“Can you help me look for coach Self? I’ve got a surprise bowl I made for him in ceramics,” a young female athlete said, holding a gift for KU basketball coach Bill Self.
“Before you leave, yes, ma’am, we’ll find him,” Jonesboro, Arkansas, gentleman Mickelson promised.
About 10 minutes later, after Self was located in a crowded gym, the Olympian indeed was able to present KU’s 12th-year coach a homemade gift during the autograph-signing portion of the 2 1/2-hour event.
“Thank you very much. You made that in ceramics?” Self asked the Olympian. “I took that in school, but I wasn’t very good at it. You’re obviously better than me.”
…“This is one of the best days of the year for our team,” Self said, assessing the clinic held a day after the Jayhawks’ 75-62 victory over Texas in Austin. “We’ve done this after we’ve lost. We’ve done this after we’ve won. The thing is, regardless of what the outcome was the day before, it’s unconditional. The guys and gals are totally into it the same each and every year. This touches our players, and our players enjoy reaching them.”
Whether it was Jamari Traylor grabbing the microphone and doing play-by-play of the 100 Olympians’ scrimmages, or Kelly Oubre Jr. showing proper dribbling and passing technique in drills, the Jayhawks indeed had a blast on their scheduled “day off.”
…“This is a fantastic opportunity for our athletes,” Clint Armistead, director of sports for Special Olympics Kansas, said.
“We’ve been doing this for 31 years, which is the longest relationship Special Olympics Kansas has held with any sporting organization. We value so much the opportunity for our athletes to play with these athletes, shake some hands, feel like a star, feel like somebody on a collegiate level. This is anybody’s dream to play at Allen Fieldhouse with the athletes.”
…Self said the tape of the KU-Texas game indicated the Jayhawks (16-3, 5-1), “did play well. We had two turnovers in the first five minutes, and one the last 35 minutes of the game. Even though we didn’t shoot a great percentage (43.5 percent to Texas’ 40.0), if you don’t turn it over and you get 13 offensive rebounds like we did, you have opportunities over time, which is a huge key.”
Self said he did notice Wayne Selden Jr. cheering wildly on the bench in the closing seconds despite the fact the sophomore wing played just nine minutes the second half after going 18 minutes the first half.
“He’s a winner,” Self said.
“That was a team win. Nobody could argue the five best players played down the stretch in yesterday’s game. Kelly was good (14 minutes first half, seven second). Wayne was good. They both scored eight points. Jamari (Traylor) made some of the key plays in the game. (But) down the stretch, those five who were out there played very, very well.”
BIG 12 NEWCOMER OF THE WEEK
Cliff Alexander, Kansas, F, Fr., 6-8, 240, Chicago, Ill./Curie
Alexander led Kansas to two victories over top 25 foes as the Jayhawks defeated Oklahoma and won at No. 17 Texas. The freshman forward averaged 14.0 points and 11.0 rebounds while shooting 55.6 percent (10-of-18) from the field. He had his second double-double of the year versus OU, finishing with 13 points and a career-best 13 boards. He had a team-high 15 points at UT, while grabbing nine rebounds. It marks the first time in 2014-15 that Alexander has scored in double digits in consecutive contests.
“When we’re in the game at the same time, that’s our job,” Graham said. “Coach always tells us we’ve got to get a good shot every possession, so taking care of the ball is the key to getting a good shot every possession. We can’t just be out there turning the ball over as point guards.”
Graham has proof that he values possessions, both preserving them and stealing them. He not only has a 3.4-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio, he has more steals (11) than turnovers (8).
…The two small guards played together for 12 minutes in all Saturday, and the statistics backed up what everybody’s eyes saw. The Jayhawks play more aggressively, move the ball better and get better shots when Graham and Mason form the backcourt.
In the 28 minutes that either Mason or Graham was on the court, but not both, Kansas and Texas played to a stalemate, 44-44. KU shot .386 from the field and had three turnovers with one point guard, and shot .556 with no turnovers with two point guards.
