“This game will mean a lot to him, and that’s just the way it will be,” North Carolina forward Harrison Barnes said. “The other day outside the hotel I saw a guy with a T-shirt that said, ‘Why play for Roy when I can play with MY SELF?’ I thought, ‘Wow, what’s that all about?’ We may not even get to play each other, and people are already thinking about stuff like that?”
Could this (Sunday’s Elite Eight game against North Carolina), somebody asked on Saturday of KU senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, be the “defining game of your career?”
How much pressure can one tire take, for crying out loud.
“I think it could be because offensively I haven’t been playing too well,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to put extra pressure on myself, but I just know I can’t play too much worse offensively. I’m actually looking forward to playing.”
Somebody else wanted to know: “Do you think much about your legacy at Kansas?”
Responded Taylor: “I think it crosses my mind, time to time, because I’ve been one of those players who have been criticized a lot. Fans love me, they hate me. I think about it time to time, you know, being in a position where you come behind so many great players who people were embracing and showed so much love to. You want to be one of those guys.”
Another question throw his way Saturday: “Tyshawn, I was looking back through past tournaments today and in a dome you’ve never hit a three-pointer. Is there anything to that?”
Taylor: “Honestly, I haven’t noticed that, so thank you for putting that in my head. I appreciate that. I don’t know what it is, man. I don’t know what it is. I’m going to keep shooting it confidently. I feel like they’re good when they leave my hand, and so I’m going to keep shooting it.”
…Nobody can question his effort. He brings that every game. It’s evident he badly wants to win, sometimes too badly. He hasn’t looked loose shooting three-pointers and is 0 for 12 in the three NCAA Tournament games. It’s not a new development.
If Taylor’s thinking about legacy and the 144th game of his career defining that career and that other vague nonsense, his head’s in the wrong place.
“I think as far as my work on the court, I think I could possibly be one of those guys,” Taylor said when asked the legacy question. “(Today’s) game is a step in the right direction, but it’s not something I’m driving myself crazy thinking about because I think my teammates, the teams I played on, my coaching staff, I think they all understand what I’ve done to help us be an elite team the past four years. I’ve been a big part of all four of those teams.”
One game, regardless of his performance, can’t change that.
“I think they all understand that whether I get the love of a Jacque Vaughn or Kirk Hinrich or not, I think the people who matter the most understand,” Taylor said.
LJW: UNC's strengths, weaknesses and players to watch
If Bill Self is a little gun-shy when it comes to broken scaphoid bones among Roy Williams' players, it's hard to blame him.
In 2001, Kansas forward Drew Gooden broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist late in the season and missed five games, but returned in time for the Big 12 tournament - and played against Self's Illinois team in the round of 16. (Illinois won.)
So as far as Self is concerned, he expects North Carolina's Kendall Marshall, who has the same injury, to play Sunday against his Kansas team.
"I know that when Roy was at Kansas, they told me that Drew Gooden had the same injury and they put a screw in and he was out about a week, if I'm not mistaken," Self said. "So I think that I would anticipate him playing."
Gooden actually missed five games in two weeks, but the point remains the same: Kansas is preparing as if Marshall will play for the Tar Heels.
At least one Tar Heel believes the relieved mood on Friday might translate to better play on Sunday. Carolina didn't look very good against the Bobcats, but that game is over, and they get a chance to start fresh on Sunday at 5:05 p.m. Eastern (the Tar Heel Sports Network is on the air at 4 p.m.).
"Ohio wasn't a year-in, year-out powerhouse, so it was like people felt like we're supposed to beat them," Marshall said. "With a team like Kansas, maybe there's not as much pressure, because they're supposed to be good, too. I can see us playing more freely tomorrow."
Stilman White, a true freshman who started in Marshall's place against Ohio, said going through Friday's game made him more comfortable in his new and wildly unexpected role. He also said he had not been told who would start Sunday.
"To be honest, I have no clue," White said. "Kendall looked good in practice, and it looks like he's healing really fast. But I'm gonna come with the mindset that I'm gonna start just in case he Kendall can't go. I gotta be ready for that."
Although Williams said Marshall was in better shape Saturday than he had been two days earlier, the general feeling inside the Carolina locker room was that the Tar Heels are not expecting the point guard to play.
"We're not planning on him coming back," UNC forward Tyler Zeller said.
If that's the case, a lot of the focus in this one will shift to White, who finished with two points, six assists and no turnovers in the victory against Ohio.
"It's definitely different now," White said. "I definitely got my feet wet the last game."
