. I try to do other things to help my team win.”
Laid out individually, they're like odd pieces of a basketball cadaver, contradictions looking for a home and a fit. Nino Williams has a big man's game in an off-guard's body. D.J. Johnson has a football frame (6-foot-9, 250 pounds) and, offensively, a football mindset. Jevon Thomas has a pair of turbo jets for feet but hands of iron (25.9 percent from the floor) under the rim.
Stitch them all together, though, toss in a little lightning, and you've got Frankenstein's monster. A beast.
"No one really notices (but) we go nine deep," says Williams, whose Kansas State Wildcats (15-7, 5-4 conference) host No. 15 Texas (18-4, 7-2) on Saturday in a massive Big 12 showdown for both. "We notice. We know how hard we practice.
"Our motto is 'Next Man Up.' If Shane (Southwell) is not playing well, I'm (coming in). If (Thomas) Gipson's not playing well, it's D.J. If you're not playing well, it's 'Next Man Up' for you, (with a starter) coming back in. (Coach Bruce Weber) does harp on 'Next Man Up,' and it's definitely said."
Fun stat: In Big 12 games, only West Virginia has gotten more win shares (1.7), according to Sports-Reference.com, from the No. 6 through No. 10 men in minutes played than Kansas State's 1.5. Over all contests among Big 12 members, only the Mountaineers (4.6 win shares), Texas (4.3) and Oklahoma State (3.9) have gotten more out of slots six through 10 than K-State's 3.7.
K-State has since won several matchups with three days between games, including victories over George Washington and Oklahoma. It is also coming off one of its best performances, a 74-57 pounding of Texas on Saturday in which every starter spent the game’s final moments resting on the bench.
The Wildcats have also played the Jayhawks before, losing 86-60 last month in Lawrence. Weber expects them to be prepared, regardless of preparation time.
"We know what they do," Weber said. "For Georgetown, we were in a hotel late at night after losing and we were trying to tell them how to guard Princeton’s system and that is hard. Our guys didn’t even know what Princeton’s system was. They had never heard of it. Georgetown just caught us off-guard, but this is different. We have a whole day and we have already played them."
Still, K-State players are taking extra precautions to help ensure they are ready for the challenge that lies ahead.
"I’m going to do whatever it takes for my team to win," Foster said Saturday. "I will be in treatment and make sure my legs are 100 percent.… You just have got to get your mind right and be happy about the win. Now we have to get focused on Kansas. You can’t sit here and worry about what we did last game."
Iwundu has gone out of his way to stay off his feet.
"You have to do a better job getting your body recovered and prepared for the next game in a short period of time," Iwundu said. "The main thing is getting a lot of rest and focusing on the next game."
In terms of preparation, the Wildcats hope to devise a gameplan that will allow them to get their top scorers going. Starters Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson have played sporadically in recent games. They will both need to be at their best against Kansas.
Foster, who scored a career-high 34 points against Texas, will need to continue his recent hot streak. He was a nonfactor at Allen Fieldhouse, scoring seven points on 12 shots. Kansas overwhelmed him on the perimeter. He hopes to learn from that.
"They scouted me really well and knew every move I was going to do," Foster said. "I pressed myself about it and forced the issue. I tried to do too much and played too selfish. This time I need to relax and continue playing the way I play."
In the hour after the Jayhawks’ victory over West Virginia on Saturday, the news of K-State’s romp over Texas had filtered through Allen Fieldhouse. Self hadn’t seen the tape yet, but he’d heard the score. So had most of the Jayhawks.
In one sense, it was welcome news. Kansas (18-5 and 9-1 in the Big 12) had opened up a two-game lead over Texas in the conference race. If the Jayhawks hold serve at home for the rest of the season, they may just strut to a 10th straight Big 12 regular-season title. Not that Self is ready to admit that publically.
“The league race is still open,” Self cautioned. “I think everybody has got 10 games left. … We’re in a favorable position with a two-game lead, but we go to Manhattan, and if you don’t play well, you got a one-game lead.”
