But in a world where only the winners are remembered, is 16 still sweet or just an artificial substitute?
..."I can remember when I was at UCLA, those first 30 games were all exhibition games,'' NC State coach Mark Gottfried said. "Your season begins in March, and sometimes that really is unfair. No matter who you are, it's hard to advance, but in some places it's expected. John Wooden used to always say, 'Don't give 'em too much too early because then they want it all the time.' That's the truth.''
…Back before the rise of the mid-major and the official cinching of the gap between the haves and have-nots, the regional semifinal served as a barometer for the underdogs, the low seeds that were good but never expected to knock off the big dogs.
If they made it, they celebrated. Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated two years ago after leading the Panthers to the Sweet 16. He was there because of the daring of his game winner, there because of the unexpected success of the team, but mostly there because Northern Iowa wasn't supposed to beat Kansas.
Now we've grown so accustomed to Cinderella; she's merely another pretty girl walking down the street.
Ohio University is in the Sweet 16, but no one, not even the Bobcats, are hooting and hollering as if they've won the lottery. Why? Because Ohio beat Georgetown in the first round in 2010.
"When we walked off the floor on Friday night [after beating Michigan], D.J. Cooper grabbed a couple of guys and said, 'Hey, act like you've been here before; we're here to get two,'' Ohio University coach John Groce said.
No, the saccharine level of the Sweet 16 no longer depends on who you are; it's about where you're coming from or where you're supposed to be going.
…Forget that this is a program with two national championships on its résumeé. Six years is an eternity in purgatory, and absence from the tourney made many a heart grow quite fond of Gottfried. "We had 1,500 people here when we got home [Sunday night],'' he said. "For our program, for our fans, this is a chance to savor the fact that we are taking steps in the right direction, that it is happening.''
…Once the barometer for success, the regional semifinals are now as much a measure of failure.
For four months, people lauded Frank Haith for the extraordinary job he did at Missouri. What they'll remember most, though, is that the Tigers lost in the first round to Norfolk State.
Two weeks ago, Syracuse capped off the most successful regular-season run in school history, winning its 30th game and putting the bow on a 17-1 record in the Big East. No one in the conference had won that many games before.
And not a single Orange player was naive enough to believe he'd accomplished a blessed thing, not after Syracuse survived UNC Asheville and not even after the Orange beat Kansas State. "We won all of those games, but at the end of the day, we've really won nothing,'' Dion Waiters said. "We had to get out of the first weekend. Otherwise you could have just erased it all.''
Yes, the Sweet 16 does still matter. It's just not as sweet for everyone as it used to be.
The ESPN.com National Player of the Year, Big 12 Player of the Year and Naismith and Wooden awards finalist, Robinson leads the nation with 25 double-doubles in 2011-12, which is tied for the Kansas single-season record set by Drew Gooden in 2002. The Washington, D.C., native, Robinson is the only player in the Big 12 to average a double-double with 17.7 points and 11.8 rebounds. A certain consensus All-American first-team selection and four-time Big 12 Player of the Week this season, Robinson’s 11.8 boards per game are second nationally.
Joining Robinson on the NABC All-America First Team were Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Doug McDermott (Creighton) and Jared Sullinger (Ohio State). A complete list of the NABC All-America teams is located at www.nabc.com. The last Jayhawk to be named to the NABC All-America First Team was Sherron Collins in 2010.
The victory made Self 1-9 in NCAA Tournament games in which his team was behind at the half, 28-3 when leading.
Most of his teams aren’t accustomed to falling behind, so when it happens, the pressure of playing catch-up ball without a great deal of experience at it mounts, and the final buzzer sounds too early.
Not playing well from behind, to a large extent, can be a consequence of being too good, scoring too many blowouts, experiencing little more than relief after victories, dejection after losses.
This team is different from most of Self’s in that it doesn’t routinely overwhelm opponents with talent and has to rely more on will than skill to win consistently.
These Jayhawks have gone 5-3 in games they trailed at halftime. Kansas can thank Missouri for helping it to win Sunday’s warts-and-all classic. The Tigers led by a dozen after 20 minutes in Allen Fieldhouse, and the deficit swelled to 19 before KU’s famous comeback victory in overtime.
“Huge,” senior guard Tyshawn Taylor said of that comeback helping KU in the Purdue game.
Taylor was able to tell teammates with credibility at halftime that they all had been there before, a luxury upon which teams too loaded can’t rely.
