“On a neutral court ... like I told our guys before (playing) West Virginia, anything can happen,” Walker added. “As a matter of fact, it’s ‘March Madness.’ Anything can happen. I’ve been in those situations (as assistant coach) at Villanova playing against those great Syracuse teams ... having to win a game to get into the tournament. You know what? That’s what the ‘Madness’ is and that’s what our guys are looking forward to.”
KU coach Bill Self’s Jayhawks, who enter with a 26-5 record compared to Tech’s 11-19 mark, also beat the Raiders, 60-46, on Jan. 12 in Lubbock, Texas.
“We labored at Tech. We were up two at halftime,” Self said Wednesday after exiting the team bus at the Kansas City Downtown Marriott Hotel. “We played them on (KU’s) Senior Night and played them very, very well. The great thing about playing Tech for us is we just played them a few days ago. They are fresh in our guys’ minds.”
Not only that ... the Jayhawks figure to be a motivated bunch after losing to Baylor, 81-58, last Saturday in Waco.
“I think our whole team is excited,” Self said at the team hotel. “I know I am. Although we got a piece of the championship (with Kansas State at 14-4) and we shouldn’t apologize for that, it kind of leaves a bittersweet taste. We’d like to come over here and perform well in Kansas City to set the table for what will be hopefully bigger things to come moving forward for all the teams who qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
“We’ve had a good three days of practice,” Self added. “Our guys are ready to get into our third season (after nonconference and conference). I don’t know if I’ll use it (tying for league crown) as motivation. I do think in the mindset of our guys, there’s still some things to prove.”
LJW: Don't be surprised if this KU senior has a big game vs TT
USBWA Freshman All-Americans
Pos. No. Player, School Ht. Wt. Yr. Hometown
F 15 Anthony Bennett, UNLV 6-8 240 Fr. Brampton, Ont.
G 23 Ben McLemore, Kansas 6-5 195 Fr. St. Louis, Mo.
G/F 15 Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA 6-6 225 Fr. Las Vegas, Nev.
F 3 Nerlens Noel, Kentucky 6-10 228 Fr. Everett, Mass.
G 33 Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State 6-4 225 Fr. Flower Mound,Texas
KU officials confirmed the Jayhawks today will be wearing adidas’ funky camo uniforms.
We're talking the uniforms that sent the college basketball world into a frenzy a few weeks ago, of course, as the odd and somewhat bold pattern dreamed up by the folks at adidas certainly has changed the way college basketball teams look on the floor.
As the top seed in this year's Big 12 tourney, the Jayhawks will wear the white version of the wild look. According to most — fans I spoke with, Twitter-dwellers and other writers — the white uniform is the less outlandish of the two, with the blue version bearing the brunt of most of the criticism.
While the initial fan reaction, at least according to Twitter, seemed to reveal that the new look was universally despised by KU fans, a couple of quick phone calls on Wednesday painted a much different picture.
First, I called Jock's Nitch in Downtown Lawrence to find out just how well the uniforms had been received by the public. What I was told surprised me. According to general manager, Ryan Owens, the store sold out of all of its shorts — both white and blue — and even sold more than a few of the jerseys.
Wait. There's more. Somewhere around 15-20 folks even put their name down to snag dibs on the first batch of shorts in Owens' second order. One of them was someone many of you might know — Mario Chalmers.
Chalmers, through Twitter, asked Owens to hold a pair of the white shorts for him.
Overall, Owens said he believed the younger generation liked the look a lot more than most, but also said that he was surprised by the reaction to the blue uniform when people saw it in the store.
“They're different, there's no doubt about that,” he said. “It's definitely something out of the box. But when people get into the store, they actually wind up liking the blue more.”
Rather than stopping there, I thought I'd make a quick call to KU, too, to find out how the new duds had been received on campus. It turns out the reaction was nearly the same. The KU Store, which is connected to Allen Fieldhouse, sold through all of its shorts, both colors, and has made a dent in the re-order, as well. KU Store also sold most of its youth jerseys in both blue and white.
Naadir Tharpe is telling a story from back home, one that his father would have loved. It’s about hard work, order and learning your place.
In his first two seasons at Kansas, Tharpe, a 5-foot-11 reserve guard, has had a crash course in all of the above. One year after suffering through what he calls one of the toughest years of his life, Tharpe is now averaging 5.2 points and 2.8 assists per game for seventh-ranked Kansas, which opens the Big 12 Tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Sprint Center.
