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SI writer puts KU in 'Magic Eight' teams capable of winning national title

Kansas teammates celebrate a three-pointer by point guard Naadir Tharpe, center against Iowa State during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa.

Kansas teammates celebrate a three-pointer by point guard Naadir Tharpe, center against Iowa State during the first half on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 at Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. by Nick Krug

Sports Illustrated college hoops scribe Luke Winn this week unveiled his "Magic Eight." Before you say, "So what?" you should know as far as he's concerned, one of the eight teams on this list will win the national championship.

And guess what, the Kansas Jayhawks (12-4 overall, 3-0 Big 12, ranked No. 15) made the cut.

Here are Winn's other potential title winners, some more obvious than others: Arizona, Wisconsin, Syracuse, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa State, Michigan State.

This is why Winn likes the Jayhawks' chances:

"… possible one-and-done freshmen Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Wayne Selden have elevated their games in the opening portion of Big 12 play. Embiid's rim protection and Wiggins' rebounding against Iowa State on Monday were incredible, and if they continue on this trajectory, they'll have a title-caliber defense."


Embiid capable of carrying KU

Kansas center Joel Embiid floats a shot high over Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas center Joel Embiid floats a shot high over Kansas State forward Thomas Gipson during the second half on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf called Embiid "the most important player on the Kansas roster."

As Medcalf points out, the Jayhawks have won six of their last seven and Embiid averaged 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in that span.

More from Medcalf:

There is no ceiling for Embiid, who has as much upside as any college basketball player in the country. And against Iowa State on Monday, he seemed to realize it in the second half.

He didn’t just block Dustin Hogue, he robbed him in midair. He passed out of double teams. He dribbled on the baseline and scored.

He affected every possession when he was available.


The key for KU, of course, the ESPN college basketball reporter adds, will be keeping the 7-foot phenom on the floor and out of foul trouble. But it's clear more people are realizing what a force Embiid can become and how he just might make Kansas one of the best team's in the nation by the end of the season.

Jayhawks climbing power rankings

Kansas shot up eight spots, from No. 18 to No. 10, in ESPN.com's latest college basketball power rankings.

The nine teams ahead of KU include three teams that defeated the Jayhawks: No. 9 San Diego State, No. 7 Florida and No. 5 Villanova.

KU's next opponent, Oklahoma State, which comes to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday, sits at No. 8.

Kellogg on finding balance with a young team

CBS college basketball analyst Clark Kellogg discusses KU's struggles in the non-conference in an SI Now video you can watch here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/video/ncaab-video/20140114/2014-01-14-clip05.sportsillustrated/

The discussion on Kansas begins at the 1:30 mark, and addresses how KU seems to be playing better now, with the start of Big 12 action.

Around the 2:45 mark Kellogg gives his opinion of Wiggins and whether he should follow through on his plan to be one-and-done at KU: "At the end of the day, you have to make what you think is the best decision for you, and not allow others to influence that in a negative way."

Draft stock

Arena lights casts various color tones around the arena as teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have a laugh during a timeout in the first half on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas.

Arena lights casts various color tones around the arena as teammates Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid have a laugh during a timeout in the first half on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013 in Paradise Island, Bahamas. by Nick Krug

BleacherReport.com's Jason King wrote the biggest threat to Wiggins' once assumed position as the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft appears to be his 7-foot teammate, Joel Embiid.

After covering the Jayhawks' 77-70 win at Iowa State, attended by NBA front-office types, King called ISU coach Fred Hoiberg's declaration of Embiid as the top player in college basketball — Doug McDermott anyone? — "a bit of a stretch."

Longterm NBA value is an entirely different discussion. Here's an excerpt from King's column:

When it comes to pro potential, though, Embiid is the best NBA prospect in college basketball. And after watching Embiid score 16 points, grab nine rebounds and block five shots Monday, I can’t fathom how any team would pass on Embiid with the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft.


Wiggins or Embiid?

Over at Grantland, Andrew Sharp's Freshman Watch piece is titled: "Who's Your Favorite Jayhawk?"

Sharp lists six freshmen to watch in terms of NBA draft potential: UCLA's Zach Levine, Kentucky's Julius Randle, Arizona's Aaron Gordon, Duke's Jabari Parker, and Jayhawks Wiggins and Embiid top the list.

Regarding Wiggins, Sharp writes:

He may not be a Kevin Durant– or LeBron-type superstar, but that’s still his ceiling, and in the meantime the floor is pretty high. He could be a lockdown defender. He’s already a one-man fast break. He could rebound from the wing as well as anyone this side of Durant. He could rain 3s and then cut through the lane and finish at the rim.


And, like most anyone who has watched Embiid, Sharp thinks the big man's development could make him a prized commodity among NBA executives:

On the other hand: IMAGINE JOEL EMBIID IN A FEW YEARS. It’s ridiculous. He’s so big, and so coordinated, and so impossible to deal with on either end of the floor. We’re not used to centers like this, because centers like this mostly stopped existing 15 years ago.