The Missouri thriller was by far the most impressive, but KU also overcame regular-season halftime deficits in Allen Fieldhouse against Iowa State and Texas A&M and in Norman against Oklahoma.
In the Missouri comeback, it was Taylor who stayed so calm at such a high speed.
In the Purdue game, Johnson steered the ship to safety.
They don’t fear stormy conditions, they attack them with confidence.
Thanks mainly to some late-game heroics by Elijah Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks (29-6) did win and now advance to a Sweet 16 game against North Carolina State (24-12) at 9:17 p.m. Friday at the Edward Jones Dome in McLemore’s hometown of St. Louis.
“I mean, I am so proud of them,” McLemore said of his teammates, “and happy we get to go back to Lawrence and practice together again.
“It’s just a good feeling,” added McLemore, who along with the 6-8 Traylor has been able to practice all second semester but not play in games until next season in accordance with NCAA rules.
As one might expect, McLemore is fired up about making the short trip down I-70 to watch his teammates continue their postseason run.
“It’s great to go home, for us to go home, for me to go home,” the 6-foot-5, 185-pound McLemore said with a smile. “It’s spring break now. I’ll be happy to go home and see my family.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” he added of the Jayhawks playing in St. Louis. “Hopefully we can do it next year, too, the same way. It’s not about going to St. Louis, it’s about us getting this win.”
…“Jamari and I are playing well (at practice),” he added. We’ve tried to help the team get better every day. Mainly I’m guarding Tyshawn and Elijah and Conner and Travis Releford. Sometimes I guard the big men. I’m learning a lot, definitely.”
KU coach Bill Self has said the two have been great for the Red team — the scout team — at practice.
“I said today I wonder if it’s a coincidence we got better in the last eight weeks because those two are practicing,” Self said recently of McLemore and Traylor. “You can’t take possessions off (because of the active duo). They try hard and hold you accountable. They’ve helped our team.
“It’s unfortunate both had to deal with this,” he added of being ruled partial qualifiers. “We thought both had legitimate cases. The NCAA did make the ruling they did. Based on the ruling (sitting out first semester, practicing second), the two have done a good job making the most of it, turning a supposed negative into a positive, knowing they will have four (years) to play four left. Both have well above 3.0s (grade-point averages). If they stay four years, it almost certainly guarantees graduation. I think they spun it into a positive the best they can.
“The kids see themselves having some success, studying hard, with the right tutorial system, it’s great. I think this will be good for their lives the way it’s played out.”
Suddenly, through two games in the NCAA Tournament, Self isn’t only playing his bench more minutes, but he also is depending on them.
This, of course, is the result of many factors. For starters, Travis Releford has picked up two fouls in the first half of both games. Elijah Johnson also had two fouls in Kansas’ first game.
Plus, against Purdue, Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson couldn’t play together and effectively guard the Boilermakers. That meant the smaller and quicker Kevin Young had to step in.
The end result is this: Kansas’ three main bench players — Young, Conner Teahan and Naadir Tharpe — have played 112 minutes in two games, or 56 minutes per game. Those three averaged 37.8 minutes during the regular season.
“I think our bench is getting better,” Self said after KU’s 65-50 win against Detroit.
Statistically, the bench isn’t lighting it up. Tharpe, Young and Teahan went a combined 6-of-28 shooting (21 percent). They are averaging seven points and have more turnovers (six) than assists (four).
But the key to this bench is different than Kansas’ benches of the past. Where those reserves, such as Johnson and Robinson, were measured in points, this bench is judged by its ability to keep the score close.
The bench did that against Detroit, actually growing KU’s lead before halftime with Teahan, Tharpe and Young in the game. They kept KU within striking distance two days later against Purdue.
“For us it builds our confidence knowing that Coach doesn’t have to play those guys all the minutes,” Young said. “It just gives us another side of the team that nobody’s really seen yet. I don’t think we’ve had that lineup since the beginning of the year.”
The messages were flying in the Kansas locker room at halftime.
Elijah Johnson told his team to stop second-guessing itself. Tyshawn Taylor reminded the Jayhawks that they'd been in trouble before. Coach Bill Self finally stood up and told his team that it would take sheer toughness to rally past Purdue.
"When things don't go well and you get behind and you play uphill the whole way, it takes some energy and it takes some toughness," said Self, whose team fell behind by double-digits early and still trailed by six at the break. "My message to the whole team was trust each other."
