Bill Self

Josh Jackson, from Napa, Calif.,, dunks over Nancy Mulkey, from Cypress, Texas, as he competes in the slam dunk contest during the McDonald's All-American Jam Fest, Monday, March 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Self pays freshman Jackson a major compliment

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Freshman phenom production under Bill Self has been something of a contentious topic. Many fault the coach, who has won one national title and 12-straight Big 12 championships, for not developing one-and-done talent to their fullest potential during their single-season stays in Lawrence. Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo are Exhibit 1-A and 1-B for this argument in recent years.

Whatever outside criticism there is (Andrew Wiggins did go No. 1 overall just 2 years ago, after all), Self isn’t shying away from hyping the latest freshman with big expectations to come to KU. When asked who the greatest athlete of all-time is at the school’s annual Tradition Night last week, Self had a simple, if tongue-and-cheek, response.

“I’ll say Josh Jackson,” Self said of the the 6-foot-8 shooting guard ranked No. 1 in his class, according to Lawrence Journal-World.

With others answering with the likes of Michael Jordan and Muhammed Ali, it’s pretty fair to say Self was playing to the crowd with the answer, but it’s still telling that he was willing to deliver such a sound bite, even if it was before a welcoming audience. Self didn’t try to seriously depress expectations for Wiggins, a player Jackson is often compared to, and it looks like he won’t for Jackson as well.

Jackson, though, won’t have the burden Wiggins had as there’s one of the country’s best backcourts in Frank Mason II and Devonte Graham to help shoulder the workload for the Jayhawks.

 

No. 1 Kansas beats No. 22 Baylor 70-66 in Big 12 semifinals

Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) and forward Jamari Traylor, back, celebrate a dunk by Wayne Selden Jr. (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Friday, March 11, 2016. Kansas defeated Baylor 70-66. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Kansas coach Bill Self said the final couple minutes of Friday night’s Big 12 semifinal against Baylor didn’t take anything away from his team’s impressive second-half performance.

Even if it almost took away a win.

After overcoming a halftime deficit to build a comfortable lead, Self put in his backups to coax the game to its conclusion. But the No. 22 Bears rallied, forcing the Kansas starters back onto the floor, where they finally managed to finish off a 70-66 victory.

“I had one guy ask me yesterday, `Hey, when you get a lead in the last two minutes, why don’t you play your bench?”‘ Self said. “And I did. And it didn’t work out so great.”

Al Freeman’s 3-pointer got Baylor within 68-64 with 20 seconds left, and that was when Self sent his top players back on the floor. Jonathan Motley’s putback then got the Bears within three with five seconds to go, but Devonte Graham calmly made the second of two free throws at the other end to put the game away.

Graham had 14 points and eight assists as the Jayhawks (29-4) beat the Bears (22-11) for the third time this season – and avenged their tournament loss from a year ago. Perry Ellis scored 20 points.

Kansas will play sixth-ranked Oklahoma or No. 9 West Virginia for the title Saturday night.

“Proud that our guys didn’t quit at the end,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “Kansas really executed well in the second half. I told coach Self, they guard so well.”

Freeman scored 14 points and Rico Gathers had 13 points and nine boards, but nobody in green got into much of a rhythm against the Jayhawks’ man-to-man defense. Taurean Prince was held to nine points, going 0 for 6 from beyond the arc, and Ish Wainwright managed four points on 2-for-9 shooting before fouling out.

The victory was the 13th straight for Kansas, which can match the number of tournament titles won by every other Big 12 school with its 10th. The Jayhawks also improved to 3-0 at the Sprint Center this season with their eighth consecutive win over the Bears.

Not that they didn’t have a chance: Baylor forged a 23-21 lead after a sloppy first half.

The teams combined for 17 turnovers, Kansas at one point throwing it away on four straight possessions. Baylor’s Lester Medford tossed a pass to nobody at one end of the floor, and then Ellis launched an air ball from beyond the arc as the teams went into a deep offensive funk.

For a while, it seemed as if nobody wanted to score.

