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LJW Keegan Ratings: Johnson lights up Aggies again
The game had special meaning to Johnson for another reason. Johnson’s uncle, William Couisnard of Gary, Ind., died last week, and Johnson missed practice Monday to be with his family. Johnson described his uncle as a “glue guy, a dear uncle, someone I stayed with for a while. He’s taken care of me.”
Yet, when Johnson was away, he thought about being back in Lawrence.
“While I was here, I couldn’t wait to get home and see my family,” Johnson said. “Once I got home to my family, I couldn’t wait to get back and see these dudes. I could not wait.
“There was a point when I wished I could miss practice, now it was killing me to miss it.”
Johnson made five of seven threes on Thursday and all five free-throw attempts. He had ample help from Thomas Robinson, who finished with 19 points and 10 rebounds; Taylor, who had 16; and Jeff Withey, who added 11 points and four blocks.
Nobody, it seemed, could miss. KU shot 61.4 percent from the floor and made 10 of its 15 three-pointers. The Aggies packed their defense to challenge Robinson and Withey, and the Jayhawks made them pay from deep.
Even Robinson stepped outside to hit two threes. He had made only four in his career, all this season, entering the game.
“When Robinson hits two threes, they’re a very difficult team to guard,” A&M Coach Billy Kennedy said.
ESPN Rapid Reaction
Texas A&M dealt with injuries and misfortune throughout Big 12 play, and on Thursday the Aggies tried dealing with one last bit of adversity to cap a disappointing season.
“I kind of got spoiled,” senior guard Dash Harris said. “I got used to going to the NCAA Tournament my first three years. It’s really a change now that the season is over this early. It seems surreal, and it hasn’t really hit me yet that we won’t be going to the NCAA Tournament my final season. I just have to deal with it.”
…“You’ve got to play every game for 40 minutes,” A&M guard Khris Middleton said. “This game we didn’t do it, and it showed.”
…Will Middleton return for his senior season or declare for the NBA draft?
“I’ll start thinking about it and talking with my family,” Middleton said as he headed for the team bus Thursday. “Right now I’m staying.”
This is their home.
The Sprint Center looks more like an NBA palace than a college basketball landmark. And the third-ranked Kansas Jayhawks' campus is located 45 minutes to the west. But the Jayhawks consider this event and this arena their territory, and their March dominance in this setting suggests their Big 12 tournament reign will not end without a fight.
The latest display of their mastery came Thursday afternoon, when they routed ninth-seeded Texas A&M 83-66 in a quarterfinal behind 26 points from junior guard Elijah Johnson. Two more victories separate top-seeded Kansas from its third consecutive Big 12 tournament title and its sixth in the past seven years. They have never lost in the three previous Big 12 tourneys held in this building.
Kansas City is home for four Tigers. Seniors Jarrett Sutton, Steve Moore, Denmon, and junior Michael Dixon all grew up in Kansas City. Senior Andrew Jones grew up 15 miles away in Smithville.
"The city adopted me," English added. "This is our city."
Just like they did when Missouri played in the CBE Classic, Missouri fans turned out in bunches for Thursday's game. Black and gold could be spotted in just about every section of the crowd.
…The Tigers play Texas (19-12, 9-9) in the Big 12 semifinals at 9 p.m. on Friday, meaning they can claim Kansas City as theirs for at least one more day.
"This is Kansas City, Missouri, last time I checked," Dixon said.
LJW Gameday Cram Session
KU coach Bill Self ran Johnson through an individual workout Sunday before allowing him to miss two full practices. Self had some encouraging words for Johnson on Thursday.
“When I was walking out of the locker room — I’m always the last out of the locker room — coach said to me, ‘I like the way you were shooting yesterday,’” Johnson related. “I said, ‘I didn’t know you were paying attention.’ He said (jokingly), ‘Yeah, I know everything.’
“Hearing that from your head coach ... if a player doesn’t feel special when recognized by his head coach, then there’s not many people who can get through to you.”
Self said he was truly impressed with the 6-foot-4 guard at practice Wednesday.
“Every time he teed it up, I thought it was going in,” Self said. “I told him before the game, ‘I’ve got a great feeling about you.’ I could tell he was confident.”
He said he appreciates the fact Self demanded a lot of him Thursday and will again, today.
