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Big 12 Conference

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jayhawks aim to clinch 10th straight Big 12 title tonight

The Kansas University men's basketball team can clinch a share of its 10th straight Big 12 Conference regular season title with a victory against Oklahoma, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, at Allen Fieldhouse.

The Kansas University men's basketball team can clinch a share of its 10th straight Big 12 Conference regular season title with a victory against Oklahoma, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Kansas University junior point guard Naadir Tharpe remembers the excitement and enthusiasm, the utter frenzy in Allen Fieldhouse the last time the Jayhawks wrapped up at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season basketball championship at home.

“It happened my freshman year when we beat Missouri. That was the game that clinched it,” Tharpe said of an 87-86 overtime win over the Tigers on Feb. 25, 2012 — a game that gave KU a piece of its eighth-straight league title with two games left on the schedule.

“It’s my third year here. To be able to clinch at home, that would be good for the fans, good for Kansas, good for the players and most importantly, coach,” he added of Bill Self, who has directed KU to nine straight league titles heading into today’s home game against Oklahoma.

KU (21-6, 12-2) enters the 8 p.m. Big Monday battle three games up on Oklahoma (20-7, 9-5), Texas and Iowa State with four to play. So a win tonight would assure at least a share of a 10th-straight crown with three games to spare.

“It feels good,” Tharpe said. “It’s my third year, and in my third year being able to be the head guy and get 10 straight, you know ... it’s big time,” he said.

UNLV (1983-92, Big West) and UConn (1951-60, Yankee) have won 10 consecutive conference titles throughout history. Gonzaga won 11 straight West Coast Conference crowns from 2001-11. UCLA won 13 in a row in the Pac-8 and Pac-10 from 1967 to ‘79.

“I don’t think I need to fire them up at all,” Tharpe said of his teammates, who are flying high after Saturday’s 85-54 rout of Texas in Allen Fieldhouse. “I think they are just as excited as I am. It’s all a matter of what we do on Monday. OU is a good team.”

KU has won 13 of the 17 Big 12 regular-season titles (includes ties with Kansas State last year; Texas in 2007-08 and 05-06; Oklahoma in 2004-05). KU’s 56 conference titles are the most in NCAA Div. I. Kentucky is second with 51 and Penn third at 37.

“That was our first goal to start the year off, win our 10th straight Big 12 championship. That is still the goal,” said freshman guard Frank Mason, who scored 14 points in 18 minutes against the Longhorns on Saturday. “Right now we’re taking it one at a time so we can reach that goal.”

Last year, KU shared the title with Kansas State after losing its league finale at Baylor.

“We’ve been fortunate here the last several years ... not every day you can clinch at least a piece of the championship at home,” Self said. “I think our guys will put forth the concentration to give us the best chance to do that. We will not take it for granted. It won’t be easy. OU will spread you and drive you. It’s what we have the hardest time guarding.”

Coach Lon Kruger’s Sooners have a 4-3 record in Big 12 road games this year, second in the league to KU’s 5-2 mark. The Sooners rank second to Iowa State in scoring offense (82.8 ppg), but are last in scoring defense (76.8). KU is fourth in scoring offense (79.7) and fourth in defense (69.1). In league-only games, KU is first in scoring offense (81.5 ppg) and OU third (78.6). The Jayhawks are tied for second in scoring defense (69.9); OU is tied for seventh (75.9).

“The way Oklahoma plays I think is a great way to play on the road,” Self said. “There’s a lot of isolation, going one on one. If a couple guys are having good nights ... Lon is so good at moving guys around and getting guys the ball with an unused dribble in certain areas.”

KU won the first meeting, 90-83, on Jan. 8 in Norman. OU’s Cameron Clark led all scorers with 32 points, while Buddy Hield had 18. KU was led by Wayne Selden, who scored 24 points. Perry Ellis had 22 and Tharpe 17.

“We were fortunate the first time we played. We played well,” Self said. “They also missed some shots (OU was 6-of-19 from three). We’ve got to do a good job defending the three and guarding the ball.”

