Wendell Barnhouse is a nationally-known and respected columnist who has spent over 20 years covering collegiate athletics. He has reported from 23 Final Fours and more than three dozen bowl games and has written about the Big 12 and its schools since the conference's beginning. Barnhouse will be updating the Big 12 Insider on happenings and behind-the-scenes information about the conference.
|Saturday, March 27|
Gosh darn, it's a good rule
During Saturday's hour-long media session with both teams in Sunday's South Regional final, it was revealed that Baylor coach Scott Drew has a no-cussing rule. If a player is a foul mouth in practice, he has to hit the floor for push ups.
Discussing the rule evoked some giggles among the five Baylor players on the podium (starters Tweety Carter, LaceDarius Dunn, Anthony Jones, Josh Lomers and Epke Udoh). Dunn was asked if he had to adjust and swear off swearing.
"It wasn't an adjustment. I never did cuss anyway," he said, laughing along with his teammates. "It wasn't an adjustment to me."
A few minutes later, Dunn was asked if he had ever heard his coach go four letter with his language.
"No, he's not that guy," Dunn said. "He's not the guy that you're going to see cussing and just throw a temper tantrum like that. But even if you do something bad on the court or make a bonehead play, he's not that guy to do those type of things or say those type of things. ... Never seen him slip, not yet."
When it was Drew's turn to answer questions, his no cuss rule came up.
"The reason we do a no-cussing policy is simple," he said. "We know we have a lot of kids and people that come around us, and the right thing to do is not have that type of language. We don't want a seven-year-old coming to our practice and going home and telling mom and dad something they picked up. So we try to be good role models, good examples.
"When you mess up (cuss), you've got push-ups. So you can probably tell the strongest guys on the team, they cuss the most ... just kidding."
* Over the last three years, the Big 12 has sent six different schools to the Elite Eight. Baylor and Kansas State this year, Oklahoma and Missouri last year and Kansas and Texas in 2008.
* A group of Baylor officials, including athletic director Ian McCaw, flew on a private charter flight from Houston to Memphis to watch the Lady Bears knock off top-seed Tennessee in the NCAA women's Sweet 16. After the game, they flew back to Houston for Sunday's Baylor-Duke Elite Eight game.
* And the Baylor backers will see quite enough of Duke. Not only are the Blue Devils and the Bears hooking up in the South Regional final, but Monday in Memphis the Lady Bears will face second-seeded Duke in the Memphis Regional final with a trip to the Final Four on the line. According to STATS Inc. that's the first time that two schools have been matched in men's and women's regional finals in the same year.
* Duke senior guard Jon Scheyer on how the Blue Devils need to attack Baylor's zone defense: "We need to go inside and out. You get better looks when you go inside and then out. We can have some great looks inside with our bigs. The main key against the zone is to be patient."
* From Oklahoma City to Houston, Your Humble Correspondent has reported on eight NCAA Tournament games and watched what seems like 800 commercials while watching dozens of other NCAA games on TV. YHC wants to know why the same eight commercials are repeated over and over and over and over and over ... C'mon, sponsors, a little variety, huh?
* Even Butler's tempting and teasing of the Basketball Gods failed to help Kansas State. Early in the second half of the Bulldogs' 63-56 victory - which was in doubt until the last four minutes - the school's official web site had a headline and a link for "Final Four Ticket Information." As it turned out, Butler will indeed be selling tickets for the Final Four in its home city of Indianapolis on Sunday and Monday. But that's some serious premature celebrating that certainly tempted fate.
In the end, sadness
Oklahoma City last Saturday, Salt Lake City this Saturday. The locations change but the emotions are the same.
In the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the OKC Ford Center, top-seeded Kansas had their championship hopes crushed by No. 9 seed Northern Iowa. You could see the anguish on their faces, hear the hurt in their voices when the Jayhawks talked about the sudden end to such a promising season.
Saturday in the SLC EnergySolutions Arena, the lights went out on Kansas State's season. The second-seeded Wildcats, who had wowed the nation with their double overtime victory over Xavier Thursday night, couldn't make the plays and close the deal against fifth-seeded Butler.
"I never want to feel this way again," Kansas State freshman forward Wally Judge said
"It hurts, and it's going to hurt for a while," junior guard Jacob Pullen said.
There's a solid theory that regional final games are the most pressure-packed and sting the worst for the losers. One victory from the Final Four, the second-seeded Wildcats found themselves out-scrapped, out-hustled and out-defended by Butler.
And that's not an indictment of K-State. The Wildcats poured out the energy and the effort, all that was left after Thursday night's three-hour passion play. The Bulldogs' 63-56 victory was constructed because the ball bounced their way and their key shots fell.
"All the hard word work, and all the stuff we did throughout the season," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said, "wasn't quite good enough to get us past today."
Your Humble Correspondent counted at least 13 possessions where Kansas State came up empty. Missed layups (six), offensive rebounds not converted (four), a missed dunk, another dunk in transition wiped out by traveling.
"We missed layups," said Pullen, a player who doesn't sugar coat or dodge questions. "Good defense, bad defense, it doesn't matter. We missed layups, and that's all there is to it."
One of the few breaks Kansas State produced came when Clemente missed the front end of a one-and-one. Dominique Sutton dug out the rebound and found Clemente for a 3-pointer that gave the Wildcats a 52-51 lead at 4:51.
Kansas State, though, had no answer Butler's game-winning 12-4 run - constructed on four hard-driving, tough-minded layups and four free throws. The game-winning spurt started when Butler missed a 3-pointer. The Wildcats failed to put a body on Butler's Gordon Hayward (22 points, nine rebounds). He grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Shooting a one-and-one, his first free throw hit the front of the rim, bounced and nearly stopped on the iron before falling through. He made the second and Kansas State never led again. If that first free throw falls off instead of in ... who knows?
The Wildcats made just seven-of-14 free throws (Clemente missed a huge one-and-one with 1:33 remaining and K-State trailing 58-54). Butler was 14-of-20. Seven-point difference at the line, seven-point difference on the scoreboard.
"We were right there," Pullen said. "Four minutes left and you're cutting down the nets if you play well. We let it slip through our hands."
Even from 1,500 miles away, you can read those words and hear the emotion.
|Friday, March 26|
Up next for Baylor: Duke
HOUSTON - Top-seeded Duke survived an alley fight with undermanned but ferocious Purdue, pulling away in the second half for a 70-57 South Regional semifinal victory Friday.
The Blue Devils (32-5) are a victory away from their 15th Final Four. Duke will face third-seeded Baylor (28-7) in the regional final at 4:05 p.m. Sunday. The Bears strolled past 10th-seeded Saint Mary's, 72-49, in the first semifinal.
"I haven't watched Baylor," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "I'll know about them (by Saturday afternoon). I know they're very athletic and play a great zone with length. We'll be playing an entirely different system."
Indeed. As Texas A&M can attest, the fourth-seeded Boilermakers (29-6) are a tough-minded bunch who rely on bodying up on defense. With leading scorer Robbie Hummel sidelined since late February with an ACL tear, Purdue's game plan has been to win with defense.
As The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy tweeted during the first half, "This game is right where Purdue wants it: in the 1930s." For most of the first 20 minutes, the Boilermakers harassed Duke into turnovers (11) and misses (the Blue Devils missed 22 of their 29 attempts.
A Kyle Singler 3-pointer and a follow shot by Nolan Smith was a 5-0 mini-run that allowed the Blue Devils to take a 24-23 lead to the locker room.
"We were struggling in the first half," said Singler, who scored a game-high 24. "We weren't playing how we wanted to play. It was important we did something. It was a big boost just being up one at half."
The Blue Devils eventually pulled away in the second half. Smith scored seven straight to provide a 49-40 edge with 8:01 to play. Against a Purdue team that was offensively challenged, that was a deficit too large to overcome.
"We played hard in the first half but they played harder," said Krzyzewski, who has won a record 74 NCAA Tournament games. "In the second half, we played harder. This is a game nobody loses. We had to win it."
* Since 2002, the Big 12 has placed more teams in regional finals than any other conference. Counting this year's NCAAs, the Big 12 has placed 16 teams in the Elite Eight over the last nine seasons. The Big East is second with 13 Elite Eight teams.
* Purdue senior guard Chris Kramer, who had 17 points including the game-winning layup in overtime against Texas A&M, was scoreless against Duke. He missed all five of his field goal attempts and his only try from the free throw line.
* The toughness and physical nature of the Duke-Purdue game was evident midway through the second half when Duke center Brian Zoubek twice (legally) body checked Kramer on screens. After the second screen, Kramer was woozy and on his back for a few minutes. Both Singler and Duke guard Jon Scheyer say they've had stitches after colliding with Zoubek in practice.
* Duke got a combined 21 rebounds from the center combo of 7-foot Zoubek and 6-10 sophomore Miles Plumlee. The Blue Devils had a 48-27 rebounding edge.
* Baylor's 29-point halftime lead (46-17) on Saint Mary's was the third-largest halftime lead in a Sweet 16 game (since 1975).
* Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn became the school's single-season scoring leader when he scored to give the Bears a 13-5 lead. Dunn finished with 23 points and has scored 682 this season, passing Darryl Middleton, who scored 666 points in 34 games during the 1987-88 season. Dunn nearly outscored Saint Mary's in the first half; he had 15 and the Gaels had 17.
Instant classic: Kansas State 101, Xavier 96 in 2 OTs
Your Humble Correspondent has been fortunate to have witnessed some of the best games in NCAA Tournament history. Kansas State's double overtime defeat of Xavier Thursday night was neither the greatest NCAA game ever nor was it the greatest game YHC has ever seen.
But it is on both lists.
The Wildcats' West Regional semifinal victory ... triumph ... conquest - ah, what the heck, no word is sufficient - was so memorable because it was one of those games that seemed to have everything. So many plays, so many big shots, so many emotional swings that trying to chronicle them all would wear down the laptop keys.
Kansas State raced to a 15-point lead (the margin of its December victory over Xavier in Manhattan). The Musketeers stiffened, rallied and led at halftime, 32-31.
For the last 20 minutes of game time, each possession was its own passion play. Starting with the 7:08 mark of the second half to the Wildcats' game-clinching free throws with 12 seconds remaining in the second overtime, neither team had a lead of more than four points. In the 10 minutes of overtime, the lead changed hands six times and six times the score was tied. Each possession was its own passion play.
Coach Frank Martin's halftime speech to his team aired on CBS. He basically chastised the Wildcats for playing silly basketball over the last 10 minutes of the first half. There was nothing silly about how they played over the last 30 minutes.
Kansas State's aggressiveness - and some ill-advised reach-ins and steal attempts - put too many players in foul trouble. Wally Judge and Dominique Sutton fouled out. But over the last five minutes of regulation and the OT periods, the Wildcats played with a purpose and determination. In the extra sessions, K-State pounded the ball inside for easy baskets. The only hiccup was fouling Terrell Holloway at the end of the regulation, which led to his three game-tying free throws.
"It took a lot of courage for our guys to stay the course, especially what happened in regulation and overtime," Martin said. "That's what these kids are all about."
While Jacob Pullen (28 points, including some stone-cold 3-pointers) and Denis Clemente (25 points, 21 after halftime) were again Kansas State's go-to guys, junior Curtis Kelly manned up in both overtimes. He finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and five blocks. His low-post scoring gave the Wildcats balanced they desperately needed.
Being part of a classic game always connects a program with history. Winning a classic game is preferable.
"It was a classic," who played 40 minutes and sat the other 10 because of foul trouble. "It was two teams who didn't want their seasons to end. Every time we thought the game was over, we would walk to the line and you could see it in their eyes that they didn't want the game to end, either."
The blessing/curse of NCAA Tournament games (other than the championship) is that "next" is always waiting. All the talking, writing, analyzing and remembering is a nice way to pass the time on off days but Kansas State's victory in the semifinals will mean little if it doesn't beat Butler in Saturday's regional final.
Oh, yeah, in the By The Way Department: Butler knocked off top-seeded Syracuse in Thursday night's first regional semifinal game. Not that any outside of Indianapolis or up-state New York will remember.
If you stayed up for the entire Kansas State over Xavier double overtime classic, good for you. If you didn't, turn in your March Madness pass now. Either way, here are some links to fill you in on the Wildcats' West Regional semifinal victory Thursday night.
Gregg Doyel of CBSSports.com says Kansas State's double-overtime victory is the best game of the NCAA Tournament.
Mark Schlablach of ESPN.com writes that Kansas State landed the last punch in a heavyweight fight.
Josh Herwitt of FoxSports.com writes that Kansas State might be a team of destiny;
Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star says the Wildcats avoided a flash back to a painful moment in the school's athletic history.
Here are two video clips, courtesy of The March Madness. One highlights some of the game announcing by CBS' Gus Johnson. The other shows the celebration in Manhattan.
|Thursday, March 25|
NCAA MEN'S SOUTH REGIONAL NOTES
Dunn and done
Baylor junior guard LaceDarius Dunn needs eight more points to set the school's single-season scoring record. He enters Friday night's South Regional semifinal game with Saint Mary's having scored 659 points in 34 games. During the 1987-88 season, Darryl Middleton scored 666 points in 34 games.
"It would mean a great deal to me," Dunn said of becoming Baylor's scoring leader for a season. "But it would mean a lot more if we win the game."
In the 10th-seeded Gaels, the third-seeded Bears are facing one of the Sweet 16 Cinderella teams. And Dunn doesn't think Baylor belongs in the glass slipper category.
"I don't think of us as any Cinderella," he said. "This is no surprise to me at all. I knew we were a good team. I knew we could do great things. It's all on us. We control our own destiny."
Tweety and his Twitter Tweets
Your Humble Correspondent decided to ask a question that has haunted him since he became addicted to Twitter, the social networking site (twitter.com/Big12Conference). When Baylor's Tweety Carter was on the podium, YHC posed this question:
"America wants to know: Do you have a Twitter account, and if so, when is the last time you tweeted?"
Carter smiled but his answer wasn't all that revealing. "I actually do," he said. "But I don't be on it like that, so probably a long ... I never wrote on it or anything. I just have it."
Omar the joke maker
Saint Mary's senior center Omar Samhan has become a media darling because of his sense of humor. He was asked at Thursday's news conference if he was having fun.
"No, it's been a boring week," he said, then smiled.
Here's how much fun he's having. Samhan was asked about his Twitter account where one of the people he's following is singer Taylor Swift.
"Are those cameras on?" Samhan asked. "I love you, Taylor. You should call me."
He went on to explain that he's a huge Taylor Swift fan and he listens to her music before games because, "I'm just like a time bomb waiting to go off. So it keeps me mellow."
Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett said he's not worried that Samhan is going too far with his quotable comments and his sense of humor.
"Omar's smart," he said. "He knows this is the time to have some fun, enjoy this moment. Yet when it comes time to play, it's game mode, compete mode."
* Samhan on Baylor's 6-10 Epke Udoh: "He can jump. I can't. He's fast and I'm not. He's strong and I'm not. Although I will have trouble guarding him, I think he will have trouble guarding me. The biggest thing is, is he going to go one-one one with me or are they going to run that zone?"
* After Saint Mary's won its first-round game over Richmond, Samhan had this witty comment: "I've had tons of e-mails saying I can't believe you won, you messed up my bracket. And that's from my mom." Provide your own rim shot. http://www.instantrimshot.com/
* Saint Mary's senior forward Ben Allen on Baylor's zone defense: "We welcome that, you know. We had zone played against us throughout the season and we've done well against it. We've got great shooters. Omar's a great low post player. I can step in the high post and make good decisions whether to kick it out to the shooters or kick it inside too, so we welcome the zone."
