For Kansas, 200-9 and 11-straight represent two of the most impressive marks in the history of college basketball. However, what might be even more impressive is the history of the sport itself, and how it always seems to trace back to one place.
“The game’s history comes through Lawrence. Every road in the game leads here — every single road,” Jay Bilas said. “Rupp played here. Dean Smith played here. Phog Allen coached here. Naismith was the first coach; he invented the game.”
Kansas University now has the longest run of appearances in the Associated Press Top 25 men's basketball poll after Duke fell out for the first time in more than eight years.
“Our guys don’t want to play zone,” Self said. “During the first half, I said, ‘Let’s play 2-3, and they’re, like, ‘No, we can go on them, coach,’ which we didn’t.
“But we went 2-3. You (media) don’t even know that two possessions in the first half they scored five points, because both of the points on both possessions were in transition where guys didn’t run back to their spots and whatever.”
Self abandoned both man-to-man defense and 2-3 zone for a triangle-and-two the second half to help slow Ulis, who finished with 14 points and five assists the first half and 12 points and three assists the second half and OT.
“Our guys know we want to hang our hat on (man-to-man) and then sprinkle in other things. But certainly the triangle-and-two, it did bail us out Saturday whenever Willis (Derek, six points) wasn’t in the game,” Self said.
…Asked a question Monday of how shooting guards Brannen Greene and Svi Mykhailiuk have been faring in practice of late, Self brought up Memphis freshman Vick.
“They’ve been fine. Lagerald’s been the best guy off the bench in practice, and we tried to play him the other day, and that was probably too big a stage for him this early because we hadn’t really given him a chance to play” Self said.
“Of those three, I would say Lagerald has been the most consistent of the three. But you always want to have somebody in there that can stretch the defense and shoot the ball. Thing about it with Brannen, the other team’s always going to have to guard him because he does shoot it so well.”
“We're not going to win big if we play zone,” Self said Monday. “That's not who we are, but we need to be able to play some. But certainly I don't think that's the antidote for success with us.”
There still needs to be change moving forward if KU wants to be considered a national title contender.
The Jayhawks rank 38th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, an all-encompassing defensive stat that factors in the quality of offenses faced and where each game was played. If that ranking stands, this will be the worst defense Self has had in his 13 seasons at KU.
“The hardest thing for us to guard is the ball,” Self said. “If you look across America, we're not the only ones. Everybody's having a hard time guarding the ball because guards are so good and they're so quick.”
So how can KU improve over the season’s final two months?
Graham says the team can be better with the details. KU can improve its closeouts on shooters while not jumping to the ball as often when it’s on the opposite side of the court.
Communication also has been an issue. This is a quiet team by nature, and simple acts like speaking up on pick-and-rolls or being sure to bump the man that’s rolling have the potential to stop scoring plays before they occur.
“We’re all working on it, so we’re definitely going to get better at it,” Graham said. “The ultimate thing is we’ve just got to start guarding, keeping our man in front.”
Self says playing perimeter defense is about more than simply telling yourself that you can do it. There is a right way to guard certain actions and a right way to help and recover. Discipline is needed to correctly adjust as both the ball and the person you're guarding moves.
“There's a lot of thinking that goes into it,” Self said.
At a base level, Self says KU could be helped if it simply limited opponents’ straight-line drives. Those are most dangerous because it puts defenses in a tenuous spot, as once a big man helps, his man is left open for an easy pass. Those plays often result in dunks.
Self joked that what his team really needed was to get with KU’s football coaches to run some cornerback drills.
“You don't have to totally stop your guy,” Self said, “but you've got to at least control him and direct him a certain direction.”
“They had played better in practice, primarily Cheick,” Self said. “I thought he was pretty good, and Carlton obviously made some shots and played well. Eight points kind of bailed us out when Perry wasn’t in the game, so they were important to us.”
One reason the freshman frontliners didn’t play more in the second half was the defense Kansas employed. When the Jayhawks went to a triangle-and-two, Self wanted more experienced big men — Jamari Traylor and Landen Lucas — in the game along with Ellis. Hunter Mickelson was out because of an ankle injury.
“Our veteran guys have a much better chance to play that well than what Cheick and Carlton do because we haven’t practiced it much of late,” Self said.
