The Kansas University volleyball team is headed to the program's first ever Final Four, next week in Omaha, thanks to a thrilling five-set victory over top seed USC on Saturday night in San Diego.
After winning the first two sets with some elite volleyball, the Jayhawks fell flat in sets 3 and 4 and needed a wild comeback to pull out set 5. Trailing 13-9 in the fifth and decisive set, KU ripped off six straight points to stun USC and take the match.
The Jayhawks now will play fourth-seeded Nebraska in Omaha on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. central time. The winner advances to the national title match to face the winner of the Texas-Minnesota showdown.
Be sure to check out KUsports.com throughout the upcoming week for all kinds of KU volleyball coverage.
For now, here's a quick look at some highlights and interviews from San Diego.
By now, most of you surely have heard the news about the Des Moines newspaper columnist who suffered a broken leg during last night's wild Iowa State victory over Iowa, where ecstatic Cyclones fans stormed the floor to celebrate the victory.
The columnist, Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register, was injured while heading to the press room after the fourth-ranked Cyclones' come-from-way-behind, 83-82 win over their in-state rivals.
No such danger exists for those of us who cover Kansas basketball, at least not at home. I've been witness to plenty of court stormings against the Jayhawks on the road, but it just does not happen at Allen Fieldhouse, no matter how big the victory is.
Of course, just because it doesn't happen any longer does not mean it hasn't happened. But the last time it did, KU fans were none too thrilled about the 150 or so fans who stormed the Allen Fieldhouse court to celebrate KU's hard-fought victory over No. 3 Texas in late January of 2003.
This was the Nick Collison game, when the former KU star poured in 24 points and grabbed 23 rebounds, inspiring a standing ovation from ESPN color commentator Dick Vitale courtside.
And here are the highlights of this thrilling game. In the last 20 seconds or so of the clip, you'll see the small group of fans who stormed the floor.
Those fans who remained in their seats — and even a few of the KU players — voiced their displeasure about the court-storming as it unfolded.
Fans chanted "Off the court, off the court," at the students on the floor and former Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich told our own Gary Bedore in the postgame press conference that he was not pleased with the demonstration.
"I love they are excited about the way we played," Hinrich said at the time, "and excited about basketball here, but we expected this. We expect to win."
And here is a "Sound Off" question, published several years later in the Journal-World, that features a handful of commenters reminiscing about the court storming.
Needless to say, the idea of storming the floor after a victory is not well received around Lawrence. Even when opposing fans do it at their place, KU fans grouse about the celebratory practice.
Worth noting, however, is that there may be some crossover between those fans who complain about storming the floor and the ones who, on the rare occasion that the KU football team picks up a huge victory, rush the Memorial Stadium turf in search of the nearest goal post to tear down.
That, among KU fans, is a whole other debate.
The Kansas University volleyball team, ranked ninth in the country and seeded as the No. 9 overall team in this year's NCAA Tournament, left Lawrence a little after noon today for the airport and a flight to San Diego, where the Jayhawks will play in the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons.
KU, which advanced to the San Diego regional site with home wins over Furman and Missouri, will play Loyola-Marymount at 7:30 p.m. Friday with a berth in the Elite Eight on the line.
LMU enters the match having won 5 straight matches while the Jayhawks enter at 28-2.
In case you missed it, here's a look at some of what we've written so far this week about the volleyball team's run in this year's tournament. Be sure to stay logged on to KUsports.com throughout the week for much more from San Diego, as Journal-World sports editor Tom Keegan will be on the ground in southern California.
Memories from 2003
From Matt Tait: Former KU libero Jill Dorsey looks back at KU's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament and discusses why this team is ready to go farther.
Ready for more
From Matt Tait: Kansas learned a little something during its last trip to the Sweet 16 and the Jayhawks are ready to take the next step this weekend.
Horejsi kind to Kansas
From Matt Tait: The Jayhawks may have hosted NCAA Tournament matches for the fourth year in a row but playing in their home gym made it a different experience.
From Gary Bedore: KU swept Border War rival Mizzou in dramatic fashion to advance to the Sweet 16.
On to the Next Round
From Gary Bedore: The Jayhawks made quick work of Furman in Round 1 to advance to the NCAA Tournament's second round.
What's Up, Dock?
