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Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Start of Big 12 play provides Kansas a carrot to stay focused

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks off with forward Landen Lucas after locking up a share of their twelfth-straight Big 12 title with the trophy following their 67-58 win over the Red Raiders, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas head coach Bill Self walks off with forward Landen Lucas after locking up a share of their twelfth-straight Big 12 title with the trophy following their 67-58 win over the Red Raiders, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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With the Big 12 portion of the Kansas basketball schedule slated to tip off Friday night in Fort Worth, Texas, all of that offseason and preseason talk about the Jayhawks gunning to tie UCLA’s record of 13 consecutive conference titles starts to mean something.

Not because Kansas coach Bill Self and his players will discuss it every day, at every practice and before every game.

They won’t. But the successes and failures that the third-ranked Jayhawks (11-1) experience from here on out will have a direct impact on their pursuit of UCLA’s record in a conference that, at least on paper, looks a lot more impressive than it did at the beginning of the 2016-17 season.

“Kansas was and remains the Big 12 title favorite forever and ever, amen,” recently wrote ESPN.com’s Eamonn Brennan. “But this was the first preseason in ages when the Jayhawks didn't appear to have at least one obvious usurper in their midst. Instead, Baylor's surprise rise and Bob Huggins' routine West Virginia brilliance have presented KU with two.”

Those two programs, ranked fourth and 11th respectively at 12-0 and 11-1, were the Big 12’s two other most impressive teams during the season’s first three months. But they have been far from alone in getting off to a strong start.

Every Big 12 program currently sits above .500. Seven Big 12 teams enter conference play with 10 wins or more — including KU’s Friday night opponent, 11-1 TCU — and those seven teams have combined for just seven losses between them.

Self did not need to know those numbers to understand that the 18-game conference grind that begins at 8 p.m. Friday in Fort Worth, Texas, and ends March 4 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, will provide his team tough test after tough test, night in and night out. He’s seen it too many times before and always has shown a great deal of respect for the talent and coaching in the Big 12, regardless of what people across the country are saying about them.

“It’s a unique league and sometimes the best leagues are top heavy and bottom heavy,” said Self, noting that many conferences often have a few great teams and a few overmatched teams. “This one, you get top heavy and there’s no bottom heavy so it makes it hard.”

Finding a way to win each night, at home and on the road, while improving and coming together at the same time, is the challenge Self and his players are focusing on today, not the big picture of tying UCLA’s record. And Self believes that emphasis will help prevent his players from becoming overwhelmed by the historical significance of what the next couple of months could deliver.

“I haven’t really thought about it as much as you probably would think,” Self said. “It’s crossed my mind. I’m not gonna lie. But I don’t want to get hung up on that. I just want to get hung up on coaching this team and having this team be as good as it can be and having this team compete for its first championship as opposed to them thinking that they have to do something. I don’t want them to think like that. If that’s the way they think, then they’re gonna play under pressure all year long and I want them to play with a freer mind. It may bring a little pressure, but I also think it brings a lot of pride and a lot of motivation.”

“There’s some dog days in our league,” Self continued. “But I think when you have that carrot out there and the motivation that you could do something pretty special if everybody stays focused and fights through it, I think that’ll definitely help (us) get through some tough times.”

Holiday clinic

The KU men’s basketball team hosted its annual holiday clinic for children on Tuesday, drawing attendance from more than 550 first through sixth graders from around the area, who worked with the current players, coaches and staff members on the fundamentals of the game and participated in some fun and entertaining drills and contests while their parents watched from the Allen Fieldhouse bleachers above.

The one-day clinic wrapped with an autograph session and left many, young and old, leaving Allen Fieldhouse with huge smiles.

“It’s fun every year,” said Kansas assistant coach Norm Roberts, who spoke with the media in place of KU coach Bill Self, who was unable to participate because he was under the weather. "It's a fun time for our guys to get out and get engaged. The kids are coming off the holiday, so they are excited. It's a great time for everybody. We want our players to be out there and engaged. In reality, the coaches don't run this clinic, our players do.”

Jackson honored

Kansas freshman Josh Jackson on Tuesday added a new accolade to his growing list when he was named the Big 12 Player of the Week.

Jackson, who scored 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting and added nine rebounds and two blocks in KU’s win over UNLV last Thursday, became the first Kansas player since Ben McLemore in 2012-13 to win Big 12 player and newcomer of the week honors in the same season.

Jackson joins senior guard Frank Mason III in receiving Big 12 Player of the Week honors this season. Mason already has earned the honor twice (Nov. 16 and Dec. 12).

Comments

Barry Weiss 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Baylor, with their size is going to be very tough without Dok. WV is always tough in Morgantown. I'd take a 2 point win for Friday right now. The road is tough!

Brett McCabe 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Road wins are the key to the league title. I'm with you, until we see who is really who in this league, I'll take a 2-point victory on the road in every game.

Jay Scott 11 months, 3 weeks ago

...because ALL wins count, any 2 point win in conference is fine. 18 of them.

Brett McCabe 11 months, 3 weeks ago

More incredible insight from my stalker-in-chief, also known as Captain Obvious, primary supporter of the pervert-in-chief (elect, that is).

It's difficult to stay on-topic when you are more worried about retorts than actual information, isn't it? Maybe you could provide some insightful comments on Harrison Barnes? No one's ever read that before...

