Phog Rolling In for NCAA Record 24th Consecutive Year!
Going for win #2100!
Join us at Z-Strike, the official site for the Jayhawks at Power & Light, located right across the street from Sprint Center before and after the KU games.
Friday, March 22:
Pre-Game Party: 3:00pm (Z-Strike)
Kansas Jayhawks Pep Rally: 5:15pm (main stage of the Power & Light District)
Tip Off: 8:50pm or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the UNC/Villanova game
Can't make it? Follow the game on @KUGameday, listen in on Jayhawk Radio Network.
3/20/13, 2:50 PM
Friday's telecast will be the 11th consecutive KU tournament game that I've called. I am on a first name basis with the mascot. I'm thinking about joining the Jayhawk Club to receive special offers on all KU gear, as well as preferred parking to games.
3/21/13, 5:09 PM
Few LaSalle players doing Rock Chalk chant while training staff trying to work a deal for #kubball fans to root for LaSalle tomorrow...LaSalle staffer after seeing Sprint Center: Today must be a national holiday in KS. Nobody has to work. Guy responds w/ yeah, NCAA Tourney
3/21/13, 5:11 PM
Kansas fans gave Roy Williams a really nice ovation here before and after UNC's practice at Sprint Center. Didn't hear a single boo.
@rexchapman’s game to watch: “Western Kentucky and Kansas. I’m calling it an upset. The Toppers taking down the JayHawks.” #kubball
3/21/13, 5:17 PM
Jayhawk fans mob the Sprint Center in Kansas City Thursday for KU's practice
Kansas practiced and a pep rally broke out. pic.twitter.com/Kmn5CFHYyq
KUAD: Jayhawks meet the media, practice in Sprint Center Thursday
KC Star Photos
Wichita Eagle Photos
Ben McLemore: Rising Up
When Western Kentucky walked into the Sprint Center on Thursday morning, its coach, Ray Harper, was stopped by security.
The guards at the Sprint Center deemed that Harper himself was a threat. Security assumed he was a Western Kentucky fan. His staff had to tell the men in red jackets, “He coaches our basketball team.”
“I’m sure Bill Self didn’t get asked the questions I got asked,” Harper said with a smile. “They didn’t know who the heck I was.”
They should’ve known, but not just because Harper coaches one of the eight teams that will play at Sprint Center on Friday.
The 52-year old coach of the Hilltoppers has a resume that can nearly match any of the seven other coaches in Kansas City. Harper won two NCAA Division II championships at Kentucky Wesleyan and two NAIA Championships for Oklahoma City University. That’s more championships than Bill Self. More than Roy Williams. More than Jay Wright and Bruce Weber too.
While his rings have not come from college basketball’s highest level of competition, it still doesn’t change the fact that Harper has experience succeeding in a tournament with his teams.
“He’s terrific,” Self said. “I’ve known Ray for a while. He’ done a great job wherever he’s been and won at the highest level wherever he’s been.”
…His athletic director at the time, Jim Abbot, who’s still with OCU, spoke over the phone.
...and told him two things: 1) It’s tough playing KU in Kansas City, and 2) If you’re going to play a one seed, it might as well be the one that lost to TCU.
Abbot said Harper didn’t respond to his analysis.
“They’re favored to lose by 15-to-20 points,” Abbot said. “I guarantee there isn’t any of that on their side.”
“He’s pretty giddy,” Abbot added.
Ray Harper, when he was coach at Oklahoma City University, played a role in Kansas' last national championship.
When he was at OCU, the current Western Kentucky coach allowed Darnell Jackson, a local lad to work out with his team while Jackson was dealing with family issues. Jackson went on to become a starter for the Jayhawks when they won the title in 2008.
When the 16th-seeded Hilltoppers (20-15) face the No. 1 seed Kansas (29-5), Harper could again be a facilitator for another deep NCAA Tournament run by the Jayhawks.
"I'm trying to watch as little film as I can," Harper said of Friday night's South Regional second-round game here at the Sprint Center. "It makes it hard to sleep at night."
…Western Kentucky made NCAA history in earning a spot in the bracket. The Hilltoppers became the first school to win four games in four days in consecutive seasons to earn a conference's automatic bid.