“Coach has a good way of turning your attention to back what it needs to be on,” Johnson said. “When Thomas went through what he went through (death of mom and two grandparents last season), coach said in an interview that he couldn’t let up on him. He had to keep yelling at him to make him feel normal. I don’t want people to make me not feel normal. If that’s yelling at me, it’s water off my back. It doesn’t bother me. I know coach is not trying to treat me special. He wants me to know, ‘Hey, snap back into it. Stuff happens. Deal with it.’”
“We pride ourselves on being a big-man school. To get out-rebounded on the offensive end is unacceptable,” KU center Jeff Withey said. “We take it to heart whenever somebody outrebounds us. It’s definitely a low blow.”
Part of the reason for KU’s early struggles on the defensive glass was a slow start from forward Thomas Robinson.
The junior, who entered as one of the best defensive rebounders in the nation, didn’t pick up his first rebound until the 6:22 mark of the first half.
“It was just them playing harder than us on a couple plays. That’s all it was,” Robinson said. “That’s always a focus for me, to rebound. I was kind of upset that they got that many offensive rebounds.”
Robinson picked up his numbers in the final 27 minutes, ending with eight of KU’s 24 defensive rebounds.
Still, Self wasn’t only upset with his big men. He also challenged his guards to go after the ball harder.
“Long shots, long rebounds. So that’s our area,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to help those guys clean up. A lot of times, it’s not their fault that we don’t get the rebound.”
One of Self’s recurring messages with his team is to allow the opponent one shot or less each possession.
A&M was able to score 16 second-chance points Thursday from its 16 offensive rebounds.
“No excuses,” Withey said. “They’re just strong guys, and they got (the ball).”
“I think that’s the thing I’ve liked most about them, Is that for the most part, they’re pretty selfless." said coach Bill Self of his players after the game.
The Jayhawks are 22nd in the country and second in the Big 12 with 15.6 assists per game and finished with 19 against the Aggies Thursday afternoon in the Sprint Center.
“It’s something we stress,” senior guard Conner Teahan said of his team’s ball movement. “We talk about getting it to the second and third side, and that’s able to get our bigs in good position so we can throw it in. And the more you get the defense to move, the more chances you’ll have of bad closeouts. It’s a huge emphasis.”
Teahan added three assists, two more than his season average.
So here we are: Less than 24 hours away from a possible Kansas City Armageddon.
Kansas and Missouri. One last time. Part two.
And with this impending third Kansas-Missouri battle on the way, it’s no understatement to say that the country will be watching closely.
Only two roadblocks stand in the way of basketball mayhem breaking loose on these streets, and both barriers are fairly formidable: Texas and Baylor.
Friday night, the Jayhawks will once again play No.11 Baylor. Kansas absolutely dismantled Baylor in the schools’ previous two outings, winning by a total of 32 points.
And the effort Kansas will have to muster to beat Baylor a third time will be a strenuous one. If Kansas wins, fatigue will have set in by the time they get the opportunity to start to think about Missouri.
“I think it’s hardest to beat a team the third time,” Bill Self said. “Because sometimes the physiological advantage goes to the team that you’ve beaten. We played pretty good against Baylor both games, but we haven’t gotten their best shot yet. And I anticipate getting that best shot tomorrow.”
Sure, these conference tournaments are just a warm-up for the NCAA Tournament. But this “warm-up” is the greatest preparation tool for any collegiate sporting event. And it’s only fitting that this series of major events precedes the NCAA Tournament — the grandest three weeks in sports.
So if this Kansas team — that has surprised the fans, the media, and coach Self already this season — can surprise us once more in Kansas City, it may not be the last surprise it holds.
If this team can beat a talented Baylor team once again, if this team can beat Missouri one last time in the rivalry’s epicenter, then this team can do anything.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self heard Baylor’s Bears will wear black jerseys today, not the bright neon green outfits they sported in an 82-74 Big 12 tournament quarterfinal victory over Kansas State on Thursday in Sprint Center.
“I’ll be real honest with you, I’m not a fan. That’s the new fad, teams out of the box with uniforms,” Self said Thursday after his own squad’s 83-66 victory over Texas A&M. “Those are really bright. I think tomorrow they have to wear dark colors. It’s the benefit of being the higher seed ... it won’t hurt our eyes tomorrow,” Self added with a big smile.
Kansas next opponent is Baylor. The Jayhawks have winning record in conference tournament play against every team (Big Eight and Big 12) except Baylor. The Jayhawks are 0-1, losing in the 2009 quarterfinals at Oklahoma City.
Robinson’s 19 points and 10 rebounds gives him 23 double-doubles for the season. Nobody in the nation has more.
