For the first time since 2012, the Kansas basketball team is back in the Final Four. Headed to San Antonio, a familiar destination for some former Jayhawks, a long list of current and old players took to social media to react to the wild Elite Eight victory.
In an 85-81 slugfest against Duke, in overtime, the Jayhawks punched their ticket to college basketball’s biggest stage.
After two straight seasons of defeats in the Elite Eight, it made the reward of the Final Four that much more special for all of the players in the program, or those who have already gone through it and watched from a distance.
Doubted for most of the season with a lack of depth, lack of size and home losses, the Jayhawks were happy to prove people wrong again with their run through the Midwest Regional. A look at many of the reactions from KU’s victory against Duke, which includes several from Jayhawks who made it possible.
Kansas basketball coach Bill Self arrived in Springfield, Mass., and kicked off his Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame events Thursday.
Self received his Hall of Fame jacket, which is made of a color described as "Naismith Orange," and gave brief remarks about starting his enshrinement week alongside several new Hall of Famers.
"When we all found out, I think, in April, I think we were all pretty overwhelmed with this. But this really hasn't hit me until we actually got to Springfield. Being in this arena, looking around, and seeing all the portraits is something that is very humbling and I certainly feel inadequate to be before you this afternoon."
— KUSports.com's Matt Tait and Nick Krug are in Springfield to provide all kinds of coverage of Self's enshrinement week, so stay tuned to KUsports.com for more stories, videos and more.
Former KU players, current Jayhawks congratulate Josh Jackson and Frank Mason on NBA Draft selections
When Josh Jackson was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday, he continued a long tradition of Kansas players being selected in the lottery — the eighth time in 11 years.
There was still plenty of excitement from people around the KU program when Jackson was picked and Frank Mason III followed in the second round — 34th overall to the Sacramento Kings.
Many current and former KU players expressed their joy for Jackson and Mason on social media during the draft:
After a vulgar Snapchat video circulated through social media Thursday, incoming Kansas transfer K.J. Lawson issued an apology through Twitter.
Lawson, a 6-foot-7 forward, made disparaging comments toward Memphis head coach Tubby Smith, his former coach, in a three-second clip. Lawson and his older brother, Dedric, announced their intention to transfer to play for the Jayhawks earlier this week.
“This is what we do when we leave Tubby,” Lawson said on the undated video, “(expletive) Tubby.”
Lawson expressed his dissatisfaction with his former school when he announced his intention to transfer earlier this month. Lawson quoted a song from Drake, which mentioned, “two middle fingers as I make an exit,” in a tweet that he later deleted.
“On behalf of my family and myself I would like to issue an apology to Coach Tubby Smith and Tiger Nation,” Lawson wrote Thursday night. “Despite my frustrations of this past year, my words and actions at the time were immature, thoughtless, and not becoming of who I am as a person or how my family raised me. Memphis will forever be my home and I wish Coach Tubby Smith and Tiger Nation the best moving forward.”
Lawson captioned his apologetic tweet: “This momentary (indiscretion) can jeopardize the most important thing in my life. I apologize for my inexcusable behavior.”
Lawson averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds for the Tigers this season in 33.7 minutes per game, earning American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year honors.
Another day, another national player of the year award for Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III.
Well, make that two awards Sunday.
After one of the best individual seasons in program history, Mason was named the Naismith Trophy Winner and the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ player of the year on Sunday in Arizona.
Mason, the consensus national player of the year, has swept all of the major awards for national player of the year ahead of Friday's Wooden Award announcement.
Several of Mason’s teammates — and Villanova coach Jay Wright — congratulated him on a successful award season through social media:
A first-time member of the Hall of Fame ballot, Kansas men’s basketball coach Bill Self received plenty of support leading up to Saturday’s announcement that he was a part of the 2017 Hall of Fame class.
Many opposing coaches throughout the season expressed their appreciation for Self’s accomplishments, which includes 13 straight Big 12 titles, seven trips to the Elite Eight in 14 seasons at Kansas, two Final Fours and a national title in 2008.