"I think, this time of year, you win with your defense and your ability to rebound the basketball," Harper said. "If we turn the ball over at a high rate, we're in a lot of trouble, there's no question about it. At times, that's been something that's been a problem for us and other times we've been really good. So hopefully that team that understands and values that basketball shows up Friday night."
Big 12 Sports
Harper’s mantra: “Why not us?” The Hilltoppers will try to be the basketball equivalent of Roger Bannister: Become the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1.
“Why not now?” Harper said. “We know what kind of team Kansas has. It’s going to be an unbelievable task. The good part is our kids have an opportunity. We’re going to play hard and we’re going to play loose.”
Perhaps not too loose.
All season long, turnovers have been an issue: WKU overcame 61 miscues over four games to win the Sun Belt title.
Beating Louisiana-Monroe, South Alabama, Arkansas State and Florida International is one thing. Tonight will be totally different.
“The key for us is going to be real simple: don’t throw the ball away,” Harper said. “Take care of the basketball, eliminate silly turnovers. We know what a challenge it’s going to be Friday night. The main thing is we go out there and compete and don’t have a lot of turnovers.”
That’s easier to say than execute for a team that ranked No. 297 in the nation in turnovers (15.0 per game). While the backcourt injuries (point guard Jamal Crook missed 11 games with a broken bone in his right foot) were a factor midseason, the turnovers haven’t stopped.
In the title game against FIU, WKU had 18 turnovers to only nine assists. The Hilltoppers’ 0.74 assists-to-turnover ratio puts them No. 314 out of 345 teams.
Guard Brandon Harris said the team has emphasized fundamental passes all week.
“This is no secret,” the junior said. “When you pass the ball, make sure your target is going to be 100 percent sure of catching it. Don’t make the hard play, make the easy one.”
When Kansas prepares for an upcoming opponent, one assistant coach is responsible for preparing the scouting report. The assistant coaches, Joe Dooley, Kurtis Townsend and Norm Roberts, develop continuity by scouting the same conference opponents each season.
Nonconference and tournament games are divided based on feel. For example, Roberts said he is scouting No. 9 seed Villanova since he used to coach against the Wildcats when he was the head coach at St. John’s. Dooley is scouting No. 8 seed North Carolina because he scouted them last year when the Jayhawks and Tar Heels squared off in the Elite Eight.
And Townsend is responsible for scouting Kansas’ first opponent in this NCAA Tournament, Western Kentucky.
…After No. 1 seed Gonzaga survived a major upset scare Thursday evening from No. 16 seed Southern, the debate about when a No. 1 seed would lose surfaced again. A No. 1 seed has never lost in the round of 64, but No. 16 seed Holy Cross nearly upset No. 1 seed Kansas in the 2002 NCAA Tournament.
Even though all the pressure is on Kansas not to lose, Releford said the Jayhawks have the same attitude they’ve used all year when facing mid-major opponents.
“I think the good thing for us is we play with that pressure all year, we play with a target on our back,” Releford said. “We play against everybody’s best shot for the majority of the time we’re out there playing. I don’t think it’ll be any surprise if a team comes out and plays their best game because we’re looking forward to that.”
When Naadir Tharpe looks at his scouting report for Western Kentucky, he sees what the Hilltoppers’ strength is and likes it.
“The most important thing is they’re a fast-break team,” Tharpe said. “They like to play up-and-down so transition is really important.”
Western Kentucky’s strength is in its guard play, led by T.J. Price and Jamal Crook. The Hilltopers like to push the tempo and spread their opponents with a mostly small lineup. It’s the type of play that can be tricky for some teams to handle, but Tharpe enjoys playing against the up-tempo style.
“I think it definitely helps us,” Tharpe said. “Coach definitely wants us to play fast.”
…It was the day after the TCU loss. The one where Bill Self said his team couldn’t have beaten the Topeka YMCA.
Naturally, it was an afternoon when Elijah Johnson wanted to feel better about himself and his team. Yet mostly, he wanted to smile.
“A lot of people would go to the mall and go shopping or do this or that,” Johnson said. “I’m not really one of those people. I just drop in on a high school game. I like to do stuff for people.”