When asked about the advice Williams gave him prior to the Ohio game, the 6-foot, 160-pound guard from Wilmington, N.C., said the veteran coach's words had a calming influence.
"He just said play my game," White remembered. "'If Kendall's not out there, don't try to be Kendall.' It's been hectic, something I haven't expected. But crazy things happen in sports. People go down, other people have to step up."
As for KU's take on the will-he-or-won't-he-play status of Marshall, the Jayhawks are preparing for — and hoping for — UNC to put its best team on the floor.
"I gotta put pressure on their point guard and make it tough for them either way, whether it's Kendall or Stilman," KU senior Tyshawn Taylor said. "I think it helps us if he doesn't play because he's so good. He's so good, and he could create havoc for us. But I hope he does play."
Taylor said assistant coach Joe Dooley noticed in Friday’s game that he didn’t always follow through on his shot like he did during Big 12 play.
He missed six 3-pointers, but most of those were open looks. He missed three mid-range jump shots and three close to the basket. His only two baskets came on layups, although they were acrobatic finishes.
He said shots have felt good leaving his hand.
“That’s why I kept shooting it last night because I was like, ‘One of them is going to fall,’ Taylor said. “As I missed a couple, I kind of got down on myself. I can’t hang my hat on whether I’m making shots or not.”
Taylor’s biggest miss came at the free-throw line. With 16 seconds left and KU up by one, he missed the front end of a one-and-one. KU kept possession when N.C. State couldn’t secure the rebound. Elijah Johnson came over to set Taylor straight.
“I told him, ‘that happened 20 seconds ago,’” Johnson said. “That’s over. You can’t do nothing about it. But right now you can do something about what’s about to happen.’ Before I could finish my sentence I realized I didn’t even need to say that to him.
“I think in the past he’s been riled up or he’s been thinking too much, and I think last night he just let it be water off his back. He didn’t let it stress him or get him down.”
Three seconds later, while inbounding the ball along the baseline, Taylor held on just long enough to let Johnson get open for an easy layup that proved to be the game-winner.
“If his head was messed up,” Johnson said, “I don’t think he would have been able to make that pass.”
About two hours before the Midwest Region semifinals Friday night, Kansas star Thomas Robinson received a text message on his cellphone that made him flash the smile that has become one of the great stories in college basketball this season. It was a message from his former AAU coach in Northeast Washington, Dwight Redd, a man Robinson calls “a father to me.”
Redd hadn’t told the 6-foot-9 junior forward he was coming to St. Louis, hoping to surprise him now that Robinson is on the cusp of completing his evolution from a skinny 13-year-old on the playgrounds of Southeast Washington to a chiseled physical specimen expected to be one of the top five picks in this year’s NBA draft. That, though, only made Robinson worry about tickets as the Jayhawks were getting ready for their Sweet 16 game against North Carolina State.
“Basketball didn’t always look so clear for me and when it didn’t look clear for me I was just a regular kid in D.C., and Dwight, he didn’t see it as that. He took care of me no matter what my situation was. Without him, I probably wouldn’t have made it this far.”
Redd, though, had already purchased tickets, knowing full well the last thing Robinson needed was another distraction.
The opportunity to reminisce allowed Williams to touch on a variety of topics. Among them:
■ A sense of kinship with KU coach Bill Self: “I understand what Bill is going through. I know the stress and the pressures and the expectations and the feelings and the love and the passion. It’s all of those, and some of those are good.’’
■ His arrival at KU with no head coaching experience: “I wasn’t as confident as Bill, because he says (he felt) apprehension. I was scared to death. But in saying that, I was pretty confident in what I could do.’’
■ The affection he still feels for KU: “I don’t know that it will ever be just another team. And I hope not, to be honest with you, because the love I have for that place, that was special. They gave Roy Williams a chance.’’
Kansas also gave him a loss the only time the Jayhawks and Tar Heels have met since Williams left for North Carolina. That was in 2008, when KU raced to a 28-point lead in the first half of the national semifinals. North Carolina rallied within four, but KU won 84-66 before going on to claim the national title under Self.
Not once Saturday did Williams express any desire to avenge that loss to KU.
Instead, he mentioned the KU sticker he affixed to his clothing while attending the championship win for the Jayhawks. He remembered spitting in the Mississippi River during one postseason trip with KU, an odd superstition the Tar Heels engaged in on this particular trip. And he gave a shoutout to Bob Davis, the KU play-by-play announcer whom Williams said, “makes me smile.’’
It was Self, actually, who brought up the 2008 matchup. He said he watched tape of that game Saturday morning to recall “certain actions that they run, because North Carolina has a system.’’
