Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart said after Saturday’s win over KU that one of the reasons he played so well was his desire to keep the Jayhawks from cutting down the nets in Gallagher-Iba Arena. (Smart) said the coaches showed him a quote of Self saying he wanted to come to OSU and clip the nets after a Big 12-clinching victory
Self told the Journal-World Sunday he never said anything about cutting down nets. And on Monday, OSU coach Travis Ford said he never presented such a quote to Smart.
“I never heard Bill Self say they were going to cut down the nets. I never saw that. I think Marcus was probably equating if they (Jayhawks) win in Stillwater they would celebrate then, and he probably just equated something along that line. There was nothing ever said. We never showed any quote of that at all. Absolutely not,” Ford said.
Ford also said: “You try to motivate your team. We told them what was at stake for Kansas, how hard they were going to play. They’ve got a great team, great kids. They are playing hard, and they deserve when they win it outright to celebrate. They deserve that.”
Self again was asked about the issue on the Big 12 teleconference.
“That was disturbing seeing that,” Self said of Smart’s quote. “I don’t know where he (Smart) got that information. That’s not for me to answer. (It’s) certainly 100 percent false. There was never one thing uttered out of my mouth to talk about doing anything on somebody else’s floor. I don’t know where that came from, but certainly that’s not for me to answer.”
KUAD Recap, Box Score
LJW Keegan Ratings: Embiid double-double earns top spot
…Embiid was in obvious discomfort as he left Gallagher-Iba on Saturday night. He shed a few tears as he visited with a parent of a KU player before heading to the team bus.
…Junior guard Naadir Tharpe dislocated his left thumb in the loss.
“I know Naadir’s thumb was sore (Sunday),” Self said. “It shouldn’t be anything to keep him out of play, though.”
Senior Justin Wesley didn’t make the trip to OSU because of a stomach virus. His Senior Night game is Wednesday.
Kansas men's basketball coach Bill Self announced Monday that freshman center Joel Embiid will miss Kansas' last two regular-season games vs. Texas Tech on March 5 and at West Virginia on March 8, due to a lower back strain.
"Joel re-aggravated a spot in his lower back that he was dealing with a few weeks ago," Kansas head coach Bill Self explained. "We had another MRI performed. We've also spoken with experts with this particular injury and have been told the same thing we were told before, rest is the best remedy."
Embiid leads Kansas in rebounding with an 8.1 per game average, which ranks sixth in the Big 12. His 2.6 blocks per game ranks second. The seven-foot center from Yaounde, Cameroon, missed the Jayhawks' home contest against TCU on Feb. 15 with the same injury, but returned to average 14.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in the four games since.
"It should not be an injury that keeps him out for the rest of the season," Self said. "Last time he was off five days and that worked very nicely for him and he was able to come back and be 100 percent."
Joel Embiid is done for the regular season -- and it isn't the first time Kansas' talented freshman center has had to cut his season short because of recurring back problems.
Embiid's high school coach, Justin Harden at The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., tells FOXSportsKansasCity.com that the native of Cameroon suffered from back flare-ups "at the end of (last) season.
"It was probably around this time last year. And in the spring, it hurt him even more."
The 7-footer is averaging 11.2 points, as well as a team-best 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game, for the eighth-ranked Jayhawks. He holds the KU single-season record for blocks by a freshman (72) and is viewed by most pundits as a potential top-five NBA Draft selection -- perhaps even the first overall pick -- if he chooses to forgo his collegiate eligibility.
On the plus side, Harden said physicians last year told him the center's recurring back issues were not "genetically predisposed, or anything bad, like herniated disks. When our doctors looked at it, they didn't see anything.
"It's one of those things where he's so long, you put stress on those muscles at a different angle that shorter guys don't. So you're more susceptible to stretching and tweaking."
Fox Sports Keeler
Rest assured, Kansas fans, Joel Embiid's back injury shouldn’t change the Jayhawks' seeding much, regardless of how the last two games go.
The beauty of the timing for Kansas, too, is that whatever happens in these last two games shouldn’t hurt it. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi elevated the Jayhawks to a 1-seed this week, a reward for KU’s ridiculously tough schedule and a punishment for Syracuse’s late-season swoon. Regardless of how these last games turn out, that shouldn’t change.