Johnson got into his car that Feb. 7 day and drove about 10 miles down K-10 highway to Eudora High School. The Eudora Cardinals were playing Spring Hill, and Johnson wanted to do something nice for a local kid he has known for four years named Chris, who plays for Spring Hill.
So Johnson walked in the high school gym, a place where he could get away from the pressures of KU basketball and just have fun. This was a place where people would be happy to see him, where they wouldn’t ask about the loss.
Johnson said only half the reason for the trip was to see Chris. The other half was for himself — just to watch a basketball game and enjoy it.
“You still have an effect on people and that’s what that proved,” Johnson said. “I went in there and those people showed me love regardless of how I was playing and regardless of what was going on and that feels good.”
Kevin Young was fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube as he sat in Kansas’ locker room Thursday, waiting for the Jayhawks’ turn on the Sprint Center practice floor.
“It helps me to relax and stay grounded,” KU’s 6-foot-8 forward said.
He quickly had the puzzle in perfect order.
“I’ve got this pattern,” he said. “I can do it in two minutes now.”
As a fifth-year senior, Young has a lot of things figured out.
From the get-go this season, he knew his role was to bring energy, collect garbage baskets and play killer defense.
Young has done it well, which is one reason why KU takes a top seed into the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks’ opening show is Friday night against 16th-seeded Western Kentucky.
But over the last two weeks, Perry Ellis’ game has picked up considerably. The freshman forward from Wichita Heights has begun to play up to his talent.
No one is more please about that than Young. After all, it’s Ellis who will have to fill Young’s spot next year.
“I love to see him shine,” Young said. “I know I’m leaving things in good hands.”
Although Young’s minutes haven’t dropped any because of Ellis’ emergence, Young figures an improved Ellis has made him better.
“It gives me more confidence to go a little bit harder,” he said.
Bill Self sees the same thing.
“Since Perry has played really well, Kevin has played even better,” the KU coach said. “I think it’s raised his level.
“Kevin plays with such energy and so hard, hopefully, with shorter spurts, he can play even harder maybe. I’m excited about that.”
With his teammates, Travis Releford is just one of the guys.
Other people might have more talent, but Releford carries his weight. Shows up on time. Does his job. Knows his way around the lane.
Releford realizes that he’s one piece of a bigger puzzle, and that’s why this team is so successful.
“If there was seeding, we would be a No. 1 seed overall,” Releford said. “We would be, I’m telling you.”
Yeah, Releford is kind of a big deal around his Monday night bowling league, though sometimes he gets a hard time about it when he’s hanging out with his other team. Releford’s Kansas teammates don’t need much incentive to tease him about his age, so it plays right into the stereotype when they catch him leaving basketball practice and heading straight to the Jaybowl.
“We’d have practice on Mondays and we’ll be doing something and I’ll yell out, ‘Hey, we gotta get out of here. I got bowling league tonight,’ ” Releford said. “They give me crap about it, but it’s all fun.”
“It’s just a great story for Kansas City basketball,” says Rick Zych, Releford’s coach at Bishop Miege.
But do you know the rest? Do you know about the quiet kid who showed up at Miege as an unsure freshman, the basketball star who would spend hours working to catch up in the classroom?
Do you know that Releford spent his childhood taking trips to visit an incarcerated father, a man who was ripped out of his life before he could even walk?
Do you know the story of a young father destined to make up for the sins of his own dad?
Do you know about the avid bowler who joined a team with a bunch of “regular dudes” from KU because he thought it’d be fun?
On Wednesday evening, Releford went for a walk with his best friend near KU’s team hotel in Kansas City. It had been months since Michael Gholston Jr. had seen Releford, and they had plenty of catching up to do.
“We were just playing AAU ball,” Releford says, reflecting for a moment on Thursday evening. “(We played in) pickup leagues around the city. And now I’m playing in the tournament in my city.”
…Releford found a father figure in Gholston’s dad, Michael Sr., and he found structure at Miege. There were harder classes, and teachers and coaches that would push him in the classroom.
“It was gonna take time,” Zych says. “And he was willing to put in the work. So he came so far — even more academically than athletically. For him to be a college graduate, it’s just a super story.”
