A media scrum sat waiting around one particular locker in the Connecticut locker-room, just after a practice on the team’s off day on Friday.
Connecticut assistant coach Karl Hobbs looked around a bit puzzled.
“Who are you all waiting on?” he asked.
The answer: freshman guard Jalen Adams.
“Ah. Got the two Roxbury boys playing tomorrow,” Hobbs responded.
Sure enough, Saturday’s second round matchup between Connecticut and Kansas pits two hometown heroes against each other with Adams and Kansas guard Wayne Selden Jr., both of whom are from Roxbury, Massachusetts.
The battle between the two is more than just a competition between two players who grew up in the same neighborhood. In fact, Saturday is a reunion between two players who consider one another brothers, even if the two are in no way blood related.
“I’ve known him since I was nine or 10 years old,” Selden said. “He’s like my little brother. My grandmother is his mom’s godmother. We’ve known each other since the sandbox.”
…Both sophomore guard Devonte’ Graham and junior guard Rodney Purvis originate from Raleigh, North Carolina. Like Selden and Adams, the two played on the same AAU basketball team, despite Graham being a year younger than Purvis.
Though the two Raleigh-natives never shared a bond quite like the one of Selden and Adams, Graham and Purvis have played together for several years. The pair continue to play blacktop games whenever they get the chance.
…“There will be no love lost out there because we are both competitive guys and that’s just how it is,” Selden said.
With Sterling Gibbs, Rodney Purvis, Jalen Adams and Hamilton, Connecticut boasts perimeter depth to match Kansas. Each of those players averages at least 7.6 points and all but Gibbs, a reserve freshman, averages at least 12.
…“If we’re able to lock them down defensively, offense will kind of take care of itself,” Gibbs said. “As long as we’re able to play defense, we’ll get some easy baskets.”
…UConn ranks first nationally with a 79.3 free throw percentage. In the first round against Austin Peay, KU committed 27 fouls and Austin Peay took 37 free throws. The Jayhawks aren’t looking to repeat those totals.
“We still have to be aggressive, we just have to be a lot smarter,” KU forward Perry Ellis said. “We have to see how the refs are calling the game and be able to adjust to that. We still want to play aggressive.”
"It presents a great opportunity for the team and to see if we're battle-tested," Daniel Hamilton said Friday after the Huskies prepped for top-seeded Kansas. "To go in and play against one of the best teams in the country to see where we stand, and I think we really got a great chance, especially how we've been playing lately, the last four games. And if we just continue to keep up the intensity and keep this level of play, I think we will come out with a victory."
…It's all pretty basic, as is the psychology of this game. One team is expected to win, carrying the pressure. And UConn, which could well be in the NIT if not for Adams' 70-foot shot in the AAC Tournament, is making the most of a second life.
"To everyone else we're an underdog," Sterling Gibbs said. "But everyone in this locker room believes we are going to win this game. That's all we need, to believe in ourselves."
The Jayhawks, who hope to advance to Thursday’s Sweet 16 in Louisville, realize a key factor in advancing could be foul shooting.
“We have to be smart on defense, try to keep them off the line as much as possible,” Ellis said. “They are knocking those shots down. It’s obvious it’s something they have a lot of confidence in. They have great focus at the line.”
Greene, who has been suffering from back spasms lately and didn’t score versus Austin Peay but had four assists and three steals in 11 minutes, acknowledged, “UConn is a great driving team, so it will be tough (to avoid fouling). We will pick up a couple tick-tack fouls. They are really good drivers, really good guards. It’s about being focused, locked in shrinking the floor, making sure they can’t drive and get in the lane so Perry doesn’t have to pick up those fouls and Landen (Lucas) doesn’t have to pick up those fouls.”
Lucas, who had 16 points, eight boards and just two fouls against Peay, said, “If we get in foul trouble like yesterday, and the refs are calling it close, we have to make sure we do something to adjust. They will step up to the line and knock things down. If they can do that and control the pace of the game, that could hurt us.”
Noted junior Wayne Selden Jr.: “You can’t put them at the foul line early. We’ve got to guard, see how the refs call it then adjust.”
The tinkering started last spring, Kansas basketball coaches knowing they were going to have to adjust to a 24-second shot clock in the World University Games.
The goal was to play faster, be more guard-oriented and drive the ball at nearly every opportunity.
That offensive tweaking? It led to KU going 8-0 while winning a gold medal during the international competition.
“We came back, and we continued doing that, because we had success over there,” KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend said. “I think that’s been the biggest change, and coach is unbelievable about adjusting to the talent we have and playing to what our strengths are.
