Led by a talented senior class, Seton Hall finished third in the Big East and earned its first NCAA Tournament victory in 14 years.
The reward of Thursday’s 11-point victory over North Carolina State is a second-round matchup against top-seeded Kansas (6:10 p.m., TBS) on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena. The Pirates have won five of their last seven games following a four-game losing streak at the beginning of February.
Kansas players compared Seton Hall’s style of play to West Virginia. Delgado provided a strong post presence and he’s surrounded by physical guards.
“The way they go about doing their business is different,” Self said of the comparison between Seton Hall and WVU. “But I think from a physical standpoint they certainly kind of look that role.”
Playing Texas Tech, its only Big 12 opponent this season in non-conference play, the Pirates (22-11) earned a 10-point victory at Madison Square Garden in November.
Fun fact: With a victory against Seton Hall, Bill Self will pass Roy Williams for the most wins among KU coaches in the NCAA Tournament. Self owns a 34-13 record in the tournament while Williams went 34-14.
Series history: The series is tied, 1-1. Seton Hall won the first meeting in 1988 in the championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout. Kansas followed with a win in 2001 in the fifth-place game of the Maui Invitational.
BREAKING DOWN SETON HALL
No. 20 — F Desi Rodriguez | 6-6, 220, sr.
A second-team all-Big East selection, Rodriguez is averaging 17.9 points on 50.5 percent shooting from the field. He’s a 37.7 percent shooter from the 3-point arc, adding 4.9 rebounds per game. According to hoop-math.com, Rodriguez makes 67 percent of his shots that he takes at the rim.
Rodriguez missed three games at the end of the regular season with an ankle/foot, suffering a bone bruise. He’s scored at least 20 points in 12 games this season. Rodriguez ranks 14th in school history in scoring.
In the NCAA Tournament: Scored 20 points on 8 of 14 shooting with three rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.
- “I'm a fan of Kansas,” Rodriguez said. “But now I'm not no more, just for this game. But I watch their games a lot. Their games come on TV a lot. Just going through a variety of games, that's the best game on TV. They always give you a good game. Other than the other scouting report my coach is going to give me, I got a great scouting report myself.”
No. 31 — C Angel Delgado | 6-10, 245, sr.
A double-double machine and second-team all-Big East choice, Delgado has 21 double-doubles this season. The Big East’s all-time leader in rebounds, Delgado is averaging 13.3 points and 11.5 boards, shooting 50 percent from the field.
Delgado, from the Dominican Republic, takes 55.5 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. He ranks second on the team with 22 blocks.
In the NCAA Tournament: Recorded 13 points (4 of 7 shooting), nine rebounds and four assists before fouling out in 25 minutes.
No. 13 — G Myles Powell | 6-2, 195, so.
Capable of heating up at any time, Powell is averaging 15.5 points on 37.8 percent shooting from the 3-point arc. But he’s been in a funk, making 9 of his last 45 attempts from deep. Beyond his shooting, Powell is second on the team in assists (2.8 per game) and steals (1.0 per game).
In the NCAA Tournament: Making 10 of his 12 attempts at the free-throw line, he scored 19 points (1 of 7 shooting from 3) with nine rebounds.
No. 0 — G Khadeen Carrington | 6-4, 195, sr.
Seton Hall’s top free throw shooter (83.6 percent), Carrington has scored 15.2 points per game while shooting 35.3 percent from the 3-point line. The dean’s list student leads the Pirates with 36 steals and dishes 4.5 assists per game. He’s scored more than 20 points in five of the team’s last six games.
In the NCAA Tournament: Scored a team-high 26 points vs. N.C. State, making 6 of his 14 shots (3 of 5 from deep) while earning 13 trips to the free-throw line in 32 minutes.
No. 14 — F Ismael Sanogo | 6-8, 215, sr.
Playing off of the bench, Sanogo has produced 5.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Focusing on defense, he leads the team with 29 blocks and ranks second with 33 steals. When he does look to score, he’s shooting 54.9 percent from the field (45.8 percent on 24 attempts from 3).
In the NCAA Tournament: Finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes, snagging two steals while shooting 4 of 6 from the floor.
ONE THING SETON HALL DOES WELL
It’s no surprise with such a talented rebounder like Delgado, but Seton Hall entered the NCAA Tournament ranking 29th in the nation in offensive rebounding rate. The Pirates snagged 34.1 percent of their misses, tops in the Big East.
ONE AREA SETON HALL STRUGGLES
The Pirates have trouble forcing turnovers, ranking 196th in the nation in turnover percentage defense. That allows opposing teams to settle into their offenses. In their eight losses against Big East opponents, the Pirates failed to force more than seven turnovers in three of them.
MEET THE COACH
Kevin Willard is in his eighth season at Seton Hall, guiding the team to its third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. He’s led the Pirates to four 20-win seasons. Prior to his time at Seton Hall, he was the head coach for three seasons at Iona.
Described as a player’s coach, Willard spent time as an assistant at Louisville and with the Boston Celtics. Willard’s father, Ralph, was a former head coach at Holy Cross, Pittsburgh and Western Kentucky.
