Monday, December 30, 2013

Undefeated Rockets not awed by KU

Arkansas State's Brandon Reed (3) drives past Toledo's Justin Drummond during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 at The Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark. Toledo defeated Arkansas State 78-65.

Arkansas State's Brandon Reed (3) drives past Toledo's Justin Drummond during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013 at The Convocation Center in Jonesboro, Ark. Toledo defeated Arkansas State 78-65.


Seven college basketball teams that are ranked in the Top 25 — as well as under-the-radar University of Toledo — remain undefeated as the New Year approaches.

“They will have a ton of confidence,” Kansas University coach Bill Self said of third-year coach Tod Kowalczyk’s Rockets, who carry a 12-0 record into today’s clash against the Jayhawks (8-3), set for a 7 p.m. tip in Allen Fieldhouse.

“They’ve got some good wins. They’ve won some close games (and) learned how to win close games,” Self added.

The Rockets of the Mid America Conference are 5-0 in games decided by four points or less, including a 71-67 victory over Cleveland State on Dec. 21 in Toledo. The other narrow victories are over Robert Morris (80-77), Detroit (80-78), Stony Brook (103-99) and Boston College (95-92).

“If there’s a negative to going 12-0, (I) don’t think we’re going to sneak up on anybody,” Kowalczyk told the Toledo Blade after Saturday’s 85-66 home rout of Coppin State. “We’re going to get their best shot, but you know what, I think they’re going to get our best shot, too.”

Former Raytown (Mo.) South standout guard Rian Pearson, who burned Coppin for 22 points, enters with a team-leading 16.6 scoring average and, as Self indicated, plenty of confidence.

“I want to go in there with the mind-set we can beat them,” Pearson told the Blade.

The win over Coppin tied the Rockets with Toledo’s 1940-41 team for second-best start in school history. The 1966-67 squad opened 14-0, not losing until a Feb. 4 game at Marshall.

“We believe we can play with anyone in the nation,” point guard Julius Brown told the Blade after scoring 18 points and dishing seven assists Saturday. “We’re going to go in with the mind-set we can win, which I believe all of my teammates believe we can.”

KU, which has won 67 consecutive nonconference home games, enters as a 14-point favorite. Kansas’ last nonconference home loss was to Oral Roberts, 78-71, on Nov. 15, 2006. The Jayhawks are shooting for a 10-3 out-of-conference record, with San Diego State bringing its 10-1 mark to town Sunday.

“From a record standpoint, I was hoping we could get to Christmas with less than three (losses), two or one or whatever,” Self said. “I didn’t think it’d be a realistic shot we’d run the table just because the competition is so stiff and playing games away from home.”

KU dropped a game to Villanova in the Bahamas and has also fallen at Colorado and Florida.

“If we are able to play well the next two games — both will be tough — I’d think that would be about the record we should have going into conference play,” Self said. “Have we played great? No. Have we gotten better? Yes. I wouldn’t be surprised had we lost one or two less, but I’m not surprised where we are at, at all.”

Self, who starts three freshmen (Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid), a junior (Naadir Tharpe) and a sophomore (Perry Ellis), acknowledged that “this year probably would have been a good year to play a couple more guarantee games just because we are so young.

“Our RPI ... I think we are No. 3 in the country (behind Wisconsin and UMass). Do we deserve to be there? No. It’s nice to be that high, because we played such a hard schedule. It will continue to go up, because the next two games will be two of the harder games we play.”

KU is No. 1 in strength of schedule according to

“I feel coming in and playing all those big games so early is getting us prepared for later on in the season,” Selden said. “I feel we’ll be used to the stage by the time we get there.”

Tonight’s undefeated foe boasts scoring balance. Senior guard Pearson is followed by junior guard Justin Drummond (14.8 ppg), junior guard Brown (13.3 ppg), junior forward J.D. Weatherspoon (10.9 ppg) and sophomore center Nathan Boothe (10.4 ppg).

“We’re focused on each game. We’re focused on Toledo now,” KU freshman guard Frank Mason said. “We know they are a good team. Obviously they have a great record, and they’ve been on a pretty good win streak, so we have to come ready to play.”

This marks KU’s first game since a 86-64 victory over Georgetown on Dec. 21. The players had four days off to spend time in their hometowns before returning to the practice court Thursday.

“I don’t think we needed it (break) as a team, but probably our bodies, more so,” Selden said.

Self has said Selden has not been 100 percent for all of KU’s games.

“Just bangs and bruises of the game, falling on the floor, getting hit by big guys. Nothing major, just bangs and bruises,” Selden said of his physical condition.

He said Self’s main message since the team returned from break has been: “Basically, we just have to keep moving forward. We have to keep getting better. We can’t settle where we are at now because we are nowhere near where we want to be.”

