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Kansas Jayhawks digital Tournament Guide
They're cutting down academic nets again. For the third time in the last five years the Kansas Jayhawks have been crowned the champions of Inside Higher Ed's NCAA Academic Tournament, the publication's annual academic showdown.
KU's men's basketball team has reached the final four in each of the last five seasons and has been to the title game in four of the last five seasons, including additional crowns in 2012 and 2010. The publication uses the actual NCAA Tournament bracket and declares winners based on the schools' Academic Progress Rates (APR). KU's men's basketball team boasts a perfect multiyear APR of 1,000, as it has for the past seven years.
The Jayhawks beat Eastern Kentucky, New Mexico, Dayton and Florida to reach the 2014 "Final Four," then topped Memphis and Texas to win the championship.
The APR rewards teams whose players stay in good academic standing and remain enrolled from semester to semester. Inside Higher Ed broke ties by using the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate (GSR), a variation of the graduation rate that considers transfers and does not punish teams whose athletes leave college before graduation if they leave in good academic standing. If a further tiebreaker is needed, the publication uses the Federal Graduation Rate, which deducts points when student-athletes, for any reason, do not graduate from the school at which he originally enrolled.
The NCAA tweeted this week that KU is the only team in the NCAA Tournament field of 68 with a perfect APR and a 100 percent Graduation Success Rate. Last year KU was one of only three schools in the tournament field (Belmont, Notre Dame) to achieve those numbers; no other tournament teams have accomplished that feat in the five years the NCAA has tracked those statistics.
Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid will not play in the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament, coach Bill Self confirmed Wednesday after arriving at the team hotel.
The decision to hold Embiid out follows the same plan that Self outlined before the Big 12 tournament. Self held out a tiny bit of hope that Embiid, battling a stress fracture in his back, might return for No. 2 seed Kansas’ opening weekend, which begins against Eastern Kentucky at 3:10 p.m. Friday at the Scottrade Center. But barring some sort of unforeseen development, Embiid will remain on the sideline through the weekend.
“He’s not going to play,” Self said. “I’m not saying there couldn’t be a miraculous act occur, but we’re certainly not planning on that or expecting that.”
Self said Embiid has continued to make progress in his rehab, but he has yet to get back out on the practice floor.
“He’s doing really well,” Self said. “We’ve told him that we were not going to put him on the practice floor until he does really, really well in rehab. And that’s what the doctors told us, and that’s what we were going to do all along.
“He’s not far away from being out there in some form or fashion, but probably not contact.”
The Jayhawks practiced in Allen Fieldhouse on Wednesday before driving to St. Louis.
“We had a pretty good week. I would say not our best week of practice for the year, (but) certainly we got better,” Self said. “I think we’ve got a lot of energy. We were able to keep guys off their feet for the most part.
“I think we’re OK,” he added of the squad’s frame of mind. “It hasn’t been one of those weeks where Monday was so intense and Tuesday was so intense. We’ve talked some. We’ve practiced short, for the most part. I’ve wanted guys to be fresh and off their feet as much as possible. We’ll get into the meetings and serious discussion tonight.
“I think they (players) are pretty amped, and they’ll be ready to go. Young teams ... sometimes when you talk about it too much, I think it can be a little overboard. But with these guys, you never know how they are going to react. I couldn’t tell you how we are going to play five minutes before tip ever because it’s a hard group to read.”
…The Jayhawks’ shootaround is scheduled for 2:15 to 2:55 p.m. today at Scottrade Center.
…Demand for tickets will be fierce.
“We travel well. K-State will travel. Wichita State will travel. Kentucky travels as well as anybody,” Self said of Wildcat fans also to congregate in St. Louis for the K-State game. “That’s not counting the other four teams that are here. I would think this will probably be as hot a ticket (demand) as we’ve had for any first-round site, with maybe the exception last year since we were playing in our home city (Kansas City’s Sprint Center) for the most part. K-State was there as well. This should be a fun weekend for everybody. I guess the weather is going to somewhat cooperate. It should make it interesting and a good time,” Self said.
ICYMI: ESPN VIDEO Sport Science: Andrew Wiggins
The scar sweeps across the middle of his forehead, cutting a line to the tip of his right eyebrow.