The most ridiculous sequence of this Kansas basketball season took 41 seconds. Then it was over. It included three massive blocks, six missed shots, four passes, one wild loose-ball showdown at midcourt, with two players meeting head on, like two sports cars crashing in the night, and it also included one Jamari Traylor.
It’s safe to assume that no player in college basketball has covered more ground in 41 seconds than Traylor did during a flurry of action on Saturday afternoon. Traylor, the Jayhawks’ personification of a quick-twitch muscle, covered more than 270 feet of hardwood — the numbers are approximations here — and completed what Kansas coach Bill Self would call “the best play that I’ve seen since I’ve been at Kansas.”
…In the moments after the game, Self stood outside the Kansas locker room. A few minutes earlier, at the postgame press conference, he had offered his view, saying it was probably the best hustle play he’d seen in his 11 years at KU. Now he was trying to replay the sequence in his head. But really, it was all a blur. How many times had Traylor gone up and down the court? Did the block come first, or was it the steal? Seriously: What happened?
“It was unbelievable,” Self said. “I’d have to watch it again. That was a hell of a play.”
…The rest of Kansas’ road games (West Virginia, K-State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma) will all come in tough environments against good teams, and the Jayhawks figure to take some lumps. But for Kansas, the math is simple: If the Jayhawks win their home games and avoid a Topeka YMCA moment on the road, some team will have to play out of its mind to keep pace.
…Greene’s offensive rating was 198, according to KenPom.com, which surpassed his previous season high of 186 against Georgetown. (And Greene was five of five from three against Georgetown.) In 20 minutes on Saturday, Greene was four of five from three-point range and one of two from inside the arc. He also snatched four rebounds.
…One other number: For the season, Greene’s effective field-goal percentage (a stat that gives more weight to three-pointers) is 67.2, easily the best on the team. (Cliff Alexander is second with an effective field-goal percentage of 57.0) I was curious if any Kansas guard or wing during the Self era has had a better effective field-goal percentage than 67.2, so I scrolled through the last decade of numbers at KenPom.com. The answer: No — though Travis Releford (64.6) came close in 2012-13.
“Everybody could take a deep breath,” KU coach Bill Self said. "I think Brannen Greene bailed us out.”
Greene continues to have a changing role for KU depending on the game. He played 20 minutes Saturday and 15 in KU’s previous contest against Oklahoma. Before that, he combined for just eight minutes in the Jayhawks’ two previous games against Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
“When his head’s right — I’m not saying it hasn’t been right; we’ve had moments — but when his head’s right, he’s a really good player,” Self said. “He gives an element off the bench that we haven’t had, to be honest. We haven’t had guys that could come off the bench that could go get you 15, make five 3s at Georgetown or make four 3s (Saturday).
“He’s been a huge asset for us.”
…“Two steps across half court,” KU guard Devonte’ Graham said with a grin, “might be a good shot for B.G.”
With 7:19 second remaining, it was anybody's game. Coming out of the eight minute media time out, Texas and Kansas were in a dogfight. Myles Turner had just tipped in a missed Isaiah Taylor layup to cut Kansas' lead to three. Now the Longhorns simply needed to execute down the stretch, and get a few stops.
But the next two and a half minutes would end up being a disaster for Rick Barnes' team, which made a series of mistakes that allowed Kansas to pull away. Here is how it happened.
I'll be honest. I thought this would be another Iowa State game, where the home crowd and talent on the opposing bench proved to be too much for the young Jayhawks to overcome. But maybe it was just the opposite. Maybe it was exactly the kind of game this team needed to allow it to believe that what happened in Ames, Iowa, one week earlier was closer to being a fluke than the norm. If that's true and these guys just turned up the belief they have in themselves, the Big 12 race might be over.
LJW Tait Day After
Two weeks ago, I wrote that I'd take the field over Kansas for this Big 12 title race. About that...
There are some things you should doubt. Government. Buffets. Anyone who says rain is good luck on your wedding day. Bill Belichick passing a lie detector.
But never ever ever ever doubt Bill Self.
