Kansas point guard Devon Dotson said Friday that his left ankle was a little sore when he woke up on Friday morning, following KU’s 87-53 victory over No. 13 seed Northeastern on Thursday night.
But neither Dotson nor KU coach Bill Self seemed at all worried that the ankle tweak, which Dotson endured while battling for a rebound in the second half of Thursday’s victory, would have a negative impact on his ability to be ready for Saturday’s second round game against 5th-seeded Auburn in Salt Lake City.
“A turned ankle isn’t going to keep a guy from playing,” Self said.
When asked about the communication he’s had with his point guard about the injury, Self said the two have treated it as if it’s a non-issue.
“I haven’t even asked him how he felt,” Self explained. “Because he may tell me doesn’t feel well. So I’d rather not know that and just imagine he’s going to be 100 percent, which I’m sure he will be.”
As for Dotson’s take on the ankle, he, too, was optimistic that he would be just fine by game time Saturday night. The fact that he was able to re-enter Thursday’s game and play down the stretch while testing it out, gave him some confidence that the injury was minor.
“It feels all right,” Dotson said. “Kind of sore waking up (Friday) morning and I’ll try to really test it at practice, but it’s feeling all right. I’m not really worried about it.”
Another Jayhawk battling an ailment on Friday was sophomore guard Marcus Garrett, who was not present at any of KU’s media activities and instead stayed back at the team hotel trying to fight off some kind of illness.
“We’re hoping it’s not the flu,” Self said Friday. “But he’s being treated like it is. He was running a fever and certainly had some of those symptoms. But we think, hey, with a good day’s rest and a lot of fluids, he’ll be ready to go tomorrow. He better be.”
Self said Garrett started feeling bad before Thursday’s game and got worse as the night went on. But, like with Dotson, Self seemed supremely confident that the team’s best defender would be doing his thing on Saturday night.
“He’s sick,” Self said. “(He) didn’t have a good night (Thursday). But he’ll be ready to go.”
Salt Lake City — For just the second time in the history of the two programs, Kansas and Auburn will square off on the basketball court on Saturday night, with the winner earning a trip to the Sweet 16 in Kansas City, Mo.
And we now know that that game will tip off around 8:40 p.m., roughly 30 minutes following the 6:10 tipoff between top-seeded Gonzaga and No. 9 seed Baylor in the first of two games in Salt Lake on Saturday.
That much was made official on Thursday afternoon, when Kansas, the No. 4 seed, and 5th-seeded Auburn won first-round games at Vivint Smart Home Arena over Northeastern (87-53) and New Mexico State (78-77) respectively.
Auburn is led by head coach Bruce Pearl and features a team of ultra-athletic guards that, like Northeastern, can shoot the daylights out of it. Auburn, which finished tied for fourth in the SEC at 11-7 (26-9 overall) and won the SEC tournament by beating Tennessee by 20 in the title game, ranked second in the SEC in 3-point shooting, at 37.6 percent, third in scoring offense (79.6 ppg) and fourth in scoring defense (68.1 ppg).
Said Pearl in a self-assessment of his team after Thursday’s victory: “We play 10 guys and we fly around and we turn you over and we shoot a lot of 3s.”
Auburn and Kansas have met just once, with the Tigers winning a 1985 NCAA Tournament game in South Bend, Ind., 66-64.
Stay in touch with KUsports.com throughout the day Friday for much more on this matchup, including a breakdown of the game from both locker rooms.
While Selection Sunday is one of the best days of the year for college basketball fans, it also marks the end of months worth of speculation and prediction about which teams would be headed where in the NCAA Tournament.
Beyond that, the unveiling of the bracket brings with it disappointment for some teams, heavy scrutiny from the media and the reality that not every team can be pleased with whether it got in or its draw.
Still, most years the committee does a more-than-admirable job with an almost-impossible task and puts together an intriguing and interesting field that promises to entertain.
