KC Star Photos
When the NCAA tournament bracket came out, eyes were drawn to the Des Moines Regional with the possibility of having both Griner and Delle Donne -- who are many folks' 1 and 1A candidates for player of the year -- at the same site. But …
Instead, Griner and the Lady Bears will be in Iowa this weekend, along with a team they are far more familiar with than Delaware. Fellow Big 12 squad Kansas, the No. 11 seed, pulled its second upset in a row Tuesday, beating the No. 3 seed Blue Hens 70-64 in Little Rock, Ark.
KU's victory means two No. 11 seeds will be in the Sweet 16, as Gonzaga -- which upset 6-seed Rutgers and No. 3 seed Miami -- will be headed to the Kingston Regional. The Zags did have the advantage of playing at home in their first- and second-round games. Kansas did not. But the Jayhawks will be only about a 3½-hour drive from their Lawrence campus when they take on second-seeded Tennessee on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena in Iowa's capital city.
It's the Jayhawks' first trip to the Sweet 16 since 1998, when KU was the No. 5 seed and upset No. 4 Iowa on the Hawkeyes' home court in the second round. They advanced to the regional in Oakland, Calif., where they lost to Arkansas, which eventually went on to the Final Four that year in Kansas City.
…The Jayhawks fell short of an NCAA bid in Henrickson's first seven seasons, and when star Carolyn Davis was lost to a knee injury in February, it looked bleak for the Jayhawks to make it this year. But they received an at-large bid and have made the selection committee look pretty smart for doing that.
Sunday, KU upset former Big 12 team Nebraska, the No. 6 seed, behind 20 points from point guard Angel Goodrich. Tuesday, Goodrich continued her breakout stardom with 27 points and six assists against Delaware. Delle Donne, the nation's leading scorer, had 34 points and 10 rebounds, but seemed to wear down in the final 10 minutes of the game as KU threw several bodies at her on defense.
So there will be no Delle Donne versus Tennessee matchup Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa. Instead, the Jayhawks will face off with the Lady Vols. KU met Tennessee in a previous Sweet 16, way back in 1996 when Tamecka Dixon was a junior star for the Jayhawks and Chamique Holdsclaw a freshman sensation for the Lady Vols. Tennessee won that game on its way to the NCAA title that year.
With KU's unexpected advancement to the regional semifinals, the Big 12 has three teams into the Sweet 16. So does the ACC, the Big East and the SEC. The Pac-12, Atlantic 10, Big Ten and West Coast Conference have one each.
…(11) Kansas vs. (2) Tennessee (ESPN/ESPN3, noon ET Saturday): Both teams relied on defense to get them through their first two NCAA tournament games. KU had good matchups against Nebraska and Delaware, but that won't be the case against Tennessee. The Lady Vols have too many potential weapons. But considering how gutsy the Jayhawks have played so far, Tennessee can't afford to let them hang around.
Delaware’s Elena Delle Donne came in with all the hype, but Kansas University junior point guard Angel Goodrich stole the show and sent an All-American home Tuesday night at Jack Stephens Center.
Too compact and explosive off the dribble to be slowed down by the Blue Hens’ defense, the Jayhawks’ 5-foot-4 captain from Tahlequah, Okla., engineered her team’s second straight NCAA Tournament upset, leading the Kansas women’s basketball team to a 70-64 victory and a spot in the Sweet 16.
Cool and calm throughout the second-round victory, Goodrich saw the offensive end with absolute clarity, reading the defense and punishing the Blue Hens for whatever openings they allowed her, whether that be a driving lane, a passing angle or an open three-pointer.
Goodrich went 12-for-21 from the field with 27 points, three three-pointers and six assists. That was clear to everyone, including the Twitter-verse, where “Angel” was a trending topic. Not that the instant fame impressed Goodrich.
“I didn’t know what trending meant,” she said with a huge smile.
…Next up for Kansas is an 11 a.m. match-up on Saturday with Tennessee in Des Moines, Iowa. The game will be televised on ESPN.
KU’s Angel in the backcourt had the audience she deserved Tuesday, when she treated ESPN2 viewers to her vast array of basketball skills in a 70-64 upset victory against No. 3 Delaware.
…She hit three-pointers. She threaded no-look passes to precise targets. She drove to the hoop and fearlessly kissed shots off the glass as if she were a foot taller. She led ESPN.com and ESPN’s SportsCenter. She handled her postgame interview with Holly Rowe as if she had spent as much time on national TV as Katie Couric. She trended on Twitter. Repeat: Angel Goodrich trended on Twitter.
Angel’s killer smile reached all the way from Little Rock, Ark., to her hometown of Tahlequah, Okla., to right here in Lawrence.
Goodrich arrived at Kansas on the shy side and had to endure surgeries to repair a torn ACL on each knee. And look at her now.
On a night two saints (St. Bonaventure and St. John’s) and an Angel played their way into the Sweet 16, it was Goodrich who captured America’s imagination. Repeat: Angel Goodrich trended on Twitter.