Kansas by 4. I don’t think it’s a particularly great defensive matchup for Kansas, especially if Udoka Azubuike is still limited from his knee injury. But the Pirates have struggled against high-scoring offenses this season and aren’t among the top teams in defending the 3-point line.
My prediction: Kansas 81, Seton Hall 72. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 16-13.
Wichita — Playing tough road games is nothing new for Seton Hall. That’s life in the Big East, which included games at Butler, Creighton, Villanova, Xavier and Providence.
After traveling to play those NCAA Tournament teams, the Pirates plan to have the same road game, us-against-the-world approach when they play Kansas in the second round at 6:10 p.m. Saturday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena.
“We’re in Kansas aren’t we? It’s a road game,” senior forward Ismael Sanogo said. “The NCAA did a good job of making it easier for them but we’re a tough team and we can handle it.”
The Pirates (22-11) advanced with a 94-83 victory over North Carolina State in the first round of the tournament Thursday. In true road games this season, they’ve posted a 5-6 record with victories over Louisville, Butler and Providence.
Kansas has certainly felt the home-state advantage in Wichita, drawing more than 13,000 people to an open practice on Wednesday. Intrust Bank Arena announced 14,390 people attended KU’s 76-60 win over Penn in the first round, a majority cheering for the Jayhawks.
“The fans really did a good job of getting them back in it,” Penn guard Darnell Foreman said. “You know what I mean? Their support was never wavering.”
KU coach Bill Self believes there’s some added pressure playing close to home, referencing last season’s Elite Eight loss to Oregon at Sprint Center in Kansas City — "I think the guys felt like that every fan was holding their breath every possession" he said.
The Jayhawks have a 5-0 all-time record in Wichita, winning their first NCAA Tournament game in the city since 1981 on Thursday.
“It's definitely more positive than not positive, without question,” Self said. “But I don't think it plays a huge role in certain segments of a game. But when you get rolling or you get on a little roll, it definitely gives you momentum, the fans do.”
In the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season, they picked up their first tournament win in 14 years. Minutes after playing N.C. State, most of the Seton Hall players said they were unfamiliar with Kansas and knew they would be logging several hours of watching film when they weren’t practicing.
But they are confident that they can avoid allowing the crowd to affect them in any negative way.
“It’s like you are going to another away game,” Seton Hall senior center Angel Delgado said. “We’ve been doing this for the whole year. It’s kind of easy for us to have the (road) mindset.”
Wichita — Throughout the last few seasons, Penn’s basketball players have noticed a trend inside of the Ivy League: the league is becoming tougher and tougher.
No, this isn’t a case of smart kids just playing basketball in their free time.
Recruiting is at a higher level than ever in the Ivy League. Penn players insist the grind of league play is as tough as anything they saw in non-conference games.
“One of the big misconceptions, I think, people have with our league is that we’re all just brainiacs and we’re all just looking forward to getting back to library and studying after the game,” said Penn sophomore AJ Brodeur, a first-team all-Ivy selection while averaging 13.1 points and 7.1 rebounds.
Of course, studying and the library are still a part of the equation of being an Ivy League student athlete. Brodeur admitted he had to complete a Corporate Finance assignment Wednesday night.
When the Quakers (24-8) tip off against top-seeded Kansas (27-7) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. Thursday (TV: TBS) at Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, they are ready to prove that they aren’t your typical No. 16 seed.
Penn earned an automatic bid into the tournament when it won the Ivy League’s conference tournament — a four-team tournament that has only existed for two seasons.
In the Ivy League, schools typically only play on Fridays and Saturdays in an attempt to make it easier on their academic studies. But when the ball is tipped in the air, there’s no question that those teams can compete with just about anybody.
“People understand how hard it is to be a Division I athlete, regardless of where you are,” Penn freshman Jelani Williams said. “I think doing that in the Ivy League makes it even harder. I do think the athletic part of it is a little bit underestimated.”
Sophomore Ray Jerome added: “I think there’s a lot of guys who do have a chance to go play professionally after the Ivy League. I don’t think a lot of people outside of it realize it.”
Several players across the Ivy League had opportunities to play basketball at more basketball-centric schools. Brodeur, a three-star recruit out of high school, had offers from Notre Dame, George Washington and Davidson.
“You look at guys who the league is pulling in like Seth Towns, who had high-major offers (Michigan, Xavier, Ohio State) and chose to go to Harvard,” Penn sophomore Ryan Bentley said. “You see that all through the league. It’s really changing and it’s awesome. It’s as much of an athletic decision as it is an academic decision.”
In the last 10 seasons, Ivy League schools have 4-6 record in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, usually as a No. 12 seed.
Preparing to play Kansas, even with the history of No. 16 seeds, the Quakers just hope they can prove themselves — and their league — to rest of the country.
“The league as a whole has done a great job of recruiting and done a great job on this stage of the past few years of proving that,” Bentley said. “We are good basketball players. We are athletic. I think that is one of the biggest misconceptions but I think the league has done a great job of proving that to be wrong over the past few years.”
If anybody found it difficult to look away from the TV during the Big 12 Tournament championship game, you weren’t alone.
The Kansas basketball team’s 81-70 victory over West Virginia at Sprint Center was the most-watched Big 12 championship game in 16 seasons, according to an ESPN press release. It drew the third-highest ratings on ESPN’s networks during conference tournament week, producing a 24 percent rating increase from last year’s Big 12 Tournament title game.
