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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Jayhawks snare share, can win Big 12 outright Tuesday vs. WVU

The Big 12 trophy

The Big 12 trophy

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Kansas University’s basketball team will take the court tonight against West Virginia as champions — 2014-15 Big 12 champions.

Iowa State’s victory over Oklahoma on Monday night dropped the Sooners to 11-6 in the league, meaning ISU, West Virginia and OU each are two back in the loss column with two KU games to play.

KU (23-6, 12-4), which is assured at least a tie for its 11th-consecutive Big 12 regular-season crown, can claim the undisputed title with a victory over the Mountaineers (22-7, 10-6) at 8 tonight in Allen Fieldhouse.

“What these kids have done is pretty remarkable,” KU coach Bill Self told the Journal-World late Monday, moments after the horn sounded on Iowa State’s 77-70 victory over OU.

“There were numerous times this year we didn’t know if we could get there. The kids have done great. We still feel we can play better. We certainly want to win it outright. We don’t want to share it. In order to win it outright, we need to take care of business and play well against West Virginia.”

Self and his wife, Cindy, did not watch the Iowa State-Oklahoma game. They merely followed the score on the Internet.

“We’re just chilling (at home), both very excited,” he told the J-W, adding, “I’ll sleep good tonight. This year has been a grind. Of course, it’s not near over. The most important games are still in front of us. But this conference is so good, there are so many good teams, it’s nice to guarantee a share. Of all the years to at least get a piece of it, of all the years to do it, I really believe this one may have been as difficult as any because of the quality of competition in our league.”

Even though Self sorely desires a win and the undisputed league title tonight, he felt he needed to congratulate his Jayhawks late Monday night.

“I’m getting ready to text all the fellas, tell them ‘Congratulations, but there’s still a lot of work to be done,’” Self told the J-W. “We need to play well this week (tonight and Saturday at OU). That is our mission, and that is our objective.”

Tonight’s game, KU’s last home game of the 2014-15 basketball season, now has the makings of one of the most glorious occasions in this or any of the other 59 campaigns in Allen Fieldhouse history.

“We’ve had some good nights this year, but this could be the best night of the year — if we play well,” Self said earlier Monday referring to the contest against West Virginia.

“It’s Senior Night (for walk-on Christian Garrett), and if you do play well, you get a chance to celebrate with your fans, which we haven’t had a chance to do here in a long time. It all comes down to us winning. Without a win it certainly minimizes the festive mood that everybody has for our respective seniors.”

Eleven straight conference titles is the most in KU history, of course. It’s the second-longest streak of league titles in NCAA history. KU has tied Gonzaga, which won 11 straight West Coast Conference crowns (2001-11). The all-time leader is UCLA, which won 13 Pac-10 titles in a row from 1967-79.

Self was asked if “people” tend to take league titles for granted.

“I think fans do, no question. Fans around here do. That’s OK,” Self said. “You stop and think of the number of league championships Kansas has won. It think it’s a pretty substantial number higher than the second place team has won.”

KU has won 58 league crowns. Kentucky is second with 51.

“I think people around here probably assume, but let me tell you something ... you win the league three times in a row in the Big Ten, it’s not a big deal, it’s a huge deal. You have somebody else in our league win it two or three times in a row, it’s a big deal.

“I don’t want our guys to take for granted the opportunity to play for a league championship and have a chance to win a league, whether it’s shared or outright. You may have some coaches say, ‘Our goal is a national championship.’ That could be a goal, but if you are not the best team in your league, the chances are your goal to be national champion is not as realistic, though it has happened before, but it’s not the norm. Everybody wants to win league because it’s who we recruit against, that’s who we compete against, that’s who we are measured against ... the teams we face on a regular basis and recruit against on a regular basis. I’m a firm believer in life we all get opportunities. Sometimes opportunities are few and far between. When you have a chance to do something special, you have to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Bumps, bruises: West Virginia guards Juwan Staten (knee, groin) and Gary Browne (ankle) have been listed as day-to-day because of injuries.

Asked on the Big 12 teleconference if he might do what NBA teams do and rest the players with an eye on the postseason, Huggins said: “You prepare all year to play during the season. Why you wouldn’t play guys, why guys wouldn’t want to play, doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”

KU’s Frank Mason III (toe) practiced Monday and should be ready to go tonight.

Garrett to start: Self said, per tradition, senior Garrett would start tonight. Freshman Kelly Oubre Jr. confirmed to reporters he’d be the regular starter to come off the bench.

“I’m 100 percent happy for him. It’s his last game in the fieldhouse. We want to give him what he deserves, a win,” Oubre said.

Garrett will give a senior speech after the game.

“I wrote it last night. I know what I’m going to say. It’s not that long,” Garrett said. “I’m not going to force it on people. I’m excited for it. I always thought about this day, how cool it’s going to be. It just came a lot faster than I thought.”

Asked how long Garrett’s speech would be, Self said: “It will be short. He knows it, because Christian can get long-winded like a lot of our past players. It’ll be five minutes, max. He won’t go over that. If he does, there will be a gong like the ‘Gong Show’ of the past. Somebody will hit it, and that’ll be the end of it,” Self added with a smile.