OU, which has the league’s top rebounder in Ryan Spangler (9.6 rpg), downed K-State, 86-73, on Saturday in Norman, for its third win in four games. OU led, 41-22, at halftime.

“They are coming off a big win,” KU senior center Tarik Black said. “They beat a team that beat us (KSU). I watched the beginning of that game. They were shooting well. We better be ready because this team (OU) is dangerous.”

Of course, so is a KU team that is trying to assure a 10th straight league title with a starting lineup of three freshmen, one sophomore and one junior.

“This is as good as our league has ever been and we’re up three games,” Self said. “Our young guys have done a good job staying up in the moment and playing game to game.

“When we play well we can play with anybody, without question,” Self added. “When we are hitting on all cylinders I think we can play with anybody. We are not consistently doing it enough.”

This KU team has an intangible that could take it a long way, notes senior Black.

“There’s no animosity in the locker room,” Black said. “Everybody loves each other and wants to see each other shine. One through five, we want to see each other perform at the highest level. We want to win together. I’ve not heard of too many teams winning that don’t have good chemistry. You have to have a bond, at least a situation where everybody wants to win. We have a situation we actually like each other and want to win.”

Lyle coming to town: JaQuan Lyle, a 6-5 senior shooting guard from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep, will attend today’s KU-OU game as part of an official recruiting visit. The country’s No. 22-rated player attended Oklahoma State’s 84-62 victory over Texas Tech on Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. He’s already visited Oregon and is set to visit Memphis on March 7.

“If I’m not sold on one of those schools I will take another visit to Providence or Georgetown,” he told Zagsblog.com. He’s good buddies with KU signee Cliff Alexander.

Lyle, who turns 18 today, told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch he plans to make a decision over spring break, March 15-23.

This, that: KU has won nine league titles in a row. Belmont (Atlantic Sun/Ohio Valley East) and Murray State (Ohio Valley West) are next at four in a row ... KU leads the series, 140-65. KU has won 11 of the last 12 meetings. ... KU is 43-7 vs. OU in Allen and has won 12 in a row over OU at home ... Self is 12-4 all-time against Oklahoma, including 12-2 while at KU. Kruger is 6-14 versus Kansas, 1-4 while at OU.

Comments

RJ King 6 months, 1 week ago

Coming off a good performance leaves me chomping at the bit for an encore.

On another note, not sure how Lyle could decide on KU during Spring Break before any declarations for the draft have surfaced. At that point we would not know how many, if any scholarships have opened up.

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John White 6 months, 1 week ago

I would say it is a pretty safe bet to assume both Wiggins and Embiid will leave for the draft. That having been said, I don't know how it works with regards to the number of scholarships before that is official. Does he have an official offer from KU yet?

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Michael Pannacciulli 6 months, 1 week ago

Hard to imagine Lyle or any young recruit not being sold on KU. I hope he finds what he is looking for at KU! Is Cliff going to be there also? It would be good if they invited him - he's our lead recruiter!

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Mark Lindrud 6 months, 1 week ago

As I am sure it is easy to be sold on KU, remember we are out of scholarships so someone has to leave. He would be a great addition, but we have the numbers issue at the moment. So, unless Joel leaves early or someone transfers then the point maybe mute. Since this kid is coming to visit there must be talk of someone leaving, but the question then comes to who is gone.

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John White 6 months, 1 week ago

When you say we are out of scholarships, does that include Wiggins leaving?

Even if it does, it seems very likely that Embiid will leave too, but it certainly is too early to say for sure. Does this kid have an official scholarship offer yet?

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Elias Dunlavy 6 months, 1 week ago

Thought Jaquan Lyle was more of a PG. shot is a little inconsistent. There will be a huge log jam at the 2 with Selden Frankamp Greene and White. Its my belief that after Tharpe graduates Frankamp and Mason will share point guard duties

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Jonathan Allison 6 months, 1 week ago

BayHawk,

I thought the same thing about Lyle committing before the season is over. It makes me suspect that he's not leaning toward KU.

