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How can Wichita State build on the two best years in program history?

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The NCAA tournament is the greatest sporting event in the United States, and if it wasn’t for the unification of ‘Murica in support of the stars and stripes at the World Cup this past June, I think that you would be hard-pressed to find anything that can hold a vice-grip on the ever-dwindling attention span of an entire nation of sports fans for a month like March Madness can.

But while you are filling out your brackets and wildly cheering on that No. 13 seed, hoping a team without a single player that you can name pulls off the upset, the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament can be a fickle beast for the people participating in it.

One tough draw, one off night, and an entire season’s body of work can be forgotten in the annals of history. Deep tournament runs and early tourney exits are remembered much more vividly than, say, a regular season conference title. A 25-win season might get a coach a raise. A trip to the Sweet 16 will get him a better job. The tourney is always holding trump cards.

Case in point: Wichita State.

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This past season, the Shockers put together arguably the single-greatest regular season of all-time. They entered the NCAA tournament at 34-0 after steamrolling through league play with very few real challenges while posting the best regular season record in the history of college basketball. But thanks to No. 8-seed Kentucky, a preseason top five team that didn’t figure out how to play together until the night before the SEC tournament, the Shockers were sent packing without reaching the second weekend of the tournament.

All it took was one game — one game where Wichita State played as well as they had all season, losing one of the best-played, most entertaining games you’ll watch — to turn a historical year into a footnote for a team that didn’t make the Sweet 16.

“It was really great to go 35-0, that’s a really great accomplishment,” star guard Ron Baker told NBCSports at the Kevin Durant Skills Academy last month. “But the regular season is kind of a season in itself. When you get to the tournament, it almost feels like a whole nother year. A different season. And for us, that result was pretty disappointing.”

Wichita State had gone almost a full year in between losses, and for Baker, it was difficult for him to process that such a successful season had come to such an abrupt halt. “I reflected on it a lot,” he said, adding that it wasn’t until the sting from the upset wore off that he was truly able to appreciate what he and his team were able to do. “Once the season’s over and you sit down for a couple days, you slow down and think about what you accomplished.

“And it’s pretty phenomenal, especially when you look back in history. We’re the only team to go 35-0. It’s been special.”

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“We had an amazing year,” point guard Fred Van Vleet told NBCSports during a break in the action at the Point Guard Skills Academy in New Jersey in June. “We don’t really define our season off of that game.”

That appreciation wasn’t there while the Shockers were in the middle of their run, however. They weren’t thinking about what an undefeated season would mean historically or how they had a chance to get their names in the record books. They were focused on winning, on doing the things that it took to make sure that they kept that ‘0’ in their loss column.

They were on a mission.

“It was really hard to enjoy it during the season,” Baker said. “There’s practice every day. Weights, lifting. And we’re all competitive. [We did our] best to have fun with it.”

The season before Wichita State made a run at perfection, they were the latest in a long line of cinderellas from the mid-major ranks that traipsed their way through their region and into the Final Four.

And they did it despite the fact that their regular season ended in frustration.

In 2012-2013, the Shockers started the season 19-2, going 8-1 in Missouri Valley play and climbing to No. 15 in the country before losing three straight and five of their last ten regular season games. They wound up in the 8-9 game in the same bracket as Gonzaga, the No. 1 overall seed. But between a hot-shooting second half that sparked an upset of the ‘Zags and a beneficial draw in the later rounds that gave the Shockers matchups with La Salle and Ohio State, Marshall’s band of misfits made it all the way to the Final Four. And if it wasn’t for Louisville guard Tim Henderson’s heroics, they might have found themselves in the national title game.

It creates a weird dynamic, as the Shockers may end up being better remembered for a season in which they struggled through February and early March than for the year where they won their first 35 games. Maybe I’m wrong, and I hope I am, but the casual fan will likely put more stock in winning four games on national television in the NCAA tournament than they will 34 games on ESPN3 in places like Des Moines, Iowa, and Springfield, Missouri.

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It also creates expectations. Baker is a redshirt sophomore. He’s entering his fourth year in the program, during which time the Shockers have made three NCAA tournaments, won two regular season titles and a MVC tournament title, reached a Final Four and earned a No. 1 seed with an undefeated regular season. Prior to his arrival, the Shockers had made one NCAA tournament since 1988.

What happens if the Shockers “only” win the conference and fail to make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament this season?

“If we would’ve done that six years ago at Wichita State, they would have been really pleased,” Baker said. “Now, to make the tournament, it’s expected of us,” but to listen to the two Shockers stars speak, those expectations and that notoriety are what drive them.

“[Success brings] a little bit more popularity, people recognize you. Respect as well,” Van Vleet said. “Those two things are nice. With that comes a lot more work that you’ve got to put in to keep getting better. You don’t want to plateau out.”

What “a lot more work” includes has been early morning workouts for Van Vleet, Baker and senior guard Tekele Cotton, as they spent part of their summer waking up at 6:30 a.m. to workout before coaching at Wichita State’s summer basketball camp. And that would be just the first or two or three workouts on a typical day.