In other ways, though, K-State’s continued dominance of Texas had placed Kansas on high alert. It was, after all, just seven days ago that the Jayhawks had been beaten up by that same Texas team in Austin.
“They’re coming off a hot win (against) a great team in Texas,” KU sophomore forward Jamari Traylor said, “and I’m sure they should be pretty confident.”
In the locker room on Saturday, Self gave his team a quick primer on what awaited in Manhattan. More knowledge would come on Sunday, but Traylor has already experienced a night inside Bramlage. It can be deafening and angry, and there’s that traditional blaring of the techno song “Sandstorm” from the loudspeakers. If you haven’t been in the building, there’s no way to simulate a building full of purple getting lathered up over a song by Finnish DJ Darude.
“Manhattan is pretty loud, and they got probably more crazy fans,” Traylor said. “They’re not shy about what they yell at you.”
Traylor said the Jayhawks’ veterans would try to warn the newcomers, but sometimes it’s just something you need to experience for yourself. In last month’s victory, freshman center Joel Embiid had been ejected after hitting K-State’s Nino Williams with a shot to the face in the second half. If the K-State fans have something special planned for Embiid, he didn’t seem overly concerned.
“I don’t really care,” Embiid said. “I’m just going to play basketball and try to get the win.”
“We’ve been war-tested,” Black added. “We’ve been tested very well up to this point. It’s very personal, it’s an in-state rivalry and probably will be one of our best games, but at the same time, we’ve been in some pretty hostile situations.”
• ABOUT KANSAS (18-5, 9-1 Big 12) : You know the history: The Jayhawks have won 48 of 51 against K-State, including the last six in the series. After Saturday’s victory over West Virginia, KU now ranks first in the Big 12 in field-goal percentage (50.3) and fourth in points per game (79.3). But really, the Jayhawks have won their last two games on the defensive end. A week ago, KU was ranked 39th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com. But after holding both Baylor and West Virginia under 40 percent from the field, Kansas has climbed back to No. 22 in defensive efficiency. Will the defense travel? The Jayhawks limited K-State’s Marcus Foster to seven points on three-of-12 shooting in an 86-60 victory at Allen Fieldhouse. Expect KU freshman Andrew Wiggins to see plenty of Foster on Monday night.
• ABOUT KANSAS STATE (16-7, 6-4 Big 12): The Wildcats are coming off one of their finest games, a 74-57 victory over No. 15 Texas. K-State jumped out to big lead and never looked back behind 34 points from Marcus Foster, a freshman who had 23 points against West Virginia. Will Spradling has also played well lately. He has scored at least eight points in five straight games. Thomas Gipson and Shane Southwell have been sporadic, though. Gipson scored three points against Texas and Southwell had two points. Southwell hasn’t played a strong game since mid January. Bruce Weber is 28-2 at home at Kansas State. The Jayhawks are the only Big 12 team he hasn’t defeated.
The Jayhawks also pose matchup problems for the Wildcats, and their frontcourt is the main reason why. Joel Embiid is a threat to block almost every shot, Perry Ellis is averaging 13 points and they both have trusted backups. K-State has Thomas Gipson. He has played well enough to match bigger and deeper frontcourts, but Kansas is always his biggest challenge.EDGE >> KANSAS
Kansas State has closed the gap in this area, with Marcus Foster and Will Spradling playing the way they have in the past month. Foster is coming off a career-high 34 points against Texas. Spradling has been a consistent three-point threat for the past five games. But Kansas has numbers. Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden Jr. and Naadir Tharpe give the Jayhawks a stronger defensive presence on the perimeter, and more scoring options. EDGE >> KANSAS
The Jayhawks’ depth has turned into a real weapon in conference play, with senior forward Tarik Black settling in after being in constant foul trouble during November and December. Sophomore Jamari Traylor provides energy and rebounds, and Frank Mason’s playmaking ability plays well off the bench. The Wildcats, meanwhile, can get productive minutes from Nino Williams and D.J. Johnson, who combined for 16 points against Texas on Saturday. EDGE >> KANSAS
Of all the people in Bramlage Coliseum on Monday night, K-State coach Bruce Weber probably has the most to gain. In the last 30 years, only one K-State coach (Frank Martin) has defeated KU in Manhattan. Weber’s Wildcats won a share of a Big 12 title with Kansas in his first season, but he has yet to beat KU. To be beloved in Aggieville, Weber needs to find a way to beat Bill Self, who is 22-3 against K-State since arriving at KU. EDGE >> KANSAS
For Kansas, this is more than just a rivalry game. It’s an opportunity to take another step toward a 10th straight title. On paper, KU’s size can be a tough matchup for K-State. But will KU’s young players handle Bramlage Coliseum, one of the nation’s most insane atmospheres when the Jayhawks are in town?