From Tom Keegan: Senior Tiana Dockery, the first KU player to appear in four consecutive NCAA Tournaments is living proof that Kansas volleyball is for real.
Honors Roll In
From KUsports.com KU coach Ray Bechard and sophomore setter Ainise Havili lead charge for KU's all-Big 12 postseason honors.
Friday night, inside Horejsi Center on the Kansas University campus, KU's ninth-ranked volleyball team knocked off No. 25 Missouri, three sets to none, in a second-round NCAA Tournament match and the first meeting between Border War rivals since Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC.
The victory, which came in dramatic fashion — KU won the third set 27-25 despite trailing 24-20 — pushed Kansas (28-2) into its second Sweet 16 in program history (and second in three seasons) next week in San Diego.
KU, the tourney's No. 9 overall seed, will face Loyola-Marymount, which upset perennial power Stanford, the No. 8 seed, in the second round.
A victory against Loyola-Marymount would propel the Jayhawks to their first ever Elite Eight appearance, where No. 1 overall seed USC likely would be waiting.
Here's a look at some highlights and the postgame comments following Friday's Border War victory.
The Kansas University volleyball team opened NCAA Tournament play with a convincing three-set sweep of Furman on Thursday night at Horejsi Family Athletics Center.
After hosting the NCAA Tournament in Allen Fieldhouse for the past couple of years, the Jayhawks were able to play in their true home venue this season after the NCAA lifted the capacity requirement from host sites.
As always, Horejsi was packed and full of that KU volleyball vibe that has made it one of the best home-court advantages in the Big 12.
Here's a quick look at some of Thursday's highlights and postgame reaction. KU will play Border War rival Missouri tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Horejsi, with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 in San Diego.
New KU women's basketball coach Brandon Schneider introduced himself to the media and the Jayhawk fanbase this morning at a press conference.
The KU Sports Extra team, Tom Keegan and Matt Tait, breaks down the four regions of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket.
Don't forget to make your picks in KUsports.com's Bracket Challenge.
On Dec. 9, 1989, Kansas handed Kentucky its worst loss in program history, 150-95.
25 years later, it's still hard to believe ...
- 150 points in a game (current KU record)
- 80 points in the first half (current KU record)
- 70 points in the second half
- 53 rebounds
- 52 field goals made (current KU record)
- 36 assists (current KU record)
- 36 free throws made
- 10 three-pointers
- And six players with at least 16 points
... all against one of the top programs in college basketball history.
Rick Pitino sure didn't act like a coach who had been left twisting in the wind.
Yet Adolph Rupp, the legendary Baron of the Bluegrass, the man who turned college basketball into a religion in Kentucky, may have been twisting in his grave.
"I'm not concerned about the score," Pitino said after Kansas besmirched bluegrass basketball with an astonishing 150-95 victory on Saturday afternoon in Allen Fieldhouse.
"We could have slowed down," added Pitino, who left the New York Knicks to take over Kentucky's probation-riddled program this season, "but we can't get anything out of that. It's very, very embarrassing, but if you hang your heads that'll happen. And until we get some bigger bodies, it'll happen again."
It was the most lopsided loss in the history of Kentucky's tradition-rich program. City College of New York, a school that has long since dropped basketball, clubbed the Wildcats, 89-39, in the NIT back in 1950.
Too, the 150 points were the most a Kentucky team had surrendered in 1,945 games. . .or ever since the school started its program back in 1903. The previous high was 116 and that was in a 118-116 win over Northwestern back in 1966.
Did Pitino think Kansas coach Roy Williams tried to run up the score?
"I believe they weren't trying to hurt anyone," he said. "They were just passing the ball and scoring. They just drilled us."
The blowout inspired plenty of great quotes, including this one that brings to mind Bill Self's more recent "Topeka YMCA" comments:
"I didn't think we could score 80 in a half against St. Mary's of the Western Plains. I didn't think we could do it against a high school," said KU guard Kevin Pritchard.
More coverage from the immediate aftermath:
Also, be sure to check out various retrospectives from the past 25 years:
Or, if you have some time to kill, watch the historic game in its entirety.
Happy December 9th, Jayhawk fans.