…“The young man he is and the man he has become,” Goolsby says. “It’s more than basketball.”
KC Star: Releford in the Jayhawks 'rock'
Sitting at the same Sprint Center locker he used in the Big 12 tournament, Kansas University senior center Jeff Withey thought back to a play during the regular season. He couldn’t remember the game. He just remembered not liking the play. Freshman teammate Perry Ellis missed another short shot, frittering away another two points.
“I’m not a guy who is going to grab you by the neck or anything like that, but I was like, ‘Dunk the ball!’ I just got in his face and told him to be aggressive,” Withey said. “I think everybody on the team has done that with Perry at one time or another.”
Nobody knows an athlete’s talent level more deeply than a teammate who alternately shares the floor and battles against him daily in practice. Long before Ellis shocked the world by scoring 23 points against Iowa State in a Big 12 tournament semifinal, teammates knew he had serious ability. His most impressive athletic trait?
“The way that he runs,” Withey said. “He runs like a guard. He’s brought the ball up the court so many times in practice and even some in games. He’s just an athlete, and it’s annoying when he doesn’t put it into play.”
He’s putting it into play now, and as Withey said, “It couldn’t be at a more perfect time.”
“I mean, we hear it every day,” senior Kevin Young said of some past KU early-round losses. “We try not to buy into all the stuff about it. As players, we realize we’ve got to take everybody serious, focus on everybody and take it one game at a time.”
The Jayhawks open the tourney with four senior starters plus red-shirt freshman standout Ben McLemore.
“We know what it takes to get to the championship game. We were there last year,” noted Withey, who along with Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford started for the team that placed runner-up to Kentucky in the 2012 NCAAs. “You can’t look down on your opponent at all. I think that’s something in the past we didn’t have four seniors to control the team and kind of take us to the promised land. I am really positive about this team. I think we are going to make a run for it. We know not to keep our guard down at all.”
If No. 1 seed KU (29-5) survives Western Kentucky of the Sun Belt Conference, it would meet the winner of today’s 6:20 p.m. game between North Carolina and Villanova on Sunday in a third-round tourney game.
Withey believes the Jayhawks learned a valuable lesson in this year’s 62-55 loss at Big 12 cellar dweller Texas Christian on Feb. 6.
“We weren’t tough at all. Our defense was horrible,” Withey said. “Coach prides himself on having tough teams, tough kids. That night, we weren’t us. We couldn’t score for the longest time. We were stuck at two points. Everything wasn’t going our way. That’s in the past. Like I said, we have a lot of seniors, and we’re all excited for this tournament.”
Point guard Johnson entertained the media Thursday by describing what the seniors bring to the table in terms of leadership.
“It’s so weird. We’ve got a chain reaction going,” Johnson said. “I know how to calm Travis down. Kevin knows how to calm me down. Jeff knows how to calm Kevin down, and Travis knows how to calm Jeff down. But those routes don’t mix. I don’t go to Jeff to calm Jeff down, but it’s something I expect Travis to do.
“Not many people try to calm me down. One person who has never hesitated to try is Kevin. We open our ears to each other.”
Tom Hentzen, a KU fan from Olathe, sat courtside during practices Thursday, determined to get Williams and Self to autograph a large picture he had of them shaking hands before the 2008 Final Four semifinal.
It took some doing because security guards kept running him off. He managed to get Williams’ autograph during the Tar Heels’ practice but didn’t get a chance to approach Self.
“Getting Roy was the big one,” he said, “because he’s not around here much anymore. I can always get Self’s later.”
When the former KU coach took his team on to the Sprint Center court for a public workout Thursday, fans received him warmly. They stood, they clapped, they showed their appreciation.
Granted, it was a shoot-around in which the audience was contained to about half of the lower section. It did not replicate the crowd that will be in attendance Sunday if top-seeded Kansas beats Western Kentucky and eighth-seeded North Carolina downs Villanova.
“I realize some people were upset when I left (Kansas),’’ Williams said. “Hopefully, time is going to cure a lot of those problems. In college basketball, we’ve got enough to worry about without worrying about whether they’re going to clap or boo when I come out.’’
