Kansas Offense Clicking on All Cylinders With Its Biggest Questions Answered

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2014

Back in October, when we had nothing on which to evaluate the season but preview magazines and computer projections, the biggest questions surrounding Kansas were whether Naadir Tharpe would develop into a mature, trustworthy distributor, and how long it would take for Andrew Wiggins to mesh into Bill Self‘s balanced system. As we now near the halfway mark of conference play, the Jayhawks appear to have fully answered both of those questions. It’s why Kansas looks poised to lock down a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and why they have to be considered among the heavy favorites to cut down the nets in Arlington.

A newly-confident Andrew Wiggins has Kansas plowing through conference play. Again. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY)

A newly-confident Andrew Wiggins has Kansas plowing through conference play. Again. (Denny Medley/USA TODAY)

League play is supposed to be tougher than non-league play, but Tharpe apparently missed that memo. The junior has been terrific in seven games against Big 12 opponents, scoring 11.9 points and dishing out 5.6 assists per game to just 1.7 turnovers per outing. All of those numbers are better than his non-conference splits. While many of his made field goals have been the worst kind to take (long twos), he’s hit plenty of them, so while it may not be a sustainable method of shot selection, his execution has opened up space for his teammates, and there may not be a bigger beneficiary on the team than Wiggins. After exploding against TCU over the weekend, he he had another big night on Wednesday against Iowa State, scoring an efficient 29 points (a new career high) on just 16 shots. He looked more comfortable and confident than perhaps at any other point in the season, calmly making 4-of-6 three-pointers, and when Kansas needed to get some separation with the game in the balance late in the second half, he was there to provide it.

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Morning Five: 01.23.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 23rd, 2014


  1. The case of Bubu Palo is one of the more unique ones that we can remember. Palo was charged with second-degree sexual assault in May 2012, but the charges were eventually dropped. Iowa State’s Office of Judicial Affairs determined that Palo had violated student conduct rules and he was dismissed from the team. Last week a district court ruled that Palo should be able to rejoin the team. Now Iowa’s attorney general, on behalf of school’s Board of Regents, filed a motion to essentially prevent Palo from rejoining the team. Palo’s case will likely be heard by Iowa’s Supreme Court as the Board of Regents is claiming that the district court decision essentially stripped the school of its power to decide who can represent its university. There have been several other cases like this (Dez Wells and Michael Dixon come to mind), but we cannot remember one where the school had to go to such extreme lengths to prevent a player from coming back to a team.
  2. In the past few weeks we have seen quite a few coaches have loud outbursts both on and off the court. This is nothing new and coming at this point in the season it should not be too surprising. What is new is the contrition that some coaches are showing. John Groce is only the latest example to come out and apologize for his outburst. And he is not alone as Frank Martin, Fran McCaffery, and others have come out in the past month and publicly apologized for their outbursts some of which may have cost their teams games. Are we seeing a kinder, gentler coach or just a more politically correct one?
  3. Yesterday the Wooden Award Advisory Board released its Midseason Top 25 featuring the front-runners for the end of the year award. The usual suspects are on there (McDermott, Parker, etc.), but most of the focus for lists like this is on who got snubbed. In this case, the names that jump out are Nik StauskasGary Harris, and Joel Embiid not to mention Xavier Thames and Sean Kilpatrick. We have no idea how anybody could put together a group of the 25 best players in the country and not include those five, but the one saving grace of this list is that being absent from it doesn’t eliminate the players from consideration for end of the season awards.
  4. As we have pointed out before the Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week award continues to confuse us as it has been almost exclusively awarded to players who have no shot of receiving any postseason honors. Obviously this award is meant to reflect a single week’s work rather than a season’s contribution, but it is striking to see that just two of the seven winners (Doug McDermott and DeAndre Kane) this season will even be in contention for any national honors at at the end of the season. This week’s winner was Naadir Tharpe, who at this point is not even assured of having his starting point guard job secure at Kansas.
  5. We are not sure what to make of Mark Titus’ newest power rankings. Gone is the usual ridiculous non sequiturs and instead we have an interesting set of rankings that is backed up by actual analysis (still a little light on the numbers). The thing is looking at these rankings it is pretty clear how big of a mess it is after the top two teams because we would totally rearrange the next ten spots on the list, but we don’t necessarily have any significant issues with Titus’ rankings because we can see his reasoning too.
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Big 12 M5: 01.22.14 Edition

