Saturday, December 15, 2012

Self, Jayhawks: There’s nothing middling about mid-major Belmont

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets a quick talk with his players during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self gets a quick talk with his players during the second half on Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Those Kansas University basketball fans who fear match-ups against mid-majors might feel jittery entering tonight’s game against one of the best of the bunch — Belmont University.

“I’m telling you, they could beat us. If Belmont played in our league, they’d have success. They would,” said KU coach Bill Self.

His Jayhawks, who have won 59 consecutive nonconference games in Allen Fieldhouse, have lost just three non-con home games in 10 seasons — to mid-majors Richmond, Nevada and Oral Roberts. They’ve suffered just four conference losses in that same span. KU lost to mid-major Davidson last season in Kansas City, VCU in 2010-11 in San Antonio and Northern Iowa in 2009-10 in Oklahoma City.

Before dismissing Self’s words of caution as “coach-speak,” take a look at a few reasons he and his (7-1) Jayhawks enter today’s 6 p.m., home game with a healthy dose of respect for the Bruins (7-2), who beat Stanford, 70-62, on Nov. 18.

  • Ranked eighth in the latest mid-major Top 25, Belmont has hit 82 of 195 three-pointers for 42.1 percent. KU conversely has made 43 of 137 threes for 31.4 percent. Senior guard Ian Clark, who played in an 81-51 loss to KU on Dec. 29, 2009, in Allen, has cashed 38 of 68 threes for an unheard-of 55.9 percent. He averages 18.9 points a game, while senior guard Kerron Johnson averages 14.2, senior forward Trevor Novak 10.9 and junior forward Blake Jenkins 10.4. “They can stretch it,” Self said of the team coached by Rick Byrd, who is in his 27th season at Belmont and ranks seventh among all active NCAA Div. I head coaches in career wins (644).

  • KU and Belmont are the only two programs in the country to win 12 or more conference games each of the last 10 seasons.

  • Belmont, formerly of the Atlantic Sun Conference, now of the Ohio Valley, has won 10 conference titles (five tourney, five regular season) since 2006, trailing only KU (12 titles) nationally over that span.

  • Only Belmont, KU and Memphis have earned five or more automatic bids to the NCAAs in the last seven years.

  • has deemed the Nashville, Tenn., school the best opponent to visit Allen this season. The Bruins are ranked No. 23 in stat analyst Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, one slot ahead of Oklahoma State and two slots ahead of Kansas State.

“This is a good RPI game for us, without question,” Self said, aware the the Bruins have gone 30-5 and 27-8 in successive seasons. “They’ve got a great coach (Rick Byrd). They’re kind of unique, in that, like a lot of schools that aren’t from BCS conferences, you can’t go out and get four big guys. So they play threes at the four and twos at the three.”

Belmont has no starter taller than 6-foot-7.

“So, that means they can stretch it from all spots and definitely create some potential match-up situations if we don’t guard them right,” Self said.

Belmont, which has defeated Stanford, Lipscomb (twice), Maryville, Alaska Anchorage, Oral Roberts and Middle Tennessee and lost to VCU and Northeastern, hit just four of 16 threes in Thursday’s 64-49 win over Middle Tennessee, which made three of 16.

“We know who they are,” KU senior Kevin Young said of the Nashville, Tenn., school with a school enrollment of 6,637. “We know they can play.”

A key for KU lately has been the Jayhawks’ full-court man-to-man pressure defense.

“I think it might be tougher (to press). They’ve got more shooters. We’ve got to get back to them as quickly as possible,” Young said.

Press or no press ... the Jayhawks must come out active, Self indicated. He was pleased with the effort in the last game — Saturday’s 90-54 home rout of Colorado.

“I think the biggest reason (KU played well) was energy level. I think the place was juiced and our guys fed off of that,” Self said. “I think they played like they were having fun. I really believe that Travis (Releford) and Kevin keyed that whole thing from an energy standpoint. They were really good.”

The energy level has not been up to par in some games, Self said.

