'eers traveled a country mile to get here.
Matchup of the night -- Devin Williams vs. Kansas frontcourt: I held the West Virginia-Kansas game out of the top-three games of the night due to Mountaineer injury questions. Juwan Staten and Gary Browne are both day-to-day, and may not play against the Jayhawks. Plus, the Jayhawks have already clinched a share of the Big-12, meaning their intensity level may not be as high as anticipated. However, one battle worth watching will be the one inside, as Devin Williams is an absolute monster inside, and the Jayhawks don't have anyone that can match him on the boards without Cliff Alexander in the picture. He could be poised for a huge night unless Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas can box out.
With ambiguity surrounding Cliff Alexander’s eligibility, Juwan Staten’s knee and Gary Browne’s ankle, the Tuesday night lineups at The Phog remain, well, foggy.
There’s one guaranteed attendee for West Virginia-Kansas, however: The Bill Self bobblehead.
A bobblehead now, and perhaps a statue some year soon, for the coach who has kept Kansas atop the Big 12 for an unfathomable 11 consecutive seasons.
…Whereas Alexander has been spotty all season, junior forward Perry Ellis keeps piling up games ranging from consistent to incredible. His 28-point, 13-rebound effort vs. the Longhorns was among the latter, and has him in the running for Big 12 player of the year.
Of course, his cause would’ve been aided immensely by making the last-second layup at the WVU Coliseum, a gut-punch ending to a night on which Ellis scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half. The throngs of Twitter assassins who berated Ellis after that miss reveal that even the best fan bases can’t hide all their imbeciles.
May these people find the bobblehead bin empty.
…RPIs: West Virginia 22, Kansas 2
...Line: Kansas favored by 9
Prediction: Kansas 80-66
WV Metro News
“What these kids have done is pretty remarkable,” KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World late Monday, moments after the horn sounded on Iowa State’s 77-70 victory over OU.
“There were numerous times this year we didn’t know if we could get there. The kids have done great. We still feel we can play better. We certainly want to win it outright. We don’t want to share it. In order to win it outright, we need to take care of business and play well against West Virginia.”
Self and his wife, Cindy, did not watch the Iowa State-Oklahoma game. They merely followed the score on the Internet.
“We’re just chilling (at home), both very excited,” he told the J-W, adding, “I’ll sleep good tonight. This year has been a grind. Of course, it’s not near over. The most important games are still in front of us. But this conference is so good, there are so many good teams, it’s nice to guarantee a share. Of all the years to at least get a piece of it, of all the years to do it, I really believe this one may have been as difficult as any because of the quality of competition in our league.”
Even though Self sorely desires a win and the undisputed league title tonight, he felt he needed to congratulate his Jayhawks late Monday night.
“I’m getting ready to text all the fellas, tell them ‘Congratulations, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,’” Self told the J-W. “We need to play well this week (tonight and Saturday at OU). That is our mission, and that is our objective.”
…Self said, per tradition, senior Garrett would start tonight. Freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. confirmed to reporters he’d be the regular starter to come off the bench.
“I’m 100 percent happy for him. It’s his last game in the fieldhouse. We want to give him what he deserves, a win,” Oubre said.
Garrett will give a senior speech after the game.
“I wrote it last night. I know what I’m going to say. It’s not that long,” Garrett said. “I’m not going to force it on people. I’m excited for it. I always thought about this day, how cool it’s going to be. It just came a lot faster than I thought.”
Asked how long Garrett’s speech would be, Self said: “It will be short. He knows it, because Christian can get long-winded like a lot of our past players. It’ll be five minutes, max. He won’t go over that. If he does, there will be a gong like the ‘Gong Show’ of the past. Somebody will hit it, and that’ll be the end of it,” Self added with a smile.
…KU’s Booth Family Hall of Athletics will close for approximately six months after tonight’s game to accommodate the fieldhouse phase of the construction of DeBruce Center. It will re-open in mid September.
“This could be the best night of the year,” Self said Monday afternoon just outside Kansas' locker room. “We’ve had some good nights this year, but this could be the best night of the year if we play well.”
…This is the Jayhawks' 58th conference title, which is tops in Division I. Kentucky is second at 51, while Penn is third at 37.
“Now that (clinching outright) is right there in our face, we’re more hungry than ever,” KU freshman Kelly Oubre said, “and we’re going to go take it.”
