N.C. State and North Carolina will be heavily outnumbered by Kansas fans tonight at the Edward Jones Dome.
The massive downtown arena can seat up to 70,000 for football games but will be limited to about 29,000 fans for the weekend’s NCAA Midwest Regional basketball games.
Each participating school – N.C. State (24-12), North Carolina (31-5), Kansas (29-6) and Ohio (29-7) – received an allotment of 1,250 tickets for the three weekend games. As of Thursday afternoon, N.C. State had sold roughly 955 tickets and North Carolina about 950.
“Our response from fans has been very good,” said N.C. State associate athletics director Chris Kingston. “We’ve got a charter flight coming out (Friday) that will be filled with Wolfpack Club fans, so this is a great experience for us.”
…“We were told that about 23,000 tickets overall had been sold as of Tuesday or Wednesday,” Marchiony said. “The ticket office here said that about 40 percent of those were grabbed by fans living in the state of Kansas.”
Link (Hmmm, wonder how many of those Wolfpack tickets went to clever KU fans?)
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His should be a story only about basketball. Robinson is the scowling muscle behind Kansas’ push toward another Final Four, the strutting hulk treating each court as his own, the most valuable player in the country and a certain millionaire if he makes this his last college season.
Based on basketball alone, his is the kind of story that makes a lot of us love major-college sports. He is a second-tier recruit turned first-team All-American, a skinny kid turned LeBron James’ body double, an energy guy off the bench turned raw force that opponents double-team even when he doesn’t have the ball.
And yet, this awful thing that happened to him 14 months ago remains his identity to so many.
...The tragic part of Robinson’s story will probably be told to millions during Friday night's Kansas-North Carolina State broadcast. He would prefer to keep private what’s been a plainly public grieving process, and that’s to be respected. For now, the young man wants to talk only about basketball.
Thing is, some who know him well will tell you the two parts of Robinson’s story cannot be separated.
...And yet, Robinson is still a kid in some of the ways that matter most. He is not far removed from beaming as he introduced Jayla to his high school teammates, of spending bus rides bragging on her piano skills. He is not far removed from taking his life’s biggest challenges to his mother for advice, of making sure he got a little bit better every day to keep his promise that he was making himself a better life.
Robinson, when he is unencumbered by what life has thrown at him, is a goofy kid. You hear this over and over from people who know him. John Webster, a high school friend, remembers Robinson constantly joking, always wearing that smile where his face wrinkles up like a shar-pei. Javorn Ferrell, another high school friend who now plays at UMass, calls Robinson “just a lively dude.”
...Teammate Travis Releford says Robinson is “more hungry about it.” Teahan says he’s “10 times more focused.” Webster says “it’s really no joke for him now — a grind, his job.”
“He’s playing for different reasons now,” Self said. “Most young people, the future is what we’re going to do this weekend or next weekend. That’s the way he was. He doesn’t see it quite that way now.”
So maybe this is the beginning of a new story for Robinson. Maybe this entire season, and now the NCAA Tournament, is serving as a platform to show a nation of fans that he really is this good … and ready to lead not just a team, but a family.
This is as close as Robinson will get to talking about what’s happened to him.
“I agree with them, that I am more focused,” he says. “Because, you know, I have things I have to handle off the court. So my focus on the basketball court will handle that.”
This makes him a better player, Robinson says. He is sure of it and nods his head up and down to emphasize the point.
He stares straight ahead for a moment, and you can’t help but wonder if this is the small consolation he takes from a tragedy he’s still trying to work through.
KC Star Mellinger
NY Times: A Jayhawk Star Triumphs After Tragedy
Robinson’s first two years at Kansas didn’t resemble those of most top-50 recruits. He was stuck behind Marcus and Markieff Morris, among others, in a deep rotation of big men. Points and rebounds usually trickled down in single digits. To Smith and Lou Wilson, Robinson’s coach at Upper Marlboro’s Riverdale Baptist as a junior, Robinson seemed to play at 100 mph. He would try not to make mistakes, play quickly and, more often than not, hand over the ball.
That’s not much different than the rangy, energetic 10-year-old Wilson first noticed playing for the AAU’s Fort Washington Bullets.
The aggression, relentlessness and borderline ferocity each possession hasn’t changed. Robinson still sucks the marrow from every trip down the court. But now he isn’t in such a hurry. Working with Kansas assistant and former KU star Danny Manning left him better understanding the game. Robinson wanted to be a smarter player. Then his jumper tightened up. So did his ballhandling.
“He’s progressed so much,” Kansas junior center Jeff Withey said. “People can’t do anything to stop him.”
…Smith marvels at how Robinson has matured. So do Robinson’s teammates. Smith texts him reminders to focus on the NCAA tournament, not his draft prospects. The deaths of his mother and grandparents forced him to grow up, Smith believes. And, in the process, Robinson has become known for what he is doing on the court rather than what he endured off it.
…“With the circumstances he’s under, he’s been really, really blessed,” Wilson said. “I know his mother is looking down on Earl, as she called him, and giving him a big smile and thumbs-up.”
“I think we are a Cinderella team,” point guard Lorenzo Brown said. “Nobody expected us to be here. We just have to keep believing in ourselves that we can make it to the Final Four.”
NC State has one of the country’s more versatile, athletic forwards in C.J. Leslie. The sophomore, who is averaging 17.5 points in his past four games, could be a tough matchup for KU forward Thomas Robinson because of his athleticism and ability to score away from the basket.
