Here are Joe Lunardi's latest projections through Friday night. Check back Saturday for his full bracket.
TOP SEED ORDER
Next in line: Duke, Michigan State, Ohio State, Missouri
Big question is whether Kansas ends up on 2 line. Might mean they can go to St. Louis, which wouldn't be a bad thing.
From the uniforms to the attitudes to the on-court play, everything about Baylor appears to have changed. On Friday, coach Scott Drew’s squad catapulted into the Big 12 tournament title game with an 81-72 semifinal victory over third-ranked Kansas -- the same team it lost to twice this season by an average of 16 points.
“This,” forward Quincy Miller said, “is how we should’ve been playing all along.”
Baylor, 27-6, was ranked as high as No. 3 after opening the year with 17 consecutive victories. But the Bears ended the regular season with an 0-4 mark against conference powers Kansas and Missouri.
Baylor could beat the good teams, sure. But what about the great ones?
After whipping Kansas in what was basically a road environment at the Sprint Center on Friday, it became clear that Baylor could now be mentioned in the same breath as its conference rivals. No one ever doubted the Bears had Final Four-caliber talent. But now, for the first time all season, they look like a Final Four-caliber team.
“Make no mistake about it,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “They beat us tonight. They were better than us, no question. That’s a good basketball team. They’re very talented.”
The victory propels Baylor into Saturday’s Big 12 tournament championship against Missouri. No team from Texas has ever won the conference’s postseason title. The Bears are currently projected as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. But there’s a chance they could move up to a No. 2 with a win against the Tigers.
Kansas, meanwhile, may have cost itself a No. 1 seed by losing to the Bears.
“Everyone, from a psychological (standpoint), wants to be on the highest seed line they can possibly be,” Self said. “But I think it’s more about matchups than a seed line.”
Missouri’s weak non-conference schedule is probably going to keep its ceiling at a No. 2, no matter what happens in the rest of the Big 12 tournament.
The Jayhawks have one of the shortest rotations of any Final Four contender — they rank 309th in bench minutes on kenpom.com — so getting an extra day of rest before the NCAAs might not be a bad thing. But falling off the No. 1 line would have a serious impact on their tournament experience. A route through Omaha (for the second and third rounds) and St. Louis (as the Midwest’s No. 1) would be one of the better geographic advantages in the bracket. They’d prefer not to lose it.
Senior point guard Tyshawn Taylor spoke up, breaking the silence in a somber Kansas University basketball locker room Friday night in Sprint Center.
“I just told my team once coach walked out that everybody should be disappointed because we shouldn’t have lost,” Taylor said after the Jayhawks’ 81-72 Big 12 tournament semifinal setback to Baylor.
“But our goal is not to win the Big 12 tournament championship. Our goal is to win the Big 12 (regular-season) championship, which we have, and the national championship, which we still can.
“It sucks to lose any game,” Taylor added of his message to his teammates after the Jayhawks’ sixth loss against 27 victories, “but it’s not the end of the season. It’s not. A lot of teams lose their conference tournaments and go home and still have something to play for. We’ve got to get back in the lab and need to be getting better, not dropping. We’re going to be all right.”
…“The whole deal on Heslip is, the most we’re ever going to leave him is to bluff at the ball and get back to him. We made two critical mistakes, critical. You can’t just put it on Travis because if we got through the back screen quicker maybe we could have released and got to the shooter quicker. That definitely went against scouting report.”
…“I would rather them play man, honestly,” Taylor said. “I don’t think that was it (reason for defeat) at all. I think defensively we didn’t play our best. They rebounded the ball well (the teams tied 37-37 on the boards) and made big shots when they needed to.”
KU All-America candidate Robinson sat out the last five minutes of the first half after picking up his second foul. KU trailed, 43-35, at the break, the lead growing from four to eight with Robinson out.
“The reason Thomas came out was because of two fouls,” Self said. “But let’s call it like it is. Withey (Jeff, 11 points, seven boards) and Young (Kevin, five points, five boards) were our best guys the first half. We had so many bad possessions (at the end of the first half). The foul situation was the biggest reason he came out.”