The selection committee, remember, will put a virtual asterisk next to these results, recognizing that Kansas played without one of its most impactful players.
This was not the way Kansas University’s basketball team envisioned wrapping up an undisputed 10th straight Big 12 Conference regular-season championship.
Not by squandering a 10-point lead in the final 11 minutes in Saturday night’s 72-65 loss to Oklahoma State in Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“We’re not going to (celebrate),” KU coach Bill Self said after the Jayhawks fell to 22-7 overall and 13-3 in the Big 12.
His squad actually clinched sole possession of the crown prior to the contest courtesy of losses (also on the road) by second-place teams Iowa State and Texas.
“I don’t have anything to do with it, (but) equipment managers are great at hats, trophies and T-shirts and stuff. I told them to put them under the damn bus, because to me we missed our opportunity to celebrate,” Self added.
…Yet seeing Marcus Smart score 20 points the final half after netting just one the first half in leading OSU (19-10, 7-9) to victory left such a bad taste, all celebrating was put on ice.
…League commissioner Bob Bowlsby brought the Big 12 regular-season title trophy into the KU locker room after the contest. KU’s team managers put it in a box for the long bus ride home on an icy night.
“You can’t celebrate after a loss. We’ll have to get it the next time we play,” said KU junior point guard Naadir Tharpe
…The turnovers had Self leaving his alma mater’s gym in a lousy mood.
“I think it was more us tonight than them,” he said. “To me they did a good job jumping in the passing lanes. There were more poor plays (by KU) than good plays (by OSU). They did a good job guarding, don’t get me wrong. More turnovers were self-inflicted in terms of our making mistakes.”
He praised sophomore Smart in spite of the fact some KU fans and a photographer on the scene said he taunted the Jayhawk bench down the stretch.
…“You can never celebrate after a loss,” Wiggins said. “Winning the Big 12 ... at Kansas we expect that. You can’t celebrate this way. We’ve got to finish strong. We get to play again. We’ll get better after this.”
Self talked to his team in the postgame locker room about securing the championship.
“He mentioned it, but we were more focused on this game,” KU sophomore forward Perry Ellis said. “But it's over now. We have to go to the next game.”
Self, who said afterward the team’s championship hats and T-shirts would have to be broken out at another time, did say he was proud of his team for what it had accomplished.
Against what is widely considered one of the top two conferences, KU (22-7, 13-3 Big 12) wrapped up the league title before the regular season’s final week.
“We may do a little something if we’re successful on Wednesday against (Texas) Tech,” Self said. “It’s pretty good for our kids to have a three-game lead with two games left. They played their butts off, for the most part, all conference season long. They’ve left little doubt in who is going to be the league champion.
“But still yet, we’ve had a couple outings where we haven’t performed very well.”
OSU also made 27 of 33 free-throw attempts, including 15 of 19 in the second half.
“We fouled. I’m not complaining about them getting in (the bonus) early, because we fouled,” Self said. “But they were in the bonus in the first seven minutes of the second half. It’s always tough. It takes away your aggressiveness whenever the other team is shooting free throws early.”
The best news for KU? It showed some positive signs defensively in the first half, and the NCAA Tournament won't present a game where it faces the same type of road whistle it received against Oklahoma State.
KU coach Self fittingly coached a milestone game — his 700th in a 21-year career — on Saturday at the place he was introduced to the college game, alma mater Oklahoma State.
The former Edmond High standout, who played point guard at OSU from 1982 to ‘85, was subject of a positive day-of-the-game column by John Hoover of the Tulsa World.
The headline read: “Bill Self set for life at Kansas thanks to success.”
Hoover wrote: “Self won’t ever wear out his welcome in Lawrence. He’s just too good, and they adore him too much.”
Self entered Saturday’s game with a career record of 529-170. Seven coaches have had more career victories in their first 700 games coached: Adolph Rupp (593), Jerry Tarkanian (575), Roy Williams (566), John Kresse (558), John Wooden (545), Dean Smith (539) and John Calipari (538).