Some scouts say Selden should stay in school

Kansas guard Wayne Selden elevates for a jam before Toledo guard Justin Drummond during the second half on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Wayne Selden elevates for a jam before Toledo guard Justin Drummond during the second half on Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

While Embiid and Wiggins garner all the hype and praise, freshman Wayne Selden has also been mentioned as a potential late-lottery or first-round pick if he wants to dive into the draft pool.

In this Adam Zagoria piece from zagsblog.com, however, it appears at least a couple of NBA scouts would advise Selden to stick around Lawrence for at least another year.

Zagsblog.com picked up the below comments on Selden from SNY.tv:

“[He's a] late-first [round pick],” the aforementioned scout said. “He should definitely stay in school.” A second veteran concurred. “Yes,” he told SNY.tv. “Great upside, will show great improvement after one year of college ball. Will be a dominating player next year. The difference between 24-28 and 8-12 in the Draft.”


Wiggins slipping somewhat

It's becoming more clear as the season progresses that neither Wiggins nor other members of the touted freshman class can do for a franchise what LeBron James did as a rookie. It's addressed well in Mark Heisler's piece for Forbes, called "NBA wakes to find Andrew Wiggins and entire class of '14 aren't all that."

The article goes into great detail about where Wiggins stands currently, and why he is slipping — a relative term, considering he would drop from a consensus No. 1 pick to No. 3 or so. Here's an introductory excerpt:

This just in: Wiggins is slipping out of contention for No. 1-2. The NBA guys I talk to say that will be Parker and Kansas seven-footer Joel Embiid. At No. 3, Wiggins has yet to separate himself from Kentucky power forward Julius Randle, Australian point guard Dante Exum and, depending on whom you talk to, Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.


Twitter roundup

  • Not every college basketball analyst marveled at Kansas after its 77-70 win at Iowa State. This from CBS's Doug Gottlieb:

https://twitter.com/GottliebShow/statuses/423147334784913409

  • People in the greater Kansas City area love their college hoops:

https://twitter.com/ESPNResearch/statuses/423145096804986881

  • Iowa State fans, according to SI/CBS contributor Seth Davis, have more to worry about than the Cyclones' Big Monday prefermance:

https://twitter.com/SethDavisHoops/statuses/423154071541780480

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Comments

Andy Tweedy 7 months ago

I posted this yesterday, anybody who go with Embiid over McDermott (at least as a collegian) hasn't seen McDermott play. He is a beast!!! I love Embiid, but McDermott can do it all now, not when he reaches his ceiling.

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Dale Kroening 7 months ago

I like McDermott, and he's a great offensive player, but lets be real here, he plays NO defense. IMHO Embiid impacts a game more on both sides of the ball when not in foul trouble.

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Andy Tweedy 7 months ago

He also averages 25 points a game, stretches defenses, can bang in the paint, you name it on the offensive end, he can do it. Personally, I feel like he's Christian Laettner part II. And he certainly is no rim protector like Embiid, but if was playing no defense, as you suggest, I don't think Creighton would be undefeated in the Big East. And on the next level, I'd go with Embiid. But McDermott is a bad mother!

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Ron Prichard 7 months ago

The problem with your analysis is that McDermott is already at his ceiling and Embiid hasn't even scratched his. That is why Embiid will go well above McDermott in the Draft.

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Andy Tweedy 7 months ago

Clearly, that's true. I didn't say he would be picked higher in the draft, I said right now he's the best college player. So we're not disagreeing on your point, I'm disagreeing with what Fred said. If I had to play a college game tomorrow, all things being equal, I'd take McDermott. That might not even be true at the end of the year, and it certainly appears that won't be true in the league in a few years, but right now, McDermott is a better player.

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Dirk Medema 7 months ago

McDermott is a better (offensive) player. Embiid is clearly the better defensive player, and has quite a bit of offense as well.

D is really the unappreciated aspect of the game too. Very little in the way of stats to boast about and all that. It's also why I believe Wiggs is going to move back up in front of Parker. Yes, Parker is excellent offensively, but has much less on the D-side, and Andrew from Day 1 has been able to shut him down when given the chance. Fortunately, Coach Self appears to be gaining comfort in allowing Andrew to guard the best non-center on the opposing team (Will he start on Smart?). As he begins to control the game on that end, people will begin to appreciate again just how good the complete package is.

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Bryce Landon 7 months ago

Leave it to "pants-on-backwards" Doug Gottlieb to bag on KU for something or other.

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Aaron Paisley 7 months ago

24 turnovers is a very valid issue. The only reason KU didn't lose was because ISU wasn't making their 3's. This was also not the first time KU has had a ridiculously high number of turnovers in a game.

