Against Iowa State, his first bucket didn’t come until there were 19 minutes left in regulation. Against Kansas State two days earlier, his first points didn’t come until there were eight minutes remaining in the second half. In both matches, Mason’s streak stayed alive because of his ability to get to the free-throw line late.
“I want him to stay aggressive and tonight he turned down some shots,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “He’s got to get his confidence back shooting the ball. Everybody goes through those phases where maybe they don’t feel as good shooting.”
Which is why Mason’s passing and defense seemed that much more important on Monday. After a prep career in which he was noted for being a scorer, Mason has evolved into so much more. Averaging nearly 13 points and four assists this season, he has been the only constant on a Kansas team that seemingly has a different player take over each night.
After the rematch with Iowa State, there was even more fawning over point guards. People just weren’t talking about Morris this time.
“Mason is doing an unbelievable job running the show,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “It’s a hard team to stop when they get it going like that.”
Thomas Robinson and Marcus Morris hold the longest scoring streaks of 10 or more points in the Bill Self era at 27 games.
“I wouldn’t say I keep my eye on it,” Mason, a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder, said of his scoring exploits. “I just try to do everything to help my team win.
“I’m not surprised at all. It’s a great accomplishment, but I’m just proud of my teammates and just happy we’re winning,” Mason added after collecting 12 points and eight assists against two turnovers while playing 37 minutes in Monday’s 89-76 victory over Iowa State in Allen Fieldhouse.
…Self applauded Mason’s performance on Tuesday’s “Hawk Talk” radio show.
“If you watched last night, Monté Morris ... some say he’s under consideration as a first-team All-America player,” Self said. “He has a 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio (118 assists, 26 turnovers). He’s shooting a good percentage (49.7), averages 11.1 a game (scoring) and two steals a game. He does about everything. We thought one of the biggest keys was having Frank pressure him. If you pressure him, we can go under ball screens as opposed to over if you do not pressure him. That guy (Mason) tried to do it right every time. I think sometimes when you compete and play like he does, that many minutes (33.4 per game), you do make some poor decisions. For the most part, he’s been right on point.”
Self added: “The little guy is tough as nails. I thought he played very well last night. He’s had an unbelievable year, been unbelievably consistent. He’s had a great season. As well as he’s played, I think there’s a big step he can make and play even a lot better.”
...Self said Ellis, who fell hard on his shoulder in taking a charge Monday, is “fine, just sore.”
Yeah, we all know that Wayne Selden went wild with his jump shot in this one, but the thing that impressed me just as much was his leadership. We've talked a lot about this team lacking a clear on-the-floor leader, but it seems as if Selden may be sliding more and more into that role. I saw him talking a lot to his teammates, during good times and bad, and really trying to be a guy who rallied the team when it needed someone to take charge. At one point, I saw him encourage Frank Mason before a free throw to keep attacking. A few minutes later, he immediately helped Landen Lucas shake off a questionable foul call by telling him, “That's not the worst foul, that's not the worst foul.” Sure enough, Naz Long, whom Lucas fouled, missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw trip. More of this kind of chatter on a consistent basis will make Selden and this team even more dangerous.
LJW: The Day After
The Jayhawks have a 1 ½-game lead in the Big 12 race, barreling toward another Big 12 title, and the conventional wisdom would be to assume that Self has found a way to adapt and evolve; that the Jayhawks have remade themselves as the machine rolls on, moving toward another high seed in the NCAA tournament.
Here’s the thing: It’s only partially true. The Jayhawks are not pounding the ball inside as they have in the past. They are not scoring at the rim and overwhelming opponents with size and strength. But in other ways, Kansas isn’t too far away from its template of success — a template created by some of Self’s best teams at Kansas.
Yes, the Jayhawks are more reliant on three-pointers for scoring than they have been in eight years. But stylistically, they’re still shooting about the same number of threes — percentagewise — that they have for most of Self’s tenure. In fact, even after making 10 of 21 from three-point range on Monday night, they’re only hoisting slightly more threes — again, percentagewise — than they did last season.