Foster is unlikely to have quite as easy a time against the Jayhawks, and not just because it’s impossible to replicate a 34-points-on-16-shots tour de force like the one he just submitted. Kansas is, probably even as you read this, spending a great deal of its time focusing on how to play Foster with one and sometimes two defenders, to deny the ball on Bruce Weber’s motion screens, and to force the action into the hands of Kansas State’s supporting players. It’s likewise safe to assume Wiggins will draw the Foster assignment for whole swaths of the game, and Wiggins -- who is as quick as any guard but is 6-foot-7 and scary-athletic -- is a nightmare matchup for an undersized perimeter.
So that’s an interesting thing to watch. But more likely, the game will turn in the paint, where both teams truly excel.
When you score 1.17 points per trip in conference play, as Kansas has, you’re usually doing a lot of things right. The Jayhawks are. They lead the league in 2-point field goal percentage (55.6) and, somewhat surprisingly, in 3-point accuracy (41.8). But that latter figure is mostly a product of shot selection. The Jayhawks don’t shoot many 3s -- just 27.9 percent of their field goals come from beyond the arc -- so the shots they do take come with a special level of consideration. The only thing Kansas doesn’t do particularly well is handle the ball: The Jayhawks are still turning it over on 20.2 percent of their possessions in league play. But when Kansas doesn’t turn it over, and especially when it gets the ball near the rim, it typically scores.
The lone exception? An 81-69 loss at Texas on Feb. 1, when the Jayhawks scored just a point per trip and had 12 of their shots blocked by the Longhorns.
Kansas State’s defense, meanwhile, is the best in the Big 12 to date. It is holding opponents to the lowest combined field-goal percentage, and the lowest 2-point field-goal percentage. In half-court sets, according to Hoop-Math.com, Kansas State opponents attempt just 30.7 percent of their shots at the rim. More frequently -- nearly 40 percent of the time -- K-State opponents have to settle for shots in the sub-optimal midrange, where they shoot just 30.3 percent. Good perimeter defense starts the process, while rotations by Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson help seal off the paint. Good shots rarely result.
The Foster-Wiggins-Embiid freshman wow factor might dominate discussion of this game, and that’s fine: Foster deserves that attention. But the Jayhawks’ trip to Bramlage Monday night is most likely to be won or lost based on if and how Kansas gets the ball to the front of the rim. Kansas State’s defense may just have a surprise in store.
Kansas coach Bill Self was pleased with his team’s defensive performance, and the advanced numbers illustrate a team that has guarded better in its last two games. KU held a team to fewer than one point per possession for the second straight game, holding the Mountaineers to 0.97 points per possession. Andrew Wiggins locked down West Virginia’s Eron Harris on the perimeter, holding him without a field goal in the second half. And Self also praised freshman Frank Mason’s effort in containing leading scorer Juwan Staten.
“For the second game in a row,” Self said, “we were better.”
At the risk of putting too much emphasis on a two-game sample, let’s go back to where KU ranks nationally in defensive efficiency. A week ago, KU was ranked 39th in the category, according to KenPom.com. We noted that no team in the last decade had won the NCAA title with a defense ranked that low. Seven days later, though, KU has climbed back to No. 22 in defensive efficiency.