Update: 4:45 p.m. - By Matt Tait
We'll obviously hear and learn a lot more about KU's new-look offense under first-year offensive coordinator John Reagan in the coming weeks, but we learned this much about it today — the players like it.
Nick Harwell said he loves the versatility the offense brings and how it allows him to make plays and put pressure on the defense in a number of different ways. Jimmay Mundine said he loves the tempo, the room to work and how it better takes advantage of KU's strengths, not just in terms of running game or passing game, but even more detailed in that Mundine is now blocking Sam linebacker and nickelbacks instead of offensive linemen.
He thinks that will make the whole attack more dangerous and give sophomore QB Montell Cozart more time to make plays himself.
Mundine spoke a lot about the responsibility of the seniors taking up some of the slack so the young QB doesn't feel like it's all on him.
As for Charlie Weis, he emphasized that the offense is Reagan's to run. He'll have input when he sees fit and he'll be there for him as a sounding board, should Reagan need one, but, for the most part, Weis will stay out of the way. Most of his input will come in the game plan stages early in the week and Reagan will handle the rest. Weis said he would not be involved much at all on game days.
What's more, the whole thing sounds a lot simpler, which we've heard before. Mundine gave an example of a play call from last year that had like 8-10 different words in it (see video below in the blog, from previous update). And that was for a basic run to the right. As he said, "That's a lot to process before you even think about how you're going to execute it." This year, though, that same play has been condensed into three words, which makes it easier to process, so that by the time you line up, you're thinking about HOW you're going to do something instead of WHAT you're going to do.
Subtle change, but pretty significant from the sound of it.
Update: 3:50 p.m. - By Benton Smith
KU senior wide receiver Nick Harwell might be new to the team, but he played three seasons at Miami (Ohio), where he caught 229 passes and 23 touchdowns in three seasons. He is an experienced veteran who knows the game.
Other than him personally looking forward to the season opener on Sept. 6 vs. Southeast Missouri State (because he had to sit out 2013 as a transfer), a couple of games on the 2014 schedule stood out for Harwell.
The receiver realizes the Jayhawks' second game of the season — at Duke (10-4 in 2013) — will be a challenging one. And the Sunflower Showdown will, of course, hold significant meaning for KU, after the Wildcats won by three touchdowns at KU in last year's regular-season finale.
Here's what Harwell had to say on the matter:
Update: 3:25 p.m. - By Matt Tait
Just finished up with interviews here at Big 12 media days and we probably have enough stuff to fill an entire section every day from now until camp starts on Aug. 8.
As I go through the tape and jot down the most impressive bits, I'll be sure to fill you up with a few that stood out right here. Like this one from senior TE Jimmay Mundine, who talked about facing his drops head on in the offseason and did not shy away from using the miscues as an opportunity to get better.
"(Tight ends) coach (Jeff) Blasko and I talk all the time about how if I just caught half of the balls I dropped, I would've had a completely different season," Mundine said.
To that end, the coach and the veteran pass catcher watched tape of every drop and tried to analyze exactly what went wrong. Most often it was simply a case of Mundine trying too hard to make a big play when the simple and safe play would have been just fine.
That, he said, was his biggest takeaway from the exercise and he's hoping it serves him well during his senior season.
"It sucked," Mundine said. "It hit me in the stomach, but it definitely motivated me. Now I'm just trying to focus on making the basic paly and not trying to do too much."
Update: 2:50 p.m. - By Benton Smith
After a morning full of Big 12 coaches, the players had their time with the media this afternoon at the Omni Dallas Hotel. KU brought seniors Ben Heeney, Nick Harwell, Cassius Sendish and Jimmay Mundine to media days.
Weis was back on the floor, too, so we bounced around from table to table to talk with all the Jayhawks. You get the sense from speaking with the guys that they are both realistic about how far the program has to go and looking forward to trying to be the team that gets KU out of its slump.
We'll post more throughout the afternoon, but for now, here's senior tight end Mundine talking about some of the reasons he prefers new offensive coordinator John Reagan's system to what KU ran in 2013.
Update: 11:20 a.m. - By Benton Smith
Every time someone at Big 12 media days starts talking about Kansas football, some variation of the following phrase inevitably is uttered: KU needs to win some games.
