Remember when you played whatever Mario game was hot during your childhood? For me, it was Super Mario World. If you’ve ever tried beating that game, you’ve reached a point when you start figuring out what special powers are needed to beat each level. Maybe you need a cape, maybe you need fire, maybe you need Blue Yoshi, or maybe you need some combination of all three. For most levels, you don’t need these powers, but you’ve failed so many times that you’ve given up on trying to beat certain of them without first stocking up on specials. So you go to the Top Secret Area, load up on what you need, and trek back to whatever level you’re working on. And inevitably, within 10 seconds of starting the level, some asshole Koopa makes you lose Yoshi, you run into the Koopa again and lose your cape, Yoshi disappears forever, and just like that your plan goes to hell. It’s still possible to beat the level, but you’ve played enough to know that you might as well just run Mario off a cliff and start over.
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I didn’t know which of these Big 12 teams would end the most impressive ongoing streak in sports. But I felt fairly confident it would be one of them.
Then, as my tinnitus was fading away on Monday night after Kansas’ 89-76 throttling of an Iowa State team that has become the Jayhawks’ top conference rival, I snapped back into the same Big 12 reality we’ve all lived in for the past decade:
The Big 12 is Jayhawks country, and we’re all just living in it.
Some of you thought Kansas was knocked down a peg when it was stomped by Kentucky in November, but that loss can be explained away because Kentucky is, well, Kentucky. Others thought Kansas was knocked down another peg when the Jayhawks inexplicably got stomped by Temple on the road in December, a loss that can be explained away by it being days before Christmas and these being college students ready for a break. Still more thought Kansas was knocked down a bit further when it traveled to Ames on a Saturday night a couple weeks ago and lost to Iowa State, but that loss than can be explained away by something called “Hilton Magic,” a Jedi-like force that makes Iowa State virtually unbeatable at home.
All of Kansas’ losses can be explained away, in fact, which leaves me with the unmistakable feeling that the most impressive streak in sports will grow one year longer at the end of this season.
Fox Sports Forgrave
But after a disappointing January, when his promising start coincided with his team’s prolonged funk and he was bypassed from the Rising Stars Challenge during the NBA All-Star Weekend, McLemore has become surprisingly prickly. Asked late Tuesday about the slight, he bolted upright in his chair and repeatedly used the term “pissed off.”
“I didn’t care that much about not being invited back for the (slam dunk) event,” said the second-year pro, a runner-up last year in the dunk contest, “but I feel like I should be in the Rising Stars. That was one of my goals going into the season. I’ve worked really hard and I know I’ve improved, especially defensively. I just can’t let it affect my future.”
A few reasons he was ticked off? The roster includes Shabazz Muhammad, Dante Exum, Nerlens Noel and Zach LaVine, the Minnesota rookie who also will participate in the dunk contest.
…The not-so-gentle McLemore contributed 13 quick points, two steals and one nasty, one-handed dunk in the opening minutes against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday. The goal is less floating, more attacking. And fortunately for the organization, McLemore, 21, is young and agreeable.
Equally significant is that, amid the ruins of an immensely disappointing season, his work ethic hums along like a clock. He arrives early for individual workouts and routinely turns out the lights after practices. He loves the scent, the rhythms of the gym, as much as he loves the game. In his own quiet, persistent way, he desperately wants to be great.
…Before the Kings’ familiar meltdown against the Warriors, he showed off his improving ballhandling with a two-dribble, baseline spin that resulted in a resounding one-handed flush and a 10-point lead. He also made four three-pointers, though as often happens he was virtually invisible and/or ignored for long stretches.
“I believe he needs more designed plays,” center DeMarcus Cousins suggested afterward. “He started off hot and didn’t touch the ball basically anymore. So that’s on me. I can find ways to give Ben the ball more, especially seeing double teams. And also those guys in the back room.”
