Kansas University basketball assistant Jerrance Howard performed a few dance moves to the beats of the Isiserettes Drill and Drum Corps as the Jayhawk coaches and players exited a luxury, black Heartland Executive bus at 5:35 p.m. Tuesday in front of the Embassy Suites hotel in downtown Des Moines.
The youths, ages 7 to 18, provided some hometown hospitality for the Jayhawks, who made the short 31⁄2-hour trip from Lawrence to the site of Thursday’s 3 p.m. NCAA South Regional opener against Austin Peay in Wells Fargo Arena.
“They are very good and very loud as well. I know our players enjoyed that a lot,” KU coach Bill Self said of the drum-and-dance performance.
“It was fine,” he added of the drive on a rainy day. “It was a three-hour bus ride. We watched a good movie, watched ‘Creed,’ so everybody got fired up.”
Self said the Jayhawks (30-4), who will hold a shootaround that is open to the public from 2:15 p.m. to 2:55 today at Wells Fargo Arena, have had two good practices since defeating West Virginia, 81-71, in the Big 12 tournament title game on Saturday in KC’s Sprint Center.
…Self said junior guard Frank Mason III, who suffered a bruised left foot in the semifinal vs. Baylor, responded well to treatment and should be ready to go against Austin Peay.
“I think he’s fine,” Self said. “He got his foot stepped on (by Taurean Prince) and got a bruise. Fortunately the X-rays were negative. We did X-rays before the game Saturday (vs. West Virginia) because we were going to hold him out if we needed to. He’s kind of like Jim Brown (NFL Hall of Famer) a little bit as a running back. He’ll take his time getting back to the huddle (shaking off injuries). He says he feels good.”
▪ Drawing fouls: Austin Peay ranks fifth nationally in free-throw rate, shooting 47 free throws for every 100 field-goal attempts. KU, meanwhile, has been right at NCAA average when it comes to putting opponents on the line.
▪ Creating steals: Austin Peay picked up its defensive intensity late in the season, leading the 12-team Ohio Valey Conference in steal percentage during league games.
▪ Interior offense: The Governors’ offensive strength is inside, as they rank 75th in percentage of shots at the rim, 90th in field-goal percentage on close shots and 104th in offensive rebounding percentage.
▪ Three-point defense: More than 40 percent of opponents’ shots against Austin Peay are threes, with foes making 36 percent of those attempts. This has to be one of the biggest concerns for the Governors, as KU has made 42 percent of its threes this season.
▪ Carelessness: Austin Peay ranks 307th in offensive turnover percentage, meaning there should be opportunities for KU guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham to create steals.
▪ Getting back: The Governors rank 295th nationally in shooting percentage against in transition while surrendering more opportunities than an average NCAA team.
…From a big-picture perspective, I typically don’t like lower-level teams’ chances against KU with Austin Peay’s profile (average offense and poor defense, especially in transition). The Jayhawks typically can limit good interior offense while carving up poor defensive teams, and it feels like that’s what will happen here.
Kansas 93, Austin Peay 64
KC Star Quick Scout
The tweet was from @LewisNicholas, posted in the second half of Kansas’ game against Kent State in December of 2014.
“Wayne Selden and Jamari Traylor hanging out,” it read, with a picture of two garbage bags next to each other.
Though the message received no retweets and only three likes, it still somehow made it all the way to the basketball players themselves.
“That was pretty funny,” Traylor said. “Me and Wayne laughed at it.”
As KU’s basketball players arrived at the Embassy Suites Des Moines Downtown on Tuesday afternoon in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. game against Austin Peay, they did so already with a lot on their minds.
Today’s high-profile athletes have added stressors as well: The social media platforms they often go on — think Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat — can be filled with fans that are quick to criticize.
“Most of the time, it’s like people who are not really credible, just people sitting at home, saying whatever,” Traylor said. “They don’t really mean too much to me. You actually don’t have to watch it.”
The challenge comes in trying to separate everything out. Most college kids use social media as a way to connect with friends. When doing that, though, it can be difficult to block out other noise as well.
“Early in my career, you’re so interested in what people are saying and whatnot,” KU forward Landen Lucas said. “You quickly learn that’s not the route to go.”
On the surface, Carlton Bragg Jr.’s first season with the Kansas men’s basketball might be deemed not very successful — from an individual perspective.
That’s far from the truth, according to Villa Angela St. Joseph coach Babe Kwasniak, who’s been in constant contact with Bragg this season.