This, that: The country’s undefeated teams include unranked Toledo, plus No. 1 Arizona (13-0), No. 2 Syracuse (12-0), No. 3 Ohio State (13-0), No. 4 Wisconsin (13-0), No. 10 Wichita State (13-0), No. 12 Oregon (12-0) and No. 14 Iowa State (11-0). ... Brown ranks fifth nationally with 7.3 assists per game and has a MAC-best 2.6 assist/turnover ratio. ... The Rockets have made 61 more free throws (272) than their opponents have attempted (211). UT has a .733 free-throw mark and ranks sixth nationally at 22.7 free throws made per game. ... Toledo is tied for seventh nationally in scoring at 86.4 ppg. ... Toledo is 3-10 in its last 13 games vs. nationally-ranked foes. ... UT’s last three wins vs. ranked opponents came vs. No. 25 Miami of Ohio in 1999, No. 19 Cincinnati in 2000 and No. 14 Michigan State in 2002... The Rockets have lost their last eight games vs. ranked teams — No. 11 Louisville in 2003, No. 9 Duke in 2004, No. 12 KU in 2006, No. 11 Pitt in 2007, No. 19 Florida in 2008, No. 2 Michigan State in 2009 and No. 13 Illinois and No. 22 Temple in 2010.

Time set: The time of Sunday’s KU-San Diego State game is set for 3:30 p.m., CBS television announced Sunday. The start time was determined by CBS’ NFL Playoff schedule. San Diego State is 10-1 and ranked 20th in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls and plays at Colorado State on Wednesday.

Cliff a ‘stud’: KU signee Cliff Alexander, who was named MVP of last week’s Pontiac (Ill.) Tournament, was asked by what Self said to him after Saturday’s semifinal game, which Self attended.

“He told me I’m a stud and can’t wait to have me in a KU uniform next year,” Alexander, 6-foot-9 from Chicago Curie, said.


Ian Emerson 5 years, 10 months ago

Good god Cliff is going to be an absolute animal next year.

Lance Cheney 5 years, 10 months ago

That's what we said about Wiggins last year. I think we should know by now, between our football team and this year's freshman class, to temper our expectations.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 10 months ago

Very good point and examples about the need to temper our expectations. Taking temperance into consideration, Ian's comments should be amended to something like......"Cliff is going to be an absolute super beastly man-eating marauding animal next year."

Jeremy Wilhelm 5 years, 10 months ago

Just curious; what is Wiggins not doing that you expected him to be doing? I'd call averaging 15.5 pretty monstrous especially considering he hasn't played as much as we might have expected out of him due mostly to foul trouble.

Evan Bilyeu 5 years, 10 months ago

Kansas has had LOTS of great freshman; Wiggins is exactly what I thought he would be like and he is still accomplishing a lot. Stop trying to act like he is a bust and a terrible player. He just needs to play his role.

Lance Cheney 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm not saying he is a terrible player, he's still a good player, but is he really living up to the (unwarranted and unfair) hype? Is he really doing what everybody expected him to at this point? I can guarantee nobody expected him to be as quiet as he has been. When he signed last year, he was the next LeBron James, the best HS recruit since LeBron, he was going to dominate the college game, and ultimately carry us to a national championship. Is he honestly dominating the college game right now? Take off the crimson and blue colored glasses for a minute. This is going to upset some people, but look at it objectively. I still think he's a great player and his best ball is yet to come, but we (and the media) set the bar too high for him before he even got here.

Nathan Scholl 5 years, 10 months ago

You guys are so funny. We don't win every game and it's a letdown. Enjoy the ride for goodness sake. Cliff IS a stud and so is Wiggins. They all just have to learn to play TEAM BALL. It takes a while. They are used to destroying opponents in high school. It a learning process. Half of the "phenoms" in the NBA still don't get it, that's why the game is suffering. Self does it the right way. Trust him. All these teams that are undefeated are peaking NOW. KU will peak in March.

Walter Bridges 5 years, 10 months ago

Maybe..but Wiggins hasn't even played his first conference game yet. A little too soon to say Wiggins didn't live up to expectations. And what about Joel Embiid who has passed all expectations and could be the #1 pick in next years draft lottery?

Kent Richardson 5 years, 10 months ago

Would like to see a solid first half no lapses in scoring. Toledo shoots six or seven more FT than their opponents so we will see if our guard play has picked up. Another wish is some respectable 3 pt shooting. Now is the time Mr. Wiggins, please? Selden a triple double.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 10 months ago

We will get a peak tonight at how our team looks after the first real extended period (4 days) of defensive preparations. Guarding the perimeter has been a major problem for us and will be key for this game...and all the Big 12 games as well.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 10 months ago

Look for Wiggins to dominate Rian, and our bigs to dominate the paint. They are also really thin in the front court. We should win going away, and teach the rockets what major competition looks like. It should also help that they have some of the worst 3pt D in the nation, but we'll pound the paint regardless.

Suzi Marshall 5 years, 10 months ago

It's the D from the guards that worry me. Selden should be a lockdown defender but Tharpe and Mason have never shown an ability to guard anything.

Offensively, I'm looking for a big breakout night from AWIII. Tonight will be his chance to lock down a rotation spot.

Greg Lux 5 years, 10 months ago

In watching Cliffs game the other night I noticed he was truly a man among boys. You had no problem seeing him on the court. He was almost half again as tall and twice as big as any other player. Next year he will hopefully be a man among men. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to playing against players as big and taller then him. I personally think he will do great. And I welcome him to the Jayhawk family ( the finest of the finest ). Welcome Cliff

Rock Chalk

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 10 months ago

based on what I saw of his announcement for KU he seems like a very quiet and soft-spoken young man. More than happy to let his game do the talking, and not very comfortable in the limelight.