Jay Scott 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Was that how you "stay on topic"?

You're really not emotionally healthy at all, are you?

Benz Junque 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Baylor has size every year. They still have Scott Drew as their coach so pencil them in for 3rd-5th in the conference.

Tony Bandle 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The strategy for beating KU this year is as follows:

On Defense:

1] Take chances and press the perimeter offense as hard as possible to take away the three point shot.

2] Concede that KU will get it into the middle with Jackson, Lucas,etc. but foul them before shooting and take advantage of their substandard foul shooting.

3] Crash the boards to prevent offensive rebounds and put a body on Josh....always, as well as over play him to force him to his left.

On Offense:

1] Power the lane with the biggest bodies you've got.

2] Hit your three pointers to open up the driving lanes.

3] On a missed shot slow up KU to force them into a half court game.

Luckily, no one will see or take these tips seriously so KU will prevail.

Prediction:

KU goes 15-3 in conference with "L"s at West Virginia, Baylor and Okie State [The CURSE of Bill's Alma Mater].

Marius Rowlanski 11 months, 3 weeks ago

15–3? That will be tough to accomplish. I'll go with 13–5. We will still win the conference although it might be with a tie. If Udoka had been injured, I would have gone 16– 2.

That is giving Udoka maybe too much importance but I can see his absence resulting in at least 2 less victories. Then again, Self knows how to rally the team and minimize the loss of Udoka.

Kent Richardson 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I like 13-5 if we are counting a home loss.

Jonathan Allison 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Marius, I just responded to your reply on the Udoka Azabuike article. I played guard at the teeny-tiny Tyro Christian School in Tyro, Kansas. I was 1st team all-Cherokee Conference as a Sr. in 2003.

Jonathan Allison 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Oh yeah, and I'm not saying that my HS playing experience makes me any kind of expert. I love the game, and still play to this day, and I know a lot more about the game now having mostly just watched for the last 10 years then I did when I actually played competitively.

My comment about Udoka's wrist injury was just based on my experience of having broken my wrist as a freshman in basketball practice and then dealing with the stiffness and soreness for the next three years. I have hurt my wrist probably 100 times, and at least 99% of those were caused by contact between my hand and the floor/ground.

Benz Junque 11 months, 3 weeks ago

KU isn't losing 5 games in this year's Big 12 unless with have a significant starter go down to injury. Dok doesn't count as significant.

Barry Weiss 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I would disagree with you on Dok not being significant. He was coming on like a Nigerian Night Train!

Suzi Marshall 11 months, 3 weeks ago

The Big 12 season will be tough but I'm predicting an 18-0 run to title 13 straight!!

Jay Scott 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Happy New Year Suzi! I was surprised to find out that you're a guy. Or was I misinformed?

Suzi Marshall 11 months, 3 weeks ago

lol, who in the world told you that? My husband and I are KU grads and follow basketball.

Marius Rowlanski 11 months, 3 weeks ago

If Suzi is a guy than her husband was certainly misinformed!

Marius Rowlanski 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Don't do it Suzi. Although I don't think you would win the bet - if you lost, you would pay- but if you won, you would never get paid.

Suzi Marshall 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Sure. Before the season commented, I had the 'Hawks going 40-0 but the IU game has forced me to reconsider. After the IU game, I predicted 39-1, which has held up well for the past 11games. i see no reason why that prediction can not hold up for the next 28 games.

Barry Weiss 11 months, 3 weeks ago

lol... I admire the optimism, but no way in H this team goes 18-0 with the line up of bigs in place. Not even with Dok would we have gone 18-0. I will gladly eat crow if we do!

Thad Daugherty 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Suzi, I saw a post where your husband says he posts under your name because he doesn't have a FB account.

Jay Scott 11 months, 3 weeks ago

I suspect that you're thinking of "Briana Zaleski"..

Suzi Marshall 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Wrong person. My husband has a FB account.

Tony Bandle 11 months, 3 weeks ago

Suzi, darlin' I love you but 18-0 would have been difficult with Azu healthy and Malik eligible. I'll stick with my 15-3 but totally agree that lucky 13 is on the way.

2017 Predictions:

1] Someone will try to say it"s time to replace Allen Field House. That person will be roundly booed!!

2] KU will play in the Midwest Regional in Kansas City.

3] Josh Jackson will be the best OAD in Kansas history.[Kind of a no brainer,,,barring injury, he's almost there already].

4] Game of Thrones will have an epic final season with an NCAA-like tournament of opposing armies advancing to the finals.[Bet on the dragons!!].

5] It's discovered that Keith Richards is an android, No human could survive that much sex, drugs and rock and roll.

6] Tyler Self will make a three pointer in Big 12 play.

7] The Kansas City Chiefs will be in the Super Bowl. [Hey, a guy can dream, can't he???].

8] Harlan Hobbs will go the full year without saying one mean word about anybody, {God bless'em],

Marius Rowlanski 11 months, 3 weeks ago

After the apoplectic comments when the Chiefs lost to the Titans, I thought most Chief fans had forever given up on any success in the playoffs.

I was really surprised by how many fans dislike Andy Reid. Maybe I shouldn't be that surprised as he wasn't like that much at Philadelphia.

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