The feat the Kansas University basketball team just pulled off cannot be overlooked. Not only did the Jayhawks just rip off four consecutive victories against ranked teams for the first time in school history — and the first time for any program since North Carolina did it in 1997 — but they did so by rising to the occasion each time with incredible energy, confidence and poise at once.
The cherry on top of the four-game sweep came Monday night, as the Jayhawks — and the home fans — got right back up for one more big game and knocked off a scrappy Baylor squad, 78-68, at Allen Fieldhouse.
I'll be the first to admit that the game was tougher for the Jayhawks than I expected it would be, as Baylor controlled most of the first half and made KU work for everything it got. But then that signature Fieldhouse run came in the second half and the Jayhawks took control and hung on down the stretch.
Give Wayne Selden's highlight-reel save credit for really sparking the run.
Although the victories at Iowa State or home against Oklahoma State — both top 10 teams at the time — were more impressive, Monday's victory was solid given the fact that KU was forced to get up for yet another big game and did and the fact that the Bears came in a little bit desperate.
Kansas now controls the Big 12 race even more at 5-0 and, perhaps more importantly, gets a few days off before its next action Saturday at TCU.
The mere fact that KU's most recent opponent nailed 8 of 10 three pointers in the first half alone yet still somehow trailed No. 8 Kansas by two points at the break is one of the more remarkable things I can remember seeing. It was particularly impressive given the fact that KU did not play all that well in the first half on offense and really labored for everything it got. The Jayhawks' defense in the paint really stepped up in the first half to keep KU right there and a better defensive effort on the perimeter in the second half put the offense in position to deal that knockout blow.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – Free throw shooting has long been a sore subject around these parts, as fans of KU basketball — and probably the coaches, too — expect high percentages every time out. For whatever reason, that doesn't always happen, but it did on Monday, as KU drained 26 of 29 free throws, which may very well have been the difference. Three Jayhawks (Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden and Jamari Traylor) were perfect from the foul line and Perry Ellis missed one in the final minute. The only guy to miss more than one was Andrew Wiggins, who was given a pass because his two misses came in 12 trips. Free throw shooting is as much about confidence as anything and these guys really seem to feel as if they're getting free points when they toe the line.
2 – Given how red hot Naadir Tharpe has been of late, playing without him for large stretches of Monday's victory was critical for the Jayhawks' psyche. Forced to the bench with two fouls in the first half, Tharpe scored just six points and took three shots in 29 total minutes. He did play the entire second half and never picked up that third foul, but what a nice thing for the Jayhawks to see they could have a little success without their floor leader in the lineup.
3 – A big reason for that success was the play of freshman point guard Frank Mason, who once again asserted himself offensively and was a huge reason the Jayhawks were leading at halftime. Mason showed some of this early in the season but took a step back during the past couple of weeks. It looks as if that attacking mentality is once again at the front of his mind, another good sign for KU, given the fact that Mason is as good as it gets on this team at making something happen when the shot clock is winding down.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – There's no doubt in my mind that KU coach Bill Self emphasized over and over before this one what a talented outside shooter Baylor's Brady Heslip is. So when you see that Heslip got loose for 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range, including 4-of-4 in the first half, it doesn't take a genius to realize that Self probably was not too happy about that. Four guys tried their luck on Heslip, with Selden and Wiggins having more luck than Tharpe and Mason. Still, all four struggled at times, whether it was going under screens instead of over or losing him altogether. Nothing alarming and and there aren't many better shooters out there than Heslip, but it's definitely a sigh moment given how much it was probably emphasized before the game.
2 – Baylor entered Monday having forced just 177 turnovers in 17 games, good for a little more than 10 per night. Yet in the first half alone Kansas turned it over nine times. The Jayhawks tightened it up a little in the second and finished with 16 for the game, but far too many of them were just careless mental lapses, magnified by the fact that they came against a team that really doesn't force turnovers that often.
3 – KU's size and length made things tough for the Bears initially inside, but the Jayhawks were outfought for some loose balls around the Baylor rim. The Bears ripped down 20 offensive rebounds and scored 15 second-chance points, most of them coming in the paint. Isaiah Austin is long, Rico Gathers is wide and the Bears' guards did a great job of attacking the offensive glass.
One thought for the road:
KU's hard-fought victory over Baylor on Monday night, which marked its fifth game in 12 days:
• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in Big 12 play at 5-0.
• Marked the Jayhawks’ fourth-straight win over a top-25 opponent (No. 25 Kansas State, No. 9 Iowa State, No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 24 Baylor). The last school to win as many as four-consecutive regular season games, all against schools ranked in the AP top 25 was when North Carolina did so in February/March 1997. The Tar Heels beat No. 4 Wake Forest, No. 14 Maryland, No. 12 Clemson, and No. 7 Duke in four-consecutive games. Since then, there have been 58 schools to play at least four-consecutive regular-season games against AP-ranked opponents with none of them winning all four games.
• Pushed KU’s record on Big Monday to 50-16 overall, 27-1 in Allen Fieldhouse and was the 21st-straight Big Monday win at home.
• Made KU 5-0 in conference play for the third-straight season and the seventh time in the Bill Self era.
• Made the Kansas-Baylor series 20-4 in favor of KU, including 18-4 in the Big 12 era and 11-0 in Allen Fieldhouse.
• Made KU 707-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse, including 169-9 in the Bill Self era and 8-1 this season.
• Made Bill Self 12-4 all-time against Baylor, 314-63 while at Kansas and 521-168 overall
• Made KU 2,115-816 all-time.