“The best player on the floor has been the littlest: Angel Goodrich,” ESPN color commentator Fran Fraschilla said as Goodrich was driving the Jayhawks all the way to Des Moines.
Goodrich had plenty of help from a Kansas defense that harassed Delle Donne throughout. The Jayhawks swarmed the 6-foot-5 junior, double- and triple-teaming her at times as they did their best to keep her from finding a comfort zone.
Delle Donne finished 9 of 18 from the field, 15 of 18 from the free throw line, and also had 10 rebounds. The effort, however, wasn't enough to overcome a lackluster defensive effort that allowed the Jayhawks to shoot 50 percent (30 of 60) from the field -- 17 of 28 in the second half.
“Defensively, I definitely think we let up a lot,” Delle Donne said.
“Defense has been our whole thing all season, so when that was failing us, that's really why things went wrong tonight.”
Delaware's only other loss this season was to No. 5 Maryland on Dec. 29. The school entered the tournament having never won an NCAA game before its opening-round win over Arkansas-Little Rock, in which Delle Donne scored 39 points in 30 minutes.
Kansas is a bit more of a surprise. The Jayhawks were one of the final teams into the NCAA tournament after losing six of eight to end the regular season. They've made the most of their stay so far. They knocked off former Big 12 rival Nebraska in the opening round and then ousted Elena Delle Donne and third-seed Delaware.
Now the Jayhawks are in the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since 1998.
"When I was in the locker room, I told my teammates to pinch me," junior Aishah Sutherland said.
…So was Grinner's dunk. She's only the second player ever to do it, joining Candace Parker, who did it twice against Army in 2006.
"That wasn't just a barely-over-the-rim type of dunk. That was a monster dunk," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I think Brittney is so conscious of people writing good or bad about the dunk, that she's scared to get excited sometimes and celebrate a dunk, because she's been written about in a negative way. I said, 'Honey, if I could dunk it, I'd do backflips down the floor.'"
No team put together a more complete game in the second round than Connecticut. The Huskies held Kansas State to an NCAA record low 26 points in a 46-point win Monday night.
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The Jayhawks are scheduled to leave Lawrence at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday and travel by bus to St. Louis, with a scheduled arrival of 7:30 p.m. at the team hotel, the Hyatt Regency at the Arch.
KU will conduct its open practice from 3:10-4 p.m. Thursday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Mizzou loyalists won't like reading this, but here goes: Kansas fans will be good for business, at least this weekend.
The Jayhawks faithful will swoop into St. Louis to watch Kansas play North Carolina State on Friday in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional at the Edward Jones Dome. Expect them to be a plurality among the 25,000 or more who will gather at the Dome.
"You clearly see that fans from Kansas are buying about 40 percent of the tickets," said Greg Nortman, chief operating officer of PrimeSport, the official ticket exchange and provider of hospitality packages for the tournament. "But there are some other great markets represented. There's a combination of school/fan demand and local demand."
Sales figures were not available through Ticketmaster, the primary outlet for regional tickets here.
Nortman estimated that fans from Missouri accounted for about 30 percent of the people buying tickets through his website, though he couldn't discern whether they were Kansas fans living in the state or area residents with no allegiance to any of the four teams. Perhaps surprisingly, a big portion of the remaining 30 percent come from the Chicago area, many of them corporate clients.
"St. Louis is a great sports market that people want to visit," he said.
The Dome will be configured for about 40,000 spectators but isn't expected to sell out. The crowd could seem a far cry from the first regional held at the Dome in 1999, which attracted near-capacity audiences in excess of 42,000 for each session. But attendance has dropped since then, part of a national trend, according to Frank Viverito, president of the St. Louis Sports Commission.
Crowds topped 30,000 in 2004, when Kansas played here and lost to Georgia Tech in the final. Attendance was about 27,000 in 2007, when Florida advanced from the regional and won its second successive national championship. About 26,000 saw Michigan State defeat Tennessee in the 2010 regional final.
…Tickets here are available through Ticketmaster in all-session strips only, priced at $117, $150 and $170, which are good for admission to the two games Friday night and the final Sunday. Single-session tickets are unavailable through Ticketmaster now but could go on sale Thursday or Friday.
St Louis PD
The Wolfpack will leave for St. Louis and the Midwest Regional tonight without staging a boisterous pep rally on campus, following the routine for any regular-season road trip.
Semifinal opponent Kansas' stature as a traditional college power, exemplified by the 2008 NCAA title, sounds like fine print to point guard Lorenzo Brown.
"I just want to play, you know?" Brown said of Friday night's game. "I try not to worry about their history and what goes on in the past, just get ready for them."
That means getting ready for 6-10 Thomas Robinson, the nation's No. 2 rebounder and the Jayhawks' leading scorer at nearly 18 points a game.
"I think Thomas Robinson is their key guy," Brown said.
"Their guards are pretty good, but I think keeping Thomas out of the game would be the key to winning."
The primary task naturally falls to C.J. Leslie, the explosive State power forward. Gottfried considers them different stylistically, with Robinson flexing his strength and Leslie flashing his first-step burst.