This is the deepest North Carolina has invaded KU turf since Williams left the Jayhawks following the 2002-03 season. Being sent to Kansas City for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament means playing in an arena where KU stands 6-0 this season before partisan crowds.
The public workout North Carolina conducted, though, was quite amiable.
The Tar Heels closed their workout with a dunking exhibition. Then, Williams waved to the crowd, which again cheered its appreciation.
The support was no doubt soothing for Williams.
“A guy stopped me in the airport and said, ‘Coach, I just wanted to say hello, but I wanted to tell you I’m a big-time Jayhawk fan,’ ’’ Williams related. “I said, ‘I am, too.’ He walked off, went down a couple of gates, came back a few moments later and said, ‘You surprised me.’
“I said, ‘I was there 15 years, had wonderful players that I loved. It was family and always will be.’ It’s not immoral to love two institutions.’’
A decade after his departure, Williams is coaching North Carolina in his old home’s backyard for the first time. He is 0-2 against Kansas, with both losses coming in the NCAA Tournament. There will be a third game Sunday if both teams win tonight at the Sprint Center. And if there is, it will be the first time Williams’ old program is clearly the stronger team.
The truth is, Kansas basketball is better than Williams left it, and who saw that coming?
…This is all personal to Williams in a way that it never will be for Self. Privately, people who know Williams well will tell you that. Williams moved away from Kansas, but he’ll never be able to move on. Not completely, anyway.
That’s why he wore that Jayhawk sticker to the 2008 Final Four. That’s why, a decade later, he still talks about how he gave his “heart, body and soul” to Kansas for 15 years. He name-drops Jayhawks players all the time. This is personal for him.
When some fans at Illinois took offense at Self’s leaving, he never paid it much mind. Self moved on in a way that Williams can’t. Self was only at Illinois for three years, but this difference is at the core of who both men are, for better and worse. There aren’t a lot of people who are close to both coaches. But some who are describe subtle but important contrasts.
…You can argue that Williams has been better at Carolina (two titles to one, three Final Fours to two), but there is little question that Self has been better for Kansas. He has a higher winning percentage, the same number of conference titles and a national championship in five fewer seasons.
A decade later, Self has pushed the old coach into a detached place in the program’s history. Kansas is Self’s now.
KC Star Mellinger
Roy radio interview on 610 w/transcript
North Carolina, which enters the game as a four-point favorite, may have more talent than Villanova. The Tar Heels may be a bit under-seeded — third in the ACC and a berth in the conference tournament title game usually gets you more than an 8 seed — and may have the luxury of having at least a few players who have experienced the NCAA Tournament and its intense pressure in much bigger games and venues. But I don’t think they’ll win.
Forget just playing the hunch, though. Villanova has real talent. Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono was a unanimous selection on the Big East’s all-rookie squad and the Wildcats have a size advantage inside, led by senior forward Mouphtaou Yarou (6-foot-10, 255 pounds) and sophomore bruiser JayVaughn Pinkston (6-7, 260). In addition, the Wildcats are the better defensive team, are better free-throw shooters and have a more quality wins. Forget about the 20-13 overall record. In the past 59 days alone, ‘Nova knocked off Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back games and also snagged victories over Marquette and Georgetown. That’s victories over a No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament and 11 total games (4-7) against NCAA Tournament teams. UNC? Not a single victory against a team currently in the Top 25.
I think Villanova wins. I think Roy goes home sad. But, when it’s all said and done, I don’t think it hurts as bad as losing to Kansas — again.
In these glorious times for basketball in Kansas, maybe it’s best to call on an impartial voice to assess the NCAA Tournament and the March Madness about to go down Friday, when the University of Kansas and Kansas State University both play games at the Sprint Center.
So does a former NCAA champion, All-American and eight-year NBA veteran work?
“I’ve never been to Kansas City before, matter of fact,” said former North Carolina center and current Tar Heels’ color commentator Eric Montross, who won an NCAA title in 1993. “The NCAA Tournament is a magical ride. ... You love to come into an atmosphere that’s as excited as this is for the tournament with Kansas and Kansas State here. It’s perfect.”
There’s your impartial opinion. After that, the lines get much more blurred.
