Monday, December 28, 2015

Rest of Big 12: Eleven is enough

Iowa State’s Georges Niang (31) drives against Cincinnati’s Coreontae DeBerry (22) during the Cyclones’ 81-79 victory over the Bearcats Tuesday, Dec. 22 in Cincinnati. Niang and the Cyclones are among the challengers to Kansas’ streak of 11-straight Big 12 regular season titles.

Iowa State’s Georges Niang (31) drives against Cincinnati’s Coreontae DeBerry (22) during the Cyclones’ 81-79 victory over the Bearcats Tuesday, Dec. 22 in Cincinnati. Niang and the Cyclones are among the challengers to Kansas’ streak of 11-straight Big 12 regular season titles.


With conference play tipping off Saturday, the rest of the Big 12 once again will be reminded of its recurring nightmare: seeing Kansas University finish atop the men’s basketball standings year after year.

Under coach Bill Self’s guidance, the Jayhawks begin their league schedule Saturday versus Baylor (3 p.m., CBS), with the goal of winning enough games in the next two months to grab at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title for the 12th season in a row.

The longer a player is around the Big 12, the more burdensome the task of toppling Kansas must seem. So just how agitated do opponents get, seeing KU repeatedly repeat?

“I don’t get tired of it,” Baylor senior forward Rico Gathers said before the season began, at Big 12 Media Day. “I get annoyed. I look at it like this: if we would’ve won during the regular season (last year), then we would be seeing somebody else different up there. It’s really just about taking care of business when you’ve got the chance to take care of business.”

Both Iowa State and Oklahoma finished a game behind KU (13-5) in 2014-15, while Baylor was two games back of KU. The Jayhawks escaped Waco, Texas, with a one-point victory to open conference play in 2015, then handled the Bears at Allen Fieldhouse to complete the regular-season sweep. Kansas split with both ISU and OU, winning at home against both the Sooners and Cyclones in the regular season (Iowa State prevailed, 70-66, in the 2015 Big 12 Tournament championship game).

As conference games get started this week, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 11 Iowa State, No. 19 West Virginia and No. 23 Baylor all hope to do their part in ending KU’s run of Big 12 crowns at 11 in a row.

Cyclones senior forward Georges Niang didn’t want to give the Jayhawks “any bulletin board material” when asked if he grew tired of KU’s annual conference dominance.

“They deserve it, they work hard, but obviously you want to be that team to knock them off,” Niang said. “Other than that, I mean, I don’t like thinking about it. I don’t want to see it happen again, so this year we’re looking to make a change.”

The Sooners, undefeated so far this season with the help of national player of the year candidate Buddy Hield (24.9 points per game), have only themselves to blame for coming up short a year ago. Senior forward Ryan Spangler pointed to a pair of three-point losses to Kansas State — the Wildcats finished just 8-10 in the Big 12 — as results OU wished it could have back. It would mean a lot to the Sooners, Spangler added, to win the Big 12 in 2016, ending KU’s streak in the process.

“It’s big-time. You’ve gotta give them props,” Spangler said of the Jayhawks’ run, which began in 2005, when KU shared the league crown with OU. “Obviously they’re doing something right to win 11 straight, and you have to respect them. But at the same time I think with our team we have enough experience and we know how to win the couple close games that we lost last year to put us in the position to knock them off.”

Ultimately, that’s the aspiration of every player in the Big 12 who doesn’t play for Kansas.

Said Gathers (averaging 14.4 points and league-leading 11.1 rebounds this season): “It’s not even about ending the streak. It’s about going out there and being the ‘one true champion’ like the Big 12 always preaches. KU’s been fortunate to be 11 straight. That’s crazy. You know, they’re up there with the UCLAs (the Bruins won 13 conference championships in a row between 1967 and 1979).”

With Niang (19.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists), junior guard Monté Morris (14.5 points, 7.6 assists, 2.3 steals) and senior big man Jameel McKay (14.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks) returning — Naz Long will miss the rest of the season with hip injuries — for new ISU head coach Steve Prohm, the Cyclones are confident they also have enough talent to win the Big 12.

“That’d be great,” Niang said. “To be honest, what (KU has) done is pretty special and if you can be the team to knock them off, you’re gonna be remembered. Because I don’t know if people remember the team that won it six years in a row for KU, but they will remember the team that stops that streak, so I think that’s why every team’s gunning to be that team.”