After a wild stretch against ranked opponents, the Jayhawks will take a few days off and jump back into action on Saturday, when they play at 8 p.m. at TCU.
Behind another monster scoring day from junior point guard Naadir Tharpe, the Kansas University men's basketball team picked up its third consecutive victory over a ranked team on Saturday, 80-78 over No. 9 Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.
As expected, the game featured a wild — and loud — atmosphere and plenty of highlight plays on offense and defense from both teams.
The Jayhawks raced out to a 19-point first-half lead and then hung on for dear life down the stretch, as the Cowboys played more like a team worthy of a Top-10 ranking in the second half.
The victory moved KU to 4-0 in Big 12 play and further strengthened its position as the favorite to win this year's conference title. Other than Kansas State, which sits at 4-1, every other team in the Big 12 already has at least two losses and the Jayhawks handed the Wildcats their lone loss.
Anyway, as KU coach Bill Self said, it's still far too early to be talking about the conference race. Self said leading the Big 12 now is like leading in the second inning in baseball.
With that in mind, let's take one more look back at Saturday's Oklahoma State victory.
Forget the near collapse and forget all of the technical fouls and intensity, in terms of basketball only, this was a huge victory for the Jayhawks. Remember, this was an Oklahoma State team that Kansas lost to at home and needed a wild finish to knock off in Stillwater a season ago. Getting over the mental hump of handling the Cowboys plus getting a bonus dose of confidence from beating a Top 10 team in the process figure to keep the Jayhawks on the path they currently are enjoying.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – When things got nasty and tempers on the floor flared up, the Jayhawks stood tall, puffed their chests out and pushed back. It's a pride thing when that kind of scrum ensues and, especially because they were playing in their home building, it's clear that, although young and relatively new to town, these guys have plenty of pride in how they represent Kansas and they were not about to get punked by any Oklahoma State intimidation tactics.
2 – How about the continued steady play of Jamari Traylor. In just 19 minutes against Okie State, Traylor scored nine points by hitting all three of his shot attempts and all three of his free throw attempts. To me, the thing that has made the biggest difference in Traylor's recent emergence is the fact that he simply looks comfortable when he's on the floor. He knows what he's doing, has embraced his role and is never asked to do things he's not capable of doing. When asked about his impact after the game, Traylor said he just simply tries to bring energy, rebounding and defense to the floor every time out. And he knows if he's successful, that will give KU an edge. That kind of knowledge is powerful and can create confidence in a hurry. Traylor is a living, breathing example of that right now.
3 – Self pointed this out after the game but it's worth repeating because it shows just how talented and deep this team is and what a luxury that can be. Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis played three of the worst games of their careers and definitely their worst game collectively and yet KU found a way to win. The trio combined to shoot 6-of-22 from the floor and played an average of less than 25 minutes per man against a Top-10 opponent. While three of KU's top four scorers struggled, Naadir Tharpe, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor more than made up for it, combining to shoot 19 for 22 for 51 of KU's 80 points. It's this sort of depth and offensive flexibility that makes KU so tough to game plan for and defend.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – It's been a rough few games for KU forward Perry Ellis, who finished with just six points and four rebounds on 3-of-8 shooting in 18 minutes against the Cowboys. You can see in Perry's body language that something's not quite right and I think one of the biggest issues right now is his inability to finish at the rim. Since Big 12 play began, Ellis has been getting bumped often near the rim and that contact has thrown off his shot and his confidence. Ellis is an even-keel dude so you won't see crazy mood swings or displays of emotion from him no matter what's going on out there. But if you look closely, you can see that the sophomore is playing frustrated right now.
2 – That's three consecutive games with a technical foul for Joel Embiid and, although fans and Jayhawks might not like it that this story will now linger, it has to be talked about and it has to be at least a bit of a concern. Embiid was asked about it after the game and it's very clear that he understands what he needs to do. He just needs to keep his cool and cut out the extra-curricular antics. But knowing that and saying that and then actually doing it in the heat of battle are two different things. Embiid's a nice young man and it's clear that he's not a punk and not trying to establish a reputation as one of the Big 12's bad boys. The easy way to get past this is for him to take the advice of teammate Wayne Selden, who came up to him after the incident that earned Saturday's technical and said just one word: “Stop.”
3 – It's tough to sustain a big lead against a good team, particularly when you throw in a halftime break. But the Jayhawks made getting back into the game way too easy for the Cowboys at the start of the second half. OSU played much better and came out with a looser mentality that served them well, but the Jayhawks failed to match the intensity and emotion and allowed the Cowboys to get up off the mat. KU responded to OSU's surge with a nice run of its own, but there's no question that, after the way the first half unfolded, this should've been a much bigger victory than two points. KU survived and may actually be able to learn a lot from nearly blowing it.
One thought for the road:
The Jayhawks' two-point thriller over Oklahoma State:
• Kept Kansas as the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 4-0 for the third-straight time and the seventh time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Gave KU its third-straight win over a ranked opponent in as many games
• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 108-54 all-time against the Cowboys, including a 19-7 advantage in the Big 12 era.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 12-8 all-time against Oklahoma State, 313-63 while at Kansas and 520-168 overall.
• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,114-816.
• Improves KU’s record to 706-109 all-time in Allen Fieldhouse and 168-9 at home under Self.
The Jayhawks will dive back in with another big-game atmosphere at 8 p.m. Monday, when the Baylor Bears come to town for Big Monday.
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self spoke with the media at Allen Fieldhouse today about No. 15 Kansas' upcoming showdown — 3 p.m. Saturday — against No. 9 Oklahoma State.