* Your Humble Correspondent walked into the media dining area at Reliant Stadium Thursday just as the last 16 seconds of the Kansas-Northern Iowa game was being replayed on the television monitors. Thanks so much, CBSCollegeSports.
* Baylor has never faced Saint Mary's. This will be the 13th first-time opponent for Baylor over the last two seasons. The Bears are 11-1 in those games and has won eight consecutive games.
* Scott Drew's father Homer, the coach at Valparaiso, made the trip to Houston - some Baylor folks have renamed the city Drewston - to watch his son's team play in the Sweet 16. Under the current bracketing format adopted in 1985, only three father-son combinations have coached in the NCAAs - John Thompson and John Thompson III (Georgetown), Dick Bennett (Wisconsin) and Tony Bennett (Washington State) and Homer Drew (Valparaiso) and Scott Drew (Baylor).
|Wednesday, March 24|
A Wildcat never forgets
The last two times Kansas State and Xavier played, each team rolled up big victories on its home court. The Wildcats beat the Musketeers 71-56 on Dec. 8 in Manhattan. But according to junior guard Jacob Pullen, that hardly makes up for the previous meeting.
On New Year's Eve in 2007, Kansas State traveled to Cincinnati and Xavier put a 103-77 whuppin' on the Wildcats.
"You don't forget things like that," Pullen said Wednesday in Salt Lake City, site of the West Regional. "They just really did what they wanted. They laughed on the court, played around. You just don't forget things like that. So when you get the opportunity to play against a team like that you always remember that, no matter if it's one person from that team or 10 people from that same team. There's some bad blood, but it's nothing serious, nothing to start a fight about."
Rebounding from a loss
Xavier's loss at Kansas State last December was one of those games where the Wildcats pummeled their opponent on the boards. In the first half, Kansas State had a 28-8 rebounding advantage, including an 11-1 edge in offensive rebounds.
"They're a very physical team," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "It was our first true road test of the season. We certainly didn't pass it. But I thought it made our kids and our team a lot stronger and a lot better because of it. I think we've gotten better on both ends of the basketball since that time.
"We certainly improved offensively. I think we've been a team that has had that inside-outside balance that you need. I think defensively we've continued to progress from day one. We didn't play necessarily a bad game defensively against Kansas State, we just had no answer for them on the backboard against Kansas State."
* Those who tune in Thursday night for the West Regional semifinal between Kansas State and Xavier might notice something odd. Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway, the Musketeers starting guards, both wear un-guard-like numbers. Crawford is No. 55, Holloway is No. 52. Those are numbers usually given in centers or forwards.
* Crawford, Xavier's leading scorer, gained fame last summer when he dunked over LeBron James in a summer camp game. For a time, the video of the slam was confiscated so as not to embarrass the Cleveland Cavalier but it eventually found its way to the Internet.
* Xavier went 14-2 in the Atlantic 10 Conference and is one of three A-10 teams that made the bracket. The Musketeers had a key non-conference victory at Florida (an NCAA Tournament team) and also defeated Rhode Island, which has made the final four in the NIT.
* Kansas State's Curtis Kelly on how Xavier has improved from early December, when the Wildcats beat the Musketeers by 15 points in Manhattan: "To be honest, they're a real different team from when we saw them earlier in the year. They share the ball more, they run the plays better and I think they're buying into what the coach is telling them. They weren't meshing as a team like they are now."
* Kansas State will face Xavier on the 22nd anniversary of the school's last Sweet 16 victory. On March 25, 1988 the Wildcats beat No. 1 seed Purdue, 73-70, in the semifinals of the Midwest Regional. Kansas State lost in the regional final to in-state rival Kansas, who went on to win the national championship.
* Xavier's Kenny Frease on teammate Jordan Crawford, who had a total of 55 points in the Musketeers' two NCAA victories: "He's in a zone that not many people on this planet can get into. He's torched the last couple teams we've played. I really don't see it changing, not because Kansas State isn't a good defensive team, (but) because it's going to be tough for anybody to stop him."
* In the "For What It's Worth Department," the local CBS affiliate in Salt Lake City has opted to televise the Kentucky-Cornell game from the East Regional instead of the Kansas State-Xavier game from the West Regional being played in Salt Lake City's EnergySolutions Arena.
* And from the "Didn't Know That Department," Kansas State's Jacob Pullen collects basketball shoes. He says he has more than 130 pairs and most of them are stored in his parents' home near Chicago. But he has quite a collection in his apartment in Manhattan. That allows him to switch shoes if he feels like he (or the shoes) are in a slump. According to the Wichita Eagle, Pullen has changed shoes at halftime. So his teammates have nicknamed him "Switcheroo."
One man's crystal ball
Seth Davis of CBS Sports NCAA Tournament studio show and SI.com predicts how this week's regional semifinals and finals will play out. Here's what he foresees the West Regional (Kansas State) and the South Regional (Baylor)
Kansas State vs. Xavier: Xavier is not used to playing teams with a guard tandem that is as good if not better than theirs, but that is what they're facing in Kansas State. The Musketeers' Jordan Crawford will be the best guard in the game, but as a twosome Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente are more potent than Crawford and Terrell Holloway. Xavier will have more size inside, but Kansas State has more quickness up front and overall toughness up and down the roster. Predicted score: Kansas State 78, Xavier 75.
Regional final, Syracuse vs. Kansas State: As Syracuse moves along, it is going to be harder to envision the Orange winning games without Arinze Onuaku. I am going to assume that he will at least be available (albeit limited) for this game, and given the way Andy Rautins and Wesley Johnson are playing, that should be enough. Predicted score: Syracuse 72, Kansas State 69.
Baylor vs. Saint Mary's: The Gaels are going to face the same challenge as Northern Iowa with respect to maintaining their mental edge, but they have a bigger problem -- literally. While Richmond and Villanova had gaping holes in the middle, leaving them defenseless against Omar "Mr." Samhan, Baylor's front line consists of 6-foot-10 Ekpe Udoh, 6-10 Anthony Jones and 7-foot Josh Lomers, with 6-7 Quincy Acy coming off the bench. That's 20 fouls if you're scoring at home. St. Mary's is a great three-point shooting team and they should get a few looks against Baylor's zone, but the Bears have a sweet guard tandem of their own in Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn. Predicted score: Baylor 85, St. Mary's 75.
Regional final, Duke vs. Baylor: This is a scary matchup for the Blue Devils, especially since the Bears would have a de facto home court advantage in Houston. Duke's problem this season has been the fact that it rarely gets all three of its Big Three clicking at the same time. They won't beat Baylor if Jon Scheyer can't make threes, but my sense is that Scheyer, and the Devils, will rise to the occasion on the big stage. Predicted score: Duke 77, Baylor 74.
Why and why not for Kansas State and Baylor
Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com assessed the Sweet 16 by writing the reasons why each team would make the Final Four and then listing the reasons why they wouldn't. Here's how he broke down the two remaining Big 12 teams:
Why: These guys are tough - especially the backcourt duo of Denis Clemente and Jake Pullen - and have taken on the personality of their coach, Frank Martin. Clemente, a senior, has run the team and Pullen has slid over to the off-guard spot, but both can make plays for themselves and their teammates. While K-State may not be huge up front, with the exception of Luis Colon, it is plenty athletic with guys like Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels and Wally Judge.
Why not: Pullen and Clemente are solid, but the frontcourt has been too erratic throughout the season. Samuels and Kelly are the X-factors, and are too inconsistent with their effort and sense of urgency.
Why: The Bears are far more adept defensively with the addition of Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh. In the past, Scott Drew's team couldn't stop anyone. Now, the perimeter players can take chances due to the presence of a big-time shot-blocker like the 6-foot-9 Udoh. Baylor has frontline length with Udoh, Josh Lomers and Anthony Jones, and the threat of one of the nation's most explosive backcourts, with Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn.
Why not: Discipline. The Bears are prone to taking ill-advised shots and making poor decisions on the offensive end. It'll come down to Carter and Dunn and how they take care of the ball.
|Wednesday, March 24|
Make sure you take the time to watch this; it's must-see web video - Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly's locker room speech to his team after the Cyclones reached the Sweet 16 with a gutsy, hard-fought victory over Green Bay Tuesday night.
Iowa State played hard enough and well enough to edge Green Bay and earn the school's fifth Sweet 16 trip.
Tough times in Oklahoma for basketball coach Jeff Capel as the roster continues to shrink.
Jennis Carlson of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma is advancing to the Sweet 16 where it will meet No. 2 seed Notre Dame - a team that should bring out the best in the Sooners.
Oklahoma freshman point guard Tommy Mason-Griffin confirms that he's leaving school to play professional basketball.
Kansas State coach Frank Martin recalls his scary brush with death just weeks after he had arrived in Manhattan in 2006.
CBSCollegeSports.com had an all-access pass to Kansas State in Oklahoma City for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
|Monday, March 22|
NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
It's not fair, but "close" doesn't count
Since probably kindergarten, we've been told that life is not fair. Neither is March Madness.
The Big 12 placed a record seven teams in the NCAA Men's Tournament. Two teams advanced to the Sweet 16. No. 3 seed Baylor will face No. 10 Saint Mary's in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Houston. No. 2 Kansas State will face No. 6 Xavier in the West Regional semifinals Thursday in Salt Lake City.
Unless you've been locked in a sound-proof booth during the weekend, you're aware that top-seeded, top-ranked Kansas was shocked in the second round by Northern Iowa. Four other Big 12 teams lost, two in overtime. The five losses came by a total of 19 points.
Let's put that in perspective. Coming into this season, the Big 12 had lost 50 NCAA games - 32 by single digits. Six of those losses had come by two or fewer points; on the opening weekend, the Big 12 lost three games by two points. Also, the Big 12 now has played nine NCAA games that went overtime and has lost seven of them (one of the two victories was Kansas' national championship victory over Memphis in 2008).
In 2004 and 2006, the Big 12 had four NCAA teams each year. The four losses those two years were by a total of 23 points (average margin of 4.6 points). This year, the five losses by 19 points is an average margin of 3.8 points.
* Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon after his team's season ended with a gut-punch overtime loss to Purdue Sunday: "Well, all losses hurt. Some sting more than others and obviously this one really stings. Our last 2 1/2 minutes defense in regulation was as good as I've seen and I thought we had them in overtime and they just made some plays. In a game this tight, you can't give up layups but more than anything I'm sad because this has been one of the best years of my life. And coaching these guys has been so much fun. I'm really going to miss coaching this team."
* After Missouri's 68-59 loss to second-seeded West Virginia Sunday, coach Mike Anderson told the Tigers he was more proud of them than any team he as coached. "I made a statement at the beginning of the year," Anderson said. "I'm sure a lot of people picked up on it, a lot of people didn't. They talked about our team losing 1,000-point scorers (DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons, Matt Lawrence), three great players that are playing professional ball. I said it depends on how you look at the hourglass. You can look at it half-full or half-empty. I think a lot of people probably wrote that we are probably going to be half-empty. I think people now see what I was talking about. It was half-full. ... They never complained. They continued to work. That's why I said I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys, because they paid the ultimate price. These were the most selfless guys I've ever been around. You don't find that a whole lot in college basketball. A lot of guys are about 'me.' These guys were about the team."
* The West Regional semifinal game Thursday between No. 2 Kansas State and No. 6 Xavier is a rematch of a 71-56 Wildcats victory in Manhattan on Dec. 8. Kansas State got 16 points from Jacob Pullen while Curtis Kelly had 15 points and nine rebounds. The Wildcats held the Musketeers to 29.4 percent shooting and had a 46-33 rebounding edge. Xavier is one of two teams that have reached the Sweet 16 each of the last three seasons; the other is Michigan State.
* The Sweet 16 has teams from 11 different conferences. The seeds are also distributed: three No. 1s, three No. 2s, one No. 3, one No. 4, two No. 5s, two No. 6s, one No. 9, one No. 10, one No. 11 and one No. 12.
Thoughts and observations
* Kansas fans will be asking themselves "why us?" for a long time. Sometimes, the Basketball Gods are angry and pick on a team for no particular reason. A player (Ali Farokhmanesh) who lists Muhammad Ali as one of his favorite historical figures found himself in position to throw two knockout punches. After a mad scramble that almost resulted in a turnover, he found himself open and made a 25-footer to beat UNLV in the first round. That set up his late-game dagger against the Jayhawks. It says here if UNLV beats Northern Iowa then Kansas beats UNLV in Round Two. Fate can be fickle, folks.
* Northern Iowa is the best No. 9 seed in this bracket - another point to ponder for Kansas fans. The other nine seeds were Florida State, Wake Forest and Louisville. Those three are teams from who finished in middle of the standings of their Big Six conferences. Had any of those three been in Oklahoma City, they would have been satisfied with winning their first-round game and wouldn't have played the Jayhawks with the intensity and resolve displayed by UNI. The Panthers won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and post-season titles. They weren't satisfied with a one and one and done NCAA trip.
* Here's one more point to ponder for KU fans. Coach Bill Self raised the issue of pressing Northern Iowa earlier. UNLV, after all, pressed the entire first-round game, forcing 16 turnovers and keeping the Panthers jittery for 40 minutes. Kansas didn't start pressing until the final 10 minutes but the strategy was effective and turned the game flow in the Jayhawks' favor.
* Watching the replay of Farokhmanesh's game-clinching, stone-cold 3-pointer for Northern Iowa in the final minute, a Kansas player came within inches of picking off a bounce pass in the Northern Iowa back court. Once that pass was safe, the ball was moved up the floor to Farokhmanesh, who waited for a KU player to fly past then buried the three.
* Your Humble Correspondent understands how difficult it is to master the sport of basketball and that the skill level is off the charts for both the men and women who play Big 12 basketball. Having said that, YHC has seen way too many missed layups/follow shots/1-foot jump hooks. And free throws ... don't get YHC started on free throws. Practice 'em. Make 'em. Please.
* Here's why YHC is a free throw freak: In the Big 12's five NCAA losses by a total of 19 points, the five opponents outscored Big 12 teams at the free throw line by 21 points. The five teams that beat Big 12 teams made 86-of-107 free throws (80.3 percent). The five Big 12 teams were 64-of-101 from the line (63.3 percent).
* A lot of March sadness in Austin. This is just the third time since the Big 12 started that Texas men's and women's teams have exited the NCAAs without winning a game. The Longhorns' loss to San Diego State Sunday night was particularly surprising. After three seasons, coach Gail Goestenkors has yet to get UT to the second weekend. "When I first got here, before I coached one game, I thought I could turn it around and be who I wanted us to be right away,"' she said, "but after a couple of weeks I realized it was a bigger challenge that I thought."
* "Value every possession." Coaches say it so often that it has become a cliché. But clichés are often clichés because they're true. And in the NCAAs, every possession is precious. The bounce of a ball off the rim or on a rebound, an officiating call, a failure to block out on a rebound - those are just some of the factors that determine winners and losers. Possessions that end in turnovers, missed free throws or failed conversions with offensive rebounds are the factors that losing teams ponder as they sleeplessly toss and turn.
* Kansas State and Baylor were selected as Final Four favorites before the Madness started during the first weekend. The second-seeded Wildcats and the third-seeded Bears were good choices for these reasons - guard play, strong and deep front courts. Here's another Final Four Factor to consider. Teams that finish second, third or fourth in the nation's top conference often will be dangerous tourney teams because they're accustomed to competing at a high level and they enter the postseason without the burden of high expectations (see: Kansas).
* Baylor has reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. That's not a shocking statement considering the Bears' first-round defeat of Sam Houston State was their first NCAA victory in 50 years. The last time Baylor won an NCAA game was 1950 when the NCAA Tournament had just eight teams - so there was no Sweet 16.