But what the freshmen, both listed at 6 feet 9, can provide is more defense around the rim. Self disagreed when asked why the team’s blocked-shots numbers were low.
“Low?” Self said. “They’re almost minuscule.”
By recent Kansas standards, yes. The Jayhawks average 3.9 blocks per game. Kentucky blocked six shots to Kansas’ one on Saturday.
“It’s nice if you’ve got a guy when people penetrate they can’t see the rim,” Self said. “We don’t have that now. We talk about that and beg for activity.
“It’s important. That’s a big part of defense, having guys cover up mistakes and obviously we haven’t had that of late. We’ve got to get better at it.”
Diallo has the best shot-blocking game when he swatted five against TCU. He has 13 blocks for the season. Mickelson’s 20 blocks lead Kansas, which ranks sixth in the Big 12 in that department.
“Cheick and Hunter are our best shot blockers,” Self said. “But we need more activity from those guys.”
Topeka played a part in the last basketball victory Kansas State managed at Allen Fieldhouse.
Rather than stay in Manhattan and make the 80-mile drive on game day, or book rooms for an overnight stay in Lawrence, the Wildcats slept in a Topeka hotel.
“There was a lot of negative feeling at the time,” said former K-State coach Jim Wooldridge, “so we took our team the night before and let them spend the night in Topeka to get them out of their normal environment and change the rhythm a little bit.”
The Wildcats apparently were never distracted by the neon atop the Jayhawk Tower. The accommodations worked wonderfully considering Kansas State upset Kansas 59-55 the next day.
That was 10 years ago. Three coaches have since followed Wooldridge at K-State. None have triumphed in Allen Fieldhouse, where Bruce Weber will get his fourth opportunity with the Cats in an 8 p.m. game Wednesday against the No. 7 Jayhawks.
The Sunflower streak K-State halted under Wooldridge on Jan. 14, 2006, was a 31-game skid against KU.
“Oh, gosh, every time we’d play those guys that would always come up,” Wooldridge said. “With players and coaches alike, that wears thin and gets into your psyche a little bit.”
Kansas State will likely be without starting guard Kamau Stokes for Wednesday’s game at No. 7 Kansas, but Stokes’ long-term status is unknown pending further evaluation of the knee injury he sustained last Saturday.
Stokes went down midway through the first half of K-State’s victory over Ole Miss and had to be assisted off the court with an injury to his right knee.
“He had an MRI (Sunday) and he’s going to be evaluated and meet with the doctor later (Monday) afternoon,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said Monday morning on the Big 12 teleconference. “I’d say he’s definitely questionable for Wednesday. We just have to see how severe the injury is.”
Weber wouldn’t speculate on how long the freshman point guard, who has started all but one game this season, could be sidelined.
“I don’t know what to say,” he said. “I don’t know, yet, but I’d say definitely questionable for Wednesday.”
KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger confirmed to the Journal-World Monday evening something that KU recruits have been hearing about for the past several weeks — there are new living quarters coming and they're going to be spectacular.
“This is really a profound moment for the University of Kansas and Kansas Athletics,” Zenger told the Journal-World. “And it is a great indicator of the relationship between the university and athletics, especially KU Student Housing and Diana Robertson, the director.”
The new apartment complex, which may have room for as many as 750 beds, is the all-sport follow-up to the state-of-the-art McCarthy Hall dorm that houses the men's basketball team and a handful of traditional students. Like McCarthy Hall, the new facility, which will funded entirely by the university, will house far more than just athletes.
KU has roughly 220-250 scholarship athletes during any given year and that will leave room for roughly 500 traditional students to fill the new apartments, which will sit somewhere southwest of Allen Fieldhouse.
Because of the demand for on-campus housing, Zenger said Jayhawker Towers would remain standing and become a housing complex primarily used by traditional students.
Harrison Leiszler, a six-year old growing up less than a mile from Allen Fieldhouse, took center stage Saturday morning on ESPN's College Gameday.
"Totally caught us off-guard," Chris Leiszler, Harrison's dad said. "We thought he'd get on TV. We didn't know that he'd get to go up and sit at the desk."
Harrison dressed up as the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith. He found a suit from a second-hand store, the glasses, and even the peach basket.
"That morning we combed his hair, parted it down the middle, and slapped a mustache on," Chris said.
Harrison woke up early Saturday morning to make sure he would dress to impress. He could be seen right behind the College Gameday desk.