All those messages came through loud and clear.
But, it turned out, Kansas controlled the game’s final three minutes, and that was enough.
Beyond Elijah Johnson’s obvious huge plays — a three-pointer, a lob-pass assist for a slam and a steal and breakaway bucket for the go-ahead points — Kansas was at its best when it mattered most.
Robinson couldn’t buy a basket, but his block of Lewis Jackson’s drive set up the possession that Johnson finished with his deep three.
And after Johnson’s lob to Taylor for a slam, Self burned his final timeout. It seemed risky. KU trailed 60-59 with a minute remaining. What could be gained here?
“It was a roll of the dice,” Self said. “I thought we were tired. I wanted to make sure we had fresh legs. It seems like, knowing our team, if we can look at each other in a timeout and say, ‘This is what we have to do,’ we have a better chance of doing it.”
Kansas had to get a stop, and the Jayhawks got even more. Purdue’s Jackson dribbled without making much progress and got trapped near the free-throw line. Johnson poked the ball away and went end-to-end with the game-winning layup.
“They clamped down right there,” Jackson said. “(Johnson) got a hand on the ball, and it was a good steal.”
Kansas was battling a motivated Hummel, the senior standout who was playing in his first NCAA Tournament since his freshman year because of two season-ending knee surgeries. And Hummel nearly delivered the biggest victory of his career.
Kansas gained 11 more possessions than Purdue by virtue of advantages in rebounding (44-36) and turnovers (7 for the Jayhawks, 10 for the Boilermakers). Those 11 possessions were huge on a night when Kansas shot only 33.9 percent from the field (21 of 62). The Jayhawks entered this game shooting 48.4 percent on the season.
A Terone Johnson basket with 2:02 to play gave Purdue a 60-57 lead, but that proved to be the Boilermakers’ final points this season. Kansas finished the game with a 6-0 run, including guard Elijah Johnson’s basket with 23 seconds to play that gave the Jayhawks the lead for good, 61-60.
Hummel and Ryne Smith each had 3-point attempts in the final 10 seconds, but when their shots were off the mark, the three-time NCAA tournament champion Jayhawks rallied and advanced to the Midwest Regional’s Sweet 16 on Thursday in St. Louis.
These truly are the difficult games to put in the rear-view window. Until Kansas turned up the defensive pressure during the final 14 minutes, it appeared it would be Purdue heading to St. Louis and not Kansas.
But these games last 40 minutes — not 39 minutes and 26 seconds — and in the end, Kansas did what championship-caliber teams have to do to survive on a night when it shot only 33.9 percent.
Bill Self told me a few years ago in his office that the first-round loss to Bucknell in 2005, ending his second season as coach of Kansas, was the hardest of his life.
“I don’t think I’ve ever dwelled on a situation more in my life than the Bucknell deal,” Self said then.
The Jayhawks were preparing to defend their 2008 NCAA Tournament title when Self gave that assessment. Since then they’ve been knocked out—both times as a No. 1 seed—by Northern Iowa and VCU.
The list, which also includes Bradley in 2006, almost grew on Sunday night at the CenturyLink Center. No. 2 seed Kansas was outplayed by 10th-seeded Purdue for the vast majority of the game but won anyway, 63-60, thanks to a late comeback during which the Jayhawks were nothing less than great.
…The arena was packed to the rafters with Jayhawks fans; perhaps 90 percent of those in attendance were screaming for survival. They got it. Robinson, the national player of the year candidate who had a tough night (11 points, 13 rebounds), got it. Self got it.
Heading into the second week, the NCAA tournament is now a big boy's game, dominated by a who's who of major college programs.
All but two of the 16 teams in the regional semifinals will be from power conferences. The lone exceptions are Xavier, which is hardly a stranger to this time of year, and Ohio University, a big school with a small, but no longer unknown, basketball program.
According to STATS, this will be the first time since 2003 that 14 teams from the six major conferences have made the Sweet 16. Two of those conferences, the Big Ten and Big East, put four teams each into the round of 16.
"To play in the NCAA tournament is great," said Kansas coach Bill Self, whose Jayhawks are one of two Big 12 teams left in the field. "But to feel the full benefit from an exposure standpoint for your program, you need to get to the second weekend."
While the Kansas Jayhawks were mounting a comeback against Purdue on Sunday night, two former KU basketball stars were battling for playoff position in an NBA game.