"That's going to be a great matchup: his power and my quickness," Leslie said. "Our team's going to have to know where he is all the time. The main thing for me is trying to get to the rim and scoring. That's my main goal, maybe take him a couple of feet out away from the basket, make a move and go from there."
…In some ways, guards Taylor and Johnson impress Gottfried even more.
"They can get baskets," he said. "They get them at key times. They both can take the ball off the dribble and score. They're a very talented team that knows how to win, so we have to convincingly beat them. We've just got to go in there and play well and not expect them to give us the game. That's not going to happen. We've got to win."
The number that's just as scary is 116. That's how many blocks 7-foot center Jeff Withey has. Consider for a moment that North Carolina's John Henson, who has been a dominant defensive force against the Wolfpack several times in his career, has only 98 blocks this season.
Paired together, Robinson and Withey form an intimidating tandem.
"We're playing against a frontline, especially the two guys that are probably very similar to North Carolina in (Tyler) Zeller and Henson," Gottfried said. "Size and length around the rim. We have to do a nice job of being smart, we've talked about that before, in how we attack them inside."
…Foul trouble has hurt the Wolfpack's inside players late in the season, but a message written on the dry-erase board in N.C. State's locker room at the ACC tournament revealed Gottfried's approach.
"THEY GOTTA GUARD US TOO, PAL!"
Richard Howell and C.J. Leslie have struggled to stay on the court, but when they do, the Wolfpack can play with anybody. By Leslie's recent standards, he's had two decent games in the NCAA tournament, averaging 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 34.5 minutes. Howell has finished with four fouls in each of the last five games, but he stayed out of trouble during a dominant first half against San Diego State and totaled 22 points on 10-for-12 shooting. He had nine points and nine rebounds in the next round against Georgetown. The Wolfpack's inside-out attack pushed Hoyas center Henry Sims, the team's assists leader, into early foul trouble and helped N.C. State spring the upset.
But Robinson, who leads Kansas in scoring at 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, hasn’t become one of the nation’s most decorated players — he was chosen to the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-America team Tuesday — solely on his points and boards.
Without either of Robinson’s two huge defensive moments in the final 3 minutes, Kansas likely wouldn’t have won.
Purdue point guard Lewis Jackson thought he had a clear path to the basket when Robinson swatted the ball from behind. Kansas controlled the ball, and 10 seconds later Elijah Johnson buried a three-pointer that gave the Jayhawks their first lead.
With KU ahead 61-60, Purdue ran a play for Robbie Hummel, whose torrid shooting pace in the game’s opening moments forced Kansas to shift Robinson off Hummel, the Boilermakers’ 6-8 shooting guard.
Hummel’s 22 first-half points were nearly more than the entire Jayhawks’ squad, and he was sitting on 26 when he curled for what appeared to be a good look at a three-pointer with 8 seconds left. But Robinson closed quickly to bother the shot.
KU assistant coach Danny Manning said he’s seen that effort all season from Robinson.
“He’s an effort-and-energy guy first, and everything else falls into place from there,” Manning said.
Then, look at the entire box score. Yes, 2 for 12 shooting. But also 11 points because Robinson got to the line 11 times and made seven. He pulled down 13 rebounds, and the Jayhawks’ dominance of the boards helped the margin from growing larger during Purdue’s lead during the first 37 minutes.
The double-double was Robinson’s 25th of the season, which leads the nation and tied a school record.
Even his poor days have been productive.
The Jayhawks could ask themselves some deep existential questions after surviving such a close call, but really, what’s the point? They are going to the Sweet 16, and they haven’t spent much time rehashing how they got there.
“I think if you follow the NCAA Tournament, the whole idea is to advance and win,” coach Bill Self said Tuesday. “I thought we made some unbelievable plays down the stretch to put us in that position.
“I thought Purdue played very well and we shot it miserably. I don’t want to say ‘relieved’ because that happened two days ago. Our focus is moving forward.”
…“They made harder shots than we missed,” Self said.
One play – Tyshawn Taylor’s breakaway dunk in the closing seconds – did warrant further examination. Taylor could have dribbled time off the clock, possibly preventing Purdue from attempting a game-tying 3-pointer, but he opted for the easy points instead.
The dunk was the right play, Taylor said, though ideally he would have taken his time.
“Coach Self said maybe he thought I could have taken more time to dunk it, but he said that I have to get those points,” Taylor said. “If I dribble it out and get fouled, maybe miss one or two of those free throws, it’s the difference between 2.8 seconds and like 1.5. They could have gotten the same exact look they got at the end of the game.”
Taylor, who has missed a few untimely free throws this season, also saw no point in tempting fate.
“I’m not going to lie: I didn’t want to be at the free throw line right there,” he said.
In the late stages of the first half against Purdue, Kansas coach Bill Self implemented a defensive change that helped his team win the game.
Self knew going in that Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey didn’t match up well with Purdue forward Robbie Hummel, a 6-foot-8 outside shooting threat. Hummel quickly made Self prophetic, scoring eight points in four minutes and forcing Self to pull Robinson off him.
