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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Kruger, Sooners to challenge Kansas for Big 12 lead

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger speaks with Buddy Hield during a second-half break in an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Morgantown, W.Va. Oklahoma won 67-57.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger speaks with Buddy Hield during a second-half break in an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013, in Morgantown, W.Va. Oklahoma won 67-57.

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Some might consider it shocking that Kansas University and Oklahoma will be playing for first place in the Big 12 Conference today.

Lon Kruger’s second OU team (13-4 overall), which was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12 preseason basketball coaches poll after placing eighth in 2011-12, enters a 3 p.m. battle in Allen Fieldhouse with a 4-1 record in league play.

The Sooners are tied with Baylor and Kansas State and just a game behind preseason-favorite KU (17-1, 5-0), winner of eight-straight league crowns.

“Every game in conference is a battle for first place. That’s how we are taking it,” said KU senior forward Travis Releford. He scored 12 points in Tuesday’s 59-55 victory at Kansas State, which also was billed as a battle for the top spot in the league. “Oklahoma is a good team. They are very athletic. It’s going to be a tough game,” Releford added.

The Sooners — they went 15-16 overall and 5-13 in the league last season — are back on track under the direction of 60-year-old Kruger, who is trying to become the first coach in history to lead five schools (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV, Oklahoma) to the NCAA Tournament.

“Consistency ... he’s the same all the time, at least from the outside looking in,” KU coach Bill Self said, asked what makes his predecessor at Illinois so effective.

“He is cool on the bench, which I’m sure translates to practices. His players know that he cares about them and he has a great way with people. He’s not an emotional roller coaster like I can be sometimes. He’s pretty low key and stable. He’s a terrific coach,” Self added.

Silver Lake native Kruger, who has a 507-323 record in 27 seasons, also is a stellar recruiter.

“When I went to Illinois in 2000, they had only won two Big 10 titles since the 60s or early 70s — 1984 and ‘98 — and that was one of Lon’s teams,” Self said. “The guys he left behind ... he left us guys,” Self exclaimed, rattling off the names of McDonald’s All-Americans Marcus Griffin, Frank Williams, Brian Cook, Sergio McClain as well as Robert Archibald and Lucas Johnson among others.

“It was a perfectly built Big 10 type team. I never once said a negative word about inheriting that situation at all because it was all positive,” Self added. “He loved those kids and was 100 percent supportive of us.”

This year’s OU team has double-digit scorers in Romero Osby, a 6-8 senior from Meridian, Miss., who averages 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds; Steven Pledger, a 6-4 senior who averages 11.0 ppg and Amath M’Baye, a 6-9 junior who averages 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds.

“They’ve recruited well. Guys who have given us fits like Fitzgerald (Andrew, 6-8, senior, 5.6 ppg) are coming off the bench. They are more athletic, deeper and they are young and have energy and really guard,” Self said. “They are sound defensively.”

KU, which is 17-4 versus OU since the formation of the Big 12, has won 11 straight against the Sooners in Allen Fieldhouse. OU’s last victory here came as an unranked team in 1993 — an 80-77 win over the No. 6 Jayhawks. KU overall has won nine in a row in the series.

“The (No. 3-ranked) Jayhawks are very good — a top-three or four team in the country right now,” said Kruger, who is 5-12 versus KU, including 0-2 while at OU; Self is 10-3 against OU, 10-1 while at KU. “They’ve got a lot of very good players and Allen Fieldhouse is a great atmosphere. We’ll have to do things better on both ends of the floor; maintain our composure, move the ball, try to limit them to one shot each time down and do a good job taking care of it on our end.”

M’Baye, a transfer from Wyoming who hails from Bordeaux, France and was named Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year, said KU is, “a very, very, very tough team. They had many consecutive home wins (32), but I’m definitely confident in our team. It’s going to be a big test for us, but it’s also going to be a lot of fun. That’s what the Big 12 is all about. Hopefully we can pull off an upset.”

Osby, who is ranked second in league games in scoring (19.2 ppg), said: “They’re a top-three team in the country and they’re not rated there by mistake. We’ve just got to come out and play as hard as we can possibly play, take care of the ball, rebound the ball and just get some things to go in our favor.”

115 years: KU will host its 115 years of basketball celebration during the KU-TCU game on Feb. 23 in Allen. Former KU coaches, players and managers will be recognized at halftime. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the 1988 national championship, the 2012-13 Jayhawks will wear retro ‘88 uniforms and warmups. Former KU/NBA great JoJo White will autograph his book “Make It Count” before the game in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.

Following the game, there will be an invitation-only dinner for the former KU coaches, players and managers. 

No. 800 is today: Today’s game will be the 800th regular-season KU men’s basketball game contested in Allen. KU is 692-107 in the building. Self’s teams are 155-7 in Allen for a 95.7 winning percentage. The Jayhawks are 101-1 in the last 102 games. Self has won more conference titles (eight) than lost home games (seven) while at KU. KU has won 63 consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse against non-conference foes.

Coaches wear sneakers: Both coaching staffs will wear sneakers with their suits in honor of the Coaches vs. Cancer program sponsored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).