The Big 12 title game delivered 2.85 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The game even outdrew Duke-North Carolina’s matchup in the ACC Tournament semifinals (2.82 million).
Of course, it’s no surprise that the Jayhawks can draw a big crowd. Among ESPN’s college basketball games, Kansas City ranked as the No. 2 market throughout the season with a 2.6 rating, slightly ahead of the Raleigh-Durham market (2.3 rating). Louisville remained the top local market for college hoops for the 16th straight year with a 4.2 rating.
During the conference tournament week, the most watched game on ESPN platforms was the ACC championship game (UNC vs. Virginia, 3.435 million viewers).
Watching practice from the baseline at Sprint Center on Wednesday ahead of the start of the Big 12 Tournament, injured Kansas sophomore Udoka Azubuike constantly tried to help coach the players who would be filling his minutes.
Whenever freshman Silvio De Sousa wasn’t involved in a play, Azubuike stood beside him to offer pointers. When De Sousa was back on the court, Azubuike yelled reminders to him and clapped when he successfully rolled to the basket after a screen or pinned his defender with a move in the low post.
The Jayhawks are hopeful that Azubuike — sidelined with a Grade 1 medial-collateral ligament sprain in his knee — will be healthy enough to play in next week’s NCAA Tournament. But they noticed that he’s handling this injury better than his season-ending wrist injury last year.
“When he broke his (wrist), it messed with him,” KU coach Bill Self said.
Devonte’ Graham added: “He’s actually had a pretty good attitude since (Thursday) morning. At shoot-around, he was out there clapping and stuff like that. He didn’t seem as down as he was last year.”
When Azubuike tore ligaments in his wrist last year, it was the first time he’s ever suffered a season-ending injury. He felt like it came at a time when he was just starting to figure out the speed of the college game.
As a 17-year-old freshman, Azubuike started started in six games and averaged 5 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“It was a bit frustrating for me not being able to play my freshman year,” Azubuike said earlier this season. “Sometimes stuff happens for a reason."
Azubuike credited his family for trying to help him stay positive through the rehab process. He watched and learned from Landen Lucas, but he was disappointed that he couldn’t help the team more.
His roommate Clay Young — matching the oldest player on the team with the youngest player — suffered a torn ACL injury before he transferred to Kansas. It gave Young a way to relate to Azubuike and he tried to help him cope with his teammate’s first injury.
“My mom is really religious, she’s like real Christian,” Azubuike said. “Each time she talked to me, she always read a Bible verse or tried to encourage me. That really, really helped me a lot just to stay the course and keep my head straight.”
In the offseason, Azubuike was healthy and tried to improve his own game. He added a hook shot to his offensive arsenal. He’s worked to become a better defender.
But one of his proudest achievements was something he accomplished away from any game. It happened without any fans watching. Before the start of his sophomore season, he completed all eight days of the team’s boot camp.
“I think he was pretty nervous to have to go through it all but he did well and he ran pretty well,” Young said. “I was happy for him.”
Azubuike is expected to be re-evaluated by doctors Sunday, which should give him and the Jayhawks a clearer picture if he will be available for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
But his teammates are proud of the way Azubuike has handled his latest setback.
"He's maturing," Self said.
Firmly on the bubble with Selection Sunday rapidly approaching, Texas is desperate for signature wins in the final weeks of the regular season.
On the other side, Kansas will try to maintain its spot as a potential one seed and win the Big 12 title outright when the two schools meet at 8 p.m. Monday (TV: ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse in the Jayhawks’ last home game of the season.
The Longhorns (17-12, 7-9 in Big 12) have won two of their last three games but they could be shorthanded against KU. Starting guard Eric Davis Jr. was sidelined in Saturday’s win over Oklahoma State after he was named in a Yahoo Sports report. The school is investigating whether he received an improper $1,500 payment from a sports agency.
Plus, Mo Bamba was forced to sit out the second half against Oklahoma State because of a sprained left toe.
“It wasn’t a hard decision,” Texas coach Shaka Smart told the Austin American-Statesman of sitting Bamba. “You could tell by the look on his face he didn’t have it. We’ll have to evaluate him moving forward.”
Fun fact: Texas sophomore guard Andrew Jones was diagnosed with leukemia in early January. A fund to support Jones and his family has raised more than $180,000. “I’ve been in a great place lately these last couple of weeks,” Jones said in his first interview since his diagnosis on the Lone Star Sports Network. “I’m going to be back soon.”
Series history: Kansas leads 30-8. The Jayhawks have won the last eight meetings with their last loss in 2014.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS
No. 4 — F Mohamed Bamba | 6-11, 225, fr.
Bamba ranks second nationally with 107 blocks and in the top 15 with 10.6 rebounds per game. During Big 12 play, the McDonald’s All-American from Harlem is averaging 13.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game. He’s shooting 54.5 percent from the field and 67.7 percent at the free-throw line.
Featuring a ridiculous 7-foot-9 wingspan, Bamba has recorded nine double-doubles in conference play. He leads the Big 12 in rebounding with 23 more boards than any other play in 16 conference games. He’s connected on 31 percent of his 3-point attempts.