Self broke down the Cowboys' team and talked about last year's home loss to OSU.
Here's a brief look as well as links to the complete audio:
• Self says Oklahoma State's Le'Bryan Nash's decision to try to get more into the 15-18 foot range to score instead of relying on the three-point shot has made Nash a more dangerous player and made a positive impact on OSU's entire offense.
• Regarding OSU's dribble penetration, Self says it's critical to be good guarding the ball. He says KU cannot be tempted to play off of point guard Marcus Smart and fade toward OSU's perimeter shooters and adds that the key is to get good help and make Smart feel like he's got one and a half guys guarding him on every possession no matter which way he goes when screens come.
• Self said Smart has not hurt himself at all by staying in college and he's had a good year. It was probably a good decision for him to come back and I know it's been great for their program.
• Self on whether Smart's backflips last year bothered him: What bothered me is that we played like crap. If we'd have played better, that wouldn't have happened. Of the flip: I thought it was beautiful form, I thought he tucked just at the right time and got full extension. I thought it was very impressive.
• Self said the 3-0 start in Big 12 play was big for this team because two of them came on the road. Self said the team needed confidence because it did not get much of it during the non-conference schedule and added that the team is probably as confident as it has been all year right now.
• Self said Andrew Wiggins has played most of his best games in the team's biggest games of the season. From his point of view, that's probably what the NBA scouts want to see from him — how does he play against the best of the best?
• Self said if Wiggins had made more layups this year he probably would be averaging 20 points per game. Says the misses may have been because of avoiding contact early but he's finishing better now and not worrying about contact.
• Self said Joel Embiid is probably not as impressed and surprised about his success as everybody else. One thing that's so great about Embiid is how honest he is and how high of a standard he sets for himself. Self said that's a real rarity for players.
• Self said he's not worried at all about Embiid's technical fouls during each of the last two games. The one at Iowa State was not a big deal. Only was called a technical because of the way the rules are written about dead ball contact fouls. When that occurs, they have to call it a technical.
• Self said Embiid has a chance to be an NBA All-Star. Five or 10 years from now he could be in that elite group of being considered one of the 24 best players in the world. But he's not anywhere close to that yet and has a lot of work ahead of him to get there.
• Self said it's way too early to be talking about his players' upcoming NBA decisions, but he can't see telling 'em to return. What he would tell 'em is to do what's best for their lives and weigh the pros and cons and act on that. Says he wouldn't hold his breath if he were a Kansas fan.
• Self said Embiid has become more physical and has already gotten stronger. He said he doesn't know if Embiid enjoys the contact but he's gotten to the point where he doesn't mind it.
• As for handling the fiery nature of some of these guys, Self said he'd much rather calm a guy down than turn a guy up.
• Self said the non-conference schedule doesn't matter any more. Might have helped KU win a couple of games on the road early in conference play, but now it's those conference games that will prepare KU for the rest of conference play.
• Self said he'd like to see Naadir Tharpe shoot more when he's open. Also said he's been playing at a really high level lately and has been a great leader, a rock out there, for the young guys.
• As for reaching this level and playing with confidence, Self said Tharpe probably needed to know again that Self liked him. Self added that he loves him and Tharpe knows that.
We all know that losing at Allen Fieldhouse is a rarity for the Kansas University men's basketball team, but Saturday's opponent, ninth-ranked Oklahoma State, has an opportunity to do something even more rare than just beat the Jayhawks.
The Cowboys (14-2) have a chance to beat No. 15 Kansas (12-4) on its home floor for the second time in a row, when the two preseason Big 12 Conference favorites square off in a highly anticipated showdown at 3 p.m. on CBS.
Behind a breakout game from guard Marcus Smart, the Cowboys' upended Kansas at home a season ago, 85-80 on Feb. 2. The loss was the first in a three-game losing streak for the Jayhawks, who snapped out of the funk and went on to win their ninth consecutive Big 12 title even with the hiccup along the way.
A quick check of the KU basketball media guide shows that the last team to accomplish back-to-back wins in Allen Fieldhouse was Iowa State, in 2000 and 2001 (shown above). To find the unlikely feat before that, you have to go back to 1989 and 1990, when Missouri knocked off the Jayhawks twice in a row in Allen Fieldhouse.
In the 116-year history of Kansas basketball, the Jayhawks have lost back-to-back games or worse at home just 34 times. Not surprisingly, most of those losing streaks came against conference foes, with Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State all knocking off the Jayhawks in back-to-back trips to Lawrence at least once.
Still, very few of those teams did it more than once and the fact that it has only happened 34 times in nearly 3,000 games is just another remarkable element of the storied tradition of Kansas basketball.
A few more facts about KU's rare home losing streaks:
• Missouri's stretch of 10 straight victories in Lawrence from 1917-1922 is the longest in history.
• Kentucky won five straight in Lawrence from 1975-83; Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Mizzou all have won four straight games in Lawrence; Nebraska and K-State also enjoyed a stretch of three straight victories.
• Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville and Notre Dame are the only non-conference programs to win back-to-back games or better in Lawrence.
• A couple of teams, who, like Oklahoma State, are currently sitting on the potential to start a winning streak include: Oral Roberts, which last won in Lawrence in 2006 and has not been back; Vanderbilt, which last won in Lawrence in 1972 and has not been back; Duke, which won in overtime in Lawrence in 1988 and has not been back; Iowa, which won in Lawrence in 1998 and has not been back; Louisville, which won in Lawrence in 1992 and has not been back; Nevada, which won in Lawrence in 2005 and has not been back; North Carolina, which won in Lawrence in 1960, has not been back and won't be coming back as long as Roy Williams is still the Tar Heels' head coach; Northwestern, which won in Lawrence in 1964 and has not been back; and, of course, San Diego State, which won in Lawrence earlier this season.