In addition, Self expressed a desire to play the Tar Heels in a home-and-home series, an invitation Williams declined when told of the offer.
“Too emotional for me,’’ Williams said. “That’s the bottom line.’’
Part of the problem for Kansas fans isn’t necessarily that Williams left. It’s more that he left after previously turning down the job and after telling TV audiences immediately after Kansas’ loss in the 2003 national championship game that he didn’t care about North Carolina.
“I thought he was dishonest because he told us the first time he wasn’t going to leave us,” Lawrence’s Darin McDaniel said. “I think he made us believe he was there for the long haul. I think he led Kansas fans on a little bit.”
As a result, Kansas ended up with Bill Self. For Lawrence’s Kim O’Bryon, the moment when she completely got over Williams took place during the Final Four in 2008, a game that KU won 84-66.
“I can still remember looking at the scoreboard and seeing 40-12 and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. It’s a new era,’” Kim O’Bryon said.
The Jayhawks won the national championship that year, something that Williams never did at Kansas. He has, however, won two championships at North Carolina.
“I’m glad he’s gone,” Feagans said. “I wish him the best, but I’ll take Bill Self any day.”
It’s that assorted emotion that defines most Kansas fans on the subject of Williams.
“I think Kansas fans are still mixed,” O’Bryon said. “I think there are people like us who have moved on. And I think there are people who see the North Carolina score in Allen Fieldhouse and they boo.”
The Jayhawks like to say they’ve been battle tested this season, and in a way they have a point.
For the first time in the program’s history, Kansas played three of the four winningest programs in college basketball (Kansas is the fourth) while also playing UCLA, the program with the most national championships.
The Jayhawks will complete that quartet of games Sunday against North Carolina, but the Jayhawks said the other three games — losses to Duke and Kentucky and a win against UCLA — helped shape them into a grind-it-out team early in the year.
“The Kentucky game I think frustrated us so much, but after that we learned to love (that style of play),” KU guard Elijah Johnson said. “Duke, we loved that game. I think that’s going to show (Sunday), that we love it."
…With 15 rebounds against North Carolina State on Friday, Robinson moved into second place on Kansas’ single-season rebounding list.
Robinson now has 429 rebounds this season, putting him six ahead of Drew Gooden. The only player with more?
Wilt Chamberlain with 510.
“I am?” Robinson said when told of his ranking. “Wow. Like I said earlier, it really hasn’t hit me, everything that I did this year. I’m really now just getting smacked in the face with what really happened, but I just want to keep adding to it. I’m not ready for my career to be over with.”
Taylor was letting his mind wander. What would it feel like, he asked Robinson, if Kansas could take down No. 1 seed North Carolina when the two goliaths meet inside the Edward Jones Dome?
“I was like, ‘Dang, man, if we just get past this,’ ” Taylor said. “And then he’s like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, relax bro. Relax. Take it easy.’ ”
Robinson was having none of it. Just last season, the Jayhawks were a No. 1 seed and entering a regional final against No. 11 seed VCU. They were confident, and a little brash, delivering some pointed trash talk toward the VCU players as both teams crossed paths the day before the game.
Robinson remembers. And he’s heard the lessons this season from the stars of last year’s team, Marcus and Markieff Morris.
“The mistakes they made,” Robinson said. “How they kind of overlooked everything.”
Still, Taylor couldn’t resist — if only for a moment. His tournament thus far has been an offensive nightmare, only spared by some commendable defense and three KU victories. Taylor has made 11 of 33 shots. He’s zero for 12 from thee-point range. And if you go back to the Big 12 semifinal loss against Baylor, Taylor has missed 15 straight three-pointers.
…“A win could mean so much to my legacy at Kansas,” Taylor said, “and for my life in the future.”
Self will say that Taylor doesn’t need to worry about that. He just needs to play. And Robinson will say the same.
...“Everybody watched him mature right in front of their eyes,” Robinson said. “I think his legacy is something he doesn’t need to worry about right now. Everything from here is icing on the cake.”
“I’ve got mad respect for his game,” Taylor said. “He’s a great guard. He’s been killing it this year. As a competitor, I want him to play. I want that challenge. If he plays, I think the game would be that much better.”
Marshall ranks second in the nation in assists with 9.7 per game. If he isn’t able to go, North Carolina will likely start seldom-used freshman Stilman White for the second straight game. White averaged just 4 minutes a contest before he was thrust into duty Friday. He played 32 minutes against Ohio and finished with six assists and zero turnovers.
