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The Day After: Elimination at the Big 12 tourney

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins loses the ball as he is fouled by Iowa State forward Georges Niang during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins loses the ball as he is fouled by Iowa State forward Georges Niang during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

Kansas University's hopes for a postseason Big 12 basketball title to go with the regular season hardware already resting in KU's trophy case came to an end Friday night in Kansas City, Mo., thanks to the hot-shooting Iowa State Cyclones, who snapped a five-game losing streak to KU, 94-83, at Sprint Center.

The loss, KU's third in its last six games, dropped the Jayhawks to 24-9 overall and puts the them in wait-and-see mode for the unveiling of this year's NCAA Tournament bracket, which will take place Sunday afternoon.

The guess here is that the Jayhawks' win over Oklahoma State on Thursday — along with what the rest of the country is doing or has done — was enough to keep KU on the 2 line. But there's definitely some uncertainty surrounding what they'll be seeded, where they'll be sent and what the match-ups for the do-or-die tournament will look like.

None of that matters today, though, so let's jump back into the game that was on Friday night.

Quick takeaway:

KU's defense was pretty poor for most of this one and it's now obvious what a huge difference having Joel Embiid in the lineup makes for Kansas. Having said that, the Cyclones are good. Real good. And the way they played on Friday — particularly the way they shot the ball (54 percent for the game, 68 percent in the second half, 58 percent from three-point range) — they would have knocked off most teams. KU played pretty well offensively, particularly in the wildly entertaining first half, and got back to doing what they do best — pushing the pace, playing tough and scoring in transition. Unfortunately for the Jayhawks, they didn't do nearly enough of that and their sub-par defensive effort made things way too easy for the Cyclones throughout the decisive second half.

Three reasons to smile:

1 – Andrew Wiggins shot 33 percent from the floor, made just one three-pointer, generally looked just a little bit off all night and still wound up with a line that included 22 points and seven rebounds in 34 minutes. When his shots didn't fall, Wiggins showed some frustration on his face, but it was good to see that the freshman didn't let an off shooting night prevent him from being a factor on the scoreboard for a team that needs him to be the man in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins pulls up for a shot against Iowa State forward Daniel Edozie during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins pulls up for a shot against Iowa State forward Daniel Edozie during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

2 – There were moments in this one when junior point guard Naadir Tharpe looked a little bit like Tyshawn Taylor. Let me explain. During KU's big run in the first half that turned a nine-point deficit into a 10-point lead, Tharpe pushed the tempo without hesitation and drove to the paint looking to make a play. Such moves had a higher percentage of success when Taylor did them because he had the size and skill to rise above (or around) people and finish at the rim. While Tharpe is a little challenged in that department, he seemed to figure out that good things can happen when he attacks the paint and at least puts the ball up above the rim. On a couple of occasions, teammates scooped up the rebound as Tharpe forced the defense to collapse on him and it led to easy buckets for KU. KU coach Bill Self used to talk all the time about how sometimes Taylor's ability to put shots up on the glass — even if he often missed — was considered good offense. Tharpe's shot has disappeared of late, but maybe this method can help him get back into a rhythm.

3 – No team in the currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 has more losses than Kansas, yet the Jayhawks enter Selection Sunday very much alive for a No. 2 seed. According to ESPN's Bracketology, the four other teams in the Top 25 that have nine losses like the Jayhawks are projected to be seeded 4th (North Carolina), 5th (Oklahoma), 8th (Memphis) and 10th (SMU). That's a credit to the Big 12 Conference and the tough schedule the Jayhawks have played this season and it could be enough to position this team to survive into the second weekend of the tournament, where they may get Embiid back from injury.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis works his way to the bucket against Iowa State forward Georges Niang during the second half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas forward Perry Ellis works his way to the bucket against Iowa State forward Georges Niang during the second half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

Three reasons to sigh:

1 – The 94 points surrendered to the Cyclones were the most in regulation by a Bill Self team at Kansas, and they came less than a week after Self's team gave up 92 in a road loss to West Virginia. To say the Jayhawks are struggling defensively without Embiid would be putting it mildly. As is the case with a jump shooter or a scorer, playing defense requires confidence and the Jayhawks don't appear to have much of that on the defensive end without Embiid in the lineup. That's not to say they didn't have their moments. There were plenty. But a consistently strong and stingy defensive effort is something this team is missing right now and that goes as much for allowing easy buckets at the rim as it does giving up open jumpers on the perimeter. Yeah, the Cyclones were red-hot from downtown, hitting 11 of their first 16 three-point attempts, but many of them were open looks.

Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim pulls up for a shot over Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim pulls up for a shot over Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins during the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

2 – The Jayhawks hit 81 percent of their free throws (21-of-26) so it's hard to say their misses were something to sigh about. But a few of them were pretty big. Wiggins, Ellis and Tharpe all missed their first free throw during a stretch in which KU went to the free-throw line three out of five possessions and that left as many as four points out there that KU could have had. When a team is trailing by six-to-nine points for an extended stretch of the second half, those easy points could have been the difference between making this one close and keeping ISU comfortably in front.

3 – Naadir Tharpe's shot has gone M.I.A. At times this season, the junior point guard was one of the better scoring options and one of the top shooters on the team. He hasn't been lately and that continued on Friday when he missed all three shots he attempted and didn't look real confident stepping into any of them outside of the opening shot of the game. Tharpe's nine assists, two turnovers and 5-of-6 free-throw-shooting performance were all positives. But this team needs him to find his stroke again in a hurry so that guys don't have to go for 30 or more points every night to give KU a chance.

One thought for the road:

KU's semifinal loss to Iowa State on Friday night:

• Moved KU to 24-9 on the season.

• Changed KU’s record to 10-6 in Big 12 Championship semifinals and 18-16 in all-time conference tourney semifinals.

• Made KU to 66-25 in league tournament play and 36-9 at the Big 12 Championship.

• Dropped Kansas to 10-8 in games away from Allen Fieldhouse (5-6 in true road games, 5-2 on neutral floors).

• Ended the Jayhawks’ win streak at five-straight against the Cyclones and made the Kansas-Iowa State series to 175-60 in favor of Kansas.

• Made the Jayhawks record to 23-5 all-time at Sprint Center, including 2-1 this season.

• The loss was KU’s first in Sprint Center since falling to Baylor 81-72 in the Big 12 Championship Semifinals on March 9, 2012 – ending a 10-game KU win streak in the venue.

• Changed head coach Bill Self’s record to 21-4 all-time against Iowa State, 324-68 while at Kansas and 531-173 overall. Self is also 31-10 in conference tournament play (22-5 at Kansas).

• Moved Kansas to 2,125-821 all-time.

Next up:

The Jayhawks now will await their fate in the NCAA Tournament and will open play next Thursday or Friday in the second round. KU will find out where it's headed on Sunday and, if their destination for the first two rounds is St. Louis, as expected, they'll open NCAA Tournament play on Friday.

Frustrated, Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins turns back toward an official wanting a foul called during a break along side teammate Wayne Selden in the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Frustrated, Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins turns back toward an official wanting a foul called during a break along side teammate Wayne Selden in the first half on Friday, March 14, 2014 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. by Nick Krug

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Comments

Alex Berger 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Unfortunately Wiggins 33% shooting also meant he was using up possessions. Efficiency is key for our offense if our defense can't get stops.

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Kyle Berthusen 6 months, 2 weeks ago

That's not necessarily fair. He also ended possessions with free throws. He was probably had a reasonable point per possession number. Just not huge like he has in recent games.

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Rodney Crain 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Alex you may be right at this point I say let Wiggins chuck it from the cheap seats, drive it, heck, have them throw him the ball after a made basket, and isolate him on one side of the floor and let him take 1,2,3 guys on and see what he can do. He appears to be the only one trying every game and the other players seem lost which is just so tough to watch.

Play him 40 minutes too, who knows maybe he can get 60, 70 points by himself.

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Rodney Crain 6 months, 2 weeks ago

At this point Jack dreams and hopes are all we got this team is in dire straights. We could do a lot worse and have, than having wiggins just take over. Sorry I should have been more clear that I knew i was just having some fun with my post.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Jack, You need to give Rodney a break. The cumullonimbus perpetually hanging around his head clouds his vision and dampens his spirits.

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Rodney Crain 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Dirk you comment more on the poster than the team, no original thoughts or just lazy? Can't tell.

The only thing that dampens my spirits are when I feel compelled to reply to weak minded homers like you who can only put down someone instead of disagreeing or making a point.

Pick up your game Dirk its the post season. Thought I would bring that up since you don't seem to be paying attention.