There were only two real highlights: Graham had five assists for Kansas, including back-to-back alley-oop lobs to Ellis, and Jake Lindsey hit a buzzer-beating 3 to give the Bears the halftime edge.

Kansas began to take control as soon as it left the locker room.

Ellis went on a personal 8-0 run, and Wayne Selden Jr. woke up a sleepy crowd with a soaring dunk. A few minutes later, Graham tossed up a lob from just inside midcourt that Selden threw down for a 43-33 lead.

“We knew we were playing flat, kind of dead, not a lot of energy,” Graham said. “We knew we weren’t playing to our capability. … In the second half we tried to change it.”

Baylor began trying to get the ball to Gathers and Prince in the paint, but the Jayhawks did a good job of collapsing on defense. The Bears missed nine consecutive shots during a critical stretch midway through the second half, and that allowed the Jayhawks to establish a comfortable lead.

They wound up needing just about every point of it.

“We know the game is never over with us,” Freeman said. “We all have confidence in each other. Nobody has quit in them. We’re going to play every possession hard until it’s the last one in the game.”

QUOTABLE

Asked whether having to put the starters back in late in the game is a coach’s worst nightmare, Self replied: “No, the worst nightmare would be losing. This was just a bad dream.”

TIP-INS

Baylor: Motley finished with 11 points and seven rebounds. … The Bears were playing in their third straight semifinal. They still have never won the Big 12 Tournament.

Kansas: Carlton Bragg had 10 points and seven rebounds. He had a career-high 12 points in a quarterfinal win over Kansas State. … Frank Mason III had nine points and six rebounds.

UP NEXT

Baylor heads back to Waco, Texas.

Kansas plays for its first title since 2013.

Ellis leads No. 1 Kansas to 85-63 rout of K-State in Big 12s

Kansas forward Carlton Bragg Jr. (15) celebrates a teammate's three-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas State in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., Thursday, March 10, 2016. Kansas defeated Kansas State 85-63. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Perry Ellis scored 21 points, Frank Mason III added 16 and top-ranked Kansas ran roughshod over weary Kansas State, 85-63, on Thursday in the quarterfinals in the Big 12 Tournament.

The Jayhawks (28-4), who won their 12th consecutive regular-season crown, led 45-30 at halftime before pushing their advantage past 20 for much of the second half. They coasted the rest of their way to a semifinal matchup Friday night with No. 22 Baylor, which handled No. 23 Texas earlier in the day.

Carlton Bragg added a career-high 12 points for Kansas. Devonte Graham finished with 11.

The eighth-seeded Wildcats (17-16) were led by Justin Edwards, who hit five 3s and had 23 points. But the senior guard didn’t get nearly as much help as he had in a first-round victory over Oklahoma State.

Wesley Iwundu and D.J. Johnson scored 10 apiece, but freshman forward Dean Wade – who had a career-high 20 against the Cowboys – was held to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. Fellow freshman Barry Brown was 1 of 8 from the field and managed only three points in 26 minutes.

Kansas State has never beaten Kansas in nine tries in the Big 12 tournament.

The Jayhawks, potentially playing for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, certainly looked the part before a heavily pro-Kansas crowd. They shot 57 percent from the field, had the edge in rebounding, assists and steals, and protected the ball so well Kansas State never made much of a run.

The few times the Wildcats mounted a charge, Ellis or Mason was there to answer it.

The biggest highlight may have come when Ellis soared for an alley-oop pass and slammed it down midway through the second half, sending the crowd in Sprint Center buzzing and giving Kansas a 55-37 lead.

Edwards kept trying to shoot Kansas State back in the game, but the rest of the Wildcats looked spent from their game against the Cowboys down the stretch. Kansas merely had to protect the basketball in the final minutes to wrap up its 12th consecutive victory.

CHEICK CHECK

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo did not play after needing five stitches in his mouth following an incident in practice Wednesday. Diallo, a five-star recruit, has struggled to earn minutes behind the Jayhawks’ bevy of veteran forwards. He hasn’t scored more than two points in a game since January.