…Chris and Harrison say they had no idea the Original Rules of Basketball would be presented Saturday night. Some call that a coincidence, but maybe it's more of that Allen Fieldhouse Magic.
While standing in his Naismith costume, Harrison recited the history of basketball.
"He invented basketball because it was really snowy and stormy and the students couldn't play outside," he recalled. "He put up two peach hoops, and he came up with a few rules and now they're in Allen Fieldhouse."
In Allen Fieldhouse... the home of Kansas basketball on Naismith Drive, located just steps away from Harrison's backyard.
“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
When Texas' 67-59 upset win in Waco was complete on Monday, Smart was active on the floor, looking to keep his team composed in the midst of an upset in enemy territory. There was no brawl or skirmish this time, just a solid road win in conference play that moved the Longhorns into a third place tie with Baylor in the Big 12 standings at 6-3.
Take a step back and look how far Texas has come since losing at TCU on Jan. 9, falling to 1-2 in conference play and 9-6 overall. Iowa State, West Virginia, Vanderbilt and now Baylor are all top-50 teams taken down by the Longhorns in this recent run. Against the Bears, Texas had 21 assists on 21 field goals and looked crisp. For the first time since early last season and definitely for the first time since Cam Ridley went down, Texas is a team that should intimidate Big 12 opponents.
Texas took control in the first 10 minutes and never relinquished the lead, holding on with huge threes from Connor Lammert and monster slams from Prince Ibeh.
For the most part, the Big 12/SEC Challenge lived up to expectations. ESPN followed through with its promise to bring exposure to both conferences, and televised all 10 games on its networks between breakfast and dinner on Saturday. If you went to a restaurant or sports bar while the event was taking place, you saw it.
Good crowds turned out to the majority of games, and many of the matchups entertained. By the time Kansas and Kentucky tipped, the challenge felt special.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl urged his team to play for conference pride, telling players on a televised pregame speech he wanted to hear the letters S-E-C! chanted throughout the arena. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford called the new format “genius” after the Big 12 took home the trophy as 7-3 winners.
“I think it was genius to put this thing together on Jan. 30,” Ford said. “It was an amazing day, just for the stage that the Big 12 and SEC had. The Big 12/SEC Challenge got all the publicity.”
…But it wasn’t for everyone.
“I didn’t think we got the bang for the buck,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said.
“I watched four (Big 12/SEC Challenge) games after (we played) and I didn’t see any highlights of our game,” Weber said. “They always put the graphic up that we won and who was the leading scorer ... If we are going to give up a bye game during the league and if we are going to put in that 19th league game, basically, I would hope we would get more bang for the buck.
“From my point of view and our team’s point of view, I think we could have gotten a little more publicity out of it.”
As it relates to the Big 12 and the red-hot, renewed expansion talk in college football’s most vulnerable and volatile Power Five conference, you would think the national media would be more educated about UCF.
This isn’t meant as a knock on anybody in particular, but the general tone I’ve seen and heard among some national writers and broadcasters is that UCF isn’t worthy of being in a Power Five league like the Big 12. You would expect such ignorance from some yahoo college football fan in Starkville, but the national media should be much more informed and astute.
They should know that expansion has little to do with the quality of your football program right at this minute and so much more to do with the number of cable TV sets you can deliver down the road.
…If, in fact, the Big 12 does expand, UCF should undoubtedly be the No. 1 candidate. If the national media would do their homework, they would know UCF is the second-largest public university in the nation and is cranking out thousands and thousands of graduates every year. Those graduates are inundating the State of Florida, which means a potential Big 12 Network could gain access to millions of cable TV viewers throughout our thriving state.
This idea that the Big 12 should add Houston or SMU over UCF is just plain uninformed. If the Big 12 started its own network, it already has the entire State of Texas television market (see Texas, Baylor, TCU, Texas Tech) locked up. As for the other potential prime candidates for Big 12 expansion such as Memphis and Cincinnati, here’s all you need to know: UCF’s television market is growing while the markets in Memphis and Cincy are shrinking.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, the Big 12 is the only Power 5 conference in the southern part of the United States that doesn't have a footprint in Florida — the third-most populous state and one of the richest recruiting hotbeds in the country. My concept is quite simple: If the Big 12 is going to expand, it should add UCF and USF and a combined Orlando-Tampa TV market that is the fourth-largest in the nation.