• Current Big 12 Teams and their total victories in Allen Fieldhouse all-time: Baylor (0), Iowa State (9), Kansas State (18), Oklahoma (7), Oklahoma State (9), Texas (1), Texas Tech (0), TCU (0) and West Virginia (0).
As it turns out, road losses in tough environments like Colorado and Florida may have paid off for the Kansas University men's basketball team, which went into arguably the toughest place to play on its entire schedule Monday night — Hilton Coliseum — and knocked off Iowa State, 77-70.
KU took charge with great starts to each half and got superb play from Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Naadir Tharpe, each one taking a different moment to shine.
It's still early, there's no doubt about that. But KU has taken as much control of the Big 12 Conference race as a team can take in three games, based largely on the strength of its two road victories.
Success in the Jayhawks' next two games — 3 p.m. Saturday vs. Oklahoma State and 8 p.m. Monday vs. Baylor — could make it an all-out stranglehold.
It baffles me that Iowa State, which lost to KU three times last season and had every reason in the world to take the floor with more hunger, anger and intensity than the visiting Jayhawks on Monday night, actually got out-hungered by Kansas. Credit KU coach Bill Self and veteran point guard Naadir Tharpe for explaining to the young guys on this roster just how hostile Hilton would be and for preparing them to feel like the underdog with everything to prove. It worked brilliantly and KU got one of its best games of the season in terms of pure effort.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – Naadir Tharpe, the guy some KU fans said they wanted to see thrown off the team for missing shots earlier this season, showed that none of the negativity around his play has had a negative impact on his ability to develop his game and lead this team. Games like Monday can only make Tharpe's confidence soar and a more confident Tharpe is a more comfortable Tharpe, which is a great thing for Kansas.
2 – The Jayhawks were sensational out of timeouts Monday night, whenever Iowa State showed signs of making a run. I can recall at least three or four times when Iowa State closed the gap to six or so points and appeared to be poised for a big run, only to watch Kansas calmly call timeout and respond by getting an easy bucket right at the rim, most often from Embiid. That's clearly solid coaching but it also showed incredible poise by Self's players.
3 – In back-to-back games to open Big 12 play, freshman guard Wayne Selden finished among the Jayhawks' leading scorer and looked great doing it. Monday, Selden had an off night offensively — finishing with just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting — but more than made up for it by leading the team with six assists in 33 minutes.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – Perry Ellis definitely did not have one of his best nights. Forget the 4-of-13 shooting or the 0-of-3 mark from the free throw line, the thing that surprised me the most about Ellis' sluggish night was how he let a bad play on one end lead to another on the other end. I can remember one time specifically where Ellis missed an easy shot in close and then went down and committed a silly foul. As he went to the bench, Self uttered something to the effect of “It's OK to miss the shot but don't make it worse on the other end.” We've become so used to Ellis being so steady that we sometimes forget that he's in his second season of college ball and still developing in his own right.
2 – If you would've said before the game that KU would turn it over 24 times and Iowa State just 8, nobody would've guessed that KU would have come out on top. Iowa State swiped a dozen steals but the rest of the turnovers were the result of sloppy ball-handling. The Jayhawks got away with it because they dominated on the glass — which only came because Iowa State was so cold from the floor — but they can't make a habit of giving it up that many times, especially on the road.
3 – For the second game in a row, Joel Embiid got busted for retaliating after bodies got tangled up and was hit with a technical foul for a little extra physical contact. Against K-State, the incident cost Embiid the rest of the game and against the Cyclones it forced him to the bench for a five-minute stretch in which ISU turned a 15-4 KU lead into a 21-19 KU advantage. Embiid's an emotional guy out there and that's good when it leads to him aggressively taking the ball to the basket on offense or feeling like nobody in the gym can stop him. But these extra-curricular fouls can't become a regular part of his ever-advancing game.
One thought for the road:
The Jayhawks' impressive victory over an angry Iowa State team on Monday:
• Kept Kansas the only undefeated team in conference play, making KU 3-0 for the eighth-straight time and the 10th time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Extended Kansas' win streak over Iowa State to four-straight.
• Increased the Jayhawks’ series lead to 174-59 all-time against the Cyclones, including a 30-8 advantage in the Big 12 era and 24-19 in Hilton Coliseum.
• Marked KU’s 50th victory on ESPN’s Big Monday. The Jayhawks are 50-16 in Big Monday games since the start of the Big 12 era.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 20-3 all-time against Iowa State, 312-63 while at Kansas and 519-168 overall.
• Pushed KU's all-time record to 2,113-816.
Next up: The Jayhawks continue their crazy stretch against ranked teams when they return to Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against No. 9 Oklahoma State.
Prior to Saturday's 86-60 beat-down of Kansas State, the Kansas University men's basketball team struggled in its last home game and the Wildcats came in ranked for the first time all season and riding a 10-game winning streak.
It was business as we've come to know it in the Sunflower Showdown hoops rivalry on Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse, with the Jayhawks handling everything KSU could throw at them and delivering the knock-out blow early to improve to 2-0 in Big 12 Conference play.
If you've seen any of the previous Sunflower Showdown match-ups at Allen Fieldhouse, you can guess how it went. But in case you want more details, here's our latest installment of “The Day After.”