Against KU this season: Nearly recorded a triple-double with 22 points, 15 rebounds and 8 blocks in 34 minutes, shooting 9 of 16 from the field.
- "I think the biggest thing is the game is slowing down for me," Bamba said. "College is night and day different than high school. One of the most important things is getting in, getting your reps shooting and finding your rhythm."
No. 21 — F Dylan Osetkowski | 6-9, 245, jr.
Playing more than 37 minutes per game in conference play, Osetkowski has a valuable role on both ends of the court. He’s averaging 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds, leading the Longhorns with 65 free throw attempts once Big 12 play began. Osetkowski (pronounced: oh-set-COW-skee) sat out all of last season after transferring from Tulane.
Against KU this season: Finished with 17 points (7-for-15 shooting) and eight rebounds in 39 minutes.
No. 12— G Kerwin Roach II | 6-4, 180, jr.
An excellent athlete and two-time Texas state champion in the triple jump during high school, Roach is averaging 12.1 points in Big 12 play with a team-high 21 steals. A strong perimeter defender, he’s shooting 36.1 percent from 3 and ranks second on the team with 49 assists against conference opponents.
Against KU this season: In 38 minutes, he recorded 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists while shooting 5 of 10 from the floor.
No. 2— G Matt Coleman | 6-2, 180, fr.
A point guard from Oak Hill Academy, Coleman is averaging 10.6 points and 4.4 assists against Big 12 teams. He’s struggled to find his shooting stroke, making 22.7 percent of his attempts from the 3-point line. According to hoop-math.com, Coleman only attempts 25 percent of his shots at the rim.
Against KU this season: Shooting 7 of 14, he had 17 points, six rebounds, five assists and three turnovers in 38 minutes.
No. 20— F Jericho Sims | 6-9, 240, fr.
Averaging 17 minutes off of the bench in Big 12 play, Sims has made 62.5 percent of his shots on his way to 4.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. From Minneapolis, he had two brothers play college basketball, including one at Kansas State. He struggles at the free-throw line, making 13 of his 32 attempts.
Against KU this season: Off the bench, Sims grabbed one rebound in five minutes without attempting a shot.
ONE THING TEXAS DOES WELL
With Bamba protecting the paint, the Longhorns have one of the toughest defenses in the country. According to hoop-math.com, Texas is holding opposing teams to 46.1 percent shooting when they aren’t in transition. That ranks second in the Big 12 only behind Texas Tech’s mark of 45.6 percent.
ONE AREA TEXAS STRUGGLES
The lowest-scoring offense in the Big 12, the Longhorns have problems shooting (42.2 percent, last in conference) and that extends to the free-throw line (69.3 percent) and 3-point arc (32.8 percent). The Longhorns have shot 37 percent or worse in five Big 12 games, all resulting in losses.
MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS
Signing four players in November, the Longhorns’ Class of 2018 is ranked 15th in the country by Rivals. Texas inked 6-foot-7 small forward Gerald Liddell (ranked No. 40), 6-8 power forward Kamaka Hepa (ranked No. 48), 6-9 center Jaxson Hayes (ranked No. 109) and 6-6 forward Brock Cunningham.
Texas will add transfer Elijah Mitrou-Long, brother of former Iowa State standout Naz Mitrou-Long. Elijah Long averaged 15 points in the 2016-17 season at Mount St. Mary’s.
Kansas by 9. The Longhorns should play like a team desperately trying to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but it doesn’t help that they are expected to be shorthanded without Eric Davis Jr. and potentially Mo Bamba. I’m going to assume Bamba will try to play through his toe injury but I expect him to be limited. In a festive atmosphere, with the chance to celebrate an outright Big 12 title and honor seniors, I think the Jayhawks will start fast and cruise to a big win.
My prediction: Kansas 78, Texas 62. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 15-13.
After all of the ups and downs throughout the Big 12 schedule, the only obstacle standing in front of Kansas and its 14th-straight conference title is Saturday’s showdown (3:15 p.m., TV: ESPN) in Lubbock.
With star point guard Keenan Evans hobbled by a toe injury, Texas Tech (22-6, 10-5 Big 12) has lost its last two games and dropped to second place in the conference standings. But the Red Raiders are still undefeated at home this season and to add to the atmosphere, ESPN’s College GameDay is in town for the first time in program history.
“To me, it's not like the boat is sinking,” TTU coach Chris Beard said. “We have to figure out how to get the boat back in the right direction. This is the Big 12, you can't get too high or too low. You have to continue to give yourselves a chance."
The Red Raiders own a 17-game home winning streak, the second-longest streak in the nation behind South Dakota State (20 games). They’ve played without senior forward Zach Smith in their last 13 games because of a foot injury.
Despite losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, Tech ranks 10th in the latest KenPom rankings, one spot ahead of KU. In ESPN’s BPI, KU is No. 8 and Tech is No. 12.
“They’re the hardest to get easy baskets on and they’re probably the most difficult to finish defensive possessions on because of their patience and also the way they go to the offensive glass,” KU coach Bill Self said.