A lot of fans have gotten really high on Lyle the past week or two following some weak performances from Tharpe, but I've never really been able to picture KU landing Lyle. Mostly because if I were in Bill Self's shoes then I'm only interested in Lyle if we are losing Selden. I haven't followed Lyle's recruiting or seen him play, but what little I've read about him has left me with question marks about how he'll fit in with Coach Self and how he may affect the locker room.

I understand how some fans can say Tharpe can't get it done defensively, and Mason at best needs some more time to develop a complete game, but both of them are still developing players. Sure they may not grow any taller, and their arms may not grow any longer, but they should still both be able to make a step change improvement for next year. I haven't heard anywhere that Lyle is ready to come in and be an immediate impact at PG and on defense. So if he comes to KU he may not help next year anyway. I like a senior Tharpe and a seasoned soph in Mason to get the job done.

Plus, I'm still holding out hope that AWIII can stick it out and emerge as an impact performer as an upperclassman.

That said, the one way that we may know whether or not we have a scholly available for Lyle is if Self knows that White intends to leave.

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Mark Lindrud 6 months, 1 week ago

All the talk seems to be about White leaving. If that is the case I wish him well because I see potential in him and he seems like a guy with really good character. If he does stay then I hope he gets minutes next year.

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Titus Canby 6 months, 1 week ago

I think it will tough for our players to be up for the game tonight. I know a lot is on the line, but after Saturday's win, it seems like it might be hard to be at the same emotional and energy level. I just hope they don't think they can coast to victory.

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Jonathan Andrews 6 months, 1 week ago

I am very excited about Lyle, and have been looking forward to us getting him in for a visit for a while now! He may not have the motor or the maturity (yet) that Self idealizes for his guards, but he would rachet up the perimeter defense, and we can always use his playmaking. He's not a pure PG or SG, but HCBS has gone with 2-PG sets in the past. I wouldn't expect JaQuan to start his freshman season (I'm projecting Tharpe-White-Oubre-Ellis-Alexander), but he'd get plenty of run in our 2nd unit.

Let's start with the schollie situation: JaQuan already has an spot, whenever he wants to commit. Assuming Wiggins and Embiid (let's be real) declare for the draft, that gives us 3 available. Alexander and Oubre have taken two, Lyle can slide right in to the 3rd slot. I don't have as strong of a feeling that we would land Turner anymore. But if he DID commit, he's waiting until the late signing period, when the early entrants t the NBA draft would have already declared.

It's a numbers game, and Self is right on top of it. We are far closer to losing 6 guys (Selden, Ellis, and I'm curious about Mickelson's situation) than we are 3, IMO. Regardless, Lyle would be a big-time, under-the-radar get. Let's hope he enjoys a spirited effort, on our way to a big win and the 10TH STRAIGHT BIG 12 TITLE!!!

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Ron Prichard 6 months, 1 week ago

I disagree with you on two points. First, I think Greene or Frankamp start over White unless there is a seismic shift over the summer. I base that on nothing but playing time this year. Plus, both Greene and Frankamp have made plays when needed. We can't say the same for White.

Second, I wouldn't assume Embiid is gone. But, for the sake of this argument, let's say he is. If I'm not mistaken, Turner has basically said that if Embiid stays, Self told him to look elsewhere. Wouldn't that imply that if Embiid leaves.....? I'm pretty sure that is one of the reasons he is waiting to sign. Otherwise, why wait? His other top schools (Ariz & Duke) are pretty solid on who will be back and who won't. There wouldn't be any reason to wait unless KU is a serious interest.

There may in fact be a third scholarship spot, but I think there is a right of first refusal attached to it already. Personally, I hope Embiid stays, but if he doesn't, I think we have a good shot at Turner.