“Without question. I really do think we could retire here. We’re totally happy,” Self told the Tulsa World. “But I’m not saying that’s what we’ll do. I have no idea what the future holds. There will be a time where there’s a possibility they'll get tired of my rhetoric. It’ll grow stale on everyone. I hope it doesn't happen for awhile.
“But I understand the shelf life on a lot of coaches, especially at a high-major place. I don’t know exactly what it is. It probably varies from time to time. But I agree (with the notion) that it’s hard to keep improving if you’ve had some sustained success. Fortunately for us, we’ve kind of been able to.”
…Self still has plenty of friends in Stillwater, many who would like to see him return to his alma mater as coach.
“I’ve forgotten most of my memories from back in age 18 to 22,” said Self, 51, who played at OSU from 1982 to '85. “The first time I went back (as KU coach) I made a mistake. It was a big game and they (Cowboys) were loaded. That was the year they went to the Final Four. We ended up losing in the Elite Eight, but they rocked us good.”
Indeed, Self’s first KU team fell to OSU, 80-60, in February of 2004 at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
“I think I called three timeouts in the first four minutes and got a technical just so that way we could stop play a little bit to catch our breath, and they rocked us pretty good,” Self said. “(On that trip) I toured every place and went to lunch with old friends and all that, and I realized after that, we’re not going to go down that path again. It’s strictly a business trip. If I’m able to see some of my buddies, it’s after the game in the hallway as we leave.”
…Self on Thursday was asked who is the best player he’s ever coached.
“You could say Deron Williams was, but, he was just a freshman when I had him (at Illinois),” Self said of the Brooklyn Nets guard in an interview with Fox Sports radio’s Jay Mohr.
“He was the best defender on our team. I think he averaged only about eight (points) a game. As far as college players, the best college player I ever had was probably Wayne Simien for production. But, when you talk about who is going to be the best player.....the two guys I’m coaching now are going to be the two best players I’ve had. Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will be the two best players I’ve ever had. The ceiling for both of them is so high. They’re both so young and green and just starting to figure it out. They can do some things that you just can't coach and they’re both ridiculously bright so I think they could be the two best I've ever had.”
KU doesn’t need a point guard who can dominate games the way Smart did in the decisive stretch Saturday. It just needs a steady hand to treat possessions as precious and settle down the team when things grow a little wild. Oklahoma State quickly kept Tharpe from having that sort of influence on the game and he never could shake off his slow start.
On a night that at times recalled KU’s 24-turnover loss at Florida, the Jayhawks had 22 spills. Oklahoma State knew the best path to victory came in stealing the ball before KU could throw it inside.
“Kansas is a very, very good team,” Brown said. “We just went out there and we pressured them Cowboy style and we did it how we did it early in the season. We got them in our press, they kind of looked at it weird and started making turnovers. We pressured them on the defensive end and let our defense create our offense.”
KU followed that path to most of its 10 titles under Self, but hasn’t done as well at that this season. And the Jayhawks haven’t always taken good care of the basketball. That will need to be remedied for KU to come close to reaching its high ceiling.
Kansas will play host to Texas Tech on Wednesday before traveling to West Virginia on Saturday. If the Mountaineers, 16-13 and 8-8 in the Big 12, had an outside chance at an at-large bit … that door could be closing. West Virginia has lost three of four and plays at Oklahoma on Wednesday.
Kansas will then open the Big 12 Tournament at 2 p.m. on March 13 at Sprint Center against the winner of the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. Texas Tech is pretty much locked in as the No. 9 seed while West Virginia, Baylor or Oklahoma State could all end up as the No. 8 seed.
A lengthy discussion of the best Big 12 players, by position, ensued. After about five minutes, Musburger summed up the views. “What I hear are Smart, Wiggins, and Embiid are on this team.” Ryan Spangler of Oklahoma got some love, though ultimately Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane received the nod.
Musburger and Fraschilla debate the first overall pick. Musburger would take Wiggins now, citing the way the game is played today with the open court and attacking wings, while Fraschilla would go with the “big guy” (Embiid). That prompted Stojkov to add “I’d take the big guy over Jordan”–launching the group into a larger discussion about big men in the history of the game. A talk about the uniqueness of LeBron’s skill set resulted in Musburger discussing Elgin Baylor. (He didn’t have to go nearly as far back as when Fraschilla asks him what it was like to cover Bronko Nagurski).