At best, fans of the Jayhawks and Wildcats are being cordial about having to share an NCAA Tournament location for the third time in five years, after Omaha in 2008 and Oklahoma City in 2010.
LJW: KU-WKU couple a rare item
VOTE for Kansas players, team, and moment in NCAA 75th Anniversary of March Madness (Vote for Wilt, Clyde, Danny, 51-52 Kansas, Mario's Miracle)
Big 12/College News
All times ET.
FRIDAY MARCH 22
12:15, CBS, Philadelphia: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Albany (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
12:40, truTV, Kansas City: No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
1:40, TBS, Dayton: No. 8 NC State vs. No. 9 Temple (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
2:10, TNT, Austin: No. 2 Miami vs. No. 15 Pacific (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
2:45, CBS, Philadelphia: No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincy (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
3:10, truTV, Kansas City: No. 4 K-State vs. Boise State-La Salle winner (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
4:10, TBS, Dayton: No. 1 Indiana vs. LIU Brooklyn-JMU winner (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
4:40, TNT, Austin: No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Colorado (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
6:50, TBS, Philly: No. 2 G'town vs. No. 15 Fla. Gulf Coast (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
7:15, CBS, Dayton: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Iona (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
7:20, TNT, Kansas City: No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
7:27, truTV, Austin: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 N'western St. (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
9:20, TBS, Philadelphia: No. 7 San Diego St. vs. No. 10 OU (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
9:45, CBS, Dayton: No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
9:50, TNT, Kansas City: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
9:57, truTV, Austin: No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
THIRD ROUND GAMES
SATURDAY, MARCH 23
12:15 p.m. CBS Auburn Hills VCU vs. Michigan
Verne Lundquist/Bill Raftery//Rachel Nichols
After conc. 1
CBS Auburn Hills II Memphis vs. Michigan St.
Lundquist/ Raftery// Nichols
5:15 p.m. CBS Lexington I Colorado State vs. Louisville
Ian Eagle/Jim Spanarkel//Allie LaForce
After conc. I
CBS Lexington II Butler vs. Marquette
6:10 p.m. TNT Salt Lake City I Harvard vs. Arizona
Spero Dedes/Doug Gottlieb//Jamie Maggio
After conc. I
TNT Salt Lake City I Wichita St. vs. Gonzaga
7:10 pm TBS San Jose I Oregon vs. St. Louis
Brian Anderson/Dan Bonner//Marty Snider
After conc. I
TBS San Jose II California vs. Syracuse/Montana
3/21/13, 8:13 PM
My initial reaction is that there are more Colorado State fans than #Mizzou fans in Rupp Arena.
Lawrence High graduate Dorian Green finished with a game-high 26 points, including 17 in the first half and three three-pointers. Green made his 127th career start Thursday — most in school history.
Green was offered a chance to walk on at Kansas out of high school but opted to to take a scholarship with Colorado State instead.
3/21/13, 11:25 PM
Colorado State guard Dorian Green (Lawrence High grad): "It feels good to be from Kansas and beat Missouri."
The question currently coursing through the game is what kind of system works. On Wednesday, we saw one side of the philosophical divide when Julius Randle, the best high-school player in the U.S., agreed to spend a year or two at the University of Kentucky, beginning next fall. Randle is from Texas, so why go to school in Lexington? “The final straw that came to me was the system,” Randle said, during a nationally televised press conference. “I felt like the system at Kentucky was a great system.” What he meant, really, is that John Calipari has a structure in place that allows him to take the most talented high schoolers he can find and prepare them for paid positions in basketball as efficiently—and quickly—as possible. Usually, it works. The downside is that occasionally Kentucky will end up with a season like the one it just completed: the Wildcats became just the fifth team since 1985 to miss the tournament one year after winning the whole thing. They fell even further on Tuesday with a loss to Robert Morris in the first round of the N.I.T., college basketball’s consolation tournament, which is a bit like a U.S. Senator, having been defeated for reëlection, running for city council and losing to a teen-ager.
