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Can Dance Fever Make Kansas Healthy?
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By Wendell Barnhouse | wendell@big12sports.com
Big12Sports.com Correspondent

Could how far Kansas advances in The Big Dance be determined by the Jayhawks' dance moves?

Earlier this season after winning at Ohio State, the school's video department captured Ben McLemore delighting his teammates with his dancing. All that happiness seemed to evaporate with a three-game losing streak that included a stunning loss at TCU.

KU rediscovered its mojo with an 83-62 Big Monday demolition of Kansas State. Then before Saturday's home game with Texas that included ESPN's College GameDay in Allen Fieldhouse, the Jayhawks filmed a Harlem Shake video.

Only those without Internet connections have not been subjected to the viral Harlem Shake. Everybody is doing it. The Jayhawks' choreographer was reserve Justin Wesley.

"I'm not big on social networking," Kansas senior guard Elijah Johnson said. "That was all Justin Wesley. At first, I wasn't big on doing it. I'll step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and I think everyone else felt the same way. When Justin kind of forced us to do it, it turned into us having so much energy yesterday, and we went into practice, and it carried over.

"We just started to realize there is not too much time left to enjoy it. Right now, it is something we can look back on and say, 'Hey when we were going through a bad time, this is when it started to get fun,' and we have a video now to show it."

The video starts with coach Bill Self in the locker room diagramming plays on a white board. He then erases his scribbling and writes "Harlem Shake!!!" When the scene shifted to the locker room dancers and the music started, the fans - especially the student section - watching on the Allen Fieldhouse video screen went kray (thanks, UrbanDictionary.com).

Self noted that it's difficult to have success in college basketball without having fun and it's hard to have fun if you're not successful.

"They wanted me to dance," Self said. "And that wasn't gonna happen. ... I didn't know what the 'Harlem Shake' was. I do think it shows kind of team unity, and the other thing is, I think our fans like seeing that our guys are real."

Kansas, Kansas State and Oklahoma State are in a three-way tie for first place in the Big 12 standings. The Jayhawks visit the Cowboys Wednesday night; one of KU's three losses came against Oklahoma State and started the three-game slide.

Kansas' last visit to the state of Oklahoma resulted in a loss to OU and had the students storming the court at Lloyd Noble Center. Oklahoma State's fans court-stormed after winning Bedlam Saturday. The Jayhawks want to make sure that the Cowboys aren't dancing on the Gallagher-Iba Arena court. Bottom line: make sure the Harlem Sahke doesn't become the Stillwater Slide.

A 'Royal' Opinion
Here's ESPN.com's Jason King's take on Kansas State, one of the three teams tied for first place heading into the Wildcats' Big Monday game with West Virginia:

Kansas State is resilient. Monday's lopsided loss to Kansas hardly affected the Wildcats in Saturday's game against Baylor. Bruce Weber's squad played arguably its best game of the season in an 81-61 rout of the Bears. Here's what impressed me the most: Baylor shaved KSU's 14-point lead to two midway through the first half, but the Wildcats hardly flinched, instead fighting back with a 16-4 march to put the game out of reach.

K-State is one of the few teams in America that has yet to suffer an upset. The Wildcats' five losses are to Kansas (twice), Michigan, Gonzaga and Iowa State (on the road). They are more than deserving of their No. 10 ranking. I will likely vote them even higher this week.

Niang Boosts Cyclones' Inside Game
Iowa State freshman Georges Niang scored a career-high 19 points against TCU Saturday. He played just 23 minutes, partially because of foul trouble and partially because the Cyclones won with ease, 87-53. He got two fouls early in the first half but coach Fred Hoiberg's gamble to keep him in the game paid off.

"He's as versatile player as we have and we love he can score inside and out," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He does a little bit of everything. We're a better team when he's on the floor. He does a good job of using his body guarding bigger players. We just need him to avoid picking up cheap fouls away from the basket."

Teaming with junior Melvin Ejim, the Big 12's leading rebounder, the 6-7 Niang helps the size-challenged Cyclones with his inside presence. Against TCU, Niang used his outstanding footwork and clever moves to make six of nine shots.

"I think just getting slowing down and getting the ball inside and making quality moves," he said. "Before, I felt like I was rushing them. When I slowed down, I felt like I could get any shot off I wanted."

The Rowdy Returns
Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford has campaigned and cajoled folks around Stillwater to "bring the rowdy back" at Gallagher-Iba Arena. It was rowdy Saturday for Bedlam and it should be again Wednesday when Kansas comes calling in the biggest Big 12 game to date.

Before Saturday's game, the line of fans waiting to enter GIA snaked around the facility and all the way to the nearby Wrestling Hall of Fame. Ford, who delivered donuts to students who were waiting to get in, kept receiving updates about the lines before the game. Once it started, Ford knew his team was going to have an edge.

"It was a difference for us," Ford said. "Make no mistake, the crowd and the atmosphere was a difference for us, especially in a game like this where I didn't think we were playing great. We needed that extra and they gave us that extra. It was exciting to see."

Fast Breaks
* Kansas senior center Jeff Withey blocked two shots versus Texas and passed former Longhorn Chris Mihm as all-time blocks leader in Big 12 history. Withey has blocked 265 shots. "It definitely means something to me," Withey said. "I put a lot of hard work into getting it. I have a lot more games to play. Hopefully I can put some distance on it and make sure it doesn't get touched for 20 years or so."

* Kansas stifled Texas Saturday night in Allen Fieldhouse. The lead so large that the student section was chanting for coach Bill Self to send his son Tyler, a walk on, into the game. One of the loudest cheers of the night came when Tyler scored on a runner in the lane. That gave UT coach Rick Barnes a chance to find some humor in the situation. "I told Bill the most disappointing thing was he tried to run the score up with his son," Barnes said.

* Oklahoma State has the chance to sweep the season series with Kansas. The Jayhawks have not been swept since 2001 when Iowa State beat KU twice. Under coach Bill Self, Kansas has swept 40 Big 12 series and split 11.

* After his team lost to Iowa State 87-53, TCU coach Trent Johnson was praising the home team and its chances in the NCAA Tournament. Only he inadvertently called the team the "Hawkeyes." There was silence for a few seconds before Johnson spoke again. "Nobody caught that, huh? Johnson asked, eliciting laughs. "I was waiting on somebody to get upset."

 

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