One of the more fun things to do before the games begin — the First Four tips off in Dayton on Tuesday and the rest of the action begins Thursday, with No. 4 seed Kansas opening NCAA Tournament play at 3 p.m. in Salt Lake City against No. 13 seed Northeastern — is to take a look at just how close we were to having a different bracket altogether.
How were the 1 seeds stacked? Who almost got a 3 seed instead of a 4. How close were the 8s and the 9s from avoiding that potential second-round matchup with a 1 seed?
All of those questions, and many more, can be answered easily by taking a look at the final overall rankings for the field, released Sunday night not long after the bracket came out.
As you can see below, Kansas, at No. 13 overall, was that close to being a 3 seed and likely was edged out of that spot by Texas Tech, which won the Big 12 regular season title and split with the Jayhawks this season.
But remember, seed isn’t everything. Had Kansas been a 3 seed instead of a 4, it’s all but guaranteed that the Jayhawks would have been a 3 in some region other than the Midwest.
So while 3 is certainly higher than 4, in this case, being the 4 might wind up benefiting the Jayhawks because, if they’re able to survive two rounds in Salt Lake — neither of which will be anywhere close to easy — KU will be coming home to play the Sweet 16 and possible Elite Eight games in Kansas City, Mo., 40 miles from campus.
That’s not a bad fate for a team that lost 9 games and fell lower than the 2 line for the first time since 2009.
There’s a long way to go before we get to that point, and we may never get there, but it’s always interesting to look at how closely things came to producing a completely different bracket than the one that is now being feverishly filled out by the rest of the college basketball world.
One other thing that jumped out to me regarding the overall rankings is where the committee put Michigan and Michigan State. The Spartans beat their in-state rivals three times this season, including one final time in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament title game. Their reward? Being the No. 8 overall seed and landing in the same region with top overall seed Duke while the Wolverines got the No. 6 spot and avoided that fate.
There’s no telling why that happened, but given the conference affiliation, geographic location and head-to-head results between the two, it seems like Michigan State got a raw deal there.
They’re just one of 20 or so teams out there that probably feels they got a raw deal — hello No. 1 seed North Carolina coming to KC to potentially play KU or Iowa State — and this look at the overall rankings gives you a real feel how some of those things could have been avoided.
That said, I’m always impressed by the Selection Committee’s work and there’s little doubt that the hours upon hours they spend creating this thing are done in the interest of releasing the best, fairest, most competitive bracket they can put together.
The bottom line is simple: Regardless of where you’re seeded, who you play, where you should’ve been seeded or what road you think would have been easier, the only thing that matters is whether you win the game against the teams thrown in your way.
Let the games begin. And while you continue to fill out your brackets, be sure to register for our KUsports.com bracket for a chance to win cash money. The Top 3 finishers win $500, $250 and $100 cash, thanks to our sponsor, Truity Credit Union.
Enjoy the tournament, everybody!
- Duke (29 – 5)
- Virginia (29 - 3)
- North Carolina (27 - 6)
- Gonzaga (30 - 3)
- Tennessee (29 - 4)
- Michigan St. (28 - 6)
- Kentucky (27 - 6)
- Michigan (28 - 6)
- Houston (31 - 3)
- Texas Tech (26 - 6)
- Purdue (23 - 9)
- Kansas (25 - 9)
- Florida St. (27 - 7)
- Kansas St. (25 - 8)
- Virginia Tech (24 - 8)
- Marquette (24 - 9)
- Auburn (25 - 9)
- Wisconsin (23 - 10)
- Mississippi St. (23 - 10)
- Villanova (25 - 9)
- Maryland (22 - 10)
- Buffalo (31 - 3)
- Iowa St. (23 - 11)
- Louisville (20 - 13)
- Nevada (29 - 4)
- Cincinnati (28 - 6)
- Wofford (29 - 4)
- Syracuse (20 - 13)
- Ole Miss (20 - 12)
- Utah St. (28 - 6)
- Washington (26 - 8)
- Baylor (19 - 13)
