Rushed Reactions: #10 Stanford 60, #2 Kansas 57

Posted by Adam Stillman on March 23rd, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion,@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Powell May Have Saved the Cardinal Last Night

Dwight Powell was huge in Stanford’s upset of Kansas.

  1. Stanford pulls the upset. Who expected this? Sure, there was no Joel Embiid for Kansas, but the rest of the talented Jayhawks was there. And they laid an egg. Kansas was upset by a double-figure seed for the third time in the past five NCAA Tournaments. Stanford was better almost all game, a deserving winner. A #10 over a #2 is a big enough upset, made even bigger in what they were calling Allen Fieldhouse East. There was one section full of Stanford fans. The rest? Kansas fans or Wichita State fans rooting for the Jayhawks. March Madness, indeed.
  2. Andrew Wiggins was a disaster. It was a disappointing way for the freshman phenom to go out of his only collegiate season. The potential #1 pick in June’s NBA Draft was horrible in his last game in a Kansas jersey. Wiggins scored just four points while going 1-of-6 from the floor. He turned the ball over four times, including on a crucial possession with just less than a minute to play in the game. He missed opened threes and easy layups. Wiggins was invisible almost all game long. He rarely made an effort to get to the basket or create his own shot. Bill Self could have done a better job drawing up some plays for him, but Wiggins, like Duke’s one-and-doner Jabari Parker on Friday, picked the wrong time to have his worst game of the season.
  3. Stanford’s zone defense was terrific. The Cardinal might have taken some notes from Florida’s win over Kansas earlier in the season. Stanford used an mutating 1-3-1 zone to perfection, which made it extremely difficult to find driving lanes or get the ball into the post. Other than Tarik Black’s 18 points, Kansas’ other big men struggled mightily. Perry Ellis went 3-of-10 for nine points, while Jamari Traylor was 1-of-8 with three points. Dwight Powell, Josh Huestis, Stefan Nastic and John Gage were fantastic on the defensive end. Kansas just never could get in a rhythm offensively.

Star of the Game: Dwight Powell, Stanford. After a horrible first round game against New Mexico, Powell came to play against Kansas’ imposing frontcourt. Despite frequent foul trouble, Powell finished with a team-high 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while also going 5-of-6 from the foul line. The senior forward also pulled down seven rebounds and did a tremendous job on the defensive end limited Kansas’ drives to the basket and post play.

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Joel Embiid’s Prolonged Absence Leaves Kansas At A Crossroads

Posted by Kory Carpenter & Taylor Erickson on March 11th, 2014

Unless you live under a rock, chances are you’ve heard that Kansas center Joel Embiid will miss this weekend’s Big 12 tournament, and his participation in the first weekend of the NCAA tournament at this point is considered to be a “long shot,” according to head coach Bill Self. While it remains a possibility that Embiid could be available for the later rounds of the NCAA tournament if Kansas advances, for the time being, this news certainly rocks the college basketball landscape and has serious implications for the Jayhawks’ chances of winning it all in early April. Big 12 microsite writers Taylor Erickson and Kory Carpenter break down the challenges that Embiid’s updated prognosis brings to Kansas’ national title aspirations:

TE: The silver lining for Bill Self and company lies in the fact that Embiid isn’t the only NBA lottery pick roaming the sidewalks in Lawrence this season. There’s another ridiculously talented athlete wearing a Kansas jersey that has the ability to completely take over a college basketball game. It’s your move, Andrew Wiggins.

Can Andrew Wiggins put Kansas on his back while Joel Embiid is out with a back injury? (KUSports.com)

Can Andrew Wiggins carry the load while Joel Embiid is out with a back injury? (KUSports.com)

You all know the story by now. Wiggins came to Kansas as one of the most heralded recruits of all time. He had that “best since” clause attached to his name. For the most part, there’s been no shortage of college basketball fans and media alike that would tell you that Wiggins has underachieved this year. But the beauty of college basketball is that heroes in this sport are made in March, and for Andrew Wiggins, the opportunity to leave a lasting impression on college basketball is still right out in front of him, waiting to be capitalized on. We’ve seen it in stretches, and his 41-point outburst at West Virginia, albeit in a loss, was the most recent example of how dominant the 6’8″ guard from Canada can be. In a year where there’s clearly no bulletproof team in the nation, is it really that far-fetched to believe Wiggins could lead Kansas on a Kemba Walker-like run?