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Jeff Kilgore 6 months, 1 week ago

If Embiid isn't gone, then everything I know about human nature is turned upside down. Here's to upside down, but GMs aren't going to pass on him because they'd lose their jobs to do so.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 1 week ago

The physical toll of just a 30 - 40 game D1 schedule has Jo all beat up. That vs. the thought of 80 games against men leads me to believe that Jo will decide on another year of training in the best BB atmosphere on the planet.

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Jonathan Allison 6 months, 1 week ago

Bold prediction: KU wins out through the Big 12 Tourney and riding a 10 game win streak, lands a #1 seed in the NCAAs.

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Tony Bandle 6 months, 1 week ago

"I'll have what [he's] having". Meg Ryan, Harry Met Sally.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 1 week ago

Actually the line from the lady at the table next to Harry & Sally.

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Ron Prichard 6 months, 1 week ago

With KU up to #5 and having the best SOS by far, I don't think getting a #1 seed is too much of a stretch. Winning out might be, but we definitely are starting to play like it is possible. If Wichita State slips up and loses even once, they have no chance at a #1. As it is, they still might not get one.

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Joe Joseph 6 months, 1 week ago

This game's going to be tough. I always think KU is going to lose to help guard against the massive disappointment of losing. This game... I gotta bad feeling.

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Bryce Landon 6 months, 1 week ago

It's okay, Stupid Michael. If it helps make the thrill of victory more intense than the agony of defeat for you, then keep up the fear. :)

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Bryce Landon 6 months, 1 week ago

If Kansas wins today, it will be 10 in a row (albeit with four of them being co-titles) and, going back to the Roy Williams era, 12 of the last 13. To call that dominance would be an understatement.

On the other side, an OU loss eliminates them from a shot at the league title. Mathematically, they could do no better than 12-6 while KU could do no worse than 13-5.

And if ISU and UT crap their pants at home against WVU and BU, respectively, on Wednesday night, KU wins this year's title outright.

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Mark Lindrud 6 months, 1 week ago

We could just win the next four games and not worry about anyone else winning or losing.Then the rest of them can crap as they please.

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Ethan Berger 6 months, 1 week ago

Correct me if I'm wrong but every time we shared the title, didn't we go on to win the conf tourney? In my eyes that is the tie breaker and we won.

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Bryce Landon 6 months, 1 week ago

2005 - Kansas shared the title with Oklahoma and lost to Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinals.

2006 and 2008 - Kansas shared the title with Texas and beat Texas in the Big 12 finals.

2013 - Kansas shared the title with Kansas State and beat Kansas State in the Big 12 finals.

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Kent Richardson 6 months, 1 week ago

“When we play well we can play with anybody, without question,” Self added. “When we are hitting on all cylinders I think we can play with anybody. We are not consistently doing it enough.”

Never know what to expect from these guys. I would be nice to see a dominant "steak" to gain enough confidence to believe it.

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Steve Corder 6 months, 1 week ago

As long as the players don't read our posts and this article, with banner headline, then we'll be okay tonight.

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Tony Bandle 6 months, 1 week ago

OAKVILLE ODDITES AND OBSERVATIONS FROM SATURDAY:

1] Rick Barnes had this look in pregame warm-ups.." how do we finish second so we don't play these guys until the finals of the Big 12 Tourney??" That game was over before it started.

2] The Texas " brunt orange" uniforms remind me of Gerber's Baby Food Mashed Carrots.

3] As coincidence would have it, the player pictured on my ticket was none other than Tarik Black....maybe we should just start printing Perry's picture on tickets for the rest of the year.

4] I thought nothing would top Jo Jo's "freight train" fast break dunk until Tarik took off from about McCollum Hall and skied and slammed. Check out the replay of the KU Bench's reaction-Naadir does a terrific "robot" spin dance!!

5] Maybe my eyes deceived me, but I swear the Lyle family was seated behind the bench for this game. Whomever it was, the dad spent the whole night recording every KU team timeout huddle to get a good idea what his son may be in for.