The KU offense really looks like it's starting to click. Wayne Selden has put back-to-back solid games together and is smiling more than ever, Joel Embiid is hitting jumpers and Andrew Wiggins looks more comfortable pulling the trigger when it's there. Even if the KU defense never quite comes around, if the offense can continue to play like this, the Jayhawks will have the chance to make a serious run.
Three reasons to smile:
1 – The fact that Selden and Wiggins are starting to feel more comfortable asserting themselves on the offensive end is really good news for point guard Naadir Tharpe. Early on, I think Tharpe felt the burden — real or imagined — of needing to be a scorer, but he's always been at his best as a facilitator. Never was that more evident than Saturday, when Tharpe dished nine dimes and had zero turnovers. That's 17 assists and 1 turnover in his last three games. Speaking of turnovers, how about the team going 23:16 without a turnover against a good defensive club? Very good sign for the young squad.
2 – The chemistry between big men Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor is an incredible luxury for this team. The two combined for 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists in limited minutes. That kind of performance on a consistent basis will keep Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid from feeling too much of the burden inside. Plus, Traylor and Black both bring a more physical edge to the floor.
3 – KU's three-point shooting is really on the rise of late. The Jayhawks hit 8 of 18 threes against K-State and have hit 32 of 78 three-point attempts (41 percent) dating back to the Georgetown game. Three-point shooting was a big concern early in the season, but with Wiggins, Selden and even Conner Frankamp looking more comfortable with the deep ball, KU's offense is benefiting tremendously. KU's six second-half threes tied a season high.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 – It hardly mattered, but K-State got a ton of points at the rim on Saturday. 43 percent of KSU's points (26 of 60) came from point-blank range, a fact that points to both the absence of a Jeff Withey type guy in the paint and KU's struggles with on-the-ball defense. Self said they were good for 30 minutes in this one, but there's no question that they still need to get better.
2 – It was masked a bit by KU's offensive explosion, but the Jayhawks continue to struggle with takeaways. KSU committed just 10 turnovers in the game and only four of those were true take-aways by the Jayhawks. It's nit-picking a little, but for a program so used to forcing turnovers and getting steals, it's a little odd. KU has fewer steals (83) this season than its opponents (90).
3 – Naadir Tharpe, whom players and coaches insist is a good shooter in practice, made just one of seven attempts during the run-away victory over K-State. I trust his teammates and I like the way Tharpe's shot looks, it's just a matter of shot selection that continues to be an issue. KU coach Bill Self will be the first to let you know that, as he's never shy to tear into Tharpe after he pulls the trigger on a bad thought. Even with that, Self seems to think Tharpe is doing most things right these days and he has been awfully complimentary of his point guard's recent toughness and ability to close.
One thought for the road:
KU's most recent convincing victory over K-State...
• Gave Kansas its eighth-straight, home-conference-opening win and its 30th league home-opening victory in the last 31 seasons.
• Made Kansas 2-0 in conference play for the 10th time in the 11-year Bill Self era.
• Extended Kansas’ win streak over Sunflower Showdown rival K-State to six games.
• Improved the Jayhawks to 44-18 all-time against the Wildcats in Allen Fieldhouse, including the last eight meetings.
• Moved Kansas head coach Bill Self to 23-3 all-time against K-State, 311-63 while at Kansas and 518-169 overall.
• Pushed KU’s all-time record to 2,112-816.
Next up: The Jayhawks will travel to Ames, Iowa, on Monday for a Big Monday, 8 p.m. match-up with No. 9 Iowa State, which lost at Oklahoma on Saturday for its first loss of the season.
The beginning of Big 12 Conference play is as good a time as any to roll out this new feature. So, just as we did with our new pregame feature from Benton Smith, here's a little postgame flavor for those of you who wake up still thinking about KU's latest game.
We won't go into intense detail or labor over this stat or that one, but we will give you a few things to chew on before you move past the latest game and onto the next one.
Obviously, by now, you're well aware of how big KU's 90-83 victory at Oklahoma on Wednesday was for this team, especially when you consider it came on the heels of its first non-conference home loss since 2006 just a few days earlier.
KU coach Bill Self said the victory was KU's second best of the season — right behind Duke — and seemed pleased with the way a couple of his younger guys stepped up when KU really needed them to.
That leads perfectly into the meat of this feature, so, without further ado, I give you the first installment of “The Day After.”
If nothing else, KU proved, once again, that it is capable of responding to a setback with a solid effort. The Jayhawks really needed a good showing at OU and they got it. If this win goes down as the game that jump-started solid seasons for Wayne Selden (24 points on 9-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-10 from downtown) and Conner Frankamp (5 points on 2-of-3 shooting in 13 minutes), the Jayhawks just got a lot better.
Three reasons to smile:
1 - There were still a couple of times when KU let OU push them around, but, for the most part, the Jayhawks were much better inside in this one, out-rebounding the Sooners by 14 and limiting OU to several one-and-done possessions. OU had out-rebounded its previous six opponents by an average of 10 boards per game.
2 - Freshman Conner Frankamp proved that he could be a reliable and productive option at point guard when Naadir Tharpe was forced to sit with three first-half fouls. I'd say giving Frankamp an excessive amount of credit here could be making too much of it, but you've gotta consider all of the factors. The guy did it on the road, against a good team with tough, experienced guards despite entering the night averaging less than seven minutes per outing.
3 - Top-three scorers Andrew Wiggins (1st at 15.3 ppg) and Joel Embiid (3rd at 10.5 ppg) had off nights offensively — combining to shoot just 4-for-13 — yet the Jayhawks still managed to put up 90 points. All of that quality depth that we've talked about all season finally showed up when it truly mattered.