“If you look at our personalities of our team, really Kevin (Young) is the only one that has natural energy,” Self said. “The other guys are just out there. You lose Thomas (Robinson) who had that and you lose Tyshawn (Taylor) who had that. The (Morris) twins brought that and Sherron (Collins) brought that. We just don’t have those types of personalities that we’ve had in the past that are just natural guys that basically feed other guys’ emotion or energy.”

Young is looking forward to a repeat of the Colorado game from an energy standpoint.

“It starts with me bringing a lot of energy and hopefully we’ll have the same kind of intensity from the crowd and what they brought to it,” he said.

Self hopes the fans are in a festive holiday mood.

His Jayhawks have won 26 consecutive games in Allen, the last nonconference loss to ORU way back on Nov. 15, 2006.

“Let’s be real. We’ve got 16,000 people at every game. They want to get excited. So, we’ve got to do some things to help them get excited,” Self said. “That (the Colorado game) had a conference feel to it. That was our first real game at home – so to speak, from a fan’s standpoint.”

KU, by the way, plays another scary mid-major in Richmond at 6 p.m., Tuesday, in Allen. Richmond beat KU, 69-68, on Jan. 22, 2004, in Allen.

How ‘fro can you go?: Young has been asked a lot lately about his expanding afro hair style.

“It was longer when I was at Loyola, just a little bit, though,” he said of his two years at Loyola Marymount.

How long will he let it go?

“Until coach says enough is enough,” Young said. “Hopefully not anytime soon, though. I’m still trying to catch Jeff,” the 6-8 Young said of stretching to 7-feet. “Just a couple centimeters off.”

Big man from UCLA on KU radar: Former UCLA center Josh Smith is considering transferring to KU, Georgetown or Washington, reports. Smith, a 6-10, 305-pound McDonald’s All-American from Kent, Wash., recently left UCLA’s team a few games into his junior season. Smith, who averaged 10.9 points and 9.9 points in 2010-11 and ’11-12, averaged 5.2 points and 4.2 rebounds this season in limited duty. Smith, who has had problems with his weight and would likely be interested in Andrea Hudy’s KU program, would not be able to play until second semester next season. He was the No. 23 rated player in the Class of 2010. He had 17 points and 13 boards in a 77-76 loss to KU on Dec. 2, 2010 in Allen. He had one point and one board in 13 minutes in a 72-56 loss to KU last season in Maui.


Annette Lee 1 year, 4 months ago

Belmont has a big sophomore named Lang that comes off the bench. They don't play him much and he is slow but at 275 and 6'11 he takes up space. They might use him today just to push KY and JW around.


Tom Longhofer 1 year, 4 months ago

"Belmont has no starter taller than 6-foot-7"

Gimme a break, If it were an advantage to have no starter over 6-7, Clyde, Wilt, and Danny would have never left the bench..


Steve Gantz 1 year, 4 months ago

Smith = Jeff Graves. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Graves had some weight issues as well, but was a great insurance policy in case one of our bigs went down. He filled that role admirably when Simien got hurt in 03 and nearly helped us win the NC.

Smith, and not that I've spent a lot of time thinking about him, symbolized all that was wrong with UCLA after their Final Four runs in the mid 2000's. Part of a talented group of underachievers who for what ever reason Howland let run the team to the point of playing a game in once vaunted Pauley Pavilion in front of 3000 fans like happened earlier this year.

Hopefully a couple of years of maturity means he could still be a productive member of a major team. I'm pretty sure Self wouldn't be interested had he not seen an upside for bringing him in for a season and a half.

As for today, sounds like a barrage of belmont bombs will try to barge their way into KU infamy as another Jayhawk B killer ala bucknell and bradley. Hopefully our killer B as in BMac puts to rest any thoughts of a Belmont boondoggle.


David Leathers 1 year, 4 months ago

"If Belmont played in our league, they’d have success."

Really Bill? Success against who? The last time I checked, KU has won 8 straight!


FarSideHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Off-topic, but I noticed that BMAC was a 4-star, ranked #34 in the country and #9 at his position.

