Kansas Off to Good Big 12 Start After Dismantling of K-State

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 12th, 2014

If you spent the last few days listening to media types in northeast Kansas, Saturday’s rendition of the Sunflower Showdown was supposed to be different. Kansas State entered the game on a 10-game winning streak after stumbling out of the gate. The Wildcats were surging behind a much improved defensive effort, and freshman guard Marcus Foster was making a strong case as one of the best players in the league. Kansas, on the other hand, was a confidence-stricken team that already had four losses on the season. A little less than a week ago, San Diego State had waltzed into Allen Fieldhouse and snapped Kansas’ 68-game non-conference home winning streak. The overwhelming youth and inexperience residing in Lawrence had Bruce Weber believing his team could steal a win against their intrastate rival. Kansas was supposed to be vulnerable.

Andrew Wiggins threw down on monster dunk on his way to a 22 point performance. (Nick Krug/KUSports.com)

Andrew Wiggins threw down this monster dunk on his way to a 22-point performance. (Nick Krug/KUSports.com)

Instead, what followed in Allen Fieldhouse on Saturday afternoon mimicked what we’ve seen so often in this Sunflower State rivalry. Kansas jumped out to a 17-point lead off of a 14-assist, zero turnover effort in the first half. The second half featured more of the same, as the Jayhawks outscored Kansas State by nine on their way to and 86-60 victory behind Andrew Wiggins’ 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the floor. The previous five games between these two teams in Lawrence have followed a similar pattern, with Kansas winning by an average of 19 points per game during that span.

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Four Takeaways From Kansas’ Win Over Oklahoma

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 9th, 2014

It’s true that a team’s conference opener is never a “must-win game,” but the road to Kansas’ 10th straight Big 12 championship would have gotten a lot tougher had the Jayhawks lost at Oklahoma Wednesday evening. The Sooners aren’t bad at all, but with the next four Kansas games coming against Kansas State, Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Baylor, the Jayhawks’ hole in the conference race would have felt much bigger than 0-1. Alas, Kansas escaped with a 90-83 victory in Norman, improving to 10-4 on the year and showing some glimpses of their potential in March. Here are four key takeaways from last night’s win.

Wayne Selden had everything working against the Sooners. (AP)

Wayne Selden had everything working against the Sooners. (AP)

  1. Wayne Selden scored in double-figures for just the fifth time this season, finishing with a career-high 24 points and showing us why he is a projected first round draft pick in June. He was 5-of-10 from three-point range, and while it appeared to be a flukish shooting night (his three-point shooting on the season is at 37.5 percent), it should give him plenty of confidence going forward. The Jayhawks desperately need consistent long-range shooting to open up the lane for its drivers and big men, and Selden is as good a candidate as any. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 M5: 01.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on January 7th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Some interesting news came out after the San Diego State-Kansas game on Sunday. Bill Self revealed to reporters that Naadir Tharpe had sprained his left ankle during practice on Wednesday and tried to gut it out against the Aztecs. “He was trying to put himself in a position to where he could play,” Self said. “He went a little bit halfcourt yesterday and felt good, but even with that you are nicked up and don’t have a rhythm. He took a couple ill-advised shots when we had a chance to come back, tie or take the lead.” While Tharpe didn’t have the best shooting game (2-of-10), he did have five assists and no turnovers in 34 minutes against SDSU’s suffocating defense. Still, the Jayhawks need Tharpe to be healthy in their hopes of capturing another Big 12 title.
  2. Yes, Oklahoma State is going through some stuff at the moment. NewsOK lays out the three things the Cowboys have to do to maintain their status as potential Big 12 champs and national title contenders. First, how do they replace Michael Cobbins? Sophomore Kamari Murphy is assuming Cobbins’ spot in the lineup but who will assume Murphy’s role as first big man off the bench? Then there’s the Stevie Clark situation. There’s nothing new to report here but having him around could continue to cause a distraction for the Cowboys. Finally, OSU’s free throw shooting hasn’t been the best. Their 71.7 percent mark is good for 105th in the nation. That includes Marcus Smart, who is shooting almost 10 percentage points (67.8 percent) lower than he did last year (77.7 percent). So yeah, they’ve got some work to do.
  3. Iowa State has a top 10 battle with Baylor coming up, but before then, DeAndre Kane is taking some more hardware home this week. Kane was named Big 12 POW for the second straight week, headlined by a 16-point, eight-rebound and 12-assist performance versus Northern Illinois. Kansas State’s Marcus Foster won Big 12 Newcomer of the Week after averaging 16.0 points and 5.5 rebounds in wins over George Washington and Oklahoma State last week. It was Foster’s first award of any kind this season while Kane has two NOWs in addition to the two POWs.
  4. Foster’s teammate and fellow point guard Jevon Thomas wasn’t allowed to practice until about two weeks ago due to NCAA rules. After his first practice, Bruce Weber said of him: “He almost passed out. He was lying on the floor, saying his body was cramping.” Fast forward to today and three games under his belt, Thomas seems to be adjusting well to college basketball. In relief of Marcus Foster, Thomas has 15 assists and only two turnovers. He’s a part of the reason the Wildcats went from a 2-3 start to a nine-game winning streak and Top 25 ranking in a two-month span.
  5. There’s a little game on tonight that will have implications atop the Big 12 horse race. Baylor takes on Iowa State for the 12th time in Ames tonight and are still searching for their first ever win there. The intrigue in this match-up lies in their contrasting styles. Iowa State likes to run up and down the floor and shoot the lights out, while Baylor is more akin to a half-court offense and big men who box out well. The Cyclones and Bears will meet tonight at 7:00 PM ET on ESPN2.
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Four Takeaways From Kansas’ Loss to San Diego State