KU is expected to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and play first-round games in Omaha, Neb., starting Friday.
“Our season is not over,” Taylor said. “The exciting thing is it’s just getting started for us. We can learn from this and do some great things.”
Several teams in the country bring more talented players onto the practice floor on a daily basis than Kansas. Not many compete as consistently hard as the Jayhawks. Take away that advantage, and KU’s not one of the first teams that comes to mind when talking about threats to win the national championship.
“If we can’t make other teams play bad, then we’re not going to advance very far in the NCAA Tournament,” ninth-year Kansas coach Bill Self said after his team came up flatter than Jack “Smack” Harry’s buzz cut. “And we certainly didn’t make Baylor play poorly at all.”
Not this time. In Lawrence and Waco, Kansas kept big man Perry Jones III from getting near the hoop and barely allowed shooter Brady Heslip to catch the ball, much less shoot it. In those blowouts, Kansas played to the scouting report prepared by coaches, intimidated Baylor with physical play and kept the Bears in retreat mode.
Baylor coach Scott Drew, primarily a zone man since using a 2-3 defense out of the blue in knocking Kansas out of the Big 12 tournament three years ago, had a surprise in store again for Kansas and used a man-to-man defense for the entire game.
That didn’t explain why Kansas left its identity in the locker room for this one. It didn’t explain why Kansas defenders didn’t make it difficult for the Bears to get good shots.
“The thing that was most disappointing to me, I thought we played a style that is just good enough to get your butt beat,” Self said. “Average energy. Let them pass it wherever they want to. Never dictate a tempo defensively. Crappy traps on the post. Couldn’t remember scouting report.”
Kansas University guard Conner Teahan was honest when asked what contributed most to his team’s poor defensive effort Friday against Baylor.
“I guess airheadedness,” the senior said following KU’s 81-72 loss in the Big 12 semifinals. “I know that there were times where people were not knowing what defense we were in or what we were doing — like, ‘Are we trapping the post or not trapping the post?’”
The issues were most evident early, as the Jayhawks allowed 43 first-half points to fall behind by eight at the break. That tied for the second-most points given up by KU in a first half this season.
“We played no defense in the first half — no defense you could probably say the first 25 minutes and maybe even longer,” Teahan said. “ ... Forty-three points in a half is not something that we do at all. That’s something that was addressed at halftime.”
LJW Keegan Ratings: Taylor best Jayhawk in Baylor loss
Inside the Sprint Center, in front of a mostly blue crowd, Kansas played large stretches without its most important ingredient:
Time and again, Bill Self has stated that without energy, without a certain edge, this team becomes average in a hurry. What made them great in previous wins against Baylor is their eagerness to take it at the talented Bears.
If the Jayhawks needed a reminder with any of this, a more tuned-in Baylor team delivered it in the form of an 81-72 loss in Friday’s Big 12 semifinal.
“Realistically, it’s human characteristic,” KU guard Elijah Johnson said. “They should have more of an edge on their shoulder. How would you feel if somebody beat up on you two times?”
It’s a lesson KU guard Tyshawn Taylor tried to drill into his teammates before they ever took the court. The Jayhawks clobbered Baylor twice before, both physically and on the scoreboard, but the Bears had sports’ greatest equalizer, its great motivator: revenge.
They also had a roster long on potential with future pros Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller and Quincy Acy.
“I told my team before the game,” Taylor said, “‘we embarrassed them twice pretty much, and they’re going to come back ready to play. We have to be ready to play.’ And I don’t think we were.”
When the meat is dangling, when the Jayhawks see the challenge staring back, they’re like scrapping against Mike Tyson. But when they are the meat hanging on the string, the tables can turn.
“If that’s the case,” Self said, “than how immature is that? That’s the thing that bothers me. I’m not buying into that at all.
“When you’re playing for a championship of any kind, how in the world can that ever be your mindset? Certainly going into the NCAA Tournament that can’t be your mindset. Maybe it’s a good lesson for us.”
Know something? So what?