Scott Wood is the Wolfpack’s top 3-point shooter. He’s making just 35 percent of his long-range shots on the season, but in his last seven games he’s shot 43 percent from beyond the arc.
At point guard, Taylor knows he’ll have a tough matchup with Lorenzo Brown, who stands 6-foot-5.
“They're big and athletic from each spot,” Taylor said. “Seeds don’t matter when you get to this point. That team is capable of being a No. 3 or a No. 4 seed. We’re going to have to play well to beat them.”
…NC State assistant Bobby Lutz worked under Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State last season and is used to preparing scouting reports on the Jayhawks.
“I know Kansas’ two-game (high-low) pretty well,” Lutz said. “I don’t think they’re very difficult to scout. But they’re difficult to beat.”
N.C. State is trying to reach the Elite Eight for the first time since 1986, when it lost to Kansas in a regional final, and all of the pressure is on the Jayhawks in St. Louis. They haven't been involved in many tight finishes, going 3-1 in games decided by five points or less, mostly against high-level competition. The Wolfpack has played 15 such games and won 10 of them. Kansas coach Bill Self built up plenty of good will with a run to the 2008 national championship, but the Jayhawks have lost to a No. 9 seed (Northern Iowa) and No. 11 seed (VCU) in their last two NCAA appearances. They lost to 14th-seeded Bucknell in 2005 and 13th-seeded Bradley in 2006.
Fayetteville Observer Game Day Preview
Tyshawn Taylor (16.9 ppg, 4.7 apg) vs. Lorenzo Brown (12.8 ppg, 6.4 apg)
This will be an interesting battle between dynamic point guards who excel at making plays for themselves. As important as anything Brown does statistically will be his ability to control the tempo of the game. Georgetown dictated the first 10 minutes of Sunday’s game, and opened a quick 10-point lead, but Brown set the pace to N.C. State’s liking for the final 30 minutes.
Travis Releford (8.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg) vs. C.J. Williams (10.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Another matchup of players with similar roles: Releford (6-foot-6) and Williams (6-5) are big guards, and both have the ability to be a lockdown defender. Williams’ scoring was a big X factor for N.C. State in beating Georgetown; once again, because of Kansas’ advantage in the frontcourt, N.C. State is going to have to generate offense from the backcourt, and that puts pressure on Williams to score.
Elijah Johnson (10.0 ppg, 3.7 apg) vs. Scott Wood (12.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
No one on Kansas’ team has taken more 3-point attempts than Johnson, and no one on N.C. State’s roster comes close to Wood in that department. Johnson has been a dominant and consistent scorer in the postseason, averaging 18.5 points in four games and carrying Kansas offensively with 18 points against Purdue, including the deep 3-pointer that gave Kansas its first lead late in that game. Johnson, who also plays point guard, is more athletic than Wood, but N.C. State is 10-0 when Wood hits at least four 3-pointers.
Jeff Withey (9.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg) vs. C.J. Leslie (14.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg)
Size vs. quickness. At 7-foot, Withey is an imposing inside presence who blocks a lot of shots – more than three per game – and muscles out smaller players for rebounds. Leslie (6-8) has the ability to beat his man down the court and use his nimble feet to create scoring opportunities in the post. Withey isn’t a big scorer, but he was the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year; Leslie has become a dominant offensive player over the past month. He will have to find a way past Withey if N.C. State is going to get scoring from the frontcourt.
Thomas Robinson (17.7 ppg, 11.8 rpg) vs. Richard Howell (11.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg)
Robinson (6-10), a legitimate national player-of-the-year candidate, is a frightening matchup for anyone, particularly a team that isn’t very big. Guarding Robinson is going to be a huge challenge for Howell (6-8), who, in addition to giving up at least 2 inches, has struggled with foul trouble. N.C. State had success going at Georgetown’s Henry Sims to get him in foul trouble, but Robinson is a far more dynamic and dangerous player at both ends of the court.
Kansas’ Conner Teahan , Naadir Tharpe, Justin Wesley and Kevin Young vs. N.C. State’s Alex Johnson and DeShawn Painter
Kansas can bring two big bodies off the bench in Young and Wesley, but the Wolfpack basically is limited to Painter. Painter (6.3 ppg) can be an offensive weapon with his catch-and-shoot ability. Teahan (5.9 ppg) has the ability to provide instant offense from 3-point range; he’s third on Kansas’ team with 50 3-pointers.
It won’t take long for the tens of thousands of Kansas fans who are likely to flood the Edward Jones Dome to start the eerie, moaning “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” chant. The question is whether N.C. State, which is playing as well as any team in the country, can quiet what figures to be a rowdy home crowd for the Jayhawks. But with that home-court advantage comes pressure, and Kansas has had trouble recently in games it was expected to win in the NCAA tournament. See: Virginia Commonwealth in the regional final last year and Northern Iowa in the second round two years ago, both games played in Big 12 territory.
“The challenge for Kansas is: N.C. State is a team that can beat you at all five positions offensively,” said analyst and former coach Fran Fraschilla. “There’s no one player to key on. The entire starting lineup at various times during the year has proven to be dangerous.”
A spread-the-wealth quality finds the Wolfpack with five starters averaging in double figures and everybody in the group credited with 300 to 350 field-goal attempts.
Contrast that to Kansas, with Thomas Robinson leading the team with 449 shots and Jeff Withey with 187.
“They have balance, and balance is the hardest thing to guard,” Kansas coach Bill Self said.