Self tried Kevin Young, Travis Releford and Elijah Johnson. Hummel answered with 13 points in eight minutes.
So late in the half, Self raised the idea of using a triangle-and-two defense.
According to Tyshawn Taylor, Self asked, “Do you think we should go to this?” Taylor responded: “I don’t know if it’s going to be worse than what we’re playing defensively now anyway.”
Self’s move paid off as KU used the triangle-and-two for roughly 10 minutes in the second half, limiting Hummel and allowing the Jayhawks to stage a late comeback.
“I like seeing coach Self get in not necessarily a contest but seeing him outcoach other coaches or pull something out of his sleeve,” Johnson said before the Purdue game. “I enjoy that.”
…Taylor said Self decided to go to the defense against Purdue during the final media timeout of the first half.
“I think they scored five or six points out of it,” Taylor said, “but the shots they made were shots that we wanted them to take in the triangle-and-two. They just ended up making them.”
…“When we went into it, their motion (offense) wasn’t as effective and Robbie wasn’t as effective because so many guys were helping on him,” Taylor said. “It won us the game.”
“We pretty much approach everything in terms of character. I approached it in a good character way,” Johnson said Tuesday, referring to the shot that erased a 56-54 deficit with 3:04 to play — handing KU its first lead of the game. “I was in a good mood no matter what. I was having fun. I was doing what I love to do. Why not take the shot? It was icing on the cake if you ask me,” the 6-foot-4 junior from Las Vegas added.
His trey came early in the shot clock.
“Coach (Bill Self) always talks to us about, ‘Players make big-time plays,’ and trying to make them,” said Johnson, whose steal and breakaway layup put KU ahead for good, 61-60, with 23 ticks left, Purdue actually regaining the lead after his huge three.
“I wasn’t paying attention to the clock. There’s time to play to the clock and time to just play. That was time to just play.”
…Johnson grinned when asked what Self said to him while watching a replay of the shot during Monday’s film session.
“Coach didn’t say, ‘Elijah you’ve got to shoot that shot from now on, shoot it no matter where you catch it.’ That wasn’t the point. He just said it was a big-time shot. I think he liked that,” Johnson said.
Self said Johnson, “did rise up and make a deep three when basically it wasn’t game-point, but close to game-point. It was a big-time play because, for a guy who hadn’t shot it well — I think he was 2-for-7 going into that shot (from three) — that’s usually not a shot a guy takes unless he has great confidence. He certainly has great confidence right now.
“Everybody’s been on him all year to be more aggressive. He’s been terrific the last three games. He’s played his tail off,” Self added.
Johnson has been a mystery for much of the season. He played 36 games as a sophomore last season, starting six, and many expected a breakout year from him this season as a starter.
Instead, his 3-point percentage plummeted from 40 percent to just better than 33 percent, and he went through wild bouts of inconsistency. He scored 23 points against UCLA, then got shut out in 27 minutes against Florida International two games later. He went 16 games without scoring more than a dozen points.
All the while, Self has stood staunchly in his corner. The ever-optimistic coach kept reminding people that Johnson has one of the best jump shots he has seen, and it was just a matter of the ball finally going in. Self said it was inevitable, and he just hoped that it would happen when the Jayhawks needed it the most.
"He's played better than his numbers; he just hasn't shot the ball consistently," Self said. "He was under 30 percent for the season from 3s, just until two or three weeks ago."
That's when things clicked.
Johnson hit five 3-pointers and totaled a career-high 26 points against Texas A&M in the opening game of the Big 12 tournament. The junior guard followed up with 15 points in a losing effort against Baylor in the tournament semifinals.
He had 15 more against Detroit in the Jayhawks' NCAA Tournament opener and 18 against the Boilermakers.
For the season, Johnson has averaged 9.6 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
"Now he has rhythm. His confidence seems higher," Self said. "I don't know if there is anything specifically, other than the fact that maybe he's realized he's talented. He's a good guard. I would say he was our best player in Omaha when you think of both games."
It's a bit of vindication for Johnson, too.
He knows that when Robinson and Taylor depart, it will be his turn to lead the team. And he understands it's better to assume a leadership role now than be forced into it later.
"I always keep saying, 'Without Tyshawn, we wouldn't be this far.' That's obvious," Robinson said in a crowded locker room in Omaha, minutes after Johnson's heroics. "But without Elijah, this tournament wouldn't be going the way it's going. He's been playing amazing."
Naadir Tharpe was on the bench — or more like on the edge of it — watching the final frenetic seconds of his University of Kansas team’s NCAA tournament game against Purdue Sunday night.
The Jayhawks trailed the Boilermakers for 37 minutes and were down, 60-59, with 26 seconds left when junior Elijah Johnson made a steal and raced toward the basket for a go-ahead-for-good layup that sent Kansas to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year.
“I was definitely nervous,” Tharpe, a Worcester native, said during a telephone interview Monday afternoon from Lawrence, Kan., “but we always find a way to come out with a win. That’s what we did (Sunday night). We just grinded it out and stayed together.”