He's certainly playing at a much higher level than that. Do you guys think, he was just mis-ranked or that one semester of practicing last year made him that much better. Meaning he would have been more like Perry Ellis if he had played last year. Either way, I can't imagine there were 33 players better than him in his class.


FarSideHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Agree with Jaydogger above. Hope we can wait on Randle/Wiggins/Dakari decision, before deciding on Josh.

He is a gamble at best and we have enough projects already on the roster. Need someone that can impact right away.


William Blake 1 year, 4 months ago

"Belmont has no starter taller than 6-foot-7."

Ooo-ooh... how will Jeff react?

"A key for KU lately has been the Jayhawks’ full-court man-to-man pressure defense."

And I hope we continue to use plenty of full-court pressure. We need to take advantage of our bench and wear out teams that don't have a deep bench. Plus... the intensity of a press should help them keep intensity throughout the game.

"Former UCLA center Josh Smith is considering transferring to KU..."

I'd take a hard look at Josh. He never fit into Howland's insanity, and I consider that a possible quality in Josh. This is not all about weight.... weight was the symptom to other issues.

"... recently left UCLA’s team a few games into his junior season."

So would he be classified as a senior after sitting a year? Big difference if he could play 2 yrs instead of 1 (or even 1 1/2). It will take a while to deprogram all that Howland junk.


Jay Dogger 1 year, 4 months ago

Josh Smith...wait until after April signing period. If we don't land Randle or Wiggs and no one else pops up then he may be a good get. We're low on schollies for '14 so banking a schollie is not a bad idea.


REHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

I hope to see us come out amped again for this midDecember contest, roaring to an early lead. Should be a real test, esp. for Jeff, who bears something of a negative history vs. squads of shorter opponents. I foresee a 14 pt. lead, 3 or 4 pt. win. One of the better learning experiences on our pre-conference schedule. Perry Ellis more effective today. Young continuing to master his pogo stick.


Jack Wilson 1 year, 4 months ago

Back when the Peters news came up, that was about the time Josh Smith bailed on UCLA. I mentioned the idea of pursuing him .. not endorsing it, just wondering if we would. Didn't generate any real excitement here. Personally, I like the gamble. It's his last shot to play in the NBA. I'm just not sure Landen Lucas would like it. Three centers on the roster? But that might depend on how long Smith would be here, which seems a legitimate question -- for a semester, or for a year and a half?

To cragarhawk's point above, though, my first question is "how much more eligibility does he have?" Jabari Brown for MU played two games for Oregon his freshman season and is now a redshirt sophomore after sitting out December/2011 - December/2012. That would imply that he has this half season, plus two more.

I would have expected that he had 5 seasons to play 4, and Brown would be a redshirt freshman this season. But there may be a different rule regarding transferring at mid-season when you play in the first semester like Brown did. As it relates to Smith, does he have only the last half of the 2013/14 season, or an extra season after that? He played during the first half of this season ... so would he then be a senior next season, and only have the 2nd half of the season to play?


jhox 1 year, 4 months ago

I had the pleasure of being in Fizzou Arena (or was it Paige Arena at the time;) the night Belmont knocked Missery off. One of the really great nights of my life.

I can't see them beating KU in Allen (for one thing we don't have Quinn Snyder on our bench) but it is good that we're taking them seriously.


cragarhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

I guess my question on Smith is this. Does it make sense for him to transfer here from the standpoint of years of eligibility remaining? If he is a Junior now, and would have to sit out until this time next season. Am i wrong about this? It seems like he would only get to play half a season. Can anyone clarify?


yates33333 1 year, 4 months ago

If Smith wants to come, come. We can take a gamble on his scholarship and if he doesn't work out he probably can be eased out. He does have some very good games. He undoubtedly knows of Self''s reputation. So if he comes he will play defense. I think.