- Oklahoma (19 - 13)
- Iowa (22 - 11)
- Seton Hall (20 - 13)
- Minnesota (21 - 13)
- Florida (19 - 15)
- Ohio St. (19 - 14)
- Belmont (26 - 5)
- Temple (23 - 9)
- Saint Mary's (CA) (22 - 11)
- Arizona St. (22 - 10)
- Murray St. (27 - 4)
- St. John's (NY) (21 - 12)
- Oregon (23 - 12)
- New Mexico St. (30 - 4)
- Liberty (28 - 6)
- UC Irvine (30 - 5)
- Vermont (27 - 6)
- Saint Louis (22 - 12)
- Northeastern (23 - 10)
- Yale (21 - 7)
- Old Dominion (26 - 8)
- Georgia St. (23 - 9)
- Northern Ky. (26 - 8)
- Montana (26 - 8)
- Colgate (24 - 10)
- Bradley (20 - 14)
- Abilene Christian (27 - 6)
- Gardner-Webb (23 - 11)
- Iona (17 - 15)
- Prairie View (22 - 12)
- Fairleigh Dickinson (20 - 13)
- North Dakota St. (18 - 15)
- N.C. Central (18 - 15)
Kansas City, Mo. — Kansas freshman Quentin Grimes, who carried the Jayhawks to a halftime lead and 88-74 victory over West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament semifinals on Friday night at Sprint Center knew a couple of things right away when he went down with a leg injury with 6 minutes to play in the victory.
First, he knew exactly what was wrong with him. Second, he knew he needed to be anywhere but on the floor.
“Right when I shot it, the cramp came in right when I was releasing the ball,” Grimes recalled after his 18-point, 5 3-pointer night helped pace KU to victory. “I went to pass it but nobody was open so I just had to shoot it and then the cramp was pretty bad when I came down. … My whole leg cramped up and I was like, ‘Dang, I need to get up out the game now.’ I got some fluids in me and I should be good for tomorrow. I’m feeling better now.”
Helped off the floor by KU trainers, Grimes limped his way to the bench, where he quickly took in some Gatorade and electrolyte pills to get the fluids flowing through his body.
Before that, though, Grimes stayed down on the floor for a few minutes, writhing in pain and struggling to regain his feet.
Grimes was not the only one who was unafraid of the severity of the injury that had fans in the stands craning their necks the rest of the night to see if they could catch a glimpse of what was going on with Grimes.
“I know my boy,” KU freshman Ochai Agbaji said after the victory. “He was cramping up (Thursday) and I saw it on the bench (on Friday) so I knew he was cramping up and I knew he’d be fine.”
Added point guard Devon Dotson: “Oh, I knew he was fine. We were kind of joking a little about it, talking about how he was cramping up last game, so I knew it wasn’t too bad. That’s how cramps can be.”
Like the rest of his teammates, Grimes spoke with reporters in the KU locker room after the game and said he planned to get some extra treatment late Friday night to ensure that he would be ready for Saturday’s Big 12 title game.
Kansas will take on Iowa State at 5 p.m. Saturday with the Big 12 tournament title on the line.
Arkansas and Kansas aren’t known for having the best basketball talent among the nation's high school ranks year in and year out. But the Kansas men’s basketball program did pull the best players from those states in its most recent recruiting class.
Class of 2019 signees Christian Braun, of Blue Valley Northwest, and Mackey McBride, of Little Rock, Ark., this weekend were named the Gatorade Boys Basketball players of the year from their respective states after turning in fantastic senior seasons.
Braun is the third player from his school to win the Gatorade Player of the Year honor.
The 6-foot-7, 190-pound guard led the Huskies to a 27-2 record and the Class 6A state championship this season, averaging 27.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game, including 16 points and 10 rebounds in the title-game win over Washburn Rural High.
Braun, who was 5-foot-8 as a freshman, was the MVP of the state tournament and is a two-time first team all-State selection. He concluded his prep basketball career with 1,074 points.
McBride, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound point guard led Baptist Prep Eagles to a 30-4 record and the Class 3A quarterfinals this season, averaging 28.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, while converting 47.5 percent of his 3-point attempts.