“Carlton is a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve,” said Kwasniak. “If he was unhappy, you would know it. He loves it (at Kansas).He loves the college life. He’s very happy.”
…“I was worried about how he might handle (not play as much early on), but Carlton’s been incredible about it,” said Kwasniak, who says he fields call from NBA personnel people on a weekly basis about Bragg. “I was probably more concerned about (his minutes) than him.”
…“Coming into the (Kansas State) game, (teammates) Jamari (Traylor) and Perry (Ellis) were saying, ‘Be confident, there’s no pressure. Just let it fly, be yourself,’ “ Bragg told reporters in the postgame. “I’m more confident now. I’m more comfortable with the system. Coach (Bill Self) is putting more trust into me.” In turn, Bragg is waiting for his time and trusting Self, said Kwasniak.
“I had a long conversation with Bill Self,” said the VASJ coach. “He says Carlton’s going to be a star.”
…“The thing about Carlton is that he has this gift from God when he walks into a room, people instantly like him,” said Kwasniak.
As for the tournament, Kansas will enter as the favorite. Perhaps more than any other in recent memory, this tournament could provide plenty of surprises.
Might that include a March Madness breakout game from Bragg?
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” said Kwasniak. “He’s been on the big stage his whole life.”
“They hit a miracle shot (in the AAC Tournament) just to continue, so this could be a team of destiny,” Gillen said. “They’re dangerous. They’ve got to get by Colorado, which isn’t going to be easy — Colorado is tough and can rebound, and they’re physical.
“But if I’m the Jayhawks, I’d be scared of UConn. That is a dangerous game.”
Having said that, Gillen fully expects KU to make it out of the first weekend for the first time in three years. One silver lining when the Jayhawks make it to the second weekend, he said, is the No. 2 seed in their region, which he doesn’t feel measures up to other two seeds Michigan State, Xavier and Oklahoma.
“Villanova is a terrific team,” Gillen said, “but if I’m Kansas, I think I’d rather play Villanova than the other three.”
Part of why Gillen likes the Jayhawks’ chances so much this March is the team’s budding offense. KU is scoring 81.6 points per game, tied for the highest mark in coach Bill Self's 13 seasons in Lawrence.
And Gillen still believes there is room for growth.
“If Wayne Selden plays well, it takes them to a whole different level,” Gillen said. “They can hurt you from all different spots on the floor — the point, the wing, and then inside.”
Ultimately, Gillen has the Jayhawks making it all the way to the national championship game before falling to the Spartans in what would be their second loss of the season to coach Tom Izzo’s squad.
That is because the man Gillen believes should take home national player of the year honors plays for his eventual national champion.
Kansas senior forward Perry Ellis has been named one of five finalists for the 2016 Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award.
VOTE HERE DAILY!
The Niagara River Lions roared at the National Basketball League of Canada’s trade deadline.
The expansion franchise made maybe the biggest splash of the day by landing former University of Kansas shooting guard Travis Releford. The 6-foot-6 player started his final two seasons at Kansas and his basketball resume includes five Big 12 regular-season titles, three league tournament titles, four NCAA Sweet 16 appearances, two Elite Eight berths and one appearance in the Final Four. He sits 10th all-time in games played at Kansas.
As a pro, he has played with: Okapi Aalstar of the Ethias League, a Division 1 league in Belgium; the now-defunct Mississauga Power of the NBL Canada, where he averaged 21.5 points, six rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.3 steals in 15 games of the 2014 season; Maccabi Kiryat Gat of Israel; and, the Idaho Stampede of the 2015 NBA Development League, where he averaged 4.6 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in the 2015 season.
“He immediately comes in and he is one of the most talented players in the league,” River Lions head coach Grace Lokole said. “He gives us that dynamic player and he does a lot of things that B.J. (Monteiro) does.
“He adds a lot of things that we need.”
“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
Below are updates on ESPN’s 2016 Tournament Challenge as of 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Top title picks
1. Kansas (1-seed): 24.5%
2. Michigan State (2-seed): 22.1%
3. North Carolina (1-seed): 15.3%
4. Oklahoma (2-seed): 6.3%
5. Kentucky (4-seed): 5.2%
6. Virginia (1-seed): 4.5%
7. Oregon (1-seed): 3.4%
8. Villanova (2-seed): 2.4%
9. Duke (4-seed): 2.2%
10. West Virginia (3-seed): 1.5%
- Kansas is up about half a percent since Monday, with Michigan State holding steady. North Carolina dropped 1 percent.
