On February 1 in Austin, Texas No. 8 Kansas didn’t play its best basketball, falling to the Longhorns 81-69 in a game they trailed by as much as 20 early in the second half. The Jayhawks shot just 38.5% from the field as a team and Andrew Wiggins struggled, making just two of his 12 shot attempts. The rematch offered both the Jayhawks as a team and Wiggins individually a shot at redemption, and Bill Self’s team took advantage.
No. 19 Texas may have led 8-5 at the first media timeout but from there it was all Kansas, with the Jayhawks rolling to an 85-54 victory. Kansas was very efficient on offense and they were tough defensively, limiting the Longhorns to 34% shooting on the night. The win puts Kansas three games up on their closest challenger in the Big 12, which in all likelihood means that they’ll win their tenth consecutive Big 12 regular season title.
Kansas went from down three to up 28 by the end of the first half, shooting 63% from the field with Wiggins serving as the catalyst. Wiggins was assertive offensively and it paid off, as he shot 5-for-7 from the field and scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first half. As a team Kansas scored 1.39 points per possession in the first half, and given the amount of talent at Bill Self’s disposal they aren’t losing when performing that well offensively.
The contributions came from many players, with reserves Frank Mason and Tarik Black combining to score 23 points off the bench. Mason made six of his seven shots and scored 14 points, and with Naadir Tharpe (five assists) shooting 1-for-9 from the field those points were important. As for Black, his emphatic dunk provided two of the nine points he scored while also grabbing five rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
Given the issues he’s had with foul trouble throughout his career Black won’t be a 30 minute per game player, and given the presence of Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid (13 points, seven rebounds and six blocks) that’s fine. But the senior needs to be productive when on the floor if Kansas is to make a run at a national title, and he was against Texas.
With the number of young players in the rotation there’s still progress to be made in Lawrence. And their two games at Texas are a prime example of what can happen when things click for this group. In the first meeting there were issues on both ends of the floor, especially in regards to the quality of shots they were taking. There were no such problems in the rematch, and the Jayhawks rolled as a result.
Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.
The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.
Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.
With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.
Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.
A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.
The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.
It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.
Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.
Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.
“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”
Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.
Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.
Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.
There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.
McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.
Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.
“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”
Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.
“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”
Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.