KU digital tournament guide
Be sure to come to Sprint Center for a sneak peak at KU open practice on Thursday, March 21 from 5:10-5:50pm in Sprint Center before the action kicks off on Friday.
Join us at Z-Strike, the official site for the Jayhawks at Power & Light, located right across the street from Sprint Center before and after the KU games.
Friday, March 22:
Pre-Game Party: 3:00pm (Z-Strike)
Kansas Jayhawks Pep Rally: 5:15pm (main stage of the Power & Light District)
Tip Off: 8:50pm or 30 minutes following the conclusion of the UNC/Villanova game
Can't make it? Follow the game on @KUGameday, listen in on Jayhawk Radio Network.
Roy Williams says there is "no way" he could walk out of that other tunnel at allen fieldhouse. #kubball
“I’d much rather play a team you match up well against than play in your time zone,” Self said. “I think it (playing close to home) has helped us in some instances, some it hasn’t been great for us. Sometimes when you play close to home, especially this close, there are a lot more potential distractions that creep in there.
“Sometimes when you play far away, you can eliminate a lot of those distractions. Still, I think the positives far outweigh the negatives when you talk about the familiarity with the court, the arena and of course, hopefully a great fan base.”
Self took his players and assistants out for dinner at Capital Grille on Wednesday night. They’ll hold a shoot-around open to the public (admission is free) from 5:10 to 5:50 p.m. today in Sprint Center, then hang out at the hotel all day Friday while awaiting game time.
“They will not be walking around downtown or the mall (Crown Center) much at all,” Self said. “We’ll have a nice dinner tonight. After that, we’ll probably spend all our time at least on their room floor or banquet room (meeting) area. We will not be amongst the people too much.
“It’s a business trip,” Self added. “We’ll have fun tonight. Business should be fun if you win. We rarely go out as a group and dine ever. During the NCAA Tournament, usually you are going in two days early, (so) the first night is probably a pretty good night to do that. That’s what we’ll do ... get them out of the hotel. After that, we’ll have them pretty much on lockdown.”
“I don’t like the late start on Friday night,” Self said. “With the things that you have that are mandatory that have to take place after the game, you’re looking at having dinner at 1 a.m., 1:30 a.m. and not going to bed until 3. And then it’s a short day the next day and then you play potentially having to get up at 8 o’clock in the morning on Sunday.”
But for Self, it’s a good problem to have. As he prepares to make his 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, he fielded a question about the NCAA Tournament’s magnitude, especially for teams that don’t go to the Tournament every year like Kansas does.
And although he’s made every NCAA Tournament since Ben McLemore was 5 years old, there was a time Self wasn’t an automatic invitee to the NCAA Tournament. While he stood next to the entrance to The Brasserie, a restaurant in the hotel’s lobby, Self thought back to his first team at Oral Roberts, which finished 6-21 as an independent in 1993-1994.
“When I took the job at Oral Roberts we weren’t eligible,” Self said. “We weren’t in a league. We would have had to be an independent getting invited and that usually doesn’t happen when you’re 6-21. There’s not a lot of independents getting an at-large berth.”
“It’s definitely fun,” he said. “It’s what I wanted to do and why I came to this school. Just getting the chance to come out on the court and play, I’m just excited about that and try to produce as much as I can.”
As he prepares for his second NCAA experience, Tharpe admits to being excited about what lies ahead and understands he never would have reached this point had he not learned from the past.
“It’s all about timing,” Tharpe said. “When it’s time for you and (KU coach Bill Self) calls your name, you gotta be ready to step up and take on the challenge. Seeing the dudes from last year who didn’t play as much (before that), that was their year that they stepped up. Jeff (Withey), Elijah (Johnson), even (former KU guard Conner) Teahan. That’s what I learned the most. Your name’s gonna get called, it’s all a matter of what you do when it’s called.”
Asked what he thought helped Tharpe bridge the gap between bench warmer and first guard off the bench, Johnson answered with words that sounded as if they came from Tharpe himself.
“Opportunity, really,” Johnson said. “He got his opportunity, and he’s taking advantage of it.”
…Asked where his confidence is heading into Friday’s 8:50 p.m. tipoff against No. 16 seed Western Kentucky, Tharpe did not hold back.
“Extremely high,” he said with a smile. “I feel like I can go out there and play with anybody. With coach giving me that confidence and my teammates, it’s hard not to be confident when I step out there now.”