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Suzi Marshall 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I'm not at all stressed about losing this game. In fact, I'd much rather the Hawks be a second seed in the MW than a 1 in the East. Also, I loathe the Big 12 tournament since Kansas usually has little to gain. Although I'm very happy we beat OSU, especially showing the solid D, my preference would be for the guys to focus on the Big Show.

If we can get to the Sweet 16 and get Embiid back...we can roll to the NC.

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Ethan Berger 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I find it incredibly dumb that the NCAA ask teams to play 18 conference games over three months then decides that a 4 game tourney should decide who gets the auto bids. To many undeserving teams go dancing when they shouldn't.

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The NCAA gives an auto seed to each conference. The conference decides who receives the bid. Most if not all choose the tourney champ.

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Ethan Berger 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Ahh, well the conferences suck then. But it is all about the money.

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John Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Has a conference ever chosen a team that wasn't the champion? I mean the team they choose represents their conference in the tourney. Not all conference tournament champions are the best in their conference. Obviously we know that with ISU winning ours.

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Erich Hartmann 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Ethan, I say let the auto-bids happen...who cares? Does a KU/Duke/KY/UNC (royalty program) really care about the auto-bids? Doesnt that "problem" solve itself in the BigDance? Every team from the BigXII that should be in the Tournament IS going, based on strength of sched.

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Rick Plehal 6 months, 2 weeks ago

We would if we had a point guard and knew how to handle the ball instead of turnover over turnover as evidenced recently by Tharpe getting hit in the head by a pass! Also, a zone defense now and again might be a change of pace that would help.

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Erich Hartmann 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Which game u talkin' about, chief? WVU game was where Tharpe got hit in the head was days ago, friend. Tharpe had a 4.5:1 assist/turnover ratio against IowaSt (9assits/2turnovers).

Since you missed those facts, sir, perhaps you missed Self's comments on Tharpe (after getting hit in head by pass): "he was looking down at his thumb that he'd just dislocated...". If you recall, right after it hit him in the head, KU still had the ball, and scored a bucket about 2-3 sec. later.

What are you talking about, sir?

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Rick Plehal 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Let's look at his stats for the year - a single game does not a point guard make (sorry he hurt his finger). Our turnovers have been the worst in years as discussed by announcers - I regard that as the fault of the leader - the point guard! That's what I'm talking about Erich and he is a Junior. The only thing is no one will draft him so he will be around for his Senior year and may improve!

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Dirk Medema 6 months, 2 weeks ago

At least 4 of the 9 teams ranked ahead of KU have lost in the last week, and 10 of the top 15. I'm guessing our loss to the tourney champion of the toughest conference isn't going to hurt us much at all.

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Rodney Crain 6 months, 2 weeks ago

"Dream" on Dirk. We have lost 3 out of the last 5, how many top 10 teams have done that? Pay attention please.

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Erich Hartmann 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Get a 2 seed, and play angrier than WSU...

Heck, I'd settle for us simply playing some actual Bill Self basketball: consistent DEFENSE.

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George Powell 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The problem are the freshmen and sophomores do not have the sense of urgency that most Juniors and Seniors have when it comes to playing these games. The freshmen and sophomores usually say next year. And the 1andDone guys are looking at the paychecks coming.

All three freshmen need to come back 1 more year, but I know that won't happen. All three have huge areas to work on and they will not get that at the NBA for the first couple years but just sitting on the bench. They should be playing college ball for those years and Self will have them more then ready.

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Aaron Paisley 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The freshmen haven't been the issue on defense, it's been the junior and the sophomore who have been non existent most of the year on that end of the court. Embiid was the conference defensive player of the year, Andrew Wiggins is a great on ball defender, and Wayne Selden while not an elite defender held his own and did a good job for a freshman this year.

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Josh Galler 6 months, 2 weeks ago

my wife and I had set up a bracket challenge to benefit Leukemia and Lymphoma https://www.facebook.com/events/1486857798208205/

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George Powell 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Heck, I might as well go for the Billion dollar prize, since I am the only one that seems to favor the Jayhawks all the way.

By the way, just having fun with the "Doom and Gloomers".

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John Fitzgerald 6 months, 2 weeks ago

I have faith my friend! Lol but I have a formula I use for my bracket and unfortunately it only favors the Jayhawks in few scenarios. Hope we get a good bracket because that's what it all depends on.

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