Last home game for Oubre?: Asked about his own future, NBA prospect Oubre said: “I mean, I’m playing for Kansas University right now. I don’t really think about that stuff. That’s in the future. The present will take care of my future. I try to not let those outside distractions get in my head.”

Cliff still out: Barring some day-of-game decision by the NCAA regarding Cliff Alexander’s unknown eligibility issue, the Chicago freshman will miss his second straight game.

“We’ll be short a body inside, so we’ll have to use our quickness,” Self said on his “Hawk Talk” radio show.

As to when the NCAA will decide Alexander’s fate, Self said:” We’re hopeful this week. It’s a precautionary thing with what we’re doing. We’re being encouraged to handle it this way by higher-ups, which I totally understand. I don’t necessarily like it, but I agree with the strategy. Hopefully we’ll know something very soon.”

Honors: KU junior Perry Ellis on Monday was named Big 12 player of the week for the third time this season. He averaged 26.0 points and 11.0 rebounds as KU beat Texas and lost to Kansas State. ... KU freshmanOubre Jr. is one of 10 finalists for the Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Year award. Others: James Blackmon, Devin Booker, Stanley Johnson, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell, Karl-Anthony Towns, Melo Trimble and Justise Winslow.

Hall to be closed: KU’s Booth Family Hall of Athletics will close for approximately six months after tonight’s game to accommodate the fieldhouse phase of the construction of DeBruce Center. It will re-open in mid September.

Comments

John Randall 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, it does seem a little like "backing in" to number 11, but tonight is time to put that feeling to rest. Losing this one, or at Norman on Saturday, definitely would lower the position on Selection Sunday ... as would anything short of the final game at Sprint Center next week. Coming out of the toughest conference with two championship trophies ought to lock up a 2-seed, maybe better if one of the top few stumbles badly enough (thinking AZ or Duke). The loss at Temple probably keeps us out of the top row of a regional bracket, but finishing with six straight would keep the favorites looking over their shoulder.

ROCK CHALK, GO HAWKS!

Jim Pendleton 6 years, 7 months ago

Backing in? The only way you back in is if someone else loses on the last day of the season, which allows you to win.

Win tonight, and we will have earned it. This is a tough league. Granted we have let some get away recently, but the others did not take advantage. Let's take care of business tonight and celebrate another perfect home season & an outright title. Rock Chalk!!

JD Roth 6 years, 7 months ago

I have no idea where the "backing in" comment came from either, but I was frustrated by this University of Kansas team from time to time. I did not assume an 11th straight with the caliber of teams in this conference. I knew Bill Self would have to work his "Phog" and boy did he ever!!! This team has not reached its potential, yet they are Champions! I will stand up for the Champions tonight! How cool is it that 11th straight, this one OUTRIGHT, has the potential to be celebrated in Allen Fieldhouse. Hope this team starts to consistently play well tonight.

Dick Murdock 6 years, 7 months ago

John, you seem like a "glass mostly empty" type of person.

Mike Barnhart 6 years, 7 months ago

I wish Coach Self would stop saying a lot of KU fans don't appreciate league championships. A lot of KU fans do! I've been a Jayhawk since 1983 and we're 0-31 in the football conference championship category!

I GET IT! It's hard to win the league. Congratulations to any Jayhawk that wears a ring!

John Boyle 6 years, 7 months ago

You and Mike sound a little bit more whiny than anything Bill said.

Allison Steen 6 years, 7 months ago

IMO "don't appreciate" and "take it for granted" are two completely different things. Self said the latter.

Brad Farha 6 years, 7 months ago

Is that what he said? I got the impression he was saying fans take it for granted. That it's virtually expected now because of the consistent success.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure most fans are thrilled by every accomplishnent by the Hawks.

With me, quite frankly, the eleven Titles are great but I get a bigger kick by the amazement shown by almost everyone outside of KU when they see the 11 titles/9 home losses figure.

That may be one of the most significant figures in NCAA History!!!!

John Williams 6 years, 7 months ago

Senior night and Mr. Christian Garrett last game at AFH!!! Thank u CG for your commitment and staying power when just about everyone figured we went after u in the hopes of gaining DeAndre Daniels because of your friendship with him. Daniels does an about face and goes to the Conn. Huskies and u never wavered. Simply a beautiful statement on your part that says u were not a pawn in some recruiting game because u stuck it out and now epitomize the term students athelete. I know I'm not alone when I say thank u for your smile, hard work, and persistence as a true jayhawk. I am soooo looking forward tonight to watching the reward of 4 years of stayn power lead to u running onto the court and being a starter. Congratulations from the bottom of my heart. Now go out there and score a bucket in the 1st five minutes. Take at least 2 or 3 shots. You've earned it.

Eliott Reeder 6 years, 7 months ago

And if he doesn't score at the beginning of the game, let's hope we have a 20 point margin at the end so he can get in there and hit a three or two in the last five minutes!

Yonatan Negash 6 years, 7 months ago

Winning #11 was a grind indeed.