* Now that former Texas coach Tom Penders has resigned at Houston, look for former Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie, who is trying to resurrect his career after an ill-fated tenure at Kentucky, to be a prime candidate to become the Cougars' next coach.
Links worth clicking
Texas A&M coach Gary Blair knows his second-seeded Aggies will be facing one of the nation's top point guards when it plays Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament.
Baylor, which faces No. 5 seed Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA women's tournament Monday, has been buoyed by the return of junior guard Melissa Jones.
Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma State senior guard Andrea Riley, forced to sit out the Cowgirls' opener because of a one-game NCAA suspension, will be primed to make up for missing the first-round victory.
Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star writes that The Blame Game shouldn't be played when it comes to Kansas' upset loss to Northern Iowa.
Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com reflects on top-seeded Kansas' shocking second-round loss to Northern Iowa.
And here's what ESPN.com's Pat Forde wrote about Northern Iowa's upset of Kansas.
|Saturday, March 20|
NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
A&M's Turgeon, Purdue's Painter will put friendship aside
Texas A&M and Purdue square off in the second round of the South Regional Sunday and both coaches have a friendship forged when they were assistant coaches.
Aggies coach Mark Turgeon and Boilermakers coach Matt Painter served as assistant coaches at Missouri Valley Conference schools -Turgeon at Wichita State and Painter at Southern Illinois.
"Matt has gotten a lot out of his team," Turgeon said. "I think what happened is they got mad at everybody saying they were going to lose (against Siena). They regrouped and had a great game. I know they're going to run their motion offense. I know they're going to be real physical. They're going to guard us. It's going to be two defensive-minded teams."
The friendship and the praise will end at tipoff.
"We want to advance," said Turgeon, whose team lost in the second round to a No. 1 seed each of the last two seasons. "Just to make the tournament five years in a row is huge, but we didn't come here just to win the first game. Hopefully we can play well on Sunday and give ourselves a chance to move on."
Aggies coach likes ... the other Aggies
After his team lost to Texas A&M, 69-53, in the first round of the South Regional Friday, Utah State coach Stew Morrill heaped praise on the Aggies from the Big 12 Conference.
"We haven't played anybody as good as Texas A&M," he said. "That's a 13 RPI team, a Top-25 team, an 11-5 team in the best conference in the country and they showed me why today."
"It was the competition. I don't think our guys gave in and quit playing, I think that Texas A&M just physically dominated us. They are strong, big, they're very well coached. You know one thing I will mention, they have a zero knucklehead factor. Sometimes, we can have a chance to gain a little advantage if we play a team that has the knucklehead factor, they don't. And that's a credit to Mark and the job he's doing and to the caliber of kids that they have. Because there was none of that. They are all about being together and defending and playing good basketball.
"Texas A&M dominated the basketball game, they're bigger, they're stronger. If you watch the game, you could see the domination by their athletes and their length and we would have had to really have an excellent shooting night. I see them very capably advancing in this tournament."
Big 12 vs. Big East: Debate, discuss
With No. 10 Missouri facing second-seeded West Virginia Sunday in the second round of the East Regional, the debate about which conference is the best can go to the scoreboard for a decision.
The Big 12 placed seven teams in the NCAA bracket while the Big East placed eight of its 16 teams. The Big 12 went 5-2 in the first round while the Big East went 4-4. One of those first-round winners, No. 2 seed Villanova, was upset Saturday by No. 10 Saint Mary's.
Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins, who coached at Kansas State for one season, went from singing the praises of the Big 12 during that one season to now claiming the Big East's superiority. Tigers guard Zaire Taylor, who grew up in Big East country points out the Big 12 is better this season because it has more quality teams.
None of that will matter Sunday in Buffalo.
"It's Missouri versus West Virginia. That's where (the debate) stops," Taylor said. "At the end of the day, we want to win and I'm sure West Virginia wants to win.
"I honestly don't think there's a rivalry. I think a couple of years ago you would have been saying the same thing about the ACC and the Big East. Right now I think we're the two best conferences in college basketball. So there's a lot of talk about it."
* Northern Iowa's men's team played top-seeded Kansas Saturday in Oklahoma City Saturday while the school's women's team is making its first-ever NCAA appearance when it faces top-seeded Nebraska Sunday in Minneapolis. The quality of the opponents were the least of the worries for the school's administration. There is only one official Panthers mascot and traveling from OKC to Minny in less than 24 hours will be a challenge. The pep band needs to transport its brass on the same trip. As one might imagine, no one at the school is complaining.
* Conner Teahan, a junior walk-on on the Kansas basketball team, is considering trying out for the Jayhawks football team and new coach Turner Gill. Teahan was a highly recruited as a quarterback out of Kansas City's Rockhurst High. "I would be lying if I told you it didn't cross my mind, that's for sure," the 6-foot-5, 215-pound guard told the Lawrence Journal-World. before Friday's basketball practice inside the Ford Center. "But I don't know. Would I do it? I'm not saying I wouldn't do it, but we'd have to see where we are at the end of the basketball season."
* The last 10 No. 1 seeds that won national championships defeated their first-round, 16th-seeded foes by the average score of 93.2 to 73.5 (average margin of victory: 19.7). Here's how the top seeds in this year's bracket fared: Kansas defeated Lafayette, 90-74; Kentucky defeated East Tennessee State, 100-71; Duke defeated Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 73-44; Syracuse defeated Vermont, 79-56.
* West Virginia and Missouri last met in the NCAAs in 1992 and Your Humble Correspondent was there for a most-bizarre first-round game. Thunderstorms and lightning knocked out power in Greensboro Coliseum three times, causing three game delays. The fifth-seeded Tigers (eventually) defeated the 12th-seeded Mountaineers, 89-78.
* West Virginia coach Bob Huggins on his team avoiding fatigue facing Missouri's press in Sunday's second-round game: "In all honesty time-outs in this tournament are about an hour and a half. So you have a lot of time to catch your breath."
* No. 4 seed Purdue is ranked No. 10 and will be the 12th nationally ranked opponent Texas A&M has played this season. That's tied with Georgetown and Illinois for most in the nation. The Aggies also played New Mexico, which was unranked at the time of the game but is not in the top 10. A&M has played six teams ranked in the top 10.
* Texas A&M joins Pittsburgh as the only schools to win an NCAA Tournament game in each of the last five years. A win against Purdue would send A&M to its second Sweet Sixteen in four years (2007). The Aggies also advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 1969 and 1980.
Click. Read. Be informed.
Oklahoma State senior guard Andrea Riley will have a difficult time watching from the bench as the Cowgirls open NCAA play.
After watching Thursday's first-round upsets, No. 5 seed Texas A&M was determined to avoid a similar fate.
Mike Finger of the San Antonio Express-News writes that Texas' fall from No. 1 to one-and-done was as inevitable as it was disappointing.
Baylor expects that junior guard Melissa Jones, who missed most of the Big 12 schedule with a stress fracture in her leg, will play in the team's NCAA opener Saturday.
Nebraska senior Cory Montgomery, a native of Minnesota, gets a trip home when the top-seeded Cornhuskers open NCAA play in Minneapolis Sunday.
J.T. Tiller is the only Missouri player who played against Kansas State when Bob Huggins was the coach so he knows what to expect when the 10th-seeded Tigers face No. 2 seed West Virginia Sunday.
|Friday, March 19|
NCAA TOURNAMENT NOTES
OKALHOMA CITY, Okla. - BYU and Kansas State meet in the West Regional second round Saturday and both coaches share a common bond - cancer.
Cougars coach Dave Rose, who played on Houston's Phi Slama Jama teams of the early 1980s, beat the odds last summer. In June he was diagnosed with a rare pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor. Studies show that one in five million survive that diagnosis.
Four years ago, a few weeks after he arrived at Kansas State, Frank Martin found himself in the hospital for two weeks with pancreatitis. But once he recovered from that, his doctors were worried that Martin had developed pancreatic cancer.
"I'm laying in that hospital bed, and I looked at my phone and searched to see what it is, and I found out I believe it's 4 percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive it," Martin said. "I lived with that fear for ten days ... the good man upstairs didn't give me that disease. "
"(Rose's situation) kind of hits close to home, someone you know actually is going through it. God is good to good people. I'm sure He's taking care of him."
At the coaches' meeting here earlier this week, Martin shared his story with Rose.
"He told me about a whole life-changing experience that he had, and obviously my experience this summer was something that has changed my life, too," Rose said. "I know I'm fortunate to be in the situation that I'm in."
Quick as a blink
OKALHOMA CITY, Okla. - Kansas State senior guard Denis Clemente is known for his speed with the basketball. Numerous coaches and opposing players have said that the senior guard is the quickest they've seen taking the ball from one end to the other.
Wildcats coach Frank Martin confirmed that Friday. One of the team's conditioning drills is to dribble from one free throw line to the opposite base line. Martin said that Clemente has been timed in 2.6 seconds covering about 80 feet.
Dave Rose, whose BYU team will try to contain Clemente in Saturday's West Regional second-round game, said that Clemente's speed is a concern.
"That's an issue for us," he said. "We'll probably have to commit a secondary defender to help slow him down. You do that and it causes other problems with your defense. Rebounding is another issue against Kansas State and if you've got secondary defenders moving around trying to help stop Clemente you leave guys open for shots and rebounds."
Introducing, Michael Loyd, Jr.
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - It happens every spring. March Madness produces results produced by players who are relatively anonymous outside their own locker room.
It happened here in Oklahoma City Thursday. In the first game in the Ford Center, BYU outlasted Florida in double overtime. The Cougers, the No. 7 seed in the West Regional, won their first NCAA game since 1993. BYU's top scorer Jimmer Fredette dropped 37 on the Gators. But the Cougars would not be playing Kansas State in Saturday's second round if not for the career-high 26 scored by Michael Loyd Jr.
"When people game-plan for Jimmer, you need a Michael Loyd with the skills he has to dribble, to penetrate, to make little floaters, to hit shots," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "You can use that option when [the other team] guards certain ways to stop Jimmer. (Loyd) was unbelievable."
It was particularly unbelievable when you consider his statistical history. His high game this season was 19 and he had scored in double figures just five times. In 11 games, Loyd had failed to score. He does tend to score in bunches. Against in-state rival Utah on March 3, Loyd scored 18 ... in the first half.
* Kansas State coach Frank Martin on playing BYU in Saturday's second round: "BYU is as gifted an offensive team as I've seen. My first opinion was they were a pretty darn good offensive team and after watching film on them my opinion continued to grow. We're gonna guard; that's what we do. We just have to be disciplined. Against North Texas we started to put our hands on people and got called for fouls. We can't do that. We do that, we'll get beat."
* The last time a Missouri Valley Conference team defeated a No. 1-ranked team was March 24, 1962. Cincinnati defeated No. 1 Ohio State in the national championship game. Northern Iowa of the Valley will try to knock off No. 1 Kansas in Saturday's Midwest Regional second round. The Panthers have never played a top-ranked team.
* The last 10 No. 1 seeds that won national championships defeated their first-round, 16th-seeded foes by the average score of 93.2 to 73.5 (average margin of victory: 19.7). Here's how the top seeds in this year's bracket fared: Kansas defeated Lafayette, 90-74; Kentucky defeated East Tennessee State, 100-71.
* Kansas has struggled in its last two NCAA meetings with MVC teams. In 2006, Bradley knocked off the fourth-seeded Jayhawks in the second round. In 2007, No. 1 seed Kansas slipped past No. 4 seed Southern Illinois, 61-58, in the Sweet 16.
* Kansas center Cole Aldrich is seven blocked shots from becoming the school's career leader. ... BYU freshman Tyler Haws has made a school-record 42 consecutive free throws. He broke the record of 39 set earlier this season by Jimmer Fredette. ... BYU has won a school-record 30 games. ... All five the Cougars' losses came to teams in the NCAA bracket - Utah State, New Mexico (twice) and UNLV (twice). ... Kansas State has made 229 3-pointers, the second-most in school history (the 1993-94 team made 246).
Read all about it
Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman writes that Texas' overtime loss to Wake Forest was a fitting end to a season of promise that ended on a sad note.
Baylor calls the last few minutes of close games "Kobe time."
Texas A&M guard Dash Harris says sitting on the bench is more painful than playing with a banged up wrist.
Tom Keegan of the Lawrence Journal-World writes that top-seeded Kansas tends to play down to its competition and is at its best when challenged or doubted.
Here are some details about Northern Iowa's Ali Farokhmanesh who made the Panthers' game-winning shot against UNLV Thursday.
|Thursday, March 18|
NCAA MEN'S BASKETBALL UPDATES
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Iowa State coach Greg McDermott was in the Ford Center supporting his former school. McDermott coached at Northern Iowa before becoming the Cyclones' coach. He was replaced by assistant Ben Jacobson. The No. 9 seeded Panthers edged No. 8 UNLV, 69-66, in Thursday's first round game in the Midwest Regional.
Jacobson was glad to have the support of his former boss.
"There's no bigger supporter or fan of this program can Mack," Jacobson said. "He's been on the recruiting trail but he was able to sneak away to be here. That means a lot to this program. He did a lot of things with this program in the five years he was here. Because of that, we're in the position that we're in today."
Would McDermott give advice to Jacobson on playing top seed Kansas? Or would McDermott remain loyal to his conference and go Switzerland (remain neutral)?
"We'll dig into the film," Jacobson said of Kansas. "I've seen them play throughout the course of the season. They're a terrific basketball team."
Reed for three
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Kansas junior guard Tyrell Reed scored all 12 of his points in the second half against Lehigh. All of his points came on 3-pointers. Over his last six games, Reed is 12-of-19 from behind the arc. Overall, he has made 15-of-27 shots so he's shooting worse on 2-point field goals (3-of-8) than on threes.
Through Thursday's 1st round, Big 12 is 9-1 in first-round NCAA games the last 2 seasons, 14-3 the last 3 seasons, 17-3 last four seasons.
"Basketball is not played just be at the 3-point line," Reed said. "That's what's been open for me lately. I'm sure other teams will start closing out on me and that's when you got to pump fake and take it to the basket or pull up. I'm not strictly a 3-point shooter, but those have been the shots I've been getting."
* Through Thursday's games, the Big 12 is 9-1 in NCAA first-round games going back to last season. Over the last three seasons, the Big 12 is now 14-2 in first-round games and over the last four seasons the league has a 17-3 record in first-round games.
* The Big 12 was 3-1 in Thursday's first-round games. That's more victories than any other conference.
* Northern Iowa's last NCAA victory came in 1990 when Maurice Newbie hit a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and third-seeded Missouri. The Panthers were a No. 14 seed. UNI's second NCAA victory came on a similar shot. With the clock running out and Northern Iowa in a scramble situation, Kwadzo Ahelebe found Ali Farokhmanesh on the left wing. He drained the shot and held the shooter's pose after the shot found net for his team's 69-66 victory.
* Lehigh's mascot/nickname is Mountain Hawks. Midway through the second half against Kansas, the Lehigh band started chanting "Our hawk's better ... our hawk's better." Clever.
BYU ends NCAA drought
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The last time BYU won an NCAA Tournament game was 1993. Your Humble Correspondent was there for the Cougars' 80-71 victory over SMU in Chicago. And, no, YHC has not been asked to stick around with the Mountain West Conference team for good luck.
No. 7 seed BYU needed double overtime and 37 points from guard Jimmer Fredette to overcome No. 10 seed Florida, 99-92. The Cougars (30-5) also got a career-high 26 points off the bench from Michael Loyd, Jr., who scored all six of BYU's points in the first overtime.
BYU will face No. 2 seed in the second round of the West Regional Saturday.
Florida had the ball at the end of the first OT following a turnover by Fredette but the Gators (21-13) failed to get a good shot.