…The difference, to this point: Kansas is making 39.6 percent of its threes, and as a result, the Jayhawks are getting more than 27 percent of their scoring from behind the arc. Last year, just 20.5 percent of its scoring came from the outside.
How the teams were picked: We asked eight members of our college basketball team at ESPN Insider (Jay Bilas, Dan Dakich, Sean Farnham, Fran Fraschilla, John Gasaway, Jeff Goodman, Seth Greenberg and Joe Lunardi) not to make their Final Four picks, but to identify the 12 teams they would be least surprised to see reach the Final Four. A total of 21 teams were named, including two currently residing outside the Top 25. Meanwhile, six current members of the AP Top 25 were not cited by any of our Insiders as a no-surprise Final Four team.
No surprises (named on 100 percent of ballots)
Kansas Jayhawks (8 of 8)
I would not be surprised to see the Jayhawks reach the Final Four because ... "the Jayhawks are starting to come together. KU has played an extremely difficult schedule and Bill Self's team has only three losses. There may not be a bona fide star on the roster, but there is more than enough to win four games come March." -- Jeff Goodman
The Oklahoma City Thunder has signed forward Nick Collison to a multi-year contract extension.
The team made the announcement on Tuesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The 34-year-old Collison is the longest tenured member of the organization. The 6-foot-10 Collison ranks among the franchise's all-time career leaders in rebounds (3rd, 4,370 career rebounds), blocks (6th, 439 career blocks), field goal percentage (2nd, .537) and games played (2nd, 791 career games). He is averaging 3.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 15.9 minutes per game this season, and holds career averages of 6.4 points and 5.5 rebounds.
The Seattle SuperSonics drafted Collison 12th overall in 2003, several years before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.
While the local love for Markieff Morris has been burning brighter than sun in July for awhile now, the national love has started to roll in for the elder Morris. The fourth year power forward is becoming one of Grantland’s favorites as first the head honcho, one Bill Simmons, gave a glowing review to his game last week and this week Zach Lowe hopped aboard the train. There hasn’t been this much Morris love nationally since the heyday of Saved By The Bell.
Lowe, who like Simmons and pretty much every other national writer, had been skeptical of the Suns and Morris just a mere 16 months ago has dramatically changed his tune. (He said of last season "it’s going to be ugly overall.") In his Monday column he named Markieff one of the 10 things he likes in the Association right now.
Morris is developing into one of the finest all-around young big men in the game, and he has broken out already as the Suns’ best crunch-time option.
Lowe went on to point out that Markieff has the “third-best shooting percentage in the final three minutes of games.” Which he’d have already known if he just followed Suns.com’s simple Markieff Morris Crunch Time Flow Chart.
While Markieff Morris and the Suns continue to gain national acclaim, you have to wonder how long before that talk turns into potential votes for Most Improved Player for the burgeoning young big man from these same national writers.
While playing for Bill Self at KU, Withey was on four straight NCAA Tournament teams. Kansas advanced to the 2012 national title game, losing to Kentucky. In that 2012 tournament, Withey blocked 31 shots to break the NCAA Tournament record previously held by Chicago Bulls standout Joakim Noah.
Withey is far enough removed now from that 2012 season to be reflective about it.
“We hated to lose the championship game and you do get bummed, but at the same time it was a great experience,” Withey said. “Looking back we can appreciate what we did and I learned a lot from that year. If it had been a seven-game series maybe we would have won. It was definitely one of the best years of my life.”
Joining Withey on the Pelicans roster is the star from that 2012 Kentucky team, Anthony Davis. Davis is averaging 24.6 points in a starting role for New Orleans.
“I hear about that 2012 game from AD a lot,” Withey said.
Withey said he still keeps up with the fraternity of KU players in the NBA, and still watches the Jayhawks as often as possible.
“I try to watch them (the Jayhawks) as much as I can,” Withey said. “I didn’t get to see them play Iowa State because we were playing, but I keep track of scores on my phone.
“I talk to old teammates. I just talked to T-Rob (Thomas Robinson) in Portland. It’s a great fraternity of guys. It’s just fun to keep in touch with the current coaching staff at KU and with the guys I played with and others who have played there.”
“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
So much for West Virginia’s pressure defense giving Oklahoma fits.