The story behind the mark, Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins said, is not as exciting as you might expect. He was in the third grade. He tripped in the hallway at school. He needed stitches, but can’t even recall the number.
“I can’t remember,” Wiggins said.
Whether or not Wiggins is downplaying the story, it’s hard to tell. But standing just a few feet away, the blemish is the first thing you notice, the true-to-life version of Harry Potter’s lightning scar.
No, Andrew Wiggins is not a wizard — although he might be playing for them next year if the NBA lottery breaks right. No, he does not possess any supernatural powers, despite what we hear about his 40-inch vertical leap and 7-foot wingspan.
But asked if there’s one thing that Wiggins might just do better than any player in college basketball — better than anyone in the NCAA Tournament field — his teammates will tell you the following secret.
You can throw the worst alley-oop pass in the world, and Wiggins will still catch it.
“Anywhere away from the rim,” freshman teammate Wayne Selden said. “He’ll go get it.”
…“As long as they can throw it up somewhere,” Wiggins says now, “I’ll throw it down.”
One is a guaranteed lottery pick and a potential No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft.
Another is on a team that is 34-0 and pointing toward a second Final Four run.
And the other ...
What, you didn't know there was another Wiggins' brother?
Well, there is, and Mitch Wiggins, being the typical big brother pacesetter, already has set the bar for Andrew and Nick.
Mitch, a senior at Southeastern University in Florida, just finished a storybook run in the NAIA Division II tournament. The Fire, making their first tourney appearance in school history, are only the second team at the school to qualify for nationals in any sport. They rolled all the way to the Final Four, hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer against the No. 1 seed along the way before losing to Indiana Wesleyan in the semifinals.
Forget the lure of the $1 billion bracket challenge.
The Wiggins family already has won March.
…On Friday, Andrew and No. 2-seeded Kansas will face Eastern Kentucky in St. Louis. Three hours later, in the same building, Nick and top-seeded Wichita State play Cal Poly or Texas Southern.
The next day, Mitch, Final Four appearance in hand, will compete in the NAIA All-Star dunk contest in Kansas City, Mo., a drivable four hours away. "All of these things happening at once, I could never imagine it," Mitch said. "It's just crazy."
It is familial domination like no other -- one brother already in a Final Four, two more with decent shots to make their own Final Fours, and perhaps a national title winner among the three. Kansas and Wichita State, on opposite sides of the bracket, could meet only once -- on April 7 in the national championship game.
Mitch already has plans for such a doomsday scenario: He'll sit in a neutral place, wearing colors for each team.
Andrew said he hopes it happens, because such a game would mean the brothers have achieved all they can achieve.
Nick, the feistier, more outspoken one among the bunch, looks at it a little differently.
"I wouldn't look at it as playing my brother; I'd look at it as playing a Jayhawk," he said -- and, yes, you could hear the Shocker sneering for all things KU. But there is far more love and only a little in-state-rival loathing between these three. This wild ride through March is just the climax of texting, Snapchatting and Skyping each other through a wild ride of a season.
Andrew and Nick turn to their big brother for advice; Andrew and Mitch marvel at Nick's undefeated run; and Nick and Mitch sit back and soak in all of the attention that's come Andrew's way.
It's easy to see how it could boil over into some serious sibling rivalry. Instead there's been nothing but brotherly love. Even Mitch, tucked into the more obscure world of the NAIA, hasn't turned even the slightest bit green with envy.
"Not even close. No way," he said. "When you're in a family, you want each other to reach their goals because you love each other so much. There's no way there'd be jealousy."
There are times when Andrew Wiggins, the versatile freshman guard for Kansas, will scowl, smile and laugh, displaying the usual emotions of a 19-year-old navigating his first collegiate postseason.
Good luck seeing any of that on the court, however.
Wiggins could be one of the first picks in this year’s N.B.A. draft, but he already plays with the expressionless bearing of a 10-year professional with his fourth team. No gestures after hitting a 3-pointer. No posturing after blocking a shot. And no chest-bumping celebrations, at least not until Kansas (24-9) has something tangible to celebrate.
“I thought coming in that we need to try to change him, and change him the way where he was outwardly, visibly more energetic and passionate, because he is a stone-face on the court,” Kansas Coach Bill Self said. “That would have been the worst thing we could have done.