For Tharpe, who was a two-season sensation at St. Peter-Marian High before honing his skills for three years at Brewster Academy, it has been an exciting, enlightening and educational freshman season at KU.
…“I had the chance to be out there playing (in the NCAA games) and that’s just a great feeling,” Tharpe said.
“My first year of playing college basketball has been great,” he added. “I’ve learned a lot more about the game, I’ve learned from Coach (Bill) Self, and I just feel like the most important thing for me is to keep working hard. I just have to make sure I keep playing with confidence and keep playing better.”
Tharpe scored 1,000 points in two seasons at SPM before transferring to Brewster in Wolfeboro, N.H. He led the Bobcats to a national prep school championship while developing into a highly-regarded national talent and one of the premier players in the Northeast. He committed to Kansas in the fall of 2010.
At Kansas, Tharpe was reunited with junior forward Thomas Robinson, his Brewster Academy teammate for one season.
“I came to this school because of its history,” Tharpe said. “I knew they had great players and always go to the NCAA tournament and always make some noise. But the thing we have this year is a little different. We’re different because we don’t have a lot of superstars on this team. Everybody knows the part they have to play and what they have to do and we just put it together.”
The Jayhawks have won 29 games and Tharpe has enjoyed the community-wide embrace of Lawrence — “People out here love us,” he said — as well as the ear-splitting energy inside Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks’ home court.
“The adrenaline rush you get in there — there is no place better to play,” Tharpe said. “The noise gets us going and the crowd is with us the whole game. On Senior Night, after the game (a 73-63 win over Texas), it was packed like we were still playing the game. The whole building stayed. That just shows how much love they have for us.”
Worcerster Telegram & Gazette
Gottfried, whose father Joe coached at Southern Illinois Carbondale from 1978 to 1981, had been out of coaching since 2009, when he stepped down from the job at his alma mater, Alabama, in his 11th season there after three seasons at Murray State. In the meantime, he had been doing work for ESPN.
When N.C. State didn't convince any of the big-name coaches to leave where they were and come to Raleigh, the school turned to Gottfried. On Tobacco Road, playing in the shadows of North Carolina and Duke, there really isn't much time to rebuild and Gottfried fell back on his first coaching job, as a graduate assistant at UCLA starting in 1988.
"UCLA had missed the tournament five of the previous seven years," Gottfried said. "It was a very similar situation in that you've got great tradition, history, fan base, people want you to win. They expect you to win, yet they weren't winning. … So, when I got to N.C. State, it was very similar to me. You've got a program that's been to three Final Fours, two national championships. You've got a hungry fan base. But it's just convincing everybody that we can win. And we still have to do that as we go forward.
"One thing that was nice, we inherited a group of guys that had the potential to get better. It was getting those guys to really buy into what we were selling, our system, every day, and I think that happened."
Junior forward Richard Howell said he didn't know what to expect, but added, "I am grateful for the situation that Coach Gottfried came in. I feel like it's a blessing. The amount of confidence that he has in us is unbelievable. And I feel like that's why we're so good and we're playing together as a team. It's a lot more discipline."
St Louis PD
North Carolina State guard Scott Wood compared his teammate Richard Howell to Carmelo Anthony. Wolfpack point guard Lorenzo Brown compared Howell to a bully.
N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried is OK with any comparison for the junior power forward, just as long as Howell can stay in the game and off the bench with foul trouble.
Facing a Kansas frontline featuring All-American forward Thomas Robinson and 7-footer Jeff Withey, the Wolfpack is going to need another strong outing from Howell Friday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis.
…Howell exploded for 22 points in the Pack's second-round win over a smaller San Diego State lineup. He made 10 of his 12 shots, mostly a variety of 15-foot jumpers, prompting Wood to compare Howell to Anthony, the quintessential scoring small forward and New York Knicks star.
Howell filled his usual blue-collar role in Sunday's third-round win over Georgetown with a game-best nine rebounds and nine points.
With soft hands, a wide body and high basketball IQ, Howell finds his way to loose rebounds. In ACC play, he was third in the league with 8.7 rebounds per game, despite being listed at 6-8, only on a "good day," according to his coach.
"He has learned how to use his body and how to get great position," Gottfried said. "And he has great hands."
The biggest issue for Howell this season has not been his size, or his ability to show off his mid-range game. It has been staying out of foul trouble.
…Coming out of high school in Marietta, Ga., Howell wanted to be scoring forward like Anthony, his favorite player.
"I got here and turned into Dennis Rodman," Howell said. "It's all cool."