The Jayhawks won’t have a pushover in the Mountaineers, as WVU defeated KU in the first matchup, 62-61, two weeks ago.
“The way they play, I don’t think it really matters much if they’re playing at home or on the road,” Self said, “because they can turn people over just as much, it seems like, on the road as they do at home.”
…“We’ve got to take care of business at home,” Oubre said, “and claim what’s ours.”
…Oubre also was asked if he thought about it potentially being his final KU home game. He’s listed as the 11th pick in DraftExpress.com’s latest 2015 NBA mock draft.
“I’m playing for Kansas University right now. I don’t really think about that stuff,” Oubre said. “That’s in the future, and I’m trying to worry about the present. The present is going to take care of my future. It’s definitely something I try to stay away from. I try not to let those outside distractions get in my head.”
Kansas freshman guard Kelly Oubre, Jr., has been named one of 10 finalists for the 2015 Integris Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year Award, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) announced Monday. The list recognizes first-year players as members of the USBWA's board of directors chose the elite rookies to be included on the list as contenders for the national freshman of the year award.
Ballots for this season's USBWA men's honors will be distributed March 2 and the association will announce the winner of the 2015 Integris Wayman Tisdale Award on Mon., March 16.
Oubre has started 17 games this season and all 16 Big 12 Conference contests. The New Orleans native has scored in double figures 12 times, including nine against Big 12 competition in 2014-15. A two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week selection, Oubre averages 10.0 points per contest in league outings and 8.8 points per game for the season. Additionally, he is second on the team with 31 steals and averages 5.0 rebounds per contest. He is the only Big 12 representative on the top-10 list.
The award is to be officially presented to the national freshman of the year at the Devon Energy College Basketball Awards on April 14 at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. The Oscar Robertson Trophy and the Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award will also be presented at the gala that is held annually the week following the NCAA Men's Final Four.
We’ve heard all season long about the Big 12’s power. Well, doesn’t Ellis have to be one of the two or three strongest contenders for Big 12 player of the year?
Yet he’s not among the 20 players nationally still being considered for the Wooden Award. Ellis, the best player on the best team in one of the best conferences in America, is being shunned.
He’s playing his best basketball at the most important time of the season as KU is in a dogfight now trying to hold off Oklahoma in the Big 12 race. The Jayhawks finish the regular season Saturday in Norman against the Sooners.
Ellis ranks behind only OU’s Buddy Hield (18.1 ppg) and Oklahoma State’s LeBryan Nash (16.3) in scoring in Big 12 games. Only Baylor’s Rico Gathers (11.9 rpg) and West Virginia’s Devin Williams (8.9) are rebounding more.
The transformation in Ellis has been noticeable. Criticized for not showing much emotion during his Kansas career, Ellis’ demeanor remains stoic. But he’s playing with more aggression, more purpose, more focus. He’s become KU’s go-to guy who can use his incredible athleticism around the basket and knock down a three-pointer now and then. He’s made 10 of 20 three-pointers in Big 12 games.
Wichita Eagle Lutz
Sometimes, players of the year reveal themselves early and don’t allow anyone else to be part of the competition. Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin was that type of Big 12 player of the year.
But more often a race develops, with favorites changing places weekly. So seems the case this season in Big 12 men’s basketball.
Throughout a ferocious season, different players appeared to be the league’s best. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten, Iowa State’s Georges Niang, Oklahoma State’s Le’Bryan Nash, Baylor’s Rico Gathers and Kansas’ Perry Ellis were the favorite at some point.
If a front-runner has emerged with less than a week remaining, it may be by the slimmest of margins. My best guess, if the voting were held today, Ellis would get the nod over Gathers.
KC Star Kerkhoff
Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self remained hopeful on Monday afternoon that freshman forward Cliff Alexander could soon return to the floor — perhaps as early as this week.
…“It’s not ‘if’, it’s just ‘when’,” Self said of a possible resolution on Monday afternoon. “I’m hopeful this week. But we’re really not operating on our schedule. We’re operating on someone else’s schedule. But from what we’ve been led to believe and been told, it’s that they (the NCAA) understands the importance and the value of it.”
…“It’s a precautionary thing, what we’re doing,” Self said, “but it’s also being encouraged and handled this way by higher-ups, which I understand. I don’t necessarily like it, but I agree with the strategy.”
“We were the easiest prom date of all time,” said Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson, an assistant on that Oral Roberts staff.