“His demeanor has been pretty steady in large part because he doesn’t really care about what’s going on outside. He only cares about what’s going on inside.”
In a season highlighted by dominant freshmen like Duke’s Jabari Parker, Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis and the injured Jayhawks center Joel Embiid, the 6-foot-8 Wiggins stands out not only for his skills but also for how much Kansas relies on him.
With Embiid, a lithe 7-footer from Cameroon, out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his back, Wiggins — the Big 12 freshman of the year, an all-conference first-team member and perhaps the most heralded Kansas recruit since Danny Manning in 1985 — propped the Jayhawks on his slender shoulders.
…Wiggins scored 30 points in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals, playing all 45 minutes in a 77-70 overtime victory against Oklahoma State. In overtime, Wiggins pressured Cowboys guard Markel Brown into a turnover, leading to Perry Ellis’s putback basket. Kansas scored the final 7 points.
“Andrew is not one-dimensional,” Self said. “He’s our best defender.”
The next night, an understandably weary Wiggins shot only 7 of 21 from the field for 22 points in a 94-83 semifinal loss to Iowa State. That probably cost the Jayhawks, who are 2-2 without Embiid, a No. 1 seed in the N.C.A.A. tournament. Kansas is the No. 2 seed in the South Region.
“A lot of people said we wouldn’t be any good with Joel out,” said Wiggins, who averages 17.4 points and 6 rebounds a game. “We know we’re a good team. We don’t really mind what people are saying, that we’re not going to be as good, anything like that. That’s just more motivation for us.
“And when JoJo comes back, we’ve going to be even better. He brings so much to the table that no one in the country can bring.”
…Embiid shows such promise that the Houston Rockets Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon has offered to tutor him. When Embiid started playing, a coach in Cameroon gave him a video of Olajuwon, a Nigerian, to study. After Olajuwon learned of this, he found clips of Embiid on YouTube. Last week, he called Mbah a Moute and volunteered to help.
“I was so impressed and honored,” Olajuwon said in a telephone interview from Houston.
“To see the agility, the strength, the movements and the confidence, I see a very similar athlete to me. He’s a big guy who plays like a small guy. His movement is graceful. He’s beautiful to watch — the timing, the rhythm and the footwork. His future is bright.”
…Embiid transferred to the Rock School, a Christian institution in Gainesville, Fla. Embiid averaged 13 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in his senior year, and at Mbah a Moute’s urging, he chose Kansas over Texas and Florida.
…“It’s never been a one-man show,” the Kansas senior forward Tarik Black said. “Jo is a big piece to our team, but he’s a piece to our team, know what I’m saying? We can still win it, and everybody else in this locker room believes that, too.”
Credit that to the calm influence of Wiggins.
“I don’t know his secret, honestly,” Black said. “You’ll have to ask him. If he doesn’t tell you, then it’s not for us to know.”
New York Times
Pressure was the one word used by Mason, Greene and Frankamp when describing what changed most in the transition from the regular season to the postseason, but none of them indicated that the do-or-die magnitude had a negative impact on their games.
“It being new, and me being at the college level, it was definitely good to experience that,” Greene said. “It was just a whole different type of feel, a whole different type of atmosphere. And now we go into the tournament knowing what to expect.”
Both Mason and Frankamp said they believed that having more on the line with each game would inspire the Jayhawks to sharpen their focus and play their best basketball of the season.
Wiggins, one of the top freshmen in the country, expects to be energized by the excitement of fans in a win-or-go-home-setting.
“It’s every basketball player’s dream to play in front of a big crowd like that,” Wiggins said. “National TV every game. There’s no negative in playing in front of big crowds. We’ll try to win and give our fans what they want.”
Wiggins said that he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot the ball in the NCAAs. In the conference tournament, he kept firing against Iowa State on a night he scored 22 points off 7-of-21 shooting. He made seven of 10 free throws.
“I kept shooting it. I’ll keep shooting it,” Wiggins said. “The greatest players ever to play the game have games they don’t make shots. I don’t sweat that. The games I’m not making shots, I try to drive, be aggressive. More important is our will to get stops (in NCAAs).”
Of his one and only NCAA Tournament, one-and-done Wiggins said: “I’ll be confident. I play every game like now trying to attack, to win, do whatever it takes to win.”