…Fraschilla preaches that he prepares for every game equally, whether it is an ESPN3 game or a matchup in Allen Fieldhouse with Kansas. I believe him, because he showed no preference for a national championship winning coach over someone he had just met, the definition of a mismatch. Bill Self ended the shoot around and started walking over to the corner of the court where Musburger, Rowe, and Stojkov were already positioned. Fraschilla and I were in the seats in the corner of the arena, about halfway up, talking away from the noise of the court. Fraschilla was in the middle of a point about Rowe when this happened. I motioned that he could stop if he needed. He saw Self, gave me a wave that we were fine, and kept talking until he finished his thought.
Then we walked down and he talked “Power Touches” with Bill Self. That’s an inside joke between Self and Fraschilla, and so it shall remain inside until Self remembers to talk about it at a press conference.
…Everyone sees the sideline reporter on TV for a few seconds at a time scattered over the broadcast, but few know the true role and value a good one provides. Rowe described herself as the “eyes and ears” of the producer and director who are in the production truck. They can only see what is appearing on camera. She is there courtside to let them know things that might be appearing off camera–a relative or person in the crowd, for example.
Rowe also goes the extra step to come up with stories. In the broadcast, they showed pictures that she got from Joel Embiid’s father, in Cameroon. All of the communication was in French over the course of several weeks, and she carries on all conversations with Embiid, and other players (she also mentioned Will Yeguete of Florida) en Francais. For the Kansas State game, she also rose to the occasion before she ever climbed on top of the table at game’s end.
Thomas Gipson had lost thirty pounds in the offseason. Rowe planned a little feature where she obtained thirty pounds of pizza dough from Pizza Hut to demonstrate this, and she put it in a bag under the scorer’s table. The game was close, the opportunity to do the bit never arose (this happens frequently in live basketball broadcasts), and the gym was heating up. The dough started rising, and Rowe had to stamp it down with her heels, as it overflowed onto the guy next to her.
…Before I arrived, I was curious to see how involved Musburger would be. Last year, when I followed Sean Farnham around, I learned just how long the day of preparation is. We were at Allen Fieldhouse by about 12:30, and other than the brief jaunt for lunch, Musburger was there until after the broadcast. He was, well, everything you hear on the broadcast, for ten hours. Before we chatted, after the shoot around, but before the crowd began trickling in, he went for a solo walk around the arena, walking among the seats and around the aisles, taking in the views from different angles. I asked him about that, which launched him into quintessential Brent Musburger humor and commentary.
“I walked the upper reaches, checked out all the views. This might be the best old arena in college basketball. I like Cameron, I love the Crazies, but I think this overall might be a better arena. There’s better views, more seats, but for a broadcaster, it’s not close. The worst broadcasting location in sports–period–is at Duke. Period. Nothing comes close. All the way up, in the rafters, off to one side. It’s the worst.”
“Vitale pretends like it’s the second coming of the Yankees’ Stadium press box. Give me a break, Dick. If you had put the heat on Krzyzewski many many years ago, we’d be down at courtside where we should be.”
Big Lead: Behind the scene at Big Monday
Marcus and Markieff Morris have turned themselves into solid NBA players.
The twins are the heartbeat of the Suns bench and are so close that it seems they share￼ one heartbeat.
At what financial sacrifice are the Morris twins willing to make to keep that together? What are the Suns willing to pay to avoid finding out what might suffer with only one — or none — of them?
The Morrises are under contract for the last years of their rookie deals next season but they will be eligible in the fall for contract extensions, which surely will be one of the more peculiar negotiating situations in franchise history.
The theory that they would play better if reunited has been undeniably proved.
Markieff has become a Sixth Man Award candidate with 13.3 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, sixth- and fourth-best, respectively, among NBA reserves. His seven double-doubles lead all bench players.
Marcus adds 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, usually complementing Markieff at forward or serving as the team’s two big men in a smaller lineup that helps prevent a drop-off when the starters leave.
The five acres that surround Barry Hinson’s refurbished house on the outskirts of town are a work in progress. And that’s exactly the way he likes it.