Twin brothers Markieff and Marcus Morris spent most of their lives playing basketball together — first in New Jersey as adolescents and high school stars, then as members of Bill Self’s KU program.
Yet on Sunday, the two brothers played against each other for the first time as NBA rookies — Marcus wearing a No. 2 Houston Rockets road jersey, Markieff sporting a No. 11 Phoenix Suns home uniform.
While Houston and Phoenix already had played each other earlier in the season, Sunday’s Western Conference clash was the first featuring both first-round draft picks on their teams’ respective rosters.
Markieff got the upper hand in the inaugural sibling showdown, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds in 17 minutes to help Phoenix claim a 99-86 victory. Marcus had just two points in almost 11 minutes as the Rockets saw the Suns pull within a half-game of them for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
“We’ve been playing pretty well,” Markieff said of the Suns, who selected him with the NBA draft’s 13th overall pick, one spot before Houston called Marcus’ name. “The last couple of games I have struggled a little. We’re in the playoff race now and that’s more important than my individual performance.”
After playing just one game in the NBA Development League, shooting guard Xavier Henry will return to the New Orleans Hornets, the team announced Monday.
The Hornets assigned Henry to the Iowa Energy after Saturday night's game against the New Jersey Nets. On Sunday night, Henry played 20 minutes and scored 13 points and had two steals in the Energy's loss 114-101 loss to the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Former Kansas linebacker and current KU athletic official Banks Floodman underwent surgery at the University of Kansas Hospital on Saturday, one week after he was punched in the Power & Light District during the Big 12 tournament, according to KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony.
Floodman works as an assistant athletic director for fundraising.
The damage was to Floodman’s face, the bones around his eyes and nose, Marchiony said.
The person who punched Floodman was arrested after the attack, which happened on March 9, according to Marchiony.
Floodman, who is from Wichita, played linebacker and was a three-year captain at KU from 2002-05.
KU AD WBB: Jayhawks preview matchup with Delaware
KU AD WBB: Delaware pregame notes
It’s difficult to go more than a few seconds at Jack Stephens Center these days without hearing her name.
Elena Delle Donne.
She’s the Delaware University women’s basketball team’s inside-outside threat with the size (6-foot-5), skill (27.9 points a game, 10.3 rebounds, 42-percent three-point shooting) and pedigree (signed with Connecticut before transferring) to give opposing teams nightmares.
Right now, Delle Donne is Freddy Krueger for Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson and her Jayhawks, set to face the Blue Hens at 8:40 tonight in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Since defeating No. 6 seed Nebraska, 57-49, Sunday night in the first round, No. 11 seed Kansas (20-12) hasn’t had much time to prepare for No. 3 seed Delaware (31-1) and one of the country’s elite players. Henrickson said Monday while addressing the media that KU has gone over various defensive approaches in an attempt to thwart Delle Donne, but she didn’t want to make so many changes with such a narrow window for preparation that the Jayhawks would confuse themselves.
“There’s some things that we can’t control, and she can just hit ridiculous shots,” the eighth-year KU coach said of Delle Donne. “We’ve got to make sure we can manage the emotion of that. We’ve got to try to make a play and not let her get the same thing, but we recognize that.”
Kansas University’s women’s basketball team didn’t have the hottest shooting night in its NCAA Tournament first-round victory over Nebraska on Sunday at Jack Stephens Center.
The Jayhawks hit just 25 of their 66 attempts, including a 2-for-13 effort from three-point range, and made just five of their 10 free throws while upsetting the Huskers, 57-49.
KU coach Bonnie Henrickson said her team will need to be much more efficient at 8:40 tonight, when the Jayhawks (20-12) face Delaware (31-1), which averages 71.8 points a game.
“We shot it really well in practice the day before, and that always makes me nervous,” Henrickson cracked, regarding the 38-percent shooting effort in the opening round.
Big 12/College News
CBS Viewers Guide: Enter your zip, finds channels/schedule for games
TV/Announcer schedule for the Sweet 16
Yahoo: Sweet 16 by the numbers
Midwest Region (St. Louis)
The region that was most flipped upside down in the first weekend, the Midwest could either be really great for the casual fan, or just really great for NC State and Ohio.
Let’s be honest, Cinderella stories are great, but they’re usually supposed to end right about now and make way for the big boys. But based on what transpired both on and off the court late Sunday night, the Midwest is anyone’s guess, and fans from any school should be willing to fork over some cash to attend, especially because of the proximity.