As good as they have been the last three weeks; the Wolfpack's run will end with Jayhawks. I continue to chuckle at the suggestion that KU is not deep enough to make a run at the National Championship. What a bunch of nonsense! Depth in the NCAA Tournament is way overrated! NC State gets 82 percent of its scoring from its starters. KU's starting five are as talented as any team in America and more talented than NC State. For the Wolfpack, C.J. Leslie has been the star for last 10 games averaging 18 points and seven rebounds. In Lawrence, they call those numbers a bad game for T-Rob! I believe that Leslie will have a tremendous struggle matching up with either Thomas Robinson and/or Jeff Withey on both ends of the floor. That will be key, because if you don't have to help down on Leslie, Elijah Johnson can stay in front of NC State's point guard Lorenzo Brown (who has been spectacular in the last two outings – averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists) and stay out on Scott Wood (when Wood has 4 or more 3-pointers, NCSU is 10-0).
I think that Kansas wins this game, and wins it big! Remove Kendall Marshall from UNC and Kansas will be playing the winner of Baylor and Kentucky for the National Championship!
Thomas Robinson averages 28 points/12 rebounds against NC State/North Carolina -- I still have Kansas in New Orleans. The Jayhawks didn’t look great against Purdue in the round of 32, but going to St. Louis and the Edward Jones Dome will feel like home with the numerous Kansas fans that will flood that facility. But environment alone can’t affect this outcome. The Jayhawks will need the best Robinson can give to get past NC State (a Sweet 16 sleeper that could pull off the upset) and North Carolina, even if the latter doesn’t have Kendall Marshall. And I believe Robinson will put together a string of performances that will define his career at Kansas. He’ll average 28.0 points and 12 rebounds. He recorded only 16/13 and 11/13 in wins over Detroit and Purdue. That won’t get the job done in the Sweet 16. Robinson will step up and take the Jayhawks to New Orleans with the kind of outings that are expected from national player of the year candidates in March.
ESPN Myron Medcalf Six Bold Sweet 16 Predictions
There is a certain level of pressure for all coaches and programs. For some, it's self-induced. For others, it comes from a passionate fan base. Some programs need to reach the Final Four for the season to be considered a success. Some do not.
With that being said, here is our Final Four pressure-meter (1 feels the least amount of pressure and 10 feels the most):
Kansas (9): The Jayhawks have two of the top players at their positions in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Kansas expects to compete for conference and national titles, regardless of personnel, every season. And while Bill Self had to deal with rotation players not being eligible, including top newcomer Ben McLemore, the Jayhawks still won the Big 12 regular-season title for the eighth straight time. Kansas survived against Purdue, but had it not been for a guard meltdown the Jayhawks may be idle right now. Instead, they have new life in the Midwest, thanks to NC State's Sweet 16 run and North Carolina potentially being without Kendall Marshall in the Elite Eight (if the Tar Heels get past Ohio). The pressure has ratcheted up for the Jayhawks. If Marshall is out for this weekend in St. Louis, the Jayhawks are the new favorites in the Midwest.
NC State (2): The Wolfpack have far exceeded expectations under Mark Gottfried. NC State was the last team revealed on Selection Sunday. It had to be one of the last teams in the field prior to the four at-large teams that played in the First Four. NC State lost a 19-point lead at Duke, and the Wolfpack couldn't close out UNC in the ACC tournament. But they grinded out wins over San Diego State and Georgetown in their first two games of the tournament. This program has had low expectations for years. The Final Four would be gravy on what has already been deemed a highly successful season. The Wolfpack draw Kansas and if they somehow get past KU (not improbable), they could face a rematch with UNC. One can only imagine the scene in Raleigh if NC State, and not UNC, made the Final Four.
ESPN Andy Katz
N.C. State Wolfpack (11)
Next game: N.C. State vs. Kansas (2), Friday, 10:17 p.m. ET.
How they got here: def. No. 6 seed San Diego State, 79-65; def. No. 3 seed Georgetown, 66-63.
Potential show-stealer: Forward Richard Howell is often overlooked, but he scored a team-high 22 points on 10-of-12 shooting to lead N.C. State over San Diego State in the second round. He also paces the Wolfpack with an average of 9.1 rebounds per game. His strength in the paint area was evident in N.C. State's victory over Georgetown when he gathered a game-high nine rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
Why they're Final Four-bound: N.C. State has been streaking for the past seven games, winning six during the stretch with the lone loss coming by two points to North Carolina in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. Forward C.J. Lesiie, who averages a team-high 14.6 points per game, provides a consistent scoring presence. And guard Lorenzo Brown is an effective ball distributor, boasting a team-high average of 6.4 assists per game. The Wolfpack are riding late-season momentum, and they proved against vulnerable Georgetown in the Round of 32 that they are capable of springing an upset against a high seed.
Why they'll stumble: First-year coach Mark Gottfried has done a commendable job in returning N.C. State to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. Still, March inexperience could prove to be a major negative when playing a tested team like Kansas. Few expected the Wolfpack to advance to their first Sweet 16 since 2005. But they must guard against letting the large stage overwhelm them.
Prediction: N.C. State will take positives from two victories in Columbus, Ohio, last week. But Kansas is too good with too much NCAA tournament experience for the Wolfpack's ride to continue beyond Friday. However, Mark Gottfried can use this Sweet 16 appearance as a tool to build for the future.