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 6th, 2014

The Jayhawks were handed a rare home non-conference loss by Steve Fisher’s Aztecs on Sunday afternoon. Here are the top four things we learned about Bill Self’s team in the surprising defeat.

Frank Mason wasn't the only Jayhawk who had problems getting up quality shots. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Frank Mason wasn’t the only Jayhawk who had problems getting up quality shots. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

  1. Interior toughness leaves a lot to be desired. One look at Joel Embiid’s line – 12 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks – would suggest otherwise, but this was a night for Kansas to forget when it came to interior defense. San Diego State won despite taking only eight three-pointers and shooting just 37 percent from the field, meaning they got it done with rebounding and putbacks. The Jayhawks deeply miss Jeff Withey, who excelled at swatting shots in a way that allowed his team to take over possession. On Sunday, Kansas blocked 13 shots, but most of those went right back to the Aztecs, and on some instances, SDSU laid the ball right back into the basket within a few seconds. Given the final score of 61-57, a couple of bounces may have been the difference between Kansas winning and losing this game, but while the analytical take is to say that it was just bad luck, this isn’t the first time the Jayhawks have been beaten on the interior. That’s somewhat disconcerting for Bill Self’s team going forward. Read the rest of this entry »
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Big 12 Midseason Merits and Demerits

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2014

It’s crazy to think that the season is already nearly halfway over. Over the last two months, the Big 12 had a terrific non-conference run. The league notched wins over the likes of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Memphis, Iowa, Michigan and Gonzaga; the conference proved that it has its share of individual stars beyond Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins, viewed as the toasts of the league back in November; and an argument can be made rather easily that the Big 12 is the best league in the country (or at least has had the best run to date). With league play tipping off tomorrow, it’s time for the Big 12 microsite contributors to take a look back and hand out some accolades, as well as shine a light on a some players and coaches from whom we expected a little more in the season’s first two months.

Player Of The Year

Marcus Smart headlines a long list of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY)

Marcus Smart headlines a deep roster of individual standouts in the Big 12. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA Today)

  • Kory CarpenterMelvin Ejim, Iowa State: Ejim is third in the conference in scoring with 17.2 points per game and is fifth in field goal percentage, making 52.5 percent of his shots. He nearly averages a double-double as well, grabbing 8.1 rebounds per game.
  • Taylor EricksonMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State - Smart has cooled off a bit recently after averaging over 31 points per game during a three-game stretch earlier in the season, but this award appears to be his to lose heading into Big 12 play. The conference slate should provide plenty of high-profile games that will undoubtedly deliver some great individual performances, allowing us to more confidently identify the league’s best player. Andrew Wiggins has been good, but for the time being, he hasn’t done enough to knock Smart from his perch.
  • Brian GoodmanMarcus Smart, Oklahoma State - Overall, Smart’s efficiency numbers have improved, and he’s still playing defense at a very high level. The Big 12 is as well-stocked with talent as any conference in the country, and Smart has produced the most for his team. That being said, the book on him is out. Whether he can score from outside when teams take away the paint could be the deciding factor for his POY candidacy.

Coach of The Year

  • BGFred Hoiberg - After the Cyclones outperformed expectations the last two years, Big 12 coaches vowed to stop sleeping on Iowa State, tabbing ISU to finish fourth in the annual preseason poll. As it turns out, even that may have been too low. Right now, the Cyclones are no worse than the third-best team in the conference, and Oklahoma State’s personnel issues could give ISU an opening to climb even higher.
  • TEFred Hoiberg – All Hoiberg has done is taken a team that lost several top scorers from a season ago and turned that into a 12-0 start to the college basketball season. Iowa State has three players averaging over 15 points per game, and it became the first school in league history to have five different players win player of the week honors.