Almost every day, it seems, a national college sports writer tackles the Big 12 expansion, or non-expansion, situation and BYU fans gobble it up faster than Cougar Tails at the Marriott Center.
The latest scribe to opine on the matter is Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News, who penned this piece on Monday.
Big 12 athletic directors meet on Thursday in Dallas, and Big 12 presidents meet there on Friday. DeCourcy says there is "little doubt the topic of possible expansion will be among the items discussed." No surprise there.
Regarding BYU, DeCourcy says a source "close to the situation" told Sporting News that "BYU might stand as the most attractive potential partner because of its large following, excellent facilities and considerable wealth, but the challenges of adding a partner that declines to participate in Sunday competition is among the obstacles that appear to be too considerable."
Salt Lake Tribune
That leaves three possible scenarios for the expansion issue.
1. The Big 12 could choose to move east to add Cincinnati and Connecticut. Cincinnati has developed the most consistent football program of potential expansion candidates and is located in a major media market. UConn is four-time NCAA champion in men’s basketball and also adds the cachet of the dynastic women’s basketball program.
2. For football recruiting purposes and long-term potential, the Big 12 could advance into Florida by adding Central Florida and South Florida.
3. The Big 12 could decide not to expand at all.
It is not certain that any final action will be taken this week, only that the possibilities will be discussed.
Although Boren has been strident about the notion that the Big 12 is “disadvantaged” for having fewer members, he never has articulated what the disadvantages might be. From a competitive standpoint, Big 12 members are able to maintain full access to league opponents for all members, something the larger leagues struggle to do.
Sporting News DeCourcy
As this unpredictable college basketball season creeps ever closer toward March, it's important to remember that what we don't know still outweighs what we do know.
Take, for example, the first marquee game of February between No. 2 North Carolina and No. 19 Louisville on Monday night. Even Rick Pitino had little clue what to expect from his Cardinals after a humbling 63-47 home loss to Virginia on Saturday.
Pitino wrote on his personal website Sunday that he couldn't explain the lousy performance against Virginia, one in which his team managed a meager 14 first-half points. A couple of hours before Monday's game, Pitino called in to a local radio show and wondered whether his inexperienced club could gain enough battle armor in the next month to be ready for tournament time.
North Carolina's Roy Williams should have had many fewer questions about his team as it entered February. The Tar Heels were riding a 12-game winning streak, and they'd barely been challenged during an 8-0 start to Atlantic Coast Conference play.
So, of course, you know what happened: Louisville won 71-65 in the KFC Yum! Center.
Big 12 Composite Schedule & Results
“It’s been a little rough on me,” Jackson said of his recruitment. “Kind of stressful. I feel like I’m getting close to making a decision. I’m down to three schools: Kansas, Michigan State and Arizona. I feel like I’ll be able to make a decision within the next month or so.”
Jackson got a break from the stress of that thought process Monday afternoon when he received his honorary McDonald’s All American Game jersey during a ceremony at Justin-Siena High School as part of the McDonald’s All American Game Hometown Heroes presented by American Family Insurance. The game is March 30 in Chicago.
“I was so excited,” Jackson said of making the game. “I just couldn’t believe I got selected. I’ve been watching this game for years — ever since Kobe, LeBron, Kevin Durant. It’s always been a dream of mine to play in this game and I’m just happy that I have the opportunity now.”
Jackson, who is ranked No. 3 overall in the ESPN 100, certainly doesn’t lack for confidence. He was awarded Biggest Trash Talker by his peers in the USA TODAY High School Sports’ AAU Awards and Superlatives this past summer.
And, yes, he regularly backs it up.
Jackson won gold medals at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championship and 2013 FIBA Americas U16 Championship.
In August, he finished off a dominant summer by taking home the Under Armour Elite 24’s dunk contest and MVP trophies; makes sense that one of the things Jackson’s most looking forward to about the McDonald’s All American Game is throwing down vicious dunks trying for the perfect score.
Marques Bolden, a 6-10 senior forward from DeSoto (Texas) High who is ranked No. 16 nationally by Rivals.com, has cut KU from his list of schools following the recent commitment of Udoka Azubuike. Bolden has a list of Duke, Kentucky, Oklahoma and TCU.
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