It’s a reminder that these numbers can fluctuate a lot in a matter of games, but it’s also positive trend for KU’s prospects in March.
…The Jayhawks now face one of their two toughest remaining games, at least according to KenPom projections. Based on the KenPom system, KU is a 57 percent favorite to win on Monday; meanwhile, they’re still listed as just a 51 percent favorite to win at Oklahoma State. (Stay tuned for how any Marcus Smart suspension could affect those odds.)
Self continues to say that the league race is wide open — and not just a two-horse race between Kansas, 9-1, and Texas, 7-3.
For now, here’s a simple way to think about the league race. If Kansas beats Texas at Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 22, that means the Longhorns would have to make up three games in the other remaining seven league games just to earn a share of the title. In other words: If KU beats Texas at home, the Jayhawks could lose three of their other seven games and still earn a share.
And if Kansas can scratch out a victory at Bramlage Coliseum on Monday, it becomes harder and harder to find out where those three losses might come from.
For Embiid, it might be a bit tougher to go on like everything is normal, as he’s certain to get lots of fan attention after his actions in the Jayhawks’ 86-60 victory on Jan. 11.
With 5:49 left in the second half, Embiid delivered a high elbow to the chin of K-State’s Nino Williams, which resulted in a flagrant-2 technical foul and an ejection.
“That was a long time ago. Joel’s gotten a lot smarter as a player,” KU sophomore forward Jamari Traylor said. “People are trying to bait him into things sometimes, and I think he’s gotten a lot smarter and more mature. So I think he’s going to handle himself well. I don’t think an elbow or anything is going to happen.”
Even so, Embiid will likely be the main target of the K-State student section in Monday's 8 p.m. matchup.
“They’re definitely going to do that (yell at him), but he should be able to handle it,” Traylor said.
Added freshman guard Frank Mason: “I think they’ll be pretty tough on all of us.”
There’s a reason that KU's coaches seem to place extra emphasis on the road games at Iowa State and K-State: In many ways, those are the Jayhawks' only true "road" atmospheres each season.
At other Big 12 locations, arenas typically aren’t full (think Oklahoma State and Texas Tech) or are sold out because at least one-third of the people there are KU supporters (think Oklahoma and TCU).
That’s not the case with Iowa State or K-State, who both stuff their facilities with home fans.
Best game: No. 8 Kansas at Kansas State (9 p.m., ESPN). The Sunflower Showdown in The Little Apple. Kansas has opened up a two-game lead in the Big 12, and the Jayhawks seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. But this game means more for Kansas State – the Wildcats had lost three of four before blowing out Texas behind 34 points from Marcus Foster on Saturday. Kansas State has a very solid at-large profile, but a win over the Jayhawks would be a true marquee win. Kansas won the first meeting by 26 points, as Foster was held to seven points on 3-for-12 shooting. The Wildcats have to keep Kansas off the offensive glass, while also limiting transition opportunities. At the other end, making perimeter shots and extending the Kansas defense is key.
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Credit Andrew Wiggins for being the difference maker in this one. That may be obvious given his 19 points, but it wasn't as much his stats that impressed me as it was his mindset. He was aggressive and in attack-mode on both ends from the jump and really put the pressure on West Virginia's defense while taking the pressure off of his teammates at the same time. Jamari Traylor and Tarik Black were great in relief of Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid, but Wiggins had a lot to do with KU's huge advantage in points in the paint, as well. West Virginia's the kind of team that could've caused KU trouble, but the Jayhawks played to their strengths and got an A-performance from their best player.
LJW: The Day After
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self was asked in general about interactions between fans and players during Monday’s weekly Big 12 coaches call with media that cover the league.
The topic has been in the news after Sunday’s announcement that Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart has been suspended three games for pushing a fan during Saturday’s game at Texas Tech.
Asked if he talks to his players about certain arenas, Self said: “I think we don’t talk about the seating arrangement or how close fans are, but the whole thing is, you don’t communicate with fans. It’s water off your back and there’s no communication between fans and players.