Walking the land, he exudes joy when talking about converting a sand volleyball court into a garden. He recalls hitching a chain to the back of his jeep and ripping invasive trees out by their roots. He reveals plans to build a small cabin next to a pond, which he had emptied and dredged and then stocked with 100 catfish, 100 perch and 100 bass.
Every 20 feet or so, Hinson stops, points and talks with the confidence of a former member of Future Farmers of America about zoysia, creeping phlox, pole barns, cedar trees and cross ties. He has done much of the work with his own hands.
Maybe most important to Hinson is a small playground, complete with monkey bars, swings, a gravel box and a picnic table. A sign welcomes you to Carter’s Park.
Carter is Hinson’s grandson, whose last visit changed a family forever. It changed a house. It changed Christmas. It changed a coach.
Niles Thomason, Hinson’s son-in-law and his daughter Tiffany’s husband, died Christmas Day after breaking the morning silence with screams for help. At a Carbondale hospital, maybe an hour later, Hinson and his daughter watched as resuscitation efforts failed.
Thomason died of a strep infection that caused his organs to shut down.
…Thomason, who worked as a veterinarian, had complained of feeling sick the weekend before Christmas and suffered a leg injury as well. He joined the Hinson family in Carbondale on Dec. 23 and on Christmas Eve went to an urgent care center, where he was diagnosed with a pulled muscle and given pain medicine.
Thomason was able to spend time watching TV with the family for about an hour that night but eventually decided to go upstairs and rest. After watching The Polar Express, Tiffany took Carter to say goodnight.
“They play this game where Carter says, ‘Guess what? I love you,’” Angie said. “I heard him playing that game with Niles.”
But on Christmas he awoke, screaming in pain. Unable to walk, he had crawled to the doorway of his room. His injured leg was twice the size of the other and turning blue. Hinson called 911 three times before an ambulance arrived 20 minutes later.
Barry and Angie thought he might be suffering from a blood clot. But in retrospect, there was one hint that it was something worse. As he left the house, Thomason said he had lost his vision.
St Louis PD (Much more at the link)
Vote for Wiggs for the Wooden Award
“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 conference will offer beer and wine sales at the men’s and women’s conference basketball tournaments in Kansas City and Oklahoma City, respectively, for the first time since 2005.
Top candidates in the Big 12 in no particular order: Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart. Plenty of others are having outstanding seasons, like Kansas State’s Marcus Foster, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten and Kansas’ Joel Embiid and Perry Ellis.
How to break it down?
Ejim leads the Big 12 in scoring (18.9) and is second in rebounding (8.6). But is he the MVP of his own team?
Kane is a few rebounds away from ranking in the Big 12’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and free-throw percentage.
“You’ve got to look at the whole body of work,” said Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg, when asked about MVP criteria. “Over the course of the season, what they did to help their team win, and make their teammates better.”
Wiggins’ combination of offense and defense probably makes him the top candidate on a team that has clinched the Big 12 championship. Some consider the best player on the top team as the leading criteria.
“When it gets close, you’ve got to go with the team that’s the most successful,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “It’s all about winning. That’s who should get the awards.”
At the outset of the season, it was almost a forgone conclusion. The ACC -- after adding Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame -- would regain the mantle as the elite college basketball conference in America.
Just a few issues: The Irish have been thoroughly disappointing, the bottom third of the league has been dismal and North Carolina’s erratic play has had the Tar Heels as a fringe top-25 team for much of the season.
If not the ACC, there’s no debate, right? The Big Ten has made itself more than just a football conference lately, with Michigan’s resurgence -- along with the consistency of Ohio State and the fact bottom-feeders Northwestern, Nebraska and Penn State have pulled off their share of quality victories.
While the Big Ten has had a quality season, with a legitimate chance to get seven of its dozen teams into the NCAA tournament when the field is unveiled in less than two weeks, there is another conference that stands above the rest in 2014.
The Big 12.
What other league will likely be able to claim that 70 percent of its members will earn a berth to the sport’s ultimate event? Answer: None, only the Big 12.
What other league can claim that all seven of those teams will have a legitimate chance to advance to the Sweet 16? Again, only the Big 12.