6] If JaQuan would commit, it would kind of nice having a point guard taller the equipment manager, although, honestly, despite his woeful night of shooting, Naadir as well as Frank played pretty strong.

7] What we fans haven't truly realized yet, but the thing we are all going to ultimately miss when Andrew is gone, is not the dunks, not the bombs, but the "lockdown defender' he has become.

8] Because of Lonnie, Oklahoma may indeed be the second best team in the Big 12 although ISU is also outstanding. Those two first road victories at Ames and Norman look to be the keys to KU ready to claim this 10th conference title.

9] Dick Vitale continues to blabber claiming Duke's parker is the best freshman in America....I thought you had to play defense as well as offense to be the best. When Duke is on defense, Parker stands around posing for holy pictures until he can get the ball again.

10] Cliff Alexander's Curie team beat Okafor's Whitney Young team Friday for the Chicago Public League Championship...in four overtimes [no shot clock, so everybody stands around and tries to hit a buzzer beater]....Cliff score 20 points while being triple teamed all night!! He may still end up the #1 player in the Class of 2014!

11] I thought I was the good luck charm..since 1998, every game my wife has attended with me [about 15] KU has won easily..the rare game I have attended alone, they have lost. I have been hunbled!!

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Ron Prichard 6 months, 1 week ago

Note (It sounds so much nicer than "Command") to Oakville: Get your wife tickets to all of KU's NCAA tourney games. Including the Final Four!

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Robert Brock 6 months, 1 week ago

I hope that Perry Ellis will do something tonight.

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Adam Tyler 6 months, 1 week ago

I honestly dont want Lyle.

Id rather hold out for Turner (or pray that Embiid comes back for another year).

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Rob Bedford III 6 months, 1 week ago

I would prefer Turner over Lyle. Turner recently added Duke as an official visit and I certainly do not want Turner teaming up with Okafor. I am not sold on Alexander... he seems very limited.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 1 week ago

Alexander has TONS to learn about how to play basketball, but he is anything but limited. Raw yes, and playing in a program that has no clue how to utilize his ability, but definitely not limited.

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Jack Wilson 6 months, 1 week ago

I would be very content if we went to battle next season with Tharpe, Mason, Greene, Frankamp and Oubre as our perimeter players. We have excellent ballhandling in that group, and excellent shooting.

If Selden stays, it's even better. If White stays, then great to have more competition.

My point is that I don't see a freshman ... Lyle ... beating out anyone next season. We can speculate on the guy's talent level, but he's not even a top 20 guy.

However, if Lyle is content to come in and potentially not play a lot, then clearly there is no problem with signing him. But the reason he decommitted from Louisville, in his own words, was concern for playing time. If that's changed, then sure, let's get him.

We can romanticize some of these kids, but with Lyle, there is zero evidence that he's better than any perimeter player we already have for 2014-15. What I mean is don't expect him to be a significant contributor if he signs. It would be an upset if he were.

As we sit here now in late February, we need nothing. Self bagged two top guys. It's a nice position to be in.

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Suzi Marshall 6 months, 1 week ago

I'd like to see us get a big PG in our system. Even better if he can play D. I've heard conflicting comments about Lyle and his D. Some say he's a great kid and plays great on both sides of the court. Other reports are not as glowing.

I'm hoping Turner is the top target should Embiid leave. Turner is a great kid that would do exceptionally well in the Kansas program.

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Beau Woolsey 6 months, 1 week ago

A Tharpe, Oubre, Ellis, Alexander, Turner lineup would be the best in the country and it wouldn't be close. Alexander is the strongest high school player in the country and he throws it down like STAT used to. Lyle reminds me of Mason in that I was kinda disappointed to get him but turned out to be fantastic. No matter what happens KU is stacked the next few years

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Bryce Landon 6 months, 1 week ago

You say that as if Wayne Selden is leaving too.

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Jeff Kilgore 6 months, 1 week ago

Not even close is a fantastic overstatement. We would be among the best again but not all on our own.

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