All kind of ways to win: KU sophomore Naadir Tharpe on KU scoring — and winning — in the 50s and 60s the last four games:

“We will not always score in the 70s. We’ll score in the 50s. We have to take it how the game goes,” Tharpe said. “It shows we can do it a majority of ways. We don’t have to score a lot of points every game. Points do not win the game. Defense is what everybody cares about.”

Of OU, he said: “I anticipate them coming in ready to play. I feel they will come in feeling they can win this game, which everybody comes in thinking. We can’t let them gain confidence, especially in our building. We have to come at them first.”

Jackson to China: Former KU forward Darnell Jackson has signed to play for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, sportando.net reports. Jackson had been playing for Reno in the NBA Development League.

Comments

PSM 1 year, 2 months ago

An entire article about the two records of KU and OU is obvious and dull. The Wichita Eagle had a much more worthwhile read today: http://www.kansas.com/2013/01/25/2650563/self-wants-more-transition-offense.html

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ironhead80 1 year, 2 months ago

I always rooted for some Big12 teams, when they were the Big 8, I rooted for all of them except mizzary. Lon gives OU a chance of being good but not for long because he will not be there coach three years from now.

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hawkmoon2020 1 year, 2 months ago

I am a daily reader, but a rare blogger. Thought I would chime in on a few things. First, I like to think that I and am the reason KU won the '88 and '08 championships. In '88, I sat in a hotel room, watched the game, and WILLED that team to win. Man, I'm good. Did the same from my living room couch in '88. I WILLED that team to win. Man, I am REALLY good. Of course, I know other KU faithful assisted me and the team by "willing" them to victory, so I won't take all of the credit. Hey, don't we all like to think we have some powerful "mind" effect on the game when watching even from afar? LOL

And OT, I have been trying to find some recent/current videos of our 2013 BB signees' performances this year. Seems YouTube only has old stuff. Can anyone share or guide me to some videos from our signees' current '12-'13 high school season? Any videos out there of Conner's injury?

Rock Chalk!

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Jack Wilson 1 year, 2 months ago

It is risky, though. Self said in the KC Star article that creating a few more turnovers to baskets would make it seem like the team was "flying around." Respectfully, I don't think it would.

The fewer the possessions, the easier it is for the inferior team to stay in the game. This style of play is more susceptible, too, to losing to the hot shooting team. It's hard to ramp it up on demand.

And I just think that is the paradox with coach Self. We win. We've been to two final fours, and won a title. But we can lose in situations in March that leave us scratching our heads. His scheme -- defense first, value possessions, slug it out, don't turn it over -- and saying he wants to play faster, but he really doesn't mean it -- creates the paradox. He wants to play faster, but with a significant governor on the throttle. Did I say we win?

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Jack Wilson 1 year, 2 months ago

There was an article in the KC Star today where Self referenced that you can have a good offensive team, and score less. There was a note that we are in the top 20 in offensive efficiency scoring 1.13 points per possession. Self said that the "length of the possessions and the way the game goes" can impact scoring.

Of course it can.

But if you are a very good defensive team, and you can increase possessions, that would most likely favor you. That is, if you are outscoring a team "by possession", then (theorically) the more possessions, the bigger the margin.

If you speed up offensively, your points per possession will likely decrease due to the increased risk of missed shot, turnover. Or at least that would make sense. And it would assumably work that way for the opposition.

There are four easy ways that KU can speed up the game.

-Pressure: Ichabodhawk referred to the "press" above. But as Self has said, we don't press. We pressure. And that's what Ichabodhawk means. We can apply pressure in the backcourt that can speed up the opponent. Not all the time. Perhaps every third or fourth possession.

-Break 1: When there is a made basket, the closest Jayhawk throws the ball into the closest Jayhawk. And you go down court. If EJ is near the ball, for example, he grabs it. Young may be closet, he kicks to the wing, hit Young. He can then choose to dribble or pass up court, or kick back to EJ. Very, very easy concepts. The game speeds up.

-Break 2: On a missed basket, we go. Simply pushing the ball up the court. Not letting everyone clear out. Obviously times when this can't occur, but lots when it can.

-Break 3: Secondary break. Actually have a secondary break design that we implement regularly. I'm talking about running special or specific options immediately after the primary break collapes. For this point, I mean a primary break to not only be a break vs. one defender, but also vs. 2 (such as a 3 on 2). Then, if it gets stalled, having immediate, specific options to score quickly. I don't see us doing that. We "set up" our regular offense.

That all being said, I don't really believe that Self wants to speed up the the game. I think Self sees our success coming more from banging it out in fewer possessions. That is, he thinks we can win the possession game, and win is a win. The "muddy" game as he refers to it. He plays this way because he believes it to be the best way to play. Period. Who can really argue?

(continued)

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theend 1 year, 2 months ago

Where were you???????

In April, 1988........The infamous night.......KU vs OU for the National Championship????

Me?.......In college in Wisconsin......not a KU fan in sight.......sitting in my efficiency apartment......alone........alternating between hope and anguish........elation and despair. In the end? Heaven,.