“I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
…Much of the team’s offense now is initiated on the perimeter, centering mostly around high ball screens and a two-man game between quick point guard Frank Mason and versatile forward Perry Ellis.
“That has been something that’s helped us, moving guys away from the basket,” KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said.
Perhaps no play has signified KU’s new style more than “Down” — a set KU coach Bill Self signals by pretending that he’s dribbling a basketball.
…“There’s so many things you can do with it,” Ellis said. “It’s really just playing basketball and trying to drive and be in attack mode.”
“As the season went on, we changed and he changed. Some things had to change,” Graham said. “And one of the things was he gave us more freedom. But with that, it took a lot more responsibility from us.”
Whatever the chicken-and-egg quotient in all this is, it’s clear that the dynamics of the team — and how it perceives its coach — have radically shifted from the last two particularly stinging postseasons.
Each of those flameouts was hampered by key injuries late in the season, influenced by the flux of youth and one-and-dones on the roster, and, in hindsight, Self’s regrets that he got away from a formula that he long has favored for postseason success: having multiple point guards in the lineup at the same time.
Contrast that with the 2016 postseason, in which Kansas has a more structured identity and roles better understood.
And with that a coach who has so urged his players to cut loose and have fun and just be guys who can weather his withering gameday words in a different way.
The message of faith in them has been transmitted in a variety of ways, including Self’s rare display of raw sentimentality when he cried during Jamari Traylor’s senior-day send-off at Allen Fieldhouse.
“He’s a lot more open and a lot more free; he’s not as mean, I guess,” Traylor said, smiling and adding that he was moved by the love Self has for him and the bond they share.
Less overtly, forward Landen Lucas says he senses Self understands that the last couple of years his anxieties “might have carried over onto the team a little bit.”
Now, Lucas says, Self is more relaxed and gets how “self-aware” this team of veterans is … and that he knows that without Self even having to say it.
He also can tell it even when Self might let loose even as he seeks to keep them loose.
“Naturally, you get a sense of people, and just everything they say and every action that they do kind of comes across as one way or another,” Lucas said. “And so he really doesn’t have to say something extreme to let us know.
“We can just kind of feel that; I think that’s the biggest difference.”
KC Star Gregorian
Sophomore Svi Mykhailiuk scored 23 points Thursday against Austin Peay.
“We think he’s doing great. We think he loves it here. He tells us he does. All indications are that he’s very, very happy,” Self said. “I think frustration does set in when you don’t play as much as you want to or play as well as you know you can, when you get opportunities.
“He’s the youngest player on our team, and I think he’s the second-youngest player in the Big 12, and he’s a sophomore. So when you evaluate him, you should evaluate him as a freshman out there. He came when he was 16 years old, so you should evaluate him as a freshman, and if you’re able to do that, then you say, ‘Wow!’
“At times he can look a certain way and look great, but he’s been a little bit inconsistent. I think that’s pretty apparent, but I think a lot that’s just youth.”
Self added: “I think as much as anything, it’s a prime example of keep grinding. You keep grinding, you don’t know when your number will be called, and although his number is called every game, but that could have been a totally different feeling game if he hadn’t played like he played. So I think if there is a lesson to be learned, it’s stay positive, keep grinding and when the opportunity knocks you gotta be ready to take advantage of it.”
…KU junior Brannen Greene has been suffering from back spasms.
“It’s all right. It’s doing better,” he said of his back. “I was getting (spasms) yesterday. I’ve still got ’em today, not as bad. My hip is fine. It feels great,” added the player who had offseason hip surgery. “I haven’t had trouble with my hip pretty much all year.”
With a spot in its first Sweet 16 in three seasons on the line Saturday against No. 9-seeded Connecticut, the Kansas basketball team had a simple approach to the night before the high-profile showdown:
Netflix and chill.
(The literal meaning, that is.)
“We’ll probably just watch a movie tonight, or just watch ball as a group,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We’ll get away from it as much as we can.”
The top-seeded Jayhawks (31-4) looked to be heeding Self’s words during a laid back media availability Friday in the team locker room at Wells Fargo Arena. Guard Frank Mason narrated a Snapchat of teammate Devonte’ Graham being interviewed. Wayne Selden used the team’s Twitter selfie stick to answer a fan question about who is the team’s best dancer.
“That would be, Mr. Devonte’ Graham,” Selden said before pointing the device at the sophomore guard.
The most animated and only raucous moment in the availability came during the day’s only real competitive moment, when several players and some coaches got together for an impromptu game.