An all-State honoree, he was selected to the All Arkansas Preps First Team and the USA TODAY’s ALL-USA Arkansas First Team as a junior. McBride has also been chosen to play in the Big Baller Brand All-American Game.
Now in its 34th year, the Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee, which works with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Braun joins Gatorade Kansas Boys Basketball Players of the Year Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (2017-18, Bishop Miege), Mitchell Ballock (2016-17, Eudora High), Jerrick Harding (2015-16, Wichita Southeast) and Dean Wade (2014-15, St. John) as recent winners of the Kansas honor.
Latest NBA rumor regarding KU coach Bill Self involves the Chicago Bulls; Believe it at your own risk
There’s a rumor out there that Kansas coach Bill Self will be leaving KU after the 2018-19 season to coach the Chicago Bulls next season and it’s at least worth addressing.
But not because I think it’s rock solid or have heard it anywhere else. More because the way the rumor came out was so comical that I can’t get through the night without calling that out.
Brandon Lang, a gambling analyst with his own website (BrandonLang.com) and a flare for the dramatic, was on NBC Sports Radio on Thursday breaking down the lines for a few college basketball games, when he jumped in to tell host Tim Murray his big news about Self’s future.
“I’ll throw (out) the biggest rumor mill (information) that I found out today from a very reliable source, that Bill Self will be leaving Kansas at the end of the year to become the head coach of the Chicago Bulls,” Lang said. “Brandon Lang is pulling an Adam Schefter, breaking that story on every radio show right now. You heard it here first: Bill Self saying thank you Kansas. We won 14 straight Big 12 championships, it came to an end, it’s time for me to move on and go coach the Chicago Bulls. You heard that first right here. Brandon Lang, March 14, 2019.”
If you’re so inclined to listen and judge for yourself the validity of Mr. Lang’s claim, that quote, and the banter that followed, is in the embedded Tweet below, starting at the 2:54 mark.
OK. Now normally I don’t post all of these types of rumors because they can run rampant and also can create more buzz and panic than they deserve. But I chose to address this one for a couple of reasons.
One: I’ve already had a ton of people ask me about it and I always want to do my best to provide some kind of information. Self’s a little busy right now, but we can ask him about it later tonight.
Two: I could not leave it alone when I heard Mr. Lang twice mention his own name in the quote while also drawing the comparison between him and NFL Insider Adam Schefter, who has literally broken hundreds of player and coaching moves during his career.
Maybe the guy knows something the rest of us don’t. Maybe he’ll be proven right and get the last laugh.
After all, it’s not a huge reach to think of Self someday making the jump to the NBA, nor is this the first time anybody has talked about it. What’s funny, though, is the timing of it all. Self was just asked about the NBA a week or so ago by college hoops analyst Jeff Goodman on Goodman’s podcast and although he said he’d be lying if he said he had never thought about the challenge the NBA presents, he also painted a pretty clear picture that he still liked his current gig at Kansas.
Take it or leave it. Consider the source. Panic if you want. But I’d probably just kick back and enjoy the next few weeks of basketball if I were you.
Kansas freshman David McCormack calls it “sort of an unspoken thing” and junior forward Mitch Lightfoot says you’d have to be crazy not to see the parallels.
Regardless of how you classify it, if you find yourself wondering, dreaming or even just contemplating whether McCormack could be to this year’s KU team what Silvio De Sousa was to last year’s, you’re definitely not alone.
“Yeah, you’ve got to think about it,” Lightfoot said of the obvious comparison. “Coming on at the same time, right when we need him. He’s done a great job and if he can give us even a little bit of what Silvio gave us... (Silvio) played his butt off in March (last year) and I think Dave has all the ability to do that.”
Filling in for the injured Udoka Azubuike — sound familiar? — De Sousa staged a coming out party in last year’s Big 12 tournament, averaging 20 minutes per game while scoring 30 points on 14-of-18 shooting (78 percent) and grabbing 29 rebounds in three games while helping Kansas take the tourney title.