If Ellis' performance in the Big 12 tourney gave him a measure of comfort, it was hard to tell. For the better part of four months, the introverted Ellis has said the same things: He needed to be more aggressive. He was working on being more aggressive.
The Jayhawks hope he'll become more, well - aggressive. On Saturday, as the Jayhawks celebrated their conference tournament title, Ellis repeated the season long refrain.
"I just gotta keep listening to Coach," Ellis said. "That's all I'm doing. I'm just listening to Coach, and telling him: 'Whatever he wants me to do, I'm going to do it.' And good things will happen."
For Kansas, the goal is the Jayhawks' 15th Final Four, a journey made easier after Ellis' evolution. Of course, it's unlikely that Ellis' minutes will increase too much. In March, Self says, starters tend to play more minutes and bench players turn into insurance against injury or foul trouble.
But Ellis' rapid rise does give Self something he didn't have two weeks ago: a scoring option off the bench. Maybe it's not what anyone envisioned back in October. But on those days at practice when Ellis plays free and confident, forgetting that he's a freshman, Withey can see glimpses. His freshman teammate is getting closer.
"When he's out there and having fun and stuff, he's a great player," Withey said. "When he's like that, he's a (heck) of a ballplayer."
The lesson to be learned from this team that became Bill Self’s fifth in the past seven years to earn a No. 1 seed is that it pays not to read too much into first impressions. The average student arrives at college a boy and grows into a man. Why should it be any different for a basketball player?
“I feel like — and you might hear this from coach’s mouth — it’s not the most talented team that we’ve had here at Kansas even in my four years,” Johnson said. “My freshman year with Sherron (Collins) and my sophomore year with the twins (Marcus and Markieff Morris), those are some good teams. I felt like we had targets on our back, and we didn’t respond like we should have. This is a more, I feel, humble team, a more … I really don’t know the word to explain … I don’t feel we’re those old teams. I feel like we know that we’re not the best talented.”
The WKU basketball team will make its 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance Friday when it takes on the Kansas Jayhawks in Kansas City, Mo. It will mark the fifth all-time matchup between the tradition-rich programs that have combined for 98 conference championships in the past 105 years.
While the 2013 rendition of Hilltoppers versus Jayhawks may read No.16 seed vs. No.1 seed, the 1971 Final Four showdown between the schools featured the nation’s No.7 and No.4 ranked teams. WKU’s all-time leading scorer Jim McDaniels recorded arguably the greatest individual game in Hilltopper history during the third-place contest, scorching the nets for 36 points and ripping down 19 rebounds in leading WKU to a 77-75 victory.
“It was a great game, could have been the championship game,” said McDaniels. “We were warriors and we were going to go out winners. God blessed me to have an awesome game.”
McDaniels was named All-American during each of his three seasons on the Hill (1969-71) and had his No.44 jersey retired after averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds per game in his career. The now 64-year- old McDaniels won’t be strapping up his Converse sneakers or donning his No.44 jersey when WKU tangles with Kansas this time around, but his blood runs through a Hilltopper who will.
“It’s an honor,” said sophomore forward George Fant, the cousin of McDaniels, who now wears No. 44. “I’m very proud to wear the same number. For him to be able to see me play, while wearing his old number, means a lot to me.”
Fant wore No.4 as a prep star at Warren Central High School in Bowling Green, Ky. and had no intentions of wearing No.44 when he arrived on the Hill for the 2011-12 season, but McDaniels insisted on his cousin wearing his legendary number. The 6-foot-6 Fant hasn’t let McDaniels down in his first 65 games sporting the jersey, scoring 758 points and tallying 418 rebounds while leading the Hilltoppers to two-straight Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championships.
“We love the big moment,” said McDaniels. “No.44 is full of points, rebounds and steals. George loves the big stage, and this game against Kansas is a huge stage.”
“He says it runs in the family and that every time there’s a big game he’s seen me step up,” said Fant. “I haven’t stepped up as much as he has but he says I’ve stepped up and hopefully I’ll do it again.”
McDaniels had a knack for saving his best performances for the biggest stage. During WKU’s run to the 1971 Final Four, McDaniels sparked the Hilltoppers to victories over a No.9 Jacksonville team that featured ABA/NBA Hall of Famer Artis Gilmore on its roster, No.8 Kentucky, No. 10 Ohio State and No.4 Kansas. He stills holds three of the top four scoring performances in WKU’s NCAA Tournament history, dropping 36 points on the Jayhawks, 35 on the Wildcats and 31 on the Buckeyes.