Conner Frankamp thinks he’s figured out why some of his previous shots weren’t falling.
After missing all four of his 3-point attempts in the regular-season finale against West Virginia, the Kansas freshman guard spoke with his dad, Marty, who noticed from watching on TV that Conner’s 3-point shots were flatter than normal.
“He just talked to me about my fundamentals and what I’ve always done, just to remind me a little bit,” Conner said. “He helped me out.”
The next day, Conner went back to the gym to work on getting his elbow under the ball while also releasing with a high follow-through. He made 300 shots total, working mostly to get more arch on his attempts.
…Frankamp, who has made 28 percent of his 3-pointerss in a small sample size (11 of 39), says his shot now is feeling “fine.”
“I had quite a few open looks (against West Virginia), so I’ve got to knock those down,” Frankamp said. “But when I get my opportunity, hopefully they’ll go next time.”
Don’t slip, Kansas, because Eastern Kentucky is more than capable.
Before you stop reading, hear me out.
Look for Eastern Kentucky to possibly this year’s Lehigh or Florid Gulf Coast, if there is any.
The Colonels won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament as a No. 3 seed, upsetting both Murray State and Belmont in the process of recapturing a conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2007.
Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer’s uncanny offensive game plan is one that has him put at least four shooters on the floor at a time — sometimes five.
Such a lineup has led the Colonels to make 303 shots from 3-point range this season, which is third most in the country. Their 3-point field goal percentage of 39 percent is also 23rd in the NCAA.
Nearly half of Eastern Kentucky’s field goals come from behind the arc.
A large part of Eastern Kentucky’s 3-point production comes from guard Glenn Cosey, a First Team All-OVC honoree.
His point-per-game average of 18.8 was third in the conference while his 3-point field goals made (110) and 3-point field goal percentage (42.5) rank fifth and 20th in the nation, respectively.
For what it’s worth, Cosey made 10-12 shots from behind the arc in a 100-81 wallop over Eastern Illinois for a career-high 34 points.
Now, there is a marginal difference between Eastern Illinois and Kansas, but the Jayhawks’ 3-point defense is nothing to brag about — far from it, to be exact.
While the Jayhawks have the No. 3 Rating Percentage Index and also managed to escape the nation’s the No. 1 toughest schedule with a 24-9 record, they also allowed opponents to shoot 35.9 percent from 3-point range this season, ranking 264th in the country.
For example, in the Big 12 Conference semifinal game, a game which ultimately cost Kansas its No. 1 seed, Iowa State shot 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) from 3-point range on the Jayhawks in a 94-83 Cyclone win.
Kansas coach Bill Self compared the Colonel offense to the Cyclone offense, obviously not an appealing comparison for Self’s team.
The 3-point matchup is the one to watch in this game. If Eastern Kentucky wants the upset bid over Kansas, it will need to beat the Jayhawks behind the arc. And if the Colonels’ sharpshooters show up who knows what they’ll be deemed.
Trey City? 3-point City?
Neither has much of a ring to it, but you get the picture. Eastern Kentucky 79, Kansas 75.
Daily Eastern News
How Eastern beats Kansas
The Colonels force turnovers and make 3-point shots, and those two statistics just happen to be two of Kansas’ worst. They are ranked in the lower third in all of division one in both opponents’ 3-point percentage and turnovers. Kansas being without Embiid is huge; it takes away possibly the best rim-protector in college basketball. Eastern’s guards can operate in the lane better without Embiid in front of the basket. For the Colonels to win, they will have to come out hot and make 3-pointers early to put pressure on Jayhawks. Eastern will have to force turnovers. The Colonels are sixth in the nation in steals per game, and have made the 3rd most 3-pointers in the country this year.
“Without Embiid it really hurts them,” junior forward Eric Stutz said.
How Eastern loses to Kansas
Kansas is long and can shoot the ball extremely well, and possess what might be the best player in college basketball in Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins is a matchup nightmare for the Colonels. He stands 6 feet 8 inches and has a wingspan of seven feet. Who guards him? The Colonels’ best defensive player is OVC Defensive Player of the Year junior guard Corey Walden but he is 6 feet 2 inches and Wiggins could shoot over top of him.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Walden said. “But I’m up for it and ready to go.”