Then there were all of the former players, administrators, analysts and others who offered their endorsements for one of the newest members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
After Saturday's announcement, several current players, former players and others sent a message of support to Self through social media:
Our Series on Bill Self's Journey to the Hall of Fame
• Hall of Fame Material Part I: Larry Brown ‘in awe’ of Bill Self’s stellar run at Kansas
• Hall of Fame Material Part II: Daughter Lauren most impressed by Bill Self’s ability to mentor
• Hall of Fame Material Part III: Frank Mason III knew right away that Bill Self was the coach for him
• Hall of Fame Material Part IV: Doc Sadler says Bill Self same (sarcastic) guy as the day he met him
• Hall of Fame Material Part V: Bill Self’s style, passion make Danny Manning a proud alum
Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III has put himself on the shortlist of candidates for national player of the year.
He's playing in one of the best stretches of his career, averaging 22.8 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds through his first four Big 12 games. He's shooting 12-of-15 from behind the 3-point line in the past three games.
But there was a time when Mason wasn't considered to be one of the top players in the country. Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn wrote about Mason and Devonte' Graham this week, and one part of his story includes KU head coach Bill Self and assistant Kurtis Townsend discussing Mason's recruitment.
Self: “When Frank came out, was that the same year we were recruiting Cat Barber and Chris Jones?”
Townsend: “And Demetrius Jackson. Frank was kind of our fourth option.”
Self: “That left us really kind of—”
Townsend: “Scrambling. Then we were recruiting Jordan McLaughlin [for the following class], who ended up canceling our visit and committing to USC. But I went to see him [at the Adidas Fab 48] in Vegas; Frank was playing against him, and Frank kicked his ass.... I knew Frank’s AAU coach, Ty White, so I called him and asked, ‘Does that little dude with the braids play like that all the time?’ He said, ‘Every day, Coach. He don’t know no better.’ ... I went and saw him twice more, and each time he was good.”
Of course, back then, not many people predicted Mason would potentially outplay all of the players that spurned the Jayhawks during recruiting. Mason, a former Towson commit, was ranked much lower than the others.
Cat Barber averaged 23.5 points per game at North Carolina State last season before declaring for the NBA draft. Demetrius Jackson posted averages of 15.8 points and 4.7 assists at Notre Dame last year, also declaring for the draft.
Chris Jones ended up at Louisville, averaging 13.7 points and 3.6 assists during his senior season in 2014-15, while Jordan McLaughlin is averaging 14.5 points and 5.1 assists this year at USC.
Actually, in our KUsports.com archives, Mason's commitment wasn't met with a lot of joy. One commenter compared him to Royce Woolridge, who transferred after one season. Others preferred Karviar Shepherd, who committed to TCU and averages 5.9 points in his senior season, or Roddy Peters (played one season at Maryland and one season at South Florida).
When Self was asked last week how much improvement he's seen in Mason over the years, he responded: “He’s grown from being a guy who we thought could impact our program and be a good player for us in time to, in my opinion, a guy who has an unbelievable chance to be a first-team All-American, so that shows you the growth."
KANSAS CITY, MO. — After finishing two games behind Kansas in the Big 12 conference standings last year, West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins said the key to unseating KU at the top of the conference is learning to win at Allen Fieldhouse.
The Jayhawks own a 206-9 record at home under coach Bill Self, including only two league losses since 2007. Obviously, no other team in the Big 12 enjoys the same level of success on its home floor.
"People have to go into Allen Fieldhouse and win once in a while," Huggins said. "Because the rest of us all lose at home, and I think if you look at it, that's without a question, the difference. That has a lot to do with the job that Bill does. Bill does a great job. And they have really good players."
On a 12-year conference title streak, the Jayhawks are one season shy of tying the longest consecutive conference title streak, set by UCLA in 1967-79.