Wait a second. Wasn’t Purdue and 6-8 Robbie Hummel raining threes the harder team to guard?
Tough in a different way.
“Even though it’s more conventional,” Self said, “it’s still creating obvious problems.”
But until the 11th-seeded Wolfpack defeated San Diego State and Georgetown in the NCAA Tournament there had been no signature victories. And some of the defeats were crushing, by two to North Carolina in the ACC tournament and a loss at Duke after holding a 20-point lead.
Which brings Fraschilla to the counterpoint.
“N.C. State has two good inside players. But are they going to be able to score over Robinson and Withey?” Fraschilla said. “Can they contain Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson? The way Johnson has been playing lately, this is one of the best backcourts in the country right now.”
The Wolfpack, like Purdue last week, see containing Robinson as critical. On Sunday, a frustrated Robinson made two of 12 shots for his worst shooting game of the season.
Earlier this season, the Wolfpack would play good competition like Vanderbilt, Indiana and Stanford tough but couldn’t get over the hump. But N.C. State started 4-1 in ACC play, the best record after five league games in eight years.
Perhaps the biggest confidence boost came in a late season loss against Duke. State led by 20 before eventually falling.
“But we proved something to ourselves,” forward Richard Howell said.
That the Wolfpack could go toe-to-toe against a top shelve team in a hostile environment. Not long after that, N.C. State started its current run of six victories in seven games, a stretch that includes NCAA Tournament victories as an 11th-seeded team over sixth-seeded San Diego State and third-seeded Georgetown.
“We believe,” Gottfried said. “You’ve got to believe to get wins and advance.”
When a reporter suggested N.C. State had “nothing to lose,” Withey said: “We have that mind-set all year, too. We have nothing to lose, either. It’ll be a fun game, a battle. There will be a lot of scoring.”
Withey also was asked what the odds were of KU shooting just 33.9 percent as it did Sunday versus Purdue.
“The odds are ... it’s not going to happen again,” he said. “Purdue put a lot of pressure on us. I feel N.C. State is more a team like ourselves, that likes to run. I think it’ll be a high-scoring game, a lot of layups and quicker game.”
The winner advances to a Sunday game against either North Carolina or Ohio. KU officials indicated that game time would either be 1:10 p.m. or 3:55 p.m.
If you have watched Kansas games closely this year, you have seen a time or two when Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson are standing side by side, mouths running, discussing what is going right or wrong.
Sometimes during the heat of a game, with arms flailing, it looks as if they are arguing. Other times, they are mostly laughing.
“They’re always communicating with one another,” freshman guard Naadir Tharpe said. “Every single play. If they see something wrong or have something to say, they just don’t not say anything. That’s the great thing about them.”
Theirs is a connection formed in the Houston humidity last summer, when the pair shared the close quarters of a hotel room for 30 days. “He was driving me every bit of crazy,” Taylor said. They were there, after returning from home during summer break, to work with former NBA player John Lucas.
“If I was in that situation with anybody besides Elijah,” Taylor said, “it would have been the worst 30 days of my life, because I went in there thinking it was a bad thing. I didn’t really want to go.”
Kansas coach Bill Self sent his top two guards to work with Lucas, the famed mentor and developer, to improve different parts of their game. Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend said Johnson needed to work on coming off ball screens, or “a lot of NBA-type stuff.”
Townsend said Lucas worked primarily on Taylor’s shooting. This season Taylor is making 42 percent of his 3-pointers after entering the year as a career 36-percent shooter.
But the month-long stay in Houston did more for the pair away from basketball. For 30 days they did everything together, these two players who had been teammates for two years but hadn’t been in a situation like that.
On Thursday afternoon, Elijah Johnson took the floor at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, a starting guard on a team just two victories from the Final Four. After two years of mostly watching and waiting, Johnson is now taking his turn under the lights.
“This is what you live for,” Elijah says.
Family members and teammates say there’s something different about Elijah, something that allowed him to see the big picture while he spent two seasons in the background.
Maybe it’s because he grew up the son of teachers. Maybe it’s his godfather, LaTroy Hawkins, another gifted athlete who emerged from the same blue-collar neighborhoods on his way to a career as a major-league pitcher. Or maybe it’s the city itself, a gritty steel-mill community on the shores of Lake Michigan.
“Every guy I’ve known from Gary,” Hawkins says, “we all have this little quiet toughness about us. It’s just the way we were brought up.”
If you look up Elijah’s Kansas basketball bio, you’ll read that his hometown is Las Vegas — that he became a top-30 recruit at Cheyenne High School just 12 miles from the famed strip. But Marcus Johnson will tell you that’s only partially true. Those early years in Gary made Elijah Johnson who he is today — while also illuminating something else along the way. If the plan was going to work, Elijah Johnson would need to leave Gary behind.
“We just talked a lot,” Marcus says, “And we just had to come up with a plan of what we wanted to do. I told him, ‘You’re a Johnson, you’re not going to be a bum on the streets.’”
…LaTroy Hawkins sat on the couch and watched, the minutes ticking down. He had invited a group of friends over Sunday night to watch KU’s NCAA Tournament game against Purdue. Now Hawkins was looking at the television, his godson’s team down by four points in the final minutes.
“C’mon, Elijah,” Hawkins whispered to himself. “It’s your time. It’s your time. Put the team on your back and carry them.”
Moments later, Hawkins leapt off the couch as Elijah knocked down a long three-pointer that gave Kansas its first lead.
“I was just like, “Yes!” Hawkins says. “OK, we’re in the game now.”