Fun fact: Tech has won nine of its last 10 home games at United Supermarkets Arena against Top 25 opponents with five of the nine victories coming by three points or less. The one exception is KU’s 80-79 victory in Lubbock last year.
Series history: Kansas leads 33-5. The Jayhawks have a 9-3 record inside of United Supermarkets Arena.
BREAKING DOWN TEXAS TECH
No. 12 — G Keenan Evans | 6-3, 190, sr.
Selected third-team All-Big 12 last season, Evans has transformed himself into a conference player of the year candidate. He’s averaging a team-best 17.6 points on 26.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line in Big 12 play. An 84.3 percent free throw shooter, Evans leads Tech with 17 steals in conference games.
Prior to his toe injury against Baylor, Evans scored at least 15 points in seven straight games. He’s combined for six points in his last two games. His dad, Kenny, was a high jumper at Arkansas and advanced to the finals of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Against KU this season: Scored a team-high 15 points on 4-for-16 shooting with six rebounds, three assists and two turnovers in 29 minutes.
- “I think what we’re seeing now is a veteran player starting to get to a level where he’s playing with a great consistency,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “No one has ever questioned Keenan’s talent. He’s had huge games all the way back to his freshman year playing for coach (Tubby) Smith. Now, he’s getting himself into a different neighborhood of greatness, and it’s call consistency.”
No. 2— G Zhaire Smith | 6-5, 195, fr.
After coming off the bench earlier this season, the high-flying Smith worked his way into the starting lineup by averaging 11.7 points and 5.0 rebounds in Big 12 play. Not much of a 3-point shooter (8 of 16), Smith is shooting 54.2 percent from the floor against conference opponents. He leads Tech with 35 offensive rebounds and 18 blocks.
Against KU this season: In 30 minutes off the bench, he had 11 points (4 of 9 shooting) with five rebounds and two assists.
No. 23 — G Jarrett Culver | 6-5, 190, fr.
Another freshman who eventually worked his way into a starting role, Culver ranks second on the team with 11.9 points per game against Big 12 teams while shooting 36.1 percent from the 3-point arc. Culver, a Lubbock native, is averaging 4.6 rebounds in conference games, leading the Red Raiders with 54 defensive boards.
Against KU this season: Off of the bench, he recorded 12 points, four rebounds and two assists in 24 minutes.
No. 5 — G Justin Gray | 6-6, 210, sr.
Averaging 5.3 points and 3.3 rebounds on 51.7 percent shooting in conference play. He’s scored at least 10 points in five games this season, including his last two outings. Gray is the only Tech player to start all 28 games this year.
Against KU this season: Shot 5 of 7 from the floor on his way to 12 points, six rebounds and a team-high three steals in 24 minutes.
No. 10 — G Niem Stevenson | 6-5, 205, sr.
Capable of stepping up offensively, Stevenson has scored in double figures in two of the last three games. During Big 12 play, he’s averaging 5.9 points and 3.3 rebounds off of the bench, shooting 32.1 percent from the 3-point line. He ranks second on the team with 30 assists.
Against KU this season: Scored four points on 1-of-8 shooting with six rebounds, four assists and two turnovers in 21 minutes.
ONE THING TEXAS TECH DOES WELL
One of the top defenses in the country, the Red Raiders are holding opponents to 66.7 points per game in conference play because of their ability to force turnovers and rebound. (Yes, I know this is actually two things Tech does well.) On the defensive glass, Tech grabs 71.3 percent of missed shots, which leads the Big 12. Plus, the Red Raiders lead the league in forcing 14.7 turnovers per game.
ONE AREA TEXAS TECH STRUGGLES
The Red Raiders play at a slower pace on offense than the majority of Big 12 teams and they are inconsistent at the 3-point line. In eight of their 15 conference games, they’ve shot worse than 30 percent from deep. Against Big 12 opponents, they’ve made 33.9 percent of their shots from deep, which ranks eighth.
MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS
Texas Tech signed a pair of wings during the early signing period, receiving national letters of intent from Deshawn Corprew and Kyler Edwards.
Corprew, a 6-foot-6 small forward, was a Top 100 recruit out of high school before playing this season at South Plains Junior College. Edwards, a 6-foot-4 guard, is playing at Findlay Prep in Nevada. Edwards averaged 22.4 points and 6.0 rebounds last year at Arlington (Texas) Bowie.
Texas Tech by 2. With the way Keenan Evans is limited by his toe injury, I’m surprised by the spread. If Evans was healthy, I think I’d lean toward picking Tech at home. But it’s just not the same offense when he’s not at his best. It would be the same for Kansas if Devonte’ Graham had a hobbling injury. I still expect a low-scoring game, but I think Malik Newman and Graham are the difference.
My prediction: Kansas 68, Texas Tech 63. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 14-13.
After a much-hyped matchup between Oklahoma and Kansas at the end of January, the Sooners have moved in the wrong direction. Trae Young is having a harder time producing his unimaginable numbers. The Sooners have lost five straight games and winless in their last seven road games.
Once a Top 5 team in the nation, Oklahoma will likely drop out of the Top 25 polls entering Monday’s game (8 p.m., TV: ESPN) at Allen Fieldhouse. Since Oklahoma’s win over KU, when Hack-a-Dok was introduced, the Sooners own a 1-6 record.
