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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Jayhawks to begin quest for another Big 12 title

Kansas head coach Bill Self calls a play during the second half on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self calls a play during the second half on Friday, Nov. 14, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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— Kansas University’s quest for an 11th-consecutive Big 12 basketball title starts tonight at Baylor.

“We need to play well. Not often do you start on the road against the 21st team in the country. That’s what our chore is,” said KU coach Bill Self.

The No 12-rated Jayhawks, who have won 14 of the 18 Big 12 titles throughout history, enter the 8 p.m., contest in Ferrell Center with the same overall record as Scott Drew’s No. 21 Baylor Bears — 11-2.

Baylor, which beat South Carolina, Memphis, Texas A&M; and New Mexico State in nonconference play (losing to Illinois) is coming off Saturday’s 73-63 Big 12-opening loss at Oklahoma. KU, which has wins over Michigan State, Georgetown, Utah, and Florida (losses to Kentucky, Temple), is coming off Sunday’s 76-61 win in its nonconference finale against UNLV.

“This will be the hardest year for us to win league. Whoever wins it will earn it because you’ve got to go through a lot of good teams,” Self said, adding, “I like Baylor’s personnel a lot. I like how the pieces fit. Their zone is active. They are very deserving of their ranking.”

Baylor, which lost Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip off last year’s (26-12) Sweet 16 team, has double-digit scorers in 6-7 junior Taurean Prince (12.0 ppg), 6-9 freshman Johnathan Motley (10.8) and 6-6 senior Royce O’Neale (10.3). Junior forward Rico Gathers (6-8) contributes 10.6 rebounds and 9.6 points per contest.

The Bears, who average 70.0 points a game and allow 56.1 (KU averages 71.2 and allows 64.5) have hit 86 of 231 threes for 37.2 percent.

“I think everybody shoots them. Even their big center has shot 12 of them,” Self said of Houston native Motley, who has made 3 of 12 threes. “We recruited Al Freeman and he has really gotten into the groove shooting from behind the arc. We know he’s a great shooter,” Self added of the 6-3 freshman from Charlotte, North Carolina who has made 11 of 38 threes and averages 6.5 ppg off the bench.

“They can all shoot. Prince is making threes (21 of 39) and they play him at the 4 (power forward). It obviously puts stress on your defense because they can stretch it.”

KU freshman guard Kelly Oubre Jr. — who averages 7.3 ppg after scoring in double digits three of the past four games — says he’s looking forward to tipping it up in conference action.

“It begins,” Oubre said. “It’s starting to get amped up. These teams are looking to have great teams, also. A lot of people do have doubts about us. That’s what I’ve been looking at,” he added of predictions. “It gives us a little bit of motivation to go hard and work our butts off to be the best team we can be. We need to continue to do what’s been working for us in previous years.”

Noted sophomore Wayne Selden Jr.: “It (conference play) is real different, the intensity, the fans, the away crowds, the home crowds. Everything about it is different. We’re just trying to keep the guys ... don’t let them go in blind. Some of us went in blind last year. Let them know every possession counts.”

Austin to be honored: Today is “Dream Again Night” to honor former Baylor center Isaiah Austin, who has returned to the team as a student assistant. The 7-footer’s dreams of playing in the NBA were shelved this year for medical reasons. The first 4,000 fans will receive Dream Again T-shirts and Austin will be recognized at halftime ... Baylor has won 12 straight games at Ferrell Center. Last home loss was 69-52 to KU on Feb. 4 of last season. ... KU leads the all-time series 21-4. KU is 3-2 in the last five meetings.

GameDay in Ames: Game time for the KU-Iowa State game on Jan. 17 has been set for 8 p.m., in Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. It is part of ESPN’s GameDay. Sites are announced the week prior to games. Other Big 12 schools could be considered for other GameDay hosting duties later in the 2014-15 season.

The first hour of ESPN College GameDay begins at 9 a.m. on ESPNU, continuing at 10 a.m. on ESPN, with an evening edition leading into the game.

The 2014-15 season marks the 11th year for ESPN’s College GameDay. KU has hosted five times (2005, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013) and has been the road team four times (2006, 2010, 2012 and 2014). Kansas is 5-4 all-time on GameDay. Coach Bill Self’s Jayhawks are 4-1 at Allen Fieldhouse and 1-3 away.

Thursday announcement: Carlton Bragg, a 6-9 senior forward who is ranked No. 14 nationally by Rivals.com, will choose either KU, Kentucky or Illinois at a 1:45 p.m., Central time, news conference Thursday at Villa Angela St. Joseph High in Cleveland. The Cleveland Plain Dealer indicated Bragg had initially planned to announce his choice on his school’s Senior Day in late February, but apparently has settled on a school and wants to be focused the rest of his final high school campaign.