Hawkins is 39 now, a right-handed relief pitcher entering his 18th major-league season with the Los Angeles Angels. But his godson has turned him into a KU diehard. For the last three years, Hawkins has made trips to Lawrence and followed nearly every Jayhawks game on Twitter.
“Everybody talked about his great game,” Hawkins says. “But I was more impressed by his interview.
…Back in St. Louis on Thursday, Elijah sat in front of his locker and looked out into a wall of cameras. After nearly three seasons, he is no longer waiting his turn or deferring to teammates. Instead, he’s smiling into the camera and telling a story about his journey from Gary to Las Vegas to Lawrence.
Some players want everything so fast, he says. But there’s nothing wrong with waiting. There’s nothing wrong with planning ahead.
“I wasn’t naïve,” Johnson says. “I know a lot of people come in as a freshman and they feel like: ‘I can do this as a freshman.’ … What people don’t realize, is Coach knows you can do that. That’s why you’re here. He’s trying to teach you first.”
Hawkins’ Twitter avatar is a picture of him posing with the Jayhawk outside the student union. He was in Maui watching his godson and in Lawrence for the Oklahoma game.
“My wife, my daughter, my whole family, we’re Jayhawk fans,” Hawkins said. “It’s part of our daily lives. We were watching the women’s game against Delaware, and my daughter said, ‘Why aren’t you tweeting about the Lady Jayhawks?’ So I started tweeting about them heading to the Sweet 16. Oh my God. Angel (Goodrich) went nuts.”
Johnson didn’t dominate in quite the same fashion as Goodrich, who scored 27 points, but he did make huge play after huge play in the final minutes of the 63-60 victory against Purdue in Omaha, Neb. He had 18 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and just one turnover in 38 minutes.
“It was a good game for Elijah to step up and show he’s ready,” Hawkins said. “Tyshawn’s graduating, going onto other things. Hopefully, this is coming-out party for Elijah. When you have a coming-out party like that, they expect it every night, day in and day out. They don’t care how you’re feeling, who you’re playing against. They expect it day in and day out. You have to be up for the challenge.”
Early in the season, Johnson deferred to Thomas Robinson and Taylor. Lately, he has become more assertive, picking his spots masterfully.
“Elijah kind of knows when he needs to step it up,” Hawkins said. “T-Rob was getting beat to a bloody pulp by those 6-8, 260-pound Purdue guys playing Big 10 basketball. Tyshawn couldn’t find his rhythm. Elijah knew he needed to do a little more. It was perfect timing for him to have his coming-out party.”
KU media relations director Chris Theisen said Taylor has never turned down a request to do an interview. And of course, everybody knows about the fires Taylor has started on his Twitter account and the fight he was involved in with some KU football players during his sophomore season that resulted in a thumb injury that sidelined him for a few weeks before the start of the 2009-10 season.
I doubt Taylor was mute in the war of words that led to that altercation.
Taylor definitely has the gift of gab. Or the curse, depending on your viewpoint.
“Yeah, he’s a good talker,’’ KU coach Bill Self said. “He can tweet, too. But I’ve always liked Ty and I’ve loved him as a player. If I was in college, I would want to hang with Ty. He’s a cool kid.’’
That he is, and it’s obvious by the way his teammates gravitate toward him. Taylor, whose career has been marked by inconsistency, was called out by a KU fan on Twitter this season. Rather than ignore the tweet or block the tweeter, Taylor shot back.
But with experience, Taylor has mostly been better about keeping his emotions in check. He usually thinks now, he says, before he acts.
“Tyshawn is a great guy off and on the court,’’ teammate Kevin Young said. “I’m more of a quiet guy, but he’s not. He speaks his mind. He’ll remind us when we’re messing up or when we need to step up. He’s a great leader and one of the funniest guys on the team.’’
Taylor has had a fantastic senior season and has helped elevate the Jayhawks from a team with major questions in October to one that has reached another Sweet 16 and looks like it could advance farther.
…As he sat amidst the reporters with their recorders and cameras, Taylor spoke confidently about his season, his career, the game against North Carolina State and who he is.
He could do one of those Dove commercials because he is definitely comfortable in his own skin.
Meanwhile, Self just had to effuse more praise on Taylor.
“He’s been about as big a treat to coach as anybody I’ve ever had,’’ he said. “I’ve always been fond of guys that have to go through some stuff to get where they eventually end up. And he’s had to go through some stuff.’’
But it hasn’t made Taylor bitter. It hasn’t soured him on playing college basketball. Through it all, he’s maintained a ready smile and an eagerness to talk.
“Yeah, I don’t know exactly why that is,’’ Taylor said. “I know my mom’s got a big mouth, so maybe it’s something I inherited.’’
About 2,000 fans attended KU’s afternoon shootaround at Edward Jones Dome. Highlight was Tyshawn Taylor throwing the ball off the shot clock to a trailing Justin Wesley, who slammed for the fans to conclude the action.
Asked if he felt that the Edward Jones Dome would resemble Allen Fieldhouse East during tonight’s Sweet 16 match-up, N.C. State junior Richard Howell said yes.
“It’s definitely a road game,” the 6-8 forward said. “I feel like we’re playing in their backyard. And that’s an advantage to them. But we’re not gonna use that as an excuse.”