Just goes to show how good Kansas basketball is, no matter the challenge we've managed to win.

Very excited for Christian Garrett, well deserved starter.

As for tonight's game, I believe we'll finally see a relaxed Kansas team and we'll play up to our potential.

I expected to see a lot of guys making baskets, defending well and winning by double digits.

Bill French 6 years, 7 months ago

ELEVEN !!!!!! ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK GO KU !!!

Steve Corder 6 years, 7 months ago

Thank you Iowa State for wilting just enough down the stretch to lose two and make that great comeback to take OU out. Special thanks and congratulations to the Jayhawks who showed tenacity against Texas after 3 bitter and disappointing road loses. I was wrong about the conference outcome. The remarkable string continues, and a win tonight will be the frosting on the cake.

Micky Baker 6 years, 7 months ago

Congratulations on the 11th straight. Let's win it outright tonight and have no pressure when we go to Norman and just play with freedom and energy and beat the Sooners too.

Things are working against KU with the NCAA waiting until this point in the season to investigate something involving Alexander. But we can't worry about that tonight. Just go out an play with super intensity, because every time we do that, we build a lead. Then don't back off after that and win this one going away.

Billy Derringer 6 years, 7 months ago

Thought coach Selfs comment about playing zone a few passions was because he was tried of hearing fans grump about never playing it. He was smiling an seems to be saying "yes we know how to play a zone,"( wink.). This whole cliff thing may be a hidden blessing. It seems when we go out early in the ncaa's its to small schools with less size, I think with Cliff out we may be a match up nightmare for teams of lesser size, an I think it helps in scoring because point production has not been there at the 5 position.

Dale Rogers 6 years, 7 months ago

I read in another article that the 13 consecutive conference championships by UCLA was spread over the tenure of 3 coaches. Wooden had only 9 of those. Thus, that would make Bill Self the only coach with 11 consecutive conference championships, at least in Division 1, at least with a single school. I have not checked to see whether anyone else had more with more than one school.

Aaron Paisley 6 years, 7 months ago

Mark Few was the coach for all 11 of Gonzaga's consecutive WCC titles from 2000-2011.

Robert Brown 6 years, 7 months ago

A couple of comments here: 1. I'm not sure any loss this year was as gutwrenching as WV, so I hope we are motivated for payback, in which case it will be a great evening in the Fieldhouse. 2. I believe the conference streak has taken a life of its own and almost all fans are aware of it and appreciate it.. Each year it gets more and more publicized. 3. I do wonder if the pressure of the streak helps or hurts the team. Is the team emotionally drained at the end of conference season or does winning the conference make them more battle tested?
4) I don't know the answer, but I do know that, in general, winning a major conference title in basketball is not really all that important when it comes to play in the NCAA tournament. A lot of national champions do not win its conference. Look no further than last year.

Jerry Collins 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't think any of the regular posters here are among those that take this year's conference championship for 'granted'. It's been a hold your breath season with the feeling each game was important. I would like to see every team playing at it's best during the Big 12 tournament and see who would come out on top. Congratulations to the coaching staff and the team for getting the job done in a tough conference this year. Tonight I don't want to just beat WV, I want to crush them!

Micky Baker 6 years, 7 months ago

Saing, "I want to crush them!", is an understatement from my point of view. I want to beat them by 30 and make this night one they want to forget and one for us to remember as putting the stamp on the outright title in 2015.

John Boyle 6 years, 7 months ago

John Calipari has also taken three teams to the Final Four, but two of those were vacated by the NCAA. --Garcia, Marlen. (2009-08-24) Two vacated Final Four runs put on stain Calipari's career - USATODAY.com This says all you need to know about Johnny.

Jeff Kilgore 6 years, 7 months ago

More info on the DeBruce Center? Six months is a lot of lumber, lights, and labor! Oh, yes, Coach. Fans of the game know exactly what you've achieved and didn't call #11 until last night. NOTHING is guaranteed, despite what some fans think. (They're the same ones who on those rare occasions, say KU "should've have lost" to well, anyone.

John Fitzgerald 6 years, 7 months ago

This could play out two ways: The players have a weight lifted off their shoulders and they play better than they have been all year, or they think they have it taken care of already and let go of the gas. I'm hoping for scenario 1. Let's finish it tonight Hawks and then go to Norman and put a stamp on it!

Jocelyn Kennedy 6 years, 7 months ago

Very sad to see you go, Christian! What a superior role model! Eleven - wow - I can't say I take it for granted - never thought we'd make it this year - or several of the others!! Having received an email today "reminding" boosters of the no-nos of helping or giving gifts or entertainment to student athletes makes me wonder if Cliff perhaps accepted something he shouldn't have. What ridiculous rules - it was most likely nothing big and holding him up seems punitive at this time of year. I know, I know - slippery slope and all but geez!

Len Shaffer 6 years, 7 months ago

Considering that I went to KU for five years and they didn't win a SINGLE conference championship, I appreciate every one of these (while feeling a little frustrated that they couldn't have won even one while I was there).

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