TIP-INS

Kansas State: Edwards also had 10 rebounds. … The Wildcats shot 38 percent, including 6 of 18 from beyond the arc. … The last time the teams met in the Big 12 Tournament was the 2013 finals.

Kansas: Wayne Selden Jr. was held to five points on 1-for-6 shooting. … The Jayhawks improved to 19-1 in their opening game of the conference tournament. … Kansas swept the season series from Kansas State.

UP NEXT

Kansas State waits to hear if it is playing in the NIT.

Kansas plays the No. 22 Bears in Friday night’s semifinals.

No. 1 Kansas beats No. 21 Iowa State for 11th straight win

Kansas head coach Bill Self (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
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Having already wrapped up the Big 12 regular season title, the program’s 12th consecutive, No. 1 Kansas entered Saturday’s game against No. 21 Iowa State looking to complete an undefeated run through the home portion of their schedule. The Cyclones were competitive throughout, but in the end the Jayhawks simply had too many options as they won 85-78 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas outscored Iowa State 17-7 over the final 5:09, limiting the Cyclones to just one made field goal during that stretch. On Senior Day it was senior forward Perry Ellis who led the way offensively, scoring his team-best 22 points on shots from both inside and out while also grabbing seven rebounds. Bill Self’s team doesn’t lack for depth or talent, and both attributes were on display during the game’s decisive run.

Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonté Graham added 16 points apiece, and five different Jayhawks scored during the run that decided the outcome. While there can be a tendency to look for a headliner capable of taking over a game this time of year, there’s also great value in having multiple players capable of stepping forward on any given night. That’s a luxury Kansas has, and it’s one reason why they’re seen as a favorite to cut down the nets in Houston.

Kansas found quality looks offensively and took care of the basketball in the second half, shooting better than 58 percent from the field in the game’s final 20 minutes. That can wear an opponent down, especially one that lacks depth like Iowa State.

The Cyclones received good minutes from their front court, most notably Georges Niang and Jameel McKay as they combined to score 41 points. But point guard Monté Morris shot just 3-for-10 from the field in scoring his 13 points, and Abdel Nader was relatively quiet as well. Given how Kansas executes offensively, everyone has to be clicking on all cylinders if you’re going to leave Allen Fieldhouse with a win. But there are positives to be taken from this defeat if you’re Iowa State, most notably the play of McKay.

The senior forward, who’s an incredibly important figure for Iowa State as they look to make a run in the NCAA tournament, has been a bit of an enigma at times this season. There was the two-game suspension served last month, and there have been times on the floor where he wasn’t providing the energy Iowa State needs from the pivot to make up for their lack of interior depth.

If McKay plays as he can consistently, Iowa State has the tools needed to make some noise. They can win games with McKay being a minor (or non-existent) cog in the attack, but the task becomes a lot more difficult for Iowa State when that’s the case.

Kansas has no such question marks at this time, as they’re playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. Winners of 11 straight, the Jayhawks are fully capable of extending that streak into early April.

Ellis, Lucas lead No. 6 Kansas past No. 10 West Virginia

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) blocks a shot by West Virginia guard Tarik Phillip (12) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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In the first meeting between No. 10 West Virginia and No. 6 Kansas, the Mountaineers dominated in their 74-63 win in Morgantown. Bob Huggins’ “Press Virginia” attack forced 22 Kansas turnovers, with the Jayhawks playing far too fast and loose with the basketball while also getting out-toughed by the Mountaineers. In the rematch Kansas (20-4, 8-3 Big 12) looked far better equipped to deal with West Virginia in both of those areas, winning by the final score of 75-65.

Kansas committed 15 turnovers, with Devonte’ Graham responsible for five of them, but they did not allow West Virginia (19-4, 8-3) to use those chances to kickstart their offense. The Mountaineers scored 13 points (one fewer than Kansas, which took advantage of ten WVU miscues) off of those turnovers and did not register a single fast break points. Having to play in the half-court more than they would have liked, West Virginia could not execute at the level they did in beating Baylor Saturday.

As a result Bob Huggins’ team shot 37.3 percent from the field and 5-for-20 from beyond the arc. The Mountaineers have shown signs of being able to win games in which they don’t force a high turnover count, but that wasn’t the case at Allen Fieldhouse.