Fans Interest Level (on a scale of 1-5): 5
And for a wide range of reasons.
Like they would for any second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, both Kansas and North Carolina fans have canceled all other social plans for the weekend to clear out space for one, maybe two big games this weekend, while Ohio and NC State are both ecstatic to be here, but have confident fan bases that are not satisfied.
Projected nuttiness outside the dome: 5
Two reasons: St. Louis is an underrated city to get wild in, and Ohio currently holds the title as the biggest party school in the country.
If the little guy is the one making the biggest scene during pre-game “warm-ups”, then you know this is a recipe for an awesome weekend.
Why would Jayhawk, Tar Heel and Wolfpack fans want to get shown up?
Bobcat undergrads are sure to flood the Lou, as the eight hour drive from Athens to St. Louis is the perfect distance for a memorable road trip.
With Atlanta potentially being overrun with Kentucky fans, and Boston unlikely to have hoards of fans from all four participating teams, this region would be my pick to attend if the cost of travel, accommodations and tickets to all three games were not an issue.
NBC Sports Rating the Regional Sites on Fun Factor
Coaching in college basketball is overrated, huh?
Riddle me this then? The Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament will feature at least six coaches who have won national titles and two who have lost in the title game.
Jim Boeheim (Syracuse), Billy Donovan (Florida), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), Louisville’s Rick Pitino (Kentucky), Bill Self (Kansas) and Roy Williams (North Carolina) are four wins away from another title.
John Calipari (Kentucky) and Thad Matta (Ohio State) have been thisclose.
We get it. Many of the better coaches are at the best programs so we have a bit of the chicken-and-egg syndrome. But they wouldn’t have gotten to elite programs if they hadn’t proven themselves on the way up.
…How do you get your kids to believe they can do the impossible? The night before Villanova upset Georgetown in the 1985 title game, coach Rollie Massimino told his players to go to their hotel rooms, close their eyes, and envision a victory.
Lehigh coach Brett Reed had a simpler way of getting it done before the Mountain Hawks upset Duke on Friday.
“I told them they needed to suspend disbelief,’’ he said.
Patric Young, Florida's well-chiseled 6-foot-9 center, sat in front of his locker stall and leaned forward in his chair. He said coach Billy Donovan couldn't stop talking about what Norfolk did to Missouri.
"Coach kept saying, 'The better team won. Missouri's one of the best teams in the country and Norfolk beat'em, so they're the better team,'" Young said. "So we all know all about how much people love the underdog story.
Everyone wants to see how far they can go. The George Masons, the VCUs. ... Well, we don't want to be a part of that team's run. We're not going to let you have the opportunity to do to us what you did with Missouri."
So this makes it feel even worse, doesn't it, Mizzou fans?
Florida 84, Norfolk State 50.
When you see the seventh-seeded Gators administer the sort of beat-down your No. 2 seeded Tigers were supposed to have dealt to Norfolk State, it just grates on your gut. But because these are college kids, you remember that a little decorum and understanding must apply.
These aren't pro athletes, so you understand that things like this happen in sports. You keep remembering that these are not pro athletes. They're still kids and they cry when their seasons end so bitterly, so unexpectedly.
But still ...
Yeah, this one is going to take a bit longer to get out of the system for MU.
If Norfolk State had been able to have a little longer shelf life than 48 hours, if the mid-major Spartans had gone on one of those memorable runs and turned into this year's Virginia Commonwealth (hanging out deep into Final Four weekend), or had just gotten into the second weekend of March Madness, then overwrought Mizzou hoops fans could have at least gained some solace from their rude exit from the tourney.
• To see Florida just slap them silly?
• To see the Gators go on a 25-0 run early in the game?
• To see Mizzou killer Kyle O'Quinn end up with four points and three rebounds?
• To see the Spartans hit 10 of 19 3-point tries on Friday, then clank 20 out of 24 on Sunday?
Yeah, this makes it a lot worse.
It means that you now have to sit there and understand that the Tigers' dream season really did end on a fluke. It wasn't part of a miracle run. It was just what we figured all along. It was a big, awful, regrettable mistake that will stick in a lot of black and gold guts for a long time.
St Louis PD Burwell
Missouri coach Frank Haith can add another major award to his collection.