After beating SMU in 1993, the Cougars lost in the second round. That started an eight-game NCAA losing streak that included seven consecutive first-round losses including both of the last two seasons to Texas A&M.
"We got the second or third life or whatever it was after we got that stop," said Fredette, who scored 29 of his points after halftime. "You're playing for your life, it's one and done at this point."
BYU's most memorable NCAA victory came in 1981 when Danny Ainge dribbled the length of the floor for a game-winning layup to upset Notre Dame, 51-50. In your moment of karma for Thursday, the Irish were upset by Old Dominion by the same score.
The loss ended Florida's 12-game NCAA winning streak. The Gators won consecutive national championships in 2006 and 2007 but had failed to make the bracket the last two years.
Just do it again
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Kansas State had an outstanding defensive game against North Texas in its first-round victory. The Wildcats held the Mean Green to 30 percent shooting and leading scorer Josh White to just three points, nearly 12 below his average.
In the second round against No. 7 seed BYU, the task will be tougher. The Cougars' Jimmer Fredette had 37 points in his team's 99-92 double-overtime defeat of No. 10 Florida. Fredette is the nation's 12th-best scorer, averaging 21.7 per game. But in his last three games, he's scored 112. (Here's a story by ESPN.com's Pat Forde on Fredette's background.)
"He's a handful," Kansas State coach Frank Martin said. "He's big-time. You score 45 points in a Conference Tournament game and you come back into the NCAA Tournament and stick 37 in the basket against Florida, you're doing something right, and he's a big time shooter who knows how to play."
* Kansas State played the second game of the first round in Oklahoma City Thursday and the Wildcats had to wait for BYU and Florida to finish their double overtime game. "We had to stretch a few times," Jacob Pullen said. "The first overtime, we sat around. The second overtime, we had to stretch again. We were antsy. We did a good job of staying warm and loose and being ready to play."
* If North Texas junior guard is Josh White is 5-foot-10 (his listed height), then Your Humble Correspondent is 6-foot-11, looks like Brad Pitt and has more money than Warren Buffet.
* Oklahoma State junior James Anderson went to the free throw a total of 269 times in his first two seasons. This year he has attempted 253 - a sign that he's more aggressive and not willing to settle only for jump shots. "That's something we talked about that he needed to improve on from last year to this year," coach Travis Ford said. "We wrote it down for him and showed it to him and talked to him about it and he really took off with that, no question."
* Anderson is looking forward to getting away from playing Big 12 teams who are familiar with everything Oklahoma State does. "They have you down to a T," he said. "And, just getting into the (NCAA) Tournament, they know some of your players by getting it from film, but they don't know you just to a T, where they know which way you are going to go and what moves you are going to make and all that."
* Georgia Tech, Oklahoma State's first-round opponent, is happy the start the NCAAs in Milwaukee. The Yellow Jackets' run to the 2004 Final Four started there and Georgia Tech had of the most memorable March Madness moments there in 1992. James Forrest made his first 3-pointer of the season with eight-tenths of a second remaining to beat USC.
* Georgia Tech has a familiar name on its roster - Glen Rice, Jr. His father Glen Rice set the NCAA scoring record with 184 points as he led Michigan to the national championship in 1989. Your Humble Correspondent was there and this factoid makes him feel old(er).
* Missouri has lost three of its last four. During those four games, senior guard Zaier Taylor has made 10-of-43 shots and just three of 19 3-point attempts. Leading scorer Kim English is 14-of-48 from the field and just 4-of-20 on 3-pointers. Marcus Denmon, the Tigers' most accurate 3-point shooter at 42.5 percent has missed 13 of his last 17 3-point tries.
* Missouri coach Mike Anderson likes the fact that his 10th-seeded team will be facing No. 7 Clemson because both teams play at a fast pace with lots of pressure defense. "It won't be a walk-it-up-the-floor," he said. "You'll see some athletic plays. You'll see some highlight plays. You'll see some balls going everywhere; turnovers. One of those first-round games that if you're watching it, you'd better stay glued to the set because something can happen at any point in time. We'll see who's putting it in the hole that night, whose defense will hold up. We want to be an unpredictable team. I just think it's a very good matchup to start off the NCAA Tournament."
* For those into nostalgia, here's a clip - thought to have been lost forever - from the Kansas-Indiana national championship game in 1940. No, Your Humble Correspondent wasn't there. Yes, a lot has changed in 70 years.
NCAA WOMEN'S BASKETBALL UPDATES
Cowgirls ready to play without Riley
No. 4 seed Oklahoma State (23-10) will face No. 13 seed Chattanooga (24-8) Saturday in the first round of the Sacramento Regional on Saturday. The Cowgirls will be without leading scorer Andrea Riley. She has to sit out because of an NCAA-mandated one-game suspension for an on-court incident in Oklahoma State's last NCAA Championship game in 2008.
"We've thrown some things out in practice that we haven't used in the Big 12 while not even telling the girls why we were doing it," Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke said. "Just seeing if we liked it as we were resting Andrea."
It might take four players to replace Riley, who is averaging --- po Senior Ally Clardy, juniors Lakyn Garrison and Carolyn Blair-Mobley and freshman Desiree Jeffries are all likely to see playing time at point guard.
"This point guard is probably going to be by committee in this game and we've been working out four different people at the spot," Budke said. "We feel like we have options."
Riley averages 36.8 minutes per game while averaging 26.8 points and 6.5 assists per game.
"She has complete faith in us, we have complete faith in ourselves that we're going to get her that next game," senior Megan Byford said. "She deserves it. That's our goal; do it for her like she's done it for us."
Old home week
Nebraska will face No. 16 seed Northern Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Championship Sunday in Minneapolis. Northern Iowa coach Tanya Warren and Huskers coach Connie Yori both grew up in the Des Moines are and played on the same summer league team when they were teenagers. They were teammates at Creighton and are the only two Bluejays to have their jerseys retired.
"It's really a perfect ending," Warren said. "Connie has always been a good friend of mine. We always see each other recruiting and take time to sit down and catch up.
"We feel that we're battle-tested -- and we know how good Nebraska is. Extremely balanced, very efficient, and I have a great amount of respect, and always have, for Connie Yori-coached teams. But it's called March Madness for a reason and we, too, will be ready. ... Really, the last 16, 17 games we've been playing good basketball."
Iowa State's Lacey back at practice
Iowa State has played in the NCAA Tournament all four years of Alison Lacey's career. The good news for the Cyclones and Lacey is that she has returned to practice after missing the last two weeks with a mild case of pneumonia.
"We practiced better today than we have in two weeks - I wonder why it was?" Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly joked. "She changes our team. The very first play, she came down the court, back-cut and made a layup. We haven't done that since she got sick. She just changes the way we do things."
Lacey, an all-Big 12 first-team selection, says she needs to regain her conditioning but hopes to be full speed by the time the Cyclones open NCAA play at home Sunday against Lehigh. Lacey the first player in school history to collect 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists in a career.
"I practiced today and I felt good," Lacey said. "We'll see what happens, but right now I'm coming along nicely and recovering, so I feel good and it's getting back in the swing of things. It's always special to make the NCAA Tournament, especially being the fourth time. But to play at home is something very special. Not many people get to experience that."
Home sweet Hilton
Iowa State, the No. 4 seed in the Dayton Regional, plays No. 13 seed Lehigh in Sunday's first round. Ames is one of 16 host cities for the NCAA Championships and that should be an edge for the Cyclones.
"It's going to be like just another game at Hilton," Iowa State guard Kelsey Bolte said. "It's going to be great."
Iowa State averaged 9,633 in 17 regular-season home games. That was third-highest in Division I behind Tennessee (13,219) and Connecticut (9,716). The Cyclones were 16-1 at home with the only loss coming to Nebraska, a No. 1 seed and the Big 12 regular-season champions.
"The crowd at Hilton is one of the best in the country," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "They're very smart, they're very loyal, and when you add the adrenaline, the enthusiasm, the energy of the NCAA tournament, everything just goes up a whole other level."
|Wednesday, March 17|
Hail to the ... Wildcats
For the second consecutive year, ESPN convinced President Obama to fill out an NCAA Championship bracket. With ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz kibitzing, the Commander-In-Chief picked Kansas and Kansas State to reach the Final Four and had Kansas beating Kentucky in the championship game.
"I like Obama, and I liked him more when he picked us to win," Kansas sophomore forward Markieff Morris said. "I guess he picked North Carolina last year and they won it. So I hope it plays out the same way."
According to Katz, President Obama also knows who coaches Kansas State ... and he jokingly suggested that coach Frank Martin's intensity could help the administration pass its health care bill.
"I'm one of those people who believe that when people speak about you, it's good or bad, it's not neutral," Martin said. "I'd like to think (President Obama has noticed) because of the way our kids have played, their focus and intensity. It's very complimentary. I hope he's a prophet and his predictions work out.
"Three years ago, heck, our own beat writers didn't know who I was and now we have the President of the United States (talking about us)."
The news that they were in the President's Final Four was cleverly accepted by two Kansas State players.
"I voted for him," guard Jacob Pullen said. "So he had to vote for us. Maybe he likes our style of play."
Later, in the Wildcats' locker room at the Ford Center, Pullen joked that he and President Obama, both Chicagoans, had traded text messages.
"It's pretty good to have President Obama watching us and knowing what we've been doing," forward Curtis Kelly said. "It's just cool having President Obama watching us. We're from small, little Manhattan, Kansas. It means we're doing something big."
Lehigh is high on ... Lehigh
Maybe Lehigh is different than the 100 No. 16 seeds that have lost to No. 1 seeds since 1985. Perhaps they can channel some (a lot?) of the magic that fellow Patriot League team Bucknell produced in first-round upsets in 2005 and 2006.
The Mountain Hawks certainly talked a confident game at the Ford Center on Wednesday. In just over 24 hours, No. 16 seed Lehigh faces overall No. 1 seed Kansas in a first-round game of the Midwest Regional. A No. 16 seed has never beaten a No. 1 seed.
"It's no different than any other game," Lehigh senior forward Zahir Carrington said. "We'll try to lock teams up defensively and take away what they want to do. We've won when we play well on defense and give up 70 to 75 points. That's what we'll aim for."
Senior guard Marquis Hall talked of slowing the Jayhawks' transition game, keeping KU off the boards, stopping the Kansas high-low passing of their front court players. Never mind that's been the game plan for 34 opponents and only two were successful.
In 2005 in the Ford Center, Kansas was a No. 3 seed and was stunned by No. 14 Bucknell in a first round game. The Bucknell players were a confident bunch before pulling that upset. But all the talk of upsets, of a No. 1 never losing to a No. 16 ... Carrington thinks it's all a bunch of noise.
"Blah, blah, blah," he said. "It's not daunting playing the No. 1 seed. We step on the court, everybody's the same, there's no 1 vs. 16. You have to have the utmost confidence. If we were gonna come here thinking we're gonna lose, I'd rather not come at all. We're coming here to win."
Creating historic trivia
In NCAA Championship history, a No. 16 seed has never been a No. 1 in 100 games. A No. 15 seed has one four times in 100 games. North Texas coach Johnny Jones is telling his 15th-seeded Mean Green that there's a chance to make history against No. 2 seed Kansas State.
"We have a group of guys who look forward to maybe being on that list," Jones said. "It's going to be the University of North Texas against Kansas State on Thursday. We have to try to play the best game we possibly can. And, hopefully, one day, we'll be part of a great trivia question."
Kansas State's Jacob Pullen wants to make sure his team understands that anything is possible during March Madness.
"Every team wants to be that Cinderella team," he said. "We've got to say, 'It's 12 o'clock already, it's over.' We can't afford to overlook them and think about BYU or Florida. We have to focus on North Texas and understand they're capable of beating a big-time team if that team doesn't play hard."
Time to play "Who said it?"
The following quote came from a player who will play in Thursday's East Regional first-round game between Texas and Wake Forest.
"Our biggest thing isn't size, isn't talent, isn't Xs and Os. ... It's not any of those things. It's all about being mentally tough, mentally strong and playing with a lot of emotion and energy from the beginning. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance to win the game, no matter who we're playing."
Was the speaker:
A. Damion James of Texas
B. Gary Johnson of Texas
C. Dexter Pittman of Texas
D. None of the above.
The correct answer is D. Wake Forest's Ishmael Smith said it Wednesday in New Orleans. The Deacons have struggled as much as have the Longhorns.
* Kansas junior center Cole Aldrich has set the school's single-season record for blocked shots and he's become one of the top centers in school history. And, yes, he's well aware Wilt Chamberlain's career as a Jayhawk. "In high school I was on the computer and I came across the audio from the fourth quarter when he scored 100 points in the NBA," Aldrich said. "That was really cool. I listened to it and he like missed three shots and I was like, "Man, Wilt, you scored 100 points and you missed shots?'"
* Kansas coach Bill Self said that Lehigh freshman C.J. McCollum could score 30 points against the Jayhawks. Asked about that comment, McCollum had a precocious answer befitting a freshman: "He's a very smart man."
* Kansas State leads the nation in free throws made and free throws attempted per game. North Texas isn't far behind. "Both teams are fortunate to have great guard play," North Texas coach Johnny Jones said. "I think we've both done an excellent job of spacing the floor, getting in the gaps, creating help situations that tend to create fouls."
* North Texas had the perfect nickname (Mean Green) to be practicing at the Ford Center on St. Patrick's Day. Asked about a number of fans wearing green, UNT coach Johnny Jones didn't get his Irish up. "We don't feel there's any advantage whatsoever, but I'm hopeful a lot of people will be rooting for us (Thursday)," he said.
* North Texas is making its third NCAA Championship appearance and is a No. 15 seed for the third time. In 1988, the Mean Green lost to No. 2 seed North Carolina, 73-58 and in 2007 they lost to No. 2 seed Memphis, 83-65.
* While Texas is one of three teams to have won first-round games in the last four NCAA Chcampionships, Wake Forest last won a post-season game in 2007 - the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament. The Deacons' last NCAA Tournament victory came in 2005. Wake Forest plays Texas in Friday's first round of the East Regional.
* North Texas has won 11 consecutive games, tied for the third-longest winning streak in Division I. ... UNT has made at least one 3-pointer in 632 games. ... Kansas State has a 5-1 record in games with North Texas. The only victory for the Mean Green came in 1976. ... In 100 games under Frank Martin, the Wildcats are averaging 19.1 points per game scored off opponents' turnovers. ... Lehigh senior guard Marquis Hall is the first player in Patriot League history with 1,500 points and 500 assists. ... Lehigh freshman guard C.J. McCollum was the Patriot League's freshman of the year and player of the year, the first time that one player won both awards. McCollum leads his team in scoring, field goal percentage, free throw percentage and 3-point percentage. ... Lehigh is 10th in Division I in 3-point shooting at 40.2 percent.
What they said
* Baylor's Epke Udoh on senior point guard Tweety Carter: "He's that man, he's that guy on our team. We go as he goes. If he's not here this year, we wouldn't have the success that we've had. He does a great job with his energy. He's been here the longest. When he talks to you, you have to listen because he's been through it."
* Baylor coach Scott Drew on how his team will handle being a trendy pick to reach the Final four:
"I think why we've been successful this year is we have great leadership. And I think each one of the players realized from those upperclassmen that if you don't bring your A-game and you're not ready to play, you're going to lose any given night. I think we're focused and determined to hopefully stay around a little bit longer than we did two years ago (first-round loss).