Stationing himself closer to the basket more often than usual, especially in the first half, Jones looked for contact.
Teammates looked for him, and look what happened. With on-site NBA scouts salivating, Jones amassed 31 points and 11 rebounds. By halftime, he had 21 points and eight boards.
Suddenly, the semifinal matchup between a much deeper No. 4 seed Baylor and a more intense, better organized Kansas, the No. 1 seed, takes on the feel of a big-time game, a tougher one to forecast than the seeds or one-sided regular-season results would indicate.
One game does not a season change, but with Baylor it’s so easy to believe it can do so much better than it did during a 12-6 regular season. Point guard Pierre Jackson is so driven, so quick, power forward Quincy Acy so scrappy, such a leaper, and Jones so very talented. When the Bears play with a purpose and the right guys take the shots, their ceiling is so high.
Teammates raved about Jones making both three-point attempts, but that wasn’t his most meaningful statistic. He made seven of nine free throws, attempting that many from the line for just the third time all season, a sign he welcomed contact instead of shying from it.
Now we know what motivates Perry Jones III.
A Mohawk, for one. That's the radical haircut the father of Baylor's sophomore post has promised to get after watching the best game of his son's career Thursday at the Big 12 tournament. Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers, too. Perry's mother Teri Jones was waving the candy from the Sprint Center stands like they were bones for a dog.
That's where the Perry Jones story gets complicated. It shouldn't take a 20-year old NBA prospect's favorite candies to get him going. That, and the word "dog" has been associated with Baylor's 6-foot-11 forward on more than one occasion this season.
"I really don't know," Teri Jones said Thursday when asked about her son's inconsistency. "I know he does pray. Then I send him Bible verses and he has the team to motivate him as well. He tries to get on the court and think about just playing basketball. I know when he comes off the court his mind is going."
…"I opened up," Jones said, "my whole arsenal."
If the “eye test” was the only measure of basketball excellence, Baylor would be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Save for Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina, nobody looks better on a basketball court than Baylor.
Yes, even in those fluorescent uniforms.
Baylor has astonishing length, speed and grace. The Bears have size. They have skill. And for all of that, they’re not always hard to play.
They’ll never make opponents wish they were somewhere else, like Kentucky might. They won’t make you wonder how they can field so many players who are hard to defend, like Missouri. They won’t punish you physically, like Michigan State.
Often, these Bears make you wonder.
They make you wonder how some opponents score so easily on their defense, as Missouri and Kansas did in two meetings each.
Then they make you wonder why they can’t always be as good as they were Thursday against Kansas State. The Wildcats were competitive for maybe 10 minutes. Otherwise, they were at the bottom of Perry Jones’ shoe.
Sporting News Mike DeCourcy
The question now is whether Jones and his teammates can turn in another banner effort in Friday’s semifinal against regular-season champion Kansas. The Jayhawks own two victories over the Bears by an average of 16 points.
“We can’t lay down,” Acy said. “If we get punched in the face we’ve got to get back up and keep fighting.”
Jones reminded everyone on Thursday that he was more than capable of doing just that. If he plays that way Friday -- and during the NCAA tournament -- the potential is limitless for Baylor.
“He just needs to keep thinking positive things,” point guard Pierre Jackson said. “I think he’s the best player in the nation. I say it every day. He’s the best player in the nation. He showed that today.”
ESPN Jason King
Kansas forward Thomas Robinson should be college basketball’s national player of the year.
Biased? As a KU alum, sure I am. But there are good statistical arguments for Robinson. In eight games against ranked opponents this season – seven were top six teams at the time – Robinson averaged 19.8 points (shooting 56 percent from the field and 76 percent from the line) and 12.3 rebounds. The junior’s overall averages were 18 points a game and 11.9 rebounds; he’s had 22 double-doubles this season.
Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis is a worthy contender, averaging 14.4 points and 9.8 points a game. Of course, Davis has five teammates who were McDonald’s all-Americans, as he was. Kansas has . . . zero. That’s one reason Bill Self was just named Sporting News coach of the year.
But forget the stats for a minute. Robinson is the complete package — and not just on the court.
…Some players wait to see how their team will perform in March before deciding whether to come out for the draft, but Robinson is gone. KU fans are not only resigned to that fact; they are supportive of it. As sorry as they are to see him go, they understand his need. They realize how lucky they have been to have a player the caliber of Thomas Robinson, as a person and player, for three years.