The Colonels would need to run a zone to contain Wiggins and the rest of the Kansas guards from getting in the paint but they shoot well so head coach Jeff Neubauer has a tough decision to make. Worse case scenario for the Colonels is that Kansas’ frontcourt dominates and their length on defense stops Eastern from making 3-pointers.
Fouls. Eastern was in serious foul trouble in the OVC tournament. Against Murray State, Eastern had four starters foul out, and against Belmont, forward Eric Stutz and senior guard Tarius Johnson both fouled out. For Eastern to stay with Kansas, they can’t get in foul trouble and keep their regular rotation in the game. It would help Eastern immensely if they got Kansas’ big players in foul trouble, and when Eastern goes to the foul line they are one of the best in the nation (T-16th in free throw percentage).
Scoring isn't an issue for EKU, which has matched or exceeded its 79-points-per-game average five times while winning seven straight. But beating the heavily-favored Jayhawks could require at least that many points along with the Colonels' best defensive effort this season in their first tournament appearance since 2007.
"Teams aren't going to have a problem with our length because we're not as long as other teams," said Cosey, EKU's top scorer at 18.8 points per contest.
"But our pressure and our style of play is different. We play fast, we have good guards. The main thing for us will be our pressure."
The Colonels' guard-laden lineup also hopes experience helps them compete against a Kansas squad averaging 79.6 points per game while allowing nearly 71, just like them.
EKU's challenge will be containing Wiggins (17.4 points per game), Perry Ellis (13.6) and Wayne Selden Jr. (10.2). Seven-foot rebounder and shot-blocker Joel Embiid is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his back, but the Colonels certainly have their hands full with Kansas' tall and talented roster.
"Both ends will be a challenge for us," said Colonels coach Jeff Neubauer, whose team will play its first NCAA tournament game since his second season as coach.
"Even with Embiid out, these guys are attacking the rim. What's scary about them is how they rebound. I mean, they're like the 10th best (in margin, +7.3), and we're (tied for) 10th worst (-6.1). One thing I've always stressed is stealing the ball, so that has to be our approach."
…EKU earned a conference championship as a result, but its veterans know they'll have to be near-perfect to stop Kansas.
"We've just been working on our defense," Cosey added. "We knew were going to face bigger teams, so we need to pressure the ball and just defend. We know we've got to play harder."
Self remains wary of the Colonels, who enter with the same record as the Jayhawks at 24-9.
“Eastern can do a lot of things well,” Self said. “They turn you over. They play primarily man, but they’ll sprinkle in some zone and 1-3-1, and we’ve had issues with that at times. Certainly they shoot the three as well as anybody. I mean, they really shoot the three. And they’ve got eight guys that can shoot it.
“Certainly, we’ll have to really defend the line. In order to do that, you have to keep the ball out of the paint, so our ball-screen defense needs to be a lot better than it was against Iowa State.”
Self said he believed his team got better in practice this week, even if the coaches had eased off a bit. One of Self’s main goals was getting guys off their feet so they could be ready for the stretch run.
“I think they’re pretty amped,” Self said, “and ready to go.”
It was the final 10 minutes of practice when Kansas coach Bill Self gave freshman Brannen Greene some quick instruction on “pick-and-pop” offense.
In short, it was this: Go set screens for the ball-handler, then bounce out to the 3-point line and be ready for a pass.
Self first introduced the set two days before last week’s Big 12 Tournament, starting with Greene as an undersized power forward before having Andrew Wiggins practice the same thing.
After just two days — and about 30 minutes total — going over the new wrinkle, KU utilized it in both of its games in the Big 12 Tournament last week.
“I definitely could see it as a weapon,” Greene said.
The formation — it potentially could be used against a small lineup like Eastern Kentucky in KU’s first NCAA Tournament game Friday — puts lots of pressure on defenses, especially when a driving player like Wiggins has the ball. If teams give Wiggins too much attention, he has an easy pass out to Greene for an open 3.
If there’s not enough help on the ball screen, though, Wiggins can turn the corner and get to the rim off a drive.
“I think just a little bit of being able to play me, Wayne (Selden Jr.) and Wiggs at the same time,” Greene said. “Just taking advantage of his offensive ability.”