“I’ve seen all his film, against Artis Gilmore, against Kansas, all of them. He was unbelievable,” said Fant. “He was like (Kevin) Durant without the ball-handling skills. He could shoot from anywhere and more than likely it was good. His game was before his era. What he did was unbelievable.”
…When WKU learned its NCAA Tournament destination last Sunday, McDaniels shared the same message with Fant and the entire team.
“Believe. You’ve got to believe.”
Fant believes and now he and the Hilltoppers are ready to accomplish what McDaniels’ team did 42 years ago.
“Kansas is a very good team but I’m ecstatic about what we’ve done as a team,” said Fant. “I don’t want to stop at a conference ring. I want to see how far we can build off that ring.”
If they pull off the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, by beating the top-seeded Jayhawks (29-5), Price might cut down the nets again and wear it around his neck for the rest of his life.
“I respect everyone but I fear no one,” said Price, who averages a team-best 15.3 points. “I’m going to play my hardest and do what I do best. It’s just like last year when we played against Kentucky. I wasn’t afraid of those guys. I wanted to show them that I belong on the court with them. That’s what my plan is against Kansas. I belong on the court with them as well.”
…At 6 feet 4 and 208 pounds, Price can muscle his way into the paint as well as shoot with range. This year, he was second on the team in free throws (77 of 110) and tops in 3-pointers (79 of 218).
“With my body, I can get inside,” the 2013 Sun Belt tournament MVP said. “Everybody know how big Kentucky was, but I was still able to get inside and was still able to finish. That gave me confidence. If I could do it against them, I can do it against anybody.”
Price and fellow WKU sophomore George Fant were All-Sun Belt selections. While he enjoyed a good season, the guard fought through injuries. Price sprained his right ankle and his right MCL, causing him to miss three games in December.
Townsend maintained friendships with several Topper players and coaches, including Keady and then-assistant coach Clem Haskins. The lessons learned from relationship with Keady were especially helpful to his own coaching career, he said.
"Toughness," Townsend said. "Everything was about being tougher than everyone else not only mentally but physically and emotionally you just had to be tougher than everybody. He kind of had a football mentality toward the game."
Now those attributes are some of the main reasons Kansas is a national title contender. The Jayhawks lead Division I in defensive field goal shooting, holding opponents to a 36 percent clip from the floor.
"Defensively we’ve led the country in defensive field goal percentage six of the last nine years I’ve been here," Townsend said. "We’ve always been Top 10. That was a philosophy from Coach Keady I’ve always believed in is defense and rebounding wins games for you."
Townsend has spent his week scouting the Toppers (20-15) and helping Self get the Jayhawks ready for Friday's game. After watching tape of WKU's run through the Sun Belt Conference Tournament he was especially complimentary of guards T.J. Price and Jamal Crook and forward George Fant.
How Kansas does against that trio may determine if he can pull off a win against his alma mater, he said.
"I think they’re really solid defensively and they’ve got good athletes," Townsend said. "I can see why they got hot at the end."
Whatever the outcome of Friday's game, there are plenty of parallels between the Kansas and WKU programs, Townsend said.
The Jayhawks are the No. 2 winningest program in Division I history, holding claim to 2,070 victories. WKU ranks No. 18 with 1,655 wins.
As far as winning percentage is concerned, Kansas ranks No. 3 (.720) and the Toppers rank No. 7 (.667).
"(Kansas) had James Naismith, who invented the game, as our first coach and Phog Allen," Townsend said. "I remember them talking about E.A. Diddle like that when I was at Western.
"It’s a lot of similarities as far as the love for basketball and the tradition. It reminds me a lot of Bowling Green."
NBA.COM: TRob dunk
Brett Ballard @brettballard3
@nickcollison4 You drove a woodgrain mini van in college. Any thoughts of bringing that look back into your whip game?
This question comes from one of my favorite former Jayhawk teammates. Brett, lets take a moment to appreciate the beauty that was "The Woodgrain." (She looked similar to one of these heavenly creatures.)
She had style. She had grace. She was a work of art. She dressed in navy with those rich mahogany sides. She had that shape I like with so much room in the back. We had some unforgettable nights. She even let my teammates come along for rides, because she understood "it ain't no fun if the homies can't come." She was a 1990 Dodge Caravan and I loved her.