…Self is pushing all the right buttons. He has multiple weapons who can beat you. He has Allen Fieldhouse, where the Jayhawks haven't lost all season.
Last Saturday after Kansas lost at Iowa State, kenpom.com's updated predictions had Iowa State and Oklahoma as the favorites to win the Big 12 by a game over Kansas. One week later, Kansas sits alone at the top of those projections.
Iowa State is still a worthy contender. Maybe Texas will make a run. Oklahoma and West Virginia have had their moments where they look dangerous.
But same as it ever was, it's Kansas...and the field.
Betting against the guy with a ring on every finger?
You'll regret that.
We all said it -- I said it, too -- so often that it became something of a cliché: Kansas will have a tough time winning an 11th consecutive league title in this season's stronger and deeper Big 12.
It would appear someone forgot to tell Kansas. After beating Texas 75-62 in Austin, the Jayhawks are ideally positioned to extend their incredible streak of shared or outright Big 12 regular-season championships. KU sits atop the standings at 5-1, with two road wins (over the Longhorns and Baylor) already safely tucked away. What did all of us miss when we were administering last rites to the Jayhawks' streak?
I dare say we missed two things.
First, Kansas is better than we thought it would be back when the Jayhawks were losing at Temple by 25. Second, the rest of the league -- while undoubtedly strong and balanced -- may not be able to produce one bona fide contender that can look KU in the eye.
…In effect, Kansas is a good shooting team that takes excellent care of the ball and is average on the offensive glass. Iowa State, by contrast, is a good shooting team that takes excellent care of the ball and concedes the offensive glass. And Baylor's a poor shooting team that takes average care of the ball and is outstanding on the offensive glass.
At the moment, KU's numbers track what we saw from this team in 2013-14 almost precisely -- and that group of Jayhawks won the Big 12 by two games with a 14-4 record. It's only January, granted, and certainly the overtime win that West Virginia managed, somehow, to pull out against TCU could yet loom large; the Jayhawks still have two games to play against the Mountaineers. Nevertheless, KU is, yet again, defending its title from a position of strength.
ESPN ($) Gasaway
Mike Krzyzewski reached 1,000 victories Sunday; 927 of those wins have come with Duke.
Coach 1K is not going gently into the twilight of his career. His Blue Devils are ranked fifth nationally. The previous seven years, Duke has been seeded third, second, second, first, first, second and second in NCAA regionals.
But in those seven years, Duke has zero outright ACC championships. Only once since 2006 have the Blue Devils so much as tied for the league title.
Now let’s go back a day, to Saturday, when down in Austin, Kansas beat Texas, and out in Lubbock, Texas Tech beat Iowa State, and the Big 12 basketball race is decided before Groundhog Day. When the Jayhawks’ chief contender loses at the league’s worst team, it’s time to declare the election over.
KU will win. Again. Groundhog Year. The same thing keeps happening, over and over again. And it’s a sign of the Big 12 hoops’ ill health.
The Jayhawks have finished atop the Big 12 for 10 straight years. They’ve won the Big 12 outright six of the last seven years; Kansas State managed a tie in 2013.
Good for KU. Bad for KU’s opponents. Bad for the conference.
Kansas’ domination is a sign of more than just Jayhawk excellence. It’s a sign of Big 12 basketball decay.
…While Kansas has been dominating the Big 12, other conferences have produced a litany of quality teams.
In the last 10 years, six schools have won outright Big Ten titles and five schools have reached the Final Four, including Ohio State twice and Michigan State thrice.
In the last 10 years, four schools have won outright ACC titles and two schools have reached the Final Four, including North Carolina thrice.
In the last 10 years, four schools won outright Big East titles and six have reached the Final Four, including Louisville twice and Connecticut thrice. And yes, the old Big East has been scattered to the wind, and the new Big East still is a more viable hoops league than is the Big 12.
In the last 10 years, four schools have won outright SEC titles and three have reached the Final Four, including Kentucky and Florida thrice each.
In the last 10 years, four schools have won outright Pac-12 titles, though only UCLA (thrice) has made the Final Four.