"Kansas' dominance is really -- it comes down to three things," Huggins said, "they've got a great coach, they've got great players, and they never lose at home. Until we start beating them at home -- and we had chances, we had chances. We missed free throws and a lot of crazy things happened at Allen Fieldhouse now. So we end up losing. If we had beaten them, I think somebody else would have had a chance to maybe tie for the league championship or whatever."
Despite KU's long streak at the top of the conference, Huggins disagrees with people that believe it hurts the image of the Big 12 to have one team with a monopoly on conference titles.
"I don't know why that would taint anything, you know what I'm saying?" Huggins said. "Because they've been one of the top three or four teams in the country for how many years, and that's not going to change. They can be in whatever league you want to put them in and they're still going to be. Don't listen to those people."
KANSAS CITY, MO. — After coaching for 13 seasons at Pittsburgh, TCU men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon enters the Big 12 Conference with some appreciation for Bill Self and the Kansas program.
Speaking at Big 12 Media Day for the first time, Dixon compared Self to some of the coaching giants in the industry and said he's on his way to earning a plaque in the basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
"We've gone against some pretty good coaches over the years and Hall of Famers. He's obviously a future Hall of Famer if not already," Dixon said of Self. "And, yeah, I mean, what they've done is inconceivable. No one could have predicted it, and it's still hard to believe."
Coaching in the ACC, Dixon matched up against some of the giants of the industry throughout the season. But he's amazed by the Jayhawks' 12-year reign at the top of the Big 12.
"There's nothing like this. I mean, to win it 12 years in a row and what Kansas has done, it's unheard of," Dixon said. "I guess it hasn't been done since UCLA, I guess is what they said. And that was obviously a different time. So, yeah, it is different in that regard. But probably stands out even more when you get the picks for the year, and the 12, 13th time, and they're claiming them the champion in the 13th year already."
The Horned Frogs are ranked last in the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll, but Dixon said it's ultimately up to the rest of the conference to unseat the Jayhawks from their spot at the top of the conference.
"I was talking to somebody earlier, it's unbelievable," Dixon said of the streak. "Obviously that was the thing about the Big East. There was no clear-cut team year-in, and year-out. We had the best record in the conference over a ten-year span. But we weren't looked at as the leader of the conference.
"There's no question about it. I guess it's up to the other nine to do something about it."
KANSAS CITY, MO. — Speaking at Big 12 Media Days on Tuesday at Sprint Center, Iowa State men's basketball coach Steve Prohm addressed his team's play in Kansas City, winners of two of the past three Big 12 tournament titles.
"What I think the number one factor coming over here is being just three hours from here, that Cyclone Nation really makes this — Hilton South is what they call it, it's an unbelievable atmosphere here," Prohm said. "I think that obviously goes a long way in winning games in this arena."
The Cyclones, coming off a 23-12 season, were ranked fourth in the Big 12 coaches' preseason poll behind Kansas, West Virginia and Texas. KU coach Bill Self gave the Cyclones his first-place vote.
Iowa State split the season series with the Jayhawks last year, winning in Ames, 85-72. When the two schools played again in the regular-season finale, the Jayhawks won, 85-78.
"I thought both games were really well played," Prohm said. "We were fortunate to beat them at our place. Then we went to their place last game of the regular season and actually really played well. I think we led by three with three minutes to go. But when you're playing Kansas, you're playing elite teams, you have to make tough plays down the stretch and you have to finish games. We weren't able to do it up there this past season."
Iowa State senior Monté Morris was picked as the conference's preseason Player of the Year. The dynamic point guard is the top returning scorer in the league after averaging 13.8 points per game, adding a league-leading 6.9 assists per game last year.
But of course, Prohm wants the Cyclones to contend for a Big 12 title and work their way to the level of success that is common at Kansas.
"Obviously Kansas is the standard, like I touched on, and our goal is to continue to put ourselves in a position to challenge them," Prohm said.
"But Allen Fieldhouse, Hilton Coliseum, there's probably, like I said, not five better places to play college basketball."