Hinson laughs at this story now, and why not? Nearly 18 years ago, Bill Self was just trying to find a conference to compete in. Now Hinson’s old friend is the mastermind of The Streak, the most jaw-dropping run of conference supremacy in college basketball’s modern era.
…In historical context, Kansas has tied Gonzaga’s 11 straight West Coast Conference titles for the second-longest conference championship streak and is just two titles short of UCLA’s record 13 straight Pac-8/Pac-10 titles during 1967-79. In the present moment, the Jayhawks have collected another Big 12 title in a season in which the league again ranks as the nation’s top conference based on computer rankings.
“It’s an amazing run with the teams that we have in this conference,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said.
…If there is one surprising thing about The Streak, it’s that Self rarely talks about the goal of winning the Big 12 with his players. There are moments, of course, little messages here and there. The players finish every practice by yelling “Big 12 champs” while breaking the huddle.
That’s about it.
“Bill had a constant saying,” Hinson said. “ ‘Let’s get better every day. Let’s get better every game.’ Really, we focused more on the journey than the destination.”
…For Self and Kansas, this might be the most impressive part of The Streak. As the Big 12 trophies stacked up, each new freshman class came to Lawrence believing that Big 12 titles were a birthright. For a coach, this can be both a blessing and curse. Self has always relished the pressure of expectations, the way they can push players to perform above their ability level, but there is also the constant fear of entitlement.
Oubre is a college freshman this year. Next year, he might well be in the NBA. When The Streak began, he was in the third grade. When the streak ends, he will likely be a millionaire. But for now, Oubre is listening, and the message is the same: Don’t take this for granted.
“I’m a firm believer in life, that we all get opportunities,” Self said. “But sometimes opportunities are few and far between … you have a chance to do something special, and you’ve got to take advantage.”
KC Star Dodd
KUAD WBB Postgame Notes
Big 12 / College News
Isaiah Taylor may have just saved Texas' season -- and also Rick Barnes' job.
@franfraschilla just called Tashawn Thomas, Tyshawn Taylor. Fran is always thinking about #kubball
1. Following Gonzaga's loss Saturday night, which team is likely to earn the final No. 1 seed?
It was questionable whether Gonzaga (29-2) could have earned a No. 1 seed because it has just one victory against a top 25 RPI team. But after losing at home to Brigham Young, the Bulldogs clearly look like they are destined for a No. 2 seed. Which team is best positioned to join Kentucky, Virginia and Duke on the top seed line? Right now it is Villanova, which has won six games against teams rated in the top 25 of the RPI. No team has won more. Wisconsin, Arizona and Kansas remain in the hunt if Villanova stumbles.
2. Which team is likely to earn the dreaded No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region?
Why is this the region no one should want to play in? Because sitting at the top will be No. 1 seed and unbeaten Kentucky. For competitive balance, it would make sense to place the weakest No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, which will be played in Cleveland. But that will not necessarily be the case. The tournament selection committee prioritizes geographical proximity. That could mean that a particularly stout No. 2 seed such as Wisconsin could have to go through the Cleveland Regional — and potentially Kentucky in the Elite Eight — en route to the Final Four. It would please many fans to see a highly anticipated rematch of their 2014 Final Four classic played in the Final Four. But because of geography, it might have to be played earlier, if both advance.
4. Can Texas still salvage its season?
It won't be easy. After entering the season with Final Four hopes, the Longhorns (17-12) find an uphill climb to the NCAA tournament. They squandered a chance to win Saturday at Kansas and now find themselves with a 2-11 record against top-50 RPI teams. The next two games — Monday against Baylor and Saturday against Kansas State — are must-win contests. Even with victories in those two games, Texas will need to win at least one game, and perhaps a second, in a Big 12 tournament that is expected to be as competitive as its been in more than a decade.
Virginia becomes 1st ACC team not named Duke or North Carolina to win consecutive outright regular-season titles since NC State in 1973-74.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski issued at least seven versions of “No comment” on the Rasheed Sulaimon sexual assault allegations story during Monday’s ACC conference call, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.
The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper, reported that “Sulaimon’s dismissal from the Duke basketball program is clouded by allegations of sexual assault, which surfaced nearly a year before he was released from the team in January. Multiple sources close to the situation have confirmed that members of the athletic department were made aware of the allegations as early as March 2014.”
SI Seth Davis: How to Fix College Basketball
Sports on Earth: March Madness Begins Today
Complete ESPN Networks schedule
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
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
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