Point to the overall record, the last outcome, the Final Four appearances, the national championships ... anything else KU fans can use to support their basketball supremacy.
Or, be content knowing this was a rivalry that belonged on campus, between league rivals, home and home ... and gripped the region for more than a century before the Tigers walked away.
“We had two epic games with them this year. Two epic games,’’ KU coach Bill Self said. “And it’s unfortunate it’s going to end.’’
Authorization for the cease-fire was given the day Missouri signed an agreement to join the SEC. Since then it begged any of its old brethren to meet in Kansas City for anything from basketball to barbeque, yet no one really cares to shape the Tigers’ new existence with old ties. Just move on and leave everyone alone.
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced senior guard Tyshawn Taylor as one of five finalists for the 2012 Bob Cousy Award on Friday.
The award honors college basketball’s top point guard and gets its name from Bob Cousy, the legendary former Boston Celtics point guard.
The original list contained more than 60 candidates, but has been cut to Taylor, Isaiah Canaan of Murray State, Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s, Damian Lillard of Weber State and Kendall Marshall of North Carolina.
Taylor was left off an 11-member list that was released earlier in the season, but with his improved play in the conference season, he was added back to the list.
Taylor, who has helped lead No. 3 Kansas to a 27-5 record, has averaged 17.2 points and 4.9 assists this season. Taylor was chosen as a unanimous All-Big 12 First Team member and a 2012 All-American Third Team member by ESPN.com and Sporting News earlier this week.
The Hall of Fame’s selection committee, which contains media members, coaches, sports information directors and Hall of Famers, will name the winner in New Orleans on April 2, NCAA Final Four weekend.
KC Star Photos
Charlie Hoag, a football star and member of the 1952 national-championship basketball team at Kansas University, died Thursday at the age of 81 at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Hoag, 81, was born in Oak Park, Ill., and spent his final years in Lawrence after moving from Topeka.
Big 12/College News
The most anticlimactic championship game in recent college basketball history will start at 5 p.m. sharp.
This Big 12 tournament stormed into Kansas City this week promising to be something we’d never forget, the rubber match of the best year in our region’s best rivalry, and look at it now.
Kansas lost, so it’ll be a Baylor team nobody can figure out against a Missouri team the Big 12 doesn’t want to see anymore, playing for a trophy nobody seems to prioritize.
In other words, it’s all over now but the schadenfreude.
Should be a good game. Don’t get that wrong. No. 5 Missouri plays three Kansas City kids and has a chance to be remembered as the best team in program history. No. 12 Baylor can make the Final Four playing no better than it’s been the last two games.
…The Jayhawks are still in a good spot. They’re at least a No. 2 seed, maybe a No. 1 with the right breaks, and like Self said if this makes them better or more focused next week then it’s a good loss. People remember the NCAA Tournament first, conference regular season second, conference postseason sometime after that.
KC Star Mellinger
About 30 minutes before their tilt with Texas, the Missouri Tigers stood in the Sprint Center tunnel and loosened their legs.
A black curtain hanging from the ceiling kept them from watching the Kansas-Baylor game that was taking place on the court, but the Tigers didn’t need to see a scoreboard to tell who was ahead.
“Everyone always cheers when Kansas scores,” Missouri guard Phil Pressey said. “But when we were standing there, we didn’t hear any cheers for a long, long time. We knew they must be losing.”
Indeed, the game a whole city -- no, a whole nation -- wanted to see on Saturday will never take place. Kansas was upset in the Big 12 tournament semifinals, so instead of one last rendition of the Border War, Missouri will face Baylor for the title. Mizzou, who is making its last appearance in Kansas City as a member of the Big 12, shellacked Texas 81-67 in Friday’s other semifinal.
“I was a little shocked (that KU lost),” Missouri guard Michael Dixon. “But we weren’t too worried about who we were going to play. The only thing we care about is winning a championship. We’ll play whoever we have to play to do it.”
As good as Saturday’s title game could be - the Tigers and Bears both look like Final-Four contenders - the matchup certainly isn’t as sexy as the one that would’ve pitted Missouri against archrival Kansas.