McCormack, after his 13-point, 9-rebound effort in 29 minutes against Texas on Thursday night, is actually slightly ahead of that pace in many areas and on track to score 39 points (on 86 percent shooting), grab 27 rebounds and play 27 more minutes than De Sousa did at last season’s Big 12 tournament.
Sure it’s just a one-game sample size. But McCormack proved Thursday night that, like De Sousa did in three Big 12 tournament games last year, that the postseason stage is not too big for him. In fact, it might bring out the best in him.
Playing more minutes is an obvious way to grab more stats, but you still have to deliver when you’re out there. And few Kansas players have delivered of late the way McCormack has during his nine-game starting stretch.
The numbers, the confidence, the presence and the joy all have transformed McCormack into an almost unrecognizable player. It’s almost as if he’s the kind of player who couldn’t stay on the floor for even a minute without making three mistakes midway through conference play and now is a critical part of KU’s postseason hopes.
Oops. Sorry. That was De Sousa last season.
McCormack said he has not yet talked much to De Sousa about the role he played late last season and hasn’t heard much advice from De Sousa either. But he doesn’t feel he needs it. That’s where the whole “unspoken” thing comes into play.
The 6-foot-10 McCormack said he has felt the 6-9 De Sousa’s strong support, in practice and from the bench, throughout his freshman season. And it’s clear that, whether they’ve talked about it or not, McCormack has at least picked up how to approach this opportunity from observing the way De Sousa has continued to battle in practice even while serving an NCAA suspension.
How many opportunities lie ahead this season for McCormack and his teammates remains to be seen and could very well depend, at least partly, on whether the freshman forward continues to be the kind of presence he has been during the past couple of weeks.
Lightfoot likes that idea and believes the Jayhawks will continue to benefit from McCormack’s play both in terms of the numbers he puts up and the example he sets for how to exhaust everything you’ve got in the tank and then keep playing.
“The kid’s playing his butt off,” Lightfoot said. “He wants it so bad and you’ve really got to respect that. He really showed us something (Thursday night) and I couldn’t be more proud of the kid.”
Added KU freshman Quentin Grimes, when asked what he liked most about McCormack’s game right now: “Just how active he is. If he misses a shot, he doesn’t care, he’s going to go for the offensive rebound. On the defensive side, he’s going to try to get every rebound. So you can’t complain when a guy plays that hard.”
Next up, another matchup with West Virginia, a team that plays big and should inspire KU coach Bill Self to put McCormack out there for more De Sousa-like minutes.
Tipoff for tonight’s Big 12 tourney semifinal with the 10th-seeded Mountaineers at Sprint Center is slated for approximately 8:30, 30 minutes following the other semifinal matchup between No. 5 seed Iowa State and top-seeded K-State.
Kansas City, Mo. — Whether you’re new to Mitch Lightfoot’s world and discovered him through his “Prison Mitch” alter ego, or you’ve known about his timing on blocks, heart on rebounds and passion for the game for years, you probably feel like you have a pretty good read on Lightfoot’s game.
And then the junior from Gilbert, Ariz., goes and does something like he did on Thursday night during KU’s 65-57 Big 12 tournament quarterfinal victory over Texas and throws off everything you know about him.
Yeah Lightfoot grabbed a few key rebounds in traffic. Three of them to be exact. And, yeah, the blocks were there in this one. Three of those, as well, including one, on UT guard Royce Hamm Jr., when it looked like Hamm had nothing but clear air between him and the basket and Lightfoot crashed his air space and changed all of that.
But there were two plays Lightfoot delivered in the first half of Thursday’s victory that had nothing to do with playing the ball in the air and came far away from his more familiar work environment of the painted area near the basket.
Both forced Texas shot clock violations and both came when Lightfoot switched onto a different Texas guard and slid his feet well enough to stay in front of them and keep them from getting to the rim.
“I feel like I’d kind of gotten away from that earlier this year,” Lightfoot said of his swift sliding on Thursday night. “My feet were a little bit slow for a little bit. It was just a matter of me locking in and paying attention to the scouting report.”