But on a March evening in Lawrence, Tharpe sits in Allen Fieldhouse, rubbing his left hand over his right biceps, drinking in a long, warm glance at the words on his arms. There’s story here, too. A good one. But first, you must hear about Ronald Tharpe’s window-washing business.
In Worchester, Mass., Ronald Tharpe was a lovable character who seemed to know everyone. He was an assistant bank manager, doting father on his five sons and a descendant of a military family. But above all else, Naadir says, his father was a worker. So on Saturday mornings when the clock struck 7, Ronald would roust his sons for a day of window-washing. They did pizza parlors and local businesses and residential homes. And if Naadir or any of his four older brothers tried to sneak in some sleep in the car, Ronald would roll down the windows and let the New England weather take over.
“That cold air blowing in,” Naadir says, smiling, “you really couldn’t get any sleep.”
The brothers, Naadir says, did it for the extra allowance. If you wanted to go meet friends on Saturday night, it was nice to have a little cash in your pocket. But all these years later, the memory means something different.
There was an art to washing windows, a technique and detailed sequence, passed down from brother to brother.
“Those were the last times we were all together,” says Tishaun Jenkins, Tharpe’s second-oldest brother. “It was just beautiful.”
More than seven years later, Naadir Tharpe came off the bench for KU and dropped in a game-winning shot in the final seconds of a double-overtime victory over Oklahoma State on Feb. 20. It was the biggest basket of his life — one that helped KU hold onto the Big 12 title for the ninth straight season — but it was also a reminder.
Those are the nights, he says, when he misses his father the most.
More @ KC Star
3/13/13, 2:15 PM
Kaycen Keith Langford 3.13.13 pic.twitter.com/9ytnMNmTG3
On the left arm of Thomas Robinson, stretched along the length of his bulging bicep muscle, vertically written in flowing script font, sits a special tattoo.
The message is simple. It reads “F.O.E.”
It’s an acronym: Family Over Everything.
“That’s my main one,” said Robinson, whose arms are covered in artwork.
Marcus and Markeiff Morris have the same tattoos; theirs are on their left arms too. While the Morris brothers are blood related, Robinson is not. But that doesn’t matter much. They’re family anyway. They’re brothers.
…Right from the beginning, Robinson and the Morris twins were great friends. It didn’t take long for them to hit it off, basketball being the obvious common ground.
“Maybe it was just … real recognized real,” Marcus Morris said. “It just happened that way.”
They met during Robinson’s first visit to Kansas. The twins were already in college; Robinson was still in high school. Eventually, the Morris twins became a big reason for Robinson’s wanting to go to Kansas.
He knows how unconventional it was, going to Kansas when he did. When Robinson arrived in Lawrence the Morris twins were ahead of him at his position and so was Cole Aldrich. He went to Kansas even though Marcus and Markieff were already there and the three became the best of friends.
“Once I got there, it wasn’t a competing thing,” Robinson said. “They wanted to get me better.”
…Jayla, Robinson’s sister, is 9 now. She’ll turn 10 early next month. She still lives in Washington but Robinson sees her whenever he can.
“When you’re that much older than them, it’s almost like you’re a second parent,” Robinson said. “Whatever you can do for them, you do.”
As a 9-year-old, she doesn’t really understand the gravity of her brother’s being in the NBA. Robinson is in the process of trying to gain custody of his sister but it hasn’t happened yet. According to Robinson, “outgoing” is the best way to describe Jayla. And “spunky,” too, he said smiling.
“He just loves her. He doesn’t try to act like her dad,” Marcus Morris said. “He just tries to act like her big brother.
“He’d do anything for her.”
In fact, he does everything for her.
Hinson said that after the death of Robinson’s mother, Robinson’s game on the court changed. He had a renewed focus. That focus was Jayla.
…On Wednesday night, the Rockets will host Marcus and Markieff Morris when they take on the Suns at the Toyota Center.
It’s the second meeting between the two teams in a few days. The Suns took the first game 107-105. It was the first time Robinson, Morris and Morris shared a basketball court in a regulation game since Robinson’s sophomore year in college. He said the reunion was “cool” but was disappointed the Rockets lost.
On Wednesday, like they did on Saturday, the three will exchange pleasantries before the game. Kind of like how any friends on opposite teams would. But with them, it just means a little more.
“We’re more than just friends,” Marcus Morris said. “That’s my little brother.”