All week long, the buzz in KC has revolved around the potential of the two teams meeting in the title game. Tickets purchased through scalpers would’ve cost in excess of $1,000.
…How good was Mizzou? The Tigers won on a night when leading scorer Marcus Denmon went 0-for-10 from the field.
“That’s a great example,” Haith said, “of a ballclub that’s a team.”
Kansas had been projected as a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before losing to Baylor. Now the possibility exists that the Tigers could become a No. 1 seed.
Wednesday, the tournament opened to a new format. No afternoon session, but an evening doubleheader: Oklahoma against Texas A&M and Oklahoma State against Texas Tech. They’re the bottom four seeds, not NCAA Tournament-bound, not local.
But league officials estimated about 10,000 through the turnstiles.
That meant the 18,972-seat Sprint Center was nearly half-empty, but to the Big 12 it was more than half full.
“The crowds we had again this year demonstrated the people around here have a passion for college basketball,” said Big 12 associate commissioner Tim Allen. “You want the atmosphere, and that’s something Kansas City has delivered year after year.”
The men’s tournament will be in Kansas City through 2014. It was extended two years ago, and the conference reaffirmed the site in November after Missouri announced it was leaving the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference.
“The fans will support it,” Self said. “Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State fans all travel well.”
Other dynamics have changed and will be part of the discussion. When the league was at 12 teams and the championship game was played at Cowboys Stadium, there appeared to be a comfort with the conference of having the football championship in the Dallas area, basketball here and the baseball tournament in Oklahoma City.
If you need more proof that “there is no place like Nebraska,” read about Friday’s press conference to reveal the firing of Husker men’s basketball coach Doc Sadler.
First, Athletic Director Tom Osborne stood at the podium and took as much blame for Sadler’s demise after six seasons as anyone.
Then, Sadler — sporting a suit and a red and white tie — met the media to thank Osborne and Nebraskans for his time at NU.
Twice during his five minutes at the podium, Sadler stepped into the hallway in tears to compose himself. The second time, he bumped into Osborne, who offered an arm in comfort.
So much for a bitter firing. “I’ve had to do some difficult things over my lifetime,” said Osborne, 75. “I’d say this may be as difficult as any of them.”
Then Osborne, with his voice cracking, added: “Doc Sadler is a good man. He’s an honorable man. And I consider him to be a good friend.”
But Sadler no longer is Osborne’s basketball coach.
Omaha World Herald
I’m not going use Weber’s story to lament the state of job security in the game. Illinois needed to make a change, Weber got a $3.9 million buyout and he’ll have immediate options to coach at the mid-major level — potentially even at SIU, which fired Chris Lowery last week. For me, it’s a reminder of how quickly a coach’s fortunes can change. There has been much hailing of the job Frank Haith has done with Mike Anderson’s players at Missouri, and although Haith has done an amazing job, it evokes memories of what Weber pulled off in ’04-05. That was a magical season, but it was no guarantee of long-term happiness.
Weber faced criticism from some fans from virtually the moment he was hired in 2003. Some saw him as a downgrade from Bill Self, who left for Kansas. In his first season, a black-clad Weber held a mock funeral for Self after hearing the comparisons too often.
And after the championship game, his teams never again quite reached that kind of high. Many fans never gave him credit for the title game, dismissing it as a product of superior players recruited by his predecessor.
Illinois lost recruiting battles for big-name Chicago players such as Derrick Rose who helped other teams make deep NCAA runs. And one of the few top-shelf recruits who came to Champaign, McDonald's All-American Jereme Richmond, played sparingly in one season at Illinois before declaring for the 2011 NBA draft. He went undrafted and wound up in legal trouble.
The Illini also sometimes turned in bafflingly bad performances, including a 38-33 loss to Big Ten doormat Penn State, a game in 2009 that many fans still recall as a low point.
Assistant coach Jerrance Howard will take over as interim head coach. Thomas said a national search for Weber's replacement would begin immediately.