- Aside from Xavier and Texas A&M, both at 1.3 percent, no other team is getting picked to win the title in more than 1 percent of brackets.
Des Moines' hottest ticket in five years isn't Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks — it's the start of the NCAA tournament, where a prime seat this weekend could cost you $1,800.
Iowans who purchased seats in advance at Wells Fargo Arena are finding they own a hot commodity. A full set of tickets for the weekend with face values of $228 and $270 are now selling for two to three times that amount.
Madison Ruhland posted on Facebook and Craigslist a pair of tickets for sale for Thursday's games, after realizing her class schedule wouldn't allow her to attend.
"Probably five people asked me about them in the first five or 10 minutes," she said.
The 19-year-old from Guthrie Center sold her upper-level corner tickets for Thursday within 30 minutes for $200 a piece, while holding on to her Saturday tickets.
…The average resale price on StubHub and SeatGeek for a full set of tickets to Thursday and Saturday games was just under $600 Tuesday, with some seats more than three times that high.
"It’s a hot ticket no matter who came here, but once the draw was done on Sunday and we found out who was coming, I think it skyrocketed," said Chris Connolly, general manager of Wells Fargo Arena.
…Now, tickets prices on the secondary market for first- and second-round play in Des Moines are outpacing those at other regional host sites. Iowa is among a number of states that have no laws or regulations regarding ticket scalping.
Analyses by ticket vendors SeatGeek, StubHub and TiqIQ all show Des Moines has the most expensive NCAA tickets for an all-session set of seats, with SeatGeek and StubHub analysts saying most of their sales are coming from within Iowa and Kansas.
…Rattner said Des Moines tickets haven't been surfacing for resale as much as at other tournament sites. Fans are holding on to their tickets, which he suspects Kansas fans snatched up early, expecting the Jayhawks to begin their tournament bid in Iowa.
"If KU hadn't been drawn into this region, I think we would probably be seeing much more movement in the market," he said.
…Even Austin Peay, a 16-seed facing the top-of-the-field Kansas, is poised to go sell through its share of tickets. The central Tennessee university of about 11,000 students instituted a waiting list early this week as it sorted through requests for tickets.
"We probably won't have anything left," said ticket manager Janet Wilson.
Connecticut officials said they were still selling tickets Tuesday.
"Obviously, with the game on a Thursday afternoon and so far away, there has not been a huge demand for tickets," said spokesman Phillip Chardis.
Des Moines Register
My advice? Just expect the unexpected. When you think everything is going to go your way, it's not going to happen your way. Coaches might tell you this and tell you that ... but probably they're not going to play you right away. It's not going to happen. You have veteran guys in front of you, who have put in extra time, who know the system, and coaches trust guys ahead of you. If you don't come ready to play and be mature about handling your situation, waiting for your time to come, it will be really hard.
My freshman year, I wanted to start. I felt like I deserved to start, but I didn't. And then, you have a lot of people in your ear, telling you, "Oh you're better than this guy. He might be ahead of you, but you're better. You're way better." But [the coaches] are not playing you because you're not ready to play. That's the truth. You have to trust in your coaches and keep working to get better and get ready to play. ... But don't listen to people, your family members, your friends ... they want what's best for you, and like that's the worst thing. You can't have family members telling you things that you want to hear. ... But the reason why the coaches don't play you is you're not ready. You have to wait for your opportunity to come and take advantage of it.
ESPN Senior Advice from Buddy Hield
The Eagles are a few years removed from their famous postseason run in 2013, they have a new coach on the sideline in Joe Dooley and there’s only one holdover in the rotation from the first No. 15 seed in history to advance to the Sweet 16. A victory in the First Four pales in comparison to those historic upsets, but Florida Gulf Coast proved once again that it can be a dangerous opponent in the postseason on Tuesday night at UD Arena by cruising 96-65 past Fairleigh Dickinson to set up a matchup with North Carolina, the No. 1 seed in the East Region.
The degree of difficulty is certainly going to go up against the Tar Heels, and Florida Gulf Coast showed a few weaknesses on the free-throw line and against full-court pressure that could be a problem against a top seed with that much firepower. If the Eagles had shot better than 59 percent from the charity stripe, which was below even their regular-season mark of 65 percent, and cut down on their 18 turnovers, an already lopsided game might have been over at halftime.
But the same strengths that overpowered the Knights could put North Carolina at least on notice on Thursday.