Jayhawk470 1 year, 4 months ago

Kansas must take both Belmont and Richmond as seriously as it took Colorado.


mikehawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Agree up to a point about Withey having trouble and being less of a factor with smaller teams. I have been of that school most of last year and until very recently. Now, however, it appears HCBS is trying to get his guards to move up into the comfort zone of the opposing guards. He seems to be trying to use this to help guard the perimeter and the three ball knowing our guards will get beat at times with the Long Fellow back there to protect the rim. The only problem in this scheme is he has Withey follow his man out to the perimeter to hedge on ball screens, bringing him away from the basket. I still like it in that it forces tempo and this team thrives on tempo, as in fast tempo. Two high end mid majors today and Tuesday giving us great competition even though they don't have the marque names. We'll get the name brand type team on the road soon enough next Saturday. Should be interesting to see if there is any carry over in improvement from last Saturday (they looked awesome) after a week of finals and what Coach calls "a maintenance week."


Ferd Magellan 1 year, 4 months ago

Self wanted him badly out of high school, and he was a large round mound back then like he is now.

You can't ignore his scoring and rebounding ability. I think Hudy could crack that shell. As long as he isn't making any demands about playing time, I see this as a good situation for KU. I'm not at all confident that Embiid or Lucas will be ready the next two years.


Alohahawk 1 year, 4 months ago

I guess I'm in the minority on Josh Smith. Yes, he's tall and big (Spell that 'ROTUND', to be polite.). And he does have a pair of soft hands. However, he's never impressed me when it comes to his conditioning. If he were to transfer to KU, it would take at least a semester, maybe up to a year, just to get him into somewhat decent shape. But, Hudy or not, a player has to have the will to get in shape, and I've never received any sort of impression along those lines from him. He's slow on his feet and lags down the court. Spends more time on the bench than he does playing, because of his poor coinditioning. The only thing good about him would be he takes up a lot of space in the middle. Or, as REHawk mentioned above, he could create major screens for KU's guards.


Ferd Magellan 1 year, 4 months ago

Trap or go over every single ball screen. Never go under them against this Belmont team. You have to dare them to attack Withey.


kusayzone 1 year, 4 months ago

Self wont let this mid major become another "KILLER B" team....hope he showed them the tapes


nuleafjhawk 1 year, 4 months ago


The stakes are high, we need to get out of the gate early and set the pace. This is a game where we need to gallop out there and strut our stuff. Allen Fieldhouse is a fast track for us and we need to win this race. Let's show these ponies what real thoroughbreds look like.


Hawk_Star 1 year, 4 months ago

I have a feeling Withey won't be a factor in this game. History tells us that he struggles to find a role in games where he has atleast 3-4 inches on the opponent's big. Assuming we get good ball pressure from our guards/kev young, I believe Traylor and Ellis' production will determine the outcome. This feels like march like a game in March (i.e. the second round).

 As for Smith, as long as he gels with the rest of the team, I would love to have him on the roster.  If you are a big man and want to get the most out of your abilities, KU is most certainly the place, and if motivation is the only thing keeping this kid from getting playing time, then I would certainly try to attract him here.  You cannot put a price on that type of size, especially from a player that has shown the ability to really be effective when motivated.

Michael Johnson 1 year, 4 months ago

anyone remember vic mitchell? he was a big ole boy.


Scott MacWilliams 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm glad to see that the Hawks aren't taking Belmont lightly. This could be a real challenge, like Richmond was in '04. These guys are NOT going to be intimidated by playing in AFH.

Take it to them early and fast guys, and get in their grills on defense and we'll be fine.

As for Josh Smith, he could contribute some serious beef once he's in shape. He's got some pretty good skills from what I've seen, but got caught in the UCLA circus of the last few years.

Rock Chalk, Beat Belmont!!


phogphan2000 1 year, 4 months ago

Impressive stats from Belmont, don't like that they had a poor 3pter night against MTSt.

Interesting that Smith is looking at KU, if he's serious about improving his physique I'd encourage him to look to KU, if he's at all uncertain I'd say go to Georgetown even though JT3 would also probably require a pretty solid fitness regiment. The kid has talent, no doubt there, could be a huge boost to next season if he decides to head to KU and gets after it.


REHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Well, Josh, before signing on the dotted line, consider this: You might spend 12 months running the Fieldhouse steps daily...with Andrea Hudy on your back!


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