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Ichabodhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Is it just me or does coach self not like to press to start the game anymore? When we had the string of 30+ blow out games I felt like we had Young and our guards pressing the other teams guards to start the game. Speed up the game early and force turnovers to get a lead then just keep the foot on the gas from there. I understand its conference play now and we have a couple of games a week and legs might be getting a little tired but I'd like to see that press come out again to start the game. And yes I do realize Young will press some throughout the game but I would love to se the press that we put on against Colorado to beat them by 30. On top of using this press to start the game I think it brings energy to the team and I think it gets the offense flowing. It will also help this team who seems to struggle at getting steals in the half court.

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dynamitehawk 1 year, 2 months ago

Naadir,

Points do win the game.

Dynamite

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Steve Corder 1 year, 2 months ago

I played against Kruger and can attest that he's every bit the cool competitor coach as he was a player. I think he is the only B12 coach on par with Self.This most likely will be the Hawk's toughest home game.

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Tony Bandle 1 year, 2 months ago

Kansas will send the Boomer Sooner Wagon home wheel-less...KU 80-OU 65.

I do need some fellow poster advice.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I've had to tape a number of games including the last ten in a row..all KU victories that I watched later. I have seen some live victories but I did watch the Michigan State game, a loss. I have no time conflict today but should I tape the game and watch it later? It seems to be working...and frankly, it is a lot less stressful.

Your thoughts would be much appreciated..I'm willing to do anything to help the team. Remember, it's only weird if it doesn't work!!!

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mejayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

...2, 3, 4..."OOOOOOklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains..." Nuff said.

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William Blake 1 year, 2 months ago

We better have our big boy pants on today... OU is athletic and disciplined. We need to control the tempo. Make them play Hawk ball for 40 and we'll be fine. If not, it could be another ugly nail-biter.

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jaybate 1 year, 2 months ago

"Saturday, Realignment Confusion Reaches Epidemic Levels, and Lon"

• Tait's story on Realignment exposed that most board rats STILL cannot explain why so many schools make realignment choices that suboptimize football TV revenues and conference pie slice size. My hypothesis that realignment choice is conditioned first on regional political economic alliance building and only secondarily on football TV revenue optimization remains the only hypothesis that explains the frequent choice of schools to suboptimize football TV revenues and conference pie slice size. The usually reliable BigManU epitomized the confusion, when he surrendered reason and called my hypothesis a conspiracy theory. I assert a hypothesis, not a theory. And my hypothesis proposes no conspiracy whatsoever. I assert regional alliance building typical in the political economy, when ever a major regional/national infrastructure is being developed. No conspiracy whatever. Period. My hypothesis is increasingly the last hypothesis standing. It fits the facts. It keeps making reliable predictions but for a few exceptions. And I keep revising it for those cases. My hypothesis keeps getting closer to explaining things. Again, the key to it is it explains why schools keep making suboptimizing choices about football TV revenues and conference pie slice size. Next.

• Lon will be the best coaching challenge yet for Self's weirdest and most wonderful offense yet. I am referring of course to "the judo" offence aka "slide off the spots when they push and push off the spots when they pull" offense. The Judo Offence makes the most of KU's skinny men. It also makes use of this year's new continuously variable offensive/defensive transmission, where tempo keeps being altered to keep the opponent out of rhythm. But not everything is new. Unreported sickness and injuries continue. What in the world will Lon do? Being an Okie Baller par excellence, he will take what Self gives. If Self wants to vary tempo, Lon will vary it even more. This game should really be a herky jerky tempo. Slow, fast, kinda slow, squirt out, hurry, slow down. On defense, if I'm Lon, I don't push, or pull. I defend KU straight up, but force Ben to his left into some help. I also dont let my defense spread out. Keep it tight for help, and give KU the trey. On offence, I attack EJ/Dir; that is where KU is weakest and that is the link in the chain to break. Put EJ and Dir on the floor. Second I attack whoever has the flu this game. Withey had the unreported flu last game. At least one or two will this game. Attack the sick and injured.

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John Mueller 1 year, 2 months ago

Self has won more conference Championships 8, than lost home games, 7, during his tenure.

The next time anyone has the slightest criticism of Bill Self on this board, post your résumé first.

That is a level of professional success, consistency and outright excellence that is almost impossible to comprehend.

Rock Chalk

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Lifelong_Jayhawk 1 year, 2 months ago

I hate Oklahoma. Always have and always will. They are the Evil Empire, they have a long history of classless, big-talking players, and they always seem to get special treatment from the NCAA when they field good teams. And oh by the way, they have the ugliest cheerleaders in the Big 12.

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KansasComet 1 year, 2 months ago

OU is capable and extremely athletic. This is not the same OU team of the last few years. We have been tested by physical teams, three point shooting teams, and now it is time to get tested by a high flying team. The key is to keep them out of the lane. Solid Defense and rebounding in both ends of the court will win this one for us.

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Chris Bruning 1 year, 2 months ago

OU beat WVU in morgantown, boy, WV is making this addition look silly

http://www2.kusports.com/users/photos/2013/jan/26/248297/

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actorman 1 year, 2 months ago

I've always thought of Lon Kruger as a class act. A nice guy to root for -- when he's not going against KU, of course.

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