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Big 12 Weekend Preview: Conference Flirting With History

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 7th, 2014

Even without a clear national title contender beyond Kansas, it’s impossible to deny that this season has been hugely successful for the Big 12. No matter what you value, the conference has it.

  • Top-shelf NBA Draft talent (Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Marcus Smart)
  • Fantastic upperclassmen (Melvin Ejim, Markel Brown, Juwan Staten, Cory Jefferson, Cameron Clark)
  • Impact transfers (DeAndre Kane, Ryan Spangler, Tarik Black)
  • Coaches who have done remarkable jobs getting their teams to buy in (Bill SelfRick BarnesFred Hoiberg and Lon Kruger)
The Big 12 is trending towards history, and we're not talking about Kansas' vice grip on the crown. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

The Big 12 is trending towards history, and we’re not talking about Kansas’ vice grip on the crown. (John Rieger/USA Today Sports)

That’s not to say that the season hasn’t had its low points (Marcus Smart getting popped for three games after shoving a fan; West Virginia shooting itself in the foot with early season losses; TCU’s continued struggle to make any discernible noise), but all in all, it’s been a fantastic year for the Big 12. The most impressive thing about the conference, however, doesn’t have as much to do with the here and now as it does with what could be on Selection Sunday: A league record-tying seven NCAA Tournament bids.

At the beginning of the season, most prognosticators pegged the Big 12 as a five-bid league. Granted, at the time, Oklahoma State and Baylor weren’t believed to be the teams that would need wins at the end of the regular season to earn bids, but that’s how things have shaken out as Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma have overachieved as the Cowboys and Bears struggled. But with Travis Ford and Scott Drew’s teams now clicking again, the odds of the conference squeezing not five, not six, but seven teams into the NCAA Tournament, are rising. If seven bids come to pass, it would tie a league record set in 2010, but if we’re nitpicking, seven bids in 2014 would be even more impressive than seven bids in 2010, and I’ll explain why.

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Big 12 M5: 03.06.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 6th, 2014

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  1. It was a lot more than Senior Night on Wednesday for Kansas center Tarik Black. In his final game at Allen Fieldhouse, the senior scored 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting, grabbed six rebounds and had two blocks in Kansas’ 82-57 blowout of Texas Tech. It was a huge effort from Black, who will also start in their regular season finale Saturday at West Virginia as Joel Embiid continues to rest his sore back. If Embiid returns for the NCAA Tournament and doesn’t play as many minutes as he was, having Black make this kind of impact would result in the Jayhawks becoming more dangerous than they already are.
  2. I’m not sure what the allure is between NFL personalities and Kansas basketball, but Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers stopped by to watch the Jayhawks and gave a pep talk after practice in January. Yesterday San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was there to do pretty much the same thing and then this happened. Harbaugh hit a half-court shot during practice because… why not? But I’m not so sure he would have made the shot if he wore anything other than his trademark sweater and khakis. I’m a little curious to see what kind of person Harbaugh is when he wears something else, if he wears something else. We may never know.
  3. Oklahoma’s Je’lon Hornbeak had a breakout game in the Sooners’ season home finale. In 22 bench minutes, Hornbeak contributed 11 points, five rebounds, three dimes and two steals in the team’s 72-62 win over West Virginia. The performance comes on the heels of his nine points and five dimes in 18 minutes against Texas on Saturday. A win Saturday at TCU would lock the Sooners into the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big 12 Tournament, and meanwhile, WVU’s road to an at-large bid appears to have reached a dead end. They’ll have to win the conference tournament to force their way into this season’s Dance.
  4. It was Senior Night at the Frank Erwin Center as Texas hosted TCU on Wednesday. The problem was that the Horns don’t have any seniors… but they still had a good night anyway! Rick Barnes rested leading scorer Jonathan Holmes due to a sore right knee, but his squad was able to get by the Horned Frogs, 66-54. Isaiah Taylor led the team with 21 points while Cameron Ridley (my vote for the Big 12 Most Improved Player award that I just made up in my head) posted 14 points and 10 rebounds. Texas needs to beat Texas Tech Saturday coupled with an Oklahoma loss at TCU to clinch the second seed in the Big 12 Tournament next week in Kansas City. Hang on, folks, the Madness draws nigh.
  5. A difficult season for TCU basketball got worse with head coach Trent Johnson announcing Monday that Amric Fields is out for the rest of the year because of a recurring knee injury. According to TCU360, only four of 16 total players have suited up in every game this season, which just stinks. To make matters worse, a loss to Oklahoma Saturday would result in TCU becoming the first Big 12 team to go winless in conference play since Texas A&M in 2003-04. Stash the season away and never look at it again, TCU fans. Here’s to a better 2014-15.
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Big 12 M5: 03.05.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on March 5th, 2014