This will be the first time Kansas and North Carolina have played since the 2008 Final Four, when KU jumped out to a 40-12 lead and eventually won 84-66. Two nights later, the Jayhawks defeated Memphis in overtime to claim their first NCAA title since 1988.
“This is going to be one of the funnest games of our careers,” KU center Jeff Withey said. “We’re excited to play against them. We wouldn’t want it any other way than to play North Carolina to get to the Final Four.
“We match up really well with them. It’s going to be fun game, a physical game, one for the history books.”
ESPN Jason King
The Jayhawks may not realize it, but they are something of a test case against a time-honored trend in the NCAA Tournament. They are playing ugly offense and dominating defense in an event that's been mostly controlled by scorers.
Defense wins championships? Not in college basketball, usually.
Kansas is trying to change that.
Of the 36 Final Four teams since 2003, only 14 have ranked higher in defensive efficiency than offense. Seven of the last nine national champions have been better on offense than defense, and the two exceptions are UConn last year (16th in offense and 14th in defense) and KU in 2008 (second and first).
Only two champs ranked lower than fourth offensively, but four have been out of the top 10 on defense.
So in this context, Kansas being able to win its last two NCAA Tournament games while shooting a combined 36 percent is even more remarkable. Right now, KU is 19th in offense and fourth in defense.
College basketball teams just don't win championships playing the way Kansas is playing. Not usually, anyway.
This is something like a boxer entering a beauty contest. The Jayhawks are much better offensively than they've played recently - Taylor is supremely gifted and been bummy two games in a row - but maybe this is an identity they can take to New Orleans.
Or, at least, it's the one they've clung to. Some of the numbers might blow you away. Nobody has shot better than 40 percent against KU in six games. Nobody but Missouri has shot better than 42.6 percent since Jan. 28.
Detroit scored seven points over a 22-minute stretch. Purdue - even with all those three-pointers - scored its fewest points since January. North Carolina State scored 23 points over 22 minutes.
"Seemed like we were always trying to make tough shots," North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried said.
You can see how this happens. Taylor and Elijah Johnson are two long, athletic and prideful guards. Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey - who just broke Cole Aldrich's school record for blocks in a season - give a suffocating presence inside. Travis Releford and Kevin Young bring versatility and the valuable commodity of knowing exactly what their role is.
This isn't the best defense Self has coached at KU. Every team he's had since 2006 has ranked in the top 10, and you can almost see him blush a little bit when he talks about that group of piranhas from 2008.
But this might be the team that most defines itself by defense - good and bad.
"If you look at some of the worst games that we played this year," Self says, "were games where we made shots early."
Self rattled off the names Saturday afternoon: Roy Williams, Ted Owens, Dick Harp, Phog Allen, Larry Brown. Self is nearing that rare air as he prepares to face North Carolina and his predecessor for the Midwest Regional championship today at 4:05 p.m. at the Edward Jones Dome.
He has the Jayhawks in the Elite Eight for the fifth time in his nine seasons, boasts the top winning percentage (.837) of any coach in the school's history and has won eight consecutive Big 12 titles.
…There's little question that Self is at the top of his profession. He has a national championship in hand and has won more games since his arrival at Kansas than any Division I coach.
He has found a formula that seems to work everywhere, from Tulsa to Illinois to Kansas. At 49, he has a personality that allows him to connect with college kids. He recruits nationally and has a roster that draws from California to New York.
"We all love him," center Jeff Withey said. "He's really been patient with this team. We've gone through a lot of growing pains, but he's been patient the entire time. He wants what's best for us. He's a fun-loving guy who relates to us. He's just a people person."
…He has made 14 consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament with Tulsa, Illinois and Kansas and taken each to the Elite Eight at least once. The common threads?
"For the most part we've been associated with teams that guard," he said. "Also, usually, you don't get this far unless your teams like each other. That sounds pretty trite but that is true. And I don't think you get this far unless your team really cares. Those three things are intangibles that are all pretty important as far as advancing in the tourney."
…Self has won an abundance of national coach of the year awards, starting in 2000 when The Sporting News chose him for leading Tulsa to a 32-5 mark. He compiled a huge haul of trophies in 2009. And The Sporting News gave Self its honor this season.
The Jayhawks were not expected to make this run. They were in rebuilding mode. But they are on the brink of doing something only one other Self team has accomplished.
…"If I was concerned about trying to win as much as Roy or being compared to that, I don't think I would have been the guy for the job," he said. "He's made my job better, there's no question about that. If anything, I'm going to use that to propel us into hopefully even more success and use that to benefit us."
St Louis PD
For the most part, though, the brackets provide order and sequence. No unexpected matchups before their time.
