Self’s prediction: UK over Duke in final

Kansas University basketball recruiting.

Kansas University basketball recruiting.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self, who is in Indianapolis for the Final Four, was willing to play prognosticator for the Journal-World on Friday.

“Duke and Kentucky. Kentucky wins it,” Self stated via text.

Duke meets Michigan State at 5:09 p.m. today in Lucas Oil Stadium in one Final Four semifinal. Kentucky tangles with Wisconsin at 7:49 p.m. in the other.

Winners meet in the national title game at 8 p.m. Monday.

Still undefeated, Kentucky clobbered KU, 72-40, in the Champions Classic on Nov. 18 in Indy. KU beat Michigan State, 61-56, in the finals of the Orlando Classic on Nov. 30 in Florida. The Jayhawks did not play Duke or Wisconsin this season.

KU is 6-22 all-time vs. Kentucky; 3-7 vs. Duke; 5-6 vs. Michigan State; and 3-1 vs. Wisconsin.

Thorne update: Former UNC Charlotte center Michael Thorne Jr. announced this week on Instagram that he has narrowed his transfer choices to Kansas, Pittsburgh and Illinois.

Thorne, a 6-foot-11, 270-pound junior from Fayetteville, North Carolina, will visit Pitt on April 9, Illinois on April 17 and KU on April 22. He will announce his decision on April 25, likely on Instagram.

Thorne averaged 10.1 points a game off 53.4 percent shooting his junior season. He was 54-of-101 from the free-throw line for 53.5 percent. Playing 26.1 minutes a game in 32 games, he blocked 29 shots and averaged a team-leading 7.3 rebounds.

As a graduate transfer student, he will be eligible to play in games next season.

“Gone (going to) finish my college career at either Pittsburgh, Kansas or Illinois. Gone make my decision April 25th. God will lead me in the right direction,” Thorne wrote on Instagram.

He had heard from more than 40 schools, including seven from the ACC, plus Minnesota, West Virginia, Arizona and Xavier.

“I want to see good chemistry with the team, and get to know the coaching staff,” Thorne told Illinois.rivals.com after announcing his finalists. “I want a coach who is really good at developing big men and a coach who can help me get to the next level.”

Of KU, Thorne told Illinois.rivals.com: “With them having an outstanding coach in Bill Self with a proven record of getting players to the next level, you know every day in practice he is going to get the best out of you and are going to give it your all. He has some tools to help me get to where I want to go. That’s also another place where I think I can thrive in that environment.”

Of Pitt, he told Illinois.rivals.com: “Coach (Jamie) Dixon is a good coach. He has a track record of sending bigs to the next level. Plus, it’s in the ACC, one of the best conferences in the country. You would get to play against the likes of Duke, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. So I think that would be a great fit.”

And of the Illini, he said: “I like them because I see it as place where I can fit in right away. I feel like I’m the missing piece that can help the school get back to the NCAA Tournament and advance in the tournament. Coach (John) Groce is a great guy, and it’s another great conference, so that would be a good fit for me as well.”

Diallo deciding: KU and Pitt are also two of the finalists for Cheick Diallo, a 6-9 senior from Our Savior New American in Centereach, New York. Diallo also has St. John’s, Iowa State and Kentucky on his list.

Diallo, who averaged 19 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks a game his senior season, is expected to decide before Thorne’s visit to KU, around the time of the Jordan Brand Classic (April 17 in New York).

“I’m just thinking about it, but I’m not 100 percent now. Not sure yet,” Diallo told New York Newsday after winning MVP honors at Wednesday’s McDonald’s game. “I’m waiting to know which players are going to the NBA or which players are staying. So that’s what I’m waiting for.”

Shaka’s style: New Texas coach Shaka Smart took what some perceived as a shot at KU at his introductory news conference when asked how he thinks his pressing style will fare in the Big 12.

“It translated pretty well a few years ago in San Antonio,” Smart said as reported by Brian Davis of the Austin American Statesman. Smart’s VCU team beat KU in the Elite Eight in 2011. KU coach Self declined comment on the statement.