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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Keegan

Tom Keegan: State’s Big 12 college basketball coaches heading in opposite directions stay on course

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) turns for a shot over Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) and Kansas State forward Makol Mawien (14) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Udoka Azubuike (35) turns for a shot over Kansas State forward Dean Wade (32) and Kansas State forward Makol Mawien (14) during the second half, Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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Here’s what Bill Self and Bruce Weber have in common: They both served as head coach at Illinois and now lead Big 12 programs in the state of Kansas. Here’s how they are most different: Weber’s teams don't pull out close games often enough and Self’s almost always do.

A most entertaining college basketball game played Saturday in Allen Fieldhouse followed that script and Kansas won, 73-72, moving into a four-way tie atop the Big 12 standings.

Each team’s final possession opened a window into why Self wins more tight ones than Weber.

For Kansas, Malik Newman drove to the hoop, was fouled and made both free throws. No panic. Nobody asking what happened. Just players doing what they’re drilled to do based on what opportunities the defense gave them.

And then there was Kansas State. The player with the ball in his hands didn’t do what his coach told him to do. He did what he wanted to do, which was to take the potential game-winning shot.

After Newman gave Kansas a one-point lead, Kansas State had the ball with 15.2 seconds remaining.

Brown’s actions strayed so egregiously from Weber’s instructions imparted during a timeout between Newman’s free throws that all the guard coming off a 38-point game could come up with to say in answering questions was, “I don’t know.” Twice.

The play called for Brown to hit Dean Wade with a pass behind the 3-point line to the right of the circle. Weber rightly figured Udoka Azubuike, who had a terrific game for Kansas, would have a tough time following Wade all the way out to the 3-point line. Brown was supposed to hit Wade with a pass. Wade broke open and had his hands ready for the ball with four-and-a-half seconds left.

Why didn’t Brown pass it to him?

“I don’t know,” Brown said.

Why did Brown walk the ball up the floor instead of pushing it to give K-State more time to run a play?

“I don’t know why I did that, either,” Brown said.

None of us know, of course, but Brown left himself open to this unavoidable speculation: Brown walked the ball up the floor and didn’t pass it to Wade because he wanted to take the final shot.

This is my 13th season covering Bill Self’s Kansas basketball teams. I can’t recall a Kansas player so blatantly tuning out his coach and calling an audible that the circumstances didn’t dictate.

Moreover, I don’t even want to try to picture the consequences if one decided to go rogue on Self with the game hanging in the balance.

Weber and his assistants barked at Brown as the game ended on his missed 25-footer.

Afterward, Weber shared what Brown did wrong and was quick to follow that with all the things he has done right for a team that recently lost fellow starting guard Kamau Stokes.

“Barry’s unbelievable,” Weber said. “He saved our team. He had a practice Sunday on his own. Cares so much. Was in the gym Sunday, without practice, at least six, seven hours."

What was Brown supposed to do on the final play?

“Throw it to Dean,” Weber said.

Then the coach came to Brown’s defense.

“Barry, he’s been unbelievable,” Weber said. “He wants to win and he cares so much. His timing, we talked about making the right play, easy play, whether Dean makes it or not.”

Regardless of whether Brown intended it that way, his actions amounted to him trusting himself more than his coach and teammate.

That doesn’t reflect well on a coach who did so many things right to keep his team in the game until the final possession, especially a coach who lost his Illinois job in part because the rap against him was he didn’t win close games and hasn’t done a lot to squash that rap five-and-a-half seasons into his Kansas State tenure.

Since coming to Manhattan, Weber is 2-12 vs. Self. KU’s winning streak against its rival from 85 miles away stands at six, and the margin of defeat in the past three has been two points, three points, one point.

Early in his post-game media session, Weber shifted the conversation from the final possession to the referees.

“Our guys played their hearts out,” Weber said. “I was really disappointed in some of the calls, but we were all here last year, same thing. A technical shouldn’t make a difference in the game.”

Again, not a good look for a coach whose team showed so poorly on the game’s win-or-lose possession. Sure, it was a frustrating time for a technical with 6:35 remaining, K-State up by two and feeling good after Makol Mawien’s blocked shot.

Weber guessed that Cartier Diarra might have said something along the lines of “Way to go, Mak, getting that (stuff) out of here!” after his teammate’s blocked shot and that maybe (stuff) was misconstrued by the ref as being aimed at him. Diarra said he did not saying anything to the ref.

Asked to clarify whether he said officiating cost his team the game, Weber said, “No, I didn’t say that. I’m disappointed in some of the calls, and I hope you guys are too.”

Let’s just say Self and Weber don’t count each other as friends, which adds subtle spice to the rivalry. Self’s reaction to Weber’s comments suggests that the coaches didn’t draw any closer Saturday.

“I shouldn’t comment because I haven’t seen the tape, but I would bet over the course of a game, and more importantly over the course of the season, that they pretty much balance out,” Self said of calls. “I’m not going to comment what another coach says, but if that’s a reason for losing, or losing a great game, that was a great college basketball game where two teams played their butts off, I don’t buy into that at all. At all.”

The second “at all” was delivered with wider eyes burning with more heat than the first “at all,” and even had a little more volume.

Whatever happened with calls that upset Weber, it doesn’t change the fact that in the final two possessions, Self’s players did as instructed and one of Weber’s did not.


More news and notes from Kansas vs. K-State


By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Kansas State 72.

By the Numbers: Kansas 73, Kansas State 72.