The truth is, we were both young. We had our ups and downs. I still recall the night when, visiting friends at another school, her sliding door came off the hinges in my hand, and we had to drive 60 miles back home on the highway with no door. I still remember overhearing Drew Gooden tell a girl, "Yeah, I got a car... well I mean, its like all of ours. It's the team van." It was a crazy new time. We were just getting started when, tragically, her transmission went out the fall of my junior year.
Eventually, I had to let her go. She was my first love.
Nick Collison GQ blog
VOTE for Kansas players, team, and moment in NCAA 75th Anniversary of March Madness (Vote for Wilt, Clyde, Danny, 51-52 Kansas, Mario's Miracle)
Big 12/College News
All times ET.
ROUND OF 64 GAMES
THURSDAY MARCH 21
12:15, CBS, Auburn Hills: No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Valpo (Lundquist/Raftery/Nichols)
12:40, truTV, Lexington: No. 6 Butler vs. No. 11 Bucknell (Eagle/Spanarkel/LaForce)
1:40, TBS, Salt Lake City: No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Wichita State (Dedes/Gottlieb/Maggio)
2:10, TNT, San Jose: No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 13 NM State. (Anderson/Bonner/Snider)
2:45, CBS, Auburn Hills: No. 6 Memphis vs. MTSU/SMC winner (Lundquist/Raftery/Nichols)
3:10, truTV, Lexington: No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 14 Davidson (Eagle/Spanarkel/LaForce)
4:10, TBS, Salt Lake City: No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Southern (Dedes/Gottlieb/Maggio)
4:40, TNT, San Jose: No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon (Anderson/Bonner/Snider)
THURSDAY EVENING, MARCH 21
6:50, TBS, Lexington: No. 1 Louisville vs. NC A&T-Liberty winner
7:15, CBS, Auburn Hills: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
7:20, TNT, Salt Lake City: No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Belmont
7:27, truTV, San Jose: No. 5 UNLV vs. No. 12 California
9:20, TBS, Lexington: No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Missouri
9:45, CBS, Auburn Hills: No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Akron
9:45, TNT, Salt Lake City: No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 14 Harvard
9:57, truTV, San Jose: No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 13 Montanta
FRIDAY MARCH 22
12:15, CBS, Philadelphia: No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Albany (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
12:40, truTV, Kansas City: No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 Ole Miss (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
1:40, TBS, Dayton: No. 8 NC State vs. No. 9 Temple (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
2:10, TNT, Austin: No. 2 Miami vs. No. 15 Pacific (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
2:45, CBS, Philadelphia: No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincy (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
3:10, truTV, Kansas City: No. 4 K-State vs. Boise State-La Salle winner (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
4:10, TBS, Dayton: No. 1 Indiana vs. LIU Brooklyn-JMU winner (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
4:40, TNT, Austin: No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Colorado (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
6:50, TBS, Philly: No. 2 G'town vs. No. 15 Fla. Gulf Coast (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
7:15, CBS, Dayton: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Iona (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
7:20, TNT, Kansas City: No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
7:27, truTV, Austin: No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 N'western St. (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
9:20, TBS, Philadelphia: No. 7 San Diego St. vs. No. 10 OU (Harlan/Elmore/Miller/Johnson)
9:45, CBS, Dayton: No. 7 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Iowa State (Nantz/Kellogg/Wolfson)
9:50, TNT, Kansas City: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky (Albert/Kerr/Sager)
9:57, truTV, Austin: No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota (Brando/Gminski/Livingston)
NCAA TV SCHEDULE
Twitter is partnering with Turner Broadcasting to bring some March Madness to your phone, tablet or PC.
Beginning Tuesday, when the NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off, fans can view highlights from all 67 games within a few minutes of them happening via Twitter.
The replays will be selected by TV production teams covering the 21-day tournament.
Consumers can follow @marchmadness for video.
SI Experts Brackets here and Final Four/Champion picks here
Celebrity Brackets: Wale picks Kansas to win
President Barack Obama on Wednesday picked Indiana University to win the NCAA annual men's college basketball tournament, joining in the "March Madness" office pool craze that sweeps America every spring.
The president, an avid sports fan, forecast that Indiana would defeat the widely favored University of Louisville in the championship game.
"I think this is Indiana's year," he said in an interview on ESPN, the sports cable network.