“We are going to play a team that obviously beat us the first time we played them and we need to figure out a way to guard their guys,” KU coach Bill Self said. “If we do that, we will set up a big game Saturday (vs. Texas Tech).”
Once in the conversation of teams to compete for a Big 12 title, Oklahoma (16-10, 6-8 in conference) is tied for sixth place in the Big 12 standings alongside TCU and Texas. KenPom has the Sooners ranked 38th, sixth among conference teams.
“We need to do things better, make shots and get our spirits back up a little bit,” OU coach Lon Kruger told the Oklahoman. “When you're not making shots, it changes a lot of what you can do — what you want to do. You just keep trying to promote confidence, promote aggressiveness, keep promoting good basketball plays.”
Fun fact: Since Bill Self became the head coach at Kansas, the Jayhawks have never been swept by a Big 12 opponent in the regular season.
Series history: Kansas leads 146-67. The Sooners haven’t won in Allen Fieldhouse since 1993. Bill Self owns an 17-4 record vs. the Sooners while at Kansas.
BREAKING DOWN OKLAHOMA
No. 11 — PG Trae Young | 6-2, 180, fr.
In a funk from the 3-point line, Young is still averaging 30.1 points and 8.4 assists per game in Big 12 play. He’s shooting 15 percent from deep in his last three games combined. He’s committed 90 turnovers in 14 conference games, adding 4.5 rebounds each outing.
Even if the Norman native has started to touch a freshman wall, he’s still on pace to shatter several records. With 100 made 3-pointers this year, he’s only 22 behind the NCAA freshman record, set by Steph Curry in 2006-07. He’s four made free throws from breaking the Oklahoma program record in a season (211, Stacey King in 1988-89).
Against KU this season: Scored 26 points on 7 of 9 shooting (10 of 12 at the free-throw line) with nine assists, four rebounds, two steals and five turnovers.
- "I'm getting guarded like nobody else in the country is being guarded, scouted on like no one else in the country is," Young said. "It's a mystery coming out each and every game to try and figure out how a team is going to guard me and how I'm going to dictate how my team wins."
No. 35 — F Brady Manek | 6-9, 210, fr.
When Manek plays well, the Sooners usually are at their best. An efficient shooter, he’s connected on 41.4 percent of his triples in Big 12 play, averaging 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. From Harrah, Okla., he’s made three-or-more 3-pointers in nine games this season.
Against KU this season: Made 4 of his 6 shots from the 3-point arc, finishing with 14 points and seven defensive rebounds in 31 minutes.
No. 0 — G Christian James | 6-4, 211, jr.
Scoring 20-plus points in two of the team’s last three games, James is averaging 11.8 points and 5.1 rebounds against Big 12 opponents. James is shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from the 3-point arc.
Against KU this season: Shooting 5 of 14 from the floor, he had 15 points, four rebounds and three turnovers.
No. 3 — F Khadeem Lattin | 6-9, 220, sr.
The only senior on Oklahoma’s roster, Lattin is one block shy of tying the program’s career record. With 229 swatted shots, Lattin ranks eighth in Big 12 history. Lattin, who has a 7-foot-2 wingspan, is averaging 5.7 points and 5.4 rebounds in Big 12 play, leading the Sooners with 34 blocks. His mother, Monica Lamb, played for the WNBA’s Houston Comets.
Against KU this season: Only playing 20 minutes, he recorded eight points, three rebounds and two turnovers.
No. 1 — G Rashard Odomes | 6-6, 217, jr.
Odomes takes 73 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com. Known as a strong defender, Odomes is averaging 8.8 points during Big 12 play while shooting 52 percent from the field. He leads the Sooners in conference play with 26 offensive rebounds.
Against KU this season: He found his way to the free-throw line, making 7 of his 8 attempts on his way to nine points. He added three assists and three rebounds in 27 minutes.
ONE THING OKLAHOMA DOES WELL
Looking to run out in transition as much as possible, the Sooners remain a strong rebounding team. The Sooners are rebounding 69.9 percent of their opponents’ missed shots, which ranks third in the Big 12. They lead the conference with 27.9 defensive rebounds per game.
ONE AREA OKLAHOMA STRUGGLES
Starting to play teams for the second time in Big 12 play, the Sooners have been unable to register stops on the defensive end. Opposing teams have shot at least 45 percent from the floor in six of their last seven games. During that seven-game stretch, opposing schools are averaging more than 35 points in the paint per game.
MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS
The Sooners signed Jamal Bieniemy, a 6-foot-4 combo guard, during the early signing period. The Katy, Texas native is ranked 126th in the nation by Rivals.
Oklahoma added a commitment from Kur Kuath, a 6-foot-9 forward with a 7-5 wingspan from Salt Lake Community College. He was averaging 11 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks at the beginning of February.
Kansas by 8.5. The biggest question with Oklahoma is whether its defense can regain its footing and pick up key stops. The Sooners’ offense looks a little worn down which was probably expected in the grind of a conference season. Desperate to end the losing streak, I expect Trae Young to have a big game, in the 35-point range, for his first game in Allen Fieldhouse. I just don’t think that’ll be enough to beat KU.