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  1. Through the first 16 games conference play, Baylor amazingly played themselves out of and back into contention for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Now it appears their at-large candidacy is all but sewn up by beating Iowa State 74-61 on Senior Night in Waco. Fittingly, Baylor seniors Brady Heslip (18 points, 5-for-8 from three) and Cory Jefferson (21 points, seven boards and two blocks) led the way and helped the Bears improve to 8-9 in the Big 12. How’s this for patterns: Baylor has made every even-numbered tournament year since 2008. Why mess with happy?
  2. On the heels of Senior Night, the Waco Tribune dove in to the story of fifth-year senior Cory Jefferson. It might sound hard to believe but Jefferson was a freshman on the 2010 Elite Eight team with guys like LaceDarius Dunn (!!) and Tweety Carter (!!!). You can tell Jefferson is a patient guy: he was willing to redshirt his sophomore season, stay on the team despite playing ten minutes per game in 2011-12 and then decided to put the NBA on hold to complete his college career in 2013. Now with a likely tournament bid and potential NBA career nearing, Jefferson is reaping the benefits of making the decision to stay in Waco.
  3. BREAKING: Bill Self is happy about something for once. The Kansas coach is looking forward to tonight’s Senior Night festivities when his Jayhawks take on Texas Tech in Lawrence. KU plans to honor Tarik Black, Justin Wesley and Niko Roberts and here Self is quite vivid about his feelings for these players. For whatever reason, folks have negatively chimed in about the team not properly “celebrating” the program’s tenth straight Big 12 title last week. At least on this night, something worth celebrating will be celebrated. Congrats to the Jayhawk seniors.
  4. Quietly, Oklahoma is after some valuable real estate on the final week of the regular season. The Sooners sit in second at 10-6 in the Big 12, tied with Texas but OU owns the tiebreak over UT by virtue of their season sweep. They will host West Virginia tonight and wrap-up the schedule against winless TCU on Saturday. It’s amazing to think that the coaches picked Oklahoma to tie for fifth in the preseason poll with Kansas State but are now on the verge of finishing right behind Kansas. It would mark the first time that had happened since Blake Griffin’s sophomore season in 2009. It’s looking more and more like Lon Kruger emerging as the favorite for conference COY.
  5. It’s now or never time for West Virginia. What WVU need to show the NCAA Selection Committee in the next ten days is that a) they can win games consistently, b) win games against quality opponents and c) win games against quality opponents away from home. They’ll get a chance to do all three starting in Norman tonight, Kansas at home Saturday and during next week’s Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. But all of that starts with the type of effort the team gets from leading scorer Eron Harris. Harris is a statistical oddity for a team’s top scorer: the Mountaineers are a surprising 3-7 when Harris scores 20 or more and just 2-4 in Big 12 games. Simply put WVU will need all hands to squeeze in an eighth Big 12 squad into the Big Dance.
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Big 12 M5: 02.25.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on February 25th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. The addition of Memphis transfer Tarik Black to Kansas last summer was viewed as an important move for Bill Self to solidify a young frontcourt alongside sophomore forward Perry Ellis. Black was voted Big 12 preseason Newcomer of the Year in October, and figured to play a prominent role on Kansas’ roster this season. That’s how it was suppose to work out, anyway. In reality, Black struggled early with foul trouble and quickly relinquished his starting spot to talented freshman Joel Embiid. But he has never regretted his decision to transfer to Lawrence, telling family and friends he is blessed to be there, while finding a way to use the physical and mental toughness that he developed as a youth to bring much-needed leadership to Self’s young squad. Moving forward, it will be vital that Black continue to do so as the Jayhawks enter the all-important stretch of postseason play when their season will ultimately be judged as a success or failure.
  2. Just a few short weeks ago, it looked like West Virginia was among those in the Big 12 poised to position themselves for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. After losing three of their last four games, however, including a 13-point loss over the weekend to fellow bubble team Baylor, Bob Huggins openly questioned his teams “commitment to excellence”. The head coach seems frustrated with his player’s lack of attention to detail, explaining that the players all have iPads that are meant to be used to watch game video, but that apparently wasn’t happening. The Mountaineers will close the season with road games at Iowa State and Oklahoma and have two home contests remaining against TCU and Kansas. At 15-12 overall and 7-7 in Big 12 play, Huggins’ squad will need to finish at least .500 in the conference and need a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament if it hopes to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
  3. On Tuesday night in Lubbock, Texas, students will have a bit of added motivation to show up at United Spirit Arena to cheer on their Red Raiders as they take on Kansas State. Texas Tech announced that the school will be giving away 30 prize packages, including eight chances for students to win $10,000 in cash or $10,000 towards the purchase of an automobile, along with a live DJ and free food. We’ve seen promotions on the uptick this year in college basketball, but certainly not anything to this degree. Moving forward, with schools struggle with game attendance, we’re likely to see more of these and other promotions in the understandable attempt to give themselves as big a home court advantage as possible.
  4. Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg became the latest college basketball coach to express his frustrations with social media on Monday saying, “I think social media is going to be the end of us, I really do.” Hoiberg went on to say that he thought it was a joke that someone could sit behind a computer and rifle verbal assaults at college basketball players who are out there doing the best they can. This comes just days after Louisville head coach Rick Pitino echoed similar statements, and after Iowa Hawkeye forward Zach McCabe airballed a crucial three-point attempt in a home loss to Wisconsin which caused fans to berate him on social media. After that incident, Fran McCaffery, who has been known to have a short temper, banned his team from social media for the remainder of the season. Coaches like Hoiberg and McCaffery face a difficult situation because banning players from social media platforms could easily be used against them in recruiting. Despite the fact that it might be best for teenagers who are entering college for the first time, most kids won’t like having restrictions on how they can communicate with friends, family, and yes, fans.
  5. With all the fan negativity that exists in college athletics, it’s refreshing to hear of stories like a recent one involving Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield. In a news conference held on Monday, Hield couldn’t stop smiling at the thought of getting a chance to play Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse that night. It’s that same joy in just lacing them up to play the game of basketball that Oklahoma coaches found when they first starting recruiting Hield in the Bahamas a few years ago. Hield recalls playing in slippers as a youth because he didn’t have any shoes, and now he finds himself enjoying a starring role on an NCAA Tournament-bound team. A quote from that story really shows how much the Oklahoma guard gets it, saying “If you’re doing something you don’t love, what’s the sense in doing it?” I think that’s probably something we could all apply to our own lives.
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Big 12 M5: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on February 7th, 2014