“Certainly that was a different situation at least from my view than a lot of situations that occur,” Self added. “The thing that has always concerned me most is about the storming of the court (after games). You could have a bumping or something like that, that could escalate into something else. I’ve never addressed my team obviously about what happened Saturday in that respect in which it happened (in OSU-Texas Tech game), just in general. Just don’t communicate in any way shape or form with anybody that was there just to watch a game.”
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Big 12 / College News
Where is Travis Ford?
Watch the video again of Marcus Smart shoving a fan at Texas Tech, but look at what happens after the actual shove.
While a minute-long video clip cannot possibly capture everything that was going on in the chaos, it certainly reflects the essence of what was and, more, what wasn't happening. There's Markel Brown and Phil Forte, escorting their simmering teammate the entire length of the court to the bench. Ford, the Oklahoma State head coach never rushes out to meet them, nor is he shown escorting his players away from a volatile situation.
A little later, there's Smart, still by the bench, standing at his seat, jawing and screaming by himself. Travis Ford doesn't tell him to sit down or, better yet, head to the locker room for the final seconds and cool off.
Where is Ford?
Ford shows up just once. He's seen, hands on hips, trying to talk to an official amid the mayhem. Standing to his left is Smart, pointing and barking at the referee, an adult and authority figure, at the same time. Ford does nothing. Doesn't point him to the bench, doesn't silence him.
And that, aside from the actual shove, is the most telling part of this whole mess.
Ford has done nothing to help Marcus Smart this season. His failure to act is as much to blame for Smart's meltdown as Smart's own immaturity and lack of self-control.
Given the opportunity during Sunday night's news conference to either own up to his blame or at least admit Smart had issues that led to this mess and three-game suspension, issues that he could have addressed, Ford demurred.
Rather, he spoke about Smart, placing the totality of blame on his player's already overburdened shoulders.
Ford insisted that he knows "Marcus Smart and knows his heart,'' and this is not that person. The problem is, this is the Marcus Smart everyone else not only has come to know but also has seen. This was a horrific single act, but one borne out of behavior that had been brewing and festering for weeks.
Whatever rose-colored glasses Ford chose to wear didn't color what everyone else saw -- a kid falling apart and a coach doing nothing to help. Ford spoke repeatedly Sunday about the mistake Smart made, about what his sophomore in college has learned and how he will come back stronger and smarter from it (not to mention an NBA plug, which was a truly pathetic attempt to stoke Smart's draft status during a news conference that had far more important implications to deal with).
"He made a serious mistake,'' Ford said. "He's proven to us many times what a great person he is, and we need to help him learn from this. Hopefully we will give him support, because I do truly think he's learned a valuable person''
What's missing is Ford saying what his mistake was, what he's learned from it, what he will do going forward to help Smart (and whatever other players he coaches) to not trip over the same live wires.
Whether or not Ford witnessed Smart shoving one Jeff Orr, he’d have to have been blindfolded not to see a technical foul called — and Smart needing to be walk-shoved back to the OSU bench by a teammate. Though Ford removed Smart from the game, he did not ask that he be escorted to the locker room out of concern for an additional altercation that might result from a court storm.
He did not have this concern, he said, until the fans were on the floor. “I didn’t think much about it,” Ford said, “because I was still trying to figure out a way to win the game.”
Ford talked an awful lot about the need for Smart to learn from his actions at Texas Tech, but it’s rather a shame Smart had to go this far and have such a dramatic education shoved down his throat. If there are lessons to be learned, they ought to have been taught by his coaches, by Ford.
But it appears Ford was too distracted with trying to win games.
…It’s never much fun to look back at the “Crosstown Punchout” that developed between Xavier and Cincinnati near the end of their rivalry game in the 2011-12 season. But we can compare how Ford sat at the press conference podium after the Texas Tech game and declared that he did not know what occurred to Bearcats coach Mick Cronin’s direct, authoritative approach immediately after several of his players were involved in a benches-clearing brawl.