Tuesday night at Lloyd Noble Center, it was the Sooners’ defense doling out the headaches.
No. 21 Oklahoma dominated from the outset and came away with a 71-52 win over the No. 15 Mountaineers.
Buddy Hield, the Big 12’s leading scorer, had yet another strong performance, scoring 21 on five 3-pointers to lead the Sooners (15-7, 6-4 Big 12). Hield was 5 of 6 from behind the 3-point line.
…West Virginia came into the game leading the nation in steals per game with 12.4 and turnover margin at plus-10.
That defensive intensity hurt the Sooners in the team’s first meeting — an 86-65 OU loss on Jan. 13 in Morgantown. In that game, Oklahoma turned the ball over 22 times to West Virginia’s nine and the Mountaineers turned those turnovers into 27 points.
Oklahoma managed just 12 points off nine West Virginia turnovers in that meeting.
But the Sooners built a big lead early by keeping the Mountaineers from setting up the pressure thanks to strong defense of their own and when the pressure did come, Oklahoma fought through it.
The Sooners finished with 27 points off 15 West Virginia turnovers.
The look of Oklahoma’s lineup rarely ever changes.
Inside of eight minutes in Tuesday’s eventual 71-52 win over West Virginia at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday night, though, Sooners coach Lon Kruger went with a different look.
Shortly after Ryan Spangler picked up his fourth foul, Kruger put four guards on the floor — Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, Dinjiyl Walker and Jordan Woodard.
The set worked for Oklahoma, and the Sooners stuck with it the rest of the way, using the gaurds to streak through West Virginia’s pressure defense.
The four-guard look outscored the Mountaineers 16-9 to end the game and give the Sooners their third consecutive win.
“A little more mobility, defensively (and) offensively, ball handlers,” Kruger said of the reasoning behind the switch. “They weren’t real big at that time either. It didn’t hurt us on the other end as far as matchups go. But it gave us more ball handling to match up with their quickness and not turning it over.”
About the only negative against the Sooners on Tuesday came at the free-throw line, where Oklahoma was just 11 of 22.
West Virginia didn’t even get to the free-throw line until several minutes into the second half and finished just 5 of 11 from the line.
Making matters worse, Texas must play Wednesday’s potential swing game without key reserve guard Jevan Felix, who averages starter-like minutes (26.2 per game) and 10.1 points, fourth on the team. Felix suffered a concussion in Saturday’s eye-opening 83-60 loss at Baylor and has been ruled out for the game against the Cowboys.
“You’re concerned,” Barnes said after the loss in Waco. “You’ve got to turn it around. We’re not where we want to be and where we need to be.”
And not who they need to be, Barnes also contends.
The Longhorns are big and talented and projected to have one of the best frontcourts in the country with 6-foot-8 Jonathan Holmes, 6-9 Cameron Ridley, 6-11 Myles Turner, 6-10 Prince Ibeh and 6-9 Connor Lammert all in the rotation.
Yet too often, Texas has turned away from its size and settled for 3-pointers, despite a 30.2 percentage from long range that ranks No. 8 in the conference. At Baylor, the Longhorns fired up 26 shots from beyond the arc, making but five.
“That’s not who we are,” Barnes said.
Also, so far, the Longhorns aren’t who everyone thought they’d be, namely a real threat to end Kansas’ run of 10 straight Big 12 titles. Once ranked as high as No. 6 in the AP Poll, Texas has fallen out of the rankings and to eighth place in the conference.
“We can’t keep putting it off and acting like there’s not a problem, when there is,” Holmes told reporters in Texas. “We just have to get the problem and fix it and keep competing.”
The Longhorns appear vulnerable. And the Cowboys have already beaten them, winning 69-58 in Stillwater.
The road, however, is something different for OSU. The Cowboys are 0-4 away from Gallagher-Iba Arena in the Big 12, contributing to a 4-5 league record that puts them just ahead of Texas in seventh place in the standings. And after solid showings at Iowa State and Kansas early in the conference schedule, their last two trips have returned double-digit defeats.
The road struggles are nothing new, either, with OSU just 13-42 on the road under Travis Ford.