Since N.C. State fields a lineup with two bigs, Withey figures to stay on the floor after he didn’t factor so heavily into the mismatches Purdue created Sunday when the Jayhawks rallied, 63-60. Withey played 15 minutes and contributed 4 points, 2 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“It’s a perfect chance for me to get back into it,’’ Withey said, “because we’re playing a conventional team. They have two bigs and I’ll be able to make a bigger impact. I haven’t really been able to get a good feel out on the court.’’
At 7-foot, Withey will command a height advantage against N.C. State’s two 6-8 bigs, C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell, who combine for 25 points and 16 rebounds. Each can cause problems with their quickness, while 6-9 DeShawn Painter comes off the bench to provide more bulk while averaging six points and four boards.
“Their bigs are really, really quick. Really quick,’’ KU coach Bill Self said. “And they can catch the ball at 17 feet and put it down and drive it, or they can make shots. So it is still kind of a unique challenge. They’re not traditional bigs, but at least they’re bigs. So we can play more traditional than we had to against Purdue.’’
Capitalizing on Withey’s length, which he used to block 116 shots and become the Big 12 defensive player of the year, is important to KU’s defensive might. He also averages 11 points and six rebounds.
This particular postseason has not yet featured KU at its best.
There’s some good to that and some bad.
“Maybe you can have a lack of confidence if you didn’t blow a team out like you expected,’’ said senior guard Conner Teahan, “but it can also make you more alert and realize you have to respect your opponent that much more.’’
Not sure any of the coaches or players left in the NCAA Tournament respect Bill Self any less because this is his 14th straight appearance and he has one Final Four to his credit.
Expectations exist in other corners, however, a condition I shared with KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger as we watched the Jayhawks’ open practice Thursday.
“He’s the best coach in America,’’ Zenger said. “That’s all you need to say.’’
Tyshawn Taylor has lived with detractors during his four years at Kansas: the fans and media who have criticized his ball handling, questioned his attitude and rolled their eyes with each off-the-court issue.
Ultimately, the point guard concluded, he won the battle because as his career winds to a close, Taylor is still standing, prepared to lead the Jayhawks in the Sweet 16.
But pushing himself through these four years was merely the conclusion of a process that started as a kid, when responsibilities were far more significant. As Jeanell Taylor's oldest child, Tyshawn was forced to lead and deal with adversity from an early age, just as he was as a starting freshman in 2008.
"I had to grow up a little earlier than my time because I was the only male around," he said. "The hardest thing was having to baby-sit my sisters and pick them up from school at 9 or 10 years old, when somebody should have been picking me up. I never complained or felt bad about it. It's just something I had to do."
These days, Taylor is the elder statesman on a Kansas team that will face North Carolina State tonight at the Edward Jones Dome at approximately 9:17 p.m. Along with center Thomas Robinson, it's his job to pick up the Jayhawks when they need a boost.
It's just something he has to do.
When the season started, Taylor was the one Jayhawk with an abundance of experience. A four-year starter, he has responded with his best offensive season, averaging 16.9 points and 4.7 assists.
To survive to this point, he has weathered suspensions and criticism. But when asked about being a polarizing element among fans, Taylor simply smiled and acknowledged that status.
"When you prove people wrong, it's a really good feeling," he said. "I looked the other day in my locker and had some stories saying, 'Ty is not this good' or 'If the team is going to be any good, it's because Ty changes his attitude.' It's a good feeling when you do things people don't expect.
"When you hear so many people doubt you, I feel the chip isn't put there by you, they put it there. I just wear it well I guess. I don't think I played to prove people wrong. But as I'm doing good, I actually get to look back and say, 'You're not right and I am. I can actually do this.' "
St Louis PD
Howell's aggression might be a big factor today against Kansas. Nine of N.C. State's 12 losses this season came in games in which he had four or more fouls. He fouled out of three straight games in January, including the team's game at North Carolina in just 16 minutes. He has had four fouls, no more, no less, in each of the past five games.
"It's been a huge problem," Howell said. "But... I'm still going to come out and play as hard as I can and be aggressive."
Howell said the main source of his fouls is reaching out, trying to make steals.
"My hands are so quick," he said. "I try to steal the ball all the time and usually I end up on the wrong side of the stick."
So he needs to be slower?
"Smarter,'' he said. "I need to pick my times to reach. Critical times."
"He plays physical," Lutz said. "He also really tries to help on ball screens. He's so aggressive in trying to help his teammate, sometimes he fouls. He's gotten better in that area. The last two games in the tournament, we've had new officials that haven't seen him and he hasn't been in as much foul trouble. Maybe that's what he needed to get in the tournament and have some new eyes watching him."
St Louis PD
N.C. State must account for the whereabouts of Kansas 7-footer Jeff Withey tonight. He can present towering issues inside and has blocked 116 shots this season.
That’s more rejections than North Carolina’s John Henson (98 blocks) has compiled this season, a statistic that jarred Wolfpack senior C.J. Williams.
“Wow. Wow,” Williams said Thursday. “You don’t ever expect to hear that.”
...When North Carolina State stepped out for open practice at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday, forward Richard Howell had an inclination of what sport this airy building might best be suited for.
And it’s not football, even though this is the home of the St. Louis Rams.
“Richard didn’t think it was a gym,” guard Lorenzo Brown said. “He thought it was a motocross thing going on in here. Dirt bikes and stuff.”
Howell said, given the open spaces, he couldn’t help but envision motorcycles speeding up and over massive mounds.
But swingman Scott Wood said he doesn’t think depth perception will be a problem for the Wolfpack in tonight’s game against Kansas.