Colorado will play Arizona on Saturday at 6 p.m. ET in the Pac-12 tournament title game, a matchup that pits the school with the most Pac-12 tourney titles against the new kids. California will be in the NCAA tournament barring a huge surprise and will wait for its seeding when the field is released on Sunday.
The fourth-seeded Bearcats (24-9) will meet seventh-seeded Louisville in Saturday night's championship game at Madison Square Garden. The Cardinals beat third-seeded and 23rd-ranked Notre Dame 64-50.
To get there, they ended the 11-game winning streak of the top-seeded Orange (31-2). They did it with an incredible shooting performance over the opening 14 minutes of the game when they took a 17-point lead, and then by holding on as Syracuse was able to get within one point in the final seconds.
"It's a huge win for our program," Cronin said. "I think what you've got to realize in college basketball is you've got to allow teams the course of the season, some teams get better."
Now a program that made headlines early in the season for a brawl against intra-city rival Xavier and sunk as low as losing at home to Presbyterian, has its seventh win over a ranked team this season, the most in the country.
The Wichita Heights bid for a fourth-straight state title is alive after a 73-61 win over Blue Valley North. In the semifinal game it was Terrence Moore leading the team with 24 points.
Perry Ellis had 20 in his bid for four-in-a-row, 16 of them in the fourth, and Gavin Thurman added 13.
Conner Crooker led the Mustangs with 23 points and Scott Edwards had 18.
The Falcons appearing in the 6A title game is a familiar site, and so is the opponent after Blue Valley Northwest took out Topeka 56-44, setting up the third-straight title game between Heights and the Huskies.
Clay Custer led Northwest with 18 points with Jonny Giess adding 16 points and 9 rebounds. DJ Johnson led the Trojans with 12 points and Marcus Fillyaw had 10.
Ben Howland is probably safe for now.
The UCLA basketball team will miss the NCAA tournament this year, violating a cardinal sin among Bruin faithful for the second time in three years, and that in itself is a fireable offense, but Howland won't be fired.
Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard are the only other UCLA coaches since John Wooden to miss two NCAA tournaments in three years and neither of them lasted much longer after, but Howland isn't going to join that group.
Add in the fact that UCLA is a program under scrutiny because of a recent Sports Illustrated report that alleges Howland's coaching style and recruiting misses are responsible for a program in disarray--not to mention a team that has been absent from the national rankings in all but one week over the past three seasons--and you have a pretty compelling case that many UCLA fans wouldn't shed tears should athletic director Dan Guerrero hand Howland his walking papers.
But don't look for Howland in the unemployment line just yet.
Howland is under contract through 2015 and it would take upwards of $3 million to buy out his contract, so that alone is enough to keep him around. The well-heeled donors and high-powered boosters would have to pony up the cash and there just isn't much of an anti-Howland groundswell among the one percent.
Howland is also set to bring in a top-ranked recruiting class with Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams already signed and Shabazz Muhammad and Tony Parker considering UCLA. Should Howland go, Muhammad and Parker would definitely be lost and Anderson and Adams would almost certainly ask to be released from their letters of intent.
With UCLA set to unveil a revamped Pauley Pavilion next season, it doesn't make sense to do it with the same team that just finished fifth in the Pac-12 conference plus some recruits they scramble to get after the current class heads elsewhere. And it definitely doesn't make sense to let some coach who has never coached at UCLA re-open the hallowed ground of UCLA hoops.
Three titles weren’t enough for Miller Grove and Tony Parker, not when the 6-foot-9 center had a senior year to close out one of the best careers of a high school basketball player in Georgia history.
Parker scored 22 points and had 12 rebounds and four blocked shots Friday in a 63-57 victory over Southwest DeKalb in the Class AAAA boys final at the Gwinnett Arena.
Miller Grove became the first school since Westover of Albany in 1993 to win a fourth straight boys state championship in any class. Parker, a McDonald’s All-American, was a starter on all four.
‘’This was the most special,’’ Parker said. “This was my last high school game with six guys [seniors] that I love. We’ve graduated every class with a ring, and it was important to these seniors that they graduate with a ring. It was huge.’’
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