Haith, already chosen Big 12 coach of the year by several organizations, won the Henry Iba Coach of the Year Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association on Monday.
“I was very humbled and honored by the recognition,” Haith said. “To me … it is a team award. You don’t win those awards if you don’t have great people around you. Players, coaching staff, administration, fans … all those things play a part in (the) success any coach has.”
In his first year at Missouri, Haith took over for former coach Mike Anderson and led a team with only seven scholarship players to a 30-5 record, a Big 12 tournament title and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
…Haith reiterated Monday that there’s not much he can add to the ongoing NCAA investigation at Miami, though he did urge people not to jump to conclusions.
Since he left his former school for Missouri last April, three Hurricanes have been held out of games for receiving impermissible benefits. All three, however, have been reinstated.
“When you see kids get ineligible, just so you know, it doesn’t always mean the coach is involved,” Haith said. “It could be a lot of different things, and they don’t voice whatever those things are.”
But there is little reason to beat up the NCAA in the Jamar Samuels' case. Samuels is the Kansas State fifth-year senior who was ruled ineligible minutes before Saturday's NCAA tournament game with Syracuse.
Some pundits took the short, and lazy, road criticizing Big Brother for being so heartless. One headline used the word “persecution” in terms of the NCAA's handling of the matter. All the kid wanted was some “some money to eat,” according to Curtis Malone, Samuels' former AAU coach who admittedly sent the money.
There's your violation right there. It gets deeper and I'll explain below, but there is little sympathy for Samuels, Malone or even Kansas State in this matter.
First, realize the NCAA is cracking down on third parties. Like it or not, by his mere association with Samuels, Malone has been classified as one of those athletic hangers on. Malone's DC Assault AAU team has been the launching pad for Samuels as well as former K-State players Michael Beasley and Dominique Sutton. In a suit against Malone, Beasley reportedly stated that the coach had provided money to his mother.
Essentially what you have here is the AAU coach for a K-State basketball pipeline, financially supporting players. How is that fair to other Big 12 coaches or any coaches?
Third parties are defined as those capitalizing on kids' athletic talents. Think Will Lyles in the Oregon case. Malone may care about Samuels, but he isn't sending him that money unless the kid can dribble a basketball.
Per the NCAA, players can only accept money from family, relatives and those with an approved pre-existing relationship. A player cannot accept benefits or preferential treatment because of their athletic ability. If that was the case, you'd see every AAU coach from here to Sacramento dropping dimes on their players. If the player does accept benefits, the offending party can be classified as an agent or runner. As a former NCAA enforcement officer once told me: If the NCAA wants to, it can classify a ham sandwich as representative of a university's athletic interests.
That's just the basics. Let's dig even deeper.
Samuels was portrayed as a starving college student. Welcome to my world in college. I didn't have a $30-a-day per diem that can be distributed at a schools' discretion while teams travel in the NCAA tournament. I didn't have money available in the Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund that is readily available should a kid need a coat or money to travel to a funeral.
If the kid was starving, it sure as hell wasn't on an NCAA tournament trip. If K-State paid per diem that would have been at least $120 in his pocket for starters. Even without it, players are fed regularly on the road, after games, after practices, in hotel conference rooms. I've seen boxed meals, stacks of pizzas lined up outside lockerrooms after games that looked like they could feed an army.
Without saying it, the NCAA is saying there was never any need for the money on Samuels' part. Without saying it, the NCAA is saying Jamar Samuels was looking for spending money while in Pittsburgh.
It's a tough call, admittedly. K-State chose to hold Samuels out. It happened only minutes before the Syracuse tip. Coach Frank Martin sounded like he didn't agree with the decision. But that's a mere sidebar. He's the coach, what would you expect him to say? The case isn't officially closed, although Samuels' career is over.
With campus rules allowing Thomas to hire a coach today, Internet message boards are running wild. Imagine, a week of speculating on Shaka Smart and others brought the Illinois Loyalty board to 3,000 replies and more than 260,000 viewers by Monday afternoon. Thousands more check in on The News-Gazette’s IlliniBoard and those produced by Rivals.com and Scout.com.
When St. John’s coach Steve Lavin predicted on ESPN that Smart would be the next Illini coach, the boards went wild with speculation and myriad interpretations.
All this without Thomas giving the slightest indication where he’s headed or what he intends to do.
With key players dropping for other contenders and the Wildcats bulldozing opponents at full throttle, the Final Four in New Orleans is shaping up to be a Wildcat coronation.