Entering his third season with the Jayhawks, coach Charlie Weis spoke about some of the things that will make that possible while fielding questions at his morning press conference. Here are some of the highlights:
• Senior tight end Jimmay Mundine didn't arrive at Kansas ready to contribute to his full potential. He was far better as a receiver than a blocker. This season, he should be an integral part of KU's offense.
• There are expectations for sophomore quarterback Montell Cozart. "I'm glad I made the decision halfway through his freshman year to play him," Weis said. Now KU's coaches knows what they're getting and don't have to worry about jitters in Cozart's sophomore campaign. The 6-foot-2 195-pound QB has athleticism and can stand in the pocket and deliver. That gives KU a better chance to score more points.
• With senior Nick Harwell, a transfer from Miami (Ohio), Kansas is plugging in a No. 1 receiver who already has three years of big production on his resume. Adding a valuable senior leader like Harwell makes everybody around him play better.
• Each year more focus goes toward addressing less contact taking place for football players. In the concussion discussion, there are a lot of talks at length about minimizing the helmet-to-helmet type of contact. Still, Weis said teams need live tackling to be able to practice fundamentals and techniques. Defensive coordinator Clint Bowen will demonstrate proper form to all of his players. KU will only have two days a week of contact. And as the season goes on, it will have to be cut down even more.
• KU's offense has to stay on the field and suffer far less three-and-outs. When you have a mobile quarterback (which didn't happen for KU last year until Cozart began playing), "you're playing 11-on-10 football," Weis said. The QB carrying the ball puts much more stress on the defense.
• One reporter asked Weis if he could put a number on what would make 2014 a successful season for Kansas — as in, how many games do you need to win? Weis said it is Important that his team's expectation be clearly defined. But he didn't want to definite it for the media. But he emphasized the players know the expectations, while adding: "We haven't done a thing in the two years I've been here."
• KU's new spread offense is all coordinator John Reagan's. Weis will only be involved on offense during the week, not on game day. "I'm gonna let the offensive staff run the offense. I'm more of an advisor right now." The head coach said he will be a resource to Reagan.
• More on monitoring contact: No one pounds the guys at practice that play every week in games all the time. The "gray area" is getting the young players ready to play if they're not getting real in-game reps.
• On incoming freshman Jacob Bragg — He's "one of the best pure centers in the nation. Weis told Bragg the same thing he tells every recruit: Don't come in expecting to red shirt. Come in with the goal of beating everybody out for a spot.
• Weis was asked if cheating is widespread on campuses across the country. "Maybe I'm oblivious," he said, adding he hasn't seen it, but hears about it "all the time."
• Andrew Bolton, Kevin Short and Marcus Jenkins-Moore are players KU wants to see on the field. Bolton came in banged up and he is glad they didn't play him. Short in the secondary gives the Jayhawks a chance to keep up with the Big 12's offenses, which throw it around and play in space.
• For KU's Sept. 6 opener vs. Southeast Missouri State, the first female member of a Big 12 officiating crew, Cat Conti, will be on the field at Memorial Stadium. Weis, calling himself old-fashioned, said: "I'll try to watch my language." He added that It's great that women are being put on equal footing with men.
• Senior linebacker Ben Heeney is probably one of the more under-appreciated defensive players, if not players, in this league, according to Weid. Heeney reminds him a lot of former all-pro Zach Thomas — short but plays sideline to sideline with a vengeance.
• The QB situation at KU has been troubling the past couple of seasons, under Weis. The coach said true drop-back quarterbacks have gotten exposed. That's why they changed what they're doing, offensively at KU. The only offensive position that has been Big 12 caliber the past two years was running back, with James Sims. Players were marginal at other skill positions.
• In closing — The bottom line: If we don't score more points, we're not going to win more games.
— Hear complete audio from the press conference: Charlie Weis at Big 12 football media days
Update: 10:22 a.m. - By Matt Tait
Baylor coach Art Briles kicked things off for the coaches at the podium today by talking a lot about defending the Bears' 2013 Big 12 title.
It doesn't seem like he's all that worried about his team's chances in 2014.
Briles said, among other things, that the Bears would not try for a bunt or a single this season. They're swinging for the fences.
In addition, he said the whole notion of defending last year's title was a little crazy because "how can you defend something that can't be taken away?" Decent point.
KU coach Charlie Weis is up next. The 2013 KU highlight video is playing now...