“I’ve never done that before,” Van Vleet said with a laugh. “I’m not a morning guy.”

For Baker, that work included improving his mid-range game, floaters and 8-10 foot finishes, as well as his ability to create separation off the bounce and get to the rim on straight line drives. For Van Vleet, he’s been focused on improving his athleticism and his ability to be a scorer, which is something that both players will need to improve upon without Cleanthony Early around to shoulder the scoring load.

And if they can do that, the Shockers should once again be a team capable of making the Sweet 16 and advancing further, but that won’t leave them satisfied.

“Honestly, we look at [Gonzaga, Butler and VCU] and see what they’ve built, and I’m sure Coach Marshall feels that he wants to build something like that, but the goal is always a national championship,” Van Vleet said. “Make it to that game, play in that game, win that game.

“I would be lying to say that wasn’t our goal at the beginning of the season.”

Book from former Indiana player alleges Knight abuse


Former Indiana coach Bob Knight is accused of punching a player with a closed fist, breaking a clipboard over a player’s head and grabbing players by the testicles and squeezing in a book authored by former Hoosier Todd Jadlow, according to a report from WTHR-TV in Indianapolis

“If (Knight) did those things today,” Jadlow told WTHR, “he would be in jail.”

The book, titled ‘Jadlow: On The Rebound,’ chronicles Jadlow’s time with the Hoosiers in the mid-to-late-1980s, including the program’s 1987 national championship, as well as his battle with drug and alcohol addiction.

What is likely to garner the most attention, though, is the alleged abuses from the Hall of Fame coach, who was accused of mistreating and berating players throughout his career.

Knight won three national championships and the 1984 Olympic gold medal but was dismissed from Indiana in 2000 after school president Myles Brand determined he had violated a “zero tolerance policy.” Knight went on to coach for seven years at Texas Tech before retiring.

“I’m a Knight guy,” Jadlow said. “I’m proud to have played for him and love him like a father; let’s not mistake that. But this was the life we led when we were playing for him.”

Jadlow’s claims aren’t exactly surprising given the history of allegations against Knight, but seeing them laid out is still rather disturbing. Among them in the book, according to WTHR, are as follows:

  • Jadlow was punched in the back of the head by Knight during a walkthrough for an NCAA tournament game against Seton Hall.
  • Knight broke a clipboard over Jadlow’s head in 1989 in a game against Louisville.
  • Jadlow’s sides were left with bruises after Knight dug his hands into him.
  • Knight “made a habit” of “grabbing players by the testicles and squeezing.”
  • Knight grabbed Daryl Thomas by the neck and shook him after the 1986 NCAA tournament.

Certainly ugly stuff.

UCLA freshman to miss 4-6 weeks with knee injury

UCLA head coach Steve Alford, second from right, watches action against Cal Poly with his assistant coaches in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Baker)
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The degree of difficulty just went up for UCLA in a season that was already likely to be filled with intrigue.

Ike Anigbogu, one of the members of the Bruins’ highly-touted recruiting class, suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and will miss 4-to-6 weeks, UCLA coach Steve Alford announced Tuesday.

The 6-foot-10 center is one-third of Alford’s top-10 2016 class, which also included five stars Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf. He wasn’t as highly regard as those two, but Anigbogu was a consensus top-50 recruit coming out of Corona, Calif. He averaged a double-double for UCLA during their foreign trip this summer.

“We’re optimistic we’ll have him back in four weeks so not going to miss a lot,” Alford said, according to Bruin Report Online. “The first three games probably.”

The Bruins aren’t without depth to weather the loss of Anigbogu as returning center Thomas Welsh averaged 11.2 points and 8.5 rebounds a game as a sophomore year ago and of course Leaf will play a major role.

Still, it’s a blow for a team that whose future appears so dependent on a group of freshmen, to lose one to start the season complicates the issue.

“Ike is doing a lot of good things,” Alford said. “Fortunately it’s a small tear. It’s not a major tear. I don’t think it’s going ot be a huge setback, but every time you have an injury there’s a setback.”

The timetable for Anigbogu’s return is interesting as if he’s able to hit the short end of the rehab window, which Alford repeatedly indicated they expected, he could be back for UCLA’s toughest stretch of non-conference games, starting with Kentucky on Dec. 3, then against Michigan on Dec. 10 and Ohio State on Dec. 17 before the Bruins open Pac-12 play against league favorite Oregon.

Duke’s Jayson Tatum injured during ‘Pro Day’ practice

Jayson Tatum (photo courtesy Duke Athletics)
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Duke freshman Jayson Tatum suffered an injury to his left foot during Duke’s pro day practice on Tuesday.

The severity of the injury is not yet known.

Tatum suffered the injury on what was a “routine landing”, according to someone that attended the practice, and it was immediately apparent he was in pain. Another source added that Tatum left the court without putting any pressure on the foot.