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  1. Texas Tech announced that tomorrow’s game against Oklahoma State will be a sellout. It may not seem like much of a big deal to us on the outside looking in, but it is to those within the Tech athletic department. Saturday will mark the first sellout at United Spirit Arena since January 1, 2007 when the Red Raiders played New Mexico and beat the Lobos 70-68 in overtime. The athletic department did a great job marketing this game urging students to wear all black to the game, use the hashtag #BlackoutTheUSA on social media, and offer a plate of baby back ribs to the first 200 students that show up to the arena early among other promotions. Why ribs and hoops haven’t been marketed together anywhere else is my question.
  2. “Is Travis Ford a good recruiter?” That’s a question I would probably answer yes to but Pistols Firing did some further digging, breaking down each freshman class Ford has had since arriving in Stillwater and what became of them. Ford’s first recruiting class in 2009 was perhaps the most troubling. Out of the seven freshman that came on campus, all of them were gone before any of them completed their junior seasons. But from 2010 to 2013, just five players (including Stevie Clark this season) out of 16 left campus early, meaning he kept approximately 68.8 percent of talent from year-to-year which I would say is solid. Besides that, he’s had a good share of talent to use at his disposal. So to recap, Travis Ford is a pretty good recruiter.
  3. If you haven’t gotten around to it yet, here is a great feature from SI.com’s Luke Winn on Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane. Winn describes the difficult and fascinating road Kane had to travel to not only get to Ames but to reach this point as a human being. Personally, I enjoy pieces like these all the time because it helps us fans remember that these players are more than just a name listed on a box score or just another guy getting a free education. They’re human and they go through many of the same problems that us fans face. Kane has a fan in me.
  4. When it was announced that Tarik Black would be transferring to Kansas, it appeared the bigger stage would be the best option to showcase his skills in an attempt for the NBA Draft. But these days, Black isn’t getting a lot of playing time to even grab the attention of NBA teams but a league of another kind could be interested. When Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers visited Kansas last month, he was intrigued by Black’s 6-foot-9, 260 pound frame saying he wanted to try him out at tight end. As you might know, former college basketball players Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, and Antonio Gates all went on to have successful careers as tight ends in the NFL. It’s a good thing Rodgers wants to give him a try out because I doubt the Kansas City Chiefs or the St. Louis Rams would be willing to give him one.
  5. How many times could you have said a run to Chili’s might have saved a team’s season? Never…until now. During Kansas State’s trip to Puerto Rico, they were coming off a 90-63 defeat to Georgetown and Bruce Weber was so upset with his team’s effort that he refused to get the players food after the game. But Thomas Gipson texted the entire team saying they were going to go to Chili’s instead. When they returned to the hotel, the coaches pulled Gipson aside and asked him to be a team leader and he gladly took on the role. Since then. the Wildcats have won 13 of 17 but are entering a crucial part of their schedule with Texas and Kansas invading Manhattan within the next four days. But all this talk about Chili’s would make one Michael Scott a very happy man.
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Morning Five: 02.07.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 7th, 2014