“If they make jump shots, no one beats them,” said the Iowa State associate head coach T. J. Otzelberger. “That’s the bottom line.”
The two teams that were considered the most vexing foils for the Wildcats, Syracuse and North Carolina, are handicapped for the rest of the tournament.
The news that the starting Tar Heel point guard Kendall Marshall broke his right wrist — he is left-handed — could spell doom for North Carolina. It is uncertain if Marshall will play against Ohio on Friday in the Round of 16; he had surgery on Monday morning. But even though the injury is to his off wrist, there will be significant mental and physical hurdles to overcome.
Syracuse’s latest off-court concern broke before the start of the tournament when academic problems ended the season for the starting center Fab Melo. The Orange played poorly against No. 16 North Carolina-Asheville in their opener and rebounded with a better showing against Kansas State. But there is no denying the Orange are a different team without Melo, and will struggle once they face elite competition. No. 4 Wisconsin awaits, in Boston on Thursday.
With its potential opponents in the national title game wounded, Kentucky faces fourth-seeded Indiana in the South regional semifinal, a rematch of Kentucky’s only regular-season loss. After using a blitzkrieg second-half run to blow away ninth-seeded Iowa State in the second half on Saturday, Kentucky Coach John Calipari did not mince words.
“That’s about as good as we can play,” Calipari said. “I have a good team. My job now is to let them look at all this and be happy, but not satisfied.”
Kentucky is obviously the country’s most-talented team: years from now people will look back in wonderment that a single college team included such talent. The Web site Draft Express projects the star freshmen big men Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the coming N.B.A. draft. The inconsistent sophomore Terrence Jones projects at No. 20 and the sophomore Doron Lamb projects early in the second round.
…For Kentucky to be challenged, a lot must happen. As the focus of this tournament shifts toward the heavyweights, the field can be viewed as Kentucky and everyone else.
The Big 12 looks like it's stabilized, but there's plenty we still don't know about the turbulent past few months that resulted in Missouri and Texas A&M's exits from the Big 12 into the SEC.
David Briggs of the Columbia Tribune shed some light on a lot we don't know from Missouri's exit. Namely, the Tigers' exit was much more contentious behind the scenes than even the often-frank administrators admitted publicly.
The biggest revelation from the piece, which stemmed from emails obtained by the Tribune?
The Big 12 had its lawyers put together a lawsuit that Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas could "wave around," though the league did not plan to officially file it.
From the Tribune:
The lawsuit, slated to be filed in Boone County Circuit Court, never came to pass. But the 12-page draft of a petition for injunctive relief was obtained by the Tribune this month. It charged the SEC with illegally enticing Missouri to breach its contractual commitment to the Big 12 — an effort the suit states was "willful, deliberate and in bad faith" and the cause of "irreparable injury to the Big 12 for which money damages is not an adequate remedy."
The draft requested an injunction to bar the SEC from accepting Missouri before June 30, 2016, the final day of the current Big 12 member agreement.
The Big 12 was clearly desperate, and this reeks of a desperate move. TCU and West Virginia were good replacements on the field, but the tradition and rivalries of Missouri can't be duplicated.
Additionally, the Big 12's new $1.1 billion, 13-year television contract with Fox Sports could have been voided or renegotiated if Missouri had left and West Virginia had been unable to join the league in 2013. The same could have happened with the league's first-tier (over the air) media contract with ABC/ESPN.
It was public before this story, but Neinas made his opinion clear: Everyone would be better off if any future moves were held off until the 2013 season. That obviously didn't happen, but he expressed this desire in the revealed emails.
Big 12 administrator Burns Hargis also expressed displeasure at some of the anti-Missouri rhetoric that emerged as the Tigers mulled the possibility of a future in a new league.
On Oct. 24, an anonymous Big 12 administrator told the Austin American-Statesman the conference would be better off with West Virginia than Missouri. The official said, "West Virginia has better football than Missouri, better basketball than Missouri, a better budget than Missouri and more passion among its fans than Missouri. They're better, anyway you turn 'em."
In an email, Oklahoma Athletic Director Joe Castiglione wrote to Holder, "Sad and disgusting someone would say that even out of frustration."
"Wow," Alden wrote to Holder. "I didn't know folks harbored that kind of sentiment about us."
"Pretty obvious who feels this way," Holder replied. "Not a sentiment shared in Stillwater."