For that, Lightfoot credits KU assistant Jerrance Howard, who handled the scout for KU’s Big 12 tourney battle with Texas and had Lightfoot prepared for every change of direction, every favored hand and every fancy flash that the Texas guards could throw at him.
“You have to look at it all,” Lightfoot said of scouring every inch of the scouting report for Texas. “Because, if it comes down to one or two possessions and you don’t get a stop on the switches and solids, that’s big. I would just say my teammates did a great job of getting in help (defense) and allowing (them) to feel a little bit of pressure and that allowed me to keep them in front.”
Asked if he received any feedback for the subtle plays that helped keep Kansas tied with Texas at the break and set the stage for KU’s 36-28 edge in the second half, Lightfoot said Howard was particularly fired up about both stops.
“They voice their appreciation for it,” Lightfoot said sheepishly before cleaning up his language to convey Howard’s message. “Coach Howard came up to me and gave me a good slap on the chest and said, ‘Great stuff, baby.’ He was excited about it, it was his scout and he did a great job getting us prepared for it.”
That attention to detail moved Kansas into Friday’s semifinals, where the Jayhawks will face 10th-seeded West Virginia at approximately 8:30 p.m. for a trip to the title game on Saturday.
The time has come to tip things off in the Big 12 tournament and although only four of the 10 teams in the conference are playing tonight, we might as well dive in and take a stab at predicting the entire 9-game tournament that will take place in Kansas City, Mo., the rest of the week.
As the 3 seed, Kansas, as you surely know, enters the Big 12 tournament as something other than the 1 seed for the first time in 11 years.
That fact certainly changes KU’s path in a number of ways. Not only are the Jayhawks facing a slightly stiffer challenge in the quarterfinals than they have in the past decade — a fully rested No. 6 seed Texas at 8 p.m. on Thursday night instead of a No. 8 or No. 9 seed on short rest — but the Jayhawks also will be playing in the latest game in the night session, which likely only matters on paper but still makes things different.
In Texas, Kansas is facing a team that beat the Jayhawks fairly handily at their place and also was a missed-3-pointer away from knocking off the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse.
There’s no doubt that those two results have KU’s full attention, but it remains to be seen whether that’s a good thing for this particular Kansas team.
On paper, it should be. These Jayhawks should be ultra-motivated by the end of their Big 12 title streak and the opportunity to improve their seed for the NCAA Tournament with a strong showing in KCMO.
But do they have the maturity, consistency and toughness to capitalize on those things and make their opportunity count?
That is the biggest question surrounding the 23-8 Jayhawks as they enter the postseason and we should learn a lot with every minute that ticks off the clock against Texas and whatever comes after that.
Enough about the Jayhawks for now, though. Let’s take a quick look at the entire bracket and provide some predictions for what’s ahead for the entire Big 12 tournament.
Wednesday, March 13
No. 8 TCU vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
This is a terrific game between two teams in very different situations. With their win at Texas in the regular season finale, the Horned Frogs may have put themselves back in the mix for an NCAA Tournament berth. But they won’t get one without winning this game. Truth be told, they probably need this one and an upset of K-State in the quarterfinals to have a chance. But I don’t see it happening. Oklahoma State is so tough, Mike Boynton does such a good job of inspiring his guys to play hard no matter what is — or isn’t — at stake and the Cowboys can shoot it and have nothing to lose. I think that freedom along with all the pressure in the world being on TCU’s shoulders makes this a tough game for TCU. The pick: Oklahoma State.
No. 7 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 West Virginia
The Sooners are likely in the NCAA Tournament and probably don’t need a great showing in KC to make sure of that, but why risk it? A veteran OU team against a bunch of WVU freshmen who actually have started to play much better and more together down the stretch makes for an intersting matchup, but I’m going with Christian James, Kristian Doolittle, Brady Manek and the versatile Sooners in this one, and probably fairly comfortably. The pick: Oklahoma.