My prediction: Kansas 79, Oklahoma 74. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 14-12.
After a three-game losing streak at the end of January, West Virginia is starting to look like one of the top teams in the Big 12 again with wins in three of its last four games.
Next up is a challenge that the Mountaineers have never accomplished: a win inside of Allen Fieldhouse. With ESPN’s College GameDay in Lawrence, 20th-ranked West Virginia will face No. 13 Kansas at 5:15 p.m. Saturday (TV: ESPN).
The Mountaineers (19-7, 8-5 Big 12) sit in third place in the conference standings, two games behind leader Texas Tech. They picked up a 16-point home win over TCU earlier this week.
“We don’t like them, they don’t like us,” Devonte’ Graham said Thursday. “Coach (Bob) Huggins gets $25,000 every time he beats us, so I don’t like that.”
In the latest KenPom rankings, Kansas is No. 13 and West Virginia follows at No. 14.
Fun fact: Under coach Bob Huggins, the Moutaineers have a 195-31 record when holding opponents to 69 points or less. They won 74 of their last 76 games when opposing teams don’t reach 70 points.
Series history: Kansas leads 8-4. The Jayhawks have a 5-0 record vs. the Mountaineers at Allen Fieldhouse.
BREAKING DOWN WEST VIRGINIA
No. 2 — G Jevon Carter | 6-2, 205, sr.
Leading the nation with 81 steals this season, Carter continues to bother opposing guards with his tight defense. In Big 12 play, he’s averaging 15.1 points on 31.8 percent shooting from the 3-point arc while dishing 7.2 assists per game.
From Maywood, Ill., he’s only scored more than 10 points in one of his last four games, struggling to find his 3-point stroke. Even without scoring, he’s second on the team with 4.5 rebounds in conference play. Defensively, he’s snagged a steal in 16 straight games.
Against KU this season: 14 points on 4 of 15 shooting (2 of 8 from 3) with three rebounds, four assists and one steal.
- “I always believed in myself,” Carter said. “I always had a certain group of people that believed in me. I’ve always worked as hard as I can just to be the best I could.”
No. 50 — F Sagaba Konate | 6-8, 260, so.
One of the most improved big men across the country, Konate has blocked 40 shots against conference opponents, ranking second in the Big 12. West Virginia’s most efficient inside scorer (converts on 72.2 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoop-math.com), Konate (Kuh-NUH-teh) is averaging 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds in Big 12 action.
Against KU this season: Blocked five shots and recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes.
No. 4 — G Daxter Miles Jr. | 6-3, 200, sr.
A strong slasher, Miles has struggled from behind the 3-point arc throughout the season. He’s only shooting 25.6 percent from 3 in Big 12 play, averaging 9.3 points. Usually a big piece of Press Virginia, he’s recorded a total of six steals in his last 10 games.
Against KU this season: Only shot 4 of 11 from the field on his way to nine points, adding four rebounds, four assists and two turnovers.
No. 15 — F Lamont West | 6-8, 230, so.
Becoming a more consistent shooter in recent games, West is averaging 9.7 points and 3.2 rebounds against Big 12 opponents. He’s shooting 39.1 percent from the 3-point arc, which ranks second on the team. He’s a strong offensive rebounder, but only takes 20 percent of his shots at the rim according to hoop-math.com.
Against KU this season: Scored seven points shooting 1 of 7 from the 3-point line to go along with six rebounds and a block.
No. 23 — F Esa Ahmad | 6-8, 230, jr.
Since returning from an NCAA suspension, Ahmad has been inconsistent in conference play. He’s recorded 15 or more points in four games and three points or less in three games. He still ranks third in scoring with 11.0 points against conference opponents. The Cleveland native has added 4.3 rebounds each night.
Against KU this season: In 28 minutes off of the bench, he had 16 points, five rebounds, five turnovers and two steals.
ONE THING WEST VIRGINIA DOES WELL
Beyond forcing turnovers, West Virginia ranks second in the Big 12 with a plus-3.4 rebounding margin (only behind Baylor’s plus-4.3). The Moutaineers have either matched or outscored opponents in second-chance points in 10 of their 13 conference games.
ONE AREA WEST VIRGINIA STRUGGLES
It’s a product of Press Virginia, but the Moutaineers commit a lot of fouls and send opposing teams to the free-throw line often. In Big 12 play, opponents are averaging nearly 24 attempts per game. Opponents have shot more free throws in nine of the team’s last 10 games.
MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS
The Mountaineers signed four players in the November signing period and have a class than ranks 59th by Rivals. West Virginia will add 6-foot-10 forwards Derek Culver and Andrew Gordon, along with 6-foot guard Jordan McCabe and 6-foot-3 guard Trey Doomes.
Culver, who was originally signed to the ’17 class, plays at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire. He was a four-star prospect out of high school. Doomes and McCabe are both ranked near the end of the Rivals Top 150.
Kansas by 3.5. Outside of KU’s offensive problems against Baylor, no Big 12 team has forced Kansas to play as poorly in a half as West Virginia in Morgantown. Of course, the Mountaineers couldn’t sustain the momentum and eventually lost by 5. The difference now is their offensive is performing at a higher level than the start of conference play. I think Esa Ahmad has a big game.