“I love it. I think it’s fine,” Wood said of the dome. “The goals are still 10 foot. The lightning’s nice. I made shots out there.
“Obviously a dome and a regular arena are going to be different. But they all feel the same to me once you get on the court.”
…North Carolina’s trip here to Big 12 Conference country brought back some recruiting memories for sophomore Harrison Barnes.
He said Kansas, Oklahoma and Iowa State – all Big 12 programs – were among his final choices when he was deciding on his college destination as a high school star coming out of Ames, Iowa.
“When it came down to it, the basketball was pretty much the same at every level, the schools were all good schools, but I just felt a good connection with these guys here,” Barnes said Thursday.
KU senior Tyshawn Taylor, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and N.C. State sophomore Lorenzo Brown, 6-5, 186, play point guard for their respective teams. And it’s each man’s goal to make life miserable for the other.
“I think that’s gonna be a huge match-up,” KU senior Conner Teahan said. “If you can take a point guard out of a game, you take a team out of a game really quick, and that’s something we put a lot of emphasis on. Tyshawn, when he’s locked in defensively, can do that.”
Throughout most of the season, Taylor and Brown have used their height and length as an advantage against the multitude of smaller — and sometimes quicker — guards that have dug in across from them. Staring into a mirror of sorts figures to be different for both.
“I’ve been playing against guards that are all smaller than me this year,” Taylor said. “So that’s gonna be something that’s new for me personally.”
While neither player is a completely refined point guard, both are the catalysts that make their teams go. Brown enters the game averaging 12.8 points, 6.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game. It’s his size that allows him to contribute in so many areas, something Taylor (16.9, 4.7, 1.9) knows all about.
“I mean, he’s 6-5, and he plays point guard,” N.C. State junior Richard Howell said of his teammate. “I feel like that’s one of the biggest strengths in the world.”
The Jayhawks practiced at St. John Vianney High in Kirkwood, Mo., before Thursday’s public practice at the Dome. They will eat Chipotle for lunch and at Ruth’s Chris Steak House for dinner on this trip.
KU’s philosophy is to plan for success, so a schedule for Saturday and Sunday is included, with times to be determined. KU must win tonight to ensure it’s still in town over the weekend.
“We always eat one meal off-site,” Hinson said. “From that point on, we’re on lockdown.”
Hinson came to St. Louis a day early for planning. Routes are timed. Hotel rooms and meeting rooms are checked out to make sure they are supplied with adequate video equipment. Every time KU travels, it reserves an extra room in case somebody gets sick and needs to be isolated. A staff nutritionist plans the menu for meals served in the hotel.
“When Coach Self opens up his room, everything he needs is right there and ready to go,” Hinson said. “Laptops, films, DVDs. Everything. When we walk into our team room, it’s set up and ready to go. If we go somewhere, it’s already been driven.”
Players worry about their jump shots and their next meal, not always in that order. Hinson, and his staff, are in charge of making sure the eating doesn’t get in the way of practicing jump shots.
Eddie Sutton, the former Oklahoma State coach, told Hinson that his team went to restaurants to eat, not to dine. Clock management matters, in the final minutes of a game and when planning a meal for a team that wants to get to the Final Four.
On Wednesday, the 68-person traveling party ate at Ruth’s Chris. On Monday, the staff provided those people a menu. They compiled a spreadsheet with the orders and e-mailed it to the restaurant, located in KU’s hotel in downtown St. Louis. Hinson scheduled dinner to start at 8:30 p.m. and told the players 8:25.
“The last kid walked in at 8:24:45,” Hinson said. “We look up and all 68 people are seated. I looked at the guy and said, ‘Go.’
“All of sudden, here come 12 waiters and waitresses and here come the appetizers. I told them I don’t want the song to ever pause.”
If either No. 1 Carolina or No. 2 Kansas makes it to the Final Four, STATS LLC will be the first to salute a remarkable run of consistency. Since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams, no more than two consecutive years have gone by without one or the other in the Final Four. The Tar Heels and Jayhawks have been there three times together over that span -- 2008, 1993, and 1991 -- but that can't happen this year with both in the Midwest region.
“My first chancellor at North Carolina said it’s not immoral to love two institutions, and I think there’s some truth to that,” Williams said. “Okay, I love Kansas … and that’s the way I feel about it.
“But you know what? I’ll be ecstatic if we’re still playing Sunday regardless of who we’re playing.”
Within hours of returning to the Midwest, Roy Williams was greeted by a familiar refrain.
“This morning I was out on my walk, and this guy says, ‘Rock Chalk Jayhawk,’” said Williams, the former Kansas basketball coach now at North Carolina. “And you know what I said? ‘Go KU.’”
We’re only at the Sweet 16 and my Kansas guys already have me on the edge of my seat! That game against Purdue was intense. They were really handing it to us, but we were able to keep our composure and make a late comeback to pull it out in the end.
Hummel really had it going, but Coach Self made some great adjustments and it paid off. Basketball is all about rhythm and getting it going at the right time, and that’s exactly what KU did. That’s what you’ve got to do during March Madness, its win or go home and watch the rest of the action from your couch.
This year’s tournament has been great with all the upsets and surprises. While it’s been exciting to watch, it’s also got my bracket a little out of whack. No one could have predicted some of these outcomes, and I’ve got to say, as the competitive guy I am, I’m not too happy about being less than 50 percent with only seven of my picks making the Sweet 16. The great news though is that there’s a lot of unbelievable basketball being played.