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Four Takeaways From Kansas’ Win Over New Mexico

Posted by kory Carpenter is a RTC Big 12 contributor. You can find him on Twitter @Kory_Carpenter on December 16th, 2013

Kansas rebounded from last week’s loss to Florida nicely Saturday night with an 80-63 win over New Mexico in Kansas City. The Jayhawks had lost three out of four games coming into that one, but showed signs of improvement against a good Lobos squad. It was a strong enough performance to jump Kansas from #13 to #6 on kenpom.com. Here are a few takeaways from Saturday night’s win.

Don't expect Joel Embiid to be in Lawrence much longer. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Don’t expect Joel Embiid to be in Lawrence much longer. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

  1. Naadir Tharpe looks to be Bill Self’s point guard going forward. He had lost the starting job over the previous two games to freshman Frank Mason, but the switch wasn’t successful. Mason has a higher ceiling but he isn’t a true point guard, at least not at this point in his career. In the two games he started against Colorado and Florida, Mason averaged only two assists per game and committed seven turnovers. Tharpe returned to the starting unit against New Mexico, played 37 minutes, and had a better than 2:1 assist/turnover ratio in the contest (nine assists, four turnovers). The question remains whether he can bring that kind of performance to bear for six consecutive games in March, but there is no use looking anywhere else at this point.
  2. Bill Self joked after the game that the more freshman center Joel Embiid plays, the less time he will spend in Lawrence. The Cameroon native had 18 points in 25 minutes, shot 80 percent from the free throw line, grabbed six rebounds, rejected four shots, and gave us an Hakeem Olajuwon/Dream Shake impression that not many other college players can do (and really, how many pros?). With so few talented centers in the NBA and a history of GMs drafting on the notion of potential, don’t be shocked if Embiid jumps over the superstar freshman trio of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle and gets selected No. 1 overall in next summer’s NBA Draft. He has that much upside. Read the rest of this entry »
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What’s the Matter With Kansas? Some Historical Perspective

Posted by Taylor Erickson on December 11th, 2013

Kansas appears to be in a bit of a funk. After falling for a third time in four games at Florida on Tuesday night, it feels like the sky in Lawrence is falling for some KU fans. The point guard situation is a serious cause for concern; the offense is flat-out stymied by any type of zone defense; and any trace of veteran leadership looks as if it’s gone with the wind. Bill Self’s squad can’t defend; they turn the ball over at an incredibly high rate; and they constantly get beaten to every 50-50 ball out there.

Did I miss anything?

Good deal. Because as crazy as this may sound, we’ve seen this episode before in Self’s tenure at Kansas. Just 10 months ago, to be exact, Kansas was in the midst of a similar lackluster stretch after dropping three straight games to anything but the league’s elite. Elijah Johnson was sputtering at point guard for the Jayhawks; they couldn’t seem to score more than 65 points a game; and at the time, many KU fans were certain that last year’s team would be the one that failed to continue the conference title streak.

A lackluster performance at Florida leaves Bill Self searching for answers (Photo: KUSports.com).

A lackluster performance at Florida leaves Bill Self searching for answers (Photo: KUSports.com).

Two years ago included much of the same. On December 19 of that season, KU fell to Davidson at the Sprint Center, dropping its record to 7-3 after a pair of early losses to Kentucky and Duke. Tyshawn Taylor was the whipping boy for a team struggling with what appeared to be a lack of veteran leadership. Many felt that after a frustrating three-plus seasons, Taylor would never rise to the occasion. But we all know how that season ended – Taylor flipped a switch after Christmas break as he and Thomas Robinson led Kansas to the national title game before falling to that insanely talented Kentucky team.

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Previewing Saturday’s Kansas/Colorado Battle

Posted by Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) & Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on December 6th, 2013

There are a lot of interesting non-conference battles around the country this weekend in advance of finals coming up in the next few weeks. Big 12 correspondent Brian Goodman (@bsgoodman) and Pac-12 writer Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) teamed up to offer this breakdown of one of them: Kansas at Colorado, Saturday 1:15 PM MST on ESPN2.