* Texas senior guard Justin Mason on why the Longhorns struggled after starting 17-0 and rising to No. 1 in the polls: "Playing in the Big 12, which is a really great conference. I don't know if many people understand how good that conference is. It's hard to get wins. We didn't do the things we needed to do night in and night out to get the win that's we needed. "
* Kansas coach Bill Self on the pressure of being the overall No. 1 seed: "You know, you work your tail off for six months and try to get the best seed as possible, and now that you get the best seed that you possibly can, everybody wants to know did you really want this, is it too much pressure? You know, whether you're the overall number 1 or not, that's irrelevant. That doesn't make any difference."
Texas Tech hosts Jacksonville in NIT
No. 8 seed Jacksonville stunned No. 1 seed Arizona State on its home court Tuesday night to advance to the next round of the NIT. The Dolpins' winning shot was a banked 3-pointer with less than a second to play.
Jacksonville will play at Texas Tech, an 87-69 winner over Seton Hall Tuesday night. The date and time won't be announced until Thursday.
Some notes and opinions from the NIT:
* Texas Tech was 4-12 in the Big 12 Conference but defeated Seton Hall by 18. The Pirates finished 9-9 in the Big East Conference. That's another notch in the Big 12's column when it comes to arguing about which conference is the best.
* In Texas Tech's previous game, the Red Raiders lost to Kansas in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. It was the 2,000th victory for the KU program. After Tech's NIT victory, Seton Hall fired coach Bobby Gonzalez.
* Jacksonville, Texas Tech's next opponent, made the Final Four in 1970, losing in the championship game to UCLA. Jacksonville's top player then was Artis Gilmore, who went on to a long career in the ABA and the NBA. He's now the radio analyst for the Dolphins.
|Tuesday, March 16|
Texas Tech beats Seton Hall 87-69 in NIT opener
Texas Tech got the Big 12's post-season off to a solid start with an 87-69 victory over Seton Hall in Newark, N.J. Tuesday night. The Red Raiders (18-15) will face the winner of Tuesday night's Arizona State-Jacksonville game.
Texas Tech even overcame a low blow that sidelined one of their starters. Senior Darko Cohadarevic went down at the 14:17 mark of the first half when he was punched in the groin by Seton Hall's Herb Pope. ESPN2's cameras had caught an earlier, similar punch by Pope to Cohadarevic that went undetected. Pope was ejected after the second punch.
The game as tied at 10-all at that point but scored l3 consecutive points to take control.
"My kids wanted this bad," Texas Tech coach Pat Knight said. "We had a tough stretch at the end of the season, but we kept on talking about the NIT. It's an honor for us to be here. I'm happy our kids got a taste of the post-season."
John Roberson scored 22 points to lead the Red Raiders. Mike Singletary added 13, D'walyn Roberts had 12 points and 11 rebounds while Cohadarevic recovered to score 12.
The Pirates finished 19-13 and suffered their 10th consecutive NIT loss. Seton Hall's last NIT victory came in 1956.
"We really didn't have any way to win without Herb Pope," Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez said. "He's an irreplaceable guy, the heart and soul of this team. When he got thrown out of the game, we lost a lot of fire, juice and energy. He must have deserved to go out, because you can't do what (the officials) said he did. It took a lot of wind out of our sails."
|Monday, March 15|
Big 12 women match men with 7 NCAA Championship teams
The old "anything you can do, I can do better" phrase applies to Big 12 Conference men's and women's basketball.
A day after the men placed a record seven teams in the NCAA Championship bracket, the women matched when seven teams were placed in the 64-team bracket that was announced Monday night.
What was more impressive for the Big 12 women was the strength displayed by the seeding. The Big 12 had six teams seeded No. 4 or higher. That means the Division I women's basketball committee considered those six teams to be among the top 16 in the bracket. The Big East Conference had three teams seeded on the top four lines.
"The overall strength of the Big 12 Conference continues to be recognized with seven teams selected to the NCAA Tournament," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said. "I wish all of our programs prolonged success and look forward to seeing them continuing to compete at the highest level."
Nebraska, the Big 12's regular-season champion with a perfect 16-0 record, earned a No. 1 seed. The Huskers were ranked as the third No. 1 seed behind Connecticut and Stanford and ahead of Tennessee.
"We're obviously excited about being a No. 1 seed," Nebraska coach Connie Yori said. "It is an honor to mentioned right up there with UConn, Tennessee and Stanford, and it is a result of all the hard work and dedication our players have put into this season."
Texas A&M was a No. 2 seed, Oklahoma was a No. 3, Oklahoma State and Baylor and Iowa State were No. 4 seeds while Texas was a No. 6 seed. Oklahoma, Iowa State and Texas are hosts for first- and second-round games.
Two Big 12 teams head into the NCAAs with personnel issues. Oklahoma State will be without senior guard Andrea Riley, who is third nationally in scoring (26.6 points per game) and seventh in assists (6.5 per game) , for its first game. She must serve a one-game NCAA suspension. And Iowa state hopes that All-Big 12 senior guard Alison Lacey has recovered from a mild case of pneumonia.
Here's a look at the Big 12's seven NCAA Championship teams.
Nebraska, No. 1 seed in Kansas City Region
The Cornhuskers became the second team in NCAA Championship history to earn a No. 1 seed after failing to make the field. (North Carolina pulled that off in 1997 and the Tar Heels reached the Sweet 16).
Nebraska will start the NCAAs Saturday in Minneapolis against Northern Iowa. If the Huskers win their first-round game, they'll face the winner of the game between No. 8 seed UCLA vs. No. 9 seed North Carolina State. If Nebraska wins twice in Minneapolis, it will advance to the regional semifinals at the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
Northern Iowa earned the automatic bid from the Missouri Valley Conference by defeating Creighton in Sunday's championship game. Nebraska coach Connie Yori was Creighton's coach before taking the Huskers job.
Oklahoma, No. 3 seed in Kansas City Region
The Sooners host first- and second-round games at the Lloyd Noble Center Sunday and Tuesday. Oklahoma, which reached the Final Four last season by winning the Oklahoma City Regional, will start NCAA play against South Dakota State.
If OU wins its first-round game it will face the winner of the game between No. 6 seed Georgia Tech and No. 11 seed Arkansas-Little Rock. If the Sooners and the Yellow Jackets meet, it will be the second consecutive season the teams have matched up in the second round.
Texas A&M, No. 2 seed in Sacramento Region
An ESPN.com panel of experts picks the Aggies as one of two No. 2 seeds (the other is Notre Dame) that can reach the Final Four. Texas A&M, winner of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship, opens NCAA play Saturday against No. 15 Portland State (18-14) in Seattle.
If Texas A&M wins its opener, it will face a tough second-round game against the winner of the game between No. 7 Gonzaga and No. 10 North Carolina. That game is considered one of the top first-round games in the bracket.
"We will not be sleeping in Seattle," Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. "We will be out there ready to play good basketball. We are a better basketball team now than when we were ranked in the top 10 earlier in the season. We have so much balance and are just ready to get started."
The Aggies are been a No. 2 seed for the third consecutive year.
Oklahoma State, No. 4 seed in Sacramento Region
The Cowgirls will face No. 13 Chattanooga (24-8) Saturday in the first round in Tempe, Ariz., but will do so without top scorer Andrea Riley. Riley, the Big 12's career scoring leader, was involved in an on-court fight in Oklahoma State's last NCAA Championship game in 2008. She was suspended for her next NCAA contest so she'll be on the bench for Game One.
If Oklahoma State can get past the Southern Conference champions, it will face the winner of the game between No. 5 seed Georgia and No. 12 seed Tulane. Georgia opened the season with a 62-51 victory over Oklahoma.
Baylor, No. 4 seed in Memphis Region
The Lady Bears, along with fellow Big 12 team Texas, are in what is considered as the toughest regional. Baylor opens against No. 13 seed Fresno State (27-6) from the Western Athletic Conference Saturday in Berkeley, Calif.
If it wins, Baylor and will face the winner of the game between No. 5 Georgetown (25-6) and No. 12 Marist (26-7). A Baylor-Georgetown meeting would be considered one of the best second-round games.
A trip to the Sweet 16 for the Lady Bears would mean a rematch with Tennessee. The top-seeded Lady Vols beat Baylor, 74-65, in the season opener in Knoxville and would have a virtual home court edge in Memphis.
"I was excited about the draw," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. I don't think anybody wants to be in a region with Connecticut. I think just the familiarity with Tennessee and having played Fresno State two or three years ago in the playoffs (helps.) We have played at Berkeley against Cal this season so we are familiar with the surroundings there."
Texas, No. 6 seed in Memphis Region
The Longhorns will host first- and second-round games at the Erwin Center Sunday and Tuesday. Texas will begin their NCAA journey against Fresno State (27-6) from the Western Athletic Conference. If it wins that game, UT will play the winner of No. 3 West Virginia (28-5) and No. 14 Lamar (26-7).
West Virginia finished in a second-place tie in the Big East with a 13-3 league record. The Mountaineers lost twice to defending national champion and top-seeded Connecticut by margins of 33 and 28 points.
Texas is making its third consecutive NCAA Championship appearance and its 24th overall. That's the third-most in NCAA history.
Iowa State, No. 4 seed in Dayton Region
The good news for the Cyclones is that they host first- and second-round games at Hilton Coliseum Sunday and Tuesday. The bad news is that to reach the first Final Four in school history, Iowa State would have to beat top-seed and defending national champion Connecticut in the regional semifinals. The Huskies have won 72 consecutive games.
In 1999, Iowa State defeated the top-seeded Huskies in the regional semifinals but lost to Georgia in the regional final.
Iowa State opens NCAA play against Lehigh (29-3), the Patriot League champions, . If the Cyclones win that game, they'll face the winner of the first-round game between No. 5 Virginia (21-9) and No 12 Green Bay (27-4). Green Bay, along with Connecticut and Nebraska, were unbeaten going into February.
"They (Lehigh) look on paper a lot like us," said Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly, whose team is making its fourth consecutive NCAA appearance. "They don't score a lot, are a good defensive team, shoot the three a lot, and we're obviously scrambling like crazy to find out. You win 29 games, and you are doing something right."
Big 12 Tournament tidbits
* Big 12 teams have compiled 169 NCAA Tournament wins in the 28 years of the event to rank fourth among all Division I leagues. Texas leads the Big 12 with 32 followed by Texas Tech with 30. The Big 12 was 12-6 in the 2009 tournament.
* Since 2000, the Big 12 has made 69 NCAA Tournament appearances.
* The Big 12 has played 77 first round contests in 13 years with a 58-19 (.753) mark. The 58 teams that advanced to the second round compiled a 32-26 (.552) record.
* All Big 12 seeds are No. 6 or higher for the second consecutive year.
Your Humble Correspondent gets it. He gets that undefeated Connecticut, defending national champion Connecticut, hasn't lost since the Reagan Administration Connecticut (actually, just the last 72 games) is the big story in women's college basketball. But with UConn in the same state as ESPN, YHC would like to point out there are other teams playing. Between now and when the Huskies win in San Antonio (it's inevitable, isn't it?) YHC is going to be UConned out.
NCAA Tournament tidbits
* Over the past five seasons, a total of 12 schools have made the NCAA Tournament each of those years. The Big 12 has three schools among that group - tied for the most of any league in the nation. The three Big 12 schools with five consecutive NCAA appearances are Kansas, Texas and Texas A&M.
* The Big 12 went 6-0 in first-round games last year, the best opening-round record in Conference history. Over the last two seasons, the Big 12 is 11-1 in the first round and is a combined 14-2 over the last three seasons.
* Texas and Texas A&M are two of only three schools in the nation (Pittsburgh is the other) that have won four consecutive NCAA first-round games.
* Ten ESPN experts/analysts have made their Final Four predictions. All 10 have both Kansas and Kentucky making it to Indianapolis. Eamonn Brennan and Pat Forde both pick Baylor to make Final Four while Dick Vitale, Hubert Davis and Mark Schlabach say that Kansas State will make it to Indianapolis. So, that's half the ESPN folks predicting the Big 12 will have two teams at the Final Four.
* Texas A&M is meeting a team from the state of Utah for the third consecutive year in the first round. The last two NCAA Tournaments, the Aggies defeated BYU (located in Provo, Utah). Friday Texas A&M will face Utah State (located in Logan). Also, both teams are nicknamed Aggies.
* Utah State is making its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance since 2000 under coach Stew Morrill but the Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference have lost their last five first-round games. Texas A&m has won four consecutive first-round games.
* There's another double nickname matchup in the East Regional as No. 7 seed Clemson faces No. 10 seed Missouri. Both teams' mascots/nicknames are Tigers.
* Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech meet in the first round of the Midwest Regional Friday. Those two teams last met in the NCAA Tournament in the 2004 Final Four in San Antonio with the Yellow Jackets recording a 67-65 victory.
* Kansas is coached by Bill Self and UNLV by Lon Kruger. If those teams win their first-round games, it will match former Illinois coaches in the second round. Kruger, a former Kansas State player and coach, coached the Illini from 1996-2000. Self took over for Kruger and coached the Illini until taking the Kansas job in 2003.
* The last time Kansas played in an NCAA Tournament game in Oklahoma City, the Jayhawks were a No. 3 seed and were stunned by No. 14 Bucknell in the opener. Kansas, as a No. 1 seed, faces another Patriot League team Thursday in OKC when it plays No. 16 seed Lehigh in the first round.
* Seven of Texas' nine losses have come to teams that are in the NCAA Tournament.
* Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.com reports that two Big 12 assistant coaches - Kansas State's Dalonte Hill and Kansas' Joe Dooley - could be candidates for the vacancy at Charlotte. The school fired coach Bobby Lutz Monday.
Big 12 NCAA Tournament first round schedule
Here are the game times for the seven NCAA Tournament games involving Big 12 teams. All times are Central.
Midwest Regional at Oklahoma City
Kansas (32-2) vs. Lehigh (22-10), 8:40 p.m.*
West Regional at Oklahoma City
Kansas State (26-7) vs. North Texas (24-8), 1:50 p.m.*
South Regional at New Orleans
Baylor (25-7) vs. Sam Houston State (25-7), 1:55 p.m.*
East Regional at New Orleans
Texas (24-9) vs. Wake Forest (19-10), 8:45 p.m.*
East Regional at Buffalo, N.Y.
Clemson (21-10) vs. Missouri (22-10), 1:45 p.m.*
South Regional at Spokane, Wash.
Texas A&M (23-9) vs. Utah State (27-7), 4 p.m.*
Midwest Regional at Milwaukee, Wisc.
Oklahoma State (22-10) vs. Georgia Tech (22-12), 6:15 p.m.
* - Tipoff times approximate. These games will start 30 minutes after the conclusion of the preceding game.
|Sunday, March 14|
Big 12 NCAA Men's bracket instant analysis
The Big 12 Conference set a record by placing seven teams in the 65-team field announced Sunday. In terms of seeds, the Conference has a No. 1 (Kansas), a No. 2 (Kansas State), a No. 3 (Baylor), a No. 5 (Texas A&M), a No. 7 (Oklahoma State), a No. 8 (Texas) and a No. 10 (Missouri).
"Placing seven teams in the NCAA Tournament is a high water mark for the Big 12 and speaks to the strength of the Conference," Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe said. "I applaud our programs for playing at such a high level and wish them the best of luck."
Two Big 12 teams (Kansas and Kansas State) will travel to Oklahoma City for the first week while Baylor and Texas will open play in New Orleans. The Jayhawks are the overall No. 1 seed and are in the Midwest Regional. They'll start play against Lehigh (22-10), the winner of the automatic bid from the Patriot League.
Kansas doesn't appear to have an easy draw. Ohio State (regular-season and post-season Big Ten champs) is the No. 2 seed, Georgetown is No. 3, Maryland is No. 4 and Michigan State is No. 5. The Spartans, who eliminated Kansas in last year's tourney, could face Kansas in the regional semifinal.