Check out my bracket for yourself at @TheLockerRoom. You can also take a look at a bunch of other athletes and celebrity brackets in case you want to see how you stack up against the pros.
Next up for KU will be N.C. State and they’ve been one of the real underdog stories this year. They’ve got a first-year coach and he’s got his team playing good basketball. Make sure you guys tune in and show my Jayhawks some love this Friday night and don’t forget to keep checking in to @TheLockerRoom to follow my picks.
Check out my bracket here if you missed it last time. Here’s to hoping Kansas doesn’t become N.C. State’s third straight upset!
LJW: Jayhawks in the NBA
LJW: KU fans superstitions
If Kansas University’s basketball team wins tonight against North Carolina State in the Edward Jones Dome, it will spend the entire weekend in St. Louis. But for two hours Saturday, the players’ hearts will be in Des Moines, Iowa, rooting for their female counterparts, Angel and the Miracles.
Angel Goodrich, the KU women’s basketball team’s 5-foot-4 junior point guard, led the 11th-seeded Jayhawks into the Sweet 16 with a pair of upsets. She scored 20 points in the Nebraska game and 27 points in the shocker against Delaware.
“Our girls are playing good right now,” junior power forward Thomas Robinson said. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, and that’s all you need at this time of year.”
Asked for his thoughts on Goodrich, Robinson said, “I’ve been thinking (for a long time), ‘Angel’s amazing, man.’ She’s good. She’s a great player.”
Point guard Tyshawn Taylor has nearly a foot on Goodrich, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t learn from her.
“Love Angel’s game,” Taylor said. “Love Angel’s game, man. Every time I watch her, I take some stuff out of her game. She’s got look-away passes. She’s nice, real nice, man. I’ve been watching her for three years now, and I’m impressed. I’m really impressed with her game.”
As a No. 11 seed, Kansas looks like a surprise team in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA women's basketball tournament.
But it's no shock that the Jayhawks, who play No. 2 seed Tennessee (26-8) on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena (TV: ESPN, 12:04 p.m.) are from the Big 12 Conference.
Kansas (21-12) and the other three teams here this weekend for the Des Moines (Iowa) Regional are from BCS conferences. Big 12 champion Baylor plays Georgia Tech of the Atlantic Coast Conference in Saturday's other semifinal.
Saturday's winners play Monday night for a trip to the Final Four in Denver.
Overall, 14 of the 16 remaining teams fit the power-conference profile with three apiece from the SEC, Big 12, ACC and Big East. The Big Ten and Pac-12 each have one.
In assessing the tournament, UT assistant coach Dean Lockwood acknowledged a degree of March Madness. He noted No. 13 seed Marist, which upset No. 4 Georgia in the first round. He also mentioned St. Bonaventure, a round-of-16 newcomer. Nonetheless, he still sees these teams and these upsets as exceptions to the power conference's rule.
"You see more of that happening," he said. "The possibilities are going up. But it's still tough. It's difficult for these teams. Great if they do it. It's an incredible story."
Exhibit A for Lockwood's perspective was Kansas' 70-64 upset of No. 3 seed Delaware in the second round on Tuesday. Delaware, which plays in the Colonial Conference, came into the tournament ranked No. 7 nationally and led by All-America candidate Elena Delle Donne, the nation's leading scorer. Nonetheless, the Blue Hens couldn't keep pace with the Jayhawks, who rallied from a six-point halftime deficit.
Kansas has advanced despite losing leading scorer Carolyn Davis to a knee injury on Feb. 12.
"Delaware is a fine team,'' Lockwood said. "But I don't think they'd seen the type of athleticism Kansas has, the quickness, the post players."
Lockwood doesn't think that Kansas should be a surprise competitively. The Jayhawks are bound to resemble somebody the Lady Vols have played. Overall, the Lady Vols have faced five of the remaining 16 tournament teams this season. Their schedule has included three of the No. 1 seeds — Baylor, Notre Dame and Stanford.
They played Kentucky (No. 2 in Kingston, R.I) and South Carolina (No. 5 in Fresno, Calif.) in the SEC.
"We feel like nothing is going to catch us completely off guard,'' Lockwood said.
Knoxville News Sentinel
A second Lawrence police officer suspended for allegedly fixing traffic tickets for a University of Kansas athletics department employee is off the job.
The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Police Chief Tarik Khatib confirmed the officer’s departure Thursday but declined to give details.
Lawrence officials have said another officer, who resigned last month, had a long friendship with the athletics employee and fixed at least six traffic tickets in exchange for Kansas basketball tickets. At least twice, that officer asked the second officer for help.
The individual whose tickets were fixed is now in federal prison for his role in a broader ticket scandal in the athletics department. In all, seven people were convicted in the thefts of more than 17,000 Jayhawk basketball tickets and at least 2,000 football tickets.
Big 12/College News
CBS Viewers Guide: Enter your zip, finds channels/schedule for games
TV/Announcer schedule for the Sweet 16
MIDWEST REGION (St. Louis)
Jay Bilas: Kansas over North Carolina
Eamonn Brennan: Kansas over North Carolina
Fran Fraschilla: North Carolina over Kansas
John Gasaway: Kansas over North Carolina
Doug Gottlieb: Kansas over North Carolina
Andy Katz: North Carolina over Kansas
Jason King: North Carolina over Kansas
Dana O'Neil: Kansas over North Carolina
Miles Simon: Kansas over North Carolina
Jay Williams: NC State over North Carolina
Myron Medcalf: Kansas over North Carolina
Joe Lunardi: Kansas over North Carolina
ESPN Experts picks
"You know what our press does a lot of times? It just wears people out," Pitino said. "We didn't really want to trap them. We wanted to run and jump to get to the legs. ... Certain people we try to create steals or traps or rotate. Tonight we just tried to get into our zone, wear them out and neutralize the backboard."