See bracket here
NY Times: The Art of NCAA Branding
Report: Syracuse hoops under NCAA investigation
The 12 active national title-winning coaches in men's college basketball have seen seismic changes in the game over the past few decades.
Against the background of the 75th NCAA tournament, USA TODAY Sports offers lengthy interviews with these dozen active title-winning coaches, all of whom still are head coaches at the Division I or II level. They provided a window into their ever-changing world, offering perspective on several big-picture issues that affect modern-day college basketball.
With all due respect to Indiana, North Carolina, Kentucky and other places with fine hoops traditions, Kansas truly is the state of the art of basketball this March, with three men’s and two women’s teams in the NCAA tournaments for the second year in a row.
All three of the state’s Division I men’s teams again made the cut – in sharp contrast to Texas, which saw none of its 21 schools reach the men’s tournament for the first time since 1977. (Utah, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, West Virginia, Connecticut and New Jersey also were shut out.) Only California, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have more men’s teams than Kansas in the tournament, at five each.
No. 1 seed University of Kansas will extend its historic streak of NCAA Tournament appearances to 24 straight, including an amazing 10 under coach Bill Self. The fourth-seeded Kansas State University men’s team won its fifth NCAA bid in the past six seasons and its first with coach Bruce Weber. And the 12th-seeded KU women under coach Bonnie Henrickson are returning after last year’s Sweet 16 finish.
Most notably for south-central Kansas are the twin bids for Wichita State University’s teams, including a return trip for coach Gregg Marshall’s men and the first-ever NCAA bid for the 30-year-old women’s program.
Forgive college basketball referees for compulsively checking their email inboxes in the hours leading up to dinner two days before Selection Sunday. That’s when John Adams, the NCAA’s national coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, annually notifies 100 officials that they have been chosen to work in the NCAA Tournament.
The evaluation process begins several months before that notification. Adams asks the 31 automatic-qualifier conferences for a list of names of officials likely to work conference tournaments. (The Ivy League is asked for a list of officials that likely would be used if the conference had a postseason tournament).
…“We have a provision where each one of our 31 automatic qualifying leagues provide us with nominations in order of the officials that they manage throughout the season,” Adams told the Journal-World in an interview last month in the NCAA offices in Indianapolis. “We’re obligated to take at least one official off each one of the nomination lists from the 31 automatic qualifying leagues. Then we’ll look at the nominations and see where those lines cross between who we think is good enough to work the tournament and who the leagues think are the best guys.”
Adams said the first game that a first-time official from a less competitive league works is chosen carefully.
“The first time in, you probably don’t want him in an 8/9 game. You might want him in a 16/1, 15/2 game,” he said, then quickly defended their credentials. “They’re very capable. We’ve done background checks. We watched them in a game.”
A divide has developed between the discipline of football and the liberalism of basketball. The sports have long been in red and blue states of mind. But what we have as the tournament begins is a clash of cultures, sportsmanship and manners.
The stuff pulled by the Rebels' polarizing guard is at least celebrated in college basketball, if not tacitly supported -- Gator-chomping the Florida fans, taunting the Auburn crowd, calling the SEC coaches losers."
Either this is the new face of college basketball or Henderson is the loudest, cockiest, brashest anomaly -- ever. Either way, an officiating chasm between football and basketball has gotten wider.
"The kids [in both sports] are different," said Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby. "A lot of military analogies in football are appropriate -- the esprits de corps and regimentation, trying to get more people going the same way. I worked with both groups all along. Basketball kids tend to be a little more loosey-goosey. Football kids tend to be a little more structured."
But why? In basketball, "Heaven Is A Playground." In football, we still celebrate, "When Pride Still Mattered."
The sports seem to be headed in opposite directions in terms of that decorum. Since 2011, it has been possible for a team to have a touchdown taken off the board if a player "styled" on his way to the end zone. Kansas State got flagged for excessive celebration at a crucial point in the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl when a player merely saluted the crowd after a touchdown.
The formal basketball career of Drew Cannon ended in eighth grade as the sixth man of his junior high team. In college at Duke, Cannon's only hoops experience came from an intramural team called the Norse Forse.
When Cannon graduated with a degree in statistics last spring, he had modest expectations of finding a job right away. "We were hoping he would not be living in the basement," said Jim Cannon, his father. "That was our goal. And his."
Instead of toiling in the basement, Cannon spent the season on the Butler bench and will be with the team when the Bulldogs play Bucknell in the NCAA tournament on Thursday. Cannon's experience interning with recruiting analyst Dave Telep and his advanced writing about basketball analytics gained the attention of Butler coach Brad Stevens, who offered him a job as a graduate manager this summer.