Original post: 9:00 a.m. – By Matt Tait
Generally speaking, Kansas University football doesn't make many headlines during the annual Big 12 media days in Dallas, which begin today and wrap up Tuesday.
When you've won just two conference games in the past four seasons (33 tries), it becomes more and more difficult for the other Big 12 media members to care too much about the outlook for the Jayhawks in the fall.
That all changed last year, though, when KU coach Charlie Weis stole the show with his “pile of crap” line that was both bold and honest and remains misinterpreted by many to this day.
If I've learned one thing about Weis in his three years in Lawrence it's that he tells it like it is. No sugar coating, no dancing around the subject, just his real opinion — like it or not — regarding just about anything he's asked.
That's a great trait for a coach to have for a guy covering his program and it helps make the Jayhawks relevant at this two-day football kickoff event. When everyone else is talking about national title chances, Heisman hopefuls or the league race, the Jayhawks stay in the conversation because of Weis — both his resume and his reputation.
I can't tell you how many other media members who cover the Big 12 have mentioned to me in the past couple of years how awesome it is to listen to a guy who actually says something. That's not a knock on the other coaches in the conference. There are several incredible coaches in the Big 12, but there's a lot of coach speak, as well. Not with Weis.
I'm sure we'll learn a thing or two about the state of the KU program in the next couple of days — who's healthy and who's not, who's in jeopardy academically, who might no longer be on the roster, etc. — and we'll definitely learn a lot more about when camp opens Aug. 8. But the always intriguing question of “What's Weis gonna say next?” will be one of the biggest topics of the week down here and even though I've gotten used to the way the guy does business, I have to admit, I'm curious, too.
Stay logged on right here throughout the day today and Tuesday as Benton Smith and I will scoop up all the KU and Big 12 tidbits about the upcoming football season you'd care to read about.
Weis is scheduled to hit the podium at 10:30 this morning and he'll field questions for 20 minutes before returning to the ballroom around 1:30 for the breakouts. He'll be joined by seniors Nick Harwell (WR), Ben Heeney (LB), Jimmay Mundine (TE) and Cassius Sendish (S) and, between the two of us, we'll spend plenty of time with all five of them to get the latest update on where the Jayhawks stand heading into Year 3 of the Charlie Weis era.
At least one thing about Andrew Wiggins' transition to the NBA will be nice and simple: the one-and-done Kansas University product will continue to play basketball in adidas shoes.
The official outfitter for KU athletics through 2019, adidas announced a professional partnership with Wiggins, Cleveland's No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, on Wednesday morning.
At about the same time, Wiggins shared the news via his Instagram account.
ESPN's Darren Rovell first reported the endorsement deal Tuesday night. His sources said the multi-year contract guarantees the incoming rookie at least $2 million a year.
In a report on Forbes.com, Darren Heitner revealed the contract includes a provision that would allow him to opt out of it and "revisit the marketplace" before the deal expires.
Heitner spoke with Wiggins' agent, Bill Duffy of BDA Sports Management. The agent said the contract included a confidentiality provision, meaning specific money figures couldn't be disclosed. But Duffy told Forbes it's "safe to say it's the greatest rookie contract adidas has ever done in basketball." According to Heitner's report, the deal includes a royalty scale designed to compensate Wiggins as he grows as an NBA player.
As part of the agreement, outlined by Forbes, Wiggins will make international trips and other appearances for adidas throughout the deal.
Rovell wrote Wiggins became the first No. 1 overall pick to sign with the company since Chicago's Derrick Rose, in 2008.
Duke's Jabari Parker, chosen one pick after Wiggins by the Milwaukee Bucks, signed with Nike's Jordan Brand before the draft.
Some speculated Wiggins also would sign with Nike, especially when he wore a pair of old school Jordans the first time he put on a Cleveland uniform, as part of his introductory press conference — photos from which can be seen on Cleveland's website.
But the Forbes report stated Wiggins and adidas "had an idea they would be bound by a contractual agreement for a few weeks."
Now that the 19-year-old from Vaughan, Ontario, Canada is a professional, Wiggins also has rolled out his own website: andrewwiggins.pro. It provides links to his social media accounts, a look at his own personal logo and, in general, information on all things Andrew Wiggins.