Of course. Family over everything.
Two teenage buddies who took dramatically different paths to get here are now among the top 20 scorers in NBA history. That’s a long way from Slam-N-Jam youth leagues, in which Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” would blast before games.
A long way from when Garnett donned the cover of Sports Illustrated with “Ready or Not” next to his smiling face as he became the first of the new generation of prep-to-pro prospects. A long way from when doubts about Pierce’s athletic ability and ability to score in the NBA dropped him below Raef LaFrentz, Robert “Tractor” Traylor, Jason Williams, and Larry Hughes in the 1998 NBA draft.
What’s more, that quartet – all of whom are retired or in Traylor’s case, deceased – have just 2,520 more points combined than Pierce himself.
Neither Pierce nor Garnett will reflect fully on their accomplishments until they are done. They are consumed with the Celtics’ effort to finish the season strong, their quest to win at least one more title before they depart Boston, their desire to remain relevant and productive in a young man’s game.
But it’s been nearly 18 years since Garnett decided to enter the draft and about 20 since he and Pierce formed a bond, and that wasn’t lost on the reflective leader.
…“Surpassing people we watched when we grew up and everything, obviously idolizing – it’s special,” Garnett said. “It’s best to do it with a personal friend. Not just a teammate but a real friend. Someone that knows you, knows your family, knows where you come from and vice versa. Knows the things that motivate you and push you. I always tell people I’ve got the greatest seat in the house to watch one of the best players in NBA history put the ball in the basket every night. It’s special to be able to do it with him.
“That’s not common these days, to be able to call someone in this league a friend. These are special times.”
USTFCCCA Names Geubelle National Field Athlete of the Year
Kansas long and triple jumper Andrea Geubelle was named the nation's female field athlete of the year it was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The honor is the first for Geubelle and second-consecutive national indoor honor for the women's team after Diamond Dixon was named the nation's female track athlete of the year last season.
VOTE for Wooden Award nominees McLemore & Withey (Ends March 17)
VOTE for Kansas players, team, and moment in NCAA 75th Anniversary of March Madness (Vote for Wilt, Clyde, Danny, 51-52 Kansas, Mario's Miracle)
Big 12/College News
Big 12 Sports: Tourney Central (Stats, video, photos, etc)
3/13/13, 9:59 PM
#Big12MBB: Official attendance for Session 1 at @SprintCenter: 17,018. Great showing by Big 12 fans! @VisitKC
Texas AD DeLoss Dodds says Rick Barnes will return, praises effort with young team. "Absolutely. He's done a great job coaching them."
When I drove into downtown Kansas City today, one of the first things I saw was a big billboard that read: This is Big 12 Country.
I soon learned those billboards were all around the city. Missouri is gone to the SEC, but there’s no doubt where Kansas City’s loyalties lie.
The people here are proud of the Big 12 men’s basketball tournament, and it’s evident everywhere you go.
The streets around the Sprint Center are buzzing with activity, and restaurants around town welcome visitors to the tournament.
When the Kansas Jayhawks’ bus arrived in town, it was big news that was well covered by the local TV stations.
This tournament has great tradition dating back to the Big Eight days, and people go all out to support it.
There’s always some discussion about moving the tournament around to other cities, but why mess with a good thing? This is where it belongs.
Oklahoma City is an NBA town. Dallas is a football town. In Texas and Oklahoma, the Big 12 tourney feels like a curiosity. In Kansas City, it’s treated as a treasured event, a centerpiece, a community heirloom.
Plus, Kansas alums outnumber Mizzou alums in the metro by a count of about 3-to-1 (It’s roughly 3-to-1 over K-State alums, too). Although the number of fans in and around Kansas City who associate themselves with the Tigers, regardless of their respective alma mater, is a more equitable split.
“I’ve got a great friend that has been lamenting the move from the beginning and still wishes that we were still in the Big 12,” offered Mark Vickery, another Tiger Clubber, Class of ‘88. “But, boy, is he in a small minority. I would guess the vast majority of folks that I interact with, which are almost exclusively Tiger fans, are pleased with it. Now the football team, you know, didn’t exactly meet expectations, I guess, I certainly can say that. But it was still fun.”
Vickery is such an SEC convert that, this week, he’s loading up his son and driving 550 miles to Nashville. Between the Opryland Resort, tickets and gas, it’s going to put them at least $1,000 in the hole relative to last March. But for a new adventure, he figures, it’s worth it.