The elephant in the locker room hasn’t disappeared. Coach Tyrone Corbin inherited a tough job at an inopportune time. But Michael Malone has been gone since Dec. 14, and at some point the veterans should start listening more closely when McLemore speaks about moving forward, salvaging the season, improving his skill set.
2/4/15, 7:54 PM
Fresno State redshirt sophomore Braeden Anderson is leaving the team. He wants to graduate this spring and go to law school next fall.
In a game as rough and tough as Kansas University’s 71-67 victory over Texas Tech on Wednesday night at Allen Fieldhouse, one run, no matter how big or small, can wind up being the difference.
That turned out to be true in this one, as the Jayhawks (13-10 overall, 4-6 Big 12) used a 16-0 spurt midway through the second half to turn a 53-46 deficit at the 10:32 to mark into a 62-53 lead 61⁄2 minutes later. That stretch proved to be just enough for the Jayhawks to hang on, as Texas Tech closed the game with a surge much the way the Jayhawks did in Lubbock, Texas.
“Pay Heed. The game you love began here. Respect those who came before you. Make their legacy your own. Because destiny favors the dedicated. And rings don’t replace work. In this game you don’t get what you want. You get what you earn. We are Kansas. Together we rise. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!
Big 12 / College News
And standing in the same place where he won a Texas state high school championship a few years ago, the Oklahoma State guard calmly swished two free throws with 2.1 seconds left in overtime, sending the Cowboys to a 65-63 victory over No. 25 Texas on Wednesday night.
"I was just trying to focus and lock in," said Forte, an 85 percent free throw shooter who missed on late in regulation. "I was thinking about the state championship game my senior year. I think it's kind of ironic how it comes down to the same thing."
Le'Bryan Nash scored 17 points for the Cowboys (15-7, 5-5 Big 12), who led most of the game, only to see Texas rally in the final minute of regulation to tie.
Isaiah Taylor scored 18 points for Texas (14-8, 3-6). He had the final six points in regulation, but also missed a free throw that could have won it with 3 seconds left. Texas has lost four in a row.
"That free throw I can't get back," Taylor said. "The confidence is still there. We're still a good team. There's no doubt in my mind.”
…Texas was already without guard Javan Felix (concussion) and then lost starting forward Jonathan Holmes after he took a blow the head early in the second half. Holmes came in averaging 12.1 points but was scoreless when he left the game.
Barnes said there was no official diagnosis yet of Holmes' injury. "We kept him out for cautionary reasons," Barnes said.
…Barnes has been after the Longhorns to use their size advantage and tried to force the issue when he started a frontcourt of 6-foot-9 Ridley, 6-9 Holmes and 6-11 Myles Turner. But five turnovers in the first six possessions forced him to quickly abandon that plan. Ridley scored 12 and Turner scored eight points but they seldom established a presence in the post.
…Oklahoma State has won six of the last seven against Texas and has swept the Longhorns twice in the last three seasons. The previous win this season came when Texas was No. 10.
For Le’Bryan Nash, doing work against the massive Texas front line is a major chore.
And for much of Wednesday night, he found the going more than rough. Nash finished 6-of-19 from the floor.
Yet with the Cowboys looking for points, Nash scored six of his team’s nine points in overtime, hitting two key 15-foot jumpers and two free throws, needed points in OSU’s 65-63 win over the Longhorns.
“Shots were falling in the second half and overtime, especially overtime,” Nash said. “When my team needs me the most, I try to step up the best way I can and be aggressive. Shots were falling and I was getting to the hole.”
To his credit, Nash never stopped being aggressive, even after his earlier struggles.
“They were all good shots, they just weren’t falling,” Nash said. “I’m glad the basketball gods blessed me in the overtime and some of them went in.”
2/4/15, 9:40 PM
Texas is in a free-fall. Longhorns lost 4 straight and 6 of their last 8. What idiot picked them to win the Big 12? Oh yeah, that was me.
2/4/15, 9:42 PM
Thought Texas was positioned to win the Big 12 once Isaiah Taylor came back healthy. That was clearly silly.