“I don’t think Carlton Bragg picks UK,” writes Matt Jones of kentuckysportsradio.com. “He has moved his decision up earlier in the process than a lot of people expected and with the timing, I just don’t think Kentucky is going to be the selection. UK has a lot of big men irons in the fire (Caleb Swanigan, Stephen Zimmerman still deciding and 6-11 Skal Labissiere has committed), along with the uncertainty of who will return from this team ... after talking with some folks, I just don’t think the timing works for Bragg right now. I suspect he picks Kansas or Illinois.”

Comments

RJ King 4 years ago

Please not the reverse of the Illinois . . . Kansas hat switch Cliff pulled last year.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years ago

Is it weird that I don't want any 6'8"-6'9" forwards to commit? We need guys who are at LEAST 6'10" and preferably closer to 7'. We've got enough "tweeners" at the forward position. We need Zimmerman or Thon Maker.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

Excellent Post Shannon. I agree 100%!

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

Is it weird to hope he can finish around the rim? We have enough "tweeners" that have trouble finishing. This team is shooting under 50% at the rim which is the primary reason we hold up the Big 12 in shooting percentage.

Jonathan Allison 4 years ago

We need PFs and we need Cs.

If Bragg chooses Kansas I will be elated, especially if we don't end up with Zimmerman. And there is no reason not to hope that we can get both!

Rodney has been championing the concern that we haven't secured a single commitment yet this recruiting season, and then to say that we don't want the #14 recruit in the class to come to Kansas because he's only 6'9"?

6'9" is a fine height for a PF, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor are undersized PFs not because they're 6'8", but because they're actually not 6'8" and because they don't have much girth to compete against the likes Josh Smith at GU or 6'9" 285 LB Cam Ridley at UT. If Bragg is actually 6'8"-6'9" then he certainly isn't too short.

Michael Bennett 4 years ago

I agree, listed heights don't tell the whole story and weight, strength, length, motor, aggressiveness, etc. play a huge role in a post player's effectiveness. Major difference between 6' 8.5" 260 lb Darnell Jackson and 6' 7.5ish" 215 lb Jamari Traylor. I agree that Ellis looks under 6' 8" as well. Kentucky's frontcourt won't be anywhere near as massive next year, so the competition for the championship will be smaller. Plus you could probably count on Bragg being 6' 10" in KU inches...

Shannon Gustafson 4 years ago

I agree, listed height is only part of it. My issue is Cliff was supposed to be an undersized center who was a rim protector with a high motor and very long arms (everything we'd hope for if we get an undersized guy). So far, he's been no more effective as a rim protector than Jamari who's probably 6'7" or less (both at 1.3 bpg and both playing around 20 min/game). Mickelson actually has the highest blocks/min and he's the tallest guy we've got (while his athleticism, motor, and arm length isn't extraordinary). So Cliff has everything we'd hope for in a rim protector except height and Mickelson has nothing we'd hope for in a rim protector except height, yet he's been a more efficient shot blocker so far. My point is, you don't always know what you're going to get with these guys but height is always height and will always be better than less height, all else being equal.

Would I be "mad" if we signed a guy under 6'10" that's a top 20 guy? No...unless we don't get anyone taller than that as well.

Edit: I just found that Bragg measured 6'7" without shoes at the Nike Elite 100 which is Similar to Cliff's height (6'8.5" with shoes) but his wingspan is only 6'9" compared to Cliff's 7'3" span. So it appears he's smaller than Cliff from a standing reach standpoint. Cheick Diallo has identical measurements to Cliff in both height and wingspan.

Rob Bedford III 4 years ago

Don't forget about the 6'8 280 lbs Rico Gathers who will work the KU big men tonight.

Jonathan Allison 4 years ago

absolutely, and I'd be surprised if he measures more than 6'7" from the sole of his shoe to the top of his head in an NBA Combine style evaluation. Same goes for 6'7" 265 Lb Thomas Gipson at KSU who currently is the team's second leading scorer with 65% accuracy from the field

Michael Bennett 4 years ago

I think their ability to impact the post play depends on the player's style, length, athleticism, and skillset too. I'd rather get Cheick Diallo than Bragg, even though they're similar measurements. Diallo always gets described as a very athletic shot blocker/rim protector and often gets listed as a center on mock draft sites for his defense. Bragg seems to just be a 4, and he's mentioned in interviews that Self told him he'd be a 4 here (more face-up scoring and less rim protection). I'd still rather get Zimmerman or Maker, but I think Diallo would be a positive 6' 9" addition too.

And actually I would gladly take Bragg at this point too. With potentially 3-4 scholarships to give next year it really wouldn't hurt. And with Cliff possibly leaving it'd be good to have another athletic PF with a high ceiling on the roster. Plus he'd probably be a 2-4 year guy.

Brianna Zaleski 4 years ago

Shannon,

It's not weird to think that at all. However, 7 footers don't grow on trees and he's a top 15 recruit. Given our current situation with this years recruiting class, we should be pumped. Remember too, Self has a good track record of playing 2 PF's as opposed to playing a traditional C position. I'd wouldn't mind a switch back to that style. Even if it's out of necessity.