“Mizzou didn’t start all of this,” Vickery said. “When was the last time you went two weeks without reading about some conference realignment situations somewhere in the country? I just watched Syracuse and Georgetown play their last game against each other, at least as Big East members. It’s everywhere. Mizzou didn’t invent it. I would be happy to just go back and be the old Big Eight — that would be my choice, and leave the Texas schools down in Texas. But that’s just not reality.”
The reality is that Duke’s has gone noticeably quiet, at least early on. The reality is that you adjust.
Whereas Quigley and company have partnered with the web site PowerMizzou.com for watch parties in the past, that won’t be the case this week. Instead, they’re linking up with the Kansas City Catbackers Club, a Kansas State booster organization, in an effort to lure Wildcat fans into a spot that once made its hay as Tiger territory.
“Kansas State didn’t have a real bar down here; Kansas State didn’t have a hangout,” Quigley said. “So we’ll be a K-State bar for the weekend, so to speak.”
The voice rose from the phone, emanating with jubilation from the highway far to the east.
“We are 17 miles from the Indiana-Illinois border! Four hundred miles to go!” said Rick Pill, 61, a West Virginia University fan so rabid that he claims he has not missed a home football game in 50 years, since he sold soft drinks to earn money for tickets.
There was no way he was going to miss his team’s Big 12 tournament debut in Kansas City as one of two newbie conference members, along with Texas Christian University.
So on Tuesday, Pill and four Morgantown, W.Va., buddies — Todd and Kevin and George and another Rick behind the wheel — thundered west some 1,022 miles, a 15-hour trip in a Lincoln Navigator with flags flapping the Mountaineers’ gold and blue, bound for the Sprint Center and a Wednesday evening game against Texas Tech.
To these gentlemen, it meant little that West Virginia, with a 6-12 record in the Big 12, was seeded eighth, as it was also meaningless to diehard TCU fans that, at 2-16, the team from Fort Worth was seeded, well, 10th and last. And let’s not even get into why there are only 10 teams in something called the Big 12.
This trip wasn’t about sense.
Whether their teams won or lost Wednesday night, this trip to a new town and a new tournament was about support, a chance to check out Kansas City, and pride.
West Virginia fan Bob Robinson liked what he saw in Kansas City.
"It's really nice," he said. "It's not Madison Square Garden, but it's a close second."
While Mizzou's departure means tickets for the first rounds were easier to get, fans say a Sunflower Showdown would create excitement and outrageous ticket prices by scalpers.
Iowa State basketball fans scanning the TV dial for the referees reprimanded for late-game decisions in the Cyclones’ Feb. 25 overtime loss against Kansas might want to look somewhere other than the Big 12 Conference tournament.
Big 12 Conference officials refused to say what officials are assigned for this week’s games at the Sprint Center, and they would not answer questions about the two whose decisions were scrutinized after the Jayhawks left Hilton Coliseum with a 108-96 win.
That’s protocol. Conference officials, regardless of the league, rarely comment on individual officials, and that’s the case in this instance, too.
However, do not expect the officials – Tom O’Neill and Bert Smith – to show up at the end of Big 12 tournament box scores.
…The Big 12 statement did not mention the name of the officials, however replay showed that O’Neill and Smith were closest to under-the-basket plays in question.
According to statsheet.com, a website that tracks college basketball officials, both reprimanded refs have worked just one Big 12 game since the controversial Cyclones-Jayhawks finish.
So if they’re not in Kansas City this week, where are they?
Did anyone say Conference-USA?
Des Moines Register
Last year, laggardly attendance figures at women’s games forced the Big 12 to separate its men’s and women’s basketball tournament sites and game weekends. The men stayed in Kansas City. The women moved to Dallas.
After being in house at the American Airlines Center last weekend, it was evident that the Big 12 made the right choice. Big time.
Using Baylor as our litmus (a fair thing to do since the Lady Bears are consistently the league’s top draw), attendance figures ballooned from 2012 to 2013.
In their three games at the tourney in Kansas City last year, all blowouts, the Lady Bears averaged 5,061 fans. They never drew more than 5,542, and the final against Texas A&M, which was an incredibly juicy matchup, yielded just 4,235. It should be noted that the final was played at 11 a.m. on a Saturday.
Without the men hogging the city and game-time spotlight (they play this weekend), the results were considerably better this year. Baylor averaged 7,734 fans at its three games this year, including a whopping 8,662 during the final against Iowa State. That’s more than 3,000 more fans than showed up for Baylor-A&M in 2012, a much feistier rivalry.