Thursday, March 14
No. 4 Baylor vs. No. 5 Iowa State
Something happened to the Cyclones down the stretch and they enter the tournament looking to regain their mojo. Team chemistry has been a bit of an issue and the Cyclones haven’t shot it well on a consistent basis in losing five of their last six games to close the regular season. Baylor didn’t exactly end on a hot streak either, losing at home to Oklahoma State and at Kansas late in the regular season, but both teams have a shot to make a little run in KC. With Kansas State likely playing without Dean Wade and also with a less-than-full-strength Kamau Stokes, the opportunity is there for a lower seed to make a run to the title game on the top half of the bracket. I think the winner of this game does just that. The pick: Iowa State.
No. 1 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
As tempting as it is to pick the Cowboys in this one, simply for the chaos and craziness that could unfold in KC this week, I’ll take K-State’s defense and desire to prove that winning the Big 12 regular season title wasn’t a fluke as enough to hold off a scare from OSU. The Wildcats aren’t in the best shape entering the postseason, in terms of health and depth. And, truth be told, a quick exit here might be the best thing for their NCAA Tournament hopes because of the rest they’d get as a result. But pride’s a funny thing. K-State no doubt has plenty of it. And the Wildcats could also be playing for a chance to be place as a Top 4 seed in the Midwest Region, which would return them to Kansas City for the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 if they make it that far. That’s a lot to play for. The pick: K-State.
No. 2 Texas Tech vs. No. 7 Oklahoma
I like the Sooners’ pieces and I think they’re physical and athletic enough to hang with anybody. But they’re not hanging with Texas Tech. The Red Raiders are too hot right now and have been crushing teams. The beat goes on in this one and the Red Raiders rumble into the semis, where a date with Kansas looms. The pick: Texas Tech.
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 6 Texas
There’s no doubt in my mind that Texas can beat Kansas again. And there’s even less doubt that the Jayhawks are going to have to play incredibly well in this one to advance. But I think they will. Having nearly a week to prepare for the matchup is big, but beyond the scouting and gameplanning of it is the fact that KU has had time to catch its breath and really lock in on what this postseason needs to be about. Toughness. Defense. Smart basketball. And all-out effort. All of those things, and more, must be permanently present for the Jayhawks to make any kind of run in KC and beyond. And I think KU is set up well to use the Big 12 tournament as a nice primer to prove it understands exactly what’s on the line. The pick: Kansas.
Friday, March 15
No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 1 Kansas State
These two split the regular season series, which each winning on the other team’s home floor. K-State’s win in Ames, Iowa, was a 58-57 grinder. In Manhattan, the Cyclones clobbered K-State with some hot outside shooting in a 78-64 victory. I think we see something that more closely resembles that second meeting than the first in this matchup and I think the free-firing Cyclones stay hot and take down the ‘Cats with a game in the high-60s to low-70s. The pick: Iowa State.
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 2 Texas Tech
Like the two teams in the other semifinal matchup, these two split their regular season series and neither team put up much of a fight on the other team’s home floor, with KU winning by 16 in Lawrence and Tech winning by 29 in Lubbock. So here we get the rubber match and I think this one will be fun. With both teams having a ton to play for and a trip to the Big 12 title game on the line, we’ll get a back-and-forth, hard-rocking kind of game in which Kansas will be fueled by the pro-KU Sprint Center crowd to hang tough and battle a red hot Red Raiders team for 40 mintues. In the end, though, I think Tech’s balance, defense and recent hot streak proves to be too much. Texas Tech is playing as well as any team in the country and could be charging its way toward a No. 2 seed in the Big Dance. Taking them down is a tall order and I don’t think KU will get it done. The game will be close. Both teams will compete. But Tech’s D and outside shooting prevail. The pick: Texas Tech.