Cameron Cederlind 4 years ago

Sasha Kaun (6-11), Cole Aldrich (6-11), Markieff Morris (6-10), Jeff Withey (7-0), Joel Embiid (7-0). For the past 8 years we've had a starting rim protector over 6'9. Self barely has a track record of playing 2 PF and no traditional C position.

Jesse Johnson 4 years ago

I would agree, Cameron, that Self has had a rim protector for most of his time here. But I do think there are a couple years where he did play with 2 PFs and very good teams those years: 2008 and 2011.

Yes we had Sasha in 2008 but he was coming off the bench (he still played a lot but our starters, Arthur and Jackson, were PFs). You also mentioned Markieff from 2011 but he played much more like a PF than a rim protecting center like the others you mentioned.

I was hoping this year could be like 2011 but Ellis and Alexander are not nearly as effective offensively as the Morris twins were. Ellis is too soft, especially against bigger teams, and I can't quite put my finger on Alexander's issue yet but clearly he can't carry us yet like one of the Morrii could. We also don't have a stellar backup big like TRob.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

Good Points Cameron and Jesse. I agree with you our defense suffers without length, it is showing this year. Another 6'9 guy does not really help us there.

Adam Collins 4 years ago

"Self said, adding, 'I like Baylor’s personnel a lot. I like how the pieces fit. Their zone is active. They are very deserving of their ranking.'"

Notice Self didn't mention anything about their coaching...I say we come away with the victory on this one.

Gerry Butler 4 years ago

I don't really think if Carlton does choose KU that it will necessarily mean we lose out on Maker that's if he DOES decide to re-classify I have a pretty good idea that self would definitely find ways to fit them both in to the grand scheme of things. as far as Zimmerman would love to have him come but in reality I don't think we stand a snowballs chance in hell of landing him me personally wouldn't surprise me if he landed I his home town UNLV. on a side note and take it for what its worth 247 sports had KU leading in the latest for bragg by some margain they also had a article saying that KU could be on the very of large haul showing not only Carlton but Malik Newman, and Brandon Ingram committing as well. there had been some talk of those three playing together although I'm not buying we will get those three I do feel pretty confident on Carlton I just feel in my guy Malik is Kentucky bound and Ingram else where but we will see I guess. I do know that you can follow Carlton announcement according to zagsblog on Cleveland. com GO HAWKS

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

I wish the LJW would announce where the pre-game party is held for these out-of-town games. For all of us TX-Hawks it will be at George's Bar commencing at 4 pm. (www.kualumni.net/kuaa_entry/ext/event...). Looking forward to seeing everyone.

My biggest hope for this year's team is to win the Big 12 somehow. I'm far less concerned about our record or NCAA seeding compared to any previous year. The reason being is to break the UCLA streak and the NC seems more unrealistic than any of the previous 30 years (since '86).

Justin Kruse 4 years ago

I'm hoping for a huge game for Jamari tonight. I think he's going to be a key component to get number 11. Pull him away from the hoop a bit and let him finish strong to the rim. Open it up a bit inside for Perry and Cliff at the same time. It starts tonight! Can't wait to beat Scooter Drewly!

Harlan Hobbs 4 years ago

Good debate about the factors surrounding Carlton Bragg. I tend to side with Allison, Brianna, and Jesse in that we should be very happy if we get him. Of course, a dominant true center is preferable for our current needs. However, with a minimum of two scholarships available, we still would be focusing on Zimmerman and Maker going forward.

Bill Self has surely shown over the years that he can mold his style of play to the players he has. We've won with dominant centers, but we also have won with strong power forwards. By the way, I mentioned recently that Markieff Morris is really making progress here in AZ. He again was the "go to" guy for Phoenix in their last two wins over Toronto and Milwaukee. He is racking up a lot of 3's and could have an outside chance of making the All Star team.

Mike Riches 4 years ago

I would love to get Bragg, more because there's a decent chance he's a two year player, and could be a cornerstone both offensively and defensively in 16/17. However, the moving up of his decision would lead me to believe that he'll pick Illinois. Illinois' only big that's playing starter minutes is a senior, so the spot is wide open for Bragg. The same situation that applies in Kentucky (in the final paragraph of this article) really applies at Kansas, minus the existing commit. We're not sure whether Cliff will be here next year or not. And it's fairly certain Bragg would immediately have to compete for minutes with Traylor and Lucas (unless there's an unexpected transfer). Again I would love Bragg, but I'm thinking Illinois on this one.

Yonatan Negash 4 years ago

Carlton Bragg will commit to Kansas.

Illinois has no chance of landing Bragg.

Also predict everyone on the current roster will return next season.

Well, may be not Landen Lucas. I think Lucas transfers after the season.

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