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No. 3 Kansas lands epic, comeback win over No. 9 West Virginia

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Kansas set a world record for the loudest indoor arena before Monday night’s tip-off, and with just under three minutes left in the game, the fans that set that record were heading for the exits.

It’s too bad, because that record may have been broken down the stretch, as No. 3 Kansas erased a late, 14-point deficit in a come-from-behind win No. 9 West Virginia to win 84-80 and maintain a two-game lead atop the Big 12 regular season standings.

The Jayhawks comeback was led by Frank Mason III, who finished with 24 points and five assists despite having an off-night, and Landen Lucas, as the duo ran point on a Jayhawk press that gave the Mountaineers a taste of their own medicine. As the old saying goes, teams that press don’t like to be pressed, and a series of sloppy turnovers in the final two minutes gifted away West Virginia’s chance to land the first conference sweep of a Bill Self coached team since he was at Tulsa in 1999-2000.

The regulation-closing run was 21-7 over the final 2:45, a stretch where the Jayhawks forced turnovers and hit three threes after missing their previous 12 shots from beyond the arc. Mason forced overtime with a pair of free throws, and West Virginia’s Tarik Phillip missed a three at the buzzer that would have won it.

The Jayhawks jumped out to a quick lead in the extra frame thanks to a pair of threes from Devonte’ Graham, his third and fourth in the span of five minutes of game time, and a layup from Jackson off of a turnover. All told, Kansas outscored West Virginia 29-7 over six minutes of game time, a stretch where West Virginia turned the ball over seven times. Graham had 12 of his 18 points in those six minutes, while Josh Jackson had 14 points and five steals.

Esa Ahmad had 20 points and seven boards to lead the Mountaineers while Phillip added 18 points. Phillip also had two turnovers in the final two minutes and missed the game-winning three after he settled instead of driving to the rim.

Here are three things to take away from this result:

1. The lack of depth for the Jayhawks was painfully obvious: Not to be the Debbie Downer here, but I don’t think the flaws in this Kansas roster could have been more apparent than they were on Monday night. The biggest one? They have, essentially, one functional big man in Landen Lucas, and he was as good as he always in against the Mountaineers. He blocked a couple shots, he changed a handful more, he grabbed 13 boards and he was terrific at the point of the Kansas press while avoiding picking up his fifth foul.

But once you get past Lucas it isn’t pretty. Mitch Lightfoot isn’t ready to play in a game at that level yet. Dwight Coleby is still battling his way back from a torn ACL he suffered late in 2015. And Carlton Bragg Jr., as talented as he can be offensively, just is not a guy that can handle being asked to provide any kind of physical presence. That’s not his game. He’s a 6-foot-8, 220-pound face-up four. He was manhandled on Monday, and looked like he was devoid of confidence.

The Jayhawks are always a couple of ticky-tack fouls on Lucas away from being in real trouble.

And that’s not the only place where Kansas lacks depth. Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Josh Jackson almost never come off the floor. Returning home from Lubbock on Saturday and turning around and playing just 48 hours takes its toll, and I’d guess that had as much to do with Kansas’ inability to make layups and open jumpers for the first 38 minutes of the game as anything.

This is a problem because the NCAA tournament is played on this same schedule. Can Kansas win two games in three days for three straight weeks?

2. The Big 12 race could come to an end Saturday: That’s when Kansas makes their return trip to Waco to take on No. 6 Baylor. The Bears lost on Monday night, falling in Lubbock to the same Red Raiders that came a potentially-illegal screen away from picking off Kansas in that same building over the weekend. That means that, as of today, Kansas holds a two-game lead over Baylor and a three-game lead over West Virginia with just five games left in league play. If they win at Baylor on Saturday, it’s time to start celebrating their 13th straight Big 12 title. Even with a loss, Kansas is in a position where it seems very unlikely that they’ll cough up the outright league title to Scott Drew.

3. Phog Magic: Two weeks ago, Kansas had gone three years without losing at home. If West Virginia hadn’t collapsed, this would have been the second straight loss that the Jayhawks had taken at home, and that hasn’t happened since 1988. It also would have been the second loss that Kansas has taken against West Virginia this season, having fallen by 16 points in Morgantown earlier this year. That would have been the first time that Bill Self has been swept in a home-and-home by a conference foe since he was coaching at Tulsa during the 1999-2000 season.

Maybe the term should be Self Magic.

Miami picks up Florida Gulf Coast transfer

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The transfer train continues to run to Miami this spring.

The U picked up their third commitment from a transfer Thursday when Zach Johnson, formerly of Florida Gulf Coast, pledged to coach Jim Larranaga and the ‘Canes.

“I would like to thank my FGCU family for everything during my time there. The relationships I have built will never be forgotten,” Johnson wrote on social media. “With that being said I am proud and happy to announce that I will be attending the University of Miami for my grad year.”

Johnson joins Kameron McGusty (Oklahoma) and Anthony Mack (Wyoming) as players from other programs joining Miami. Unlike the other two, who will sit out under NCAA transfer rules, Johnson will be immediately eligible as a graduate transfer.

The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 16.1 points on 46.9 percent shooting overall and 39.2 percent from distance. He averaged career highs in scoring, rebounds, 3-point percentage and steals during his junior campaign with the Eagles.

Johnson will help ease the transition for the Hurricanes with Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker gone to the pros, Dewan Huell testing the waters and Ja’Quan Newton gone to graduation.

Big Ten releases matchups for new 20-game league slate

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The Big Ten’s 14-team structure has made for some unwieldy scheduling with unbalanced schedules and long-time rivalries relegated to a single matchup in some seasons.