…Calipari’s system will produce both spectacular results and disappointing failures. To look at a different, more consistent approach, take the University of Kansas and its head coach of ten years, Bill Self. (A disclosure up front: I’m a fan.) Kansas, like Kentucky, is one of college basketball’s elite programs, and it has the ability to attract top talent. Often it does, but sometimes it doesn’t: only once in the past four years has Self had a recruiting class ranked among the nation’s ten best. (Kentucky has ranked first or second in each of those years.) Nevertheless, under Self, the Jayhawks have won nine straight conference championships—the first time any team has done that since John Wooden’s U.C.L.A. dynasty in the seventies—and one national championship, and they enter this year’s tournament as a No. 1 seed.
…Self also recognizes the fact that he is dealing with teen-agers who must be given strict, consistent instructions. “We have to convince our players that if we play the way we’re supposed to play, we’re going to be really good,” Self said recently, as an explanation of his steady success. “We have to convince our players that this is what we do.” The Jayhawks—like Kentucky, which deploys Calipari’s N.B.A.–ready dribble-drive offense—run the same offensive sets, year in and year out, regardless of which players are in place. Which brings us to the most famous shot in Kansas's history. Down three points, with ten seconds to go in the 2008 national-championship game against Memphis—coached, at that time, by Calipari—Self called a play to get his shooting guard, Mario Chalmers, open for a game-tying three-pointer. The play involved the point guard Sherron Collins bringing the ball up the right side of the court and passing it off to Chalmers, as if they were quarterback and running back, before using his body to gently impede the defenders’ path and give Chalmers just a little space to take his shot. It worked; Kansas won, and in almost every end-of-game situation since, Self has called the same play. (Here it is earlier this year, with only the addition of an extra pass. Same result.)
…By now, fans know it’s coming. Why don’t Kansas’s opponents? I posed that question to Doug Gottlieb, a former top college point guard who is now one of the color analysts for C.B.S. He took my pen and paper and diagrammed the play, showing how many scoring options it afforded Kansas, and the difficulties it presents to an ill-prepared defense. It is a finely tuned system that, when run as it should be, is all but guaranteed to work as planned. The only way to disrupt it is an equally effective system designed by the opposing coach. So why didn’t other teams have a plan in place? Gottlieb offered one suggestion, which brings us back to the trouble inherent in depending on boys who are too young to legally drink: “A lot of these Big East teams don’t scout because their kids are too stupid, and they’re worried they’re gonna confuse them.” This is the ultimate expression of why properly implemented and designed systems typically dominate college basketball: lesser coaches and teams can’t counteract them if they don’t even try. And when success is left to chance, in the hands of twenty-year-olds, the system wins out.
The New Yorker
Was UCLA star freshman Shabazz Muhammad’s dad so desperate to see his son succeed in basketball that he lied about his age in order for him to look better competing against younger, smaller athletes as a kid?
It certainly looks that way, as Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, is starting to remind people of Todd Marinovich’s infamous father, Marv, after an eye-opening feature on the family in Friday’s Los Angeles Times.
The Bruins’ media guide lists Muhammad’s birthdate and birthplace as November 13, 1993, in Los Angeles. But a copy of his birth certificate on file with the L.A. County Department of Public Health shows that he was born exactly one year earlier.
“[It can be] a huge edge,” Eddie Bonnie, executive director of the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, told the Los Angeles Times. (Muhammad grew up in Las Vegas.) “People naturally look at the big, strong kids.”
In other words, Muhammad was pulling a Danny Almonte – whether he was aware of it or not.
Holmes insisted to the LA Times that the age mix-up was a mistake. But considering Holmes also told the Times that he picked his three children’s names based on what “would sound good and be marketable worldwide” — not to mention him allegedly offering a publicist’s job to the writer who discovered the discrepancy, Ken Bensinger — we’re skeptical about Holmes’ claimed ignorance.
Congrats to Brannen Greene, Georgia POY! Also to Justise Winslow, a junior, Texas POY, Tyus Jones, MN POY, and Andrew Wiggins, WV POY!
Gatorade State Players of the Year
3/21/13, 8:52 PM
@22wiggins KU bro! lol
3/21/13, 2:26 PM
Blessed to be named Texas Gatorade Player of the Year! Thanks to everyone who has supported me this far.
My 2012 KU Alumni games, 2011-12 Border War, Legends of the Phog, KC Prep Invitational, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos, Late Night in the Phog, and more now on YouTube