Richmond has an additional rooting interest during this year’s March Madness.
The Kansas Jayhawks, who are the No. 2 seeds in the West region, feature two players from the area, both of whom took a unique route to the college.
Guard Andrew White III played three years for Thomas Dale, then reclassified and attended Miller School, a boarding school near Charlottesville, for two more years before being recruited to Kansas.
Guard Frank Mason played four years at Petersburg and committed to Towson to play college basketball.
Instead of attending Towson, though, he went to Massanutten Military Academy for a year to boost his academic credentials, during which time he caught the eye of Jayhawks coach Bill Self.
Now White and Mason, who have played with and against each other since they were 10 years old, are representing Virginia in the heartland.
“I think a lot of people already knew about Kansas, because of the history,” White said. “But it’s a great thing for Virginia, and our friends and family have embraced the program.”
…Mason hit one of his biggest shots earlier this season against Iowa State on a day when he hosted a famous guest at Allen Fieldhouse — Petersburg rapper Trey Songz.
White has hosted members of his family, too. His grandfather is a well-known Baptist minister, and the White family is prominent at Virginia Union.
“When I made my college decision, nobody assumed I would go far from home, because I have a big group of family members,” White said. “But location wasn’t really a factor. I went to a boarding school, so I was used to being away from home and not with my family every day.”
White’s brother, Andrien, is a junior at Thomas Dale and was named all-conference in basketball this year.
Expectations are always high for Kansas in the NCAA tournament, and White said the level of passion in the community was one of the things that led him to choose the school.
“It’s really a basketball town,” he said of Lawrence. “It’s great, but also a lot of pressure — you know you’re going to get the opposing team’s best shot every night.”
For the season, the latest crop of hyped Big Blue freshmen has played 74.2 percent of the minutes for coach John Calipari.
From a historical perspective, it’s a staggering number. By comparison, the famed Fab Five freshman class at Michigan accounted for 68 percent of the minutes while leading the Wolverines to the NCAA title game in 1992. Kentucky is young, and Calipari’s team has played like it.
But as Self prepares to guide his own young team into the murky waters of the NCAA Tournament, the Jayhawks face many of the same questions. The Jayhawks aren’t close to matching Kentucky’s youth brigade — at least from a minutes standpoint — but they are still among the youngest teams in the field.
Kansas’ seven freshmen have played 55.6 percent of the minutes. And as both blue-blood programs convene in St. Louis this weekend, they will provide two interesting test cases for the one-and-done era: How young is too young in the final weeks of March?
“We can’t really get complacent,” said Kansas guard Wayne Selden, one of the seven freshmen on the roster. “Because we know this is close to the end now.”
The following numbers are not necessarily predictive of what will happen during the next three weeks, of course. But the case against freshmen in March is thick.
In the last decade, only one team has won the NCAA title with freshmen playing more than 50 percent of the minutes. That was Calipari’s 2012 Kentucky squad, which defeated KU in the title game while its heralded freshmen class played 54 percent of the minutes. More evidence: Only two teams in the last decade have won a title with freshmen playing more than 40 percent. And from 2004 to 2013, freshmen played less than 21 percent for the eventual champion.
If there’s a counterweight to Kansas and Kentucky, it’s No. 1-seed Florida, which starts four seniors and could face the Jayhawks in an Elite Eight matchup in Memphis, Tenn. Kansas, meanwhile, has one scholarship senior on the roster; forward Tarik Black, who will start in place of freshman Joel Embiid until he’s ready to return from a back injury.
The reasons for the freshmen failures are complicated, coaches say. For one, freshman-dominated teams are rare in college basketball, and freshman-laden teams that can win it all are even more elusive. Talent can trump all in March, but experience can be pivotal.
The stage is bigger, distractions await and one bad night can end a season.
“It’s not exactly how it appears from the outside,” Self said this week. “Because I don’t know that anybody can really grasp that there’s so much more than just being with your team and your team being together (during the tournament). It’s agents. It’s runners. It’s family members. It’s distractions.
“(There) can be things that are legitimate, and things that people want to put things in people’s heads that aren’t so legitimate.”
For seven of Kansas’ top 11 players, this will be their first experience in the NCAA Tournament. It was just two years ago that Jayhawks advanced to the NCAA championship game, but only one scholarship player (junior guard Naadir Tharpe) remains from that team.