In the last 10 years, the Horizon League has made as many Final Fours (two, both by Butler) as has the big 12. In the last 10 years, more schools from Conference USA (Louisville 2005, Memphis 2008) have made the Final Four than schools from the Big 12. In the last 10 years, more schools from the Colonial Athletic Association (George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth) have made the Final Four than schools from the Big 12.
Groundhog Year. Kansas wins. The Big 12 disappoints.
VIDEO: Coach Self congratulates Coach K
Lights, camera, action! Behind-the-scenes peek at Rock Chalk Video
Rookie-hazing in effect!
“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
Wichita police Lt. James Espinoza told The Associated Press that the 19-year-old was arrested early Sunday morning after being initially stopped for failing to signal a turn and maintain a single lane.
Espinoza said Monday a breath test showed Frankamp's blood-alcohol content was .186, more than twice the legal limit.
A phone message left Monday at his parents' Wichita home was not immediately returned.
Four assistant coaches talked for this column — two from the Big 12, one each from the SEC and ACC — and at a minimum each advocated for a shorter shot clock. One called games “boring at times.”
They were granted anonymity for various reasons, including honesty but also because the smartest man of the bunch — no offense to those coaches — is speaking loudly and clearly.
“I will fight for college basketball until the death,” says Jay Bilas, the former Duke player and assistant coach, and current ESPN broadcaster. “But sitting by and watching this ship sink is not good enough. Who could defend what we’re seeing right now?”
The sport’s problems are coming out of the shadows in what is largely an ugly season. This will almost certainly be the slowest season since college basketball adopted the (then 45 seconds) shot clock. This is a season of hopeless shots and streams of timeouts slaughtering any flow.
…But the thing is, the best way to make those smaller changes is to address one outdated, self-destructive and fundamental fact about college basketball: The game has no leader.
What kind of multibillion-dollar business operates without a CEO?
“There’s nobody in charge, and that has become abundantly clear,” Bilas says. “We deserve the game we’ve got now. We earned this.”
Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, acknowledges that there is a growing conversation from within the game to have a more centralized leader.
“I do think there is interest in trying to figure out how to manage it more effectively, and what would that look like,” Haney says.
…By definition, players in college will never be as good as those in the NBA. But the environments are better, the passion bigger, and the platform enough that it is the world’s first look at the game’s biggest stars.
College basketball could be a better product, in other words. If not in comparison to the NBA — that’s entirely subjective — then certainly when compared with what it is at the moment.
“I love this game, and it’s become unwatchable,” Bilas says. “It’s hard for me to argue with people I know and respect those who don’t want to watch our game. It’s hard to build a case why they’re wrong.”
…In any context, consensus building is exponentially harder at the college level, with 350 Division I programs as opposed to 30 NBA franchises. What’s good for Kentucky isn’t necessarily good for Cornell. That difficulty may be amplified at the moment, with 11 years on each of college basketball’s two biggest TV contracts.
But if the sport is smart, it will address its obvious problems long before the immediate financial need arrives. That’s how a well-run business would operate, anyway.
Complete ESPN Networks schedule
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
“I think these past two games have been the worst two that we have played all year,” Villa Angela-St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak told cleveland.com. “It is disappointing because I thought we had played our best two games of the year in the previous two (St. Thomas Aquinas and Oak Hill). Some of that may be my fault, but it is something we have to play through.”
MacDuffie led by 10 at halftime and then used an 8-0 run after halftime to open the margin. Villa Angela was forced to play from behind almost the entire game after getting off to a slow start and struggling to get points inside.
Simon Texidor led the Vikings with 27 points. Kansas commit Carlton Bragg finished with 18 as did teammate Brian Parker.
VOTE for Carlton Bragg’s HS Villa Angela-St Joseph
If VASJ is going to advance to the final round and earn the right to compete for a $1,000 donation to the school’s athletic department and the right to earn the title of “America’s Best Boys Basketball Program,” it is going to need the support – and voting power – of all Northeast Ohio hoops fans.
Fans may vote as many times as they’d like for a particular program during the contest period.