The conference’s move to a 20-game league schedule is being made in part to alleviate those issues. Teams will play seven opponents home-and-away and the remaining six in one-off meetings – half on the road and half at home.

“The new schedules ensure that all three of the Big Ten’s in-state rivals – Illinois/Northwestern, Indiana/Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State-will play twice on an annual basis,” Big Ten assistant commissioner Kerry Kenny said in a statement. “Additionally, there will be regional rotations in both the east and in the west. Rather than protecting a single opponent on a yearly basis for the remaining eight teams, annual rotations involving the four eastern teams (Maryland, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers) and the four western teams (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) have been strategically developed to optimize travel, academic and recovery impacts while encouraging increased competition among institutions that are near each other geographically.

“Increasing the frequency of conference competition allows the Big Ten to compete across a larger footprint, while respecting history and balancing the needs of our students, coaches and fans.”

The Big Ten released the scheduling matrix Thursday (see below) while the full schedule will be released at a later date.

 

2018-19 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Opponents

ILLINOIS

Home: Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers

Away: Iowa, Maryland, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin

INDIANA

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

IOWA

Home: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan

Away: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Home/Away: Indiana, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

MARYLAND

Home: Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern

Away: Iowa, Michigan State, Rutgers

Home/Away: Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN

Home: Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue

Away: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State, Wisconsin

MICHIGAN STATE

Home: Maryland, Minnesota, Northwestern

Away: Illinois, Penn State, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Rutgers

MINNESOTA

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Penn State

Away: Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

NEBRASKA

Home: Northwestern, Ohio State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Rutgers

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

NORTHWESTERN

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue

Away: Maryland, Michigan State, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio State, Rutgers, Wisconsin

OHIO STATE

Home: Minnesota, Penn State, Wisconsin

Away: Indiana, Michigan, Nebraska

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Rutgers

PENN STATE

Home: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State

Away: Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue, Rutgers, Wisconsin

PURDUE

Home: Illinois, Iowa, Rutgers

Away: Michigan, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State

RUTGERS

Home: Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska

Away: Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin

Home/Away: Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State

WISCONSIN

Home: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers

Away: Indiana, Nebraska, Ohio State

Home/Away: Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern, Penn State

New Mexico’s Chris McNeal transferring

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Chris McNeal is heading to his fourth school in four years.

The New Mexico guard has asked for and received his release from the school to transfer, the Lobos announced Thursday.

“Chris has truly been a great person to have in our program,” head coach Paul Weir said in a statement. “We wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

McNeal began his career in 2015 at Western Kentucky, where he played one season and set the freshman assist record, before heading to Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Ia., becoming a junior-college All-American on his way to New Mexico.

In his one season with the Lobos, McNeal started 19 games and averaged 9.5 points per game.He shot 37.2 percent from the floor and 31.5 percent from 3-point range. He had three games of at least 20 points, including 29 against Tennessee Tech in which he connected on 7 of 11 3-pointers.

New Mexico went 19-15 and finished third in the Mountain West.

McNeal will have one year remaining of eligibility and also has a redshirt year still available to him after his stop at Indian Hills.

Syracuse transfer Matthew Moyer headed to Vanderbilt

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Bryce Drew’s already sterling group of 2018 newcomers got even better Thursday.

Matthew Moyer, a former top-100 recruit, committed to transfer from Syracuse to Vanderbilt to add to an impressive haul of talent Drew has brought to Nashville.

“I am so blessed to announce that the next step in my academic and athletic journey is to Vanderbilt to play for Coach Drew!!” Moyer wrote on social media.

Moyer was a four-star recruit in 2016 and redshirted his first season with the Orange. Last year, his first on the court, he played just 16.8 minutes per game, averaging 3.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-8 Ohio native chose Vanderbilt over the likes of Texas and Xavier.

While Moyer will be expected to sit out the upcoming season under transfer rules, he’ll still be part of a major transfer infusion for the Commodores. Drew already has two five-star recruits in top-15 prospects Simisola Shittu and Darius Garland, plus four-star recruit Aaron Nesmith, a top-60 prospect. They’re also still in the running for Romeo Langford, a top-10 player in 2018.

Vanderbilt took a significant dip last year in Drew’s second season after an NCAA tournament appearance in Year 1, but their work on the recruiting trail looks to be ensuring that’ll be a momentary drop in performance. Vanderbilt moved on from Kevin Stallings to Drew in large part because of languishing results, but Drew looks to be reinvigorating the program in the best way possible – with serious success on the recruiting trail that seems likely to be followed by wins on the floor.

Report: Pilot involved in last year’s Michigan crash went against protocol, saved lives doing so

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The pilot of the plane that was scheduled to carry the Michigan basketball team from Detroit to Washington D.C. for the 2017 Big Ten tournament broke protocol by aborting takeoff and, in the process, potentially saved the lives of everyone on board the plane.

Here’s what happened, according to a transcript of the cockpit recorder that was obtained by The Detroit News: The mechanism that an airplane uses to take-off is called an elevator, and one of the two elevators on the plane that the Michigan team was on was stuck in a position that would not have allowed the plane to get into the air the way it needed to.

By the time the pilot of the plane realized this, the plane was already past the speed that would have allowed them to abort the takeoff without damaging the plane. Generally speaking, when that happens, the protocol is to get into the air and then find a way to land safely. The pilot on this flight slammed on the brakes, reverse-thrusted the engines and hoped for the best.

What eventually happened was that the plane skidded to a stop off of the back-end of the runway, leaving the people on board with bumps, bruises, scratches and, in the case of Derrick Walton Jr., stitches in his leg.

The alternative?

Well, we don’t have to think about that.

Because the pilot of that plane, Mark Radloff, went against what he was taught to do.

I’d suggest you read the entire story here. It’s wild and frightening.