Tatum is a top five prospect in the Class of 2016 and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft. He’s been as impressive as any player during the first month of practice, multiple sources have said.

Duke is currently without their other top five prospect, as freshman Harry Giles III is still recovering from a knee procedure last month. It’s unclear just how much Giles will provide this season, as this was the third surgery on his knees.

Miami beats out Kansas and Florida for 2017 center

Jim Larranaga
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Jim Larranaga and Miami just won a big recruiting battle.

Deng Gak, a 6-foot-11 center in the Class of 2017, committed to the Hurricanes on Tuesday over the likes of Kansas and Florida.

“First off I’d like to thank my family for supporting me throughout this long process,” Gak wrote on Twitter, “and all the coaches that recruited me up to this point.

“After thinking long and hard, I’ve decided that the University of Miami is the best fit for me to continue my education and basketball career!”

Gak made an official visit to Miami last month, but followed it up with visits to Gainesville and Lawrence before ultimately deciding to pledge to the Hurricanes.

Ranked in the top-100 by Rivals, Gak joins a strong 2017 class for Larranaga. The Hurricanes already have a commitment from four-star point guard Chris Lykes as well as highly-regarded New Zealand power forward Sam Waardenburg.

Miami would appear to have plenty recruiting momentum at the moment, coming off a 2016 class that included McDonald’s All-American Dewan Huell and top-50 guard Bruce Brown.

After busy summer, a healthy Krzyzewski ready to lead Duke

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 06:  Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils directs his team during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 88-80.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Mike Krzyzewski is embracing the grind of another year at Duke after an offseason that was exceptionally busy – even by his standards.

The winningest men’s coach in Division I history is coming off a summer in which he had four surgeries and led the U.S. men’s national basketball team to a third Olympic gold medal.

The Hall of Fame coach who turns 70 in February joked his summer was “a cruise” and proclaimed himself healthy and ready to lead a loaded Duke team that looks capable of contending for a sixth national championship and third since 2010.

“I’m good, and everything that happened was curable and needed to be taken care of, and was taken care of,” Krzyzewski said. “And now I’m raring to go.”

Krzyzewski’s offseason and subsequent return to full health figure to be popular topics of discussion Wednesday when Atlantic Coast Conference coaches and players gather in Charlotte, North Carolina, for the league’s annual preseason media day.

His health drew widespread concern last February when he missed a game at Georgia Tech – the first time he didn’t travel with his team since 1995 – and briefly was hospitalized with what he recently said was dehydration, high blood pressure and “a little bit of exhaustion,” though he was back at work the next day .

Krzyzewski – who had both hips replaced in the 1990s – also had his left knee replaced in April, had hernia surgery a month later and underwent two operations on his left ankle in June.

The procedure on his knee – which prompted his daughter, Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino, to dub him “the bionic man” – was key, he said.

“It’s one of those times that can happen to anybody where you get a series of physical setbacks,” Krzyzewski said. “Part of the reason I was exhausted was, I had a bad knee, and I really think that whatever happened when we were going to Georgia Tech, a lot of it had to do with me having a bad knee for a couple months and knowing I was already going to get the knee replacement, because I (was) still pushing it.”

Krzyzewski said he’s known both of his knees have been “bone-on-bone” for a while, started feeling pain in the left knee at the beginning of the 2015-16 season and knew it had to be replaced.

But he kept it a secret for most of the season – at times even hiding a knee brace underneath his long pants so Duke’s players and fans couldn’t tell he was wearing one. And while the public didn’t know there was a problem, Savarino said the family noticed in the summer of 2015 that her dad was walking differently.

“Although he never really said a word about it at all, it was hard to watch him walk out on the court and just be a little bit nervous about, is his knee going to lock up on him?” Savarino said.

Coincidentally, just down the road in Chapel Hill, Krzyzewski’s fiercest rival was dealing with a similar situation.

North Carolina coach Roy Williams had a similar surgery in May to replace his right knee , which means that between them, they have seven national titles and four artificial joints. Williams, 66, said he feels comfortable enough to stand for longer stretches than he did last season, while the Tar Heels advanced to the NCAA Tournament title game.

“It does feel better, and it’s been a long process,” Williams said.

Krzyzewski’s procedures left him feeling similarly spry, especially after completing pre- and post-surgery exercises to keep his quadriceps strong. He looked and felt fine during his final run with the U.S. team, leading them to one final gold medal before San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich takes over.

And with his focus now fully on the Blue Devils, he says he feels younger than before and is showing no signs of slowing down. He says now he can get more hands-on during practice than he could last year, when he left much of the on-court work with the players to his assistants.

“I knew I was going to be better. I knew that leg was going to be straight,” he said. “I knew that I’d have more energy and I knew that I needed to get ready for the Olympics. So in a very short period of time, I was well, and my knee is terrific. I’m like the poster boy for knee replacement.”

AP Basketball Writer Aaron Beard in Chapel Hill contributed to this report.

AP College Basketball site: http://collegebasketball.ap.org