The big difference for Iowa State this season has been Jameel McKay, a 6’9 215 transfer from Marquette who gives them their first legitimate rim protector in the Hoiberg era. The problem for Hoiberg is that Kansas has four guys like that - Jamari Traylor (6’8 220), Cliff Alexander (6’8 240), Landen Lucas (6’10 240) and Hunter Mickelson (6’10 235). Mickelson, a transfer from Arkansas, would start for most of the teams in the Big 12 and he barely get minutes for Self. Not many college programs can roll that type of size off their bench. Tarik Black built more of an NBA buzz after one season as a backup at Kansas than three seasons as a starter at Memphis.
…Kansas State has been competitive with their in-state rival for the last few years thanks to the efforts of Bob Huggins and Frank Martin, who brought a ton of out of state talent into Manhattan, particularly through a pipeline in DC that produced Michael Beasley, Jacob Pullen and Wally Judge. Bruce Weber took over when Martin decamped for South Carolina, a move that didn’t speak well for Kansas State’s commitment to the basketball program, and the fear is that Weber will oversee an unwinding similar to what happened to him when he took over from Self at Illinois.
No one is doubting Weber’s ability to coach, but he never had much success bringing in elite talent to Illinois and he doesn’t appear to be even trying to go after the type of guys that Martin got. Weber will have to find a lot more diamond in the rough three stars like Marcus Foster to have much of a chance to compete at the highest levels of the Big 12.
…Huggins recruiting has picked up since they made the move, but he will likely have to hit the transfer wire if he has any hope of beating Self. Going forward, he will need to find more guys like Jonathan Holton, a former top recruit who had several brushes with the law before winding up in Morgantown.
…Perhaps stung by the implosion of Capel’s program, OU went in the opposite direction with Lon Kruger, a basketball lifer with no real interest in “playing the game”. Kruger has turned them into a perennial Top 25 team, but he hasn’t produced an NBA player, although Buddy Hield should have a chance. If he can’t bring in more talent, there’s a ceiling on his program, at least with Bill Self a few hundred miles up the road.
…Texas is one of the only teams in the country with the size to match up with Kentucky, as they have five different 6’9+ players with a chance to play at the next level. Myles Turner, their star freshman, will be a lottery pick whenever he declares for the draft. The problem is that none of their guards can consistently stretch the floor, which has been a recurring issue for Barnes. For whatever reasons, he has never shown much of an interest in recruiting shooting, preferring to sign waves of defensive-minded athletes and assuming he will be able to figure things out on offense.
Spoiler alert - he hasn’t.
…The problem for Baylor has been Drew’s steadfast belief in the 1-3-1 match-up zone, even as he watches opposing coaches in the Big 12 slice it to death on an annual basis. It works well in the first few rounds of NCAA Tournament against teams who have never seen the Bears length and athleticism, but eventually they run into a disciplined and talented team like Wisconsin who runs them off the floor. That’s usually what happens when they play Kansas - eventually Self finds the cracks in the defense.
…As it stands now, Self starts each season with a huge advantage against the rest of his conference. You still have to give him his props for what he has done, but the basketball coach at Kansas is expected to beat a bunch of football schools just about every season. There are no other blue-blood programs in the Big 12. No Duke to his UNC. No Florida to his Kentucky. No UCLA to his Arizona. Texas is the sleeping giant, but as long as Barnes is there, it’s hard to see them ever being able to knock off Self.
Here’s the key though - just because Kansas wins the Big 12 doesn’t necessarily mean they will have a deep run in March. You can forget the statistics and even their record. For as deep as the conference is, the Jayhawks are beating up on a bunch of teams they are supposed to beat.
Kansas State and Colorado State have agreed to play a basketball game on Dec. 19 at Intrust Bank Arena.
It will be the first of two nonconference games between the teams, with the second being played at a site and date of Colorado State's choosing, according to K-State officials.
An official announcement is expected after Colorado State finalizes specifics on the return game. Tip-off time for the Wichita game will be decided by the Big 12's television partners.
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Nike Hoops Summit USA Roster announced (Asst Coach L.J. Goolsby, KC Run GMC)
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