The league has been run by Kansas for the past decade, and that has taken away some of the luster from the “other” programs. The Jayhawks have once again earned a Big 12 regular-season championship banner in 2013-14 with a 13-3 mark in league play, but the conference is more than just “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.”
…If the season ended Monday, the ACC and the Big East would each likely get 30 percent of its teams in the NCAA tournament. The SEC will probably wind up with four of its 14 teams in the field, and the A-10 should end up with a handful of its 13. The top half of the new American Athletic Conference has fared well, but the other five have been downright terrible -- and none of Cincinnati, Louisville, UConn, Memphis or SMU have done enough to warrant a top seeding. The Pac-12 has enjoyed a quality season, with Arizona carrying the torch for what could wind up as a seven-team NCAA tourney group. However, Washington State and USC have been walkovers with a combined three league wins -- and Utah, Washington and Oregon State are all likely NIT or CBI-bound.
The only argument is between the Big Ten and the Big 12. The Big Ten has five teams considered a lock to go dancing: Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Iowa. Minnesota, for the time being, is on the right side of the bubble -- while Nebraska likely remains on the outside looking in. That’s 50 percent of the league’s teams. Let’s face it: Michigan State hardly looks like a team (unless Keith Appling’s wrist heals quickly) that could go deep come March, and Ohio State doesn’t resemble a team that could make any noise. Penn State and Northwestern have had their moments, but let’s face the facts: Indiana, Illinois and Purdue are all mediocre this season.
The Big 12 has a team that could cut down the nets come April in Dallas, and six more teams that could be still standing entering the second week of the NCAA tournament.
That qualifies it as the best conference in America.
ESPN ($) Goodman
I have argued that Wichita State deserves (and will receive) a No. 1 seed, but I do think the Shockers still need to win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament to close the deal. If Arizona, Syracuse, Kansas and Florida all win their conference tournaments, it's going to be really hard to keep them off the top line.
Kansas' streak of 10 straight Big 12 titles is a truly great achievement, but I do think there is something to the criticism that this is also an indictment on the rest of the league. At some point, one of these other schools has to step up and break this string, especially considering this is the third time Bill Self has won a title at Kansas after having to replace his entire starting five.
SI Seth Davis
Turns out, Kansas has played perhaps the toughest schedule in its history. The Jayhawks knew they were jumping into the fire against the likes of Florida, Duke, San Diego State and New Mexico, along with the Bahamas tournament that featured Villanova.
But many other Big 12 teams performed at a high level in November and December, enough to be make the Big 12 the highest-rated conference.
We’ll see what that means once the NCAA Tournament begins, but for Kansas, it’s meant playing 19 of 29 games so far against teams in the RPI top 50. KU is 12-7 in those games. The next closest in victories is Arizona, 10-2, and second on the list of games played is Texas with 15.
Wichita State is 3-0 against the RPI top 50. That’s the fewest number of games played against teams on that list among the nation’s top 35 teams.
Tom Izzo and his players know what’s coming next.
“I’m gonna get a whole year full of things thrown at me,” Izzo said of the public reaction he anticipates in light of Michigan State’s dismal 53-46 home loss to Illinois on Saturday. “So now, it’ll be fun now. Because really, I don’t care about anybody but my team right now. And I like it that way. I really do.”
That’s Izzo, who is in his 19th season as a college head coach. Players can be more affected by the things they hear during rough stretches, but MSU sophomore guard Gary Harris said of that: “I mean, those people can say whatever they want. At the end of the day, they’re not playing.”
“They don’t have to deal with the stuff we’ve got to deal with in the locker room,” Harris continued. “I mean, it’s easy to say stuff like that on a message board. It’s not easy to go out there and play a game, win games in the Big Ten. So I mean, the message to them is, it’s kind of hard to talk about somebody when you’re not in their shoes.
“So as a team, we’ve got a mentality, we don’t really listen to that stuff anymore. Mostly, everybody’s off social media, because you know they’re gonna kill us. That’s what they do. They love you when you’re doing good, hate you when you’re down.”
As his program crash-landed at rock bottom Saturday at South Carolina, John Calipari excused himself from the proceedings. He got himself tossed by the officials, and then blew off the press conference after his Kentucky Wildcats lost to a team ranked No. 178 in America according to the RPI.
When the going got tough, Cal got out.
