Here's a mash-up of stuff to hopefully get you, and me, caught up on Jayhawk News and Notes!
Standing in a hallway inside Allen Fieldhouse, Kansas coach Bill Self looked around for a good way to further describe a player he had already said was “different than anybody you’ve ever seen.”
“I think he can take one bounce and go from here to the restroom and back,” Self said, motioning toward an entrance about a half court away.
It’s clear that player, UNLV sophomore Christian Wood, has the Jayhawks’ full attention heading into the teams’ meeting here on Sunday. The game tips at 1:30 p.m. Las Vegas time and will air on CBS.
Wood has been putting up numbers all season — his eight double-doubles rank fifth in the country — but other than the second half at Temple it didn’t feel like he had really tapped into his lanky potential. That changed last week in the Rebels’ upset of Arizona and continued Wednesday at Wyoming, where Wood scored the team’s first 19 points in a 76-71 loss.
Over the last three games Wood is averaging 25 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. UNLV coach Dave Rice credits a lot of it to a renewed focus from the sophomore who’s averaging three times as many points (15.7 ppg) and rebounds (9.8 rpg) as he did as a reserve last season.
“He’s playing like a guy who is a high-level talent, who’s worked hard and who’s taken the experience early in his career and become a more complete player,” Rice said. “We need Chris to keep playing at that level.”
Las Vegas Sun
Bill Self talks about the ceiling and how every college basketball coach understands where that surface exists for his team each season, that it’s his job to lift players as close to it as possible.
Self has taken it a step further most years.
He lifts teams straight through the plaster and onto the roof.
You don’t hear his name mentioned as much as others nationally, as Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari or Rick Pitino or Roy Williams. That’s a shame. Self has more than earned a seat at the table of legends.
When you are one of the most successful branches on a Kansas coaching tree that includes the guy who invented the game (James Naismith) and the one for whom your school’s famed fieldhouse is named (Phog Allen), yours is a resume worthy of rivaling any.
It’s just not that Self wins. It’s when he does — those years when no one expects Kansas to reach the coffee table, never mind the ceiling.
Consider: The Jayhawks didn’t return a starter in 2013-14 but won 25 games, a 10th straight Big 12 regular-season title and were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2011-12, Kansas returned just one starter, lost seven regulars from the previous season and advanced to the national championship game.
In 2010-11, it had lost three players to the NBA the previous season and still made the Elite Eight.
“When you have a program that is used to winning, people don’t understand, and nor should they, that faces change,” Self said. “Common sense and logic would then say that if faces change, so should expectations. But they aren’t going to change here, and they’re not going to change at Duke or North Carolina or Kentucky or Louisville. If you wear the uniform here, we expect you to be good.
“I like that part. It puts subtle pressure on people to maybe work a little harder, focus a little more, be a little more committed. You can’t worry about what everyone else thinks.”
Pay heed, all who enter: Beware of The Phog.
This is the hand-painted sign that hangs on a wall behind the five national championship banners, which hang from rafters that include ones documenting an NCAA record 57 regular-season conference titles, which lead your eyes around the historic barn to the south wall, where jerseys are hung to honor former greats.
One is for No. 13.
Welcome to the birthplace of basketball, to the game’s most sacred slab of hardwood, to a 16,300-seat venue that is louder on game days than your average heavy metal concert.
“I really believe this from the bottom of my soul,” former Kansas coach Roy Williams told reporters in October. “It’s the greatest home-court advantage in college basketball and maybe in any sport, whatsoever.”
UNLV will experience firsthand today what it’s like to play the No. 13 Jayhawks in storied Allen Fieldhouse, ending nonconference play with a 1:30 p.m. PST tipoff on CBS.
It’s a fairly daunting challenge, given Kansas under coach Bill Self is 175-9 at home.
Nine losses in 12 years.
“It’s a really cool place, obviously,” UNLV senior point guard Cody Doolin said after the team’s practice Saturday. “It was cool walking in and seeing the banners and the retired jerseys and all the history. It’s the No. 1 destination for all college basketball players, just wanting to play a game here. It is something we will tell our kids about one day. But we’re focused. We’re here to win a basketball game. We’re going to have to play our best game to beat them.
“Win or lose, this is going to be a great experience for our team coming into a place like this. It doesn’t get any tougher than this, so it will prepare us for the rest of our season.”
The Jayhawk is everywhere, and so respected that Kansas players are not allowed to step on its image in their locker room. The mascot has been invited to weddings of fans and even some funerals, which is just north of creepy when you think about a student dressed in a bird costume bowing his head in prayer while standing next to a grieving family.
I’m assuming all such eulogies conclude, “Amen, and Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk, K-U.”
The fieldhouse is named for Forrest “Phog” Allen, the father of basketball, who helped create the NCAA Tournament and came to Kansas in 1904 to play for James Naismith.
The guy who invented basketball.
Who, by the way, is the only one of eight coaches in Kansas history to produce a sub-.500 record.
It must have been tough getting shots to fall in those peach baskets.
Allen Fieldhouse celebrated its 60th birthday in October, six decades after it cost $2.7 million to build (which would translate to $22 million today) and a red scoreboard was erected in which the eye of the Jayhawk blinked every time Kansas scored. Construction is underway on a 32,000-square-foot facility that will be connected to the fieldhouse and permanently house Naismith’s original 13 Rules of Basketball.