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Lance Cheney 7 months ago

And ISU shot 15-20 more FT's than us. Gottlieb's still a chode.

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Suzi Marshall 7 months ago

Gottlieb has things a bit mixed up about the chest thumping and turnover thing. We are all thumping our chest because we could be ISU on there court while making 24 turnovers....and a decisive disadvatage at the foul line.!!!

If I owned a NBA franchise and my GM came to me with a number 1 pick selection other than Embiid, I'd fire him on the spot.

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Scott Burkhart 7 months ago

Gottlieb is such a bozo. He has been so elated to watch KU lose 4 games this season after such high expectations. It all goes back to his playing days at OK ST and the animosity the conference tends to breed. Just a side note, I was checking the stats from those days and I'll take Coach Self over Coach Williams any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Coach Self has a sterling record.

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Len Shaffer 7 months ago

You're right about Self over Williams, but I'm sick of all the Gottlieb-bashing. He's an excellent analyst who gives KU credit when they deserve it and doesn't when they don't. And he's absolutely right about the turnovers being an issue. Let's face it, as Aaron Paisley said above, this isn't the first time that it's been a problem. In fact, they made that same number of turnovers (24) against Florida.

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Eliott Reeder 7 months ago

First paragraph: "As far as he's convened..."

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Benton Smith 7 months ago

Thanks for pointing that out. Word processor must've auto corrected from what I had typed. Helps to have a second set of eyes.

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Phil Leister 7 months ago

There are no editors at KUSports?

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Benton Smith 7 months ago

Blogs work a little differently than submitted stories. When one of us posts a blog, the guy who wrote it tends to be the only one who has read it at that point. No excuse for the typo, though. Glad someone caught it.

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Suzi Marshall 7 months ago

If I were making appologies for my typos, my entire day would be wiped out.

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Glen Miller 7 months ago

I can't stand Gottlieb. The guy absolutely can't stand Kansas and it's more than obvious. I no longer have sound on when he is commentating a Kansas game. I turn the radio on instead. The guy is just a jealous little troll, who had nothing but shady remarks to say about us when he commentated the San Diego State game. I seriously wanted to reach through my TV and smack the guy. I don't pay attention to a thing he says about anything. He's biased in his opinion and it shows.

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Bryce Landon 7 months ago

If I had to transfer to Oklahoma State after getting expelled from Notre Dame for stealing credit cards, I'd be bitter too.

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Craig Carr 7 months ago

On point, i had forgotten that with his inability to put his shorts on

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Brandon Mahon 7 months ago

I think Selden should stay and I think he might

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Phil Leister 7 months ago

I agree that Selden could use another year at KU. But some do consider him the top shooting guard prospect for this class.

http://www.cbssports.com/nba/eye-on-basketball/24405650/nba-draft-replenishing-the-nba-shooting-guard-position

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Jason Keller 7 months ago

I told you, Matt Tait. That is nothing from Gottlieb. I'm surprised he didn't call out Bill for his track record with elite talent.

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Rodney Crain 7 months ago

All just noise till we get through the next two games. KU looks much better than during the non con schedule. 5 tough games in we will have played the top 4 teams all once and should have a much clearer idea of where we are headed. Thanks for the recap but time and sources tell me to early and to many folks who are just filling space for me to put much into their babble.

Next up is all we need to be concerned with.

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Brett McCabe 7 months ago

My recommendation to the SI writer is to craft a fairly vague paragraph about Kansas basketball, store it on his desktop, and then past it into his Magic 8 article each year. It will save him time.

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Craig Carr 7 months ago

Gottlieb is what he is, an average player who loves to hear himself talk. Hard for most anyone to understand how he gets paid to spew his nonsense..

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Jim Stauffer 7 months ago

The 24 turnovers at ISU were completely different than those at Florida. At Florida we were being abused and the ball was turned over because of their pressure. At ISU we were careless while trying to make plays.

In other words, ISU TO's were poor judgment, Fl. TO's were our inability to solve their pressure.

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Mike Riches 7 months ago

Interesting that Oklahoma State isn't in the "Magic Eight"...I would think they'd be picked above a couple of the other teams mentioned, but of course, it's all just opinion at this point.

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Gerry Butler 7 months ago

if wayne is the top shooting guard prospect being considered for this years draft then I have to say it must be a really weak year for that spot this year, no, I'm not a wayne basher, I love the guy but until for the opening 2 game stretch of conference he has really struggled with his shot, and at times has actually looked a little lost, like he was trying to think to much instead of just going out and playing like he can, truly believe out of the three starting freshman we have HE is the one who definitely needs to come back for another year he is definitely a pro but needs a little more wotk not to worry he will be fine, IN TIME GO HAWKS

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Lance Cheney 7 months ago

I think before Embiid goes to the NBA, he needs to work on his celebrations. The bilateral hands-shaking-with-index-fingers-pointing-at-the-floor looks pretty funny.

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