Monday, January 21, 2019

Notebook: Jayhawks have become a regular on Big Monday for good reason

ESPN broadcaster Fran Fraschilla delivers his pregame breakdown, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

ESPN broadcaster Fran Fraschilla delivers his pregame breakdown, Monday, Jan. 21, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Monday night’s 80-76 win by No. 9 Kansas against No. 24 Iowa State marked the second of four ESPN Big Monday appearances this season for the Kansas men’s basketball program, a ritual of sorts that has become as common as Kansas returning to Maui every four years for the Maui Invitational.

And as important as the Big Monday showcases are to the Jayhawks and their passionate basketball fans, there are people at ESPN who believe the Kansas brand is equally as important to Big Monday.

Broadcaster Fran Fraschilla is one of them. Fraschilla was on the call for Monday’s game between the Jayhawks and Cyclones, and he likened the Big Monday phenomenon throughout the years to “Monday Night Football for basketball fans.”

“I think KU’s in that small group of elite schools that ESPN loves to have on the air, because they know people want to watch,” Fraschilla told the Journal-World. “And KU wouldn’t have had the Big Monday presence that it’s had throughout the years if it wasn’t an opportunity for ESPN to rate well. That’s what it’s all about.”

The existence of Big Monday hardly benefits just one side. Fraschilla, a former Division I coach himself, said the Jayhawks can use the exposure from the game in recruiting and as a way to add to their already electric environment.

“It’s a chicken or the egg thing,” he said. “The more they win, the more they’re on Big Monday. And the more they’re on Big Monday, coach (Bill) Self and his staff can use it in recruiting and it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe, who has reported for dozens of Big Mondays during her career, doesn’t hide the fact that Allen Fieldhouse is her favorite place to cover a game.

“People get mad at me for saying this, but this, to me, is the best place to watch a college basketball game, and I believe that with my whole heart,” Rowe told the Journal-World. “And I’ve been to almost every great arena. It’s unique. It’s historic. It’s loud. It’s passionate.”

Like Fraschilla, Rowe also believes that having Kansas as a featured part of Big Monday is a big deal for ESPN.

“I think Kansas basketball, in and of itself, is probably the biggest brand, other than maybe Duke, in America. So it is important for us to have this brand in our showcase,” said Rowe, whose first Big Monday broadcast was the Kansas-Missouri showdown in Columbia, Mo., in 2006, when former Jayhawk Christian Moody missed two free throws at the end of regulation in an 89-86 overtime loss.

Fraschilla also remembers a few Kansas-Missouri Big Monday games, and his lasting memory of being at those was that they “just blew the roof off.”

He still recalls the early days of Big Monday, back when Kansas played in the Big Eight and it was the Big East or Big Ten, and not the ACC, that played the 6 p.m. opener.

“Oh, absolutely,” Fraschilla recalled. “When I was a young coach in the 80s and early 90s, I couldn’t wait to listen to (former ESPN broadcasters) Ron Franklin and Jon Sunvold. It was the Big Eight back then, but Gallagher-Iba Arena and Allen Fieldhouse and Hilton Coliseum and Billy Tubbs and Oklahoma – it was a big-time brand even then.”

One of Fraschilla’s favorite things about Big Monday is when it takes place somewhere other than Allen Fieldhouse, yet still features KU.

“As much as I love coming here, Kansas on the road on Big Monday is cool, too, because they always go into somebody’s lion’s den,” he said.

Rowe said her favorite part about Big Monday is the “all eyes on Big Monday” mindset.

“If you look on Saturday, there’s 50 games on TV, or maybe more than that,” she said. “So this is a place for the Big 12 to shine and also for us to really showcase the kids and the stories in the Big 12.

“We do cover KU a lot, but it’s because they deserve it and they’ve earned it. Kansas is one of the biggest things that we cover in the Big 12, and until someone knocks them off, they’ll continue to be the story.”

KU falls to No. 9

The Jayhawks dropped from No. 7 to No. 9 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, released Monday afternoon.

The Jayhawks were jumped in the poll by No. 8 Kentucky and No. 7 Nevada, but stayed ahead of Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Marquette, Maryland, Texas Tech and Buffalo, which rounded out Nos. 10-15.

Tennessee, which Kansas defeated in New York back in November, jumped from No. 3 to No. 1 in this week’s poll after Duke’s loss to Syracuse last week.

The Blue Devils dropped a spot to No. 2, with Virginia, Gonzaga, Michigan and Michigan State filling spots 3-6.

