Bill Self (AP Photo_

Research project offers unique view of Kansas’ 2013 Sweet 16 season

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One of the most memorable images of the 2013 NCAA tournament was Michigan guard Trey Burke’s game-tying three against Kansas in the Sweet 16, sending that game into overtime and keeping the Wolverines alive in the process. Michigan would win that game, going all the way to the national title game where they fell short against Louisville.

As for Kansas, the defeat was a tough finish to a season that featured 31 wins, a share of the Big 12 regular season title and the Big 12 tournament title. The biggest issue in the eyes of many was the same as that of the 2014 team that lost to Stanford in the Round of 32: inconsistency at the point guard position (note: not having Joel Embiid didn’t help this year’s team either).

Researchers at the University of Kansas used the 2012-13 team in their study of the impact stress has on athletic performance, observing the cortisol (which impacts stress) and testosterone levels of the players in 27 of the 30 weeks of the season. And according to their research, one of the dips in testosterone levels for the players (and the raising of cortisol levels) occurred during the most important portion of the college basketball season.

The men’s team also saw its levels plummet right before the NCAA Tournament, a potential sign that stress was keeping the Jayhawks from playing at their best.

Interestingly, just two weeks after KU’s loss to Michigan, the team’s levels had bounced back up to baseline.

“It just shows that we’re working with high-level athletes to the point where they can be stressed pretty hard and bounce right back from it,” Andre said. “I’m not sure that athletes of a lesser caliber could be stressed to that level and then recover as quickly.”

What does this study mean with relation to the way in which programs train their athletes? According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, the hope is that the study can give coaches an idea as to how to work their players with an eye towards having them at their best at the right time.

With the current technology in KU’s weight room, [KU strength coach Andrea] Hudy has instant data on each of her athletes’ lifts. With hormone levels, though, findings aren’t available until after the fact because of the time needed for testing, meaning an NBA combine that tests players’ hormone levels alongside their vertical jump probably remains in the distant future.

“It’s a process right now,” Hudy said. “But did I learn from it? Absolutely. Did the guys learn from it? Yes. Did coach learn from it? Yes.”

As noted above, using the date from such studies can be difficult due to the changes that occur within a team from one year to the next. But with so many looking for that edge that can make the difference between a good year and a great one, it may only be a matter of time before another program does a similar study.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.