That plan couldn't have worked out better for Pitino and his team. The Cardinals' pressure was never overwhelming on any specific occasion, and more often than not the Spartans were able to get into the half court with minimal issue. But the constant pressure clearly made Michigan State uncomfortable.
The Spartans finished the game with a 24.7 percent turnover rate. But it was their shooting -- a 33.7 percent effective field-goal percentage, a 5-for-21 mark beyond the 3-point arc (and how many of those shots missed even the rim?) and a staggeringly low 22.2 percent offensive rebounding rate -- that truly caused a team averaging nearly 1.17 points per possession this season to score just 0.72 on Thursday night.
Indeed, it wasn't just the pressure, or a matter of winning the purported size-vs.-speed matchup. It was all-court defensive solidity, usually by way of a stifling 2-3 zone. The Cardinals played zone on 45 of Michigan State's 48 possessions, holding Draymond Green & Co. to a mere 22.2 percent shooting in the zone.
There appears to be more confusion than ever this year about the NBA's early-entry draft process amongst college players, college coaches, NBA personnel and media members, due to rule changes made by the NCAA last May regarding collegiate eligibility.
To clear up some of the misinformation that is circulating, we've collected all the appropriate information we think prospects will need in order to make an informed decision on whether or not to enter the NBA draft this spring.
First, the applicable dates:
April 3: NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee Application Deadline
April 6: NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee Response Deadline
April 10: NCAA Early Entry“Withdrawal”Deadline
April 29: NBA Draft Early Entry Eligibility Deadline (11:59 pm ET)
May 3 or May 4: NBA Draft Early Entry Candidates Released
May 30: NBA Draft Lottery
June 6-8: NBA Combine/Pre-Draft Camp (Chicago)
June 18: NBA Draft Early Entry Withdrawal Deadline (5:00 pm ET)
June 28: 2012 NBA Draft
The main change that occurred this year involves the NCAA's unilaterally imposed “early-entry withdrawal deadline” of April 10th.
According toNCAA Proposal No. 2010-24, “student-athletes interested in 'testing the waters' of the NBA draft [are required] to remove their name from consideration before the first day of the spring National Letter of Intent signing period.”
The first day of the spring National Letter of Intent signing period is April 11th this year, meaning that any player that makes himself eligible for the NBA draft before thenmust remove itby April 10th in order to retain his collegiate eligibility.
Last year college players had until May 8th to evaluate their professional options, which gave them about a week to work out for NBA teams and gather feedback about their NBA draft stock. College players (like their international counterparts, who are not bound by the NCAA's rules) used to have until ten days before the draft (this year June 18th) to do their research and gather as much information as possible before making such an important decision for their future.
What this essentially means is thatthere is no more “testing the waters” anymore.
…The biggest issue with this new “early entry intention” date of April 10 is that it falls approximately three weeks before the NBA's own early-entry deadline of April 29th. Until the NBA officially dispersestheir list of underclassmenwho have made themselves eligible for the NBA draft, teams cannot have any type of contact with those players, which obviously includes pre-draft workouts.
Since the NCAA bars third parties (even family members) of college players from reaching out to NBA teams to discuss their draft stock and the NBA itself has strict no-contact rules regarding the way teams can communicate with players who are not officially draft-eligible (before the early-entry list is released in early May), the only way an underclassman can gather information about his draft stock is through his college head coach. Furthermore, the head coach is only allowed to talk with the principal basketball operations executive from each team (ie: the general manager), according to NBA rules, and the underclassman may not participate in or be present during any such conversation.
To help with this process, the NBA is again offering underclassmen the ability to get actual feedback from a group of executives representing 20 NBA teams selected by the League Office, and chaired by NBA Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Stu Jackson, called the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
…According to a memo that was dispersed by the NBA to all college coaches (published below), the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee with deliver their evaluation “to the player and/or his college coach…on or before April 6th.”
…What's important to note (and has been widely misreported in the media), is that requesting an evaluation from the advisory committee doesnotconstitute entering the draft. In fact, the application form explicitly states that “this application is not a declaration of eligibility for the 2012 NBA draft. A separate letter must be sent to Commission David Stern (received by April 29, 2012) declaring eligibility for the 2012 NBA draft. An application form for the 2012 NBA draft will be sent upon receipt of the letter of declaration.”
What that means is that, theoretically, a college player could still wait until April 29th to enter the NBA draft, as these are two separate deadlines, and there seemingly is no benefit at all to entering his name before, particularly since he will lose his NCAA eligibility if he does not remove it before April 10th.
For example if a player seriously injures himself between April 11th and April 29th, but had already sent a letter to David Stern declaring their eligibility for the 2012 NBA Draft, that player would be ineligible to return to school.
While college coaches would obviously love to have all of their answers regarding who will or will not return to their team by April 10th, so they can start their vacation early or get an early jump on next season, realistically there is no reason why an underclassmen wouldn't continue to privately investigate their NBA draft stock until April 29th.
According to PremierBall, Shabazz Muhammad will announce his decision April 10th, most likely at Bishop Gorman High School. Muhammad's coach, Grant Rice, confirmed the news.