Comments

Jerry Walker 3 months, 1 week ago

I heard Weber's radio interview right after the game and he was quick to throw Brown under the bus. He also said that Diarra's technical cost them the game. Whadya expect from a Xerox copy of Charlie McCarthy.

Larry Knzas 3 months, 1 week ago

Coaching matters!! KU is 4-1 with a total margin of victory in the wins = 10 points. TCU is 1-4 the spread in those 4 loses = 10 points.

Yonatan Negash 3 months, 1 week ago

On to WV. Haven't won there in four years.

WV can be beaten at home on Monday. We have the guards to withstand their pressure.

I really think we give WV a matchup problem.

But if KU needs any more motivation. Here is a clip to do just that.

David Kelley-Wood 3 months, 1 week ago

Brown went into Zombie mode: "I don't know, know, know, know, know, know, know, know..."

Kit Duncan 3 months, 1 week ago

Diarra (after his teammate's blocked shot) appeared to trash talk Malik in direct view of the ref. Probably not a wise move.

Drew Doerfler 3 months, 1 week ago

not to play devil's advocate, and i can't stand weber.....but he did just come into allen fieldhouse, with a lot less talent and minus his best player....and almost beat our ku team......

Marius Rowlanski 3 months, 1 week ago

Yes, he did. but in the end, he still lost.

That's what losers do. They also blame the refs - which he did.

Bryce Landon 3 months, 1 week ago

There's been bad blood between Self and Weber for many years - ever since Weber replaced Self at U of I. I'll give Weber credit for this much - he saved Self from getting crushed during that violent court storming at Bramlage Coliseum in 2015.

Edward Daub 3 months, 1 week ago

Correct. The "Bad Blood" started when Weber held a "Mock Funeral" for Self , to try to get Illini Players and Fans to "Move On" (It was in Poor Taste). To Weber's Credit, his 2nd season he led the Illini and the 3 headed (Bill Self Recruits) monster of Luther Head, Dee Brown, and Deron Williams (A Native of Parkersburg , West Virginia) to the NCAA Title Game (losing to the Tar Heels).

Joe Joseph 3 months, 1 week ago

Squeaky wheel gets grease! Unless you're Bruce Weber... then you're just squeaky.

Bryce Landon 3 months, 1 week ago

He had a player with a squeaky voice too - Will Spradling, I think it was...?

Andy Godwin 3 months, 1 week ago

My only thought at the end of the game was thank heaven’s that Weber came up one of the worst plays possible when they were only down 1 with 15 seconds to go and KSU was in the double bonus (by the way with all the calls going against KSU, KU never got into the bonus - the foul that sent Newman to the line was only KSU’s 6th). The end of the KSU/KU game was discussed on national TV during other college games, with the same level of confusion and negativity. Glad to know Weber was not at fault for drawing up a gift play for KU when two points would have won the game.

Tony Bandle 3 months, 1 week ago

My thank you card to Mr. Brown is in the mail. Great players feel they can make any shot any time. Elite players know when their shot is not the best shot and pass to that end.

Mike Greer 3 months, 1 week ago

I was really expecting a drive to the hoop, for either an easy layup or a couple of free throws. I know they didn't want to leave time for KU to take a final shot, but it looked like they had all the time in the world the way they came down the court. Then the pressure defense kicked in and it looked like panic set in for K State. KU hasn't been able to stop a drive to the hoop consistently all season, that would have been my play call. Get inside, get the two points and let Kansas try to make the game winner with seconds on the clock.

Matthew Neatherlin 3 months, 1 week ago

Is there any word yet on what will happen to the WVU players after the court storming incident yesterday? Would be nice to know who we are playing against.

Harlan Hobbs 3 months, 1 week ago

Just another demonstration of why Weber will never be a Hall of Fame coach. even if he had the record to support it. If he indeed threw Brown under the bus in his post game interview (I didn't hear it, so I don't know), then he is classless.

Tom sums it up well. KU has a way of winning the close ones, and KSU doesn't. That starts with the coach and works its way down in the form of toughness, attitude, and determination.

As for the technical, apparently the player said something to the ref. Only he and the ref know what he said.

More importantly, for Weber to blame the loss on the technical is classless also. It is just one play in a series of key plays. I could be wrong, but I don't remember Coach Self ever blaming a loss on one call. In fact, he many times has deflected that argument by focusing on the whole game, even when a perhaps bad call hurt KU.

Bj Cassady 3 months, 1 week ago

Bottom line the Big 12 is tough, very tough. We should thank our lucky stars we won at home by one point. If the game was played at State who knows? At least we are tied for first. Right now it is any team can win. Injuries, luck, skill..

Dirk Medema 3 months, 1 week ago

The good news though is that Webber is again taking seconds and making a decent team out of them. They didn't get blown out. They add to overall well-being of the conference. There's a decent chance they'll make it to the NCAA tournament again. My guess is that while they know there are better coaches out there, they also know they could do a lot worse.

I'll gladly take the W, and buy some more time to replace the Whitman walk-out

I'm not expecting to win on Monday, or next Tuesday either for that matter (though I'll be cheering for them regardless. Fortunately, the season likely won't be won or lost in the next 2 weeks. Feb 6 - 24 is the crux for us:

Tue, Feb 6 vs #16 TCU

Sat, Feb 10 @ Baylor

Tue, Feb 13 @ Iowa State,

Sat, Feb 17 vs #2 West Virginia,

Mon, Feb 19 vs #9 Oklahoma,

Sat, Feb 24 @ #8 Texas Tech

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