This just in: The Big 12 Conference will have a competitor at the Final Four.
As anyone familiar with Your Humble Correspondent’s history of incorrect predictions can attest, YHC lacks inside information, a crystal ball or a time machine. So this isn’t about forecasting that the Big 12 will have a team or teams survive until the final weekend of March Madness.
Iowa State first-year coach Fred Hoiberg will be in Houston during Final Four weekend. He’s one of four coaches who have survived and advanced to the free throw final four - the “Shots From The Heart” free throw tournament that has been held this season as a fund-raising tool for the American Heart Association.
Here’s how the competition works: Each coach shoots 25 free throws. The first 20 are worth one point, the next four two points, and the 25th is worth three points. The coach with the highest score advances.
In the “regional finals” this week, Hoiberg and New Mexico coach Steve Alford went overtime. Each made all 25 free throws so the tiebreaker was a shoot-til-you miss contest. Alford, who had defeated Texas Tech’s Pat Knight in the second round, made 52 consecutive free throws.
Hoiberg nearly doubled that, making 102 in a row. In the first four rounds, Hoiberg had made all 25 of his attempts so overall he made 202 in a row before missing.
“I’ve rebounded for Fred twice,” Mike Green, Iowa State’s associate director of athletics communications, told the Des Moines Register. “He doesn’t even warm up. He doesn’t dribble, just shoots. A manager spotted for him when he made the 102, and said it almost seemed impossible, but I believe it. He really is that good a shooter, still.
“One time he made all 25 while he was holding his practice plan in his left hand.”
Hoiberg will face Albany coach Will Brown in the semifinals. The other semifinal will match Arizona’s Sean Miller against UNC-Wilmington’s Buzz Peterson.
The Mayor has always been A Shooter. He made 84.4 percent of his free throws during his four-year Iowa State career. During his 541-game NBA career, he was 85.4 from the line.
This Shots From The Heart promotion has personal meaning for Hoiberg.
He was born with an abnormal aortic valve that eventually led to an aneurism in his aorta and required open heart surgery to correct. A routine life insurance check-up led to a life-saving procedure.
“I was basically playing in the NBA with a time bomb ticking in my chest,” Hoiberg said this week. “This is an important cause for me. I’m one of the millions of people around the world who lives with heart disease. I’m important and blessed to still be around. It’s important for me to spread awareness and raise money.”
Seven and counting
In 15 seasons, Kansas has won or shared 11 regular-season Big 12 titles. With their 64-51 victory over Texas A&M Wednesday night, the Jayhawks clinched at least a tie for the top this season. KU has finished in first place seven consecutive seasons.
“It’s amazing,” coach Bill Self said.
Yes it is. So is Self’s success. He has won seven titles in eight seasons at Kansas. Roy Williams won nine in 15 years and Phog Allen won 24 in 39 seasons. In the last 13 seasons, Self has won 11 conference titles. The other two years, he finished second.
The seven consecutive titles is the longest streak by a team in a Big Six conference since UCLA claimed 13 straight titles from 1967-79. (Gonzaga has won 11 consecutive West Coast Conference titles.)
After defeating the Aggies, Kansas players looked at but didn’t hoist the championship trophy in the locker room. Before doing a post-game interview, Marcus Morris removed the championship t-shirt he and his teammates were wearing. The Jayhawks play at Missouri Saturday and a victory would assure them sole possession of first place.
“Coach said, ‘Congratulations,’ when we walked off the court,” Morris said. “But it’s not over. We’ve got to go to Missouri and win. That’s when we’d probably really have a conversation in the locker room congratulating players.”
Senior Night Sacrifice
Texas Tech senior David Tairu gave up his starting spot during Senior Night so that fellow senior Wally Dunn could make the first start of his career. The symbolic gesture turned out to be a strategic success. Dunn scored 15 points to help the Red Raiders defeat Oklahoma State, 84-58, Wednesday night.
“I just love Wally Dunn,” said Tairu, who came off the bench to score 17. “He’s like my brother.”
The lineup change was last-minute. Tairu, one of six seniors on the team, approached coach Pat Knight and made the suggestion.