Kansas State is the No. 2 seed in the West Regional and will open play against North Texas (24-8), the automatic qualifier from the Sun Belt Conference. Syracuse is the top seed in the West. The Wildcats have a good draw. Pittsburgh is the No. 3 seed, Vanderbilt is No. 4 and Butler is No. 5.
Baylor is the No. 3 seed in the South Regional and will start play against Sam Houston State (25-7), the automatic qualifier from the Southland Conference. Duke is the top seed in the South. Villanova is the No. 2 seed in Baylor's half of the bracket. If those teams meet in the regional semifinals it will be a great matchup.
Texas A&M is also in the South Regional. The Aggies will open against Utah State (27-7), an at-large team from the Western Athletic Conference. An A&M win would pit the Aggies against the winner of the Purdue-Siena game. The Boilermakers are without their top player (Robbie Hummel) while Siena is considered a dark horse threat to reach the Sweet 16.
Oklahoma State is the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Regional and will face No. 10 seed Georgia Tech (22-12) an at-large selection out of the Atlantic Coast Conference. A victory by the Cowboys would likely mean a second-round match up with No. 2 seed Ohio State.
Texas, No. 1 in the polls and a strong candidate for a No. 1 seed in mid-January, is the No. 8 seed in East Regional. The Longhorns will face No. 9 Wake Forest (19-10) an at-large team from the ACC, in the first round. A year ago, the Longhorns were eliminated in the second round by another ACC team, Duke.
If the Longhorns defeat the Demon Deacons, they'll almost certainly face Kentucky, the top seed in the East. UT coach Rick Barnes and UK coach John Calipari are good friends.
Missouri is the No. 10 seed in the East Regional and will face No. 7 seed Clemson (21-10), an at-large team from the ACC, in the first round. The teams share the same nickname (Tigers) and both play a similar style of pressure defense.
|Saturday, March 13|
Kansas knocks off top-ranked LSU
LSU, the team that defeated Texas in the College World Series last June, took over the top-ranking this season when the Longhorns stumbled in the first weekend. Credit Kansas for getting revenge for UT plus the Big 12 Conference.
Robby Price and Casey Lytle each had three hits while Brett Bochy pitched 2 1⁄3 innings of hitless relief as the Jayhawks outslugged the Tigers, 11-9, Friday night at Alex Box Stadium in front of 11,157 fans. Kansas is 10-3 while LSU dropped to 12-1.
"This was huge for our program," said Kansas coach Ritch Price, who has four consecutive victories over top-ranked teams. "We wanted to play the best team in the country. Our guys really relished this opportunity, and this was the best baseball we've played probably since we beat Texas last year."
The Jayhawks and a six-run second inning when they sent 11 men to the plate. Price had a two-run double in the inning. Kansas built an 11-1 lead before the Tigers started to claw back. Bochy, though, came out of the bullpen to preserve the victory.
"He was special tonight," Ritch Price said. "We knew that they (LSU) would make a run at us, and he came in and shut the door. That was a big-time performance."
Baylor baseball: Landis Ware drove in the game-winning run with a RBI triple in the eighth inning, and Brooks Pinckard stranded the bases loaded in the ninth to earn his fifth save as the Bears beat Illinois-Chicago, 9-7, Friday night in Waco. Ware's triple was the second run-scoring three-bagger for the Bears when the UIC right fielder lost the ball in the lights. UIC left the bases loaded in the sixth and ninth innings.
Missouri baseball: Andrew Thigpen scored on a sacrifice fly by redshirt freshman Andreas Plackis in the 13th inning as Missouri edged Xavier, 7-6, Friday in Columbia. The game was deadlocked at 6-all from the fifth inning on. It was the Tigers' longest game since a 14-inning victory on Feb. 23, 2007. Missouri, which has played three extra inning contests in its first 11 games, 2-1 in those games.
Texas baseball: Third-ranked Texas (10-3) defeated Iowa, 2-1, Friday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field thanks to Tant Shepherd's one-out home run in the bottom of the 10th inning. The Longhorns tied the game in the eighth inning on Jordan Etier's one-out homer. Both dingers wound up in the Texas bullpen in right field. Sophomore Taylor Jungmann allowed a first-inning run then struck out a career-high 17 of the next 29 hitters he faced.
Texas A&M baseball: Kevin Gonzalez hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh and reliever John Stilson struck out the final two batters of the game with the tying run at third as Texas A&M rallied for a 4-3 win over No. 25 Washington State Friday night at Olsen Field. The Aggies have won nine in a row and are 12-2. A&M pitchers recorded 18 strikeouts, the most in a game since 2001. Stilson gave up a leadoff homer to start the ninth followed by a double to deep center but he closed out the A&M win with three consecutive outs.
Texas Tech baseball: The Red Raiders had the tying run picked off at third base in an 8-7 loss to No. 7 TCU in Fort Worth. Texas Tech has lost two in a row and is 8-7. The Raiders nearly overcame a 6-1 deficit after two innings. Sophomore designated hitter Scott LeJeune had a three-run homer while catcher Jeremy Mayo added a two-run dinger to help Texas Tech rally.
Texas Tech softball: Mikey Kenney homered in both games and a total of seven RBI as the Red Raiders beat Jackson State, 12-1, and North Carolina Central, 24-1, in game two in Lubbock Friday. The Red Raiders are 21-2.
Texas A&M men's tennis: The Aggies claimed their third victory over a top-15 ranked opponent over the last two years with a 5-2 upset of No. 11 California Friday night in College Station. Texas A&M, 8-4 and ranked No. 28 in the latest Campbell/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings, bounced back from last weekend's losses No. 3 Ohio State and No. 12 Illinois.
|Friday, March 12|
Your Humble Correspondent wants to remind all of his fans (?) and followers (????) that the Big 12 Insider is being produced mostly from Kansas City's Sprint Center and the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. Check it out at Courtside Blog.
|Wednesday, March 10|
News and notes
Just to keep you up to date with non-basketball happenings around the Big 12 Conference, here's some news you can use.
* It's called "The Muschamp Rule" but it won't take effect for at least another. Passed by the NCAA's Board of Directors and Legislative Council in January, the rule said that head football coaches "in waiting" would be limited to one off-campus visit with a prospect, and that visit could not take place during between April 15 to May 31 - a crucial time in recruiting. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp and Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin are the only coaches in waiting. After appeals from both Texas and Maryland, the NCAA has granted a one-year waiting period for the rule.
* Your Humble Correspondent admits that the "Pinstripe Bowl" sounds better than the "Yankee Bowl." The Pinstripe Bowl is the name of the new bowl game that will be played in Yankee Stadium on Dec. 30. The game, which will be televised by ESPN, matches teams from the Big 12 and Big East conferences.
* Missouri swimming and diving coach Brian Hoffer has announced his resignation after 18 years in charge of the program. Associate head coach Chris Peters has been elevated to interim head coach. "It's a tough decision to make, but it's the right one at the right time," Hoffer said. "My family and I love Mizzou and Columbia, but it just feels like now is the right time to move on and hand over the reins to someone else."
News links for clicking
Here are two interesting stories regarding the ongoing hot-button issue of conference expansion/realignment.
* Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star writes that television will decide the future of the Big 12 Conference.
* Interesting comments from Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick regarding his school's reaction to possible conference expansion/realignment.
|Monday, March 8|
McDermott will return at Iowa State
Iowa State coach Greg McDermott will be back coaching the Cyclones next season - so says athletic director Jamie Pollard.
"Some fans have suggested that we make a change in the leadership of our men's basketball program," Pollard wrote in the letter. "It is important to understand that many factors are considered when deciding who gets the privilege and honor to be an Iowa State head coach.
"I remain fully committed and supportive of coach McDermott and his staff.
"Our department will continue to provide the necessary resources for our men's basketball program to be competitive in this league and nationally so that we can achieve the goals we have outlined for our department."
Pollard acknowledged that competitive success is an "important measure. However, so are the personal character and integrity of our coaches and the performance of our student-athletes in the classroom and in public. Although we have not yet won games at the level we all desire, coach McDermott and his staff have exhibited exemplary character and integrity and our men's basketball student-athletes have performed admirably in many areas."
McDermott is 59-67 overall in his fourth season. The Cyclones are the No. 11 seed and carry a 15-16 overall and 4-12 league record into their opening round game with Texas Wednesday in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. This season's record was projected to be better but injuries and defections reduced McDermott's roster to eight scholarship players.
"The reality is my job was never in jeopardy," McDermott said on Monday's Big 12 coaches teleconference. "I don't have time to worry about what other people think and it's none of my business what they think. I've had the unwavering support of the administration."
Texas Tech's Curry not happy with seniors
Texas Tech lost its third consecutive game Sunday at last-place Missouri. Coach Kristy Curry is not pleased with how the Red Raiders Raiders (17-13, 5-11) have played down the stretch with a possible chance of making the NCAA Tournament. She is particularly unhappy with the seniors' lack of leadership.
"The thing that is so disappointing to me, and you see it across sports when you're in our situation," Curry told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. "Your best players have to play well. Your role players have to assist them. I think that (Ashlee) Roberson and (Jordan) Murphree have been non-existent to have on the line what we've had the last three games. You can look at Ashlee's numbers.
"There's so many possessions that those two aren't doing enough, whether it's a rebound, a box out, a loose ball, a better decision. It's a one possession game and we just talked in the huddle and we have a senior foul. So I don't know how you explain that. Your mind has to be on your business, and I don't think that's poor coaching. I think that's players that have to make plays and have their mind on their business."
News and notes
* Jeff Goodman of FoxSports.net is reporting that Kansas assistant coach Joe Dooley has been offered the head coaching job at East Carolina. Dooley was ECU's coach from 1995-99, compiling a 57-52 record. The ECU job opened up when Mack McCarthy was reassigned to an administrative role after three years as the head coach.
* Since teammate and fellow front court performer Justin Safford went down with an ACL tear, Missouri senior Keith Ramsey has averaged 38 minutes per game and his increased his scoring and rebounding production. "He knows the team needs him," Tigers coach Mike Anderson said. "Keith is laying it on the line. He's an energy guy and plays with a lot of emotion. It's his senior year and the games are winding down."
* Texas will be one of four teams playing in next season's Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. The other three teams will be Pittsburgh, Maryland and Illinois. Twelve teams will compete in in regional games hosted by Pittsburgh, Texas, Maryland, and Illinois from Nov. 8-12. The four hosts advance to the championship rounds at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 18-19. The remaining eight teams will play in sub-regionals held at campus sites.
* Texas A&M sophomore point guard Dash Harris is wearing a soft cast on his right wrist. He already had injured the wrist earlier in the season but hurt it again when he fell during the Aggies' season-ending victory at Oklahoma Saturday. Texas A&M, the No. 4 seed, has a first-round bye and won't play until Thursday when it takes on the winner of the Missouri-Nebraska game.
* Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon on senior guard Donald Sloan being selected All-Big 12 first team: "I appreciate the coaches voting for him. He's done a lot for us, put a lot on his shoulders. He improved his defense, his rebounding, his leadership, he scored when we needed it. He deserved it."
* Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford on the future of junior James Anderson, Big 12 player of the year: "We're gonna do what's best for James Anderson. Period. If he's a lottery pick, then he probably should (declare for the NBA Draft). On the other hand, he likes college and if he comes back next year he's got the chance to be the all-time leading scorer in school history."
* More Ford, on Anderson not being mentioned for national player of the year honors: "I find it disappointing that people aren't talking about him. The best league in the country and the player who has a great chance to be player of the year. If you're not mentioning his name (for national player of the year) and you've got 10 guys, you might want to cover football."
* Big 12 teams in the latest NCAA RPI: 1, Kansas; 6, Kansas State; 8, Baylor; 12, Texas A&M; 26, Texas; 28, Oklahoma State; 38, Missouri; 71, Texas Tech; 102, Colorado; 109, Oklahoma; 112, Iowa State; 154, Nebraska.
* Seven Big 12 women's teams are in the top 25 of the NCAA women's RPI: 4, Nebraska; 7, Oklahoma; 8, Texas A&M; 11, Oklahoma State; 12, Texas; 14, Baylor, 24, Iowa State.
Dallas Morning News columnist Tim Cowlishaw believes that Big 12 men's basketball is on the rise and has the chance to do some damage in the NCAA Tournament. And Chuck Carlton of the Morning News offers a look back at this season.
With NCAA Tournament bids secure, here is what three teams - Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri - can accomplish at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship this week in Kansas City.
And here's what's at stake in the men's tournament, according to Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star.
Kansas State players are happy that coach Frank Martin has agreed to a contract extension.
|Sunday, March 7|
Seeds set for Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship
The seeds and bracketing for this week's Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship wasn't set until the final game of the regular season - Oklahoma State at Oklahoma - was decided late Sunday afternoon.
Nebraska, 29-0 and 16-0 in league games, knew that it had clinched the top seed and a first-round bye. The other 11 teams had to wait until the weekend to know where they are bracketed. Iowa State is the No. 2 seed, Oklahoma is No. 3 and Texas A&M is No. 4. Like Nebraska, those three teams will receive first-round byes and won't start play at Kansas City's Municipal Auditorium until Friday.
Here are Thursday's first-round matchups:
11 a.m.: No. 9 Kansas State. vs. No. 8 Texas Tech
1:30 p.m.: No. 12 Missouri vs. No. 5 Texas
5 p.m.: No. 10 Kansas vs. No. 7 Oklahoma State
7:30 p.m.: No. 11 Colorado vs. No. 6 Baylor
All-session tickets are $90 for lower-level seating and $72 for upper level. Single-session tickets go on sale March 8. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com, by calling 800-745-3000 or at the Municipal Auditorium Box Office.
Extensive video coverage of the entire Championship can be found via the Big 12 Web site at Big12Sports.com. The video available will include first round games, a pre-game show, links to every contest and live postgame press conferences. In addition, exclusive postgame coverage of the Championship trophy ceremony can be found on Sunday, March 14. The broadcast will include the annual showing of the Big 12's basketball highlight video, Live Your Dreams.
First round games will be televised by Metro Sports in Kansas City while the quarterfinals through the final will be aired on FSN.
Martin signs new contract with Kansas State
After his team wrapped up the regular season with two losses, Kansas State coach Frank Martin no doubt wasn't a happy camper Saturday night. As it turned out, Sunday was a better day.
First, Martin was named Big 12 Coach of the Year by his peers. A few hours later, the school announced it had agreed with Martin on a new multi-year contract that will run through 2014-15 season. The new deal averages a base salary of $1.55 million per year.
"Coach Martin is a tremendous fit for Kansas State," athletic director John Currie said in a statement issued by the school. "With this contract in place, Coach Martin has made a long-term commitment to K-State and K-State has made a long-term commitment to him. We are confident that under his leadership K-State basketball will continue to elevate its national presence."
Martin, 43, is in his third season as the Wildcats coach. This season's team is 24-6 heading into this week's Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship. K-State's 11-5 league record is its best in Big 12 history.
"It just goes to show that if you try to do right by people and you do your job, good things can happen to you," a tearful Martin said during the news conference announcing his new contract.
Tuesday practice clarification
Just so everyone is clear - the open practices Tuesday at the Sprint Center in Kansas will be only for the men's teams seeded No. 5 through No. 12. The top four seeds WILL NOT be holding open practices Tuesday at the Sprint Center.