It was a nostalgic flashback to December, when Calipari made a four-minute postgame interview appearance after losing to Baylor, then abruptly got up and left when the first question was directed toward one of his players. His freshmen sat there and answered the rest of the queries without him.
Had Calipari shown up to answer questions Saturday after the worst defeat of his Kentucky tenure, instead of sending assistant John Robic and two freshmen to the interview room, here are the questions Calipari should have been asked.
Q: Your preseason No. 1 team should by all rights fall out of the top 25 this week. What has happened to the squad that had you dancing in the car on the way to the office in October?
Q: The season is not lost, but it's headed that direction at a high rate of speed. What are you going to do about it?
Q: Is it still Ryan Harrow's fault? That poor kid – who you recruited – was the scapegoat last year. He was the point guard who didn't run the team the way you wanted, and thus was run off to Georgia State. Archie Goodwin went pro with minimum lamentation. Kyle Wiltjer transferred, and nobody blinked. They all left under a cloud of blame that accompanied a trip to the NIT and a humiliating first-round loss to Robert Morris.
"The stuff I had to accept this year, the program almost got hijacked," you said last spring. "Never in my career have I surrendered in any way to any team, and I did at times this year – to try to save guys, to try to help guys – and it never works."
Harrow's stats are similar to those of your current point guard, five-star recruit Andrew Harrison. Harrow played about four minutes per game less and averaged slightly fewer points, rebounds and assists – but he had a better assist-turnover ratio and shot better from two-point range.
But stats can be misleading. Can we still pile this disappointing season on the 2012-13 bunch?
Q: If not Harrow & Co., is it time to throw the Greatest Recruiting Class in College Basketball history under the Big Blue bus? You've started moving in that direction recently, Cal.
After losing to Arkansas at home Thursday, you mentioned "a couple no-shows" without naming names. And you blamed forward Julius Randle for wearing down by not taking himself out of the lineup. "I'm trying to get guys to sub themselves," you said. "They just don't get it." For $5.2 million a year, you'd think the coach could add "manage the substitution rotation" to his list of responsibilities, as opposed to leaving it up to the players. Who are young. (Stop me if you've heard this before: Kentucky has a young team.)
Then there was your comment to the Kentucky radio crew Saturday night: "They're counting on me too much." Apparently we are reaching the Pontius Pilate stage of the season, where the coach washes his hands and turns an increasingly unpleasant endeavor over to the unpaid laborers.
…Q: Did you know that the two Kentucky teams relying solely on your recruits as the major contributors are last year and this year? And that their record is 42-20, 23-11 in the SEC, with an NIT berth and four losses to teams ranked outside the Ken Pomeroy top 100?
Q: Did you know that your first three teams at Kentucky all had veteran players recruited by previous coaches in key roles? Those teams went a combined 102-14, 40-18 in the Southeastern Conference, with two SEC titles, two SEC tournament titles, two Final Four appearances and a national title.
Those last two are rhetorical questions, by the way. No need to answer.
“They’ve been doing that my whole career. You got, you know, guys waiting in the wings waiting for anything. And all of sudden, the story comes out, and it’s like, where was this build up and venom in this story? Oh my gosh. That’s part of it. I mean, you just, you just say hey, I do what I do. I know why I do it for kids. I’m comfortable in my skin doing what I do. I’ve made it very transparent how I do my job and what I feel about my job. I love coaching here, and all of the stuff that goes with it.
Again, we lose a game and it’s an international incident. They’re talking about what’s wrong with me and the program on First Take. While yet other teams lose three or four games – oh they’re fine.
I mean that’s just being at Kentucky, it’s what it is. And our fans, look, they know they can tweak you fans. So they tweak you, and you go bonkers. I love it though. So then I don’t have to say anything, it’s like you’re an army for me. All they do is tweak me or tweak the program or tweak a guy and all of a sudden it’s like army ants coming at you and there’s no end to them. They come and they just keep coming. But, some of it they do to get your eyeballs on their site. Don’t do that. Don’t give ‘em your eyeballs now. Some of those people, those nasty dudes, don’t give ‘em your eyeballs.