Now the Jayhawks must focus in for a tourney run. And when the subject of distractions comes up, perhaps it’s no surprise that Self mentions his 2008 title team.
“That was a wild crew,” Self said. “But for three weeks they just totally, totally gave up themselves to do exactly what we said, and they trusted what we told them was good.”
It was also a veteran crew. In 2008, KU’s freshmen accounted for 6.9 percent of the minutes — the fewest by a title team in the last decade.
“Oh man, I’ve grown so much,” said Ellis, who led Heights to four Class 6A championships in high school. “I could definitely see myself taking plays off last season. Now I feel like I’m playing hard. And when I need a break, I tell Coach (Bill) Self.”
Self, who never met a television camera or reporter’s notebook he didn’t like, had admitted to having to adapt to Ellis’ reserved demeanor. The key, though, is that Ellis doesn’t play basketball quietly. He causes quite a ruckus, in fact.
With an ability to use either hand and a pair of dazzling, quick feet, Ellis is a load to contain. He can turn either way and often before a defensive player knows he has slipped away.
When Ellis gets fouled, he makes 77 percent of his free throws.
And he has made 8 of 16 three-point attempts, which makes me think he’ll be wandering out to the perimeter more next season.
First, though, there’s this season, which continues Friday in the NCAA Tournament when the Jayhawks take on Eastern Kentucky in St. Louis.
Ellis and his teammates have to find some way to be consistent enough to potentially run through six tournament games. If you’ve seen KU play this season, you know that’s a stretch. Consistency is not this team’s strongest attribute.
In that way, Ellis doesn’t fit. Because he is consistent. While Naadir Tharpe’s hair is on fire and super freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden continue to try to figure out those square pegs and round holes, Wichita’s own Ellis is a rock. You pretty much know what you’re getting.
Even if it doesn’t always look like the Jayhawks know what they have.
Wiggins, whose elite talent is unquestionable, has had too much of a free reign, though lately he’s been tremendous. But I think there are times when KU loses touch with Ellis. Given his hushed personality, it’s probably not hard to do.
“I definitely feel like I’m an important piece here,” Ellis said. “But I’m a real quiet player. I try to let my actions show.”
Which is nice. But there are times when I wish Ellis would go all Keyshawn Johnson with the potential one-and-done guys and scream, “Give me the damn ball.”
“I don’t really pay much attention to what people are saying,” Ellis said. “I do the best I can do to help the team.”
Ellis shoots 55.7 percent. He’s the gift that keeps on giving offensively for Kansas, but the Jayhawks too often refuse to open him.
It’s been a strange mix at KU this season. Wiggins, Embiid and maybe even Selden are potential lottery choices in the NBA Draft this summer. Meanwhile, Ellis is a throwback to the good old days of college basketball when players were players and development of an overall game was paramount.
The Ellis Project is right on schedule. I remember Self telling reporters last year, when Ellis was struggling mightily, that he would eventually get going and become a “1,500-point scorer” for the Jayhawks.
That Self guy is pretty smart.
Wichita Eagle Lutz
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
Big 12 / College News
NCAA Tournament TV Schedule (w/announcing teams)
Lavin extremely likable, but went to NCAA tourney first year with Norm Roberts' players
CBS Expert Bracket Predictions (Doyel, Norlander pick Kansas)
ICYMI: USBWA All-District Teams
Before Danny Manning sought a head coaching job, the former Kansas All-American called his college coach, Larry Brown, for a bit of advice.
Manning’s resume was strong. He had won a national title as a player for Brown in 1988, played 15 years in the NBA and had won a national title as an assistant under the Jayhawks’ Bill Self in 2008. He was getting the itch to step out on his own, but wanted Brown’s blessing before proceeding.
Brown, who had a long history with the family and had employed Manning’s father, Ed, as an assistant coach years ago, said the answer was easy.
“He asked me if I thought he was ready to be a (head) coach,” said Brown, now the coach at SMU. “He was ready the first day I met him, when he was five years old.”