Not a sentiment shared on the Big 12 blog, either. The story also details Kansas Citians' efforts to keep the Tigers put, and a surprising effort from former system president Gary Forsee, who joined the fold to keep Mizzou in the Big 12.
Check out the full story. Fascinating stuff.
Even if it's true that the SEC's decision to add Texas A&M and Missouri was motivated primarily by the need to reopen its television contracts (and attempt to keep pace with the new TV-backed financial might of the Big Ten and Pac-12), Mike Slive would never admit it--which makes his comments Sunday to the Memphis Commercial-Appeal on those kickstarted TV negotiations as close to that admission as we're going to come.
Asked by the Commercial-Appeal when those "re-negotiations" with CBS and ESPN would begin, Slive candidly answered with this (emphasis added):
"We have started discussions with both our television partners. We feel adding Texas A&M and Missouri has strengthened us in lots of ways, but it certainly strengthened us in television."
"It certainly strengthened us in television" is commissioner-speak for "Hey, you saw that very nice bump the Big 12 got in its post-expansion TV contract? We're going to make it look like the 47 cents in your Camry's ashtray."
All-State teams roll in from all across the country at this time of year, and we wish we would highlight them all. It's undoubtedly a great accomplishment for each player selected, so it's tough to pick and choose which individuals to highlight.
This one was easy, though, as Heights (Wichita, Kan.) standout Perry Ellis made his mark in Kansas. Ellis became the first four-time All-State selection by The Topeka Capital-Journal, which announced its team this past weekend.
"I'm going to miss all my friends I played with over the years," Ellis told the newspaper. "They're great people and they really taught me a lot and helped me out, so I'm going to miss that part.
"But I've been there four years, I've had a lot of fun, but this is my time to take the next step in life after high school, and I'm ready."
Not coincidentally, Wichita Heights won its fourth-consecutive Class 6A state title this season. The 6-foot-8 Ellis scored 29 points in the title game, which, according to the newspaper, pushed his career total to 2,231 points.
Ellis will play at the University of Kansas next year, but first he will play in the McDonald's All-American Game on March 28.
Senior power forward, Westview (Portland, Ore.)
2011-12 Team record: 18-7
2011-12 Team standing: Lost Class 6A second round to David Douglas (Portland, Ore.), 54-53
2011-12 Points per game: 19.3
2011-12 Rebounds per game: 13.5
2011-12 Assists per game: 1.8
2011-12 Blocks per game: 2.8
2011-12 Steals per game: 0.4
Academics: A average
Collegiate destination: University of Kansas
How he’s played himself into the State POY conversation: Exploded for 32 points and 17 rebounds in a 66-47 blowout of Newberg (Ore.) during the first round of the Class 6A state tournament, and then was recorded 12 points and 10 rebounds in a 54-53 loss to Douglas in the second round. Shot 54.3 percent from the field and 62.8 percent from the free throw line. No. 20 ranked power forward in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNU. 2011-12 First Team All-State preseason selection as named by ESPNHS. 2011 Les Schwab Invitational First Team All-Tournament selection. 2011 Nike Global Challenge invitee. 2010 Third Team All-Metro League selection.
Speaking of Landen, check out this vid he posted of his little brothers screaming for the Jayhawks. Lots of screaming. LOL.
After winning their third consecutive IHSA title, nine Simeon players left their shoes on the court at Carver Arena in Peoria, attempting to showcase their ownership of Illinois boys basketball over the last few years.
Coach Robert Smith wasn't impressed, though, and suspended those nine players -- Kendrick Nunn, Jaylon Tate, Kendall Pollard, Bobby Harrison, Myles Harrison, Dennis Williams, Ricky Norris, John Gardner and Quon Davis.
Noticeably absent from the suspended players is junior Jabari Parker, widely regarded as one of the top five prep basketball players in the country. Parker was being interviewed by NBC when his teammates were leaving their shoes on the court.
Even had Parker participated in the act, it probably wouldn't have had an impact on his recruiting profile. The 6-foot-7 junior has received offers from schools such as Washington, Duke, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan State, Mizzou, North Carolina and Ohio State, according to Rivals.com.
Simeon has won six state titles, the most of any boys basketball program in Illinois.
McDonalds All-American Game 3/28
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My 2011-12 Border War, Legends of the Phog, KC Prep Invitational, KU Alumni games, & Jayhawk Invitational Videos now on Youtube