Of course, proximity helps. Dallas is much closer to Waco than Kansas City, and there is a sizeable contingent of Baylor alumni in the Metroplex. Still, giving the women’s tourney its own weekend and its own showcase clearly helped up attendance and interest, and not just in Baylor games. I saw plenty of fans dressed in colors from across the Big 12 throughout the weekend.
Like a sports team dangling money in front of a free agent, the Missouri Legislature signed off Wednesday on new state incentives intended to attract big-time sporting events such as college basketball tournaments and the Olympic trials.
The legislation sent to Gov. Jay Nixon would authorize up to $3 million in state subsidies each year to cities, counties and nonprofit groups to help them compete with out-of-state sites for the rights to host amateur sporting events, which can draw thousands of fans who spend millions of dollars.
The final House vote came a day before the tip-off of the Big 12 Conference men's basketball tournament in Kansas City and only a few days after the St. Louis area hosted the Missouri Valley Conference men's and women's basketball tournaments. Kansas City will also host early-round games of the upcoming NCAA men's basketball tournament.
Supporters of the legislation said Missouri recently lost bids to host future events to other states that offered incentives. Although no guarantee of victory, they said the new state subsidies essentially keep Missouri competitive.
"It will make a tremendous difference in our ability to be successful and our ability to attract these events and generate their associated visitor spending," said Marc Schreiber, vice president of marketing and development for the St. Louis Sports Commission.
If college basketball had a postseason banquet and everyone was invited, including the fans, there would be a debate whether to roast Garrick Barr, or toast him.
He is the co-founder of Synergy Sports Technology, one of the key figures in the movement to instill and distill basketball with analytics. His interactive video box scores dissect every center's post moves, every coach's out of bounds play, and every shot. If basketball is embracing "Big Data", Barr and his team are Big Brother, watching it all.
But is the analysis also making it more difficult for offenses to operate smoothly and effectively? Scoring (points per game per team) could reach a low in college basketball not seen since 1952, and improved scouting might have something to do with it.
"I don't know how to feel about this, quite frankly," Barr, 61, said when asked if Synergy was responsible for some of the season's monotonous games with scores in the 50s.
If it was just a few forward-thinking coaches who used Synergy, there would be no discussion of the technology's effect on the game. But Synergy, which sells its product to all 30 NBA teams, started selling to colleges five years ago and now counts more than 300 Division I men's teams and 270 Division I women's programs as subscribers. There are 5,700 men's Division I college basketball games in a season, and Synergy has film on all but about 100.
"When you have all the information and video to back it up, coaches can come to conclusions fairly quickly on how to suppress the other team's offense," said Barr, a former college and NBA assistant coach who lives in Seattle. "Coaches are way, way better at formulating defensive game plans. There is less they can do on the offensive end. You are what you are offensively.
"Inevitably, points scored are going to go down because of the information coaches have at their disposal."
College basketball is facing a scoring crisis. Last season, men’s Division 1 teams averaged 68.01 points per game, the lowest total since 1982. They might finish with even fewer points this season. So what’s causing this decline? At CBS’ pre-NCAA tournament media day on Monday, I asked commentator Clark Kellogg, who will once again call the Final Four for the network, his thoughts. Kellogg, an excitable guy to begin with, immediately got fired up. “I think there are a number of factors,” Kellogg says. “The first, in my mind, is the ability to prepare better scouting reports. With the technology, you can watch every team’s sets, break them down individually. And really zero in on what you’re going to do to take away offense.”
“The other thing that to me, that’s part of it, coaches keep their hands on the steering wheel way too much in basketball. And it’s not just in the game, I think it’s overall. The ability to have kids in summer school now that are on scholarship, and the off-season workouts, there’s too much hand-holding under the guise of doing what’s best for the kids. And that transitions into the game.”
In other words, all this coaching isn’t necessarily improving players’ skills. It’s making them tighter. “It’s too much, it’s too much, it’s too much, it’s too much,” Kellogg says. “Too much control. Kids don’t get a chance to grow up. I like the fact that you can accelerate your education. But even in some of those cases, they’re not doing meaningful school work. Kids should have two months off, because of the demands of the regular season, with a program that they can implement on their own if they’re serious about getting better. And they suffer the consequences of not doing it, or the fruit of their labor if they come back ready.”
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