Brown’s exaggeration brings home the point that Manning was seemingly born to coach. And, as Brown expected, Manning’s rise has happened quickly. In just his second year as Tulsa’s coach, Manning has reached the NCAA tournament with the Golden Hurricane earning an automatic bid by winning the Conference USA tournament title. Tulsa (21-12), the No. 13 seed in the South Region, will open against No. 4 seed UCLA (26-8) Friday in San Diego.
Tulsa, making its first NCAA appearance since 2003, nearly missed Sunday’s announcement of their opponent. The team still was traveling back from the league tournament in El Paso, Texas, and it got to the Reynolds Center about 15 minutes before the selection show.
“We got off the plane, we got on the bus, we drove here, we went to the locker room, we dropped our bags, we walked out to the court,” Manning said. “I said a few things to our fans that were there. Selection show comes on and, bam, we come up. They got a nice boost of energy when they popped up on the screen. All the hard work that these guys have been putting in — you can see it.”
Based on tournament seeds and potential matchups in the NCAA bracket, the logical conclusion is that Iowa State - the only Big 12 team with an undefeated record against nonconference opponents this season - projects as the league's best bet to make it to Arlington.
Yet Kansas, at 10-1, received the Big 12's best odds from Bovada Sports Book to cut down the nets at AT&T Stadium. Iowa State received 33-1 odds to emerge as the national champion, the second-best odds among league teams.
FW Star Telegram
Even more regularly than he posts double-doubles, Julius Randle whips out his cellphone and punches a number from the 214 area code. Former Oklahoma star Jeff Webster is waiting to hear from Kentucky's star freshman.
"After every game, I know I'm going to get a call," Webster said. "'OK. How'd I do? 'What do I have to do?' And this and that."
As Randle is sure to call, so Webster is sure to demand more-more-more.
"'Listen, Julius, you have so much more to give,'" Webster said he will tell Randle. "I call him 'the
one-half wonder' because he normally is giving you one-half. 'When are you going to put two halves together?'
"That's just the youth in him."
With Kentucky beginning play in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, the time is right for putting together two (and many more) productive halves.
Webster, who scored 2,281 points for Oklahoma (1989-94), describes his role in Randle's life as father/mentor/big brother. "All that stuff," he said. The two became acquainted as player and assistant coach for an AAU team, the Texas Titans.
Congrats to our male #POY finalists Cliff Alexander (@humblekid11), Stanley Johnson (@StanMan_41), Tyus Jones (@Tyusjones06) Emmanuel Mudiay, Jahlil Okafor (@BigJah22) and Myles Turner (@Original_Turner) #McDAAG #POY
Blue-chip recruit Myles Turner is closing in on a decision to sign with the SMU basketball￼ program, a source close to the process tells 105.3 The Fan.
Turner, a 6-11 center from Euless Trinity High School, has also been linked to Duke, Ohio State, Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Considered a “one-and-done” candidate by scouts (meaning Turner is good enough to play college basketball for one season before declaring for the NBA), a Turner pairing with fellow DFW product Emmanuel Mudiay, a Prime Prep product rated the top point guard in the country, would continue coach Larry Brown’s notable turnaround of a Mustangs program that before this year hadn’t been ranked in the Top 25 since the 1984-85 season.
Thon Maker, the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2016, met with Australian National Team coach Andrej Lemanis last week about a potential future role with the team.
The meeting took place March 9-11 in Virginia, where the 7-foot, 208-pound Maker attends the Carlisle (Va.) School.
“We had a good meeting with Andrej Lemanis,” Ed Smith, Maker’s legal guardian, told SNY.tv.
…On the recruiting front, Maker continues to be recruited at the highest levels.
“I had a good talk with Coach [Bill] Self at Kansas,” Smith said. “Coach [Jeff] Capel at Duke is trying to set up a time for us to sit down with Coach K. Jason Williford and UVA are recruiting him hard. Louisville sent Kevin Keatts. Coach [Raphael] Chillious and Lorenzo Romar have offered from UW.”
JaQuan Lyle, five-star men’s basketball recruit and the No. 22 overall player in the 2014 class according to Rivals.com, committed to Oregon at about 3:10 p.m. Wednesday.
Lyle originally committed to Louisville before deciding to withdraw his commitment in September. Lyle made his commitment at the Evansville Airport Holiday Inn by announcing he would attend University of Oregon and immediately putting on an Oregon Ducks hat.
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