At its start, the fieldhouse had metal hooks for a locker room, and a dirt running track surrounded the basketball court. Adolph Rupp played for Allen at Kansas. So did Dean Smith.
“It is everything they say it is,” said UNLV coach Dave Rice, who was an assistant with the Rebels when they lost here as part of the preseason National Invitation Tournament in 1997. “For someone like me, a basketball traditionalist and historian, to walk into Allen Fieldhouse and think this is where the game started, from James Naismith to Phog Allen and all the things linked to Kansas basketball, all the great players who were here and who played against Kansas here, it’s a great experience.
“It’s one of the reasons we want to play this type of game. We have to pay our respects to the game we play. It doesn’t hold the significance of taking our team to somewhere like the 9-11 Memorial, which we did in New York this season, but from an athletic standpoint, this is a great place. It’s also the loudest place I’ve been. It gets going in here, a great environment for college basketball. We know the challenge.”
It gets going because Kansas has sold out 217 straight games, because the way for students to get tickets is through a lottery system that requires someone from every camping group to remain in Allen Fieldhouse from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day before the next home game. Roll is called throughout the day, and if your representative left, your group loses its place in line. There are official camping rules and everything.
It gets going because this place is absolutely crazy for anything Jayhawk.
Think about it: The bird has been invited to funerals.
The greatest home-court advantage in college basketball?
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Stating subjectivity objectively is silly yet we do it all the time, and only with closer inspection do the claims either hold true or fall unfounded. Here’s an example, and I encourage you to put this one to the test, as some will do this weekend, because I’m prepared to stand by it: There might be equals, but no college basketball venue is better than Kansas’ Allen Fieldhouse.
UNLV travels to No. 13 Kansas on Sunday, the finale of its 16-day stretch highlighted by three top-15 opponents and Wednesday’s trip to Wyoming. The game tips off at 1:30 p.m. Las Vegas time and will air on CBS.
Kansas is my alma mater, so there’s some obvious bias, but unlike most alumni I know I’m not much of a Jayhawks basketball fan. My relationship is more like an appreciation, and most of that stems from the feeling inside the place Kansas has called home since 1955.
There are plenty of tangible reasons for this. The student routines during pregame and free throws are usually entertaining, the pregame video is one of the best in the business and the place just gets freaking loud.
Much like North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center, where UNLV played in 2012, the banners also add to the Fieldhouse aesthetic. They’re simple, mostly blue and white, and voluminous. The only one that breaks the font mold hangs above the five national championship banners and cautions, Pay Heed, All Who Enter: Beware of the “Phog”.
The building is named for Forrest “Phog” Allen, the second and fourth coach in Kansas history. His statue stands outside the front entrance, a short walk away from the currently under construction DeBruce Center, which, among other things, will house James Naismith’s original rules of basketball. It’s almost impossible to attend even a routine Kansas game without feeling the game’s history around you.
Obviously the teams make the building great, but it feels like some of the opposite has happened, too. A game at Allen Fieldhouse is a bucket list item for some people, so there’s an enjoyment inherent in being one of the 16,300 in the building that night.
The feeling is not entirely unique to Kansas. Think about the best environments over the years at the Thomas & Mack Center, or at San Diego State’s Viejas Arena or The Pit at New Mexico. The peak moments provide a similar rush, it just comes more consistently at a place like the Fieldhouse.
In simple terms, it means the dead games are less dead and the classics are all-timers. The most electric the place ever felt to me was the hour leading up to what turned out to be a dud of a game.
In the 2008-09 season, Kansas lost at Missouri on a buzzer beater. When the Border War came to Lawrence a few weeks later featuring two top-15 teams the crowd was more hyped than usual and the Jayhawks raced out to a 45-19 halftime lead in an easy victory.
That game is commemorated on a panoramic poster that’s still sold around town; UNLV has a version just like it. Sitting courtside in the middle of that KU poster are two college students, Sun reporters Case Keefer and myself.
Whether we get a good game or not, I’m thrilled to come back here and feel the pulse inside that gym again. Even better to do it alongside Keefer, whom I first met in Allen Fieldhouse nearly eight years ago.
Again, obviously I have some bias based on personal history. I encourage you to create a little of your own history with the place and judge for yourself.
The Jayhawks had won 68 straight nonconference games in the Fieldhouse before San Diego State pulled the upset a year ago. That plus Kansas’ recent loss to Temple, which UNLV beat in New York City, give the Rebels hope.
My hope is that any UNLV fans who are making the trip get to the game early and really embrace the environment. I can’t guarantee you’ll like the outcome but the experience is second to none.
Las Vegas Sun Taylor Bern
UNLV at No. 13 Kansas, 4:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, CBS: The Runnin' Rebels didn't handle success well after they defeated Arizona two days before Christmas. On Wednesday, they lost to Wyoming despite making 48 percent of their 3-point attempts. But their offense was essentially the Rashad Vaughn-Christian Wood Show (17-for-28 combined). If those two get hot, there could be trouble in Lawrence, Kansas. But Perry Ellis, Cliff Alexander and Jamari Traylor will pressure Wood and Frank Mason, and Wayne Selden Jr. will harass Vaughn. They're UNLV's only consistent weapons on offense (172nd in adjusted efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy). This will be a good win for a Kansas team that needs momentum as it prepares to enter a tough Big 12.
Prediction: Kansas 67, UNLV 62