Kansas will win if… it gets its offense back in order. After beating Wake Forest last week, the Jayhawks turned in underwhelming performances against Villanova and UTEP, shooting less than 40 percent from the field in both games. The reasons behind Kansas’ struggles have gravitated from the odd setting of the Battle 4 Atlantis, to KU’s inexperience, to the fact that Andrew Wiggins played through illness. Bill Self weighed in earlier this week and felt as though last month’s win over Duke “spoiled them a little,” perhaps leading to a more passive attitude than what we’re used to seeing out of Self’s teams. Regardless of what you want to point to as the biggest factor, the Jayhawks need to get their scorers out of their recent funks, and the best way for them to do that is to go inside and test Josh Scott and Wesley Gordon early. If Perry Ellis, Wiggins and Joel Embiid establish inside dominance in the first half, it will go a long way toward opening cleaner looks behind the three-point line, an area where the Jayhawks are much better than what they showed in three games in the Bahamas.

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend's Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Andrew Wiggins And Company Will Look To Bounce Back From Last Weekend’s Disappointment With A Road Win At Colorado

Kansas will lose if… its backcourt struggles. We haven’t hit winter break yet, but Bill Self is already shaking up his lineup, opting to start freshman Frank Mason over junior Naadir Tharpe, per KUSports.com. Normally, going with potential over experience would be more of a shock, but on this team, in this season, what’s one more freshman being elevated into a more prominent role? Mason has opened eyes in the early going with his fearlessness despite standing just 5’11″, and while he isn’t a pass-first point guard (at least not yet), he can find the open man when defenses collapse on him. The point guard spot hasn’t been a gaping liability for the Jayhawks, but history suggests that Kansas’ best teams have featured floor generals with more of a bulldog mentality in the mold of Sherron Collins or Tyshawn Taylor, and that’s what Mason can provide. Will he embrace that role from the get-go, or will the minutes still shake out to more of a committee setup? While the Jayhawks have talented creators up and down their roster, they’ll be reliant on passers to deliver the ball in high-percentage spots until those playmakers gain the confidence and aggression necessary for Kansas to reach its potential. That’s where Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie can cause problems against a less-experienced guard like Mason. Mix in the altitude and the knowledge that a young Kansas team will be playing its first true road game of the season and we could have a surprise on our hands.

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Feast Week Mission Briefing: Kansas in the Battle 4 Atlantis

Posted by Kory Carpenter (@Kory_Carpenter) on November 27th, 2013

With Feast Week already in high gear, we’re outlining the roads ahead for prominent Big 12 teams involved in neutral site events this week.

What They’ve Done So Far: The #2 Kansas Jayhawks have played as well as fans could have expected through four games this season. They have beaten three cupcakes by 22.3 PPG and knocked off then-#4 Duke at the Champions Classic in Chicago. The inside-out combination of sophomore forward Perry Ellis and freshman guard Andrew Wiggins is averaging 16.8 PPG, freshman center Joel Embiid showed flashes of greatness in his 16-point, 13-rebound performance against Iona, and the Jayhawks lead the country in field goal shooting at 56.8 percent. The one major concern heading into the season — point guard play — has been anything but a problem early. Junior Naadir Tharpe is averaging 6.7 APG with a 3.3 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio, and freshman backup Frank Mason has been nearly as impressive, playing 18 MPG and averaging 8.3 PPG, 3.5 APG, and just 0.5 turnovers per game. Bill Self has about 87 different lineups he can throw out at anytime — he can go big, small, fast or slow and there isn’t much of a dropoff between each combination. The Jayhawks are deeper than any team Self has had; they have three potential one-and-done freshmen in the starting lineup in Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid; and, they have veterans like Naadir Tharpe and Perry Ellis to guide the youngsters. It’s not too early to say Final Four or Bust with this team.

Andrew Wiggins Leads Kansas To The Bahamas This Week.

Andrew Wiggins Leads Kansas To The Bahamas This Week.

First Round Preview Wake Forest is 5-0 but the competition has been less than stellar in that record. Wins over Colgate, VMI, Presbyterian, Jacksonville, and The Citadel aren’t proper warm-ups for a Top 25 team, much less a team as talented as Kansas. Defensively, the Jayhawks will need to slow down sophomore guard Codi Miller-McIntyre, who leads the Demon Deacons with 18.6 PPG and 4.8 APG. He opened the season with four straight 20-point games and is the focal point for the Deacons’ offense. Rebounding will be key in this first round match-up. Wake Forest is currently second in the nation with 49.2 RPG, but Kansas is grabbing 83 percent of its opponents’ misses, fifth best in the country. The Demon Deacons aren’t far behind themselves at 81 percent.