MLK tribute

Before Monday’s game, KU showed a video tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on the video board at Allen Fieldhouse in celebration of the holiday honoring the great civil rights leader.

The video featured a dozen different KU student-athletes, including several members of the Kansas men’s basketball team sharing their thoughts about King and the holiday.

“I think it’s important to celebrate Dr. King, because he broke so many barriers in the nation and just allowed people of color to have freedom,” said freshman point guard Devon Dotson.

Junior forward Dedric Lawson added: “The way he brought people together and stood up for such a powerful protest without causing violence, he was just something that the world needed at the time.”

Said freshman David McCormack: “He kick-started a movement that brought us together.”

Freshman guard Quentin Grimes was among those to close the video, which included footage of many of King’s most memorable speeches.

“From the bottom of my heart,” Grimes began, “thank you Dr. King for your sacrifice and your visions.”

Suits and sneakers

The coaching staffs for both Kansas and Iowa State participated in an annual event known as Suits and Sneakers during Monday’s contest.

Throughout the week, which has been dubbed Suits and Sneakers Week from coast to coast (Jan. 21-27), college and high school coaches across the nation will wear sneakers with their suits during games to raise awareness for Coaches vs. Cancer and the fight against cancer.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) teamed with the American Cancer Society over 25 years ago to form Coaches vs. Cancer. Since its inception, the foundation has raised more than $115 million to support the American Cancer Society and save lives.

This and that ...

Former KU national champions Brandon Rush, Sasha Kaun and Mario Chalmers watched Monday’s game from behind the KU bench … The Jayhawks are now 16-3 overall and 5-2 or better in Big 12 play for the 15th season in a row ... KU now leads the series with Iowa State, 182-65, including a 94-16 edge in games played in Lawrence, 53-10 inside Allen Fieldhouse ... KU’s Allen Fieldhouse winning streak is now at 15 games, dating back to the end of the 2017-18 season. The Jayhawks are 11-0 in their home building this season.


Nathan Scholl 3 years, 10 months ago

The Spectrum ad is covering up the ability to click the "Read More button" to continue reading this article. Also, Fran Fraschilla is the absolute WORST. He constantly repeats the same facts about Kansas over and over again during broadcasts (Kansas basketball fans had to listen for years about how Devonte' Graham was originally going to go to Appalachian State and how Frank Mason was originally offered a scholarship to Towson. Those are just two of many examples of his ridiculous repetitive nature) and only brings up points on how other teams can beat Kansas, not what KU can do to win. You can almost hear him salivating when KU gives up leads. Especially when Kansas is playing OU. Why does he have to do all of KU's 12 games? The fans deserve better.

Jim Keen 3 years, 10 months ago

Agree! And I cannot stand listening to Fraschilla's incessant droning about stories that have nothing to do with the game at hand. He definitely relishes in commenting on Jayhawk weaknesses. I watched him doing the K-State-Texas Tech game last night. He seemed rather subdued and on point in his commentary. Maybe KANSAS just brings out the worst in him.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago

KU is a big draw on TV because the only people who are more passionate about Kansas than KU fans are the fans that HATE Kansas and live to see the Jayhawks fall!!!

Bryce Landon 3 years, 10 months ago

(1) Prior to the game, Seth Greenberg picked ISU to win this one. F*** you, Greenberg! There's a reason you work at ESPN and not at Virginia Tech. You weren't that good of a coach, and you aren't that smart of an analyst either, apparently!

(2) Anyone know why Mitch Lightfoot didn't play in this game? That occurred to me midway through the second half that we never saw Mitch.

(3) Meanwhile, Baylor went to Morgantown and beat West Virginia by 12 - and it wasn't that close. That makes our loss at WVU all the worse.

Barry Weiss 3 years, 10 months ago

seth greenberg is a major a-hole. he constantly gets in his digs against Kansas and ALWAYS "takes the field" over KU. Thank goodness Jay Williams is there to balance out some KU love.

Jason Venable 3 years, 10 months ago

I feel for Mitch. Why did Self even offer him a schollie? The kid rarely plays. Same for McCormack. Best way to learn is by playing, not on the bench.

Jay Scott 3 years, 10 months ago

...because who would offer the High School player of the year in AZ.... ....and those 15 mins per game on last year's Final Four team could have been taken by anyone....cuz no team ever needs depth....right?

