Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Jayhawks arrive in Omaha for NCAA opener

Kansas guard Devonte Graham picks up his luggage after the Jayhawks arrive in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday.

Kansas guard Devonte Graham picks up his luggage after the Jayhawks arrive in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday.


Bill Self didn’t take a catnap on the relatively short, three-hour bus ride from Allen Fieldhouse to the Downtown Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday afternoon.

“I watched a little bit of video and I watched a movie. I would tell you what it was, but it was definitely boot-legged, so I’m not going to do that,” Self, Kansas University’s 12th-year basketball coach, said with a smile.

He was in a good mood Wednesday and not because the Jayhawks barely beat rush-hour traffic in the town that will host NCAA second- and third-round games Friday and Sunday. The Jayhawks open against New Mexico State at 11:15 a.m., Friday, in CenturyLink Center.

“We’ve had a good day,” Self said. His squad practiced on Wednesday in Allen before leaving Lawrence at 1:35 p.m. “We went very hard yesterday and backed off today. Perry (Ellis, slowed of late by sprained right knee) looks really good in practice. He’s getting his explosion back and he feels more and more confident each day on his knee. Obviously we’re not whole, but we’re as close as we’re going to be whole, more than likely.

“I like our chances. Our guys’ attitudes are very good. We’ve got a tough road here in Omaha. New Mexico State is very good. They are crazy athletic, freakish athletic.

“If we are fortunate enough to advance, the winner of the next game will also be a high-quality opponent (Wichita State or Indiana on Sunday). I’m excited and the guys seem to be focused.”

Self said junior forward Ellis and sophomore forward Landen Lucas (hip, knee, back injuries) did not practice Monday. Ellis practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and Lucas Tuesday, but “(Lucas) took today (Wednesday) off.

“Beginning tomorrow we’ll have all our pieces and that’s just precautionary measures. We’ll have all our pieces ready to go,” added Self, whose squad will hold a shootaround open to the public from 1:30 to 2:10 p.m. today in CenturyLink Center.

“Perry wasn’t very good in Kansas City (playing in two of three Big 12 tournament games),” Self said. “That’s not a knock to Perry at all. It’s just a knock to timing, a knock to confidence, a lot of things. He’s a lot more confident today. His timing is better. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, but I don’t even care about that. I just want a guy to have confidence to go make plays. He was a little hesitant in Kansas City. That’s why he was out there, so hopefully that hesitancy was last weekend and wouldn’t be this weekend if it was his first time to get out there (after missing 21⁄2 games with the injury). He has more confidence now.”

Cliff not in Omaha: KU freshman forward Cliff Alexander did not travel with the team to Omaha. Self said nothing had changed in regard to Alexander’s status for the tournament — that is, he’s currently ineligible to play in games until if/when the NCAA makes some decision on his status.

“There’s no news ... don’t have anything (to report),” Self said. “We have elected not to travel him strictly because he’s not eligible to play — and with everything going on with the NCAA and what has been told to us — I hate it for Cliff but it is the reality of it. He is not traveling during the tournament as long as he’s not cleared to play. That’s the way it usually works with all guys that are ineligible.”

Asked if KU could have brought Alexander on the trip, Self said: “I don’t know if it was positive he could or couldn’t (travel). I think it was kind of left up to us to determine it and based on prior history the smart thing has always been not to travel. It wasn’t a knock to him. It wasn’t an admission of anything. What it was was all parties trying to do the right thing.”

Self would not comment about Internet rumors Alexander had a meeting with the NCAA on Wednesday. Alexander’s attorney did not return a text from the Journal-World asking for comment about that issue.

On Tuesday, Alexander had Tweeted: “At the end of the day I still have a smile on my face can’t nothing hold me back #bepatient.”

Great city: Self said he is a fan of Omaha. “For me personally it’s great. The last two times we’ve been here it’s been a lot of fun and led to a pretty good run both times,” he said of KU winning two games in the 2008 NCAA title season and two in 2012 when KU reached the national title game.

“I love Omaha. I was so pleasantly surprised, not saying anything negatively to begin with, this area downtown, what do they call it? Old Town? It’s great. Certainly it’s cool our fans will be able to enjoy that. We won’t be able to, much, but it’s always nice when your fan base has a good time.”

Asked if he thinks KU fans will travel well to Omaha, he said: “I’d think our fans would have known for the last month or two there’s better than a 50⁄50 chance we’d be playing in Omaha in the first weekend. I hope they were able to secure tickets. If they haven’t got them, I’d think if they are creative they can still get them. Because I know Iowa State figured out a way to get them in Kansas City,” Self said. “I think our fans have always been creative and have always figured out ways to get them wherever we were playing. Hopefully Omaha will not be an exception.”