As Conner Frankamp slinked to the bench with just more than 10 minutes left in Wichita State’s First Four game with Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, there wasn’t one coach not waiting or wanting to get a piece of him.
The Vanderbilt player Frankamp was guarding, Riley LaChance, had just scored six quick points as a 10-point Shocker lead melted to four.
It was with urgency that WSU coach Gregg Marshall got Frankamp out of the game. And the odds were strong that the sophomore guard wouldn’t return.
Not in a game with these stakes.
But Marshall is a redeemer. It wasn’t four minutes later that Frankamp re-appeared, albeit with a freshly-chewed rear end.
Frankamp’s mistakes were so obvious that it appeared he would not find his confidence this season. His lack of confidence was one of the biggest surprises of this Shocker season.
But just then, Frankamp buried a three-pointer to give the retreating Shockers a 54-48 lead. A little more than two minutes later, he hit another three to put WSU up 60-48.
This game wasn’t all about Frankamp, but it was starting to look like there might never be a Wichita State game that was.
Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino said he had people in place to ensure that players and recruits avoided trouble, but it is one of those people who has been accused of organizing sex parties for recruits in a school dormitory.
"You have your dorm security people, who are being interviewed by the NCAA, then you have your graduate assistants," Pitino said Tuesday on ESPN's Mike & Mike. "One unfortunate one was Andre McGee, whose sole responsibility was to make sure the kids get to school on time, make sure they get up in the mornings when they have a presentation or breakfast with a head coach or family.
"And then we have another graduate assistant. So the problem we had is, we did have people in place. And the one person we did have in place, whose sole responsibility was to make sure they do the right things, and unfortunately that was Andre McGee. That was the problem there."
…Pitino was asked Tuesday how someone at McGee's level in the program could have acquired that amount of money.
"As director of operations, he was making good money," Pitino said. "As a graduate assistant, he was getting very little money. Now you hear things that they all had dollar bills handed out and those types of things. If money was paid for, for things other than a strip party, per se, then a lot of people are in some serious criminal trouble. That's something that the Commonwealth attorney and the investigators are going to handle, if money has changed hands for those types of things."
Pitino will be interviewed by the NCAA in April, a source told ESPN's Dana O'Neil last week. Saying he runs an "extremely disciplined program," Pitino said Tuesday that he can't understand why those kind of parties were thought to be necessary.
"If I could just get Andre McGee in a room for 10 minutes, I would say to him: 'Why would you do this? What purpose did it serve? We didn't need this to get recruits,'" Pitino said. "We're not Kentucky, where we're recruiting the one-and-dones. We have a different way we recruit. It didn't make any sense what was going on. How these women infiltrated our program is very disturbing to me. And how Andre McGee, I should not say how, but why did Andre McGee get tied into this? Only Andre can make those answers. Someday I want him to do that. The last text I sent to him was, 'Andre, I asked for one thing, and that's for you to be honest and tell the truth.'"
Former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves was charged Tuesday with sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman at a Mundy Township motel after a charity golf outing.
The Wayne County Prosecutor's office announced that Cleaves is charged with with unlawful imprisonment, assault with intent to commit criminal sexual penetration, second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
We have learned much about the athletic-academic scandal uncovered at UNC between 2010 and 2015. We know that the fraud involved hundreds of classes and thousands of students. Faculty and administrators in many offices were complicit in the scam. They helped athletes enroll in notoriously soft courses across multiple departments. We know that many athletes stayed eligible for competition thanks to generous grades handed out in sham classes scheduled specifically for them. But a key detail about UNC's experience with academic fraud has gone largely unnoticed -- thanks to the university's assiduous PR management and a strangely desultory NCAA investigation. The system of academic fraud cooked up around 1990 was initially intended to benefit one team in particular: the men's basketball team.
…The UNC case is of course only one symptom of a national disease. At Syracuse, officials pressured a professor to change a grade for the star center. At Florida State, players were handed answers to quizzes. At Michigan, administrators appeared to cover for an independent studies scam led by a faculty member with courtside seats. At UCLA, an advisor for the basketball team resigned in disgust when he claimed he saw a pattern of illicit grade changing. At Louisville, prostitutes and strippers were reportedly used to lure in talented high school players. Rather than call out this corruption and reassert the primacy of academic values, university presidents duck responsibility and cravenly feed the nation's basketball "addiction". Winning on the hard court, they have decided, is more important than integrity. We should all ponder the hypocrisy such leaders are modeling for today's university students -- the leaders of tomorrow -- as we await the next tip-off.
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