Cronin told he media he’d ordered the players to remove their uniforms and said they would not be returned “until they have a full understanding of where they go to school and what the university stands for and how lucky they are to even be there, let alone have a scholarship." He said he would gather with the school’s president and athletic director to determine who would be permitted to remain on the team. Look at what Cincinnati has become as a program since.
There was no hiding behind “I don’t know” until someone higher up was forced to impose the discipline — discipline that in Smart’s case became more severe, more embarrassing and more consequential for both Smart and the Cowboys as a team.
Ford referred several times to the notion Smart had made “a mistake.” For once in the case of an athlete being disciplined, the noun was a fit. Those athletes caught with marijuana or busted for DUI or driving someone else’s rented vehicle have only made the mistake of getting caught; they fully intended to trying to get away with those particular transgressions.
In Smart’s case, his intention was to get off the floor near the end zone stands, walk back to the court and complete the business of absorbing another frustrating loss. Instead when he heard an insult from an audience member — Orr said he called Smart “a piece of crap” and did not use any racial slur — Smart lost his temper and reacted as he did. That, folks, is a mistake.
For that, he will miss three important Big 12 games that might cost him a chance to end his college career in the NCAA Tournament. He will continue to be recycled through the highlight shows, and his altercation will be revived when he returns Feb. 22 for a second game against Texas Tech.
According to a report from The Oregonian, Ducks coaches were spat on by an Arizona State student. Assistant Brian Fish and team trainer Clay Jamieson were the ones who took the hits. This happened due to the arena setup at ASU's home venue, Wells Fargo Arena. Students are placed on both sides of the ramp that connects the arean to the inner bowels of the venue.
They opted not to press charges, according to the story. And it wasn't only after the game; heading into halftime, students reportedly/allegedly hawked loogies at Ducks players, too.
Minutes after the incident, the Ducks were followed to their locker room by two university police officers investigating the spitting, which officers told UO staff members was witnessed by at least two people.
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CHARLES MATTHEWS, a junior combo guard at Chicago St. Rita High School, and the Mustangs went a perfect 3-0 last week. St. Rita won 67-51 at Chicago De La Salle High School on Saturday, with Matthews scoring 14 points, grabbing eight rebounds and handing out four assists. The Mustangs won 107-58 at Chicago St. Francis de Sales High School on Friday night, with Matthews supplying 12 points. Prior to the weekend, Matthews scored 21 points and had five rebounds during a 66-47 home win last Tuesday night against Chicago Marist High School. Matthews, who has offers from Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Michigan State, Ohio State, SMU and Wisconsin, and the Mustangs (13-6) play at Chicago St. Ignatius College Prep at 7 p.m. this Tuesday before hosting South Holland (Ill.) Seton Academy at 7 p.m. this Friday.
…JAYSON TATUM, a sophomore forward at St. Louis Chaminade High School, and the Red Devils beat St. Louis University High School 67-59 at home on Friday night. Tatum scored 31 points to go along with eight rebounds and four steals in the win. Tatum, who has offers from Illinois, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Marquette, Missouri and St. Louis, and the Red Devils (19-1) get back in action at 6 p.m. this Tuesday at home against Florissant (Mo.) McCluer North High School.
…MONTAQUE GILL-CAESAR, a junior small forward at Huntington (W. Va.) Prep and the Irish beat Carlisle (Va.) School 76-38 at home last Wednesday night. Gill-Caesar had 11 points in the win. Gill-Caesar, who might reclassify for the Class of 2014 and who has offers from Alabama, Baylor, Kansas, Memphis, Missouri, Providence and West Virginia for the Class of 2014 and offers from Illinois and Ohio State for the Class of 2015, and the Irish (22-4) are scheduled to host Kettering (Ohio) Archbishop Alter High School at 2 p.m. this Saturday before hosting Genesis Academy out of Lynchburg, Va., at 2 p.m. this Sunday.
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