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  1. If you have watched many Michigan State games this season you have probably heard about the friendship that Adreian Payne has developed with Lacey Holsworth, an eight-year-old who is being treated for a neuroblastoma. Jason King has a phenomenal story on not only the friendship that Payne and Holsworth have developed, but also the obstacles that Payne has overcome to get to where he is today. Outside of the stories regarding Payne and Holsworth our favorite part of the column is how Payne kept John Calipari waiting for an hour because Payne wanted to finish his tutoring session after Calipari had taken a helicopter there to meet him during Payne’s recruitment.
  2. We are nearly a month away from the NCAA Tournament, but we can already say that Creighton will be one of the most intriguing teams in the field. Not only do they have the National Player of the Year in Doug McDermott (you can already send him all the trophies and plaques) and one of the most ridiculous deep threats in the country in Ethan Wragge, but they also have one of the worst defenses among contenders in the country, which means they should be playing highly entertaining games. Now it appears that they may be on the verge of getting back starting point guard Grant Gibbs, who has been out since January 7 after injuring his knee. According to Gibbs there is a chance that he could play as early as tonight against DePaul. The addition of Gibbs, who was averaging 6.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, would make the Bluejays an even more dangerous team in March.
  3. Tarik Black may not be producing the kind of numbers that one would have expected based on the attention his transfer to Kansas generated (for the record, we questioned Black’s utility when schools were chasing after him), but it appears that he has caught the eyes of some individuals as a pro prospect. Perhaps not surprisingly those individuals–Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in particular–are looking at Black as a potential NFL tight end. Given Black’s size and the success of former college basketball players Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Jimmy Graham (and Black’s lack of production on the basketball court) it certainly seems like a feasible option. We will be interested to see how many moderately successful college basketball players decide to pursue this path rather than head overseas to play professional basketball.
  4. Every week Luke Winn’s Power Rankings are filled with a veritable smorgasbord of useful statistics, but usually one or two jump out at us as particularly interesting. This week’s edition is no different as the stat that jumps out at us is how dependent Syracuse is on Trevor Cooney for its three-point shooting as he accounts for 57.1% of the team’s made three-pointers. Only Marcus Paige at North Carolina accounts for a higher percentage at 57.6%. As Winn notes it is risky to rely so heavily on one individual for three-point shooting and it could end up being one of Syracuse’s weaknesses in March that many have overlooked thus far.
  5. On our podcast a few weeks ago Ken Pomeroy talked about the growing influence of advanced metrics at the NBA level and how it is so far beyond anything we saw at the college level. As Kirk Goldberry details these metrics are promising to analyze every move a player makes on the court. If what Goldberry says is true this movement should revolutionize how we analyze players in much the same way that advanced metrics have revolutionized the way baseball players are evaluated. However, as Pomeroy also noted college basketball is pretty far behind the NBA so it will be a long time before we see it at the college level.
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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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Tarik Black Breaks Through For Kansas