KU-WSU talk: Self was asked about publicity concerning a possible KU-Wichita State game.

“I’ve seen a couple ESPN national broadcasts where maybe it’s been mentioned. The mention on that is so minimal compared to what’s going on with all the other teams or Kentucky’s quest for 40-0. That’s been the talk I’ve heard,” Self said. “It’s gotten minimal play nationally. You know if both teams win Friday, it’ll be 48 hours of pretty good buildup which it should be. I’ve been able to stay out of that and plan on staying out of it.”

The defense: Self on Iowa State scoring 47 points on KU in the second half of Saturday’s 70-66 win in the Big 12 title game.

“I wish I’d gone to zone earlier in the half instead of waiting until about six minutes left,” Self said. “I think it told some of our better defenders supposedly, ‘Hey we’ve got to turn it up some.’ Some of our better defenders got treated pretty poorly there in the second half. With that said, you’ve got to be able to guard the ball in the NCAA Tournament. A lot comes down to guard play.”

Recruiting: USA Today reported Wednesday that KU spends more money recruiting basketball players than any other public school in Div. I.

KU checked in about $2.1 million over a five-year study. Louisville is second at $2 million and Kentucky third just under $2 million, the paper says. KU spent an average of $432,872 per year from 2008-09 to 2012-13. Kansas State was ninth overall at $260,777 per annum.

Pierce likes alma mater: Former KU forward Paul Pierce of the Washington Wizards picked KU as his national champion on the bracket he filled out on Instagram. He has KU beating Virginia in the NCAA title game.


Ashwin Rao 7 years, 6 months ago

I love Paul! He still has affiliations with KU! Once a 'Hawk, always a 'Hawk.

Tony Bandle 7 years, 6 months ago

Just a point of reference, out oif the 34 games KU has played so far, 20 were against teams in the NCAA. Of those 20 games, KU is like 15-5 I think...not bad!!

Allison Steen 7 years, 6 months ago

Kansas State is 9th on what they spent recruiting...then whats their excuse?! Poor Weber.

Vernon Riggs 7 years, 6 months ago

You answered your own question. It's Weber.

Rob Bedford III 7 years, 6 months ago

ISU goes down in the first game. KU is the Champion of a chump conference.

Rob Bedford III 7 years, 6 months ago

Baylor falls as well. Will any Big 12 advance past their first game? ESPN is going to eat this up tonight with their extended coverage of Kentucky.

Walter Bridges 7 years, 6 months ago

Aren't you the same idiot who still hasn't figured out that the NCAA Clearinghouse is the org. tasked w/determining eligibility issues and not the individual Universities? .

Pretty sure it was you Rob. Lots of chumps stop by but you stick out.

Don Papst 7 years, 6 months ago

Yep. Good job Jerod Haase. Knocked out ISU 60-59. Sure hope KU has a lot more energy in the tourney. Baylor struggling also. These 10 thru 16 seeds have nothing to lose and are playing like crazy. Come to play hard for 40 minutes or go home. ROCK CHALK!!!

Cody Riedy 7 years, 6 months ago

Oops. I somehow accidently flagged your post for removal. Sorry. Surely the moderators will see that that was a mistake on my part.

Cody Riedy 7 years, 6 months ago

What I wanted to do was reply and say this:

Baylor and Iowa State just gave our young KU team another lesson in what can happen in the tournament if you don't bring your best.

Travis Shinkle 7 years, 6 months ago

Baylor choked soooo bad...let that be a warning!

Kit Duncan 7 years, 6 months ago

OK. Two BigXII teams already gone, ISU, BU & UT is down 2 at the half. Pay attention Jayhawks, the target is squarely on your back!


Kit Duncan 7 years, 6 months ago

Playing 3 BigXII Tournament games (2 against Top 25 opponents) in three days, less than a week before the NCAA Tournament, is worse. If your starting five isn't banged up before the BigXII Tournament, they certainly are after.

Aaron Paisley 7 years, 6 months ago

Every major conference plays their tournament about a week out from the NCAA tournament and you have to win at least 3 games in 3 days in those leagues, some leagues are up to 5 games in 5 days for lower seeded teams.

The Big 12 has a lot of good, not great teams, but they get overseeded and lose early because of that. If I'm not mistaken, the best non conference win by a Big 12 team this year was KU's win over 5th seeded Utah.

Micky Baker 7 years, 6 months ago

I do recall several times when we've played a team in which they radically changed the way they played us after the first two times we've played them. One was Baylor in the 2013 Big 12 tournament when Baylor didn't play zone most of the game like they had the first two times. It was a surprise. We destroyed their zone the first two times. They beat us too.