Three reasons to sigh:
1 - If not for 55 percent shooting for the game, including 64 percent shooting in the first half, KU probably would've lost this one. The reason? Defense. Oklahoma got into the paint way too easily and got a lot of open three-point looks. In addition, the Sooners turned it over just nine times. KU isn't going to be able to outscore everybody it plays and the Jayhawks are going to have to toughen up defensively, particularly on the ball, if they want to resemble the teams we've gotten used to seeing around here.
2 - After a breakout game against Georgetown in late December, senior forward Tarik Black has not taken the next step. In the three games since his 17-point, 6-rebound, 20-minute effort against the Hoyas, Black has played just 18 minutes combined and committed six fouls in that time.
3 - Things don't get any easier at any point in the near future. KU returns home for three of its next four games, but those three games come against in-state rival Kansas State (Saturday), No. 11 Oklahoma State (Jan. 18) and No. 7 Baylor (Jan. 20). Sprinkled in between there is a trip to No. 9 Iowa State on Monday.
One thought for the road:
A few quick records of note following Wednesday's victory, which: • Extended KU’s conference-opening winning streak to 23 games dating back to the 1991-92 season
• Made the Kansas-Oklahoma series 140-65 in favor of KU
• Gave the Jayhawks the 18-16 edge over the Sooners in games played in the Lloyd Noble Center
• Improved Bill Self to 12-4 all-time against Oklahoma, 310-63 while at Kansas and 517-169 in his 21st season overall
• Made KU 2,111-816 all-time
KU plays host to K-State at 1 p.m. Saturday in what promises to be another fun and exciting edition of the Sunflower Showdown.
For all of the struggles that the non-conference schedule brought — four losses, tough road environments, a month away from Allen Fieldhouse — the folks in the betting industry still seem to have a great deal of faith in the Kansas University basketball team.
According to a press release sent out by Bovada.com, the Jayhawks currently sit as the fourth favorite to win the 2014 national championship.
KU registers as a 15-2 favorite, down slightly from the 11-2 mark they held in May.
Arizona, which opened the season as a 15-1 favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas, currently is the top favorite at 11-2. Michigan State (6-1) and Kentucky (7-1) are second and third and Louisville and Syracuse are tied at 10-1 to round out the top five.
KU's place in the Top 5 certainly suggests that the Jayhawks have the potential for plenty of good days ahead. And, really, I don't think the non-conference results are an indication of rough days behind. KU lost to four ranked teams, two of them on late three-pointers and two in hostile environments.
Sure KU's players and head coach Bill Self might feel better about themselves heading into Big 12 play — 6 p.m. tonight at Oklahoma — if they had one or two fewer losses. But with the Big 12 possibly as good as it's ever been, there's still plenty to gain in the weeks ahead.
Beyond KU's standing with oddsmakers as one of college basketball's favorites is the presence of freshman forward Andrew Wiggins as a Top 6 favorite for national player of the year. Wiggins, who leads KU in scoring at 15.8 points per game on 45 percent shooting (and also is third on the team in rebounding at 5.4 boards per game), is a 10-1 favorite to win the award, behind only Duke's Jabari Parker (4-1), Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (7-1), Kentucky's Julius Randle (8-1), Creighton's Doug McDermott (8-1) and Louisville's Russ Smith (8-1).
These Jayhawks have flaws and are far from a polished product. But with a legitimate player of the year candidate who figures to continue to improve and a veteran coach like Bill Self, it's easy to see why Kansas remains one of the favorites for big things come March.
Before we get to that point, the Jayhawks will begin their quest for a 10th straight Big 12 title tonight in Norman, Okla. If they get it, their odds of winning it all figure to be even better than they are today.
Here's a quick look at the both lists sent out by Bovada.
In the first list of national championship favorites, the second column lists each team's odds as of May 15, 2013 and the third column is the current odds.