My prediction: West Virginia 74, Kansas 71. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 14-11.
Iowa State sits at the bottom of the Big 12 standings but the Cyclones have a different look when they are playing at home. In their last three home games, they’ve beat a ranked opponent (Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma).
Kansas will look to solve the mystery of playing at Hilton Coliseum when the two schools meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday (TV: ESPN2).
The Cyclones (13-11, 4-8 Big 12) could be without point guard Nick Weiler-Babb, who has missed the last four games with left knee tendinitis. Weiler-Babb practiced for the first time in a few weeks Monday and Steve Prohm said he was considered questionable to play.
“I would bet that they’re lazer focused,” ISU coach Steve Prohm told the Des Moines Register of KU. “They still have an opportunity to win the league — one game out of the lead with six to go — and they play Texas Tech again. … We’ll get their No. 1 best shot. I wouldn’t expect anything different.”
Fun fact: In Iowa State’s home wins over ranked Big 12 opponents, freshman forward Cameron Lard is averaging 18.3 points and 12 rebounds.
Series history: Kansas leads 180-64. The Jayhawks have a 25-21 record at Hilton Coliseum with ISU winning two of the last three games in Ames.
BREAKING DOWN IOWA STATE
No. 5 — G Lindell Wigginton | 6-2, 188, fr.
Scoring at least 20 points in nine games this season, Wigginton is averaging a team-best 17.7 points in Big 12 play. He’s shooting 42.6 percent from the 3-point line against conference opponents and 37 percent on 2-point shots.
With Nick Weiler-Babb out with an injury, Wigginton has shifted into the team’s point guard. He’s dished 23 assists in the team’s last four games. From Nova Scotia, Wigginton played at Oak Hill Academy last year and was a prep school teammate of Billy Preston.
Against KU this season: Scored 27 points off 10 of 20 shooting (4 of 8 from 3) in 40 minutes with two steals, two rebounds and three turnovers.
- “He’s just learning the position, really,” said Iowa State coach Steve Prohm. “It’s trial by fire throwing him out there. He’s growing. … Lindell is terrific. I could sit up here and go on and on. He’s a terrific player.”
No. 4 — G Donovan Jackson | 6-2, 173, sr.
Known as a 3-point shooter and talented defender, Jackson is averaging 15.2 points on 44.2 percent shooting from deep in conference play. He leads the Big 12 by making 92.3 percent of his free throws. According to hoop-math.com, he’s only taken 30 of his 298 shot attempts at the rim. In the team’s four Big 12 wins, Jackson is averaging 15 points.
Against KU this season: Drilled 6 of 14 3-pointers, scoring 20 points to go along with four rebounds and three assists.
No. 2 — F Cameron Lard | 6-9, 225, r-fr.
A mid-season addition to the starting lineup, Lard has emerged as the team’s most consistent player in Big 12 play. He’s averaging 15.7 points and 9.7 rebounds against conference opponents, adding a team-high 34 steals. Extremely efficient at scoring in the paint, Lard is shooting 64 percent from the field this year, which is on pace to break the Big 12 freshman record.
Against KU this season: Recorded a double-double with 15 points (7 of 10 shooting) and 10 rebounds while committing seven turnovers.
No. 33 — F Solomon Young | 6-8, 245, so.
The only returning starter from last season, Young is averaging 7.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in Big 12 play but has only scored in double figures in two of the team’s last eight games. In conference games, he’s shooting 48.6 percent from the floor with 10 steals and nine blocks. He has a 7-foot-1 wingspan, the longest on the team.
Against KU this season: In foul trouble for the entire game, Young only played 15 minutes and scored one point without a shot attempt.
ONE THING IOWA STATE DOES WELL
In its last four home games, all wins, Iowa State is shooting 49 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. They’ve proven they can score on tough defenses like Texas Tech and keep up with run-and-gun offense like Oklahoma. The Cyclones have an 11-0 record when shooting a better percentage than their opponent.
ONE AREA IOWA STATE STRUGGLES
Preferring to play fast and in transition, Iowa State isn’t efficient in its half-court offense. According to hoop-math.com, the Cyclones rank last in the Big 12 with a 47.5 shooting percentage when they aren’t shooting in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock.
MEET THE NEW RECRUITING CLASS
The Cyclones signed four players during the November early signing period, a class that ranks 11th in the nation by Rivals. They will add three players from Illinois: 6-foot-5 guard Talen Horton-Tucker (ranked 31st in the country), 6-6 forward Zion Griffin (ranked 84th) and 6-10 center George Conditt IV, plus Wisconsin native Tyrese Haliburton, a 6-5 point guard ranked 148th.
Along with the incoming freshmen, the Cyclones will add transfers Marial Shayok (averaged 8.9 points at Virginia) and Michael Jacobson (averaged 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds at Nebraska).
Kansas by 6.5. Everyone knows about KU’s small margin for error this season, but it’s razor thin for the Cyclones. They need big nights from their top three scorers, but they are certainly capable of beating any team in the conference. I think Svi Mykhailiuk is the difference Tuesday, breaking out of his scoring slump from last week.
My prediction: Kansas 73, Iowa State 70. Bobby’s record vs. the spread: 13-11.