Paste it, and everybody read the paste if you want to read it, but don’t give ‘em your eyeballs. The guy will be in a soup line in another six months, don’t give him the eyeballs. Pencils, selling pencils ain’t a bad deal either. That’s why I go to church every day, because that’s how I feel sometimes.”
Big XII composite schedule (includes results, highlights, stats)
ESPN College GameDay Schedule
2013-14 TV Schedule
On the day of the city championship game, players on Curie’s No. 1-ranked basketball team in Illinois spent three hours wondering whether it would be allowed to play for the title.
If school officials had followed their own rules, the question wouldn’t have needed to be raised on game day — Feb. 21 — and Curie wouldn’t have ended up being stripped Friday of its 24 victories and city title.
Seven players had been ineligible since the beginning of the season, a Chicago Public Schools investigation determined.
That same investigation found that the players would have been deemed eligible if the proper paperwork had been filed, CPS announced Friday.
Before every game, teams are supposed to exchange computer-generated eligibility sheets, according to CPS policy. Those sheets also are supposed to be filed with CPS. But the rule is rarely followed or enforced, coaches told the Sun-Times.
In the case of Curie — which played Young for the city championship in a game that pitted two of the nation’s biggest high school stars, Young’s Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s Cliff Alexander — the forms never were exchanged, according to Young Principal Joyce Kenner, Young coach Tyrone Slaughter and Curie coach Mike Oliver.
Annette Gurley, CPS’ chief officer for the office that oversees the athletic programs, said Saturday no “eligibility sheets were found in the system prior to Feb. 21” for Curie.
“This has certainly shed some light,” Gurley said. “There certainly needs [to be] more oversight of the process.”
She said CPS would enforce the policy from now on.
An anonymous phone call to CPS just hours before the game triggered an investigation into the eligibility of the players, whose names have not been released.
Curie senior Cliff Alexander will have his chance to win a state championship.
The Condors were cleared to play in the Illinois High School Association state playoffs on Monday. Nine of Curie’s 12 players are eligible according to IHSA bylaws.
“We have received a letter from Chicago Public Schools indicating that they have nine players that are eligible and meet our previous semester rule,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said.
The IHSA requires athletes to have 25 credit hours of high school work in the previous semester and be doing passing work in at least 25 credit hours per week of the current semester.
According to sources, Alexander is one of the nine eligible players.
However, two key starters, Josh and Joseph Stamps, are not eligible. Joseph Stamps averaged 15 points, six assists and five rebounds this season. He scored a game-high 24 in the city championship game against Young. The Condors, the Sun-Times’ No. 1 team, will face the winner of Monday’s DuSable-Argo game in a Class 4A regional semifinal on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at King. They will also be without head coach Mike Oliver, who has been suspended indefinitely by the CPS schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
Curie coach Mike Oliver has been reinstated by Chicago Public Schools and will coach the Condors tonight in their Class 4A state playoff regional semifinal game against DuSable at King.
“I would like to thank Dr. Barbara Byrd-Bennett for allowing me an opportunity to join my players and coaches as we put this chapter behind us and focus on our priorities: school and athletics," Oliver said in a statement.
"My faith in the process was unwavering, your support is needed as I continue to develop young men and prepare them for the future."
Sign the petition here to support Curie
Mark Cuban thinks the next Kevin Durant would be better off in the NBA Development League rather than the college of his choice.
The outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner said he can envision scenarios where the country's top basketball prospects would get drafted and play in the D-League rather than spend one season at an NCAA school.
Cuban said there's no reason for a player to attend college as a freshman "because he's not going to class, he's actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball."
The billionaire owner said his idea is not yet a well-researched proposal, just an opinion. He said agreements with colleges could still give players a shot at an education.
"A major college has to pretend that they're treating them like a student-athlete," Cuban said. "It's a big lie and we all know it's a big lie. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn't allow schools to do that would really put the individual first."
…Cuban said there's "no question" players would develop better in basketball terms in the D-League, and he believes rules could require life skills or educational training "so you couldn't skate." He would also want to guarantee tuition payments for players who don't make it the NBA.
"We can get rid of all the hypocrisy and improve the education," Cuban said. "If the whole plan is just to go to college for one year maybe or just the first semester, that's not a student-athlete. That's ridiculous."
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