I can understand how some don't want to talk about us having the toughest schedule, because it will be used as ammo if we lose the first round by fans of the opponents that hate us the most. However, ISU/Baylor fans, they can't really talk right now since they've both been ousted in the round of 64 today.

Maybe that will give our guys a little more focus and some motivation to get to at least the Elite 8... to let the rest of the league we're still the best of the Big 12.

I am disappointed because I had both Baylor and Iowa State advancing, and it wasn't the 5 vs 12 that the experts say are prime upset matchups.

Our boys better be ready. One of the things that so many teams forget is that the teams that don't make it every year have nothing to lose, a lot to gain, no pressure on them, and are motivated to play to prove they belong in the tourney. Then are teams like UCLA who many didn't think deserved to get in who beat SMU today, and that was a 5 vs 12 matchup, but probably not a valid one as we know UCLA generally has the talent to be higher than a 12 seed, but they underperformed during the season.

So far, what all these games have in common is that they are in the 50s and 60s. UCLA won 60-59. I believe Iowa State only scored 59, Baylor less, and Texas even less. Forget about the article that said the Big 12 has a chance to assert its dominance. The Jayhawks now have a chance to assert that they are the best Big 12 team, and they should be playing with a chip on their shoulder from here on out. I hope they do it like what happened in 2008 when nobody thought we had a chance to be UNC or Memphis.

Walter Bridges 7 years, 6 months ago

You could be right Brett but I think that by the end of the year, the teams from the major conferences have caught up and maybe passed the teams the BIG 12. We sent 7 teams and the first 3 all looked tired and tight in their opening games.

From top to bottom, the BIG 12 may be the best conference but others like the ACC are top heavy and even when they struggled,like ND and UNC, they pulled it out and survived.

And maybe it's just the luck of the draw.

Rob Bedford III 7 years, 6 months ago

59 points is the highest total for the three teams that lost today from the Big 12. Not a good sign.

Don Papst 7 years, 6 months ago

WELL 3 DOWN AND 4 TO GO. Does anyone think the Big 12 can go 0 for 7?Geez come on guys!!!!!

Steve Grimm 7 years, 6 months ago

How totally disappointing and EMBARRASSING AGAIN for the Big 12! Once again, it looks like the credibility of the conference rests on the Jayhawk shoulders. This is entirely sad. Of all the years, I really thought this would be one where our conference would finally show up in the later rounds of the dance. Alas......

Micky Baker 7 years, 6 months ago

I'm not worried about what anyone else thinks of the Big 12, quite frankly. What I want is for KU to assert that they are the best team in the Big 12 by getting to the Elite 8... and if that happened any other year besides this year with this bracket, then I would say if they got that far, then they have the ability to go all the way. If we were the 3 in the south with the same other teams in our half of the regional bracket... then I would say we've got a shot, a long shot, but at least a shot to win the region.

Walter Bridges 7 years, 6 months ago

When you constantly play good teams night in and night out, it can wear teams down. Sometimes it might be better to play in conferences w/only four teams capable of making deep runs in the NCAA...

Pure conjecture on my part...just trying to understand how we lost to three teams who would normally finish in the bottom of the BIG 12.

Vic Janeway 7 years, 6 months ago

Get real ANGRY Hawks, that's what it will take to keep up your emotions....See Jerod Haase, he was a hustler times two! Hustle to fight fight fight!

Kevin Jenkins 7 years, 6 months ago

Okay, let's see how bad the team wants it. I am not concerned with Cliff and feel we can be more comfortable without him. Traylor and Lucas have shown more heart and desire to play.Just disappointed in how highly recruited he was without ever showing talent. Bigger distraction than anything.How hungry is this team and who will lead them...

Tony Bandle 7 years, 6 months ago

Oakville Oddities:

1] The picture above is proof positive that there are indeed trees in Nebraska!!

2] I stat I saw earlier showed that since the 64 field number 2s vs 15s was someting like 104 to 8. The good news is the 104 which denotes domination. The bad news is the 8 which warns anything can happen!!

3] At this point, no Cliff just means five extra fouls we could have given. Has any blue chip recruit at KU fallen so far, so fast??

4] This team may have the least expectations attached to it than any KU team in years....thus making us very, very dangerous!

5] It would be incredibly ironic if KU wins it's game and then Wichita State, being so jacked up to play us, forgets about Indiana and blows its big chance!!!

Andy Tweedy 7 years, 6 months ago

Watch for me tomorrow, I'll be the one in blue!!! And Oakville, Arbor Day originated in Nebraska City, there are TONS of trees in Nebraska! So nice to have my Jayhawks here again for the third time in 7 years...

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