Participants stood in a circle and had to catch a tennis ball, then release it at another participant from behind their own back, all in one fluid motion. Failure to do so would result in elimination, a fate first doled out to assistant coach Jerrance Howard.
After a few minutes of intense competition — and a lot of hollering — Graham came away the victor of the game the Jayhawks have yet to name.
“You can burn a lot of energy on an off day, and that’s the last thing you want to do,” Self said. “We don’t want to burn any energy today except during practice.”
National titles are nice, and they’re a huge part of college basketball.
But, unlike those other programs, UConn has suffered through some lean seasons and even stretches during its storied century of college hoops.
Take a recent example as the best proof. After winning the national title in 2014, with Ollie and point guard Shabazz Napier leading the way, the Huskies followed that up by losing in the first round of the NIT in 2015.
And, even though they appear to be primed for tonight’s clash with Kansas (31-4), they entered this year’s tournament as a No. 9 seed and were a first-round underdog to a Colorado program making just its 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“You can’t do nothing about that,” Purvis said. “Just like you can’t take away the lottery picks that we have, the national championships that we have. You can’t take away the Kemba Walkers, the Shabazz Napiers, none of that. That’s what you get with UConn.”
Perhaps understandably, UConn’s players tend to focus on recent history.
Take senior Omar Calhoun, for example. Asked Friday if he knew much about the history of Kansas basketball, the 6-foot-6 guard from Brooklyn offered an immediate answer. But his sound bite did not have anything to do with the game’s inventor, Wilt Chamberlain or even Danny Manning.
“As kids, watching college basketball growing up, we know the history, from watching Mario Chalmers hitting big shots and stuff like that,” Calhoun said. “There’s a lot of history on both sides, so it should be a great game.
“We’re gonna try to show tomorrow that UConn’s definitely one of the great teams, along with Kansas, Kentucky and those other great schools. UConn’s definitely in that mix.”
Carlton Bragg has a story to tell about his shorts.
It begins in the locker room before an AAU tournament in 2013. He is a sophomore in high school. On this fateful day, his team is scheduled to wear new uniforms and he is last in line to select shorts. All the popular sizes are gone. No large, no medium, not even extra large remains. He is stuck with small.
Instead of taking the court in long, baggy shorts like everyone else, he looks like John Stockton, rocking shorts that barely cover his thighs.
He felt ridiculous. Then he scored 28 points. The short shorts everyone sees today were born.
“I felt comfortable with them,” Bragg said. “I was like, ‘I am going to wear these again next game,’ and I had another really good game. I just kept it going. I love short shorts, as you can see. I absolutely love them.”
University of Connecticut
- It’s a hard-knock life: The University of Connecticut started in a former orphanage and a few barns.
- The Husky mascot’s name is Jonathan, in honor of Connecticut’s last colonial and first state governor, Jonathan Trumbull.
- Slate magazine ranked the university’s hometown, Storrs, Conn., as “America’s Best Place to Avoid Death Due to Natural Disaster.” And this guy is pretty excited about it:
Illinois hasn't won 25 games in a season since 2005-06 under Weber and hasn't had sustained success since Self's short tenure.
Self was cautious with his words, noting he admires the program and current coach John Groce. But he explained what made him so successful at Illinois.
"I'm not an expert on anybody else's program, so not claiming to be," Self said. "I know when I was there, maybe times are different, (but) it was so important that we were able to develop, maintain relationships in the (Chicago) area and certainly be able to recruit.
"If there are six high-major guys in the state, (we had) to be able to get two or three of those guys every year. We didn't always get the blue-chip, blue-chip guys, but we got a lot of guys who turned out to be blue-chip players."
Self hasn't stopped doing that, which might add to Illinois' fans disdain for him. He has lured Chicago players such as Julian Wright, Sherron Collins and Cliff Alexander to Lawrence, Kan.
Self said Illinois hasn't had the best luck either, pointing to the rash of injuries the team faced this season.
"I'm a fan of John's, so I don't want to say anything remotely negative or hint that at all," he said. "I don't think they've caught many breaks in the last couple of years."
For Illinois fans, seeing Self and Kruger advancing in the tournament is a reminder of their own glory days — and how fervently they want to see the Illini play deep into March.
Players really weren't surprised Bill Self is the coach of the year, saying it's well deserved. The number one seed team also has the number one coach this year.
Wayne Selden says he is proud of Self.
"He deserved it, I mean when I think of coach of the year, I think people think you team is that good and you guys performed well."
Frank Mason agrees.