He reminds me of the Teddy Roosevelt quote, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." I think that he should go by the nickname Teddy. He's gonna be a bear next year for the opposing frontcourts in the Big 12.

Phil Leister 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm not sure what led you to your conclusion about Cliff not liking the limelight. He had a hat ceremony and punked Illini fans on national TV before picking our hat. I'd say he's pretty comfortable having people's attention.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm chalking the hat ceremony and illini fake as peer pressure. He even said that his buddies wanted him to do the hate fake because "it'd be funny". And you know that when ESPN set up of the announcement ceremony they surely make some suggestions of what he can do to make it better for television. The hat ceremony was definitely not something new that Cliff dreamed up on his own for a little extra attention.

He seemed very uncomfortable in front of the camera and speaking into a microphone.

Dirk Medema 5 years, 10 months ago

There won't be many if any bigger & taller than Cliff. There will only be a few taller than him. There is plenty to learn regarding help D, and presenting yourself for an entry pass against good D's, but he'll be strong around the basket with R's and cutbacks regardless.

Tony Bandle 5 years, 10 months ago


1] I got to see some clips of Kelly Oubre recently....if he is ranked at #12, I'd sure like to see the four or five guys ranked ahead of him. THIS KID CAN PLAY!!

2] KU currently has the 5th-ranked recruiting class for 2014 with only two players!!! If/when Mr. Turner and one of the shooting guards commit along with Cliff and Kelly, we'll be Top Three again.

3] Damn, that Bill Self can't recruit worth a darn!!

4] Tonight the Rockets crash and burn...KU 78 - Toledo 63. [I wonder if Max Klinger will be there?]

5] Good luck and best wishes to the Chiefs and you great Chiefs fans..taking the Chargers to overtime, on the road, while resting your ten best players...not too shabby!!!

Kent Richardson 5 years, 10 months ago

2 is a little odd in itself. Cliff-Baby must be a monster. John Wooden always said the most dominating or seperated HS player he ever saw was Oscar Robertson. One of the best nicknames also. No idea why this is so big.

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 10 months ago

if you lead a paragraph with a # sign or a number it uses large bold font.

see what I mean (lead with the # sign)

Jonathan Allison 5 years, 10 months ago

How is tonight's game not nationally televised? Ridiculous.

I guess that I'll have to suck it up and watch online tonight.

I've had a hard time warming up to the new team this year. My job has been very demanding and our first boy being 15 months old now, I just haven't connected to KU Hoops like I usually do. I'm ready to go now though. I think this team is turning a corner.

It seems like lockerroom chemistry is pretty good and talent-wise we may have the #1 and #2 overall draft picks along with several other future draft picks on the team. It's just a matter of putting it together on the floor, which hopefully two-a-day practice sessions will help. Point guard play is the key, and I think we've got the right pieces in place, they just need to play with confidence and poise. Hopefully with AWIII healthy and with Greene and Frankamp re-juvenated we'll find a reliable sniper off the bench to take some of the pressure off the top 5. Also, it would be huge to get some reliable bench play out of Tarik going forward. The pieces are all there.

Lance Cheney 5 years, 10 months ago

Anybody got any links to watch the game on the internet? And not ESPN3; I can't access that.

Aaron Paisley 5 years, 10 months ago

TV schedules for college basketball are set before the season starts, not 2 weeks out like college football. I remember during the 2009-10 season that the KU - KSU game at AFH wasn't a national game despite both teams being in the top 5 at the time.

Steve Kubler 5 years, 10 months ago

Lovely ESPN blacked it out, so now have to play games again to watch. It's a wonder I pay for cable at all!

Tim Deegan 5 years, 10 months ago

Well the undefeated Rockets (now defeated) may not be awed, but they definitely got spanked tonight!

I had to go to four different bars here in St. Louis to find the game be being broadcast but was finally rewarded with a nice 20+ point game by Tharpe, Ellis and Wiggins - each of which looked comfortable and in control out there. Reassuring to see good passing too.

Solid AFH win helped get the taste of those three losses out of my mouth. This is still a really green team, but I sure would like to see everything gel in March and have this team tear it up all the way in the big dance. The potential to do so is sooo there... looking forward to some great jayhawk ball in 2014!

Tim Deegan 5 years, 10 months ago

I didn't know about those...thanks for the link Jonathan!

Steve Brown 5 years, 10 months ago

Lighthawk memories: Blacked out so watched a Netflix. Tried to listen just got mad that TW conspired with KUAD to black us out and no I will never switch cable companies, that only rewards kidnapping, then next year it will be 12 games. This is first year since Owens era wife and I haven't attended or watched or tape delay, hard to think KU would conspire to take away loyal fan base, no matter the bribe amount. If I can be disenfranchised then you can be next year. Worse for my 85 year old dad who lives for Royals game and KU Ball, he lives out in the state and was blacked out also. Trade Snowden for Zenger in Siberia.

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