Dirk Medema 2 years, 9 months ago

"the team to knock them off, you’re gonna be remembered."

The reality is that team will be a punch line, trivia question on a game of the week when KU is in the middle of their next string, whenever that happens.

Joe Ross 2 years, 9 months ago

Totally agree, because probably a fewer than 1% of people outside of UCLA fans could tell you who ended their streak of conference victories. I suppose fans of the team that ended it too. Whoever that is.

Jay Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

Oregon State. They won 4 of the next 5.

Dirk Medema 2 years, 9 months ago

Who ended UCLA's streak?

It is quite cool that George also brought up 6 in a row before this one. ISU broke that (?), which maybe is why George remembers and thinks that everyone else will remember.

Or let's just keep going.

Joe Joseph 2 years, 9 months ago

This is, in part, why Kansas will continue to have an edge over its league opponents in the race for the Big XII championship.

KU's goal is, simply, to win the conference. The goal for all others, however, is not just to win the conference, but win the conference while Kansas does not. No one outside of OU, Texas, and KState fans remember that those programs have split Big XII titles with Kansas; people simply remember that Kansas has won 11 straight. Rather than simply concerning themselves with winning games, the Oklahomas and Iowa States of the Big XII consciously have to hope Kansas loses on any given night. That's an emotional and mental strain that Kansas athletes don't have to bother themselves with, however small of a strain it may be.

And just one of the reasons Kansas will be favored to continue the streak for years to come.

Keith Gellar 2 years, 9 months ago

"KU's goal is, simply, to win the conference"...this also is the primary reason for the early round tourney exits. Seems like all the fans and coaching staff really care about is the conference championship and the streak and once they achieve, pressures off and hence the lackluster performance in ncaa tourney.

honestly, i'm tried of hearing about the streak, conference, etc. We own the big 12 and there's nothing else we need to do to prove it. Lets focus at the next level- ncaa tournament, final fours and championships. We're like the kid who's constantly acing all his classes, but is stuck in the eight grade. we need to move on.

Tom Jones 2 years, 9 months ago

""KU's goal is, simply, to win the conference"...this also is the primary reason for the early round tourney exits. Seems like all the fans and coaching staff really care about is the conference championship and the streak and once they achieve, pressures off and hence the lackluster performance in ncaa tourney."

What a truly ridiculous post, Keith.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 9 months ago

Keith, KU has clearly been an under-perfomer in the tourney the past three years, punctuated by a knuckle-rub from WSU last March. Those disappointments always play-out on the national scale and, I believe, may be partly the cause of the program taking a strange turn towards under-performing OAD's, ineligible players and suspended players.

That said, the majority of the season is played between Conference brackets. These teams are our annoying cousins who we really can't stand. It's best to beat them with an ugly stick as often as possible. It helps us maintain our standing overall in the athletic conference, it keeps the kids in the stands and it keeps the money flowing.

Rodney Crain 2 years, 9 months ago

I have noticed something about your posts Tom, you copy the part of the post you do not like and then ridicule the person who posted it.

You rarely disagree with the points they are trying to make specifically, you rarely post an original thought of your own for fear someone will do the same thing to you. Why, I think it's cause its easy to take pot shots from the cheap seats when you rarely make a point of your own. Hard to disagree with someone when they rarely make a point to disagree with.

Not a big deal really as long as you understand where you are coming from. Nowhere.

Just an observation, sorry if its true.

Jay Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

Do you agree or disagree with Tom's comment? With Kieth's comment that Tom replied to?

You might make a better point in your haste to scold people for not joining the conversation in a specific enough sense if you had a specific point....

Tom Jones 2 years, 9 months ago

Appreciate the civil response, RC, but I post plenty of facts to support arguments that need support. So no need to be sorry, as it's not true. ;)

Keith's post is just sheer lunacy on a level that I imagine you can see as well. The coaching staff would rather win the league than the tournament? I thought "ridiculous" was being pretty nice, honestly. It makes the concept that the coaches only recruit guys that sign in the spring seem almost Mensa by comparison.

Benz Junque 2 years, 9 months ago

Hey, look, Rodney giving a critique of another poster. There's a new one...