That’s why Sunday’s Midwest Regional finale between No. 1 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Kansas is such a unique thrill to anyone with a true college hoop heart and soul. Kansas vs. North Carolina does not belong on the Elite Eight stage. Aim a little higher. In the long history of the NCAA Tournament, KU and North Carolina — the second- and third-winningest programs in college basketball history — have only met in the NCAA Tournament during the Final Four.
But now here they are at center stage in the Edward Jones Dome, giving St. Louis a little Final Four-like buzz.
As he sat in the interview room in the bowels of the Dome on Saturday afternoon, KU’s All-America forward Thomas Robinson was fully aware of what lies ahead. Someone wanted to know if he might be a little extra pumped because of the intriguing matchup of the Tar Heels’ future NBA big men against the Jayhawks’ future lottery-pick bigs. Robinson just shrugged his muscular shoulders and grinned.
“I don’t think anything else could add any more extra energy to this game,” Robinson said. “Kansas versus North Carolina should be all the energy you need right there. Like Coach (Bill Self) always tells us, these are the games we come to Kansas for.”
St Louis PD Burwell
SI Mandel and Pat Forde wrote essentially the same article. Mandel took Bill Self. Forde took Billy Donovan.
TCJ: Topeka's McGrath awaits career move at UNC
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LJW KU WBB vs Tennessee photos
Nothing came easily for Kansas University’s women’s basketball team this season.
The Jayhawks’ trip to the Sweet 16 was no different.
After seeing one of its top players unexpectedly transfer in December and its All-Big 12 forward suffer a season-ending ACL injury in February, KU rode junior point guard Angel Goodrich to some March Madness magic before Tennessee derailed the No. 11 seed’s roller-coaster season with an 84-73 victory Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our resiliency and our toughness,” Jayhawks coach Bonnie Henrickson said after tying the program’s deepest NCAA Tournament run with its third appearance in a regional semifinal.
That grit was on display throughout the first half, when KU (21-13) led by as many as 14 points, with everything clicking.
Goodrich (game-highs of 23 points and six assists) was her usual do-it-all self, but her teammates matched her flamboyance and productivity in the early going.
Freshman forward Chelsea Gardner, who only became a starter after junior Carolyn Davis tore her ACL, scored eight of KU’s first 10 points. Freshman guard Natalie Knight scored on a fast-break layup. Senior forward Aishah Sutherland, who had missed her first three shots, confidently drilled a baseline jumper. Goodrich scored seven straight points, and following a three from the left corner by sophomore forward Tania Jackson and a smooth reverse layup by Sutherland, Kansas had built a 26-12 lead on the No. 2-seed Volunteers (27-8).
Said Gardner, who finished with 14 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds: “The first couple minutes of the game, we came out with a lot of energy on defense and offense and were hitting a lot of shots.”
…Losing sophomore guard Keena Mays to transfer was one thing, but having Davis miss the final 10 games of the year could have been devastating.
Once that happened, Henrickson said her team regrouped as best it could.
“We just went around the circle and asked everybody to do a little bit more,” the coach said. “I know it seems crazy at that point to ask Angel Goodrich to do more, but we did. And she did. And she gave us more, and Aishah gave us more, and they all gave us more.”
Sutherland closed her KU career with 19 points and eight boards in the season-ending loss. Every other Jayhawk who played in the Sweet 16 game — Goodrich, Gardner, Knight, Jackson, sophomore guard CeCe Harper and junior guard Monica Engelman — should be back next season. The same goes for Davis and freshmen Asia Boyd and Bunny Williams, who didn’t play Saturday.
The year they just went through, Henrickson hoped, would provide an important lesson.
“When life gets tough,” she said, “you’ve got to suck it up and keep working.”
Scott Drew admitted to a little larceny after the game, saying that the few minutes of triangle-and-2 defense Baylor used to help slow Xavier’s superb backcourt of Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons was taken from its rival Kansas. “They used it a little bit this year,” he said. “We practiced it, and it was O.K., and that’s why we threw it out there today.”
The future of Boynton and freshman guard Bradley Beal remain uncertain. Both said the Elite Eight loss won't impact their decision whether to come back or enter the NBA Draft. Beal is projected by most NBA mock draft websites as a lottery pick, while Boynton isn't projected to go in the draft's two rounds.
”I don't have an answer right now,” Boynton said. “Right now, I'm just trying to get over this loss. I'm not thinking of the future right now.”
Said Beal: “I'm not really focusing on next year right now. I'm still just affected by this loss right now. I want to bond with the team. We had a tough loss.”