Cannon takes MBA classes at Butler and makes just $1,000 per month, but his work has significantly impacted how Butler uses lineups and helped him emerge as a potentially transformative figure on the college basketball landscape. Cannon is considered to be the first pure statistics-based hire on a college basketball staff. When Stevens called to offer Cannon a job, Cannon's father said to his son, "Does he realize you are monumentally under qualified for this position?"
In reality, Cannon's experience in scouting and analyzing data has made him the perfect match with the numbers-savvy Butler program. Stevens, a longtime proponent of advanced statistical metrics, said if he had unlimited resources he would create his own statistics division. For now, he has Cannon and gushes about how his research has shaped lineups, substitution patterns and converted the staff's statistical skeptics.
"It's been very impactful, there's no question about it," Stevens said. "He's really an invaluable resource."
Cannon can't coach players and admits the Xs and Os aspect of the game has overwhelmed him at times. (The Norse Forse, apparently, didn't run a lot of set plays.)
What makes Cannon's value tricky to quantify is that he and Stevens are reluctant to share many specifics of his research. There are simple things he does like keep practice statistics, track the efficiency of specific set plays and the statistical tendencies of opponents.
But as far as the in-depth statistical analysis, Stevens gave only a peek as to not forfeit an edge. Cannon sends Stevens a 10-page e-mail breaking down and analyzing the numbers after every Butler game. The report takes 10 to 12 hours for Cannon to put together.
Cannon's greatest value is with lineup analysis, as Stevens terms his work "unreal." "It includes every player, pairs of players, groups of three, big lineups, small lineups, etc.," Stevens said. Cannon will also include the offensive and defensive efficiency of Butler's players from previous matchups with an opponent, which Stevens said, "Will help me determine probable sub patterns, late game lineups, etc."
Kentucky, the school that took the college out of college basketball, didn't take long to shake off its Robert Morris hangover. Less than 16 hours after its humiliating loss in the NIT, the no-longer-defending men's national champion won another kind of game, beating Florida, Texas and Kansas to lure coveted high school power forward Julius Randle to play there for a year before going to the NBA.
Embarrassed one day, ecstatic the next. This is the fascinating reap-what-you-sow world of Kentucky men's hoops, where one-and-done can go horribly wrong one day but bring new hope and great promise the next.
Randle tried to keep an open mind about the recruiting process.
He was politically correct in interviews the whole time, saying that he didn’t have any favorites and everyone had a fair shake.
He bonded with Donovan on his visit to Florida, even made plans to go shark diving in South Africa with him someday.
He loved Self’s straightforward approach and Texas was home.
But the truth about what he truly wanted was embedded in his subconscious, only revealing itself when he gave serious consideration to going elsewhere.
“Kentucky, man,” Randle says. “Every time I told myself that I was gonna look somewhere else it just never felt right. Kentucky is home for me. It’s where I felt most comfortable.”
When he told Kentucky coach John Calipari that he was going to join the Big Blue Nation, Randle said Calipari “seemed like he was in shock.”
That reaction seems dead-on for a recruiting class that most are calling the best ever assembled.
…Randle didn’t waste any time getting firmly entrenched into the lifestyle that is Big Blue Nation, as evidenced by the “UK 30” emblem he had professionally stenciled on the back of his iPhone 5.
“It’s crazy, right,” Randle says holding up the blue phone. “I love it. I wanted everything to be perfect today.”
His godfather Jeff Webster can attest.
Randle sent him on a wild goose chase to track down the perfect Kentucky fitted cap to seal the deal in.
“He had to have a specific one,” Kyles said. “That’s just J!”
As Apple Valley rolled to an 81-67 victory at Target Center, Stanfield became the latest coach to experience the frustration of trying to contain (Tyus) Jones, the state's top player and one of the nation's most coveted recruits.
"The more you concentrate on him, the better he seems to get," Stanfield said. "He sees the court better than any kid I've ever watched. He sees things on the court most high school kids just don't see."
With University of Kentucky coach John Calipari in attendance, the 6-foot-2 Jones regrouped from a sluggish first half (four points) to finish with 19 points, seven assists and six steals.
With its 28th consecutive victory, Apple Valley (29-1) advances to Thursday's semifinal game at Target Center against Eden Prairie.
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