If not for West Virginia grabbing better than 34 percent of their misses and scoring 14 second-chance points, the margin is likely even greater than the ten-point outcome due to the contract in offensive execution. Kansas pushed the ball early, getting out to an 8-0 lead, and as the game wore on the Jayhawks were much better in finding quality shot opportunities. Bill Self’s team shot 56.1 percent from the field with Perry Ellis scoring 21 points to lead five Jayhawks in double figures.

The tandem of Ellis and Landen Lucas, who grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds and blocked four shots to go along with his nine points, won the battle against a WVU front court missing the suspended Jonathan Holton. Devin Williams, who went for 17 and 12 in the first meeting, finished the rematch with a respectable 14-point, nine-rebound effort but he didn’t get much help in the post from the likes of Elijah Macon and Nathan Adrian.

After having Self question their toughness in a home win over Kansas State six days ago, the Jayhawks have responded with wins over TCU and West Virginia. Obviously it’s tough to read too much into beating the Horned Frogs, because even with that game being in Fort Worth it’s one Kansas was expected to handle with ease. The Mountaineers posed a different, and far more rigorous test, and Kansas got the job done.

As a result the Jayhawks have brought West Virginia back to the pack in the Big 12 title race, making Saturday’s game at No. 3 Oklahoma even bigger than it already was.

Ellis double-double for No. 7 Kansas in 75-56 win at TCU

The Kansas bench celebrates during the second half of a NCAA college basketball game against  San Diego State on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2015, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi)
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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Perry Ellis had 23 points and 10 rebounds as No. 7 Kansas started the second half of the Big 12 Conference schedule with a 75-56 victory at TCU on Saturday.

Kansas (19-4, 7-3 Big 12), which had lost its previous three conference road games, never trailed after scoring the game’s first seven points.

With the quick start and in a road arena about half-filled with their own fans, the Jayhawks rebounded from an underwhelming victory three days earlier against Kansas State. They also won for the 12th time in 13 games against TCU, which exactly three years earlier got its only win in the series.

Devonte Graham added 15 points and Frank Mason III 12 for the Jayhawks, who shot 50 percent from the field (29 of 58) and had a 46-25 rebounding advantage. Ellis was 11-of-14 shooting.

Brandon Parrish and JD Miller had 13 points each for TCU (10-13, 1-9), whose only win in its last eight games was last weekend at home when overcoming a 14-point halftime lead for a 75-63 victory over Tennessee in the Big 12-SEC Challenge. Chauncey Collins had 10 points.

The Frogs shot 29 percent (14 of 49).

Ellis had a three-point play after a wild scramble to get the ball to put the Jayhawks up 34-14, giving them a 20-point lead for the first time. His tip-in with 2:31 left made it 38-14 before TCU scored the last six points of the first half.

Kansas also had its first double-digit lead after consecutive baskets by Ellis, when he was on the receiving end of an alley-oop pass from Wayne Selden Jr. for a dunk and then had a strong layup to make it 21-11.

After the Jayhawks’ 77-59 victory over Kansas State on Wednesday night, coach Bill Self said his team had been outplayed and was “about as soft as I can remember one of our teams playing.”

The closest the Frogs got after Kansas’ 7-0 spurt in the first 2 minutes was at 10-7 after Parrish made a long jumper, then followed a Jayhawks turnover with a nifty spin move for a layup off the glass.

TIP-INS

Kansas: It was Ellis’ third double-double this season, all in Big 12 games, and 15th of his career. … The Jayhawks have won by at least 10 points in 13 of their 19 wins. …. Kansas played the first of four times on the road in a six-game span.

TCU: When the Frogs upset Kansas 62-55 in 2013, it was their first Big 12 win – coming in their first season after joining the conference. TCU is now 7-57 in Big 12 games. … TCU had as many turnovers (6) as field goals in the first half.

UP NEXT

Kansas: Hosts No. 14 West Virginia on Tuesday night.

TCU: Hosts Oklahoma State on Monday night.