Odds to win 2013-2014 National Championship:
Arizona — 15/1 — 11/2
Michigan State — 12/1 — 6/1
Kentucky — 5/1 — 7/1
Kansas — 11/2 — 15/2
Louisville — 17/2 — 10/1
Oklahoma State — 50/1 — 10/1
Syracuse — 25/1 — 10/1
Duke — 14/1 — 12/1
Ohio State — 20/1 — 12/1
Wisconsin — 50/1 — 16/1
Florida — 18/1 — 20/1
North Carolina — 16/1 — 25/1
Wichita State — 66/1 — 28/1
Iowa — 50/1 — 40/1
Pittsburgh — 50/1 — 40/1
UCLA — 40/1 — 40/1
Villanova — 66/1 — 40/1
Colorado — 40/1 — 50/1
Connecticut — 33/1 — 50/1
Iowa State — 100/1 — 50/1
Memphis — 33/1 — 50/1
Michigan — 33/1 — 50/1
Oregon — 100/1 — 50/1
San Diego State — 100/1 — 50/1
Creighton — 50/1 — 66/1
Gonzaga — 50/1 — 66/1
Missouri — 50/1 — 66/1
VCU — 50/1 — 66/1
Baylor — 50/1 — 75/1
Cincinnati — 100/1 — 100/1
Georgetown — 50/1 — 100/1
St. Louis — 50/1 — 100/1
Virginia — 66/1 — 100/1
UMass — Off the Board — 100/1
Florida State — 75/1 — 150/1
Illinois — 66/1 — 150/1
Indiana — 33/1 — 150/1
Kansas State — 100/1 — 150/1
New Mexico — 50/1 — 150/1
Oklahoma — 200/1 — 150/1
Tennessee — 66/1 — 150/1
LSU — 150/1 — 150/1
Butler — 66/1 — 200/1
Harvard — 200/1 — 200/1
Minnesota — 66/1 — 200/1
Texas — 100/1 — 200/1
Xavier — 200/1 — 200/1
George Washington — Off the Board — 200/1
Boise State — 150/1 — 250/1
Dayton — 150/1 — 250/1
Marquette — 50/1 — 250/1
Notre Dame — 75/1 — 250/1
Ole Miss — 100/1 — 250/1
Arizona State — 100/1 — 300/1
Clemson — 250/1 — 300/1
NC State — 50/1 — 300/1
St. John's — 66/1 — 300/1
St. Mary's — 150/1 — 300/1
Stanford — 100/1 — 300/1
Texas A&M — 200/1 — 300/1
Wake Forest — 250/1 — 300/1
Alabama — 100/1 — 500/1
Arkansas — 150/1 — 500/1
BYU — 100/1 — 500/1
California — 100/1 — 500/1
Maryland — 200/1 — 500/1
Miami Florida — 100/1 — 500/1
Purdue — 100/1 — 500/1
UNLV — 66/1 — 500/1
USC — 150/1 — 500/1
Vanderbilt — 100/1 — 500/1
Virginia Tech — 250/1 — 500/1
Washington — 200/1 — 500/1
West Virginia — 100/1 — 500/1
George Mason — Off the Board — 500/1
Boston College — 500/1 — 1000/1
Colorado State — 150/1 — 1000/1
Georgia — 200/1 — 1000/1
Georgia Tech — 200/1 — 1000/1
Northwestern — 500/1 — 1000/1
South Carolina — 250/1 — 1000/1
St. Joe's — 250/1 — 1000/1
Temple — 150/1 — 1000/1
Washington State — 200/1 — 1000/1
La Salle — Off the Board — 1000/1
Richmond — Off the Board — 1000/1
St. Bonaventure — Off the Board — 1000/1
Rhode Island — Off the Board — 1000/1
Fordham — Off the Board — 1000/1
Davidson — 250/1 — 2000/1
Mississippi State — 500/1 — Off the Board
Odds to win 2013-2014 Associated Press Player of the Year:
Jabari Parker (Duke) — 4/1
Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State) — 7/1
Julius Randle (Kentucky) — 8/1
Doug McDermott (Creighton) — 8/1
Russ Smith (Louisville) — 8/1
Andrew Wiggins (Kansas) — 10/1
C.J. Fair (Syracuse) — 12/1
Shabazz Napier (UConn) — 12/1
Aaron Craft (Ohio State) — 15/1
Chaz Williams (UMass) — 15/1
Aaron Gordon (Arizona) — 15/1
Keith Appling (Michigan State) — 20/1
Nick Johnson (Arizona) — 20/1
Cleanthony Early (Wichita State) — 20/1
Gary Harris (Michigan State) — 25/1
Kyle Anderson (UCLA) — 33/1
Marcus Paige (North Carolina) — 33/1
Casey Prather (Florida) — 33/1
T.J. Warren (N.C. State) — 33/1
Adreian Payne (Michigan State) — 33/1
Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self and a couple of KU players will talk to the media at 2:30 p.m. today.
Stay logged in right here for a blow-by-blow account of what Self and the Jayhawks have to say about this weekend's match-up with No. 21 San Diego State — 3:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS — and the current state of the program.
Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor will talk before Self....
Ellis up first:
Perry Ellis says KU knows that San Diego State is really solid defensively and that one of the big focal points this week has been on handling the press.
Ellis says that KU will get a lot better defensively itself when the young guys don't worry as much about messing up. He went through that his freshman year and he sympathizes.
Ellis said Naadir Tharpe is so critical to this team as a vocal leader and from the standpoint of getting everyone ready every day, every game. Not a lot of people know that.
Ellis says he's much stronger this year than he was last year. That came from hard work during the summer and he said it has brought more confidence because he feels more explosive.
Ellis is 3-of-6 from three-point range this season. He said he's been working a lot on shooting those, especially as a trailer on the break, but that he's easing into the idea and making sure that he doesn't force them up.
Ellis said the team had some great practices over the break and that they've been playing great defense in practice. He's hoping it carries over to what's next on the schedule.
Ellis said he's still a little numb from the blow to the head he took against Georgetown but he's not worried about it because it doesn't impact how he feels or plays.
Ellis said the non-conference portion of the schedule has gone by incredibly fast but that he's really looking forward to the Big 12 games.
Traylor says the biggest key for KU's defense going to the next level is finishing possessions all the way through the box out and the rebound. No fouls, stay down, work hard and finish.
Traylor said KU should use its energy to inspire the crowd to help them create turnovers by their opponents.
Traylor said the past couple of days of practice haven't focused much on offense at all. All defensive drills and a lot of them. He said the split was 80 percent defense, 20 percent offense. And the 20 percent number might be high.
Traylor said Ellis was in the weight room a lot throughout the offseason. Every time he went to the gym Perry was in there and he thinks that might be why Ellis has been so much more effective at the rim this season.
Traylor said he doesn't guard Joel Embiid much in practice and he doesn't mind that one bit.
Traylor said the versatility of KU's bigs is huge for this team and makes it hard on Self to figure out a way to divvy up the minutes.
Traylor, like Ellis, said a lot of good things about SDSU's defense and said they're really, really athletic.
Traylor said the tough non-conference schedule should pay off now that conference play is here.