And the fans and Robinson, too, realize how wrong they were about one thing – Jayla is not the only family Robinson has left. His other family said goodbye to him Saturday night, sending him off with tears and smiles and assurances that he will always be welcome. Isn’t that what family does? If so, Robinson has a bigger family than even he realizes.
Washington Post: Thomas Robinson near the end of emotional run
LJW: Jayhawks in the NBA
This season, Chalmers has started all 38 games in which he's been healthy, and the Heat has won 30 of those. He's scored in double figures 23 times. He's become a trusted contributor on a contender, which is more significant than posting gaudy numbers on an also-ran.
During All-Star weekend, he received compliments from some of his colleagues around the league, but nothing that stuck out. He's been more excited to receive text messages offering praise and encouragement from his "other family" at Kansas, especially those from assistant coaches and head coach Bill Self.
Still, Chalmers carries a chip on his shoulder, the one that formed back in Alaska, where he eventually surprised many people by becoming the state's third NBA player.
"Way more people told me I wouldn't make it than that I would make it," Chalmers said.
Now he has.
"They're quiet now," he said. "I don't even see them when I come home."
Palm Beach Post
Kansas University men’s basketball coach Bill Self has thrown his support behind a proposed public-private partnership that would build a new youth fieldhouse and recreation center in northwest Lawrence.
In a statement released Thursday by the city of Lawrence, Self said the Bill and Cindy Self’s Assists Foundation is among the partners working to construct a multi-court fieldhouse and recreation center at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and the South Lawrence Trafficway.
“Cindy and I founded Assists out of the desire to help our community meet a need for recreational and wellness space. It has been our goal to be a part of a project that benefits our community and that is accessible and beneficial to everybody, especially our youth,” Self said in the statement. “This particular project has the potential to be even more impactful than anything we’ve been working towards to date.
“Through the generosity of partners, we believe we’ve been given an avenue to help make Lawrence not only a great place to live for our citizens but also a destination. In terms of recreational space, public accessibility and economic impact for our community, this project is very, very exciting and far exceeds our original goals.”
They didn’t need this game, Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson insisted before the game, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt KU’s NCAA Tournament resume.
The Jayhawks entered Thursday’s game against Texas A&M floating on the bubble reserved for teams with murky futures. A&M represented a chance to end that uncertainty, to ease the doubt come selection day.
And now, after No. 22 Texas A&M pulled away from Kansas after halftime for a 78-63 win? Well, now the Jayhawks must play the waiting game.
“We’re going to wait and cross our fingers,” KU forward Aishah Sutherland said.
It was a fair fight for a half as the two teams traded leads back and forth.
The Jayhawks pounded A&M inside early, relying on Sutherland and Chelsea Gardner for much of their scoring.
The duo combined for 19 of KU’s 30 first-half points, and the Jayhawks trailed by just two.
KU stayed within range of A&M after halftime, trailing by three points seven minutes into the second half. But then, at the 13-minute mark, the Jayhawks went cold.
They had a shot clock violation. They turned the ball over multiple times. They came away from too many possessions empty handed. During that time, A&M went on a 23-7 run.
“When they attacked us,” said KU guard Angel Goodrich, who led the team with 21 points, “we didn’t have an answer. In this league, you have to have an answer.”
Big 12/College News
Big 12 Conference Tournament guide: Schedule, stats, media
KC Big 12 Tournament guide: Ticket, parking, lodging, entertainment info
Q. This might be too specific and too hypothetical, but I’ll ask it anyway. In the case of Kansas and Missouri, you have Kansas that finished two games ahead of Missouri in the conference. They split head to head. If they were to make it to the title game, does that become something you say whoever wins it goes, is that a possibility, or do you say Kansas still has enough of an advantage? How do you just weigh all the factors there?
JEFF HATHAWAY: We would look at Kansas, and we would look at Missouri and we would look at those other handful of teams that we believe are due consideration for the first line and the second line and we would compare them all with each other. So it goes back to what I alluded to, and that is head-to-head competition is a factor that’s considered. Common opponents is a factor. Right down the list. We’ll look at the full body of work. One game — one game is not going to determine, be the sole determinant for where they’re going to be seeded.
Q. And RPI, SOS, what role does that play?
JEFF HATHAWAY: I think there’s a lot of criteria. And, unfortunately, I think a lot of people go immediately to RPI or go to one or two criteria, when there really is a litany of criteria that we look at. And that could involve head-to-head competition, common opponents, road records. As we all know any coach in any league will tell you it’s difficult to win on the road. Overall strength of schedule. Nonconference strength of schedule. Obviously, we look at competition against top quality teams. And we all know what the bottom line premise has been of the committee over the past years, and that is who did you play, where did you play them and how did you do.