“You’ll remember this game forever, for the rest of your life.,” Knight said. “You’ll forget about a lot of the others. I don’t remember a lot of my games my senior year, but I remember senior night, I can tell you the last play I had, who we played and everything. That’s the great thing about this. Years from now they’ll forget overall that it was a tough season, but they’ll have this great memory, which was big for them. They deserve it.”
It’s just a word
By now, Kansas State players and coaches hear the word “adversity” and start laughing. Adversity has become a part of the Wildcats’ season like pre-game layup lines. When you overcome suspensions, departures and disappointing losses, something like lightning striking the team charter is just another day in the life.
On its trip to Austin earlier in the week, Kansas State didn’t reach its hotel until 1:30 a.m. on game day. After lightning hit the plane scheduled to take the Wildcats to Texas, it was declared out of service. The team had to wait until another plane arrived in Manhattan.
Tuesday after Kansas State’s 75-70 victory over the Longhorns, coach Frank Martin underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage in his right knee. He suffered the injury to the knee, which has undergone seven surgeries, during a recent practice.
Adversity has even reached the team’s radio crew. A power outage courtside in the Erwin Center Monday night forced Wyatt Thompson to do play-by-play for the game on his cell phone.
* After Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page made a long-range 3-pointer against Baylor Tuesday night, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden Tweeted, “Keiton Page is displaying Jimmer Fredette range! That was DEEP!!” Informed of the compliment, Page returned the favor. “Actually, I walked through the gym the other day and some of the football guys were out here, and (Weeden) was in here shooting,” Page said. “I was a little surprised. He’s got a nice little jumper himself.”
* Tyshawn Taylor returned from his suspension with a solid effort off the bench against Texas A&M Wednesday night. Kansas coach Bill Self, though, said that sophomore Elijah Johnson would start against Missouri Saturday. “I think Elijah, right now, really deserves the right to continue starting as long as he continues doing what he’s doing,” Self said.
* If Nebraska senior point guard Lance Jeter grabs at least six rebounds and has four assists Saturday at Colorado, he’ll become just the third player in Big 12 history to average five or more rebounds and assists in Conference play. The others were Iowa State’s Jamaal Tinsley in 2000 and Kansas’ Kirk Hinrich in 2002. Jeter is averaging 4.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in Big 12 games.
* Texas shot just 33.8 percent from the field in Monday’s 75-70 loss to Kansas State. It was the Longhorns’ worst shooting performance at home since shooting 32.2 percent in a loss to Oklahoma in 2001.
* Kansas State’s 75-70 victory over No. 7 Texas gave the Wildcats two victories over top 10 teams (they defeated No. 1 Kansas on Feb. 14). That’s the first time Kansas State has accomplished that in 20 years.
* Iowa State is collecting transfers like Charlie Sheen collects interviews. Former Michigan State point guard Korie Lucious is the fifth Division I transfer to join the Cyclones. He’ll enter school next year and sit out the 2011-12 season per NCAA rules. He has one season of eligibility remaining and he’ll play in 2012-13.
Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon on his team’s 64-51 loss at second-ranked Kansas:
“To get to where we want to be, we eventually need to beat a team like Kansas. We haven't been able to. We can't play for 30 minutes and expect to beat a good team. “We were pretty good for about 30 minutes, and then the turnovers did us in. We just didn't play smart in a couple of stretches, and Kansas will make you pay.”
Kansas senior guard Brady Morningstar on the Jayhawks winning seven consecutive Big 12 regular-season titles:
“A lot has to do with our home-court advantage, our fans. This is the best place to play in he world. I’ve heard Cameron Indoor (at Duke) is pretty cool, but there’s not a better venue than this one. Also we don’t look past our conference season.”
Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg on his senior night as a Cyclone:
“I didn’t win the last time I put on a uniform in Hilton Coliseum. I did not play well on Senior Night. I remember it and it still bothers me.”
Kansas State senior guard Jacob Pullen on the Wildcats’ recent resurgence:
"At the beginning of the season, if we were to have got down like we did in the first half against Texas, we would have folded - just thought that the game was over. We would have settled for bad shots and not played good offense or good defense. Now we're to the point where we understand that teams are going to make runs, especially at home. Just got to stay the course, got to value each possession."
Nebraska coach Doc Sadler on dealing with the altitude playing Colorado in Boulder:
“We play inside don’t we? I don’t think altitude affects you if you’re inside the building. Altitude’s something that affects people outside the building.’’