Self backs up his players' claims that defense has been the focal point lately but added that defense is always an emphasis.
Self also said getting better on defense is not something that you just decide to do and then go up and make it happen in a day or two. It takes time. It's a process. And he's pleased with how KU has handled the process this season.
Self said the players have not really been out of position during defensive breakdowns, more that their mindset and intensity have allowed opponents to get things easier than they should.
Self said he has not gone to drastic measures like practicing without a ball. He's done that before but not this year. "I figured out practices can be more game-like when you use a ball."
Self said SDSU is one of the premier defensive teams in the country and that's where they hang their hat. Largely because they're athletic and well coached.
Speaking of coaching, Self said the tiff between he and SDSU coach Steve Fisher over the recruitment of Kevin Young is water under the bridge and he has nothing but respect and admiration for Fisher, who he says is an outstanding coach who has proven it for a long time. He added: In recruiting, those things happen. You don't always get what you deserve. And the things that happen to you in a negative way often happen in a positive way at some point down the road. Self thinks that's the case with Fisher but says he understands the disappointment because it always hurts when you lose a kid you put so much time into recruiting.
Self said SDSU's defensive switches will be good prep for Oklahoma, which also switches a ton on defense. Reinforces that non-conference schedule is played to prepare teams for conference play so he loves how the timing worked out with this one. KU opens Big 12 play at OU on Jan. 8.
Self said Perry Ellis' strong season down low is due mostly to him being a year older. He said Ellis is stronger and more aggressive than he was as a freshman but added that he's still not quite as aggressive as they'd like him to be.
As for Ellis from three-point land, Self said he's never told Perry that he does or does not have the green light to shoot those but added that he wouldn't mind seeing Ellis average one or two a game because he's a good shooter.
Counting the Jayhawks' two exhibition games, sophomore forward Perry Ellis scored in double figures in six consecutive games to open the season and averaged 16 points per night.
In the past five games (three of them losses) Ellis has reached double digits three times and has averaged just over 10 points per game.
For the season, Ellis is averaging 13.3 points per game in 30 minutes, but it's clear that teams have started to figure out Perry's importance to this Kansas offense.
In KU's three losses, Ellis attempted just 17 shots, including just three in the most recent loss at Florida. That fact would not be quite as alarming if not for the reality that the rest of the Jayhawks — outside of leading scorer Andrew Wiggins (16.4 ppg) — are struggling to put points up around Ellis, who seems to be the most versatile scoring threat on KU's roster.
Given the fact that the Jayhawks have seen so much zone from opposing defenses lately, Ellis' quiet games make sense. The sophomore from Wichita loves to operate in the short corners — the area halfway between the lane and the sideline that is critical to attacking zone defenses — and Ellis mentioned Thursday that he noticed teams were making a concerted effort to keep him away from those spots.
“They try to really keep me out (of there) and try not to let me catch it on the post a lot,” Ellis said. “That's something I've noticed. That's the main thing.”
Fixing that and giving Ellis more of a chance to get back to his favorite spots on the floor is a matter of breaking down the zones. And the easiest way to do that is to have shooters knock down shots. Until they do, teams likely will continue to funnel everything to KU's jump shooters on the outside and, in a sense, tell KU's offense that they would rather live with the Jayhawks shooting three-pointers, where KU is hitting 31 percent, versus letting Ellis catch the ball in the short corners and create easy points.
Of course, there are other factors in play here, as well, most notably the struggles of the KU point guards to (a) get the team into its half-court sets and (b) keep from turning the ball over. But those things will hurt any offensive player anywhere on the floor.
We all know by now that Ellis is as good as it gets at finishing around the rim, but even if he cannot put the ball in the basket, one of the best ways to create points is by getting to the free throw line. Attacking the rim from the short corners has led to a bunch of free throws for Ellis, who has made a team-best 80 percent from the line this season but is just third on the team in free throws attempted.
During the past two games — both losses — Ellis failed to reach the free throw line one time.
While Ellis' stats are trending the wrong way during recent weeks, this, by no means, is a reason to panic. Ellis is a smart and skilled basketball player with a loaded offensive repertoire and he and the KU coaching staff no doubt will figure out a way to put him in position to score even if teams continue to take away the short corner.
But whether that comes from the high post or from attacking the rim more off the dribble, Ellis' recent numbers are just another indicator of how important finding three-point shooting is for this Kansas team.
Perry Ellis game-by-game
• PITT STATE (exhibition) --- FG: 7-10 — FT: 2-2 — Pts: 16 — Min: 23
• FORT HAYS STATE (exhibition) --- FG: 3-4 — FT: 7-7 — Pts: 13 — Min: 20
• LOUISIANA MONROE --- FG: 3-5 — FT: 6-8 — Pts: 12 — Min: 29
• DUKE --- FG: 9-13 — FT: 5-6 — Pts: 24 — Min: 35
• IONA --- FG: 9-11 — FT: 3-4 — Pts: 21 — Min: 32
• TOWSON --- FG: 4-7 — FT: 2-2 — Pts: 10 — Min: 22
• WAKE FOREST --- FG: 3-8 — FT: 3-4 — Pts: 9 — Min: 23
• VILLANOVA --- FG: 3-8 — FT: 5-7 — Pts: 11 — Min: 39
• UTEP --- FG: 6-12 — FT: 7-8 — Pts: 19 — Min: 32
• COLORADO --- FG: 5-6 — FT: 0-0 — Pts: 10 — Min: 31
• FLORIDA --- FG: 2-3 — FT: 0-0 — Pts: 4 — Min: 24