And even funnier that later in the thread you lambasting another poster for not commenting on the topic!

Joe Joseph 2 years, 9 months ago

"KU's goal," as in one of its goals, Keith. I'm sure Self & co. have goals that extend beyond the Big XII.

Everyone knows the NCAA tournament is a crap-shoot. Since Self's arrival at Kansas in 2003 (starting with the 2004 tournament) there have been 19 one-seeds make the final four, which means 29 teams have ended their seasons as massive failures --IF success is only defined by NCAA tournament success.

Has KU underachieved in past NCAA tournaments? Sure - nobody is happy about that. But so has every other blue-blood.

Since Self's arrival at Kansas:

Duke went from '05 - '09 without advancing beyond the sweet 16 and then had two first-round exits in later seasons. (Three total final fours)

Kentucky (under Calipari) had an egregious no-show to the Dance in '13. (Four total final fours. Admittedly, he has had great success in the Dance.)

North Carolina has lost in the second round 3 times and had a no-show in '10. (Three total final fours)

Connecticut, which has won 3 championships since '04, has failed to make the tournament four times and has lost in the first round twice. (Four final fours)

Florida (under Donovan) has lost in the first round twice, once in the second round, and failed to make the tournament twice. (Three final fours)

Even the consistent Tom Izzo has had his share of early exits. MSU has lost in the first round THREE times and has failed to advance past the sweet-sixteen another three times. (Four final fours)

I feel like Self’s tournament resume stacks up pretty well against those six programs when you consider Williams, Calhoun, Donovan, and Calipari failed to even make the Big Dance at least once.

No one is happy when KU loses in the tournament, let alone the 1st or 2nd round. Does Self turn into a different coach during the tournament than the regular season? Doubtful. Has he failed to fully prepare some of his teams for early round games? Perhaps. I highly doubt, however, that simply stressing conference championships, and winning on a nightly basis, is a legitimate reason for his early-round exits.

Do you really think Self’s desire to win conference championships is any greater than Roy Williams or Tom Izzo? Do you really think Calipari and Coach K deliberately conserve energy (?) during the conference season – at the expense of potentially losing games – so their teams can be better prepared for the tournament? That seems silly to me.

Benz Junque 2 years, 9 months ago

Keith, all but one of KU's Final Four seasons were seasons where we also won the regular season conference title. If you want to nag the writer for poor wording, fine. But it's ridiculous to think for one second that any KU team has been hindered in the ncaa tourney due to their efforts to win the Big 12 title.

If you think that the "pressure is off" any KU team in the ncaa tourney then you're crazy. Odds are more likely that you've simply chosen this narrative as a vent over KU's recent tourney problems.

It's OK to admit that KU just hasn't played well enough the last two years to be a team that could be relied upon to go deep in the tourney. No one will make you stop cheering for the team if you're realistic. You don't need to create some fantasy land where WINNING TOO MUCH is the reason why the team didn't play well in the tourney.

Mike Riches 2 years, 9 months ago

OU is the team that worries me most. They are experienced, know how to win, and have a really good player in Hield that wants to beat us. Self can worry about not letting his players look past the next two games, but as a fan, I'm thinking about next Monday night...

That being said, I've always felt like until someone knocks Kansas off, they should be favored to win every year. And certainly with our experience, talent and history, we are the team to beat again this year.

Jay Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

The Chicken Littles are beginning to reappear from their holiday naps.....

Rodney Crain 2 years, 9 months ago

Do you have a specific point, or someone's post you want to debate?

Anything on the team, the opponent, the article, anything of value to add?

If you must take a shot at someone, please try to make a point about the program before you start in with the cheap shots. Just a suggestion.

An example - Every year it looks like repeating as B12 champ will be difficult, but we have found a way. This year looks very tough as well, but to me OU is the concern. They have the players (Hield, Spangler), the experience, and the coach to make it tough for us.

At the end of the day I think winning is in our own hands, if we play to our abilities for at least 30 minutes a game, we should be a very hard team to beat no matter where we are playing or what we are playing for.

[Insert you insult here]

Jay Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

Wonderfully generic thoughts Rod.

I'm sorry the term "Chicken Little" offends you so much. Obviously you feel it applies to you specifically. Would you prefer something like "Negative Nancy"?