Kansas Jayhawks (2)
Next game: Kansas vs. N.C. State (11), Friday, 10:17 p.m. ET.
How they got here: def. No. 15 seed Detroit, 65-50; def. No. 10 seed Purdue, 63-60.
Potential show-stealer: Thomas Robinson attracts attention, but guard Tyshawn Taylor is the player who makes Kansas' offense run. The erratic, but dynamic ball-handler leads the Jayhawks with an average of 4.7 assists per game. Without him, Kansas would not have won its eighth consecutive Big 12 regular-season title.
Why they're Final Four-bound: Kansas escaped a mid-major trap (Detroit) and a big-conference scare (Purdue) in Omaha, Neb., but it looks poised to advance to its first Final Four since 2008 because of Bill Self's skillful job this winter. This is far from the most complete squad Self has led during his nine seasons in Lawrence. But with Kendall Marshall's status in question for North Carolina, Kansas arrives in St. Louis as the Midwest Region's favorite. Look for Robinson to play stronger than he did in an 11-point, 13-rebound performance against Purdue on Sunday.
Why they'll stumble: Purdue forward Robbie Hummel almost beat Kansas with a hot touch from the outside, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range in scoring a game-high 26 points. The Jayhawks must defend the perimeter and trust national player of the year candidate Thomas Robinson to assert his strength in the paint area. If they don't, another Final Four opportunity will elude Bill Self.
Prediction: Kansas has beat expectations all season, and there is little reason to think the Jayhawks' consistency can't continue. North Carolina will provide a difficult test in the Elite Eight. But if Marshall does not play, Bill Self's team has the depth to keep its season alive. A pro-Kansas crowd at the Edward Jones Dome also should help the Jayhawks advance to their second Final Four under Self.
St. Louis pregame party: The KU Alumni Association and Kansas Athletics/Williams Education Fund will host a pregame party from 3-6 p.m. Friday at Morgan Street Brewery, 721 N. Second St. in Laclede's Landing. A pep rally featuring the KU band, spirit squad and mascots will begin at 5:40 p.m. The party will include a cash bar and food available for purchase, concession stand, merchandise from KUStore.com and lots of KU giveaways.
The KU Alumni Association has official watch sites throughout the country. Click here to find a place to watch the games with fellow Jayhawks.
KU Alumni Hawks & Hoops Blog
Riverfront Times: Good eats in St Louis
Big 12/College News
CBS Viewers Guide: Enter your zip, finds channels/schedule for games
TV/Announcer schedule for the Sweet 16
Despite just one day of upsets, NCAA tournament TV ratings essentially matched last year’s numbers, which were the highest for the event since 1991.
Ratings for the round of 64 (Thursday-Friday) and round of 32 (Saturday-Sunday), averaged a 5.6 fast-national, according to John Ourand of CBS. Only Friday featured a slate of wild upsets – two 15 seeds won, as did a 13 – but several games were close, which likely boosted ratings.
The staggered TV times, now in their second year, also likely helped.
The tournament also turned in the highest-rated cable slot among sporting events. Kansas’ thrilling rally vs. Purdue Sunday night averaged 4.4 million viewers, better than Heat-Bulls and Knicks-Bulls. Those were the only three sports in cable’s top 40.
Indiana’s win vs. VCU on Saturday and Louisville’s Saturday win over New Mexico both averaged about 3 million viewers.
Many pundits declared North Carolina’s chances of winning the NCAA Tournament over when point guard Kendall Marshall got hurt in the team’s second-round game last weekend. ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb was as definitive as possible speaking about the Tar Heels’ chances of winning the tournament.
“They will not get out of St. Louis. They will not go to New Orleans,” Gottlieb said on SportsCenter Tuesday.
North Carolina’s next two games would be in St. Louis and if they win both, they would advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. Obviously Gottlieb doesn’t think they’ll win both games. Many Carolina players heard his prediction and referenced it when speaking with the media.
“Overnight, we fell out of the race for a national championship?” All-America forward Harrison Barnes (pictured) said to an ESPN reporter Tuesday. “People telling us – your friend, Doug Gottlieb – we’re going back to Chapel Hill and not New Orleans. We just keep going. Our confidence hasn’t changed at all. We feel like we have people who can step up. Doug Gottlieb – the person who knows everything – has his own statements. But we’re going to continue to play good basketball.”
“It motivates us a lot,” junior forward John Henson said. “I was watching, I think ESPN SportsCenter this morning, and they were kind of writing us off … which is fine with me.”
Even Tyler Zeller said the same thing.
“We just watched a little ESPN segment. We were joking about it — they basically said that we’re coming back to Chapel Hill instead of going to New Orleans.”
The Heels know what everyone is saying about them and they’re out to prove the critics wrong. They face Ohio Thursday in St. Louis and would face the winner of the Kansas-NC State game. Even though Kansas would be favored over them, it’s not a given they won’t be able to advance.
The University of Southern Mississippi revoked scholarships and dismissed five members of its pep band for taking part in a racially-insensitive chant directed at aKansas State University player during last week's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in Pittsburgh.