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 23rd, 2013

When Tarik Black transferred to Kansas back in May, the perception was that the former Memphis Tiger would contribute experience, stability, and strength down low while the Jayhawks developed Perry Ellis into a consistent threat and showed Joel Embiid what it took to succeed at the college level. Kansas needed to rebuild its frontcourt after Jeff Withey and Kevin Young graduated, and Black was going to be relied upon to do for Bill Self what several players have done for coaches looking to the NCAA’s post-graduate transfer rule for help with roster turnover: provide a leg up and buy the staff time to develop its younger pieces. Then the season started, but a weird thing happened. Black sat and sat and sat.

Tarik Black could be emerging for the Jayhawks just in time for conference play. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Tarik Black could be emerging for the Jayhawks just in time for conference play. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Unable to stay out of foul trouble, Black played just six minutes against Duke in Kansas’ biggest game of their non-conference slate. He played eight minutes in the team’s first loss, a 63-59 defeat at the hands of Villanova. He committed at least three fouls in six of his first seven games and seven of his first eight as a Jayhawk. Even when given extended minutes, he struggled to stay productive, missing close looks, while Embiid showed such accelerated development that he earned Black’s spot in the starting lineup. As a point of reference, when Embiid started playing organized basketball three years ago, Black was beginning his collegiate career after committing to Memphis as a highly-touted prospect. 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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Takeaways For Kansas From Last Night’s Champions Classic

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 13th, 2013

It’s amazing what happens when you put aside the dizzying NBA Draft gossip and just roll out the ball and let two of the nation’s best teams go at it for 40 minutes, isn’t it? For all the hedges and qualifiers about taking the games with a grain of salt, last night’s Champions Classic nightcap was an absolute blast to watch (at least after you got past the 53 fouls that were called). So what did we learn about the Jayhawks during their 94-83 victory over Duke?

Andrew Wiggins Used a Great Second Half to Lead KU to Victory Over Duke

Andrew Wiggins Used a Great Second Half to Lead KU to Victory Over Duke

  • Andrew Wiggins Will Be Just Fine: Bill Self‘s freshman phenom was much more active Tuesday night than he was in Kansas’ season opener last Friday. Wiggins took a seat on the bench for nearly half of the first stanza after picking up his second foul with 9:30 left, but he still finished with 22 points and eight rebounds against the Blue Devils. All night long, he made excellent cuts, drew attention in the post, hit jumpers and skied for boards. Oh, and he played a huge role in closing out a key win on a neutral court for the Jayhawks with everyone in America watching. It’s too simplistic to reduce the Champions Classic finale to a matter of who was better between Wiggins and Jabari Parker, because they were both fantastic in their own ways. But if this is the starting point for the trajectory of Andrew Wiggins, it’s downright terrifying to think of what he could be in four months, let alone three years.

  • Young Bigs Show Development - Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor were mostly non-factors on Tuesday night, but Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid showed what they’re capable of doing inside. Ellis, who was snubbed on the handful of top-100 lists that were released by various media this preseason, displayed an improved arsenal of range and dribbling ability, finishing strong in transition as well as the half-court on his way to a team-high 23 points. We’re not sure if 20-point games should be expected from Ellis on a regular basis, but given Kansas’ mechanical ability to churn out highly skilled big men, we wouldn’t blame you if you bet on it. Meanwhile, Kansas’ Cameroonian freshman showed off some advanced ball-handling skills, feeding both Wiggins and role player Brannen Greene with a couple of impressive dishes in the first half. Typically, passing is one of the last skills that big men perfect on the developmental curve, and it usually doesn’t mature all that much in college, so it was a very nice surprise to see an otherwise raw freshman like Embiid drop a few dimes.

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