2/4/15, 9:42 PM
Texas falls at home to Oklahoma State in OT. Longhorns are now 3-6 in Big 12 play. Easily one of the biggest surprises of the season.
“Our whole team, we have been plagued from the start of the season by immaturity, by a lack of discipline and a lack of consistency,” Weber said. “That has been on and off the court, all year.
“I gave them a sheet of paper at the beginning of the year, because I saw it coming — I guess I’m brilliant. I feared, because we had so many young guys, we wouldn’t have maturity as a team. Plus, they had too much hype. They hadn’t earned anything.
“Second thing I wrote on the paper was: discipline, to do the right thing all the time on and off the court. I said, ‘If you do those two things you will have consistency,’ and we just have not have had consistency, obviously. That is why we are 12-11 and 5-5.”
Later, he blamed himself.
“I haven’t done a good enough job as I should,” Weber said, “and that is why we are in the predicament we are in.”
…He offered few specifics on the future status of Foster and Harris, dancing around a question about why they were sidelined and saying he was unsure how long they would remain out. He did say, though, that he informed the K-State players of their suspensions long before they made the trip.
Foster and Harris accompanied the team to Lubbock but were not present for the game. Weber said he also disciplined sophomore point guard Jevon Thomas for immature actions by not starting him. Thomas did play 34 minutes.
The decision was conveniently timed, strikingly transparent and thoroughly predictable.
Syracuse announced Wednesday that it has self-imposed a postseason ban on its basketball program this March in response to an NCAA investigation into past infractions, a punishment that doesn't pack nearly the punch it would other years. The Orange were already in major jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2008, so Syracuse likely saw a chance to slap itself on the wrist now and perhaps stave off future penalties for teams equipped to go deeper into the postseason.
Though Syracuse's 15-7 overall record this season suggests it was in decent position to eke out an NCAA bid prior to Wednesday's announcement, most mock brackets didn't include the Orange as of today and most analysts projected they wouldn't make it.
…Had Syracuse waited until the offseason to self-impose a postseason ban for 2016, seniors on this year's would still have a chance to finish their careers the right way and returning players would then have the choice whether to transfer or stay with the Orange. Instead the school has robbed its current players of the chance to strive for an NCAA tournament bid and has left them with little to play for in the coming weeks.
In fairness to Syracuse, the school was merely taking advantage of the best option available to its basketball program under NCAA rules. It's up to the NCAA to protect the rights of its student-athletes and ban schools from issuing self-imposed postseason bans during the season.
The biggest remaining question in the wake of Wednesday's news is whether Syracuse's self-imposed sanctions satisfy the NCAA or whether the governing body will determine that the Orange deserve further punishment.
It's perhaps a good thing that the NCAA doesn't hand out fines for egregious flops like the NBA does, because someone at St. John's University would be out five large.
With about 12 minutes to go in the Red Storm's game against No. 22 Butler in Indianapolis Tuesday night, senior swingman Sir'Dominic Porter went to take the ball out of bounds after a Bulldogs field goal - but as he did, he did a full-body swing-around around and hit the floor as if he had just been hit by a Muhammad Ali knockout punch.
The problem? Not a single Bulldog was anywhere near him, a slight brush from a retreating Roosevelt Jones seconds earlier the only remote contact Pointer incurred around the play.
You can see the egregious flop for yourself below, but know this: sadly, this wasn't even the most embarassing moment for the Red Storm - or Pointer himself - in a blowout 85-62 loss.
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Maker’s decision could have a profound impact not only on the recruiting landscape in the Class of 2015 but potentially on the 2016 NBA Draft, too.
“The beginning of next week when we get back from the tournament [in Rhode Island], I’ll have everything,” Smith said Wednesday by phone.
…Smith previously told SNY.tv that if Maker does reclass, he will definitely visit Kentucky and Kansas, and possibly other schools as well.
Nike Hoops Summit USA Roster announced (Asst Coach L.J. Goolsby, KC Run GMC)
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