Tuesday practice schedule at Sprint Center
Teams seeded No. 5 through No. 12 in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship will hold practices at Kansas City's Sprint Center Tuesday. The practices are open to the public. Here's the schedule:
Noon-12:40 p.m.: No. 9 Texas Tech
12:45-1:25 p.m.: No. 8 Colorado
1:30-2:10 p.m.: No. 12 Nebraska
2:15-2:55 p.m.: No. 5 Missouri
3:00-3:40 p.m.: No. 7 Oklahoma State
3:45-4:25 p.m.: No. 10 Oklahoma
4:30-5:10 p.m.: No. 6 Texas
5:15-5:55 p.m.: No. 11 Iowa State
He won't back down
After losing to Kansas 84-65 and 77-56 this season, the evidence would appear to be rock solid. But Missouri's Zaire Taylor refused to capitulate to the idea that the Jayhawks are head and shoulders above the Tigers.
"They're a good team," Taylor said. "They're one of the best teams in the country. But we can compete with anybody, we can beat anybody in the country. So I wouldn't say that you've got to keep this in perspective, like they're on another level, another scale higher than us. We don't feel that way.
"They're a good team and we're a good team. Today they were the better team. Tomorrow, if we play, they might not be. That's yet to be seen. I just hope that we play again."
Men's basketball notes and numbers
* Kansas State was 6-2 in Big 12 road games but went 5-3 in Manhattan following Saturday's overtime loss to visiting Iowa State. Losing three games in Bramlage Coliseum is what bothers coach Frank Martin. "We lost three home games," he said. "That's who we are. We're not a championship level team in the Big 12."
* Colorado junior Cory Higgins said Thursday that he'll be back with the Buffaloes for his senior season. A junior, Higgins leads CU in scoring and the Big 12 in steals. He added that he might declare for the NBA Draft in order to go through the evaluation process.
* Missouri junior forward Justin Safford told the Kansas City Star that the ACL in his left knee is completely torn. He also has a bone bruise in the same knee that the doctors are most concerned about. He has delayed surgery and is rehabbing his injuries in hopes of playing this season but coach Mike Anderson called it a "long, long, long shot."
* Oklahoma freshman Tiny Gallon injured his right ankle early in the second half of the Sooners' loss to Texas A&M. He went to the bench, returned to the court limping, then went to the locker room before returning to action briefly. Unable to run, Gallon finally took a seat for the rest of the game. Coach Jeff Capel said after the game he didn't know the severity of the ankle injury.
* Nebraska finished 2-14 in Big 12 play with its 74-55 loss at Oklahoma State Saturday. It's the most conference losses for the Huskers in school history. Nebraska went 1-13 in the old Big Eight Conference in 1962-63 and finished 3-13 in the Big 12 in 2002-03.
* Texas Tech senior Nick Okorie scored a career-high 21 against Texas on Feb. 20. Seven days later, he topped that with 28 against Nebraska. Saturday in Boulder he scored 34 against Colorado.
* Baylor had a record crowd of 10,562 for Saturday's game with Texas. The school set an all-time attendance record at the Ferrell Center with 119,305 fans this year while averaging 7,457 in 16 home dates. The Bears went 15-1 at home, losing only a 76-74 decision to Kansas State on Jan. 26.
Women's basketball notes and numbers
* Iowa State senior Alison Lacey has been sidelined by a respiratory illness that knocked her out "for a good two, three days." She made a token appearance in Saturday's regular-season finale with Colorado. On Senior Day, Lacey was on the floor as a starter but the Cyclones fouled in the opening seconds so she could be replaced. She watched Iowa State's victory from the bench. "I was definitely sad about it," she said about not playing, "but there's nothing I could do about it." Coach Bill Fennelly hopes Lacey will be recovered for his team's Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship opener Thursday.
* No. 3 Nebraska trailed Kansas State 40-29 in the first half. That 11-point deficit is the largest the Cornhuskers have faced this season.
* Kansas State's 45 points at halftime were the most Nebraska has allowed in a first half all season.
* Kansas was picked to finish second in the Big 12 but injuries wrecked the season. The Jayhawks lost point Angel Goodrich in January and career-scoring leader Danielle McCray in February to ACL tears. Freshman forward Carolyn Davis missed Saturday's 78-54 home loss to Texas A&M after she suffered a concussion in practice Friday. "If it weren't for bad luck, we'd have had about no luck this year," coach Bonnie Henrickson said. "I mean we've been through a lot, but you've got to keep fighting." Texas A&M coach Gary Blair has empathy for the KU coach: "What Bonnie has gone through this year, nobody should have to go through."
Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin on the Cornhuskers' 29-0 regular-season record:
"I'm ecstatic that we've been able to do this, but we don't want to focus too much on it because there's a lot of basketball left to be played. We're excited for it. We feel privileged. It's awesome to be a part of history, but at the same time, we don't want this to be the pinnacle of our season."
Kansas State coach Deb Patterson after Nebraska's Kelsey Griffin scored a career-high 36 points on 15-of-19 shooting against the Wildcats Saturday:
"It was just mind-boggling to watch the play of Kelsey Griffin today. Aside from being the opposing coach, it's a treat to watch someone with that much heart and intensity and toughness and big-time mentality step up. I'm sorry it was at our expense."
Nebraska coach Doc Sadler after his team's 74-55 loss at Oklahoma State:
"We're a vulnerable basketball team right now. When things don't go well and the other team makes a little bit of a run early, we probably lose a little confidence or hope or whatever the word is you want to use. ... The guys tried to play hard. But we're 2-14. They're frustrated. They don't have a lot of confidence."
Texas Tech coach Pat Knight on his team's seven-game losing streak:
"We're in a bad way. It's been a bad three weeks. I take the blame, I've done a bad job. It falls on the head coach, so I have to do something to change this."
Colorado junior Cory Higgins after Saturday's defeat of Texas Tech that gave the Buffs (15-15 overall, 6-10 in conference) an eighth-place finish in the Big 12:
"We probably have the most confidence since I've been a part of the Colorado program. I think this team, unlike in the past, has a little bit of cockiness and swagger."
Baylor coach Scott Drew, whose team was picked to finish 10th but wound up third:
"When you are picked 10th and finish third in a league that's No. 1 in the nation, you really have to look at the upperclassmen and recognize what a great job they did with the leadership of the team."
Texas coach Rick Barnes, whose team gave up 54 points in the paint to Baylor that included 20 on 10 dunks by the Bears' Quincy Acy:
"Are you kidding me? I'm not a little disappointed in our defense, I'm very disappointed. I don't know of any game where we gave up so many dunks. We had too many guys sitting around watching. I'm not sure if there was anybody on our team that they didn't drive by."
Kansas coach Bill Self on the depth his Jayhawks displayed in Saturday's 77-56 victory at Missouri:
"Our bench kept our starters fresh. I thought when you watched us play out there, you really couldn't tell who our best five players were, because they all contributed in a positive way. I didn't feel like we had to get our starters back in."
Kansas State's Curtis Kelley after the Wildcats lost at home to Iowa State in overtime:
"People are going to start to wonder about us a little bit more. A lot of people thought we were one of the teams to beat, and one of the up-and coming teams in the Big 12 tournament and NCAA Tournament. Now ... losing at home to the second worst team in the conference, it's going to hurt us."
Kansas State's Jacob Pullen considers the glass to be half full, not half empty after the Wildcats closed the season with two losses:
"We were picked to finish this league sixth or whatever. We weren't supposed to be top 25 all year. We've done a great job this season, and I don't want anyone in our locker room to feel like we failed or collapsed. It was none of the above. We had two losses in a row for the first time all season. We've still accomplished a lot this season."
All-Big 12 men's team again a crowded house
A season's worth of games didn't help Big 12 coaches decide things. The All-Big 12 Men's Basketball Awards featured a six-player first team. The names have changed, but the pre-season first team list also had six players. (Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own players.) You can check out the official release plus a highlight video here.
Oklahoma State junior James Anderson was named Player of the Year while Kansas State's Frank Martin was selected as Coach of the Year. Kansas junior Cole Aldrich was Defensive Player of the Year, Baylor's Epke Udoh was named Newcomer of the Year, Alec Burks of Colorado earned Freshman of the Year honors while Kansas State's Jamar Samuels was voted the Sixth Man Award.
Anderson, the first Oklahoma State player since Tony Allen in 2003-04 to earn Player of the Year honors, was a unanimous choice to the All-Big 12 First Team. He was joined by Aldrich and Sherron Collins of Kansas, Jacob Pullen of Kansas State, Damion James of Texas and Donald Sloan of Texas A&M.
For the record, the six-man All-Big 12 preseason team included Aldrich, Collins, Anderson and James along with Willie Warren of Oklahoma and Craig Brackins of Iowa State.
The coaches' Big 12 All-Rookie Team had Udoh and Burks along with Xavier Henry of Kansas, Tommy Mason-Griffin of Oklahoma and Avery Bradley of Texas. The Big 12 All-Defensive team (also with six players) had Udoh, Aldrich, Pullen, J.T. Tiller of Missouri, Dogus Balbay of Texas and Bryan Davis of Texas A&M.
Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera analyzes the benefits for Colorado if it has the chance to move to the Pacific-10 Conference.
Oklahoma heads into the post-season on an eight-game losing streak, the longest for the Sooners since 1969. After Saturday's loss to Texas A&M, coach Jeff Capel said it's "the worst job I've ever done."
Nebraska rallied in the second half to win at Kansas State and become the second women's team to go undefeated in Big 12 play and the first to finish the regular-season undefeated.
Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald takes a look at why Nebraska's men's basketball program has struggled to be successful.
|Saturday, March 6|
Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship schedule set
Going into Saturday, there were 21 different seeding possibilities involving eight teams. When the day was done, there wasn't much left to untangle.
Regular-season champion Kansas will be the No. 1 seed for the sixth time; the Jayhawks have captured 10 regular-season Big 12 titles including six in a row.
In addition, three other teams are in the top four seeds that receive first-round byes and will play their first games on Thursday: No. 2 Kansas State, No. 3 Baylor, No. 4 Texas A&M.
Here are the rest of the seeds that were finalized with Saturday's games: No. 5 Missouri, No. 6 Texas, No. 7 Oklahoma State, No. 8 Colorado, No. 9 Texas Tech, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 11 Iowa State, No. 12 Nebraska.
The Wildcats have a bye for the fourth consecutive season, while Baylor earned its highest seed in Big 12 history and first bye. The Aggies have a first-round bye for the third time in five years after never having been higher than seventh prior to this stretch.
Extensive video coverage of the entire Championship can be found via the Big 12 Web site at Big12Sports.com. The video available will include a pre-game show, links to every contest and live postgame press conferences. In addition, exclusive postgame coverage of the championship trophy ceremony can be found on Saturday night, March 13. The broadcast will include the annual showing of the Big 12's basketball highlight video, Live Your Dreams.
The entire Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship will be televised either regionally or nationally by the Big 12 Network, ESPN or ESPN2. All Big 12 Network games will also be available on ESPN Full Court or ESPN360.com.
Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship
11:30 a.m.: No. 8 Colorado vs. No. 9 Texas Tech
2 p.m.: No. 5 Missouri vs. No. 12 Nebraska
6 p.m.: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
8:30 p.m.: No. 6 Texas vs. No. 11 Iowa State
(Wednesday's games televised on the Big 12 Network.)
All-Big 12 men' team released Sunday
On the same day that the Academy Awards will be revealed, Big 12 men's basketball will have its own awards show. Check out Big12Sports.com at 11 a.m. CT Sunday for the announcement of the official 2009-10 All-Big 12 Men's Basketball honors.
Every 10 minutes starting at 11 a.m., an announcement will be made. Here is the schedule (all times Central):
11:00 a.m.: Coach of the Year
11:10 a.m.: Newcomer of the Year
11:20 a.m.: Sixth Man of the Year
11:30 a.m.: Freshman of the Year
11:40 a.m.: Defensive Player of the Year
11:50 a.m.: Player of the Year
Noon: All-Rookie Team
12:10 p.m.: All-Defensive Team
12;20 p.m.: All-Big 12 First, Second, Third and Honorable Mention Teams
|Friday, March 5|
Iowa State's Alison Lacey sidelined
Iowa State senior point guard Alison Lacey, who leads the nation in assists to turnover ratio, will miss her second consecutive game. Lacey won't be able to play on Senior Day when the Cyclones play host to Colorado Saturday. Lacey has a respiratory illness that is thought to be a mild case of pneumonia.
"I haven't talked to her a lot because she's been sleeping most of the time, but I think she's devastated," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. "To say you're a senior and not get to play on senior day, I don't know if it could get more disappointing than that."
Lacey leads the Cyclones in scoring, assists and steals. She missed Iowa State's game at Oklahoma State Wednesday. Lacey also didn't play at Nebraska on Feb. 17 after she had suffered a mild concussion.
"We have to figure out the best way for our team to have its best chance in the post-season, and our best chance is to have (Lacey) as rested and as ready to go as possible," Fennelly said. "We don't play again until next Friday, so that gives her a whole another week to get rested up and ready to go."
Ray Turner ... for president
One of the original signs that fans displayed was "(Athlete's Name) For President." Texas A&M freshman Ray Turner, who has made a significant impact for the Aggies, has become a favorite in Reed Arena, especially in the student section. His nickname is "The President."
A write-in campaign has Turner within a run-off vote within becoming Class of 2013 President. Turner's fellow students started the campaign and he participated, helping hand out flyers around campus. Turner got 30 percent of the vote and is in a run-off against Trent Segers, who got 18 percent. A vote of 50 percent is needed.
The run-off election will be held Tuesday and Wednesday and the winner will be announced Wednesday night.
And here's a story with some background on Turner.
News and notes
* Michigan, which is starting a freshman point guard, decided to analyze the top-rated freshmen point guards based on recruiting services. Of the rookies this season, only three are averaging in double figures - Kentucky's John Wall (16.8 points per game) and Eric Bledsoe (10.7) plus Oklahoma's Tommy Mason-Griffin (14.0).
* USC defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin met with the Nebraska coaching staff this week to swap ideas and schemes. Kiffin, whose son Lane is the Trojans' new coach, is a native of Lexington, Neb., and spent time as a Nebraska assistant. His son Chris spent two seasons with the Huskers as an administrative assistant.
* If you've been to Manhattan, Kans., you might have noticed a sign made of rocks on a hillside near Kansas State's campus. The rocks spell out "KS" for Kansas State. After No. 2 Kansas defeated the No. 5 Wildcats Wednesday night, someone using black and white garbage bags converted the sign to read "KU." Riley County Police are investigating the incident as an act of vandalism.
* Football purists - otherwise known as "old school people" - have long lamented the disappearance of the fullback in the modern age of college offenses. The tight end is also an endangered species. For instance, Oklahoma State's spring depth chart lists four receiver spots - two inside receivers and two outside receivers - and no tight ends.
* Bedlam softball is a big deal. When No. 11 Oklahoma faces No. 25 Oklahoma State at 3 p.m. Saturday at ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, it's the first time since 2003 when the teams have both been ranked for a Bedlam game. The Sooners are 12-2 with the losses coming to No. 20 Tennessee and No. 1 Washington. The Cowgirls are 11-5.
* Oklahoma's women's gymnastics team has a huge competition Friday night when top-ranked Alabama visits the Lloyd Noble Center. The Sooners are ranked No. 2. The last time the top two gymnastics teams met in the regular season was 2008. "It's huge," OU senior Jacqueline Flanery told the Norman Transcript. "It's the biggest meet in history. We are really excited. I have never been this excited for a meet since I have been in three and a half years. I am really looking forward to it."
Hot links for a Friday
Eddie Sutton says son Sean recognizes he has a problem with prescription drugs and is getting the help he needs.
Ivan Maisel of ESPN.com visited Austin and writes that Texas quarterback-to-be Garrett Gilbert appears ready to take over for Colt McCoy.
Mechelle Voepel of ESPN.com weighs in on the punch thrown by Baylor freshman Brittney Griner.
Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne discusses the hot-button issue of conference expansion/realignment.
|Thursday, March 4|
News and notes
* Wednesday night's Big 12 Network telecast of No. 5 Kansas State at No. 2 Kansas earned a 19.8 Nielsen rating in Kansas City - the highest Big 12 Basketball regional syndication telecast in K.C. in the last 15 years.
* Four of the eight seeds in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Championship are set: No. 1 Kansas; No. 7 Oklahoma State; No. 11 Iowa State; No. 12 Nebraska. The remaining eight seeds won't be sorted out until the regular-season ends Saturday.
* Former Texas Tech women's coach Marsha Sharp will be the 28th recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award presented annually by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Sharp, whose team won the 1993 national championship, stepped down as head coach for the Lady Raiders in 2005 with a 557-175 record.
* Odyssey Sims, who has signed with Baylor and will be a freshman next season, saw her high school career end Saturday when she tore the ACL in her right knee during a Texas school playoff game. Sims, who attends Irving MacArthur High school, is expected to need six months to rehabilitate the knee after undergoing surgery. That means she'll miss next month's McDonald's All-American game. Sims had scored a season-high 40 points in her team's previous game.
* The CBE Classic basketball tournament in Kansas City next Nov. 22-23 will feature Kansas State, Duke, Gonzaga and Marquette. That's a quality foursome.
Worth the click and the read
Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has a terrific overview of the issues surrounding the Pacific-10 Conference's expansion issues.
And here's another comprehensive look at a hot-button topic: NCAA Tournament expansion. Stewart Mandel of SI.com touches all the bases.
Texas coach Mack Brown talks about the recent death of his mother.
This falls into the must-read category. It's worth the five minutes. If you're a parent - heck, if you have heart beat - make sure you have tissues within reach.
|Wednesday, March 3|
News, notes and opinions
* Missouri's 1995 NCAA Tournament loss to UCLA has been avenged. Senior guard Zaire Taylor's full-court drive and layup in the final six seconds gave the Tigers a 69-67 overtime victory at Iowa State Tuesday night. Taylor's drive and dramatic shot resembled the mad dash made by the Bruins' Tyus Edney. With 4.8 seconds remaining and top-seeded UCLA down by a point to Missouri, Edney blazed down the court and banked home the game-winner. It took 15 years, but Taylor, aka Mr. Big Shot, gave Mizzou fans a reason to say, "Tyus Edney, take that."
* Connie Yori's Nebraska team has clinched the Big 12 regular-season title and is 27-0 going into Wednesday night's game with Kansas as the Huskers celebrate Senior Night. Yori, though, is prouder of another streak that has permeated her 20-year coaching career. "I've graduated every single senior that I've coached. To me, that's a lot more meaningful," she said. "That's the most important thing I can do in my role. ... I always say there's two reasons I got in coaching - I like the game, and I want to have an impact on young people. I don't feel like I'm really having the impact I should be having if players in our program don't graduate."
* Colorado went to Nebraska Tuesday lugging a 36-game Big 12 road losing streak and a 28-game road losing streak to Division I opponents. The Buffs returned to Boulder with the streaks ended following a solid 81-68 victory over the Cornhuskers. Colorado is 14-15 overall and 5-10 in Big 12 play heading into Saturday's season finale with Texas Tech. It's the most Big 12 victories since 2006 when the Buffs finished 9-7. Colorado has sole possession of eighth place.
* Wednesday morning probably wasn't pleasant for Nebraska's team. After Tuesday night's 81-68 loss to visiting Colorado that guaranteed the Huskers would finish last in the standings, coach Doc Sadler ordered a 5 a.m. practice. "It's the only thing I know to do, is roll up your sleeves and get to work, because that right there is inexcusable," Sadler said. "Inexcusable. ... I don't ask a lot. I don't ask you to make shots, but we're going to compete, because that's a character deal. Beyond basketball, in life, you've got to compete. It ain't going to be easy."
* Kristy Curry's Texas Tech team is 17-11 overall and 5-9 going into Wednesday night's visit by No. 14 Baylor. If the Lady Raiders have a shot at the NCAA Tournament, they need to win their last two Big 12 games. Curry says this is "judgment week" for her team. "When you have 10 freshmen and sophomores you have to spend an awful lot of time educating them on the NCAA tournament," Curry said, "making them understand the situation we're in, not to the point that there's too much pressure on them. We're way too blessed to be stressed. We have a great opportunity, embrace it."
* In Monday night's victory over Oklahoma, Texas had three players come off the bench to score in double figures for the first time in a Big 12 game since 2003. The Longhorns' bench is averaging 32 points a game, which is third in the nation behind VMI and Missouri. Last season, UT was 155th in bench points with 18.5 points per game.
* The Jedi Master apparently is a Missouri fan. Here's a web site comment on the Columbia Daily Tribune game story about Zaire Taylor's game-winning shot to give the Tigers an overtime victory at Iowa State: Yoda says - "Strong with the force Taylor is, ice runs through his veins. Even on an off night, clutch he was. JT, Ramsey, and Denmon, well played game you all had!"
* Your Humble Correspondent welcomes David Ubben, the new Big 12 blogger for ESPN.com. Ubben, a graduate of the University of Missouri, moves to the Internet after working at the Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. He'll be covering Big 12 football for the World Wide Leader and replaces Tim Griffin, who spent the last two years cranking out copy. YHC wishes Ubben good luck and fast typing - Griffin leaves behind a big blog to fill.
Hot links for a Wednesday
Another explanation regarding the ESPN The Magazine story about Texas' struggles this year and coach Rick Barnes' comment about national championships and developing NBA players.
Seth Davis of SIcom talked to coaches around the country for their candid and anonymous assessments of teams that should make the NCAA Tournament. This link includes the break downs for Big 12 teams.
New Texas Tech football coach Tommy Tuberville isn't content winning seven or eight games. He told Red Raiders fans at a luncheon that "we're going to win a championship. We're going to win maybe two, maybe three, maybe four."
Headlines that make you go Hmmmmmm
"Missouri athletic director says he will wait to hire the right women's basketball coach"
Well, it wouldn't make much sense to hire the wrong coach, now would it?
Report: Expansion would add money to Big Ten"
In other news, the sun rises in the East, dog bites man and water is wet.
|Tuesday, March 2|
Missouri women's coach Cindy Stein steps down
Cindy Stein fought the good fight for a dozen years. Her 12th season, in the final year of her contract, proved to be the end. Stein announced Monday night she his resigning as Missouri's women's coach when the team's season ends.
She walks away knowing she has the respect of her peers.
Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale: "Cindy is a fantastic coach. She was good for our league. She always did things the right way."
Nebraska coach Connie Yori: "I have the ultimate respect for Cindy Stein. She has integrity. Her program got caught in the situation where they lost the close games. Every coach who has come into this league has found out how challenging it is.
Texas coach Gail Goestenkors: "Cindy is a good friend of mine. She has done thing with such class and intensity. It's just tough to move up in this league. We're losing a great coach and a great person."
Stein was asked about her top memories at Missouri but she focused on the way her student-athletes developed as people, not as players.
"You have to do things the right way," she said. "I've said before that as much I would like to win a national championship, I'd rather go to heaven."
Stein decided to step down because of her contract status.
"The constant speculation continued to grow and grow," she said. "The losing didn't end the speculation, it increased it. We went to Lincoln (Nebraska) and I was asked about it. It had become a huge distraction. I felt like we needed to end the speculation and just focus on our remaining games."
Stein has a 184-175 overall record going into Wednesday night's game at Missouri. This season the Tigers are 11-16 overall and 1-13 in the overwhelming Big 12. Missouri has lost nine consecutive games going into Wednesday's game at Texas. Seven of the 13 league losses have been by 10 or fewer points.
"Our team is so much improved than last year," said Stein, whose teams have won just 12 conference games over the last four years. "Those of us at the bottom of the league, we've all improved. It's not good enough. That's what has become very tough."
The flip side of all the success of Big 12 women's basketball - No. 1 in RPI, tops in attendance, over half of the teams making the NCAA Tournament field - is that some teams have to finish near the bottom. The winning records of the teams in the top 25 mean that the unranked teams are losing.
"People have to understand how competitive this league is," Coale said. "We had to make a shot at the buzzer to win at Missouri. Sometimes you need fortune to smile on you. Even in a game, there's a key possession, a missed shot, a bad bounce that decides the outcome. It's just the fragility of sports and won-loss records."
Big 12 national coach of the year candidates
Gary Parrish, national college basketball writer for CBSSports.com, has listed his eight top candidates for national coach of the year. He has three Big 12 coaches on the list.
Scott Drew, Baylor: The Baylor Bears were picked 10th in the preseason Big 12 poll somewhat because they lost three of their top six players from an average team, but mostly because they're the Baylor Bears. Remember, this is a program that wasn't allowed to play nonleague games just four seasons ago in the wake of a scandal centered around a player who was murdered before Drew took the job. But Baylor is now 22-6 overall, tied for third in the Big 12 standings and a quality pick if you're searching for a dark-horse candidate to advance deep into the NCAA tournament.
Frank Martin, Kansas State: KSU was essentially 39th in the preseason AP poll -- well behind such schools as North Carolina (No. 6), California (No. 13), Washington (No. 14), Oklahoma (No. 17) and Dayton (No. 21). Now the Wildcats are ranked fifth nationally and in contention for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The best part? Michael Beasley has nothing to do with it, meaning the man who was at least somewhat hired to ensure Beasley's enrollment has taken the KSU program to new heights two seasons after Beasley left. The even-better-than-the-best part? Five of the top six scorers should be back next season, meaning Martin's fourth year could be a lot like his third.
Bill Self, Kansas: Anybody who thinks it's easy to continue without incident after the key pieces from a national title team leave for the NBA should talk to Billy Donovan and Roy Williams, both of whom have struggled after championship seasons. It's difficult to overcome the turnover, but Self has done it. He won a championship in 2008 and lost six of his top seven scorers. But he has recruited well enough to again have the Jayhawks in line for a No. 1 seed, and they're the favorites at Sportsbook.com to win a second championship in three years.
Click. Read. Be informed.
Texas Tech sophomore Jordan Barncastle has adapted well after moving from back up post player to starting power forward.
Oklahoma State's Matt Pilgrim, after losing his best friend in an accidental shooting, has found a way to make basketball fun again.
Freshman Tiny Gallon continues to be an enigma for Oklahoma.
Natasha Kelley, one of the key performers for Oklahoma's second-ranked gymnastics team, is competing this season with a torn ACL in her right knee.
News to peruse
* Missouri's Justin Safford will continue to rehabilitate the torn ACL in his left knee. His return to action remains a possibility. "Justin is doing great with his rehabilitation and it's something we are going to keep an eye on," Missouri coach Mike Anderson said in a statement released by the school. What that means for this season, we'll just have to wait and see." Safford is averaging 9.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 21.7 minutes in Big 12 games.
* Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said Tuesday that the plan is for junior guard Melissa Jones to return to the court during the NCAA Tournament. Jones, the Lady Bears' most experienced perimeter player, has missed most of the Big 12 season with a stress reaction in her leg. "We're hoping when we get to post-season, she'll be good to go," Mulkey said. "She's been cleared to play, we're gonna hold her off until (the NCAA Tournament)."
* Texas freshman guard Lauren Flores will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee during Monday's practice. Flores was a reserve who was averaging 2.4 points in 10.7 minutes per game.
* Congratulations to the sports information departments at Nebraska and Texas. They were honored by the Football Writers Association of America as two of its first "Super 11" - the best media relations departments in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision during the 2009 season. An FWAA committee, with representatives from each D-I conference, received input from the organization's membership. Criteria in determining the Super 11 included how press boxes/operations were run, accessibility of players and coaches, distribution of media materials plus how the departments went the extra mile in helping member of the media do their jobs.
* Omaha's Qwest Center Omaha has played host to NCAA volleyball regionals or Final Fours in four of the last five years. But the city and the facility won't be involved the next two seasons. Next year, NCAA regionals will be hosted by Dayton, Penn State, Texas and Washington. In 2011, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky and Minnesota set to host regionals. The Final Four will be in Kansas City in 2010, San Antonio in 2011 and Louisville in 2012.
* Texas A&M coach Mark Turgeon on the possibility of expanding the NCAA Tournament from 65 to 96 teams:
"I have mixed emotions on it. I love what we have right now. It's difficult to get into the tournament, you have to be elite. And I think that's what makes it special. I like the way it is. But selfishly, I also think 96 helps coaches and keeps more athletic directors and fans happy."
* Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford on junior James Anderson, the Big 12's leading scorer:
"He is a very special player, a very special person. He's the most coachable player I've ever been around. We've asked him to score and he's the leading scorer in the Big 12. We've asked him to pass the ball and he has found open guys. We've asked him to rebound he rebounds. He's also our best defender. ... I think he's the best player in the country."
* Kansas coach Bill Self believes that Kansas State coach Frank Martin should be the Big 12 coach of the year:
"In my opinion, Frank deserves the award. He's the conference coach of the year, and he should be national coach of the year, with one other serious competitor (Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim). Boeheim obviously has done a remarkable job, with him losing so many guys off of last year's team. To me, those two guys have stood out with regard to what the expectations were and how their teams have played. ... Frank has done a marvelous job, as good a job as anybody's done in the county, let alone our league."
* Texas Tech coach Pat Knight on Baylor guard LaceDarius Dunn, the second-leading scorer in the Big 12:
"He's gotten harder over the years (to defend), because he used to be pretty much a spot-up shooter. So this is probably the most dangerous he's been. You kind of forgot about him when he was a freshman. He'd just sit out there and he could shoot from so deep ... (Now) he's a threat in taking one or two dribbles, and so now he's got everything he needs to score. He can spot and shift, and now he can score off the dribble. So I think he's even more harder to guard this year. Not that he's been easy to guard in year's past, but now he's just more dangerous.''
|Monday, March 1|
Thoughts and prayers
Condolences to Texas football coach Mack Brown and his family. Brown's mother Katherine passed away Sunday at age 81 after waging a long and courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Here's a link to story about Katherine Brown written by Bill Little of the UT media relations department.
Monday Morning musings
In his Weekly Watch feature on ESPN.com, Andy Katz had shout outs for two Big 12 players:
James Anderson, Oklahoma State: He was left off the preseason Wooden Watch List. Yet all he has done is score, score and score for a Cowboys team that continues to find ways to earn key wins. Anderson scored 27 points in the win over Kansas on Saturday and is averaging 22.6 points a game on the season. The Cowboys couldn't make the tourney field without him.
Donald Sloan, Texas A&M: Sloan has carried himself with class throughout the season after his best friend, Derrick Roland, went down with a horrific broken leg at Washington. Sloan continues to come up large in key wins for the Aggies, including 19 points in the win over Texas. He has averaged 19.3 points in his past nine games.
* Kansas coach Bill Self believes that Oklahoma State's Big Three of James Anderson, Obi Muonelo and Keiton Page are capable of knocking out any team. They combined for 59 points in the Cowboys' victory over the No. 1 Jayhawks: "It probably sounds trite, whenever you get your butt kicked like we did, you always look at the other team and say how good they are, that kind of stuff. I will say this, and I mean this totally and honestly, I don't see a lot of teams beating them if Page and Muonelo and Anderson are (shooting like that). I really don't."
* Former Kansas star Wayne Simien is following his faith with his non-profit organization, Called To Greatness, which holds basketball camps and sports leagues for children and teaches the games from a Biblical perspective.
* Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman writes that former Oklahoma State defensive back Perish Cox has hurt his draft status with his comments at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
* Taylor Bible, who will be a freshman defensive tackle at Texas during the 2010 season, made some bold predictions about the Longhorns.