Kansas v Texas Tech

Turnovers, Joel Embiid’s back major concerns for No. 5 Kansas

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On Saturday night, No. 5 Kansas went into Stillwater and lost to Oklahoma State 72-65, and while it saved the Cowboys’ season, it more or less meant nothing to Kansas.

Nothing at all.

The Jayhawks clinched the outright Big 12 title on Saturday evening with Kansas State knocked off No. 15 Iowa State. If they end up losing out on a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday, it’s not going to be because they lost to Oklahoma State on the road when the Pokes were back at full strength. They may drop a bit in the polls, but since the polls are nothing more than a popularity contest, I think Bill Self and company will survive.

The loss isn’t an issue. Why the loss happened, however, is.

First things first: the turnovers. Kansas committed 22 of them. Naadir Tharpe had six, many of which were completely head-scratching and, for the most part, unforced. Andrew Wiggins had six as well. It wasn’t like Oklahoma State was pressing for 40 minutes, either. This wasn’t a case of the Jayhawks going up against a team like VCU or Arkansas, teams that build their defense around generating turnovers.

These were brain locks. Wiggins shuffling his feet before putting the ball on the floor. Tharpe leaving his feet to make a pass with no one to pass to. The most egregious? With Kansas down four and less than a minute left in the game, Tharpe gave the ball to Joel Embiid 40 feet from the rim. Embiid tried to throw it back to Tharpe, who wasn’t looking. The ball bounced off of the back of his head and straight back to Embiid. Given time, the Jayhawks will laugh just as hard about that play as I did when it happened.

Elite teams don’t turn the ball over 22 times. National title contenders don’t make those kinds of mistakes that often. It’s the reason why ‘Naadir Tharpe’ is the answer to ‘Why can’t Kansas win a title?’ every time the question is asked. This isn’t the first time this has happened; he almost cost Kansas a win at Texas Tech as well.

As concerning as those turnover numbers were, that’s not the biggest question mark for Kansas coming out of Saturday’s game.

Embiid’s back is.

He hurt it when he landed awkwardly late in the second half. He left the game and returned, but was not moving well at all. One of Smart’s biggest buckets was a driving layup that he scored over Embiid on a block that Embiid normally would have gotten.

After the game, ESPN showed Embiid walking back to the locker room very gingerly. He was clearly in quite a bit of discomfort, although all Self would offer after the game was that Embiid “tweaked his back“. Embiid missed some time earlier this season dealing with back issues.

He’s such an important piece to what Kansas does, obviously. If he’s not at 100%, Kansas is not the same team.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Some conference matchups play out before football

Oregon forward Dillon Brooks, left, reacts after scoring a basket against Utah during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016. Oregon defeated Utah 77-59. (AP Photo/George Frey)
(AP Photo/George Frey)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Utah at No. 16 Oregon, 4:00 p.m.

From Rob Dauster’s Weekend Preview:

Utah suffered one of the worst losses I’ve seen in a while on Thursday night, when Brandon Taylor, for some unknown reason, decided to foul an Oregon State player firing up a half court prayer at the buzzer. The Utes, who are arguably the second-best team in the Pac-12, will look to bounce-back on Sunday against the best team in the Pac-12, No. 16 Oregon at 4:00 p.m.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. No. 12 SMU will attempt to stay atop the American standings as they travel to South Florida. While the Mustangs won the first matchup between these two teams at home by 14, they’ve dropped their last two games on the road.

2. A few more American contests are going down as East Carolina travels to UConn and Houston heads to Tulsa. The game between the Cougars and Golden Hurricane is especially interesting because both teams are sitting two games back of SMU and trying to make a move on the postseason.

3. No. 5 Iowa continues the soft part of the schedule as they face Illinois on the road. The Hawkeyes posted recent easy victories over Northwestern and Penn State and will be heavily favored again on Sunday.

4. Could be an intriguing game as No. 17 Miami travels to Georgia Tech. Although the Yellow Jackets aren’t a major contender in the ACC, they’ve been tough this season, especially at home. The Hurricanes fell victim to Georgia Tech last season while they were ranked by Marcus Georges-Hunt has to get back on track after a recent slump for that to happen.

5. There is an Atlantic 10 game that will be featured on NBCSN on Sunday: Saint Louis at St. Bonaventure (2:00 p.m.).

CLICK HERE to watch these games on NBC Sports Live Extra Sunday afternoon.

Illinois State ends No. 21 Wichita State’s 12-game win streak

Fred VanVleet
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Having won 12 straight games, No. 21 Wichita State entered the weekend one of the hottest teams in the country. And with a four-game lead atop the Missouri Valley standings, clinching the regular season title was more a matter of “when” as opposed to “if.” But none of that mattered Saturday night at Illinois State, as the Redbirds managed to hand the Shockers their first conference loss by the final score of 58-53.

In addition to the 12-game win streak, which was second to Stony Brook (15 straight wins), Wichita State also saw its 19-game win streak in Valley regular season games come to an end. Illinois State was the last Valley team to beat Wichita State, eliminating the Shockers in the Arch Madness semifinals last March, and they played with the confidence of a team that believed it could win.

And after a rough first half the Redbirds found a way to come back, erasing a 16-point second half deficit in the process.

Wichita State’s issue in the second half was the fact that they couldn’t make shots. The Shockers shot just 26.7 percent from the field and 1-for-14 from three in the second half, with Fred VanVleet going scoreless and Shaq Morris scoring just one point. And just two players, Ron Baker and Conner Frankamp, managed to make multiple field goals in the game’s final 20 minutes. Illinois State certainly deserves credit for that, as they took away the quality looks Wichita State was able to find in building its lead.

And on the other end of the floor Paris Lee took control of the game during Illinois State’s comeback, scoring 13 of his 19 points in the second half with Deontae Hawkins adding 11 second-half points. Illinois State was even worse from the field, finishing the game shooting just over 27 percent from the field. But they were able to attack the Wichita State defense and get to the foul line, outscoring the Shockers 22-9 from the charity stripe. And in a game in which neither team could get much going offensively, the ability to get points from the line proved to be the difference.

This defeat doesn’t help Wichita State, but did anything really change? Maybe the margin for error when it comes to an at-large bid gets a little smaller with the loss in the eyes of some. But when considering injuries to the likes of VanVleet and Anton Grady in non-conference play, those early season losses are understandable. Saturday was a rough night for Wichita State, but given the maturity and talent on at Gregg Marshall’s disposal the Shockers will be fine moving forward.