Benz Junque 2 years, 9 months ago

Funny coming from the guy who uses 90% of his posts to bash other posters.

Brett McCabe 2 years, 9 months ago

Interesting to note that our ability to 12-peat will likely have been decided by Monday night. Facing two of the top teams in the conference will be a tough challenge. Anything less than 2-0 will make it very difficult for us to win the league. With Iowa State and OU so good this year, a perfect home record is almost mandatory to win the conference. And something tells me that Lon Kruger isn't going 0-2 vs. his alma mater again.

Also interesting to me is that we would be the most dangerous team in America if BG had decided to be a basketball player instead of a Soap Opera star/team clown. Twenty-four to twenty-eight minutes a night from one of the top-10 shooters in the country would have an enormous impact on this team. Rumor is that a 5-game suspension helped him to get a clue. I'll believe it when I see it against real basketball teams, two of which are headed to Lawrence in less than a week.

Tonight should be a blowout. Then it's time to get serious.

Jay Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

Who would BG take 28 minutes from? Is Svi done? Especially with all the cries for Perry to play the 3.... Maybe if they gave out "hockey" assists.....

Brett McCabe 2 years, 9 months ago

That was sort of what I was implying. But I'll speak more slowly - if you are one of the best shooters in the country, and then dedicate yourself to playing the other components of the game effectively, then you will, indeed, take minutes from others on the team. And you can fill in the blank of the name of the player/players who will give them up. This is how it works in basketball and other sports, including hockey.

In fact, in hockey, many coaches struggle with guys who can put the puck in the net but who don't back-check, who don't play physically, who don't feed their wing mates or who refuse to give up their bodies block shots. Sound like a basketball player you might know?

Having a basic understanding of how flow-sports (hockey, basketball, soccer) work will help you to enjoy watching them more. Call me anytime, I'll be happy to explain them to you.

Jay Scott 2 years, 9 months ago

Will the need for "hockey assists" to be kept as a stat in basketball be your first lesson?

I played and coached hockey for 40 years. I think I have a basic understanding. "Feeding their wingmates" isn't a hockey term. They're LINE Mates. (unless you're a defenceman) BTW, not all hockey players are expected to play a physical game. You might want to leave hockey comparisons out of your comments.

If you don't want your ideas scrutinized Brett, don't post them in public.

Glen Miller 2 years, 9 months ago

While I do enjoy the fact that we have won 11 straight Conference Titles....... I also remember that we have only 2 Final Fours in that span and 1 National Championship. I understand that every teams goal is to win the Conference, but too many seasons it seems like after we accomplish that, we fall apart. This year is no excuse. Too much experience and talent to go with our youth to not at least make the Elite 8. A first weekend exit this year would be unacceptable in every facet.

Mick Allen 2 years, 9 months ago

Well thought out and well researched Joe.

Kerby Rice 2 years, 9 months ago

Michigan State plays Iowa tonight without Denzel Valentine. We could see a #1 vs #2 matchup when we play Oklahoma if the Spartans go down. Let's hope not though as we never play well with that #1 in front of our name.

John Randall 2 years, 9 months ago

Since this is a KU board, I shouldn't be surprised that so few comments acknowledge that every game (conference or big dance) puts two teams on the floor for each game. The level of inspiration for the two teams is seldom equal. Same is true of the two coaches.

Just surviving Selection Sunday can elevate team's feelings and effort a lot more than adding another year to (is the list now 28?) seasonal string of appearances. Such a team will be pretty likely to put forth their best with that kind of incentive. Some 20 or so schools still recall in great detail the one year they actually pulled off an upset no one else remembers.

Kent Richardson 2 years, 9 months ago

A lot of hockey being slung about by self identified professionals and amateurs don't you think?

This shapes up as a five horse race with spoilers in the stretch. No perfect teams with Baylor being the most complete followed by WVU, OU, KU and ISU in that order. Individual teams that especially separate themselves are:

KU - FG% and 3PT%

BAY - FT%, Off Reb per game and Assists.

WVU - Off Reb%. Steals and FT made per game.

OU - 3PT% and Def Reb per game.

Downside separation -

WVU - 3PT%,

ISU - Off Reb per game and FT made per game.

KU - Rebounds per game.

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