Jason Venable 3 years, 10 months ago

That was last year. Stop living in the past like many of your old, tiresome posts. We need depth now. Mitch and McCormack have seen little playing time.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 10 months ago

We've got an all-american caliber player playing the 5 right now (our only "big" since we're playing a 4 guard offense) so while we need depth, as long as Lawson isn't in foul trouble, there aren't many minutes to go to backup bigs as Lawson should play over 30 minutes, preferably 35.

Mitch is here because he was always a diehard KU fan so he's living the dream. DMac will get his shot, it's just not this year.

Shannon Gustafson 3 years, 10 months ago

Mitch didn't play because we were playing 4 guards all day and Lawson was our only player that was unstoppable so he didn't come out much.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago

Suck...I mean...Seth is a jealous poser with a bad case of "Self" envy. Holly, however, is a hoot, a real Jayhawk lover and a crowd favorite. Jay gets it and gives KU credit where credit is due.

Bryce, just a guess, but maybe Mitch's stitched up mouth may have been giving him problems but it is certainly a fair question that should be answered.

Matt, any idea what happened?

Mike Morris 3 years, 10 months ago

I don't mind Fraschilla. I think he genuinely "gets" Big XII hoops. Sure, he repeats his factoids every game, but you also have to remember that not everyone tuning in has seen every game. I'm sure ESPN wants him to repeat those for the newcomers. I would take him any day over Vitale or Bill Walton. I 100% turn my sound off when those two are doing a game.

Holly, of course, is fantastic. I like all her little side notes about KU traditions. Good sideline reporter.

Eric Dawson 3 years, 10 months ago

I shut Fran off as well now. Tired of his schtick.

Love Holly.

David Friend 3 years, 10 months ago

Easy on Greenberg. Williams and Greenberg schtick is to say the opposite. That is at ESPN's directive. Its basically first take at night. That is how ESPN operates. All their studio shows are the same. They think that controversy is good and the fans do not know better.

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 10 months ago

Controversy IS good and unfortunately, most fans don't know better.

But let's not pretend ESPN always makes the best business decisions. The second SportsCenter went to ESPN2, it was obvious why they keep laying off personnel.

Nathan Scholl 3 years, 10 months ago

I agree about Greenberg as well. He is a HUGE KU hater and doesn't even pretend to be impartial. I'm not going to say that he doesn't have just cause to be down on the Jayhawks at times, they are definitely their own worst enemies, especially on this team, but the guy is definitely a KU hater at all times. Jelly.

Nathan Scholl 3 years, 10 months ago

Mike Morris, that is a valid point. I know Fran does the best he can, I suppose he does repeat those facts for people that aren't watching every game. He could still mix it up a bit though! Lol. Maybe people wouldn't find him so annoying if he didn't have to call seemingly every single Big 12 Kansas game! I wish ESPN would just switch it up a little bit and give other announcers a chance to call the games. I'm sure good announcers from all over would jump at the chance. Another point on this thread is well taken: Fran is nowhere near as bad as Bill Walton. Bill Walton is unequivocally the worst, I mispoke when I said that about Fran. Walton doesn't even know where he is half the time. They'll be whole stretches of a game he calls where he's not even talking about basketball, he'll just start talking about his philosophies and travels. Then he'll start praising the players out of nowhere. Obviously from a stat sheet. I feel sorry for Arizona and UCLA fans that have to listen to him call games all of the time. I also feel bad for his announcing partner that has to corral him in from pointless rants constantly and act like he actually likes him. I do love Holly Rowe though as well! She's the best. She knows her stuff! Rock chalk! Beat Kentucky!

Brad Watson 3 years, 10 months ago

Fran likes KU and he loves Allen Field House...don't we all.....I just wish ESPN would rotate its announcers more...because all get old if they are at every game....there are a lot of other Big 12 games...Fran should be doing lots of those ...he is a good guy...but he is overbooked on our games.....................ESPN......VARIETY PLEASE!

Marius Rowlanski 3 years, 10 months ago

You think so? I was going to ask that question; does Fran like Kansas?

I think not.

Brad Watson 3 years, 10 months ago

Bilas is doing the Kentucky we will get a short break.

Tony Bandle 3 years, 10 months ago

Brad, I totally agree. Jay will never stop praising Allen Field House and him being a Dukie makes it even more significant!!

Craig Carson 3 years, 10 months ago

I think if KU wasn't in so many close games he would play Mitch and David more...but he really does need to get them guy minutes because eventually Lawson will be in foul trouble .David had too much ability to ride the bench like he does

David Morrison 3 years, 10 months ago

Against Kentucky, the other bigs will be needed.

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