We also have different resources such as the coaches regional advisory committee balloting. Various computer rankings that you all are familiar with. So a wide range of tools are available for us in our toolbox.
Q. Following up on that, actually, can you specify about how much you weigh the RPI versus, say, a Sagarin power rating or one of the other power ratings, are they equal, or does the RPI still carry a little more weight?
JEFF HATHAWAY: I don’t think it carries any more weight. I think, one, it’s hard to weigh each of those criteria and how you factor them. Different situations appear on different team sheets. And there’s ten individuals in this room, and those ten individuals might view it all a little bit differently.
NCAA.com: Q&A with DI committee chair
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USA Today: College basketball faces questions as attendance falls
So Haith did a masterful job. But I wouldn’t have voted for him. I never support a first-year coach for coach of the year, unless it’s some kind of rags-to-riches story. Mizzou last season went 23-11 overall, 8-8 in the Big 12, and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Haith certainly has elevated the Tigers’ status, but it’s not like Missouri basketball was destitute. Haith is winning with someone else’s players. There’s an art to that, but in my mind, a coach who builds his own program is more worthy of awards.
The Oklahoman Berry Tramel
Suspended Auburn University point guard Varez Ward is under investigation by federal authorities in an ongoing point-shaving probe, Yahoo! Sports has learned.
Three sources with knowledge of the case said the FBI has been investigating Ward since late February after he and guard Chris Denson were suspended by the Tigers prior to a Feb. 25 home game against Arkansas. Two sources said Denson was also questioned as part of the point-shaving investigation, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the team after sitting out the loss to the Razorbacks. The sources said additional players have been questioned in the case about whether Ward – who has not been with the team since being suspended – attempted to enlist them in a possible scheme. The sources said at least two games are under scrutiny: a 68-50 loss to Alabama on Feb. 7 and a 56-53 loss to Arkansas on Jan. 25.
Heights still has the capability to dazzle, as evidenced by Perry Ellis’ 29 points Thursday in the Falcons’ 52-31 win over Olathe East in the quarterfinals of the Class 6A tournament.
But the Falcons’ slumps aren’t usually stopped by an alley-oop, a breakaway dunk or a deep three-pointer. They’re busted instead by a dedicated defense making an important stop or the selfless effort it takes to grab an offensive rebound. Heights uses sizzle to supplement its spunk.
The star players can still energize, but the Falcons get as much of a boost from intangibles, which makes them as dangerous as the teams that have won the last three 6A championships.
The Falcons moved a step toward making it four straight, and they play Blue Valley North in the semifinals tonight at Koch Arena.
…Blue Valley North 76, Wichita North 49 — North hasn’t matched up physically with many opponents this season, but the Redskins have Conner Frankamp, and he makes up for a lot of deficiencies.
North’s limitations can become fatal flaws if Frankamp has an off night and the Redskins have nothing to offset the opposing team’s advantages.
That’s what happened Thursday — Frankamp missed 15 of 21 shots, scoring 16 points, and North couldn’t slow down BV North. The Mustangs shot 55 percent, outrebounded North 41-23, and had its way against North’s smaller, slower players.
"Defense just wasn’t there tonight," North coach Gary Squires said. "I’ve got to give credit, they shot the ball really well. The height’s not there inside, but they’ve got three or four guys that can really shoot it."
Frankamp, who averages 33.1 points, missed his first four shots and eight of his first 10. He was unable to rally the Redskins as BV North built a significant lead with a 20-4 run in the second quarter. The Mustangs led 37-21 at half.
"I just tried to play my regular game," Frankamp said. "I thought a lot of my shots were going in — they all looked pretty good and a lot of them were in and out. I played terrible tonight, I thought. I felt like I let myself down and I let my team down, too."
Brannen Greene added to All-American Championship roster
Jakarr Sampson (Akron, Ohio/Brewster Academy) 2012, SF, 6-foot-8, 200 pounds Sampson has a motor that doesn't seem to stop and he utilizes his incredible athleticism to make momentum-changing plays that can dramatically alter the course of a game. He's extremely valuable because he's a guy who can consistently put up big scoring numbers without having to have sets called for him. He excels at getting out to fill lanes in transition and could practically make a living with his work on the offensive glass.
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