In a statement, the university said the five had their pep band scholarships revoked, were removed from the band and will be required to complete a two-hour cultural sensitivity training course this week.
The names of the students were not released.
According to a report from Rivals.com Frank Martin could be a candidate for the vacant head coaching position at South Carolina.
Rivals, citing an anonymous source, reports that Martin has shown "heavy" interest in the job.
Martin has been linked to other coaching searches in the past, most notably last year when the Miami job came open. Fans and media speculated for weeks about whether he would want to return to his roots in Florida, but Miami never showed much interest and ended up hiring Jim Larranaga.
It doesn't seem like Martin has any kind of connection with South Carolina, especially considering the job would be a step down. The Gamecocks went 10-21 this season and won two SEC games before parting ways with Darrin Horn. K-State has played in three straight NCAA Tournaments and returns all but one scholarship senior next season. Many expect the Wildcats to be better next season. The Gamecocks will be in rebuilding mode.
Other names that have been mentioned for the South Carolina job are Tommy Amaker, Gregg Marshall and Shaka Smart.
Anybody still wondering how much recruiting Chicago will affect the next Illinois basketball coach found out Tuesday.
More than anything, concerns over navigating the minefield that is our city's high school basketball landscape gave Shaka Smart pause when considering whether to take the Illinois job, according to a Division I coach familiar with the search.
A CBS Sports Network report that Smart would stay at Virginia Commonwealth "unless something drastic changes in the next 24 hours,'' reflected what two sources described as reservations the 34-year-old coach expressed specifically over recruiting Chicago.
The only "drastic,'' thing that can change in 24 hours is the amount of the offer, so Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas better increase it to improve the slim chances of hiring the hottest coach in America.
If Thomas cannot land Smart, the AD paying ex-coaches $7.1 million not to work next season might want to consider checking into terms of his own contract buyout. I am exaggerating, slightly, but the perception that Thomas cannot blow this hire also happens to be the reality.
…"Being able to cheat isn't the issue in recruiting,'' Smith said. "It's developing relationships.''
The notion Illinois would interview Smith for its head-coaching position with no Division I experience defied logic. Hiring a high school coach, even one with five state titles, represents too great a risk. But the idea that Smith not only can improve Illinois' chances with Simeon's Jabari Parker but eventually make inroads with the city's top programs cannot be dismissed.
"The next Illinois coach is going to need a Chicago guy on the staff to go into the neighborhoods and communities,'' Smith said. "I'm not saying it has to be me, but a person who knows how to reach the homegrown people at the parks and in the communities.''
ESPN ostensibly hired former college basketball coach Bob Knight to provide analysis and commentary, but after having watched him work games where he mails it in I am convinced he was brought along for autographs.
The man does not know the teams he watches and obviously does no preparation. He sits there saying, "That's a really big bucket right there."
The irony is that he is making what is very likely a fat check working for a network he used to rail against when he was the head coach at Indiana.
Now he has created a "controversy" when talking about this NCAA tournament field. He won't say "Kentucky" when talking about Kentucky; rather he says, "The team from the SEC."
Very clever, coach.
Knight's feelings towards UK and coach John Calipari are well documented - basically, he thinks his teams are not loaded with student athletes. Say this for Bob, his teams did graduate. Now, he was a horses rear and behaved like a spoiled, enabled, boorish 8-year-old but ... that's a different rant.
Retweeted by Chris Walker
too legit! @KjHill11 lookin little. @cwalkertime23 @dcroaker5
KU is hoping to land Tony Parker, a 6-9, 250-pound senior center from Miller Grove High in Lithonia, Ga. Parker, the No. 33-rated player in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com, has officially visited KU, Duke, Memphis, UCLA and Ohio State
“The Jayhawk fans are probably the best fans I’ve seen,” Parker told jayhawkslant.com. “I’m telling you, man, they’re something special. Kansas is a school I’m seriously considering.”
He has set no official date to announce his decision. It’s possible he could announce sometime next week while in Chicago for the McDonald’s All-America game.
Shabazz Muhammad, SF, Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas)
The wing scorer from Bishop Gorman has one final visit scheduled for the weekend of April 7, when he'll head to UCLA. Other top contenders for the nation's top recruit are Duke, Kansas, Kentucky and UNLV, and the competition is fierce: Muhammad averaged more than 30 points and 10 rebounds while leading the Gaels to another Nevada Class 4A championship.
Tony Parker, C, Miller Grove (Lithonia, Ga.)
The bruising 6-foot-9, 250-pound center has been one of the toughest recruiting reads in the 2012 class. The timetable for Parker's decision is still unknown, but the top contenders appear to be Kansas, Memphis, Ohio State and UCLA. He averaged 16.6 points and 10.9 rebounds as a senior.
...With a state title and tournament MVP under his belt, 2013 power forward Treshawn Bolden is starting to rack up scholarship offers. He's currently considering Auburn, DePaul, Kansas, Marquette and Oklahoma, among others.
Jerry Meyer, special to SI.com