Posted by Kory Carpenter on January 22nd, 2014


  1. It’s true that Kansas has enough talent to win the national championship with subpar point guard play, but accomplishing such a feat would be really, really difficult. There are future NBA lottery picks all over the court for the Jayhawks, but junior point guard Naadir Tharpe may be more important than all of them come March. “The guys are looking to him as kind of a rock out there,” head coach Bill Self recently told Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star. “Which maybe we weren’t doing early in the season. He’s getting his point across.” If Tharpe can sustain his recent steady play, it will go a long way towards Kansas making another deep tournament run.
  2. As John Shinn of the Tahlequa Daily Press points out, Oklahoma’s defense has picked up lately and it is showing in the win column. As an example, the Sooners gave up just 64 points in a two-point win over Baylor last Saturday. Oklahoma is 3-2 in the Big 12, and while the Sooners don’t look to be contenders for the conference regular season title, continued defensive intensity could give them a chance to win a game or two in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
  3. After losing three straight games over the course of a week-plus, the Iowa State players decided to have a good ol’ fashioned players-only meeting on Saturday. “It was just going over some film from the last couple games, seeing what we’ve been doing wrong and what we can actually work on as a unit,” Georges Niang told Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register. The schedule doesn’t ease up anytime soon, however, as the Cyclones’ next four games are against Kansas State, Kansas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
  4. It’s hard to argue with David Ubben of FoxSports.com about his piece on Marcus Smart earning a reputation as a flopper. Smart likes to flop. He loves to flop, actually. And as Ubben points out, he is too talented to flop. Flopping is for players who don’t otherwise have the skills to stay on the court. Smart is a lottery pick, but he looks ridiculous feigning that he was fouled excessively. After Wayne Selden’s phantom elbow to the face was scrutinized with the repetition of the Zapruder film, it will be interesting to see whether officials crack down on Smart’s acting jobs.
  5. Before the start of the 2011-12 season, Bob Huggins was asked about all the potential travel nightmares in the Big 12. The closest road trip in conference play was to Iowa State, a cool 871 miles away. Now, it’s not certain that those road trips (or more accurately, long jet trips) have affected the Mountaineers in a season and a half in the Big 12, but they have certainly struggled. This season, they have beaten TCU and Texas Tech but are a paltry 0-3 against the rest of the conference, and their tournament hopes appear to rest on making a surprise run through the Big 12 Tournament.
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Three Thoughts on Kansas’ Big Win Over Iowa State Monday Night

Posted by Taylor Erickson on January 14th, 2014

Monday night’s tilt between Kansas and Iowa State entered Monday night as one of the most anticipated Big 12 games to date, in large part due to the fierce competition that developed between the two fan bases last season, stemming from two classic meetings that both required overtime to settle the score. Iowa State came into this game with a huge question mark at point guard following an ankle injury on Saturday to standout DeAndre Kane, but it appeared to have little impact as he showed up and played big, going for 21 points, eight rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Joel Embiid dominated in the second half against Iowa State.

Joel Embiid dominated in the second half against Iowa State.

Instead, the storyline from Monday night revolves around the talented Kansas freshmen, namely Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, both of whom played phenomenally in helping secure a huge win in one of the most difficult environments in college basketball. Listen, many expected Kansas to turn the corner over Christmas break like so many previous teams had done, but the home loss to San Diego State a couple weeks ago had some questioning whether Bill Self would be able to build a complete team with so many freshman playing key minutes. Since that time, Kansas has jumped out to a 3-0 start in Big 12 play and appears to clicking at just the right time, while in the midst of one of the toughest stretches in the schedule. Here are three thoughts on Bill Self’s biggest win this season, and how it impacts the league race moving forward.

  1. Joel Embiid was flat-out dominant for a stretch in the second half. Coming off a Kansas State game Saturday where Embiid picked up a silly flagrant two foul late in the game that earned him an ejection, Embiid once again found himself in a tussle early with Kane that resulted in a flagrant one foul. The second boneheaded play by Embiid in as many games resulted in a seat on the bench for a portion of the first half, and limited him from having much of a first half impact. In the second half, however, Embiid took over the game for a sequence, finding an open Frank Mason out of a double-team, followed by two baskets on the offensive end of the floor, and a block-and-rip-away on Iowa State forward Dustin Hogue. After the game, Cyclones’ head coach Fred Hoiberg called Embiid the “best player” in the nation. While that still might be a bit of a stretch, when the athletic seven-footer is on top of his game, he presents Kansas with a weapon that few teams in college basketball have. Going forward, you can bet other Big 12 squads will try to get in Embiid’s head to bait him into retaliatory actions, and Embiid will have to be prepared to deal with such chippiness for the remainder of the season. It’s much better for opponents if he’s not in the game.  Read the rest of this entry »
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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


  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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