"No matter how well we are playing, we can always play better, that’s what we love about him, he coaches us hard and we love that."
It’s not just about who he is on the court, but also off the court.
Landen Lucas says he relies on Self understanding how to handle different situations.
"He’s very personable, easy to get along with on and off the court, and he wins a lot so fans obviously like that."
Jamari Traylor says Self does a great job.
"To be honest I’m not surprised I mean, he’s my coach so I’m biased."
Wayne Selden says he's learned a lot from Self, including how to be successful.
"Because he wins, at the end of the day, everyone loves a winner."
Kansas junior guard Wayne Selden Jr., has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award.
Kansas senior forward Perry Ellis has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
VOTE HERE DAILY!
“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
The last two perfect brackets were busted on Friday when fifth-seeded Maryland defeated 12th-seeded South Dakota State. Twenty-four games into the 2016 NCAA tournament -- halfway through Friday -- there are no longer any perfect brackets remaining out of the approximately 13 million entered in ESPN's Tournament Challenge.
Last year, one bracket (out of 11.57 million) remained perfect after the round of 64, the first time there was a perfect first round in ESPN's Tournament Challenge since at least 2010.
Through the first 24 games of this year’s tournament, 11 lower-seeded teams have won, with the biggest upset being No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee over No. 2 seed Michigan State. Thus, an all-chalk bracket has gone just 13-11, which would rank in the 11th percentile. Last year after the round of 64, an all-chalk bracket netted a 27-5 record, good for the 98.7th percentile.
How shocking was the 15th-seeded Blue Raiders' 90-81 victory in Saint Louis? I'd say it's easily the tourney's biggest upset in at least 20 years, dating back to 13th seed Princeton's 1996 classic over defending champion UCLA. And you could make a compelling case it is in fact the biggest of all-time.
Call that hyperbole if you want. I call it insanity.
Heading into Selection Sunday, Big Ten tournament champion Michigan State was a near universally assumed No. 1 seed, though the committee ultimately disagreed. The 29-5 Spartans checked in at No. 2 behind only Kansas in the most recent AP top 25, and Vegas gave Michigan State the second-best odds to cut down the nets in Houston.
By comparison, 24-9 Middle Tennessee of Conference USA was at No. 117 in Sagarin and No. 123 in KenPom.
Travis Ford will not return next season as Oklahoma State's men's basketball coach.
The school on Friday announced in a statement that Ford and OSU "mutually agreed that the school and Ford will part ways."
Ford spent nine years at Oklahoma State and guided the Cowboys to five NCAA Tournaments. But the Kentucky graduate never advanced to the Sweet 16 and never finished better than third in the Big 12. In fact, Ford finished sixth-or-worse in the Big 12 in seven of his nine seasons, including this season when the Cowboys went 3-15 in the league and finished ninth in a 10-school conference.
This season was Ford's 19th as a college basketball coach. He began his career at Campbellsville in 1997, then transitioned to Eastern Kentucky and UMass before replacing Sean Sutton at Oklahoma State in April 2008. His best season at OSU was the 2012-13 season, when Marcus Smart, Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown pushed the Cowboys to a 24-9 record and third-place finish in the Big 12.
As for Ford's replacement, sources have told CBS Sports that Virginia Tech's Buzz Williams and Wichita State's Gregg Marshall are possible candidates. But, obviously, either would be expensive — and that is a hurdle considering Oklahoma State will reportedly have to pay Ford a $7.2 million buyout to no longer coach its men's basketball team. Stephen F. Austin's Brad Underwood is a less-expensive possibility, sources have told CBS Sports. And sources have told CBS Sports that
Oklahoma State graduate Doug Gottlieb has support within the OSU community and should be considered a legitimate option.
Memphis is sticking with coach Josh Pastner even though the school missed the NCAA Tournament for a second straight season.
University President David Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen said in a statement Friday the school will "make the necessary investments and changes" so it can "compete at the highest level" with Pastner as coach. If Memphis fired Pastner, he would have been owed $10.6 million.
ncaa.com: 2016 NCAA Tournament Schedule w/game times
Announcing crews, etc
Find out the tournament history for specific seeds, teams, coaches or conferences.
NCAA Tournament Brackets and History interactive tool
CBS Interactive Tool: Pick two teams to compare record, RPI and SOS details head to head. By default, the top two teams in RPI are shown.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
Recruiting Calendar (updated for 2016)
Late Night in the Phog
Bill Self Camp KU Alumni games
60 Years of AFH Celebration
Legends of the Phog game
2011-12 Final Border War
KC Prep Invitational
and more, now on YouTube