Saturday, March 16
No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 2 Texas Tech
I’ve said all week that I don’t see anyone beating Texas Tech in this thing and I’m sticking to it. The Cyclones have potential to get red hot from the outside and could make things interesting if they do. But Tech’s defense rarely lets teams get what they want and Chris Beard’s club would love nothing more than to win the Big 12 tournament title in a year they shared for the league title as a sort of way of showing the world who the true champion in the Big 12 was this season. If Tech runs through this thing, I’m not sure anyone will argue that. Iowa State fans will show up for this one and Sprint Center will be rocking, but it won’t be enough for the Cyclones to pull off the upset. The pick: Texas Tech.
Enjoy the mini-madness, everyone. It’s finally here!
It's Big 12 tournament time in Kansas City, Mo., and no program likes that news more than the Kansas men's basketball team, which has owned this event throughout the years.
Sure, Iowa State has made a name for itself with its tremendous fan support. And, yes, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State and even Missouri — remember them? — all have had bright moments and big runs at the Big 12 tournament.
But no program has put up the kind of consistent numbers as Kansas, which enters this year's event as the No. 3 seed and in a much different position than it has historically operated from.
While KU's run at the Big 12 tourney has made the Jayhawks the creme de la creme in the conference at its postseason showcase, Bill Self's squad is looking forward to getting over to Sprint Center for this year's event for more than just their history of success.
After finishing 16-0 at home this season but just 3-8 on the road, the Jayhawks are looking forward to playing in what will go down in history as a neutral site venue, even if Kansas fans figure to far outnumber all others, particularly in Thursday's night session, which will be missing both Kansas State and Iowa State.
KU is 3-0 this season in neutral-site games — more like 4-0 if you count the win over New Mexico State in Sprint Center as a neutral game instead of a home game — and even though the roster will be different than it was in those early-season wins, Self is looking forward to the challenge of playing in a new building close to home.
"We've played really well in neutral-site venue (games) this season," Self said this week. "We've been probably better in those than we have been at home. If you really look at it, some of the best games we played were to start the season in Barclays in Brooklyn or in Indy. I think we should have some confidence going over there from a neutral-site standpoint. If it was a road game, maybe we wouldn't have as much confidence, just because we haven't fared nearly as well on the road this year as we have in years past. But from a neutral-site standpoint, we should approach that like it being a home game for us."
With that in mind, here's a quick look back at KU's overall success in the Big 12 tournament throughout the years...
• The Jayhawks’ 11 Big 12 tournament titles to date are more than the next three programs can boast combined.Iowa State ranks second, with four, Oklahoma third, with three, and Oklahoma State fourth, with two. No other current Big 12 programs have ever won a Big 12 tournament title.
• The Jayhawks are 11-2 all-time in championship games, with the only losses coming to Oklahoma in 2002 and Iowa State in 2015.
• Eight of KU’s 11 tournament titles have come as the No. 1 seed. KU also won two titles as the No. 2 seed and one more as a No. 3 seed. No. 4 seed, Iowa State, in 2017, stands as the lowest-seeded Big 12 team to win the conference’s postseason tournament title.
• KU’s all-time Big 12 tournament record of 44-11 puts the Jayhawks 18 games ahead of second-place Texas, which has a 26-22 all-time record at the event. Oklahoma State (23-19) and Oklahoma (22-19) are the only other current Big 12 teams above .500 in Big 12 tournament play.
• This year’s run as the No. 3 seed in the tournament puts Kansas in a rare position and ends a 10-year stretch by the Jayhawks of playing as the Big 12’s No. 1 seed. KU has been the conference’s top seed 15 times and played as the No. 2 seed four times (2001, 2005, 2006, 2008), the No. 3 seed three times (1999, 2004 and 2019) and the No. 5 seed once, in 2000.
• The Jayhawks own a 20-2 record in opening games at the Big 12 tourney, with the lone losses coming to Baylor in 2009 and TCU in 2017. That TCU game was played without starter Josh Jackson.
• KU has reached the semifinals in 19 of the 22 Big 12 tournaments, missing out in 2000, 2009 and 2017.
• In all, 46 different Jayhawks have earned all-tournament honors during the history of KU basketball. That includes 29 who were named to various Big 12 all-tournament teams.