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Rushed Reactions: Jabari Parker Makes His Case To Be #1 But So Does Kansas

Posted by nvr1983 on November 13th, 2013

Coming into this season we found it strange that nearly every media outlet was ignoring Jabari Parker, who was a Sports Illustrated cover boy and the #1 player in the class of 2013 for much of his time in high school. We figured it was the explosiveness of Andrew Wiggins, the raw power of Julius Randle, or the rustiness that Parker showed recovering from a foot injury to explain his absence from much of the discourse. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. Regardless of what led the media to forget about Parker, his play tonight should remind everybody that the race for the #1 spot in the 2014 NBA Draft is still a three-player race.

Jabari Played Great In His Homecoming, But Was Overshadowed

Wiggins is an obvious choice given his unmatched athleticism. Randle makes a strong case with his ability to dominate around the basket. The case for Parker is a little more complex in that he is a more complete player right now than the other two. He does not have one skill that will take your breath away, but he does nearly everything well. Whether it is driving to the basket, finishing a dunk that reminds you of Grant Hill in the 1991 National Championship game, hitting almost every kind of jumper imaginable, or defending a potential NBA center in Joel Embiid despite being nearly half a foot shorter, Parker exhibits everything you would expect from a future NBA star. And for much of tonight it appeared that he was going to make Chicago his city as he had done for his four years at Simeon. Unfortunately for the Duke freshman and the locals who came out to support him, Bill Self and the Jayhawks had a very different narrative to write tonight.

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After Just One Game, the Andrew Wiggins Backlash Has Begun

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 12th, 2013

The power of the Internet can be a wonderful thing, providing someone with virtually unlimited information at the click of a button. But let’s be honest, it can also be quite an inconvenience at times, too (like when your Facebook picture from a party in college may have kept you from that job you really wanted). With the technology we have today, the web serves as an open book of history for anything that’s been said or written if the one speaking or writing is significant enough to have his or her voice published.

So you’re probably sitting here thinking “OK, I get it, but I came to read about college basketball, so please carry on.”

Is there a limit to how many jaw-droppers Andrew Wiggins will give us this season?

Is Andrew Wiggins Still the Best Player in His Class?

Fair enough, as I’d probably be thinking the same thing, so here’s where I’m going with this. In the last month or so, there seems to be a momentum shift in how some media in college basketball are viewing Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. As I’m sure you’ve heard over, and over, and over again, Wiggins was built up over the better part of the last year as a guy who could be one of the better recruits we’ve seen in the last 10-plus years in college basketball. His name was thrown out there with the likes of Michael Beasley, and Kevin Durant, and even, gulp, LeBron James. Somewhere along the line, someone called him “the best recruit since LeBron” and boy did that sound bite take off like wildfire. Whether those comparisons are accurate is something we can’t all come to an agreement on, but we can all agree that when Wiggins reclassified his graduation year last October, there was no doubt that he was considered the top prep prospect in the nation. Many cited his performance in the Peach Jam in July 2012 as evidence, where Wiggins went head-to-head with fellow top Kentucky recruit Julius Randle in what is the considered the highest profile AAU event in the country. The unanimous belief after the Peach Jam was that Wiggins was the superior talent to Randle, leading to quotes like this one from former CBS writer and current ESPN staffer, Jeff Goodman.

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Champions Classic Provides Kansas With an Early Opportunity To Improve

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2013

It’s very early in the college basketball season. Before you continue reading the rest of the preview for tonight’s showdown between Duke and Kansas, read that sentence again. Now read it again one more time, just for good for measure. I’ll wait here.

Now that we have that important housekeeping item out of the way, it’s now acceptable for everyone to lick their chops in anticipation of the nightcap of tonight’s Champions Classic in Chicago. It’s everything we could want in an early-season match-up: Two of the nation’s best programs, coaches and freshmen on a neutral court, with their biggest recruiting target in the house to take it all in. While both teams won their season openers Friday night, Kansas needs to change a couple of things if it wants to leave the United Center with arguably its biggest non-conference win since topping the defending champion Florida Gators in 2008:

Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins Needs to Work to Get Open More Often

  • Work To Get Andrew Wiggins Open: In Friday’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Jayhawks struggled at times to get their freshman sensation open looks. Wiggins eventually finished with 16 points on nine shot attempts, and while that was hardly a bad game for someone criticized as passive, it won’t fly against better competition. Naadir Tharpe, who will make his season debut after being suspended for Friday’s opener, isn’t an elite passer – at least not yet. For Kansas to avenge a 2011 loss to the Blue Devils, Wiggins has to either meet his floor general halfway and work harder to get open, or his big-bodied teammates need to free him up — ideally, some combination of the two would occur. While Wiggins has the athleticism to create his own shot off the bounce, odds are he’ll fare better if he makes his defender (likely Rodney Hood) keep up with him from one possession to the next.

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